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Create If Writing

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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Now displaying: Category: general
Feb 15, 2019

I've talked before about launch failures, but I have a very real-time example of how you can pivot mid-launch. You'll learn why I changed my book title and cover ten days into my launch and why you need to be willing to let your darlings die. 

Here are the four things you need to do in order to gauge your launch's success and pivot if it's not working: 

  • Evaluate your launch
  • Identify what's not working
  • Ask others for feedback 
  • Pivot as quickly as you can

EVALUATE YOUR LAUNCH

My launch hasn't been working. I would have been happy about the numbers a year ago, but I shared in my post on Niching Down how I made $9k last month with my launch. I tracked my sales and promos and ran the same kinds of sales and promos this time, but found I'm making about a third of the income. There's a problem. 

IDENTIFY WHAT'S NOT WORKING

When I looked, my first thought was that the title was off. I debated on the title, which was The Rock Star's Scheming Bride. The book was the first in a multi-author series, so I had to fit the trope (brides) and the title (The _____'s ______ Bride).

I wasn't super clear on the trope to begin with, so felt a little shaky on that. Then the word scheming mostly has negative connotations and I hoped the cover of the book with a very sweet and cute-looking bride, plus the content, would offset that. 

I looked at reviews and emails I've gotten about the book and noticed several people saying that the book wasn't what they expected. I was getting five star reviews, more than any of my other books, but something was off with the sales vs the responses of those who read the book. That got me thinking that the word scheming needed to change. 

Other things that I can't know: maybe the book last month sold so well because it was a billionaire book and they sell better for me. Maybe it was the fact that I ran some Facebook ads. Maybe January is a better sales month. Some things are variables and unknowns, so you just do the best you can. 

ASK OTHERS FOR FEEDBACK

Before making a change, I asked in a critique group. People agreed about the word scheming, but also pointed out that there was a lack of clarity and cohesion with the cover, title, trope, and blurb. The cover looked more like a fake marriage trope, but the blurb said nothing about marriage at all. 

I felt stuck. I enlisted one author's help privately, asking for her feedback. One thing she said to me was that I shouldn't risk my own launch just to help support the group. This helped me realize that I needed to ask the other group members if I could cut my book from the series and rename it. 

Note: I don't recommend backing out of commitments. My book was the first in the series, so it didn't impact anything in the series. It might have been worse for another series or circumstance. In another group I'm in for a multi-author series, we worked hard to get a series page (Amazon doesn't like giving them to multi-authors) and then one author pulled down her book and now we lost our series page. No one is mad, but it was disappointing. So if you're working with a group,  you DO need to stick to your goals, but also you should do your best to keep good relationships. 

PIVOT AS QUICKY AS YOU CAN

This meant getting over the fact that I liked my cover as it was. It meant asking the group if I could leave and hiring another cover designer who could hopefully finish up before the next paid promotions I have. My hope was to update the manuscript and the cover in a few hours so that I could submit to Amazon and hopefully have them accept changes in time. Then I emailed all the paid promotion sites with the new info and made a note in the newsletter swap groups I've been in so that people there know there is a new title. 

 

It was exhausting. I hope it will be worth it and honestly think it will be. I have a whole series idea that can go with this book that I can work on later.  

This is one of the reasons I love being an indie. I can decide, ten days into my launch, that I need to change a huge thing and then CHANGE IT. The hard thing is that you can't always track it. Did my launch last month do better because it was a billionaire book? Because I ran some ads? Because I maybe had newsletter swaps with people who had larger lists? 

Join the Facebook community! http://createifwriting.com/community

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Feb 8, 2019

When you niche down in your writing, you can increase your productivity AND your profits! 

For a full slideshow and more on this, check out the full shownotes at http://createifwriting.com/150

Jan 25, 2019

In this post and podcast episode, I'm sharing two equal and opposite errors: over-investing (and in the wrong places) AND not investing any money but thinking that you can make money. 

*mostly specific to writing and being an indie author, but this will also apply and I'll share some examples from blogging and platform-building as well

I hear and see both of these mistakes a LOT in various Facebook groups where people share that they have spent sometimes thousands of dollars and have not made any money. Or maybe they JUST made that money back, but no profit. I also see people who are frustrated that they aren't making strides, but will say that they have NO money to invest to help make those strides. 

We need to invest. Period. (Well, assuming that you're doing more than a hobby!) If you are trying to bring in income or if you are building a business and being professional, you will have to make some investments. That does NOT mean you have to go crazy! We have to find the right places to invest and then invest wisely, invest over time, and continue to invest where it makes sense. 

LISTEN TO EPISODE 148 - Over-Investing and Under-Investing

OVER-INVESTING & INVESTING IN THE WRONG PLACES

People say you need to invest when you start up and I agree--there will be some costs. But your success will NOT match dollar for dollar what you put in, especially if you put it in the wrong places. I've seen multiple posts lately from people talking about how they've put in literally thousands of dollars into blogging or writing books and aren't seeing any return. 

  • Make sure you have a solid product first - beta readers, ask for advice from others, if there's a cheap coach who will do a session with you ($100 or less), free call with Jim Kukral, ask in a FB group. If you run ads on a book and the cover is terrible, you're setting your money on fire. 
  • Make sure you ask the right people - this is hard. Go to a FB group and everyone has a different opinion and you don't know who to trust. Look at book rankings. Look at social proof- the numbers. See if others have given reviews of their product or services, etc. I see people all the time giving advice, but then in another thread they'll say they are struggling. 
  • Make sure you aren't just buying everything - I feel like we should all go in with a little bootstrapping. You're learning as you go and if you invest like crazy up front, you'll be burning your money because you haven't honed your voice, your brand, your product. My books got good last year by book four. Yeah, I liked the first three. But they don't sell as well, get as good reviews, and weren't as solidly written to the market. Invest a little up front, then as you get better and see where that ROI is, then invest more. 
  • Make sure you aren't just doing what everyone else does - I hired out AMS ads and paid a ton of money for two months-- and did not see enough return. There isn't a high enough margin in AMS ads to pay someone $200 a month, no matter how many ads they are running. Other people did it, I knew I should invest in ads, so I did it. Did not pay off. I knew it was a test and I did it for two months, then stopped. Made more money the next month, spent less. 
  • Make sure your goal isn't just to spend the most to make less profit - I hear people talking about how much they made. Gross or net? And yes, I get confused and had to google these so I didn't sound like an idiot. Gross is the total, net is after expenses what you keep. Some people claiming these giant amounts also have expenses. So they may say, "I made 20k last month." But then they'll say, "I spent 12k." Still positive! Don't want to downplay that. But when it comes to throwing down money, that makes me nervous. I want to scale up, but at what cost? I'll make just over 8k this month and my expenses are under $1k. I'd rather be there, even though that other person and I made the same amount. Are you chasing a number? A status? So you can say you made x amount? Be practical. 

A helpful post might be:  Six Questions to Ask Before You Invest


UNDER-INVESTING

As people start out, they often will say that they don't have money to spend. Bootstrapping is a reality for many! You have little to work with and you're trying to stretch it. That's okay! But sometimes people say they have NOTHING or are unwilling to spend some at the beginning to build something that is lasting. Investments made at the beginning sometimes take time to bring in a return. 

  • Invest, but wisely - I know that email sells. I know that I don't run amazing FB ads YET. So the best bet for investing in my books' marketing is in email newsletter services like Robin Reads, E Reader News Today, etc. They do the work, they have the audience, no learning curve. If you have to learn it or test it to get it to work, wait a bit. Maybe don't START with FB ads. 
  • Don't complain if you can't invest - We all can't invest, but don't complain about your lack of profit if you aren't. Books that you throw up on Amazon won't just sell. Typically. Newsletter swaps are free, so if you can't pay for ads, partner with other authors. Build a community. Help each other out for free. 
  • Invest so it hurts - Author Jami Albright wanted to launch her first two books with the right covers. She couldn't afford them. She literally sold plasma to pay for the covers and editing. And her two books made (gross) $50k in one year and allowed her to quit her day job. 
  • Invest realizing there is ROI - I hear authors a lot saying they can't afford to pay for the email promos I talked about. I can't NOT afford them. I did less at the beginning when I had less money. This past time, I tracked the results. Not only did every one (except for one) make more money that day than I spent, it was often double or triple. Plus it increased my rankings and visibility in Amazon. 

Invest believing in yourself - If you want to do these things professionally, you have to invest something. Maybe it's not a ton. But SOMETHING. And if you don't, it's a hobby. Sometimes you'll invest and it's still a hobby because you want it to be. I pay for some things because I like them, not because they're paying my bills. If you want to get serious, you DO have to spend money. 

 

Go back to Stop Wasting Your Money to make sure you are making the right choices where it comes to invest! 

 

To conclude: Can't spend money thinking that every dollar will be two dollars back. Can't not spend money and think you'll make money. 

Jan 18, 2019

Confession: I'm going to talk about how to cut your wasted time in this post. As in, how you can STOP WASTING SO MUCH STINKING TIME. But I'm not great with some parts of this. I'll share exactly which ones, but I hope I'll give you some other perspectives on wasted time as well. 

Last year (2018) I declared that it was the Year of the Emma Empire. I wanted to use the things I've learned over the years about marketing, email lists, and everything else to launch a fiction pen name and do amazing things.

Happily, I reached my goal of having a $5k month of book sales by December 2018. (It was actually $6k in November!!) January isn't over yet, but I'm on track to blow my goal of $10k in a month of book sales out of the water already.

Yes, I plan to talk more about this whole journey with you! (And yes, I'm grinning like an idiot and doing all the happy dances and completely disbelieving that I'm doing this.) 

But for now, I want to focus in on how thinking about time helped me accomplish these goals. And it's probably not what you think!

HOW TO CUT WASTED TIME

Many people think first of time-tracking apps and the like when they think about how to identify and cut wasted time. For me, I start with a more big-picture view. It relates in some ways to another post and podcast episode where I talk about How to Cut Down on Your Business Expenses.

When it comes to waste, it starts with ROI.

