In Your Corner: The Polar Vortex of Marketing

 

winter storm cat book

Are you managing to survive the current polar vortex sweeping across North America? (If you live in the southern hemisphere and are currently toasting your toes on a beach somewhere … is your suitcase large enough to stuff an adult human into? Asking for a friend.) This is the time of year—after the holiday magic has well and truly worn off, and before the rejuvenating effects of spring have kicked in—when we start feeling truly down and out. And of course, since everything is connected, our self-publishing adventures tend to suffer just as much as our general mood and the cleanliness level of our kitchens. (What? Your kitchen is still tidy? What’s wrong with me?) This is the time when we need a touch of encouragement to make it through the polar vortex, or whatever interminably cold and barren patch of ground we face.

It’s probably no secret at this point that I love Goodreads, the hybrid social media site for dedicated readers and book reviewers; it’s how I track what I’m reading, especially when my to-read pile (it’s actually an entire bookshelf, plus an extra coffee table, now) gets a little bit out of control. (Who am I kidding? It’s always out of control.) Well, back in October of 2016, the Goodreads blog hosted a series of posts that may prove to be exactly what you need to read right now, as a self-publishing author facing the doldrums yourself. The first post to catch my eye included a series of quotes from popular self-publishing authors such as Hugh Howey, such as:

hugh howey quote

colleen hoover quote

and …

andy weir quote

 

The post was titled “Advice for Aspiring Indie Authors by Successful Indie Authors” and I highly recommend that you check it out, as well as its sequel, “Indie Authors Share Their Secrets to Creating Successful Self-Publishing Careers,” which features much more lengthy insights from a number of others. As authorities on the subject, sometimes writers such as Weir and Hoover and Howey have the power to both inspire us and flip that emotional switch buried deep inside us, the one that gets a bit, ahem, iced over with repeated disappointment or from lack of use. If you’re at all like me, this is the time of year when my creative energy is at its absolute lowest, and I sometimes don’t even realize what all is possible, I’m so swept up in the blues. A wise word or two acts like a shock to the system, reminding me that, yeah, actually, I *can* do this thing I’ve been meaning to do, but have been feeling too anxious and self-sabotaging to get started on.

This week, take a moment to witness and absorb the wise words of these authors and remember what got you into self-publishing in the first place. Remember the joy that comes with carving out a space for yourself in the world of words, and seeing something you’ve written out there, changing the lives of those lucky enough to find it.

Now we can get started thinking about how to help more people be that lucky, right?

More on that next week!

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

2019: Time for a Fresh Start on Marketing

Oh, no, it’s time to review that dreaded list of New Year’s resolutions!  It’s not uncommon for these lists to be either too long or too ambitious for their makers to actually accomplish within twelve months, but that doesn’t seem to stop any of us from feeling the compulsive tug toward writing them–or from feeling miserable when we find ourselves running into a brick wall of complications.

writing goals

For those of us who are authors, many of us will end up making at least one of our resolutions that of writing and publishing a book in 2019.  But how might an author go from creating the goal of writing a book to actually getting it on paper and, finally, to publishing it?  If you’ve resolved upon a similar goal, here area couple of ideas to get you started:

  • Join a writer’s group.  

While there are certainly plenty of online options available to you, through internet forums and listservs and Facebook groups and the like, the best kind of feedback a writer can receive is the kind that is delivered in face-to-face conversation with people who have held your manuscript in their hands and feel some sort of personal stake in delivering detailed high-quality responses to the questions that you pose.  This is why, above all other things, I recommend you look to join a writer’s group in 2019.

But where to look?  I recommend stealing a page of or Lorena Knapp’s playbook over at the Write Life blog.  She recommends researching a variety of options before committing to any one writer’s group; you might start with local writing centers and then move on to conferences, bulletin boards, writing associations, your personal network, online networking sites like Meetup.com, and then as a last resort turn to social media and so on.  In my personal experience, conferences can be overwhelming (a case study in over-stimulation), bulletin boards are rarely up-to-date, and online networking sites lead to as many “misses” as “hits.”  I found out about my local writing association after attending an event at my local library, which often plays host to local authors–many of whom are self-published.  You can’t go wrong by asking a librarian!

