In Your Corner: Put a Schedule On It

Holiday suitcase

Look, summer presents unique challenges to writers, doesn’t it? By July, everyone’s deep into their vacations, children are running riot while out of school, family streams in and out in a series of reunions, and … it can be hard to continue writing.

Of course … there are remedies. And this week, I suggest trying your hand at a schedule––and then, of all things, sticking to it!

Now, those who know me well know that I’m not aways given over to structured practicalities and organizational tricks. I know how to kick back and relax, especially in summer. After all, if you work in publishing or with authors, as I do, you’ll know that victories are hard-won and well worth celebrating! So … don’t take this as heavy-handed pontification from someone who’s eminently hypocritical. I often suggest many things which I do not myself do all the time, since I’m as firm a believer in changing the habits to fit the situation as I am that success in self-publishing is the nexus of persistence, skill, and good luck.

I recommend schedules for everyone. If not for always, than for a season––and there’s no better season to try your hand at scheduling in summer, when the emotional, physical, and social stakes are so high … and very little writing is getting done anyways, so why not try a new approach? You may be writing by a pool with a mimosa at your side, but you can still work a schedule like nobody’s business, and churn out more writing than you would otherwise. Anyone with a plan can make it work!

In garden a woman surfing on internet with laptop.

Oh … but a plan? How do I come up with one of those?

Here’s where I get a little bit … experimental. As the first step to developing a schedule, I recommend starting a bullet journal. You have probably heard this term before, and associated it with highly neurotic, organized, possibly even OCD? people with phenomenal artistic skills. sure did, and refused to start a bullet journal, until I dug into a great conversation at the local library with a young mother named Melissa.

Melissa bullet journals. No surprise there! But wow, she has zero artistic skills. I mean, not a single artistic bone in her body! She was a bit reticent to show me her bullet journal, since she felt insecure about the lettering and such, but I was eventually able to persuade her. And I was incredibly impressed! Melissa has gotten to the heart of what a bullet journal is all about, which is to say, she started hers with lists––shopping lists, to-do lists, etc––and by tracking the little things she does throughout the day. Then she took it one step further and started to set goals … once she knew what her days usually already looked like, and what was feasible.

That, my friends and dear readers, is the value of a bullet journal. It can eventually help you shape behaviors, yes, but first it shows you what you already do––and therefore, what you’re already good at, and maybe some areas to work on. It’s like Google Analytics, but for a person’s daily productivity!

Printable Journaling Cards with Rooster Illustration. Line Style

You can put a bullet journal to work describing your days and then use the data you gather––when meals happen, what they look like, how many hours you’re sleeping a night, what your weekly and daily commitments look like and how they change in the summer––to transform or tweak your schedule just a little to squeak some more writing in. Poolside, or otherwise.

It’s all about sustainability. Radically altering your writing behaviors without a plan just isn’t a good idea––and it isn’t, ultimately, sustainable. Small changes are great, however, and over time you can build one change upon another until your summers are your most productive months, rather than the opposite! But it starts with knowing where you are, first.

If you’re looking for insight into bullet journaling, hop on Google or YouTube! There are literally thousands of them out there, but beware: many are a bit deceiving, touting life-altering effects and demonstrating uncannily beautiful hand lettering skills. You don’t have to make all the big changes at once, and you don’t need to be a gifted artist to figure out a better summer schedule by bullet journaling!

Still, here’s a quick snippet to get you started:

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.

Decluttering…Your Bookshelves!

Being a bibliophile doesn’t necessarily mean you should also exhibit traits of a hoarder. We’ve all been there, we found a book in a free bin outside the library, or picked up a book for a penny at a thrift store. Free, or nearly free, is always too good to pass up. However, if that same book has been sitting on your shelf for years now and you still haven’t touched it, or don’t intend to, it might be time to part ways with it, donating it to another free bin or free library.

Thinning bookshelves isn’t an easy task. We always convince ourselves that we’re going to read that book eventually, just not now. Or that that book we read that was absolute garbage is for some reason worth holding onto. A book on the shelf becoming a sort of notch on the belt, exemplifying your ultimate reading prowess.

organizing bookshelves

The best way to begin the process of thinning one’s bookshelves is to first come up with an organization strategy. Pull all the books off your shelf and organize by category and then alphabetically within that category. Or pick a different organization method that best suits you! As you do this, come to terms with books that you need to part ways with. That DIY crochet book that you bought ten years ago with the intention to learn the art of yarn braiding should probably get put in this pile, because we all know you never even bought a spool of yarn. If you’re the kind of person who just adores reading romance novels, you probably don’t need to keep all one hundred and fifty separate books with basically the same plot lines that you plowed through in a day due to the excitement and ease with which they read.

