March 29, 2019-You may find yourself squinting at the title of this post. Yes, I’m talking about the business of writing and why it’s so important to qualify your customers! Let me back up for a second and explain what I mean; this may be hard to believe, but sometimes, it’s a good idea to turn away paying customers.
If you run any type of business where you sell services, you’ll understand exactly what I’m saying! Some customers just aren’t worth the time, energy, attention, or risk. Harsh? Maybe, but this is where qualifying your customers is going to save you a headache (at the very least) in the long run.
To qualify your customer means to determine whether or not that they’re a good fit for you and your business before they sign a contract for your services. By evaluating them before you decide to work with them, you’re minimizing the chances of wasting your time and theirs. It’s essential for you, as a business owner, to decide and be very clear about who your ideal client is; you’ll screen out the ones who don’t fit that description and this will allow you to focus on serving your best customers well.
I personally meet with every single potential client who wants to hire Pandamonium Publishing House for our services so that I can decide whether or not we are going to work with that person. It’s also important to know that this is in the client’s best interest as well! Here’s how I evaluate the clients that want to work with us:
- Do they have a positive attitude? This is essential and that’s why it’s at the top of my list. It’s much easier and much more enjoyable to work with someone who is positive!
- Are they open communicators? If they’re not a good communicator, this is a red flag for me! Because if they’re not, how can we possibly work together on a project that requires constant communication for it to be completed?
- Are they clear about what they want? How can I know what they want if they don’t? I’m not a mind reader and if they’re not clear about their vision or how they see the end result, there’s no possible way for me to deliver it to them.
- How do they take constructive criticism? People who get defensive, or who think that they know it all, or are offended and irritated by constructive criticism are not good fits. Imagine telling this prospective client that something in their manuscript needs to be changed and they flip their lid, or sulk, or call you every name under the sun…sounds fun doesn’t it? NEXT!
- Can they take direction and instruction? Same as above. If they can’t take direction and they’ve hired us to oversee a project, there can’t be two cooks in the kitchen.
- Do we have matching values? You’ll never EVER see me publish a book about zoos, animal abuse, or animals in captivity because all of these things go against my personal values. Working with people that have values that parallel your own is essential. I’m not saying they have to believe what you believe, I’m saying that you need to remember what matters to you and to be authentic to your own self and your own beliefs. That goes for both parties.
Now, remember, my business and I are not the best fit for everyone and that’s ok! It’s essential to know what you want, who you are, what you stand for, and who you want to work with as well as who you don’t want to work with. Clarity as key. I urge you as a business owner to make a list of your ideal client and stick to it. X LLB
March 27, 2019- Did you know that structure and environment are directly linked to whether you fail or succeed? If you’re not reaching your goals, your environment and structure of activities may be to blame! Let’s take a look at this concept from a writer’s point of view; we’ve set this up as a case study for the fun of it!
Barb is a full-time writer who has a home-office in a room at the back of her house. Her desk is barely visible under the piles of papers, sticky notes, and half-full coffee cups. She has two school-aged children who she has to put on and take off the bus at eight am and four pm, and she is a single parent. She is trying to get another book deal with a major publisher who would be a perfect fit for her work since her original publisher told her that they didn’t have a place for her current story. Her phone is constantly ringing and buzzing with updates from social media and email. Barb has been struggling lately with staying on task since it seems that everything is vying for her attention and pulling her in different directions. She is currently two chapters behind on her manuscript. How can structure and environment help Barb reach her goal of submitting her finished manuscript for consideration?
- Get organized (Environment) First and foremost Barb needs to clean up her office and get her desk nice and tidy. If her work space isn’t clean it will distract her from her work and make it impossible for her to get anything accomplished. She’ll spend most of her allotted working time looking for things.
- Assess her time and set a timer (Structure) Barb has from approximately 8:30 am to 3:30 am each day to work on her book and submissions. That is 7 hours of good, core time to get things done. She needs to use the Pomodoro technique which is where she would set a timer and work uninterrupted for 25 minutes and then take a 5 minute break. She could later extend this once she becomes more focused.
