We all have created a box for our writing, whether we know it or not. It’s our map, so to speak. And detours can either help or hinder our writing journey. So how big is your writing box? And how do you adjust when potential opportunities or detours appear?
We all have a game plan when we first start writing. We sort of need to in order to reach our goals. But is your writing anything like you originally planned out when you first started?
I get asked a lot by friends who know I’m writing a book “When will your book be published?” “Have you finished that book yet?” Well, I can understand their questions, since I’ve been working on my book for over eight years now. (I’ll be honest, I’m not focused on it full time, since I’ve had other commitments, including jobs & volunteer positions for my kids schools).
I still plan to publish, but after some amazing side journeys, I now wonder if my book(s) are not the entire piece of my writing journey?
My experience has been awesome, overall. Sure, there have been high points (winning a contest, learning, making friends) and low points (getting hard feedback from a contest, not figuring out a scene, everything taking too long), All of it has helped me learn so much about myself. From putting my work out there, to learning from so many fantastic workshops I feel like I’ve gained a second degree, to making great friends and joining some amazing writing groups.
But I’m finding as I complete this latest round of edits and share my MS with a few additional people, I’m curious to see what will come next. And I’m willing to step out of my original writing box to see where it can go. Which is very different than having the focused expectation of how the next step will happen.
See, In the beginning, my book was the main goal. Now I’m not so sure.
We all have to start somewhere. But, if we are too rigid with our plans, we may miss opportunities that help us with the bigger picture. For me, I needed to explore other areas of writing to help me figure out what I could and couldn’t do. Some of these side journeys have helped me continue on this writing journey.
I wrote magazine articles, which took time away from my book, but I found the deadlines, working with an editor, and seeing my writing in print, helped to keep me motivated, and help me be a stronger writer.
Blog posts and being a part of this blog has helped me gain confidence in putting my work “out there” and learn that the sky won’t cave in, I do have something to share, and how to respond to comments (and experience the thrill of connecting with a reader). Some of my first blog posts covered topics of hard-learned lessons (Let Me Tell You Something, Face Your Fear) and sharing what I was doing and testing out theories (What is Alt Text and How To Use It), which lent to the next step…
When I made connections between my day job (Marketing) and this author thing and realized I had expertise to share. I felt a nudging to teach (at writing conferences, and in blog posts, and a training course in the works) and establish my Marketing for Authors newsletter. Now I find I love teaching and helping other authors figure out their brand and creating additional content and how this all ties together.
With all that, I really don’t know if my book is the end all goal now. Or it may still be and all of this will support it in ways I can’t explain yet.
Am I going to finish it and publish it? Yes. Do I have more stories in the works? Yes. But by allowing my writing box to get bigger, I’m seeing infinitely more ways to connect and be a part of this publishing world.
What do I want my brand to be?
Our Author Brand is our Author Name and pieces of who we are (and who we decide to share with the world). How we explore and expand as our writing grows and expands. It takes time to develop what our voice is going to be about. And it should continue to evolve.
I have found that by being flexible with my writing box I see a bigger picture. And I’ve learned to trust my instincts and take some side journeys.
I know I’ve talked about this in snippets in my classes, but here’s a deeper dive into how this came about and became an aha moment for me. And why I believe my branding brainstorm I teach in my classes can help you figure out your brand and new and different ways, which can in turn help you to connect with your readers.
I love journaling. Whether it’s a prayer journal, or a travel journal, or what I’ve now started as my Word of the Year Journal, capturing thoughts and writing them out help me process things.
When I started writing my novel, I wanted to have an element of a journal in my story. I didn’t know how I would do it, but wanted my heroine to have a diary that turned into prayer journal. Something which helped show her journey throughout the story.
I wasn’t even completed with my first round of edits when I had a nudge to create a website page about starting a prayer journal. And I argued with myself for taking away precious time to work on my book, etc… But in the end I decided doing so would be good practice for putting something “out there” on my website. So I created the page 7 Steps to Creating a Prayer Journal.
And by flushing this page out, it helped me see more clearly how to implement what I wanted to do. This little detour actually has helped me write my book. And I think it is something I can tie into when my book is published.
Side note: Something else that has come out of all this is the desire to design a line of journals as well. Who would’ve thought that something I love and hold dear, would become a large part of my story and brand?
If I hadn’t take then the time to flush it out and do it, I would’ve limited the potential of offering more than just my story.
So am I the only one to experience this?
Do you have a side journey that has helped your writing career?
I’d love to hear about it.
This is one of my favorite times to post, because it’s my birthday. So Happy Birthday to me.
