2019 Advent Calendar for Kids—Children’s Book Recommendations

2019 advent calendar for kids lisaferland

Create your 2019 Advent Calendar for kids with a new book every day.

Give the gift of books  to your favorite young readers this holiday season.

You’ve already read The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, so add these  independently published children’s book to your bookshelves this year.

Below are my recommendations to create an Advent Calendar for kids of children’s books for your kids to open every day of December. 

All of the links below are Amazon affiliate links to which I receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Budget-friendly options for book Advent calendars 

I know that not everyone has the budget to purchase 24 books in a month, which is why I propose the following budget-friendly options:

  • Create an ebook Advent Calendar for Kids

    • Sign up for Kindle Unlimited on Amazon US here
    • Or purchase the Kindle version of each book at a discounted price from the physical books
    • Kindle Unlimited is $9.99/mth and there is even a 30-day free trial if you’ve never tried it before
    • Nearly all of the books below are also available on Kindle Unlimited
    • To create an ebook Advent calendar for kids:
      • download all of the ebooks beforehand to your Kindle-reading device and place the title of the book on a slip of paper in an envelope so your kids have something to open.
    • Reading the ebooks are also a great way to see if your kids love the books before you invest in buying  physical copies.
    • The authors will still get a small royalty for your Kindle Unlimited read.
    • Be sure to leave a review!
  • Blend old and new books into your Advent calendar for kids 

    • Select some of the books on the list below that interest you the most and wrap some existing books from your children’s bookshelves into your Advent calendar collection.
  • Borrow books from the library to supplement your Advent calendar

    • If you can’t find the books below in your local library, then supplement them with another Christmas title. Your librarians will be happy to help you find a favorite.

Children’s book recommendations the 2019 Advent Calendar for kids 3-8 years

1—A Silly Milly Christmas by Sheri Wall

Is Milly naughty or nice? Does she get a glimpse of Santa Claus?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2Kvd5iS

2—The Mouse in the Hammock: a Christmas Tale by Bethany Brevard

A book that teaches children how Small Acts of Kindness can make a big impact.

Available here: https://amzn.to/33YOx9Q

3—Tomten Saves Christmas by Linda Liebrand


With just two more days till Christmas, will an invite for Christmas coffee be enough to melt Farm Tomten’s grumpy heart so Farm and Yule Tomte can save Christmas together?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2qmZHXa

4—When the Clock Strikes on Christmas Eve by Lisa Ferland

  It’s the most wonderful time of the year and kids can’t wait for the fun of Christmas morning! 

Available here: https://amzn.to/2OmUUwT

Shameless plug, I know 😉

5—Where Would Santa Go? by Julia Inserro

If you could travel the world, where would you go?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2rVTzWr

6—Humphrey’s First Christmas by Carol Heyer

We’ve all heard the story of the three wise men who brought their gifts to Baby Jesus. But what about the camels who carried them? 

Available here: https://amzn.to/2CYX3d8

7—My Teacher is an Elf by Joey and Melanie Acker

 

It’s that time of year again and Ms. Holly’s class thinks she might be an elf!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2Ok3cWq

8—Never Let a Unicorn Meet a Reindeer! by Diane Alber

A story about a little girl that wants a reindeer for her birthday!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2NWR3aO

9—Santa’s Story by Will Hillenbrand

Santa is ready to leave on Christmas Eve, but he can’t find the reindeer anywhere.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2KzoEWd

10—Zetta the Poinsettia by Alma Hammond

Zetta is excited about the holidays but before she knows it, its over.  What will Zetta’s purpose be then?

Available here: https://amzn.to/2NZGTq5

11—Secret Santas and the Twelves Days of Christmas Giving by Courtney Petruzzelli

 

This heartfelt story has inspired a movement of anonymous giving across the nation.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2OpIvIC

12—Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson

Bear’s friends are determined to keep Bear awake for Christmas!  Bear stays up—by discovering that giving is one of the best Christmas presents of all!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2XqYdr6

13—Little Squirrel Squish Gets his Christmas Wish

Little Squirrel Squish wished all his life to be part of Santa’s flying crew but only reindeer were allowed.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2rXSY6G

14—The Elf Who Couldn’t Read by Sonica Ellis

Santa wants Jingles to help read the Christmas list, but Jingles doesn’t know how to read yet.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2rZXhOZ

15—Lulu and Lainey: 12 Days of Christmas

While baking holiday cookies, Lulu and Grand-mère amuse themselves by singing a clever rendition of the beloved Christmas carol using knitted items as the gifts.

Available here: https://amzn.to/343fiKm

16—The Magic Friendship of Snow by Andi Cann

Jojo looks around and everyone seems to have friends but her. She feels sad and lonely. How do you make a friend?

Available here: https://amzn.to/35biCD2

17—The Christmas Crocodile by Bonny Becker

When Alice Jayne finds a crocodile under the tree on Christmas Eve, her family goes into an uproar!

Available here: https://amzn.to/32WKQA1

18—Mission Fat Hearts by Rebecca Yee

Are your kids ready to be secret agents? If they are, here is a Christmas mission the whole family will love!

