Sleep and Creativity

I’m going to get a little personal this week, though I think it’ll focus on something a lot of writers can relate to; sleep and creativity. For the past year, I’ve had trouble sleeping at night. No matter when I go to bed, I always seem to wake up two or more times a night and stay awake anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half. Having that happen once or twice is one thing, but dealing with it every single night tends to wear a person down. When my doctor checked the stats on my CPAP machine, it registered I was getting maybe about 4-6 hours of sleep a night with all the waking up.

You can probably imagine what the lack of sleep has done to me:

  • Exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Trouble staying awake
  • Depression
  • Worse Anxiety
  • Memory issues

And so on and so forth. Not exactly fun things to deal with when you’re trying to write/publish a book.

I’ve worked with some people to get my sleep under control, but it wasn’t until I met a cognitive behavior specialist that I started to actually notice some changes. For the first two weeks I met with her, she asked me to track my sleep. I was shocked when I realized it looked like a checkerboard. I might get a couple hours of sleep before waking up, but for the most part, my night was “asleep, awake, asleep, awake, asleep.” Worse, when I would wake up in the middle of the night, I usually went to food for the comfort, which just doesn’t help with weight loss and staying healthy.

My sleep doctor describes it as maintenance insomnia. I can usually fall asleep within about 5 minutes. Heck, I’ve fallen asleep standing up before! But staying asleep, yeah, that doesn’t happen much for me. All the sleep I had started to get by using a CPAP machine just went out the window and left me a miserable mess. Frankly, I think the lack of sleep is what led to my emotional episodes in February of this year.

After tracking my sleep, my doctor told me that my circadian rhythm is off kilter. Her solution? Condensed sleep. Okay, so what does that mean? Basically, her idea was to focus on forcing me to get quality sleep over quantity. She wanted to retrain my brain to understand what it was to be “sleepy” and to be so tired that I would just sleep through the night. She had a few other stipulations as well:

  • No caffeine after 2pm
  • Sleep for 6 hours from 1:30am-7:30am
  • No naps
  • No resting in your bed
  • No phone in your bedroom before sleep

Our plan was to do it for two weeks before I saw her again, mostly because she said I would hate her by the second week. I thought she was kidding.

She wasn’t.

It’s officially been two weeks, and except for two nights when I accidentally fell asleep a little early on the couch, I’ve followed the rules closely. Each night I’ve gone to sleep and stayed in bed. Anxiety remained quiet. My hunger ebbed. All I wanted, all I craved was sleep! And by the second week, oh yeah, I hated her. I still might throw a shoe at her when I see her on Wednesday. I never thought fighting to stay awake until 1:30 am would be so hard. It has some benefits. I get more downtime for myself. I caught up on shows and finally watched Good Omens. 

But the costs more than outweigh the benefits. I’m exhausted all the time. I’m grumpy, depressed, stressed, and a complete bundle of emotions. And for those of you who know me well, I don’t like not having control of my emotions. I’ve actually started to cry because I was so tired and so angry that I couldn’t just nap. Even now as I type this, I can feel my eyes getting heavy and my body just begging me to go to sleep.

I will say this, the practice has really made me appreciate sleep a lot more. Our plan on Wednesday, I believe, is to add time onto my sleep schedule so I’m getting closer to 7 hours. I personally think I function best on about 7 1/2 – 8 hours, but even that hasn’t been enough when I’m trying to recover from many sleepless nights.

By now you’re probably asking, but Erin, what does this have to do with creativity?

Everything.

For some people, staying up late or lack of sleep can create a drive to write. For me, my muses have basically shut themselves off and my characters are giving me the cold shoulder. I have this extra time at night, but the idea of putting a single word on paper is almost unbearable. Thinking hurts. Trying to be creative is too exhausting. It takes all my energy just to stay awake. How I managed to edit and publish a book last year is beyond me.

Though it would probably explain the emotional roller coaster ride I felt during the process.

I want my creativity back. I want to be able to curl up at night when I’m sleepy and know that I can rest through the night and rise with enough energy to create my worlds. Sleep is so important. Like, I didn’t realize how important until I went through the past two weeks. And I know, 6 hours may not sound bad, but for me, I need more sleep. Technically, you can function on 5 hours of sleep a night for an extended period, but that doesn’t mean that your creativity will work. Take care of your mind and bodies. Give them the rest they both so desperately need and crave. I’m hoping once I add on the hours, my passion for writing will resume. and I’ll get out of the very tired writer’s block clouding my mind.

Valley West Mall Book Signing!

Wow, what an incredible weekend! I spent June 29th and 30th over at Valley West Mall in Des Moines, IA for a two-day book signing event presented by Indie Author Book Expo. Organized by Jenn Thompson, this event brought around 40 authors/creators together to sell books, make connections, and meet the good people of Des Moines. Despite an art festival, and the abysmal heat rolling through Iowa, the expo still brought 1,100 shoppers. Between author tables, live music, interviews, and a poetry reading, people definitely had a lot to see.

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This was my first time selling at a two-day event, and I was beyond nervous before I went. Author Alexandra Penn and I made the trip together, which sadly will be our last big show for sometime as she’s getting ready to move to school in Scotland. We made the most of it though, including hilarious road-trip conversations, dancing to the YMCA and other fun songs at the mall, and just sharing time being authors and friends rather than Directors. It was a nice reprieve.

