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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 

 

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Prepared or Not Prepared (that is the question)

September 2,2020-I was at the nail salon the other day getting my manicurist, Brian, to work his magic on my tattered, overused nails. Thanks to my profession, it’s hard to keep my fingernails long and beautiful, thank you keyboard, but I do what I can to make them look nice yet functional.

So, I’m sitting there and Brian and I are chatting when I overhear a conversation at the table next to me; two women strike up a conversation and the one asks the other for a business card. The woman rummages through her purse and comes up empty-no business card to give to a prospective client, how terrible and what a wasted opportunity. She turns back to the woman and says with a flush of embarrassment, “Sorry, I don’t have any with me.”

Don’t let this happen to you! Be prepared to do business!

Here’s what’s in my bag/truck that I never leave the house without and you shouldn’t either as a writer!

1) Business Cards-This is the easiest way to make an impression and the simplest thing to hand out. Invest in a high quality business card made of premium material. There’s no quicker way to squash a potential deal than to have a crappy business card. The worst offenders are the print at home kind because they never look professional. Be sure to include your name, phone number, website and email on your card as well as your company name.

2) Brochures-These are great when you want to show off your available services or product collection. Get a high quality brochure made from a professional printer and stick with a glossy finish for maximum punch. You can showcase your book titles beautifully with this approach.

3) Product Samples-I keep a few books in the truck at all times so that I’m always ready should they opportunity present itself for me to give one away or sell one. Your products are your most effective form of communication! Do not leave the house without your books.

Don’t miss any opportunity to talk about your books or your business! Be prepared because you never know what can happen.

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It’s Funny

August 5, 2020-No matter what you’re writing, an element of humour should be present. This is especially true for those of us who write mysteries, thrillers, and psychological books. I think Josh Whedon said it best, “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.” It’s important when writing heavy subject matter to relieve your readers once in a while! Here are three ways to inject humour into your manuscript:

1) Dialogue-Get your character to say something funny. Have a weird exchange between two characters, get your character to reminisce about something humorous that happened to them.

2) Situation-Put your character in a situation where something funny happens to break the tension (when it fits) such as tripping or ripping their pants, or mistaking one thing for something else. In my book Obsessed with Her, James overheard a conversation he thought for SURE was about the girl he was holding hostage, but it turned out to be a missing dog.

3) Embarrass them. Embarrassing things happen to us all the time and I’m sure to me more than others…sigh. Embarrass your character eg. spinach in teeth, static underwear stuck to the back of their outfit, spilling coffee on themselves etc.

The point of adding an element of humour to your writing is to make your characters three dimensional, real, and relatable.

Happy Writing! XLLB

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Ikea and Parkinson’s

July 22, 2020-Do you know about Parkinson’s Law? It states, “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” What does this mean? It means that if you give yourself a week to write a blog post, it will take you a week to write it. If you give yourself a year to complete your novel, it will take a year to complete it and so on. However much time we give a project is the time it will take to complete it; that’s one of the reasons we procrastinate. We always get it done on time, so why do it early?

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of Ikea, has a different approach. He knows about Parkinson’s Law, and to combat it, he shares this idea; “If you split your day into ten-minute increments and you try and waste as few of those ten-minute increments as possible, you’ll be amazed at what you can get done.”

I admit I do this often. When I need to complete a task, especially one that I don’t like, such as social media scheduling, I set a timer for ten minutes. I do as much as I can in ten minutes and then move on to the next thing. It’s not very often that I don’t complete my tasks this way. It’s a simple and effective way to get started and to set and meet deadlines. I repeat this multiple times per day. Don’t worry; it’s not the same as multi-tasking as you’re only focusing on one thing at a time! Give this method a try for your writing tasks and send me an email to say how you made out: pandapublishing8@gmail.com

Happy Writing, X LLB 

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A Healthy Mindset for Starting a Business and De-bunking Stigmas

July 20, 2020-I’m so proud to introduce our guest blogger today! It’s our very own Erin Cutler! Check out what she has to say below: (We love you, Erin!)

