5 Things to Do Before You Begin Your Writing Day

5 Things to Do Before You Begin Your Writing Day

What should you do before you start your writing day?

I’ve read plenty of advice on topics like this over the years, and I have to say upfront: I don’t think there’s a right way or a wrong way. You have to do what works for you.

However, I’ve also tried to do things differently at times, and sometimes been pleased with the results. So with that, here are five things you should do before you begin your writing day.

1) Wake up. I know, I know, of course you’re not writing in your sleep here. But what I mean is, go ahead and get something done before writing. If you’ve just gotten up, and you’re not a morning person (I’m a night owl myself), then you might need some coffee. Or food. Or both.

2) Meditation. I’ve written about this a little, and I recommend either prayer or meditation in the morning. If you’re not the spiritual type, maybe just a silent period of meditation would work wonders for you. Personally, I do my meditation at night, but I do pray in the morning. It can’t hurt.

3) Exercise. The above-referenced blog post was a trick question – Which Is Better for Writers: Meditation or Exercise? If you read it, you’ll see my answer was “you need both.”  Many successful business people recommend a morning workout routine, and I can’t argue with them. Getting your blood going means getting the blood to your brain going, right?

4) Clear The Decks. Sometimes it’s hard to write if you have something else weighing on your mind. Maybe you need to check your email for messages that require a timely response. Or maybe you need to do some social media post scheduling. Whatever the case, it’s a good idea to have a solid block of time dedicated to writing, rather than interrupting it multiple times. Do what you’ve got to do.

5) Roll Out And Write. I know some of you reading this are saying, “Huh? Isn’t this article all about doing things before you write?” It is, but maybe you shouldn’t do anything first, if you have that option. I used to do Morning Pages, as suggested by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Although most of what I wrote when I first woke up was stream-of-consciousness gobbledygook, I got some decent stuff out of the morass once in a while.

Maybe you’re not like me, though; maybe you wake up all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and can crank out brilliant prose right away. 

Me? I need coffee. Breakfast. Prayer. Affirmations. You name it. What can I tell you? I’m high maintenance, and a true night owl.

How about you? What are some good routines you use to make your writing time productive? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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What I’ve Learned In Six Years of Growing An Indie Author Business

What I’ve Learned In Six Years of Growing An Indie Author Business

As someone who’s spent the better part of the past 20 years making his living as a writer, I definitely have some opinions on what works and what doesn’t in this business. However, there is a subset of that 20 years, and that’s the novelist part of the equation. Some of my author income for the past six years has been that of a writer of fiction. In short, I’m what’s casually called an “indie author” these days. 

My adventure toward becoming an indie author wasn’t entirely my own idea. Thanks to my literature background—a Master of Arts in English from a university with a fairly prestigious Creative Writing program—I knew I wasn’t going to be creating light reading or escapist fiction. The idea of literary excellence on which Sahno Publishing was founded goes back to a high school education in classics, which my university years only solidified. I might miss, but I’d always shoot for greatness.

Unfortunately, the book business is a highly commercial one. Writers who aren’t already somehow known quantities (i.e., celebrities) may not find it so easy to get book deals of any kind. After years of rejection letters from traditional publishers who just didn’t think they could make a buck off my work, I found myself reading a book about starting your own publishing company and thereby being the one to pay yourself the royalties. This concept fascinated me.

And one of the reasons the indie author approach fascinated me so much was that the author of the above mentioned book was, in fact, a known quantity. He’d written for major publications for years, but couldn’t get a single traditional publisher to pay him an advance for a book he’d written. Even that guy’s impressive byline meant nothing in the world of commercial publishing.

So I launched Sahno Publishing, which serves not only as my own imprint but also as the corporate entity I use for the freelance writing and editing side of my business.

 

Not Just A Journalist

Bob Dylan infamously told fellow songwriter Phil Ochs, “You’re just a journalist,” during the time Bob was expanding his art while Phil continued to write “topical” songs. With all due respect to the journalism field, I have a little story about an actual journalist I’d like to share.

When I started Sahno Publishing as a new business entity, I did so with press releases and the simultaneous release of my first three novels. My fifteen years of marketing writing experience would serve me well, I reasoned. If you’re going to make a splash, you’ve got to make a big splash. Get people’s attention. If you publish it, they will read.

Ever see someone jump into the deep end of an empty pool?

Yes, it was an epic failure. I sold some books, but not nearly enough to even cover the costs I’d incurred for an editor and designer, much less the press releases or other marketing. 

To add insult to injury, I also made enemies right out of the gate. An embittered former journalist who’d written one unsuccessful book discovered me on social media or via my press releases, and decided to write all sorts of horrible things about me and the work I was doing. He had the effrontery to call me a “hack writer,” since I wasn’t already a known literary quantity and all my bylines were for marketing articles.

It probably didn’t help when I noted that all my submitted article drafts had to be camera-ready when clients received them, unlike a journalist whose articles would automatically go to an editor—and, therefore, my experience as a writer was far more valuable than his—a position that didn’t exactly turn my new enemy into a friend.

