Being More Efficient

I recently read a magazine article that said people who are successful in various fields spend no more than 4-5 hours a day doing their work.*  The idea is not how much you work, but how focused you are when you work.  This got me thinking about what we do as writers.  The most important thing we can do is write.  Without a book, we won’t have a product.

While I think social networking is good for building up a platform, establishing a brand, and making connections, I don’t think it’s the way you will sell the most books.  For more on why I believe this, read Kristen Lamb’s blog post “Social Media, Book Signings & Why Neither Directly Impact Overall Sales”.  I see no reason to restate her main points.  Social networking in all its forms is about connecting with people.  I do think it’s important, but writing is way more important.  If all you’re doing is social networking, you’re missing out on the most crucial component of making money: your next book.   I see a lot of authors who write a book and all they do is promote that book.  They spend very little time writing their next one.  That is a huge mistake.

So in wondering, “How can we work more efficiently (instead of more) to get more books out there?” This is what I came up with after doing some research over the past couple months:

1.  Make a list of your priorities.

The things that are most important need to be first on the list.  I suggest making the daily list short.  That way, it’s not overwhelming.

You can make a list of things you want to do for the month and break that down across the days in the month.  For example, let’s say I want to edit my book.  I know some people are able to do this in 1-2 days.  I can only do 2 chapters a day.  So one of my monthly projects would be “edit Book X”.  Book X is 20 chapters.  What I’ll do is break down this task by marking down 2 chapters each day that I’ll edit.  (By the way, I do have other people edit my book, too.  To do it only by myself would drive me insane.)

A s a writer, the most important thing on your list should be writing one of your current projects.  Whatever the word count is, try to get something written that day.  Some people write on specific days.  Like, “I’ll write for 2 hours on Wednesday and Saturday”.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Just make sure that is the priority for those days so it gets done before the other stuff.

I don’t write every single day.  I find if I push myself too hard, I end up shutting down, so I let myself take a break.  But I usually write six days a week.  If there’s a writer’s conference or family vacation, I obviously don’t write for longer spurts of time.  You need to find the best fit for you.  The key is to be consistent.  Train your mind to get into the writing zone at certain times.

I find it’s best to write first then do other things on my list (write a blog post, edit, answer emails, etc) come after I’m done writing. Why?  Because writing is the most important thing I’m doing. :D

2.  Learn to say no.

We can’t be everywhere and do everything.  This includes social networking.  We have to pick the most important things that will get us toward our goals.  I’m assuming people reading this post have writing as one of their prime goals.  So you need to say yes to writing your stories.  Things you might have to say no to could be stuff like making your house spic and span clean 24-7, watching TV, critiquing another person’s book, spending time on a forum, or playing a game.  This is where the list of priorities come in handy.  Anything that isn’t on that priority list are things you could say no to.

Regarding critiques, I have gotten emails requesting critiques.  The best way to handle this is by telling the person wanting a critique that there are local writing groups, online writing groups, and editors who do this for a living.  It’s in a writer’s best interest to find people who are qualified to do critiques.  Contacting a stranger is not in their best interest.  The best thing is to develop relationships with other writers so they can form groups and/or get referrals to quality editors.  Now, I have done edits for people I’m super-duper close to (that’s a very small list), and they have returned the favor.  This is a cooperative arrangement, not one where I do all the work all the time.  Sharing is wonderful.  But share with people you trust to give you honest input, and give them honest input in return.  Be nice but share your honest opinion.  Both is possible.

Another big area is strangers requesting reviews.  This is a no-win situation.  First, you’d have to give up time writing (making money) in order to read someone else’s book (one you might not even like).  I’m fine with reviewing books you want to review.  I still review books.  But there’s no reason to review books you don’t want to review.  This is a time suck.

Yes, it’s not a fun feeling saying no when someone wants us to do something, but it’s absolutely necessary at times.   And yes, there will be people who will be mad at us for not doing what they want.  But hey, you can’t please everyone all the time.  You have a right and a responsibility to do write your books.

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I was going to write more, but I’m almost at 1,000 words so I’ll end this post here. :D

*Article: “Do More, Faster!” from SUCCESS magazine, April 2014.

Categories: Business Plan, Schedules & Routines, Writing as a Business | Tags: | 7 Comments

When Trolls Attack!

You know, that sounds like the title for one of those B-movie horror films that are played at three in the morning. When Trolls Attack! “Don’t cross that bridge. You may not like who wants you to pay the toll!”

But all kidding aside, internet trolls are a hot topic as of late. With the anonymity of the internet to protect them, trolls go skulking around the forums and the discussion groups and the blogs and Twitter, using threats, name-calling, false reviews, and a plethora of other despicable tools at their fingertips for just one purpose: to hurt the targets of their e-bile. Authors seem to be a special target for these trolls. Get on the wrong side of one and they will take great pleasure in trying to bring down the rating of your books or leave hurtful comments on your blog.

And the world has not let this phenomenon go unnoticed: thousands of authors, self-published and traditional, large and small, have signed petitions trying to get Amazon and other retailers to take measures against the intentionally hurtful reviews trolls leave behind (I’m happy to have signed one myself). Authors like Anne Rice have taken to Facebook to encourage others not to be discouraged and to fight back against trolling. Articles have been written on blogs and in newspapers and magazines, and a recent study on trolls has come out, confirming what we already know about them: that the people who engage in troll behavior are “everyday sadists” who enjoy cruelty and seeing others in pain.

