In Your Corner: The Way Forward

An open book covered with grass and bisected by a road crossing from page to page.

In the middle of such a tough year, we have to confront the question: How do we move forward? What’s next? This endless month of March (a bit of a joke online) continues as we continue to grapple with the effects of COVID-19, and despite recent progress it seems March (that is, everything the month of March brought with it to our part of the world) will continue for quite some time.

So, on March the 102nd, how do we as writers, illustrators, and publishing or self-publishing professionals move forward?

Here I’m going to take a bit of inspiration from two very different works out there in the world: Congressman John Lewis’ challenge to readers in Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, and the Disney epic Frozen II.

Those who’ve already heard of or read the various books by John Lewis will know that there are many other things we could touch on here, especially given the current state of civil unrest in our country. But for our purposes as a self-publishing blog, what I’m most interested in this morning is what his words have to say to those engaging in the creative act of writing and publishing.

Hard times can be … paralytic. People all over the world are reporting that they find ordinary behaviors and ordinary joys to be much more difficult than usual: reading, writing, working an ordinary day from home (or in a few select states, from a changed workplace). The challenge is going ahead and doing these things anyway, because they’re important and worthwhile to do.

I propose looking at this time, the Age of Coronavirus if you will, through the lens of legacy. We hope that this period won’t last as long as the Civil Rights Era of John Lewis and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s time, of course. But we have no real way of knowing how long either the shutdown/slowdown or the economic impacts of COVID-19 will last–and we can’t keep putting important things on hold. Ultimately, writing is an act inseparable from the idea of legacy. We write things down for the purpose of aiding memory and creating works that will outlast the current moment. The works you are writing now, that we work on putting out into the world now, will aid readers for generations in understanding and processing the events of today, whether Coronavirus-related or not.

So, assuming that others feel the same conviction that I do to keep going–to keep reading, to keep writing, to keep publishing because it both brings me joy to do so and it is worth attempting even if I can’t quite reach the productivity levels that maybe I had before this started–how do we get there? How do we push through?

Here’s where Frozen II comes in.

When I first watched the Disney movie in the theater, I was struck by the scene in which Anna, who thinks her older sister Elsa has died, must confront her sudden loss of purpose and motivation because everything about her had been wrapped up in helping Elsa and ensuring her safety. Her life has been so totally disrupted, her sense of meaning gone. This alone has resonance with the current cultural moment. But what Anna does next is extremely powerful (at least to me!): she convinces herself to get up off the ground and get moving by tackling what comes next, literally, one step at a time.

Video clip of the scene from Frozen II where Anna sings “The Next Right Thing.”

And I think that’s the key for us, too.

Maybe the most useful thing to do isn’t going big, after all. Keep legacy at the back of your mind, perhaps, but you don’t leave a legacy all in one day. It takes time and work and a lot of energy to craft a legacy.

Perhaps the answer is to break your next project down to its component parts, as in, really small component parts. I’m talking so small we’re not even talking about the chapter level. Let’s talk about the sentence level, or talk in terms of time.

This is the way I garden: When I get home (or in these times, more likely go outside) after a long day, I rarely have the energy to consider weeding an entire garden bed in one go, much less all of the various beds in my garden. I tell myself: you can do anything for five minutes. Or ten minutes, if I’m feeling ambitious. Or I take an even more manageable approach: I can pull that one weed I see sticking out of the tarragon bush. I tell myself “It’s okay if that’s all you do right now, but that one thing is so easy you won’t even feel it at all.” And inevitably, once I pull the one weed I see another one, and I tell myself the same thing: “It’s okay if that’s all you do right now, but that one thing is so easy and it’s right there.” By the time I check back in with myself, I’ve weeded far more than I even thought was possible five, ten, or thirty minutes before, and I feel pretty fantastic for having been productive. But I would never have gotten there at all if I’d been looking at the garden and promising to weed for a half hour or more!

Let’s look at writing the same way. Maybe you only sit yourself down at your computer for five minutes at first. Don’t even let yourself think about anything like “I’ll do this five minutes every day“–if you’re feeling deeply unmotivated and sad about it, thinking long-term is poison to the project. You need to build your confidence along with your productivity. One step at a time. Anna didn’t get herself out of that cave by thinking big; she got out of the cave by just taking it one step at a time, and not thinking beyond the next right thing. That’s key.

This may be the only time I ever encourage you to not think too far ahead! Thinking ahead is for people whose brains are free from the adrenaline and anxiety of stressful times. We’ll get back to times of productivity and planning in the future, but for now, please forgive yourself if you’re struggling.

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.

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.

