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Create If Writing

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform building online. You will hear from experts on list-building, connecting through Twitter, and how to utilize Facebook. But tools for building an audience would feel empty without a little inspiration, so these training episodes are balanced with inspirational interviews with writers who share their creative process, ups and downs, and how they have dealt with success or failure. Kirsten Oliphant is a self-published author with an MFA in Fiction who has been blogging for 11 years and is in the top 20 of Houston's Social Media Power Influencers. She has spoken at Blog Elevated, Houston Social Media Breakfast, Adventure Con, Houston Business Advancement Conference, and Social Media Day Houston. She created the Free Email Course and loves to get nerdy about all things email list.

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150- Niche It Down a Notch

When you niche down in your writing, you can increase your productivity AND your profits!  For a full slideshow and more on this, check out the full shownotes at http://createifwriting.com/150


8 Feb 2019

Rank #1

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160 - How to Find Time to Write

The question I get asked most is something along the lines of: How do you write with five kids? Sometimes I ask myself this question too! The specific ways that work for me may not work for you, but I'll share some tips to help you learn how to find time to write.   HOW TO FIND TIME TO WRITE Whether you have small children, a job, or any number of other things going on, finding time to write is HARD. Writing is an art, but it's also a practice. A skill. It takes brain power, energy, and time. In my experience, it's also very life-giving. Evaluate your circumstances What do you have going on in this particular season of life? Not just in terms of things that take up your time, but emotional things. Maybe you're caring for a baby and are exhausted or have someone in your family with chronic illness. You might be depressed. Take into account all the things that are present in your life. Make a plan Once you've considered what's going on in your life, come up with a plan. Realize that  your first plan may not work, but you have to start with one, try it, and then you can adjust. You'll probably need to adjust. Don't feel defeated if the first plan doesn't work. Ex: my 10pm - midnight office hours. Trying to write with kids. Learn how you work best You may not always have a choice in how you work, but try to find out what's ideal for you. This means everything from the specifics of when to work, where you work, and how. I like working better in the mornings, but I used to only have the option for nighttime. I also really hate having a firm deadline and need to finish way ahead of time if I have something like a preorder or I freak out. This matters a lot, especially when you don't have a lot of time. If you aren't working the way you work best, you'll e slower. Know your limits, respect them, and test them It's very easy to compare yourselves to other people and try to measure yourself against that. It's not going to help you write more or better or faster. There's a difference between watching others and learning from them and watching others and trying to shove yourself into their mold. I'm a fast writer. That's just me. You can't look at me putting out a book a month and think you can do it because I am. Maybe you can; maybe you can't. Either way? That's okay! You can always challenge yourself and work to get better at your craft or increase your speed, but that may not be the best for you. I didn't know I could write a book a month until I did it. Now it's easier because I know I can. Find hacks that work for you Listening to what has worked for other people might help you find what works for you. In a Facebook group for moms, one mom mentioned joining two gyms. She couldn't afford a full-time (or part-time) daycare, but was working for home. So she joined two gyms and used one in the morning for two hours and one in the afternoon for two hours. When I heard this, I thought it was genius. Then immediately felt a rush of mom guilt, until I did the math on that and realized that those were just four hours out of the day when I still had like nine others I was with my kids. This was (and is) a huge help to me. I don't always use both, but I regularly work at the YMCA, which is $75 a month for me and all five kids. Collect tips and then see what ones can work for you. That's how I work... have any tips or ideas to add?


26 Apr 2019

Rank #2

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134 - Writing Rules and When to Break Them

In this post and podcast episode, we'll be diving into the idea of writing rules and when you can break them. I was honestly surprised with where I landed on this. Keep reading and see if you agree! We've all heard that phrase: "Learn the rules; then you can break them." Or something like it. But how do you know what the rules are? And when can you actually break them? This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you purchase something by clicking through.  WHY THERE AREN'T REALLY WRITING RULES We live in a time period where things are much more open. Language is changing and has been affected by social media and texting. (Don't feel too upset by this because language is always changing. People were mad at Shakespeare in his day. It's not a new problem!)  There are also different schools of rules. Personally, I adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style for my punctuation and grammar. While others might use the MLA or AP or something else. These don't all agree! (It's a good idea to find out which of these your particular niche uses so you can also adhere to the common guide in your niche!) RULES & EXPECTATIONS The rules we will be talking about today are really more of expectations that your readers have for your particular genre, niche, or medium. When you write a query to an editor and you have two spaces after a period, they may not read your manuscript. PERIOD. They are too busy to read everything and this choice gives them an easy out to toss your manuscript. When you buck the expectations and the rules, you are sending a message. Usually that message is- I'm ignorant OR I don't care. Neither is a good thing. Writer in another group talked about just not understanding why people care about punctuation and spelling. "It's about story," she argued. But readers won't read your story if there are tons of errors. It tells people that you are careless and that you haven't taken the time or effort to do the bare minimum. Same with covers. Constantly in writer's groups, people are saying things like "What do you think of my cover?" And when the responses are, "Hire a designer," they say "No." Cover matter. Period. They sell books. They set expectations. They keep people from buying books. LESSONS I LEARNED ABOUT RULES I personally was surprised (as a rebel) to find freedom in following the genre rules. I started writing clean fiction under a pen name in December. I'm a writer by instinct first, so I wrote, then realized that I had messed up some big conventions and expectations. Namely that one of my short stories didn't have a Happily Ever After ending. THEY MUST in this genre. Typically these books also switch back and forth between the perspectives of the two characters falling in love. I normally like a close third narration sticking to ONE character. This was hard for me. Both were actually hard--I like resolution, but not necessarily happy endings. I also like my choice for sticking to one character. FREEDOM WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK But I found that when I started writing within what seemed like strict confines, I wrote better. I wrote faster. In fact, I've published two full novels in 2018, with the third coming out in June. In addition to two short stories in December. I wrote almost 30k words this past week. I believe MUCH of this had to do with the freedom and framework I found in sticking to the conventions. REFRAMING THE RULES If you are struggling with rules (like me), see if you can reframe. This is a way of sort of tricking your mind by giving something another name and a different association. Call the rules expectations. Call them a framework or best practices. Do what it takes to help wrap your brain around finding and sticking to the rules that you need to for your niche, genre, or medium. Just know that for most of these things, you need to fit into expectations if you want to ever SELL things and connect with an audience. WHEN YOU CAN BREAK THE RULES AND BUCK EXPECTATIONS It's important to note that rules can be broken. New things can emerge. Now we are talking about disruption. Disruptive innovation is when something changes in the market that makes a huge impact. Brand new markets for different kinds of customers. Netflix is an example. They first disrupted the video stores and shut them DOWN. Then they doubled down on streaming and within a few years, TV will be totally different. (My opinion.)  As content creators, writing an unexpected blog post or type of book is more a micro-disruption. You might choose to do something outside the rules and find great success because of the contrast. But generally speaking, if you want an audience and/or money, you should know the expectations and do your best to meet them. The three times you can break the rules are when you are: Famous Genius Lucky Those are typically the only ways that breaking the rules will mean success. You're famous and already have an audience of raving fans, you can do whatever you want. You're a genius and you happen to stumble upon disruptive innovation that WORKS and changes the game. Or...you're lucky. You happen to break a rule at the right time or get in front of the right audience or have some crazy stroke of luck. Often there is hard work behind luck. But sometimes there is just...luck. It just happened to work, even though it shouldn't have. DO NOT BASE WHAT YOU DO ON THESE OUTLIERS. You can't look at what someone famous does and say, "Well, breaking the rules worked for THEM." If you see someone breaking the rules successfully, chances are they are famous, a genius, or lucky. You'll do best to stick to best practices, not base your decisions on the outliers and minority finding success breaking the rules. BREAKING THE RULES CAN BE SELFISH When it comes down to it, if you are breaking the rules because you feel like you need to for your art, you are being selfish. You are putting yourself ahead of your readers. You might say that you're writing for art, not for money. That's fine. But following the rules is NOT just about money. Expectations and rules are a gift to your readers. In some ways breaking the rules isn't just about art, it's about YOU. You are thinking of YOURSELF first when you break the rules. Readers have expectations and they may be best served when you follow the expectations of your niche or genre, whether that's clean romance or the kind of blog you write or even within podcasts. GO OUT AND CREATE CONTENT YOU LOVE THAT SERVES YOUR PEOPLE WELL.  I'd love to hear in the comments if you agree/disagree with this idea of freedom within the rules or my strong statement that breaking the rules can be selfish! {ducks head waiting for tomatoes to be thrown} LINKS I MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE-   Emma St. Clair - my pen name for clean romance Two free short stories by Emma St. Clair - referenced as not fully adhering to conventions Two spaces after a period Bad reviews given to famous works Disruptive Innovation The Writing Life - being open to cover changes by Robert Kugler Tim Storm & Storm Writing School KDP Rocket - a tool I use for keywords (I'm an affiliate and happy user!!) Go On Write - great affordable covers (I use his branding package) German Creative on Fiverr - affordable cover designs Write to Market - book by Chris Fox


28 May 2018

Rank #3

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123 - How to Get Un-Stuck: Tips for the Writing Process

