Why Indie Authors Should Always Hire an Editor

There are some non-negotiable aspects in self-publishing that are needed for your book to compete in this oversaturated market—flawless text and a professional cover.

While many authors understand their writing can always be improved by a good editor, some children’s book authors think that editors aren’t necessary because they are writing for children.

I asked editor Tamara Rittershaus to share her thoughts on the importance of editing every book, but especially children’s books.

Here’s what Tamara has to say:

People will buy a great product.

 
“Self-published books have a bad reputation because they are often bad products. They’re often not edited, have cheap-looking illustrations, and grammatical errors in the blurb.
 
But with a good product and focused marketing, it can be successful. 
 

The Traditional Publishing Process

 
In traditional publishing, an author should have their manuscript critiqued, beta read, and professionally edited before sending it to their agent.
 
The agent offers editing. The agent sells the manuscript to a publisher, which would also have an editor.
 
So a book that is traditionally published has a stamp of approval from at least three editors (sometimes more than that).
 
Readers can trust these to be quality products. 
 
The indie-author community needs to focus on putting out better products.
 
In order to compete against traditionally published books, indie authors must hire professionals to work with them on creating the best book possible.
 

Here is what I recommend to an indie author:

 
After you write and revise a manuscript, find a critique partner!
 
Starting out, I swapped my picture book manuscripts with dozens of other writers through  a Facebook group called “KidLit411 Manuscript Swap.” 
 
Over time, I have found the four or five critique partners who I trust the most.
 
Once you’ve had it critiqued and made revisions, hire an editor!
 
Ask for developmental editing. A good editor will have an eye for how to really enhance the story.
 
They will explain how you can improve your story arc, the tone of the story, how to create better scenes, and more.
 
If you make significant changes, send it back to your critique partner or hire your editor for a second round of developmental editing. 
 
 
When your story is solid, have another round with your trusted critique partner(s) or look for “fresh eyes” in a beta reader.
 
Now is the time to have the story line edited. This is the final check through for grammar, punctuation, syntax and minor inconsistencies.
 
If you’re hiring an illustrator, I suggest you wait to start illustrations until the manuscript is ready for line editing.
 
A change to the manuscript text is easy, but changes to illustrations will cost you. 
 

Create a relationship with your editor.

 
Editors want our clients to succeed, especially the loyal clients that we know well. I offer my picture book clients a free once-over before publishing, because I don’t want to see any avoidable mistakes getting published. 
 
If you write in poetry, I suggest having your manuscript checked over by a poetry specialist.
 
I offer “poetry coaching” for clients who feel compelled to write in rhyme, but haven’t been trained in writing in meter.
 
I use the client’s own manuscript to teach them how the meter could sound. This is a very effective teaching method and my clients have great success learning to write in meter.”

Bio

Tamara Rittershaus offers editing services for children’s literature authors as a picture book editor. She will give you a thorough and honest critique of your work.

Connect with Tamara on Facebook or Twitter for more information: 

 

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.

Be sure to subscribe to me on YouTube if you want to be the first to know when new videos are up.

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

Thankful Frankie: Recovering from a Failed Kickstarter Campaign

I backed Thankful Frankie before I even met Kathleen (yes, I’m one of those strangers backing campaigns), because I absolutely loved the book’s message.

It broke my heart to see the campaign fail when the book had so much potential and I was delighted to see Kathleen relaunch Thankful Frankie with a new goal.

I asked Kathleen to share a bit about her experience and what she changed during the relaunch.

Be sure to check out her relaunched campaign here and support the campaign with a social media share or pledge.

If you’re scared of failing, and who isn’t(?), then be sure to read Kathleen’s encouraging messages and advice about how to handle a public failure on Kickstarter.

I have put so much love and work into Thankful Frankie, and I believe so strongly in its message, that giving up was not an option.”

 

Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?

Crowdfunding offered an opportunity to share the message behind my book and get the word out about Thankful Frankie.  I also knew that paying an illustrator/designer, printing copies, shipping books, and a handful of other expenses add up to quite a lot of money.  Raising funds offset the financial risk required to self-publish.

Almost everyone is terrified of failure but your campaign failed and you decided to relaunch on Kickstarter. Can you explain a bit about your experience and how you decided to relaunch?

I’ll be honest, failure is the worst.

It doesn’t feel good and for a few days after the campaign ended it was difficult to stay positive.  After getting over the set-back and disappointment, I reconnected with the purpose of my book.

The book encourages readers to list things they are grateful for each day, a practice I believe can change your life.  I have put so much love and work into Thankful Frankie, and I believe so strongly in its message, that giving up was not an option.

Aside from changing your overall campaign goal from $20k to $4444, what other changes did you make to your strategy and communication with your audience?

My initial campaign launched when I was working with a hybrid publishing company (hence the crazy $20,000 goal).  After parting ways and deciding to tackle this on my own, I realized I needed significantly less funding and was able to lower my goal.  

I also changed the rewards I offered. Most of my backers were family and friends and were supporting out of love. I realized they didn’t want or need the rewards I had initially offered.

