update

Take the YOU Time

When it comes to running my business, my process is always in flux.

For one thing, the sort of tasks I need to focus on changes every day, as does my concentration, my mental state, any other stresses going on in the world outside my office.

The part that always stays the same: every single day, there are things that need to get done, and there are things that can be set aside for a while.

This is true across the board, whether you’re an entrepreneur, a parent, a student, or a kid who needs to decide whether they want to finish their video game or binge watch the entire MCU.

And it can be overwhelming to stand at the start of your day, knowing that your to-do list is now onto its third page, and you still don’t have any idea how to start this project that’s due in three days.

One thing I have learned–the one part of my process that tends to stick around, because when I fall out of the habit my stress levels start climbing–is to take the time you need out of every day to prepare your battle plan.

I don’t care if it’s a to-do list, a schedule, an actual strategic map written in blood on your bathroom wall*, but if you’re the sort of person who finds you tend to run into your tasks with your war cry ready only to find yourself quickly torn down under the panic of having too much to do and no time to do it, take the time to stop and breathe.

For me, that routine starts with my bullet journal, a habit I formed thanks to my friend Kate, who has turned her journal into a work of art (as have many people, as you discover when you fall into the rabbit hole on Instagram and Pinterest).

Every single morning, the first thing I do is sit down and make the list of tasks I want to accomplish during the day, in both my personal and business life. I keep a daily spread, a weekly spread, and a monthly spread, each on designed to keep me en route to my goals, which, hopefully, brings my whole business forward.

Current template of my weekly spread

It doesn’t have to be in the morning, though.

Depending on my schedule, I’ve made use of lunch breaks during the dayjob, or as a way to wind down at the end of the day, planning my tomorrow so I didn’t keep myself awake at night trying to figure out what I needed to get done.

Since I’ve started this routine again and stuck with it consistently, I’ve noticed a huge change in my outlook on the day, my time management, my sense of balance between personal and professional, and just general mental well being.

But again, this might change. I could go from bullet journaling to drawing maps on the wall, but the change is part of the process right?

Wise words from Yoga with Adriene’s Adriene Mishler

What are your methods to stay on top of things/stay within a reasonable level of sanity? Post-it notes on the mirror? Pen and paper in your purse/backpack? A good pen and the back of your hand? Let me know in the comments below!


*please don’t do this. It would be difficult to maintain every day and would very quickly start to smell

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InDesign 101

When I started my Author Services business, it was always with the plan to start with proofreading (where I already have a solid skillbase that will only continue to increase), and then introduce print formatting down the road.

I’m not quite there yet (I still feel like I have much to learn), but I’ve definitely upped my game since I started learning Adobe InDesign.

See, all those Apple folks out there have a huge advantage in that they can use Vellum, which is, by all accounts, one of the great pieces of software for creating pro-level interiors for both ebook and print.

For everyone else, there’s MasterCard Adobe InDesign.

If you’ve ever played with an Adobe program, you know they’re not the most…user friendly. The learning curve is steep, and while the road is rife with frustration and challenges, the results are phenomenal.

I started with Adobe InDesign CC Classroom in a Book, which has given me a massive headstart in learning how to use the software. It walks you through a whole series of different tasks and uses for the program, and gives tips on how to explore on your own after each lesson is finished. I have one chapter left before I finish the book (this one on how to convert to epub, which I hope will up my ebook formatting game as well), and then I’ll likely start back at the beginning until I’m really familiar with the different tools.

So although I still want to practice a lot more on myself before I start offering it as a service, I’m feeling pretty good!

When my latest release, Veilfire, came out at the end of October, I put my new skills to work and am pretty proud of the results:

Symbol designed by Chris Reddie

So I’m going to keep working on improving my skills, and hopefully before the end of 2019, there will be more services available here at the Raven’s Quill!


Although I really do my best not to cross over my two blog posts, I figure I’m going to take this opportunity to pat myself on the back and give a bit of a signal boost to the Faces Magazine Awards, where I was nominated for Favourite Author. Voting is open internationally, and you’re able to cast a vote every day until the 25th. It’s People’s Choice, so votes matter. If you’re able to take the time (and feel I’ve earned it), you have my gratitude!

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EMS Upgrade (cont’d)

A few months ago, I started sharing my experience shifting my mailing list over to ActiveCampaign.

There had been a miscommunication with the customer service representative who was supposed to give me a call and says she couldn’t get through to me. For the evening, we left it at that, and I was supposed to make another appointment for her to call me so we could go over everything.

Unfortunately, our schedules never synced. I’d made it clear I was only available in the evenings, and this customer service rep’s calendar stopped at 4:30pm, so I’m not quite sure she was assigned to my file.

Anydoodle, I let her know that I wouldn’t be available during her hours, never heard back from her, and that was that. She left me with a few links and I tried to use those to get myself started.