 

The Big Six

From the beginning, I’ve tried to help my fellow indie authors by passing on my experiences, good and bad alike. With that, here are six things I’ve learned as an indie author.

1) Nobody cares about your book except people who like that kind of book—and even a lot of them don’t give a damn.

It’s easy to say, but hard to comprehend. The wonderful book that cost you years of sweat is not for everyone. In fact, it’s probably only going to be found, bought, read and loved by a select audience. Find that audience.

2) If you don’t write serial fiction, be prepared to adjust your sales expectations accordingly.

Serial fiction is all the rage these days. But if you write something that falls more into categories similar to what I write (literary, metaphysical, and so on), you can’t expect every reader to buy every book. Your mileage may vary.

3) Don’t be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find your niche, and stick with it if you can.

As much as my wife probably wishes I would, I can’t bend myself into the shape of a potboiler writer. Literature is where I was born, and it’s where I’ll die. Some is comic, some is tragic, but I know what I am and what I can—and, more importantly, can’t—do.

4) Ultimately, you are the head of your own Marketing Department. 

Even if you were traditionally published, you’d still have to do a lot of the heavy marketing lifting. As an indie, be prepared to do it all. You can hire someone for some things, but not everything. Which leads me to…

5) There’s only so much you can do.

Every book is a little business entity of its own. At some point, some may have to be more or less abandoned as you focus on your latest and/or next book. It’s part of the game. I relate it to music: few people are working hard to promote music that came out ten years ago. It’s always about the present or the future.

6) Your family, friends and colleagues are not your audience. People who like that kind of book—maybe—are your audience.

This brings me back to point #1. If there’s an audience for your book, you’ll need to find it…and keep looking to expand it. The majority of your best, most loyal readers will be people you’ve never met. That’s as it should be.

Sure, you can host a book launch event like the one pictured above. Invite all your friends if you like. But once that’s over, forget about the “friends and family” plan. Find your readers where they already hang out, and entice them to check out your work.

That’s it. Have a great week, everyone!

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Vaccine Follies: How My Second Shot Got Delayed and Why I Freaked Out A Little

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Most of my blog posts are related to books and marketing, as you probably know if you’re here. But periodically this blog serves the purpose of a journal, and I write about what’s on my mind—and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been a lot. The virus, the vaccine, politics…you get the picture.

Before I get into anything more about vaccines, I should probably preface the rest of this post by saying up front that I encourage everyone to do what they have to do to get vaccinated. Yes, the more people get vaccinated, the sooner we have a chance to get this thing under control. Don’t just do it for yourself; do it to protect others from you in the event that you pick up the virus somewhere.

I got my first vaccine shot last month, and was assigned the second dose for yesterday, a Sunday. (No, they didn’t give me a choice of dates or times.) I remember looking at the card and thinking, Oh crap. A Sunday afternoon at the stadium where the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. This should be a real laugh riot.

 

“Shiver in My Bones Just Thinking About the Weather…”

Florida is famous for stormy tropical weather, so as the date for my second dose drew closer, I wasn’t thrilled to see a 70% chance of rain in the forecast. This spring has been sunny and dry, and we really needed some rain to wash all the pollen away. But not on my vaccine day, damn it! 

I drove down to the stadium earlier than my appointment, and by the time I got there, it was starting to rain. I don’t mean a sprinkle. I’m talking a full-fledged storm. As I drove around the block looking for an open entry point into the vaccine parking area, I couldn’t find any. Police cars with lights flashing were stationed around the lot, but every entrance was blocked with cones or metal barriers. Numerous cars drove up and down the street like mine, seeking an entry. There wasn’t one. 

Soon the rain and wind picked up, and it was raining sideways. In frustration, I finally pulled over in front of a police car. He flashed his siren on and off briefly, a clear Get the hell out of here warning. So I drove up the street, signaled, pulled over, put my hazards on, and walked with an umbrella through the driving rain—straight up to his driver side door.

 

“You Don’t Need An Appointment”

The following conversation took place next.

“Excuse me, sir? Do you know what’s going on here? Are they going to reopen for vaccine appointments?”

“No, they’re shutting it down for the day.”

I looked down the street behind us where a dozen cars sat in a line, trying to gain an entry that wasn’t going to happen. I’d been stuck there myself for the previous half hour.

“I don’t think they know,” I said, a veiled hint that maybe he should get out of his car and let these people know they could go home.

“Yeah,” said the unhelpful officer.

“Do you know what we’re supposed to do? I had an appointment at noon.”

“Just come back tomorrow,” he said, suddenly willing to expend the minimal effort required to be a public servant. “You don’t need an appointment.”

 

All’s Well That Ends Well

So it was with great trepidation that I drove back down to the stadium today under sunny skies. A missed appointment, which meant I’d have to get in line with all the other walk-ins, and just ride it out.

As it happened, my concerns were overblown: I got in, I got my second dose of the ol’ Pfizer (disclaimer: not an endorsement, just an article), and I was back out on the highway in less than 45 minutes.