The past month while preparing my new release The Good Girl Part Trois, I realized it had been over a year since my last release.
The other thing that shocked me was the size of the book. I knew it was going to be slightly larger than the previous two in the series. Those are novellas. However, I had no idea it was going to finish out at 70,000+ words. I know what you’re saying, didn’t you have the page count on while you were writing? Yes, I did, but it’s not until I formatted it that it clicked. Based on the way I format my print books, I think this book is going to officially be my biggest and longest print book.
I’m just beginning release month so I have very few things to share with you about this release.
Prior to the release, I started listening to the Six Figure Author podcast. I don’t remember how I discovered it, but gleaned a lot of information. I also listened to Tim Grahl’s “Your first 1000 Copies”. I also reviewed some of my Self Publishing Formula lessons.
I did all of this research because I wanted different results with this release. It might sound vain, but I really want that NYT, USA Today, WSJ, Amazon bestseller tag. Don’t judge. I know a bestseller tag doesn’t necessary equal sales. Nor does it validate you. It’s one of those unexplainable author things. But because I write a very different type of romance…faith and sex, hitting the list would mean people get me. In a nutshell, it would validate my writing. It also means readers understand and appreciate the stories I’m telling.
All that research led me to make a decision to do a soft or small launch. This is because I’ll be releasing book four in the series in a few months. An author in one of my Facebook groups suggested I “plug the crap out of book four and the series”. I could do that, but how?
I mentioned last month why I pushed the release date back, but now I needed a plan. How was I going to set up a small launch? All of the launch plans I researched had some of the same components…get
reviews, schedule ads, alert your list and post to social media. Possibly do a giveaway. Also, don’t focus so much on the day, but the month and how to turn that into sales with tails.
I changed my focus, which was hard. I really wanted to go after a list spot. Let’s be real, I’ve never come close to a list position with a paid release. Now free books is something different. The first two books in The Good Girl Series have been doing very well as freebies. So much so, that I am seriously thinking about making book one permafree. Since I made it free, I’ve seen an increase in reviews for both books.
Here’s what I did and will be doing during release month.
I participated in a massive one day free book giveaway. I used my first two books in the series as a lead in for book three. The giveaway yielded several thousand downloads plus preorders for book three. For the first time in my writing career, I had almost 100 preorders. For some this is a small number, but for me it was huge.
I offered a preorder. In the past I sometimes waited until the last minute to put up a preorder. The reason being, I didn’t want to get boxed into a corner with Amazon in case I missed the date. Another first for me, preorders across all platforms.
Facebook. This is where I ran into a little problem. I had what I thought was the perfect image for my Facebook Ads. Unfortunately, they disagreed and shut my ads account down for being too suggestive. I freaked out because I was testing ads. This set me back a couple of days. I immediately started praying and asking my groups for advice. I did as suggested and appealed to Facebook and the following day, my account was reopened. This pushed my plan back, because of the necessary testing period. Looking back now, I consider this to be a good thing, because it means my ads will be set for book four’s release.
AMS and BookBub. I set up ads for all three books on these platforms. Books one and two are doing well. Unfortunately, book three isn’t. I’m not going to freak out. Once I get it right, it will be set for book four’s release.
Newsletter ads. I took advantage of The Fussy Librarian’s special and booked two free slots for the first two books. I don’t have any proof, but I’m pretty sure it led to some preorders on the days the ads posted. I also, booked an ad for later in the month with another site.
Promotions. The promotion I mentioned involved free books which meant I had to make the books free in advance. Doing this pushed me in the top ten free in several categories in a few countries. Once the promotion ended, I left the books as free to drive sales to book three. I’m doing another free promo in a few days and I elected to use book one in the series. I’m hoping this will drive more sales to book three.
Social Media posts. I posted to all of my pages with some hits. What surprised me the most was people commenting on the ads thanking me for the free books. That’s nice. To my knowledge, there’s no way for me to know if those will turn into sales.
Newsletter swaps. I did one with a friend and want to do more. I think it’s important as authors that we help each other. Sharing or exposing my readers to other authors is something I want to incorporate in my newsletter on a regular basis.
Reviews. This is where I dropped the ball. I was still tweaking the book up to a few days before release so I didn’t do ARCs. I know I should have gotten reviews which was part of my plan. I have no reason for why I didn’t do it. I did seek out a review service and they said I would need to offer the other two books as well. If that’s the case, I’ll wait until book four to use the review service. Good review news, as of this morning I had two five star ratings.