What you’re looking for when you’re thinning the shelves is what books actually inspire you to be a better writer. By all means, if you’re trying to write DIY books or romance novels, the above paragraph certainly does not apply to you. However, if you’re a fiction writer or a children’s book author, stick to a bookshelf full of authors you draw inspiration from. As fun as smut can be, we all know a truly beautiful or classic book when we see it. I love being able to walk over to my bookshelf and pick up a copy of Emerson’s Essential Writings and see what I underlined or highlighted from it when I was in college. When I go home to my parent’s house though, and am confronted with the books I store there, I am always amazed to find the strange books I hold onto–from a distance of course–that mean almost nothing to me. If you’re not lucky like me and have parents who you can outsource your hoarding to, put those books in a “bring to my parents house for ‘storage’ box”…wink wink. If that box just so happens to make it to a thrift store or other type of donation center…so be it!


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

In Your Corner: The Business of Writing

So, you’re an author. Writing is your business, right?

Well … hopefully. The problem with being an author, particularly a self-published author, is that the real work is a solitary activity, taking place at home or in another not-a-standard-office-environment workplace, and is oh-so-easily interrupted by the ordinary vagaries of daily life. Anyone who works from home can attest that it’s difficult to keep home life and work life separate!

So how can an author make writing a business, with all of the peculiar challenges authors face?

Draw up a business plan.

Whoa, whoa, a business plan?! Isn’t that for people who are, like, starting a bakery or a coffee shop or maybe a lumber yard? Yes. But it’s also for you, the indie author. You have to prioritize making a business plan if you want to make a profit off of your writing. There are plenty of small-business handbooks available through your local public library, so I won’t go into great detail for you here, other than to say you don’t need to be afraid of the spreadsheets … you just have to be willing to bow before the truths they present to you. If the spreadsheets and the business plan requires you to sacrifice certain luxuries in order to make a good go at becoming a profitable self-publishing author, that’s what you’ll need to do. In most cases, however, a business plan will simply help you figure out which services you ought to pay for, and which ones you ought to train yourself to manage. Like bookkeeping, or website design. It will help you organize your author-related budget and separate it from your personal, regular budget, articulate your needs and your vision, and filter out distractions. I promise, this is the best possible thing you can do, whether you’re just starting out or midway through your career!

Figure out your brand.

What do you want to be known for, as an author? Are you going to be recognized for some sort of narrative through-line to your works, a passion for author advocacy, for your engagement with your audience, or something else entirely? (Hint: you can be all of things, and more.) Your “brand” is as much a product of your personality and your priorities as it is the actual physical product you publish on the page.

You can probably name a couple of brands off of the top of your head. Starbucks, Wal*Mart, Toyota … and when you think of these brands, what do you think of? Their visual presence, like their logo and their website or smartphone app? Or perhaps the little jingle that plays during their commercials? Now, what about authors? Which ones spring to mind as having distinctive presences out in the world? Terry Tempest Williams? Ann Rice? Stephen King? Figure out what draws you in, and what you can feasibly do as a creator in order to tap into the same strengths.

Find your market.

Have you spent much time thinking about your ideal reader? This isn’t a simple thought exercise, it’s an important part of delivering your business plan into the world without undue complications. Spend a few hours researching and drawing out characteristics and qualities you think of when you contemplate who will or ought to be drawn to your work, and then brainstorm ways to reach them which you can manage in a regulated, sustainable, and protected way.

Protected? Yeah. As with all other new things, it can be hard to build new muscles and tap into new markets, because such things rely on habitual, scheduled curation. Statistically speaking, readers are far more likely to subscribe to your social media accounts, blog, and email newsletters if they know they’ll get updates regularly—even on the same day each week. You absolutely must protect such habits from the encroachment of daily distractions! Otherwise, they’ll go the way of all other resolutions. And if you want to treat your work as an author like a business, that’s just not going to help much.

businesslike business suit coffee child

If you’re feeling frustrated with your attempts to put together a business plan for your writing, get in touch! We’d love to hear your stories and help you face the challenges ahead with the best possible resources at hand. We’re here for you.

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.

Decluttering…The Archives!

