DiscoverCreate If Writing132 - Tips for GDPR Compliance and Why Data Matters
132 - Tips for GDPR Compliance and Why Data Matters

132 - Tips for GDPR Compliance and Why Data Matters

Update: 2018-04-231


If you haven't heard of GDPR, get ready. Like the term "data," you're going to be hearing this buzzword a LOT. I've got several posts on it already and will likely have more to say. In this post and podcast episode I'll share why all this data talk is significant, why we need to think about it to not be smarmy, and tips for GDRP compliance.

I'm also running a free workshop this week on Freebies + GDPR you won't want to miss. REGISTER NOW!



Did anyone else catch all those memes and silly videos about Congress questioning Zuckerberg? Many of us laughed at that, but here's the thing: were you surprised by anything he said?

Like maybe how Facebook might be tracking you on a website that's not Facebook even if you don't USE Facebook?

Here's reality: Data has long  been overlooked and it's about to change.

People haven't realized how precious data is and the common user of the internet has very little idea what is being tracked and how. These data conversations are really GOOD because they are forcing transparency.

I think this is going to have massive ramifications and this whole data buzz word will be around for a while. It also may have long-reaching impact on your business, if you are doing things like running Facebook ads or having a website or email list. I think that there will be some pushback from the typical users who may not like that your blog is storing their info or sharing with third parties.

Oh- you didn't know your website was doing that? Let's look at what it IS doing.


If you have Google Analytics on your site, the Facebook tracking pixel, or run advertisements with third parties, accept comments on your blog, or have comment forms, you are collecting data.

How much depends on what you're using. Even if you don't KNOW it, you are tracking data.

If you head into the back end of your blog, you'll find that commenters have email addresses stored on your site. That's data that you've collected and GDPR says you are responsible for it. WHAT. Same with contact and other forms on your site.

It goes deeper with Google Analytics, even though that typically is using ip addresses and has lots of anonymity (from my understanding). And if you have the Facebook pixel on your site or are using Google ads or other advertisers, you may be sharing your readers' data with third parties EVEN IF YOU DON'T KNOW IT.

So if this sounds creepy to you at all, you'll understand why I said that there is going to be long-term fallout and some people are really going to balk at this.


Y'all know I'm all for not being smarmy. So in one sense, I LOVE that this is being brought to light. As bloggers and people using the internet, we need to KNOW that we are storing data. We should know what is being tracked and we should be up front about that with our readers.

It's not smarmy if you don't know and don't tell your readers because you simply didn't know. However, as this data conversation continues, ignorance will not keep you from potential fines or from being responsible for the data you're (unknowingly) collecting.

I like that now we are creating some accountability.

I don't always like some of the specific ways this is playing out with GDPR, but I think that we are moving in a good direction by making all of this more transparent and honest. It's not going to be the wild west of data anymore.

Now you know and knowing is half the battle. The other half is doing something with that knowledge. So let's get into specific tips for GDPR compliance.


Here are a few very actionable and fairly simple items you can do:

Get the GDPR COMPLIANCE plugin. This will add a checkbox for consent on your comments and also any forms on your site.

Update your privacy policy. I know...BORING. There are templates out there, so you might find a good one, but if you want to be SURE you're covered, I'm an affiliate for the products over at Businessese. They JUST updated their privacy policy to have GDRP compliance.

Add a banner or overlay asking consent for cookies. I used a widget called EU Cookie Law Banner that I found in my Wordpress site under appearance/widgets. Likely you will see this banner floating along the bottom. I updated it with custom GDPR language. You can also check out the free option from Cookiebot...but I found it a little more robust than I think (hope) is needed.

Find out what your email service provider is doing. If you are not using a trustworthy email service provider, this is the time to switch. Under GDPR, you are the data controller, but a lot of the heavy lifting will fall to your data processor. You are responsible, but they do a lot of the tech stuff. Email them to ask. I know that Convertkit, Mailerlite, and Mailchimp have things in place and have already heard from a sad listener who is losing tons of subscribers because of her email service provider and GDRP.

Sign up for my free workshop on GDPR and freebies. I think this is going to be one of the biggest areas of impact, so I'm going to dive DEEP into what this looks like. If you are using freebies, lead magnets, or reader magnets to get people to sign up for your email list, you need to come. (If you don't know what those things are, read my post on freebies.)

Sign up for the workshop HERE!


Links mentioned in the episode:


I hope you found these tips for GDPR compliance helpful and that you are not too freaked out by the whole data situation and what you are collecting and what is being collected by other people when you go to mom blogs on the internet, for example. This is the world we live in!