Available here: https://amzn.to/2KDfh8e

19—Christmas Farm by Mary Lyn Ray

Year after year, Wilma and Parker nurture their trees, keeping careful count of how many they plant, how many perish, and how many grow to become fine, full Christmas trees.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2puQnjC

20—The Animals’ Christmas Eve by Gale Wiersum

A sweet rhyming story in which a group of animals recounts the events surrounding Jesus’ birth in the manger, and the parts some of their ancestors played in it.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2XppF8I

21—The Amazing Snowman Duel by Yossi Lapid

There is a new snowman in town! Or is he a bully? This charming story will teach your little ones that bullies do not always win and force is not the only way to settle disputes.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2XrORvf

22—The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child. 

Available here: https://amzn.to/2OrDpvn

23—Dasher by Matt Tavares

Dasher is an adventurous young reindeer with a wish in her heart.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2r8GCbe

24—The Night Baafore Christmas by Dawn Young

Bo just wants to fall asleep before Santa comes, but when the sheep he’s counting rebel and wreak havoc around the house, Christmas Eve starts to go baa-dly wrong.

Available here: https://amzn.to/2KAdn82

I hope you enjoy these new Christmas stories and discover some new favorites.

As always, authors always appreciate your reviews! 

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We Love Communities: How one author dominated the #1 spot before her book’s release date

we love communities

Maartje Blijleven knows how to organize communities and is an expert at helping businesses maximize their social reach.

It should come as no surprise that she was able to organize her community around her book, We Love Communities,  and rocket to the #1 spot for a month on the bestseller charts in the Netherlands by organizing her community.

Over the past 20 years, Maartje has developed thriving communities and has built an incredibly strong network of entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporate professionals.

Her book, We Love Communities, contains not only her wisdom and experience but the interviews of other experts in the field who share their tips on strengthening communities in business.

Becoming a Chart Topper

Maartje knew how many books it would take for her book to compete with the current bestsellers in her genre.

In order to maximize the number of pre-orders of her book at full retail price, Maartje had to get creative and offer incentives that would appeal to her ideal reader—businesses, entrepreneurs,  and conference leaders looking for keynote speakers. 

Because Maartje was focused on getting a large quantity of pre-orders prior to her book’s release, her pre-order campaign looked something like this:

—Pre-order 10 books and get the ebook one week before it’s official release (savings of 30.50)

—Pre-order 25 books and get access to her 10-week online training program on building communities (savings of 888.25)

—Pre-order 50 books and get 1:1 VIP strategy coaching from Maartje herself at an incredible discount (savings of 1920)

—Pre-order 100 books and get a remarkable 75% discount on her keynote speaker fees (savings of 3490)

You can see that with each reward level, the savings get greater and greater and appeal directly to her ideal reader.

How did Maartje learn this pre-selling incentivized-rewards selling technique?

She took the self-paced online course, Crowdfunding for Authors, and got tons of feedback on her landing page. 

Click here to learn more about the course so you can rock your book’s pre-sale campaign.

Lessons Learned

Maartje worked with a traditional Dutch publisher and experienced all of the same writing anxiety and self-doubt every writer faces.

“I felt very vulnerable. Creating something out of nothing feels like you’re asking everyone to take a look inside your head. You cannot hide.”

“At first, I felt insecure to show people my work at an early stage. If I could do it over again, I would’ve involved people sooner in the process so I could have more time to process all of the feedback. The book is so much better with people’s input.”

Tips for your Pre-order Landing Page

1. Know your goals

Do you want a high number of pre-orders like Maartje had or are you trying to raise extra funds to cover the cost of production?

2. Keep it simple

Maartje directed people to pre-order their books on the Dutch equivalent of Amazon.

People who pre-ordered their books then filled out a simple form indicating which reward they ordered.  

Maartje offered four (4) reward tiers. Too many options will spoil the soup.

3. Offer rewards your IDEAL READER wants

Maartje was releasing a book around community development so all of her rewards were specifically targeting what people in the community development space needed and wanted.

4. Build your community FIRST

Maartje had 20 years of experience working with businesses, entrepreneurs, and developing a strong network of people who would not only support her book launch campaign but also wanted to employ her services and speaking opportunities.

Without a community of people to whom you launch your book, you’re launching to crickets.

5. Promote your pre-order campaign

Every campaign needs a deadline for people to take action. For Maartje, she started promoting her pre-order campaign on August 3 with a September 24 deadline—so nearly 60 days of promotion.

 

Would Maartje do it again?

When asked if she’d do it again, Maartje said she would definitely run a pre-order campaign like this again.

With over 1,000 books pre-ordered, future keynote speeches confirmed, and a slew of new clients, the results speak for themselves.

Bio

Maartje Blijleven is a digital community expert and has been building successful online communities since 2000.

As a co-founder of the communities IncludeNow. & WomenTalkTech knows how to start and grow a community. 

 

With We love Communities she helps entrepreneurial professionals and entrepreneurs to be successful with their own online community: for different companies, people and purposes.

Connect with Maartje at her website: https://welovecommunities.com

On Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Learn to Hook Your Audience from Disney/Pixar Films

first words starting story lisa ferland

At the 2019 Stockholm Writers Festival,  Julie Cohen presented on how to learn story structure from Pixar films and it got me analyzing everything in a new light.