This time around the rewards are simple and straightforward, which also allowed me to keep the funding goal low.

I am still in the middle of my campaign, but communication and connection with my audience has been more consistent and I post on my social media accounts every day.  

Allow yourself to be upset for a couple days, scream a little, cry a little, throw some things around a little, and then get over it.

What strategies or resources did you find most helpful when planning your campaigns?

I referenced a lot of successful and unsuccessful campaigns to see what worked and what didn’t.  This gave me ideas for rewards, price ranges, and strategies for communicating with backers.

Your blog has been a game changer for me as well.  When starting out I connected with your blog to help decided which crowdfunding platform to use.  I read and re-read your post “5 Biggest Mistakes Indie Authors Make While Crowdfunding” and got so much out of it.  I have about 2 ½ weeks left in my campaign and will implement your suggested strategies as I continue to work toward my goal.

I also connected with other authors who ran campaigns and asked for any tips, advice, or suggestions they could give.  There are many great groups on Facebook and social media that provide a supportive community to bounce ideas off of.

Lastly, I supported projects and other campaigns that resonated with me.  

What has surprised you the most about crowdfunding?

Great question!  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard.  Crowdfunding is currently my full-time job!

What has been your biggest source of support?

I wouldn’t have gotten this far through the process without my family and friends.  I owe them so much gratitude and several giant hugs. Another source of encouragement has been seeing other self-published authors achieve success. It’s great motivation to keep at it despite the challenges.

What advice would you give to an author who is considering crowdfunding their book?

-Believe in your book and its message.  Passion will keep you moving forward when things get tough.

Team up with a coach or someone who knows what they are doing.  Their experience and perspective can be hugely beneficial. I have a great suggestion if you need one 🙂   

I know this is a tough financial decision to make since you are crowdfunding to earn money not spend it, but this could be the difference between making your goal or falling short.

Start early.  

Make genuine connections and support others when you’re able.

What would you tell that same author about recovering from a failed campaign?

If you believe in your book and your heart tells you to try again, try again. Allow yourself to be upset for a couple days, scream a little, cry a little, throw some things around a little, and then get over it.  

An unsuccessful campaign isn’t necessarily the sign of a bad book, perhaps it’s a sign of bad campaign.

Check out Thankful Frankie on Kickstarter

Bio

Kathleen Cruger is a former educator, a musician, a lover of nature, travel and kindness. In addition to writing, Kathleen teaches yoga in Los Angeles, CA. She is a firm believer in the power of gratitude and kindness and does her best to practice both each and every day.

 

Get More Book Sales with Disappearing Rewards

Everyone can utilize the strategy I outline below. 

Book not yet published: Use this strategy to drive sales during your pre-order period.

Book already published: Use this strategy to revive book sales during a special “extra rewards” month.

Note: There’s a video at the end of this post for those who learn better by listening and watching.

Crowdfunding Marketing Strategies Without Crowdfunding

How do you convince readers to pre-order your book before it’s available? 

This is a common dilemma that authors face while planning their crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter but great news, everyone…

You don’t need to crowdfund your book in order to implement crowdfunding strategies.

Not everyone wants to crowdfund their book and many people shouldn’t.

(Here’s a list of questions you should ask yourself to see if you should or shouldn’t crowdfund your book.)

 

Reward Your Readers

Crowdfunding your book entails offering readers extra rewards that are only available for a limited time

Non-crowdfunding authors can use the same approach to drive more book sales or pre-orders.

Also, this strategy involves MUCH LESS stress and nail biting compared to launching a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign where it’s all-or-nothing.

So, if you like all upside and very little downside (really just your time and effort), then this strategy will set you apart from the other authors who are struggling with Facebook ads and Amazon marketing.

Sound good?

Here’s the process:

Step 1: Create 4 (or more) rewards

These can be anything, really, but can include:

  • Ebook 
  • Audiobook
  • Activity workbook with material that complements your book
  • Printable coloring pages
  • Anything that involves your time (e.g., course, coaching, training, webinar, event, etc.)

I advise you to keep it relatively easy to create, original to your work, complementary to the book you are launching, and easy to deliver (digital rewards can be delivered via email). 

If you start deviating from the above characteristics, you’re going to create more work for yourself than necessary.

Remember, these are valuable rewards for readers but you shouldn’t be spending tons of money creating them. Mostly, invest your time and effort into creating the rewards.

2. Make those Rewards Disappear

Incentivize readers to take action right away and not wait to pre-order your book.

So, anyone who pre-orders or buys your book during this Reward the Reader month (or whatever you want to call it), will have access to disappearing rewards in addition to your book.

Week 1: Readers get all 4 rewards

Week 2: Readers select 3 out of the 4 rewards.

Week 3: Readers can select 2 out of the 4 rewards.

Week 4: Readers can select one reward.

At the end of your Reward the Reader month, you’ve successfully rewarded ALL of your readers (they should be super happy) but the early bird readers should be the happiest because they got ALL of your goodies.

Step 3: Deliver the goods

At the end of the pre-order marketing blitz, be sure to deliver all rewards to everyone who pre-ordered your book, encourage them to read your book and leave a review, and thank them for being awesome and supportive people.