People compare time and money, saying your time IS money. So think of it that way! Consider your time as an investment. Where are you investing AND seeing a return? Those places are where you want to continue investing and perhaps invest MORE time.

As for cutting down on time, it's the flip side of that question. Where are you investing time and seeing NOTHING in return?

Remember that the return doesn't just mean money. It could be that you have joy. Or more time. Here are the questions I posed in the post on cutting your business expenses with a few tweaks.

Ask these questions about each recurring investment of your time: 

  • Does it bring in money?
  • Does it save me time or make more time?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Can I do without it?
  • Does the amount of time spent bring forth a comparable result?

These questions can help you determine the ROI for some of your activities. Because we aren't always the best judges of our time, I'll link to some great apps and ideas that members of my community suggested.

WHERE TO SPEND YOUR TIME

When I went to the 20Booksto50k writing conference in Vegas last fall, I kept hearing one thing again and again: double down on where you are finding success. I don't think that's the exact wording and it wasn't a theme of the conference, but it's what I heard and what I needed to hear.

For my Emma Empire, I had planned to switch genres and launch a new pen name in early 2019. But seeing my income rise and then explode, I kept hearing that I needed to stick with what was working and keep my focus there. At LEAST for a little longer. In essence, I need to earn the stability and the time to shift my focus without a loss of my current trajectory.

When you have something that's working well, double down. Drop what you need to drop to make that a priority. Stop chasing the butterflies and shiny objects. Stick with what works.

That is very simplistic advice, but I know I need to remind myself of this. I know that it works. On a large and small scale.

Thinking about this convinced me to keep writing sweet romance and not switch to YA spy novels. (Though I'm writing those in my "spare" time.) But in an even more focused way, when I realized that my billionaire books were outselling my beach novels, I shelved the other books (even ones I'd outlined) to double down on the series that was working well.

And THAT'S how I'm breaking my goals into the new year.

TOOLS TO IDENTIFY AND CUT WASTED TIME

I confessed in the beginning that apps and the like are really not my thing. I know they are useful, but I can't make myself use them. Maybe I'll try in 2019. We'll see.

But my community shared a few things that helped them focus their time.

Roland Denzel from Eat Move Live 352 recommends this app, which helps you identify where you are spending time on your computer. He pays for the upgrade, which does fancy things like sends warnings when he has been doing time-wasting things and will allow him to block certain things to stay on task.

Sarah Merchant from Work a Day Services uses this app to track how many hours she spends on tasks for herself and her clients. This one has a free and paid version as well.

Community member Melody Hansen utilizes this for personal and client work to plug in where she spends her time. It helps break it down by category and sends you a report at the end of the month showing what you did where.

Suzy Oakley likes F.lux, which is not a time-tracking app, but one that dims your computer screen based on the light you're in. She sets it to alert her and change the screen color when it's time to go to bed.

When it comes to tracking time and expenses, Catherine Turner from Path to the Bestseller List uses Fresh Books to track her time, both billable and non-billable.

 

A non-app option I want to recommend is Amy Lynn Andrews' book, Tell Your Time. I have this bad boy for years and though it's been a while since I've read it, I love the practical and uplifting way Andrews handles this! The subtitle is How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free. That about sums it up. :)

BREAKING DOWN THE STEPS

When it comes to cutting your wasted time, it's a pretty simple process. Now you need to DO IT.

  • Identify where you are actually spending time
  • Identify the ROI of where you are spending your time (remember ROI is more than just income!)
  • Cut out, adjust, schedule, delete, or whatever action you need to focus on the tasks that have ROI

Sure, that SOUNDS simple. Now how about actually DOING the work?

I'll say that this process hurts. It hurt me several times last year to set aside things like this podcast. (Which I might do again this year at some point.) I cut out A LOT of things. Some I missed. Some I didn't. Some I should cut and just am not doing it. This process doesn't always feel good.

And, depending on your goals, you don't have to be so cutthroat. Maybe you have some areas where you just chill and those matter to your mental or emotional health or happiness, but might look like a waste on a time-tracker. My goals last year were laser focused and so were my cuts. If you aren't trying to reach a really tough goal, you can have a little more room for flex.

Do you have particular apps or time-tracking tools to help you cut wasted time?

Jan 11, 2019

This post on how to cut down on your business expenses is a great one at the start of the year, but really ANY TIME. We'll walk through how to identify the things you need to stop paying for, pronto!

Do you realize how many things you pay for when it comes to your creative business?

I think I know. Until I do an audit and realize that I am paying for SO MANY things I forgot about or don't use. Here is a simple method that I use to cut back on those expenses to stop the bleeding and stop wasting my own money! 

STEP ONE - IDENTIFY YOUR COSTS

The first thing you have to do is figure out what you're paying for. I'm mostly going to focus on recurring costs here. If you want to look at what different things you're paying for each month, that's a really different kind of evaluation. The recurring costs are a good and easy place to start! 

How to Find Out What You're Paying for:

  • Check Paypal recurring payments (my recurring payments don't show up, but you can try this)
  • Check your bank automated withdrawals
  • Check your credit card
  • List out all of your paid tools that are recurring, not one-time
  • Look at whatever you spent the last few months on your business (non-recurring)

STEP TWO - TAKE STOCK OF YOUR COSTS

Once you've got them all, make a big list somewhere. (Or a spreadsheet, if you're that kind of person.) Then break down the costs in the same way. You can break it down so that you see how much they each cost monthly or annually, but make it even. (As in, don't look at one in annual and one in monthly, as that doesn't make sense.) Now it's time for the deep, soul work. 

Ask these questions about each recurring cost: 

  • Does it bring in money?
  • Does it save me time?
  • Does it bring me joy?
  • Can I do without it?
  • Do I have another tool that does the same thing?
  • When is the last time I used it?

You don't have to have a positive answer to one or all if you want to keep something. But these are the kinds of questions that will help you evaluate. I may keep something that brings me joy but no income. I may cut something that saves me time because my budget changed and I can do without it. 


STEP THREE - CUT AND KEEP 

If you can't measure what it's bringing you, haven't used it in a while, and don't plan to use it again, cut it out! Even if it's a $4/month thing.

You might consider keeping something that you don't use or that isn't helping IF If you have upcoming goals and you WILL use it. Or if you think you might use it and the price will go up if you leave, then come back later. If you're going to keep something for this last reason, make sure you're not justifying to yourself. 


STEP FOUR - USE YOUR THINGS

Whatever you keep, make a plan to USE it. If you are keeping a scheduling app for Pinterest, plan out when in your week you'll use it. Really make these things you pay for work FOR YOU. Otherwise, cut them!

I'm a super clutter-y person and it feels so amazing to get rid of these things! I've been cutting down on some major expenses and it's fabulous. I hope you can do the same and feel the same!


Want more planning tools?

Check out my annual planner

Or sign up for the Digital Detox, a quick and fast email series with a small actionable decluttering item.

Dec 7, 2018

In this post I want to talk about something super fundamental that's sometimes overlooked. And it's simple! Let's dive into how to keep your audience happy.

If you want to build an audience of raving fans, it can seem daunting at times. Do this! Do that! Post here! Write this kind of thing! 

But when it comes down to the foundation, it's REALLY simple: set up expectations with your readers and then keep them. This means building trust and keeping trust. It's like you are creating a contract with your audience, even in things like your email sign-up forms when you tell people you will send every week.  

HOW TO KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE HAPPY

This boils down to setting up and keeping expectations, but there are multiple ways you may be doing this or NEED to do this. 

  • What you SAY - The most common way to set expectations is when you explicitly tell people what you're going to do. Ex: when people sign up for an email list, book descriptions, your blog tagline
  • What you DO - Your actions set the expectations. Ex: how often do you post on the blog, publish a book, send an email. 
  • What people HEAR/UNDERSTAND - You may not realize that you are communicating something other than what you think, so it's a good idea to get an outside perspective. Ex: book covers, your tagline, BIG things. (Don't do this with every blog post! But good idea with bigger things or as you start out.) 
  • What people SEE - You may not realize how much your visuals impact expectations. Ex: book covers, how your blog looks, images you choose to use

TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR READERS HAPPY

  • As much as you can, tell your readers what to expect up front. Be clear and up front about who you are and what you do. Surprises are only good when they are GOOD, like a free book. It's not a good surprise to get emails every day for your product launch when people expected only weekly emails.
  • As much as you can, keep to your word. Life happens and people understand that. But whenever possible, stick to your word. Which means... 
  • As much as you can, don't set up expectations you can't keep or that you hate! If you don't like sending weekly emails, DON'T START. If you aren't sure you could keep up a weekly podcast, DON'T COMMIT TO THAT! Set realistic and sustainable goals. 

This may seem very simple and obvious, but there are so many small ways we could all do this better!

When we are clear with expectations and then commit to following through, we build trust with our audience and end up with raving fans. 

Nov 30, 2018

I missed out on some big platforms and news in the first in this series, so here are more updates you need to know that happened in 2018 and will impact your 2019!

When I started this series, it was meant to be one post. Ha! There have already been updates since I posted. That's why it's so stinking hard to keep up with social media updates!

My advice from the first post still holds: if you don't want to PERSONALLY keep up, follow other people who will keep up FOR YOU. Choose the few platforms you want to focus on, choose an expert, and subscribe to their email list. Or read something like Social Media Today so you can get more broad updates.

I mean, but really, you'll get a lot from me each week in the Quick Fix, my Friday email with news, tools, trends, tips, and updates.

 


PINTEREST UPDATES

I need to apologize to Pinterest. It is my #1 traffic driver on my blogs. And...I don't pin. I don't hang out. I don't keep up. That's the very cool thing about Pinterest: you can kind of autopilot it. Because it's more of a search engine than a social place, you don't have to like and comment on a giant stream of people's activities. It's just...ideas. Much more timeless. That doesn't mean you can just ignore it, which is what I've been doing.

Sorry, Pinterest!

Here are some big updates from this year that are good to know! Oh, and if you want to connect there, I have a Create If Writing board that's fabulous and has the content from this site.

