Five Mistakes New Authors Make

Every author starts as a newbie, even if they held a job as a writer in some other capacity. The publishing business can be incredibly daunting for a newcomer: many authors work alone without much feedback, so their mistakes, while understandable, are also far too common. Thankfully, most of these mistakes can be easily avoided.

1) Not Paying for Editing

Think you can be your own editor? Think again.

Even the best author needs an editor to help clean up grammar or punctuation errors missed when self-editing. Beyond that, a skilled editor will find holes in the story or even where to break up large paragraphs into smaller, more digestible ones.

Of all the valuable investments an author makes in their business, editing is the most essential.

2) Telling Instead of Showing

The old adage “show, don’t tell” became a cliché for a reason. New authors frequently do it, because it’s in their comfort zone to deliver information that they want readers to know.

There are exceptions to this rule – sometimes we want our reader to know something directly from a character, and it can work. I did this intentionally in the first few chapters of my second novel, Jana, when the main character addresses the reader directly with key back story. But I only did it after opening with action and tension, and soon picked up the narrative again with forward-moving action.

If your story is told in the third person – which is the typical person most authors use – it’s essential to let your characters and their actions do the “telling” rather than actually telling your readers anything. Readers are smart; don’t spell everything out for them.

3) Never Reading Aloud

Want to find out where you’ve made a mistake, or where something doesn’t quite “sound right?” Read your manuscript aloud after you have polished and self-edited. Your errors will leap off the page. You might not know exactly what to call all of them, but you’ll have a much better idea of what to address. Don’t worry: your editor will find more, and that’s as it should be. Remember, you want your book to be as good as it can.

4) Failing to Have a Reader Platform

If you Google the title of this article, “Five Mistakes New Authors Make,” you’ll find plenty of other articles on the subject. But start reading them, and you’ll find that most articles of this type deal entirely with the mechanics of writing…something covered by points one through three here.

However, you won’t always find many practical tips for how to get your voice heard in the din of other new authors, old authors, and everyone else in between. Building a platform for your author business – and it is a business – means doing all the things you need to do to be heard: developing a line of communication with readers and followers by creating an email list, leveraging social media, and so on. You know, all those tacky “marketing” things so many sensitive authors don’t even want to touch, and that even fewer know how to do effectively. Mastering the art of marketing, or having someone to help with it, is essential.

5) Never Planning for the Business of Being a Writer

Want to build a business, not just a book? You should. The business of being an author involves much more than simply having a platform. Self-published authors are frequently overwhelmed, trying to be their own marketing department, public relations firm, and bookkeeper, but that’s just the start. They soon realize it takes a village to build a book, and they need a team.

Fortunately, there are companies out there who can walk authors through the entire publication process while providing world-class marketing and business coaching. Find out more by checking out our services or call (813) 528-2622.

A Little Pay Upfront…or A Lot More Pay Year After Year

So many writers think they should never pay for publishing. I don't blame them for thinking that way, but here’s how it really plays out. Authors are natural idealists, so of course we typically figure we can get a deal with a big publishing company, leading to smooth...
endemic

From Pandemic to Endemic to…?

It’s funny how a blog like this can serve as sort of a substitute for a journal. Not “ha ha” funny, mind you. But “strange” funny for sure. All the way back in December 2021, I wrote a post called The Scary Weekend I Thought I Had COVID. I’d met up with a friend and...
radio shows

Radio, Radio

Normally, when I've done radio shows, it's been related to promotion of a novel, or of my novels in general. This week, it's something completely different. (If you got the Monty Python reference, kudos. If not, Google them after you read this post. Then thank me in...
cancel

Anyone Else Thinking about Canceling Cancel Culture?

Ordinarily, I’m on the side of the poor, the beaten-down, the marginalized. In short, the outsiders. But this week, what’s on my mind is something a little on the opposition side, or what I’d like to think of as the middle. Most everyone who knows me would describe me...

But What If I’m Sick?

Last month my wife and I went to Thailand for a two-week vacation. This was my first real vacation in over two years, and my wife Sunny’s first visit back to her family in her country of origin in even longer. So we really needed and, I think, deserved it. And...