In Channel
151 - How to Pivot When Your Launch Fails
I've talked before about launch failures, but I have a very real-time example of how you can pivot mid-launch. You'll learn why I changed my book title and cover ten days into my launch and why you need to be willing to let your darlings die.  Here are the four things you need to do in order to gauge your launch's success and pivot if it's not working:  Evaluate your launch Identify what's not working Ask others for feedback  Pivot as quickly as you can EVALUATE YOUR LAUNCH My launch hasn't been working. I would have been happy about the numbers a year ago, but I shared in my post on Niching Down how I made $9k last month with my launch. I tracked my sales and promos and ran the same kinds of sales and promos this time, but found I'm making about a third of the income. There's a problem.  IDENTIFY WHAT'S NOT WORKING When I looked, my first thought was that the title was off. I debated on the title, which was The Rock Star's Scheming Bride. The book was the first in a multi-author series, so I had to fit the trope (brides) and the title (The _____'s ______ Bride). I wasn't super clear on the trope to begin with, so felt a little shaky on that. Then the word scheming mostly has negative connotations and I hoped the cover of the book with a very sweet and cute-looking bride, plus the content, would offset that.  I looked at reviews and emails I've gotten about the book and noticed several people saying that the book wasn't what they expected. I was getting five star reviews, more than any of my other books, but something was off with the sales vs the responses of those who read the book. That got me thinking that the word scheming needed to change.  Other things that I can't know: maybe the book last month sold so well because it was a billionaire book and they sell better for me. Maybe it was the fact that I ran some Facebook ads. Maybe January is a better sales month. Some things are variables and unknowns, so you just do the best you can.  ASK OTHERS FOR FEEDBACK Before making a change, I asked in a critique group. People agreed about the word scheming, but also pointed out that there was a lack of clarity and cohesion with the cover, title, trope, and blurb. The cover looked more like a fake marriage trope, but the blurb said nothing about marriage at all.  I felt stuck. I enlisted one author's help privately, asking for her feedback. One thing she said to me was that I shouldn't risk my own launch just to help support the group. This helped me realize that I needed to ask the other group members if I could cut my book from the series and rename it.  Note: I don't recommend backing out of commitments. My book was the first in the series, so it didn't impact anything in the series. It might have been worse for another series or circumstance. In another group I'm in for a multi-author series, we worked hard to get a series page (Amazon doesn't like giving them to multi-authors) and then one author pulled down her book and now we lost our series page. No one is mad, but it was disappointing. So if you're working with a group,  you DO need to stick to your goals, but also you should do your best to keep good relationships.  PIVOT AS QUICKY AS YOU CAN This meant getting over the fact that I liked my cover as it was. It meant asking the group if I could leave and hiring another cover designer who could hopefully finish up before the next paid promotions I have. My hope was to update the manuscript and the cover in a few hours so that I could submit to Amazon and hopefully have them accept changes in time. Then I emailed all the paid promotion sites with the new info and made a note in the newsletter swap groups I've been in so that people there know there is a new title.    It was exhausting. I hope it will be worth it and honestly think it will be. I have a whole series idea that can go with this book that I can work on later.   This is one of the reasons I love being an indie. I can decide, ten days into my launch, that I need to change a huge thing and then CHANGE IT. The hard thing is that you can't always track it. Did my launch last month do better because it was a billionaire book? Because I ran some ads? Because I maybe had newsletter swaps with people who had larger lists?  Join the Facebook community! Get my weekly email! 
149- Over-Investing and Under-Investing
In this post and podcast episode, I'm sharing two equal and opposite errors: over-investing (and in the wrong places) AND not investing any money but thinking that you can make money.  *mostly specific to writing and being an indie author, but this will also apply and I'll share some examples from blogging and platform-building as well I hear and see both of these mistakes a LOT in various Facebook groups where people share that they have spent sometimes thousands of dollars and have not made any money. Or maybe they JUST made that money back, but no profit. I also see people who are frustrated that they aren't making strides, but will say that they have NO money to invest to help make those strides.  We need to invest. Period. (Well, assuming that you're doing more than a hobby!) If you are trying to bring in income or if you are building a business and being professional, you will have to make some investments. That does NOT mean you have to go crazy! We have to find the right places to invest and then invest wisely, invest over time, and continue to invest where it makes sense.  LISTEN TO EPISODE 148 - Over-Investing and Under-Investing OVER-INVESTING & INVESTING IN THE WRONG PLACES People say you need to invest when you start up and I agree--there will be some costs. But your success will NOT match dollar for dollar what you put in, especially if you put it in the wrong places. I've seen multiple posts lately from people talking about how they've put in literally thousands of dollars into blogging or writing books and aren't seeing any return.  Make sure you have a solid product first - beta readers, ask for advice from others, if there's a cheap coach who will do a session with you ($100 or less), free call with Jim Kukral, ask in a FB group. If you run ads on a book and the cover is terrible, you're setting your money on fire.  Make sure you ask the right people - this is hard. Go to a FB group and everyone has a different opinion and you don't know who to trust. Look at book rankings. Look at social proof- the numbers. See if others have given reviews of their product or services, etc. I see people all the time giving advice, but then in another thread they'll say they are struggling.  Make sure you aren't just buying everything - I feel like we should all go in with a little bootstrapping. You're learning as you go and if you invest like crazy up front, you'll be burning your money because you haven't honed your voice, your brand, your product. My books got good last year by book four. Yeah, I liked the first three. But they don't sell as well, get as good reviews, and weren't as solidly written to the market. Invest a little up front, then as you get better and see where that ROI is, then invest more.  Make sure you aren't just doing what everyone else does - I hired out AMS ads and paid a ton of money for two months-- and did not see enough return. There isn't a high enough margin in AMS ads to pay someone $200 a month, no matter how many ads they are running. Other people did it, I knew I should invest in ads, so I did it. Did not pay off. I knew it was a test and I did it for two months, then stopped. Made more money the next month, spent less.  Make sure your goal isn't just to spend the most to make less profit - I hear people talking about how much they made. Gross or net? And yes, I get confused and had to google these so I didn't sound like an idiot. Gross is the total, net is after expenses what you keep. Some people claiming these giant amounts also have expenses. So they may say, "I made 20k last month." But then they'll say, "I spent 12k." Still positive! Don't want to downplay that. But when it comes to throwing down money, that makes me nervous. I want to scale up, but at what cost? I'll make just over 8k this month and my expenses are under $1k. I'd rather be there, even though that other person and I made the same amount. Are you chasing a number? A status? So you can say you made x amount? Be practical.  A helpful post might be:  Six Questions to Ask Before You Invest UNDER-INVESTING As people start out, they often will say that they don't have money to spend. Bootstrapping is a reality for many! You have little to work with and you're trying to stretch it. That's okay! But sometimes people say they have NOTHING or are unwilling to spend some at the beginning to build something that is lasting. Investments made at the beginning sometimes take time to bring in a return.  Invest, but wisely - I know that email sells. I know that I don't run amazing FB ads YET. So the best bet for investing in my books' marketing is in email newsletter services like Robin Reads, E Reader News Today, etc. They do the work, they have the audience, no learning curve. If you have to learn it or test it to get it to work, wait a bit. Maybe don't START with FB ads.  Don't complain if you can't invest - We all can't invest, but don't complain about your lack of profit if you aren't. Books that you throw up on Amazon won't just sell. Typically. Newsletter swaps are free, so if you can't pay for ads, partner with other authors. Build a community. Help each other out for free.  Invest so it hurts - Author Jami Albright wanted to launch her first two books with the right covers. She couldn't afford them. She literally sold plasma to pay for the covers and editing. And her two books made (gross) $50k in one year and allowed her to quit her day job.  Invest realizing there is ROI - I hear authors a lot saying they can't afford to pay for the email promos I talked about. I can't NOT afford them. I did less at the beginning when I had less money. This past time, I tracked the results. Not only did every one (except for one) make more money that day than I spent, it was often double or triple. Plus it increased my rankings and visibility in Amazon.  Invest believing in yourself - If you want to do these things professionally, you have to invest something. Maybe it's not a ton. But SOMETHING. And if you don't, it's a hobby. Sometimes you'll invest and it's still a hobby because you want it to be. I pay for some things because I like them, not because they're paying my bills. If you want to get serious, you DO have to spend money.    Go back to Stop Wasting Your Money to make sure you are making the right choices where it comes to invest!    To conclude: Can't spend money thinking that every dollar will be two dollars back. Can't not spend money and think you'll make money. 
148 - How to Cut Your Wasted Time
Confession: I'm going to talk about how to cut your wasted time in this post. As in, how you can STOP WASTING SO MUCH STINKING TIME. But I'm not great with some parts of this. I'll share exactly which ones, but I hope I'll give you some other perspectives on wasted time as well.  Last year (2018) I declared that it was the Year of the Emma Empire. I wanted to use the things I've learned over the years about marketing, email lists, and everything else to launch a fiction pen name and do amazing things. Happily, I reached my goal of having a $5k month of book sales by December 2018. (It was actually $6k in November!!) January isn't over yet, but I'm on track to blow my goal of $10k in a month of book sales out of the water already. Yes, I plan to talk more about this whole journey with you! (And yes, I'm grinning like an idiot and doing all the happy dances and completely disbelieving that I'm doing this.)  But for now, I want to focus in on how thinking about time helped me accomplish these goals. And it's probably not what you think! HOW TO CUT WASTED TIME Many people think first of time-tracking apps and the like when they think about how to identify and cut wasted time. For me, I start with a more big-picture view. It relates in some ways to another post and podcast episode where I talk about How to Cut Down on Your Business Expenses. When it comes to waste, it starts with ROI. People compare time and money, saying your time IS money. So think of it that way! Consider your time as an investment. Where are you investing AND seeing a return? Those places are where you want to continue investing and perhaps invest MORE time. As for cutting down on time, it's the flip side of that question. Where are you investing time and seeing NOTHING in return? Remember that the return doesn't just mean money. It could be that you have joy. Or more time. Here are the questions I posed in the post on cutting your business expenses with a few tweaks. Ask these questions about each recurring investment of your time:  Does it bring in money? Does it save me time or make more time? Does it bring me joy? Can I do without it? Does the amount of time spent bring forth a comparable result? These questions can help you determine the ROI for some of your activities. Because we aren't always the best judges of our time, I'll link to some great apps and ideas that members of my community suggested. WHERE TO SPEND YOUR TIME When I went to the 20Booksto50k writing conference in Vegas last fall, I kept hearing one thing again and again: double down on where you are finding success. I don't think that's the exact wording and it wasn't a theme of the conference, but it's what I heard and what I needed to hear. For my Emma Empire, I had planned to switch genres and launch a new pen name in early 2019. But seeing my income rise and then explode, I kept hearing that I needed to stick with what was working and keep my focus there. At LEAST for a little longer. In essence, I need to earn the stability and the time to shift my focus without a loss of my current trajectory. When you have something that's working well, double down. Drop what you need to drop to make that a priority. Stop chasing the butterflies and shiny objects. Stick with what works. That is very simplistic advice, but I know I need to remind myself of this. I know that it works. On a large and small scale. Thinking about this convinced me to keep writing sweet romance and not switch to YA spy novels. (Though I'm writing those in my "spare" time.) But in an even more focused way, when I realized that my billionaire books were outselling my beach novels, I shelved the other books (even ones I'd outlined) to double down on the series that was working well. And THAT'S how I'm breaking my goals into the new year. TOOLS TO IDENTIFY AND CUT WASTED TIME I confessed in the beginning that apps and the like are really not my thing. I know they are useful, but I can't make myself use them. Maybe I'll try in 2019. We'll see. But my community shared a few things that helped them focus their time. Rescue Time Roland Denzel from Eat Move Live 352 recommends this app, which helps you identify where you are spending time on your computer. He pays for the upgrade, which does fancy things like sends warnings when he has been doing time-wasting things and will allow him to block certain things to stay on task. Toggl Sarah Merchant from Work a Day Services uses this app to track how many hours she spends on tasks for herself and her clients. This one has a free and paid version as well. Atracker Community member Melody Hansen utilizes this for personal and client work to plug in where she spends her time. It helps break it down by category and sends you a report at the end of the month showing what you did where. F.lux Suzy Oakley likes F.lux, which is not a time-tracking app, but one that dims your computer screen based on the light you're in. She sets it to alert her and change the screen color when it's time to go to bed. Fresh Books When it comes to tracking time and expenses, Catherine Turner from Path to the Bestseller List uses Fresh Books to track her time, both billable and non-billable.   A non-app option I want to recommend is Amy Lynn Andrews' book, Tell Your Time. I have this bad boy for years and though it's been a while since I've read it, I love the practical and uplifting way Andrews handles this! The subtitle is How to Manage Your Schedule So You Can Live Free. That about sums it up. :) BREAKING DOWN THE STEPS When it comes to cutting your wasted time, it's a pretty simple process. Now you need to DO IT. Identify where you are actually spending time Identify the ROI of where you are spending your time (remember ROI is more than just income!) Cut out, adjust, schedule, delete, or whatever action you need to focus on the tasks that have ROI Sure, that SOUNDS simple. Now how about actually DOING the work? I'll say that this process hurts. It hurt me several times last year to set aside things like this podcast. (Which I might do again this year at some point.) I cut out A LOT of things. Some I missed. Some I didn't. Some I should cut and just am not doing it. This process doesn't always feel good. And, depending on your goals, you don't have to be so cutthroat. Maybe you have some areas where you just chill and those matter to your mental or emotional health or happiness, but might look like a waste on a time-tracker. My goals last year were laser focused and so were my cuts. If you aren't trying to reach a really tough goal, you can have a little more room for flex. Do you have particular apps or time-tracking tools to help you cut wasted time?
147- How to Cut Your Business Expenses
This post on how to cut down on your business expenses is a great one at the start of the year, but really ANY TIME. We'll walk through how to identify the things you need to stop paying for, pronto! Do you realize how many things you pay for when it comes to your creative business? I think I know. Until I do an audit and realize that I am paying for SO MANY things I forgot about or don't use. Here is a simple method that I use to cut back on those expenses to stop the bleeding and stop wasting my own money!  STEP ONE - IDENTIFY YOUR COSTS The first thing you have to do is figure out what you're paying for. I'm mostly going to focus on recurring costs here. If you want to look at what different things you're paying for each month, that's a really different kind of evaluation. The recurring costs are a good and easy place to start!  How to Find Out What You're Paying for: Check Paypal recurring payments (my recurring payments don't show up, but you can try this) Check your bank automated withdrawals Check your credit card List out all of your paid tools that are recurring, not one-time Look at whatever you spent the last few months on your business (non-recurring) STEP TWO - TAKE STOCK OF YOUR COSTS Once you've got them all, make a big list somewhere. (Or a spreadsheet, if you're that kind of person.) Then break down the costs in the same way. You can break it down so that you see how much they each cost monthly or annually, but make it even. (As in, don't look at one in annual and one in monthly, as that doesn't make sense.) Now it's time for the deep, soul work.  Ask these questions about each recurring cost:  Does it bring in money? Does it save me time? Does it bring me joy? Can I do without it? Do I have another tool that does the same thing? When is the last time I used it? You don't have to have a positive answer to one or all if you want to keep something. But these are the kinds of questions that will help you evaluate. I may keep something that brings me joy but no income. I may cut something that saves me time because my budget changed and I can do without it.  STEP THREE - CUT AND KEEP  If you can't measure what it's bringing you, haven't used it in a while, and don't plan to use it again, cut it out! Even if it's a $4/month thing. You might consider keeping something that you don't use or that isn't helping IF If you have upcoming goals and you WILL use it. Or if you think you might use it and the price will go up if you leave, then come back later. If you're going to keep something for this last reason, make sure you're not justifying to yourself.  STEP FOUR - USE YOUR THINGS Whatever you keep, make a plan to USE it. If you are keeping a scheduling app for Pinterest, plan out when in your week you'll use it. Really make these things you pay for work FOR YOU. Otherwise, cut them! I'm a super clutter-y person and it feels so amazing to get rid of these things! I've been cutting down on some major expenses and it's fabulous. I hope you can do the same and feel the same! Want more planning tools? Check out my annual planner!  Or sign up for the Digital Detox, a quick and fast email series with a small actionable decluttering item.
146 - How to Keep Your Audience Happy
In this post I want to talk about something super fundamental that's sometimes overlooked. And it's simple! Let's dive into how to keep your audience happy. If you want to build an audience of raving fans, it can seem daunting at times. Do this! Do that! Post here! Write this kind of thing!  But when it comes down to the foundation, it's REALLY simple: set up expectations with your readers and then keep them. This means building trust and keeping trust. It's like you are creating a contract with your audience, even in things like your email sign-up forms when you tell people you will send every week.   HOW TO KEEP YOUR AUDIENCE HAPPY This boils down to setting up and keeping expectations, but there are multiple ways you may be doing this or NEED to do this.  What you SAY - The most common way to set expectations is when you explicitly tell people what you're going to do. Ex: when people sign up for an email list, book descriptions, your blog tagline What you DO - Your actions set the expectations. Ex: how often do you post on the blog, publish a book, send an email.  What people HEAR/UNDERSTAND - You may not realize that you are communicating something other than what you think, so it's a good idea to get an outside perspective. Ex: book covers, your tagline, BIG things. (Don't do this with every blog post! But good idea with bigger things or as you start out.)  What people SEE - You may not realize how much your visuals impact expectations. Ex: book covers, how your blog looks, images you choose to use TIPS FOR KEEPING YOUR READERS HAPPY As much as you can, tell your readers what to expect up front. Be clear and up front about who you are and what you do. Surprises are only good when they are GOOD, like a free book. It's not a good surprise to get emails every day for your product launch when people expected only weekly emails. As much as you can, keep to your word. Life happens and people understand that. But whenever possible, stick to your word. Which means...  As much as you can, don't set up expectations you can't keep or that you hate! If you don't like sending weekly emails, DON'T START. If you aren't sure you could keep up a weekly podcast, DON'T COMMIT TO THAT! Set realistic and sustainable goals.  This may seem very simple and obvious, but there are so many small ways we could all do this better! When we are clear with expectations and then commit to following through, we build trust with our audience and end up with raving fans. 