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One of the best parts of the event was getting to catch up with both familiar and new faces. Brian K Morris and I haven’t seen one another since I.O.W.A. last year, and I can’t tell you how great it was to get a big hug from him. He’s been a mentor to me practically since we met, and I’ve embodied his ideology of “rising tide” when it comes to working with other authors. If we all work together, we rise together. Frankly, I’m shocked and disappointed in myself that we didn’t get a picture together!

He brought with him Teresa Dunn who is building her writing career even as we speak! I have to say, the expo is a great place to learn the ins and outs of selling books and to meet amazing authors who can offer tips about anything from how to get published to how to set up your signing table. Ashley Lovell and I spent plenty of time discussing ideas for table displays and brainstorming what would catch someone’s eye. I can’t wait to see what her table looks like when her next book comes out! Cassandra DenHartog (come see her at I.O.W.A 2019!) decided to add a little friend to my table who is now fondly named #Skelebird. He and #Yorick the skull will be making appearances and shenanigans at future signings, I’m sure.

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Other familiar faces included the incredible Kristine Plum, a fellow urban/paranormal fantasy writer (Alex and I weren’t the only ones bopping along to music).  Satish Jayaraj went around teaching authors how to create origami dragons, which are featured in his book. He’s actually hosting a book launch event on July 20th in Cedar Rapids, IA, so you should check him out and show your support! Tabetha Waite stopped by for a picture. She’s a great historical romance author I’ve featured in my website interviews.

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As always, I made a lot of great connections with the authors, but I also met some incredible readers. Most of the people who stopped by my table were very generous and interested in The Purple Door District. My favorite experience, though, was meeting two lovely young women who just couldn’t hold back their love for reading. They not only got the book, they proudly displayed PDD art and Bianca’s necklace. Seeing their excitement is what encourages me to keep writing, because I see myself in them when I was younger, eagerly searching for my next favorite book. I truly hope they enjoy it and they use it to fuel their own creativity.

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All-in-all, it was a great event, and I can’t thank Jenn Thompson enough for all the hard work she put into IABE. As someone who is currently trying to plan an author signing, I know just how much goes into preparing something like this. It’s no easy job, and it takes a very caring and hard-working soul to do what she does. Check out her blog to see more fun pictures from the event!

With that, this very tired writer will bid you ado. Keep your eye out for more pictures from future events, as well as what trouble Skelebird gets himself into.

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As a reminder, The Purple Door District is in the running for a reader’s choice award. I still need 50 nominations by 7/13 to move on to the next round, so if you have a moment, please submit your vote here.

Happy reading!

Marketing Tip: Street Team

This week’s marketing topic was inspired by Byrd Nash’s instagram post about street teams. Be sure to check out her many writing tips, as well as her new book:

Wicked Wolves
Find it on Amazon.

To start off, what is a Street Team? This is essentially a group of people who are your go-to folks for marketing your book. They’re the ones who share your posts on social media, leave book reviews, provide writing feedback, etc. They’re the backbone of your whole marketing plan who can help get the word out about your novel. I’ll go more in-depth in a moment, but one thing to keep in mind is that these people are usually volunteers who take time out of their day to help you promote. Treat them with kindness and respect and understand that sometimes they can’t always be “on” to help you. Some of my street team folks, like Brian K Morris, are there to provide me with moral support when I feel kicked down, and I can’t appreciate it enough. So be kind.

Why Have a Street Team? 

Whether you’re trade or indie, you’re going to have to do some marketing for your book. As an indie author, I wear the hats of the writer, editor, proofreader, designer, marketer, website creator, book signing scheduler, etc. It’s a lot of work. But, as I’ve expressed in many blogs, you don’t have to go it alone. The street team helps take some of the burden off of your shoulders. When you need to reach a wider audience, they’re there to spread the word. You can’t beat having a lovely group of people to help you.

Who Are They? / Where Can You Find Them? 

Honestly, your street team can be anyone. Family. Friends. Editors. Fans. They should be people you trust who have shown interest in your book and your journey.  They may even be fellow writers that you’ve met on twitter or instagram, or during writing conventions. Be sure to ask them before you add them to your street team, though. People don’t like being bombarded with information that they never asked to receive. One way you can keep track of who’s on your team is by creating a facebook group specifically for them. I have a group called The Purple Door District: Street Team! where I share my information. Generally, my street team is the first to see new content before it goes out to the rest of the public. Interested in becoming part of my street team? Let me know!

Arc/Beta Readers

One way the street team can help is by volunteering to either become a beta reader or an arc (advanced reader copy) reader. They’ll read your book and provide feedback about possible things you need to change to help make your story stronger. Specifically ask them to review topics/plots/characters you’re most concerned about because your beta/arc readers will be your last line of defense before you go public.

Reviews

Having people willing to leave reviews is so important for an author. Like it or not, the algorithms on Amazon will determine how your book gets promoted. The more reviews you have, the more likely Amazon will be to share it around. I believe the key number is 50 reviews, but frankly, any amount helps. Reviews don’t have to be complex, either. Your street team can leave a rating and something as simple as a one word review. Granted, getting a full review is wonderful, and I wouldn’t snuff that if they’re willing to do it. I’ve had some excellent reviews from Ellen Rozek, Byrd Nash, and Shakyra Dunn for example. The best ones are when the readers are willing to provide constructive feedback along with their kind words.

