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Advice from a Publisher

November 18, 2020– Let’s take a page out of my own book Advice from a Publisher (Insider tips for getting your work published!) available here: https://pandamoniumpublishing.com/product/advice-from-a-publisher-insider-secrets-for-getting-your-work-published/

Q: I’m working on a couple of novels simultaneously, and I’m having a problem keeping things straight! I’ve mixed up my characters and plots in a few places during the story and am driving myself crazy! How do I fix this? 

A: Kudos to you for working on two novels! Don’t worry; it’s an easy fix.

  1. Sticky notes are your friend. Before sitting down to work on either one of your novels, take a sticky note and write the main character’s name in BOLD, BLACK marker. Stick it to the screen of your laptop. This is a visual reminder of what you’re working on and which character/book requires your attention.
  2. One thing per day. Section your week into specific days that you will work on each project. For example, I write Becoming James Cass on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I work on my other book, I am Jessica Westlake. It’s much easier to write on certain days rather than spend the morning of each day working on project one, and the afternoon working on project two. You’ll be less inclined to make a mistake…unless, of course, you’re like me and never know what day it is!

Please send me your questions! I love helping aspiring authors.  You can reach me at pandapublishing8@gmail.com.

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How to Avoid Criticism

November 5, 2020-Want to know how to avoid criticism as an author? Say nothing, do nothing, be nothing, and write nothing. No matter what you do, someone is going to complain. You have a choice, do what you want to do, write the books you want to read, and put yourself out there without caring what people think. This is harder for some people than others, but I promise you, once you stop caring what people think, that’s when you’re free.

This week, one of my authors had a review left on their page. It was less than stellar. But, we focus on the positive. One person didn’t like his book; art is subjective, so let’s move on. If we had wallowed in what other people thought of our work, we’d never write another word. People are entitled to their opinions, and that’s just it; they’re only OPINIONS. What people think of us and our work isn’t going to shatter us, stop us from writing, or give us a complex. What people think of us is none of our business. So how do you bounce back from a nasty review (I’ve had tons of my own, trust me), cutting remark, or mean email?

  1. Do not respond. The worst thing you can do is respond to someone who doesn’t like you or your work. Let them have their opinion and focus on the positive. The last thing you want to be involved in is a war of words. Remember that people are entitled to think whatever they want.
  2. See if there’s truth in the comment. Yes, sometimes I get hate mail…ok, a lot of the time. But sometimes a lot of good comes from it. A person will complain about a character or story arc and say that I can’t write worth beans. This allows me to take a closer look at what they’re saying and see if they’re correct. No matter how harsh, criticism lets me reflect on my work and conduct and improve in areas that need improvement.
  3. Don’t get discouraged. Keep doing your thing, keep writing, and keep moving forward. Oftentimes, people who aren’t happy with themselves or their circumstances lash out at others. People who start fights aren’t at war with you; they’re at war with themselves. Wish them the best and get back to work.
  4. Remember that you can’t make everyone happy. If your book is for everyone, it’s for no one. There will always be people out there that love your work and others who hate it. You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, but there will always be someone who hates peaches.

It’s fine to offer constructive criticism in a positive manner, but it’s quite another to be mean about it. Remember, on the other side of the screen is a human being. How would you want to be treated?

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Data (No, not the dude from Star Trek)

October 13, 2020– As you know, I’ve been continuing my education with a few new courses that I found really intriguing. I’ve completed Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing at the Copenhagen School of Business. I’m almost done my course at Wharton Business School on Viral Marketing and How to Craft Contagious Content. I’ve learned many things, but today I’m going to focus on what I really enjoy, and that’s data.

I can hear a couple of you sighing from behind your screen right now, but trust me, this kind of data tracking, analysis, and integration will help you meet your goals for your business. Companies mine data all the time but what does that mean?

Data mining in the most simplistic forms is gathering data, analyzing it, and using it to know your consumers better. When we know who are consumers are and have a firm grasp on what they do, how they behave, the things they buy, and how they find our products, the better we can serve them and fill their needs. This is also called Customer Analytics.

Let’s do a case study so that you understand what I mean:

We have an email list of 5,000 subscribers. 500 of those subscribers are men, 4,000 are women, and 500 are teens. If we are going to spend our money on a children’s book marketing campaign, we need more information and we need to further break down our list.

