Commitment is a big word and a big responsibility. How committed are you in seeing your book come to life? Some of us sit on the sidelines wishing for things to happen. That will never work. To get things done, you need to have action along with intent. Only The Jerk and Forrest Gump fall into riches – it just doesn't happen in real life. You have to earn your stripes.
There is an old story about level of commitment: If you think of a breakfast consisting of bacon and eggs, which has the higher level of commitment – the chicken or the pig? The answer, of course, is obvious. The chicken contributes but the pig is totally committed.
The writing of such a large body of work as a novel and getting it to market means that the author needs to be fully committed. Others may have a stake in the game. They can provide support services such as editing, research, formatting, and business aspects of the publishing process but the author has the sole responsibility of being the creative person behind the keyboard. The author is the owner of their own destiny.
If you are that creative who wants to see their dream come to fruition, you have to build a reservoir of confidence and motivation that can keep you going when you don't think you can go any more. If you can learn a few things, they can keep you going when the path looks dark and dismal.
Much of your strength will come before the project has even begun.
1. Build A Habit
Habits are easy to form and really hard to break. Our habits come from the repetition. If you build the habit of playing the guitar every day for 15 minutes, that will become normal for you and you won't want to miss a day of it, because it centers you and makes you feel – well... normal.
Your habits, more than talent, more than vision, more than education, will be the determinant of your success. Practice habits that do not serve your goals and you will never get there. You can build a positive habit (reading, exercise, healthy eating) or you can build bad habits (smoking, over eating, laziness). So build the habits that will serve your purposes and not the habits that will inhibit your progress. Do the things that serve you and shun the things that do not serve you.
2. Don't Overextend Yourself
I have found that when I set an overwhelming amount of work in front of me, I am more likely to procrastinate, get discouraged, and not finish what I have started. Try to attack your task in smaller increments. We are always overambitious in anything we attempt. I know I am. I think I can get much more done in a smaller period of time. At first, I can attack the problem with guns blazing, and get running at top speed. The problem with that is that it's really unsustainable. I get really excited at first and that, at times, works against me.
So set yourself goals that you know you can sustain and reach. That will give you the confidence to keep going. If you find you can do more, by all means, do more. But start your production with a minimum sustainable level of effort. Your success, every day, will drive your habit and your habit will get your work completed. Always.
3. Keep Your Promises
The easiest person you can con is yourself. In the past, I would treat myself with terrible disregard. We break our promises to ourselves all the time. I quit smoking a hundred times before it finally took. I just kept trying.
Think about it this way: Take the word "try" out of your vocabulary. It is an insidious word that breeds failure. I have heard that if you say you're going to "try" something, it is like you’re saying to the world that you want credit for something that you have no intention of doing.
So, as it says in the Bible, let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Make a considered decision as to your commitment before saying you will or won't do something. You will be a much happier person, because that "try" task will stick in the back of your mind for a very long time after you have really committed not to do it.
How many times have you put off that workout? How many times have you eaten more than you intended? How many times have you said you will try to do something and actually did it? Keep your promises and, most of all, keep your promises to you. This is very, very important. You have to believe that you are important enough to commit to.
4. Have A Fall Back Strategy
Things go wrong. Things always go wrong. As you've no doubt heard, they will go wrong at the worst possible time. Make the time to think of what you will do if you can't write today. Will you double your efforts another day? I wouldn't suggest that, because after a few days, you will be overwhelmed with the prospect of making up all that work. You need to know how to account for the time that you were unable to write.
Life has unexpected challenges and none of us are perfect. However, you can't use that as an excuse not to get things done. If you can't spend your allotted amount of time writing, then do at least something. I need to lay out for myself what that minimum amount of writing I can do each day. So, if something comes up and you can't do the one or two hours you were hoping for, you can shoot for that minimum writing time.
Today, I had an unavoidable distraction and I am writing in the front seat of a rental car to make sure I can get the time in that is necessary. Learn how to write wherever you are. You can grab 10 or 15 minutes anywhere you are. I use my iPad but a pen and paper work just fine. Steal every chance you get to generate words. Not all of them will be great but if you don't write them, they'll never exist.
