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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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The BS Story You Tell Yourself

September 16, 2020-Tuesday, while on my daily run, I saw a man jogging along the mountain brow, pushing his baby in a stroller at around 6:30 in the morning. I admired his commitment to fitness and also that he brought his kid with him. Then I started to think about all of the excuses he could have had; It’s too cold, I want to sleep in, I’ll just skip today, I’ll leave my son at home with my spouse, I don’t want to wake him up, it’s too early, and the list could go on and on.

The point is, we all tell ourselves BS stories that are just an out for the things we know we should be doing; we give ourselves too many passes and a bunch of reasons as to why we can’t do something. I’m here to tell you that it’s time to stop lying to yourself. Here are the most common excuses that I hear from authors/writers/entrepreneurs:

  1. I don’t have time- I hear this constantly; I don’t have time to finish my manuscript, there aren’t enough hours in a day, it’s taking way too long to finish my first draft, I’m too busy to write. Etc. Etc.
  2. I have writer’s block- I can’t think of a plotline, my story isn’t working, there aren’t any good ideas left, I just stare at my blank computer screen, but nothing comes to mind, I can’t focus. Etc. Etc.
  3. I’ll do it tomorrow-Tomorrow will be a better day; it can wait until tomorrow to finish; I’ll just skip today and do it tomorrow etc. etc.
  4. I can’t afford it- Continuing education is too expensive; I can’t afford to keep my membership to (insert name of author or writing organization here), the course is too much money. Etc. Etc.
  5. My work isn’t good enough- I don’t want to let anyone read this, it’s too personal, I don’t think it’s good enough to send to a publisher, I’ll wait until it’s perfect before letting you read it. Etc. Etc.
  6. It didn’t pay off. The show was slow, so there’s no point in going again this week; I didn’t cover my table cost, I didn’t sell that many books, I was bored the whole time and could be doing something more constructive with my time. Etc. Etc.

So, what’s the BS story you keep telling yourself and what success is it holding you back from?

I don’t have time* Solution-wake up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later.

I have writer’s block*Solution-change your space, get the words on the page and stop self-editing.

I’ll do it tomorrow* Solution-tomorrow may never come, do it today.

I can’t afford it* Solution-look into grants, stop buying stupid things, start budgeting, contact the organizer to see if they’ll work with you, ask about payment plans, buy a book or borrow one from the library on the subject you’re interested in furthering your education with.

My work isn’t good enough*Solution-send it in anyway, let others read it, do better and improve your skills by asking for feedback and constructive criticism.

It didn’t pay off*Solution-give away literature, up your game with your table display, talk to other vendors, entice people to come to your booth with a free draw, measure the value in other ways-How many connections did you make? How many emails did you get? What opportunities did you drum up? How many people did you talk to about literacy? It may not pay off this second, but it sure could in the future.

Stop making excuses and giving yourself a way out. Do what you need to do day in and day out to be successful. No one said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.

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Make Up Your Mind

September 15, 2020– The other day, while I was walking to the mailbox, I saw a squirrel trying to decide whether or not to cross the road. It went left, then right, then back left again, then right, then onto the road and boom…hit by a car. It was awful, and I felt so bad for the little critter. Perhaps we can learn something from the squirrel’s indecision and that not being able to decide quickly can be fatal for our business and our writing careers.

It reminds me of a time a couple of years ago. I was a guest speaker at a writer’s group and after the session I had a few students hang around to chat. We talked about all kinds of things, but something that stood out to me was the lack of decisiveness among one person in the group. We talked about a number of subjects and got on the topic of future goals. I asked the group what they would like to accomplish with their writing and what steps were they actively taking to meet those accomplishments.

One woman said that she had a goal of being a published author, but couldn’t decide which story to send in, which contest to submit to, which publisher to pitch to, or if she should sign up for a writing seminar. So, I asked her what she was going to do and she looked at me and said, “I waited too long…the contest is over, the publisher that was accepting my genre of writing has closed their submissions window, and the writing seminar was last week.”

Moral of the story? If you wait too long and are indecisive, you’ll miss your opportunity.  It’s important to make decisions with confidence and speed. Quick descision making skills are linked with success and it’s possible to overthink things to the point of destruction and in the squirrel’s case, death. So, why do people hesitate? Because they’re afraid of being wrong.

