Guest Post: 5 Ways to Go With the Flow and Beat Writer’s Block

By Josh T.

Are you currently suffering from writer’s block? If so, don’t worry. Even the most talented writers in the world suffer from writer’s block. In fact, Stephen King once suffered from a writer’s block that spanned four months and resulted in him lounging at home, drinking beer and watching soap operas.

However, we aren’t suggesting using Stephen King’s method to overcome your writer’s block. There are plenty of productive strategies you can implement anytime you get stuck. What are these strategies? Keep reading to learn the top 5 ways to go with the flow and beat writer’s block.

Break Your Routine

Where do you do your writing? Do you sit at the same desk in the same spot every single day? If so, a change of scenery may be what you need to unblock your mind. So, pack up your laptop and move to a new setting.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be across the country. Try going to a local coffee shop, sitting outdoors, or even just moving to a new room in your house with a different view. Your new surroundings may help you drum up new ideas and new topics.

Brainstorm

Of course, we can’t forget about one of the most old-school methods for curing writer’s block- brainstorming! Grab a pen and a piece of paper and write down every single idea you have in mind for a storyline or character. Even if an idea seems completely far-fetched or useless, still write it down. It may lead you to a golden idea eventually!

Soak Up Others’ Creativity

Sometimes, creativity can be contagious. You were probably inspired to write in the first place after discovering your favorite author’s work, so why not go back to your roots? Get your creative juices flowing by diving into a book by your favorite author and see where it takes you.

Take a Break and Relax

Writing can easily put your brain into overdrive. Sometimes the best thing to do is simply give it a rest. Allow yourself to totally unwind by taking a hot bath with essential oils. According to doTERRA, lavender is one of the best essential oils for relaxation while rosemary is excellent for concentration.

5 Minute Exercise

This one is similar to brainstorming, but with an even simpler concept. Take a pen and a piece of paper and spend 5 minutes writing down every single word that comes to mind. This will certainly help get the brain juices flowing again!

Writing is a very primal process – as if it was written into the human spirit at birth. There is just something about forcing the abstractions of our minds and hearts to coalesce into concrete words that we can then articulate with a pen and a paper. It’s cathartic – doing to our brains what spring cleaning does to our attics. Don’t let bogus brain blockage beat these brilliant benefits. The world needs your voice far too much.

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An Interview with Kathy Strahs, Author of The Lemonade Stand Cookbook

Kathy Strahs is the author of The Lemonade Stand Cookbook:

Lemonade stands . . . kids have been running them for decades, whether to raise money for a new bike, for a charitable cause, or simply to conquer boredom. Inspired by dozens of kid experts from all over the country, author Kathy Strahs pours her expertise as a food writer, entrepreneur and mother of two school-aged children into the ultimate guide to setting up your own lemonade stand. Step-by-step illustrations and full-color photographs of each recipe and craft make each page easy and fun to dive into. Find delicious drinks, such as Classic Lemonade and Cold-Brew Iced Tea, sweet treats such as Polka Dot Blondies and Chocolate-Dipped Marshmallow Pops, grab-and-go snacks such as Owen’s Cheddar Chompers and Sunflower Crunch Balls, and creative crafts such as Hayley’s Flower Pencils and Friendship Bracelets. Tips for setting up a successful stand, packaging ideas, cooking technique tutorials, and real-life “stand stories” from kids themselves are sure to inspire kids everywhere to “give life a squeeze.”

Read on for an exclusive interview with Kathy. Continue reading

Interview: Starting Digital Pubbing, Self-Publishing Advice, Startups, and More

Recently, Salesgenie published an interview with me where I got to talk about Digital Pubbing and self-publishing. We talk about marketing, having your own website, and a little bit about the current publishing startup landscape (thanks in large part to information from Thad McIllory).

You can read the full interview here, but some highlights include:

  • Options for building a website
  • Advice for building a mailing list
  • Marketing ideas

I had a great time answering the questions, and I hope you find some good tidbits in there!

An Interview with Tantra Bensko, Author of Remember to Recycle

Tantra Bensko is the author of Remember to Recycle, the second book in her series, The Agents of the Nevermind:

What if the homeless men going through your recycling know more about your life than you do? Like who is going to die.

One of the recyclers, Dave, wearing disguises he keeps under a bridge, memorizes the information in people’s bins. He, like many others, idolizes the Rescuers, a supposedly neutral, unarmed humanitarian aid group in a Balkanized country, as the possibility of WWIII looms.

The Nevermind Agents lie on the evening news to garner support for proxy wars. They say the Rescuers are unarmed, neutral, and giving humanitarian aid to a Balkanized country. Their movie about them is a blockbuster. Rescuer costumes are the bit hit for Halloween.

But it’s time to unmask them. And that requires a plan so ingenious, even the planner can’t know how it’s done.