Social Media Sharing

Another way your street team can help you is by sharing important news about your book across their social media platforms. The more people you reach, the better chance you have of selling your book, or acquiring followers. They can share things like cover releases, book releases, giveaways, or, hey, even your quest for a reader’s choice award. Be sure to give them ample notice and all the information that they need to share your news around. While you may have some of the same friends, chances are all of your street team members will have an audience that you don’t know. The more platforms you can get across, (twitter, facebook, instagram, goodreads, allauthor, bookbub, etc) the better.

Book Buyers

Now, let me be clear, just because someone is on your street team, that doesn’t mean they’re obligated to buy your book. But, it is a nice perk if it happens. Likely your street team members are readers themselves and are interested in your book or want to go the extra mile and support you by buying your novel. Can’t say no to that, right? Be sure to interact with them and the rest of your book-buying audience. Let them know how much you appreciate them for helping you.

These are just a few ways that a street team can help you, especially near a book launch or book release day. Do you have a street team? How have they helped you? Feel free to share your story below!

On another note, I really am working to get nominated for the Epic Fantasy Fanatics Reader’s Choice Award. If you have a second, please consider voting for The Purple Door District. Thank you so much!

 

My Mission as a Writer

As I was trying to think of a topic to write for this blog post, I came across an interesting list of questions on 40 Blog Post Ideas for Novelists, Poets, And Creative Writers. “What is your mission as a writer? What do you hope readers will take away from your work when they read it?”

We all have different reasons for writing, but our mission? Now that really makes you think. So, in no particular order, here are the reasons I write.

Mission 1: To Entertain/Escape

I love books. They make me laugh, cry, stay up way too late at night to find out what happens in the next chapter, and rage. They let me escape from life and get lost into another world where bills, mortgage, work, and adult responsibilities don’t plague me. I want to create a world where people can immerse themselves and feel that same sort of escapism, especially if it’s from trauma.

I grew up feeling pretty lonely. I had parents who worked, and I wasn’t the most social kid, so I had a lot of time to be alone and think. Books became my way to deal with the loneliness. I could always rely on a new Jedi Apprentice to appear at Borders (when that was still in existence) each month. The characters in my fantasy and sci-fi worlds started to become my friends. And when something happened that made me upset or hurt me, I could dry my tears with the pages. I want my books to be that for other people so they have something that can comfort them, or entertain them, whatever they need.

Mission 2: To Inspire

I have a dream that one day a reader will come up to me and say, “You inspired me to write my own story.” I’m not trying to be egotistical. I want readers to feel like they, too, can put their stories down on paper. I firmly believe that anyone can be a writer. Whether you roleplay, write fanfiction, poetry, short stories, novellas, novels, scripts, journals, blogs, random musings, etc…you’re a writer. And if you have a story to tell, you should do that. I want readers to feel like they can come up to me to ask for advice and encouragement. I have plenty to give, because I want others to succeed as well. And I know that if one of my favorite authors told me, “I believe in you,” it would have spurred me on to write even more. So, I want to be that for someone else.

Mission 3: To Be Inclusive 

Whether it’s The Purple Door District, or one of my other novels, I want my writing to be inclusive. I acknowledge the privilege that comes with being white. But I also know the struggles that come with being bisexual, morbidly obese, and a woman. I definitely do not know everyone’s struggles, and I can’t be the voice for other people who are discriminated or suppressed, but I can at least provide a space where many can feel included. I work with sensitivity readers so that when I write about folks outside of my scope, I don’t come off as a racist jerk due to pure ignorance. I know I may not always get it right, but I do try to do my research, and I do my best to improve when I receive critique.

If I’d read more books with bisexual characters, I might have recognized my sexual identity sooner. If I’d had books with strong females instead of the damsels in distress, I might have realized earlier I can be the hero of my own story. So many books focus on white cis characters (generally male heroes), so how can people feel like they’re included? I can’t touch on everyone, but my mission is to include as many people as possible because that’s our world! We’re not just one gender or color. We’re a plethora of incredible cultures, colors, and abilities. Everyone should be celebrated, not treated like they’re “the other.” So if you feel like you’re missing from my book, tell me. I’ll see what I can do.

Mission 4: To Write For Me 

Just like other writers, I have my own stories I want to create. I see worlds and characters, and hear music in my head. I have far too many plot lines to work with, and I want to put them all down on paper…someday. Maybe when I become a full-time author I’ll be able to indulge my muses.

Writing has been a part of my life since I was a little kid. One of my fondest memories is scribbling down a dragon story on notebook paper and watching my world, and characters come to life. I roleplayed on websites, and learned to develop my characters. I created fanfiction to show my love for Redwall, Harry Potter, and, yes, even My Little Pony, because it made me happy. When I hit a writer’s block, I tend to crumble because I feel like I lose a part of myself. I can’t do the thing I absolutely love because I’m stuck. Some people don’t get it, and that’s fine. My writing doesn’t define me, but it does make me really happy. It’s what I want to do, and I hope that one day it can become a full-time job.

Heh, I think all writers have that dream.

I guess, in a nutshell, my mission is to write for myself, inspire others, provide an escape, and be inclusive. Who knows, maybe as I become a more experienced writer, I’ll realize I have even more missions.

What about you? What’s your mission as a writer? Feel free to share below!

How to Find an Agent: 101

Ah, literary agents. Those elusive, mystical creatures that you can only find at the end of a double rainbow. Or at least, that’s what it can feel like to a new author. After the excitement of completing your book has worn off, it’s time to take the next step to find an agent (if you’re planning to go the traditional route). Yes, you can still query certain small presses and publishing houses directly without an agent, but you have a better chance of getting your foot in the door if you have someone praising your book.