I don’t work with people who can’t decide; it costs time and money to hum and haw and think about things for too long. I prefer to work with those who take action.

Sheryl Sandberg said it best, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”

Five minutes of action is worth more than a hundred hours of indescision. Don’t miss your chance!

 

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Brain Dump

September 12, 2020-Today, we’re going to talk about a very therapeutic exercise that will help you clear your mind. It’s easy to do, and all you need is a pen and a piece of paper. The point of this writing tool is to let you get all of your thoughts down on paper so that you can effectively sort them. Here’s how it works:

  1. Write down what you’re having a problem with-whether it’s a plot issue or character development or your book not selling, whatever it is, write it down. I’ll use the example of slow book sales. 
  2. Write down whatever comes to mind while reading your problem-do not edit; this is really important because you don’t want to stifle your creativity.  Using the above example, here’s what I wrote down: Give free samples and ask for reviews while promoting our other books, send customers to our Amazon links and website links, make shopping easy and hassle-free for them, put books on sale for a limited time only (maybe a collection), talk about our books on social media or do a live reading, mail out brochures, send out a newsletter to our readers, run a promotion…and so on.
  3. Implement the best solution-after you have a full-page, re-read all of the ideas you have and go with the best solutions. I can’t tell you how many times this worked for me when I first started writing, and I continue to use this method even now. Here’s the solution based on the example given: Do all of the above.

This method of writing also helps when you’re unable to sleep. There are so many thoughts that keep us awake at night that sometimes it’s helpful to get them all down on paper so that we can clear our minds and deal with things with a fresh set of eyes in the morning.

Dump those thoughts and clear your mind! Happy writing, X LLB

 

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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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Lights, Camera, Action

September 7, 2020Happy Monday, Friends! I recently re-read The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace D. Wattles, and I must say, reading it a second time is when more of the information sank in. Part of the book talks about taking inspired action, so that’s what we’ll be chatting about today in this blog post; let’s explore what inspired action is and what some action steps are that you could take to change your writing life. 

Inspired action is when you get an idea, and you act on it immediately. Some of these ideas happen while having a shower, exercising, or meditating, but they all have one thing in common, you suddenly have a great idea, and without thinking about the nuts and bolts of it, you act on it right away. 

If we’re quiet enough, we can hear our subconscious, and that’s where the magic happens! There has been a lot of debate around books like The Secret and Law of Attraction type works, where some people think that all they have to do is think good thoughts and suddenly their mailbox will be full of cheques and money; that’s not how it works. Yes, positive thinking and maintaining a positive attitude are essential to success, but the other piece of the puzzle is that you must take action. 

So, how do we take inspired action for our writing/book business? 

  1. Meditate /quiet your mind: This is the best way to solve any problem you have. By quieting your mind, you are allowing your subconscious to take the wheel and come up with solutions that your conscious mind may not have thought of. 10-15 minutes daily is great to start with, and you can work your way up from there. If your goal is to sell more books, but you don’t know where to start, before your meditation, ASK your subconscious how you can meet your goal. 
  2. Be Clear: You can never get what you want if you don’t know what that is. Maybe your goal is to have one of your books hit number 1 on the best sellers list, or you want to sell 5000 copies of your book, or you want to see your book in the hands of a celebrity. Whatever your goal is, make sure that you are crystal clear. Don’t worry about the details of how it’s going to happen, just take action and keep taking action. It’s only a matter of time before things will materialize. You’ve got to put the work in though!

What can we do to take action now based on our goals? 

  1. Don’t overthink, instead DO: When you have an idea, act on it right away. No matter how silly it seems, it could be what holds the key to success. Once, I was trying to think of a way to get some information on specific police procedures for one of my novels. I contacted a friend who put me in touch with the head of Toronto Homicide, who ended up consulting on my book. Also, that led to a private tour of the Ontario Police College, where I got to ask as many questions as my heart desired, and I got to view the campus, library, and ballistics room/training course. 
  2. Make your requests known: I know a lot of people may disagree with me on this one because some of us are surrounded by folks who don’t want to see us succeed. Sad, but true. Plus, when people don’t know what you’re working on, they have nothing to attack. But I believe that the Universe conspires to give us what we want if we ask and take action. Other people can help us with ideas, materials, funding, answers and more. And we can help them too; life is reciprocal. If you don’t ask for what you need, you’re not taking action, are you? The person you ask may not be able to help you directly, but maybe they know someone who can. I once sent a letter to the Port Authority in my city to see if they wanted to buy copies of Panda the Very Bad Cat to give to kids at their company Christmas Party. They said yes, and placed their order. I have no idea why I picked that specific place, but it was inspired action, and all I did was ask. 

