From the Archives: “12 New Year’s Resolutions for the 12 Days of Christmas (part II)”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

∗∗∗∗∗

[ Originally posted: December 31st, 2014 ]

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 tounderstand 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!

– by Kelly Schuknecht

As I stated last week, originally my goal was to revisit these blog posts after just one year of labor–perhaps in early 2016–but life being what it is, and my memory too, I instead am coming to it now at the tail end of two years of work. And yes, since it was originally a two-parter, I will be revisiting it in two parts (this being the second part) … but all that is just scaffolding. It’s not why you’re here.

You’re here to find out if I succeeded or not!

  1. Did I read more? Yes, I did. Everything from nonfiction accounts of America’s history with birding to the latest Star Wars novelization. And for those of you who are interested in how I keep track of the books I read, I use Goodreads–which we’ve written about in the past here at SPA. This has actually been a great year for reading on my part, but if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that I’ll never truly read enough, period. There are so many good books to read in the world right now–and you have helped contribute to that truth!
  2. Did I try a new format? As a reader, yes! I have made significant inroads into incorporating both standard ebooks and audio books into my repertoire, and they came in especially handy while commuting and cooking, respectively. I did not publish any new editions–or books, for that matter–in 2016, in part because my work in supporting other self-publishing authors supersedes any personal desire to publish at this point. Look for more from me on this subject in the future.
  3. Did I make more inspiration boards? Yes! Am I going to share them with you? No! Why? Because I personally feel as though mine don’t demonstrate the form at its purest. But do take a look at our primer for Pinterest–everything I’ve learned through practice was first written there, and more eloquently.
  4. Did I build a community? Yes, although as with most authors and readers this is a work in progress. I’ve been trying to take advantage of the great wisdom out there on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Twitter, specifically. My follower count is not in the thousands, but engagement remains high. I’m still trying to figure out what, exactly, I want to be my “online brand” … but in that, I feel, I am not alone.
  5. Did I write moreYes! Here at least I have some very good news. As we’ve intimated elsewhere on the blog, this year I took part in NaNoWriMo. I completed the 50,000 word challenge–and roughly the first half a draft for a new book! If any of you are wondering if NaNoWriMo is a challenge you want to participate in over the coming years, I highly recommend it as a motivational tool. More importantly for me, personally, was the decision to restructure my days around healthier writing habits. I feel so much better–and healthier, overall–knowing that I have safeguarded my ability and time to write in this way.
  6. Did I celebrate success and take action? You bet! In every area of my life as a writer, I am a different person to the one who wrote these original posts in 2014. And that’s a good thing! Even if I’m not as productive as I’d like or as focused or as prolific, I still have made great progress–and so can you, SPA readers. In fact, celebrating your success and helping you take action is what we’re all about here.

You might have noticed there were 12 New Year’s resolutions mentioned in the title of this blog post, and 12 in the original (split) post from 2014. Last week’s list of the first six resolutions can be found at the link. But what about you? How did you do on your resolutions for 2016? How about 2015? And what do you hope to accomplish in 2017?

perserverence

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


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.

In Your Corner: No Gimmicks, No Exaggeration…We Are Thankful For You!

It’s almost Christmas! Which is to say, quite a few feast days and religious holidays are fast approaching. What will you be doing this holiday season? How will you spend the day?

Among other things, we here at Self Publishing Advisor will be spending Christmas celebrating you. Because you’re awesome, and you have been so incredibly kind to us as readers and supporters of all things self-published and self-publishing. We couldn’t have asked for more generous-hearted, more wise, more curious and inquiring minds than than you. You keep us young, you keep us honest, and you keep us on-point in collating, generating, and celebrating the advances made in self-publishing over the last decade.

I’m new to SPA, but the blog itself has been around for quite a while. We had our eight-year blogiversary just a couple of months ago. In the age of the Internet, eight years is a massive accomplishment! So thank you, thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for being the massively accomplished and wonderful people that you are.

thank you

We hope you get a moment today and every day through the holidays to pause, catch your breath, and find yourself some headspace. It’s a frenetic time as we close out the year, but we’re here for you, and we’ll be here every weekday and Saturday with more quality content to keep feeding that hungry heart and mind of yours. If you have any suggestions as to content and themes as we move into a new year, we’d love to hear those too! We want to deliver material that you actually want to read, so burn up our comments section a little, okay? Or drop us a line in private–that’s fine too.

Thank you, dear readers, for another wonderful year.

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, 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.

From the Archives: “12 New Year’s Resolutions for the 12 Days of Christmas (part I)”

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

∗∗∗∗∗

[ Originally posted: December 24th, 2014 ]

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!