So, where do you start?

Books:

  • Favorite Books: Look at your favorite books that match the genre of the manuscript you’re trying to publish and take note of the publisher. From there, you can do a search online to see what agents work with that publishing company. If the agents accept similar books, they may be interested in taking a look at yours.
    • Some publishing houses don’t require you to have an agent. DAW, for example, accepts unsolicited fantasy and science fiction novels. So if you don’t want to take the time to find a literary agent, that’s another way to go about trying to get your book published.
  • Guide to Literary Agents 2019: This book, along with those in years past, can help you select an agent. It guides you in preparing a query letter and introduces you some of the current agents who are seeking submissions.
  • Writer’s Digest: Whether it’s in magazine form or online, Writer’s Digest always has a plethora of information about the writing world. They even have their own section on locating literary agents and will sometimes promote particular agents in their printed magazines (which I highly recommend). Not only that, they provide great advice on how to prep yourself to query agents/publishers/editors.

Query Tracker and #MSWishList

  • Query Tracker: This free site is a great way to scope out publishers and agents. Not only can you see who is or isn’t accepting queries, you can categorize what fields you’re most interested in (fantasy, YA, romance, etc). You have to sign up to do a specific search for an agent, but again, it’s free. The people on this list are considered legitimate agents as well, so if you hear about an agent who might be a good match for you, run their name through Query Tracker first.
  • #MSWishList: This site shows the manuscript wish lists of agents and editors and also provides advice on writing query letters. An editor is a good route to go as well because they may be able to connect you with an agent. Scroll through and see who’s interested in your genre and click on their names to learn more about them and what literary agency they represent. Also, make sure to put their names through Query Tracker for additional information.

#Pitchwars and #Pitmad

  • #Pitchwars: This is a Twitter mentoring program that happens once a year.  Published/agented authors, editors, or industry interns choose one writer each to mentor. The mentors then help the writer perfect their manuscript to prepare it for an agent showcase. Participating agents review the lists of books and will make requests. This year’s Pitch Wars mentee application window opens on September 25th and will stay open until September 27th, so get those manuscripts ready!
  • #Pitmad: This is a “pitch party” on Twitter where writers pitch their completed, polished, and unpublished manuscripts in tweets they share throughout the day. Agents and editors make requests by liking or favoriting the pitch, which means you can query directly to them. Keep in mind that you have to be unagented to participate. #Pitmad happens quarterly, and the next one is actually this Thursday, June 6th! To learn more, check out the site, or you can read my past entry, Brace Yourselves: #Pitmad is Coming.

Make Literary Friends

  • Whether in person, through twitter, facebook, or instagram, try to make literary friends. Sometimes the best way to find agents is by learning about them from other writers. You can also follow agents on twitter and see when they’re looking for manuscripts to represent. And believe me, most of them are nice and won’t bite ;-). Just be yourself, and don’t harass the agents about reviewing your manuscript. Be patient. Just like you needed time to write it, they’ll need time to read it.

Important: Before you even begin reaching out to agents, keep these things in mind:

  • Look for an agent who represents your genre.
  • Take note of the agent’s submission requirements, because everyone has something different.
  • Make sure you have your manuscript polished and ready for review. If they make a full request, you don’t want to have to tell them that you’re not done.
  • Book summary: complete
  • Pitches: complete
  • Query letter (without the personal info directed to the agent): complete.

I hope this helps you take the next step to getting your book traditionally published. Remember, you’re not alone, and I believe in you.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Author Interviews

Whether you’re a blogger interviewing an author, or an author responding to a blogger’s questions, it’s very important that you both provide quality and professional work when it comes to interviews. I’ve been interviewing authors for over a year now, (and been interviewed as well) and I’ve noticed a few things that both help and harm the interaction. So I’m going to divide this up between Do’s and Don’ts for both authors and bloggers.

Authors

  • Do
    • Provide all material requested from the blogger the first time around.
    • Edit your responses (spellcheck/use proper grammar and capitalization) so the blogger doesn’t have to fix it.
    • Provide high-resolution pictures for yourself and your book covers.
    • Get your material to the blogger on time.
    • Answer all the questions (unless otherwise agreed upon) and provide interesting information. One-word responses won’t engage the reader or the interviewer.
    • Post the interview around to your social media platforms and give the blogger credit.
  • Don’t
    • Badger the blogger about when your interview is coming out or keep requesting changes (unless you have a book coming out and need to provide a sale link).
    • Act rudely towards the blogger. They’re doing you a favor by creating the interview for you.
    • Answer questions dishonestly
    • Cut down other writers or bloggers in your answers.
    • Ghost the blogger.

Bloggers/Interviewers

  • Do
    • Get questions to the authors when promised.
    • Provide a designated day that you’ll post the interview and stick to it.
    • Provide the author with a link to the posted interview so they can share it around.
    • Review the answers before you post it on your site in case of errors or controversial responses (depending on your site’s dynamics).
    • Answer any questions the author might have about the interview or provide clarification.
    • Be honest to the author about what they can expect (are you posting the entire interview or just portions of it?)
  • Don’t
    • Act rudely towards the author. You two are trying to work together to help one another.
    • Post the interview late or not at all.
    • Ignore the author’s concerns if something is posted incorrectly in the interview.
    • Ghost the author.
    • Promise a posting date until after the author has provided their material. (I’ve missed posting interviews because authors didn’t give me their information in time).