145 - Social Media Updates in 2018, part 2
I missed out on some big platforms and news in the first in this series, so here are more updates you need to know that happened in 2018 and will impact your 2019! When I started this series, it was meant to be one post. Ha! There have already been updates since I posted. That's why it's so stinking hard to keep up with social media updates! My advice from the first post still holds: if you don't want to PERSONALLY keep up, follow other people who will keep up FOR YOU. Choose the few platforms you want to focus on, choose an expert, and subscribe to their email list. Or read something like Social Media Today so you can get more broad updates. I mean, but really, you'll get a lot from me each week in the Quick Fix, my Friday email with news, tools, trends, tips, and updates.   PINTEREST UPDATES I need to apologize to Pinterest. It is my #1 traffic driver on my blogs. And...I don't pin. I don't hang out. I don't keep up. That's the very cool thing about Pinterest: you can kind of autopilot it. Because it's more of a search engine than a social place, you don't have to like and comment on a giant stream of people's activities. It's just...ideas. Much more timeless. That doesn't mean you can just ignore it, which is what I've been doing. Sorry, Pinterest! Here are some big updates from this year that are good to know! Oh, and if you want to connect there, I have a Create If Writing board that's fabulous and has the content from this site. Pinterest Communities - This is really new and I'm not sure how it will be utilized. So far, I can't even join a community. And you can't see them or make them until you're IN it's kind of like Fight Club? Anyway. Here's a great post about them. I think it could have potential, but if I have a pretty solid understanding of Pinterest and can't actually get IN a community, there is an issue. READ/LISTEN TO MORE ABOUT PINTEREST COMMUNITIES. Pinterest Carousel Pins - Because so many people just scroll through Pinterest, I'm not sure about how these carousel pins, which can have multiple images and links will work. Will Pinterest users really go for these? Unsure. Here's how to test if you have early access.  Lots more little updates - I found this fabulous post from Anastasia Blogger that has a summary of all the things that have changed on Pinterest this year. READ IT.  SmartLoop comes to Tailwind - Tailwind is the only scheduler I use and pay for that works with Pinterest and Instagram. They added a feature that's much like Board Booster's old one that will let you set up pins that will pin again. FIND OUT MORE.  (*If you want to try Tailwind, this is my affiliate link! It's super easy to use and has great features.)  Group boards aren't working so well - This isn't super new, but the group boards that once worked so well (with thousands of pinners) DON'T. Pinterest didn't want to give them priority as they were spammy. Work on having your own quality boards with keywords. Dump the big ones that have no relevance. YOU GUYS. If you aren't using Pinterest, it's not too late to start. And don't get all eye-roll-y on me. It's the easiest platform to use. You don't have to talk to people or play a game. You share great content with relevant keywords in the descriptions. The end. I mean, of course, there's more to it, but essentially, you're putting your content directly into a giant search engine. No follow-for-follow mess or follow-unfollow or whatever else. Even with a small following, your pins can be found and drive traffic to your site. More resources:  Pinterest for Authors (guest post I did for Jane Friedman) Pinterest Tips YOUTUBE UPDATES I had to dive deep into my resources for this one. I pay ZERO attention to YouTube. I love the idea...but I don't have the time. With all the video out there, YouTube is still a crazy-amazing platform if that's the kind of content you want to create! YouTube Studio - This is essentially a new dashboard for creators that will have a brief look at analytics, suggestions, and a place to see YouTube news and updates. (You can see in this screenshot that I'm not big over in the 'Tube...except my one video that's been viewed 50,000 times on painting walls. For real. Too bad I don't blog about that.)  YouTube Premieres - This is a new features that allows you and your audience watch a video together. That sounds kinda fun! And...kinda like the new feature on Facebook where you can have a watch party. How about that! READ MORE ABOUT PREMIERES. YouTube Stories - This is a features just like those other features on those other platforms. Except... it's only for the elite with over 10k subscribers. MORE HERE. YouTube is making its original content free...with ads - YouTube tried the subscription model like Netflix, but decided to scratch that in favor of having its videos come out from behind the paywall (so I can FINALLY watch the new Karate Kid!) but with ads. FIND OUT MORE. I love that last one. You know why? Because YouTube is huge. But they still experimented with a model that's working for others. And when it didn't work, they went back to their strengths. It shows a wisdom to try, but to know when to double-down on what you already do well.   A FEW OTHER THINGS I MISSED Instagram cracks down on fake accounts - The cheer was heard 'round the world as Instagram cracked down on fake accounts and some of the smarmier practices. READ MORE. Instagram requires a biz account for many third-party tools now - As of December 2018, Instagram will finally fully shift their API (which started earlier this year). What this means for those of you who, like me, don't know what API stands for, it means that if you want to schedule and post from Tailwind or Hootsuite or another tool, you need your Instagram account to be a business account. The switch is free and almost painless. Your engagement might disagree, as mine dropped when I switched. For Podcasters, Libsyn integrates with Pandora - Y'all. I don't have this yet, but for podcasters using Libsyn for their media hosting, you can get your podcast on Pandora, which I believe is the largest audio streaming platform PERIOD. I'm a huge fan of Libsyn and would highly recommend them for podcasters for reasons like this one. They care about podcasters and go out to get features that matter. READ MORE. LinkedIn is doing some things (like thinking really hard about a stories-like feature) and Snapchat is making new spectacles, but I don't really care. At all.   TIPS FOR KEEPING UP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA My first tip for keeping up is that you should FOCUS. Unless you have a job that requires you pay attention to ALL social media, stop trying! I feel totally okay that I had to spend time googling "YouTube new features 2018" to write this post. Pick the few platforms you care about and just do that work. The end. Don't worry about Instagram if you don't use it. If you think you MIGHT use it, don't worry now. Worry when you want to use it. The platform will change if you're looking now, planning for then. I've found more and more as I go on that all the social media activity I strived to gain means very little. I mean, I have almost 10k Twitter followers. That was a huge goal years ago! doesn't DO anything for me. What DOES work? Relationships. Those could happen on social. They happen for me in the Facebook group. And on my email list. Those two together are like my magic. Find your magic! The thing that you enjoy that DOES something for you. Then just do that and don't feel at all guilty that you ignore everything else. Okay? Great. Glad we got that squared away.   If you really like knowing what's up, visit a site like Social Media Today once a week and just scan the headlines. It's fabulous and easy. You'll impress your friends. (Maybe.)
144 - Updates from 2018 YOU Need to Know
This post will be part one of a series on social media changes from 2018. This doesn't JUST include social media, but also touches on Amazon and blogging and more.  It can be SO hard to keep up with all of the changes that happen on the internet in a WEEK, much less a year. But I want to go over some of the big news and social media updates that you need to know. Most of these took place in 2018, while some were a little earlier and some are currently rolling out or have been announced, but haven't taken effect! HOW TO KEEP UP WITH SOCIAL MEDIA As a tip to start, if you find yourself overwhelmed trying to keep up, the best thing you can do is follow people and sites that do a good job of keeping you apprised. Here are a few sites or emails that will help you keep up: The Quick Fix - my weekly email with news, tips, resources, and more   The Sell More Books Show - podcast with news related to writing & publishing (especially indie publishing) The Digital Reader - more writing and publishing news, updated daily For tech and social news, I check Mashable, The Verge, Product Hunt, and Social Media Today. As far as experts, I follow Madalyn Sklar for Twitter updates, Jenn Hermann for Instagram, and Sarah Ahl for Pinterest. Let's dive into those links!! FACEBOOK CHANGES I'd sum these up by saying privacy and groups. Because of the Cambridge Analytica issue, FB has made some changes with regards to privacy that affect ads. Business manager required for custom audiences - If you have targeted by uploading your email list to Facebook (yep, you can do that), this will now need to happen in the Business Manager. Which is its own special circle of heal. MORE HERE. New square images for ads - Um, yes please! Older versions of FB may not show these, but Facebook let me know in my ads manager that I can choose a bigger image. Can't wait for this! Posting within groups as your PAGE - So we're clear, your PAGE is what people can LIKE, as opposed to your personal profile, where you ad friends. FB is rolling out the option to post as your page, but the group has to okay it. I haven't had this rolled out to my groups yet. READ MORE. Groups may have mentors and mentees - This is a weird one and I've seen it happening more in a testing way, with it being added by FB to a group without the owner's permission. Members can sign up to mentor or be mentored. I feel like this is a disaster of smarminess waiting to happen where people in a group trying to get clients will sign up as mentors and try to "help." READ MORE Groups can now be paid - This is another rolling out change where you can have a paid Facebook group. This has previously been against terms of service, so all those courses with a bonus group had to be careful how they worded that to avoid violating TOS. READ MORE Groups can have learning units - Going hand-in-hand with paid groups, this would make a group function as a kind of course. READ MORE INSTAGRAM CHANGES New app for IGTV - Instagram added Instagram TV, which allows you to broadcast within the separate app for up to an hour. Word on the street is people are underwhelmed. READ MORE I big-time love Kami Huyse and she has a fabulous show on IGTV. Here's a link to the show notes, which have updates on social media as well! CHECK IT HERE! New shopping features - I don't know how this will trickle down to people like you and me, but this is fun. MORE HERE New quick replies to DMs - If you want to reply fast, you can do this much more easily now. Nametags - This works like Snapchat ghost codes, from what I gather. Because Instagram has copied everything else... IGTV previews can be shared in Instastories - Oh, and Instastories can be longer now too. READ ABOUT THE 2018 UPDATES TO INSTAGRAM HERE! BLOGGING CHANGES Gutenberg is coming to Wordpress - This is the biggest change to Wordpress since...uh...forever? You might want to stick with the Classic Editor til they fix some bugs. READ WHY HERE   EMAIL CHANGES GDPR happened and we didn't die - I would love to never talk about this again. But the privacy policy enacted in the EU had worldwide repercussions. Mostly things are fine. You can read my posts about it HERE and HERE.   AMAZON CHANGES Createspace morphed into KDP Print - If you used the print on demand company Amazon owned, it's now gone and merged into the same dashboard with your ebooks in KDP. This will in the long run be great, but it's been a bumpy transition. Affiliates can share their influencer page link in email - Amazon doesn't allow sharing affiliate links in email. But they did update (maybe in 2017) to allow Amazon Influencers to share a link to their page in email. This is a separate program within the affiliate program. APPLY HERE. Curious? Check out my influencer page! All those links are affiliate links, to provide disclosure.   TWITTER CHANGES Maybe we'll finally get to edit tweets - This has been the most-called-for feature by users and Twitter is "thinking about it." I'll believe it when I see it. READ MORE Have live audio - This is a neat feature that works on the app or in Periscope. It's like a live video...but audio. READ MORE.  Twitter will let you use a chronological timeline - Go under your settings & privacy and uncheck the "see best stories first" thing. Testing new desktop features - You can check out screenshots HERE.   GOOGLE PLUS CHANGES Google Plus is dead - If you've still been using this, you can chill and have one less thing to do. READ MORE. 
143 - How to Build Your Email List for a Book Launch
So far in this series, I've shared a simple book launch formula, how to get other people to share your work, how to utilize paid promotions, and in this post, I'm tackling how to grow your email list. This WILL have applications outside of book launching! If you're new around here, you may have missed that I'm a little nerdy about email lists. I've got under 10,000 people on my combined three lists (for fiction, nonfiction, and my lifestyle blog). Not huge! But size is NOT the only thing that matters when it comes to your list. The goal should be a group of active, interested, and perhaps even RABID fans. First of all, let's talk about a few email basics. When I say "email list," what I mean is the group of people who have actively signed up to receive emails that you send through an email service provider like ConvertKit, MailerLite, Mailchimp, Mad Mimi, or any other trusted provider. I do NOT mean you sending emails to all your contacts in gmail. HOW TO GROW YOUR EMAIL LIST Growing an email list really breaks down into two main pieces: Content Strategy Traffic Strategy Without great content, no one will want to sign up for your list. Without traffic, no one will know about your great content. These go hand-in-hand. There are also tools and ways to optimize your website for email growth, but I'll tackle that in another post.   Note for People Who Hate Email:  It's all about your MINDSET. If you're frustrated about email or not really "into" it, you need to reframe the conversation. Consider email your direct connection with your superfans! It's not a chore and it's not THAT complicated. You CAN do it and I hope that if you think of it as connecting with your fans. If you are JUST getting started, check out my FREE EMAIL COURSE! CREATING YOUR CONTENT STRATEGY I'm all about the two parts in this post. There are two parts to your email content strategy that you need to consider. The first is the kind of content that you are creating openly on the internet, whether on a social media platform like Instagram, a blog, a YouTube channel, or even in books you sell on Amazon. The second part of your content strategy is what you'll send people through your email. PUBLIC CONTENT (blog, social media) -> EMAIL SIGNUP -> EMAIL CONTENT To get subscribers, you need to have fabulous content that they can interact with BEFORE they sign up. If you have great blog posts, they may be motivated to sign up to get more. If you have Instagram posts that they just love, they might want to go deeper and get updates via email. You must have some great public-facing content that they can engage with before you ask them to sign up. You also need to have a compelling reason that people want to sign up. No one wants to "sign up for my newsletter." Nope. You need to clearly and specifically let people know WHY they should sign up for your email list. That looks like creating an email content strategy. It doesn't have to be complicated! For my fiction list, I tell people that they'll hear about new books first and get my Weekly Clean Reads email with great book deals. For Create If Writing, you'll get the weekly Quick Fix where I share news, tools, and resources for your authentic-platform building. Do you see how both of those are clear and specific? They may not speak to EVERYONE, but I don't want everyone on my list. I want superfans! A freebie (aka: lead magnet or reader magnet) is another type of content that may get people to sign up. This usually looks like a free book, checklist, form, resource, guide, etc that people will get for signing up for your email list. Freebies can still work really well, but they also need to be specific and targeted to the right people. Read more: How to Create the Perfect Freebie If you are trying to figure out how to grow your content or develop a content strategy, I'd recommend Meera Kothand's book the One Hour Content Plan. It's focused toward blogging, but will be helpful in thinking about a framework for content strategy.   GETTING TRAFFIC TO YOUR CONTENT A lot of people stop after working on content. They think the issue is really all about creating a great freebie and having a nice website, perhaps with a snazzy opt-in form or pop-up. Those things are great! But if you have no traffic coming your way, then you won't have any people who see your content to sign up. Ways to get traffic to your website: SEO - Search engine optimization as with Google Social Media - Sharing on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest (which is more like search engine traffic) Use email - but this is a chicken and egg problem- you can email people when you have a new blog post, but this doesn't help if you don't an email list Guest posting - not all created equal (check out my post over at Jane Friedman) Ways to get traffic to your email list directly: Ask others to share - in email or in guest post Use paid/free services - My Book Cave, Bookfunnel Use a giveaway - Booksweeps, Kingsumo Opt-in in the back of books You can use a variety of ways to build traffic to your website or even just a landing page for your freebie. A combination is often best, but you could have several different kinds of Read more: How to Get Traffic to Your Site   Are you feeling a little better about email? Just a LITTLE? I hope you are!! Remember: you need to think about the kind of content you're going to provide and then get that content in front of people.'s a little more complicated in practice. But break it down into those two pieces to start. You can do it!  MORE EMAIL RESOURCES AND LINKS Blog Elevated Conference  Laura Fuentes is the one I mentioned who got me into email! GDPR INFO More email resources!
142- How to Use Paid Promotions to Launch Your Book
It's a scary thing to consider spending money when you are just starting out. Or even sometimes in the middle. When you aren't yet making money, it can seem crazy to SPEND money. But investing wisely can lead to greater results. I'm going to share the two main ways that you can invest as you launch your book and some things to consider as you do.  Listen to Episode 142- How to Use Paid Promotion to Launch Your Book    Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app! THE TWO MAIN TYPES OF PAID PROMOTION Much of this series focuses on books, but could apply to other launches, but this post will be more specifically geared toward book sales.  The two main options for paid promotions are: paid newsletter promotions (like BookBub or BookSends) paid advertisements (FB & AMS) There are lots of other ways you could advertise, but these are the two main branches that I'm going to talk about today.  PAID NEWSLETTER PROMOS Email outperforms social media for sales, period. (Read some research on that here, or listen to Tim Grahl.) If you don't have a big list, that's okay! You can use paid email promotions that utilize other companies big lists. Essentially, they spend the money to build a giant list, then they charge you to have your book featured to their big audience.  Things to consider: Do you need reviews or other requirements? Does it break down into specific genres?  What is the cost? What do other authors say?  Does the book have to be live to set up the promotion?  How far in advance are they booked up? (Some are booked up for months in advance) Is it email or is it a social media post?  Before paying for any of these promotions, I asked other authors which sites they personally had luck using. Not everyone agrees, but it's a good idea to ask people, not just see reviews. I also tested and found which ones seemed to work well for my books and tracked those daily sales with a spreadsheet so I could know which ones to try again.    Kindlepreneur's List of 127 Promo Sites Reedsy's List of Promo Sites      PAID ADVERTISEMENTS The biggest of these are Amazon Services Ads (formerly known as AMS ads, now just AS ads) and Facebook Ads. Many people have found success with these kinds of ads, but the downside is that you have to either learn the skill and platform, or hire someone.  Things to consider:  Do you have time to learn something new?  Do you have the money to test?  Do you see other authors in your niche having results?  TIP: Now you can go to a page and see what ads that person has run. You won't see the effectiveness, but can see the image they used, their copy, and any interactions on the post.    Kindlepreneur Free Amazon Ads course    Test, but ask others what works Pay for the ones with ROI - email! It's not always about the money you make back, but what it gets you. ROI, but with a grain of salt because visibility matters to your ranking, KU page reads, people reading through to other books. Some people have a formula for this, but it makes my head spin, so I can't even. SO HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH KIND OF PAID PROMO?  Difference between running ads and paid NL promos. Both risky, esp if you're trying them for the first time, but ads tend to have more risk. With an NL, if you ask for reputable suggestions, people will tell you. Doesn't mean you'll get what you want or hope for, but often it's easier than trying to figure out the right audience to target on FB ads or how to bid on BookBub ads or what the heck with AMS, or AS ads. Conclusion: Invest and Test The biggest thing is that you're going to have to invest. Invest in your own growth of newsletter. Invest in ads for your books. Invest in the things that make your book succeed, like a great cover and time to write well. Test what you can and track your sales and pagereads and rankings on Amazon. You can't always get this down to a science, but you can get a good idea of what works for you and what doesn't. 
