Writers: Increase Your Visibility on Instagram

Your writing lives on your computer but your fans, followers, and potential readers live on their phones.

Sharing snippets of your writing with your followers in Instagram is a great way to build a loyal readership.

There are some new apps designed for writers to share their work visually and since they are on your phone, it’s much easier to create an Instagrammable image of your latest blog, poem, or chapter.

Readers are visual people

These apps are designed with the poet in mind, but you can use them to highlight attention to anything you’d like your readers to know about.

The latest data from Statista states that 52.99% of global web traffic came from a mobile device in Q3 2017—a significant rise up from the 44% 2016.

More and more readers are surfing on their phones every day and let’s face it, people respond to visuals.

Creating an image is a great way to get more attention to your text.

I tested out two mobile apps for you to consider enhancing your Instagram feed.

YourQuote

YourQuote is an app developed in India that has a huge writing community behind it.

The wallpapers are beautiful and you can add them as the backdrop behind your text to enhance the emotions or imagery behind your words.

The app is a little buggy—it would suddenly close on me or freeze in the middle of my typing—but there are daily writing prompts to spark your creativity.

The app has Facebook and Instagram integrations which makes it easy to share across platforms.

There is also an option to copy your caption so you can easily copy/paste over somewhere else.

Lisa’s unbiased review: B

-This rating is due to the app’s instability. It keeps crashing my phone despite having the latest update. 

Mirakee

Mirakee is another app with a writing community behind it. The Explore feed looks like an Instagram feed full of poetry. The tap to heart options makes it easy to share encouragement to other writers and to find a little inspiration if you’re in a rut.

The compose and edit features are similar to YourQuote and navigating the app is easy.

So far, it hasn’t crashed my phone on me, so this less buggy version earns a…

Lisa’s unbiased review: A


Both apps are great options for sharing your writing on Instagram or Facebook and bringing more attention and visibility to your writing. 

What’s great about the apps are the writing communities behind them.

The writing communities are a great way to feel connected to other writers instead of home alone writing at your desk surrounded by sheafs of paper and empty cups of coffee.

Canva

While Canva is not a writing app, you can use this photo editing app to create your own images and overlay the text manually. 

Canva has great free templates with suggested fonts and styling straight from the box.

Unlike YourQuote and Mirakee, there is no Canva watermark attached with the images you create using the app.

The app is seamless and has a desktop version as well, so you can access your images from your Canva account wherever you want to write.

You can upload your own images as the wallpaper which means that nobody will have the same background as you. Your imagery and text will truly stand out from the crowd.

Lisa’s unbiased review: A

-Canva requires a bit more manipulation but has greater control.

-With more options comes more decisions but I love the ability to upload your own images as the background wallpaper.

What hashtags to use?

There are a million hashtags on Instagram but the ones I frequently use are:

#supportindieauthors (4500 posts)

#creativewriting (1.5M posts)

#poetryofinstagram (750k posts)

#writersofinstagram (6.6M posts)

#tellyourstory2018 (my hashtag–use this and I’ll support you with likes and reshares.)

 

And last but not least, be sure to follow me on Instagram @knockedupabroad.

I discuss defining and connecting with your ideal readers in the first section of my Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing course because it is so important to know where to find your readers. 
It is crucial to get them excited about your book before it is published.

Instagram is a great platform for sharing your writing if you create visuals that connect and inspire your audience.

Learn more about my step-by-step guide for self-publishing your story this year here.

Overcoming the Overwhelm of Self-Publishing

Checklists are ineffective against overwhelm if your tasks are not in the right order. You end up having to re-do parts you thought you had already crossed off the list.

A typical day when I was researching how to self-publish my book looked like this—I sat down at my computer, logged into the latest webinar, and furiously took notes on every gem and insight into the process.

What should I do next? I have my manuscript, so should I hire an editor? Maybe I should send it around to a few friends first. They can send me feedback, and then I’ll find an editor. Yeah, an editor can wait.

Wait, how much will an editor charge me? Do they charge by the hour or by the word? Should I have fewer words? Maybe I can trim the manuscript down a bit…should I?