When is the last time you thought about the writing process? Or, more specifically, YOUR writing process? The older I get, the more I know myself and understand how to tweak the writing process to fit what works for me. The writing process could really be called a system, the way we think of systems in business. Systems are simply the process, method, or course of action to get a desired result, especially consistently over time. When we get to know ourselves better and how we work, we can tweak our writing process to work better for us. We write more, better, faster. Check out Derek's video where he shares a small box with big ideas, plus some of the secrets of his writing process! (Then come on back for more on process.) For more great, daily content, I would highly recommend subscribing to Derek's channel! He's really ramping it up this year and sharing a lot of behind-the-scenes looks at life as an entrepreneur.  LOOSE STEPS OF THE WRITING PROCESS You could break down the writing process in any number of ways, but I'm going to put it into four very loose steps: Collect ideas Write judgment-free drafts Edit ruthlessly Rest and then perfect For the first two, you need to be really kind and generous to yourself, but in the last two, you must be ruthless. Let's break that down! COLLECT IDEAS The enemy of the writer is the blank page. This very common saying speaks to the fact that writers often struggle with the start. It makes me think of the law of inertia, which states that an object at rest will remain there. Objects in motion will continue in motion. That start can take a lot out of you. BUT WHY? Often the start is difficult because we don't have ideas. Or we aren't sure where to begin with the ideas we have. This is when we can fall prey to distraction or what Stephen Pressfield calls the Resistance in his book, The War of Art. You can help your start along if you have ideas. The page may still be blank, but your BRAIN isn't. The problem is that we aren't always as observant as we should be and we don't think about collecting ideas like we should. Derek shared a few ways that he collects ideas on the run in his video. Here are some things that you can try! You could:  Keep a box for notecards with quotes Have a notebook handy at all times Download an app that's easy to use for notes like Evernote or the notes app If you are constantly observing and stockpiling ideas, you can avoid so much trouble at the start! Once you have an idea, it's time to move onto stage two. WRITE JUDGMENT-FREE DRAFTS I feel strongly that in the drafting process, you need to get out of your own way. You don't judge your ideas but let them flow. At least (and especially) in the first drafts. Create a vomit version Write drafts by hand (which slows you down and may help clarify) Write down the page (kind of like making a list of ideas, scenes, descriptions, bits of dialogue) Don't have judgment in your drafts When you edit during your drafts and restrict the flow of your free-flowing thoughts, we may miss out on something that is in the back of consciousness. Connect with the page. No judgment. If you're still struggling with this, two thoughts. The first? Do what works for you. But...the second: don't write this off too quickly. If you haven't tried letting it all out and are used to editing as you go, just TRY this. Consider Upworthy. You know, the site with all the viral posts that were all over your Facebook feed a year or two ago. They write 25 potential headlines per post. Check out this Slideshare from Upworthy, particularly slides 33 & 34. Without letting out your bad drafts, you're missing something. Oh, and according to editor and author of the Story Grid, Shawn Coyne, you shouldn't edit this at all until you COMPLETELY FINISH. (I don't always agree with that, but I'll save why for another day.)  Now you've got some content on the page. It may or may not be good, but it's THERE. Time for stage three. EDIT RUTHLESSLY Now that you have words on a page, you're going to do the hard work. You will be critical and judgmental. You are going to go back to those words and cut things and rearrange things and find what doesn't work and fix it. You need to be ruthless. I really loved how Derek put this in his video. He talked about how we all assume people care about us and our story. BUT THEY DON'T. It's our job to make them care, especially right at the beginning of our content.  Personally, I do something weird. I'm SUPER MEAN to myself in edits. I write mean and awful notes to myself. If someone else wrote these things to me, I wouldn't want to write again, but I can do this to ME and it oddly inspires and empowers me. Being ruthless doesn't have to look like actually being mean to yourself. But it does mean being hard on your words. You will:  Take out unnecessary things Check that the flow works Have a goal and ask if your writing accomplishes this Listen to other people's common criticisms Be ruthless - IF you are writing for other people As for that last one, your WHY matters as you edit. If you are writing a diary or a passion project, you can be self-indulgent. You may not edit at ALL. If you are writing at all for an audience, you MUST be willing to die a little. You need to find the balance of writing what you love, but still serving your people well. You're almost done. Next up: the final touches. REST AND THEN PERFECT This final step of editing is where you go back and really make everything perfect. I should point out that these four steps are not a literal four-step process. I go through many rounds of editing in the editing process. I may also go through several rounds of polishing. Here's what polishing might include: Let it rest before you polish Find GOOD readers Listen to advice, but filter it Polishing is when you will find the genius and the magic. You still might hit that point when you hate it (or is that just me?), but you'll find that this is when you move into a work you're pleased with and ready to publish. I want to stress that I don't spend a lot of time for EVERY kind of content. I spend the most time going through this process in my longer-form content like novels. Some blog posts get more editing and attention than others. I also tend to write more cleanly in the first draft of a blog post, so that my first drafts are pretty publishable. With a blog post, I collect the ideas, potentially outline (usually on paper), and then write a pretty clean first draft that I will edit through once or twice. Do you know YOUR process?


15 Jan 2018

Rank #4

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122 - How to Plan Your Year in Reverse

"You're doing it backwards." Does that sound like a good thing...or a bad thing? Usually when someone says that to you, what they mean is that you're doing it wrong. You are going about a task in the wrong order. But when it comes to making goals and accomplishing them, the best way is to work backwards on purpose. You need to look at your big goal as Point B. You are currently at Point A. Then work backwards to think about the steps in between to bridge the gap. If you look at your Yearly Content Guide and the daily planner printable sheets, this will make much more sense! Let's walk through the process. 1 / How do YOU Work? Before you can really start planning effectively, you need to take some time to figure out how YOU work. You don't want to waste time on methods that don't work for you. I'll give an example to make this more clear. When I was in college, I wrote a ton of papers! I can't begin to think about the hundreds of pages I wrote and the all-nighters that I pulled. But it took me 'til my senior year to realize that I wrote papers BEST when I finished them a day or so in advance. Giving myself that cushion of time meant that I wrote in a leisurely, focused way. I had no frantic, stressful moments. I didn't pull all nighters, fueling up on Mountain Dew and Twizzlers. I wrote faster and I wrote BETTER when I made my own personal deadline ahead of the imposed deadline. That doesn't mean I cannot work well under pressure. In December I started writing under a pen name, Emma St. Clair, and wrote two short stories in the sweet romance genre. (You can check those out here if you like light and fluffy non-steamy romance.) I cranked out two stories and published them within the space of two weeks. And the effort was a success! I garnered 26 five-star reviews for Four Days of Christmas and have a new email list of over 100 people and am still making sales and money now in January. What I've learned about myself is that I work better with self-imposed goals and deadlines, not ones that someone else forces me into. Questions to Ask: What time of day do you work best? What work space works well? What stresses you out? What circumstances make the work easy and fun? How do you like to write-- pen & paper, computer, typewriter? Before you can plan well, you need to know yourself well. This isn't as easy as you'd think and it may change according to the season or circumstances. Ask yourself questions about the ways you work and make note whenever something stresses you out OR has great results. 2 / Working Backwards My whole Yearly Content Planner shows you how to work backwards. It starts with looking at your goals, your stats and analytics from the past year (I keep this simple, so don't freak out if you don't like numbers), and then moves into weekly and daily planner printable sheets to give you laser focus. As an example of what this looks like, say I want to write 8-10 books this year. (Which I do.) This means that I need to write a book every month or so (if I'm working in a 10-month year, which is my plan). I can then get super specific and think about how much time I need to give my cover designer, how much time I need to format, how much time I need to give my editor, and how much time to write the book itself. When I take that backwards, I can plan out just when I need to do what based on the tasks involved and how long each one takes. If you want to increase your pageviews from 5k a month to 50k a month, you'll have to look at what current traffic sources you have and how many posts you write per week. Then you have to create a strategy for creating content and for promotion that would scale up your pageviews that much. When you're trying to grow, typically you can do two different things (or a combination). How to Scale Up Deepen the content you already have - make what you have do more for you. Widen how much content you create - do a lot more of what you're already doing Chances are you'll do a little of both, but it's worth thinking about this to pick a focus. Would it help you to get more pageviews if you wrote five times a week? Or repurposed content and promoted the heck out of fewer posts and the ones you already have? With books, I could spend more on AMS ads or Facebook ads or increase the price of my current books. Or I could write more books quickly and promote them to up my income through having lots of books for sale. If you aren't sure, try things to see! But once you see what's working, double down on that! Look at the end goal and then ask yourself if all of your actions and investments of time and money move you toward your goal...or not. Cut what doesn't. Do more of what does. 3 / Asking for Feedback It's always a good idea to ask people you respect and trust for feedback. This might be other people in your industry who are knowledgeable or it might be people who like that content. As in, you could ask other indie authors your questions about a book and you could also ask indie readers who are not authors. Both are helpful. But when people give you feedback, you need to be willing to TAKE IT. Sometimes we don't want to hear the truth or we are unwilling to give something a shot. We hold on tightly to what we love, even if it doesn't work. Don't. If fifty people tell you that your book cover sucks, you should trust them. Get a new cover. Feedback may not work in every step of your planning, but is an important part of finding what works. You need to get out of your own head and let other people share their experience and understanding.


11 Jan 2018

Rank #5

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131 - How to Plan a Writer's Retreat on a Budget

