update, writing

Staying Organized

Before I start this week’s post in earnest, I promised to let you know how I set up my table for ComicCon this year.

Behold! The crates are just standard pine crates found at Home Depot, Michael’s, Canadian Tire, etc. that hubs and I stained, painted, roughed up and generally beat the crap out of to make them look AMAZING. I’m really happy with them. We did with the same with the price list clip boards.

And this? This is just the beginning. We have plans, baby.

But this week’s post isn’t about ComicCon. For an update on that, you can check out the post on my website.

For this week’s excitement, I give you…….

………

….. THE 365-DAY CALENDAR!

What can I say? Not only am I an organization nerd, I’m also an office supply nerd, and this takes the cake for both.

The reason I wanted to see the whole year at a glance?

For reasons that, who knows, might help you as well with whatever projects you’re working on: planning.

My production schedule, my promotion schedule, my release schedule, everything laid out for easy reference. The beauty is that it’s a whiteboard planner, so can be erased as needed. I’m not locked into anything, no pressure, no stress, just there to help me keep everything on track.

The main reason I wanted this? For promotions/sales.

I can never remember when I put what books up for sale, and I don’t want to discount the same book too often/too soon/too far apart. With this plan, I should be able to create a strategy.

Also: isn’t it a thing of beauty?

This right here: a thing of beauty

This picture just shows the public events I have booked for the next couple of months, but as we go, I want to colour code it with my production schedules, what’s due when.

Adding this to my daily bullet journal and my Trello boards, hopefully I”ll be able to stay on track of everything!

What various systems do you put in place to stay organized? Are you walls covered in notes? Calendars everywhere?

update

Putting My Best Foot Forward

As an aside, I accidentally wrote “best food forward” the first time around. Apparently I’m hungry. Please keep that in mind with any other typos that might pop tart up.

As you may have seen already on pretty much all my other social media pages/accounts, I actually did manage to snag a table at ComicCon.

I’m excited about this. The fact that I haven’t yet included a single exclamation mark in this post is merely an exaggerated effort to keep this blog professional. For a full use of exclamation marks, feel free to check out my website.

But I thought I might touch on one of the important (and, in my opinion, the most fun) parts of direct sales: presentation.

It’s probably a given that you should make yourself and your display eye-catching when you want to draw people to you, but I’ll say it anyway, because I often see it at vendor events: the folks with their heads always bent over their phones, sitting at their table not paying attention, expecting their merchandise to do the work for them.

In my experience… these folks don’t tend to do as well.

I’ve had a good amount of opportunity to try different styles and strategies. Like most people trying to achieve a certain goal, I have certain superstitions and must-haves before starting. These are things that develop naturally — fascinatingly, it’s a built-in element of the human psyche; we’re such pattern-seekers that we’ll attach significance to the tiniest details if we think it’ll help us move forward — and even though I know they won’t make a difference, I hang on to them.

For example, my table cloth. I love the green, and I believe it contrasts really well with my books. I’ve worked with a red table cloth, believing the brightness would be even more eye catching, but it didn’t make a difference, so I returned to my green.

Other than those little things, I like to adapt.

A burlesque dancer friend of mine has a great rule. Every time she re-uses an act, she levels it up. An upgrade to the costume, smoothing out part of the dance, tweaking the stage set-up. Just something to polish the act and really make it shine.

I took this rule and have applied it to my display, which means it will never be perfect and (hopefully) will keep getting better.

To give you a better idea of what i mean, I offer the evolution of my display, starting from my very first novel to the recent Geek Market I did in March (and that’s still nothing compared to what I have planned for OCC.)

Evensong Release Party- 2014
Photo Credit: Blossom Moments Photography
Note: Cake is always a win
Awesome Adventure Academy 2015
Tablemate: Megan Connell, who will be keeping me company again this year at OCC!
I actually really like this set-up with the postcards as reading material. Not bad for a small number of books
My first Byward Author’s Market 2017
Simple, with the important elements right out front (newsletter, price list, etc).
Not bad… but a bit bland.
I had the sign for the AAA as well, which was a great level-up. The font is big and legible, and pretty much says what it is. Easy advertising!
Byward Author’s Market 2018
I levelled up in sheer number of books, that’s for sure. I took out my newsletter (sign-ups at table were slim, so it was taking up space I couldn’t really afford to space).
Downside: it’s very cluttered. Easy access for me to grab sellable copies, which is huge and something I plan to keep, but there’s no white space.
I LOVED this display.
The tiered effect got rid of the cluttered look, using vertical space to showcase everything while still leaving parts of the table visible.
This was a shared table, which meant even less space to play with, but I still added little relateable props (the ravens, the box with my business cards, and the book (where I kept my extra boomarks)

I can’t wait to show you what I have to store for OCC! I will say that my husband has been very busy making everything look really amazing.