5. Plan Time For Thinking
Writing is really heady stuff. Anything that gets into print had to exist in your mind before it came out in a cohesive well thought out form. But the seeds of germination take place in the down time while you're not writing. Plan some quiet time to let those thoughts take root and watch them grow.
Do not think that thinking time is the same as writing time, though. Thinking means nothing without action, and the action is the writing. While you're thinking, keep track of the ideas that come out of your head. Use an iPad, Smartphone or a pencil and paper. When you get an idea, write it down right away, because I can guarantee if you don't do something with the idea - it will be lost forever in the ether of your mind.
I make it a practice to spend part of the day sitting in silence letting the ideas flow through me like a river. When I think I have a good one, I'll write it down. I try to write down three new ideas a day. Not all will have legs but at least after I write them, I know they'll be there.
6. Review Your Progress Daily
You will never know if you're making any progress unless you devise measures for your success. It could be the number of words that you write or the number of dots you put on a piece of paper. The measurement is up to you. Make sure you have a clear goal in mind, take stock of where you need to be every day, and make it a point to check your progress at the end of the day. When you know where you are, you can set out the next increment of work ahead of you.
It's kind of like taking a trip from Dallas, TX to San Diego, CA. Get out a map and determine how much you want to accomplish each day. You may have expected to get to Albuquerque, NM the first day but you only get to El Paso, because the kids had too many bathroom breaks or you got side-tracked in the desert. So that night, you take stock. Maybe you drive straight through to Phoenix, AZ the next day or you can push on to the California border. You can make adjustments along the way. You need to take stock so you can make adjustments to your plan.
7. Get A Talisman
I don't much believe in hocus pocus, magic, or fanciful thinking. You absolutely need to do the work. What I do find helpful is to collect an artifact that can be a touchstone and remind you of the goal you have in mind. It could be anything from a rock, a stick, a lucky sombrero, a crystal, or a pet frog. It really doesn't matter what it is. You just have to make sure you can readily associate it with the project you're working on. Whenever you see it or touch it, you will be brought back to the determination, dedication and commitment you originally had for the project. We all need reminders and a talisman can be that reminder.
8. Learn The Process
I hear a lot of creative people deride processes. They believe the spirit must move, you must be visited by your muse, or you need to wait for your genie to appear. I've got news for you. If you aren't doing the work, your inspiration will never appear. Inspiration happens in the "flow" and you cannot get in the "flow"/"zone" without doing the work. So you should consider learning if there are any proven processes that can help you accomplish your mission.
There is a process to all things that we do. Whether you're washing dishes or building the next rocket ship that will save our species from ourselves. We follow processes, because they have been proven to work time and time again. If you learn the process, then when you begin to doubt your talent, you force yourself to progress anyway, or else you’ll start to wonder if you will ever create it. The prep work needs to be done before the implementation – only then can you make your masterpiece come to life. The process can show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel even when you can't see it. Learn a proven process and make it work for you.
9. Break It Down
Big things are really intimidating. They can get boring and tedious and unpleasant to do. If you break your project down into smaller chunks that can be accomplished in a day or two days, you will get to the finish line before you know it. You can put the intimidating behemoth aside and concentrate on only chewing the bite you have in your mouth. This will help you stay in the present moment and make the experience much better for you. Remember what you're trying to accomplish and that all of the steps along the way are necessary – even the unpleasant horrible steps. You can also alternate horrible steps with pleasing steps. That will give you something to look forward to.
You have to think summer all winter, and winter all summer. That is, when it's warm and nice, you need to gather nuts like a squirrel and build reserves for the cold dark months. When you're in the depths of a deep freeze, you can remember that the sun will again shine and your bones will again be warmed. Alternating your tasks can make life a lot easier.
