Planning for 2017: Success?

After taking time to consider occasions that will lead to the need for damage control, this week we’re going to redefine what “success” means in respect to our goals, and as a concept in general. While the assumption is often that “success” means completing a new book or successfully marketing an already finished one, this one-size fits all definition does not look good on, or flatter the strengths and weaknesses of each unique author.

The author of “Eat, Pray, Love”, Elizabeth Gilbert, interestingly experienced the “success” of her book to provoked the same sense of anxiety and discomfort that is often associated with failure. She explained that the success carried a large looming cloud of expectations from her readers that she feared she wouldn’t be able to live up to in her next book. “Failure catapults you abruptly [into] the blinding darkness of disappointment,” Gilbert said. “Success catapults you just as abruptly, just as far, into the equally blinding glare of fame, recognition, and praise.”

For Gilbert, your subconscious cannot tell the difference between these two opposing poles, because they are both so far from the spectrum of our everyday, normal existence. Taking that into account, I think it is important to transform the idea of success into something more normal, more everyday, rather than something that just comes from world-wide recognition for our work.

eat pray love elizabeth gilbert

Re-conceptualizing Success

While finishing a book or having it fly off the shelves should be appreciated as a success, this is a very long-term and difficult goal to achieve. To put this into perspective, let’s say you were training for a marathon and never considered any of your training days leading up to it as successful because they weren’t the big day–logging those miles is going to start to feel hollow and unrewarding. Sure, that first training run over ten miles isn’t a marathon, but that is a huge success compared to sitting on your couch at home, and should be celebrated as such!

Having your vision of success span from the time you begin your project, to the time you complete it will definitely keep you in a better head space and keep you more motivated and excited with each leap and bound you make! Hence why we like to stress the importance of dividing up that overarching goal into smaller, more bite-sized pieces that you can achieve along the way and count as successful mile markers to your grand finale, which may be a finished book.

What are some short-term mile-markers that should be perceived as successes for a writer?

  • An outline completion
  • A chapter completion
  • A first draft completion
  • A marketing plan
  • Winning a writing competition
  • Writing an awesome Tweet, blog post, or other social media post that gets a lot of traffic
  • Your first piece of fan mail
  • Your first royalty check
  • Getting a gleaming endorsement for your back cover
  • And countless other examples.

Let’s make success part of our everyday. Let’s make small goals for ourselves that we can objectively look at and say, “You know what, I succeeded today” when we’ve accomplished them. Success doesn’t have to be this epic thing that becomes almost intimidating, as Gilbert describes it in her TED talk, and nor does failure. If we become at home in our everyday successes and failures, the monumental ones won’t seem so shocking to us.

“Success means doing the best we can with what we have. Success is the doing, not the getting; in the trying, not the triumph. Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest that is in us, becoming all that we can be.”

– Zig Ziglar


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Planning for 2017: Damage Control

I think a recurring theme in 2016 seemed to be that a lot of things can go unexpectedly wrong at highly inopportune moments. If your New Year happens to still be clinging on to that pattern from the year just passed, let’s talk damage control.

damage control

First damage control worthy scenario: maybe your holiday marketing plan was a flop, or you were too busy to enact one at all, and you’re still stuck with a pile of books. This is no time to tuck your tail between your legs and wallow in self-pity or defeat. Get online and create a compelling promotional copy for your Amazon book and ebook page, and get some endorsements! Test out your drafts for your promo copies on some members of your target audience and gauge what types of descriptions they find most intriguing. If you’ve written one that generates enough interest to trigger a purchase, then pat yourself on the back and put those marketing pants back on, because those books aren’t going to sell themselves!

Or, let’s say your resolution to spend at least 30 minutes a day on writing or marketing has already fallen through because you’ve become unexpectedly busy at work or home. Maybe recovering from the holidays and trying to get back into your old routine has taken longer than anticipated. I have a few quotes that I try and turn into mantras when I’ve fallen off the writing or marketing bandwagon that I’d like to share with you all, because motivation ultimately has to come from you, and I find that I can really inspire myself to get back into gear by just reading some motivational tid bits by other authors–or just reading in general!

“Be ruthless about protecting writing days, i.e. do not cave in to endless requests to have ‘essential’ and ‘long overdue’ meetings on those days.”

–J.K. Rowling

“Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very successful careers.”

Ray Bradbury

“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little bit faster.”