Want to see ComicCon updates, photos & video in play? RSVP to my Facebook event page! Even if you’re not able to make it in person, you can follow along for larks.

update

The Magic of “When”

Right after I finished reading Flow, I jumped into a book by one of my favourite pop psychology authors: When, The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel H. Pink.

Barely a week and a half later, I’m halfway done and really enjoying it.

I love this guy’s research, easily accessible style, and practical tips and suggestions he delivers alongside all the studies and examples.

Drive was another great one, which follows the science behind what motivates us, but When is all about timing.

When to tackle the most challenging tasks of your day.

When you should book your next surgical procedure.

When you should schedule your next interview or start trying to form/break a new habit.

His research shows that timing really is everything. That if you aim to focus on a more cognitively challenging task in mid-afternoon, you’re more likely to make mistakes or have a harder time with it than if you take it first thing in the morning or after an afternoon break.

He introduces the concept of the “nappucino,” and goes into detail about what makes the perfect nap, and how naps are not a sign of weakness, but a gesture of self-care that more of us should embrace. Same goes with actual lunch breaks and actual opportunities to mentally and physically detach yourself from work to get your head clear before the afternoon trough.

If you’re interested in any of these things, you should take a gander at this book, especially if, like me, you have trouble convincing yourself to walk the heck away from your desk for lunch or are constantly pushing yourself through the afternoon mental fog.

Do you have any go-to strategies to clear your head or wake yourself up when you start flagging during the day?

Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts

#IndieApril

We’re coming to a close on another month, and it has been a real indie author storm over on Twitter this month, with the hashtag #indieapril.

From what I can tell, it began with an indie author looking to show support for her fellows while raising awareness for the indie publishing movement that continues to make so many changes to the industry.

I love the idea, and have both promoted and requested titles from other authors over the past couple of weeks. The result: close to a dozen new books on my ereader that sound vastly entertaining.

The stigma against indie, or self, publishing, has significantly decreased over the last couple of years. When I made my first foray into the business in November 2013, a few people had already made it big and the nose-turning-upping had toned down quite a bit, but there were still the questions and condescending “ah, yes,” when I told people I had produced my own books.

These days, you can find a course for every step of the process, there are countless numbers of how-to books on the various ad platforms, cover design, editing, marketing and promotion… everything available to make the quality of your book the best it can be — ideally without breaking the bank.

I’ve been in the business almost 6 years now, have learned a lot and am still learning.

I take pride knowing that I’ve put my best effort into any given project, and that everything is under my control.

As I’ve previously mentioned, even organizations like our municipal and provincial grant programs have started recognizing indie authors — this as recently as within the last year!

I love that now, when I go out to events, if I tell people I do it all myself, I rarely get the patronizing nod, but often amazement or, my favourite, “oh hey! You’re self-publish” from someone not in the business.

It means word is getting out there that quality doesn’t depend on your publishing imprint.

It means that going indie is becoming recognized as a viable option for people who want to take the time and money to do it.

So happy #IndieApril, my fellow self-pubbers. May the playing field continue to grow even, the resources and opportunities continue to grow, and our imaginations continue to venture out into the world.

Thoughts

Wrap up on “Flow”

Of all the types of books I read at various times, the pop psychology/non-fiction/motivational/psychological texts always take me the longest.

Intentionally.

There’s a lot to take in, think about, absorb, and I like to give it ample time to soak into the brain matter.

So this week I’m wrapping up Mihaly Csikzsentmihalyi’s Flow, the book that, essentially, attempts to home in on the meaning of life. The root of all true happiness.

An impressive claim?

Perhaps, but I really can’t argue with him.

Before I get into my thoughts on the book, I’ll get right to the recommendation. If you enjoy the sort of book that gets you inside your own head and helps you see the world/your actions differently, you’ll enjoy it. It’s dense at times, but interesting, and as it’s referred to in so many more recent books (this one came out in the 90s and is the definitive work on the subject), it’s a great starting point to give context.

My previous post about the book breaks down his definition of “flow,” and the various criteria required to enter into this optimal experience.

For the rest of the book, he goes more into depth with the various criteria and how they come into practice with examples, like the man who’s worked the same welding job at a company for thirty years, but still loves going into his job because he finds new ways to challenge himself and then goes home to invest new little devices and features for his rock garden as a hobby.

He discusses the fact that research shows people enter the flow state significantly more often at work than their do in their leisure hours, but society focuses so much on the value of working solely so you can enjoy your leisure time that, although less happy people want more of it.

The exception to the rule? People to whom leisure is an active hobby. Something that engages the mind in a way that matches the criteria previously mentioned.