  • Join a book club.

The library also happens to be a great place to begin your hunt for a local book club, since most libraries directly or indirectly sponsor these sorts of events, and can point you to the right people or resources to set up your own book club if there isn’t one already geared toward your interests.  You can also check online at the Reader’s Circle, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting readers with each other, to see if there are otherwise off-the-grid book clubs meeting in your area.

But why should a writer join a book club?  The answer isn’t as simple or the dots as easy to connect as with writing circles and writer’s groups, where writing is the common theme.  But as Evan Maloney wrote for The Guardian back in 2010, reading and reading well is actually the most fundamental of skills for a writer to practice:

As well as a large vocabulary, novels give writers a sense of how it is done. They offer templates that can be borrowed and adapted; they teach a writer how to create narrative structures and characters, how to develop tension, write dialogue, and maintain a consistent tone and pitch. Novels also trigger memories from a reader’s personal experience, and these give writers ideas for their own stories.

Best of all, writes Maloney, “whenever writing gets too painful, when each word and idea seems to be dragged from the mind like the limb of an aborted camel, reading offers a writer a lovely escape into a fantasy world where stories are revealed with simple ease and order on the page.”  Sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.

  • Work with a ghostwriter, or if that’s not quite your speed, with an editor.

With a book club feeding you inspiration and a writer’s group providing you support and feedback as you write, the next best step is to find your voice.  If you’re struggling to find the time or cultivate the skills you think necessary to capturing your story, it may be time to look for a ghostwriter–someone who can sit down with you, hash out all of the relevant details, and then serve as architect and project manager for your book–all rolled into one.  We often associate ghostwriters with the traditional publishing model, since most of the ghostwritten books we see hit shelves are celebrity autobiographies–but you can be a self-publishing author and develop a healthy rapport with a ghostwriter, too!  Hybrid self-publishing companies like mine–Outskirts Press–often offer ghostwriting and editorial services as several of many tools to put in your toolbox.  The differences between ghostwriting and editing is significant–the former will take on a large part of the “generative” process, while the latter will help shape or reshape material you have already created–but the general impulse is the same: these services exist to help you get stuff done.  Don’t underestimate the power of a good edit!

  • Cultivate new and sustainable writing habits.

Here’s where things get a bit hazy.  Every author has individual writing habits developed over years of hard work and necessity, so what a “good writing day” looks like to you will most likely differ from everyone else you meet.  We can look to our heroes for inspiration, sure, but ultimately I find comparison a toxic, toxic beast.  The best way to succeed at adopting new and useful writing habits is to do so slowly and sustainably–by making incremental changes and sticking with them over the long term.

There’s a reason NaNoWriMo proves so difficult for authors to just “pick up” and do: it’s such an intense process that it requires writers to make enormous changes to their daily schedules just to fit it in.  A much better course might be to adopt more manageable alterations–boosting the time you spend writing every morning by five minutes a day for a week, perhaps, or by restricting your self-editing to only five minutes a day–and to evaluate their efficacy regularly, discarding the useless ones and keeping the useful ones.  As my grandmother used to say, “trim the fat!”  Keep the things that help you, and shed the weight of those which don’t.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

The Alchemy of Holiday Marketing (Part III)

fall autumn book

Several weeks back, we began this series by introducing the idea that marketing—specifically marketing as regards self-published books—is a kind of alchemy. Alchemy, we discovered, has a lot of meanings or connotations, but we continue to run semi-officially with the Merriam-Webster definition of alchemy as “a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.” We spent some time during the next post examining this definition further, as well as its historic inflections and how that translates into focusing on what makes your writing and method special. Last time, we looked into the guiding question of “what’s next?” Which, as it turns out, is taking your existing habits and tweaking them to better serve your marketing goals–in a sustainable fashion that won’t undercut your existing routines and interests.