The best way to do this is via email using your newsletter service provider. 

Be sure to have them specifically opt-in to receive your newsletter if they want to continue to receive emails from you to be GDPR-compliant.

Rules, man, I know, but transparency is crucial to building trust between you and your readers.

Benefits to using this approach

1. Everyone can do it

Whether you have already published your book or are still planning your book launch strategy, everyone can use this approach reward readers.

Come up with some great digital rewards that your readers want and get to work.

2. It relieves some pressure

If you aren’t “salesy” and don’t like talking about your book, then you’ll LOVE this approach.

Many authors find it easier to promote FREE items than they do about promoting their book for sale.

3. Organic sharing

Readers love to share free things. They are more likely to share a bundle of four free goodies that are available with the purchase of your book than they would an ad for a book. (Actually, does anyone share ads? Not really.)

4. Everyone wins

Your readers get 1-4 valuable rewards in addition to your book and you get more book sales and exposure. Win-win.

Less Stress but Still Requires Effort

So, no need to stress about launching an intimidating Kickstarter campaign in order to benefit from crowdfunding marketing strategies. 

And just a reminder that as everything goes, you’ll only get out what you put into this process.

Creating and promoting these disappearing rewards still requires time and effort and marketing dollars to drive those book sales, but you should feel good about the value you’re giving your readers.

Want to learn more about crowdfunding strategies that will work for your book?

Click here for my free videos, webinars, and blogs featuring authors who are killing it on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

Want my free tips on indie publishing and crowdfunding for authors twice a month?

Sign up here.

Watch this video on YouTube for more about this approach

Review of Unbound Publishing

I’ve received a number of queries about Unbound as a potential solution for indie authors and started conducting my own research on the platform and talking with Unbound authors about their experiences. The following is my review of their platform, business model, and services.

Unbound is a UK-based publisher that uses crowdfunding to determine which books are sent to print.

Great, we’ve seen lots of small presses use Kickstarter in this way but Unbound doesn’t use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. They created their own crowdfunding platform and integrated it into their site rather than pay Kickstarter a platform fee on every one of their projects.

Smart.

Unbound is a bit Unclear

However, unlike Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that display the funding goal, include the date of project creation and deadline, Unbound projects lack that level of detail.

I could only find the funding status, the percentage funded and the total number of backers for current and old Unbound books.

Their most successful book that I could find (it’s somewhat difficult to sort and organize projects) is a humorous biography/memoir about video games with nearly 9,000 backers and 1830% funded. You can check it out here if you’re interested. So it looks like Unbound has some popular books in their catalog.

It is tough to judge which books are popular and which ones aren’t because I have no way of knowing when the project was created.

If a project is 27% funded but it’s only Day 1, that’s not as bad as being 27% funded on day 37, you know?

Unfortunately, due to their platform, I cannot make an accurate assessment of the popularity of any of their books. (Except for the book with 9k backers. That would be a slam dunk on any platform.)

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards and buy our books.

Lacking transparency

When a campaign is over, parts of the campaign are no longer available as a public record (something both KS and IGG provide) and I couldn’t reverse engineer the total crowdfunding amount (total # of backers at each reward level to calculate the campaign goal).

So, Unbound’s platform is intentionally opaque.

Whenever you are raising funds (frankly, whenever you are selling anything), transparency is vital.

As a potential investor (even if it’s just a small amount), I want to know how much money you’re requesting and how you plan to spend the funds.

Knowing these details are absolutely crucial to building trust between creators and backers.

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards to buy our books.

Unbound themselves say that transparency is vital so, why don’t they make their funding goals public knowledge like other crowdfunding publishers?

I advise all of my crowdfunding clients to make their campaign pages as transparent as possible including a visual diagram showing how the funds will be spent.

If Unbound were my client, I’d be saying the same thing to them.

Making it Difficult 

In creating the platform themselves and hiding certain elements that convey transparency, Unbound is doing a disservice to their authors who are trying to build trust with their readers and convert them into backers.

They are actually making the crowdfunding process harder for their authors when it’s already quite difficult because readers are still relatively new to the crowdfunding process.

Left With a Lot of Unanswered Questions

After reviewing their FAQs, I had even more questions.

If you look at Kickstarter or IndieGoGo’s FAQ pages, they go on and on to help their creators understand the process. Kickstarter has a community of fellow creators to help troubleshoot and problem solve before launch. IndieGoGo is extremely responsive to emails and willing to work with their creators.

I sent off an email to Unbound with some questions for clarification related to their process so I could understand more before writing this review on September 28.

Within minutes, I received an autoresponder from Unbound informing me that they’d get back to me as soon as possible (which was usually within three business days).

But they never responded.

I fired off a reminder email on October 16 and received the same auto response.

It’s now October 24, and I’ve still not heard from them.

I mentioned this to an Unbound author, and his response was, “Yeah, that’s not surprising. They can be slow.”

From the author’s perspective, it would cause me concern if I need to follow up numerous times with my publisher to have my simple questions addressed.