Physical — running to beat your time or master a new form, taking up a new sport, getting into shape; cognitive — learning a new language, taking a course; creative — building/invention something, making art; or social — people? what? — activities can all get you into the flow state.

Passive activities like mindlessly watching television, travelling just to look, enjoying other people’s work without adding any of your own … don’t.

Where people are most affluent, it can actually take more effort to get into the flow state unless is an effort is made to get involved in your surroundings, to keep growing as a person.

He discusses how, without that effort, can people even forget how to set their mind to active thinking. Leading to say, less critical thought while watching the news, taking the opinions of media mavens and your neighbours without taking the time to reason things out yourself (things to consider as we enter the 2019 election prep in both Canada and the States).

The best way to develop the flow mindset, this state of perfect happiness that both grows the self while separating the ego from the self, is to practice it.

So the next time you have a day off and you’re wondering how to fill your time, call up a friend, crack open a model set or a jigsaw puzzle, download a language app, go out and work in the garden.

Life your best life — it starts in your own head.

Thoughts

Finding Your People

I chatted a few posts ago about using social media to network, and how it can be a great way to find like-minded people.

Social media, the use of hashtags and groups, can certainly introduce you to people you never would have met otherwise, and those introductions can lead to endless amounts of support and opportunities that can change your experience in your chosen artistic arena.

But I’ve noticed a returned trend in some of feed that really disheartens me: the obsession with numbers.

The number of followers you have doesn’t matter.

The ratio of followers : following you have doesn’t matter.

Do you derive pleasure from having your chosen people in your feed? Good! Keep them! Your feed is yours to curate. It’s how I’ve managed to keep my temper and my mood level despite all the nonsense in the news.

I’ve seen people try to play guilt games with people who unfollow them, and personally I feel this is silly. If their feed/interactions with you don’t bring you joy, you are under no obligation to continue the connection.

That is the joy of the internet. Set your own boundaries, decide the tone/mood/quality to want your timelines and feeds to hit, and be merciless in maintaining it.

Last year, I wiped out my Facebook profile. I had to keep it to host my author page, but my profile is down to 0 friends. I regularly clear out my Twitter follows, and will soon be doing the same with my Instagram.

Think of it as spring cleaning. The joy of logging on to your various accounts with the dread of what dumpster fire you’re going to walk in on.

This is how you find your people. The ones who matter to you; the ones who can educate you or learn from you; the ones who become a bright spot in your day when your job/hobby/passion (pajobby? COINED IT.) is driving you up the wall.

So if your feed is starting to bring you down, it’s time to Marie Kondo that following list and make your world a personalized, happier place.

Thoughts

EXTREME BUSINESSING

Most of the posts I write will be about looking before you leap, especially if you’re looking at taking your business/hobby/passion to the next level.

In order to know where you’re going, to first need to be looking in that direction.

In order to make adjustments for sudden changes, you need to know what all your variables are.

All of these things are true, and making plannings and preparing specifics will always have their place.

But sometimes, you just need to jump out of that airplane.

Have a parachute with you, sure. Extra savings, a strong support system, someone on the ground with a giant mattress. These are all good things.

But take the risk.

The result could end up being a smelly heap of garbage (hopefully with no actual broken bones), but it will always be worth it. As a wise man frequently reminds me: there is no such thing as a good or bad experience—there is only experience.

It’s possible the risk you take will send you flying straight to your goal, or into the notice of people who can propel you where you want to next. You can make new friends, have a few laughs, rake in the cash.

Or everything could crash and burn, but you learn some incredibly important lessons along the way.

To fail, to miss your goal, is necessary in business as in life. Success feels really great, but it doesn’t teach you nearly as much as making mistakes (as long as you’re willing to pay attention to what the mistake actually was), and the best way to make mistakes is to take the risk.

Is there a course you’ve been on the fence about taking because it’s a bit on the pricey side (within reason; please don’t bankrupt yourself)? Have you been hesitating about showing your latest work in process to anyone because you don’t feel it’s ready yet? Do you know someone who could possibly help you move to your next goal, but you’re too nervous to make the first move in speaking with them?

Do it.

Embrace the pounding heart, the clammy palms, the uncertainty.

You’ll never know what gold you’re going to find on the other side unless you do.

Thoughts, update

The Art of the Direct Sale

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of sharing a table at the Ottawa Geek Market at the Nepean Sportsplex, and my experience once again reminded me how much I love direct sales.

I really do.

On a normal day, I have my people quota. It’s quite low. I prefer socializing in groups of 3 or 4, max around 6, and depending on the group, I have a limit of a couple of hours. Then I get tired, conversation gets difficult, and I just want to go home to a cup of tea and a book.