500 teens are immediately disqualified because they aren’t in our target market. Yes, there is some variable data that suggests that some teens are already parents, but lack the median income or disposable income needed to purchase books for their children. This is a sweeping statement and used as a general example and is not intened to offend or exclude anyone. That leaves us with the women and men. We know from previous data that most women are the primary purchasers in their homes. Out of the 4,000 subscribers, 3500 of the women are between the ages of 30-39. Women between the ages of 30-39 (based on the data we have from our webstore analysis) are the primary purchasers of children’s titles on our site. If we break that number down further, we see that 500 women are from Oakville, 500 from Toronto, 1,000 from Hamilton, 1,000 from Niagara, and 500 from other places in Southern Ontario. Again, we retrieved this data from analytics on our site. We decide to use data from previous sponsored ads on Instagram and Facebook to see how much of a response we’re getting and from who. We see that out of 500 views, we have 100 clicks on our site. Out of those 100 clicks, we see that 40 of them were for a specific title and were clicked on by women from Hamilton and those women used Instagram to find us (as the program segments it).

What does this mean? Well, the data tells us that they were interested in a specific children’s book, it tells us that they are from Hamilton, and it tells us that they’re active on social media (Instagram specifically). This also let’s us know that they’re on the younger end of the age spectrum from ages 30-35 if they prefer Instagram over Facebook as their main source of social media, plus the data collected confirms it.

How does this help us? It helps us in a number of ways; the data shows that we should be marketing a specific book, to a specific region, to a specific age group, at a certain time. We’re combining knowledge that was filtered from our ad, and what we know about the best times to post on Instagram. Now we can tailor our marketing plans to have the most effective reach and impact for our consumers so that they can find our products with ease and efficiency.

There’s so much more to know about how analytics and data can help your small business and entrepreneurs that I couldn’t possibly fit it all in one post. If you’d like more information about how the experts at Pandamonium Publishing House can help you collect and filter your data, send us an email at pandapublishing8@gmail.com.

 

 

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Advice From A Publisher

September 28, 2020-Today, I’ve taken a page out of my book Advice from a Publisher  (Insider Secrets to Getting Your Work Published) to talk about Synopsis’. This is critical info if you want a shot at being published!

How to write a synopsis: Do you want to know what will make a publisher absolutely lose their mind and throw their laptop onto their front lawn? Read on to find out. No, I don’t mean read on to find out; I mean, when authors say, “Read the book to find out!” Let me explain: The job of a synopsis is to tell the publisher what happens in your book from beginning to end. It’s a snippet of the big picture and gives us the information that we need to know. If you remember from the previous chapter, How to Properly Query, you’ll know that a query letter is a sales pitch. A synopsis is an overview of your book which allows the publisher to identify any major problems with your manuscript, lets us determine if your book is a good fit, and helps us decide if your work is exciting, intriguing, and fresh enough to publish.

Your synopsis must include:

The main character and why we should care about them. What is at stake, and what motivates this character to take action?

The conflict. How does the main character succeed or fail in dealing with the conflict?

Conflict resolution? How is the conflict resolved, and has the character changed or learned anything? THIS IS THE ENDING! DO NOT PUT READ ON TO FIND OUT because your letter will be recycled, and you’ll never hear from us again. Seriously, this drives us crazy.

DO NOT:

Summarize each scene or every chapter. This will take way too long, and you must get your summary across quickly and concisely.

Write this with the tone of a book jacket or back cover. It’s not a marketing piece for readers that builds excitement.

Make your synopsis longer than one page.

Get weighed down with specifics such as supporting character names, detailed settings, and descriptions.

Talk about character back story. We don’t need to know, and frankly, we don’t care. Yes, even for you sci-fi writers, leave it out!

Get wordy. Don’t use eight words when four will do.

For examples of good and lousy synopsis’ check out chapter 7 in my Amazon Number 1 Best Seller book found here: https://pandamoniumpublishing.com/product/advice-from-a-publisher-insider-secrets-for-getting-your-work-published/

Insider Secret: Write your synopsis in the third person narrative even if your manuscript is told in first person. Write in the present tense and remind the publisher of the category and genre of your work. Reveal EVERYTHING and never use; it was all a dream endings or beginnings.

Best of luck! I can’t wait to read your work.

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Support and Celebrate Living Artists

September 27, 2020- Legendary hip-hop producer Swizz Beatz is on a mission to revolutionize the way artists do business. In this talk, he shares some of the ways he’s helping fellow creatives thrive, including a roving art fair that gives artists 100 percent of their sales, a new commission system for galleries to fund living visual artists and Verzuz, online musical celebrations that bring joy to fans — and sales to musicians. “If we’re not protecting the arts, we’re not protecting our future,” he says. Check out his TedTalk below:

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E-Books (The Future of Publishing?)

