Decluttering … The Desk & Workspace

In the coming weeks, we’re going to be drawing some lessons from Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese art of decluttering and organizing. Kondo’s approach is based on a “secret” she claims starts with discarding things you don’t actually use or need and proceed by organizing your space “thoroughly [and] completely, in one go.” Kondo goes so far as to assert that, “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective. It is life transforming.”

So as a writer, I wanted to see what lesson Kondo’s “magic of tidying up” had to offer. First off, I’d like to discuss how writers can declutter their workspaces, be that a desk or an entire room they write in.

cluttered desk tidying up

1) A cluttered desk means a cluttered mind.

 

This is simple. If there are things on your desk that you are not actively working on, or that are not helping you in some way with the task at hand, remove them! Having to shuffle through piles of bills or checks or having to worry about spilling a bottle of nail polish or a half full cup of coffee that’s now ten days old and definitely has mold growing on it, is absolutely going to affect your productively. For me, a messy workspace equals a great amount of stress. I spend half of the time that I should be working thinking about how I really need to clean. When you’re writing and have useless thoughts like that weighing you down, your writing will come across as inhibited and will probably lack the focus and precision that can actually captivate your readers.

2) A cluttered room will also mean a cluttered mind.

If you’re lucky enough to have a whole room devoted to your writing space, make sure you organize it in such a way that it promotes creativity, provides a sense of comfort and that drive productivity.

  • With regards to creativity: Keep books of authors who really inspire you on a shelf in this room. If you have another artistic hobby that can help you get the creative juices flowing when you’re feeling writer’s block such as music or painting, keep room for those activities in there as well. Then when you’re feeling stumped, you can walk over to a blank canvas and let a paintbrush speak where words have failed you, or let your guitar sing out a calming melody. This way you have access to other things that keep your creative juices flowing–rather than resorting to Facebook or Twitter when you’re at a loss.
  • With regards to comfort: You ultimately want to feel comfortable in your work space. If your chair is ratty and uncomfortable, you’ll subconsciously be focused on how numb your rear end is going while you’re writing, which who knows, could make for some interesting writing, but I doubt it. Have a chair, or a giant bouncy ball, or a bean bag–or whatever sitting apparatus you find most appealing–that you like sitting in. Use lighting that is not too invasive or flourescent that will just remind you of how life in a cubical might be. If you like playing music while you write, have a stereo playing in the background.
  • With regards to productivity: Keeping only the essentials on your desk will be the first step (scroll up to number 1 on this list if you’ve already let what I said escape you). Some things that promote productivity are the tools of the trade: if you write on a notepad, have one of those and a pen. If you’re a laptop kind of gal or girl, have that out and make sure that desktop isn’t cluttered with 1,000 windows of recipes for dinner, iMessenger conversations and eBay bidding wars. If you’re a list maker: utilize a bulletin board (or the more crude, tack it right to the wall approach) with a list of what you want to accomplish for each coming work session. Remove items you’ve completed, pat yourself on the back, tidy your desk after you’ve had a mad writing session, and get ready to do it all again next time!

Remember that there are very few spaces in life that get to be “just ours.” We often share space with family, friends, coworkers, etc. Make your little writing corner a haven, a place you love being in and get excited about entering. Clutter will make this space feel like a burden that needs to be dealt with, rather than a place you go to do what you love. So this week: DECLUTTER!


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

A Book is Like A … CAT?

Run a search on Google for “A book is like a…” and you will find that nearly everyone has a handy simile, thousands of entries dedicated to comparing books to start-ups (I suppose they do often keep us up at night and drive us into bankruptcy), to children (they are demanding and require discipline as well as inspiring great pride in us, I expect), to frigates (‘handle with care; this thing might sink you!’ perhaps?), to the good Doctor’s faithful TARDIS (it is bigger on the inside and leads to Narnia–oh, wait).

But so far as I can tell, nobody has yet compared a book to a cat, although the comparison is so perfectly neat as to defy the rules of Internet, which dictate that you can find someone comparing any one thing to any one other thing somewhere, no matter how hyperspecific we want to get about the details. (SEE: Why having an ulcer is like “having a burglar alarm go off inside you” … IN RUSSIAN.)

And a book is most definitely not like a dog. In no way could it ever be like … a dog. So happy to see you after work, so congenial and eager to please, so pleased with even the smallest investment of time or the teeniest of bones thrown its way.