A Vacation Blog Post and a Manross Library Appearance

The following post has been pre-scheduled. I've never tried to pre-schedule a blog post before, so I had to look up how to do it. If you know me well, you won't be surprised by that. Hey, I'm on vacation while you read this. Modern technology! I find it interesting to...

Blogging About…Blogging?

Last week I blogged a bit about my upcoming relaunch of Miles of Files and the accompanying blog tour. This week, I'm not delivering just more of the same. Other exciting events are afoot! First off, I'm pleased to announce that I'm going to be hosting another guest...
copyright

When Do You Need To Copyright Your Work?

​Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a couple of well-received blog posts on the publishing process, one of which is about the importance of having a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) and the other of which is called What’s the Risk to Not Having A...
manuscript

Top Five Things to Check Before You Turn Your Manuscript Over

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Goin’ Home

About a million years ago, I read a Peanuts cartoon quoting Thomas Wolfe: "You can't go home again." Perhaps fifteen years later, I discovered Wolfe in a lit class, and read Look Homeward, Angel. Eventually, I also got through You Can't Go Home Again, along with a few...

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

When I was thinking of the title for this week’s post, I realized I really needed to look it up and confirm that the word is “peace” and not “piece.” Just in case.

I’d forgotten that that expression is commonly used in weddings…ironic, since my lovely wife and I celebrate our wedding anniversary today. (Don’t worry, faithful reader: I’m not in the dog house yet, as my wife rarely has time to read my blog).

The reason I thought of speaking is simple – I had a speaking engagement just over a week ago, and, like most writers with the business model of Author/Speaker/Coach, I’m looking to do it again.

Not sure if I actually opened with a joke, but I did make mention early on in my talk of the fear of public speaking. The common statistic is that the #1 fear on people’s lists of worst fears is public speaking, followed by death at #2. Of course, it could actually be deathcaused by having to speak! That was the joke I made.

Except it’s not really a joke. Because most people find the prospect of speaking in front of a group so terrifying – even if they are well-prepared with notes and have spent time rehearsing – I thought it best to spend a little time on it.

Personally, I love being in front of a group, especially when there’s a podium like the one below. If I have a microphone, that’s fine, but if not…no problem. I can be loud.

So, why do I like this kind of event? Is it my natural writers’ inclination for attention? My love of the sound of my own voice?

No. Actually, I’m just as much an introvert as the next author. The reason I love it, the real reason, is because I know I can do it and feel that I’ve been reasonably successful. And that means preparation.

Sure, I had a year of Oral Interpretation in college, and have done some theatre. But the reason I can do this kind of thing well is the same reason I can write well, and it’s the punchline to the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice.

You see, I’ve been in front of many, many groups, speaking anywhere from 20 minutes up to a couple of hours. Among other things, I’ve taught college English, and run meetup groups. That means I can speak with notes, but I can also speak extemporaneously.

When you start to build your author platform, you need to spend time on social media, and on doing all sorts of online marketing activities. But not all your time. You want to make sure that if you’re going to be on TV, or on the radio (as I was in February and will be again in June), you aren’t petrified. You need coaching and you need some practice.

If I can help with that process, I’ll be happy to do so; if you’re an author, and need that marketing training, send me an email at info@msahno.com or give me a call at (813) 528-2622. I’m ready to help.

20/20

2020 Vs. 20/20: What We Saw Then, What We See Now

Grinding through the first few months of 2021, I presume nearly everyone wants to shut the door on 2020. After all, the tragic COVID-19 pandemic and—at least in the United States—chaotic election drama left millions exhausted, overwhelmed, and just plain traumatized....
storm

Sometimes All You Can Do Is Rock With The Storm

A while back, I was having a very bad Monday, and wrote a blog post called Roll With The Punches, Baby! The idea was that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose; sometimes life hands you a bouquet of flowers, other times, a punch in the mouth. On that particular...
recovery

Recovery 202? Long-Term Sobriety Is Possible

So, the plan for today was to write a post about recovery. Unfortunately, I’m in a different kind of recovery mode today—recovering from a sinus infection. What that means for you, the reader, is I’m going to keep this short. Really short. I took my last drink 30...
travel

Travel Feeds the Soul

"A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving." - Lao Tzu I wish I could say I've always loved to travel. Maybe I'm good at being in a different place; the getting there is sometimes a whole other story. Traveling to a foreign locale can be...
post

Why Subscribe To A Blog?