–Isaac Asimov

Maybe you have been writing, but your book is taking a different direction than you anticipated and you are trying to reconcile your original plan with the reality of what you’ve got down on the page. My advice to you here–readers love surprises. A book that goes exactly according to plan can sometimes be dull to read, especially if the plan was generic and not authentic to you and your voice. Since we’re talking damage control today, let’s use the comparison of a story taking an unexpected direction to your car hitting a patch of black ice. If you over correct the wheel to try and veer yourself back on course, you’ll end up off the road, or worse, cause an accident. If you slam on the breaks and try and bring the car to a halt, you’ll probably have a similar outcome. But, if you try to calmly go with the flow and let the car get itself back on track, you’ll hopefully ride it out safe and sound. Once your heart rate returns from the shock of the unknown, see where this unexpected turn in the story takes you, and you’ll surprise yourself as much as you’ll surprise (and excite!) the reader I’m sure.

Absolute worse case scenario: you have been writing and you’ve lost your manuscript. Maybe you spilt coffee on your laptop, or the file you were working on was corrupted. Don’t lose all hope. There are a lot of computer nerds in the world who can help with file recovery.

I remember just recently an article I had written for a magazine had been saved in a place I thought to be very safe–Google Docs–but the editor I shared it with accidentally deleted the entire thing! I felt nauseous when she calmly relayed this little factoid to me via email, because I had poured HOURS into the piece. However, after I calmed down, I spent a half hour on Google researching how to recover the older version of the document, and lo and behold, it worked! Now, that was an ideal situation, but I do highly recommend keeping online versions of all of your documents, in case there ever is an issue with your computer. If your manuscript really is unrecoverable, feel free to mourn, you’ve lost something you’ve worked hard on. However, do not let it stop you from starting over with a tabula rasa–something good always rises from the ashes.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Planning for 2017: Where do plans come from? And where do they go?

Here we are: the last Wednesday before the New Year. As the New Year is often associated with planning out resolutions, we figure the best way to ring in 2017 would be a discussion about what happens when our plans go either right and wrong.

plans calendar

First of all, how many of you actually planned to be writers? When you were five years old and an adult asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, I doubt writer was the first thing out of many author’s mouths. Author Ian Rankin told the Guardian that when he was growing up, he was inspired by his aunt’s husband who drove a fancy car and was an accountant. To Rankin, that high standard of living that included owning a home and flashy possessions seemed appealing, so he thought, ‘I should become an accountant as well!” However, when we travel down a path with only the end in sight (in this case, material possessions), the journey tends to feel hollow and meaningless and becomes easy to abandon. Rankin found this to be exactly the case, which is why he decided to follow his actual desire for reading and writing and change courses from his plan to become an accountant to his plan to become an author.

With this scenario–or the particular scenario that drove you yourself to become a writer–in mind, why should we think that our plans with regards to our work as writers would be any less subject to change?

First of all, there is no cookie cutter plan that will work for every writer. Some people who are less spontaneously creative need excessive planning that includes timelines, outlines, character sketches and diagrams for success; while others will tell you they never plan, they just let the story unwind as they write it. The most important place to begin then, is to decide what kind of planner you are, and that will allow you to have a measure for your success or failure relative to those plans (or lack thereof).

Whether or not you’re a deadline-driver planner or a “pantser,” the most important thing to ensure is that you are writing–no matter what. If you call yourself a writer, then you should be spending time (even if it’s only a half hour) every single day honing your craft, because writing is a lot of work. Gratifying work, but work nonetheless. Sandra Felton told Writer’s Digest that “prioritization and dedication” are essential tools for writers to have. For Felton, focus is essential, and if writing is your focus then there may be times when you have to choose it over other extracurricular activities in your life.

Much like exercise, the more you write, the better you’ll feel, and the stronger writer you’ll become. So when you make plans to work on that chapter today, don’t let it fall to the wayside because you had a long day. Everyone has the same amount of hours to spend every day, it is up to us how we plan to use them. Sure, you might be tired when you sit down to write, but much like the runner who doesn’t feel inspired to run, but goes anyway, you’ll find yourself feeling rejuvenated and happier for having done it afterward.

Sticking to your plan won’t just make you a better writer, it will make you feel more fulfilled as a person. We only have ourselves to let down and we all know how we hang our heads in shame when we fall short of expectations we have for ourselves. Remember that your plans are worthwhile, that writing is a therapeutic release that will only aid in winding down from a long day, and that working hard on something you love can be its own reward. And if you do have one of those days where you just can’t get it in, don’t beat yourself up or tell yourself you’ve failed. Get back on the horse as soon as you can, because you’re a writer…so get writing!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Planning for 2017: A Call to Arms

Christmas is over. You made it. Time to briefly pat yourself on the back, fawn over all of your presents, and then get back to work.

