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Habits-The Good, The Bad, and The Stackable…

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):

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Any time I’m driving somewhere, I listen to a Ted Talk. They’re short and packed full of information that is useful.
  4. Every time I sit down to write, I turn off my phone. This minimizes distraction and is a simple thing that is automatic.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 pandapublishing8@gmail.com and me about your experience. X LLB

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You Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours…(But Let Me Scratch First)

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. 

  1. You could provide free recipe cards that use honey as the main ingredient.
  2. You could provide free bookmarks with adorable bees on them or a list of beekeeping facts.
  3. You could provide a pamphlet of the ancient uses of honey as remedies for sore throats etc.
  4. You could provide a magnet of your book cover. Who doesn’t love and need magnets?
  5. 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

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The Willpower Instinct…

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.

  1. I will.
  2. I won’t. 
  3. 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!

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 pandapublishing8@gmail.com.

 

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Character Sketches and Why You Need Them

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:

  1.  32 years old
  2. divorced
  3. no children but two pit bull dogs
  4. Aquarius
  5. loves old movies
  6. hates spaghetti
  7. favourite food is roast beef
  8. tall 5’8
  9. brown eyes and blonde hair from a bottle
  10. second born of three children (Older brother, her, younger brother)
  11. parents are dead
  12. biggest fear is being alone
  13. listens to opera music but only while in the shower
  14. a non-reader other than gossip rags
  15. spare time is used to scour antique shops
  16. mid-level income
  17. American Italian
  18. 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

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Mini Habits (They’ll change your writing life!)

March 1, 2019– I was boarding a flight in Toronto recently, and while we were getting on the plane, I overheard a woman and her son talking about a book. Of course, I’m always interested in book recommendations, so I continued to eavesdrop. The young man said quietly to his mother, “This book is amazing, it’s easy, straightforward, and I think this will work for what I’m trying to accomplish!” The book that he had in hand was titled, Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results. I headed to my seat and took out my phone because the boy had piqued my curiosity. Of course, I had no idea what he was trying to accomplish in his life, but I thought the book sounded intriguing and he sure seemed to believe in it!

I looked up the book jacket info on Amazon and read some of the reviews; they were pretty impressive. I downloaded the audio version and plugged in while we waited on the tarmac. The book, in a nutshell, is about how most of our behaviour happens on autopilot and if we set small goals such as a single push up, once we’re in position, we’ll always do more. Eventually, these small goals will become habits, and we will operate from a place of automation instead of force. So, how can mini habits change your writing life? I’m so glad you asked!

  1. You’ll exceed your goals if you start small. When I first became an author, I created mini habits unbeknownst to myself; I would write every day for only fifteen minutes. Soon those fifteen minutes each day became a habit and the fifteen minutes turned into an hour or more. I have an author friend who started writing only fifty words per day. Soon, his fifty words per day multiplied into fifteen pages per day. The point is, if you set a small goal and stick to it, you’ll reach your goal, and you’ll be motivated to do more.
  2. You’ll create discipline without out even realizing. If you create a mini habit of listening to a business audio book every time you get in the car, or a mini habit of reading one page of a book per day, you’re creating discipline in your life and discipline equals freedom. You would have a massive amount of knowledge in one year if you read one page per day or listened to something while traveling! These mini habits will translate into big results because they will become as automatic and as disciplined as brushing our teeth before bed. Why do we brush our teeth before bed? I don’t know, because it’s a habit that we’ve had since childhood and we just do it. See what I mean?
  3. You’ll get out of your comfort zone. I make it a mini habit of handing out one business card per day. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but over the course of a year it sure adds up! You can cover a lot of ground and grow your writing business if you just implement this one small thing. You could use this approach for sending out queries, submitting manuscripts, connecting with a stranger, or meeting new people. Having a mini habit is an excellent way to get you out of your comfort zone and into a better writing life. Imagine sending 300+ queries out to publishers or agents in a year? That’s a lot of action, and statistically, something is bound to happen!

Start with small mini habits and watch them grow into something amazing! In a later post, perhaps we’ll talk about taking this concept one step further with habit stacking. Stay tuned!

 

 

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Hey, Kiddo…It was a pleasure meeting you!

February 28, 2019– I had the absolute pleasure of meeting author Jarrett J. Krosoczka at the Society of Book Writers and Illustrators conference in New York City. He was the keynote speaker and in my opinion, one of the best speakers at the event bar none. His story was moving, emotional, and hard to listen to at times. I hope that you’ll check out his YA graphic novel, Hey, Kiddo, it’s fabulous and beautiful. Here’s a video of Jarrett talking about his book. Enjoy!