  • Pinterest Communities - This is really new and I'm not sure how it will be utilized. So far, I can't even join a community. And you can't see them or make them until you're IN one...so it's kind of like Fight Club? Anyway. Here's a great post about them. I think it could have potential, but if I have a pretty solid understanding of Pinterest and can't actually get IN a community, there is an issue. READ/LISTEN TO MORE ABOUT PINTEREST COMMUNITIES.
  • Pinterest Carousel Pins - Because so many people just scroll through Pinterest, I'm not sure about how these carousel pins, which can have multiple images and links will work. Will Pinterest users really go for these? Unsure. Here's how to test if you have early access. Pintere
  • Lots more little updates - I found this fabulous post from Anastasia Blogger that has a summary of all the things that have changed on Pinterest this year. READ IT. 
  • SmartLoop comes to Tailwind - Tailwind is the only scheduler I use and pay for that works with Pinterest and Instagram. They added a feature that's much like Board Booster's old one that will let you set up pins that will pin again. FIND OUT MORE.  (*If you want to try Tailwind, this is my affiliate link! It's super easy to use and has great features.) 
  • Group boards aren't working so well - This isn't super new, but the group boards that once worked so well (with thousands of pinners) DON'T. Pinterest didn't want to give them priority as they were spammy. Work on having your own quality boards with keywords. Dump the big ones that have no relevance.

YOU GUYS. If you aren't using Pinterest, it's not too late to start. And don't get all eye-roll-y on me. It's the easiest platform to use. You don't have to talk to people or play a game. You share great content with relevant keywords in the descriptions. The end.

I mean, of course, there's more to it, but essentially, you're putting your content directly into a giant search engine. No follow-for-follow mess or follow-unfollow or whatever else. Even with a small following, your pins can be found and drive traffic to your site.

More resources: 


YOUTUBE UPDATES

I had to dive deep into my resources for this one. I pay ZERO attention to YouTube. I love the idea...but I don't have the time. With all the video out there, YouTube is still a crazy-amazing platform if that's the kind of content you want to create!

  • YouTube Studio - This is essentially a new dashboard for creators that will have a brief look at analytics, suggestions, and a place to see YouTube news and updates. (You can see in this screenshot that I'm not big over in the 'Tube...except my one video that's been viewed 50,000 times on painting walls. For real. Too bad I don't blog about that.) 

  • YouTube Premieres - This is a new features that allows you and your audience watch a video together. That sounds kinda fun! And...kinda like the new feature on Facebook where you can have a watch party. How about that! READ MORE ABOUT PREMIERES.
  • YouTube Stories - This is a features just like those other features on those other platforms. Except... it's only for the elite with over 10k subscribers. MORE HERE.
  • YouTube is making its original content free...with ads - YouTube tried the subscription model like Netflix, but decided to scratch that in favor of having its videos come out from behind the paywall (so I can FINALLY watch the new Karate Kid!) but with ads. FIND OUT MORE.

I love that last one. You know why? Because YouTube is huge. But they still experimented with a model that's working for others. And when it didn't work, they went back to their strengths. It shows a wisdom to try, but to know when to double-down on what you already do well.

 

A FEW OTHER THINGS I MISSED

Instagram cracks down on fake accounts - The cheer was heard 'round the world as Instagram cracked down on fake accounts and some of the smarmier practices. READ MORE.

Instagram requires a biz account for many third-party tools now - As of December 2018, Instagram will finally fully shift their API (which started earlier this year). What this means for those of you who, like me, don't know what API stands for, it means that if you want to schedule and post from Tailwind or Hootsuite or another tool, you need your Instagram account to be a business account. The switch is free and almost painless. Your engagement might disagree, as mine dropped when I switched.

For Podcasters, Libsyn integrates with Pandora - Y'all. I don't have this yet, but for podcasters using Libsyn for their media hosting, you can get your podcast on Pandora, which I believe is the largest audio streaming platform PERIOD. I'm a huge fan of Libsyn and would highly recommend them for podcasters for reasons like this one. They care about podcasters and go out to get features that matter. READ MORE.

LinkedIn is doing some things (like thinking really hard about a stories-like feature) and Snapchat is making new spectacles, but I don't really care. At all.

 

TIPS FOR KEEPING UP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA

My first tip for keeping up is that you should FOCUS. Unless you have a job that requires you pay attention to ALL social media, stop trying! I feel totally okay that I had to spend time googling "YouTube new features 2018" to write this post.

Pick the few platforms you care about and just do that work. The end. Don't worry about Instagram if you don't use it. If you think you MIGHT use it, don't worry now. Worry when you want to use it. The platform will change if you're looking now, planning for then.

I've found more and more as I go on that all the social media activity I strived to gain means very little. I mean, I have almost 10k Twitter followers. That was a huge goal years ago! But...it doesn't DO anything for me.

What DOES work? Relationships. Those could happen on social. They happen for me in the Facebook group. And on my email list. Those two together are like my magic. Find your magic! The thing that you enjoy that DOES something for you. Then just do that and don't feel at all guilty that you ignore everything else. Okay? Great. Glad we got that squared away.

 

If you really like knowing what's up, visit a site like Social Media Today once a week and just scan the headlines. It's fabulous and easy. You'll impress your friends. (Maybe.)

Nov 16, 2018

This post will be part one of a series on social media changes from 2018. This doesn't JUST include social media, but also touches on Amazon and blogging and more. 

It can be SO hard to keep up with all of the changes that happen on the internet in a WEEK, much less a year. But I want to go over some of the big news and social media updates that you need to know. Most of these took place in 2018, while some were a little earlier and some are currently rolling out or have been announced, but haven't taken effect!

HOW TO KEEP UP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA

As a tip to start, if you find yourself overwhelmed trying to keep up, the best thing you can do is follow people and sites that do a good job of keeping you apprised. Here are a few sites or emails that will help you keep up:

The Quick Fix - my weekly email with news, tips, resources, and more

 

Let's dive into those links!!


FACEBOOK CHANGES

I'd sum these up by saying privacy and groups. Because of the Cambridge Analytica issue, FB has made some changes with regards to privacy that affect ads.

  • Business manager required for custom audiences - If you have targeted by uploading your email list to Facebook (yep, you can do that), this will now need to happen in the Business Manager. Which is its own special circle of heal. MORE HERE.
  • New square images for ads - Um, yes please! Older versions of FB may not show these, but Facebook let me know in my ads manager that I can choose a bigger image. Can't wait for this!

  • Posting within groups as your PAGE - So we're clear, your PAGE is what people can LIKE, as opposed to your personal profile, where you ad friends. FB is rolling out the option to post as your page, but the group has to okay it. I haven't had this rolled out to my groups yet. READ MORE.
  • Groups may have mentors and mentees - This is a weird one and I've seen it happening more in a testing way, with it being added by FB to a group without the owner's permission. Members can sign up to mentor or be mentored. I feel like this is a disaster of smarminess waiting to happen where people in a group trying to get clients will sign up as mentors and try to "help." READ MORE
  • Groups can now be paid - This is another rolling out change where you can have a paid Facebook group. This has previously been against terms of service, so all those courses with a bonus group had to be careful how they worded that to avoid violating TOS. READ MORE
  • Groups can have learning units - Going hand-in-hand with paid groups, this would make a group function as a kind of course. READ MORE

INSTAGRAM CHANGES

  • New app for IGTV - Instagram added Instagram TV, which allows you to broadcast within the separate app for up to an hour. Word on the street is people are underwhelmed. READ MORE

I big-time love Kami Huyse and she has a fabulous show on IGTV. Here's a link to the show notes, which have updates on social media as well! CHECK IT HERE!

New shopping features - I don't know how this will trickle down to people like you and me, but this is fun. MORE HERE

New quick replies to DMs - If you want to reply fast, you can do this much more easily now.

Nametags - This works like Snapchat ghost codes, from what I gather. Because Instagram has copied everything else...

IGTV previews can be shared in Instastories - Oh, and Instastories can be longer now too.

READ ABOUT THE 2018 UPDATES TO INSTAGRAM HERE!


BLOGGING CHANGES

Gutenberg is coming to Wordpress - This is the biggest change to Wordpress since...uh...forever? You might want to stick with the Classic Editor til they fix some bugs. READ WHY HERE

 


EMAIL CHANGES

GDPR happened and we didn't die - I would love to never talk about this again. But the privacy policy enacted in the EU had worldwide repercussions. Mostly things are fine. You can read my posts about it HERE and HERE.

 


AMAZON CHANGES

  • Createspace morphed into KDP Print - If you used the print on demand company Amazon owned, it's now gone and merged into the same dashboard with your ebooks in KDP. This will in the long run be great, but it's been a bumpy transition.
  • Affiliates can share their influencer page link in email - Amazon doesn't allow sharing affiliate links in email. But they did update (maybe in 2017) to allow Amazon Influencers to share a link to their page in email. This is a separate program within the affiliate program. APPLY HERE.

Curious? Check out my influencer page! All those links are affiliate links, to provide disclosure.

 


TWITTER CHANGES

  • Maybe we'll finally get to edit tweets - This has been the most-called-for feature by users and Twitter is "thinking about it." I'll believe it when I see it. READ MORE
  • Have live audio - This is a neat feature that works on the app or in Periscope. It's like a live video...but audio. READ MORE. 
  • Twitter will let you use a chronological timeline - Go under your settings & privacy and uncheck the "see best stories first" thing.
  • Testing new desktop features - You can check out screenshots HERE.

 


GOOGLE PLUS CHANGES

Google Plus is dead - If you've still been using this, you can chill and have one less thing to do. READ MORE. 

Nov 9, 2018

So far in this series, I've shared a simple book launch formula, how to get other people to share your work, how to utilize paid promotions, and in this post, I'm tackling how to grow your email list. This WILL have applications outside of book launching!

If you're new around here, you may have missed that I'm a little nerdy about email lists. I've got under 10,000 people on my combined three lists (for fiction, nonfiction, and my lifestyle blog). Not huge! But size is NOT the only thing that matters when it comes to your list. The goal should be a group of active, interested, and perhaps even RABID fans.