– by Kelly Schuknecht

Originally my goal was to revisit this blog post after just one year of labor–perhaps in early 2016–but life being what it is, and my memory too, I instead am coming to it now at the tail end of two years of work. And yes, since it was originally a two-parter, I will be revisiting it in two parts … but all that is just scaffolding. It’s not why you’re here.

You’re here to find out if I succeeded or not!

  1. Did I host a new kind of marketing event? Yes, I did. But here’s the rub–I didn’t do it for me, I did it for someone else. I know that’s a bit of a cop-out, especially since we’re talking about a two-year gap between my original post and today, but the lines get really blurred when you work with so many self-publishing authors. And it was a success! In 2017 I’ll be continuing to apply what I learned at this event, which was held in a library and involved ice-cream tasting. Who knew?
  2. Did I attend a new kind of marketing event? This also is in the affirmative, and luckily, multiple times over. In two years, I have attended upwards of a dozen marketing events in total, and while many of them were simple iterations on the tried-and-true methods (book readings, book signings, etc) I also had the chance to sit in on several that were truly unique. They were all very different, but one thing they had in common was the author’s (or organizer’s) willingness to step back from tradition and completely re-envision the purpose of marketing start to finish.
  3. Did I learn some new code? This one, unfortunately, I might have well and truly failed on. I have spent some time with Arduino and MakeyMakey robotics kits in the last two years, but neither of these really ties back to marketing in a meaningful way … yet. But there are lots of Arduino projects out there–maybe I can still figure something out! That’s my goal for 2017.
  4. Did I try out a new digital device or software application? You bet your best pair of knickers I did! In fact, I tried a whole slew of new apps and softwares. On the hunt for a new digital device of my own, I was determined to put my hands on all of the new tablets and dedicated e-readers out there–from the iPad Mini to the Kindle Oasis–and the hands-on treatment proved to be incredibly useful in making an informed decision. (But I don’t want to sway you–unless it’s to try them all out for yourself, since your needs will be different from mine.) I tried Scribner to keep track of my writing, and a bunch of apps to retrain my sense of mindfulness and time-management, to keep me on-point during my limited writing time each morning.
  5. Did I launch a new round of SEO campaigns? Yes … sort of. By which I mean, I introduced a few new steps to how I’m setting up blog posts and book page listings and so forth online, to integrate some of the tips and tidbits I’ve picked up over the years. And honestly, slow but steady really does win the race. With all of the other things I’ve been trying to do, taking a few new concrete steps each month makes a big difference and is sustainable–and if it’s not sustainable, it’s not worth doing at all, in my opinion.
  6. And last but not least, did I establish ambitious goals and healthy boundaries for my social media presence? Yes … but it didn’t all turn out roses. I actually pared back my social media presence since I was over-extended and ineffective in trying to manage five or six sites at once on top of work and writing and family. So now I’m back down to the bare bones, which isn’t such a bad place to be … because it can only go up from here, right? Right! But don’t worry, I’ll be expanding again soon, in the new year.

You might have noticed there were 12 New Year’s resolutions mentioned in the title of this blog post, and 12 in the original (split) post from 2014. Never fear–I’ll be getting to the remaining six next week! But before I get there, I wanted to drop you, dear readers, a quick line to ask: how did you do on your resolutions for 2016? How about 2015? And what do you hope to accomplish in 2017?

perserverence

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


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.

In Your Corner: Making sense––of the holiday drop-in.

How do we prepare for the holidays?

Oh, look, I get it–after weeks and weeks of holiday-themed newsletters, emails, blog posts, and tinned Christmas music piped over the mall speakers, it’s easy for the season to lose its luster. And it’s true, after so many days and weeks harping on the same note (angelically, we hope) the holidays can begin to feel a bit … stale.

But that’s why we keep trying to come at it from different angles! Appropriately, too, since that’s what today’s post is all about: brainstorming new and fresh ways to prepare yourself as an author and your book too for this festive season. How do we best make use of the holidays and market our books to visiting friends and family, co-workers, neighbors, as well as the general community…without coming off as opportunistic…or worse, stale?

Here’s my suggestion:

Do what you love to do during the holidays, only find a way to be an author as well as an ordinary shopper, gift-giver, and so on. You don’t have to sacrifice anything, least of all that all-too-precious authenticity, in order to be both and do both.