Now, I’m much more mindful of the hook of a story and I notice when there is none.

What is it about a movie or book that sucks me in within the first minute of watching/reading? 

During her wonderful presentation, Julie went into great detail about story structure and how to create inciting events, climaxes, and resolutions but for this article, I’m going to focus only on the beginning of a story since so many of us (myself included) get it wrong.

But first, take two minutes and watch the opening scene from Cars below.

Opening scenes should plunge you into the action right away

The scene in Cars starts in all black and you hear the main character giving himself a pep talk before his big race. There are bright lights, the cheers from the crowd, engines revving, and rubber flying.

There’s nothing but action in the first two minutes of the film.

That’s how your book should start—jump straight into the action—hook your reader and get them flipping the pages.

Almost every writers festival has a “first pages competition” where writers submit their first 2-4 pages of the book they are writing for critique. 

Make your first lines count

Why are those first pages so crucial?

Those first few pages are what hook your reader and get them to keep reading.

The judges from the Stockholm Writers Festival said that the first line of the story was the most important. They could tell if a story would deliver or not after reading the first line alone.

Since then, I’ve analyzed a lot of first lines of all books in all genres.

Here are a few first lines worth mentioning:

“The two would-be jade thieves sweated in the kitchen of the Twice Lucky restaurant.”

Jade City by Fonda Lee

“Where’s Papa going with that ax?” said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.”

Charlotte’s Webb by E.B. White

“All children, except one, grow up.”

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

“If your teacher has to die, August isn’t a bad time of year for it.”

The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck

“Jim Gallien had driven four miles out of Fairbanks when he spotted the hitchhiker standing in the snow beside the road, thumb raised high, shivering in the gray Alaska dawn.”

Into the Wild by John Krakauer

“When the clock strikes one…mummies come undone.”

—When the Clock Strikes on Halloween by Lisa Ferland

(Hah! I couldn’t resist!)

Get to the point

Disney/Pixar movies are pared down, fast-paced, and simplified—that’s why they are so enjoyable.

All authors are competing for our readers’ attention. There is no time to waste because a whole digital world of “whatever I want to explore” is sitting right next to them or is resting in their front pocket.

Jumpstart the beginning of your book—children’s book, nonfiction, or fiction novel—with something magnificent.

The authors of the First Pages competition at the Stockholm Writers Festival said that they spent hours rewriting their opening lines.

Make your opening scene hook your reader and move quickly into motion.

 

Short stories should start fast

Like in a drag race, you don’t have much time to get your story going if you’re writing a short story.

Practicing flash fiction is a great way to exercise your short writing/sprinting muscles.

I subscribe to the Flash Fiction magazine newsletter to see what people are writing.

Testing out your flash fiction chops on Reddit is also a great way to get reader feedback and hone your writing for free

I recommend reading: How to Write Short by Roy Peter Clark

This book has great tips for writing better emails to your readers, Twitter posts, and Kickstarter campaign pages.

It also has exercises at the end of each chapter so you can practice, practice, practice.

What is the first line of your book? Share it below! 

Why We Need More Kid’s Books About Farts

Ask any kid if they think farts are funny and 99% of them will giggle and say yes. 

Despite a clear flashing green light from our target audience (KIDS), many children’s book writers respond with strong negative emotions when confronted with farts in kid lit.

“I will never buy a book like that for my kids. Not ever.” 

“We don’t discuss those things in our house. It’s not proper.”

“Literature doesn’t need to stoop to such levels to entertain. We need better kid lit than this.”

Clearly, even talking about books about farts makes people uncomfortable.

If you’re a parent or a writer (or both) who thinks that fart books are gross and inappropriate, please hang in there with me and read until the end.

In this essay, I’m going to present 5 reasons why we need more fart books in our kids’ lives. 

1—Laughing about taboo topics opens a dialogue between adult and child

Having frequent conversations about small issues (like farts) paves the way for parents to have future discussions about much more important topics.

Life changing topics like sex, pregnancy, rape, homosexuality, abuse, and other things that are much weightier topics than stinky airy flatulence.

If a parent struggles with talking about natural bodily functions, how do you think future conversations about the darker topics like sex and rape are going to go?

I volunteer with my local women’s shelter and believe me, we need to be having lots of conversations about sex, rape and abuse with our daughters and sons. 

Reading books that make your kids laugh about a silly taboo topic (like farts) shows them that you’re open and willing to have these conversations with them.

You become and remain their safe space for these types of things.

By reading to them about all topics, you’re telling your kids that they can come to you about any problem they may be facing.

Reading a book about farts at age 5 can lead to a conversation about teenage pregnancy later one, which might prevent one and wouldn’t that be great?

See? Books about farts may prevent teenage pregnancy albeit, in a very indirect but important way. 

Conversation starters about farts may lead to other interesting conversations you didn’t know you needed to discuss.

As a parent, it’s our job to have these difficult conversations with our kids regardless of how uncomfortable we feel.

2—Silly books improve literacy

Stinky things are funny.