First of all, let's talk about a few email basics. When I say "email list," what I mean is the group of people who have actively signed up to receive emails that you send through an email service provider like ConvertKit, MailerLite, Mailchimp, Mad Mimi, or any other trusted provider. I do NOT mean you sending emails to all your contacts in gmail.

HOW TO GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST

Growing an email list really breaks down into two main pieces:

  1. Content Strategy
  2. Traffic Strategy

Without great content, no one will want to sign up for your list. Without traffic, no one will know about your great content. These go hand-in-hand. There are also tools and ways to optimize your website for email growth, but I'll tackle that in another post.

 


Note for People Who Hate Email: 

It's all about your MINDSET. If you're frustrated about email or not really "into" it, you need to reframe the conversation. Consider email your direct connection with your superfans! It's not a chore and it's not THAT complicated. You CAN do it and I hope that if you think of it as connecting with your fans.

If you are JUST getting started, check out my FREE EMAIL COURSE!


CREATING YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY

I'm all about the two parts in this post. There are two parts to your email content strategy that you need to consider. The first is the kind of content that you are creating openly on the internet, whether on a social media platform like Instagram, a blog, a YouTube channel, or even in books you sell on Amazon. The second part of your content strategy is what you'll send people through your email.

PUBLIC CONTENT (blog, social media) -> EMAIL SIGNUP -> EMAIL CONTENT

To get subscribers, you need to have fabulous content that they can interact with BEFORE they sign up. If you have great blog posts, they may be motivated to sign up to get more. If you have Instagram posts that they just love, they might want to go deeper and get updates via email. You must have some great public-facing content that they can engage with before you ask them to sign up.

You also need to have a compelling reason that people want to sign up. No one wants to "sign up for my newsletter." Nope. You need to clearly and specifically let people know WHY they should sign up for your email list. That looks like creating an email content strategy.

It doesn't have to be complicated! For my fiction list, I tell people that they'll hear about new books first and get my Weekly Clean Reads email with great book deals. For Create If Writing, you'll get the weekly Quick Fix where I share news, tools, and resources for your authentic-platform building.

Do you see how both of those are clear and specific? They may not speak to EVERYONE, but I don't want everyone on my list. I want superfans!

A freebie (aka: lead magnet or reader magnet) is another type of content that may get people to sign up. This usually looks like a free book, checklist, form, resource, guide, etc that people will get for signing up for your email list. Freebies can still work really well, but they also need to be specific and targeted to the right people.

If you are trying to figure out how to grow your content or develop a content strategy, I'd recommend Meera Kothand's book the One Hour Content Plan. It's focused toward blogging, but will be helpful in thinking about a framework for content strategy.

 

GETTING TRAFFIC TO YOUR CONTENT

A lot of people stop after working on content. They think the issue is really all about creating a great freebie and having a nice website, perhaps with a snazzy opt-in form or pop-up. Those things are great! But if you have no traffic coming your way, then you won't have any people who see your content to sign up.

Ways to get traffic to your website:

  • SEO - Search engine optimization as with Google
  • Social Media - Sharing on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest (which is more like search engine traffic)
  • Use email - but this is a chicken and egg problem- you can email people when you have a new blog post, but this doesn't help if you don't an email list
  • Guest posting - not all created equal (check out my post over at Jane Friedman)

Ways to get traffic to your email list directly:

You can use a variety of ways to build traffic to your website or even just a landing page for your freebie. A combination is often best, but you could have several different kinds of

 


Are you feeling a little better about email? Just a LITTLE? I hope you are!! Remember: you need to think about the kind of content you're going to provide and then get that content in front of people. 

Yeah...it's a little more complicated in practice. But break it down into those two pieces to start. You can do it! 

MORE EMAIL RESOURCES AND LINKS

Nov 2, 2018

It's a scary thing to consider spending money when you are just starting out. Or even sometimes in the middle. When you aren't yet making money, it can seem crazy to SPEND money. But investing wisely can lead to greater results. I'm going to share the two main ways that you can invest as you launch your book and some things to consider as you do. 

Listen to Episode 142- How to Use Paid Promotion to Launch Your Book 

 

Subscribe on Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcher, or your favorite podcast app!


THE TWO MAIN TYPES OF PAID PROMOTION

Much of this series focuses on books, but could apply to other launches, but this post will be more specifically geared toward book sales. 

The two main options for paid promotions are:

  • paid newsletter promotions (like BookBub or BookSends)
  • paid advertisements (FB & AMS)

There are lots of other ways you could advertise, but these are the two main branches that I'm going to talk about today. 


PAID NEWSLETTER PROMOS

Email outperforms social media for sales, period. (Read some research on that here, or listen to Tim Grahl.) If you don't have a big list, that's okay! You can use paid email promotions that utilize other companies big lists. Essentially, they spend the money to build a giant list, then they charge you to have your book featured to their big audience. 

Things to consider:

  • Do you need reviews or other requirements?
  • Does it break down into specific genres? 
  • What is the cost?
  • What do other authors say? 
  • Does the book have to be live to set up the promotion? 
  • How far in advance are they booked up? (Some are booked up for months in advance)
  • Is it email or is it a social media post? 

Before paying for any of these promotions, I asked other authors which sites they personally had luck using. Not everyone agrees, but it's a good idea to ask people, not just see reviews. I also tested and found which ones seemed to work well for my books and tracked those daily sales with a spreadsheet so I could know which ones to try again. 

 

Kindlepreneur's List of 127 Promo Sites

Reedsy's List of Promo Sites 

 

 

PAID ADVERTISEMENTS

The biggest of these are Amazon Services Ads (formerly known as AMS ads, now just AS ads) and Facebook Ads. Many people have found success with these kinds of ads, but the downside is that you have to either learn the skill and platform, or hire someone. 

Things to consider: 

  • Do you have time to learn something new? 
  • Do you have the money to test? 
  • Do you see other authors in your niche having results? 

TIP: Now you can go to a page and see what ads that person has run. You won't see the effectiveness, but can see the image they used, their copy, and any interactions on the post. 

 

Kindlepreneur Free Amazon Ads course 

 

Test, but ask others what works

Pay for the ones with ROI - email!

It's not always about the money you make back, but what it gets you. ROI, but with a grain of salt because visibility matters to your ranking, KU page reads, people reading through to other books. Some people have a formula for this, but it makes my head spin, so I can't even.

SO HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH KIND OF PAID PROMO? 

Difference between running ads and paid NL promos. Both risky, esp if you're trying them for the first time, but ads tend to have more risk. With an NL, if you ask for reputable suggestions, people will tell you. Doesn't mean you'll get what you want or hope for, but often it's easier than trying to figure out the right audience to target on FB ads or how to bid on BookBub ads or what the heck with AMS, or AS ads.

Conclusion: Invest and Test

The biggest thing is that you're going to have to invest. Invest in your own growth of newsletter. Invest in ads for your books. Invest in the things that make your book succeed, like a great cover and time to write well. Test what you can and track your sales and pagereads and rankings on Amazon. You can't always get this down to a science, but you can get a good idea of what works for you and what doesn't. 

Oct 26, 2018

In the last post I shared a simple book launch framework. Now I want to break down some of the specifics related to promotion, because this is where people really struggle. Because this is a huge topic, this post focuses on getting other people to share your work.

Having other people share your work? Well, that sounds smarmy. Isn't this the blog and podcast all about NOT being smarmy?

Yes. Yes it is.

But there is a way to ask others to share your work that is NOT smarmy. I heavily rely on other people sharing my fiction books for Emma St. Clair, and I've built some amazing relationships along the way. I'm going to break this down a bit, but if you want more on how to work well with others in non-smarmy ways, you should really check out Creative Collaborations. Yeah, I'm plugging my book. But literally, that's what the book is about. So if you want more... get it.

 

It sounds simple to say that you should ask people to share for you. But if you're starting out and aren't sure how to do this, it sounds weird and gross, like those 100 emails I get every day from strangers asking me to add this super relevant link to my blog post! (Nope.) 

The two main ways to do this are: 

  • simply asking people that you have a relationship with (including newsletter swaps)
  • having an affiliate program for your thing

Let's go a little deeper into the details so you can put this into action! But first... a few quick reminders. If you didn't already check out the first part of How to Launch Your Book, you should do that. I'll give you a summary of the three main kinds of promotion: 

  1. sharing with your people (email, social media, etc)
  2. asking other people to share with their people (what this post is talking about!)
  3. paying for ads and promos

Clearly, we are focusing on part two. But I'll go back to part one and also we'll look at ads and promos in the future. (If you want a head start on email lists, you can check out my email list resources!) 

YOUR MINDSET ABOUT PROMOTION

Also before we start, let's get your head right. If you hate thinking about promotion and marketing, you need a mindset shift. Stop thinking of this in those terms if you don't like them. 

Marketing and promotion is basically YOU connecting with your ideal audience and readers. Don't you want to do that?

Don't you want to get emails from people saying they loved your book and your course and think you are the best thing ever?

Don't you want people joining your email list after they read your great blog post?

Don't you want to know that readers were up all night reading your book? 

Marketing and promotion are just fancy words for you finding your ideal people who want your stuff. Doesn't that sound much better, albeit less fancy? 

Oct 19, 2018

Writers all struggle with different parts of the craft. Some struggle with the start, while others get stuck in the middle, and many find editing to be a challenge. But one shared struggle for most writers I talk with is the actual book launch.

Book launching brings to mind the idea of marketing and promotion and publishing, whether you are working alongside a traditional publisher or you are an indie author. I'm going to share a simple book launch formula here geared more towards indie authors. But if you are working with a traditional publisher, these principles can still work for you! You simply might have other help or confines to work within.

 


I'm calling this a framework not a formula or a step-by-step guide because I like the loose structure of a framework. I definitely am a do-what-works-for-you person, so within a larger structural framework, you have freedom to try many different strategies. This is meant  to help you understand the bigger umbrella of a book launch so that you can shift the smaller, moving pieces in ways that work for you and your book.

