Conversations: 8/18/2017

S. O. S. – Writers Need Help, Too – Part III

The manuscript is finished! Woo Hoo! Now you’re ready to PUBLISH! The writing was so much fun! Where do we go from here?

The “big” traditional publishing houses today literally have hundreds of back-logged books waiting for their editorial staffs to “review” manuscripts and make their changes according to the “standard” of every specific genre.

First, I NOT want my book to be changed. My editor and I have completed it just the way I want it and no other editors are required.

Second, contracts with the traditional publishers give them full latitude in selecting a book cover. Nope—I do not want that, either. I have very specific ideas for the cover design.

help wanted

So, let’s look at the options today’s self-publishers offer. Again, this will require a bit of Internet Research to find the BEST FIT for me and my book.

  • After making a list of the Self-Publishing companies that look best to me I begin calling their main telephone lines and asking to speak to a Publishing Consultant.
    • I compare the publishing consultant to a National Park Service trail guide who, before I embark on my highly anticipated journey, will give me the “lay of the land.”
    • This person will walk me through the pros and cons of each publishing option available within their specific company.
    • He/she listens to what my manuscript is about and guides me to the best options for my particular manuscript needs.

The best Publishing Consultant I’ve ever enjoyed working with literally held my client’s hand through the whole start-up process. Her conversations with him extended over several weeks, which is exactly what he needed in order to make the best decisions for his book(s). She looked at the initial manuscript pages we submitted, listened to my client’s purpose for writing the book, and guided us to the very best options, which included personal cover design, extra help with photography placements, and layout design. My client gave her rave reviews in a letter to company’s owner.

Even though I sincerely believe that most of my clients would develop ulcers if they attempted to publish totally independently, to be fair, I will also mention the self-publishing “tools” to be considered. They include: Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing, Barnes & Noble’s PubIt, Smashwords, and others. IF a client has little or no financial support for their writing efforts, or they have something short they want to publish—something that will possibly attract Readers to their major book(s)—I believe these are good options to consider. However, there is no Publishing Consultant to walk you through this forest.

Working with a Self-Publishing Company, and their publishing staff of experts, is (in my opinion) the best option for today’s authors. If finances are a concern, many have “gift cards” available (given by supportive family and friends) which can be applied to any of the publishing needs. The helping hand of the Publishing Consultant is priceless—and is included in the publishing package you select. ⚓︎

 


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.

Easy Breezy Summer Publishing (Part 4)

future forecast

As the summer draws to a late middle, it’s time to ask some of the tough questions—questions about the future for you and other self-publishing authors looking to market your books.

So, what is the general outlook for self-publishing in terms of independence?

Everyone seems to have an opinion.

Lorraine Candy, interviewed for The Guardian, thinks that “There is enough evidence to prove that there will be print, and it will continue to be in many forms and be available in many places,” and that the future “will be about working in a much more collaborative, better and bespoke way.” Sounds neat. The Guardian‘s other interviewees have a lot to say about journalism (understandably) and the “disruption” created by social media.

Meanwhile, over at the 2017 London Book Fair, industry vet and the executive director of a publishing business, Kristen McLean writes that “one thing we do know: there is no going back. People now integrate technology seamlessly into their lives, and they do whatever makes the most sense to them as they pursue their goals in a particular moment.” So—disruption isn’t all bad, and we don’t at this point in time have to pick a side in the ongoing Print vs. Digital debate. Says McLean:

The passion of the individual organizes [their] pattern of investigation, not necessarily the content creator. In fact, the most exciting examples of this type of consumption are not usually the product of a single creator or company, and seem to take on a life of their own. (For instance, are you aware of the current slime frenzy? Google it.)

All the same, children’s media and audio—particularly cross-platform audio, available in analog and digital forms—are on the rise. If you’re looking to market a self-publishing book this year, you’ll need to pay attention to the buzzwords associated with these trends. Check out the Publisher’s Weekly article for more!

Jason Illian of Digital Book World begs to disagree—or at the very least, to take a different tack from these other pieces. In an article titled, somewhat snarkily, “The (Real) Future of Publishing” he writes that “Everything being said about the state of publishing is (relatively) true—but not everything that is true is being said, as there are data points and trends being left out of the broad discussion.” What isn’t being said? He cites major shifts at institutions as diverse as Penguin Random House, Wal*Mart, Barnes & Noble, and public libraries as representing a growing confidence in digital, despite talk about plateaus and slow-downs. Says Illian:

When a new technology gets talked up and fails to fundamentally change everything in a short amount of time, the conversation turns negative. But that doesn’t mean change is over. It is the pause in the action, the short breath of time where most traditional firms tout their belief that disruption is over, only to soon find out that real change has just begun. What we are experiencing rather is just the break between the waves. And the next wave could forever change publishing.