10. Plan For Success
When I get into a project, it can feel like it will never get done. I can really get into a funk. That is detrimental to my progress and can potentially deride any forward momentum I have. Start from the beginning in a positive way by planning for success. Write, in a sentence, what you want to accomplish; then, a sentence why and when.
For example: I want to write a book about veterans and the different paths they take when leaving the service. I want to write the book to encourage new separating veterans make an easier transition from the battlefield to business and I want to finish by October 2015.
Write it down every morning before you start work on your project. It will only take a minute, but it will make sure you remain motivated and focused on the success you want to achieve.
All of these tips are designed to help you remain committed to your project, your book, or your masterpiece. If you practice at least a few of these strategies, you will be sure to make your vision a reality. Build your reservoir deep and consistently and use these tips along the way. They will have a profound effect on your progress and will reinforce your commitment to completing your project on time, on budget, and with the highest quality you can muster. So go forth and conquer the day. Day by day.
I remember when I was in school and we had an assignment that included some kind of writing exercise. We would always ask, “Does spelling count?” I guess, as kids, we were always looking for the easy way out. In those days, we had pencil and paper and teachers would usually want assignments written in ink. Now, we have all kinds of tools to keep us from making errors. These tools are a blessing and a curse.
If we are talking about publishing an article, a novella, or a novel, it is important that the work you produce is as high a quality as you can possibly achieve. This is especially true when you’re trying to self-publish.
Spelling mistakes and errors in grammar are dead giveaways to readers. They show you don’t care. Readers scratch their heads and think, ‘Why didn’t they at least spellcheck their copy?’ You can really turn readers off with simple blunders. What can you do to make sure your copy reads well and you’re not going to turn off your readers? Here are a couple of tips that will help you get to a clean copy and you don’t turn off your readers with your ineptitude.
Read Your Copy
What sounds good in your head doesn’t always sound good out loud. One of the best things that you can do to make sure your copy reads well is to read it out loud. Read it word for word and make sure you are reading the words on the page and you aren’t just saying what you think you wanted to say. If it doesn’t make sense, change it.
Edit on Paper
Print out your copy to read it out loud. When you read something from the screen on your computer, it’s easy to try to make changes while you’re going along. Though you can do that, and you may be able to do it successfully, you will be much better off if you print it out and mark it up on paper. Then, you can go in and make the changes in the electronic copy all at once. This will force you to go through the whole article, chapter, or section. It is easier to do all at once rather than piece by piece.
Rhythm and Pace
Check for rhythm or pace in your writing. While you’re reading your copy out loud, you can check that it reads properly and the pace and rhythm makes for easy reading. When it sounds good coming out of your mouth, it will make much more sense to the person reading it. When somebody is reading your work, you don’t get a second chance to explain yourself. You have to make sure it makes sense to you so you can be sure it makes sense to somebody else.
Don’t Try to Be Clever
Not everybody is a scholar. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” This is absolutely true. If you try to make yourself sound smart, you’ll actually be proving that you don’t understand your audience or your subject matter. I used to love essay questions in school. I could write a ton of stuff and just hope some of it stuck. When you are trying to attract and keep an audience, don’t bother them with things that you may think sound smart. Make it straight forward and easy to understand. Your audience will tire quickly if they don’t understand the point.
So, in short
Keep is simple and remember that spelling, grammar, clearness, and tempo count for a lot when you’re trying to get your point across. Take advantage of all the tricks you can. Then, when you think it’s really really okay - get somebody else to edit your work. I’m not the best judge of my own writing and I am sure you aren’t either.
You should never take the easy way out. Do the work. Make the effort and do the absolute best you can. Only then can you be considered a professional at your craft.
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Sure you can do it all yourself and go the road less travelled with a buck-knife and a compass but there are services out there that will help keep your knees and elbows from getting skinned.
There are so many different options for self-publishing today you should consider them all before making a decision. Think about all of the processes that are included in getting a book to print. Does that self-publishing house provide those services and then you can compare the costs.