A SIMPLE BOOK LAUNCH FRAMEWORK

When I say "simple," what I mean really is that I'm breaking this down into the simplest overarching things you need for a launch. I'll be following up in detail with later posts, but for now, the goal is to avoid overwhelm. SIMPLE. Got it? Let's go. 

Three Stages of Your Launch Timeline

1. Pre-launch - writing the book, editing, proofing, formatting, cover design, platform-building

2. Launch - three kinds of promo (more on that next week). Telling your audience, having others tell their audiences, and then paying people to tell people

3. Post-launch - keeping your book afloat, more evergreen strategies on your site, guest posting, AMS ads, continuing to do the launch-type promo paying or emailing, etc

That doesn't sound so bad...right? Let's take each piece and break it down a bit more. Again, this is about the framework, so I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on how to do a lot of these things. Before you get to the details, I want you to have the mindset. 


PRELAUNCH

Goal: Prepare the product, building your platform

Actions: In this section of your launch, you'll be preparing your product. You'll write and polish your book, get the editing and proofing, formatting, and cover. All the things you need to be ready for launch.

You'll also be building your platform so that you have an audience to launch TO. I would primarily recommend growing your email list or a Facebook group. But if you have engagement on a social platform (people like, comment, click through, share), then definitely utilize that! 


LAUNCH

Goal: Get the message out about your book, make sales

Actions: This is the most obvious section, but there are many ways to handle the actual launch! I'm trying a slow launch method where I don't really make a big deal about my book until it's been out for a few days, then I stagger promotional efforts to keep a steady rise. You might go for a big explosion on one day. 

The big thing to note is that there are only three basic kinds of promotion: you telling your audience, getting other people to tell their audience, and paid promotions and advertisements. 


POST-LAUNCH 

Goal: Keep your book from gathering digital dust

Actions: Books typically don't just sell and keep selling. You have to continue to drive traffic. This can look like continued ads, writing blog posts related to your book and linking in the blog posts (you also have to then promote the blog posts!), setting up other paid promotions, reminding your readers, and other actions that you did in the launch stage. 

If you're using Kindle Select, you get a free promo or Kindle Countdown every 90 days. Now that I have a backlist of books, I try to set up one extra promo a month, in addition to launching a new book. So I'm doing all three of these levels every month. THAT MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU. I write rapidly. Find the balance, but don't forget to give your books love after they launch. Usually they will not keep selling if you don't. 


I hope that you are finishing this post feeling a sense of peace. Book launching (or just launching!) doesn't HAVE to be overwhelming. Yes, there are lots of little details within this big framework. But understanding the overarching ideas and the big picture can help you see just how doable this is! You've got this. 

We'll keep moving forward in this series, going a little bit deeper each time. Next up: more on promotions!

Oct 5, 2018

If you haven't written a book, I want to convince you. And if you have written a book, I want to help you focus your efforts toward getting the most out of it! This post will share three big reasons you should write a book.

I'm not trying to take over Honorée Corder's job and tell you that you must write a book (more from her in episode 104!), but I do want to give you three reasons you should write a book and even break those down into some specific WHYs. 

(If you're new around here, I'm all about the WHY.)


These three reasons you should write a book are partly reasons...but also just as much goals for your books. Books don't just make money. They can accomplish a few different purposes and sometimes people miss that. 

THREE REASONS YOU SHOULD WRITE A BOOK

  1. Building
  2. Being Known
  3. Banking 

 

BUILDING

Audience building

Empire building

 

BEING KNOWN

Gaining authority

Gaining visibility

 

BANKING

Book sales

Other product/service sales

Sep 28, 2018

The beauty of the internet is all the knowledge you can find at the touch a button. My husband replaced the starter in our minivan last week after watching a video on YouTube. EPIC! But the downside of the internet is the same--all the "knowledge" you can find at the touch of a button. 

I want to break down some really popular advice and why you might want to ignore it OR why you need more information to make it make sense. 


POPULAR ADVICE YOU SHOULD IGNORE

The money’s in the list

If you know me, you know I'm into email. Research also shows that more conversions and sales happen through email than social media platforms. Yes, email has the best conversion rate for sales. But it takes work to get the right kind of email list and to sell the right kind of product in the right kind of way. Not automatic. Lots of work, but pays off.

Focus on getting the right subscribers, offering something that meets those subscribers' needs, and then honing in on your sales copy. 

Do what works for you

People sometimes think of this as do what you want. They ignore best practices and research and just do what they feel like doing. That MIGHT work, but it would likely be an exception to the rule OR you're just more stellar than everyone else at what you're doing. 

Doing what works means that it works multiple times and over time. It isn't a fluke or happy accident. There are many ways to do things, but you should really know the best practices first and not write those off.

Show, don’t tell

This is one of the most common pieces of advice for writers and I think it SHOULD be. However...there are some big mistakes people make in light of this advice. Tim Storm has a great post on this, where he talks about how often there is so much description that the unnecessary showing it slows the story down.

Sometimes you have to TELL. And other times, using gesture or a symbol or something else can really show something. In a book I recently read, the author SHOWED that a character was stressed by the way he counted the grains of wood in the table during a heated conversation. She didn't write, "He was stressed." She showed him counting as the discussion moved on around him. I LOVE that kind of showing. But super long descriptive paragraphs feel like they maybe belong in classic lit. Forever. 

Do one thing really well

This has variants, like when people talk about rocking out one particular social media platform. While focus is so important (I talked about that in episode 136), it’s also a good idea to diversify.

When Facebook changed algorithms back in 2012 or even more recently, some businesses literally closed up their doors because all their eggs were in that basket. It’s good to be diversified in our income streams and in our social platforms. (Email is also still the most SURE bet for longterm connection.)

Doing one thing well is a great start, but as you start to master something and maybe get some systems or schedules in place, you can extend outward and master some other social platforms or find other revenue streams.

You have to write every day

Yes, I get it. Writing is a craft and a commitment. Setting a schedule can be a good idea. Being disciplined is important. Writing is an art, but it is also a work.

But this phrase can really lead to guilt, which can short-circuit the brain and make you less productive. Write as often as you can. Write as discipline. Write for love. Some days it might be more discipline. Some days it might not happen. Some days you will love it. And some days you love it, but you can’t DO it. It does not mean you are not a writer if you don’t write every day.

Kill your darlings

Why there is no small debate about who said this first, this is still popular (and very solid) advice! But... some people misunderstand this and think that it means you have to kill off what you love. Nope!

No, you kill off what you love that doesn’t work. I have a tendency to use the word “So” when writing, often to start dialogue. While this may be something I often SAY a lot or people say when they are speaking, it doesn’t work on the page. If you can identify those natural tendencies that you have in your writing, you can see when they are overused and have become a crutch for you, rather than a support for great writing. 

You Have to Spend Money to Make Money

Yes, sort of. The problem here lies in the extremes. Some people say they have NO money and aren’t willing to invest. My friend Jami Albright sold bone marrow to buy good covers for her romance novels. She wrote two novels and the sales were so good, she is now full-time. But her original budget took some creative straining to pay for the necessary things for success. (Also, her covers were great, but still on a budget.) 

On the other extreme, I hear people saying they paid $1k for a blogging course or some kind of author marketing thing and they haven’t made the money back. You likely need to invest, but at the beginning stages, that doesn't HAVE to be a bazillion dollars. Start and scale. But don't scimp on the really key things. 

Hit up episode 137 if you need to know Six Questions to Ask before You Invest!


What did I miss? Share any other pieces of advice you've heard in the comments OR what I may have not covered all the way in these common pieces of advice!

Sep 21, 2018

Advice is rampant all over the interweb about where you should invest. Rather than giving you specific advice that may not work, I'm going to give you six questions to ask before you spend any money!

I've wasted a lot of money. I've bootstrapped. I've seen how investing early in the long-term can pay off...even if not right now. I want to share with you some of those specifics, but within the confines of six questions you can ask yourself before you invest. Where I spent money may not be where you should! My advice may not work for you! 

These questions, however, should really help you with these decisions!


SIX QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU SPEND MONEY

  1. What do I NEED right now?
  2. What will benefit me in the long run if I invest NOW?
  3. What can I wait for?
  4. What can I get now for less and upgrade later?
  5. What's risky, but worth a try?
  6. What's the shiny object I need to ignore?

Ready to break those down?? Let's do it! 


WHAT DO I NEED RIGHT NOW? 

I sometimes hear people telling authors that before they launch a book, they need a website. Guess what? NOPE. If I didn't have a website, I would have made JUST as much money this year as I would have with my website. I'm not selling books primarily there. What I NEEDED was a book I wrote, a great cover, editing, and a way to promote. 

You need to really separate what other people say you need and what you actually NEED to meet your goals. It's often way less than you think! If it helps to think about this backwards, consider what you don't need to accomplish your immediate goals. 

What I recommend always getting NOW: An email list. This has the best ROI for all the things. Whatever else you're doing now, get an email list. Check out this post on which provider is best for you.

WHAT WILL BENEFIT ME IN THE LONG RUN IF I INVEST NOW? 

I'm all about counting the ROI--return on investment. Sometimes that return doesn't come for a while. But for certain things, you should invest anyway. 

I mentioned email in #1 and fully believe you can invest there first. But you also may consider investing in growth there. NOT buying subscribers (gross!), but in giveaways or other surefire ways in your industry (that's important) to really grow your list. I used a paid service called Booksweeps and got like 1000 new subscribers for $120. Um, ROI. Now, that didn't pay off til I had books to sell, but it was a long-term investment. 

WHAT CAN I WAIT FOR? 

If you're primarily a blogger, obviously you need a website. But you don't have to have a killer one that has custom designs or a custom logo. If you are a writer, you may not need one at ALL for a good long while. Sure, it's great to have and you'll need one later, but again-- the fact that I have a website has not in any way at any time impacted my fiction book sales. The end. 

If you can wait and you're on a tight budget, WAIT. 

WHAT CAN I GET NOW FOR LESS AND UPGRADE LATER? 

When it comes to waiting, some things are good to have now, but maybe they could be okay for now and then LATER you can have your dream. Perhaps you start on Squarespace and then LATER hire that designer. Create a simple logo for yourself or barter services or use fiverr. Later hire someone better and get things exactly the way you want them!

