12 New Year’s Resolutions for the 12 Days of Christmas (part II)

Well, today marks my last blog of 2014, so it’s only fitting that I finish my list of New Year’s resolutions with both a bang and a whimper—or rather, with a mixed list of strategies that require me to take initiative and steer clear of some of my past faux pas!

I resolve to …

#6: Read more.

Yes, yes, I know it’s a bit trite to say that “good writers are good readers,” but there is some truth to the matter (as there often is, with trite statements).  I have let my reading lapse a smidgen this year, for a variety of reasons, and as a direct consequence I find my ability to verbalize my own ideas is suffering.  In general, I find that a deficit in input results in a deficit of output, and for me that translates to: “No reading, no imagination.”  I don’t know if it’s the same for you, but I for one resolve that this year I will reestablish my reading routines, and reintroduce my mind to the minds of others through the written word.  (Or, more written words.)  As with many things, I’ll try to remember to practice the “quality over quantity” adage.  It’s more important to have an enriching rather than a time-intensive experience!

#7: Try a new format.

There are so many formats in which we can publish these days that the list can grow overwhelming—hard cover editions, paperback editions, Kindle editions, Nook editions, e-book editions, .pdf files, audio book editions, and et cetera—and like many authors, I tend to channel most of my energy into work within my comfort zone.  This year, I resolve to try a new format for a book that I haven’t tried before.  I haven’t quite decided which of these formats I will choose and for which piece, but I promise you (and you can hold me to this!) that I won’t allow myself to get stuck in the “research” stage for so long that I neglect to actually produce a new product.  Perhaps you’d like to join me?  Let’s jump into 2015 by making it easier than ever for readers to access our work!

#8: Make more inspiration boards.

Ever heard of an inspiration board?  Essentially, it’s the practice of putting together a visual display of objects, quotes, and other things that create a focused touchstone for your writing.  For example, an author who’s writing a book set in the corn fields of Nebraska might put together an inspiration board that has some pictures of corn fields in various lighting, a couple of quotations about the hardships and rewards of farming, and maybe a song or two that really captures the desired mood or atmosphere of the piece.  In this day and age, it’s really easy to make inspiration boards.  You can actually put one together physically (see this excellent blog post by the Procrastinating Writer), or you can take advantage of tools like Pinterest (see this equally excellent blog post by Melissa Donovan over at Writing Forward).  Personally, I enjoy using my hands to put something together in the real world, but the interactivity of digital forms can be really great, too. This year, I resolve to play around more with this idea of the inspiration board.

#9: Build a community. 

I’ve already resolved to be more ambitious with my social media presence (see #6 on last week’s list!).  Much of a self-published author’s success lies in his or her relationship with readers, and in establishing a community of people who are just as invested in consuming good writing as the author is in generating it.  Over and beyond just creating more social media platforms to reach more social media users, this year, I resolve to build and broaden my community of readers by reaching them where they are at and giving them what they need.  By keeping my various blog posts about creating a social media platform in mind [here, here, and here], I will tweak my digital presence and refine my physical outreach to meet my readers’ needs, rather than just satisfy my own vision of this idea of ‘presence.’  To do so, I will first need to understand that community, perhaps through polls and surveys, and perhaps through a more effective use of Google Analytics.  It is my hope that understanding will lead to outreach will lead to genuine and authentic connection to my readership.

#10: Write more. 

I know we say this every year, but I really mean it!  This has been a year of major changes for me, as I’m sure it has been for many of you, my readers.  Changes in my family, my work, my health, and so on.  When you consider the fact that we’re social creatures, any change in my network comes rippling back to me, so that a new addition to an in-law’s family or a friend’s vacation plans can become a distraction—for me!  A large part of buckling down to do the thing I love is, I’ve discovered, narrowing my focus and eliminating distractions.  And the self-published author can’t afford to let writing lapse.  I can’t exactly stop change from happening, and I definitely don’t want my family to stop expanding or my friends to stop going on vacation, but I can take initiative in establishing healthy emotional boundaries that keep these changes from becoming calamities.  This year, I resolve to make writing as much of a habit as eating a healthy breakfast (another practice I need to improve upon, I’m afraid).  Whether it’s fifteen minutes or eight hours a day, I will get some words out of my head and onto the page!

#11: Celebrate success.

Because writing and self-publishing is my job, not just a hobby, I sometimes fail to celebrate the successes I’ve already achieved.  Perhaps you’re this way, too, in that it’s hard to justify taking a moment away from the stacks and stacks of to-dos in order to take pride in what has already been done.  But that’s not a rewarding way to live, as we all know well!  So, this year, I resolve to celebrate each and every success, as I check items off of my list of resolutions, or bring other goals through to execution.  You and I both love to celebrate other peoples’ successes, so taking a few minutes to practice joy over our own shouldn’t seem like such an outlandish notion.

#12: Take action. 

I find this perhaps the most important resolution of all, given my own predilection for procrastination in making good on resolutions in years past.  I hereby pledge not to let this list sit here just as a list, but rather to turn it into a tangible action plan for the coming year—not a list of obligations, mind you, that weigh on my conscience if I fail, but as a coda of potential ideas to launch me into 2015 in the best possible shape.  Carpe diem?  After all, as a self-published author, I understand that while I have to work hard to make what I love to do a success, I want to remain in love with what I do.  And that’s always the hardest part, isn’t it?  If I fall out of love with writing and self-publishing, well … I don’t want to allow even the seed of that thought to germinate in my mind.  And so, I will think of this list as inspiration, rather than obligation—inspiration that I can make good on, by decisive action.