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you probably know I post something new on my blog most Mondays. Or maybe you don’t know that at all. I’ll admit, I’m not exactly the greatest promoter of my own blog. When it comes to social media platforms like Twitter, I'm...

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

When I was thinking of the title for this week's post, I realized I really needed to look it up and confirm that the word is "peace" and not "piece." Just in case. I'd forgotten that that expression is commonly used in weddings...ironic, since my lovely wife and I...
election

Meet The New Year—Same As The Old Year?

Looking back at the blog over the past few months, I see a few obsessions emerging. Nothing surprising there—of course we’re all suffering from pandemic fatigue, and I’m not surprised to see my worries about the 2020 election as topics. In my October 26th post, If...
copyright

Does Copyright Still Matter in the Digital Age?

One thing about working as a full-time freelance writer: it’s usually feast or famine. That means exactly what it sounds like. Sometimes you’re so busy that you almost forget to market your business, and other times, you’re looking for more projects. This month is one...
speaking

On the Road: The Speaker’s Life

A few months ago, I wrote a post about annoying current expressions like having said that and at the end of the day. That post came up in conversation this past weekend on a long, long trek to Miami and back. You see, when you spend nine or ten hours in a car with...
guilt

The Problem With Guilt-Inducing Advice

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What If I Don’t Want to Sell?

Yesterday I had the pleasure of giving a talk called Marketing Your Novel that was hosted by the Orlando Public Library. A good twenty people or so were kind enough to show up on a blazing Florida Sunday afternoon to hear me speak.

The talk went well: I gave the group an overview of my experience both before publishing my novels and after, and tried to deliver as much value as I could in an hour. I talked quite a bit about building an author platform prior to publication, about social media options, and even included a little about my own company, Sahno Publishing. After all, what good is a talk on marketing if you don’t market yourself a bit?

Afterwards, a few people came up to talk to me, as I had books available for sale and was open for questions. I was a little surprised by what complete strangers admitted to me.

The questions that came up included the following:

• How can I view myself as a writer if I haven’t published yet? I feel like a fraud.
• How do I start a business Facebook page if I don’t have a personal Facebook page?
• What if I don’t want to sell? How can I find someone to do it for me?

The first question wasn’t that surprising; it’s so normal, it’s practically a cliché. What authordoesn’t feel like a fraud before they actually have a book they can hold in their hands? I totally empathize with the feeling, and had a good conversation with that writer. I hope it helped.

The question about Facebook is a curious one. I’ve had a personal Facebook page so long, I simply created a new one for my business while logged into the personal account. I could only advise the writer to check the internet for instructions, or try creating a business page on Facebook from square one. Anyone out there have ideas on this, feel free to add to the comments section.

The last question is the one I most want to address here: what if I just don’t want to sell my book?

This one kind of freaked me out. I mean, I had just gotten through telling a room full of people, “You’ve got to be the number one salesperson for your book,” and now a self-published author was asking for a different solution. I don’t know if she just didn’t want to put in the work, or was afraid to fail…maybe a little of both. Whatever the case, she didn’t want to sell.

I guess one solution is to pay someone else, but that wasn’t the answer she wanted. Another idea would be to give away the book, but she didn’t want to do that, either. If you’re with a major publisher, they’ll do a bit of the work for you, but self-published? No way.

I told her she might find a college student who would do it for free for a short time, just to get some job experience in sales. Other than that, I was at a loss.

Can you outsource one of your most important jobs as a self-published author? I wouldn’t, but what do you think? Leave a comment here, or email me at info@msahno.com.