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Things You Should Know…

February 25, 2019-I had a fantastic trip to New York this month, and I learned so much at the SCBWI conference. The Society of Book Writers and Illustrators is just one of the many excellent organizations you can join as an author; the guidelines and specifications are online, so be sure to check them out if you’re interested in becoming a member.

Being an author is a tough business, but you should never give up if story writing is your dream. Here are a  few things that you should know:

  1. You are way more capable than you believe. You can do this, you can deal with the rejections, you can write something special and meaningful. Some days it may seem like you’re banging your head against the desk because the words won’t come, but I assure you, you can do this! Keep going.
  2. Lots of people believe in you and want to see you succeed; they also want to help you in achieving your goals. Your family, friends, community, spouse, loved ones, and teachers all want to see you make it! They’re cheering you on, and if you ever need help, all you need to do is ask them, and they’ll be thrilled to do so. We can’t be in this business alone, and we won’t get very far by ourselves.
  3. You have a choice. You can choose to listen to those who want to try and change your purpose, your work, your ideas, your vision, and your path, or you can go with your gut and keep writing and sharing the stories you want to tell.
  4. The truth is, the publishing and writing industry is contradictory at times, and you never seem to get a straight answer. Keep digging for information and advice and go with the choices that speak to you. If you’re a children’s author and you think you need an agent, don’t hesitate to go with your gut even when you get conflicting information.
  5. This is a business. Our business is books and storytelling. Our job is to tell the stories and then sell the stories.

I hope that you get the chance to visit New York and see all that it has to offer! From museums to sporting events, to Broadway and beyond, the arts and inspiration are around every corner. X LLB

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One of the breathtaking pieces of art that I saw at the MET, Alexander the Great
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Pitching Your Self-Pub to a Literary Agent…

February 20, 2019– So, you’ve self-published a book, and now you want to pitch your book to a literary agent. This is a tougher road to submission versus the traditional route because publishing is all about sales figures. It can be confusing and frustrating so here’s how to do it right and get your query read!

  1. Sales. Yep, the almighty dollar. Publishing is a business and should be treated as such. How many copies has your book sold? This does NOT include FREE downloads. Please do not query an agent unless you’ve sold 2000-3000 print books or 10,000-20,000 ebooks.  Agents look for books that encompass money and success, you must show that your work is above the millions of other books that are self-published each year and one way to do this is to put your money where your mouth is. Prove that your book is saleable with the cash it’s already raked in.
  2. Media attention. Amazon reviews don’t count so I’ll stop you right there. Query an agent only when your book has received reviews from mainstream media such as newspapers, magazines, and tv shows. The bigger, the better!
  3. Bring on the accolades. Has a high profile author or celebrity said something nice about your book? Has an expert in the field you’ve written about endorsed your work? If not, don’t approach an agent until you’ve got some attention from notable names! A blurb or endorsement from a well-known person is an invaluable marketing tool that will better your chances of an agent wanting to represent you.

Eventually, we will delve into the how-to of getting a literary agent to represent your work, but that’s for another blog post down the road. Start with this and when you fulfill the above requirements, we’ll talk. Happy writing! X LLB

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How to Write a Book Review

February 18, 2019– Today we’re talking about book reviews; wait a second, there is a format for writing a book review? Let’s get real, there are formats for every piece of writing that you could ever think of!

Book reviews offer you a chance to share your perception of a book’s good and bad parts and to share info with other readers that they may find useful. Of course, book reviews also allow others to decide whether they should read the book themselves.

Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing a book review:

  1. Do provide a general overview of the book. Include the author, title, publication info such as the publisher and year of publication, and genre. In a few sentences us a taste of the book and your overall opinion of it.
  2. Do say WHY you liked or disliked the book. Be specific! What did you love about it? What did you hate about it? What could have made it better?
  3. Do take a stand. The whole point of a book review is to make a recommendation to your reader. Remember that it is possible to like and dislike parts of the same book! Don’t be afraid to share your opinion!
  4. Don’t give too much away. If you’re reviewing fiction don’t give away key points of plot or the ending or twists that could ruin it for other readers.
  5. Don’t make your review too long. A paragraph or two will do. Pick the thing that interests you most and the thing that you think will most interest your readers.
  6. Don’t be a jerk. If you didn’t enjoy the book, that’s fine, but don’t be insulting. Let your reader know why you were disappointed in the book while still being calm and unemotional.

So there you have it! I look forward to reading your reviews online for some books I’m thinking of reading!