- Set a routine (Structure & Environment) Every morning Barb could set an hour aside, let’s say from 9 am to 10 am to check her email, social media, and return phone calls. Other than the allotted time, she should turn off all social media and email notifications as well as any other distractions.
- Set goals (Structure) Barb could set a word count goal for each hour of writing. She could start with a small goal such as 250 words per hour. This small goal is better than having a blank page.
There are many other things that Barb could do to improve her environment and the structure of her day; what are you doing each day to reach your goals? Does your environment and daily routine support your success? X LLB
March 25, 2019-Should you eat the frog? Not eat the frog? Wait, eat what? We’re not talking about actual frogs here, thank goodness! We’re talking about a book by Brian Tracy called Eat That Frog in which the statement is a metaphor for tackling the most essential tasks first on your to-do list.
You and I both know that there will never be enough time to complete each and everything on your list, but the most successful people don’t try to do everything anyway! We need to remember to focus on the tasks that have the highest return on investment (ROI), that being what can we do right now that will have the greatest impact on our business or writing career? Let’s look at my list of to-dos for today as an example:
- Finish writing Jessica Westlake
- Send Becoming James Cass to the editor *
- Follow up with all clients to ensure they have their questions answered *
- Blog posts for the month (12)
- Podcasts for the month (8)
- Inventory and supply ordering
- Obtain new business *
- Social media post scheduling
My MIT’s or Most Important Tasks have an asterisk beside them, notice that I only picked three of them:) Why? Because the current tasks have the greatest ROI and frankly, everything else can wait or be delegated. Here’s my stream of thinking: I’ll be able to write Jessica Westlake while I’m waiting in the airport and while on the four-hour flight. The blog posts are done for the rest of the month so I can schedule the posts for April without being in a panic, same goes for the podcasts. I’ll delegate the accounting and inventory ordering to my accountant and I’ll get my assistant to see what events we should be going to. I have three days worth of social media posts scheduled and ready to go, so I’ll deal with scheduling more in a couple of days or while I’m waiting somewhere.
All it comes down to is being organized and knowing what your priorities are. Make your list and look at it truthfully, what can wait? Which frogs do you need to eat first? What can you delegate?
Here are some questions that you should answer to get clear on what you need to do:
- Which of your daily tasks are really helping you achieve your goals?
- Which tasks are just really distractions to keep you from doing the important stuff?
Once you can answer these two questions truthfully, you’ll be productive rather than busy (which is another word for unorganized, unmotivated, and procrastination). Eat that frog!
March 22, 2019- It’s been a while since we’ve done a photo writing prompt. I’m especially in love with the photo that we’ll be creating a story for today; it’s simplistic yet very powerful. Happy writing! X LLB
March 20, 2019- Ahhh, habits! When we think of the word habits it’s often with a negative connotation. Bad habits include not exercising, exercising too much, smoking, too much alcohol, not enough sleep, shopping, spending, and whatever you think bad habits should be defined as. We all have habits and most of the time we run on autopilot because of the habits that we’ve created. For example, when you walk into Starbucks, what do you order? Why? Because it’s a habit and it’s automatic.
However, habits are useful when we use them properly; new habits can be built into our daily routine or stacked on top of the habits that we already have (habit stacking)! Habit stacking should not be confused with multi-tasking which is completely inefficient. The new habit should include a time of five minutes or less to complete, should be simple, should improve your life, and should fit nicely into your daily routine. Let’s look at a couple of examples of how you can incorporate this simple method into your daily life (I’ll use some of the things that I do as an illustration):
- Upon waking, I brush my teeth with my opposite hand (creates new neuropathways and increases creativity) and silently repeat five positive affirmations until I’m done brushing.
- Every time I exercise, I listen to an audiobook. I’m working out for an hour, but I also am “reading” an hour in my field.
- Any time I’m driving somewhere, I listen to a Ted Talk. They’re short and packed full of information that is useful.