And now I’m home again and back to work. My arm is slightly sore, and will likely be sore tomorrow. I’ve had worse blood draws at a GP’s office.

Please, people: get this done. For yourself, for your friends and neighbors and relatives. It’s fine. I’m fine. You’ll be fine. And we’ll all be one tiny step closer to beating the virus.

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From The Archives: Frances Caballo on Why You Should Never Buy Twitter Followers or Facebook Likes

From The Archives: Frances Caballo on Why You Should Never Buy Twitter Followers or Facebook Likes

I don’t often feature guest posts on my blog, but today’s post from the archives was an exception. Back in 2018, social media guru Frances Caballo graciously accepted my invitation to write a guest post. Here’s a link to the the original post, but you can read her entire article below.

 

In this post I explain why you should never purchase Twitter followers or Facebook Likes. 

Did you see the New York Times article on Sunday, January 28th? In case you didn’t, let me explain it to you.

A teenager named Jessica Rychly is a Minnesota girl who uses Facebook and Twitter and often talks online about how bored she is or trades jokes with friends.

There’s another Jessica Rychly on Twitter as well. This one, according to the New York Times, promotes Canadian real estate investments, cryptocurrency, and a radio station in Ghana. The fake Jessica Rychly uses Arabic and Indonesian languages and promotes pornography too.

You see the second Jessica Rychly is the stolen identity of the first Jessica for some nefarious reasons.

As the New York Times reported:

“These accounts are counterfeit coins in the booming economy of online influence, reaching into virtually any industry where a mass audience – or the illusion of it – can be monetized. Fake accounts infest social media networks. By some calculations, as many as 48 million of Twitter’s reported active users are automated accounts designed to simulate real people, though the company claims that number is far lower.”

Twitter isn’t the only social media platform with this problem. The behemoth of social media, Facebook, has a similar problem. This is what the same New York Times article stated:

“In November, Facebook disclosed to investors that it had at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated, indicating that up to 60 million automated accounts may roam the world’s largest social media platform. These fake accounts, known as bots, can help sway advertising audiences and reshape political debates. They can defraud businesses and ruin reputations.”

 

Never Buy Twitter Followers or Facebook Likes

I bring up the New York Times article to make what I think are two important points:

  1. Don’t be impressed by huge audiences or worry if you don’t have a million followers.
  2. Never buy followers on Twitter or Likes on Facebook.

I had a client some years ago who wrote beautiful children’s books. She had a lovely Facebook page, and its audience was growing slowly and steadily. My client decided that she wanted it to gain fans faster because she was interested in getting a multi-book deal with a publisher.

What did she do? She purchased 5,000 Facebook Likes. Guess where most of them were from? Any idea? Let me tell you then; Sri Lanka.

These “fans” of her Facebook page completely threw her Facebook analytics out of whack. And the Sri Lanka fans never liked or commented on any of her posts. You see they are paid to Like her page. They didn’t care about the books she wrote or what she was trying to achieve.

Her newest “fans” from Sri Lanka liked her Facebook page as a job. That’s all.

If you use Twitter, you’ve no doubt noticed that there are user accounts hawking thousands of followers for pennies. There are also accounts hawking pornography and other services. Delete these accounts from your following. In fact, block them.

I use ManageFlitter, which identifies spam, fake accounts, and bots. I also review my clients’ follower lists to get rid of accounts that apparently have no interest in what they write. I encourage you to do the same thing.

 

Never Worry About the Size of Your Following

Too many people using social media are more concerned about the number of followers they have instead of the quality of relationships they can develop.

Listen, social media isn’t a numbers game. If you think a publisher is trying to force you to have high follower counts, find another publisher or even better, self-publish your book. It’s just not worth it to worry about the number of followers you have.

 

Worry instead about the quality of information you post.

Several years ago a company interviewed me as a social media manager consultant. I sat in this room with eight people and the marketing director said to me, “Start talking.”

I immediately explained that they didn’t really have 30,000 likes on their Facebook page. I told them that they purchased those likes and those fans were from Sri Lanka and similar places on the globe.

I explained that anyone looking at the page could figure it out. They had 30,000 Likes, but only two people ever liked their posts. The marketing director’s jaw dropped as the on-staff social media manager hemmed and hawed.

Are you unhappy with your Facebook page, especially in light of the latest tweak to Facebook’s algorithm? Then just use your Facebook profile or take a course on Facebook advertising.

If you want your Facebook author page to have more engagement, you have to buy advertising. If you don’t want to spend the money, then just use your profile or start a Facebook group.

Never worry about your follower or fan counts. Just focus on engaging your friends, readers, prospective readers, and colleagues, posting useful content and beautiful visuals, and enjoying yourself online.

Want more Twitter followers? Ask and answer questions. Use hashtags to find readers and colleagues. Post intriguing tweets. That’s the real way to attract an engaged audience.

 

Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. For more information on Frances and her work, go here. 

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