These are just a few ideas to keep in mind while interviewing and getting interviewed. Bloggers and authors should remember that they’re working as a team. Together, they can provide exposure to each other. I’ve read far too often how authors have lashed out at book reviewers, bloggers, or interviewers for petty reasons. Bloggers can’t post interviews without authors, but authors can’t gain exposure without the help of bloggers. Work together harmoniously and you will both succeed.

If you both find that you’re on completely different pages, then it’s also okay to politely agree to go your separate ways. What it comes down to is respect. We’re all professionals here, and it’s important to treat each other like people and not invisible faces.

 

Meditation and Writing

Those of you who have followed my blog long enough know that I like to periodically spend time talking about mental health. As someone with depression and anxiety, it’s important for me to find ways to relax my mind so I can heal and also focus on my writing. Most people also know that I suck at self care, and it’s something I’m trying very hard to learn.

Recently, I started attending group therapy that focuses on the mind, body, and soul. I always thought I was awful at meditation (I still struggle with it), but the more I work at it, the more I realize how much it calms me. Sometimes I use my own writing as a form of meditation, typing out a stream of consciousness without any concerns about my language or where I’m going with it. I do that when I talk about my dreams, or if I’m having an episode where I just really need to get my emotions out. I generally call that my angry poetry phase.

But I digress.

Meditation is a habit that I think we can all benefit from, so I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned, and other kinds of meditation I do to ease my stress/anxiety.

Deep Breathing

This is probably one of the best and easiest ones to start out with. Whenever I get worked up (or wake up from nightmares like I did last night), I try to focus on deep breathing. Sit in a relaxed position and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. You want to focus on making your belly feel soft. My guide suggests that you whisper “soft” when you breathe in, and “belly” when you breathe out. Try to do this for awhile. Even 5 minutes of deep breathing meditation can really help. It certainly helps me get through a bad work day.

Here’s a guided meditation that can help.

Music and Mindfulness 

Once you have the breathing down, try to be mindful of your body. I like to put on soft music, usually water mixed with song or music that focuses on peaceful sleep. There are also a ton of apps on your phone that you can download that have guided meditation or songs. The app Calm is a great example.

Lie down (or sit) in a comfortable position and turn on the music. Then focus on feeling each part of your body. Your arms, your legs, your fingers and toes, your head. Loosen each muscle one at a time and focus on your breathing and relaxing your body. Guided meditation can help you focus. Make sure you think about your body and don’t let your mind wander (easier said than done for us writers). If it does wander, that’s okay. Just pull it back into the moment.

Only have a few minutes? Try a quick 5 minute meditation for things like anxiety.

Imagery Meditation 

One of my favorite forms of meditation is something I didn’t exactly realize I was doing until I talked with my therapist. Imagery meditation is essentially when you create an image in your head and focus on that. It could be imagining light coming down and wrapping around you. It could be picturing water or waves crashing against rocks. Maybe you see yourself on a beach or in a forest. Or, in my case, I imagine a garden that only I can enter. Focusing on each detail gives your mind something else to think about other than stresses or anything else that’s bothering you.

Here’s a guided video for example.

Animal Meditation

Okay, so this might be something that I made up, but I think animal lovers can understand where I’m coming from. There are moments when I pet my birds or preen them where all my stress just goes away. The same thing happens when Aladdin, my sun conure, sleeps on my chest. I can feel his breath and his little heartbeat and it calms me. I find myself relaxing and focusing on them and their happiness, and it makes me happy in return. Imagine doing that with a dog or a cat. I bet you wouldn’t mind spending 10 or 15 minutes doting on them.

So what does this have to do with writing? Well, often a more peaceful mind helps with my writing. The ideas flow more freely without bundles of anxiety and depression distracting me or clouding my brain. I’ve been playing meditative musical tracks while writing, and I can feel my anxiety go down while I work.

Writing can also act as a prelude to meditation. If you’re upset or filled with a bunch of emotion, write it out. Say everything you’d want to say without fear that someone is going to read it and judge you. Doing so can help you clear your mind and make you feel freer. It opens you up to meditation and writing your story.

To be honest, I usually find myself relaxing so much with the guided meditation, that I just fall asleep. As someone who struggles with sleep, I’m not going to complain about that. I’m quite new and rusty with it, but meditation has already started to help with my depression. I hope it helps you as well.

If you have any meditative practices you’d like to share, post them below!

Pirating Books

Pirating books. You’ve probably seen this topic in the news over the past couple of weeks and heard the heated discussion revolving around it. In short, a website called OceanofPDF, known for hosting pirated books, was recently shut down. Publishers like Penguin, HarperCollins, and Random House issued tons of take down notices, and eventually the requests went through. You can read more about it here.

This should be a good thing, right? A site that’s allowing people to essentially steal an author’s work is no longer able to distribute the pdfs. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of backlash in which authors are being called “Elitist” and selfish for wanting money for their work. Now granted, some of the people do have a good point. If they’ve already purchased the books and something happened to them, shouldn’t there be a way to get them back? Or what if they bought a paper version and want an e-book for the road that came out later?

First, if you lost the book, I’m sorry, but if you lost a DVD or music, you’d have to pay to get that back, too. If you want the e-copy, some authors will sell packages of e-books and the paper book, so you can just get it that way. Or just buy the e-book. Generally, e-books are priced a lot cheaper anyway. My paper book is $15, but my e-book is $3.99. I’m not asking you to pay full price for the e-book.