For more on Sahno Publishing, go to msahno.com.

coming-of-age

Dreams, Memories, And Growing Up One Day At A Time

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metaphysics

Psychology Is Sort of a Hobby of Mine, or Why I’ve Always Been So Interested In Metaphysics

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Sahno

Let’s Get Personal: Why Do I Write?

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copyright

When Do You Need To Copyright Your Work?

​Over the past few weeks, I’ve written a couple of well-received blog posts on the publishing process, one of which is about the importance of having a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN) and the other of which is called What’s the Risk to Not Having A...

What a Character

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slow

How Fast Is Too Fast? And How Slow Is Too Slow?

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cringe

Top Ten Words or Phrases That Make You Cringe

So I've been looking at some topics for blogs, and I find all kinds of great ideas.  One of the more amusing ones is posting about personal stuff or pet peeves, so your readers get to know you better. This idea can work, but it can also be a disaster. I've seen...
meditation

Which Is Better For Writers – Meditation or Exercise?

A while back, I did an interview about creativity, and I talked about meditation and exercise. I also talked about a few other things like journaling, play, and being disciplined about a schedule.For writers, you might think meditation is going to be the number one...
ebook

Another Monday Blog Post – And a Special Offer

One of the great things about WordPress websites is the ability to schedule blog posts. So Happy Monday to you, but you're probably reading this while I'm taking my wife to DisneyWorld! Last week was "Happy New Year" time, so now we're into good old regular blog...
litfic

Leaving the Litfic Category Behind?

Today’s blog is NOT an advertisement for products or services I offer. However, I do want to extend an invitation to join my email newsletter list to get content that’s (mostly) not available elsewhere.One thing about the author life that never fails to entertain is...

A Little Pay Upfront…or A Lot More Pay Year After Year

So many writers think they should never pay for publishing. I don’t blame them for thinking that way, but here’s how it really plays out.

Authors are natural idealists, so of course we typically figure we can get a deal with a big publishing company, leading to smooth sailing and great success. But landing a deal with a publishing giant is easier said than done.

More often than not, a writer will never hear back from a publishing company. If you are fortunate enough to get a response, don’t be surprised to receive one that says “we cannot accept your manuscript at this time.” In other words, they don’t think they can make enough money off you.

The Big Five publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, McMillan, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins – operate out of a financial formula. That means a book by someone famous, a tell-all by someone once in the limelight, or a biography of a celebrity are sure to sell. There’s a guaranteed audience for those types of books. The great literary work of art you wrote…eh, who reads classics anymore?

Can you tweak your work to make it more marketable? Sure, but the big companies don’t give you any sufficient review or feedback either. How will you even know what to change?

Feel like you’re ready to give up? It happens. A lot. In the words of the late, great John Gardner, “Down goes another novelist.”

Getting from a manuscript to the final product has a lot of steps in between. Agent, editor, illustrator, publisher. Even if you do get that sought-after acceptance letter, the process can still be a nightmare.

Have an idea for the cover? You probably won’t get any say on how the book you labored over for years will look as a finished product. Don’t like the editor’s changes? Tough. Better make them all, or you’ll find yourself in breach of contract.

And as for the money…well, how do you think the Big 5 publishers have created such huge fortunes? Let’s just say your payout may not be quite what you expected. Your agent helped you get the deal, right? There goes 15% right off the top. And the publishing company themselves will gladly take more than their fair share of the pie.

So what do you get?

At $10/book, a large publisher would keep over 75% of each sale, paying the author as little as 8% for the first 150,000 books. Were you one of the fortunate few to get an advance? Well, before you even see that 8%, you have to pay back that advance. Let’s say it was $5,000. That means 6,250 book sales before you even start getting that big 80 cents per book royalty.

But not all experiences with publishing companies have to be this way. At Sahno Publishing, we think literary excellence is more important than a financial formula. Go to msahno.com for more information.