Maybe you like baking cookies. I’m a traditionalist–gingerbread, snickerdoodles, sugar cookies, and sandies for me! But my family? Their roots go way back, to date-filled oatmeal cookies, cappuccino flats, Scandinavian almond bars, pfeffernüsse, orange and ginger shortbread, and all sorts of delicacies I’m not much good at putting together. (Dipping stuff in melted chocolate?? Only if it’s a spoon or my hand, thanks. Otherwise, the entire house gets decorated in splatter.)  Here’s the thing, though: no matter what you like to bake, it’s a great excuse to make the rounds at your neighbors’ as well as pretty much any social gathering you can think of–potluck, luncheon, shower, office party, etc–and to spread the word about your book at the same time. Tuck a bookmark with a picture of your book on it into the basket of goodies, and voila! Word is spread, and without great expense while keeping you doing the thing you love best at the holidays.

Or maybe you’re a nice version of the Grinch, in that you want to do anything other than another holiday-themed thing. In that case, you can lift a page from REI’s #OptOutside campaign (only perhaps we should call this #GoodGrinch-ing? I’m sure you can come up with a better hashtag). Throw a party, any other kind of party that is, or maybe launch a little crowdsourcing campaign of your own where you ask others to partner with you in doing something bigger and greater than just buying your book. Like REI, can you transform a single consumer behavior–abstaining from shopping for a day, in their case–into a statement? Maybe you decide to start a matching strategy, where for a limited time, for every copy of your book that is purchased, you’ll gift a copy to local libraries? Or perhaps, for every three copies of your book that are purchased, you donate a shoebox to Operation Christmas Child? The possibilities are endless. The key is to remember that you yourself have to believe in the mission you’re setting out to accomplish, and that mission is more than just making bank. The great thing about this idea is, too, that it can be adapted to other times of year! (But you have to admit, it’s really well-suited to the holidays.)

There are so many ways to branch out during the holidays, bringing fresh air to the age-old necessity of marketing your book effectively while also maintaining your sanity (and integrity!) at a busy time of year.

 

christmas visit holiday

Have you found a way to market your book around the holidays that doesn’t feel stale or opportunistic? I’d love to hear about your experience. Please drop me a line in the comments section, and I’ll include the best ideas in next week’s “In Your Corner” post!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, 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: Hold On To That Pen–Don’t Put It Down Just Yet!

OR: How NOT To Be Defeated By Christmas

holidays journaling

Look, you actually already know quite a lot about surviving the holidays. For one thing, you’re here, aren’t you? And that means you’ve survived at least one–and let’s be honest, one-year-olds are a bit young to be self-publishing authors, but we support you too, one-year-olds, go get ’em!–holiday season. Very likely, you’ve survived several.

The thing is, those holidays you’ve survived may not have been, how shall we put it … productive? Yes, that’s close enough. “Productive holidays” may even strike you as something of an oxymoron, each being mutually exclusive of the other. But I’m here to assure you that, in fact, the term is not only literally possible but it can be yours–this month!

No, it’s not too late to get ahead of Christmas 2016. It’s easy to be fatalistic upon entering the second week of December, but I find it useful to remember the wise, wise words one of my coworkers has passed down to me from her father: “It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done.” And a lot of holiday stress? Well, it just goes poof out the window when you apply this idiom to reality. I don’t need to hand-craft every Secret Santa gift or hand-letter every card with fine calligraphy. I don’t need to make a gourmet meal on Christmas where everything comes out of the oven at the same time like it does on America’s Test Kitchen and The Great British Baking Show, and I definitely don’t need to do it all alone, like I have something to prove. But these feelings, this sense of obligation to craft the perfect holiday–they’re real. It’s real. And my friends don’t help at all.

I have friends who are Christmas fiends, bargain-hounds, and holiday maestros. And that’s wonderful, it really is. But in the age of Pinterest and Instagram, those banner apps for the socially and domestically blissful (and skilled), it’s easy to feel like I’m not measuring up–even when I’m racing flat-out just to get the basics covered. I’m 100% certain social media was invented with white picket fences in mind … but most of us don’t have a neatly manicured and curated life! And that’s okay. So the green bean casserole is a bit cooler than the Christmas ham? No big deal! (It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done.)

The real trick to a stress-free holiday, however, isn’t repeating a mantra to yourself every five minutes when the gingerbread cookies catch fire in the oven or the dog pees on the bearskin rug (true story; don’t ask) you just laundered the day before.

No, the real trick is in not forgetting who you are as an author. It’s easy to put your writing in second place during the holidays–second place to everything. Work is busy in preparation for the holidays, the house is a chaotic wreck, and everyone seems to want something from you, if only emotional support. But you’re an author. This is a vital part of who you are. And it’s not a part you can afford to neglect for an entire month during a time of year when life is literally throwing material–comic, tragic, or just plain emotionally rich–at you every five minutes.