It's no secret that I go on a lot of writer's retreats. Well. For a mom of five pretty young kids I go on a lot of writing retreats. This post will explain why, how, and how you can DIY a writer's retreat on a budget! You may be familiar with the idea of writer's conferences (and blogger conferences!) as an important part of community and growth for many writers. I am a conference JUNKIE and have attended tons. But I don't think people talk enough about a writer's retreat and how to make one possible for YOU.  I try to take 1-2 writer's retreats per year, completely by myself. As an introvert, this is luxurious. And if that sounds terrifying to you, you can also do a writer's retreat with other people. This post is more geared toward the single-person retreat, but you can apply some of the ideas for a partner or group retreat. But let's take a step back...WHY are writer's retreats a good idea?? Then I'll share some of my tips for planning. BENEFITS OF A WRITER'S RETREAT While conferences have many benefits like learning, networking, and getting new ideas, retreats are all about the work. Specifically, pulling away from the normal day-to-day in order to focus on the work.  Retreat actually means to withdraw, which is how I think of a writing retreat: I'm withdrawing from the normal tasks, plans, and people to focus solely on the work of writing.  But writing retreats do more than just help you focus. Here are some of the benefits of a writer's retreat:  Completing a task or project  Refreshing yourself and recharging Harnessing a single-minded focus On past writing retreats, I have completed editing manuscripts, built courses, finished off tasks I couldn't seem to get done otherwise, and written drafts of novels. For me, these retreats are one of the only times I get multiple, uninterrupted hours of work on projects. It allows me to finish things, but also to access a focus and energy that I typically don't in my 1-2 hour blocks during a typical week.  I balance out the work (which I find refreshing in and of itself) with other inspiring things like being in nature, reading books, painting, pampering myself, and sometimes hanging out with other people.  I return feeling refreshed and accomplished, ready to re-enter the typical grind and schedule. As an introvert, the recharging of a day or two alone is incredible! HOW TO PLAN YOUR WRITING RETREAT As I mentioned, you don't just have to write on a retreat. If you have other nagging tasks that you can't ever seem to complete, finishing those might help remove the mental burden and strain, enabling you to write better. On my retreats I have finished editing and uploading podcast episodes and show notes, edited and formatted books, and built out whole courses.  The important thing is to know what you hope to accomplish going in. Just like at home in your day-to-day, you need to prioritize if you want to complete things. Put the first things first. What could you NOT do in your normal life? Or, what would be the BEST use of that time?  Make a list of the things you REALLY want to finish, then those that you HOPE to complete (or at least work on). I also make sure that I have some life-giving other work, like books loaded up in my kindle or in print versions, great music, and maybe some plans to step out a bit. Even on a retreat, I sometimes need a retreat.  You might even make a list of things you WON'T do. Perhaps you will ignore social media for the time or you aren't going to check email. (Unless those are included in your priority tasks!) Go somewhere without wifi so that you can ignore the internet altogether.  (As a humorous note, I didn't intentionally add showering to the list of things I wouldn't do, but that's how it worked out on the last retreat I took. I stayed in a tiny house with an outdoor shower and a sudden cold front dropped the temps to the mid-30s. I returned home from the retreat rested...and a bit smelly.) Once you know what your plans and priorities are, this might actually help narrow down where you go. If you're on a serious budget, you may have to choose place first or place based on price, whereas if you have flexibility, make a plan and then pick the best place.  BUDGET-FRIENDLY TIPS With five kids, saying we are on a budget doesn't quite cover it. So how have I been able to afford 1-2 writing retreats a year? Here are my tips.  Be determined. If you REALLY feel strongly about having a retreat, you have to make it happen and give it the priority it deserves. Because I feel like these are incredibly important, I've shared that with my husband, who totally supports me in this. Between his help and my parents, I didn't pay for childcare, which would have been the biggest expense otherwise. If you don't have kids, that's one less cost/concern, but if you DO, you must try to your spouse or support system understand why you need a retreat and then ask for help.  Check first for free options. I have done several retreats house-sitting for friends. Put a call out on Facebook or other social media (if you dare) to ask if anyone has a place. Look for someone who has a garage apartment, guest room, RV, vacation home, or simply works long hours and has an empty home. Several times I stayed with a friend who had no kids and who worked until around 9pm at night. That gave me tons of daytime hours and then we often hung out for a bit at night. If people know that you are someone who wants to take retreats, they may consider letting you know when they travel and have an empty home.  Use VRBO or AirBNB. I cannot say enough about these sites and how incredible they've been for my travel. You can choose simply a room in a house or look for a tiny home or other cheaper option. If you want an inspiring location, you can find that, but if you just need a space to work that has wifi, you can look for that too.  Pro Tip: Be sure to check the cleaning fee. Some places that are $30 per night have a $30 cleaning fee, which ends up making it as or more expensive than other options. Also do make sure there is wifi if needed.  In December I stayed at a tiny home in the country with cows right outside my door. It was amazing! There was no TV, so I simply wrote. When I needed a break, I headed into the small town to eat something or just look around.  You never know what you'll find on these sites, so if you haven't tried them, definitely see what's in your area or nearby.  Pack food. If you are on a super tight budget, you could bring your own meals if possible. Even if you stayed in a Motel 6 or something with a mini fridge and microwave, you could buy frozen meals for a few dollars a piece. Anything you get at a grocery store would likely be cheaper than eating out, so do check for a place that has the kitchen options you need. Be food frugal. I wrote a post on my lifestyle blog about the best foods for family travel, and that might be good to check out. Almost every fast food place has a dollar or value menu. Breakfasts as dinners are often a great choice.  I tend to treat myself to at least one nice meal (can I get an Amen from people who love eating alone at restaurants??), but otherwise stock up on things from the grocery or dollar menu.  Take what you get. My ideal writer's retreat would be on a beach, have lots of wine and great food, and maybe be for like a week. Typically I get one night, maybe two, sometimes in a guest bedroom eating salad from a bag. IT'S STILL AMAZING. And maybe one day when my kids are older and I'm making bank, I'll be writing from a Greek Island.  Have you prioritized having a writer's retreat? What would you do if you had a day or night to yourself to write?  I hope that these tips help! If you feel like it's something that could never happen for you, I would encourage you to make it a priority, get the people who support you on board, save up or plan a super budget-friendly option, and MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Do you have any other tips that I missed? Share here in the comments or in the Facebook community!


9 Apr 2018

Rank #6

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127 - How to Create Binge-Worthy Content

Learn how to create binge-worthy content that keeps people coming back for more! To connect with the community, head to the Create If Writing Facebook group!


12 Feb 2018

Rank #7

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139 - Three Reasons You Should Write a Book

If you haven't written a book, I want to convince you. And if you have written a book, I want to help you focus your efforts toward getting the most out of it! This post will share three big reasons you should write a book. I'm not trying to take over Honorée Corder's job and tell you that you must write a book (more from her in episode 104!), but I do want to give you three reasons you should write a book and even break those down into some specific WHYs.  (If you're new around here, I'm all about the WHY.) These three reasons you should write a book are partly reasons...but also just as much goals for your books. Books don't just make money. They can accomplish a few different purposes and sometimes people miss that.  THREE REASONS YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK Building Being Known Banking  BUILDING Audience building Empire building BEING KNOWN Gaining authority Gaining visibility BANKING Book sales Other product/service sales


5 Oct 2018

Rank #8

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129 - How to Create Viral Content

I've written about how to create binge-worthy content, but today it's all about how to create viral content. You know: the kind that everyone keeps sharing like hotcakes until your blog catches fire? That kind. Let's dive in! Going viral. I'd really love to know what comes to mind when you hear those words. Good thing? Bad thing? Something you've experienced or just hoped for? My question to you today is this: If you knew how to create viral content, would you? The easy answer might be yes. Because who doesn't want a viral post! But today I'm talking with Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection and Quick Blogging Tips about how to create a viral post, the downside no one talks about, and how to take your viral post into a binge-worthy post. Listen to Episode 128 - How to Create a Viral Post   HOW TO DEFINE VIRAL CONTENT First up, what IS viral content? It depends who you ask. There is full-on viral posts, which are the kinds of posts that take off and go worldwide. That's rarely what we get to see. Viral is often used to mean a post with a much higher reach than the normal for you, OR a post that has massive reach. Paula's encouragement was that you NOT compare yourself to others or feel like you'll never hit that massive reach. Consider what's viral for YOU. Aim for a post that has significantly more reach than your normal post. THE DOWNSIDE OF A VIRAL POST People don't often talk about the downside of viral posts. But you should realize that more eyeballs on your post can mean a few things. Here are a few negative sides when you create a viral post. If your post isn't on brand, it's not super helpful If your post is controversial, you will get the trolls If your post isn't something you're willing to stand behind, it's not helpful! I would say that you should always ask yourself before hitting publish: What if this goes viral? You don't always know if it's going to happen. You probably aren't going to get into that category of worldwide attention. But...if you did, is this the hill you want to die on? Is this post a great representation of you? Viral posts can bring unwanted attention. And if your posts goes viral, but isn't the kind of thing you usually write about or is one of those one-off posts that doesn't fully represent you, it's not going to be super helpful. If you wrote about something that's controversial or that people disagree with (which could be anything these days), you may also get ugly comments or people sharing your post because they HATE it. You could get angry emails or other negative responses. The more your post gets shared, the more likely you'll face criticism. THE UPSIDE TO A VIRAL POST On the plus side...when you have a post go viral, it gets tons of eyeballs on your site. Some people will meet you for the first time and these new readers that might become raving fans. The best-case-scenario is that you have a post that's close to your heart and your brand go viral. That will bring the right kind of readers to your post. HOW TO CREATE A VIRAL POST Viral posts aren't often the how-to posts or the ones that solve a tangible problem. Yes, those can take off and be read and shared. But the posts that get people sharing and sharing and sharing are the ones with an emotional connection. When you resonate with readers, they will share your post. So if you want to reverse engineer a post to go viral, you need to start with one emotion that you're hoping to evoke in readers. You'll need to find an image that somehow relates in feel or in the content to that one feeling. You can use stock photos or your own photos, but again--your looking for connection. As for your headlines, you can consider something like the Coschedule Headline Analyzer (also great for email subject lines!) and consider what would motivate someone to click. Your framing and description matter as well. Framing is how you introduce the post when you are sharing on social media. The description is usually the meta description that you create when you are setting up the post in SEO for Wordpress by Yoast or whatever tool you use for SEO and metadescriptions. (I do this in Yoast and also in my Social Warfare plugin.) TIPS FOR WHEN YOUR POST GOES VIRAL If you have a post go viral, you want to do the best job you can to optimize the post.


26 Feb 2018

Rank #9

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170 - How I Wrote and Launched a Book in (almost) a Month

When I wrote this post, I got overwhelmed. You might too! Fair warning. But in the moment, this was FUN. Not overwhelming. I'm going to share what I did with my co-author and then will have follow up posts that are more geared toward a practical-for-YOU way to launch. There will still be takeaways here for you in the details. Just pinky swear you won't read and then get overwhelmed and stop writing? Please? Okay. Great. Let's go! Over the past 18 months, I've written more books than I ever thought I could write in a year. I had no idea I was capable. Truly. I've written over ten books in the last year along with some shorter works.  So, let's just start with this fact: I write fast. Maybe or maybe not fast than you. But fast. I'll be sharing the timeline here for my most recent book, but that does NOT mean you need to ever attempt my timeline. Just focus on the launch and the actions. You can even move them around! You do you, friends. You'll get some good nuggets on how to launch a book, EVEN if you know in your heart of hearts you'll never launch that fast. You don't need to! It's not a race! I just like to go super speed. That's me. Whatever your speed, you'll find the steps you need to launch a book here! Future posts will go into more detail in a more accessible way. Prepare to be overwhelmed! But remember, this was 100% fun for me! I promise. ...READ THE FULL POST ON THE CREATE IF WRITING SITE!