Self-Publishing News: 6.9.2020

june

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

Here’s a thought-provoking article to start off your Tuesday. Harshad Marathe, an illustrator, Rachna Kalra, a publicist, R. Ajith Kumar, a typesetter, and Lakshmi Krishnan, an editor: These four industry professionals from the Indian subcontinent put their heads (and their words) together to create a portrait of what it’s like to be working (or not working) during the time of COVID-19. Their experiences vary, of course, in the way that no one’s pandemic experiences are the same. What’s interesting is what they say about self-publishing. Kalra, the publicist, notes that “we must bear in mind that reading is a leisure activity and at the moment the focus is on safety measures and essential items.” This explains to some extent the variability in the market over the last few months as readers binge-buy and then plateau. Krishnan, the editor, has concerns regarding how the rapidity of change may leave many in the traditional publishing industry afloat:

Suddenly, one is faced with taking into account shifts in remunerative patterns of employers. Benefits of work accruing from independent writers eager to make the most of the lockdown and get their manuscripts readied for self-publishing can but to an extent balance the income sourced from the mainstream; palpable anxiety and fear loom large on the horizon.

Past data suggests that self-publishing and traditional publishing can have a symbiotic, supportive relationship, with authors moving back and forth between the two. What happens if the entire structure of traditional publishing gives way at once? This is an issue we’ll be keeping in mind over the coming weeks.

The title really says it all, doesn’t it? Well, save for one thing … the book in question is a self-published book. This article, courtesy of Washington Post’s Jay Greene, covers all the salient details to this still-developing story, in which two of America’s multibillionaire technology giants go head-to-head over a book. Really, the central question is about a monopoly as well as a book: What happens when one company can manage not only a book’s production from start to distribution as well as the distribution of all other publishers’ books? Sure, both traditionally and self-published authors have other routes to distribution–they just aren’t as centralized and convenient to many buyers. And in an age of COVID-19, increasing percentages of the world’s population is turning to Amazon for essentials. No matter what your view on the companies involved, this is one battle of personalities that could have ramifications for almost everyone. We’ll be watching this developing story, as well.


spa-news
As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

Self-Publishing News: 6.2.2020

june

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

One of the things we love so much about self-publishing here on the blog is its adaptability–how it’s just such a perfect fit for so many different stories and contexts. Such is the tale of Len Shaw of The Syncopated Times, who just released a collection of his “Jazz Jottings,” including interviews with those musicians helping to shape and reshape Jazz in the vast and evanescent present. Shaw’s second book,  JAZZ BEAT ENCORE, More Notes on Classic Jazz follows up his first successful self-published book from 2013 with rich and varied interviews with some fascinating musicians.

If Shaw was empowered to publish interviews with Jazz musicians, what untold stories do you have to tell?

Not to belabor a point, but it still amazes us that in the year 2019 there were still some folk who hadn’t fallen in love with the opportunities and possibilities and vision of self-publishing the way we have. Luckily, as Suzanne Van Atten attests in this article for AJC, an Atlanta-based news site, despite the initial sadness and setback of being excluded, the self-publishing authors of Georgia have banded together to create something exciting and new: “Some members [of the Georgia Writer’s Association] quit, including novelist Vickie Bley, who was prompted to start a separate awards program for self-published authors.” Bley then “established the Georgia Independent Author of the Year (GIAY) awards for self-published authors.” So if you’re an author based out of the peachiest of states, we hope you’ll boost the new awards and take part. Nominations close on June 15.


spa-news
As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

In Your Corner: Put Your COVID-19 “Vacation” to Work!

laptop flowers

Oh, I know–turning what’s possibly the most abnormal “vacation” (or slowdown, or full-speed nightmare, depending on whether you work and in what essential or nonessential industry you work in) into a working vacation isn’t necessarily what you had in mind for your summer, but the fact remains: books aren’t going to sell themselves, and when it comes to being an indie author, there’s not a moment to be wasted. Even if it feels like COVID-19 has completely derailed everything else, there’s one thing that hasn’t changed:

Marketing takes a lot of time.

Luckily for everyone, there are some easy ways to boost your sales and make your summer weirdness work for you rather than against your book sales!

Vacations and the reunions that go with them can be the absolutely most ideal time to market your book and gather some new readers. Or maybe old readers. Age doesn’t matter. Everybody reads, especially when they have a personal connection to the author–you! Reunions are a fantastic place to tell family members, friends, and other personal connections about your book and where they can buy it. Obviously we now live in a time of #SocialDistancing, which means most of these reunions (and birthday parties, graduation parties, memorials, holiday get-togethers, and family check-ins) are taking place over Zoom or FaceTime UnHangOut or one of the many other digital video call platforms available. And by golly, everyone’s probably ready at this point to have something to talk about other than the virus and all of its inconveniences. (I know I sure am.) Even though you may not be in the same room, your book may just be the kind of news your family and friends need to distract themselves with, and then share with their friends … and their friends ….

Don’t underestimate the power of your personal network.

Then there’s the most magical of all summer vacation destinations: the gift shop, the ultimate place to display and present your book for shoppers and readers on their various road trips. And while you travel, too–any stranger you meet on a trip is only a stranger until you break the ice by sharing your book. Buuuuut … the virus is here, right? So unless you live in one of those few states where reopening is moving into Phase II right now, what we thought we were going to go and do this summer is turning out to be very different from what we can go out and do. That said, you’re leaving a digital footprint every bit as large as you would have left a physical one during a normal summer. Don’t hesitate to use every platform to launch your book. You just want to make sure you don’t violate that platform’s version of digital etiquette.