Sure, you could sit around until New Year’s Day to kick back into gear, but that carries the risk of you being too tired after a night of celebrating, or the risk that you’ll just want to soak in some last minute relaxation before returning to your day job. These crucial days don’t have to be unproductive, and your resolutions don’t need to be arbitrary goals that last (or don’t last) just one measly year.

Let’s start by reflecting on last year. What were some bad habits that need work? What were some positive habits that need to be reinforced? Look back and try and identify which writing practices, marketing strategies, and other routines in your life contributed to your success over the last year.

Once you’ve drawn from the past, it’s time to look toward the future! You don’t need a laundry list of resolutions that will only make you feel guilty for not living up to. Instead, pick a few essential ones and concentrate all of your effort on actually fulfilling those.

If increased productivity–be it on the marketing or writing front–is on your resolution radar for the year, it’s best to begin by honing in on your organizational skills first and foremost. Forming good habits will lead to good practices and routines, and this will lead to good work.

calendar planning

Buy a calendar or planner. If you’re looking for one that you will guide your marketing for the year, Outskirts has a specific marketing calendar that will draw your attention to some of the most important deadlines and most helpful marketing options & services in the industry.

Once you have your calendar or planner, start writing your goals down in it. Planning out your weeks and months in advance is great for two reasons. One being that it keeps you accountable, and two being that it helps prevent you from overbooking yourself and creating writing goals that may interfere with other things you may have going on in your work or personal life.

Always overestimate the time you’ll need to achieve the tasks you have laid out for yourself–this way, if/when you finish early, you have time for relaxing and extracurricular activities. (Having life experience helps with the writing process too you know!)

Routine is a great way to ease the burden of a giant workload. If you have only have 30 minutes on Fridays for marketing or writing, that’s still 30 minutes that you’ve cut out from your planned effort on Monday! Chipping away at your to-do list will make your work feel less overwhelming than trying to sit down and just get everything done at once.

When initiating these new routines and plans, remember, don’t be too hard on yourself. Making serious life changes is not always an easy thing, and sometimes life will get in the way. Make sure the expectations you’ve set for yourself are realistic and reward yourself when you reach milestones in your goals! Most importantly, enjoy your work and embrace the New Year.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Planning for 2017: Plans for the Pantser

This week we’re going to talk ‘plans for the “pantser.”’ No, not plans for someone who likes pulling people’s pants down, but rather, plans for someone who is writing or marketing by the seat of their pants. Now it may seem counterintuitive to think that if you’re doing something by the seat of your pants that you’d have any sort of plan at all, but it doesn’t have to be! Sometimes we’re forced to write by the seat of our pants because life is so busy, thus we need to plan around our busy lives to make time for our writing.

clock with wings procrastination

So, how is it that we can plan as we go when writing or marketing our newly published book? First off, set aside time for writing or marketing every day. If you only have five minutes, so be it. Make a social media post, pat yourself on the back and call it a day. If you have multiple hours, make some serious progress on that chapter or blog you’re working on.

If you haven’t begun writing yet, start by researching to get an idea for your story. Once you have a story idea, write a 100-word synopsis–one you’ll find on the back cover of your book when you successfully publish it in the future!

When you finally get the ball rolling and start having regular writing sessions, always finish them by making a plan for where you’re going next. This can be bullet-pointing the next scene, deciding which character you’re going to develop in the coming chapters, or maybe you have a hole in your plot that needs to be filled.

Ask yourself questions at the end of each writing session about where your time could be used most productively next time you sit down to get to it. Write this down. Give yourself enough detail so that when you come back to it, you won’t be stuck wondering where to start. That way if it’s a week from now, you won’t forget what seemed like a pressing issue today.

The thing is, having a plan makes you accountable to yourself and yourself only. If you’ve written out your goals, it is you who sees whether or not you’ve followed through with them. A mental note is a lot easier to shove into the dark recesses of your mind when you’re feeling unmotivated after a long day’s work. So whether you write it on a word document that you’re working on and will open up next time, or you do it the old fashioned way with pen and paper, keep yourself accountable, and keep yourself writing!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Taking It On the Road

Whether you’re facing the stresses of commuting home for the holidays–like sitting in a car or airport for hours–or the stresses of hosting and feeding your extended family for days on end, you’re probably not getting much time in as far as writing or book marketing goes. The past few weeks we’ve done blogs focused on how to bolster your marketing efforts during the holidays, but you may find yourself unable to make time for those efforts.

on the road asphalt

While some holiday stress may be unavoidable, your support team at a company like mine (Outskirts Press) may have some suggestions for at least mitigating it and remaining as productive as you can in the midst of the flurry of holiday travel, shopping, socializing, hosting and dining.