Lastly, Justin Pang of Tech Crunch has his own take. Says Pang, “The playing field is starting to level between the most-savvy traditional publishers and top digital native publishers.” This is good news for indie and self-publishing authors looking to break into a crowded market, although Pang’s primary interest is with companies like Netflix and Gawker. It does seem clear, however, that as messaging apps overtake social media for the highest number of user hits per month, that we may need to shift how and where we market our books. As publishing races to catch up to this particular shift, smaller and more nimble indies may finally find themselves on an even playing field.

It’s time to get savvy and experiment with some of these trends. How will you go about marketing in a post-digital, rapidly changing world? We’d love to hear from you; simply drop us a line in the comments section below!


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

From the Archives: “By virtue of the term: Self-publishing”

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.

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[ Originally posted: October 14th, 2010 ]

Digital democracy. iTunes changed the record business forever. Blogs have reshaped the landscape of traditional print news. YouTube challenged the way television and advertising CEO’s communicated with the viewing public. Who would have thought even ten years ago that a majority of users would value a user-generated encyclopedia over Britannica?

Technology has quickly and powerfully changed the way we think, enjoy, communicate, and create. Across each industry one thing holds – a democratization effect – where artists make the rules.

On-demand and digital self-publishing is equally shaking things up. As the WSJ notes, “once derided as ‘vanity’ titles by the publishing establishment, self-published books suddenly are able to thrive by circumventing the establishment.”

“Playing God” in his book Mickey Mantle is Going to Heaven, former Yankee pitcher opted to self-publish in order to maintain his content control. A wise move that is rumored to have been opted into a movie project reuniting Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.

democracy definition

The democratization of self-publishing is a big deal, even seven years after we originally mentioned it. With our current grab-bag of print on demand services, self-publishing companies and vanity presses alike, we have an enormous quantity of titles available to readers for affordable consumption–and while few of them get printed in any quantity, is that really an undesirable thing? I mean on a large scale, not an individual one. Clearly it’s better for the individual to have more money in the wallet than otherwise. But a democratic system is a diversified one, with products and services to meet every preference. And that’s where we are, more or less!

So how does this democratization help authors? As someone who has dabbled in both nonfiction and memoir, here’s one way:

Traditionally, nonfiction authors were required to draft outlines and preliminary chapters, submit these to agents and publishing houses for review, and hope that someone would like that material enough to give them an advance–money to help them do the research required to write the rest of the book. Research, generally speaking, is expensive–especially because for nonfiction it usually requires travel, lodging, meals, and subscription or access fees to information repositories like museums and so forth to complete. Many wonderful nonfiction books have not been written simply because authors weren’t able to give publishers a real sense of what their book was about because the money had to come first in order to really do so….

Self-publishing, however, has co-evolved with a whole host of crowdsourcing options. I have at least one friend who financed her book over Kickstarter with some success, and others who have been even more creative. (But that’s for another post. Soon, I promise.) These alternate revenue streams mean that self-publishing authors don’t have to wait on anyone’s say-so, and they don’t have to sacrifice any creative control over the research, writing, and publishing experience to an institution which will always value its own success over its authors’. So nonfiction authors, in this situation specifically, benefit a great deal from not being dependent on an advance. The same holds true for fiction authors in all of the most important ways, and you only have to follow the career of poet Rupi Kaur to see how self-publishing can indeed be more than congenial to that third great genre.

Of course, the idea and status “commercial author” may be on the way out, or at least these authors who’ve chosen to struggle through the traditional publishing model may have diminished opportunities. Fewer authors each year see the virtue in being one of these so-called “starving artists,” who make their way in the world based on an antiquated publishing model which never treated them well in the first place. This is okay. It’s also okay to be a starving artist, by the way. I just wouldn’t want to be one, and it’s no longer the only model of a successful artist anymore.

Self-publishing still has its flaws. But anything that makes publishing possible for more authors, more affordably, and guarantees them more rights and freedoms, is a democratizing influence. And I love democracy! The fact that self-publishing also makes reading more affordable and a more diverse experience can only lead to good things.