What comes after “what’s next?”

Next comes the holiday-specific part! Now that you’ve eked out some additional sustainable habits (that will continue working in your favor year-round, of course!) it’s time to think about what little bits of “extra” you can fit in around the holidays that support your ongoing marketing strategy and also take advantage of all those little things you can only do around the holidays.

Thanksgiving

To hit upon some high points we keep returning to year after year on this blog:

Thanksgiving is a time for doing, every bit as much as it is about giving and receiving. After all, the whole “giving and receiving” thing gets a real workout around Christmas. And in a smaller sense, at Halloween and even Veteran’s Day, when we give thanks to our servicemen and women—very important in its own way, but not the only mode of being to inhabit as a self-publishing author.

Thanksgiving is a time for activity, for wrapping up all the things that have been left unfinished at other times of year—a time for completion, for stepping back and looking at the whole and then by golly sitting down and filling in the holes. The best way to celebrate Thanksgiving isn’t just to give and receive thanks; the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving is to get ‘er done. To see yourself and your book and your marketing campaign and your social media strategy through the rough patches that inevitably accumulate on the leading edge of the end of the year. It’s not, contrary to legend, a time to sit around and kick up your feet and wait for good things to happen (or, more appropriately, to pop out of the oven and onto your dinner plate). Delicious as a fresh-baked cobbler is, it’s not quite the point.

If we wanted to look all the way back to the Quakers and the First Thanksgiving—and let’s face it, like it or not Thanksgiving is a time rife with nostalgia and historic musings—we should be honest about what it was like for them. They only celebrated because the gifted foods and skills given them by the local tribes kept them from starvation—and then, only just. The Quakers almost starved. Many of them did starve. It was not a time of plenty; it was a time for surviving, and for acknowledging those who helped them to survive. The time for celebration isn’t after everything is done and the harvest is in; the time for celebration is now, when the struggle and the busy-ness and the insanity is at its height. Tap into that spirit and, in the spirit too of the diagramming and recording we’ve done since our previous post, start brainstorming the ways you can merge celebration with marketing. Will throwing an event at the local library do that for you? Will putting up posters around town? Hosting a discount or giveaway on your blog and book sale page? Think of those strategies which you can put together quickly, easily, and without adding undue stress at a busy time. We’ll be back next week with more thoughts on specific events, tips, and tricks you can use that fit the bill for simple and stress-free!

These holidays, I hope you know that we here at Self Publishing Advisor are a part of your network, a resource to enable your resilience. We’re here for you this Thanksgiving season, to help you get it done–and to help you celebrate your wonderful book!

fall autumn book blanket coffee

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

The Alchemy of Holiday Marketing (Part I)

alchemy ingredients

In my last post, I introduced the idea that marketing—specifically marketing as regards self-published books—is a kind of alchemy. Alchemy, of course, has a lot of meanings or connotations, but we’ll be running with this definition from Merriam-Webster: “a power or process that changes or transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way.” Which then means that an alchemist is someone who is the agent of that transformation. Merriam-Webster, for the record, has some lovely historical notes on the history of the term’s evolution, including:

alchemy alchemist

You, dear author, are an alchemist. And your marketing plan can really benefit from approaching the process with that in mind. Alchemy is all about transformation, and transformation requires something to be transformed. Which begs the question (as we foreshadowed last week):

What do you have or bring to the table as an author that’s special?

The answer (which is, of course, “a lot”) shapes what comes next. All authors share the same fundamental ingredients: a manuscript (published or yet to be published), a method, and a vision. But each of those three components will be shaded by your personal approach, interests, and unique voice. And they are the base material upon which your marketing must perform its alchemy in order to introduce your book to its ideal readers.