The process was fuzzy, at best. I kinda-sorta knew what came next but I didn’t know where to focus my energy, and I wasn’t 100% confident I was heading in the right direction.

I worked at max capacity while my kids were at school and then again for hours every night after they went to bed. I wanted to be sure that I got as much done in the time I had available. It was hard work, but it was fun.

My husband noticed a change in my energy. He had seen me working late on other projects—not related to self-publishing—and knew something was different. “I’m so happy to see you like this. Your face lights up when you talk about your book.”

I didn’t mind the long hours because I was spending them doing what I wanted to do. I was learning new skills and figuring out how to create a book that I would enjoy reading.

After four months of intense work, I finally made it to the interior formatting stage—the part where you make the text look all pretty and every chapter title starts at the same height on the page.

I nearly gave up at that point.

Every tiny change I made to the manuscript affected the rest of the text. It seemed like I would get one chapter finalized but then the rest of my manuscript went all wonkadoo on me (yes, that’s totally a word when you are typesetting).

Two steps forward, one step back. The. Entire. Time.

I spent a solid four days editing the interior of my manuscript because the process went something like this:

– Quadruple check everything
– Everything looks good
– Upload file to Createspace
– Review on Createspace’s previewer
– Find one mistake on page 187
– Make the revision in Word
– Re-PDF everything
– Re-upload to Createspace’s previewer
– Review again…
– Find a mistake on page 223
– Revise in Word
– Repeat for days until I was ready to tear out my hair.

Maybe you can’t see the problem, yet. I knew that I didn’t.

After hours and hours of repeating these steps, I realized that even though I technically knew what I was doing—I knew how to correct my errors—I was doing the right steps in the wrong order.

There is a reason why interior typesetters can charge so much for their services. There is a definite method to the madness, and if you don’t know it, you’ll go crazy with frustration.

Despite being annoyed with myself for not figuring it out sooner, I felt like was in too deep to hire an expert now.

I had already invested so much time and energy into this task, why should I pay someone else hundreds of dollars to tweak my only-slightly-imperfect manuscript? 

Looking back on it, I should’ve saved my sanity and asked for help from someone who knew what they were doing.

Here are some ways you can combat overwhelm when it comes to managing your self-publishing journey:

Move your internal deadlines

Things are going to take you a bit longer than you expect, especially if you are doing things on your own.

Nobody but you will know if you miss your internal deadlines or not and adjusting the timeline will relieve a bit of pressure. Move things back a few days if you are feeling stressed.

***Want to know how long it took me to self-publish my books? Click here to read more.***

Change your environment

Go for a walk, get out of the house, or work somewhere new—maybe a cafe, library, or somewhere else to work on your book.

After months of working at home in my kitchen, I needed a break from my current environment. I needed to talk with someone in person and see them face to face. I needed to not think about all of the things I still had left on my to-do list.

Realize that it’s never too late to ask for help

I’m going to admit it—my ego wouldn’t let me ask for help. I was determined to do it by myself, and I made the conscious decision to continue plodding along with my obstacle-laden path instead of seeking the help of an expert earlier in the process.

Had I asked someone, maybe it wouldn’t have been as expensive as I thought? I’ll never know, but I do know that in the future, I’ll outsource any task that will take me days to accomplish if someone else can do it in only a few hours.

Learn from your mistakes but also forgive

I don’t regret taking on the monstrous task of interior typesetting myself because I ended up developing a new skill. It’s great to learn new skills, and now I know how to create a book that looks and feels exactly how I want.

That said, I should’ve been more forgiving of myself. The majority (okay, all) of my stress was coming from the high standards I was imposing on myself.

When it’s your name on the book, you want to put out your best work, and that might mean giving yourself extra time and forgiveness to correct whatever mistakes you make along the way.

Remember, this is your dream, your initiative, and your book. Be the best kind of boss for yourself. Self-publishers have to take on the work of an entire publishing house. That’s a lot of work. A bit of kindness will go a long way and self-care will keep your energy stable enough to see you through to the end.