So I’ve been looking at some topics for blogs, and I find all kinds of great ideas.  One of the more amusing ones is posting about personal stuff or pet peeves, so your readers get to know you better. This idea can work, but it can also be a disaster. I’ve seen writers post all manner of personal stuff that, quite frankly, I don’t want to know. Worse, there’s no compelling reason to care. Does Glenda’s reader really need to know that she collects her own toenail clippings? Do my readers care that I don’t remember what I had for breakfast two weeks ago, but still remember the lyrics to every Frank Zappa song I learned when I was in high school?

I’m going to guess no. But pet peeves, well, that could be interesting…especially if they’re somehow relevant for writers, or just writing in general for civilians.

And then it hit me: with the continual (d)evolution of our language, there are some highly annoying phrases out there right now that make my skin crawl…that make me feel like that guy above. I’m sure I’m not the only one who majored in English who feels this way. Looking at articles online that address this topic-Most Annoying Words and Phrases of 2016, etc. – I find that even the perennial offenders like “whatever” or “like” don’t bother me as much as some of the others.

So here we go with my current, latest, on-the-fly Top Ten Words or Phrases That Will Make You Cringe.

  1. Adulting – I thought it was bad when the word parenting became not only accepted, but common. Never did figure out what was wrong with just saying raising children (maybe it was George Carlin: “Don’t plant ’em too deep!”), but okay…whatever! And now we have devolved to adulting? What’s next? Childing? This one is so weird that my phone autocorrected it to faulting when I typed it. Makes sense to me.
  2. Having said that/That being said – This is the new “um.” A totally unnecessary placeholder phrase. What surprises me is how many professional speakers, who are excellent at what they do, stick this into a talk…multiple times! I just came from an event with people who are way better speakers than me, and yet, I caught a few of them doing this…a lot.
  3. Epic – Okay, you know this one is bad. Worse than awesome. Let’s face it, awesome has, to some degree, become synonymous with cool. But if you say everything is epic, well, guess what? Nothing will be epic.
  4. At the end of the day – Having said that, I’m now going to be businesslike and make sure you know that, when it comes right down to it, at the end of the day…ah, just forget it.
  5. “No words” – I believe this gets written more than said, mainly on social media. It expresses horror, shock, sadness, etc., I guess. Problem is, you just wrote two words to tell us you have no words. See the problem?
  6. Cray cray – Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t think I’ve ever heard this from a person I actually know. This is more an obnoxious TV personality thing. But it’s beyond annoying. This is getting into punishable offense material. Just say crazy, okay? Better yet, don’t. Maybe that person has a genuine mental health issue.
  7. Porn – What? Porn, you say? Well, I’m talking about people calling everything that’s not porn, porn. Food porn. Nature porn. I don’t know that it necessarily devalues or legitimates actual porn, but it’s stupid, and kind of weird. Besides, do you really want to have to explain to your three-year-old when they ask, “Mommy, what’s word porn?”
  8. Vajayjay – Urban Dictionary has a great definition for this: The most annoying word known to woman. Now, I don’t know who started the trend – and again, I’ve never heard a person I know use it – but it’s childish. I get that some people think the word vagina sounds, well, overwhelmingly medicinal, but come on. There has to be a better solution.

Okay, there’s my list. I know, I only went as far as eight, but honestly…don’t you feel bad enough just from those?

You’re welcome.

music

“Music Hath Charms to Soothe a Savage Breast”

So wrote William Congreve in 1697, and it’s still true today. Of course, not everyone today understands that “hath” meant “has,” or that a “savage breast” was another way of saying “wild heart.” And these days, more music is made to stimulate than to calm.My own...

Strictly Commercial In SE Asia

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followers

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

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authenticity

Putting Yourself Out There

I see a lot of social media posts these days about "authenticity." The idea is that clients and customers, and potential clients and customers, really appreciate your authenticity—mainly because so many fake people have tried to sell them something they didn't want to...
market

How Do You Sell A Book in the Digital Age? Market, Market, Market

"I need a steam shovel, mama, to keep away the dead / I need a dump truck, baby, to unload my head." —Bob Dylan   Sometimes these days we all feel like the guy in today's photo, right? A head full of books—both paper and electronic—and a million tasks that need...