But a cat:

c39purrvcaaoxkk

  • A cat is not dignified and neither is your book. Inspiration won’t come to you easily, or conveniently, but instead unload itself all over your lap whenever you’re least prepared to take advantage of it. It’s difficult to please, but it also can’t clearly articulate what it wants or needs to be what it needs to be, so you end up dancing in circles, trying to keep the blood flowing to your legs.
  • A cat … lurks. And so does your book. It will sit on your desktop, on your laptop, on your cloud storage platform of choice … and wait for attention. Demanding attention is what cats and books do best, only passively, and without wanting to be touched except on their hyperspecific terms so don’t even think about getting cozy.
  • A cat has a mind of its own, and yeah, so does your book. Its characters will run off in completely unexpected directions, your plot will do loop-the-loops instead of following your very thorough outline (or mental sketch, at least), and the ending never feels quite right once you get it in there.

But most importantly, a book is like a cat in one last meaningful way:

  • A cat is worth it. And I guarantee … your book is, too. It’s worth the struggle, the lack of dignity, the lurking, all of it. And yes, it’s a wonderful feeling when you’re done and have the manuscript off to a publisher–but completion, like a cat, is never a fixed point in space or time. Pretty soon you’ll have more ideas cascading in to fill the gap, and the process begins again. The act of being an author is the real work, and the real reward. Just as a cat is its own (self-important, sometimes) reward.

And that, my friends, is how a book is like … a CAT!


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

Spending Money to Save Money!

Ever find yourself lured into buying something simply because it’s cheaper, only to find that it doesn’t work and then you have to spend more than twice as much money trying to replace it with what you actually need? We’ve all been there. We’ve chosen the cheap mechanic or car salesmen only to have our car break down just a few miles up the road.

As self-publishing authors, the temptation to choose the cheapest route is a dangerous one. A cheaper illustrator for your cover may save you a few bucks in production, but it could cost you exponentially more in sales. Spending money to make money always hurts initially. It’s a risk-based investment that you can’t guarantee will pay off. However, you can almost always guarantee that going a cheap route to save money will  never pay off.

Here are some things that cost money and are worth every penny:

  • Proofreading!!!!!
  • Developmental Editing and Copyediting
  • Interior Designer
  • Cover Designer/Illustrator
  • An up-to-date, visually appealing website
  • A book trailer or other social media marketing tools
  • Education — attend conferences, classes, writing retreats, etc. These things make you a better writer and will improve your sales, your networking and reputation as a writer.

Look at these investments as what they are: things that will pay off in the future. You invested so much time into creating a manuscript that you felt proud of, so don’t sell it short. Invest the money in it that you would like to get back and you will be amazed at the returns. If you just want a book to give to friends and families, feel free to skimp, but if you’re trying to market yourself, spend your money on quality investments.

money dollar bill


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 Publish a Book in 2013”

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: December 31st, 2012 ]

It is hard to believe another year is already behind us. As 2013 approaches, many of you will set New Year’s resolutions for yourself. One of the most popular resolutions is writing and publishing a book. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction, adult or children’s books, the Self Publishing Advisor blog is here to help. Every week we share tips, advice and news about self-publishing to help you achieve your goals, and I’m dedicating my January posts to authors whose 2013 resolution is to write and self-publish a book before the year ends.

Whatever your writing obstacles have been in the past (a busy schedule or a fear of failure), I am here to help! Enjoy the last night of 2012 and get ready for the best year of your life — the year you become a self-published author.

Happy New Year’s!

– by Jodee Thayer

Okay, so one last “resolutions-related” blog post for 2017 and I’ll be done. Probably. I suppose it has been on my mind a great deal in the last few months–what with my participation in NaNoWriMo this year and an encroaching sense that if I don’t finish my book now, I will never ever finish it–and I’ve been simply unable to let go of the hope that 2017 can somehow be different … that it has to be different, for my sanity’s sake and the sake of peace and equilibrium at home. And my back. My back would really appreciate it if I could stop internalizing all of my existentialist anxiety and self-recriminations over my lack of progress.

So, how to kick things into gear? Plan. Plan, and then turn plans into the kinds of good habits which lead to a finished book, and ultimately, a published book.

But enough about my story. What about yours? Is 2017 the year–or a year, for those of you who have already self-published–when you publish your next book? Oh, yes. Yes it is. I firmly believe it can be done–even if you haven’t started writing it yet. A dash of fierce dedication and a plethora of hot coffees and maybe a couple of kale smoothies every week, and you can get there. I firmly believe this, not just because I need to for my own reasons, but because 2017 is shaping up to be a fantastic year for self-publishing.