Picture a young artist after 4 years of post-secondary education, finally receiving their Bachelor’s Degree of Illustration and ready to jump headfirst into the big wide world of opportunity. Looks hopeful right? Well for me, anxiety-inducing was a better word. 

A year ago today, thinking about my future in freelance illustration and starting my career triggered avoidance, negative thinking, massive anxiety and sometimes tears. When you dream big in a world of conforming and financially contributing to society, how do you start small? How do you take this beautiful, authentic and creative passion that is larger than life and turn it into a reality? If these questions riddle you and hold you back from going after what you love… then read on my friend, I was you. I sometimes still am you, and I’m reporting back with good news!

So, what’s the good news? First and foremost, the good news is that you are enough and you deserve success on your own terms. Society has a vision of success and a work till you break mentality to achieve it. Though that lifestyle works for some, it may not be beneficial for everyone and it may be the reason you feel held back. Starting your creative career is daunting enough, having expectations to conform to anyone else’s standards other than your own is crazy talk. Start with focusing inwards. Figure out who you want to be in the world and what success means to you. Take care of yourself and find a work-life balance that makes you feel good. 

I struggle a lot with anxiety and one of my most useful techniques is dreaming big but thinking small. The prospect of the future brings me great fear and uncertainty, it’s this giant unknown you just can’t control no matter what you do. Starting small means literally doing the very first step that you need to do to get to where you want to go. For me it meant walking into my office space, sitting in my chair, opening my laptop and writing down a list of all the companies I want to work with. Focusing on each step until it is complete, quickly took me from looking up companies to reaching out to companies. If I never focused on the next small task, I’d still be worrying about how I was going to make rent 5 years from now. Focus is everything.    

My last word of advice, for all my fellow creatives, is to be kind to yourself. Being an artist can come with the pressure to produce creatively invigorating work with every brush stroke. The reality is, sometimes you might be working on 100% and other times you could be giving it 50% because the other half of you is putting your energy somewhere else…and that’s okay. I’ve had breakthrough moments where I was producing amazing art and feeling really healthy at the same time. I’ve also had moments of anxiety, grief and health concerns that severely divided my attention from my work. It’s healthy to take a break from being the best artist that you possibly can be. When you work on yourself and put focus into different areas of your life, your career will flourish. A healthy mind and a well-balanced life will encourage creativity and a willingness for growth. 

So now picture this, a recent anxiety-riddled grad goes to therapy, adapts cognitive-behavioural tools, builds confidence in their abilities and redefines success. What we are seeing here is the beginning of a healthy, flourishing creative career. Big dreams take patience and tender care, they take love of oneself and the ability to prioritize the small steps.

Lastly, you got this! Go get that dream career, anxiety is real but it’s also manageable and you are strong and capable.

Erin Cutler is a Canadian Freelance Illustrator. She has illustrated 3 children’s books for Pandamonium Publishing House and works in editorial. Some of the books she’s illustrated include Pants, Miranda the Very Loud Mouse, and Grandma’s Table. Her work can be seen in Murze, Shameless, Geez and Harpy Magazine.

You can purchase Erin’s books here: 

Pants!

Miranda the Very Loud Mouse

Grandma’s Table

Check out Erin’s portfolio site at www.illustrationsbyerin.com. You can also follow her Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/illustrationsbyerin/) or (https://www.instagram.com/inkling.illustrations/).

 

 

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Cancelled

June 19, 2020– Things in the world are so weird right now, but at least some restrictions are lifting, and hopefully, the quarantine will be entirely over soon. I know that there are things that are more important going on than the festivals and events that we look so forward to all year, but these chances to connect with the community face to face are so special to us, and they mean a lot.