Long Project Timelines

Crowdfunding is all about limited TIME. The main reason why rewards-based crowdfunding is so different from traditional marketing is that there is an intense period of marketing activities within a very short amount of time.

Kickstarter recommends campaigns end within 30 days and IndieGoGo does not allow projects to extend their timelines past 60 days after their launch dates.

Why?

Limiting time forces action

Time-limited campaigns are successful because it is difficult to sustain a level of intense marketing for very long.

Creators burn out, and audiences become fatigued with hearing the same messages over and over again. It leads to burnout.

On their website, Unbound tells prospective authors that their books’ campaigns often last between 3-6 months (!!!) Which is 3x-6x longer than the crowdfunding experts recommend.

If this was equity crowdfunding, which is known to have a longer timeline, then that would be a different story. But this is rewards-based crowdfunding.

Sean Leahy’s campaign lasted from March-December 2016 (10 months)  and is scheduled for publication February 2019. His campaign was 10x longer than his peers on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are crowdfunding.

He endured way more stress and marketing fatigue than his crowdfunding counterparts.

In our interview (available here), he mentions numerous times how it felt like a slog and no, he wouldn’t want to do it again or recommend that process to other authors.

Are the deadlines flexible? 

My guess, I don’t know for sure because Unbound never got back to me, is that their campaigns have a flexible deadline until it looks like it will be funded. Perhaps they have a deadline that only the authors know about but in reality, it’s much more important for the readers to know about the deadline.

Having no deadline means that you lack the very thing that makes readers get off their butts and back your campaign.

One has to take something away to make it exclusive.

That’s why every marketer will tell you that you have to “close the cart” if you want to see sales.

“You won’t be able to get this book after today!” really forces people to act, not, “Oh, don’t worry. You can back this campaign today or tomorrow or in six months from now. It’s fiiine.”

From the creator’s perspective, having no end in sight is a nightmare. Crowdfunding is a humbling experience. It’s stressful and nobody can sustain a 24/7 marketing strategy for 10 months.

From the backer’s perspective, no deadline means I’m not motivated to back the project. Why should I do it now instead of tomorrow?

Dodgy Refund Policy

Also part of the trust factor is a clear and user-friendly refund policy. 

As a backer, if this project doesn’t succeed, will I get my money back?

With Unbound, no, you won’t. Not without a lot of hassle, anyway.

Look at the text of their refund policy 

With Kickstarter, your credit card isn’t charged unless the campaign is successful when it closes.

With IndieGoGo, your credit card is charged when you pledge but is fully refunded if the campaign is not successful (for their fixed funding projects only).

With Unbound, a backer is refunded in Unbound credits that they can use to back another book on the platform.

If a backer wants their actual money back, they must contact Unbound directly.

Provided that many books are backed by authors’ close network of friends and family, I highly doubt that many backers would want to use their funds to support another book on the platform.

Again, given their radio silence via email, I would imagine that getting your money back would be difficult and annoying.

Verdict: Unbound’s refund policy isn’t backer friendly and wouldn’t give me the confidence that I’m looking for when backing a book on the platform.

Crowdfunding Publishers

My mission is to support authors crowdfund their books. There are many publishers using the crowdfunding model to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for their books on Kickstarter.

Microcosm Publishing—19 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $100k.

Flesk Publications—5 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $500k.

Beehive Books—10 projects on Kickstarter raising over $500k.

I think it’s great that Unbound has close to 300 books in their catalog and when done correctly, I believe that crowdfunding can be a sustainable marketing approach for all authors.

Room for improvement

The issue with Unbound is that they lack the very elements that make crowdfunding successful—time, transparency, and responsiveness.

Can I recommend Unbound as a publisher for authors who are open to crowdfunding? In its current state, sadly, no.

My Recommendations

If Unbound addresses the factors that I mention and publishes each campaign’s goal amount, provides the project’s open and close dates, and changes their refund policy, then I might consider changing my recommendation.

Also, replying to emails from potential clients never hurts.

In my opinion, Unbound’s platform and approach is neither creator nor backer-friendly compared to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

The long timelines cause undue stress and marketing fatigue on its authors and their refund policy isn’t great customer service.

The radio silence via direct email and confirmation from Unbound authors that they are slow to respond has me thinking that they are overstretched.

At this point, I would not recommend publishing with Unbound.

Instead, go the indie route or find a publisher who is open to you crowdfunding your book’s costs as Elisavet Arkolaki did with her publisher.

As always, I encourage authors to take control of their publishing and marketing timelines and create a strategy that promotes engagement with their audiences and furthers their brand as authors.

If you are open to crowdfunding your book but don’t know where to start, I recommend signing up for my newsletter to get my bonus Crowdfunding Dos and Don’ts Webinar for Authors.

 

What you’ll learn in the Crowdfunding Dos and Don’ts Webinar

  • What every book’s crowdfunding campaign needs to be successful
  • How to plan your campaign to maximize your success
  • Big mistakes to avoid during your campaign
  • Key elements that lead to failed campaigns
  • The different dos and don’ts for Kickstarter and IndieGoGo 
  • Access to my monthly newsletter tips on how to best use crowdfunding to market your book

Click here to sign up. 