So here’s my suggestion: Start a journal. No, it doesn’t have to be a “Dear Diary” setup if that’s not your speed. It’s definitely not mine. I mean, I may have started there–but when things got really tough a few years ago, I simply started jotting down fragments of overheard conversations, things I was grateful for, and things I was worried about. This last one came to dominate, and I called the journal my “Worry Book”–once a worry was written down, it was exorcised. I closed the book each day and wouldn’t allow myself to worry about it anymore, since it was in the book. This may seem like a simple trick, and it didn’t always work, but sometimes it did and I emerged from that difficult year with a record of all of the most important things on my mind. That’s fodder for a book, right there!

You may be a classic journaler, or you might be a “worry booker.” You might take down notes, reporter-style, or you might be more the sort to challenge yourself to write a poem a day. Whatever it is, be systematic. Sit down at the same time every day–preferably early, before the day really gets started–and knock out a few drops of ink from that fountain pen of yours. You can afford to write disconnected and fragmentary thoughts about life in your journal–but you can’t afford not to write at all. Keep that pen in hand, folks, even when life gets busy–and remember what my coworker’s dad said!

It doesn’t have to be perfect; it just has to be done.

Honestly, I’m pretty sure this applies to first drafts and initial thoughts and journals every bit as much as it does to Christmas dinner. Just remember who you are, and what builds you up–what refreshes you and energizes you and prepares you for the day. I’m pretty sure it’s going to involve a pen!

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, 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.

Conversations: 12/2/2016

THE WRITER-AUTHOR-MARKETING SPECIALIST

We have all survived November’s politics with much THANKSGIVING around the holiday table! Now it’s time to focus on the book(s) we’ve written with a fresh perspective toward the 2016 winter holiday marketing season. Are you ready? OR…are your knees knocking? I must confess I a bit stuck somewhere in-between. However, every year I learn little more—become familiar with new marketing techniques—and develop connections with folks who can help me. SO, let me put your mind at ease. No matter where you fit on the sliding scale of preparedness, we can all do something to promote our published books—AND—be inspired to continue writing current projects. My blogs this month will share a sundry of ideas to help you.

character writing fireproof proverbs

You’ll be reading this blog in the 1st week of December, therefore my first encouragement to you is: DON’T PANIC!

If you’ve peeked into the marketing blogs, magazines and how-to books you’ve probably read that authors must start marketing for the Christmas Holiday Season IN OCTOBER! I don’t know about you, but I’m writing my next book (and coaching two other authors in the development of their books), so I totally missed the month of October—and November. Now, it’s December 2nd and I’m recalling a wonderful piece of advice from a very well-known author I met at a Writers Conference. He said: “Continuous one-line conversations will sell your books any time of the year, but most especially during the winter holidays.”

What did he mean by “one-line conversations?” You probably already know—Facebook and Twitter first of all, then creating one-line quotes from your book that can be placed on your blog, Instagram and Pinterest, and everywhere else online that you can reach. For example, here is a quote from my self-published book: FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words.

Most authors I know are also using one of the EMAIL marketing sites to send out weekly hello’s to a collected list of Readers and writers. The emails I find most appealing are the “short and sweet” ones that encourage my own writing efforts. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction this is an excellent marketing tool. However, I’ve discovered that I need help with offering potential buyers something that is of value to them and nudges them in the direction of my book.

If you self-published the team that supported you to get your book in print and online can also help you with marketing through multi-level promotions. Their experts can develop a series of emails that build excitement for your books and/or video clips that will play on YouTube plus many other suggestions that are specific to your needs.

So…this week I hope you will take a deep breath, relax, and begin thinking about the exciting month you will have promoting YOUR book(s). Those of us who are introvert writers CAN do this because of all the things available to us on our computers IN THE COMFORT ZONE of our writing rooms. The professional “assistants,” who have the expertise to help us, also love to communicate via emails. And once you’ve entered into this marketing realm—well—you just might find it a lot of FUN! ⚓︎


Royalene

ABOUT ROYALENE DOYLE: Royalene has been writing something since before kindergarten days and continues to love the process. Through her small business—DOYLE WRITING SERVICES—she brings more than 40 years of writing experience to authors who need “just a little assistance” with completing their projects. This is a nice fit as she develops these blogs for Outskirts Press (OP) a leading self-publisher, and occasionally accepts a ghostwriting project from one of their clients. Her recent book release (with OP) titled FIREPROOF PROVERBS, A Writer’s Study of Words, is already receiving excellent reviews including several professional writer’s endorsements given on the book’s back cover.  