You may know the feeling, you go to open a drawer and papers are protruding every which way, you have to force some down to even open the drawer at all and your impatience mounts at the idea of dealing with it for just two seconds, not to mention an entire afternoon of actually dealing with it by cleaning shop. For those of you who still utilize filing cabinets–the non-digital kind–let’s talk about the ways in which we can declutter the archives and the crud that often accumulates in file folders.

The best way to start the de-crudding process for a filing cabinet would be to either create or reaffirm what your filing system is. You need a method by which you consciously store your papers and documents and this method can be as simple or as complex as you’d like it to be, as long as it makes sense to you and helps you find what you need in a timely and convenient manner. Some options for organization are alphabetical, numerical, due date, project, chapter, book, character, etc. etc.

Next up, you should write down a list of the working files you’ve decided to keep in your cabinet. Name the files in such a way that they are immediately recognizable to you. Use book or chapter titles, character names, etc. if it’s related to your writing. If you happen to also keep your water and electric bills in that cabinet, definitely label them and keep them in a separate area from your writing files. Miscellaneous folders are no help to anyone. They are clutter traps and try your best to avoid them!

Feel free to spice things up and make the decluttering process more exciting for yourself. Use visually appealing folders, perhaps toss that filing cabinet that you can barely open without the drawer almost flying out onto the floor. Customize this system to your organizational and aesthetic preferences!

Next up: pull your files out one at a time and lay them on a flat surface–this can be the floor or your desk or whatever you’d like. This way, if you have items in the wrong folders, they clearly stick out and you can place them aside in a pile and correctly file them as you go. When you go to replace the files in the cabinet, be sure to refer to your filing system list you began by making.

Once all the already filed items are back in a row, ask yourself if you have a stack of papers that still needs to be filed. Having a tray or box for a stack like this is always a good idea, especially marked with some imperative like “to be filed.”

The fun part of cleaning out the ‘ole filing cabinet? You can have a nice bonfire or shredding party with all of your disposed paperwork. Pour yourself a glass of wine, beer, coffee, tea–whatever your drink of choice may be–and celebrate a clean (and organized) slate!

bonfire burning papers


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

Decluttering…Publishing!

This week we’re going to discover the ways in which we can declutter our publishing lives. This begins by putting our wallets to good and simple use. What does this mean? It means paying only for what you need, not what you want, unless of course what you want comes affordably with what you need.

First you’ll have to sit down and decide what it is you need. Is it a children’s book? Do you need full-color illustrations? Do you need help with distribution? If so, there are packages offered by self-publishing companies like Outskirts Press (my employer) that can get you full color cover, interior, unlimited wholesale printed and distribution via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others. A package like this could cover your needs while also providing a few things you want like an author representative and publishing consultant.

Those of us not writing children’s books don’t need to front the expense of full-color publishing. Basic publishing packages are a great way to provide authors who just want black and white interiors everything they need to make their publishing dreams come true, without stretching their wallets too thin while still providing a full-color cover, distribution, author representative, etc.

What if you’re just a hobby writer and don’t necessarily feel the need to have hard copies of your book? An ebook is a great way to fulfill your dreams of becoming published at a fraction of the cost. Not only that, a lot of readers are more apt to try a book from an author they’ve never read if it’s in the more affordable, ebook version.

Sure, some of us would love to have a literary agent, a world-class editor, the most prestigious illustrator, etc. However, if you’re on a budget and really just want to pursue your passion for writing/publishing, you should always consider what the bottom line is. You want to turn your manuscript into a book. There are relatively inexpensive ways to achieve that dream and still have a product you can be proud of. Companies like Outskirts Press are full of professionals who can help you create a beautiful book–or ebook!–that you can be proud of and that won’t leave you bankrupt.

If you’re someone who doesn’t have the time or the know-how to market your book once it’s completed and published, and you find yourself wanting help with that side of the publishing process, there are packages offered by Outskirts to help you with that. But if this is more of a want than a need that you can’t necessarily afford, consider networking with other self-publishing authors for advice. If time if your main concern, simply allot a few minutes a day to making a simple social media post. If you have slightly more time, write a short blog and try to keep it up to date. An online presence is a great way to keep yourself in the marketing loop, and it’s free.

No matter what budget you’re working with, you can afford to publish your book. Sometimes we just have to acknowledge what it is we need to accomplish that goal, and maybe even push aside some of our bigger wants.

paper airplane decluttering


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

Decluttering…Ambitiously!