If you aren't sure on this one, consider the ROI of whatever that thing is you are considering. When will it pay off? WILL it pay off? Is your audience actually going to notice or be impacted? 

WHAT'S RISKY BUT WORTH A TRY? 

There are some things that you have to go out on a limb for. Things like AMS ads or Facebook ads or even hiring a coach or taking a course. They may NOT give you surefire results. If you are considering something risky, here are a few follow-up questions: 

  • Do I personally know someone who can vouch for this thing/person/service?
  • Have I researched the best practices? 
  • Are there other people in my niche who have found success with this? 

WHAT'S THE SHINY OBJECT I NEED TO IGNORE? 

Okay, y'all. Get real. We all have things that we want just...because. We like them. We think we need them. SQUIRREL! If you can't be objective, ask a friend who's honest about this. Don't invest in things because they are pretty, cool, or because you really, really want them. 

Links I mention in the episode:

 

 

Sep 14, 2018

I'm going to gloss over the conversation about whether or not you should make money with your creative endeavors. I firmly believe that there is a happy place where you can get paid to do what you love.

Yes, you can also sell out. I can't tell you where that line is, but I think you know it in your heart when you do it. 

Here are some common revenue streams for creative people: 

  1. books or ebooks
  2. online courses
  3. coaching- group or individual 
  4. membership sites
  5. paid teaching - at a school or workshops online or in person
  6. affiliate sales
  7. sponsored blog posts or social media posts
  8. ads on your site
  9. physical products
  10. side jobs - editing, freelancing, being a virtual assistant, etc

Those aren't all the ways you can make money, but some of the more common ways creative people are making money online. I see a lot of people talking about the ways you can make money with these various revenue streams, but not a lot of people are talking about the COST. I don't mean financially, though that is a factor. I'm going go dive deep into how you can consider the costs of these revenue streams. 

Sep 7, 2018
In this blog post and podcast episode, I'm sharing about the power of having a single focus. I don't do well with one thing at a time, but I'm telling you to pick one thing and sharing what happened when *I* did! I am a serial starter. I am reading probably eight books right now. I have no less than four half-finished paintings in my house. I am currently working on three books. I DO NOT LIKE TO NARROW DOWN. But I learned something this summer. Even though I don't like doing one thing at a time, there is incredible power when you pick one thing and have a singular focus. Listen or read to learn the whys and hows of narrowing your focus for powerful results. LISTEN TO EPISODE 135 - THE POWER OF A SINGLE FOCUS Subscribe on Apple Podcasts Listen on Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify WHY HAVING A SINGLE FOCUS IS POWERFUL Everyone works differently, so please take what I say here with that in mind. I am NOT advocating for all people at all times to do just one thing. I'd like to just start with that. Always: do what works for YOU and YOUR goals.  Having a single focus serves two big purposes: It helps you actually attain your goal It helps you learn to do that task more efficiently and automatically Research shows that you’re 2-3x more likely to accomplish something when you’re specific about how you plan to implement. Creating a goal isn't enough. You need to have a  BUT that only works if you have a single focus. (Read more about that in this blog post from James Clear on mastering one thing.)  A habit becomes more automatic if you continue to do just that one thing over time. It becomes habit forming. The more reps, the more second nature it becomes. When I played roller derby, one of the big things you learn FIRST is falling. You learn to fall well and practice falling well until your body naturally falls well every time. When you focus on one thing over time, it's like muscle memory. You're teaching your body how to do that task correctly and with ease.  My Results of a Single-Focus Summer This past summer I stopped almost everything. I closed my Facebook group to new members. I stopped blogging and creating new podcast episodes.  And I wrote four books and had a $3500 month on pure book sales. (SQUEEEE!) I learned that I can write a book in two weeks, but generally can write a novel now in a month. I had NO idea until I shifted my focus to this one thing. It's been amazing and now I'm slowly adding things back in. You can find Emma's books HERE if you're interested. HOW YOU CAN SUCCESSFULLY FOCUS ON ONE THING If you want to have a single (or even mostly single) focus, you need to plan. It's rough. Set your mindset - no guilt! Do what you need to do! Make a list of all the things you're doing. Figure out what HAS to stay on your to-do list. Figure out what CAN go. Make the final decision based on the ROI- what is actually performing?  Make a plan. This may mean planning your daily time and over months. Consider retreats. I did 2-3 this summer to finish edits. Hire out what you can. It's hard to let go of things. But you might be surprised how letting things go doesn't matter. Not blogging for three months? Had ZERO negative impact on my financials. (Or my traffic, which stayed about the same. Thanks, Pinterest!) Not podcasting? Same. I kept up with my email (because PIVOTAL) and with my Facebook group, which is the heart of my community. When you focus, you can really accomplish something. If you’re pivoting like I have been, you may need to do this and have a seriously focused time.  CALL TO ACTION Consider whether you need to have a focus. If so, then go through the things you’re doing and what you can get rid of. Make a list of all the things that go along with the new single focus and then do those things.
May 28, 2018

In this post and podcast episode, we'll be diving into the idea of writing rules and when you can break them. I was honestly surprised with where I landed on this. Keep reading and see if you agree!

We've all heard that phrase: "Learn the rules; then you can break them." Or something like it. But how do you know what the rules are? And when can you actually break them?

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you purchase something by clicking through. 


WHY THERE AREN'T REALLY WRITING RULES

We live in a time period where things are much more open. Language is changing and has been affected by social media and texting. (Don't feel too upset by this because language is always changing. People were mad at Shakespeare in his day. It's not a new problem!) 

There are also different schools of rules. Personally, I adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style for my punctuation and grammar. While others might use the MLA or AP or something else. These don't all agree! (It's a good idea to find out which of these your particular niche uses so you can also adhere to the common guide in your niche!)

RULES & EXPECTATIONS

The rules we will be talking about today are really more of expectations that your readers have for your particular genre, niche, or medium.

When you write a query to an editor and you have two spaces after a period, they may not read your manuscript. PERIOD. They are too busy to read everything and this choice gives them an easy out to toss your manuscript.

When you buck the expectations and the rules, you are sending a message. Usually that message is- I'm ignorant OR I don't care. Neither is a good thing.

Writer in another group talked about just not understanding why people care about punctuation and spelling. "It's about story," she argued. But readers won't read your story if there are tons of errors. It tells people that you are careless and that you haven't taken the time or effort to do the bare minimum.

Same with covers. Constantly in writer's groups, people are saying things like "What do you think of my cover?" And when the responses are, "Hire a designer," they say "No." Cover matter. Period.

They sell books. They set expectations. They keep people from buying books.

LESSONS I LEARNED ABOUT RULES

I personally was surprised (as a rebel) to find freedom in following the genre rules. I started writing clean fiction under a pen name in December. I'm a writer by instinct first, so I wrote, then realized that I had messed up some big conventions and expectations. Namely that one of my short stories didn't have a Happily Ever After ending. THEY MUST in this genre.

Typically these books also switch back and forth between the perspectives of the two characters falling in love. I normally like a close third narration sticking to ONE character. This was hard for me.

Both were actually hard--I like resolution, but not necessarily happy endings. I also like my choice for sticking to one character.

FREEDOM WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK

But I found that when I started writing within what seemed like strict confines, I wrote better. I wrote faster. In fact, I've published two full novels in 2018, with the third coming out in June. In addition to two short stories in December. I wrote almost 30k words this past week. I believe MUCH of this had to do with the freedom and framework I found in sticking to the conventions.

REFRAMING THE RULES

If you are struggling with rules (like me), see if you can reframe. This is a way of sort of tricking your mind by giving something another name and a different association.

Call the rules expectations. Call them a framework or best practices. Do what it takes to help wrap your brain around finding and sticking to the rules that you need to for your niche, genre, or medium.

Just know that for most of these things, you need to fit into expectations if you want to ever SELL things and connect with an audience.

WHEN YOU CAN BREAK THE RULES AND BUCK EXPECTATIONS

It's important to note that rules can be broken. New things can emerge. Now we are talking about disruption. Disruptive innovation is when something changes in the market that makes a huge impact. Brand new markets for different kinds of customers.

Netflix is an example. They first disrupted the video stores and shut them DOWN. Then they doubled down on streaming and within a few years, TV will be totally different. (My opinion.) 

As content creators, writing an unexpected blog post or type of book is more a micro-disruption. You might choose to do something outside the rules and find great success because of the contrast. But generally speaking, if you want an audience and/or money, you should know the expectations and do your best to meet them.

The three times you can break the rules are when you are:

  1. Famous
  2. Genius
  3. Lucky

Those are typically the only ways that breaking the rules will mean success. You're famous and already have an audience of raving fans, you can do whatever you want.

You're a genius and you happen to stumble upon disruptive innovation that WORKS and changes the game.

Or...you're lucky. You happen to break a rule at the right time or get in front of the right audience or have some crazy stroke of luck. Often there is hard work behind luck. But sometimes there is just...luck. It just happened to work, even though it shouldn't have.

DO NOT BASE WHAT YOU DO ON THESE OUTLIERS.

You can't look at what someone famous does and say, "Well, breaking the rules worked for THEM." If you see someone breaking the rules successfully, chances are they are famous, a genius, or lucky. You'll do best to stick to best practices, not base your decisions on the outliers and minority finding success breaking the rules.

BREAKING THE RULES CAN BE SELFISH

When it comes down to it, if you are breaking the rules because you feel like you need to for your art, you are being selfish. You are putting yourself ahead of your readers.

You might say that you're writing for art, not for money. That's fine. But following the rules is NOT just about money.

Expectations and rules are a gift to your readers. In some ways breaking the rules isn't just about art, it's about YOU. You are thinking of YOURSELF first when you break the rules. Readers have expectations and they may be best served when you follow the expectations of your niche or genre, whether that's clean romance or the kind of blog you write or even within podcasts.

GO OUT AND CREATE CONTENT YOU LOVE THAT SERVES YOUR PEOPLE WELL. 