Royalene’s writing experience grew through a wide variety of positions from Office Manager and Administrative Assistant to Teacher of Literature and Advanced Writing courses and editor/writer for an International Christian ministry. Her willingness to listen to struggling authors, learn their goals and expectations and discern their writing voice has brought many manuscripts into the published books arena.

In Your Corner: Be the Life of the Party…Literally!

book club book party coffee tea nature

It can be hard, reinventing the wheel. Every holiday season, the same challenges and opportunities roll around–and every author is forced to decide: this one, or that one? Host a reading at the library, or coordinate a potluck and book sale at home? Or, worst of all, there’s the option of letting the holidays slide–of letting them drift away in a haze of busy schedules and truly important family and social demands–without making use of them as an author.

My suggestion? Host a holiday writing party! This isn’t your plain-Jane reading or book sale, although you could definitely incorporate elements of those tried-and-trues into your new plan. No–a writing party is much more inclusive and much more fun for kids of all ages (“from one to ninety-two” as Nat King Cole would put it). And while you are still the facilitator and secret power-broker behind the scenes of a writing party, you’re not the sole event–and at this time of year, that’s a blessing! No really, one can only pull off the holidays if one is expected to carry every burden. And typically, once the idea of a writing party is broached, everyone is eager to pitch in!

If you’re thinking “Hey! That’s not such a bad idea!” then I have a couple of suggestions, based on prior experience (I love these parties!):

  • Have everyone bring a dish, and in a twist have them steer clear of the typical holiday goodies, which everyone will very soon be sick of from sheer quantity–candies and cookies and so forth. Instead, have them bring something inspired by one of their favorite books! Kids might find something in Redwall to inspire, and there is an entire genre dedicated to “geek cookbooks” online, where you can find cookbooks (official and unofficial) with recipes from The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Little House on the Prairie, among others … so this is not such a difficult challenge to meet. (And adults: there are endless lists of cocktails inspired by literature out there, so don’t be afraid to crack open that bar after the kids go to bed!)
  • Dedicate a part of your session just to snacking. It’s worth it, and it gets the chatting and the fiddling and the greasy fingers out of the way before the serious work begins. There’s usually a quiet lull in the conversation about twenty minutes in which serves as a nice segway–but again, everyone’s party should be tailored to suit your specific vision! Just make sure that food is stored away from the writing table, since messes do tend to happen–and everybody has a favorite “loud chewing sound” story! (Hot beverages are usually handy at the table, though.)
  • Then, get down to business. You’ll know what this ought to look like when it happens, and when it feels right. Every book club, writing club, and party has its own rhythm, but don’t worry–you’ll know. Sometimes it’s helpful to keep a timer nearby, or to set one up on your phone–breaking writing up into a couple of shorter sessions with quick snack and bathroom breaks in between is one way to keep everyone’s blood moving and energy up. And if that doesn’t cut it, consider leading a couple of breathing activities or even–yes!–yoga moves! Studies indicate significant improvements to focus in intellectual activities when the body is kept active and balanced. (It helps with carpal tunnel syndrome, too. Shake out those cramped wrists and fingers!) Oh–and don’t forget to offer up a couple of writing “prompts” for anyone in need of inspiration, and gear them towards your audience. Adults may want to write fiction–or letters to loved ones at Christmas. Kids might want to doodle or draw, or slay a dragon in five paragraphs or fewer!
  • Wrap up with a quick reflection. Try to steer clear of putting any one person on the spot, but offer up a couple of open questions about books, characters, challenges, and more. At this point, or as the last writing session is wrapping up, you can begin bringing the snacks to the writing table. The goal is for everyone to reach a point of total relaxation and contentment, and holiday joy.

Be inspired. There are so many shapes and forms your writing party might take–it may look nothing like the one I’ve described here–it might be outside, with just a couple of friends, or inside, with a pack of small children looking on. It could be held at the library! Or at your kitchen table. There’s no one way to hold a writing party–but a writing party is the best kind of party. After all, like the adult coloring movement–like Knit Night–like quilting and gardening and origami and yoga and meditating on one’s reading, writing is an activity which triggers serotonin release, calm, peace, and rejuvenation in those who take part in it. We can’t think of a better way to kick the holiday stress than by hosting a writing party!

What do you think? Will you have a chance to host an event this Christmas season? We’d love to hear about it. Drop us a line in the comments section below.

book party grandpa grandfather grandchildren children

You are not alone. ♣︎


Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 18 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Manager of Author Services for Outskirts Press. The Author Services Department is composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, pre-production specialists, 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.