This week I’d like to take a look at the ways in which we can “declutter ambitiously,” or find ways to set realistic and simple goals for ourselves–including for decluttering! If you had a New Year’s resolution list that was far too grand for your lifestyle, now may be a time to take a look at your goals for the day, week, month or year and refine them to something more accomplishable.

calendar planning

 

  • Draw up some numbers

 

How many social media posts do you want to make per week?

How many blogs?

How many pages or chapters do you want to finish per month?

Do you want to have a completed book by the end of the year? Or multiple books?

These goals are very simple and easy to measure. Once you have these numbers down on paper, you can begin to create a schedule that will promote progress towards these now clearly defined goals.

If you want to get three blogs done per week, pick three days that best work with your schedule to do them and treat it like a homework assignment due on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, for example. If you want a book done by the end of the year and you envision it having around twenty chapters, make sure you’re getting a chapter done every two weeks at least–you’ll need to give yourself extra time for editing of course!

  • Use a calendar!

This can be the calendar on your phone or computer or a good ole fashioned paper one. Use the data from step one to make yourself a schedule. Actively engage with this schedule rather than just look at it. When you complete tasks, use a symbol that shows you did so and reward yourself based on your consistency and progress.

This is also useful for noting when you may be realistically too busy to write some weeks, allowing you to stack your writing on other weeks when holidays, busy days at work, family vacations, etc., come up.

If you do use a calendar that is synced with your phone and computer, use the alerts that are available to prompt you and remind you of the commitments you made to your writing. Do not expect to be able to do all of your writing, blogging and marketing in one day, and do not clutter your schedule by even kidding yourself that that is a reasonable workload…which leads to my next point.

  • Set reasonable goals

For some people, writing 500 words a day is a walk in the park. For others, perfectionists and otherwise that might take a couple of days. If you’re honest with yourself you can avoid a cluttered schedule that just gets more and more backed up each day you fail to reach your goals each day. We all know what happens when we get overwhelmed by the idea of falling short of our overambitious goals–we grow anxious and are almost unable to work at all. This horrible paralysis can be avoided by just understanding yourself and being honest with yourself as a writer.


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

 

Decluttering…Your Schedule

Making time to write is something we all struggle with. In our day to day lives, when we’re choosing between finishing laundry, making dinner, staying late at work, helping out a friend, etc., we’re probably going to put our hobby on the back burner. Sometimes, this is a necessary evil to remain a functioning human being who still gets eight hours of sleep at night. However, there are a few things that you can cut out of your schedule that are actually just time wasters and there are ways in which you can clear your schedule so that there’s always time for writing.

 

  • Stop using social media as a way to unwind after a long day.

 

In college, I often used StayFocusd, a Google Chrome app that helps you block certain websites for certain blocks of time when you want/need to be productive. Seriously, these things are great. You find yourself drifting off, go to open Facebook, and are immediately reminded that you are procrastinating. Scrolling through a newsfeed does not help you become a more well-rounded human being and does not teach you anything you don’t already know about the world–namely that people are self-absorbed and that politics are frustrating. Writing is time to focus on what matters–you and the things you care about. Clear out time wasters from your schedule and you’ll realize that those 20-40 minutes you spend per day on social media could be spent far more productively.

  • It’s okay to say “No!”

Nobody wants to be the naysayer. Someone needs you to cover a shift at work and they’ve asked you to do it, putting you in the awkward situation of not wanting to be a bad friend, but not wanting to add another shift to your already busy week. Guess what? When you’re overworked, you assuredly will be undermotivated to write. Sometimes you have to just say no. Putting yourself first doesn’t make you a bad person; if you think about it the person asking you for a favor is simply also putting themselves first, so you should follow suit and keep your spare time for partaking in the things you care most about.

  • Use a timer.

If you have two hours that you can allot to writing today, don’t force yourself to sit down and just hammer out two hours straight without blinking or using the bathroom. Set an alarm for every half hour and to give yourself five minutes to stand up from your desk, breathe some fresh air, grab a fresh coffee, etc. If you’re really on a roll and don’t need a break, so be it! But it’s always nice to be reminded that a break is an option, and it’ll keep you fresh!

  • Dial your meals

If you cook for yourself (which, hopefully…you do at least once in awhile), you know how time consuming it can be. Plan your meals out a week in advance and make them ahead of time. Throw together your breakfast and lunch while you make dinner and make lots of extras! This way, tomorrow you won’t be stuck with cooking, dishes, etc. all over again. This will free up hours between mornings, afternoons and evenings!

schedule scheduling agenda


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