Of course, if you’re going to make the most of your, ahem, vacation (whatever this season looks like for you), there are some things to keep in mind. You’ll need to:

Keep up with your social media.

Before you take off for the beach or the mountains or the hazy land of Netflix binges, schedule. Schedule, schedule, schedule. Facebook has a lovely, easy tool built-in to make this possible–simply put your posts together, and click the drop-down arrow next to the ‘post’ button and input the date and time of your intended schedule.

But what about the others? There are quite a few tools out there to manage all of your media at once. Hootsuite is one, Later.com another, Buffer yet a third. Do your due diligence and pick a service that fits your needs, and be aware that there are free options, so you should theoretically be able to take care of your scheduling needs affordably. Once you have an account, all you have to do is preload your tweets, your posts to Google+ and Instagram and so on.

And of course, be safe! If you’re actually traveling, play up your travels as much as you like as a kind of promotion, but don’t make a point of mentioning how long you’ll be away from home, or other personal details that the disingenuous might exploit. Take pictures and make plenty of memories to share later! Those of us who can’t go anywhere are living vicariously through you. Congratulations. Give me all your photos!!

Network!

Take full advantage of your summer to plan for the future. Is there a writing conference taking place in one of your destination cities that’s still on, or going digital? Get on the list. Are there book readings? Could you plan a book reading through one of the libraries near your beach or mountain idyll or thoroughly fortified house? Local writing groups are another great option. Plenty of people might be interested in having you speak about the process of self-publishing, and libraries, writing groups, and other businesses and organizations are in desperate need of new partners willing to learn how to use Zoom (or whichever digital space) and keep their programming alive.

And of course, come prepared. Keep a bundle of digital promo pictures or a pack of business cards, bookmarks, postcards, posters, and a couple of promotional copies of your book on hand, and practice your elevator pitch thoroughly beforehand. If you haven’t yet invested in some merch or beautifully designed graphics, go ahead and start down that glorious road. Think outside the box, too: is there a way to promote your book while traveling, even if it’s only traveling the many varied landscapes of the Internet?

Make it a GRAND tour!

Some of the items on your agenda are a given, no matter what kind of summer we’re talking about. Marketing your self-published book shouldn’t take up all of your precious vacation time, but spending even just a handful of minutes each day checking Twitter or arranging a couple of book readings will help support the marketing and sales momentum you’ve worked so hard to build–not to mention pay for an even better (and hopefully actual) vacation next year!

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.

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.

Self-Publishing News: 5.26.2020

And now for the news.

Highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing:

As a part of their series, ‘Publishing and the Pandemic,’ Scroll.in hosted a piece by Siddhartha Gigoo, whose recently published Love in the Time of Quarantine is as winsome as it is earnest. Gigoo began the book as many writers have–as a record of his own experience, given new form and voice and presence by the page. Unlike most authors, however, he set himself what seems an impossible challenge in authorship. As he puts it,

That night I opened a blank Word document and saved it as “Isolation Diary”. I stared at the unmarked page for a long time, wondering what to do with it. After some time, I closed it and went back to reading Homer’s The Odyssey.

I couldn’t go beyond the first stanza:

“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course, once he had plundered the hallowed heights of Troy.”

I kept humming it constantly in my head. Such was the spell cast by its imagery.

21 days

The next day I opened the blank word document again and typed a sentence. I posted a story on Instagram that evening – “Friends, I have decided to write a novel in 21 days.”

Even while he was writing nearly nonstop, Gigoo found time to think through his publishing philosophy and process. He writes, “During my stargazing breaks in the balcony, I wondered what to do with the manuscript after I was done. ‘Should I send it to my agent or pitch it directly to publishers?'” His decision was influenced by the immediacy of self-publishing. His goal? Write a book in 21 days. Publish on the 22nd day.

That’s just not something you can hope to do with a traditional publishing house and process! A fast-tracked manuscript can sometimes scrape by some of the usual delays, but the traditional publishing mechanism usually equates to a wait of eighteen months to two years between submission and publication. That wasn’t going to work for Gigoo. “The nausea of it all!” he exclaims. So he recruited his daughter to design the book cover and his wife to serve as editor and copyeditor, and he sat down to cram eight days a week of work into the usual seven day schedule we all live through. (Even though time now seems liminal and transient.) He made it work, despite last-minute hiccups and obstacles, despite his near-impossible timeline, and even now he celebrates the flexibility and functionality of the self-publishing way. Pondering the weighty reality of mortality, prompted by current events, Gigoo writes that “If at all I am able to finish my next novel, digital publishing will be my first choice. Less baggage is preferable in the current times.”

The perfect end note to our own piece, we find. Please read Gigoo’s entire article at the link, above! It is well worth the time to enjoy his original words in full.


spa-news
As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.