 

Fun Note: A quick foray on Google reveals that as of 2015, at least, Peterson’s book is still under development by Affleck and Damon, so that’s another ray of good news.

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: Taking the Time

relaxing puppy taking it easy

Writing takes time.

… how often have we heard this line?

So why do we balk at the thought of publishing taking time?

Yes, even self-publishing. Or perhaps we ought to say: self-publishing takes time when you’re doing it right. There is such a thing as a rushed publication, and we’ve seen the results. (Not good. Not satisfactory. Not doing justice to the authors’ great ideas and skills as authors.) Sometimes, publishing can or should take a little … longer. Months, even.

Why?

Quality Control

The more rushed the publication process, the less likely you are to have a range of people looking at your work, and having “eyes on” the work is incalculably valuable to producing a polished, perfect book. I’m not just talking about editing, either, but the other fiddly bits: graphic design, interior formatting, clean margins and orphan control, or even satisfying the legal requirements and meeting publishing standards! There are simply so many balls to keep in the air during the publishing process, and not everyone has the time, energy, skills, or industry expertise to complete it quickly. Far better to take a little time, and bring in outside help to make sure you get it right!

Multiple Checks and Balances

Just as having “eyes on” your work helps with quality control of the finished product, it also keeps certain ideas and inclinations in check. In fact, the longer you take, the less likely you are to do something rash with your cover art or ‘experimental’ with your formatting–it’s just one of those things! The longer you ponder your publishing decisions, the more sound they will be, being rooted in a broader understanding of both standard practices and what’s at stake. Other eyes will catch what you’ve missed, and create a sounding board for some of your more ‘edgy’ or ‘distinctive’ choices. They’ll give you a notion of what works, and what doesn’t, and help you navigate the publishing process with as few hassles as possible. So, not only does taking your time during publishing serve as its own reward–time as its own check and balance–but it also gives you the opportunity to broaden the team of people involved in your project, and really choose the minds and services which will help bring your vision to fruition.

 

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When push comes to shove, we have to believe our books are worth the time we take with them. We have to believe in them! I think perhaps the physicist and science educator Carl Sagan put it best when he said:

carl sagan quote

If books can break the shackles of time, we shouldn’t begrudge them taking a little time in the publishing process. To get it right.

All I’m saying is: don’t rush it. Self-publishing, even slow-cooker style, is still much faster than traditional publication, which takes an average of two years from start to finish. The ‘slowing down’ which I’m talking about is more on the order of months than years! The ultimate goal is to create a finished product which is perfect in every way, or at least in all of the ways which readers and booksellers appreciate.

Your book is worth taking the time! It deserves the best possible treatment. And if the process goes more quickly than you expected, well, isn’t that a happy surprise?

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…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

From the Archives: “Self-Publishing Advantages Out on the Table”

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.

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[ Originally posted: November 10th, 2009 ]

This posts and blog exists to help you make the best informed choices for the future of their books. Whether you’re still in the conceptualization phase or searching for a publisher, these are tips, each worthy of careful consideration.

For example, take a moment and write out your personal publishing goals…

For many authors, these 7 are the most important:

1) Keeping 100% of your rights and creative control to your book
2) Keeping 100% of your author royalties
3) Unlimited wholesale and retail availability
4) Additional marketing support and services
5) Publishing imprint and ISBN flexibility
6) High-quality book design
7) Complete print-run flexibility (1 to 1000s)

What would you add to this list?

I don’t know about you, but when we first published this piece on Self Publishing Advisor, we created a bit of cognitive dissonance; while the seven items listed are indeed advantages, they’re not necessarily advantages which show themselves on a shelf (unless you’re filling a shelf with 1000 copies of your book, which is quite a shelf indeed). Instead, we gave you a list of seven fantastic, but more general, advantages to self-publishing.

So, what are the advantages a self-published book might find on a shelf against other, more traditionally published books?

Many people are accustomed to thinking of self-publishing books as at rather a disadvantage, rather than an advantage, on such a shelf. This is because yes, once upon a time, the cover designs available to indie authors were far more limited in customizability than those available to their traditional competitors. After all, traditionally published authors have the full weight of their publishing houses behind them, with their marketing teams, their graphic designers, and their many other well-financed technical experts on staff.