Services that you might consider using could include:
Here are some benchmark prices for you to consider when thinking about how to get your book published. What is included in these packages vary widely but giving them a once over might give you some idea about what is involved and how much it might cost to get some professional help with publishing your “self-published” book.
If you are looking for a basic manual for Creating an Ebook you should check out “Lulu Complete eBook Creator Guide”
This should give you a good list to review and consider. Happy publishing!
Writers write because they’re writers. That is what they do. Nothing would get published if writers didn’t knuckle down and do the work. As a writer, you spend so much time behind the keyboard that you can easily neglect what happens when your book is ready to sent out into the world. If you spend too much time on marketing and not enough time on writing you won’t finish that masterpiece.
You certainly want readers. It is not just nice but it’s essential that you make a profit on the words that you write. Unless you are retired, independently wealthy, or have won the lottery you trade talent for trinkets. Some things you do for the greater good of the planet but for the most part if you want to put food in your mouth and a roof over your head you need to make a profit from you performance.
Marketing and promoting a piece of work is almost or often even equally as important as the work itself. Many times writers neglect the marketing challenge because they’re too busy putting words on paper, following their muse, or battling their own brand of resistance (resistance is the reason many books don’t get written, paintings don’t get painted, and businesses don’t get off the ground - Steven Pressfield)
It’s your work and as an extension of that work it's you that is the commodity being traded for trinkets in the wild and wonderful world. That’s why being a successful independent writer is so hard. It’s also why most writers are not really good marketers of their own work. They are too closely attached. Some do a brilliant job but most don’t. I suppose the 80 - 20 rule could be applied here. With writers, only 20 percent will be successful at marketing their book and the other 80 percent will not take the marketing of their book seriously enough and therefore fail to make a decent living at their craft. Think “Starving Artist”.
Traditionally, publishers would normally take on the challenge of marketing your book. You would send your book to publisher after publisher and hope, plead, and pray that one of those benevolent beings would take up the challenge of editing, printing, and marketing your work. There are some advantages to that approach and some disadvantages.
One of the advantages is that the writer doesn’t need to think about marketing their work. The extent of the writer’s marketing abilities only needs to be the ability to send the manuscript in the right format to the critical eye of the publisher and will their work to be published. If your work is deemed satisfactory by the elite publisher your book may be taken to press. Then the full force of the publishing machine would be pointed in your direction to make sure your writing met that particular publishers standards and the book gets into print.
The disadvantage is the editing and re-writing process could take a very long time and the work you submitted in the beginning may not be the work that's published in the end. There are many fingers that poke in that pot when it gets absorbed into the machine.
You may get your book into print with a traditional publisher but that big marketing machine doesn’t really get engaged for the unknown author. Maybe it would be for J K Rowling, Salman Rushdie, or Phillip Roth, but for a relatively unknown writer you support may be less than stellar.
All of the things that a publisher would have done to get your book distributed, marketed, advertised, and promoted to the public now falls on the author. As I said here in the beginning the writer usually spends most of their time writing and not marketing. That’s why, at times, it's good for a writer to get partnered with a book marketer.
Book marketing expertise can delivered as a consultative service, hired out to the consultant, or can be a combination of the two.
If, as a writer, you want to be the driving force in your book marketing program you may still want to consider hiring a marketing consultant to help you out. A consultative book marketer will help guide a writer through the tasks but not actually do them for the writer. They can even provide the writer with a project plan to get their production and promotion underway. The marketer will know how to get the product out the door and tell the public about it and they can teach you the ropes.
You can hire book marketer to take care of organizing and engaging the right people to get your book properly edited, produced, marketed, and promoted. Of course some level of effort will be required by the writer but far less than going it alone.
Then, of course, the writer can decide to take some tasks on for themselves and hire out some of the tasks to the book marketing consultant. Remember that your consultant needs to eat too and they can provide you with a very valuable service.
A partnership is often a great way to get the goods out the door. You can consider it a cross between traditional publishing and self / indie publishing. Jim and I have partnered in this effort. Jim is the writer and I am the marketer. We are partnered to help each other succeed. I hope you can find the right partner for your project as well.