Some people have argued that 1. they don’t have the money for books or 2.  they can’t get them from the local library. Generally if you speak with a library about wanting a book, and there are enough requests, the library can buy the book or even loan it from another location. If you get the book around the time it launches, many authors put their novels on sale. Or they’ll do low sales or offer giveaways.

We’re not dragons stealing your money and cackling on top of our glistening hoard. Most of the money we actually make off of our books goes towards expenses in order to bring more books to you. Spend money to make money. So to have our work put on a site without our permission and to watch hundreds and thousands of people download it without us seeing a cent from it is…how is that fair?

I want to give you a look into how much it costs to actually publish a book. It’s different for traditional and self-published authors, but we all put money into it.

First, it starts with our time. I work a full-time job, and I spend most of my free time (what little I have), writing my novels. This is not just a casual hobby. This is something I want to turn into a profession, so I dedicate my time to it. I’ve taken courses in writing, storytelling, plot development, creative writing, (which costs money,) so I can create my books. It also causes a lot of emotional strain to do what I do. See Writing with Depression for clarification.

And then there are the other expenses once I’ve actually written the book. I have to pay for things like:

  • an editor
  • proofreaders
  • sensitivity readers
  • cover artist
  • promotional materials
  • book swag
  • programs like Scrivener and Adobe DC to format the books or a designer who can do it for me
  • buying the books themselves
  • tables at conventions to sell my books
  • hotels/gas/meals to travel and sell

It all adds up.

Most of the money that I’ve made from sales have gone back into my book or is being used to take care of costs for the next one. I’m not rolling in money, so yes, every dollar does help. Some people say, “Well, I’ll give you a review. That’s payment enough.” Look, any review is wonderful, and I’m grateful for it whether it’s good or bad. But the thing is, if everyone decided that’s how they were going to pay for the book, I’d have hundreds of reviews, but no revenue.

We pay money for movies, music, theater, etc, but when it comes to art and books, suddenly it’s just too expensive. I understand our economy is awful, and I’m drowning in debt as well. But it’s heartbreaking to realize that something I spent months or even years on is being handed out for free. If I want to give it away for free or drop the price, that’s my prerogative, and I would promote it so that people who are having trouble buying my book can get it for cheaper. Some say I get more readers if my book is given away for free. Hey, that’s great. I love getting more readers. But what about all the time and effort writers put into their craft? Does that mean nothing?

If it was just happening here and there, that would be one thing. But there are whole sites dedicated to this. I give books away. I reach out to libraries to see if I can get my books there so people who are low on cash can at least borrow the book. But that’s my decision and my right to do that.

I guess what I really want you to understand is that being a creator and doing something I love doesn’t mean that I don’t put a ton of work into it. I’m providing a service. Is it so bad that I would want compensation from it so I can keep creating and bring more stories to my readers?

I’d love to hear your opinions on it.

 

Creating a Book Launch: Reflection

It’s been a week since I launched The Purple Door District. It’s hard to believe that it’s over already after so many months of work. I’ve had people ask what went well, what didn’t, what would I like to change, and so on and so forth. After some reflection, I thought I’d share a few tidbits for anyone else who’s preparing to launch their book. As I say in many of my posts, these are just ideas and not the true method. What works for me may not work for you, but it may give you a place to start.

To make this a little easier, I’m going to divide this into three sections: what I did, what worked and didn’t work, and what I’d do next time.

Warning: This is going to be a long one!

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What I did: 

  • Indie Publishing: I gave myself 6 months to launch my book so I could build up an audience and get my social media platforms off the ground. Keep in mind, I was mostly starting from scratch. I had Facebook and Wattpad, and I had just started on patreon, but that was about it. I decided to go the indie publishing route, which meant I had to do all my marketing by myself, hence the six months of preparation.
  • Cover reveal: I revealed the cover of the book about a month in so that it, and the title, could get out and attract attention.
  • Social Media: I started building up my social media. Twitter and Facebook brought the most people to my website (according to the analytics). I also created an Instagram account. I bounced back and forth between these three, and featured special topics on Instagram like my Book Love Tour, author interviews, and blog entries. I created a schedule for myself to write a blog post every week, which I’ve managed for a few months now. When I got closer to the book release, I created a Goodreads and Bookbub account, per the suggestions of other authors. Through all the social media sites, I worked to build my audience and find fellow writers who might be interested in the book, and who I could help.
  • Website: I developed my own author website to host information about my books, author interviews, my literary projects, details about the community, my volunteer work, etc. Basically my website is a one-stop shop for anyone who wants to know about me and my work. You can find all my social media through it.
  • Patreon: In December 2017, before I even decided to publish PDD, I started posting a chapter or two every month. This meant I had early readers and got a few people interested in the book. I intend to do the same thing with PDD 2.
  • Interviews: Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, I found people willing to do interviews with me to help promote my book. I worked to space them out over the months so there was always something fresh for people to read. In the same vein, I interviewed other authors to show them support. It’s been a lot of fun getting to meet so many different people.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I started contacting libraries and bookstores who might be interested in carrying my book. In the end, I had three bookstores in the local area who wanted them, and another in the works. Libraries are a little more reluctant to take in indie-published books, but I did manage to get a couple to agree to carry the novel.
  • Press: I wrote press releases for my book launch in hopes that it would help bring more people to the event and also share the news about the novel to more people.
  • Swag: I developed some of my own swag and also brought on people to create art, necklaces, and sand bottles for my book. My intent was to give them support while also helping to promote PDD. It was a lot of money, but the results spoke volumes.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: Indie publishing is not easy, as many of you probably already know. I started up an Indiegogo Campaign to try to offset some of the costs. I spread it out over a month, aiming to gain $4,000.
  • Book Launch Location: I picked a special location for my book launch. The Makers’ Loft seemed like a fitting place because it is all about representing indie artists. It has a great space, and it is still new and starting out, so I wanted to bring publicity there as well. Plus, their marketing team is really good. I’m really glad I chose it.
  • Giveaways:  I did several giveaways over the course of the 6 months. In the beginning, I was just offering swag as gifts (necklaces, posters, etc) because the book wasn’t done. Then I started giving away the e-book, and finally I offered up the published book in bigger contests that ended up helping me build my newsletter.
  • Newsletter: I developed a newsletter to keep people updated on what I’m working on. It helped me keep people interested and connected me with my readers more.
  • ARC: I gave out advanced reader copies to people I knew would finish the book and provide reviews on Goodreads, and later Amazon. I hoped that the numbers would get me closer to the 50 count which triggers Amazon to start promoting your book.
  • Paid Ads: I spent a little money on ads for the newspaper, Facebook, Bookbub, and I think a couple of other places to garner attention.
  • Connections: I worked with my author connections to gain more information about how to launch my book. I also got PDD out word-of-mouth and developed a street team to help me share information about the book around social media platforms.
  • Signings: I set up two signings on the day of the book launch, as well as several others in the future so people would know right away where to find me if they couldn’t make it to the actual launch.