So… so far I would give their customer service a 3/5.

The service itself, though, seems to work great. I spent a week sending up my various workflows and automations, my forms, and my triggers. I haven’t really had a chance to test them out yet (if you’re interested in my fiction work and want to sign up for my newsletter to get some free short stories while also helping me work out any kinks in this new system, here’s the link!)

I love that I get to build my templates from the ground up, and customize the full workflow, allowing me to have slightly different variations depending on whether people are coming from my epic fantasy series, urban fantasy, or just a neutral starting point like my Facebook page or my website.

The first trial, sending an email to my imported existing list, went incredibly well, with higher open rates than I’ve had in a while. The goal now will be maintaining, or even increasing, those rates, but the fact that I can so easily play with tags and segmentation should allow for improved value with every email.

I’ll share one more post in a couple of months with my down-the-road impression, but for now I’m quite happy with the change over.

Have you had any experience with ActiveCampaign? Let me know in the comments!

Thoughts, update, writing

Happy New Year!

design-2019-to-reach-new-yearWishing everyone a fantastic start to 2019.

I have quite a few business-related goals this year, most of which involve keeping on top of my administrative tasks (a goal I make every year. This will be the year I achieve it*!), but my primary focus is to find ways to feed my soul, as it were.

I begin this year on the search for a new dayjob contract to help my husband and I save up for some renos we want to do around the house, but I’m going to be choosy this time around.

I’m looking for a job that best suits me, and I won’t settle for anything less. The way I’ve always seen it is that life is too short to be unhappy or unfulfilled. Yes, yes, bills need to get paid and responsibility and adulting and all that fun stuff, but I don’t see where “misery” comes into any of that. Even if it’s not your dream job, it can still be satisfying, fulfilling, social, and — sometimes — fun. Food for thought for 2019…

Another possibility is that I fill my schedule with proofreading contracts, which would also thrill me to my fingertips.

So if you’ve got a book coming out this year that you want polished to a fine sheen, shoot me a message. I’d love to work with you!

What are your goals this year? The wild, the crazy, the realistic? I want to hear about them all!

Thoughts, writing

Lie vs. Lay

It’s not a pet peeve this week, just a tricky one that often gets me thinking twice, too. And lately I’ve been seeing it in all kinds of trad pubbed books as well as indie.

The dreaded Lie vs. Lay

lying-lion
This lion is lyin’ down. Ha… ha…

WHICH ONE DO YOU USE AND WHEN? It’s the frequent cry I hear in my dreams as some writer somewhere in the world stumbles upon this dilemma and proceeds to tear out their hair. WHY ARE THESE WORDS SO CLOSE BUT NOT THE SAME?

I know, my friend, I know.

So I’m going to attempt to help clear things up by sharing the tip that finally made it click in my own head. If you hear the same click in yours, huzzah! If not, it’s all right. Your time will come.

Lie is more of an active verb; lay is passive.

You lie down on the bed, but you lay the socks down on the dresser.

I lie in the grass, but I lay the blanket on the sand.

BUT WHAT ABOUT IN THE PAST TENSE???? you might scream in frustration.

A good question, because this is where grammar really hates us.

You lay down on the bed, but you laid the socks down on the dresser.

I lay in the grass, but I laid the blanket on the sand.

WHAT ABOUT THE PAST PARTICIPLE???

All right, all right, this one is a will be easier if you’ve gotten the past tense down:

You have lain down on the bed, but you have laid the socks down on the dresser

I have lain in the grass, but I have laid the blanket on the sand

Lie          Lay         Lain

Lay         Laid        Laid

If you want or need more tricks to try to make it stick, the Grammar Girl has got you covered!

Did you hear the click? Was this post helpful? Let me know in the comments!

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EMS Upgrade (cont’d)

I’m afraid to say I’m not quite as far in the newsletter changeover as I’d hoped to be by this point. In part because of some animal health issues that kept us away from home at high stress levels for the better part of last week, but also because of some miscommunications.

newsletter

Not that I don’t have anything to report, however.

I mentioned last week that I am making the move from trusted MailChimp to the fancier dancier ActiveCampaign. So far I have nothing bad to say about the service, but that’s mostly because I haven’t really played with it yet.

For the customer service… I’m on the fence.

Mostly, I’m blown away by how on top of things they are. I signed up for the free trial so that I could get my account set up and everything ready before migrating everyone over from MailChimp. Within two days, I was receiving calls from ActiveCampaign looking to introduce me to their service, see if I had any questions, and to set me up with a longer phone call to go over the different features that would best suit my business.

Wow!

I’d never encountered anything like that before and was super impressed! I looked forward to the longer chat, which involves some screenshare time so I could get a crash course in how to best use the service.