- Every time I sit down to write, I turn off my phone. This minimizes distraction and is a simple thing that is automatic.
- Any time I have to wait somewhere like my doctor’s office or if I arrive at an appointment early, I always bring along a notebook with paper and write down as many new ideas for books as I can before I get called in.
- After dinner, I always put on the kettle and while I wait for the water to boil I plan my tasks for the next day from the most important to the least.
All of these actions are non-invasive, they don’t take up any additional time, and you don’t have to overhaul your life to fit them in. So, make a list of the simple, good habits, that you want to create for yourself and see where you can stack them! I’d love to hear if this worked for you; send me an email at email@example.com and me about your experience. X LLB
March 18, 2019– This is a fabulous Ted Talk with Lera Boroditsky about how language shapes the way we think! Check it out by clicking on the link below:
March 15, 2019-Reciprocity is defined as the process of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit. Think of the last time you were in Costco and against your better judgment you stopped to sample a tantalizing mouthful of a single, perfectly garlic-stuffed olive. The person who is behind the table that prepared your sample smiles and says, “These olives were picked on the south side of a mountain in Tuscany by a family that has been growing and harvesting olives for three generations.” Yum. He then hands you a coupon for $1.00 off your purchase of the garlic-stuffed deliciousness and says, “I hope that you enjoy these delicate olives and that every mouthful will transport you to the charm and elegance of an Italian lifestyle .” Over the top? Maybe, but I just put six jars of them into my shopping cart.
Yes, the salesperson went above and beyond by providing imagery with his sales pitch, but the reciprocity effect was in full swing. He provided me with a sample and a coupon and held my attention at his table long enough to provide a beautiful description of the product. I felt that because he gave me a sample and a coupon and that I LIKED THE PRODUCT (this is key) that I would return his kindness by purchasing his product. This works 99% of the time because this social psychology is ingrained into our beings; when someone gives us something, we instinctively want to give them something in return.
How does this all come together as an author? Well, if you want people to buy your book/service/product, sometimes you have to give them something to whet their appetite. And I know that some of you may be thinking, well aren’t we supposed to give without expecting something in return? Yes, we are, but when you believe in your product and its value, you want to share your product with as many people as possible because you know it will enhance their life in some way. Basically, giving out something free allows the person receiving the item to then come and listen to what you have to say at the very least. They’re reciprocating your gift of a free fridge magnet with their gift of taking time to view your product and maybe even chat with you.
Let’s say that you’re trying to sell your beekeeping book at a local farmer’s market.
- You could provide free recipe cards that use honey as the main ingredient.
- You could provide free bookmarks with adorable bees on them or a list of beekeeping facts.
- You could provide a pamphlet of the ancient uses of honey as remedies for sore throats etc.
- You could provide a magnet of your book cover. Who doesn’t love and need magnets?
- You could provide free honey suckers to anyone who passes your booth.
The list goes on and on; all you have to do is be creative! I wish you the greatest success in all of your writing and selling adventures. X LLB
March 13, 2019– If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you may have seen me post about a book I was reading last week; The Willpower Instinct, by Kelly McGonigal, is an excellent read for anyone who wants to know how self-control works and how our brains process things. There are three key sentences that really stuck out and I’ve since employed them for the business/writing tasks that I don’t love to do.
- I will.
- I won’t.
- I want.
That’s it, pretty simple, right? Now, let’s combine them to make a powerful statement. If you’re struggling with doing mundane tasks consider the examples below. The more specific you are, the better this works!
- I will write 500 words in an hour and I won’t get distracted by social media during that time because I want to reach my goal and finish my book.
- I will wake up early to finish my blog post and I won’t answer return emails until this afternoon because I want to go for a walk with my spouse after breakfast.
- I will finish my fabulous presentation on grammar by Tuesday and I won’t turn on my phone until it’s completed because I want to show my boss that I deserve a raise.