26 Jul 2019

Rank #10

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171 - How to Market Your Book While You Write

After sharing how my co-author and I wrote and launched a book in (almost) thirty days, I wanted to have a simpler episode geared toward YOU. Here are some ways to market your book while you write and where to stop wasting your time.  You want to write a book. You want to self-publish (or, as I like to say, publish independently) on Amazon and/or other retailers.  But marketing?  Ick. Overwhelm. No. Help!  If that is YOU, then I want to help make this a little more accessible. Ready for it? Here are some tips for marketing your book WHILE you write.  HOW TO MARKET YOUR BOOK WHILE YOU WRITE Many of you might think that you don't want to market while you write. You want to write a book and THEN figure out marketing.  That's not BAD...necessarily. But you want to talk about overwhelm? That is someone who has written a whole book and now thinks, "Oh, I guess I should consider marketing." Honestly, even if you aren't taking steps to think about marketing actively, you should at least consider marketing in terms of where your book FITS. What category does it go in? What are the reader expectations for that category? What do the covers look like? How long are the books?  Those are things to consider before or AS you write. I mean, if you want to sell books. If you are just writing a labor of love, then do what you want. But I'm assuming that I'm speaking to people wanting to SELL books. In that case, you should look at the market, even if you aren't marketing.  But here is my very big, very simple advice on marketing while you write:  Write everyday. Do one marketing task daily.  That's it. The end. Simple.  Too simple? Yep. So, let's dive into some things that you can do daily. DAILY MARKETING TASKS I'd honestly love to make a freebie for this. I probably will... soon. But not today.  For now, I'm going to refer you to the GIANT post on how to write and launch a book in a month. There are so many action items there.  Overall, I would say that you should focus on things that have lasting power, like building an email list. Create a freebie that relates to the series you're launching, or give away a teaser of a few chapters in exchange for an email address with a site like Bookfunnel, Story Origin, Book Cave, or Prolific Works.  Join author group promos and send paid traffic to that freebie to grow your readership WHILE YOU'RE WRITING. So huge. When you go to launch your book and you have even a few hundred subscribers, that's POWERFUL!  Also see:  A Simple Book Launch Framework How to Start Building Your Email List THINGS TO STOP DOING TO "MARKET" YOUR BOOK This is where (if you listen to the audio) I get a little rant-y. Now, hear me: there isn't always ONE way to do things. So, take this with a grain of salt. BUT GENERALLY SPEAKING, these things will not help you sell more books. Period.  Wasting Time on Social Media Realize that if you think that building your Facebook likes or Twitter followers is going to sell books, you're probably wrong. Email sells more books. Focus on email lists, not follower counts. Facebook is amazing for groups and collaborations and newsletter swaps with other authors, but many authors go into FB groups for a genre and then just drop links to their books. Any group that is filled with authors dropping links to books with no likes or comments is a WASTE OF TIME. Look for actual reader groups with actual readers and see what their rules are for self-promo. Or just listen and learn what readers in your genre like.  Designing Your Own Book Cover I once designed my own book cover. In the time it took me to create a cover (and I'm okay at stuff), I could have paid someone $15 on Fiverr to do it better and saved myself hours. Unless you're GREAT at book cover design (not just graphics) you'll waste time and money and lose sales because your book cover won't hold up against other books in your genre. Stop it.  Blogging Blogging isn't dead. But it's shifted. People don't read blogs like online diaries anymore. Authors didn't get this memo. They either write blogs that are diary-esque (which really only appeal to hardcore fans) or they write blog posts that are not to the right audience. An example of the second one is a fiction writer blogging about writing tips. That attracts other authors and writers, not the people who'll read your romance novels.  If you want to drive sales on your blog, you'll have to actually take the time to create a content strategy based around things your readers are already searching for. You'll use things like SEO (search engine optimization) and Pinterest to actually drive long-term traffic and then have your site set up for sales. This is a lot of work. Your efforts are likely better spent elsewhere. Making Bookmarks and Swag I'm biased because I hate bookmarks. But even beyond that, bookmarks don't sell books. They're fun. If you have time and money to put into swag, cool! But don't make this a priority. This isn't how most readers FIND a book. So, if you're focused on sales, then stop focusing on swag. Superfans like swag. But if you're working on your first book(s),  you don't have enough superfans to make this important.  Setting Up a Patreon There have been some successful Patreon campaigns for books. But FOR THE MOST PART, this adds one more thing to do and dilutes your effort. When you sell a book, the most important thing is driving traffic TO THE BOOK. When you add Patreon, that's one more thing to do (set up, giving out prizes, the bonus content, etc) and one more place you're sending people THAT ISN'T YOUR BOOK.  I see people setting these up trying to help pay for launch and I've looked at the breakdown of what they're paying. Usually? It's too much money on things they don't need to spend money on. My first book launch for Emma St. Clair probably cost under $300. I got a cover (that I still love) from an artist on FB having a sale. I paid $125 for editing. And I think I bought 2-3 paid promos. The end.  Creating a Patreon just takes away your time and effort and gives another place to send people that is not your book. Keep it simple. Bootstrap. Focus on sending people to your book to buy books, not to a site like Patreon to focus on bookmarks and bonuses. DO YOU HATE ME? Was that too mean? Too honest? Feels a little bit that way.  But here's the thing: I hate wasting time. And I hate the thought of you out there, wasting your time when you could be writing and doing marketing tasks that WILL SELL BOOKS. Want to disagree? Have ideas of what is or isn't important? Leave a comment or head over to the Facebook group where we can talk and you can call me a meanie. ;) 


2 Aug 2019

Rank #11

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159 - Book Launch Disasters

I've shared a lot about my publishing experiences over the last year, and just in case I've made it sound like a walk in the park, today I'm sharing book launch disasters. Though I'm sharing things I've experienced, I think many of these are common, so hope that they will help you when you face book launch disasters of your own! This post contains affiliate links! At no extra cost to you, I may make a commission on purchases made after clicking links.    Book Launch Disaster: Amazon Glitches The biggest part of this post deals with Amazon. MOST of these have happened to me. USUALLY the answer is going to be: contact Amazon. And the result of that will be: SOMETIMES they might do something. (But as I say in the podcast episode, "Most of the time, they're too busy making money to care.") Here are some things that might go wrong on Amazon--or another publishing channel. Not publishing the book at the right time -  I did have a delay with one book of over three days when my book got flagged by Amazon (more on that in a sec). A big-time author this week tried to release the sequel to a series and people freaked out when it wasn't on time. The author was scurrying around Facebook groups sharing that Amazon hadn't published the book yet, but it should have been out. If this happens: contact Amazon. It may or may not help. Making you prove you wrote the book - I had a delay on my third Emma St. Clair billionaire book, The Billionaire Benefactor. Amazon says it may take up to 72 hours to publish, but usually it's hours. After a day, I contacted them. After three days, they emailed me asking me to prove that I had the rights to publish the book. I had to send an email from my domain name email address. It took a few days and messed up my launch timeline. I had swaps and ads set up, so had to email people and the companies I'd paid to try and switch dates. If this happens: Contact Amazon. Contact any people you have newsletter swaps with, any companies you've paid for promos, and let your fans know if you've said the book will be out on a certain date. Publishing the wrong version of your book - Amazon recently switched up preorders and how they are set up. This resulted in a TON of books being published with the draft version, not the final. Typos everywhere! Angry reviews! It was a mess. If this happens: Contact amazon. You can ask them to replace the file, but often they'll want documentation. It's a really stinky situation for them and for you. Double-check the files before you send because things have changed. Not changing the price - With my Billionaire Surprise Box Set, Amazon didn't change the price in the US until three days AFTER I changed it. For whatever reason, it dropped in Canada and outside the US, but my main promos I had scheduled were IN the US. So I lost money on the promos where they cancelled my book since it wasn't marked down as it was supposed to. One promo site rescheduled (thanks, Book Cave!). The others? I just lost money. Argh. If this happens: Contact Amazon. Usually you'll just have to wait it out. If you need to, contact any people you're swapping newsletters with or any paid promos. Disconnecting your series page - Masquerade Ball. When you have a series, Amazon will make a series page for them and show the others in the series at the bottom of the description. I had this set up and when I published the fifth book, they removed it. (Also had trouble getting them to add book #3 to the page when it published.) I don't know why they did this, but I simply had to call or email and get them to fix it. If this happens: Contact Amazon. They gave me a hard time once, but normally, they are fine and restore it quickly. Taking away your reviews - this is just something that happens. Usually there's nothing you can do other than get organic reviews from people. Make sure your reviews are legit, but otherwise, email Amazon if they ALL go. If it's a few, probably nothing you can do. If this happens: Unless it's ALL your reviews, there's nothing you can do. If ALL your reviews disappear, it's probably a glitch and will restore itself. Make sure you're not reviewing your own books, asking family to do this, and that your ARC readers aren't using phrases like "in exchange for" that make it sound like they got a free book in EXCHANGE for review. Those are no-nos. Removing your book - There was a glitch this weekend where al ton of books were removed from Amazon. It was just a glitch, but that doesn't help you feel better when you lose ranking because of your book being GONE. A few friends had this happen and it tanked their climb in the ranks. If this happens: It's probably a glitch. If Amazon contacts you and it's related to the content in your book, you can do your best to comply. I've seen that, but RARELY. BOOK LAUNCH DISASTERS: NOT SELLING ENOUGH Sometimes you launch and it just feels like your book isn't selling the way it SHOULD. Don't mistake that for the way you WANT. Chances are, you'll always WANT it to sell more. But if you check the ranking of your book compared to other similar books in the genre you're aiming for and things like that, you'll get a more realistic idea. (I also use the tool KDSPY to check on fun details within categories. You can check that out HERE.) If your book is not selling like it SHOULD, here are some things that might be going on. (Again, make sure your expectations are realistic. Mine sometimes aren't.) Your cover doesn't fit the genre - With my book, The Billionaire Love Match, I had a handsome, grumpy guy, perfect for billionaires, I thought. I didn't realize (duh) that EVERY billionaire is in a suit. (Almost.) My cover was okay, but he didn't look rich and it was dark. I've now gone through a few transformations. It mattered! Whether or not you think covers matter, they DO. Make sure yours is genre specific. Don't get emotionally attached or go with what you love. It matters more if your READERS will love it. Your blurb doesn't hook the readers - I have been testing Facebook ads with The Billionaire's Secret Heir and found that my ads were getting people to the page, but it wasn't selling like it should. The cover is fine and genre-appropriate and I asked around to get feedback. It all centered around my blurb. I wrote four revisions, bought a book, and wrote another one. I think it's much better and the ads converted better. You need to hook those readers who get to your page! Study other blurbs in your genre as they vary from genre to genre. Then study copywriting. I did and it helped! Related book: Mastering Amazon Descriptions by Brian D. Meeks Your ads aren't working - If this is the case, first check your cover and blurb. If that's not the issue, you may have a targeting issue with your audience or you may not understand how to run ads. This is a BIG reason I recommend email promo sites to start with, not Facebook, Bookbub, or Amazon ads. They have a learning curve. Sometimes your book just doesn't sell the way you want OR the way it should. Sometimes it's because of #1 or #2, but sometimes it's not something you can pinpoint. Until you grow your own fan base of people hungry for your book, which takes TIME, this can be slow going. Try to identify any problems and then just do your best. If this happens: Ask for help in a critique group. Check the other similar books in your genre and authors at your level (as in, don't compare your first book to an author with fifty). Be ready to respond to that feedback in a non-emotional way. :)   BOOK LAUNCH DISASTERS: YOUR EXPECTATIONS I saved this one for last because I think it's the hardest. It's not external; it's your mind. I am HARD on myself. I set big goals and I want to accomplish them. I shouldn't be disappointed in what happened this past year. I've reached my goals and then some. But I'm never NOT thinking about the next step. I always want to write better, sell better, and make more money. That's the goal-- not to get stagnant, but to get better. that means, though, that I can be super hard on myself. I also suffer from book envy. I see other authors doing what I'm doing, writing what I'm writing, and it's SO hard not to think, "Why isn't that me?" That is so unhelpful. Unless you are studying what they are doing to see how it might benefit you, that comparison is only going to leave you sad. Sometimes people want to read bland, vanilla, boring books. I've seen some selling really well in my genre. Sometimes you don't know why someone else's book with a bad cover is outselling yours with a to-genre cover. You can't compare. It's not healthy. Any book launch disasters? Share in the comments or in the Facebook community!