141 How to Get Other People to Share for You
In the last post I shared a simple book launch framework. Now I want to break down some of the specifics related to promotion, because this is where people really struggle. Because this is a huge topic, this post focuses on getting other people to share your work. Having other people share your work? Well, that sounds smarmy. Isn't this the blog and podcast all about NOT being smarmy? Yes. Yes it is. But there is a way to ask others to share your work that is NOT smarmy. I heavily rely on other people sharing my fiction books for Emma St. Clair, and I've built some amazing relationships along the way. I'm going to break this down a bit, but if you want more on how to work well with others in non-smarmy ways, you should really check out Creative Collaborations. Yeah, I'm plugging my book. But literally, that's what the book is about. So if you want more... get it.   It sounds simple to say that you should ask people to share for you. But if you're starting out and aren't sure how to do this, it sounds weird and gross, like those 100 emails I get every day from strangers asking me to add this super relevant link to my blog post! (Nope.)  The two main ways to do this are:  simply asking people that you have a relationship with (including newsletter swaps) having an affiliate program for your thing Let's go a little deeper into the details so you can put this into action! But first... a few quick reminders. If you didn't already check out the first part of How to Launch Your Book, you should do that. I'll give you a summary of the three main kinds of promotion:  sharing with your people (email, social media, etc) asking other people to share with their people (what this post is talking about!) paying for ads and promos Clearly, we are focusing on part two. But I'll go back to part one and also we'll look at ads and promos in the future. (If you want a head start on email lists, you can check out my email list resources!)  YOUR MINDSET ABOUT PROMOTION Also before we start, let's get your head right. If you hate thinking about promotion and marketing, you need a mindset shift. Stop thinking of this in those terms if you don't like them.  Marketing and promotion is basically YOU connecting with your ideal audience and readers. Don't you want to do that? Don't you want to get emails from people saying they loved your book and your course and think you are the best thing ever? Don't you want people joining your email list after they read your great blog post? Don't you want to know that readers were up all night reading your book?  Marketing and promotion are just fancy words for you finding your ideal people who want your stuff. Doesn't that sound much better, albeit less fancy? 
140 - A Simple Book Launch Framework
Writers all struggle with different parts of the craft. Some struggle with the start, while others get stuck in the middle, and many find editing to be a challenge. But one shared struggle for most writers I talk with is the actual book launch. Book launching brings to mind the idea of marketing and promotion and publishing, whether you are working alongside a traditional publisher or you are an indie author. I'm going to share a simple book launch formula here geared more towards indie authors. But if you are working with a traditional publisher, these principles can still work for you! You simply might have other help or confines to work within.   I'm calling this a framework not a formula or a step-by-step guide because I like the loose structure of a framework. I definitely am a do-what-works-for-you person, so within a larger structural framework, you have freedom to try many different strategies. This is meant  to help you understand the bigger umbrella of a book launch so that you can shift the smaller, moving pieces in ways that work for you and your book. A SIMPLE BOOK LAUNCH FRAMEWORK When I say "simple," what I mean really is that I'm breaking this down into the simplest overarching things you need for a launch. I'll be following up in detail with later posts, but for now, the goal is to avoid overwhelm. SIMPLE. Got it? Let's go.  Three Stages of Your Launch Timeline 1. Pre-launch - writing the book, editing, proofing, formatting, cover design, platform-building 2. Launch - three kinds of promo (more on that next week). Telling your audience, having others tell their audiences, and then paying people to tell people 3. Post-launch - keeping your book afloat, more evergreen strategies on your site, guest posting, AMS ads, continuing to do the launch-type promo paying or emailing, etc That doesn't sound so bad...right? Let's take each piece and break it down a bit more. Again, this is about the framework, so I'm not going to go into a lot of detail on how to do a lot of these things. Before you get to the details, I want you to have the mindset.  PRELAUNCH Goal: Prepare the product, building your platform Actions: In this section of your launch, you'll be preparing your product. You'll write and polish your book, get the editing and proofing, formatting, and cover. All the things you need to be ready for launch. You'll also be building your platform so that you have an audience to launch TO. I would primarily recommend growing your email list or a Facebook group. But if you have engagement on a social platform (people like, comment, click through, share), then definitely utilize that!  LAUNCH Goal: Get the message out about your book, make sales Actions: This is the most obvious section, but there are many ways to handle the actual launch! I'm trying a slow launch method where I don't really make a big deal about my book until it's been out for a few days, then I stagger promotional efforts to keep a steady rise. You might go for a big explosion on one day.  The big thing to note is that there are only three basic kinds of promotion: you telling your audience, getting other people to tell their audience, and paid promotions and advertisements.  POST-LAUNCH  Goal: Keep your book from gathering digital dust Actions: Books typically don't just sell and keep selling. You have to continue to drive traffic. This can look like continued ads, writing blog posts related to your book and linking in the blog posts (you also have to then promote the blog posts!), setting up other paid promotions, reminding your readers, and other actions that you did in the launch stage.  If you're using Kindle Select, you get a free promo or Kindle Countdown every 90 days. Now that I have a backlist of books, I try to set up one extra promo a month, in addition to launching a new book. So I'm doing all three of these levels every month. THAT MAY NOT WORK FOR YOU. I write rapidly. Find the balance, but don't forget to give your books love after they launch. Usually they will not keep selling if you don't.  I hope that you are finishing this post feeling a sense of peace. Book launching (or just launching!) doesn't HAVE to be overwhelming. Yes, there are lots of little details within this big framework. But understanding the overarching ideas and the big picture can help you see just how doable this is! You've got this.  We'll keep moving forward in this series, going a little bit deeper each time. Next up: more on promotions!
138 - Popular Advice You should IGNORE
The beauty of the internet is all the knowledge you can find at the touch a button. My husband replaced the starter in our minivan last week after watching a video on YouTube. EPIC! But the downside of the internet is the same--all the "knowledge" you can find at the touch of a button.  I want to break down some really popular advice and why you might want to ignore it OR why you need more information to make it make sense.  POPULAR ADVICE YOU SHOULD IGNORE The money’s in the list If you know me, you know I'm into email. Research also shows that more conversions and sales happen through email than social media platforms. Yes, email has the best conversion rate for sales. But it takes work to get the right kind of email list and to sell the right kind of product in the right kind of way. Not automatic. Lots of work, but pays off. Focus on getting the right subscribers, offering something that meets those subscribers' needs, and then honing in on your sales copy.  If you need more help with email, start with my Free Email Course! Do what works for you People sometimes think of this as do what you want. They ignore best practices and research and just do what they feel like doing. That MIGHT work, but it would likely be an exception to the rule OR you're just more stellar than everyone else at what you're doing.  Doing what works means that it works multiple times and over time. It isn't a fluke or happy accident. There are many ways to do things, but you should really know the best practices first and not write those off. Show, don’t tell This is one of the most common pieces of advice for writers and I think it SHOULD be. However...there are some big mistakes people make in light of this advice. Tim Storm has a great post on this, where he talks about how often there is so much description that the unnecessary showing it slows the story down. Sometimes you have to TELL. And other times, using gesture or a symbol or something else can really show something. In a book I recently read, the author SHOWED that a character was stressed by the way he counted the grains of wood in the table during a heated conversation. She didn't write, "He was stressed." She showed him counting as the discussion moved on around him. I LOVE that kind of showing. But super long descriptive paragraphs feel like they maybe belong in classic lit. Forever.  Do one thing really well This has variants, like when people talk about rocking out one particular social media platform. While focus is so important (I talked about that in episode 136), it’s also a good idea to diversify. When Facebook changed algorithms back in 2012 or even more recently, some businesses literally closed up their doors because all their eggs were in that basket. It’s good to be diversified in our income streams and in our social platforms. (Email is also still the most SURE bet for longterm connection.) Doing one thing well is a great start, but as you start to master something and maybe get some systems or schedules in place, you can extend outward and master some other social platforms or find other revenue streams. You have to write every day Yes, I get it. Writing is a craft and a commitment. Setting a schedule can be a good idea. Being disciplined is important. Writing is an art, but it is also a work. But this phrase can really lead to guilt, which can short-circuit the brain and make you less productive. Write as often as you can. Write as discipline. Write for love. Some days it might be more discipline. Some days it might not happen. Some days you will love it. And some days you love it, but you can’t DO it. It does not mean you are not a writer if you don’t write every day. More on why this can be bad advice Kill your darlings Why there is no small debate about who said this first, this is still popular (and very solid) advice! But... some people misunderstand this and think that it means you have to kill off what you love. Nope! No, you kill off what you love that doesn’t work. I have a tendency to use the word “So” when writing, often to start dialogue. While this may be something I often SAY a lot or people say when they are speaking, it doesn’t work on the page. If you can identify those natural tendencies that you have in your writing, you can see when they are overused and have become a crutch for you, rather than a support for great writing.  You Have to Spend Money to Make Money Yes, sort of. The problem here lies in the extremes. Some people say they have NO money and aren’t willing to invest. My friend Jami Albright sold bone marrow to buy good covers for her romance novels. She wrote two novels and the sales were so good, she is now full-time. But her original budget took some creative straining to pay for the necessary things for success. (Also, her covers were great, but still on a budget.)  On the other extreme, I hear people saying they paid $1k for a blogging course or some kind of author marketing thing and they haven’t made the money back. You likely need to invest, but at the beginning stages, that doesn't HAVE to be a bazillion dollars. Start and scale. But don't scimp on the really key things.  Hit up episode 137 if you need to know Six Questions to Ask before You Invest! What did I miss? Share any other pieces of advice you've heard in the comments OR what I may have not covered all the way in these common pieces of advice!
137 - Six Questions to Ask Before You Spend Money
Advice is rampant all over the interweb about where you should invest. Rather than giving you specific advice that may not work, I'm going to give you six questions to ask before you spend any money! I've wasted a lot of money. I've bootstrapped. I've seen how investing early in the long-term can pay off...even if not right now. I want to share with you some of those specifics, but within the confines of six questions you can ask yourself before you invest. Where I spent money may not be where you should! My advice may not work for you!  These questions, however, should really help you with these decisions! SIX QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE YOU SPEND MONEY What do I NEED right now? What will benefit me in the long run if I invest NOW? What can I wait for? What can I get now for less and upgrade later? What's risky, but worth a try? What's the shiny object I need to ignore? Ready to break those down?? Let's do it!  WHAT DO I NEED RIGHT NOW?  I sometimes hear people telling authors that before they launch a book, they need a website. Guess what? NOPE. If I didn't have a website, I would have made JUST as much money this year as I would have with my website. I'm not selling books primarily there. What I NEEDED was a book I wrote, a great cover, editing, and a way to promote.  You need to really separate what other people say you need and what you actually NEED to meet your goals. It's often way less than you think! If it helps to think about this backwards, consider what you don't need to accomplish your immediate goals.  What I recommend always getting NOW: An email list. This has the best ROI for all the things. Whatever else you're doing now, get an email list. Check out this post on which provider is best for you. WHAT WILL BENEFIT ME IN THE LONG RUN IF I INVEST NOW?  I'm all about counting the ROI--return on investment. Sometimes that return doesn't come for a while. But for certain things, you should invest anyway.  I mentioned email in #1 and fully believe you can invest there first. But you also may consider investing in growth there. NOT buying subscribers (gross!), but in giveaways or other surefire ways in your industry (that's important) to really grow your list. I used a paid service called Booksweeps and got like 1000 new subscribers for $120. Um, ROI. Now, that didn't pay off til I had books to sell, but it was a long-term investment.  WHAT CAN I WAIT FOR?  If you're primarily a blogger, obviously you need a website. But you don't have to have a killer one that has custom designs or a custom logo. If you are a writer, you may not need one at ALL for a good long while. Sure, it's great to have and you'll need one later, but again-- the fact that I have a website has not in any way at any time impacted my fiction book sales. The end.  If you can wait and you're on a tight budget, WAIT.  WHAT CAN I GET NOW FOR LESS AND UPGRADE LATER?  When it comes to waiting, some things are good to have now, but maybe they could be okay for now and then LATER you can have your dream. Perhaps you start on Squarespace and then LATER hire that designer. Create a simple logo for yourself or barter services or use fiverr. Later hire someone better and get things exactly the way you want them! If you aren't sure on this one, consider the ROI of whatever that thing is you are considering. When will it pay off? WILL it pay off? Is your audience actually going to notice or be impacted?  WHAT'S RISKY BUT WORTH A TRY?  There are some things that you have to go out on a limb for. Things like AMS ads or Facebook ads or even hiring a coach or taking a course. They may NOT give you surefire results. If you are considering something risky, here are a few follow-up questions:  Do I personally know someone who can vouch for this thing/person/service? Have I researched the best practices?  Are there other people in my niche who have found success with this?  WHAT'S THE SHINY OBJECT I NEED TO IGNORE?  Okay, y'all. Get real. We all have things that we want just...because. We like them. We think we need them. SQUIRREL! If you can't be objective, ask a friend who's honest about this. Don't invest in things because they are pretty, cool, or because you really, really want them.  Links I mention in the episode: Free Facebook Group Quick Fix- my weekly email WPTech Cafe- website design Media Texan - website design Go On Write - cover design Booksweeps - email list growth, primarily fiction    
135 - Pick One Thing
In this blog post and podcast episode, I'm sharing about the power of having a single focus. I don't do well with one thing at a time, but I'm telling you to pick one thing and sharing what happened when *I* did! I am a serial starter. I am reading probably eight books right now. I have no less than four half-finished paintings in my house. I am currently working on three books. I DO NOT LIKE TO NARROW DOWN. But I learned something this summer. Even though I don't like doing one thing at a time, there is incredible power when you pick one thing and have a singular focus. Listen or read to learn the whys and hows of narrowing your focus for powerful results. LISTEN TO EPISODE 135 - THE POWER OF A SINGLE FOCUS Subscribe on Apple Podcasts Listen on Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify WHY HAVING A SINGLE FOCUS IS POWERFUL Everyone works differently, so please take what I say here with that in mind. I am NOT advocating for all people at all times to do just one thing. I'd like to just start with that. Always: do what works for YOU and YOUR goals.  Having a single focus serves two big purposes: It helps you actually attain your goal It helps you learn to do that task more efficiently and automatically Research shows that you’re 2-3x more likely to accomplish something when you’re specific about how you plan to implement. Creating a goal isn't enough. You need to have a  BUT that only works if you have a single focus. (Read more about that in this blog post from James Clear on mastering one thing.)  A habit becomes more automatic if you continue to do just that one thing over time. It becomes habit forming. The more reps, the more second nature it becomes. When I played roller derby, one of the big things you learn FIRST is falling. You learn to fall well and practice falling well until your body naturally falls well every time. When you focus on one thing over time, it's like muscle memory. You're teaching your body how to do that task correctly and with ease.  My Results of a Single-Focus Summer This past summer I stopped almost everything. I closed my Facebook group to new members. I stopped blogging and creating new podcast episodes.  And I wrote four books and had a $3500 month on pure book sales. (SQUEEEE!) I learned that I can write a book in two weeks, but generally can write a novel now in a month. I had NO idea until I shifted my focus to this one thing. It's been amazing and now I'm slowly adding things back in. You can find Emma's books HERE if you're interested. HOW YOU CAN SUCCESSFULLY FOCUS ON ONE THING If you want to have a single (or even mostly single) focus, you need to plan. It's rough. Set your mindset - no guilt! Do what you need to do! Make a list of all the things you're doing. Figure out what HAS to stay on your to-do list. Figure out what CAN go. Make the final decision based on the ROI- what is actually performing?  Make a plan. This may mean planning your daily time and over months. Consider retreats. I did 2-3 this summer to finish edits. Hire out what you can. It's hard to let go of things. But you might be surprised how letting things go doesn't matter. Not blogging for three months? Had ZERO negative impact on my financials. (Or my traffic, which stayed about the same. Thanks, Pinterest!) Not podcasting? Same. I kept up with my email (because PIVOTAL) and with my Facebook group, which is the heart of my community. When you focus, you can really accomplish something. If you’re pivoting like I have been, you may need to do this and have a seriously focused time.  CALL TO ACTION Consider whether you need to have a focus. If so, then go through the things you’re doing and what you can get rid of. Make a list of all the things that go along with the new single focus and then do those things.