You guys get the point! This will work in many areas of your life such as organization, education, writing, reading, leisure activities, relationships, and more. It works because I will, I won’t, and I want, allow us to be clear on what our priorities are and they draw a firm line in the sand showing us what we are willing and not willing to do and what the pay off is. This technique works really well and I hope that you’ll try it yourself! Let me know if you do and if it worked for you by sending me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
March 8, 2019- Up until about a year ago, I was a regular member of a local writing group that met each Saturday at a coffee shop in town. It was super relaxed and there were around eight of us, laptops in hand, armed with new ideas, and ready to write. It was a fantastic experience and some of the things I learned along the way, I still carry with me today. The only reason why I stopped going was that I ran out of time and my writing business took over with events that were held on weekends. Being part of a casual writing group was a great experience and here’s why you should consider joining one:
- You’ll get inspired and beat writer’s block. There’s something to be said about gathering in a small group and sharing ideas. Some of my best book ideas have come from just chatting with others and listening to their perspectives on different topics.
- You’ll develop discipline. Every Saturday for two hours from 9 am until 11 am is when our group met and started writing. This helped me develop discipline; it made me realize that I could sit down for two consecutive hours and write, uninterrupted.
- You’ll get and be able to give constructive criticism. This was the most important thing that I got out of joining a writing group. My comrades gave me constructive criticism and made me take a hard look at my writing. They saw the holes that I was blind to. They asked the tough questions that made me a better writer and for that, I’m eternally grateful. I was also able to give feedback and trust my instincts that I knew what I was doing and what I was talking about as a writer.
- You’ll get to network with like-minded people and make some friends. There are people that I’m still friends with from this group and I’ve also been able to do business with a few of them. We still talk about writing and bounce ideas off each other every once in a while.
I highly recommend joining a local writer’s group! You’ll have a blast and be able to hone your skills at the same time. Happy writing! X LLB
March 6, 2019– Character sketches are essential to writing because characters are the people in your book that your readers care about the most! If you don’t have a strong, character-driven story, chances are that people won’t continue to read your work. While writing, authors try and develop characters that readers can relate to. We want characters with real-world struggles of the human condition that intertwine us and make us comrades in this life. As readers, we want to look at a character and see parts of ourselves.
So what exactly is a character sketch? A character sketch is simply writing down everything that you need to know about a character from what their favourite food is to what motivates them. It may sound silly, but I always encourage my authors to write down absolutely EVERYTHING about their characters even the stuff that won’t make it into the book, because knowing their character intimately allows their quirks and personality traits to bleed into their writing. For example, Jenna may hate spaghetti, but the reason behind it may be because it was her abusive ex-husband’s favourite dish.
Let’s elaborate and use Jenna as a character sketch:
- 32 years old
- no children but two pit bull dogs
- loves old movies
- hates spaghetti
- favourite food is roast beef
- tall 5’8
- brown eyes and blonde hair from a bottle
- second born of three children (Older brother, her, younger brother)
- parents are dead
- biggest fear is being alone
- listens to opera music but only while in the shower
- a non-reader other than gossip rags
- spare time is used to scour antique shops
- mid-level income
- American Italian
- biggest goal in her life is to find true love after four failed attempts
I think that’s enough examples and you guys get the point! So, where does this information come in handy? Let’s use this to create a scene.
Jenna threw her keys into the dish on the counter. She scoured her brother’s almost bare fridge for anything edible but the only thing left was day-old spaghetti. She chucked the pasta in the trash with such force that the container burst open and some noodles stuck to the wall. Memories of her cheating ex-husband came barrelling to the surface as she held back tears. It was his favourite meal and the first meal they shared as husband and wife. The cold, stringy pasta was a horrible reminder of the man who betrayed her trust and slept with her best friend.
How in the world did we get all of this from spaghetti? See what I mean? This was going out on a ledge, but we must remember that people have their reasons for everything that they do or don’t do. They don’t do, or like, or hate things for no reason, there is always an explanation.
So, I hope you’ll take the time to sketch your characters! It will make a world of difference in your writing. X LLB