19 Apr 2019

Rank #12

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175 - Sustaining Your Book Sales and Yourself

I'm getting a little bit real in this post about what it takes as an author to sustain your book sales and yourself.  Earlier in 2019 I wrote a post celebrating my success--going from making $30 a month to over $8000 in a month just from digital book sales. I'm still totally in awe of that! (Read this post if you want to know how I did that.) I don't tend to talk about income a lot, because that's just ... not something I want to do. But I also wanted to address what happened after my giant celebration. What I expected: passing the 5-figure mark that next month What happened: my sales continued to fall through the year and are still falling Yikes! One thing I've noticed in the online community is that people love to share the big numbers, but it's much harder to share the low ones. I mean, duh, right? Part of this stems from the fact that it's just plain embarrassing. (Even though I have to remind myself that it ISN'T. I'm still making solid 4-figures monthly from just book sales. Yay!) I had huge goals, and it was disappointing not to meet them. Admitting disappointment? Uh, no thanks. I don't even like admitting them to myself! I don't check my income as frequently because I kind of don't want to know. Which brings me to this place: I want to talk about sustainability for your sales and for yourSELF. Sustainable is a word that gets thrown around a lot. In this context, sustainable is what you can do and continue to do over longer periods of time.  SUSTAINING YOUR BOOK SALES Enough time has gone by that I'm examining why my sales dropped. A few key things happened. I joined a multi-author series and wrote a book that was NOT in my bestselling series. I stopped running ads on Facebook. I stopped putting books out as frequently. The hot trend I was writing in cooled off. I finished a series and started a new one in a less hot niche. These are all factors in my sales drop. I might dive deeper into each of these later, because these are BIG THINGS and I could say a lot about them. What I've realized as I've looked at these things is that overall, to sustain sales, you have a few choices as an author. YOU CAN: Rely on paid advertising (Facebook, Amazon, Reddit, etc) Work on smart marketing (updating old books, finding new places to promote, growing your list) Continue writing books quickly to boost your backlist Honestly? I'm not sure what else is in your control. If your book gets great word of mouth reviews and people start snapping it up, that's amazing! But you can't make that happen. Sometimes, all three of those things fail. Your books may simply not be connecting with readers or they may not be written in genres that are easily targeted or where there are a lot of sales. (This is where I see most people struggle--their book might be great, but it's not in a more profitable market or is harder to market.) The biggest thing, though, is that you cannot STOP. Which is a scary thought. Book sales won't happen very organically (in other words, without you ACTIVELY doing something). If you want to see your sales continue, you must continue writing and marketing. It can start to feel like a very terrifying and fast hamster wheel. Which brings me to the next point... SUSTAINING YOURSELF If you want to sustain book sales, you need to find ways to continue to get eyeballs on your books. Ads, newsletter swaps, paid email services, social media marketing, or a million other creative things. But as you're planning out how you're going to sustain those sales, consider how you'll sustain yourSELF. I'll be honest: I never thought I'd write a book a month. What I've found is that I could write several books a month. I love being fast at things, so I shouldn't be so surprised. My fastest-written book has over 100 reviews on Amazon. The average rating is 4.8 stars. I wrote it in just over two weeks, mostly while on an elliptical machine, typing with my thumbs into my phone. I NEVER WOULD HAVE PLANNED THAT. It just happened. Then when I started publishing monthly or every six weeks, I saw a bump in all my old books. This REALLY worked for me. The problem is this: I can write fast. But I also have to get things like covers done, edits done, emails sent, and MORE. There is all the marketing stuff. I don't mind marketing, which I know might make me a weirdo. But I love writing. If I could write and do nothing else, I might put out three books a month. I really might. My ideas file? Is HUGE. And I can't wait to write each book. I've written over a book a month this year and love love love the writing. Without marketing the books, though, they don't sell. I have to actively market. Even if you release a book a month, without marketing, you aren't going to make sales. It's not magic. Here's the conundrum authors face: You have to keep marketing to SELL books. But you have to keep yourself alive to WRITE books. That means you need a writing and marketing plan that's sustainable for YOU. What does this look like? I'M NOT SURE. I'm figuring this out for myself right now. But I can tell you that I don't want to lose the joy I have in writing. I also hate writing great books and seeing them languish on Amazon, dying a slow death because no one can find them. Because: no marketing. I want to challenge you to think about sustainability. What are sustainable goals? (Ex: My $10k a month goals are not, right now, sustainable.) What are sustainable writing habits? (Ex: Writing a book a month IS sustainable. I love it and can do it.)  What are sustainable marketing habits? (Ex: If I'm writing MORE than one book a month, it's hard for me to carve out marketing time.)  This looks different from everyone. It may look different for you year to year. But these are big questions. If you aren't thinking long-term about what you can maintain, you're likely to burn out or get frustrated. You might lose your joy or your income. Make sustainable goals. Set sustainable writing habits. Create sustainable marketing plans. Then adjust whenever necessary. And believe me, it WILL be necessary. To join the community, go to http://createifwriting.com/community To learn more about workshops, go to http://createifwriting.com/workshop 


9 Jan 2020

Rank #13

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133 - Why Writers Need Writing Groups

Writers don't write in a vacuum. Or...they SHOULDN'T. Writers need writing groups and communities of other writers to help support, teach, encourage, and promote. We need each other! Keep reading to find the why and the how. Successful writers don't write alone.  Okay, let me qualify that. Successful writers may write alone, but they don't WORK alone. They have writing groups and writing communities, both online and offline that help them to achieve their goals. (This is true of bloggers as well and podcasters and any -ers that you want to toss in here, I'd wager.) We need community. And the depth of community we create determines our success. BOOM.   WHY WRITERS NEED WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES During the recent #cockygate, I saw a few big takeaways, no matter WHERE you fell on that whole mess. (If you don't know what that is, check out a smart and funny summary and then some legal stuff.) Here are the big things I saw from that.  Writers in Community Get Inspired, But Don't Copy I think the impetus (from my understanding) of the author going for a trademark was the fact that other people were copying her books in title and cover because they were successful. Y'ALL. Do your own thing! Pay attention to what other people are doing. Watch them. Study them. (I know I do!) Then apply what you learn to your OWN WAY OF DOING THINGS. You do you.  Writers in Community Don't Hurt the Community Trademarking a common word sets a dangerous precedent. Sending emails about changing things like book titles and covers (which isn't always a small expense) is NOT helping the community.  There are two opposite poles-- doing what's best for you and doing what's best for others. As a writer in healthy community, you should be in the middle. Helping the community helps YOU. But it shouldn't just be about them either. Find your happy spot. But don't hurt a community, because you NEED them. (More on that later.)  Writers in Community Don't Become a Mob While I think the trademark action wasn't the best for the community, neither was the community turning into a mob a good thing. I never like the mob mentality. Often it acts first and thinks later. I think the backlash to #cockygate was ugly. Surprising? No. But ugly, VERY much.  Should writers band together? YES. Marie Force is a great example, being at the helm of the Indie Author Support Network, which is banding indie authors together. The goal is to be able to reach out to companies like iBooks and Amazon with concerns, bringing the force of over 1000 authors with them. That isn't a mob. It's a mobilized, logical force.  When we turn on each other (even thought I totally get it sometimes), we aren't helping the community as a whole. What if that same mob turned on YOU? Think about that before you join an emotionally charged group.  HOW TO FIND GOOD WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES I would recommend that you find writing groups of various sizes. I have a few one-on-one people that I go to for the most personal and vulnerable of things. I'm in a few larger groups of a few hundred and then some larger of a few thousand. I'm missing the in-between of one to hundreds, which I think is super important. I'd love to have a group of about ten or less. These sizes allow for different trust factors.  But what should you look for in writing groups?  You should absolutely look for groups where people: are honest speak kindly have your best interest at heart know what they are talking about I've seen writing groups that fail at one or several of these, and they are a  MESS. If you have an honest group that isn't kind and doesn't have your best interest at heart, it's horrible. If you have a group that is kind but doesn't know what they are talking about, that helps NO ONE. I think these are the four most important things.  A FEW GOOD WRITING GROUPS Here are a few of my favorite writing groups, with a bit about each.  Create If Writing - Yup, this is my group. And it's epic. We talk about platform-building, our writing, blogging, social media, and have share weekends. Oh, and we celebrate small wins. Big wins too. But small wins matter.  I Am a Writer - This group connects to Write Now, the podcast from Sarah Werner. She is kind and generous and cultivates community that is so helpful! 20Booksto50K - This is a behemoth group and may be intimidating. Especially if you are new and drop in just to ask questions that have been answered in full a LOT. Go listen. Read. Watch.  If you want more on Facebook groups and why they are particularly important and what is changing about them, read this post on what you need to know.  Do you have advice for finding great writing groups? Or have a writing group I should add to the list? Leave a comment to let me know! 