I'd love to hear in the comments if you agree/disagree with this idea of freedom within the rules or my strong statement that breaking the rules can be selfish! {ducks head waiting for tomatoes to be thrown}

 

LINKS I MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE-  

Emma St. Clair - my pen name for clean romance

Two free short stories by Emma St. Clair - referenced as not fully adhering to conventions

Two spaces after a period

Bad reviews given to famous works

Disruptive Innovation

The Writing Life - being open to cover changes by Robert Kugler

Tim Storm & Storm Writing School

KDP Rocket - a tool I use for keywords (I'm an affiliate and happy user!!)

Go On Write - great affordable covers (I use his branding package)

German Creative on Fiverr - affordable cover designs

Write to Market - book by Chris Fox

May 14, 2018

Writers don't write in a vacuum. Or...they SHOULDN'T. Writers need writing groups and communities of other writers to help support, teach, encourage, and promote. We need each other! Keep reading to find the why and the how.

Successful writers don't write alone. 

Okay, let me qualify that. Successful writers may write alone, but they don't WORK alone. They have writing groups and writing communities, both online and offline that help them to achieve their goals. (This is true of bloggers as well and podcasters and any -ers that you want to toss in here, I'd wager.) We need community. And the depth of community we create determines our success.

BOOM.  

WHY WRITERS NEED WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES

During the recent #cockygate, I saw a few big takeaways, no matter WHERE you fell on that whole mess. (If you don't know what that is, check out a smart and funny summary and then some legal stuff.) Here are the big things I saw from that. 

Writers in Community Get Inspired, But Don't Copy

I think the impetus (from my understanding) of the author going for a trademark was the fact that other people were copying her books in title and cover because they were successful.

Y'ALL. Do your own thing! Pay attention to what other people are doing. Watch them. Study them. (I know I do!) Then apply what you learn to your OWN WAY OF DOING THINGS. You do you. 

Writers in Community Don't Hurt the Community

Trademarking a common word sets a dangerous precedent. Sending emails about changing things like book titles and covers (which isn't always a small expense) is NOT helping the community. 

There are two opposite poles-- doing what's best for you and doing what's best for others. As a writer in healthy community, you should be in the middle. Helping the community helps YOU. But it shouldn't just be about them either. Find your happy spot. But don't hurt a community, because you NEED them. (More on that later.) 

Writers in Community Don't Become a Mob

While I think the trademark action wasn't the best for the community, neither was the community turning into a mob a good thing. I never like the mob mentality. Often it acts first and thinks later. I think the backlash to #cockygate was ugly. Surprising? No. But ugly, VERY much. 

Should writers band together? YES. Marie Force is a great example, being at the helm of the Indie Author Support Network, which is banding indie authors together. The goal is to be able to reach out to companies like iBooks and Amazon with concerns, bringing the force of over 1000 authors with them. That isn't a mob. It's a mobilized, logical force. 

When we turn on each other (even thought I totally get it sometimes), we aren't helping the community as a whole. What if that same mob turned on YOU? Think about that before you join an emotionally charged group. 

HOW TO FIND GOOD WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES

I would recommend that you find writing groups of various sizes. I have a few one-on-one people that I go to for the most personal and vulnerable of things. I'm in a few larger groups of a few hundred and then some larger of a few thousand. I'm missing the in-between of one to hundreds, which I think is super important. I'd love to have a group of about ten or less. These sizes allow for different trust factors. 

But what should you look for in writing groups? 

You should absolutely look for groups where people:

  • are honest
  • speak kindly
  • have your best interest at heart
  • know what they are talking about

I've seen writing groups that fail at one or several of these, and they are a  MESS. If you have an honest group that isn't kind and doesn't have your best interest at heart, it's horrible. If you have a group that is kind but doesn't know what they are talking about, that helps NO ONE. I think these are the four most important things. 

A FEW GOOD WRITING GROUPS

Here are a few of my favorite writing groups, with a bit about each. 

Create If Writing - Yup, this is my group. And it's epic. We talk about platform-building, our writing, blogging, social media, and have share weekends. Oh, and we celebrate small wins. Big wins too. But small wins matter. 

I Am a Writer - This group connects to Write Now, the podcast from Sarah Werner. She is kind and generous and cultivates community that is so helpful!

20Booksto50K - This is a behemoth group and may be intimidating. Especially if you are new and drop in just to ask questions that have been answered in full a LOT. Go listen. Read. Watch. 

If you want more on Facebook groups and why they are particularly important and what is changing about them, read this post on what you need to know


Do you have advice for finding great writing groups? Or have a writing group I should add to the list? Leave a comment to let me know! 

Apr 23, 2018

If you haven't heard of GDPR, get ready. Like the term "data," you're going to be hearing this buzzword a LOT. I've got several posts on it already and will likely have more to say. In this post and podcast episode I'll share why all this data talk is significant, why we need to think about it to not be smarmy, and tips for GDRP compliance.

I'm also running a free workshop this week on Freebies + GDPR you won't want to miss. REGISTER NOW!

 

WHY DATA MATTERS

Did anyone else catch all those memes and silly videos about Congress questioning Zuckerberg? Many of us laughed at that, but here's the thing: were you surprised by anything he said?

Like maybe how Facebook might be tracking you on a website that's not Facebook even if you don't USE Facebook?

Here's reality: Data has long  been overlooked and it's about to change.

People haven't realized how precious data is and the common user of the internet has very little idea what is being tracked and how. These data conversations are really GOOD because they are forcing transparency.

I think this is going to have massive ramifications and this whole data buzz word will be around for a while. It also may have long-reaching impact on your business, if you are doing things like running Facebook ads or having a website or email list. I think that there will be some pushback from the typical users who may not like that your blog is storing their info or sharing with third parties.

Oh- you didn't know your website was doing that? Let's look at what it IS doing.

WHAT DATA YOU MIGHT BE STORING

If you have Google Analytics on your site, the Facebook tracking pixel, or run advertisements with third parties, accept comments on your blog, or have comment forms, you are collecting data.

How much depends on what you're using. Even if you don't KNOW it, you are tracking data.

If you head into the back end of your blog, you'll find that commenters have email addresses stored on your site. That's data that you've collected and GDPR says you are responsible for it. WHAT. Same with contact and other forms on your site.

It goes deeper with Google Analytics, even though that typically is using ip addresses and has lots of anonymity (from my understanding). And if you have the Facebook pixel on your site or are using Google ads or other advertisers, you may be sharing your readers' data with third parties EVEN IF YOU DON'T KNOW IT.

So if this sounds creepy to you at all, you'll understand why I said that there is going to be long-term fallout and some people are really going to balk at this.

DATA, GDPR, AND BEING SMARMY

Y'all know I'm all for not being smarmy. So in one sense, I LOVE that this is being brought to light. As bloggers and people using the internet, we need to KNOW that we are storing data. We should know what is being tracked and we should be up front about that with our readers.

It's not smarmy if you don't know and don't tell your readers because you simply didn't know. However, as this data conversation continues, ignorance will not keep you from potential fines or from being responsible for the data you're (unknowingly) collecting.

I like that now we are creating some accountability.

I don't always like some of the specific ways this is playing out with GDPR, but I think that we are moving in a good direction by making all of this more transparent and honest. It's not going to be the wild west of data anymore.

Now you know and knowing is half the battle. The other half is doing something with that knowledge. So let's get into specific tips for GDPR compliance.

TIPS FOR GRPR COMPLIANCE

Here are a few very actionable and fairly simple items you can do:

Get the GDPR COMPLIANCE plugin. This will add a checkbox for consent on your comments and also any forms on your site.

Update your privacy policy. I know...BORING. There are templates out there, so you might find a good one, but if you want to be SURE you're covered, I'm an affiliate for the products over at Businessese. They JUST updated their privacy policy to have GDRP compliance.

Add a banner or overlay asking consent for cookies. I used a widget called EU Cookie Law Banner that I found in my Wordpress site under appearance/widgets. Likely you will see this banner floating along the bottom. I updated it with custom GDPR language. You can also check out the free option from Cookiebot...but I found it a little more robust than I think (hope) is needed.

Find out what your email service provider is doing. If you are not using a trustworthy email service provider, this is the time to switch. Under GDPR, you are the data controller, but a lot of the heavy lifting will fall to your data processor. You are responsible, but they do a lot of the tech stuff. Email them to ask. I know that Convertkit, Mailerlite, and Mailchimp have things in place and have already heard from a sad listener who is losing tons of subscribers because of her email service provider and GDRP.

Sign up for my free workshop on GDPR and freebies. I think this is going to be one of the biggest areas of impact, so I'm going to dive DEEP into what this looks like. If you are using freebies, lead magnets, or reader magnets to get people to sign up for your email list, you need to come. (If you don't know what those things are, read my post on freebies.)

Sign up for the workshop HERE!

 

Links mentioned in the episode:

 

I hope you found these tips for GDPR compliance helpful and that you are not too freaked out by the whole data situation and what you are collecting and what is being collected by other people when you go to mom blogs on the internet, for example. This is the world we live in!

Apr 9, 2018

It's no secret that I go on a lot of writer's retreats. Well. For a mom of five pretty young kids I go on a lot of writing retreats. This post will explain why, how, and how you can DIY a writer's retreat on a budget!

You may be familiar with the idea of writer's conferences (and blogger conferences!) as an important part of community and growth for many writers. I am a conference JUNKIE and have attended tons. But I don't think people talk enough about a writer's retreat and how to make one possible for YOU. 

I try to take 1-2 writer's retreats per year, completely by myself. As an introvert, this is luxurious.

And if that sounds terrifying to you, you can also do a writer's retreat with other people. This post is more geared toward the single-person retreat, but you can apply some of the ideas for a partner or group retreat.

But let's take a step back...WHY are writer's retreats a good idea?? Then I'll share some of my tips for planning.

BENEFITS OF A WRITER'S RETREAT

While conferences have many benefits like learning, networking, and getting new ideas, retreats are all about the work. Specifically, pulling away from the normal day-to-day in order to focus on the work. 