Kids like to laugh. Kids like to watch movies and read books that make them laugh.

Do we need poetic books with elegant prose? Of course. But we also need books that kids like to read.

My mother has been an elementary teacher for over 35 years and as soon as I became pregnant, we instantly acquired an extensive children’s library in our house.

Her most consistent advice about developing literacy in children is to first develop a love for reading.

When it comes to books, parents should take the fun job—make reading as fun as possible for your kids and they’ll learn to love to read.

Make the teachers force the boring literature onto our kids.

If your kid will devour books about underpants or farts then stock the library up and watch them read. In my opinion, it’s better that the kids read something, anything than nothing at all.

There will be plenty of time for the classics but without a foundational love of reading, they’re never going to want to read the classics.

3—We need more books that normalize our body images and self-worth

Fart books are really good for girls to read. Why? Because girls aren’t supposed to fart.

Uh huh, riiiight.

The sooner girls accept their bodies as they are, the sooner they stop hating their bodies for how they are made.

We’re not supposed to acknowledge that everybody farts because it’s taboo.

As a result, we have girls thinking it’s wrong and boys thinking girls who fart are gross.

Proud mama moment: My 8 year old son had his friend over to play and they were sitting together when she let an audible toot slip out.

“Oh! I farted. I’m sorry!” she said, embarrassed.

“No problem. Everyone does it.”

And they went back to playing as if nothing happened at all.

There was no body shaming, no guilting, and no weirdness at all. Total acceptance of something totally natural.

We need more books that normalize the human body for kids. 

4—There’s a huge gap in the market for funny books

From a writer/business perspective, this should get your attention. There is a huge hole in the market for smart humor that is well done in this genre.

Traditional publishers are looking for high quality work that makes kids laugh.

We’ve already established that kids laugh at fart books and pee jokes are always crowd pleasers.

If you have a smart idea and execute it well, your book on farts should perform really well.

Just look at I Need a New Bum which has 450 5-star reviews on Amazon at the time of this writing. 

Walter the Farting Dog has 600 5-star reviews.

Every writer knows how difficult it is to get reader reviews on Amazon and there’s no denying that these books are a hit with tons of readers.

While some writers may turn up their noses at fart books, they are overlooking a very viable marketplace that could pay their bills.

Pay the bills with fart books and write your less lucrative high brow literature on the side. 

The market is telling you what it wants.

5—There is power in having fun with your kids

The time you have with your child in your lap is limited and precious. Reading a funny book that makes your kid giggle can relieve tensions and stress at the end of a long day.

The time before bed is some of the best parent-child bonding time we have during the day. It’s nice to fill it with books that are fun.

Books represent safe fun—nobody can get hurt reading a book and they’ll learn something new about themselves or others.

Making space in your child’s life for fun at the end of their day is a great way to heal some of the stresses or worries they may have experienced at school or while you were at work.

Don’t underestimate the healing power of laughter.

Takeaway message:

Don’t take farts or books about farts so seriously. They will help you bond and connect with your kids which will help you have rich conversations about important matters later on in life.

What do you think?

Sound off in the comments below.

The Secret to Writing Great Dialogue: Three layers

Confession: I am horrible at writing dialogue. 

At the 2019 Stockholm Writers Festival, I took Cassie Gonzales’ dialogue workshop and within minutes, I understood what made good dialogue and why I struggled so much with it.

My characters were communicating clearly.

Clear communication between characters = bad dialogue.

Quick clarification—every piece of dialogue advice in this article came from what I learned in Cassie’s workshop at the Stockholm Writers Festival.

I highly encourage every writer to continue to learn about the craft of writing and push themselves to be better.

What makes bad dialogue?

  • Too much exposition
  • Doesn’t sound real/sounds forced
  • Not plot driven
  • Too many tags, “As you know, Bob…”
  • Repetitive
  • Mundane—”You don’t look well. How are you feeling?” (BOOOORING)

What makes good dialogue? 

  • Contains drama
  • Evokes emotion
  • Descriptive of the personality of a character
  • Creates curiosity for the reader
  • Raises a question

The secret to writing good dialogue:

Every piece of dialogue contains three layers: the said, the unsaid, and the unsayable.

1) Said: “Would you like some coffee?”
2) Unsaid: “…I hate you”
3) Unsayable: “but I’m afraid of being alone”

The unsaid and unsayable can never be in the dialogue. Characters cannot say exactly what they mean.

What is great for your marriage is horrible for your fiction.

If you need to clarify something for the reader, do it in the narrative, not the dialogue.

Every piece of dialogue should have the three layers—said, unsaid, and unsayable.

Start with strong characters in an interesting setting. 

The setting is where the dialogue will play out and the said, unsaid, and unsayable layers will be revealed.

Cassie Gonzales, Creative Writing Fellow at Emory University and overall creative fiction badass, introduced a simple rubric for evaluating all dialogue in literature, film, and your everyday interactions with friends and family.

Writing Exercise 

For example, imagine a story in which two characters are on the brink of divorce.

They can never say they hate each other and are on the brink of divorce, that must be revealed to the reader through their interactions and what they are not saying to one another (the unsaid).

