Monday, October 28, 2013

Shameless Self-Promotion by Tristi Pinkston

We've all heard the term "shameless self-promotion."  I've used it myself quite a bit.  Today I want to get on my soap box a little bit.  You don't mind, right? 

Self-promotion is absolutely crucial to every form of business.  It doesn't matter if you're a car salesman, or if you work in a clothing store, or if you are a makeup girl, or if you are a construction worker.  In each of those jobs, you are selling yourself - your skills, your experience, your know-how.  You are presenting yourself in such a way that your employer and your customer can feel confident in you and the job you are going to do.  Filling out resumes, going for interviews, meeting with prospective clients - these are nothing more than selling yourself and your abilities.

When you write a book and enter the big, bad world of marketing, you're doing exactly the same thing you've done every time you've entered the work force.  You're informing people of a skill or ability you possess. 

Let me ask you a question.  Say you're in the middle of a job interview, and you are asked, "So, I hear you're good at typing."  Would you answer, "Oh, I don't know about that.  That other applicant you just had in here is a lot faster."  Or would you say, "Yes, I'm pretty fast." It's a pretty simple choice to make, isn't it?

So why do we downplay our writing?  Why do we feel that we need to apologize when it comes to talking about our books?  We say "shameless self-promotion" as though perhaps, at some point, we might have felt the need to feel ashamed, but we're going to shake that off for a second.  There is no need to ever be ashamed of the product you have produced as long as you know you did your very best on it.  If you turned out something you know wasn't up to your potential, then you can make a decision to do better next time.  But "shame" is not something that should ever be associated with something you created that came from your gut. If you really, really are ashamed to admit that you did it, then ... why did you do it? 

Now that we've talked about the "shame," let's talk about the "self-promotion."  Go back to the analogy of the shoe salesman.  A woman walks into his shop and says, "Hi, I need a pair of shoes."  He pauses.  Should he say something?  What if he shows her a pair and she says she doesn't want them?  He would be crushed.  Humiliated.  Rejected. 

Um ... no, he's going start showing her shoes, right?  Of course.  That's his job.  And it's your job as a new author to talk about your books.  He has shoes to sell, you have books to sell.  If someone doesn't buy your book, it doesn't have to be a devastating thing - it just means that those shoes didn't fit.  Someone else with feet of a different size will soon come into your life, or your shoe store, and you'll be able to make that sale. 

So, let's encapsulate my little lecture.

1.  Stop being ashamed to talk about your books!
2.  Stop feeling as though you have to apologize!
3.  Get some confidence - talk about your book in an upbeat, positive way.  Let other people know it exists. 
4. Never downplay your accomplishments.  Don't say, "Well, it's just a little story about ..." No!  Smile and say, "It's a great story about ..."

Self-promotion is hard.  It's hard to get up the courage, it's hard to know what to say, it's hard to find that balance between talking about yourself and coming on too strong, and it's also hard to know when you shouldn't bring up your books (and yes, there are times when you don't want to promote, generally in times of social politics, but that would be a blog for another day).  You can learn how to master all of these skills, but you've got to practice them, and regularly.  Hiding behind pillars and potted plants will not make you a master of self-promotion - you've got to get out there and do it, and you'll find your own stride and what works for you. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

The Tortoise and the Hare by Andrea Pearson

The biggest piece of advice I can give to any author or writer anywhere, including myself, is this:

You are NOT in a race. This isn't about who gets published first, who writes the most, who has the most readers, who has the most sales. Honestly, it isn't. If you find yourself getting caught in the trap of, "So-and-so is doing really well - I need to step up my work and catch up," then know that the only reward for that sort of thinking is misery, burn-out, and more jealousy.

If you aren't happy where you are right now, what makes you think you'll be happy with just a little bit more? 

How to convince people, though, that what they're doing--what they're capable of--is enough? That their honest effort, even if it isn't as much as someone else's, is what counts? 

You must measure hustle, not sales. The effort you are putting into your work NOW is what is most important. Stop thinking about how everyone else is doing! You'll never be happy if you're constantly in competition with them. 

The satisfaction you feel when you look back on a month of honest effort is something to journal about. And make sure you do, because those journal entries will become words of strength when you're struggling.


Getting off of my soap box. :-)

Oh, one last thought: slow and steady wins the race. Don't act like the hare; be the tortoise. :-)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Writer's Block: Conquering It Just Like Any Messy Room by Stephanie Fowers

“Clean your room!”

Raise your hand if you remember this moment. Your mom looks narrowly at the mess of your room and packs you inside and says you can’t leave until it’s clean. Well, to any eight-year-old, spinning straw into gold seems an easier task than picking up the stacks of clothes and toys and school projects. And instead of tackling the mess by picking up one toy…and then another…and another, what do you do? Well, of course you sit in your room all day—singing prison songs and running a metal cup against the doors. Slight exaggeration, but who hasn’t lost a whole Saturday to this kind of procrastination?

So you’d think we’d learn.

But have we?

After all those years (I won’t say how many), you sit at your computer, ready to write the great American novel and you are (check the following):

A- Reading blogs (like this one)
B-Checking stats on Amazon
C-Looking through pictures
D-Checking Facebook
E- Basically doing ANYTHING than writing your story.

Oh, the delights of writer’s block. It’s comparable to standing in the middle of your messy room and being told that you cannot leave until it is finished. So how do you tackle that mess like you did in the old days?  The first step is figuring out what’s stopping you from cleaning that room (yes, I have every intention of pounding this analogy into the ground). Is it frustration, exhaustion, a lack of motivation, a life imbalance, boredom, feeling overwhelmed, getting stuck, laziness, or a drop in your creativity? Maybe you just don’t know where to begin.