14 May 2018

Rank #14

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155- How to Deal with Your Doubts

All writers struggle with insecurities. A few this week who are at various stages of their writing and publishing and even blogging careers feeling like a failure or feeling scared or just struggling with doubts.  We have all been there! I hope this post can be an encouragement to you if and when you're feeling insecure about your writing or creative work. HOW TO DEAL WITH YOUR DOUBTS Identify the trigger Can you find out what is causing those feelings of doubt? I've struggled with and still struggle with depression. When I'm having a low day, I put it on the calendar. It helps me identify if something happened to trigger it. There isn't always something, but for you maybe it's reviews or a particular Facebook group that makes you feel unhealthy. Try to find the cause.  Remove or adjust If you are able to avoid or remove that thing from your life, even temporarily, do it! If not, see if you can find a way to adjust. I've left groups that made me doubt myself, disconnected from Facebook friends who weren't positive, and I've taken breaks from writing altogether as needed.  Find support  We all need other creatives and to know that they are right there with us. Look for a group that makes you feel your worth. I don't mean a group of people who tell you what you want to hear. But find a group that will speak the truth to you kindly and that will share in your struggles.  Remind yourself of truths Focus on what you KNOW to be true, not how you FEEL. In January I had my best month ever. Then in February...I didn't. I was really low. When I talked to my husband about my income that month, he reminded me that though my income was lower than January, it was still my third-highest-grossing month. I got caught up in feelings, not facts.  Take an action to move you forward I've learned that I hit a low point at the time I finish a book. I am filled with self-doubt and even self-loathing. I think my book is the worst thing I've ever written. I want to quit. Once I identified that as a trigger, I learned to take an action: I start a new book. As soon as the finished book is with my proofreader, I open the next Word doc and start typing.  You are not alone in your doubt!  Every so often I've heard someone try to say that if you have doubts that it's just imposter syndrome or a sign of immaturity in your career. Just say NO to that nonsense.  At some point, you DO have to get out of your head and take action. You can't allow these doubts and hardships to hold you back. But having them is NOT a sign that you don't know what you're doing or that you have a lot to learn.  I've experienced doubt every single month for the last year, even though on paper I've gone from making under $100 a month to a healthy four-figure income.  You're in good company!


22 Mar 2019

Rank #15

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174 - Writing to Market and Writing to Trend

I hear a lot of confusion about writing to market and writing to trend. In this post, I'm going to explain MY personal view and my experience with both writing to market and writing to trend: how they're different, how they're related, and help you figure out what's right for YOU.   WHAT WRITING TO MARKET IS Chris Fox coined the term "write to market" and talks about it in his book called ... (wait for it) ... Write to Market. In the Introduction, Fox states that the book will teach you "how to analyze the market, and to use that information to write a book that readers want." (Check out the book HERE.)  Often, writers start out by writing that story that's in their head. They have that one idea that they just can't shake, or the story they HAVE to tell. That's writing for love and it's author-centric. Writing to market shifts the focus from the author to the reader. What does the READER want? I mean, we all WANT them to want that story that's been on our heart to write, but that isn't always the case. (There are, of course, happy accidents where this happens, sometimes in a big way.) We learn what the readers want when we study the trends of what's selling on Amazon. Indie authors can do this better, because we don't need two years to publish a book once it's done. I've decided to write a book to market and had it published in six weeks. It's a little harder if you're hoping to secure an agent, because if you study what's hot NOW, realize that in a few years when your book has been through the whole process, it won't be hot anymore. So, we clear on the idea of writing to market? Study what readers are buying. Find a space that's selling and that you also love. Write that. More resources: Niche It Down a Notch How I Wrote and Launched a Book in a Month   WHAT WRITING TO MARKET ISN'T I want to be CLEAR about this before we continue. Writing to market is not selling out. Most people who write to market find a market selling well that they LIKE. But even if not, even if you're an author who needs to write in a market they don't LOVE because you have a mortgage to pay, THAT'S OKAY. Some people write for the love. Some for money. And some for both. I'm okay with all three of those choices. As long as you're okay with YOUR choices, then go on with your bad self.  But I want to be VERY clear that if you think "writing to market" is a dirty term, this probably isn't the space for you. Or, maybe you should reframe the conversation. Remember that writers are writing for themselves, but also for readers. Writing to market is serving readers what they want to read. If that's wrong, maybe I don't want to be right. WHAT WRITING TO TREND IS Writing to trend is something that I hear people talking around a lot, but it's not always called the same thing by different people. To me, writing to trend is taking the principles of writing to market, but applying them to a particular niche, genre, or trend that is HOT now ... and may or may not stay hot for long periods of time. As I'm writing this, there is a hot trend for bully romance. Essentially, that's just what it sounds like. A guy (or group of guys) bullies a girl and she falls in love with him/them anyway. Not my fave trend (kind of an extreme example of the enemies to lovers trope) but one that went WILD this year and has made some authors serious bank. Will this be around next year? Gosh, I hope not. But who knows. Another trend in romance (reverse harem-- one main girl with a bunch of male lovers) was thought to be a hot trend and is still going strong years later. There is a big tie between reverse harem and bully romance. You don't always know how long a trend will last or when it will fizzle out. But trends tend to show up more suddenly, become THE thing, and might gain ground or lose steam. For a little while, at least, their star burns brighter and hotter than the others. And they can make a LOT of money if you can hop on while they're hot. Other resources: Writing Gals Video on Finding Hot Markets AN EXAMPLE OF WRITING TO MARKET vs WRITING TO TREND When I launched my Emma St. Clair pen name, my goal was to write to market. I made some mistakes (notably in covers and some tropes early on) but quickly figured out that romance needs a happy ending (ha!) and that adult clean romance readers like faces on covers, while photos without faces tend to be either more women's fiction or YA fiction. My first few books eventually had the right covers, the right tropes, and met expectations in a market that was selling well. They did fine. I went from making $30 a month to $300 a month to over $1000 a month. While marketing and doing all this research, I kept seeing billionaire books. They were everywhere. I tend to NOT be a trendy person, so it made me eye-roll-y. I'm also not super swayed by dudes with lots of money. Despite my annoyance, one day I had an idea for a billionaire book. I wrote it fast. And when I launched it (COMPLETELY to market and according to the billionaire trend), in under a month, it outsold what my first two books made COMBINED over the previous three months total. THAT is the power of writing to trend vs writing to market. Writing to market may have hungry readers, but writing to trend is hitting on a hot button trope, idea, theme, niche, or genre that has VERY voracious readers gobbling up that particular kind of book on a likely more limited time frame. Like Veruca Salt, they want it and they want it NOW. If you can serve up that golden goose, you've written to trend and may find some solid success. HOW YOU FIND HOT TRENDS Finding hot trends is not hard, but can be time consuming. It means spending a lot of time on Amazon, looking at categories you like (again, the goal is writing something you like that also sells) to see what readers are buying.  Narrow it down to a few categories you're interested in writing in, then spend some time watching what's selling in the top 20 of those categories.  You'll want to look at: covers titles publishers (it matters whether it's traditional or indie!) themes tropes niches settings conventions keywords pricing descriptions And that's just a start. What are the top twenty books in a category doing? What is the rank of the first book in the top twenty? What's the rank of the LAST book in the top twenty? I already linked to it above, but you can check out my post Niche It Down a Notch to see my slideshow presentation I did on studying categories. You can also check out K-Lytics (affiliate link!), which has paid and free resources based on Amazon data, broken down by specific niches and categories. I first started writing clean romance after studying keywords in a program called Publisher Rocket (affiliate link!), which showed me how many people were searching for Christmas Romances. You're trying to find a sweet spot: a market or trend that sells well, but not so well you can't break in. Any category where the top twenty is all traditionally published books (or super well-established indies) or all in the top 5000 will be a challenge. Any category where the number one book is 5000 or above is not going to make you a lot of money. If you're hanging out in other author groups by genre, you'll also see what kinds of books authors are talking about and promoting. Sometimes I'll spot the trends there first. More resources:  How to Find a Hungry Market (Chris Fox) Hot Markets and Trends in 2019   TIPS FOR WRITING TO MARKET AND WRITING TO TREND The thing about writing to market is that the demand for bigger niches is more long-lasting. I believe that clean romance overall will be around for a while. Billionaire books? They're still selling, but my sales have started to flag. Sometimes they get too crowded and readers get tired. Sometimes new trends come along and get so hot they push the others out. I'm currently writing paranormal academy books right now under the pen name Sullivan Gray. (Think boarding schools for magical creatures.) This is a hot trend right now. But are people ever really tired of vampire books? No. They trend hot, then die down, but they never really go away. (JUST LIKE ACTUAL VAMPIRES.) Indie author Bella Forrest may have started near the Twilight hot trend, but she's still making a killing with a 70-book vampire series. And the next time vampires trend HOT, those books can burn bright again too. All this to say: if you're chasing a hot trend, the books will have more longevity if they fit a broader market as well and can still SERVE those readers when the trend isn't hot. If there is ever a backlash against billionaire (in small groups, there totally is), I could rebrand and retitle my books and they would STILL fit well in the broader clean romance market with other tropes and conventions. There are more CLASSIC elements to the trendy books. If you want to write to market or go further and write to a hot trend, hang out on Amazon. Talk to other authors. Study. Be a little nerdy. READ books. Then see if you can find a sweet spot for books you love to write and books readers love to read. Make sure the elements of your books match the ones in the market AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. Cover especially. Readers should glance at your book and KNOW where it fits or if they want to read it.


