Writer’s Block is a Privilege

Did you know that the keyword, “writer’s block” is Googled 9,000 times/month?

Nine thousand times. It looks like a lot of writers experience writer’s block and while we all feel blocked or discouraged at times, writer’s block is a privilege.

“I don’t know what to write.”

“I know what to write but the words come out all wrong.”

If you are in a position where you don’t have to write to pay your bills, you are privileged. 

I’m privileged—tremendously. I’ve been blocked on my Christmas story for months. I had something written but it’s ridiculously awful and I can’t bring myself to mold it into something better.

Why?

Because I don’t have to.

I can work on other projects, tackle  my marketing logistics for my other books, and distract myself with other shiny objects. 

The privilege of being blocked

Cassie Gonzales cited writer’s block as privilege at the Stockholm Writers Festival when asked how she overcomes occasional blockages.

“It’s a total privilege to have writer’s block, isn’t it? My mom is a copper mine truck driver in Arizona and she has written her books on her iPad while sitting in the cab of her truck.

She has one minute while the truck is being loaded up and in that minute, she writes as much as she can. Her books read like they’ve been written in one minute chunks because they have. But she has manuscripts written down on paper.

Anytime I want to complain about writer’s block, I think about my mother and what she’s overcame to write her books.”

Tips from other writers on overcoming writer’s block

“I have a Spotify playlist for each of my characters and mood boards for each character. Whenever I start to feel stuck, I start to listen to that character’s playlist to get me back into the mood.” —Jess Lourey

“Set word count goals. Everyone can write one sentence at a time.” —Paul Rapacioli

Manipulate your emotions to break a block—it doesn’t mean your writing will be good but you’ll get unstuck.”—Cassie Gonzales

 

Everyone gets stuck sometimes

Your first draft is going to be horrible but nobody is going to see it so keep writing.

Everyone is really uncomfortable with their writing at first and it’s only until draft #10-#70 that you start to feel like a genius.

To break through my Christmas story rhyming disaster, I’m listening to Christmas music on YouTube, reading rhyming quatrains for inspiration, and putting words down on paper that will never see the light of day.

The best way to break writer’s block is to write.

Write down any words that come into your mind and eventually, your mind will spit out something worth keeping.

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.

Book Pre-launch Audience Education: Why it’s so Important

Before you publish your first book or launch your book’s Kickstarter campaign, you first need to warm-up your audience.

Marketing experts talk about audience warmth and how warmer audiences have much higher rates of conversion (meaning, they see your post or ad and buy your book right away).

How important is it to warm up your audience?

Cold traffic usually sees 2% conversion rate vs. warm/hot audiences with 65%-75% conversion rates. 

Ooh, la la! How can we get more of that hot traffic? 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m spending money on Facebook ads, I want the best conversion rates possible.

Many authors haven’t a clue as to how to build OR warm up their audience. Fortunately, conducting audience education will do both.

Don’t underestimate the amount of effort required to build an audience

It’s easy to underestimate how much work is required in building an audience. We often see successful authors launching their next books with ease and a minimal marketing strategy with great success.

Established authors who have published multiple books have built a devoted following of hot or warm audiences.

Their readers are already familiar with their work and are hungry for the next book to come out. As a result, they don’t need to do a fraction of the education that we need to do as first-time authors.

They already did the work and developed trust over time by consistently delivering high-quality books and content.

These authors don’t necessarily need to do a book launch campaign that spans several months with each new release because their audience is already warmed up. 

In this article, I assume that we are all working with zero audience and need to build from scratch. 

Here are some tips for building and warming up your audience before you launch:

Cold traffic: These people have never heard of you or your book(s) before.

 

Direct cold traffic to things of value:

  • a podcast where you discuss the origin story behind your book
  • a blog about the important topics your book addresses
  • an infographic about something interesting about your audience, book, or topic area
  • research findings that support why your book is so important to read
  • a survey asking them questions that are related to your book’s topic
  • a behind-the-scenes look at creating the book

At the bottom of each of these ‘destinations’ invite them to subscribe to your newsletter so you can continue to engage with them in a meaningful way.