The setting in which this plays out can be something with low stakes—picking out a birthday cake for their child’s fifth birthday party.

Put them in a bakery looking at cakes together.

What they say to one another (the said) is about the cake—but must convey the reader that their marriage is falling apart (the unsaid) and they are terrified about how they are going to co-parent this child together (the unsayable).

The unsayable is the engine for your fiction.

Trust your reader

Trust that your reader is intelligent—more intelligent than you are—and doesn’t need everything spelled out.

Build a puzzle for them to solve if you want to keep their interest. Your reader will be able to read between the lines and feel like the smartest person in the room (because they are).

Dialogue in children’s literature

While reading a bedtime story to my daughter, she chose Fancy Nancy and the Dazzling Jewels (aff link), I realized that the dialogue in Fancy Nancy, a book intended for kids 4-8 years, had these three layers—said, unsaid, and unsayable.

I knew that good dialogue is required for literary fiction but it often goes unnoticed in children’s literature.

We take good dialogue for granted.

In Fancy Nancy, the two characters, Nancy and Bree, have too much jewelry.

Their boxes are overflowing and they come up with the idea to swap out pieces with one another to refresh their collections.

Everything is going well until Bree selects a piece that has emotional value to Nancy and vice versa.

The characters are torn between wanting to be a good friend and needing to be honest about how they feel about the jewelry swap.

Without ever saying the words, author Jane O’Connor effectively tells the reader that both girls are feeling guilt and regret—two tough emotions for kids to understand at this age—about the swap.

The unsayable in this story is that both girls are afraid that if they are honest with one another they’ll damage their friendship.

Pretty deep for what initially looks on the surface like a silly story about jewelry.

It’s that type of complex storytelling and dialogue done in a simple way that keeps parents happy and kids wanting more.

Dialogue in everyday life

After taking Cassie’s dialogue workshop, I began to notice all of the dialogue around me and evaluate what was being said, what was unsaid, and what was unsayable.

I must admit that some people are horrible at communication (they’d make great fictional characters except they are REAL).

There is a lot unsaid in everything they say.

The unsaid is where the power lies.

One character can have physical or emotional power over other characters and this never needs to be said.

Start paying attention to the conversations you have with your friends and family about various topics. 

You’ll probably notice that the more difficult the conversation or topic, more is left unsaid.

Give your characters an interesting setting

People often suggest having conversations about difficult topics while doing something else—the third place setting. This enables the characters to focus on something other than what they really want to say.

Talking while going on a walk or while fishing is a great way to have difficult conversations.

Remember, characters can’t ever say what they really want to say or it becomes boring. Keep them at odds with themselves and one another.

The more insane the “third place” where the “said” things are happening, the more layers you can build into the scene.

If your characters are making funeral arrangements for their father at the county fair, there are tons of smells, sounds, and action happening all around them while they grapple with grief and loss. 

Read, write, write, read

The only way to get better at writing dialogue is to read more of it.

Flash fiction is a great genre for learning how to communicate a lot of information in a very short word count.

Here’s a free course about writing interesting and engaging flash fiction: https://learn.flashfictionmagazine.com/p/free-course

Flash Fiction Magazine has some great pieces and you can have them delivered to  your inbox for inspiration: https://flashfictionmagazine.com/

“If it bores you, it’s not working.” —Cassie Gonzales

The Secret to Marketing Your Book Without Annoying People

Marketing is cited as the #1 pain in the rump for most writers, which is funny because…

1) marketing and then selling our books is the only way we can continue to write and do what we love,

2) marketing is a great way to creatively express your ideas, and

3) you’re a writer so you are already skilled in the best marketing tool there is—more writing.

But, I totally get it because I often feel the same way. We are selling books, literature, art! We aren’t marketing gadgets or gizmos.

These stories came from our hearts and it feels wrong to “push” them onto people. We want people to love them just like we do.

Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If people don’t see your books, they won’t know they are available for purchase.

As writers, writing should be easy, non?

Facebook ads and Amazon ads, etc., are all great but you gain external credibility when another website publishes your personal essays or articles that are tangentially related to your book(s).

Is it slower and more work to market in this way? 

Perhaps, but it should be part of your marketing toolkit and you’d be remiss in not trying it.

Example of how to market your book in a personal essay

Here’s an example to follow: this Conde Naste Traveler article “How My Mother’s Travels Shaped My World View” focused on a woman’s relationship with her mother.

At the end of the personal essay, the author mentions, “She wanted to travel the globe, and she did. Because of my mom, I decided to work in food media after college, even though I had zero connections in that world and all my peers were going into finance. I wrote a cookbook while working as a full-time journalist.”

The author bio at the bottom linked to the woman’s cookbook and voila, this woman is marketing her book without being annoying.

In fact, she is providing entertainment value and making herself relatable to the audience before inviting them to buy her book. Even better.

Write essays and publish them everywhere

So, that’s my #1 tip—pitch essays like the one above for publication on third-party websites.

This approach gets your book in front of a lot of people all at once without annoying anyone.

You can (and should) feel proud pushing the article on all of your platforms because it’s not screaming, “BUY MY BOOK!”