There are countless book expos and fairs making space for self-publishing authors and companies; there are dozens of new technologies and applications in the pipeline to smooth all of the ancillary experiences circling around publication, like marketing and scheduling and getting books into libraries; there are new products and services available pretty much everywhere you look when it comes to choosing your self-publishing company itself (you all already know which one I recommend!); and last but not least, readers are hungry, oh-so-hungry, just positively ravenous for new self-published material to read.

Let 2017 be the year you publish your book. It’s time. Conditions have never been better. And you’re ready. I know you are, because you were born for this.

antique old typewriter dandelion puff

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.

Ringing in the Holidays: Thanksgiving Edition!

This Thanksgiving when you’re preparing to gather with family and friends, tummies longing for turkey and pie, you are most likely looking into recipes to satisfy those appetites. You may be collecting ingredients such as pecans, canned pumpkin, potatoes, gravy, or big birds. You don’t want anyone leaving your home hungry and you sure don’t want to show up to any one else’s home empty handed.

These same preparations and considerations should also be taken if you’re planning on staging any events this holiday season. Book readings also have a list of crucial ingredients that will ensure success in the form of a satisfied audience. A gathering for your audience should receive the same care and attention that a gathering for your family would, especially if your audience includes your family.

Just like any recipe, there are a few ingredients that can’t be substituted for anything else. Without them, you won’t be making much of anything. One of these ingredients is a location. A space that can both accommodate your audience and also set the mood for your event is fundamental. Don’t be afraid to utilize this holiday–which gathers those closest to us in a warm and welcoming space–to read some short snippet or your work aloud. Insert it before the meal when people say grace or express gratitude for food and family.

thanksgiving table

This brings me to another essential ingredient: an audience. Self-promotion of your event is essential, without it, don’t expect a crowd. While reading to yourself in front of the mirror is always good practice, it’s no substitute for the ears of others. Our books aren’t written for ourselves, but to share with others. Consider showing your gratitude for your family this Thanksgiving by sharing copies of your work with them.

Sharing your work implies another essential ingredient: books. This is another no-brainer. Make sure you have copies of your book to provide to those who have been inspired enough by your reading that they want to see more. If this means simply giving them away on the holiday or ordering copies for an upcoming event you have planned, always make sure at least enough on hand to supply your demand. If Thanksgiving has anything to teach us, it is that leftovers are never a bad thing.

In short, we all know we put in more time during the holidays making sure our homes look nicer for our mother-in-law’s approval and we make sure we have bountiful supplies of food to feed our nephew’s with bottomless guts. You perform the task of host during the holidays. This performance can teach us a lot about what makes a successful authorial performance. You want people who feel satisfied after they’ve received your offerings–be them of food or words–and it’d be ideal if they took home some leftovers–be them from your refrigerators or libraries.


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: Next Steps

The end is in sight!  In fact, this week we’ll be wrapping up our epic eight-episode-long exploration of the difficult choices self-publishing authors must necessarily navigate to emerge on the other side.  It’s been a long and wild ride, with everything from …

… on the table.  And if that sounds rather … long and confusing … that’s because self-publishing can, in fact, be long and confusing.  We simply hope that, with this blog series in hand, it will be slightly less so.  More manageable.  More accessible.  More democratic.  More your own safe space.

But what happens once the book is out there?

What Next?

Dealing with the impossibility of moving on.

(Sort of.)

next steps

There aren’t a lot of sign posts on the way in or out of self-publishing.  There are the usual hints and indicators that authors share in common with all entrepreneurs–

  1. measure your success somehow,
  2. recalibrate and relaunch if necessary, and
  3. start thinking about the next project

–but how can these be adapted to suit the highly specific needs of authors, precisely?  We’ll take a look at each point in turn.

Measuring Success

First of all, did you just publish a book?  Yes, you did!  Take a moment, a long moment, to gather that in and feel the full reality of that truth. You’ve earned a little touch of self-satisfaction.  The fact that you’ve gotten your book from idea to the printed page is one very important indicator of success!  Just don’t linger there too long.  (And if you’re asking yourself whether it’s “too long” already, that might be a good indicator in and of itself.)