So I book the time, and that night, 6:15, I postpone dinner so I can be at my computer in time for the call.

Now, for the intro call, the phone rang within 30 seconds of the clock rolling over to our arranged time.

This time… 6:20 rolls around…. 6:30…. 6:45.

After forty-five minutes of waiting, I send off an email to follow up and make sure we’re all on the same page about the time of the call. A few minutes later, I receive a reply telling me they had tried the number on file, but it had just kept ringing without anyone answering.

Now, I had my phone right beside me. I’d made sure the volume was up, and there was no one on the line. Also, I was confused about why no one followed up with an email when the call didn’t go through, even if it was a “sorry we missed you!” message.

We tried to arrange another time for the call, but nothing has worked with our schedules, so I’m just going to start with a few links they sent me to try to work it out on my own.

So overall… kind of a wash as far as customer service goes (likely, like with anywhere, it’s just a matter of who you get), but I’m still really excited to try out all the different features and see how this can up my game! That is a big part of my goal for this weekend, so I should have at least a few more updates for you by then.

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Leveling Up: EMS-style

There comes a time in every business-owner’s life when they need to say farewell to the vintage-newspaper-printtrusted systems they used when they first started out and move on to something a bit more expensive, yes, but more importantly, more focused and versatile.

One of the first pieces of advice I received when I started my business was to start a mailing list. Never rely solely on someone else’s platform. Amazon can go glitchy, Facebook can shut down. Better to have your own foundations for people to find you.

It’s very good advice. In fact, it’s some of the best advice out there. It’s a big part of why I created my own paperback (and eventually ebook) storefront on my author website, and, of course, why I maintain my mailing list for all its ups, downs, and GDPR-purges.

I love sending out my newsletters, too. It’s great to hear back from readers and learn a bit about what they’re up to, what they’re reading, what they’re looking forward to. Up until now, MailChimp has been my trusted companion on all of these adventures, and really I have no complaints.

But I’ve decided it’s time to level up. As of this week, I’m slowly going to be building up a presence through ActiveCampaign, exploring its versatility, it’s resources, and it’s ability to help me better engage with readers. Because that is my first priority. Getting to know the people who take the time out of their day to read my messages. Not only out of a sense of appreciation, but also to better deliver what interests them. It’s a never-ending circle.

My first impressions of ActiveCampaign have been incredibly positive, so as I explore further, I’ll share my thoughts and views on this, my most recent attempt to kick all kinds of ass at my business.

What have you tried lately to shake things up and move yourself up a notch? Share in the comments below!

update, writing

Pet Peeve: Nauseous vs. Nauseate

cold-and-flu-seasonWe’re heading into cold and flu season, which also means the start of hearing another one of my language peeves.

This one isn’t a full peeve. It doesn’t make my eye twitch like “impact” does, but I do notice it. I can’t help it. I can be exactly the kind of language purist whose tea you want to lace with some kind of relaxant so I’ll go to sleep and stop talk about how words should be used.

I would apologize for it… but I won’t.

This particular gripe? Nauseous vs. nauseated.

Anyone who watched or remembers Drew Barrymore in Never Been Kissed will appreciate this one.

Common usage says that these two words are interchangeable. Fine. I accept that, but at the very least I feel people should make a conscious decision about which word they’re using.

Nauseous means something that makes you feel ill. The rotting garbage is nauseous (not to be confused with noxious, which is something that is physically harmful or destructive). If you were to be nauseous, it would mean that your very presence was enough to make those around you feel ill.

That might be the case, who am I to say? But I find it unlikely that if someone were to provide a description of you, “makes me queasy” would be included. If so, my apologies.

Typically, however, the word you should be going for is nauseated. It’s fun to say, sounds fancy, and doesn’t run the risk of accidentally giving people the wrong impression about your personality. Win-win!

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REBLOG: KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers — David Gaughran

I read this article earlier today and felt it was important for both readers and authors to know. Amazon has been instrumental in bringing indie authors onto the publishing playing field, but it does have its drawbacks, like some slow momentum in addressing issues as they arise.

A situation blew up at Amazon over the weekend which is ghosting most KDP ebooks (and many Amazon imprint titles) for international readers who use the US Kindle Store — which has also exposed a glaring security problem. 153 more words

via KDP Books Unavailable To International Readers — David Gaughran

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No post this week

Last week I took a break from this blog because I was celebrating my latest book release over at http://www.kristawalshauthor.com. This week, I’m feeling a bit under the weather, so am allowing myself a bit of a break.

Next week, however, I will either be back with thoughts on pet peeves about nouns being used as verbs and vice-versa, or about the first steps to formatting your novel using Adobe inDesign, or some views on why having a proofreader is important, regardless of your business.

Have a preference? Leave a comment below!