But things have changed. So even if in terms of covers, the playing field is rather more level than tipped to advantage either traditional or indie authors, there are other ways at which indie books can–and often do–rise above the competition. First of all, there’s the local angle. Many bookstores and libraries privilege local authors over the general horde; all you have to do is bring this to the proprietor’s attention. This “local advantage” also works on potential readers, too. Don’t underestimate the immediate impact that this one simple factor can have on your ideal readers!

There are other advantages your indie book can have “out on the table,” of course! Because you control the price, you also control the price tag. The appeal of an affordable number should not be underestimated. But most of all, your book’s cover is your avatar in the world, a representation of you, and a truer one than any publication company could create. That alone is enough to make it stand out.

book cover designs

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.

From the Archives: “Traditional Publishing: Hard Facts”

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.

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[ Originally posted: October 17th, 2008 ]

We are in ongoing exploration of the advantages leading self-publishing options offered for publishing authors. Collectively, what are the advantages of self-publishing in general over the long established alternative? Here are some hard facts on Traditional publishing.

7 – Traditional publishers lose money on over 85% of the books they publish, so they only accept 2% of those that are submitted.

6 – They typically accept manuscripts only from established authors who have demonstrated a proven track record.

5 – Authors lose all control of their content during the editing process.

4 – Authors must still invest an enormous amount of time, energy, and money promoting a traditionally-published book.

3- Authors typically receive 5-10% royalty on the wholesale price of the book, and from that have to give 15-25% to their agent. Do the math.

2 – The majority of books published by old-fashioned publishers go out of print within 3 years. Many books that are stocked on book shelves remain stocked for as little as five weeks before being returned, unsold, to the publisher.

1- Old-fashioned publishers acquire all rights to your book and keep them, even when the book goes out of print or the publisher goes out of business!

– by Karl Schroeder

On Advances & Other Things

First off, it’s worth noting that the numbers are all over the board here, and that while the industry’s most reliable source of yearly hard data–the annual Author Earnings Report–isn’t out for this year yet (which makes sense, since we’re only a few months in) it isn’t set up to gauge that kind of question to begin with. Publishers understandably have a vested interest in fogging up the data around advances, especially how many people actually earn them back, because the facts of the matter are such that:

  • It’s a much smaller number than Karl reported back in 2008, probably closer to the 2 to 5% range;
  • Advances protect some authors from facing their own losses, but they also cheat some well-performing authors out of representative royalties in a classic case of “settling for a misleadingly presented benefit”;
  • A high percentage of unmet advances equals a lot of waste, and in an industry which is barely scraping by as-is, this would be a major blow to certain publishers’ reputations as champions of the everyman;
  • A high percentage of unmet advances also equals a slippage in the market, and publishers have to maintain intense competition with each other in order to attract that small number of well-performing authors who do make back their advances, and in so doing make a profit for the publisher as well. Lose a couple of big-name authors because their reputation is slipping, and the rest might flee as well … and the publishing house go under.

So it’s not data that publishers really want to broadcast.

All of this to say, publishers do indeed prefer established authors who have proven track records as blockbuster bestsellers, and newer or more typically performing (“midlist”) authors are left to struggle along with substandard marketing and promotional help, because the publisher doesn’t believe investing more will pay off. These midlist authors must carry the burden of self-promotion themselves, even if they supposedly have the might and muscle of a major publishing house behind them. Only the guaranteed successes are guaranteed significant assistance, and there are very few guaranteed successes, aren’t there?

Control will always be an issue. Perhaps you might consider giving up control, if you knew that you were putting your book into good hands of great skill and leaving your book with a team who really had its best interests at heart. But publishing houses aren’t like that; they have to think about the bottom line at all times, because the industry is so competitive and they’re so often at risk of losing everything. So they make the call on your book cover, maybe even your book title, and on all sorts of marketing and promotional decisions which you may or may not agree with in the first place–because they have to keep the machine moving, and the assembly line in motion.

You might have guessed the preferable option, seeing as how we’re a blog about self-publishing. But we don’t just have a vested interest; we want to lay out all the options, with all the facts, so that you can choose the one best suited to you. And if you know your book is a guaranteed blockbuster success, then traditional publishing may well be a good route for you! But if you’re publishing a book with narrower appeal, maybe more specialized material, or with the goal of reaching a certain fandom–well, self-publishing is an effective and efficient way of doing that, while ensuring you retain full creative control.

That, we can get behind. (And we do … a lot. Sorry about that!)

hard facts child

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.