Warm traffic: These people know of you and follow you on social media or subscribed to your newsletter.

 

Direct warm traffic to next-level stuff:

  • download a lead magnet: free e-book, excerpt of your book, or a companion PDF
  • informational webinars
  • invite them to in-person events
  • special offers or discounts on your book(s)

Hot traffic: These people have purchased from you in the past.

Direct hot traffic to your books/offers:

  • straight to sales pages like your book’s Amazon link. 
  • Pay-per-click ads on Amazon and Facebook

Keep in mind that only a fraction of your audience will be hot but be sure to segment them from the cold/warm readers so you can send them the right messages.

Learning from Mistakes

I’ve made a TON of mistakes and didn’t realize why my Facebook and Amazon ads weren’t converting well.

The problem was that I was treating cold traffic like hot traffic and was directing people straight to my sales page in my paid ads.

I ended up wasting money on ads that never converted and even worse, I missed opportunities to engage with my audience.

I want to make it clear that I’m still learning and experimenting with all of these techniques. I don’t think that will ever stop.

As you grow and engage with your audience, send them different content and see what resonates

Maybe your audience loves to read blogs, maybe some love to listen to podcasts, maybe they love infographics. Who knows?

Discover what your audience likes, what you like to create, and either strike a compromise or do one or two formats really well.

For example, I really enjoy making videos and I think they allow a lot of my personality to shine through. But, I also know that due to my time zone, my audience doesn’t see my live videos until hours later. 

Because my audience (you all!) love to read, I write blogs and occasionally include videos at the bottom. I also include a link to the related blog in the videos that I post to YouTube. (Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.)

It took me time and some professional help to figure out a marketing strategy for my business. Here’s what I did to improve my conversion rates.

Bring in Some Experts

Overall business strategy help

I had no idea how to strategize the marketing plan for my business, so I invested in small business marketing coaching with Stephanie Ward at Firefly Coaching. We did a deep dive, six-month coaching plan where she met with me 45-minutes/month and gave me a huge to-do list at the end of each session.

Stephanie was great at analyzing my strengths and steering me toward bolstering my weak areas. Our sessions gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and take bigger risks.

Click here to visit Stephanie’s website to see if she can help you. 

Website optimization

My website was somewhat of a mess and my marketing friend, Amel Derragui, kept giving me tiny pointers here and there. It was clear that I needed to fully hire her services in order to improve the navigability of my website and grow my audience. After making her suggested changes, my website now receives TONS of compliments from visitors and my newsletter list is growing.

Click here to see if Amel can help you optimize your website and grow your audience.

Improving my cold traffic conversions

When it comes to cold traffic, you need to have the right keywords and ad copy in place. I’m currently working with Laurie Wright on my Amazon keywords, book blurbs, author bio, and ad copy.

Click here to see if Laurie can help you.

Improving your business requires investment, constant education, and involving experts when you’re out of your depth. Don’t be afraid to hire experts.

You can still learn everything on your own, but be prepared to spend a lot of time and money while you are experimenting and figuring things out  during the learning process.

Crowdfunding Authors Often Overestimate the Warmth of Their Audience

Don’t make the mistakes I did and send cold traffic directly to your sales pages (i.e., your book’s Kickstarter page).

I see this all of the time with authors who run Kickstarter campaigns.

Crowdfunding authors will often direct people to their campaign page, which has a much lower conversion rate than if they directed them to a blog, video, or infographic, throughout their entire campaign.

Also, most readers are unfamiliar with crowdfunding and don’t know what’s happening or how to proceed.

Instead of asking you, your readers feel overwhelmed and close their browser’s tab without doing anything.

Educate your audience first

You need to educate your readers about your book, send them to blogs, podcasts, and articles to warm them up before you can send them to your Kickstarter sales page.

Once they are there, you need the right copy, graphics, and engaging video to convince them your book is worth backing.

Not sure if your campaign page will convert? I’m happy to review your campaign page before you launch.

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 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.

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

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