Retreat actually means to withdraw, which is how I think of a writing retreat: I'm withdrawing from the normal tasks, plans, and people to focus solely on the work of writing

But writing retreats do more than just help you focus. Here are some of the benefits of a writer's retreat: 

  • Completing a task or project 
  • Refreshing yourself and recharging
  • Harnessing a single-minded focus

On past writing retreats, I have completed editing manuscripts, built courses, finished off tasks I couldn't seem to get done otherwise, and written drafts of novels. For me, these retreats are one of the only times I get multiple, uninterrupted hours of work on projects. It allows me to finish things, but also to access a focus and energy that I typically don't in my 1-2 hour blocks during a typical week. 

I balance out the work (which I find refreshing in and of itself) with other inspiring things like being in nature, reading books, painting, pampering myself, and sometimes hanging out with other people. 

I return feeling refreshed and accomplished, ready to re-enter the typical grind and schedule. As an introvert, the recharging of a day or two alone is incredible!

HOW TO PLAN YOUR WRITING RETREAT

As I mentioned, you don't just have to write on a retreat. If you have other nagging tasks that you can't ever seem to complete, finishing those might help remove the mental burden and strain, enabling you to write better.

On my retreats I have finished editing and uploading podcast episodes and show notes, edited and formatted books, and built out whole courses. 

The important thing is to know what you hope to accomplish going in. Just like at home in your day-to-day, you need to prioritize if you want to complete things. Put the first things first. What could you NOT do in your normal life? Or, what would be the BEST use of that time? 

Make a list of the things you REALLY want to finish, then those that you HOPE to complete (or at least work on). I also make sure that I have some life-giving other work, like books loaded up in my kindle or in print versions, great music, and maybe some plans to step out a bit. Even on a retreat, I sometimes need a retreat. 

You might even make a list of things you WON'T do. Perhaps you will ignore social media for the time or you aren't going to check email. (Unless those are included in your priority tasks!) Go somewhere without wifi so that you can ignore the internet altogether. 

(As a humorous note, I didn't intentionally add showering to the list of things I wouldn't do, but that's how it worked out on the last retreat I took. I stayed in a tiny house with an outdoor shower and a sudden cold front dropped the temps to the mid-30s. I returned home from the retreat rested...and a bit smelly.)

Once you know what your plans and priorities are, this might actually help narrow down where you go. If you're on a serious budget, you may have to choose place first or place based on price, whereas if you have flexibility, make a plan and then pick the best place. 

BUDGET-FRIENDLY TIPS

With five kids, saying we are on a budget doesn't quite cover it. So how have I been able to afford 1-2 writing retreats a year? Here are my tips. 

Be determined. If you REALLY feel strongly about having a retreat, you have to make it happen and give it the priority it deserves. Because I feel like these are incredibly important, I've shared that with my husband, who totally supports me in this.

Between his help and my parents, I didn't pay for childcare, which would have been the biggest expense otherwise. If you don't have kids, that's one less cost/concern, but if you DO, you must try to your spouse or support system understand why you need a retreat and then ask for help. 

Check first for free options. I have done several retreats house-sitting for friends. Put a call out on Facebook or other social media (if you dare) to ask if anyone has a place. Look for someone who has a garage apartment, guest room, RV, vacation home, or simply works long hours and has an empty home.

Several times I stayed with a friend who had no kids and who worked until around 9pm at night. That gave me tons of daytime hours and then we often hung out for a bit at night. If people know that you are someone who wants to take retreats, they may consider letting you know when they travel and have an empty home. 

Use VRBO or AirBNB. I cannot say enough about these sites and how incredible they've been for my travel. You can choose simply a room in a house or look for a tiny home or other cheaper option. If you want an inspiring location, you can find that, but if you just need a space to work that has wifi, you can look for that too. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to check the cleaning fee. Some places that are $30 per night have a $30 cleaning fee, which ends up making it as or more expensive than other options. Also do make sure there is wifi if needed. 

In December I stayed at a tiny home in the country with cows right outside my door. It was amazing! There was no TV, so I simply wrote. When I needed a break, I headed into the small town to eat something or just look around. 

You never know what you'll find on these sites, so if you haven't tried them, definitely see what's in your area or nearby. 

Pack food. If you are on a super tight budget, you could bring your own meals if possible. Even if you stayed in a Motel 6 or something with a mini fridge and microwave, you could buy frozen meals for a few dollars a piece. Anything you get at a grocery store would likely be cheaper than eating out, so do check for a place that has the kitchen options you need.

Be food frugal. I wrote a post on my lifestyle blog about the best foods for family travel, and that might be good to check out. Almost every fast food place has a dollar or value menu. Breakfasts as dinners are often a great choice. 

I tend to treat myself to at least one nice meal (can I get an Amen from people who love eating alone at restaurants??), but otherwise stock up on things from the grocery or dollar menu. 

Take what you get. My ideal writer's retreat would be on a beach, have lots of wine and great food, and maybe be for like a week. Typically I get one night, maybe two, sometimes in a guest bedroom eating salad from a bag. IT'S STILL AMAZING. And maybe one day when my kids are older and I'm making bank, I'll be writing from a Greek Island. 


Have you prioritized having a writer's retreat? What would you do if you had a day or night to yourself to write? 

I hope that these tips help! If you feel like it's something that could never happen for you, I would encourage you to make it a priority, get the people who support you on board, save up or plan a super budget-friendly option, and MAKE IT HAPPEN. 

Do you have any other tips that I missed? Share here in the comments or in the Facebook community!

Apr 2, 2018

It's time to START. Why you need to stop listening to fear and join the conversation.

Evergreen Platform School 

http://createifwriting.com/algorithm 

$49 through the end of April 2!

AFTER April 2, use code podcast to get 30% off.

Apr 2, 2018

In a departure from the norm, I'm sharing a modern-day Easter parable with you! 

music by http://bensound.com

Mar 19, 2018

Hey, guys! I wanted to share why I've missed a few episodes lately. First: my computer crashed in a most epic way. But it's okay! It's back now...but then I got sick. You can hear it on this episode, but it hurts to talk and I have asthma, so I can't even. But hopefully it will be back. Soon. 

For now, know that my platform isn't just about the podcast! It's about the PEOPLE. And that's YOU. 

So please connect with me where we can talk like people: 

http://createifwriting.com/community <- FREE Facebook group

http://createifwriting.com/quickfix  <- FREE weekly email 

http://createifwriting.com/algorithm <- FREE training on how to algorithm-proof your platform

 

And if you'd like to see what I've been up to lately, you can see my new book that just came out from my pen name. It's clean romance, which is a happy, sappy love story. 

http://createifwriting.com/coldfeet <- READ the book here

 

I hope to be back soon! But until then, connect with me where the people are! 

Feb 26, 2018

I've written about how to create binge-worthy content, but today it's all about how to create viral content. You know: the kind that everyone keeps sharing like hotcakes until your blog catches fire? That kind. Let's dive in!

Going viral. I'd really love to know what comes to mind when you hear those words. Good thing? Bad thing? Something you've experienced or just hoped for? My question to you today is this: If you knew how to create viral content, would you?

The easy answer might be yes. Because who doesn't want a viral post! But today I'm talking with Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection and Quick Blogging Tips about how to create a viral post, the downside no one talks about, and how to take your viral post into a binge-worthy post.

Listen to Episode 128 - How to Create a Viral Post

 

 


HOW TO DEFINE VIRAL CONTENT

First up, what IS viral content? It depends who you ask. There is full-on viral posts, which are the kinds of posts that take off and go worldwide. That's rarely what we get to see. Viral is often used to mean a post with a much higher reach than the normal for you, OR a post that has massive reach.

Paula's encouragement was that you NOT compare yourself to others or feel like you'll never hit that massive reach. Consider what's viral for YOU. Aim for a post that has significantly more reach than your normal post.

THE DOWNSIDE OF A VIRAL POST

People don't often talk about the downside of viral posts. But you should realize that more eyeballs on your post can mean a few things. Here are a few negative sides when you create a viral post.

  1. If your post isn't on brand, it's not super helpful
  2. If your post is controversial, you will get the trolls
  3. If your post isn't something you're willing to stand behind, it's not helpful!

I would say that you should always ask yourself before hitting publish: What if this goes viral? You don't always know if it's going to happen. You probably aren't going to get into that category of worldwide attention. But...if you did, is this the hill you want to die on? Is this post a great representation of you?

Viral posts can bring unwanted attention. And if your posts goes viral, but isn't the kind of thing you usually write about or is one of those one-off posts that doesn't fully represent you, it's not going to be super helpful.

If you wrote about something that's controversial or that people disagree with (which could be anything these days), you may also get ugly comments or people sharing your post because they HATE it. You could get angry emails or other negative responses. The more your post gets shared, the more likely you'll face criticism.

THE UPSIDE TO A VIRAL POST

On the plus side...when you have a post go viral, it gets tons of eyeballs on your site. Some people will meet you for the first time and these new readers that might become raving fans.

The best-case-scenario is that you have a post that's close to your heart and your brand go viral. That will bring the right kind of readers to your post.

HOW TO CREATE A VIRAL POST

Viral posts aren't often the how-to posts or the ones that solve a tangible problem. Yes, those can take off and be read and shared. But the posts that get people sharing and sharing and sharing are the ones with an emotional connection.

When you resonate with readers, they will share your post. So if you want to reverse engineer a post to go viral, you need to start with one emotion that you're hoping to evoke in readers.

You'll need to find an image that somehow relates in feel or in the content to that one feeling. You can use stock photos or your own photos, but again--your looking for connection.

As for your headlines, you can consider something like the Coschedule Headline Analyzer (also great for email subject lines!) and consider what would motivate someone to click.

Your framing and description matter as well. Framing is how you introduce the post when you are sharing on social media. The description is usually the meta description that you create when you are setting up the post in SEO for Wordpress by Yoast or whatever tool you use for SEO and metadescriptions. (I do this in Yoast and also in my Social Warfare plugin.)

TIPS FOR WHEN YOUR POST GOES VIRAL

If you have a post go viral, you want to do the best job you can to optimize the post.

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