Realize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint

If you’re motivated enough to train for a marathon, you know that it’s a step-wise process. You don’t lace up your sneakers and head off on a 26-mile run on your first outing.

Similarly, self-publishing is accomplished step-wise and is best when you keep your head down. Stay focused on only one thing at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed by ALL of the things you think you have to do.

Don’t try to multitask and keep to tackling one challenge at a time.

Break each step down into achievable goals each day based on the amount of time you have available. If you only have two hours today to work on your book, then do two full hours of work on your book without distractions or excuses.

My to-do list is based on what is most important AND most urgent for me to work on and it has helped keep me focused. If you want access to my free productivity webinar, click here.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do everything right the first time around?

Instead of struggling and wondering if you are heading in the right direction, I can provide even more help with the self-publishing process.

I have created a blueprint to guide you through each step of the self-publishing process.

Students have said this course helped them go from feeling overwhelmed about what to do next to confident about the self-publishing process.

It is never too late to save yourself stress, time, and ultimately, money from making costly mistakes heading in the wrong direction.

Click here to learn more about the course.

"One finishes the e-course feeling keen and confident to self-publish. The Beginner's Guide to Self-Publishing is a well-designed course that I highly recommend!"
Laura M.
Writer
If you want to self-publish your book: get into this program NOW.It’s worth every penny.It saves you time, money, a lot of hassle and a headache or two trying to figure it all out by yourself."
Brigitte van Tuijl
Writer and Coach, brigittevantuijl.com

Self-Publishing Timelines—What to Expect

When I first started the Knocked Up Abroad series, I figured it would take me about 4-6 months to self-publish the first book.

Without any experience, I knew I was going to have to learn the process, pad in a bit of extra time for mistakes, and hope for the best.

I knew some friends who had self-published their books but they couldn’t really give me a sense of how long it would take me to do the same. One friend took over a year while the other publishes like a machine and produces five e-books a year.

I have no idea how long it will take you to self-publish your book since there are so many factors but here is a timeline of what I experienced while publishing my books.

Book #1 Timeline

Knocked Up Abroad

Page count: 276

Word count: 100K

  • June 2015—Call for submissions
  • October 1, 2015—Final drafts
  • October 23, 2015—Sent manuscript to beta readers
  • November 12, 2015—Sent manuscript to editor
  • Dec 7, 2015—Second round of edits from editor
  • January 7, 2015—Final manuscript received from editor
  • January 7-12, 2015—Interior typesetting
  • January 14, 2016—Uploaded manuscript to Kindle Direct Publishing for pre-orders
  • January 26, 2016—E-book publication date
  • January 28, 2016—Paperback publication date

All in all, the entire process took a solid seven months of work and collaboration and a full four months of work after the manuscript content was finalized.

Now, one might think that with experience, the timeline for all subsequent books would be faster but that was not exactly the case.

For Knocked Up Abroad Again, I did things slightly differently, which added to the timeline. I wasn’t quite happy with my gutter depth in Knocked Up Abroad, so I changed that for the second book, which required ordering two proofs from the printer (#learningpains).

Also, rather than fund the book from my personal bank account, I took on the surprisingly monumental task of using Kickstarter to fund the project.

We were successful but like all fundraising efforts, it required a tremendous amount of time and energy to pull off. It also added 60 days to the publishing timeline.

Book #2 Timeline

Knocked Up Abroad Again

Page count: 314

Word count: 85k

  • March-May, 2016—Call for submissions
  • July 2016—Final drafts from contributors
  • September 3, 2016—Sent manuscript to editor
  • September 19-October 19, 2016—Kickstarter campaign activities
  • October 31, 2016—Final manuscript back from editor
  • October 31-Nov 2, 2016—Interior typesetting
  • November 15, 2016—Paperback and e-book publication date

This book took a solid nine months of effort and the Kickstarter campaign really kicked up the stress level quite a bit but overall, it was a great experience.

So, there you have it—two different books and two different experiences. You can see that not all self-publishing projects are the same and that you might take on new challenges or do things differently as you become more experienced that will increase your timeline.