How do I feel about the small or slow launch? It’s too soon to say. I did review my past release month results and so far, this is working. I will admit my best release month so far, was with Unexpected Love. I followed a different plan which called for a 99c release price. So far, I sold more books with that release, but money wise, this release has made more.
So what have I learned with this release so far? Making the bestseller list is a goal and can be achieved anytime in a book’s life. Rank is good, but not the only measure to a book’s success. You can’t use the same launch plan for every book. Steady sales pay the bills. Write what you want to read, because there are a few readers out there with similar reading tastes.
I have a confession. I am a writer who hasn’t released a new book in over a year. There, I said it. I can’t believe my last new release was late 2019.
I will not lament about the ups and downs of 2020, nor will I use the pandemic as an excuse for not publishing a book. Instead of publishing a new book, I concentrated on completing a book, which I did. Truthfully, my plan was to release The Good Girl Part Trois last year, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, I reread it and realized it needed a little work. A little work quickly turned into a lot of work. I’m not complaining because I’m very pleased with the story. However, I’m a lot disappointed I let so much time lapse between releases. The extra time gave me some perspective and an opportunity to figure out a launch plan.
I listened to several podcasts and You Tube videos searching for a new release launch plan. In the end, I decided to try something completely different slow and escalating. I would love to land in a bestseller spot at the end of release day or week. To accomplish such a feat would take a lot more planning than I have. My plan takes patience. I look at it as setting my book up for long term sales.
First step in my plan, push the release date back. This was a difficult decision to make. After all, in Jann’s post as well as mine, I said my release date was February 23rd. Why the change? A couple of things…lack of time and a couple of amazing promotion opportunities. As it got closer to the middle of February, I felt rushed. Although I was going with a slow crawl release plan, I still felt rushed. The other reason was promotion slots.
I forgot it was difficult to book premium newsletter slots without reviews. Since I hadn’t finished tweaking the edits, I didn’t have time to secure additional beta readers. I was in trouble. Thank God, I had the opportunity to participate in a couple of free giveaways.
I was already considering making book one free as a lead in for the series. When these opportunities came up, jumped on them and made the first two books free. This got me to thinking, instead of trying to buy a lot of newsletter ads for the new release, I’m buying ads for the first two books. I’ll stagger them for maximum the exposure. Bottom line, I’m going to promote these free books like crazy for a month. Hopefully, this will lead to a lot of pre-orders for book three. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Second, reformat books one and two. I knew I had to upload the new covers which would only literally take a few minutes with Vellum. All I needed was the original file. Sounds easy, except for one minor detail, I couldn’t find the file. It wasn’t until I had spent a couple of hours searching my computer, that I remembered I didn’t format them.
Once I found the original files, I loaded them and in a matter of minutes the books were formatted. However, before calling it a day, I reread the books and made a few tweaks. That’s a joke. I re-wrote a few chapters. In the end, I added a few hundred words and modified some of the character behavior to match up with books three and four. This little task took about a week to complete. I didn’t stop there. I also decided to update the style of the book which led to another week of work.
I thought I was done with the first two books, until I realized I needed to update the print versions as well. If this was a new release, this step could have waited, but these were books that were already out. I took them down on Amazon, but I think they might still be up. This may sound bad, but I hope no one buys a print version until I get the new version uploaded.
Amazing how something which seemed simple turned into a major project. I wasn’t looking forward to reformatting the print books. Again, I was feeling pressured. I use Vellum and this turned out to the the perfect time to try their print version. In a matter of seconds, I had a print version of my book. It was nice, but I tweaked it with some special chapter headers. I like the file, now all I need to do is order the proof. I’m going to try to release the print version for book three on release day, but it might have to wait a couple of weeks. I need a break.
What does the rest of my release plan look like? A lot of ads. I already have a Facebook ad running, but I’m going to increase the spend and add another one. Funny thing, I mentioned two of the promotion events I’m doing are for free books. I set the books as free on all the platforms except Amazon. I was waiting a few days. However, someone must have requested a price match for The Good Girl Part One, because Amazon set it as free. As of this posting, it was #11 in Black & African American Romance and #14 Two-Hour Romance Short Reads. Seems like my plan is working.
Now all I need to do is finish the edits, format and continue with my launch plan. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
I truly believe that writers make amazing teachers. I could not have gotten this far in my writing journey without my wonderful writer friends teaching me what they know.
