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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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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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Daring to Read

July 27, 2020- In some parts of the world, half of the women lack basic reading and writing skills. The reasons vary, but in many cases, literacy isn’t valued by fathers, husbands, even mothers. Photographer and TED Fellow Laura Boushnak traveled to countries including Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia to highlight brave women — schoolgirls, political activists, 60-year-old moms — who are fighting the statistics.

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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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Grow Your Author Mind

June 10, 2020-It’s crucial to have a mindset that allows you to grow as an author, and this attitude of continual learning will be imperative to your success! Ask yourself these five questions each day to stay on track and within a growth mindset.

1) What did you learn from today’s writing? E.g. I learned that I need to do more research about the topic I’m writing about in order to add credibility to my work.

2) What steps did you take to make yourself successful today? E.g. I wrote an entire chapter as soon as I got up in the morning and I didn’t check my phone for one hour while I was writing.

3) What are some different strategies you could have used during your writing to overcome any obstacles you faced? E.g. I could have shut the door to my office and disabled all Facebook notifications so that I wouldn’t get distracted.

4) How did you keep going when things got tough? E.g. I wrote myself into a corner and had to restart a chapter. I wrote complete garbage, but I reminded myself that writing anything is better than nothing.

5) What did you learn from any setbacks today? E.g. I learned that I need to be more disciplined in my writing, that I need to remove distractions, and that what matters most is getting words on the page.

If you ask yourself these five questions every day, you can’t help but succeed! Happy Writing! X LLB

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Lunch Lady Heroes

April 24, 2020– I was lucky enough to meet Jarrett when I was in New York attending the SCBWI winter conference last year. He’s a fantastic speaker and a lovely guy. Check out his Ted Talk about Why Lunch Ladies are Heroes and his graphic novel!

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It’s Time

April 22, 2020– What if I told you that you could totally transform your life by doing one simple thing? Would you believe me? Well, I’m here to tell you that it’s true, but there’s a catch…You have to decide which one thing. As writers we are often absent-minded, disorganized dreamers who would lose our head if it wasn’t screwed on; I may be only referring to myself in that last sentence, but I digress. So, what is it that you must do right now to change your entire writing life? Here’s the secret: CHANGE ONE THING.

Yep, that’s it. That’s the magic right there. You know the areas of your writing life that need improving, but for ease of explanation, I’ve included some examples below. Pick ONE thing to change because studies show that making too many changes at once, results in failure. Once you’ve changed one thing and have stuck with it for 21 days, pick another thing to change while still adhering to your new habit.

1. Change your frequency. If you’re writing infrequently it’s time to increase your daily word count. Make a schedule and stick to it. Try to write as many days in a row that you can. It will help you develop discipline and a routine; before you know it, you’ll have finished writing that novel.

2. Change your mindset. Get away from negative thinking. I cannot stress this enough-what you focus on EXPANDS, so concentrate on what you WANT. See yourself as a professional and start showing up as her. If you’re not published yet or have received a bunch of rejection letters, welcome to the club, that just means that with every NO, you’re that much closer to a YES.

3. Change your space. Is your desk or writing area a disaster? Do you lose the same things over and over again, such as pens and pages of your manuscript? Do you spend more time looking for stuff than you do writing? If yes, it’s time to make a change and get organized.

4. Change your timing. Get up earlier or go to bed later if that’s what it takes to change your writing life. Don’t wait for inspiration to write because if you do, I promise you won’t write another word. Writing and being an author is a discipline that needs commitment. We don’t write when we’re inspired, we write and then the inspiration shows up. Set a schedule and stick to it.

Pick your area of weakness and change one thing about it. Old ways won’t open new doors. X LLB

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Your Service to Your Customers

April 6, 2020– Do you know what killed brick and mortar stores and traditional retail? Poor customer service did, along with a laundry list of other unfortunate events. How can you survive in this day and age without providing excellent customer service? Short answer, you can’t and you won’t. We live in a time where people don’t have to settle; they don’t have to put up with crappy attitudes from employees, or a lack of common courtesy, or not being acknowledged when they walk into an establishment, heck they don’t even have to put up with long line ups or store hours or ever leave the comfort of their own home for that matter. The landscape of doing business has changed, so what does this mean for you as a bookseller/author. In this post I’m not going to talk about the importance of being able to sell your work online, I’m talking about providing customer service for your readers and clients who purchase your products from your online store.

In my company, we use something that I came up with, it’s called the HOUSE method. Here’s what it looks like:

H-Hear your customers/readers. Really listen to what they’re telling you. Find out what they want to see more of and what they want less of. What matters to them? How can you tailor their experience so that they receive the biggest benefit of doing business with you? What makes them happy, and what do they like most about your company? What do they like least? Ask them why they read your work and why they don’t.

O-Offer them more than they expect. Include things like free samples of your work, additional bonus products for free, give them a chance to experience a different part of your product line or flash fiction. Go above and beyond their expectations! Let them know that you appreciate them and that their support of your business and work means everything.

U-User friendly experience. Are your site and online store easy to use? Are your downloads working? Are your readers/customers able to access everything they need? If they run into an issue, can it be solved quickly, and will it be a good experience where you can go above and beyond to help them? Are you easy to find and easy to connect with?

SSolve the problem before it becomes a problem. Maybe you need to use a new platform to connect with readers that will allow you to respond to messages more quickly. Anticipate all of the areas of your business that could go wrong and put systems in place to solve them immediately. This is a what-if scenario that will allow you to give your readers/customers the best possible experience and outcome should things go awry. What if your online site goes down, what’s your back up plan? What if your online payment software glitches? How can customers still purchase from you? This is something that we do BEST because the boss is a bit of an anxiety-ridden, back-up-plan-making, worst-case scenario kind of person. She likes to stay five steps ahead at all times.

E-Edit your game plan. If something isn’t working, you need to stop and pivot in a new direction. Is there someone on your team that needs more training on customer service? Do you need to fire them? Are people enjoying your newsletter and are you providing value to your readers? If not, is it time to find a new writer or drop your newsletter all together? (Ours is coming back, don’t worry! We’re revamping it.) Are you using software that’s causing delays in ordering? It’s time to get rid of the old and bring in the new so that you can serve your readers and customers better.

Readers don’t NEED to read your books. Customers don’t HAVE TO shop with you. Remember that there are a whole host of other choices out there and it’s your PRIVILEGE to serve them.

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