Living not far away from Dave’s bridge, Becky donates generously to the Rescuers, making her finances even more insecure. She doesn’t know what to think when she finds things in her apartment moved slightly. The toothbrush is wet. There’s a stain on the ironing board. The cat food is nearly gone. Is it her imagination? Is someone messing with her mind?

Could it be Stan, breaking in because he loves her? He certainly loves putting her body into mysterious BDSM contortions for their videos. But what’s that muffled moan she hears in the background when she calls him on the phone?

Becky hires her friend to spy on Stan. The woman has gone underground since escaping from the Nevermind; she wears a wig, and a mask meant for burn victims. She has traveled across the country to befriend Becky, taking a chance on an anonymous message recommending she do so, though she doesn’t yet know the reason.

Read on for an exclusive interview with Tantra. And if Remember to Recycle sounds intriguing, be sure to check out the first book in the series, Glossolalia. Continue reading

A List of 194 Tools and Resources: Apps, Trends, Marketing Tips, and More

By Heffloaf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Heffloaf (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s about that time again for another roundup post. This time I’ve got a bunch of tools and resources that cover a wide range of topics, from freelancing to marketing to reading and more. Continue reading

What Makes a Book Successful? A Case Study of 4 Bestselling Books

4_book_covers

At first glance these four books, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep, The SheepOverThe Girl on the Train, and Henna House, may not seem to have much in common. What’s interesting about them though is how they became best seller books.

The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep

From August to October of 2015, The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin was a huge story in the media. Ehrlin is a behavioural psychologist and linguist and the book actually puts children to sleep. Originally the book was self-published, and according to The Telegraph, it was “the first self-published work to ever top the Amazon charts.”

On the surface the book seems like an almost overnight hit. According to Publisher’s Weekly, “At the close of last week, on August 16, the book had only sold 24 copies through BookScan outlets, and had sold just over 300 copies since its release in April 2014.”

The reason for the success wasn’t immediately talked about. Then Publisher’s Weekly revealed that the Daily Mail wrote an article about how the book helps kids fall asleep, which led to more articles in other media outlets, including Forbes, The Guardian, NPR, and others. Shortly after getting all that press, Ehrlin signed with a literary agent and then Penguin Random House Children’s bought the rights to the book for 7-figures, according to The Bookseller.

And then in October of 2015, Publisher’s Weekly wrote another article about The Rabbit, revealing the steps leading up to the article in the Daily Mail that ended up making the book so popular. It turns out that the book was 5 years in the making, and was Ehrlin’s third book. He sold the book at seminars and classes and he had his book translated into six languages, which was key. All of his hard work led to word of mouth and sales; Ehrlin also “did some ads there saying the book existed and [people] could try it for free and see if they liked it or not.” His book started selling a lot of copies on Amazon in the U.K. (the English translation). Amazon’s executives then put Ehrlin in touch with writers from the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, and the Guardian.

And interestingly, according to the article, “Ehrlin estimates that, actually, it was the day after the Daily Mail ran its story on Rabbit that the title became Amazon U.K.’s #1 bestseller. A few days later, it was topping Amazon bestseller lists in the U.S. and other countries.”

The SheepOver

John Churchman and his wife Jennifer self-published The SheepOver, a book about an orphaned lamb named Sweet Pea who the couple took care of, which also became a best seller. According to Publisher’s Weekly, John Churchman went to his local bookstore and asked if they would stock the book:

But as he showed the book to store co-owner Elizabeth Bluemle, an eavesdropping customer said she’d buy a copy. Bluemle pulled over another store browser to take a look. That customer bought a copy, too. Bluemle was sold: she told Churchman she’d take another eight for her shelves.

Bluemle wrote a blog post about the book for Publisher’s Weekly ShelfTalker, which led to a lot of interest by literary agents. They signed with Brenda Bowen of Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, who sold the book to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in a three-book deal with a 6-figure advance.

John already had a Facebook page where he posted photos of the animals on their farm, including sheep, a mini-horse, dogs, geese, ducks, turkeys, cats, and chickens. Their fans already cared about the well-being of Sweet Pea, and John and Jennifer launched a successful campaign on Kickstarter so they could produce a hardcover version of the story.

The book is known for its beautiful images, and so it helps that John is a fine-art photographer who has worked with design, and that Jennifer is a copywriter and an editor who has worked to develop many brands.

According to One Writer’s Way, the campaign met their goal within the first 24 hours. And then of course they took a few copies to their local bookstore, became a hit, and last month the New York Times wrote a review.

The Girl on the Train

Otis Chandler, founder of Goodreads, wrote a blog post calling The Girl on the Train the “it” book of 2015. Apparently Goodreads was a major factor in the book’s success, and the momentum for the book built up quickly on Goodreads.