But you get me behind a table covered in my books and ask me to be “on” for an 8-hour stretch?

I am there.

And I’m good at it.

Want to know my secret?

I genuinely, sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, enjoy it.

As an indie author, there’s a huge push for online sales.

This makes sense! People around the world have access to our books. I have readers on pretty much every continent, and much as I would love to get to all of those places and meet them in person, it’s not feasible at the moment, which means I need to learn how to connect with them via the wonderful world wide web.

This part…I’m not so good at and continue to study so I can improve.

In person, however, there’s nothing I find easier.

I love the personal element to it, the chance to chat about books in general and find out what someone else is reading/enjoys reading/doing in ones spare time.

When I work the market in the summer, I love finding out where everyone is from, whether they work downtown and are out on their lunch break, or in from another city/country. I like to hear about what they’ve seen in Ottawa, where they’re heading next, and what their favourite part of their trip has been.

My goal when a reader comes to the table isn’t a sale. Sales are nice, of course. Sales help fund the next event, the next book, the next internet bill, but they’re not the be-all and end-all.

My primary aim is the connection. Getting my card in someone’s hand and hopefully continuing the conversation either over social media or (even better) at my next event! Having return people show up when I least expect them is always such a nice surprise, and each time I feel like I get to know them a little more.

So if you have trouble with the idea of direct sales, that they’re too intimidating or nerve-wracking, try changing your perspective on it! You’re not in it for the sales, you’re in it for the chats (and the people-watching in between).

Want some practice? Next time you go grocery shopping, ask the cashier how their day is going so far–and mean it!

Review, writing

Mastering Amazon Descriptions

Blurbs.

Some might consider them the worst part of indie publishing.

Others consider them the funnest and bestest part.

Only one of these groups needs professional help.

For everyone else, there’s a great new book out by Brian Meeks, all about learning the art of writing cover copy.

I’m only just getting started with it, but have already tried to adopt his initial advice in changing the way I write blog and Facebook posts: smaller text blocks and more white space.

And I do notice a difference!

People are busy and they don’t want to break down huge chunks of texts.

I sure as heck don’t if I’m reading a bunch of blog posts. Give it to me short and sweet, and if that’s the way I like to read, then why did it take me so long to change my style?

I’ve slapped my wrist for that one.

I’m only getting started on the book, so I’ll give a full review once I’m finished, but I do recommend you check it out! Anything that can take some of the pain out of crafting one of the most essential marketing points, am I right?

You can find Mastering Amazon Descriptions here (and be sure to join the FB group to get feedback and input from others suffering the same cover copy pains!)

update, writing

Who You Know

No matter where your passions lie, networking is necessary evil.

Don’t stress or panic!

It doesn’t have to be as scary as all that.

Sure, it might mean chatting with strangers and remembering to brush your hair, but it can be fun and memorable and present opportunities you never would have gotten if you’d stayed at home, headphones on, nose in book/video game/canvas/guitar case/garden, etc.

I’ll even share a secret with you.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to put on pants.

Okay, if you’re leaving the house to do this networking thing, please, put on some form of clothing. Not only will you avoid the chill, you’ll also avoid the criminal charges, and that’s just better for everyone.

BUT you don’t have to leave the house.

Social media is a wonderful thing.

It can be.

Just avoid the people who make you miserable.

But that’s an aside.

Point is, social media is full of people who share your interests and are looking to connect with like-minded people for support, advice, discussion, inside jokes that only fellow writers/musicians/gardeners/gamers will understand.

And really, that’s what networking is.

To go out and expect to meet people just for the sake of getting opportunities is not going to get you very far. Most people have an easy time sniffing out when they’re being used.

Proper networking is right there in the name. Network. Connection. Information going back and forth to create a complete data set. The wider the network, the more information, the clearer the picture.

Twitter, when done carefully and when well-curated, can be a fantastic source of networking. It can be easy to fall into the world of trolls or instigators, but if you’re paying attention to the people you follow, you should be able to only see what you want to see.

In my case, the recent hashtag #WritingCommunity has introduced me to a whole new circle of writers in various stages of their careers.

It has allowed me to find support and encouragement and to offer it in others.

My time on Twitter led me to one of my first circles of writer friends, many of whom I’m still in contact with today, 10 years later.

One of those people is the person who get me into indie publishing.

I’ve met people who have brought me into anthologies and boxsets, who have led me to writing forums that have helped me hone my craft and get inspired, who have become close friends, confidantes, and kindred spirits.

This weekend, I’m heading off to meet a few of these people in person, and I couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of getting the words written and talking shop with a whole cabin of people.

So try not to think of networking as a four-letter word.

Find your own way of reaching out and meeting people in your field.

You never know how your life will change for the better.