Happy Monday! Here’s to another amazing week. 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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What’s Your Reason?

August 24, 2020-What made you want to be an author? Have you ever been asked this question? I get asked at least once a week, if not more. This is what I say, and I mean every word; I’ve been writing for a long time. I started writing stories when I was around eight years old, but I didn’t always want to be an author. I wanted to be the person who stitched up NHL players’ faces. The first letter I wrote was a piece of fan mail to my hockey idol, Cam Neely. It’s funny that I did that as a little girl because now, the books that I’ve written are at Neely House (a support home and facility for cancer patients) in Boston. I remember going there to donate my books and bursting into tears because it was such a dream come true to make that connection. 

I’ve always been a writer, whether it be short stories, non-fiction diary entries, or poetry; I was continually writing. Then as I got older, I was published in a magazine called Women’s World for the first time. From there, I’ve been published internationally about 15 times, and in 2015, I opened my own publishing company and have never looked back. 

What made me want to be an author was my sheer love of books. As a child, I would read everything I could get my hands on, backs of cereal boxes, hand me down Baby Sitter’s Club books from my cousins, and magazines that were passed on from a neighbour.  As an adult, I read approximately 60 books per year on every subject. Also, I read up to fifteen hundred manuscripts over 12 months that are submitted to me for potential publication. At the age of 33, I finally decided that I wanted to be an author full-time because I love storytelling, creating characters, and inventing worlds. The characters become part of me, and they feel like home. Writing gave me a place to escape to, and it still does. I suppose I wanted to be a writer to inspire others to share their stories and hopefully ignite a love of literacy in everyone I meet.  I hope I accomplish that because that’s my most important mission and the reason why I was put here.

That’s why I strive to publish books that people love to read. Literacy matters, and literacy is directly linked to a better future for all of us. What’s your reason for wanting to be an author?

 

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All Systems, Go

August 19, 2020-I recently saw a post on Facebook that talked about how society has normalized working excessively, and the poster asked to hear people’s opinions and experiences. She asked if we work more than 45 hours per week, and what impact does working all the time have on us? She also asked, does loving what you do make it acceptable to work 10-12 hours a day? Here’s my answer:

This is a tough subject for every entrepreneur. I personally work 4 hours a day, but only because I finally put systems in place that automate things and do the work for me while I’m doing something else. I outsource menial tasks as much as possible. I used to work 18 hour days on my business until I figured out the most important use of my time. Now my business is more successful (funnily enough) than when I was working 18 hour days.

Let’s talk about the systems that I use that make my life easier:

  1. Hootsuite– I love this app because it allows me to preschedule my social media posts. It allows me to schedule things a month in advance and connects to three social networks for FREE.
  2. WordPress-My blog and store are hosted by WordPress. It’s an extremely user-friendly platform that allows scheduling of blog posts, podcasts, videos, and more. I do a whole bunch of posts in advance and schedule them to come out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. It saves me a ton of time and ensures that I’m always creating and uploading new content.
  3. Speech to Text-I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been driving somewhere when suddenly a great idea for a book or a marketing campaign pops into my head. My phone connects directly to my truck, so I’ll tell Siri to add a note.
  4. Podbean-This is an excellent app for podcasting. It’s super simple to use, and you can record live or in advance. I create podcasts in advance and schedule them to come out on Tuesdays. It saves me a ton of time and allows me to consistently think of good discussion topics.

The point is, if you can preschedule things, it will make your life easier. It may take you a day or two to bang-out 15 blog posts for the month or a few podcasts, but that’s a better alternative to sitting and staring at a blank screen trying to think of what to write/say, or worse, not creating consistent content at all. Plus, the time you’ll save during the month by not having to scramble to post will allow you to do other things with your time.

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