 

And so we begin a new year, with hope, and an eye for progress.  I am so lucky to have had you all as readers, and I look forward to another year in partnership with you!  If you have any resolutions or ideas that didn’t make my list, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments box, and watch this space on Wednesdays in 2015 as I blog my way through some of these resolutions!

KellyABOUT 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.

12 New Year’s Resolutions for the 12 Days of Christmas (part I)

I know it’s a bit early to be setting my New Year’s resolutions in stone, so I’ll consider this post something softer than stone, more easily reshaped, but still very much real and solid and tangible––perhaps something like the digital version of putty or artists’ plaster, which will slowly resolve itself into fact. 

My real reason for getting started early is twofold: I want to give myself the time to really think through the list, and I want to give you the time to put some of my resolutions to your own good use as 2015 rolls in.  And so, with no further ado:

I resolve to …

#1:  Host a new kind of marketing event. 

I must admit, I’m fairly predictable when it comes to planning marketing events––I know what I’m good at, and what I’m comfortable doing, and that pretty much boils down to short readings and Q&As at local libraries.  In 2015, I resolve to try something new, or rather, to plan and attempt to execute at least one event that isn’t a reading or a Q&A session at a local library.  You’ll note I used the hazy word attempt just now.  I think it’s important to put together a plan and to make a few phone calls, but not to shackle myself to an impossible agenda.  If, for example, my (very-beginning-stages) notion to put together a bi-weekly podcast proves an enormous drain on my time and energy, then I may need to reevaluate in a few months.

#2:  Attend a new kind of marketing event. 

If I’m predictable about the kinds of events I host, then I’m even more predictable when it comes to the events I attend.  This last year, I’ve been a regular on the book-signing and book-reading circuits, but these are not the only events out there.  I need to diversify what I do so that I can become both a more well-informed reader and a more effective marketer myself!  In 2015, I resolve to attend at least one webinar, book festival, or other marketing event that is a little outside of my comfort zone.  Even if I have to travel a couple of hours to make it, or rearrange my work schedule for a few days, I intend to make this resolution a priority.

#3:  Learn some new code. 

I know a little HTML, but I’ve been out of the coding game for a spell.  It’s time to dive back in, particularly with an eye for coding––whether HTML, CSS, Java, or some other programming language––that can boost my digital footprint.  In 2015, I resolve to read at least one book on the subject, or attend a class, or otherwise broaden my understanding of at least one of these codes.

#4:  Try out a new digital device or software application. 

There are any number of apps out there which I can download to my iPad or e-reader which can help me keep track of my ongoing efforts at self-promotion––and many which can actually help me improve.  In 2015, I resolve to research, discover, and incorporate at least one new digital device, program, or app into my life, with a specific intention to boost my marketing efforts.  This resolution may actually pose a good challenge, since I have little to no idea of where to start.  There are so many possibilities!  The real trouble is narrowing the options down to just … one.

#5:  Launch a new round of SEO campaigns. 

I’ve written extensively about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) before.  Now it’s time for me to practice what I preach!  In 2015, I resolve to put into effect a rigorous and updated SEO program to boost web traffic to my websites.  I’ve dabbled in a great many of the strategies out there at one time or another, but with little accountability and thoroughness.  This time around, I want to be more organized about my SEO efforts––and more regular.  It’s not enough to apply some of the techniques some of the time––I need to apply most of the techniques on a regular basis, or else it’s all just wasted effort.  Readers respect reliability!

#6:  Establish ambitious goals and healthy boundaries for my social media presence. 

Just as I’ve casually speed-dated most of the SEO stratagems out there without committing to any one plan, I’ve felt my way around all or almost all of the major social media platforms––Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Blogger, Goodreads, LinkedIn, and many others––without putting into effect any rigorous plan of action.  I’ll post a picture to Instagram one day and forget about it for a few weeks, then write ten tweets in quick succession, only to let my twitter handle lapse for months on end.  In 2015, I’ll put together a calendar, and a schedule, to better handle my social media accounts.  I pledge to dismantle the accounts I don’t actively use or am failing to use effectively, and pour my time and energy into the outlets that do effective work for my self-promotion.  I pledge, too, to make a habit of timing my posts, so that readers know when they can expect to see something new show up on one of my websites. 

… and you’ll have to stick around until next Wednesday for the other six.  In part because I’ve reached my word limit for the week, and in part because I want my final six resolutions to be even better than my first six!

Can it really be––almost––2015?  It’s hard to believe, sometimes, that this entire industry has been born and made, and remade, and evolved into endless permutations––all within my lifetime.  All within living memory.  The printing press has been around since the 1300s, but since then the process of making and selling books has never seen such a rapid and total transformation as it has within the last twenty years, and perhaps even the last decade.  Digital publication and distribution, e-readers, self-publishing, collaborative writing forums, viral marketing—we live in an exciting time that shows no signs of slowing down.  I, for one, hope to match the broad spectrum of these changes with a few, specific, targeted evolutions of my own.  I’m going to start small, here, in the new year.  In 2015.  I hope you’ll join me!

If you have a question about any of these tools for self promotion, would like to hear from me about something specific, or have other big news to share, please comment below!

KellyABOUT 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.