A Little Pay Upfront…or A Lot More Pay Year After Year

So many writers think they should never pay for publishing. I don't blame them for thinking that way, but here’s how it really plays out. Authors are natural idealists, so of course we typically figure we can get a deal with a big publishing company, leading to smooth...
Amazon

How Amazon Killed the Book Business

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remember 80s

Remember The 80s? Placing Scenes in History in My Most Recent Novel

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ebook

A Free Ebook From Sahno Publishing—And An Open Invitation For More

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attorney

The Power of an Attorney

Last week I missed the deadline to post my Monday blog, then missed any other opportunity through the rest of the week. The reason? I'm power of attorney for my mother, who took a fall and had to be hospitalized. Hence the headline for this week's post. Being power of...

Self-Publishing: The Trouble with Going It Alone

Indie publishing is on the rise but tread carefully. Self-publishing is exactly how it sounds:everything depends on you and you alone.

Sure, you get to make all of the decisions, but that also means you have to make all of the decisions. Editing, proofreading, formatting, interior design, cover art, marketing. Self-publishing is a full-time job. And boy, is it tedious.

How do you find an editor? How do you know if they are a good editor? Do you need a proofreader? Are there any errors? Does the book itself look professional? Do you even get a hard copy or is it simply published electronically? Who is going to buy the book? How are you going to get the word out?

All these concerns and more will flood your mind if you choose to go it alone and indie publish.

Self-publishing is certainly not a goldmine, either. The money won’t just come rolling in with the click of a button and the completion of the finished product. Many people even price their books at 99 cents online just to try and get some sales. Isn’t your work worth more than a dollar?

And because anyone can self-publish, the quality of the finished product comes into question. Many people have published mediocre work, degrading the overall quality of today’s literature. Because of this flooding the market with lower quality books, indie publishing comes with the stigma that the work may not be of the highest standards.

Of course, some people have been successful…but not without a whole lot of work beyond the actual completion of the manuscript.

For first-time authors, self-publishing can be quite daunting. Sahno Publishing wants to help new authors through the scary publishing world. We take care of the tedious work so you don’t have to. Get in-depth training on marketing your novel from start-to-finish, or go beyond just a book and learn how to build a business. Visit msahno.com to find out more.

excellence

Literary Excellence and Why Writers Need to Be Readers

Back when I first launched my company, I often used the phrase literary excellence as part of my branding. The idea was that Sahno Publishing evolved out of the notion that literary excellence is more important than a financial formula. The company entered the...
cost

What Books Cost Their Authors: A Tale of Blood, Sweat & Tears

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And So The Tour Ends

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Five Mistakes New Authors Make

Every author starts as a newbie, even if they held a job as a writer in some other capacity. The publishing business can be incredibly daunting for a newcomer: many authors work alone without much feedback, so their mistakes, while understandable, are also far too...
running

Running & Writing: A Classic Combo

Writing and running. It’s one of the oldest and, to my way of thinking, weirdest connections in the world. I’ve been a writer, truly, since 1979. Over these past forty years, I’ve written hundreds of poems and songs, and a handful of publishable short stories. (I’ve...
election

Meet The New Year—Same As The Old Year?

Looking back at the blog over the past few months, I see a few obsessions emerging. Nothing surprising there—of course we’re all suffering from pandemic fatigue, and I’m not surprised to see my worries about the 2020 election as topics. In my October 26th post, If...
ledge

Nightmare On Acid Street

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endemic

From Pandemic to Endemic to…?

It’s funny how a blog like this can serve as sort of a substitute for a journal. Not “ha ha” funny, mind you. But “strange” funny for sure. All the way back in December 2021, I wrote a post called The Scary Weekend I Thought I Had COVID. I’d met up with a friend and...
department

Yes, I’m The Head of My Company’s Marketing Department

A few months ago, I wrote a post called What I’ve Learned In Six Years of Growing An Indie Author Business. The idea was to provide six bullet points, one for each year I’ve run my publishing company. Ultimately, I realized that each of those six points could use some...