Managing Your Tax/VAT in KDP as a Non-US Based Author

If you are a US citizen or resident with a SSN and US bank account, then this information does not apply to you.

If you are a non-US citizen, reside outside of the US and pay foreign taxes, or some other non-US-based person, then you’ll need to consider the information below and conduct your own research.

Please note that I am not an accountant or tax specialist and you are responsible for investigating your specific circumstances and tax liabilities.

Taxes/VAT

When you are selling your books through Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon), you need to be sure that your tax liability information is properly filled out in your account dashboard.

If you live in the EU, there is most likely a tax treaty between your country and the US that prevents you from paying US-based taxes.

If that is the case, set your tax withholding to 0% as you don’t need to pay the US government taxes on books you sell via Amazon.com.

However, this is not a “set it and forget it” situation, as your tax withholdings settings expire in KDP every 3 years. 

So, do yourself a favor and head to your KDP dashboard right now and check that you have set your tax % to 0 if you qualify and set a 3 year calendar reminder from the date you created your account, as you’ll need to update your settings.

Email from KDP (as of Oct 2018)

“I understand that the tax withholding percentage has changed to 30%. Please be aware that the tax information that you enter in the KDP account will remain active for 3 years. You’ll need to reupdate the same tax information again once in every three years.”

Important Exceptions

Updating your tax information every three years applies to authors who have registered themselves as a company—so, if you created an LLC publishing imprint, this applies to you.

The verdict is still out if non-company individual authors will need to update their tax information every three years as well, but to be on the safe side, keep an eye on your account settings or your accountant will have a tough(er) time untangling your tax liability at the beginning of the year.

Staying Focused: Battling “Shiny Object” Syndrome

Are you always starting new projects but rarely finishing them?

Do you find yourself with an endless source of ideas and not enough time to dedicate to seeing them through?

Are you tweaking your website, testing out new newsletter providers, recording podcasts, and writing blogs but your book is still in outline/draft mode?

If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, then you might be suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.

What is it?

Shiny Object Syndrome is just what it sounds like—it is the culmination of distraction and procrastination.

We get excited about the latest and greatest technology, writing tool, or gizmo and zoom off to investigate, research, and experiment.

Some crafty people fuel their procrastination under the guise of learning. They sign up for course after course and webinar after webinar because they are convinced that they must learn more before they can get started.

I know…I’ve done it.

When the going gets tough…some people jump ship

At some point in everyone’s entrepreneurial career, we hit a point where the work gets hard. The project stalls a bit because we struggle and without dedication to seeing it through, we abandon the sinking ship and hop onto a new opportunity that looks like it’ll float.

We work on one project for a while until we hit another rough patch, struggle, and then we justify abandoning it because it wasn’t working.

This cycle will continue until you stop it.

We have to be disciplined and struggle through the unsexy parts of each project in order to see it through to completion.

How can we finish more projects?

Clearly define your goals

Are you setting project-based goals? Income-based goals? Whatever they are, clearly define them and then map out a process to tackle them.

Maybe you want to publish one book in the next 12 months year that is at least 75k words. 

Your writing timeline needs to be truncated a bit so that you can allow time for editing, formatting, and publishing.

So, you need to write 75k words in 6 months. That’s 12,500 words/mth or 416 words/day.

Does that sound manageable?

Find an accountability partner (or hire one)

Would you go to the gym more often if you had a free gym membership or if you were paying $200/mth for a personal trainer?

I guarantee you would show up every day if you were paying $200/mth and guess what? You’d see results! 

Accountability partners can help us reach our goals but not all accountability partners are created equal.

During the publication of my first book, my husband served as my accountability partner by asking me every day, “So, what are your plans for the day?” or “How is it going?”

But, as my business grew and my tasks varied between projects, I found I needed to hire someone who could direct my energy to profitable activities, not to tasks that kept me busy but not productive.

This is why I know that free content will only take you so far and why hiring someone to check in on you every X weeks can be worth every penny you spend.

Start small and keep yourself accountable to your accountability partner. Prepare progress reports/updates like you would a manager in an office setting and check-in with each other on a regular basis.

Create both carrots and sticks

What will motivate you to reach your goals in the time you have set? If you set a certain income-based goal, reward yourself with something you really want when you reach it. Maybe it’s a trip somewhere warm and beachy or maybe it’s a nice dinner out on the town. 

In order to stop deadlines from whizzing by you at an unstoppable speed, devise some punishments that provide real consequences for missing those deadlines. Be your own boss but be somewhat demanding of yourself.

If I don’t reach my writing goal each day, my usual veg-out and watch Netflix time will be used to write instead.

I will often deny myself social interaction with friends (I know, that sounds awful) until my projects are done.

“No, sorry, I can’t meet up for coffee even though I so desperately want to because I have to get this finished.”

We have to stop allowing deadlines to zoom by without consequence. Create your own incentives and disincentives.