This is where I recommend taking a leaf out of the bullet journaling page, or out of accounting’s reliance on spreadsheets. It doesn’t particularly matter what medium you use to take stock, but take stock you must, and create a baseline record of what you’re already doing. Sit down and diagram your day. What all bits and pieces of your day are related to the writing and marketing process? Do you already use social media for personal communication? How about email and newsletters and listservs? What part of your day or week do you carve out for creation, and the writing of new material? Once you’ve taken stock of several weeks in a row, you’ll start to see patterns emerge, and you’ll get a good sense of what the outliers are. (i.e. Maybe you spend one whole day browsing Netflix because you’re bored or frustrated and need escape. That’s fine … but that’s probably not a typical day. It’s an outlier and while you must make allowance for the ongoing existence of outlier days in your life, you don’t want to let them define or move your average.)

habit tracker

Many authors make the mistake of thinking that marketing is a one-size-fits all system, and that every recommendation made out there on the Internet will apply to their specific situation … and that’s just not the way of things, sometimes. Rather than starting with a list of marketing ideas and trying to apply them all at once or without alteration, start with your existing habits and see where you’re at, and what sorts of rhythms might work with your habits. You may already doing things that are the perfect platform for marketing, and you may already lead a life that makes certain marketing strategies redundant, inapplicable, or unlikely to succeed without significant cost (in time and energy as well as money). Diagram your days, make note of your habits, and then—only then—can you move on to the next question.

What is that question? Next week, we’ll get into it.

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

The Alchemy of Holiday Marketing (Introduction)

GettyImages-998993074.jpg

Now that it’s the beginning of October, we are well and truly into the holiday season. Sure, Halloween may still be almost a full month away, but the real pleasure of the last three months of the year only a very little to do with the big days themselves–Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day–and a great deal to do with anticipation, and what we choose to do with ourselves in the intervening days as we build excitement–or design costumes, or plan reunions, or negotiate for a few extra vacation days–throughout the home stretch of the year.

What are you, as a self-publishing author, going to do with that time?

For many self-publishing authors, the holidays are the most profitable time of year. These are the authors who have figured out the best way to ring in the holidays using their skills and their published works. We’ve written extensively about holiday marketing in the past, and we may hit some of the high points again this year, but we also wanted to do something new. Not quite “6 weird tricks to spook your friends this Halloween” but something which honors the magic of the holidays, and seeks to marry together your best skills and the season’s best opportunities to create … a kind of marketing alchemy.

Over the months to come, I’ll be asking the questions: What do you have or bring to the table as an author that’s special? And what do the final months of each year have or bring to the table so far as marketing goes? How we answer these questions, together, may just provide a new way forward as you seek to plan your upcoming marketing strategy for your latest or your next self-published book!

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

In Your Corner: Growing Your Market With Elbow Grease

Over the last several weeks of this summer, I’ve written about the difficulties of both making a fresh start when getting started and having to re-start your marketing plan when something goes south. Both of those involve a lot of work, it’s true, but this week it’s worth reminding everyone (including myself) that the work is worth it.

I wrote recently about my gardens being stripped accidentally. Well, after having a mini-meltdown and lapsing into total self-loathing and disappointment for a few days, I decided to take a couple of baby steps. I did a soil pH test one day, laid down some fresh soil the next. Ordered a couple of packets of wildflowers and bush beans the day after that. Took handfuls and spread them out the following weekend.

Now, things are starting to come up. It may not be the garden I first envisioned, and it may never again look like the original, but it’s still something. And it still makes me happy. It brings me joy.

Just like writing, and marketing, when I see the first signs of success.

gardening

The elbow grease needs to be there. It’s never going to be the easiest thing, marketing. But it also doesn’t have to be the hardest thing you do each day. Line it up after your fifteen minutes of foreign language learning each day (Duolingo is brilliant, isn’t it?), your half-hour walk, and your afternoon smoothie. Making marketing just another part of your routine, something that has a little bit of structure but not so much it interferes with the rest of your day, is critical to it remaining a long-term part of your life.