The downside is that it’s not easy to (successfully) pitch third-party websites your essays and it requires a lot of lead time.

There is a ton of rejection involved in freelance writing and if you’re not experienced, you’re going to become quickly frustrated.

Alternatives to publishing on third-party websites

Don’t have time to pitch and get rejected over and over again?

Here are some alternatives to third-party exposure:

—Publish your essays on Medium.com
—Publish your writing on LinkedIn
—Publish your writing on your own website (you should have an author platform, hello!)
—Coordinate with other bloggers who might have smaller-than-Conde-Naste-size audiences and see if they take guest posts

Follow the formula above—offer authentic, genuine writing that is attractive to your intended audience and weave in the fact that you’ve written a book toward the end of your essay with a link in your bio.

Don’t forget to optimize your homepage

If the website doesn’t allow links to books/products, then definitely ask for a link to your homepage and make sure your homepage is optimized to send people to your book.

For my current children’s book Kickstarter campaign, I optimized my homepage to be a landing page. 

My homepage currently sends people directly to my Kickstarter campaign that way if any third-party website articles take off and link to my homepage, readers will be clearly directed to my book’s campaign.

You can see how I set it up here: https://lisaferland.com

So, my fellow writers, keep writing and getting your book in front of new readers.

The Adventures of Lily Huckleberry Raises Nearly $40K on Kickstarter

It’s not every day that a children’s book raises nearly $40k on Kickstarter, but that’s exactly what Audrey Smit and Jackie Knapp did with their first book, The Adventures of Lily Huckleberry in Scandinavia.

As we all know, or should by now, fundraising is a full-time effort and the end result of months or years of audience building and engagement.

I spoke with Audrey about all of the preparation and work she and Jackie did to garner such stunning success.

Note: Whenever somebody makes something look easy and effortless, understand that a TON of effort and work went into it on the front end even if you can’t see it. There are no shortcuts to success.

Let’s go under the hood of their Kickstarter campaign and find out what worked and what didn’t.

You raised ~50% in the first 24 hours—can you describe a bit of the pre-launch work you did to make that happen? We all know it’s not easy to generate that much energy on launch day.

Yes, the first days are everything!

Before the launch we reached out to influencers that we thought would be interested in the concept of Lily Huckleberry – travel influencers, book influencers etc.

I contacted people I already had a connection with (that’s always the easiest) but also reached out to tons I didn’t know at all that I thought would be interested in our idea.

We got maybe 7% positive responses back when we reached out. It was a lot of work but every person we could find to help spread the work made a difference.

You have to be shameless, talk about what you are doing with pride + passion— it’s contagious. And keep knocking on doors, you’ll get a LOT of no’s but keep reaching out to new people.

Another thing did as we launched: Jackie (my co-author) and I had made a bet with my husband (which we included at the end of our Kickstarter video) that if we funded under one week, he would have to let his Viking beard grow to be a foot long so we could braid it for the book release party.

For some reason that got a lot of people fired up to pledge early, haha! I guess lots of people (including many of our friends) wanted to see him do something a little ridiculous. I think it really helped people connect with our campaign from the beginning in a genuine way.

It’s all about thinking outside of the box. In the end you never know what is going to stick so you have to try a lot of different approaches.

“In the end, you never know what’s going to stick so you have to try a lot of different approaches.”                – Audrey Smit

It looks like you have a very large audience already established from your design business. What types of outreach would you recommend to authors who may not have a large audience already established?

Yes, a bigger pre-established audience definitely helped,  but you can definitely make it with a smaller audience.

Use what you’ve got and again, think creatively!

Start with friends and family, of course, but don’t stop there.

Promote to whatever audience you have on social media and try to reach out to the press ahead of time about your project/idea.

Very often local newspapers are happy to run an article/interview about you and or your book—you will just have to do a little research on how to best approach them and how you can make them look good with your amazing story.

Other ideas:

    • set up a booth at local events during your Kickstarter
    • team up for giveaways with other influencers on social media to increase your reach,
    • and if you have a little bit of marketing money to play with, consider things like Facebook/Pinterest ads.

What would you say surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?

It takes SO MUCH time and energy! Ha!

Setting up the campaign is only the tip of the iceberg, you have to put a lot of effort into promoting it along the way, getting back to people, etc.

BUT it is so amazing to see people gather around your idea and put their weight behind it, and the work is completely worth it. It’s truly amazing.

Are you planning additional campaigns for future books in the series?

Absolutely!

We are in the process of writing our second Lily Huckleberry book and we’ll be doing a Kickstarter campaign for it.

Having the ability to raise money for editing, printing, marketing is game changing.

We would not be able to self-publish without Kickstarter. 

I also find that Kickstarter campaigns to be an incredible marketing tool —people love getting behind ideas they love and it helps build a community around your book. 

What unexpected opportunities have resulted from running your Kickstarter campaign? 

We were stunned that we raised well over our initial goal—nearly $40K!

That allowed us to invest more in the book, to make a stunning products that people are raving about. That also allowed us to invest in marketing a little more, have a book trailer made etc.

Also unexpected: my husband was quite stunned he lost his bet with Jackie and me.

Being a sales manager in the corporate world, he couldn’t believe he had to let his beard grow for months on end.