According to the blog post, influential readers helped the book become popular early on. Karen, one of the top reviewers on Goodreads, wrote a rave for an ARC copy of the book four months before The Girl on the Train was published. This led to many people adding the book to their bookshelves, as a reminder to read the book when it came out. And that led to the book trending on Goodreads.

Riverhead Books, which published The Girl on the Train, gave away 4,000 advanced copies to booksellers, critics, and readers, and did two giveaways on Goodreads. There were 50 winners, though 2,400 people entered the giveaway.

More people posted reviews on Goodreads and buzz was building around the book, so they got more author interviews and paid for more advertising in the month leading up to the publication date. More people kept adding and talking about the book on Goodreads, which led it to be featured on the site. Then Riverhead Books did two more Goodreads giveaways, and this time 5,000 people entered.

Within two weeks, the book was a New York Times best seller, and authors such as Stephen King started talking up The Girl on the Train. According to the blog post,

What’s also very different about The Girl on the Train from other books is the speed at which people have been reading it. This wasn’t a book people bought and then added to the pile on the nightstand. The Girl on the Train had become part of the zeitgeist — it was a conversation topic. And to be part of the conversation, you had to read it first, which people did in droves.

Henna House

Henna House by Nomi Eve is a coming of age story about a young woman named Adela, who lives in Yemen in 1920. Nomi shares in an article on Publisher’s Weekly that a big secret to her success is her 100 Book Club Challenge. The idea is to meet with 100 book clubs, either in person or via Skype.

She shared the challenge on Facebook and the invitations came quickly. In the end she met her goal within only 6 months.

As you can imagine, it was a pretty crazy six months! What happened was that for every book club I visited, I got invited to another. A book club member’s sister, or cousin, or neighbor, or sister-in-law heard about my book club visits and invited me to their book club. So when I had 20, I really had 40; when I had 40, I really had 80, and so on and so on.

Eve said that she thinks one reason she hit her goal so quickly was because she posted photos of her book club meetings on Facebook, her website, and Twitter. She even hosted two book clubs who traveled to see her in her house.

Key takeaways: What made these books so successful?

There’s no “one size fits all” marketing strategy, and I think all these books had a bit of luck. But as the saying goes, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” And that definitely fits for these four books.

A lot of work was done upfront, and I don’t believe there is ever such a thing as a true overnight success. That said, there are a few common threads the four books in this case study seem to have.

Here are a few tactics that may help you with your own books:

  • Make your book available in as many places as possible. Sometimes that means translating your book to reach the biggest potential market.
  • Take the time to produce the highest quality book. People notice.
  • Get people to talk about your book. Word of mouth is important and has an amplifying effect. One way to encourage word of mouth is via giveaways.
  • Reach out and make connections. Influencers who like your book are incredibly helpful, especially at the beginning of your marketing efforts.
  • Connect with people in a meaningful way. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences.
  • Share your story. Media outlets can really help a book achieve success, but in many cases you have to know someone who can introduce you or be willing to write about you.
  • Plan multiple marketing strategies. The more options you have, the more opportunities you give yourself.

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared May 2016.

Guest Post: Can Copyrights Be Inherited?

By Josh T.

In the United States, a writer’s work is automatically copyrighted under their ownership once it’s in consumable form. The copyright lasts as long as the writer is alive and 70 years after their death whether it’s published or not, which is more than enough to establish someone’s claim to a work. What happens with a writer’s intellectual property after they’re gone, however, can be out of their control. A simple way to be certain your copyrights stay in the right hands, at least for a time, is to pass them on to a chosen heir. How are they inherited, however? Continue reading

Useful Productivity Hacks and Tools

By elian (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

By elian (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

For those of us who are multi-taskers and like to do everything at 1.5-2x speed (I’ve even started watching TV shows on fast forward), the New York Times has some bad news: “Sorry, you can’t speed read.”

But on the bright side, there are many tools and hacks out there to help you speed up your productivity. I’ll get into the writing-specific ones first. Continue reading

Thinking About Becoming a Freelancer? Here are 3 Tips

By Kasharp (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Kasharp (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Being a freelancer is great. You get to set your own hours, choose what to work on, and help people directly. It’s also a lot of hard work, and you have to hustle in order to get consistent work and earn a living.

If you’re new to freelancing, or considering taking the leap into the freelance world, here are three tips to help you get started. Continue reading

Guest Post: Six Apps Indie Authors Should Take Advantage Of

By Megan F.

Working as an indie author can be quite a challenge. You often don’t have the backing of big organizations to keep you on track or to help you out when the going gets rough. Luckily, most everyone today has access to technologies that can easily take the place of those institutions. As the kids say, there’s an app for that.

This applies to writing even in ways you might not have considered. While it may seem counter-intuitive to put helpful apps on your number one distraction device, using your phone/tablet for your writing may actually help you use it more productively. Take a look at these six apps recommended for indie authors to help take your writing to the next level. Continue reading