Don’t allow yourself to change projects

As a fellow sufferer of Shiny Object Syndrome, I’ve decided to be even tougher on myself and not allow myself to even consider taking on another project until the first project is completed. 

Yes, that means that some of my days are horrendously boring. Some days are incredibly frustrating and I feel like I’m barely treading water.

But, I simply cannot allow myself to abandon projects whenever I hit a technical snag or rough patch if I truly value and want to honor this idea.

Map out a full strategy for each project

Every book, course, collaboration, or blog post should have a strategy behind it. What are you trying to accomplish? We stop working on projects because we get overwhelmed by everything we need to do.

Break down the monumental task into bite-sized pieces and set a deadline for each task.

Map out your calendar and then add in a fudge factor for sickness, interruptions, and all of the things that are beyond our control that affect our work.

Set days aside for when you will take on non-project but still necessary tasks like admin, website edits, accounting, and complementary content generation, and then only work on those tasks on those days.

Sometimes, life gets in the way but it's always better to have a plan mapped out

Minimize Your Distractions

I’m on social media a lot for my work and I found myself contributing to conversations that had nothing to do with my business. 

  • Install News Feed Eradicator to eliminate Facebook news feed distractions.
  • Sign out completely from your email, chat messengers, and other things that notify you when you’ve received a message.
  • Put your phone on Airplane Mode
  • Keep your coffee, tea, water handy

Write down your #1 task and place it somewhere visible

If you’re currently working on writing, then place your daily writing goal somewhere visible to remind you to always come back to that task.

Hire other people to do your non-essential time-intensive tasks

I haven’t done this myself for many reasons but I often flirt with the idea of hiring someone to manage my social media accounts.

Find yourself a Virtual Assistant (VA) to manage your social media posts (I still recommend you do the interactions and engagement with your readers) if you find yourself struggling with consistency.

I hire two accountants (one for the US and one for Sweden) to file my taxes every year because it is worth the money to do it correctly and allows me to focus on the actual running of my business.

Say no to collaborations that aren’t 110% aligned with what you want to do

I’m all for collaborations that advance your interests and get you in front of a wider audience, but not all collaborations do that.

Sometimes, you need to say no if you’re not 110% on board otherwise it’s just another distraction that takes away from time you should be devoting to your ideas.

Recognize your tendencies and change your behavior

If you know that your work is suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome, then you need to commit to changing your behavior, which is very difficult to do, as we all know.

Best of luck as you tackle one project at a time!

If you know someone who also suffers Shiny Object Syndrome then share this blog post to unlock my video on 3 ways to boost your productivity

Why Community is So Important While Writing

Writers often work alone and bring the ideas in their heads to the page without the input of a community of readers. Wherever possible, it is vitally important to receive feedback from your main audience while you create your book and then again, when you launch it.

Why is community important?

While building an audience, you receive creative energy and feedback from your readers. Their encouragement and feedback will give you the reminder you need to keep going when you feel like you’re shouting into the void.

But you’re never shouting into the void. Or, at least, the void is more crowded than you think…someone is always reading and watching what you do. They usually approach you at a dinner party and comment on your latest LinkedIn post, much to your surprise. And after you have the strangest conversation with that person, you leave feeling both shocked and grateful that someone is reading your words at all.

Readers are so valuable these days

In a world where it seems like everyone is shouting for attention, it is more important than ever to create a community of people who listen, reflect, and respond. If you want to create a dynamic of meaningful exchange, you have to ask questions, offer help, and support others where you can.

Building a community of engaged readers does the following:

– Provides you a solid sounding board so you don’t go too far in the wrong direction (for too long)

– Builds a support network for you when things inevitably go wrong (a soft place to land)

– Honest and critical feedback on your work that will lead to a better overall book

– A group to amplify your voice when you need them on book launch day/campaign launch day

– A go-to source for reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

– A group of people with whom you can feel really confident in sharing your voice

It’s easier with support

Indie author, Joanna Free and I were chatting via email (we connected over LinkedIn, believe it or not) and she said,

“I keep getting clearer and clearer, and on a visceral level, how important it is for me to be a part of a team. I’ve been unskillful in building one for myself. It almost makes me miss being in a workplace where that’s been done for me, and I can just step into my position within the team.”

When I launched the Knocked Up Abroad Again Kickstarter campaign, I kept saying to myself over and over again, “What would I do without these ladies supporting me? I’d be in worse shape than I am right now.”

My contributors really pulled through and they emailed me daily asking me how I was doing and cheered me on whenever I would send out a status update. They created new content, blogs, videos, and sent off hundreds of emails. Without a doubt, the team we created played a crucial part in our success.

Don’t go it alone

If you pursue crowdfunding or are about to launch your book, don’t overlook creating a team of cheerleaders around you. Nobody should take on 30 days of blogging, podcasting, and in-person book readings without a group of people checking in and cheering you on.

So much of the indie publishing process is done solo but we all fare much better when we have a team supporting us along the way.

Have you created a team of people around you?

What did you feel worked well? What would you change for the next time?

Wait, have you joined my community? Do you receive my bi-weekly newsletter? Join me and let’s chat by signing up here.