135 - Pick One Thing


134 - Writing Rules and When to Break Them
In this post and podcast episode, we'll be diving into the idea of writing rules and when you can break them. I was honestly surprised with where I landed on this. Keep reading and see if you agree! We've all heard that phrase: "Learn the rules; then you can break them." Or something like it. But how do you know what the rules are? And when can you actually break them?   This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you purchase something by clicking through.  WHY THERE AREN'T REALLY WRITING RULES We live in a time period where things are much more open. Language is changing and has been affected by social media and texting. (Don't feel too upset by this because language is always changing. People were mad at Shakespeare in his day. It's not a new problem!)  There are also different schools of rules. Personally, I adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style for my punctuation and grammar. While others might use the MLA or AP or something else. These don't all agree! (It's a good idea to find out which of these your particular niche uses so you can also adhere to the common guide in your niche!) RULES & EXPECTATIONS The rules we will be talking about today are really more of expectations that your readers have for your particular genre, niche, or medium. When you write a query to an editor and you have two spaces after a period, they may not read your manuscript. PERIOD. They are too busy to read everything and this choice gives them an easy out to toss your manuscript. When you buck the expectations and the rules, you are sending a message. Usually that message is- I'm ignorant OR I don't care. Neither is a good thing. Writer in another group talked about just not understanding why people care about punctuation and spelling. "It's about story," she argued. But readers won't read your story if there are tons of errors. It tells people that you are careless and that you haven't taken the time or effort to do the bare minimum. Same with covers. Constantly in writer's groups, people are saying things like "What do you think of my cover?" And when the responses are, "Hire a designer," they say "No." Cover matter. Period. They sell books. They set expectations. They keep people from buying books. LESSONS I LEARNED ABOUT RULES I personally was surprised (as a rebel) to find freedom in following the genre rules. I started writing clean fiction under a pen name in December. I'm a writer by instinct first, so I wrote, then realized that I had messed up some big conventions and expectations. Namely that one of my short stories didn't have a Happily Ever After ending. THEY MUST in this genre. Typically these books also switch back and forth between the perspectives of the two characters falling in love. I normally like a close third narration sticking to ONE character. This was hard for me. Both were actually hard--I like resolution, but not necessarily happy endings. I also like my choice for sticking to one character. FREEDOM WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK But I found that when I started writing within what seemed like strict confines, I wrote better. I wrote faster. In fact, I've published two full novels in 2018, with the third coming out in June. In addition to two short stories in December. I wrote almost 30k words this past week. I believe MUCH of this had to do with the freedom and framework I found in sticking to the conventions. REFRAMING THE RULES If you are struggling with rules (like me), see if you can reframe. This is a way of sort of tricking your mind by giving something another name and a different association. Call the rules expectations. Call them a framework or best practices. Do what it takes to help wrap your brain around finding and sticking to the rules that you need to for your niche, genre, or medium. Just know that for most of these things, you need to fit into expectations if you want to ever SELL things and connect with an audience. WHEN YOU CAN BREAK THE RULES AND BUCK EXPECTATIONS It's important to note that rules can be broken. New things can emerge. Now we are talking about disruption. Disruptive innovation is when something changes in the market that makes a huge impact. Brand new markets for different kinds of customers. Netflix is an example. They first disrupted the video stores and shut them DOWN. Then they doubled down on streaming and within a few years, TV will be totally different. (My opinion.)  As content creators, writing an unexpected blog post or type of book is more a micro-disruption. You might choose to do something outside the rules and find great success because of the contrast. But generally speaking, if you want an audience and/or money, you should know the expectations and do your best to meet them. The three times you can break the rules are when you are: Famous Genius Lucky Those are typically the only ways that breaking the rules will mean success. You're famous and already have an audience of raving fans, you can do whatever you want. You're a genius and you happen to stumble upon disruptive innovation that WORKS and changes the game.'re lucky. You happen to break a rule at the right time or get in front of the right audience or have some crazy stroke of luck. Often there is hard work behind luck. But sometimes there is just...luck. It just happened to work, even though it shouldn't have. DO NOT BASE WHAT YOU DO ON THESE OUTLIERS. You can't look at what someone famous does and say, "Well, breaking the rules worked for THEM." If you see someone breaking the rules successfully, chances are they are famous, a genius, or lucky. You'll do best to stick to best practices, not base your decisions on the outliers and minority finding success breaking the rules. BREAKING THE RULES CAN BE SELFISH When it comes down to it, if you are breaking the rules because you feel like you need to for your art, you are being selfish. You are putting yourself ahead of your readers. You might say that you're writing for art, not for money. That's fine. But following the rules is NOT just about money. Expectations and rules are a gift to your readers. In some ways breaking the rules isn't just about art, it's about YOU. You are thinking of YOURSELF first when you break the rules. Readers have expectations and they may be best served when you follow the expectations of your niche or genre, whether that's clean romance or the kind of blog you write or even within podcasts. GO OUT AND CREATE CONTENT YOU LOVE THAT SERVES YOUR PEOPLE WELL.  I'd love to hear in the comments if you agree/disagree with this idea of freedom within the rules or my strong statement that breaking the rules can be selfish! {ducks head waiting for tomatoes to be thrown}   LINKS I MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE-   Emma St. Clair - my pen name for clean romance Two free short stories by Emma St. Clair - referenced as not fully adhering to conventions Two spaces after a period Bad reviews given to famous works Disruptive Innovation The Writing Life - being open to cover changes by Robert Kugler Tim Storm & Storm Writing School KDP Rocket - a tool I use for keywords (I'm an affiliate and happy user!!) Go On Write - great affordable covers (I use his branding package) German Creative on Fiverr - affordable cover designs Write to Market - book by Chris Fox
133 - Why Writers Need Writing Groups
Writers don't write in a vacuum. Or...they SHOULDN'T. Writers need writing groups and communities of other writers to help support, teach, encourage, and promote. We need each other! Keep reading to find the why and the how. Successful writers don't write alone.  Okay, let me qualify that. Successful writers may write alone, but they don't WORK alone. They have writing groups and writing communities, both online and offline that help them to achieve their goals. (This is true of bloggers as well and podcasters and any -ers that you want to toss in here, I'd wager.) We need community. And the depth of community we create determines our success. BOOM.   WHY WRITERS NEED WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES During the recent #cockygate, I saw a few big takeaways, no matter WHERE you fell on that whole mess. (If you don't know what that is, check out a smart and funny summary and then some legal stuff.) Here are the big things I saw from that.  Writers in Community Get Inspired, But Don't Copy I think the impetus (from my understanding) of the author going for a trademark was the fact that other people were copying her books in title and cover because they were successful. Y'ALL. Do your own thing! Pay attention to what other people are doing. Watch them. Study them. (I know I do!) Then apply what you learn to your OWN WAY OF DOING THINGS. You do you.  Writers in Community Don't Hurt the Community Trademarking a common word sets a dangerous precedent. Sending emails about changing things like book titles and covers (which isn't always a small expense) is NOT helping the community.  There are two opposite poles-- doing what's best for you and doing what's best for others. As a writer in healthy community, you should be in the middle. Helping the community helps YOU. But it shouldn't just be about them either. Find your happy spot. But don't hurt a community, because you NEED them. (More on that later.)  Writers in Community Don't Become a Mob While I think the trademark action wasn't the best for the community, neither was the community turning into a mob a good thing. I never like the mob mentality. Often it acts first and thinks later. I think the backlash to #cockygate was ugly. Surprising? No. But ugly, VERY much.  Should writers band together? YES. Marie Force is a great example, being at the helm of the Indie Author Support Network, which is banding indie authors together. The goal is to be able to reach out to companies like iBooks and Amazon with concerns, bringing the force of over 1000 authors with them. That isn't a mob. It's a mobilized, logical force.  When we turn on each other (even thought I totally get it sometimes), we aren't helping the community as a whole. What if that same mob turned on YOU? Think about that before you join an emotionally charged group.  HOW TO FIND GOOD WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES I would recommend that you find writing groups of various sizes. I have a few one-on-one people that I go to for the most personal and vulnerable of things. I'm in a few larger groups of a few hundred and then some larger of a few thousand. I'm missing the in-between of one to hundreds, which I think is super important. I'd love to have a group of about ten or less. These sizes allow for different trust factors.  But what should you look for in writing groups?  You should absolutely look for groups where people: are honest speak kindly have your best interest at heart know what they are talking about I've seen writing groups that fail at one or several of these, and they are a  MESS. If you have an honest group that isn't kind and doesn't have your best interest at heart, it's horrible. If you have a group that is kind but doesn't know what they are talking about, that helps NO ONE. I think these are the four most important things.  A FEW GOOD WRITING GROUPS Here are a few of my favorite writing groups, with a bit about each.  Create If Writing - Yup, this is my group. And it's epic. We talk about platform-building, our writing, blogging, social media, and have share weekends. Oh, and we celebrate small wins. Big wins too. But small wins matter.  I Am a Writer - This group connects to Write Now, the podcast from Sarah Werner. She is kind and generous and cultivates community that is so helpful! 20Booksto50K - This is a behemoth group and may be intimidating. Especially if you are new and drop in just to ask questions that have been answered in full a LOT. Go listen. Read. Watch.  If you want more on Facebook groups and why they are particularly important and what is changing about them, read this post on what you need to know.  Do you have advice for finding great writing groups? Or have a writing group I should add to the list? Leave a comment to let me know! 
132 - Tips for GDPR Compliance and Why Data Matters
If you haven't heard of GDPR, get ready. Like the term "data," you're going to be hearing this buzzword a LOT. I've got several posts on it already and will likely have more to say. In this post and podcast episode I'll share why all this data talk is significant, why we need to think about it to not be smarmy, and tips for GDRP compliance. I'm also running a free workshop this week on Freebies + GDPR you won't want to miss. REGISTER NOW!   WHY DATA MATTERS Did anyone else catch all those memes and silly videos about Congress questioning Zuckerberg? Many of us laughed at that, but here's the thing: were you surprised by anything he said? Like maybe how Facebook might be tracking you on a website that's not Facebook even if you don't USE Facebook? Here's reality: Data has long  been overlooked and it's about to change. People haven't realized how precious data is and the common user of the internet has very little idea what is being tracked and how. These data conversations are really GOOD because they are forcing transparency. I think this is going to have massive ramifications and this whole data buzz word will be around for a while. It also may have long-reaching impact on your business, if you are doing things like running Facebook ads or having a website or email list. I think that there will be some pushback from the typical users who may not like that your blog is storing their info or sharing with third parties. Oh- you didn't know your website was doing that? Let's look at what it IS doing. WHAT DATA YOU MIGHT BE STORING If you have Google Analytics on your site, the Facebook tracking pixel, or run advertisements with third parties, accept comments on your blog, or have comment forms, you are collecting data. How much depends on what you're using. Even if you don't KNOW it, you are tracking data. If you head into the back end of your blog, you'll find that commenters have email addresses stored on your site. That's data that you've collected and GDPR says you are responsible for it. WHAT. Same with contact and other forms on your site. It goes deeper with Google Analytics, even though that typically is using ip addresses and has lots of anonymity (from my understanding). And if you have the Facebook pixel on your site or are using Google ads or other advertisers, you may be sharing your readers' data with third parties EVEN IF YOU DON'T KNOW IT. So if this sounds creepy to you at all, you'll understand why I said that there is going to be long-term fallout and some people are really going to balk at this. DATA, GDPR, AND BEING SMARMY Y'all know I'm all for not being smarmy. So in one sense, I LOVE that this is being brought to light. As bloggers and people using the internet, we need to KNOW that we are storing data. We should know what is being tracked and we should be up front about that with our readers. It's not smarmy if you don't know and don't tell your readers because you simply didn't know. However, as this data conversation continues, ignorance will not keep you from potential fines or from being responsible for the data you're (unknowingly) collecting. I like that now we are creating some accountability. I don't always like some of the specific ways this is playing out with GDPR, but I think that we are moving in a good direction by making all of this more transparent and honest. It's not going to be the wild west of data anymore. Now you know and knowing is half the battle. The other half is doing something with that knowledge. So let's get into specific tips for GDPR compliance. TIPS FOR GRPR COMPLIANCE Here are a few very actionable and fairly simple items you can do: Get the GDPR COMPLIANCE plugin. This will add a checkbox for consent on your comments and also any forms on your site. Update your privacy policy. I know...BORING. There are templates out there, so you might find a good one, but if you want to be SURE you're covered, I'm an affiliate for the products over at Businessese. They JUST updated their privacy policy to have GDRP compliance. Add a banner or overlay asking consent for cookies. I used a widget called EU Cookie Law Banner that I found in my Wordpress site under appearance/widgets. Likely you will see this banner floating along the bottom. I updated it with custom GDPR language. You can also check out the free option from Cookiebot...but I found it a little more robust than I think (hope) is needed. Find out what your email service provider is doing. If you are not using a trustworthy email service provider, this is the time to switch. Under GDPR, you are the data controller, but a lot of the heavy lifting will fall to your data processor. You are responsible, but they do a lot of the tech stuff. Email them to ask. I know that Convertkit, Mailerlite, and Mailchimp have things in place and have already heard from a sad listener who is losing tons of subscribers because of her email service provider and GDRP. Sign up for my free workshop on GDPR and freebies. I think this is going to be one of the biggest areas of impact, so I'm going to dive DEEP into what this looks like. If you are using freebies, lead magnets, or reader magnets to get people to sign up for your email list, you need to come. (If you don't know what those things are, read my post on freebies.) Sign up for the workshop HERE!   Links mentioned in the episode: Data being more precious than oil GDPR FAQs Which Email Service Provider You Should Use Disclosure - You're Doing It Wrong Amazon Disclosure Affiliate Programs and Disclosure GDPR Compliance Plugin Cookiebot Businessese Privacy Policy (this is my affiliate link!) ConvertKit - get 30 days free! (this is my affiliate link- message me so I can give you my bonus freebies when you sign up)   I hope you found these tips for GDPR compliance helpful and that you are not too freaked out by the whole data situation and what you are collecting and what is being collected by other people when you go to mom blogs on the internet, for example. This is the world we live in!
131 - How to Plan a Writer's Retreat on a Budget
It's no secret that I go on a lot of writer's retreats. Well. For a mom of five pretty young kids I go on a lot of writing retreats. This post will explain why, how, and how you can DIY a writer's retreat on a budget! You may be familiar with the idea of writer's conferences (and blogger conferences!) as an important part of community and growth for many writers. I am a conference JUNKIE and have attended tons. But I don't think people talk enough about a writer's retreat and how to make one possible for YOU.  I try to take 1-2 writer's retreats per year, completely by myself. As an introvert, this is luxurious. And if that sounds terrifying to you, you can also do a writer's retreat with other people. This post is more geared toward the single-person retreat, but you can apply some of the ideas for a partner or group retreat. But let's take a step back...WHY are writer's retreats a good idea?? Then I'll share some of my tips for planning. BENEFITS OF A WRITER'S RETREAT While conferences have many benefits like learning, networking, and getting new ideas, retreats are all about the work. Specifically, pulling away from the normal day-to-day in order to focus on the work.  Retreat actually means to withdraw, which is how I think of a writing retreat: I'm withdrawing from the normal tasks, plans, and people to focus solely on the work of writing.  But writing retreats do more than just help you focus. Here are some of the benefits of a writer's retreat:  Completing a task or project  Refreshing yourself and recharging Harnessing a single-minded focus On past writing retreats, I have completed editing manuscripts, built courses, finished off tasks I couldn't seem to get done otherwise, and written drafts of novels. For me, these retreats are one of the only times I get multiple, uninterrupted hours of work on projects. It allows me to finish things, but also to access a focus and energy that I typically don't in my 1-2 hour blocks during a typical week.  I balance out the work (which I find refreshing in and of itself) with other inspiring things like being in nature, reading books, painting, pampering myself, and sometimes hanging out with other people.  I return feeling refreshed and accomplished, ready to re-enter the typical grind and schedule. As an introvert, the recharging of a day or two alone is incredible! HOW TO PLAN YOUR WRITING RETREAT As I mentioned, you don't just have to write on a retreat. If you have other nagging tasks that you can't ever seem to complete, finishing those might help remove the mental burden and strain, enabling you to write better. On my retreats I have finished editing and uploading podcast episodes and show notes, edited and formatted books, and built out whole courses.  The important thing is to know what you hope to accomplish going in. Just like at home in your day-to-day, you need to prioritize if you want to complete things. Put the first things first. What could you NOT do in your normal life? Or, what would be the BEST use of that time?  Make a list of the things you REALLY want to finish, then those that you HOPE to complete (or at least work on). I also make sure that I have some life-giving other work, like books loaded up in my kindle or in print versions, great music, and maybe some plans to step out a bit. Even on a retreat, I sometimes need a retreat.  You might even make a list of things you WON'T do. Perhaps you will ignore social media for the time or you aren't going to check email. (Unless those are included in your priority tasks!) Go somewhere without wifi so that you can ignore the internet altogether.  (As a humorous note, I didn't intentionally add showering to the list of things I wouldn't do, but that's how it worked out on the last retreat I took. I stayed in a tiny house with an outdoor shower and a sudden cold front dropped the temps to the mid-30s. I returned home from the retreat rested...and a bit smelly.) Once you know what your plans and priorities are, this might actually help narrow down where you go. If you're on a serious budget, you may have to choose place first or place based on price, whereas if you have flexibility, make a plan and then pick the best place.  BUDGET-FRIENDLY TIPS With five kids, saying we are on a budget doesn't quite cover it. So how have I been able to afford 1-2 writing retreats a year? Here are my tips.  Be determined. If you REALLY feel strongly about having a retreat, you have to make it happen and give it the priority it deserves. Because I feel like these are incredibly important, I've shared that with my husband, who totally supports me in this. Between his help and my parents, I didn't pay for childcare, which would have been the biggest expense otherwise. If you don't have kids, that's one less cost/concern, but if you DO, you must try to your spouse or support system understand why you need a retreat and then ask for help.  Check first for free options. I have done several retreats house-sitting for friends. Put a call out on Facebook or other social media (if you dare) to ask if anyone has a place. Look for someone who has a garage apartment, guest room, RV, vacation home, or simply works long hours and has an empty home. Several times I stayed with a friend who had no kids and who worked until around 9pm at night. That gave me tons of daytime hours and then we often hung out for a bit at night. If people know that you are someone who wants to take retreats, they may consider letting you know when they travel and have an empty home.  Use VRBO or AirBNB. I cannot say enough about these sites and how incredible they've been for my travel. You can choose simply a room in a house or look for a tiny home or other cheaper option. If you want an inspiring location, you can find that, but if you just need a space to work that has wifi, you can look for that too.  Pro Tip: Be sure to check the cleaning fee. Some places that are $30 per night have a $30 cleaning fee, which ends up making it as or more expensive than other options. Also do make sure there is wifi if needed.  In December I stayed at a tiny home in the country with cows right outside my door. It was amazing! There was no TV, so I simply wrote. When I needed a break, I headed into the small town to eat something or just look around.  You never know what you'll find on these sites, so if you haven't tried them, definitely see what's in your area or nearby.  Pack food. If you are on a super tight budget, you could bring your own meals if possible. Even if you stayed in a Motel 6 or something with a mini fridge and microwave, you could buy frozen meals for a few dollars a piece. Anything you get at a grocery store would likely be cheaper than eating out, so do check for a place that has the kitchen options you need. Be food frugal. I wrote a post on my lifestyle blog about the best foods for family travel, and that might be good to check out. Almost every fast food place has a dollar or value menu. Breakfasts as dinners are often a great choice.  I tend to treat myself to at least one nice meal (can I get an Amen from people who love eating alone at restaurants??), but otherwise stock up on things from the grocery or dollar menu.  Take what you get. My ideal writer's retreat would be on a beach, have lots of wine and great food, and maybe be for like a week. Typically I get one night, maybe two, sometimes in a guest bedroom eating salad from a bag. IT'S STILL AMAZING. And maybe one day when my kids are older and I'm making bank, I'll be writing from a Greek Island.  Have you prioritized having a writer's retreat? What would you do if you had a day or night to yourself to write?  I hope that these tips help! If you feel like it's something that could never happen for you, I would encourage you to make it a priority, get the people who support you on board, save up or plan a super budget-friendly option, and MAKE IT HAPPEN.  Do you have any other tips that I missed? Share here in the comments or in the Facebook community!
129 - How to Create Viral Content
I've written about how to create binge-worthy content, but today it's all about how to create viral content. You know: the kind that everyone keeps sharing like hotcakes until your blog catches fire? That kind. Let's dive in! Going viral. I'd really love to know what comes to mind when you hear those words. Good thing? Bad thing? Something you've experienced or just hoped for? My question to you today is this: If you knew how to create viral content, would you? The easy answer might be yes. Because who doesn't want a viral post! But today I'm talking with Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection and Quick Blogging Tips about how to create a viral post, the downside no one talks about, and how to take your viral post into a binge-worthy post. Listen to Episode 128 - How to Create a Viral Post     HOW TO DEFINE VIRAL CONTENT First up, what IS viral content? It depends who you ask. There is full-on viral posts, which are the kinds of posts that take off and go worldwide. That's rarely what we get to see. Viral is often used to mean a post with a much higher reach than the normal for you, OR a post that has massive reach. Paula's encouragement was that you NOT compare yourself to others or feel like you'll never hit that massive reach. Consider what's viral for YOU. Aim for a post that has significantly more reach than your normal post. THE DOWNSIDE OF A VIRAL POST People don't often talk about the downside of viral posts. But you should realize that more eyeballs on your post can mean a few things. Here are a few negative sides when you create a viral post. If your post isn't on brand, it's not super helpful If your post is controversial, you will get the trolls If your post isn't something you're willing to stand behind, it's not helpful! I would say that you should always ask yourself before hitting publish: What if this goes viral? You don't always know if it's going to happen. You probably aren't going to get into that category of worldwide attention. But...if you did, is this the hill you want to die on? Is this post a great representation of you? Viral posts can bring unwanted attention. And if your posts goes viral, but isn't the kind of thing you usually write about or is one of those one-off posts that doesn't fully represent you, it's not going to be super helpful. If you wrote about something that's controversial or that people disagree with (which could be anything these days), you may also get ugly comments or people sharing your post because they HATE it. You could get angry emails or other negative responses. The more your post gets shared, the more likely you'll face criticism. THE UPSIDE TO A VIRAL POST On the plus side...when you have a post go viral, it gets tons of eyeballs on your site. Some people will meet you for the first time and these new readers that might become raving fans. The best-case-scenario is that you have a post that's close to your heart and your brand go viral. That will bring the right kind of readers to your post. HOW TO CREATE A VIRAL POST Viral posts aren't often the how-to posts or the ones that solve a tangible problem. Yes, those can take off and be read and shared. But the posts that get people sharing and sharing and sharing are the ones with an emotional connection. When you resonate with readers, they will share your post. So if you want to reverse engineer a post to go viral, you need to start with one emotion that you're hoping to evoke in readers. You'll need to find an image that somehow relates in feel or in the content to that one feeling. You can use stock photos or your own photos, but again--your looking for connection. As for your headlines, you can consider something like the Coschedule Headline Analyzer (also great for email subject lines!) and consider what would motivate someone to click. Your framing and description matter as well. Framing is how you introduce the post when you are sharing on social media. The description is usually the meta description that you create when you are setting up the post in SEO for Wordpress by Yoast or whatever tool you use for SEO and metadescriptions. (I do this in Yoast and also in my Social Warfare plugin.) TIPS FOR WHEN YOUR POST GOES VIRAL If you have a post go viral, you want to do the best job you can to optimize the post.
128 - State Of Create If
This is a new (hopefully) annual feature at Create If Writing. Consider this my State of the Union Address, where I share my goals for the Create If Writing community.  THE STATE OF CREATE IF This episode and post will share with you my heart for Create If Writing this year. I'm going to walk through my goals for Create If Writing, my goals for 2018, and the offers (free & paid) that I'll have for you this year. Watch the video in the Create If Writing group! (You'll have to join first. Then either revisit this link, or look under videos.)  Create If Writing Goals If you've listened to the podcast, you can say this along with me: Create If Writing is for writers, bloggers, and creatives who want to build an online platform without being smarmy.  To break that down... I want to help you connect with the perfect audience, grow that audience, and make more money doing something you love, WITHOUT using smarmy and sleazy tactics.  2018 Goals for Create If Writing I want to help you guys with a few big things this year. Here are my specific goals:  Help my community publish (specifically self-publish) their books Help my community promote and market their books & blogs Help foster and grow the existing supportive, amazing, and helpful community  Until more of my kids are in school (which will be fall of 2018), I'll be holding back a little on the bigger programs and retreats and other ideas that I have.  Free Offers I have a TON of great content on this site, such as the free planner, the Free Email Course, and, of course, this podcast, and the weekly Quick Fix (my epic Friday email).  Paid Offers Can I say something about paid products for a sec? I want to be clear that I consider the paid products and services I have as OFFERS. This means that I have paid things and I'm holding them out to you. If they fit for your needs and budgets, YAY! If not, that's totally fine. Refer to the free offers I just mentioned.  Books on Amazon You can find all of my books on Amazon (and sometimes a few other places). These are great, affordable ways to learn. All three of these have very practical information for you! Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers Creative Collaborations 31 Small Steps to Grow Your Blog  FIND ALL OF MY BOOKS ON AMAZON   1-on-1 Coaching If you want to jump ahead, working with me one-on-one will provide you with clarity, an action plan, and a confidence to move forward. I have various packages and am happy to create something custom for you. I've worked with nonprofits, writers, and bloggers to help them clarify their message, set up their email lists, and streamline their brand. I only take 2-3 clients per month and am currently booked out through mid-March.  FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MY COACHING PACKAGES The Create If Community  If you'd like more advanced help, but want something more long-term and love the idea of community, you should consider the Create If Writing Membership Community. This is a paid membership including a 40+ video content library, monthly Q&As, and the best Facebook group you could imagine. I'm closing this at 50 members or by March 1, whichever comes first.  The feedback I hear again and again from members is that this is their safe space, their happy place, and that the members have become real friends. I love that! FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP    A WORD ABOUT RECALIBRATING  If you are like me and you started out with a plan that's already off-track by mid-February, don't despair! Just recalibrate.  My kids LOVE to jump on our scale at home. I mean literally. So this nudges it off the true zero. When you go to weigh yourself, it doesn't start at 0 anymore. With my non-digital scale, you just turn a little wheel to reset back to zero. Easy! Do the same with your life and your goals.  If you are off-track, don't beat yourself up. Don't feel ashamed or frustrated. RECALIBRATE. See what you need to adjust and just keep moving forward.  Questions? Want to connect? Shoot me an email: kirsten at or join the community and reach out there. 