September 25, 2020– I attended the London Book Fair in England a few years ago, and I was fortunate enough to participate in many classes to continue my education. One of the subjects that came up was e-books, and how they are changing the face of publishing. Here are four reasons why electronic books are essential to offer your customers if you’re an author, especially a self-published one:

  1. Portability. You’ve just bought a new book series to read while on vacation-did you pack your paperbacks, or did you download the books onto your phone, tablet, e-reader, Kindle, Kobo, or laptop? I’m a fan of paperback books, don’t get me wrong, but when I’m on vacation, I like to lounge by the pool and read. I can’t fit all of the books I can read in a week in my suitcase, so I choose to download them instead.
  2. Sharable. A lot of e-books contain bonus information such as additional chapters or new release teasers via hyperlinks. We add hyperlinks to our e-books because our readers can click on a link and be brought to our website where they can find similar titles they may be interested in. Plus, e-books can be shared with friends.
  3. Highlightable. Non-fiction books especially fall into this category. Most people skim the contents looking for things that are relevant to them, and they can highlight which parts they want to remember or refer back to without ruining or damaging the book like they would have if they had highlighted a paperback.
  4. Environmentally friendly. There is no paper or ink or shipping materials used for e-books, which is an absolute advantage to the environment. There is no waste and nothing to throw away.

I’m not saying that I prefer e-books over print books by any means \(nothing beats the textile nature of holding a book in your hands, flipping the pages, and the smell of them). I’m saying that they have their advantages and have a place in publishing. As an author, make sure you’re offering e-books to your readers; it’s essential to give them as many options as possible to enjoy your work. If you search any of our books on Amazon, you’ll find a paperback version and an e-book version; this is just one of the ways we commit to serving you better.

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Wherever You Go (There You Are)

September 24, 2020– Before COVID happened, I popped into an Indigo bookstore in my city. Bookstores are my happy place, and I love to browse the different sections and topics; I always seem to find my way into the children’s area. Often, the store has local author visits where writers can set up a table and sell their books to customers in-store.

I wandered over to the author’s table, and the woman looked up at me as she was sitting there reading a book. I was the first to engage in conversation; I asked her how it was going, and if she had been busy with customers. She told me she hadn’t, and she wasn’t really into the “sales part” of writing and that she preferred to write the books and stay “behind the scenes.”  I asked her what she thought would happen after she published her book, and she said that she hadn’t thought that far ahead. I asked her about her sales goals and if she had a plan for her book going forward. Again, she said she “hadn’t thought that far ahead.” She went on to tell me that she had spent a pile of money self-publishing her book and that now she had a garage full of unsold copies that she wasn’t sure what she was going to do with now. She also said that she wished she had more sales and that she wanted to, at minimum, break even.

I see this a lot, and it’s a shame because her book was quite good and the subject matter was interesting. As an author, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you where you want to be?
  2. What are you doing to get there?
  3. What can you improve?

If we use the woman above as an example to answer these questions, here’s what we come up with:

  1. She is not where she wants to be. What she wants is more sales, she wants to break even, and she wants to get rid of the inventory of books in her garage. She should be specific about her goals.
  2. She is going to book store events, but not much else. She needs to start brainstorming about how she can sell her books—Eg. Online platform, other book stores, schools, festivals and events etc.
  3. There are a lot of things she can improve; the first thing is engaging with customers when she has them in front of her, hand out literature, talk more about her book, get on social media etc.

You can’t hit a target that you can’t see. So are you where you want to be as an author? What goals do you have for your work? How will you get there? What plan of action will you take? How will you improve your current situation? These are important questions that need answers.

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Are They Aware?

September 18, 2020-What do you see when I say the word McDonald’s? For some people, this word will conjure up the image of burgers, fries, broken ice cream machines and chicken McNuggets, and some will immediately see the infamous golden arches. It doesn’t matter what came to mind first, the food or the logo, because both things achieved the same goal, to make you aware of their brand and what they sell.

Are people aware of what you sell? Do the covers of your books come to mind when they think of you? Do they see your company logo? Do they know what you offer? If not, here are some good ways to make people aware of you, your brand, and your books:

  1. Business cards-Always carry a stack of business cards with you. It should say who you are, what your occupation is, website, email, phone number, and have your logo/slogan on it. Mine is black with a silver P, on the front with my name and owner of Pandamonium Publishing House.
  2. Brochures-These are great tools to hand out to people to explain your business offering, product samples, book excerpts, reviews, and services. Be sure to include your logo, colours, website, email, business name, how to order, and social media information.
  3. Postcards- I use postcards a lot for many different things. I use them to write notes to clients, to include in our subscription book boxes, to say thank you, and for appreciation notes to anyone who orders off our site.
  4. Banners/signage- These are essential for shows and events that you’re attending. Include your logo, brand colours, slogan, and website/email/social media info. Be sure that everything is large enough to read from a distance.
  5. Letterhead- This should include your company name, email address, website, address, and logo as well as company colours, and phone number.
  6. Email signature- Some days, I’ll send up to 50 emails per day, depending on the circumstance. An email signature is a great way to let prospective clients know what you do, who you are, and how to reach you and your social media handles. Also, if you have a writing business, your email signature is a great way to let everyone know what your hours are or when you’re out of the office/away from your desk.
  7. Social media-Amazon author page, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram- You should have all of these things and more. People need to know where to find you, and you need to be consistent with your posts. Use a social media scheduler like Hootsuite to pre-schedule your posts so you’re not tied to your phone when you could be doing something more valuable with your time. Your social media should all be linked to each other and be informative, educational, and entertaining while adhering to your brand message and aesthetic.
  8. Blog-How your blog looks and what it does are synonymous with your brand awareness and what you do/offer. Your books should be for sale online as well as your services, an about section about you and your company, and your logo, colours, and common theme should run throughout. If you’re a romance writer, for example, you could have topics on your blog that include things such as the elements of writing romance, specific genre information, how to write characters etc.
  9. Logo and colours-Our brand colours are black, white, and purple; this follows through to our cards, brochures, postcards, signage, letterhead, and blog. Our logo is a black box with a white letter P in the middle.

Every time you create content or interact with people, you are representing your brand. Do it well.

Have your coffee the same way that we do!
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Run Your Way to Inspiration

September 10, 2020-As long as it’s not raining, you can usually find me running outside in the early morning in my neighbourhood. I love saying hello to familiar faces and smiling back at the people who give me cheery grins and waves. There are people walking and biking, some are on rollerblades, and most have dogs; it’s usually the same crowd day in and day out with a few exceptions.

I like to make up stories about the people and things that I see while I run; Where are they going after this? What if their dog could talk? Does their dog talk to the other dogs it meets? Where does that staircase lead? What is that skunk doing, and what is he digging for? What if we were all running from Zombies? Would I survive? And the list goes on.

Sometimes the ideas are silly, and sometimes the ideas are stuff that I can work with. The point is that I’m observing the things around me and being inspired by them.

Inspiration comes in all forms; let’s explore:

  1. Setting-Sunsets, trees, trails, staircases, houses, waterfronts are all examples of settings you’ll see on your run that could make it into your story.
  2. Animals-Skunks, foxes, birds, squirrels, coyotes, and rabbits are all animals that I’ve seen on the running trail that would make great characters for stories!
  3. People-runners, rollerbladers, walkers, older adults, middle-aged people, workout buffs, personal trainers, kids, and teenagers are great examples of people to write about.
  4.  Professions-Garbage collectors, construction workers, road pavers, gardeners, roofers, dog walkers, and babysitters are some professions that could start your story off right.

Looking at this list inspires me! How many ideas can you think of using the list of things above? Happy Writing, X LLB

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What Do You Do?

September 9, 2020– How many times have you been asked, “What do you do?” Probably a lot, especially when at a gathering where you’re meeting new people. I was at a party once where this question came up (which was not directed toward me), and the person answered, “Oh, I’m just an author. Well, not really an author, I publish my own stuff, but I don’t have a publisher or anything…” From across the room, I watched as the woman squirmed in the corner and shifted her feet with cocktail in hand, and I wanted to grab her by the shoulders, look into her eyes, and say, “Start again, this time with confidence! Repeat after me, I AM AN AUTHOR. Period. That’s a complete sentence.” 

How many times have you downplayed your writing skills or talents? A few, I’m willing to bet, especially since most authors are introverts who don’t like to toot their own horn. But it’s crucial that you say you’re an author with conviction because if you don’t believe it, no one else will. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re published, unpublished, in the submission phase, have a few things in small publications, a blogger, a poet or whatever else, YOU ARE AN AUTHOR. 

Why does this matter? Because sooner or later, what you say and think about most, becomes reality. As long as your writing and improving your craft, it’s only a matter of time before someone says yes after a whole bunch of no’s. It drives me insane when authors say that they’re not real authors because they’ve self-published. All that means is (if they did it right and invested in a quality editor, cover designer, and formatter) that they wanted to keep control of their project and work from beginning to end. Yes, there are a few self-published works out there that give the good guys a bad name, but for the most part, self-published books (when executed properly) are impossible to tell from traditionally published books. 

So, start believing in yourself! You’ll be glad you did. X LLB