Yes, we are fighting the trolls as well as coming to understand them. However, it can still be pretty traumatic when a troll decides to target you. If, God forbid, one should set their sights on you, here are some tips in order to hopefully mitigate the damage and maybe even fight back:

1. Take a deep breath. If a troll leaves a nasty review on Amazon or a cruel comment on your blog, take a moment to calm down. Remember, trolls will target just about anyone, and what one is doing to you isn’t out of any personal grudge. So take a deep breath, get a cup of tea, do whatever you have to do to calm down and approach this rationally. When you’ve calmed down, talk to someone about it if you need to, preferably someone who understands the effects bullying can have on others.

Once you’ve calmed down a bit, the next step is to:

2. Create a record of the trolling. Even if the post or comment or review isn’t threatening or violent, it’s good to keep a record of the harassment. If this same troll keeps coming back to make you a victim, you cn use your record to prove there’s a history of harassment and fight back.

3. Try to get rid of the post, if possible. Once you have a record, you can delete the false review or cruel comment if you want. I certainly would, if I felt that it was in my interests. It might take a little work, but you can even get Amazon to get rid of a review made by a malicious bully.

4. If the harassment continues or starts to get threatening, don’t be afraid to contact the authorities. I know some people might be wary of approaching the police or contacting a lawyer, especially if the harassment is restricted to the Internet. However, not fighting back only encourages a troll, and no one should make you feel uncomfortable, especially not some coward who hides behind a keyboard to hurt others. So if the bullying doesn’t stop, and if it starts getting threatening, don’t hesitate to take action to protect yourself.

Now, sometimes those in the authorities will hear that this is happening on the internet, and will immediately stop listening. To them, you might as well be talking about Wonderland, Atlantis, or the planet Raxicoricofallipatorius, crazy talk that has no bearing on the real world. If this happens, don’t get discouraged. Ask for the supervisor, talk to a lawyer. Keep pushing, because this is your safety and your mental health at stake.

5. Fight back. Once you’ve taken care of yourself, it’s time to fight back. Talk aobut your experiences, advocate for ways to control or stop what trolls do. Signing that petition is one way. And remember, you are not alone. Other people have experienced trolling and survived. You can all band together and work together to stop the continued persecution that internet trolls revel in.

Now, I’ve never experienced trolling personally (and I hope this post doesn’t lead to me experiencing it). But I’ve talked and spoken to and heard from people who have been attacked by trolls, heard how they reacted and I’ve taken what I’ve learned from them to form this article. If anything I’ve said sounds inaccurate or like a bad idea, I do apologize for my inexperience and naiveté.

But if this post helps in any way to fight against trolling and makes it easier for you to deal with their sadistic tendencies, then I am glad to have been of some sort of service. Because if we wish for the world to change, we must be the agents of the change in the world. Nothing’s going to get done unless we do it, and I’m just trying to do my part.

Categories: Amazon store, Blogs & Websites, Psychology of Writing & Publishing, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

Doing An Excerpt

Have you ever been excited for a new book and gone on an Internet search when you hear there’s an excerpt of it online? Or have you ever just finished reading a book, really enjoyed it, and found the first chapter of the sequel near the end?

Excerpts are great ways to get people interested in your upcoming work as well as work that’s already out there. For each of my books, I make sure to put up an excerpt on my blog prior to publication so that people can see what they’ll be getting should they decide to buy the book. And depending on what portion of your book you use for your manuscript, you can possibly increase your sales tremendously.

But which portions do you pick for your excerpts? Here’s some tips that might help:

1. Should you use the first chapter? Some writers out there reading this will say “Of course you use the first chapter! What else would you use?” That might not always be the best option, though. Take a Stephen King novel: sometimes it takes several pages (occasionally several hundred pages) before things get interesting. And an excerpt is supposed to be interesting. So if your novel is about a haunted house and your first chapter just involves your main character sipping coffee in an outdoor café in Paris and meting one of his fans, it might not be the best choice for an excerpt. (It would be how King might open a novel of his, knowing him).

But if your first chapter is interesting enough that it will entice the reader into reading the story, go for it and use it for an excerpt. If not, then you’ll have to choose a different section of the novel. Now how do you choose that section?

2. Find a section that’s the right level of interesting. What do I mean by this? If you ever watch a late-night talk show (The Daily Show comes first to my mind) and an actor is one of the guests, they will usually play a clip from their latest film. If it’s an action film, then they’ll play a clip with the actor’s character in a bit of a jam. It won’t be a clip from the climax or something that reveals too much about the plot, but it’ll be enough to make viewers wonder what the heck led to this situation, how the character will get out of it, and what will happen after that. If it’s a romance, then it’ll be right as something juicy is about to happen but the clip will end before that juicy thing can happen. If it’s a horror story, the clip will depict a tense moment right before something happens and will end right before the biggest scare yet occurs.

I guess one could call this method “feeding the fans a little bit and making them want more.” It’s quite effective and marketers use it all the time for movies and TV (you should have seen me when I saw a clip from an upcoming episode of this show I like. I freaked out and couldn’t wait to see it on Sunday). And if you can translate the above concept into literature, you can have a wonderful recipe for choosing excerpts.

Now just two more items to recommend:

3. Brevity is sometimes better. I find the best length is somewhere between two-thousand and five-thousand words. Remember, you want to give the readers just enough to get them very interested and make them want to read even more. The best reaction you can get from a reader is “Wait, that’s the end? I want more!” So having a short excerpt can work very well for getting that sort of reaction, especially if the scene in the excerpt is very well-written and has a good hook to it.

And finally…

4. Wait for the final draft to give out an excerpt. The final draft is the stage of the novel when you’ve done all the edits you can and can’t do any more. What you have is the final product and changing anything might be doing the work a disservice. It’s the perfect draft to draw an excerpt from as well. And it’s better than doing an excerpt from a draft with plenty of grammatical or spelling errors or something. Am I right?

Do you have any tips for creating an excerpt? What are they?

Categories: Author Platform & Branding, Book Promotion, Business Plan, Marketing & Promoting, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

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