128 - State Of Create If


125 - How to Create a Facebook Group
I've been talking about Facebook groups since episode 16 of the podcast, but here on episode 125 I'm sharing how to create a Facebook group with the latest tools! With all the recent hoopla with the updated Facebook algorithm, there has never been a better time to learn how to create a Facebook group! I love email lists because it can create a really direct line from you to your fans. But when you create a Facebook group, you are fostering the ability for your fans to talk with each other. You can check out my previous resources on Facebook groups: How to Leverage a Facebook Group for Your Biz with Katie Krimitsos How to NOT Be Smarmy in Facebook Groups Why You Still Need a Facebook Page in 2018   WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A FACEBOOK GROUP First of all, a Facebook group is NOT for every person, brand, blog, or business. Not sure if a Facebook group is right for you? Consider whether you have the time to manage a community and if you want to be more engaged with your audience. If you don't have the time, definitely don't create a Facebook group! This is not the kind of thing that you can set and forget. But if you don't have the time and think you should start a group, here are some reasons you rearrange your time and priorities! Facebook Groups Tend to Have More Engagement Than Pages This doesn't HAVE to be true, as one of my group members shared her page, Amish Country in Ohio 101, which has over 8,000 likes. Lue told me she runs it LIKE a group, encouraging and taking part in conversations. It also isn't a means to an end for her--the page IS the thing. For most people, sparking conversation on a page can be difficult. Groups allow a more safe space (especially if it's a closed group) and conversations happen more naturally there. Facebook Groups Tend to Be More Visible in the Algorithm Though you won't see EVERY post from a group you're in, being active in a group means that you will see that group's posts WAY more in your feed. For now. Facebook says that it's interested in Facebook groups now, so I suspect a lot of changes will take place in the coming months or years. (Read more about Facebook changes HERE.) Get going while it's working! Build community with your fans that will last beyond algorithm shifts or whatever else Facebook tosses at you! Facebook Groups Build Powerful Community I love the way that my group has created a sense of community. I've heard people say that their email list is their community. In a way that's true. As in, those are your people. But the real community doesn't happen until you get all those people in the same room where they can meet each other. TOOLS YOU CAN USE TO BUILD YOUR FACEBOOK GROUP link your page and your group post as your page or your profile (I've personally seen less interaction on posts from my page) you can ask questions as people join the group insights about your group can welcome new members- Facebook will suggest it on the right sidebar in your group when you have new members & it will tag them and you can edit the message one group has topics to organize posts - some people use hashtags to organize things, but this is better (not available in all groups yet) header size for groups has changed - update when I have it (link talking about the different sizes) TIPS FOR STARTING A FACEBOOK GROUP don't "invite" people -- it's actually automatically adding them to the group without permission turn off setting where others can add people (get notifications about people wanting to join) keep showing up. treate people well. Be valuable and personable and present. ask the questions - pain points, let them know about your podcast pin post with who you are don't focus on fast growth or numbers, but people. the whole point HOW TO BEHAVE IN A FACEBOOK GROUP always check the group rules -- usually in the About section, in a pinned post, or even in the header image don't use other people's groups as a springboard. Make connections, but don't piggyback on what someone else built. don't teach -- create long posts sharing biz lessons don't drop your affiliate links don't ask people to pm you so you can give affiliate links know that groups have an owner- some more central than others be in fewer groups and really invest don't overly cross post or say you're crossposting don't like for like be wary of share groups and what it's REALLY getting you find promo threads that work and do those DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT ask for market research in a group (ex: "Would you be interested in an Instagram course on creating branded images? Comment below!") and then private message all those people or get their emails and tell them. overall: connect with people. let it happen naturally. don't be a vulture, circling the group waiting to get some value and money and people from it. If you haven't created a Facebook group, consider if this might be a great way to connect your community with each other and to up your engagement. 
124 - New Facebook Update
Find the show notes and more resources at  Join the fabulous Facebook community here:  And get email updates every Friday:  "Forget Facebook pages. I'm just going to create a Facebook group." "I'm not using a Facebook business page. My personal profile gets way more interaction." "My Facebook page drives most of my traffic. I'm scared my income will dry up along with my pageviews." These are the kinds of things I've been hearing since Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement about the new Facebook update and what this would mean for seeing posts from a Facebook business page in the newsfeed. People are panicking. Many people are peddling specific advice about what you should do. Rumors are rampant. So how DO you handle the new Facebook update and make a Facebook business page work?  Let's dive in! Read the Facebook newsroom announcement HERE and Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook post HERE.  HOW FACEBOOK UPDATES MAY IMPACT YOUR FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE The big Facebook update in 2018 is all about engagement. According to Mark Zuckerberg, engagement is the holy grail and passive scrolling needs to stop. (I really hate people telling me what to do, first of all, so you can read more about my thoughts on this aspect HERE.) No one knows exactly what this means. We can take some clues from the announcements, but realize that we are all making inferences from a pretty vague statement. What we KNOW: Facebook will prioritizing friends and family over posts from pages and brands. If you aren't creating engaging content on your page, you will most affected. If you are creating engagement content, you shouldn't see as much of an effect. Paid promotions (ads) will still take place.     WHY YOU NEED TO MAKE A FACEBOOK PAGE IN 2018 More than any other question I've heard in the last few weeks (and even years, since Facebook pages stopped having great organic reach in 2013) is: Do I even NEED a Facebook page if no one will see my posts? People still expect you to have a public presence on Facebook and will look for you there. Whether you are an author or a blogger or a more traditional brand, the Facebook business page is similar to a blog in that it is the public face for you. (To be clear, a Facebook profile is what you create first on Facebook, where you can friend people. A business page is an optional add-on where people can like your page.) Even if you just create a page as a sort of bookmark with basic info, photos, and a pinned post sharing that you primarily hang out on Instagram, you should have a page. How much it figures into your strategy is up to you! (To create a strategy for your social media, check out my free planner!)  Facebook prefers that you have a business page for business reasons. In the Facebook Terms of Service, your personal profile is not to be used primarily for commercial reasons. Your Facebook page is precisely for commercial reasons. The key word is "primarily." Facebook can decide what is too much selling and promotion. This means you should be careful! Facebook could, at any time, kick you off from violating this. Then you cannot have a page (you have to have a profile to have a page). You cannot create a new profile under their Terms of Service. You're done. Use your profile for business with great caution. That said, the line between business and personal is much fainter than it ever was before. There are so many more bloggers who blog about their personal lives and entrepreneurs living a different lifestyle where business and personal are not so clearly separated. People in your personal life may want to read your blog and know what you are up to professionally. You can also follow people's personal profile. This means that you can choose to see someone in your newsfeed that you aren't friends with when they post public things to their timeline. I know some large people (Mark Zuckerberg included) who have big followings on their personal profile, even if they don't have pages. I have a hard time thinking Facebook would allow this or have this feature without some business or promotion. Facebook business pages have great ecommerce tools that profiles don't have. You can much more easily sell and promote yourself. The Facebook page is also where you can run ads. For ads, it doesn't even matter that your page has a small number of likes. You can target anyone on Facebook, not just people on your page. HOW TO MAKE YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE WORK IN 2018 Here are some of my tips for getting interaction and engagement on your Facebook page. Keep in mind that these are GENERAL principles for engagement on Facebook pages. To reiterate: these are not new ideas with this latest Facebook update since we don't know specifics. Stop like-for-like Facebook threads.  If you don't know what these are, these are posts in Facebook groups where someone says, "Hey! Here's my Facebook page. If you like my page, I'll like yours. Leave it in the comments!" Or: "This is a Facebook page like thread. Leave your page link below and go like every other page in the thread!" This sounds really attractive because numbers are so shiny. They are social proof. Likes are evidence that we are, after all, LIKED. Except they aren't. This practice, while super easy, is a shortcut that hurts you in the end. Remember that we are about ENGAGEMENT. Those people liking your page in those threads probably don't actually LIKE you. They just Facebook-liked you. This means that you have dead weight on your page that won't engage with your content. When people don't engage with your content, Facebook shows it to less people in the feed. ONLY use these kinds of threads if it's a like-pages-you-actually-like thread. Not a like-everyone thread. Stop sharing me, me, me posts. I hear so many people complaining about the lack of reach on their Facebook page. No one sees their posts and no one engages when they do. But so many people simply use their page to promote their blog, books, or business. They are not CREATING engaging content, yet expect people to engage with it anyway. While this is a Facebook BUSINESS page, we don't engage with faceless companies. We engage with PEOPLE. You need to think like your audience and think about what serves them (and also meets your goals). If you want engagement, you need to think about what causes people to engage. Simple, right? But it's much harder in practice. This involves creating a content strategy (again- my free planner would help with that!) and posting more times. It means maybe pulling back on promoting our own blog posts and books. It requires more work. Don't use engagement bait. Just before this announcement, Faceook gave a very specific update to say that they will squash engagement baiting posts. These are the kind of spammy posts from pages just trying to game the system, asking you to vote with comments or likes or the different reactions you can use. The problem is that some of those same things were used by great pages and people creating real interaction! I love the "Share how you feel today in a gif" posts! They are super fun. Now you have a bot that Facebook has fed trigger words to keep those kinds of posts hidden in the feed. Which means even if you are trying to create engagement in a meaningful way, you could get caught in the bot.   HOW TO SPARK ENGAGEMENT ON FACEBOOK (OR ANYWHERE ELSE) Work on your calls to action - Itchy copy where you frame links, ask for things in ways that won't trigger the engagement bait bot Create a copy bank of great Facebook posts - Start keeping a folder of screenshots or a list of great Facebook posts you love so you can get ideas for what you can do. Study what you see that has great engagement. Craft your own kind of content that is similar. Pay attention to what's working - Go into analytics and keep track of what is working and what has been working. What kind of posts inspire comments and shares? What posts have a lot of likes? You need to be much more intentional now than ever.   CREATE A FACEBOOK PAGE STRATEGY The biggest thing you can do to make your Facebook business page work in 2018 is to be STRATEGIC. You need to be intentional if you want to see your page succeed in the face of Facebook updates. What are your goals? You need to map out your overall goals, then how Facebook fits into that. Then you can plan a content strategy for what you'll post when. For more on planning a strategy, see my post on Planning in Reverse!    