If you’ve self-published before, let me know in the comments below how long it took you to go through the process.


Wouldn’t it be even easier if you could bypass a lot of silly mistakes? If someone handed you a step-by-step guide to the self-publishing process and answered your questions if you ran into issues?

How much stress could you avoid if you had a smooth self-publishing experience? If that sounds like a good plan to you, then check out the Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing  course here.

Ugly Books—Get Out of Here!

Seriously, folks. It’s about to get real.

I recently scrolled through the online bookstore of a independent small publisher (who shall remain nameless) and I was shocked. SHOCKED by the ugliness of the books they publish.

People do judge the quality of a book by its cover.

Indie authors, please hear me out, if you get a publishing “deal” with a small publisher and their existing collection of books looks hideous to you then do not publish with them.

Some might argue that cover design is a personal preference but there is also a collective agreement that ugly is…well…ugly. We all know it when we see it.

Entire marketing careers are based on knowing what is appealing to the eye and what isn’t. 

As a self-publisher, you will have a much easier time marketing your book if it has an attractive cover.

You will have a much harder time marketing and selling your book if your cover is universally perceived as ugly. That’s a fact.

Seriously, this is your book and the culmination of all of your hard work. You do not want your book associated with other books featuring amateur book covers with clip art cut-and-paste graphics, do you? 


Please, tell me you don’t want that for your book.

In an overwhelming market where readers have to make a split-second decision based on a thumbnail sized version of your cover, you need to be able to immediately grab their attention.

If your book cover is ugly, well, then they won’t give your book a second glance even if your story is heartfelt, important, and compelling.  

I’m all for helping writers and children’s books make it onto bookshelves but there is a better way. The way forward is do design a beautiful book by understanding and avoiding all that makes a book ugly. 

What makes a book ugly?

  1. Bad cover design. I’m talking baaaaad, like it looks like it was designed in Word 2001 using clip art bad.
  2. Questionable titles. Dogs Pray was one title that had me shaking my head.
  3. Poor interior formatting. If I open up your book and your chapter titles are squished at the top, there’s zero usage of white space, and your margins are wacky, I’m probably not going to buy it.

You do not need to settle for poor quality cover art or text that appears in chunks on the page. Self-publishing on a budget does not mean we don’t care about the quality of our work.

If you don’t have funds to hire an interior formatter, then you need to learn the ropes yourself. In this free video tutorial, I go over interior typesetting and some basics about how to make a book look beautiful on the inside.

If you are not a graphic designer, please do not attempt to design your own book cover. I know that Canva has ebook templates and it is tempting to save some cash and do it yourself, but that’s a bad decision in the long-term.

Graphic designers can work with you to figure out the best look for the cover of your book.

This is your book, your baby, and you want to be proud to show it off and have people spend their hard-earned money on it, right?

Click here to grab my FREEBIE video training on what you need to know to design a beautiful book starting with the words to the spine.

Don’t settle for an ugly book. Design a book that is a pleasure to read and one that you’ll be proud to put your name on the cover.

What is Copyright? How do I register?

One of the most frequently asked questions in beginner’s writing groups is always about copyright—

What is it?

How do I protect my work?

Do I need a lawyer to file my copyright?

So, let’s start with the basics.

What is copyright?

Copyright is a form of intellectual property of creative works. It grants rights to use or license the work exclusively to the author who created the work.

Basically, it prevents anyone from copying your work and saying it is theirs.

Copyright can be confusing because although it is set by country most countries recognize other countries’ copyright limitations.

Copyright matters are almost always handled in civil court cases, which means that it can be a real pain in the rear if you find someone infringing on your copyright.

Copyright in the US is generated as soon as something is created. That means that you do not need to formally register your work with the US Copyright Office.

It is possible for someone to copy your work wholesale, slap on a new cover, and say the content is theirs and it would be incumbent on you to fight them in court.

While you don’t need a copyright registration with the US Copyright Office to prove your work is yours, it is helpful to have in your back pocket should the need ever arise.