When I first started, I had no idea how much tie in there was between writing and teaching. Well, I sort of did. I remember sitting at my first OCCRWA meeting and taking in everything the speakers were saying. I had so much to learn. And these speakers were experts. I remember thinking to myself, “I would love to someday know as much as them, so I could share like they do, but I know nothing about this industry and writing a novel.” And I felt like I would never know what I needed to know.
Fast forward eight years later and I’m now the one in front of a room and teaching. Who knew! And who knew how valuable us writers are to teach what we’ve learned and share it with our fellow writers.
Wikipedia defines a teacher as the following: A teacher (also called a school teacher or, in some contexts, an educator) is a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue. Informally the role of teacher may be taken on by anyone (e.g. when showing a colleague how to perform a specific task).
We, my dear writer friends, are all colleagues showing one another how to perform tasks!
1. To other writers.
2. To our readers.
Let’s talk about other writers. If you are part of a critique group or have ever judged a contest, you are in some form or fashion, teaching. You provide feedback and make suggestions. You are helping another writer learn how to make their manuscript better. You are taking your experiences and sharing them with other writers.
This is yet another way writers make amazing teachers.
I have been blessed with so many writers who have offered their input and suggestions throughout the years, either through contests or from the many different organizations I’m a part of. This is either by being the main speaker at meetings or conferences, or in a table discussion during the lunch break. I have learned many, many, many things from all of it.
This is another way writers are amazing teachers.
And to all my writer friends, you have taught me much!
Again, taking me back to my first meeting, I thought I had to keep my story ideas close to the vest. But that’s not the case. Writers love to talk about stories and there are so many stories out there waiting to still be made up there are not enough days in a year to write them all.
So, as writers, we share. We share ideas, concepts we’ve learned or tried, information we’ve gleaned from a conference, meeting, or blog post. We share encouragement. And we celebrate every single milestone hit by fellow authors. We motivate, innovate, and believe in one another just like the t-shirt says in the photo at the top of this blog!
This is yet another way writers are amazing teachers.
As writers, we also teach our readers. We research specific locations, jobs, diseases, and disabilities, and we incorporate that research into our books. We look at cultures, relationships, and history and add that in as well. Sometimes readers will not be aware of any of the things we write about and so we are teaching our readers about how other people might live.
Writers are amazing teachers.
We also might inspire our readers to make better choices, be kinder, open their heart to love, or any number of ways people can be inspired. That counts as teaching too.
Just like the t-shirt I recently bought says:
We, as writers, are all those things and so much more!
Write-on….amazing teachers, write-on!
I love to encourage and motivate others. Check out a recent blog post here titled Find Motivation to Accomplish Goals, and Hang On To It.
I teach Author Brand and SEO at conferences and meetings. If you’d like to find out more you can go to my Marketing for Authors page on my website.
Ever have non-existent ideas or too many that they are over-whelming?
Never fear, my brain can think of plenty of ideas when I have no time to flush them out but when I finally schedule time to write this blog post, they all have escaped my brain.
Anyone else have this problem?
Sometimes the blog creation process can be easy or hard. In searching for a topic to write about this month, I asked myself the question ‘what is the point of a blog post?’ and then decided to google it.
Here’s what popped up…
I love how google also provides similar questions on the same topic. Notice the different choices in words, but they all fit within the same topic. Obviously, people have searched this topic before.
And this is why SEO and keywords matter. Someone may not google your name or book directly, but they may google something you’ve answered in a blog post or on your web page.
All of these thoughts should go into your blog creation process.
These are all the pages that show up on the search’s first page. Notice all the different page titles. Those matter too.
So this leads me to more questions as I ponder my why about my blog creation process. (Yes, my family calls me the Question Queen)
As I formulate this into something someone would actually read, I’m asking the question ‘what would you like to read?’
Even though I picked a topic out of thin air to write about, as I asked questions and googled one, I was able to create something. It all connects. And that’s what it’s all about.
So, in essence, if we have a topic for a blog post, performing a search about it may wield ideas of phrasing or additional keywords to use so that your post would appear in these searches too.
As I wrap up this post, I now realize I have to figure out a keyword that fits the topic in order for me to have strong SEO. Why I make stuff challenging for myself, I’ll have to cover in an entirely different blog post in the future.
It’s much more fun creating content people enjoy. Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.
On a side note…I’m teaching on the subject of SEO during the month of July!
SEO Marketing for Authors in the ACFW course loop in July. If you are a member of ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers), these courses each month are FREE!
I’m also teaching a course on Branding, SEO, & Content, at the Virtual SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference July 9-11. Here’s the link to the conference website.
If you’d like to take a peek at some of my other blog posts, here is a link to my archive on this blog.
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