I should know. I’ve been to the marketing (and the gardening!) doldrums this summer with you. I know what it looks like. And I’m here to remind you: it’s not the end. It’s never the end. It’s just another part of your life, and you get to make it fit with the rest of who you are and what you do. And in the end, you’re going to sell some books simply because you were willing to show up for a few minutes each day and remind the world that you have a brilliant new book out there in the world, and it’s ready to be read.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

 

In Your Corner: Growing Your Market in Barren Soil

So here’s a story. Last winter, I spent weeks reading up on ways to make my yard and garden more butterfly friendly, bee friendly, and bird friendly. I checked out a pile of books from the local public library on how to combine these ideas with square-foot gardening, and put in some raised beds. I spent time at a local nursery, and picked the brains of both the nursery staff and my neighbors, who’ve been gardening in this alpine valley for generations. I talked with the local conservation nonprofit, collected native seeds, and come spring, put everything in the ground. I stopped mowing my lawn so often (and so short) and started caring more about soil composition, moisture, and pH levels. Basically, I took the time to care properly about a thing I should have been carrying more about anyway.

Then, one day, I came home from work to find that my homeowner’s well-intentioned handyman had “weeded” my wildflowers, pulled up my soil-fixing plants, stripped the beds, and basically reduced my various riotous little garden spots to bare earth. And then he sprayed them so that nothing would come back up. Sad, right?

For the record, I don’t blame the handyman. He had only the best of intentions, and there’s little visual difference between a healthy butterfly friendly, bee friendly, and bird friendly garden … and a wilderness. He simply didn’t know that it was intentional, and that I was happy with the chaos.

But here’s where things get real for those of us who self-publish: often, our setbacks often feel like they reduce our emotional landscape to scorched earth (or in this case, thoroughly sprayed earth). It can even seem like we’re starting from scratch, or worse. And it can feel like it’s not worth the energy, the sheer elbow grease, required to restart the garden mid-season.

So how do we get past that hump? How do we get to a point where it feels like we’re past the worst, where the garden is already back on its feet enough for us to see progress again?

As with last week’s post about kicking the summer slow-down, it’s all about breaking it down into littler, manageable chunks. If you need to treat the comeback like a fresh start, then that’s what you need to do. But even better than a fresh start is a re-start which builds upon the groundwork you’ve already laid. You don’t have to go full-throttle the moment you get back into the game; it’s totally okay to just dip your toe in at first. Remember how last week I recommended fifteen-minute chunks of social media time a day to get started? That tip applies to re-starts as well as fresh starts.

The difference between a fresh start and a re-start is, of course, how difficult it feels. It’s even in the terminology, isn’t it? A “fresh start” sounds positive and upbeat, a joyous celebration of something new. A “re-start” sounds a little beat up around the edges. And that may be an accurate reflection of how you feel, when push comes to shove. That means that your first job, even before you start re-establishing structure and launching plans, is breaking through the negative mindset which comes from facing down a rough patch.

My advice? Take time for you, and your craft. If you’re anything like the authors I’ve met, you probably spend your summer splitting your time between scrambling to make sure everyone else is having a good time (summer schedules are insane!) and trying to get some much-needed “you” time. If you have any time left to spare, it’s probably spent trying to cram in some writing time. If your summer is anything like my summer, it all feels extremely disorganized and messy, and like you’re doomed to fail at everything simply because you can’t get it all done.

Well, I’m here to talk you down from that mentality, just as much as I’m here to talk myself down from it. You CAN succeed, and you can start by succeeding at loving yourself, and seeing yourself as the triumph you are. Maybe once you see how great you are, you’ll see that great things can happen even on the most stripped-bare soil.

Only then will you have the conviction to pull out a new batch of seedlings.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.