Quite a few of his clients asked him about it, and he had to boast about his wife beating her funding goal on Kickstarter. 

Anything else you’d like to mention? Future book plans?

Well, as I mentioned, our second Lily Huckleberry book will be coming out later this year!

After wandering in Scandinavia with her Viking friends, Lily will be going somewhere in Asia to solve another big mystery…but I can’t tell which country yet, it’s still a secret.

We LOVE self-publishing—it is so much work, but also gives us  so much creative + business control.

We are really excited to do another Kickstarter campaign and see if can turn our dream of a series into reality! Our goal is to release one new Lily Huckleberry book every year, and have her travel to all the continents so our readers can dream far and wide with our brave Lily.

Bio

Audrey Smit is the founder of This Little Street, a design company whose colorful and happy aesthetic has built a following of nearly 20K. She has worked as a pattern designer since 2015, recently launching several successful product lines of her own. 

Originally from France, Audrey lives in Berkeley, CA with her Danish husband and their four adventurous little girls, who are constant sources of inspiration for her work. 

Follow her on Instagram: @thislittlestreet  

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Click here to check out her Kickstarter campaign for The Adventures of Lily Huckleberry in Scandinavia

3 Benefits of Joining a Masterclass

I have found that the best workshops for my learning style are like mini-boot camps. They are goal-oriented and time-sensitive with students who are enthusiastic and ready to achieve their goals. 

I want to be surrounded by people who, like me, are hitting the pavement, ready to go.

What is a masterclass?

A masterclass or mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members.

In addition to you achieving your goals (e.g., fully funding your book), participating in a masterclass has at least three tangible benefits.

1) Accountability

When you know you’re meeting every week and will have to speak up and discuss your project, you end up getting more done than when you operate in a vacuum.

I’ve met so many authors who have said that they have completed manuscripts that are collecting dust for years. YEARS! Life gets hectic and in the way of accomplishing our goals.

All of a sudden, what we once thought was a priority gets replaced by the urgency of the NOW and we end up dropping our work. It happens all of the time.

By joining a masterclass, your peers are committing to holding you accountable, and likewise, you are serving as their accountability partner. Simply by asking someone, “What are you struggling with this week?” forces a type of self-reflection that may be missing in the lone writer’s world.

2) Expert guidance

As lovely as peer-to-peer groups are, and I’m part of many of them, it’s extremely helpful to have an experienced person guiding the group. Masterclasses are generally organized by someone with experience who is not only skilled at managing people but at helping them reach their goals within a certain time period.

When I hired my marketing coach, I desperately needed direction. I needed someone to ask me questions that I didn’t know were important and hand me an extensive to-do list that would advance my career to the next level. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I needed help. Big time.

Without an expert guiding the way, peer-to-peer mentoring groups remain largely self-serving. Yes, you will probably reach your goals, but it won’t have the time-sensitive boot camp nature that masterclasses or masterminds often have.

Really great masterclasses contain exercises and action items to help the participants cruise through the material, apply it, and advance more quickly than working solo.

3) Personalized tutoring/mentorship

Readers of blogs and listeners of podcasts are subject to the limits of the creator’s pace. A masterclass incorporates established material (courses, blogs, podcasts, etc.,) with tutoring to allow participants to advance at their pace, ask questions, and receive individualized support.

The opportunity to ask questions, gain clarification, and obtain peer and mentor support is a unique feature of the masterclass design that is lacking in other online course forums.

Helping more authors successfully crowdfund their books 

After beta testing my Crowdfunding for Authors course, I noticed that the group interaction was where a lot of the magic happened.

However, the course is self-paced, and some students didn’t launch their campaigns at the same time. That’s totally fine but I saw a missed opportunity.

By grouping together crowdfunding authors who are all launching at the same time, we can create a network where we share resources, leverage marketing opportunities, and get real-time support before and during their campaigns.

The mentoring support happens in the crucial pre-launch phase and the peer-to-peer support happens during the campaign phase.

Crowdfunding is all about community and so often, writers find themselves trying to build a community from scratch. It’s much much much easier to build momentum, rally positive energy, and battle the self-doubt when there is a network of like-minded people doing the same thing at the same time. (the whole, A rising tide lifts all ships, concept).

Interested in learning more?

If this sounds like a concept that would be of interest to you—an online course with guided expert mentorship and supportive peers—then click here to schedule a no-pressure information-only 20-minute call with me to find out more or send me an email here.

Registration for the Crowdfunding for Authors Masterclass for March/April campaigns closes on January 31.

If you’re serious about getting your book fully funded in March or April, then click here to find out more.

Overcome Procrastination With These 4 Tips

“Procrastination is self-hatred.”—Robin Sharma, The 5 AM Club. 

Woah, that’s a bold statement. I’ve heard of procrastination being related to laziness, anxiety, and depression but not self-hatred. 

I’ll admit, I’m no Superwoman when it comes to powering through and beyond procrastination. I’ve had to devise multiple systems, test out new theories, and come up with creative ways to hold myself accountable in order to stay on task.