6 Sep 2019

Rank #16

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169 -Everything Authors Need to Know about Pen Names

Have you ever wondered if should write under a pen name? Or why some authors choose to write using a pseudonym? In this post, you'll learn why you might want to write under a pen name (or not) and how to navigate having multiple pen names. A year ago, I tried an experiment. I found a genre that was selling well where I thought I could find success. I didn't really want to use my already-established email lists and social media, so I started almost completely from scratch. You can see how that worked out after one year in this post. (Spoiler alert: month to month it's up-and-down, but has been four figures--sometimes closer to five-figures--a month for over a year.)  So why write under a pen name? For me personally, it was more about marketing and testing the waters than anything else. In terms of marketing, I have a few nonfiction business books under my own name. These are NOT the same genre as the clean romance I wanted to write as Emma St. Clair. That can provide a muddy brand and reader confusion. A new name seemed like a good option. To test the waters, I wanted to know if I could use the knowledge I've gained over the past however-many years in this online space to find success self-publishing without using my already-established platform. I'm actually about to launch a second pen name (Sullivan Gray) who will do Young Adult paranormal and contemporary books. I'm planning the same strategy as I used to launch Emma and we'll see how it goes. EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PEN NAMES Listen to Episode 169 - How and Why to Write Under a Pen Name   WHY DO AUTHORS WRITE UNDER A PEN NAME? Authors might choose a pen name if the subject that they're writing about might cause conflict with their actual life. I've seen this a lot when authors write steamy romance and don't necessarily want their mom reading it. Some steamy romance authors also write clean romance and don't want any crossover. In this case, authors will be very careful to keep their pen name completely apart and separate from everything else they write. It's a lot more hidden. Authors might choose a pen name if they write in multiple, unrelated genres. This is the main reason I chose a pen name. When we shop online, we don't realize how many quick snap decisions we make on things. Having a pen name can keep ultimate clarity in terms of branding. Are my sweet romance books that different from my Christmas devotionals or my book on email lists? No... but the readers aren't the same. The crossover is likely minimal at best. And when a reader glances at my author name and the books that customers also bought on the Amazon sales page, it presents a problem to see unrelated books. It would be confusing to see a romance book next to a book on business. Readers need quick and easy cues with clean author branding. Whenever you're as big as Stephen King or JK Rowling, you could write whatever and people will buy it. (Big authors still sometimes write under pen names!) But when you're starting out, it's much easier to have one author name PER GENRE for crystal clear marketing and branding. I've seen personally how well this has worked for me and I've also seen authors struggle trying to keep multiple unrelated genres under one name as they start out. It was HARD. Some people in the space (whom I really respect) say that you don't need to worry about a pen name. I disagree when it comes to branding and marketing, but if you want to see another side to this, check out a post by Anne R. Allen.  WHEN SHOULD YOU NOT USE A PEN NAME? Amazon will only let you have three pen names under one Author Central account. It isn't TERRIBLE to have multiple pen names (more on that below), but if you can keep things easy, DO. If you're writing books that are related or might have a larger crossover audience, then don't do a pen name. An example might be writing clean romance and clean romantic suspense. These are the same steam level in terms of sexual content (which matters to readers), though the audiences might not be a 100% match. That said, my Emma St. Clair clean romance books will have a similar steam level to my YA content, BUT the YA books will have more violence and intense action. Some have paranormal elements. The crossover might be there (I read both genres!) but it's going to be a way smaller number. Just look at what these different covers convey! You can see how these are likely not the same audiences, right? Everything from the color to the tone of these book covers sends signals to the readers, even subconsciously. Pen name = good plan. If you don't NEED a pen name and already have an established brand or public-facing name that you could use, don't create more work for yourself. If you don't care as much about branding and sales and just want to write for the love of it, put it all under your name. If you have a HUGE platform under your name and people will buy whatever you write, then don't worry about a pen name. If you know it would be easier to write under pen names but you can't handle the idea of juggling them all, you might want to consider not writing under pen names.   HOW DO YOU HANDLE MULTIPLE PEN NAMES TECHNICALLY SPEAKING? Speaking for Amazon, you can create up to three pen names under one author central account. That means that you'll be getting paid in the same place and don't need to worry about technicalities or weird legal stuff. Publicly, they are separate. Privately on the back end, they're all under your account. That said, some people want more separation even than THAT. This post talks about ways to find more separation. If you want to know how to set up a new pen name in an author central account, here's a brief video I made walking you through the process.   WHAT DO YOU NEED IN TERMS OF AUTHOR PLATFORM FOR A PEN NAME? Now we're getting into the nitty-gritty of what it takes to juggle multiple pen names. It's less than you think! This also may vary wildly depending on how you want to promote books. With my pen names, I'm not very actively blogging (if at all). I don't post much on a Facebook page or Twitter. My main focus was email list (which sells more books), a FB page for ads, and a FB reader group.  My basic suggestions for a pen name:  Set up an email list (this is my main focus)  Set up a web page with yourauthorname dot com or something similar  Set up a Facebook page (so you can run ads)  Set up ONE social media account that you'll use (this could just be the Facebook page)  Important note about Facebook: It's against Facebook's terms of service to have two personal profiles (where you add friends vs a business page where you get "likes"). Don't create a personal profile for your pen name! You could get completely booted from Facebook. A page may not see a lot of organic growth or reach, but if you want to create ads, you need a page. Plus you can use a small page with few likes to market to a broad audience.  That's really not that much to do. For one of my pen names, I own AuthorSullivanGray.com, but if you go there, you'll just get a landing page to sign up for my email list. I don't have a full web page set up.  I focused on growing my email list through Bookfunnel and other author promos and I send weekly content to subscribers. I barely post on my Facebook page, but do run ads. My social media focus is Facebook groups and I am working to build active reader groups where I share my books, teasers or bonus content, other people's books, and have discussions. HOW DO CHOOSE A PEN NAME? I think it's a good idea to check your genre. For some, gender (or perceived gender) may send a signal to consumers. (Joanna Penn talks about that in this post under #3.) I personally chose names I liked that fit more with the genres. Emma is like everyone's BFF. You can't hate Emma! So of course, she writes sweet romance.  Sullivan is a great name. (We almost used it for our fifth daughter!) It's tough, cool name that generally is a last name. Because it's not as common as a first name, I think it probably might speak to being a guy's name, but could be either. This felt like a great, edgy pen name for my more intense YA.  Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur has a great post on choosing a pen name.  DO YOU NEED TO CREATE A WHOLE PRETEND PERSON FOR YOUR PEN NAME? The answer to this goes back to whether or not you're trying to keep things separate for marketing purposes or SECRET. If you just want some separation, then it doesn't matter as much if you use the same photo or you have the same bio. If you're trying to keep it a secret, then you'll want to consider how to handle the personal info, bio, and images for that person.  I like to create a PERSONA for my pen names. Emma St. Clair is still me. It's just the part of me focused more on clean romance than the part of me that loves sarcasm and shows like Arrested Development. In my Emma emails, I don't talk about my love for horror movies, but focus on romantic comedies or Hallmark romances. Emma isn't untrue, but is more an edited bit of who I am. We all have a lot of facets to our personality, so for me, I let the pen names shine a light on a facet that relates to the genre.  Some people might be fine with creating a fake person, but it's hard to keep secrets in the digital age. Just be aware of that. I'd be fine for anyone to know that Kirsten is Emma is Sullivan.  If you'd like get a fun avatar made for your pen name, I've used this artist on Fiverr and been really happy with their work.  So... do you need a pen name?  Maybe. Maybe not.  I think there are strong reasons to create pen names for clear branding and marketing in different genres, especially if you are newer. I don't think you have to do a ton of work to create a pen name. Keep it streamlined and simple. Don't feel like you have to be all the places all the time. Do what sells books.  One day, my own personal brand might be a large enough umbrella to house everything, but for now, I'll keep my own name and the two pen names to write and publish books across multiple genres.  For more discussion on this and other topics, join the Create If Writing Facebook group! Want to get weekly news, tips and tools? Subscribe to the weekly Quick Fix email.


12 Jul 2019

Rank #17

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163 - How to Handle Social Media in 2019