Into Your Dreams Raises over $16k on Kickstarter

Into Your Dreams Raises over $16k on Kickstarter | Lisaferland.com

Roger Blonder is the rhyming mastermind behind the illustrated children’s book, Into Your Dreams, and he raised over $16k on Kickstarter to fund his book and pre-sell copies to his readers.

In this interview, he discusses his previous failure on Kickstarter and how that shaped his second attempt and his advice to children’s authors looking to crowdfunding as a solution.

How much research did you do before launching your Kickstarter?

I was aware of Kickstarter for a number of years and had backed a few campaigns over time. In 2012, I created a time management app for kids but since I didn’t know anything about marketing or crowdfunding, the campaign failed and never came close to my $5k goal. I didn’t nurture the campaign and it showed.

An old student of mine helped people with Kickstarter campaigns and he pointed me in the right direction.

I used MailChimp to manage my emails and segment my messaging based on who opened and clicked on my emails and who did not. I really liked that because I didn’t feel like I was bothering people with the same messages over and over again.

What types of behind-the-scenes work do you think contributed most to your success?

I tried to do high-value special art offerings with a lot of art that was done years ago (and I funded myself). That lead to some big rewards that people were interested in and complemented the book.

If you’re using Kickstarter to produce a tech gadget, there’s an understanding that the Kickstarter campaign involves a discount of some kind as an early-adopter.

But, my research indicated that those who supported children’s book campaigns did not seem to be motivated by discounts like the people who want mass-produced tech gadgets. Aside from those in your personal network who have a desire to help you achieve your goals, there has to be something in the book that makes them want to buy it. I found that $35 for a hardcover children’s book seemed to be about the market rate.

As a teacher, I have summers off from school, so I planned my entire campaign during the summer and put together different mailing lists in MailChimp for different audiences. Altogether, I had about 900 people on my email list.

How many people do you think you emailed during the campaign. What was your biggest source of backers?

I had about 900 emails on my list and tried to think of as many people as possible who would be interested in a bedtime book.

My goal was to make an authentic and personal connection with potential backers.

A big tip is that if you don’t do anything with your campaign, nothing happens.

The campaign will not run itself and you can see that in the daily pledges.

If I had to do it over again, I would explore working with ConvertKit as I have heard that their audience segmentation tools are more powerful. It can allow you to reconfigure your email messages based on if they opened it or not.

You can feel more comfortable emailing someone you know hasn’t opened your first email and the messages should be different than people who have already backed you.

What was the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign?

You have to have thick skin. It was surprising to me to see who unsubscribed from my emails.

On the other hand, it was surprising to see the people who reached out to me and offered help to make it happen. I knew that getting help was a necessary step in the book’s production but I didn’t want it to be a charity effort.

The most exciting thing was receiving support from every chapter of my life—backers from elementary school, high school, workplace friends, family, students who would kick in $5, and some faculty and administrators who ended up supporting the project.

I’m glad it had a limited timeframe and I’m happy I found my voice with it.

Did you have to change your strategy mid-campaign?

Not really. It’s all about trying to find a balance between presenting a polished product and keeping it real.

I always led with the messaging, “If you find this to be meaningful, I’m hoping you’ll support it and validate it in some way.”

What advice would you give a fellow author who is looking to crowdfund their book?

When you work with talented human beings who understand their craft and put them all together, you will have a great book.

You have to know what success means to you. It’s ok if you just want to make a little book for your kids but that person shouldn’t necessarily pursue a large publishing effort.

Success for me meant creating the book and sharing it with the people who supported the campaign. I felt like my words deserved to be read.

Respect your audience. Someone reading your book is taking time out of their day, so respect that.

I don’t want to be manipulated by marketing schemes and I’m sure my readers don’t either. Take the time to hone your craft, learn from the greats, be open to criticism and learning.

(Side note: If you’re not sure if crowdfunding your book is right for you, watch this quick video)

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) for lessons on craft and inspiration. You’ll have access to a diverse community of people who are all striving for excellence.

Think hard about what success means to you before going through all of the effort and expense.

If you ask people to support you, be prepared for them not to support you at all. It sucks but it’s what happens.

If your goal is to make your book a business, you need to prepare, research, and take your time.

Advice: If someone offers you help or advice along the way, then take their help. I met with a parent who was an Amazon marketing expert and he made himself available to share what he knew. As I was so focused on my campaign, I never followed through with him and only later came to realize how valuable his help would have been in the sales and marketing efforts after I completed the campaign.

Listen to the advice of people who know more than you.

Could you see yourself doing another Kickstarter campaign in the future?


I would do an IndieGoGo campaign instead of a Kickstarter.

And I would only do another campaign if I could reach my audience and not tap the same friends and family who backed my first campaign.

You mentioned that you worked with a museum-quality printer for your book. Can you specify and would you recommend them?

Absolutely. I work with US-based Four Colour Print Group who has relationships with printers in Korea and China. I have found them to be competitive with other printers and the price for shipping is included in the quote.

Final advice

It’s a good idea to have some clue as to what you’re going to do with the book after your campaign is finished.