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What Worked/ What Didn’t 

  • Indie Publishing: I’m actually really glad I went this route. I’ve learned a lot about indie publishing over the past six months, and I now have a better idea of what I’d do in the future. It costs a lot, I’m not going to lie, but you have a lot of freedom that you may not have with publishers.
  • Cover reveal: This was a great way to gain attention. I found an amazing artist who really hit the nail on the head. People loved the cover, and that kept bringing an audience back to me. Or at least made people pause when they scrolled through it. Cover reveals are great media pieces, especially if you have an incredible artist. Start it early, and get your name out there.
  • Social Media: I probably made my social media life a lot harder than it needed to be. Facebook and Twitter both brought people over to my website. Whether that will lead to sales remains to be seen at this point. It’s something you definitely need to do to keep up your audience, but the amount of social media presence is really up to you. I think Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram get me my best audience. Wattpad and patreon fall a bit more to the wayside. At the very least, this is a great way to gain connections and find out about other signings, and bond with writers and readers. Recently, my blog posts have started to gain more attention.
  • Website: A must have. I spent more on this than I had anticipated, but it’s worth the cost. I have a store where I can sell my books. And it’s a one-stop-shop for everyone. If I only have one piece of social media to offer up, this is definitely the one I give. I update it every week, too, and that seems to keep the numbers up.
  • Patreon: To be honest, Patreon is not one of my successes. It’s gone well for other writers, but I’ve really struggled with gaining an audience. I’m hoping that now PDD 1 is out, that’ll bring more people in for PDD 2. Part of me wants to give it up completely, but I still think there’s worth in it. If anything, it keeps me on task because I have to post something every 15th of the month.
  • Interviews: This was a big help. Interviews introduced me to new readers and audiences. They made people see that I’m very much a human, and they got to know me and my view of working as a community. I would say get as many interviews as possible, and research if there’s a good response turn out for that interviewer’s blog.
  • Libraries/bookstores: I didn’t have as much success as I would have liked, but I don’t think I tried as hard as I could have. I’m still reaching out to bookstores and libraries, but I’m finding that they prefer to agree to carry your book once it’s printed. That being said, I did just receive my first paycheck from one of the bookstores!
  • Press: This was a dud, but that was my fault. I did reach out to newspapers, but I neglected to reach out to tv and radio stations. I think I just ran out of time, which was an issue. I sent press releases to four local papers and only had one respond.
  • Swag: While this turned out to be a lot of money, the swag really caught people’s attention. When I couldn’t give out the book because it was still in progress, I could at least offer bookmarks, jewelry, and other items. They were all very eye catching, and they’ve served to help bolster the world of PDD alongside the book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: The campaign enabled me to pay for my first shipment of books, but it definitely didn’t land where I expected. There are a lot of ways in which I would improve on it (more below).
  • Book Launch Location: The location was really great. The only downside is the website has slightly confusing directions, so some people got lost, but they still managed to show up. I had at least 30 people stop by in a 2-hour time frame.
  • Giveaways:  On one hand, not many people participated in the giveaways. It almost felt like, what was the point? On the other hand, the people who won were ecstatic and let me know about it, and that felt wonderful.
  • Newsletter: I suck at newsletters, hah! This is still a work in progress! Now that I have about 250 people, I’m hoping that will lead to some sales.
  • ARC: Definitely glad I did this. My ARC folks came through for me and helped me get several reviews both on amazon and goodreads. I’m talking with even more people about doing reviews, so I hope my #questto50 makes it on amazon.
  • Paid Ads: Honestly, I don’t think these were worth the money. Unless you’re willing to spend $100s of dollars, I don’t think they give you much turn out.
  • Connections/Signings: Personal connections with people and in-person signings definitely were great successes. I’ve met so many incredible people over the last six months, and many also ended up buying my book to show their support. I did the same for their books as well. The biggest success came from working with the community. They always say you should build an audience, but I’d much rather build up true connections with people and have us help each other. Rising Tide, as Brian K Morris says.