Filing a Copyright

If you live in the US:

  • Visit copyright.gov
  • Register with a profile
  • Complete your information (register a literary work)
  • Follow the directions
  • Pay the $55 fee per registration

Adding a Copyright page to your book

Copyright pages appear after the title page and before the table of contents.

Feel free to repurpose or edit this text for your book:

Copyright © (YEAR) by (YOUR NAME)

All rights reserved.

Printed in the United States of America.

No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

For permission, contact the author.

If you are self-publishing an anthology or collection of stories

If you are working collaboratively with other writers, as I did, you need to collect their permission for you to publish their words.

I recommend doing this in a very formal way so there is no confusion about the exchange and so that they understand they cannot republish the same work they submitted to you for publication. (It happens, trust me.)

Many anthologies return all copyright back to the contributors 12 months post-publication but this is not mandatory. It’s a nice thing to do, though, and it’s good marketing for the anthology.

If you want to download my template contract I created for my contributors in the Knocked Up Abroad series, then fill out the form below and I’ll send it over to you.

 

Okay, here’s where things are less straightforward.

You can work with an illustrator in multiple ways. It totally depends on what the illustrator wants and what you can comfortably agree to.

Illustrator-for-hire method

In this scenario, you pay the illustrator a set fee for their work ($XX/image), and they sign over the copyright to you so you can use their work in your book. 

You should still credit your illustrator on the front cover of your book. Some authors don’t think they need to do this since they hired someone for the illustrations, but come on, wouldn’t you want credit for the work you’ve written? Yeah…credit your illustrator. Don’t be a jerk.

In this scenario, the illustrator grants you their copyright so you can publish it. Depending on the illustrator, they may turn over all copyright exclusively to you as the author, or they may retain partial copyright so they can create and sell those same illustrations in various products like greeting cards, posters, etc., on their website.

Most often, when you hire an illustrator as a contractor, they do not receive royalties but that is not always the case.

Think strategically about what works best for you and your book. There are marketing opportunities to be had on both sides of the equation.

Illustrator receives royalties

It is possible to work collaboratively with an illustrator where they receive a percentage of the royalties generated from the book. Usually, this set-up is only done with large print runs by traditional publishers. As a self-publisher, your print runs will probably be much smaller and you’ll not find yourself in a royalty-sharing situation.

However, if your illustrator receive royalties, they will also maintain the copyright of their illustrations. You own the copyright of your text and they own the copyright of their work.

Again, not a common scenario for self-publishers, but it’s possible.

Hybrid of both

Your illustrator might propose a hybrid model that includes both payment (possibly reduced) for their illustrations and a percentage of the royalties. There might also be copyright negotiations to figure out.

If you each maintain your own copyright, you’ll file a copyright registration of the text (excluding illustration/images) and they will file a copyright of the illustrations/images (excluding the text) of the work.

Bim, bam, boom, $55 later and your work is legally protected.

What to do if you see copyright infringement?

If you see that someone is peddling your work as their own, email them or call them immediately and let them know that they are infringing on your copyright.

If you have your copyright registration certificate, you can hit them with that and threaten them with legal action. I guarantee, they’ll take down or stop whatever they are doing immediately. 

In summary

Copyright isn’t a tricky legal matter requiring lawyers. You can file on your own with the Copyright Office and it’s very cheap to register your work even if  you technically don’t need to file anything with anyone.

I advise that everyone file a copyright registration for your work so that you are legally recognized as the owner and creator of your work. 

If working with an illustrator,  determine what makes financial sense for you and your illustrator, give credit in the most public way to all members of the team, and you’ll have no issues finding an illustrator who would love to work with you.

5 Reasons to Share Your Big Ideas

Doers are people who get things done. We all know who they are.

They are the person who is always busy launching their next project, speaking at conferences, and is rarely sitting still…ever.

They are agents of action.

As a writer, there is a natural tendency to shy away from sharing our ideas with these productive, efficient people with the fear that they will steal and act on our novel ideas.

However, in doing so, you are cutting yourself off from their valuable resources, networks, and the potential for a positive collaboration with someone who can help you take your idea to the next level.