Social media is an ever-changing beast. We are over the hype of social media and maybe a little burned out. But it's still important. So how should you  handle social media in 2019?  I want to put a big caveat into this post. I'm writing it from a place of social media privilege. I have a solid following on several platforms. When I'm not locked out of my account, I have just shy of 10k followers on Twitter. I have something like that also on Pinterest, last I looked. (Note: I haven't looked in months.)  I don't remember how many Facebook page likes I have on my two pages. It's something in the thousands on one and a few hundred on another. My Facebook group is around 2500. Instagram (which I never use) is something over 1000.  To some of you, those numbers will look small. To others, big.  I bring it up because you need to know where I'm coming from. These numbers matter because they could make you discount my attitude about social media, which is: chill out and stop freaking out about your numbers. Sure, you might think. Easy for you to say with your 10,000 Twitter followers.  I get it. But to that, I say: Those 10,000 followers do NOTHING for me. Nothing. I sometimes talk to people on there. But it does not sell books. It does not drive traffic. It may make me look more legit and people might find me there. But it does NOT MATTER OVERALL TO ANYTHING WITH MY BUSINESS.  Actually, I've been locked out of my account daily on Twitter for much of the last year, due to some glitch on their end that tells them I'm suspicious.  So, as we get into this and I tell you not to worry about social media, I'm not resting on my laurels. I'm telling you this because I've got followers and for the most part, it does very little to help my bottom line and overall goals.  Wow. How's that for a caveat??  Let's get into how to handle social media in 2019.  HOW TO HANDLE SOCIAL MEDIA IN 2019 When it comes to handling social media in 2019 (or 2091 if it's still a thing), first you need to step back and look at your big goals. What is your big goal?  Even beyond your specific goal, take a moment to realize that your overarching, general goal is to grow an audience that will support whatever content you are creating. You want buyers and readers and supporters for your creative work.  The audience will look different based on your specific goals.  If I need someone to buy 99 cent books, it's different than needing people to buy a $1000 course. You may have some crossover, but generally, those are different audiences. That will impact where you hang out on social and what kind of content you create, but in general, we are all looking for an audience for our bigger work.  That means that social media is NOT the goal. It's not the finish line. It is a tool. Social media is a conduit. It's a means to an end. It is not the be-all, end-all, but a way to find your audience, to connect with them, and to allow that audience to support you. (The exception is if your goal is to be a social media influencer, which means you'll be getting sponsored posts and money based directly on the number of Instagram or other followers you have. Still, though, you'll want to have some other way of connecting and reaching your audience. Cough. Email. Cough.)  HOW TO BUILD A SOCIAL MEDIA FOLLOWING We get caught up in the numbers, and it CAN be about that--whether it's Instagram followers or pageviews or podcast downloads. But more than the numbers, it's about cultivating the right audience to connect with the content you're creating. Yes, those numbers represent people. But we should think of them as people, not as followers or numbers or likes. That's where you start.  Here are my recommendations for building your social media profile:  Pick a platform you enjoy. If you don't enjoy it, this will all be harder. If you don't enjoy it at all, try to find one you can learn to enjoy. Or tolerate cheerfully. Don't be a grinch. It's not that bad!! For tips on how to use the platforms, look for people who are experts in the space. There are a LOT of them in every space. Find a few. Follow them to see whose advice rings true for you. Do what they're doing. Create interesting content related to your overall goals. Be consistent.  Oh, and above all this: Build your email list. When social media has burned and gone away, email will still be there. (You should really listen to the podcast to hear my analogy for this, by the way...) Email is more permanent and can be more powerful. It won't change the way social platforms do and is a direct line to them, whereas on social platforms, that platform "owns" your followers.  THE FINAL WORD In 2019 when it comes to social media, I think we're all over the hype. We're a little tired of chasing numbers and the hamster wheel of working to do that. Let's get back to basics. Find the platform that feels right to you. Find the one that allows you to connect with people. Follow experts on those platforms to see how best to use it and keep up with changes.  Overall: keep your eyes on the prize. And that prize is NOT your Twitter followers. 


16 May 2019

Rank #18

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161 - Creating Content for Love or Money

When you start creating content, whether that's writing a book, blog, podcast, or something else, you may not think about your reasons beforehand. But you should. Most importantly, you need to think about whether you are creating content for love or for money. Let's explore why that matters! I don't have one single reason why I do the things I do. My reasons why are many and sometimes my reasons switch in the middle. That's probably true for you as well. But it's hugely important to stop and think about whether you are creating content for love or for money. If not BEFORE you start, definitely DURING the process. It's also a question that you should return to over time, as your reasons may shift. Why does this matter so much? Knowing whether you are creating content for love or for money will help you make a ton of decisions along the way and likely keep you from suffering from decision fatigue and overwhelm. CREATING CONTENT FOR LOVE FOR FOR MONEY Creating Content for Love When you are creating content for love, that means you have an idea or passion that fuels your creative drive. You want to do something, so you are doing it. Your decisions are based on what you like and don't like and what you feel like doing. This is not a bad thing. (Please know that I am placing no judgment on whether it's best to do something for love or for money!) But, when you are following your dreams and creating your passion, you should realize that you may not find success. We hear a lot of the stories about people pursuing passions and becoming wealthy doing so or growing a huge Instagram following or email list or blog by accident. I sometimes see people who have done this trying to teach this to people or selling courses on this and I want to tell you to ignore that. If you find success following your passion, it is likely a happy accident. You might happen to tap into something that there is a need for and no one filling that need. You might accidentally have started something just as it became trendy. But when your primary reason is creating content for love, you are not TRYING to build a giant audience or make millions. Your passion was your reason. Any success you find is a happy by-product. Creating Content for Money Creating content for money gets a bad rap among creatives. It shouldn't. Being able to pay your bills from book sales or ads on your blog is just as valid as getting a paycheck as a teacher or doctor or mechanic. You work and you get paid. That work just happens to be creative. Sure, some people do sell out. But only the content creator can know for sure if they have done that. I can FEEL it when considering decisions that I don't want, but would pay well. We all have to decide where we stand on that and no one can say that for you. When your primary goal is to make money, passion takes a backseat. You aren't making decisions any longer based on what you WANT or what you LIKE, but on what your AUDIENCE likes and what other people will PAY for. You will need to do more research and look for trends and what's working now and find where you can fill a gap in customer need, whether that "customer" is a blog reader or a podcast listener or an avid fiction reader. Creating content for money means being more intentional. Sometimes it may mean choosing something practical over something you like. It could mean choosing a book cover that might sell better than the book cover you happened to personally LOVE. If you find success while creating content for money, it is an intentional result of your research and hard work. You may not find success, which is important to know. I've tried a lot of things and not had the success I wanted or needed, even with all my research and intention. Just doing it for the money doesn't ensure success. THE SWEET SPOT OF CREATING CONTENT FOR BOTH LOVE AND MONEY For creatives, the sweet spot is to find something that you can do that you love and also makes money. It won't happen for all of us and it may not always be sustainable. But if you can identify a passion and a way to monetize that, then you are in a place many would envy. Even still, there will always need to be one or the other--love or money--driving the boat. When you have to make a decision about something like blog design or a book cover, you may need to pick one or the other. It's important to think about which of those two things is your driving or primary factor at any given time. I've seen some authors write multiple series at a time--one series for love and one for money. You may not always find both in the same time. If you are creating content just for money, sometimes that can lead to burnout or selling out or just unhappiness. If you are creating content just for love, you may have to get a day job or you may not be able to bring in a sustainable income. While you may find that you're doing a little of both, it's incredibly important that you consider which one is the primary--love or money. As you have to make decisions about the various aspects of how you promote and create, your timeline, your marketing, and all of those things, this will be vitally important to know. It can make the difference between finding success or not. And always be aware of whether advice and teaching you're listening to comes from someone who accidentally found a profitable niche or someone who researched and intentionally set out to find it. Don't let someone who stumbled upon success try to teach you how to accidentally make money through your passion. If the goal is to make money and be intentional, then take the time to research and learn from those who have done the same. Give yourself the freedom to change up what you're doing. I would create SOMETHING for the love just because. I will always do that in my life. But how much time and money I invest totally depends on whether or not I'm doing it for the money or just for fun. Consider your big goals as you are making your creative decisions! You'll find that making decisions comes easier when you know WHY you're doing what you do.


3 May 2019

Rank #19

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140 - A Simple Book Launch Framework

Writers all struggle with different parts of the craft. Some struggle with the start, while others get stuck in the middle, and many find editing to be a challenge. But one shared struggle for most writers I talk with is the actual book launch. Book launching brings to mind the idea of marketing and promotion and publishing, whether you are working alongside a traditional publisher or you are an indie author. I'm going to share a simple book launch formula here geared more towards indie authors. But if you are working with a traditional publisher, these principles can still work for you! You simply might have other help or confines to work within. I'm calling this a framework not a formula or a step-by-step guide because I like the loose structure of a framework. I definitely am a do-what-works-for-you person, so within a larger structural framework, you have freedom to try many different strategies. This is meant  to help you understand the bigger umbrella of a book launch so that you can shift the smaller, moving pieces in ways that work for you and your book. A SIMPLE BOOK LAUNCH FRAMEWORK When I say "simple," what I mean really is that I'm breaking this down into the simplest overarching things you need for a launch. I'll be following up in detail with later posts, but for now, the goal is to avoid overwhelm. SIMPLE. Got it? Let's go.  Three Stages of Your Launch Timeline 1. Pre-launch - writing the book, editing, proofing, formatting, cover design, platform-building 2. Launch - three kinds of promo (more on that next week). Telling your audience, having others tell their audiences, and then paying people to tell people 3. Post-launch - keeping your book afloat, more evergreen strategies on your site, guest posting, AMS ads, continuing to do the launch-type promo paying or emailing, etc That doesn't sound so bad...right? Let's take each piece and break it down a bit more. Again, this is about the framework, so I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on how to do a lot of these things. Before you get to the details, I want you to have the mindset.  PRELAUNCH Goal: Prepare the product, building your platform Actions: In this section of your launch, you'll be preparing your product. You'll write and polish your book, get the editing and proofing, formatting, and cover. All the things you need to be ready for launch. You'll also be building your platform so that you have an audience to launch TO. I would primarily recommend growing your email list or a Facebook group. But if you have engagement on a social platform (people like, comment, click through, share), then definitely utilize that!  LAUNCH Goal: Get the message out about your book, make sales Actions: This is the most obvious section, but there are many ways to handle the actual launch! I'm trying a slow launch method where I don't really make a big deal about my book until it's been out for a few days, then I stagger promotional efforts to keep a steady rise. You might go for a big explosion on one day.  The big thing to note is that there are only three basic kinds of promotion: you telling your audience, getting other people to tell their audience, and paid promotions and advertisements.  POST-LAUNCH  Goal: Keep your book from gathering digital dust Actions: Books typically don't just sell and keep selling. You have to continue to drive traffic. This can look like continued ads, writing blog posts related to your book and linking in the blog posts (you also have to then promote the blog posts!), setting up other paid promotions, reminding your readers, and other actions that you did in the launch stage.  If you're using Kindle Select, you get a free promo or Kindle Countdown every 90 days. Now that I have a backlist of books, I try to set up one extra promo a month, in addition to launching a new book. So I'm doing all three of these levels every month. THAT MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU. I write rapidly. Find the balance, but don't forget to give your books love after they launch. Usually they will not keep selling if you don't.  I hope that you are finishing this post feeling a sense of peace. Book launching (or just launching!) doesn't HAVE to be overwhelming. Yes, there are lots of little details within this big framework. But understanding the overarching ideas and the big picture can help you see just how doable this is! You've got this.  We'll keep moving forward in this series, going a little bit deeper each time. Next up: more on promotions!


19 Oct 2018

Rank #20