124 - New Facebook Update


123 - How to Get Un-Stuck: Tips for the Writing Process
When is the last time you thought about the writing process? Or, more specifically, YOUR writing process? The older I get, the more I know myself and understand how to tweak the writing process to fit what works for me. The writing process could really be called a system, the way we think of systems in business. Systems are simply the process, method, or course of action to get a desired result, especially consistently over time. When we get to know ourselves better and how we work, we can tweak our writing process to work better for us. We write more, better, faster. Check out Derek's video where he shares a small box with big ideas, plus some of the secrets of his writing process! (Then come on back for more on process.) For more great, daily content, I would highly recommend subscribing to Derek's channel! He's really ramping it up this year and sharing a lot of behind-the-scenes looks at life as an entrepreneur.  LOOSE STEPS OF THE WRITING PROCESS You could break down the writing process in any number of ways, but I'm going to put it into four very loose steps: Collect ideas Write judgment-free drafts Edit ruthlessly Rest and then perfect For the first two, you need to be really kind and generous to yourself, but in the last two, you must be ruthless. Let's break that down! COLLECT IDEAS The enemy of the writer is the blank page. This very common saying speaks to the fact that writers often struggle with the start. It makes me think of the law of inertia, which states that an object at rest will remain there. Objects in motion will continue in motion. That start can take a lot out of you. BUT WHY? Often the start is difficult because we don't have ideas. Or we aren't sure where to begin with the ideas we have. This is when we can fall prey to distraction or what Stephen Pressfield calls the Resistance in his book, The War of Art. You can help your start along if you have ideas. The page may still be blank, but your BRAIN isn't. The problem is that we aren't always as observant as we should be and we don't think about collecting ideas like we should. Derek shared a few ways that he collects ideas on the run in his video. Here are some things that you can try! You could:  Keep a box for notecards with quotes Have a notebook handy at all times Download an app that's easy to use for notes like Evernote or the notes app If you are constantly observing and stockpiling ideas, you can avoid so much trouble at the start! Once you have an idea, it's time to move onto stage two. WRITE JUDGMENT-FREE DRAFTS I feel strongly that in the drafting process, you need to get out of your own way. You don't judge your ideas but let them flow. At least (and especially) in the first drafts. Create a vomit version Write drafts by hand (which slows you down and may help clarify) Write down the page (kind of like making a list of ideas, scenes, descriptions, bits of dialogue) Don't have judgment in your drafts When you edit during your drafts and restrict the flow of your free-flowing thoughts, we may miss out on something that is in the back of consciousness. Connect with the page. No judgment. If you're still struggling with this, two thoughts. The first? Do what works for you. But...the second: don't write this off too quickly. If you haven't tried letting it all out and are used to editing as you go, just TRY this. Consider Upworthy. You know, the site with all the viral posts that were all over your Facebook feed a year or two ago. They write 25 potential headlines per post. Check out this Slideshare from Upworthy, particularly slides 33 & 34. Without letting out your bad drafts, you're missing something. Oh, and according to editor and author of the Story Grid, Shawn Coyne, you shouldn't edit this at all until you COMPLETELY FINISH. (I don't always agree with that, but I'll save why for another day.)  Now you've got some content on the page. It may or may not be good, but it's THERE. Time for stage three. EDIT RUTHLESSLY Now that you have words on a page, you're going to do the hard work. You will be critical and judgmental. You are going to go back to those words and cut things and rearrange things and find what doesn't work and fix it. You need to be ruthless. I really loved how Derek put this in his video. He talked about how we all assume people care about us and our story. BUT THEY DON'T. It's our job to make them care, especially right at the beginning of our content.  Personally, I do something weird. I'm SUPER MEAN to myself in edits. I write mean and awful notes to myself. If someone else wrote these things to me, I wouldn't want to write again, but I can do this to ME and it oddly inspires and empowers me. Being ruthless doesn't have to look like actually being mean to yourself. But it does mean being hard on your words. You will:  Take out unnecessary things Check that the flow works Have a goal and ask if your writing accomplishes this Listen to other people's common criticisms Be ruthless - IF you are writing for other people As for that last one, your WHY matters as you edit. If you are writing a diary or a passion project, you can be self-indulgent. You may not edit at ALL. If you are writing at all for an audience, you MUST be willing to die a little. You need to find the balance of writing what you love, but still serving your people well. You're almost done. Next up: the final touches. REST AND THEN PERFECT This final step of editing is where you go back and really make everything perfect. I should point out that these four steps are not a literal four-step process. I go through many rounds of editing in the editing process. I may also go through several rounds of polishing. Here's what polishing might include: Let it rest before you polish Find GOOD readers Listen to advice, but filter it Polishing is when you will find the genius and the magic. You still might hit that point when you hate it (or is that just me?), but you'll find that this is when you move into a work you're pleased with and ready to publish. I want to stress that I don't spend a lot of time for EVERY kind of content. I spend the most time going through this process in my longer-form content like novels. Some blog posts get more editing and attention than others. I also tend to write more cleanly in the first draft of a blog post, so that my first drafts are pretty publishable. With a blog post, I collect the ideas, potentially outline (usually on paper), and then write a pretty clean first draft that I will edit through once or twice. Do you know YOUR process?  
122 - How to Plan Your Year in Reverse
"You're doing it backwards." Does that sound like a good thing...or a bad thing? Usually when someone says that to you, what they mean is that you're doing it wrong. You are going about a task in the wrong order. But when it comes to making goals and accomplishing them, the best way is to work backwards on purpose. You need to look at your big goal as Point B. You are currently at Point A. Then work backwards to think about the steps in between to bridge the gap. If you look at your Yearly Content Guide and the daily planner printable sheets, this will make much more sense! Let's walk through the process. 1 / How do YOU Work? Before you can really start planning effectively, you need to take some time to figure out how YOU work. You don't want to waste time on methods that don't work for you. I'll give an example to make this more clear. When I was in college, I wrote a ton of papers! I can't begin to think about the hundreds of pages I wrote and the all-nighters that I pulled. But it took me 'til my senior year to realize that I wrote papers BEST when I finished them a day or so in advance. Giving myself that cushion of time meant that I wrote in a leisurely, focused way. I had no frantic, stressful moments. I didn't pull all nighters, fueling up on Mountain Dew and Twizzlers. I wrote faster and I wrote BETTER when I made my own personal deadline ahead of the imposed deadline. That doesn't mean I cannot work well under pressure. In December I started writing under a pen name, Emma St. Clair, and wrote two short stories in the sweet romance genre. (You can check those out here if you like light and fluffy non-steamy romance.) I cranked out two stories and published them within the space of two weeks. And the effort was a success! I garnered 26 five-star reviews for Four Days of Christmas and have a new email list of over 100 people and am still making sales and money now in January. What I've learned about myself is that I work better with self-imposed goals and deadlines, not ones that someone else forces me into. Questions to Ask: What time of day do you work best? What work space works well? What stresses you out? What circumstances make the work easy and fun? How do you like to write-- pen & paper, computer, typewriter? Before you can plan well, you need to know yourself well. This isn't as easy as you'd think and it may change according to the season or circumstances. Ask yourself questions about the ways you work and make note whenever something stresses you out OR has great results. 2 / Working Backwards My whole Yearly Content Planner shows you how to work backwards. It starts with looking at your goals, your stats and analytics from the past year (I keep this simple, so don't freak out if you don't like numbers), and then moves into weekly and daily planner printable sheets to give you laser focus. As an example of what this looks like, say I want to write 8-10 books this year. (Which I do.) This means that I need to write a book every month or so (if I'm working in a 10-month year, which is my plan). I can then get super specific and think about how much time I need to give my cover designer, how much time I need to format, how much time I need to give my editor, and how much time to write the book itself. When I take that backwards, I can plan out just when I need to do what based on the tasks involved and how long each one takes. If you want to increase your pageviews from 5k a month to 50k a month, you'll have to look at what current traffic sources you have and how many posts you write per week. Then you have to create a strategy for creating content and for promotion that would scale up your pageviews that much. When you're trying to grow, typically you can do two different things (or a combination). How to Scale Up Deepen the content you already have - make what you have do more for you. Widen how much content you create - do a lot more of what you're already doing Chances are you'll do a little of both, but it's worth thinking about this to pick a focus. Would it help you to get more pageviews if you wrote five times a week? Or repurposed content and promoted the heck out of fewer posts and the ones you already have? With books, I could spend more on AMS ads or Facebook ads or increase the price of my current books. Or I could write more books quickly and promote them to up my income through having lots of books for sale. If you aren't sure, try things to see! But once you see what's working, double down on that! Look at the end goal and then ask yourself if all of your actions and investments of time and money move you toward your goal...or not. Cut what doesn't. Do more of what does. 3 / Asking for Feedback It's always a good idea to ask people you respect and trust for feedback. This might be other people in your industry who are knowledgeable or it might be people who like that content. As in, you could ask other indie authors your questions about a book and you could also ask indie readers who are not authors. Both are helpful. But when people give you feedback, you need to be willing to TAKE IT. Sometimes we don't want to hear the truth or we are unwilling to give something a shot. We hold on tightly to what we love, even if it doesn't work. Don't. If fifty people tell you that your book cover sucks, you should trust them. Get a new cover. Feedback may not work in every step of your planning, but is an important part of finding what works. You need to get out of your own head and let other people share their experience and understanding.
120 - How to Throw a Book Launch Party
This week's blog post and podcast shares how to throw a book launch party. I'm sharing experiences from my own recent party and giving you tips and questions to help you decide if throwing a book launch party is right for YOU! When my latest book, Creative Collaborations, was nearing completion, I decided to throw a local book launch party. For myself. I've NEVER done anything like this before and typically am not the party-throwing (or going) type. Hellooooooo, introvert! Still, this party seemed perfect for the launch of this book and I'm so glad that I did this! Keep reading or listen using the player below (or on Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app) to find out what I learned and if a book launch party is right for you! Listen to Episode 120: How to Throw a Book Launch Party It would be amazing if you'd subscribe on Apple Podcasts! Even if you listen through an app, this is what determines my discoverability in the search rankings on Apple Podcasts and in iTunes. Disclosure: This posts contains affiliate links! That means if you purchase something after clicking through a link, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you! How to Throw a Book Launch Party Why I Threw Myself a Book Launch Party There are a lot of reasons you could consider having a book launch party. For me? It started when I saw a really amazing space on Airbnb while researching for a retreat that I am considering in 2018. When I saw it, I thought: I WANT TO DO SOMETHING THERE. My book release date was approaching and happened to fall on the same week as my 40th birthday. Why not rent the space and have a book launch/birthday party? It simply sounded fun! There were other more intentional reasons as well. The book is all about networking and working with others. It seemed fitting to have a party where I could invite friends, family, and the local social media and blogging community. In a recent interview with Joanna Penn on the Creative Penn Podcast, Ryan Holiday (author of Perennial Seller) said that the marketing plan should fit the message or content. When I heard that, I KNEW that this was the right plan for this particular book. WHAT TO CONSIDER IF YOU ARE THROWING YOURSELF A BOOK LAUNCH PARTY 1/ Consider your WHY There are a lot of reasons you may want to throw a book launch party. Before you get to ANY planning, you'll want to think about the goals. I love talking about WHY. My whole course, the Foundation Series (now a part of my bigger course, Blog Growth Boost), is all about applying your WHY to everything. It brings clarity and makes all the other details more clear. Here are some reasons you might want to throw a book launch party: Sell books Gain authority & influence Discoverability Have fun Celebrate with your people To shed some light on these, don't have high expectations on many of these! A book launch party isn't necessarily going to sell tons of books (unless you have a big group that's interested and a lot of copies to sell). It can help people to see you as an authority, especially if you can do some PR outreach and get the event covered in local papers or magazines. If you list the event publicly, like on Meetup or another site, this might increase discoverability. It also opens the door to people you don't know showing up, which might pose challenges like upping the cost if you have a lot of people simply show up. You can definitely have fun (even if you're an extreme introvert like me!) and it's something special to celebrate with your audience. 2/ Consider the ROI As I touched on before, you may not make tons of money throwing a book launch party. You're more likely to lose it. Depending on the sales price for your book (mine was $.99), you may not make tons of money. You COULD find that it helps you reach bestseller in some categories, which mine did. Selling print copies could make more money, but if you're buying author copies from something like CreateSpace or Kindle Print on Demand, you won't see that affect your rankings. Before you toss a lot of money at something, consider what you get back. 3/ Consider your finances Throwing a book launch party may not be a smart financial choice. My party ran about $1000 for 40-50 people. You could absolutely do it cheaper than that, but I made a few choices (like location) that made the price jump. You can totally use a room in a restaurant or a free space for your party and make other cuts to do this on a budget. But I was also able to secure sponsors (more on that in a sec) to completely cover the costs of the book launch party. Before you toss a bunch of money at a party, consider whether you'd make more money running Facebook ads or investing in another kind of marketing. TIPS FOR THROWING AN AMAZING BOOK LAUNCH PARTY Still want to throw a book launch party? I feel you. Clearly. I won't hold you back! Here are some tips to get the best results for the least amount of work and money. Set Your Goals Yep, circling back to this. It will REALLY help with the next few decisions if you know your goals and are clear! Set the Location, Date, and Budget. You'll want these set up before you hit the next one, which is about sponsors. Keeping the goals of the event in mind, pick a location that fits what you want to accomplish. That will likely help set the date, because of availability, or if you want a specific date, that will cut out some locations. I would highly recommend looking at Airbnb and VRBO for some cheaper, out of the box options! Knowing the spot will help you plan for your budget. Reach Out to Sponsors.  This was huge in making my party possible! Start with the brands you use and love. I reached out to Convertkit and Mediavine, which are two companies I love and use. It helps if you already have a relationship and contact there and can actually get a person's email rather than the straight up info @ company name email. I also connected with the local rum distillery, Grateful Dane, and they were able to come out to the event. Kroger, a national brand, sponsored the food for the party. I had worked with them before as well and attended local blogging events, so had an actual contact. Put together a sponsorship package, being very clear about what you can offer. This doesn't have to be in person! Grateful Dane came out to the party, but the other sponsors were digital. I linked to them in posts, talked about them on the podcast and social media, made cards with their logos for the party itself, and sent emails to my list talking about the sponsors. Give them the dates and your social numbers and be as specific as possible about the benefit to THEM. If you want to learn more about sponsorships, you can read a lot more about this and pitching and follow up in Creative Collaborations!  Hire Help. You may want to pay a coordinator or ask a friend to help. I did EVERYTHING from the buying of supplies and food to the cleaning up and sweeping the floor after the party. It was hard. I knew it would be. Realize that if you don't hire someone, this will all be YOU. Make It Valuable to Your Online Community.  I streamed the event live to my Facebook page and group. Well, not the WHOLE event, but the part where I had Madalyn Sklar from Twitter Smarter give my intro and then when I read from the book. That way the people who couldn't be there live could still take part.  IS A BOOK LAUNCH PARTY THE BEST WAY TO LAUNCH A BOOK? In short, a book launch party is probably not the best way to launch in terms of ROI. It can be super fun and a great way to meet your fans and present your book, but if you want straight up ROI and sales, you'll want to follow more tried and true methods for making sales. (I'll have a few links below.) I love innovation, so if you want to be creative and try something that may not work, just count the cost first! Can you afford it to fail? What can you gain and how can you leverage the event even if it doesn't result in tons of book sales? I would not change a THING about my party (other than having the printed books arrive on time) and felt like it was the perfect thing to launch this particular book. Will I have another for my next book? Doubtful. But I would totally go back in time and do this one again. I hope this has help you learn how to throw a book launch party AND if you actually should. Tips or ideas?? Leave them in the comments!! Helpful Links for Making Book Sales: Increase Your Sales Rank on Amazon - Interview with Kevin Tumlinson Sell More Books with Copywriting- Interview with Bryan Cohen 20Books to 50K Facebook Group How I Sold 80,000 Books: Book Marketing for Authors
119 - How to Increase Sales Rank in Amazon
In this interview with Kevin Tumlinson, we are talking about what will help you increase your sales rank on Amazon. In other words, sell more ebooks on Kindle. If you are interested in self publishing your books, this is a MUST listen (or read) to see how you can boost your Amazon sales! See the show notes on Create if Writing for images and more! Why isn't my book selling? I've spent the time to write it. I got a great cover. I told my launch team. And...barely a blip on the radar. This is all too common! You're not alone if you have experience this! Today author and podcaster Kevin Tumlinson joined me to give feedback on three of my community members' books on Amazon. We talk about what they're doing right and what they could improve to better their sales rank on Amazon. Connect with Kevin Tumlinson on his site, listen to the Wordslinger Podcast, or check out Draft2Digital! ( Note: This post contains affiliate links, which will give me a commission for referring you if you make any purchases after clicking.  INCREASE YOUR SALES RANK AND SELL MORE BOOKS ON AMAZON Keep reading because at the end of the post I'll share the common threads that we saw in all three of the books and some takeaways for you as you are writing and publishing your ebook. BOOK 1: ALL ABOUT DOGS by R.V. Bowman   The author noted that the cover is different from others in the category. This shows that Bowman has done her research! You should know what other covers in your genre look like. Use a tool like Yasiv to see visuals on this. You may not always WANT the cover to look the same, but you also set the reader expectations with the cover, so this choice matters. We both liked how the cover stood out, but (and this is a hilarious thing to say!) the dog kind of looks SAD. Which, just from the cover, made this look like one of those memoirs where the dog died. This is a little thing and not necessarily something to fix, but just something we both noticed. The book says it's an "interactive" book, but without looking inside, it was hard to know what that meant. For me, I wouldn't buy because I'm not sure. The Look Inside! feature on Amazon is important here, but the author said the formatting looked weird on Kindle.  Kevin suggested creating an introduction that would be fitting for the Look Inside! features so people could look inside and read a bit more to give them more of an idea. I wondered if a quiz book might not be the best fit for a Kindle format, especially for people like me who have the pretty simple Kindle with no bells and whistles. Without getting a sample, it's hard to know! Chances are that the author may not want to do a huge overhaul, but considering the problems an interactive book may cause on different devices, the author COULD consider creating a more basic book for Kindle and a free companion course that would work on a website AND get email addresses. Kevin suggested that this book might not be the best choice for KDP Select, because interactive works well on iBooks, so going wide might be a better choice. Part of KDP Select is the inclusion in Kindle Unlimited, which pays by page read and this might Done right:  Readable title Striking image Description starts with testimonials Tips to increase sales rank: Change the main font to be sans serifs (this one called sports to mind) Have something people can see with Look Inside! and maybe even put a note in the description about what Kindle this would work best with if it's interactive Consider going wide (iBooks, Nook, etc) rather than just KDP, since this book might look better on other devices Write more for the description with formatting and also focus on the benefits   BOOK 2: HOMESTEAD COOKING WITH CAROL by Carol J. Alexander   Kevin loved the cover right off the bat and felt like it struck just the right note paired with the subject matter and the title. (Well done!) I suggested taking out the "Cooking with Carol" part because I personally wasn't familiar with just-first-name-Carol the way I am with Martha. Or Ree. Or the Food Network Stars. I didn't research how powerful Carol's platform is, but for me, I'd take that part off the title and then put the author name in bigger letters. I would also expect more Carol in terms of stories and more from Carol specifically with her name in the title. It seems more how-to inside, where it could be anyone writing, not just Carol. Kevin said that the flip side is that keeping the first name on there would give a sort of social proof, where people thing Carol must have a platform deserving of having a single first name. He also said that it also helps humanize and make connections. If you're trying to build a brand around a name, this can be a great strategy. Kevin agreed that this makes it feel more personal and home-town, so Carol would want to amp up the CAROL in the description and in the book as well. That way we see the reason for her first name. Done Right: Beautiful cover that does just what it should Title is great Description is a great length "Busy, homemade homesteader" in the beginning of the description is perfect Tips to increase sales rank:  Make the author's name larger so it's looks more like a book, not catalogue cover Work on formatting in description- big bold tagline and bullet points Add bio in the description   BOOK 3: FORTY DAYS OF FAITH AND FITNESS by Marsha Apsley   The book sales (based on the info we have from the author) are great, so well done! Kevin loved the title, thinking it was a sort of Christian alternative to yoga-- a book about physical fitness and health. The tagline about the devotional journal stopped him because it was different from the expectation the title set. Then he's not sure what to expect and what this means. His recommendation: take out the tagline. Maybe beef up the description to fully explain the book and what gets taken away from the tagline. My suggested fix would be to change the title to something like 40 Days of Faith: A Companion Devotional for Your Fitness Journey. The current title leads you to think that the book may include devotionals and fitness suggestions, rather than being a sort of journal that goes along with whatever fitness you are currently doing outside of the book. The image on the cover is fantastic, but the font might need a little play. As it comes across, it looks a little more self-made instead of professional. Not always a bad thing and readers in the christian sphere are a bit more forgiving. Because this is a journal, but is on Kindle (which doesn't work for journaling), a great idea might be to not just mention the print version, but to have a free workbook or journal pages that people can get in exchange for their email. This is how I have my non-fiction books optimized and it's been really helpful for list growth! Pro tip: Use a bitly or pretty link so that if you ever change the destination for where the signup will be, so if you change it, you don't have to reformat and upload a new book to Amazon. Done right:  alliteration in the title great cover good category great job with the question at the beginning of the description Tips to increase sales rank:  change tagline to be more clear or be more clear in the description consider changing the font for the title make author name larger work on the formatting description   BOOK 4: CREATING SUCCESS AT HOME by Sharon Hines   Kevin suggested working on the title and the subtitle right off the bat. Because