So, there will be no It’s Your Festival, no SuperCrawl, no fall fairs, and no Peach Festival, to name a few events that we would have been scheduled to appear with our books and authors. Although these events have been cancelled, here is a list of things that are not:

  1. Reading to your kids. This is the most sacred time between parents and children that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Kids will remember reading bedtime stories and snuggling with you forever; reading with them will ignite their love of literacy and create lasting memories for both of you.
  2. Virtual book clubs. Book clubs, oh how we miss you, but virtual ones still make them possible. We are revamping our international book club program as we speak, so check back here for more information in the coming weeks! We’re doing a read around the world program where we feature books from different cultures and countries. I’m so excited, so stay tuned!
  3. Virtual storytime and book launches. I’ve had the pleasure of reading my storybook, Panda, the Very Bad Cat for Frontier College online. What a great idea to help kids find new books! We also do online book launches for our new releases, and it’s a great idea because you can still connect with your readers and audience through Facebook Live and Instagram Live; it’s a new way of doing things, but still a lot of fun.
  4.  Reading outdoors. Nothing beats a cold beverage on a hot day, except adding a great book into the mix! Hit the deck or patio and escape into another world for a few hours under the sun.
  5. Writing. Now is the time to work on your novel or next writing project. If you’re working from home and keeping typical hours, consider waking up a bit earlier to have some writing time. Get inspired with ideas by reading blogs and writing in a journal.
  6. Spending time in nature. This is one of our most favourite things to do at Pandamonium. Nature seems to reset us and allow us some much-needed downtime. This is also where some of our best ideas blossom! Grab a notebook and pen and head out for a hike or a walk, you’ll be glad you did.

While it’s easy to focus on all the things we still can’t do at this point, it’s better to focus on what we can do. Enjoy these summer days, and stay positive! X LLB

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The Idea Muscle

June 15, 2020-Did you know that it’s easier to come up with twenty ideas than it is to think of ten? Let me explain. If you’re thinking of ideas for storylines for your novel and you can’t think of ten ideas, then you’re putting way too much pressure on yourself. Perfection is the enemy of ideas. Stop stopping yourself and go ahead and write down those terrible ideas! How does this help?

1) It forces you to get uncomfortable. The bad ideas never have to see the light of day, so don’t worry about them coming to fruition, just get the ideas down on paper. Your brain will scream, NO! THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA! YOU’RE GOING TO EMBARRASS YOURSELF! Who cares, write it down.

2) A great idea will come from bad ones. The more bad ideas you write down, the better! Once we get the bad ones out of the way, there’s more room for the good ones. Sometimes we just need to get out of our own heads and stop overthinking. Here’s a terrible idea-Snow White and the Seven Sins.

3)You’ll take action. So, you’ve written down your ideas (good and bad), and now what you need to do is write down the first steps to take. Do this for ALL of your ideas, even the bad ones. Snow White and the Seven Sins: Step 1-Research what the seven sins are and leave it at that. Move on to the next idea and next step.

This method of idea generation has led me to some of the best ideas I’ve ever had and I know it will work for you too. Happy writing, X LLB

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The OHIO Method

June 1, 2020– Have you heard of the OHIO method? Did you know that this way of doing things can increase your productivity by 80 percent?

The OHIO method stands for Only Handle It Once. A lot of the time, we go around in circles trying to multi-task and completing things on our to-do list that aren’t really that important. Here’s how you can improve your writing life and publishing business by sticking to this simple principle:

  1. Chunk into groups. If it takes 2 minutes or less to complete, do it right away. For example, emails, social media status updates, scheduling meetings, paying a bill, or rebooking a client, taking 2 minutes to deal with these things will ensure that you only handle it once.
  2.  Prioritize big tasks. If you’re writing a novel, you know how difficult it can be to start writing and to continue to write long after the spark and ideas have gone. But, it’s essential to keep going and finish what we start as authors. What is the most significant task that you have today to write your novel? Is it outlining? Perhaps it’s character development or plot lines, whatever it is, choose the most important and get to work. Remember, this is not about editing, it’s about getting words onto the paper at this point. By doing this, you only handle it once, and you can go back later and refine your work.
  3. Set limits. The OHIO method is a great time saver because it frees up our options. I do this with my illustrators- every Friday like clockwork, they give me a progress report. This lets me know what they’re doing and how things are moving along and how close we are to completion on projects. By setting limits on when you’ll respond to emails or when you have staff meetings, this allows you to utilize your time more effectively and only handle it once.

The OHIO method works great once implemented, and you’ll realize that you have more time for the things you need to do and want to do.

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