Well, let’s listen to your mom on this one:

Goal Clean this room!”  I want to write a book. Great. Not good enough. One, it’s too overwhelming. Break it down into smaller goals (story idea, outline, chapters). And two, make it meaningful—make your goal for writing your book resemble a mission statement (what, where, why, how, when).

Prioritize “This room looks like a pigsty!” Your goal is important. Put it on the list of all your other priorities and see where it lies. Everything you place behind your writing will come second to it. This will give you an idea of how much time you should dedicate to it.

Sacrifice “You are not going to bed until this is done.” This means you might not get as much sleep, you can’t watch as much TV, the kitchen won’t be as clean, etc. Be aware of this before you begin.

Deadline “This had better be done by the time your father gets home.” You will have so many words, chapters, books, etc. done by end of each day, week, month, etc. No matter if you make it, working toward a deadline will increase your productivity.

Writing Schedule “Put your things away when you get home from school.” Treat your writing like a job or like you’re preparing for a marathon. Set aside a specified time to write. 

Checklist “Make your bed first.” There is something satisfying about checking off that list, so make one daily: 1-Give Mary a motivation. 2-Find a reason she gets mad at John. 3-Write the “I can’t pay the rent scene.” And then check, check, check it off.

Reward “I’ll give you a sticker to put in your sticker book.” If you work until a specified time, you can: 1-Watch your favorite TV show. 2-Read a chapter from that book. 3-Hang out with husband, friends, sister, dog, cat, whoever. 4-Take the kids to the park. 5-Make dinner. Whatever it is, make sure it’s tempting.

Feng Shui “How can you live like this?” Do you write better in a hole-in-the-wall cafĂ©, a dark corner with a dingy light, in a garden with a view over the city? Figure it out. Try all sorts of places and keep track of which settings worked best for you, and change it up sometimes.

Sit “Just get it over with.” Turn on your computer, pull out your chair, and get in.

Clear Distractions “No, you can’t play Barbies in there!” Put the phone on silent (not off, just in case emergencies), turn off the Internet. Can’t work with family and/ or friends in room? Work while they sleep, put headphones on, distract them with each other (let them play and if they won’t—put them to work, or involve them in their own hobbies) or remove yourself from the room (this works when you have a writing schedule, so that loved ones know they can have you at certain times).

Inspiration “Put some music on if you have to.”  A little entertainment goes a long way. Listen to music while you write. Pin up pictures on your desktop (yeah, I cast my book with my favorite actors). Change the font and color you're typing with—you can change it all back to boring Times New Roman later.

Balanced Life “You have until the timer goes off.” Not getting enough social interaction, exercise, fulfilling other responsibilities, etc.? Then take a break—just make sure you set a time to start again.

A System “Rake it up!” Yes, I raked my room—it helped me get organized. I’m also a big-time outliner. But everyone has a different strategy. Some tackle the biggest obstacle first while others start small. A few prefer to go from one side of the room to the other (or shall we say beginning to end). Find what works best for you.

Resolve Technical Problems “It looks like a tornado went through here!” Don’t feel overwhelmed. Identify the reason you are stuck in your writing—do you not know how Billy breaks out of jail? Write it down as a question and address it in a brainstorm.

Productivity “If you just got it over with, you’d be outside playing with Molly by now.” Start writing, even if it’s out of order, or if it’s not the writing project you thought you’d be working on that day, or if you hate what’s on your screen—you’ll eventually get some gems out of it.

Brainstorming “Go get your big brother to help you.” When stuck, it’s helpful to tell someone where you are in your story and where you are trying to go and then ask how to get there. Usually, by the time you’re done explaining what you need, you’ve already come up with a solution.
Support Group “You did such a good job!” Find people who love what you write and write for them, feed them chapters, have them threaten to break your knuckles if you don’t deliver on those chapters—they’re sometimes called a writing group.

Enjoy Yourself “Would you stop cleaning your room and be a real kid!” Okay, that’s never happened per se, but that DOES happen when you’re writing. We’re writers because we love it. And if you’re NOT loving it then maybe it’s because you NOT approaching your writing like it’s a messy room. So roll up your sleeves and defeat that writer’s block. I promise, it’s going to be a work of love.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Author Interview: Marie Higgins

Today we are joined by author Marie Higgins. Click here to learn more about her.

Q. Marie, you've published a whole lot of books. How long does it take you to write one of your novels?

A. Usually - if nothing happens to my life to stop me - I can write a book (80,000+ words) in about six weeks. But that's if the characters continue talking to me and my life or my job doesn't stress me out.

Q. Are there any genres you have not yet written that you'd like to?

A. I would like to try my hand at YA. I have actually thought up a series, but I just need to get to it.  I think I'm afraid to write it because it won't have as much romance as my other stories. lol

Q. What do you consider to be the most fun part of being an author?

A. Doing interviews like this! :)  Actually, the most fun part is creating the next great story, and having readers tell me how 'amazing' the story was, and hearing them tell me they cried in certain chapters. Love hearing that!! It makes everything worthwhile.

Q. What is the funniest/goofiest thing a fan has ever said to you about your books?

A. Believe it or not, most of my readers are nice. lol  They usually don't say anything goofy, but I did have a wannabe writer read one of my stories and emailed me to say she 'saluted' me for writing such an intriguing story.

Q. If you haven't gotten any goofy fan mail, you're seriously missing out. I'm tempted to send you some myself. Okay, what advice do you give authors who struggle with writers block?

A. I tell authors to keep writing - anything. Keep your muse working. Keep it active. If you're not writing, then read something. Somehow you need to keep those creative juices flowing. I've had writers block many times, and my muse thinks it needs a break, so that's when I pick up a book and read...or read back through one of my stories that I'd written years ago. That usually jump-starts my muse.

Thanks for joining us today, Marie! It was fun to chat with you.