Next time, I’ll leverage the campaign to generate more reviews on Amazon and plan a proper book launch. I learned a lot from your interview with Julia Miles Inserro. I have been using the resources she suggested and recommend them highly. 

Bio

Roger Blonder goes Into His Dreams by crafting words, playing music, making movies, working in the garden, staring across the ocean and hiking in the mountains. Blonder received his MFA in Animation from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
 
His animated films have been honored with awards at film festivals all over the world. He has animated students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, Loyola Marymount University and currently as the Director of Media Arts at de Toledo High School in Southern California where he lives with his wife Renée, daughters, Jaelyn and Noa and dog, Zephyr, Beast of Joy. 
Read his book today

Want tools, checklists, calculators, and email templates for running your Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign? 

Check out the Crowdfunding Vault

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Joseph Malik’s debut fantasy novel sold over 10,000 copies. Find out how he broke the mold

Not many indie authors sell 10,000 copies of their debut novel, but that’s precisely what Joseph Malik did with his first book, Dragon’s Trail. After a ho-hum book launch and average sales in the first 90 days of publication, Joe revamped his approach.

I asked him a few questions about how he went from Average Joe to Bestselling Author and winner of numerous prizes. We also chat about his upcoming release in the Outworlders series, The New Magic, available for pre-order until September 18.

What do you think were the best strategies you employed to help make your book launch a success?

My first book launch failed miserably. It didn’t really take off until about six months later, and for the first 90 days, it lost money.

I paid for a couple of cheap promotions; a Twitter promo off of Fiverr and another one I can’t remember for like $25 or so. I launched on KindleUnlimited with a blog tour and sent copies to friends and family. That was about it. I’ll let you know how the launch for Book II goes in a few weeks.

What has been most effective in terms of engaging with your audience? Newsletter offers? Facebook? Something else?

Face to face contact. Panels and demonstrations at fantasy conventions, lectures at schools and colleges, author events. I write fantasy technothrillers—fantasy novels whose plots turn on detailed technical points; think The Hunt for Red October but knights in armor instead of nuclear submarines—and I did most of my world building research in person: swordsmanship, horsemanship, blacksmithing, building a functional language, and so on.

This type of detail resonates with a specific type of reader—the fantasy reader who has little patience for inaccuracies in world building, and being an author with “street cred”—whether I’m demonstrating swordsmanship, speaking Elvish from my conlang, or talking about some other aspect of world building that I have personal experience with—generates a lot of buzz.

“I had no idea that so many [traditionally published] authors have a book or series that they love but that their agents can’t sell. I think that we’re going to see a massive paradigm shift here, shortly.”

What advice would you give to someone who is considering indie publishing but isn’t confident?

Write more. Don’t launch the first book you’ve ever written. Writing a book is a huge achievement, and congratulations are in order, but just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean it’s ready for anyone to read it. Write more until you feel ready.

Launching a book is always scary, but you’ll know when you’re ready. It took me several books before I knew I was sitting on a good one. And still, even that was scary.

Your book covers are awesome and are perfect for your genre. Can you recommend/share the name of your cover designer?

Thank you. My cover designer is Lynn Stevenson. The initial cover concept for Dragon’s Trail came from West Coast Design. Lynn created the cover for The New Magic to make it match the brand that West Coast Design had laid out.

#Nerdalert question—you have both paperback and hardcover versions available of your book—who is your printer for each?

I use Ingram Spark for both.

What’s been the most surprising thing about indie publishing that you’ve experienced?

The overwhelmingly positive response from traditionally published authors. There’s tremendous interest in indie publishing from that side of the room. I had no idea that so many authors have a book or series that they love but that their agents can’t sell. I think that we’re going to see a massive paradigm shift here, shortly.

Did you use a company to create your book trailer or did you create it yourself?

We created the trailers ourselves. My wife is a professional opera singer, and she wrote the music for the trailer for Book II using a libretto I wrote in the Elvish conlang from the series.

You can see the trailer for Dragon’s Trail, our first trailer attempt here.

You can watch the trailer for The New Magic here.

Anything else you want to add?

My wife wrote an article for her blog from her perspective on all this; she was the marketing brains behind really making the book take off. You can read it here.

 

Bio

In addition to fiction, Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for the U.S. military.

He has worked as a stuntman, a high-rise window washer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command.

He has been a longtime panelist and demonstrator at fantasy conventions, speaking as an expert in swordsmanship, hand to hand combat, and military tactics and strategy. He has also lectured on fantasy writing and independent publishing at schools and colleges across the Northwest.

His first novel, Dragon’s Trail, became a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller in four countries in 2017, reaching #1 in Epic Fantasy in the U.S., Australia, and Canada and #1 in Sword and Sorcery in the UK, making him eligible for the 2019 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction and Fantasy—one of very few independent authors to ever qualify with a debut novel.

His second novel, The New Magic, is scheduled for release on September 18, 2018.

A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Joseph Malik lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs. He serves in the U.S. Army Reserve and is a member of SFWA.

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Joseph Malik Sells Over 10,000 Books | Lisaferland.com
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