Even with a ton of resources, prioritized action lists, a fancy new journal, and positive incentives, I still procrastinate on projects or activities that I need to accomplish in order to move my business and writing forward.

Positive affirmations

I’ve been listening to positive affirmations and even created my own affirmations specifically for writers in order to keep the mindset moving in a productive direction.

We all have the same 24 hours in the day to accomplish our goals.

Dedicated writing time

As part of a change in my routine, I scheduled dedicated writing time between 8:30 am-10:00 am every day. I have found that word count goals don’t work for me but dedicated time always does.

Sort of like cleaning where I give myself 20 minutes to clean whatever is around me, I give myself 90 minutes to write about whatever it is I want to write about. It doesn’t have to be going toward the word count of my latest novel if that’s not what I’m interested in writing about that day.

After 90 minutes of writing, I move on to responding to clients’ emails and creating content for my websites.  

 

Write during your most productive time

We all have “productive” times during our day. These are the moments where the words flow effortlessly from our brain to our fingertips. The time when we feel most energetic and excited about writing.

For me, the morning is when my brain is freshest and ready to tackle problems. 

Ideas often surface after I meditate in the morning before the kids wake up. I jot those ideas down and expand on them during my block of writing time.

Ideas for stories that come to me later in the day are recorded and I’ll write down as much detail as I know I’ll need to capture the idea and revisit it later. Sometimes, I rush upstairs and capture the flow before it disappears—my fingers clacking furiously on the keyboard. 

These moments of inspired writing don’t happen often for me, so it’s crucial that I capture them when they do.

Reduce your distractions

I’m the first to admit that I often choose to become distracted in Facebook groups under the guise of being helpful for others.

While I’m doing those authors a service, I’m doing myself a complete disservice because the time I spend on Facebook is time I’m not spending creating my next book or helping a client with their books.

I’ve reduced my distractions by limiting my phone time entirely and I don’t look at my phone between 7 pm and 10 am if I can help it.

I try to steer clear of Facebook group interaction until my scheduled blocks of time dedicated to email and social media in the afternoons when my productivity is already naturally waning.

You know yourself best

You already know what you need to work on and what distractions you face. 

Limit the distractions that are within your control (we can’t control when our kids need us or when our dog has to go outside) and make the most of your productive time.

I’ve made the decision to go to bed a bit earlier and wake up at 5 am in order to start my day with exercise, gratitude, and meditation. I feel it’s given me a competitive edge on starting my day right, owning my schedule, and outlining my goals for every day of the week.

How do you plan to accomplish your goals?

Pssst…

Are you launching your book on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo in March or April of this year? If so, then you need to get started with a crowdfunding outreach plan and strategy.

Click here to schedule a no-pressure 20-min chat with me to see if my Crowdfunding for Authors Masterclass is right for you.

Why Book Marketing Isn’t Self-Promotion

“I’m not good at marketing…”

“I don’t like self-promotion…”

“I’m not comfortable promoting myself…”

Let me break something down for you right now…

Marketing your book is not about you.

Did you hear that? 

Is your first instinct to argue against me? 

“But Lisa, I created this book, it’s my name on the spine, how is marketing my book not about me?!?”

Because, my super creative, amazing writer, it’s not. I know you just poured your heart onto the page and you feel a deep emotional attachment to your work—that process was about you but the final product is not.

Change your relationship with the concept of marketing

Once you launch your book out into the world, marketing the book is all about connecting with the readers.

It’s about creating messages that resonate with them, not with you. The “about you” part is done.

Marketing is never about the person selling, it is always, always, always about the person buying. 

So, no, marketing isn’t about self-promotion, get that icky feeling and everything that comes with it out of your head this instant. Marketing is about giving the reader more on a topic that they already enjoy.

Create what your readers want and you should have no issues directing them to more content on what they’ve already indicated they like.

Follow the Related Posts model

Think about all news outlets’ website designs…there is always a Related Posts at the bottom of every article directing people to more content on that same topic.

Do you think that’s icky? No, you find it helpful, don’t you?

That’s the same idea you should take with your passive book marketing. 

Write a blog on a topic that is related to your book and at the end of it, include a call to action and a  link where they can buy your book.

“If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll enjoy this book that dives even deeper into this topic. Buy it here.”

Easy peasy, right?

Listen to your readers and deliver what they want

I noticed that my readers really enjoyed my blog posts and would comment on emotional, heartfelt content. They would share funny videos like wildfire, and they ignored my inspirational quote/images.

Guess what I started doing more of? Emotional blog posts intermixed with funny videos. It’s a good thing I like creating both because that’s what my audience was telling me they wanted.

Put out a variety of content and see what sticks. What do your readers like?

The answer will be different for everyone, which is why you can’t copy someone’s campaign and think it’ll work with your readers. (More on that another time, though.)

The more you focus on what your readers want, the more you’ll feel comfortable promoting that content. It’s not about you, it’s about them and what’s wrong with letting people know when content they would enjoy is available?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Want this blog in video format instead? I deliver more #truthbombs in the video below.

Psst…my children’s book is on Amazon and I’d love for you to check it out.

Click here and watch the video I created for it.

Did I convince you that book marketing isn’t self-promotion? Sound off in the comments