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One of the basic questions you have to ask yourself as an author is:
IS MY BOOK WORTH WRITING
Is there an audience for your book and will that audience buy it?
Many people write because of an internal drive that compels them write. Most authors want to make sure they get their ideas and stories into the public arena. If you want to get your book published and you want to make some money in the writing business, you have to think about how your book will sell and how you will publish it. Traditional publishing may not be for you so you may want to think about self-publishing.
As an independent/self-publisher, you may be better positioned to attract a more niche audience. Then, once you gain traction with your target audience, you can think about expanding your market to a broader audience. This will extend the life cycle of your book as your audience expands and perhaps provide you with some ongoing revenue for the book you publish.
First, you have to be able to estimate the size of your audience. This will enable you to estimate the profit or loss you might be able to expect.
If you expect your target market to be retired, discharged, and active duty military who served post 9/11, the size of your audience could be easily estimated. A simple Google search will reveal that the number of military Americans who served in the military in the Second Gulf War (defined as 2001 to present) is 2.6 million. What Percentage Of Americans Have Served In The Military?
Not all of those people are avid readers and some will perhaps not be interested in the topic you’re writing about. So you need to narrow your focus to perhaps post 9/11 veterans who served in combat roles, or post 9/11 veterans who struggle with issues of PTSD.
Perhaps you can go to Amazon and see how many and what kind of books are currently selling that deal with your subject. A quick search on Amazon will find 42 fiction books dealing with military warrior fiction. This will give you an idea of the competition you will face when it comes to selling your book.
So how do the numbers work out...
If you're publishing your book as an e-book, you can expect your return to be about half the cost the customer pays. Say you sell a kindle e-book for $9.99. You can expect your return to be about $5.00 per book. Make sure you don't delude yourself into thinking that the $5.00 is all yours. Let's say you sell 5,000 books. That is $25,000.
You will need to deduct from that the cost of your promotion including, but not limited to, web site, mailers, and postage. What about editorial and proofreading services and a legal review? You don't want to be sued for not referencing or validating sources. People are quite litigious and pass judgment very quickly over sloppy work.
All those things cost and are all out-of-pocket expenses before you see a dime of revenue. After that, you have deductions of administrative, marketing, and office expenses. How much money do you want to get paid? How many hours did you spend slaving over your masterpiece? 1,000? 2,000? 2,500 hours? You can take your expenses out and deduct from that self-employment tax and income taxes.
So you have to sell 2,000 books before you even begin to get paid. Ain't this business grand?!
If your return is expected to be $25,000, you will make $15,000. You can expect 1/3 - 2/5 of that will go to taxes. If you divide that by the number of hours you put into your book (2,000), your return on your labor will be $7.50 per hour for your writing labor (not counting the hours you spend networking, building your contact list, marketing your book, talking at book signings) – yes, all the great things you can expect. The good thing is that once the writing is done and the book is out there, you can continue to find more markets and attract more readers and the great thing is that you will get to start all over again with your next book.
To be serious for a second – You really have to want to be a writer and continue to work in order to make a living at it. Nevertheless, set your sights high, continue to work diligently, and you can make a great living as an author. The more work and the more you have in the public eye, the more residual income you can receive from your work. The more books you have, the better people will know you. The better people know you, the more you'll sell. Your books are like a gift that can keep on giving.
Test your resolve, test your passion, then give your gift to the world.
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How can we develop a good synopsis of our work so we can easily and naturally communicate the value of our writing to our prospective audience? When you are talking about creating a synopsis of your work, it would be a good idea to put on your marketing hat for a few minutes.
You’re competing in the marketplace of ideas and stories, and the people that you’re competing with are great storytellers. You want your audience to understand why they should be interested in the things that you’re writing.
In the last article, we talked about how to understand who your audience is and how to create a personality profile of your perfect reader -- your reader persona. Now let’s talk about how to craft the message that will get them interested and why they will be interested in what you’re writing.