Book sales are another indicator of success–but don’t rely on them too heavily.  Engagement–online in social media or elsewhere in person at book readings and so forth–is equally if not more vital.  The just before and just after you publish is vital for marketing purposes, and having a sound marketing strategy in place will do more for you than any sales analytics after the fact–and that’s the absolute truth.  If you have a plan in place, complete with projected sales and engagement goals, you’ll quickly understand if you are or are not meeting those goals–and be able to implement Plan B or Plan C and take action to boost them.  If you have no marketing plan in place, your goals will be tethered only to your general “gut feeling,” and any lag in sales or engagement might slip by under the radar until it’s too far along to fix.

Recalibration & Relaunch

Consider the wise words of others that have come before:

Mixing it up–being responsive to what’s working and not working–being willing to approach things differently than you have done without letting it touch your ego–is critical for entrepreneurs and self-publishers alike.  And it’s so hard, in part because authors love their books like parents love their children, and it can feel like a cruelty or a betrayal or a compromise to alter one’s approach.  But it isn’t.  It’s simply business.  And if you look at the business of selling your book as a separate animal from the identity of your book, changes might come easier.

So what does recalibration look like for self-publishing authors?  It might look at trying out a new marketing technique you haven’t tried yet, or publishing a new edition of your book–Hardback, softcover, or ebook–to reach new audiences.  It might mean consulting with an expert to figure out the holes in your existing marketing strategy.  It might even mean getting a jump start on writing your next book, since there’s no better way to promote your current one than to have another in the works.

The Next Project

Seriously, though.  If you’re feeling at a loss as to what to do next with your current book, it’s time.  It’s time to find your next project altogether.  Maybe you’ve done all you can with your current book in terms of marketing, or maybe you need the step back from it in order to see it more clearly–and what better way than painting a new book on the canvas of your mind?

And last but not least, make sure you congratulate yourself.  You’ve written a book!  That’s amazing!  Maybe circling back to that first wash of feeling after finishing your book isn’t such a bad thing, after all.  Let it be your motivation.  Let it remind you of why you do what you do–and take you to that next place you need to go as an author.

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: Help. It’s Not What You Think.

When we talk about seeking help in the world of self-publishing, we come up against a struggle almost right away—a struggle almost as old as the indie publishing world itself: that inner debate between going it alone and creating the best possible book, a goal which in reality sometimes requires us to go very much not alone. A reality which requires us to seek assistance. And when you face up to that question, what you’re really asking is something else entirely. Something even more important:

What can having an expert in your corner do for you?

There’s great value in seeking personal help when it’s called for, just as there’s great value in considering all of your options and pursuing only those which benefit you more than they cost you. And really, when you think about it, pretty much every option costs you something, even if we’re talking about intangibles like time and energy and creativity instead of tangibles like hard cash. (But even hard cash is largely symbolic, isn’t it? That’s another story for another blog, though.) Often, the costs are ones we don’t think about, beyond the surface-level acquiescence of I guess I have to do this thing or this other thing, so here goes. I’ve spent many an evening on the floor of my living room snipping out shapes from craft paper only to sit back after hours of sweat (and the occasional tear, if I’m honest) with the lightning-strike realization that I could have just ordered these shapes online or something. But for one reason or another, I had already sunk a great deal of labor into the craft while assuming that I had no other option.

Many people have the same kind of AHA! moment when it comes to self-publishing—only, most of them have it too late, after they’ve already agonized through the various minutiae of picking out a self-publishing package, maybe even designing their own book cover or conscripting vaguely interested friends into copyediting, and even chasing down local distribution options to no avail.

consultation

Here’s the thing, though:

Help, in the world of self-publishing, is abundant. And it’s readily available. If you know where to look, and if you’re willing to look.  There’s definitely a bit of resistance to giving up the solo attempt, stemming partly from the legacy of indie being tied to a flat rejection of the traditional publishing model, with its teams of marketing aides and editors with gatekeeping tendencies. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with questioning the need for help. Question away! Just know that it’s out there, and that true to the indie mindset it is as myriad and adaptable as the self-publishing process itself.

Thinking of my own personal experience in the world of self-publishing, I know for a fact you can find help with:

The true value of personal help in the self-publishing process is in knowing you have an ally. Many allies. All of the time. They might come in the form of a Publishing Consultant or a Personal Marketing Assistant, or something else entirely. They’re out there on message boards, email, and of course you can catch them over the phone. They’re even out there lurking in live chats.

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.