Let’s say that your flight has been delayed due to inclimant weather and you’re stuck at the airport. This could be seen as a wild inconvenience, or as an opportunity to sit down and write a chapter of your book, or maybe even spend some time on book marketing. Write a blog and broadcast it on all of your other social media networks to get more traffic on your pages–then your time has inadvertently gone from being wasted to being productive!

Squeezing out these windows of productivity doesn’t have to come from unfortunate travel mishaps, though. If you find yourself stuck in the kitchen waiting on Christmas cookies, ham or pie, why not bring along the laptop and get some work done? And when you present your goodies to your company, maybe suggest that everyone bring along a favorite holiday themed poem or writing clip to read before you feast. This will provide you the opportunity to share something you love–writing–with those you love most. I’m always surprised by how excited people become when sharing a few words of their favorite authors. This seems to give me newfound motivation to produce more thoughtful material, especially after experiencing a shared enthusiasm for the written and spoken word!

While those are two small examples of how to stay sane and at least slightly engaged in your writing and marketing during the holiday season, that’s not to say that you’ll make an abundance of progress in any small window of time. Mitigating stress should be your number one priority, and if thinking about marketing your book during the holidays is too overwhelming, never forget the power of asking for a helping hand. We at SPA are always here to help you get through the holidays, and if I can put in one little plug for my employer, Outskirts Press’s Holiday Marketing Bundle is a great way to make sure your book marketing doesn’t falter just because you’re a busy bee!


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com

Ringing in the Holidays: Christmas Edition!

We all know how wonderful it is to have holiday traditions, those things we do year after year and never tire of because they bring us nostalgia for our youth or for holidays in general. However, in book marketing, tradition in the holiday season might mean stagnation. So this year, when you’ve finished your traditions of decorating your Christmas trees, drinking egg nog, wearing tacky sweaters, caroling and hanging your stockings by the chimney with care, let us help you brainstorm some new ways to market your book.

christmas

I remember a favorite tradition of mine growing up was making a long list of books that I wanted  for Christmas; it was long enough that I’d only get some from the list, so I was always excited to see what ones they had chosen! I remember the year when I saw that tradition, which I loved so dearly, come to an end. When I ripped open the box I presumed would be full of books, I discovered that my parents had chosen to give me a Kindle that year instead. Though my attachment to tradition made my reaction seem slightly disappointed I’m sure, I realized that this was a thoughtful break from tradition on my parent’s part, because in their eyes, this provided me “all the books I could ever want.”

I tell this story, because there are ways in which we can revamp holiday traditions so that they remain in tact, but also serve our book marketing strategies. A lot of people will be putting Kindles, ChromeBooks or iPads under their Christmas trees this year, so it’s best to: first, get an ebook version of your book if you haven’t done so yet, and second, promote your ebook both before and after the holidays to boost your sales!

If one of your traditions is sending holiday cards, think about tweaking that tradition by getting custom made stamps with your very own book cover on them. Also consider adding custom book marks promoting your book, or coupons for your friends and family to download your ebook, to your holiday cards.

Heck, if you want to make book-themed ornaments, those would be great stocking stuffers too! That’d be a yearly reminder for those close to you that you are a writer, and that you might have something new out by the time they’re hanging your ornament from an evergreen branch next holiday season.

Another age old tradition that I’ve always loved is advent calendars. While that’s probably mainly because I love candy, there is something exciting about counting down the days to Christmas. Give you readers the same kind of excitement by releasing an “advent series” of your own on your blog and social media accounts. Give pieces of your story each day leading up to Christmas. Hopefully each piece of your story only further encourages people to add your book to their shopping lists!

The main message I want to send for this Christmas is: think outside the pleasantly gift-wrapped box and get creative with traditions. Don’t be afraid to try adding new twists to timeless customs.


Thank you for reading!  If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, or contributions, please use the comment field below or drop us a line at selfpublishingadvice@gmail.com.  And remember to check back each Wednesday for your weekly dose of marketing musings from one indie, hybrid, and self-published author to another. ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com