Jim is writing a book about “The Making of a Warrior.” A book is likely to be 300 to 400 pages and contain a ton of information. Let’s think about Stephen, the retired police Lieutenant. What are the points in “Making of a Warrior” that will resonate with his interests? You want to capture your audience’s attention and begin with something that will compel them to read more.
Keeping Stephen in mind, what could we write as the challenge to peak his interest?
The Making of a Warrior
A warrior’s heart is forged in training and tested in battle, but the struggle never ends. Be there at the foundation of his journey and learn what drives this warrior to selfless sacrifice and dedication. See battle through his eyes and how survival against all odds really feels. There is much more to a warrior than war. See what it takes to become a warrior, how he gets through the battle, and uncover the lasting effects of trauma and war, and how this warrior is forever changed.
This is something that might get his attention. This approach can also help focus your writing and how you approach the story. Your synopsis must:
You should also think about how to capture your reader’s attention with the very first line of your book. I love how many times the very first line in a novel captures the essence of the entire book. Classic novel beginnings are often works of art in themselves. They capture your attention and make you to want to read the rest of the book.
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I have teamed up with Jim to bring his publishing vision to life. I will be writing articles on this blog which will lean toward the publishing and marketing of content online. For the last 25 years I've been advising publishers and aggregators on the best methods to leverage their content online.
Jim Kuiken and I met through our association with Veterans 360, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping returning combat veterans integrate into civilian life and removing the stigma that is associated with PTSD. That’s a tall challenge.
Over the last couple of years, Jim and I have discussed many things, including the series of books he is writing on becoming and being a warrior and protector of freedom. If you don’t know him, I can tell you that he is an extremely dedicated and disciplined man who has a real and compelling story to tell.
We began to discuss partnering to make sure his story could be told and how we could work together to make that happen. We have come to realize that we can use our individual strengths to ensure the story gets told.
Being an author is hard enough. Most people can’t get past the actual pain and suffering that goes along with writing a book. Then, when you’re done and your masterpiece is ready to be released into the world, you realize that you need a little help.
Traditionally, the publishing house that puts your book out into the market has a vested interest in making sure your book does well. They would put a marketing plan together, make sure you met the right people, helped you to develop the right message, and put you on the road to sell your book. Being accepted by a publishing house used to be your ticket to legitimacy. An author would dream of getting a six figure advance. Let’s face it, unless you’re a BIG name author, that is just a fantasy.
It’s getting harder and harder to get accepted into those hallowed halls of legitimacy and even if you get in, it is no guarantee of success. Publishing houses don’t spend much on first time authors. So if you publish yourself or you publish with a big time publishing house, the marketing will more than likely be left up to you.
Here are things you need to know if you are going to try to sell your book beyond your immediate family.
You need to know:
Know how to present yourself online. Your image is everything and you need to know how that image needs to be presented to the folks that are interested in buying your book. How do you create the right image? You need to dig deep and discover who you are and where your passion exists.
Know Your Audience
Do you know who your audience is? Where do they hang out? You need to research how to connect with the people with whom you want to generate interest. You want to attract people who will be interested in the material you are writing about. So it naturally follows that you need to connect to people like you who are interested in the same things. Then, if you are genuine and true to yourself, you will attract the right audience.
Know Your Craft
If you are an author, writing is what you are all about. You live, breathe, and wallow in the writing of your material. It engulfs you, it taunts you, it tells you that you aren’t enough, and then you conquer the demon who accuses you by persevering. You work through the hard parts and get to the meat. You make your story known. You must spend as much time as you can communicating and building your audience. Get into their heads so they will never forget you.
Know the Media
Learn where and how to communicate with your audience. Is your audience on Facebook? Is your audience on Twitter? Is your audience on RallyPoint? People learn about books and authors on Goodreads, as well. Learn how to communicate with your audience where they hang out.
I am grateful to be teaming up with Jim to help him get his story told. We will keep you posted on progress and you might even get a glimpse at a line or two from the book along the way.
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