It’s okay to share

The truth is, other entrepreneurs aren’t looking to steal business ideas from their friends. Has it happened? Sure, but in most cases, the value of someone’s business reputation is worth more than taking a blog idea for a few clicks or a new product venture from a friend.

Doers are acutely aware of:

A) the level of work required to take an idea to market,

B) they are too busy working on their own ideas to steal anyone else’s projects and

C) they don’t have the amount of passion that you do for your idea to bring it to fruition.

Let’s be real: no amount of clicks or shares on a plagiarized article is enough to justify ruining my ethical and moral code—resulting in a blackballing from the writing community and damaging my reputation.

When I conducted outreach to fellow writers and described my idea for an anthology, I was initially cautious about someone stealing the idea for themselves.

After going through the self-publication process myself and I experienced the exhausting grunt work firsthand, I finally appreciated the monumental amount of effort required to transform an idea in my head into a physical book on a shelf.

Nobody was going to steal that idea and beat me to market. It is way too much work.

What you get from sharing your ideas

A positive result from both of my anthology projects with other writers was that I developed an extensive network of people with whom I share my ideas for articles.

We serve as sounding boards for one another and help problem solve, critique, and provide helpful ideas when someone hits a stumbling block.

5 Benefits from sharing your big ideas

Here are five benefits you’ll receive when you share your big ideas with people who get things done. Surround yourself with doers, build trust and rapport, and you’ll see the advantages of sharing your big ideas with a supportive network.

  1. You’ll gain confidence and accountability.
    It is easy to hold onto an idea and not take the necessary next steps to bring your concept to completion. Those next steps are hard, but when you confide your big idea with a doer, they will give you the feedback necessary and resulting confidence to either change course or move forward.
  2. They can help you troubleshoot obstacles—both known and unknown.
    There is a steep learning curve when you enter any field, and brainstorming with someone experienced in that field can help identify challenges that you may not know existed. They can also help you avoid common pitfalls.
  3. They may know of other resources that can help you get to the finish line.
    Doers know other doers and tapping into their vast experience can help put you in contact with the right people to transform your project from “just a good idea” into a complete product.
  4. An insider’s perspective is priceless.
    Some days you need a safe space to vent, and no person better understands what you are experiencing than someone who has walked the path before.
  5. By having a sounding board, you can get experienced advice to see if your idea is possible before investing valuable resources.
    The expert opinion of someone who has been there and done that can help advise you on whether you can proceed with a green light or if you should pump the brakes.

You get out what you put in…maybe more

In summary, sharing your big ideas with people who get things done will benefit you tenfold. Don’t be afraid to give voice to your dreams and commit to taking them to the next level.

Share your ideas with a few friends, be prepared for honesty and hard work, and watch your dreams come to life.

What is a book blurb and why do I need one?

What is a book blurb?

Book blurbs are one of those things that many self-publishers don’t even realize are a thing because they are so fully integrated into the book reading process that we don’t notice them until they aren’t there.

Blurbs short testimonials of the book and they are featured on the front and back covers of books. Blurbs are what spur readers to buy your book.

Continue reading “What is a book blurb and why do I need one?”

Smart design for adding books to your website

 

Testing out the
Mooberry Book Manager—Plugin for WordPress

I’m testing out a new WordPress plug-in called the Mooberry Book Manager.

They make it easy to add your own books or any books that you’d like to feature on your website (perhaps you’re reviewing books) in a smart way.

Who is this plugin good for?

This plugin is perfect for authors, illustrators, publishers, and book reviewers—basically, anyone who wants to highlight and feature books for sale. Continue reading “Smart design for adding books to your website”

Createspace’s eStore is Closing but What Does it Mean?

Createspace’s eStore is Shutting Down

A few days ago, I received this email from Createspace:

“Hello,

To better serve customers and improve the online buying experience, we will redirect customers who click on your CreateSpace eStore links to their corresponding detail pages on Amazon.com starting October 31, 2017.

Continue reading “Createspace’s eStore is Closing but What Does it Mean?”