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What I’d Do Differently

  • Press: I would reach out to more press outlets about my book. One suggestion an author made to me was to send formal invitations to newspapers, tv, and radio stations. If you can get a big star to come, that’s something you can talk about and attract more people. I’d also write more press releases to introduce my book.
  • Indiegogo Campaign: If I did this again, I’d give myself two months instead of one to raise the money. One month wasn’t enough. I would also promote it more, and likely do that through press news. My tiers would be more reasonable as well. I wish I could have given out more stuff to people, but I was still in the early stages.
  • Relevant Signings: I’m working on this now, but I would have set up a signing in Chicago right off the bat. The book is set in Chicago, after all. I should have reached out to Chicago bookstores and media as well.
  • ARC: I would find more ARC readers for the book. I’ve received many incredible reviews (thank you, everyone!) But getting more reviews right away would be helpful.
  • Time/Self-Care: Give myself more time to breathe. During the six months, I thought I was going to lose my mind. There were plenty of tears and nights where I felt like I couldn’t do this, and that I’d turn into a failure. It was because I wasn’t taking care of myself. I wasn’t sleeping. I wasn’t eating well. There were other factors that made self-care difficult, but the book launch was one of those major stresses in my life that I’m both happy and sad is over. I’d definitely give myself a day (at least) every week where I didn’t work on anything.

I told you, this was going to be a long one. Overall, I think the book launch was a big success. In 7 days, I sold about 70 books, and I have interviews and signings coming up over the next few months. I’m working to attend bigger conventions that might bring more attention to my book, and to me as an author. Maybe I’ll even find an agent to represent me for the other stacks of books I have waiting in the wings.

As a final note, I want to again thank everyone who has supported me through this journey. You all are incredible and I can’t thank you enough.

As always, if you have a topic you’d like me to discuss, post it below!

Happy writing!

Engaging Your Readers

As an author prepping to publish a book, I’m starting to realize how important it is to find your readers. Between reading blog posts both by Alexa Bigwarfe at Write.Publish.Sell and Jenn Hanson-dePaula at Mixtus Media, plus learning from my own experiences, I’m starting to see that the main key to finding devoted readers is to engage with them.

When we think of marketing, it’s common for people to plaster their links everywhere online with a “Look at me, look at me” attitude. I do it too, though I’m trying to get better at it. You don’t like telemarketers calling you repeatedly promoting their stuff, so why would you want to see the constant posts about books, unless you’re getting something in return?

This is where engagement comes in. Jenn Hanson-dePaula notes in her article How Authors Can Amplify a Small Audience that it’s not the number that necessarily matters, it’s the interaction. With a smaller audience, you can ask them what they want. What kind of work are they looking for? What about swag? Are there particular items they’d like to see go along with the book? How do they find authors? What social media platforms attract their attention most? Get your readers involved and listen to the advice they have to offer. It can help you modify your marketing platform, especially if you think you’re getting all the attention from wattpad, only to find out that twitter actually gives you the best following. Go check out her article. She has a ton of fabulous advice.

Twitter is a really great place to meet and chat with your readers. I mentioned in a previous blog post that you can find your community there. Well, that’s the same if you’re looking for readers. Talk with people who have the same interests. Find hashtags that you both share. Heck, post up some of your favorite movies, animals, shows, books, or hangouts. It doesn’t all have to be about your book. Your readers want to see that you’re a person, too. And honestly, that helps them connect with you better because then they don’t feel like you’re on such a high pedestal. For example, I’m doing #pitchwars this year, and when I found out that one of the mentors I was submitting to was an avid Avatar The Last Airbender fan, the intimidation I felt fled because I could connect with her due to our shared interest in the show. We’re all people; we all want to be treated that way.

When readers send you reviews, compliment your work, or show intrigue in your pitch, there are a couple of things to remember. One, thank them. They took the time to let you know how they felt. They deserve your gratitude. Second, if they’re writing a book too, ask them about it. I’ve made a lot of friendships both on twitter and wattpad simply because we had a lot of books in common (both through reading and writing!). Communicate. Have a conversation. Let them know that they’re important, too. Granted, it might take time to get back to them all, but if they can take the time to thank you, you can do the same.

Writing a book is a big deal, and you might feel like you’re offering plenty to your readers by publishing it. But there are other things you can do, too. Write helpful blogs for your readers. Not only does this bring them into your world, they get a taste of your writing, and you might be able to help them with something they’re struggling with. Part of the reason I write writing tip blogs is because that’s how learned. I read online blogs. I ask questions of the writers. I chat with the people in the comments, because I like to engage and learn from the community. Providing workshops, helpful tips, or even inspirational memes can brighten your reader’s day and let them know you care.

Writers are often introverted people, I get it. And maybe these kinds of ideas won’t work for you. So then, ask yourself, what would make you comfortable to interact with your readers? What can you do to work your way into the community that’s not going to stress you out too much, but also will give you a chance to find the people who want to buy your book? If you have ideas, feel free to post them in the comments!

I hope that this helps a bit! A big thank you again to Alexa Bigwarfe and Jenn Hanson-dePaula for all their inspirational posts.

Happy Writing!