I know the author and follow her blog, the title made sense to me, but without that context, I can see how the title might need clarity. A good suggestion might be Creating a Sense of Home or A Sense of Home. You want the title to capture the feel of the book and the current title doesn't quite give a clear picture. As far as the subtitle, it should be trimmed. Not only does this help with clarity, but it also pushes all the info down on the sales page so you don't see a description. He suggested using most of the subtitle right in the description because they are what the book helps you learn. The cover felt a little brochure-like with the white blocks of space, the color treatment, and even the image. Kevin suggested softening the cover a lot, looking at the Homestead Cooking or even 40 Days of Faith and Fitness covers for inspiration. Both are more warm and welcoming. Consider a full-cover image without the bars of white. Shortening the subtitle takes away the need for so much space. Done right:  The opener of the description is GREAT The description and bio are both hitting all the right notes Tips to increase sales rank:  Change the title of the book Shorten the subtitle & use the current one in the description as bullet points somewhere Change the cover to have a warmer, more inviting feel in line with the book Work on the formatting parts of the description Consider changing the categories   BIG TAKEAWAYS TO HELP YOU INCREASE SALES RANK The tips and suggestions for these covers fell mostly into two areas: covers and descriptions. PROFESSIONAL COVER Fonts go a long way. Consider serifs and sans serif and how they affect readability and play with each other. Make sure the words are clear. Don't use too many fonts. Be sure they work well together. Use a quality image. If you are purchasing a cover, my favorite is Go On Write. But if you are set on designing your own, think about the rule of thirds to add dynamic energy. Connect with emotion. Marketing is all about emotion and experience. Connect with those readers through your image, tagline, title, or description. Large author name. Humans react to humans and we need to see that human name to connect and you don't need "by" with the author name. OPTIMIZING YOUR DESCRIPTION Make the top six lines to their fullest. You want them to click the Read More to see the State the adventure that the reader is going to go on and use a heading or bold text to catch the eye. Formatting matters. Use a tool like the free description generator on Kindlepreneur to use bold and headings and more. The break tag can cause issues, so make sure you don't have big spaces between paragraphs. Check after you upload! Give an experience. You want the reader to understand the experience and what they will leave the book feeling or being able to do. It's more than just what the book is about. Consider the readers and what the readers will get out of the book. Use uneven numbers of bullet points. Bullet points help stop the eye to give quick information. Psychology says that we like things in uneven numbers like 3-5. Consider speed bumps. Particularly with the formatting, think about ways to stop the eye and get people to quit scrolling. White space, bold, and headings all help with this. Include a bio. Your author bio WILL appear on the page, but way down. Consider including a brief bio in the description as well. Have a CTA. Give a call to action at the end of the description (before an author bio) that tells the reader what to do. This has an impact! Links mentioned (or otherwise related): Kevin's earlier interview on the Create If Writing podcast :Tips for Indie Writers Best tools for writers publishing on Kindle Pick fu - for split testing things Kindlepreneur free description tool Influence - book talking about how marketers sell to us KD Spy Tool - a paid tool to find better categories for sales WHY USE DRAFT2DIGITAL? Free ebook conversion. Upload a word doc and transfer to an epub or mobi, for uploading on ebook platforms and Amazon. Free ebook templates. I used these with my latest book, Creative Collaborations! (Read more about the tools I used here.) I love love love this tool. Seriously. Free universal book links. Create one link you can send people to that will allow them to see all the different platforms where they can reach your book. So handy! Distribution to all the major platforms. As of last week, you can now even distribute to Amazon! This means that you can upload your book in D2D and then push it out to iBooks and Kobo and Amazon and more places. This WILL give them a cut of your profits, but saves you a fat chunk of time and streamlines the process. You can still use all the free tools WITHOUT using Draft2Digital for distribution! Create a free account at D2D get started NOW with their great tools!   Were there any surprises in this episode? I'd love to hear your takeaways in the comments!!
118 - The Best Tools for Kindle Self Publishing
I self published my first book in 2012 and so much has changed! This post will share the best tools for Kindle Self Publishing, from the formatting to the cover. Plus some great tools for choosing categories and keywords on Amazon! When I dove into Kindle publishing with my first book (Make Him Room, an advent devotional), the big thing I remember was staying up 'til 4am crying, cussing, and generally wanting to kill someone over...the TABLE OF CONTENTS. I spent hours in formatting hell. No matter what I gleaned from Amazon's instructions or tried to do in Word, I could not get my Table of Contents to be clickable. (You know, where you can click on a chapter and immediately be taken to that part of the book.) I also had weird characters in between words that I couldn't see in Word, but appeared in the Kindle reader. Now that I have five books for sale, I've got more of a streamlined writing and self publishing process for Kindle. (See them all here!) With Creative Collaborations, I feel like I finally got into a self-publishing groove and even put up another book on Amazon for sale that same week. (I had previously just sold it as a PDF on my site.) I want to share the tools that I used to streamline the process and make more sales with my self published books. Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you, purchasing products will give me a commission for referring you! The Best Tools for Kindle Self Publishing FORMATTING I love love LOVE to use Pages on Mac for creating PDFs and books. You can create beautiful graphic PDFs and also text-based books and export as .mobi or .epub or PDFs. I hate formatting, but Pages has really helped with a lot of projects. For this one, I was actually able to use Word WITHOUT headaches because of Draft2Digital's total free book formatter. Draft2Digital is a company that works for authors (started BY authors) and can help you distribute your books across different sales platforms like iBooks, Kobo, etc. When you distribute with them, they will take a small percentage of the sales you make. But if you don't want to distribute with them, you can still use their tools for formatting for free. Their new formatter lets you upload a Word doc and apply one of their templates. You can then export as a .mobi (for Kindle), .epub (for about everywhere else), or PDF. My only beef is that right now their PDF option puts hyperlinks as footnotes right on that page. I don't want that when I self publish on CreateSpace or sell PDFs via my own site. I called and had a long talk with someone there about this and hope that it's something they'll change! But for the other files, they make your file look professional AND handle things like the Table of Contents. This is the top tool I'd recommend for formatting! Check out Draft2Digital for free with my referral link! COVERS If you really want to be competitive with Kindle self publishing, you HAVE to have a great cover that fits in your category. I have found a cover designer that does custom covers AND has premade covers at great prices. James from Go On Write has handled my last three covers, including the print versions. I LOVE them. I paid for a branding package, which means that when I order a premade book, he'll match fonts and colors that go with my other books. I love how they look TOGETHER. You can also get some good ideas for how books look in your category by using Yasiv. This is a tool that creates a kind of cloud of covers in a category so you can see them all at once. It helps with things like color, seeing trends, and just getting an idea of what covers look like in your category. It's free and really fun to use! KEYWORD RESEARCH One of the biggest changes this time around was the research I did on keywords and categories. These are important because they help you sell books on autopilot with Kindle publishing. It's similar to SEO research because Amazon is a huge search engine. If you can hone in on the words that people use to search for books, you can help your book's discoverability and sales. For keyword research, I use a paid tool called KDP Rocket from Dave over at Kindlepreneur. Rocket will let you do a few things that help with keyword choices in your description, the seven keywords in Amazon as you set up your book, and if you run Amazon AMS ads. (Check out Dave's free course on ads in my big list of free courses!) I used the idea search to enter different keywords that might work for Creative Collaborations. I checked out words like collaborations, social media, influencer marketing, and blogging. What I found worked better than blogging was blogger. For whatever reason, THAT'S what people are searching for on Amazon. Social media strategy 2017 was a better search term than just social media. Had I not done the research, my keywords would have looked different and may NOT have been related to what people are actually searching for. This can also help you when you write your description or blurb.  If you don't want a paid tool, you can also go into incognito mode on your browser and search in Amazon. Pick a term like blogging, type it in the search for Kindle store, then hit space and type in A and see what populates in the search box. Then B. And so forth. You'll get an idea of popular search terms related to that one. You can check out this big post on Kindlepreneur for more tips on keywords. time and use KDP Rocket for more data!  CATEGORY RESEARCH Another fun tool that I found incredibly useful is KD Spy. This is a browser extension that lets you get a breakdown of all the books and info. You'll get data like what the rank of each book in the top 20 is, what the price of each is, how much average it may be making per month, and more. It will give you an idea of the competition (how hard it is to get to the #1 spot in the category), how profitable the category is (the average authors make in the category per month), and the popularity (how many people are searching for books in that category). You may have different goals for different times with your book, but when you are launching, it can be great for visibility to pick categories with lower competition. I picked my category without using KD Spy and then tested it IN Spy to see how I would do. I realized quickly that I would NEVER break into the top 10 of the category I thought of originally. This doesn't mean you should pick weird categories that don't fit, but for any book, there are probably ten or so categories that it might fit into, so it's worth checking with Spy so you can try to get to a top spot and get that bestseller tag. Had I chosen the first category I thought of, I never would have gotten the bestseller tag, which can be a great incentive for people to buy! Check out KD Spy here! BOOK DELIVERY  I have an ongoing launch team and also had fifteen contributors of the book that I wanted to send free books. Book Funnel is the best tool for this! If you aren't sending tons of books, you can get an account for $20 a year.  This tool makes the delivery of ebooks so much smoother! Rather than just sending a PDF, you can let people choose the book format: an .epub, .mobi, or a PDF. That way they can read on the device of their choice. This also means YOU don't have to explain how to get that .mobi file actually ON your Kindle. Book Funnel does all the heavy lifting! Check out Book Funnel! These are the best tools for Kindle self publishing I have used and recommend to get great results and save yourself from headaches. To summarize, here's what I use for Kindle publishing:  Word or Pages to write Draft2Digital to format KDP Rocket for keyword research KD Spy for category research Go On Write for covers  Yasiv for cover research Book Funnel for free book delivery I'd love to hear what tools you use for your Kindle publishing! I'm sure there are other great options out there that I don't use or haven't heard about yet. Leave those in the comments or let me know if you've tried any of these options for self publishing on Kindle. 
111 - When You Feel Stuck in Your Growth
This is the conclusion of my series on Why Isn't My Audience Growing? Today it's all about what to do when you feel stuck. We'll get a little more woo woo into the mindset, inspiration, and encouragement. To see all the posts, you can can check this page: How to Grow Your Audience and Platform. When you are trying to grow your audience, you are going to hit bumps and plateaus. To be honest, I'm not sure which is worse. Bumps are when something might not work the way you hoped it did, like a Facebook ad that flopped or a webinar that no one registered for. It stinks! Plateaus are when you go on for long periods with very little forward motion. You might grow a little here and there, but nothing consistent or worth writing home about. This also stinks! You might even feel like you are learning and applying strategies and following best practices with no results. Maybe you followed this whole series (catch up HERE if you haven't!) and still feel like nothing is happening. Your growth is stagnant. THIS POST IS FOR YOU! Listen to Episode 111 - What to Do When You Feel Stuck in Your Growth   Subscribe via Apple Podcasts (the artist formerly known as iTunes) or you can check out the Create If Writing Playlist on YouTube. You can also listen right here on the blog on the podcast page with a player like the one right above.  Troubleshooting When You Feel Stuck in Your Growth You May Not Be Creating the Right Content While I feel strongly that we should all create the things we feel passionate about, this does NOT mean you will grow an audience. Your content may not be interesting to outside readers. You need to consider writing for other people, not just yourself. Unless you just want to write an online diary. Which is totally fine! Just know that if you are writing only for YOU, it may be hard to grow an audience. For help with this, see a great post from Paula Rollo on How to Double Your Pageviews. You also may be struggling with your writing VOICE. I don't feel like people talk enough about this, but it's hugely important. Your writing voice is how you come across to other people. It's a mix of your tone and the personality and can even get as specific as whether or not you use emojis or ALL CAPS when writing. If you don't have a writing voice (think: your writing is pretty vanilla and could be written by any person on the planet or be included in a textbook) OR if you are writing with a voice that doesn't jive with the audience you're trying to reach, you may get stuck. For help with this, see my post How to Brand Your Writing Voice. You May Not Be Clear on Your Audience When you are creating content, you need to ask yourself if you are meeting the needs of your ideal audience and speaking in their language. If you have a disconnect with the kind of audience you want to reach, you will get stuck. Consider surveying your people you already have. I remember the big shock of finding out that the majority of my audience loves written courses...when I've been creating video courses. Doh. If you are not sure about this one, I have a whole series on Finding Your Perfect Audience that may help! You May Not Be Promoting Your Work Enough (or in the Right Ways) I go back and forth on how I feel about automation and scheduling. I want to be live as much as possible on platforms that are social. But I also have over 300 posts (probably way more) between my two blogs. If I am not actively promoting that content, few people see it. (Except those that come from evergreen search traffic like Pinterest and from SEO.)  If you don't promote your posts (or bake in really great SEO), you will struggle to grow your audience. You have to do work to promote. People won't just find you. Sometimes we think of promotion in a bad way, like self promotion, as in self-centered-ness. It isn't. I mean, yes, some people cross that line. But I know YOU won't. Right? :) If you need help here, you may be interested in my post on being a good steward of your content. Encouragement When You Feel Stuck in Your Growth Another big reason that you may feel stuck in your growth is that you are stuck in your mindset. Growth is hard. It's hard for all of us. It isn't just hard for the newbies. It's hard for the people who have full-time businesses. We all have to keep working. We all still have goals. You hit one, then you make another. No one has ever ARRIVED. I mean this to be encouraging! Not discouraging. I mean to say that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I struggle with growth! Still! Always! Sometimes I see results and I love what I do. Other times, I feel stuck and feel like I'm going in circles or stuck on a plateau. Two Truths about Growth:  Growth Begets Growth - When you hit certain milestones (especially public ones where people can see your following or growth), growth becomes easier. I felt like it took forever to get to 1000 Twitter followers. Now I'm over 6k and felt like I tried WAY less hard to get the next 5000. This probably has some to do with social proof (people see a higher number and think you must be worth following) and may also have some to do with you hitting your stride with that platform and how you use it. Passion Begets Passion - People can FEEL it when you are passionate. It comes across in your videos through your face, in your voice in your podcast, and in your writing itself. Embrace what you love because it may be much easier to do the work! It will be a joy, not just work. EVEN if you still struggle with growth. You may need to take a class and learn. You may need to step back. Find what it takes to tap into your passion! There may be a rare time when you need to give up, NOT push forward. And if you want to hear a really amazing and honest interview on that, you should check out this episode from The Fizzle Show.    Need some growth?? If you know you are in a learning mode, there is a FABULOUS resource that I'm an affiliate for (and have a product in) called the Genius Bloggers Toolkit. You can get $6k worth of books, courses, and other resources for $97 OR attend some great free trainings! Click HERE to check out the trainings or HERE to see what's in the bundle. (Just through October 9!)  DON'T BUY IT IF YOU'RE OVERWHELMED WITH LEARNING! Only if you need tools to help you move to the next step or get you out of a funk. :) This week's featured patron is Kate Johnston, an author and a story coach who helps writers kick their writing dreams into reality through inspiration, hard work, and a little bit of ferocity. She knew she wanted to be a professional writer when she was 8 years old and wrote a story about a good wolf. (I totally wrote a book about a good wolf when I was 8!) You can find Kate's book, Writer Unterrupted on Amazon! Want to get featured? Check out my Patreon page, where you can support the show for as little as $4 a month. 
110 - How to Get More Readers and Sell More Books
I've been talking about why your audience isn't growing and want to tackle how to get more readers and sell more books. I have a great interview with Chris Syme of the award-winning CK Syme media group and author of Sell More Books with Less Social Media. Many authors struggle with promotion the same way that bloggers do. Content creation is awesome! But promotion...not so much. I think sometimes we need to reframe the conversation.  Think back to when you were young and fell in love with your first books. Did you ever wish you could write to your favorite author? I did! But...back then there was no internet. No website for authors. Just the publishers' address on that boring page no one reads in the front of the book.  Now? If you want to reach your favorite author, you might be able to get a response in under an hour on Twitter.  Yes, social media means we have to do some promotional work. But what if instead of thinking of this as WORK, we thought of it as connecting with our readers. Directly. THAT'S SO COOL! But it still isn't always easy. So I talked with Chris Syme to get some tips on using social media and I have some great tips for you to find more readers! (You can also check out episode 89 of the podcast, where Chris and I talk marketing strategies!) HOW TO GET MORE READERS AS A NEW AUTHOR Know Your First Book Is a Learning Experience Your first book will likely NOT be your best. You should treat it as a learning experience. Learn from reviews and listen to beta readers if you have them. That doesn't mean you shouldn't work to make it great, but realize you will learn more from failures.  Don't Start Copying Tactics with No WHY Many authors start using tactics that other authors use...without focusing on NEW authors. You can't just copy a case study that a successful author shared and expect to have success. Start with the Basic Platform that Succeeds You need an author website, an email list, and Facebook. Data tells you that these three things WORK. You can branch out to Instagram and Tumblr or wherever you love to hang out, but start with the places that bring you ROI- a return on your investment.  The Best Marketing Strategy Is Writing the Next Book Don't stop writing. Your marketing should NOT be the focus, no matter what level you're at! But when you start especially, don't freak out when your books don't sell and you struggle to find readers. Just keep writing. Build an Author Network Stay connected to other authors, both at the same level you are and a few steps ahead. You should connect to those in your genre and some trustworthy groups. Do be careful-- not everyone knows what they're talking about in Facebook groups.  Find Great Beta Readers You want to find beta readers who aren't your friends, because you want someone to tell you the truth. Sometimes people in your genre will read a piece to tell you if you're on the right track. You could also hire a developmental editor.  HOW TO GET MORE READERS WITH SOCIAL MEDIA Know Your Goals You want to engage fans, moving them from readers to raving fans. In order to do both of these in the same place, you need to have a platform that encourages BOTH engagement and promo.  [tweetthis]"You don't win the right to sell to people without engaging first." @cksyme[/tweetthis] You Don't Need to Be On all Platforms- Just the Ones Your People Are On 80% of online adults 13 years old and older are on Facebook. The end. This is still the biggest platform out there. Instagram is the second, and it's owned by Facebook. You don't have to work as hard to engage people there.  Know the Platforms That Sell  There is a funnel when it comes to sales. Discovery is where people find you. Awareness is where they begin to engage with you and getting more loyalty. Sales is the bottom of the funnel. Facebook and Youtube are at the top when it comes to sales effectiveness and discovery. YouTube isn't always the best for authors, which leaves Facebook as the most effective according to data.  Go with Engagement Check what is working with Facebook Insights. Sort your posts by engagement. See what people are engaging with and then find a way to do more of that while being more of your authentic self.  PRO TIP- If you love Instagram, but know more sales are made on Facebook, consider how you can make Facebook into your Instagram by engaging around visuals. It's a mental switch, but think creatively how you can apply what you like about one platform and put it into the platform with the data behind it. The mistake that we often make is that we think that we like a platform, so we need to be there. Go with data FIRST and then find a way to replicate that other platform on the one that DATA says to use.  Ultimately, you don't want to be someone else on social media. You want to be YOU. Find a way to connect where you can be your authentic self.  For more insights from Chris, check out her books and her course on setting up your Facebook page (which is really fantastic!):  10 Tips to Sell More Books on Social Media (podcast episode) How to Set Up a Facebook Page That Sells More Books ( a great course I've taken!) Sell More Books with Less Social Media  The Newbies Guide to Sell More Books with Less Marketing Or just connect through her blog at CK Syme Media Group!
How to Get More Followers on Social Media
Want to know how to get more followers on social media? I've got you covered. This posts is the third in a series on Why Your Audience Isn't Growing. You should also read Why Your Social Media Isn't Growing to see mistakes you might be making! One of the biggest questions that people have about social media is how to get followers. No matter how many you currently have, we all seem to want to get MORE followers. And more. We can never have enough!! I especially know what it feels like to be just starting out where you have under 1000 followers. I remember my first year on Twitter with something like 300 followers, feeling like I would never grow. Getting followers feels like an impossible task. You need more followers so that you have some kind of social proof, so that more people will follow you, but no one will follow you without more followers. And I have found it to be true that once you pass a certain benchmark of at least a thousand people, it gets easier to grow. Getting followers is kind of like a chicken and egg problem. So let's talk about how you get more followers on social media, especially when you are just starting out OR when you are stuck. Note: This post contains affiliate links! That means at no extra cost to you, I will receive a commission if you purchase something through some of the links I share.  Listen to How to Get More Followers on Social Media You can listen right here or on iTunes, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast app. Or keep reading below! HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS ON SOCIAL MEDIA Before we even get into the specifics of how, I want to talk about the WHY. Specifically YOUR why. If you are not super clear on your why, you are going to struggle to grow your social media presence, your blog, and your audience. Your WHY is your purpose. My background is in writing, so I like to think of it as your theme. A theme isn't the beginning-middle-end of a story, but the ideas that run throughout, tying the story together. For an example, my WHY is that I want to help writers and bloggers build an online platform without being smarmy. I love helping people connect with their perfect audience online, using all the tools and strategies that smart marketers use, but without the icky salesy tactics. Knowing my WHY means that if I have a post idea that doesn't fit into that overarching purpose, I don't write it. Or I write it in a guest post somewhere else. Or on my other blog. If you aren't clear on your why or the audience you serve, you are going to really struggle! Take some time to write out a clear statement of purpose. This should include who you serve, how you serve them, and what is unique to you. HOW TO GET FOLLOWERS THROUGH CONTENT Once you have your why in place, you can both create and curate content that fits under the umbrella of your why. In the second post of this series I talked about curating content, which is essentially the way that you share other people's content on social media. I want to go even deeper on this idea of sharing relevant content. Consider your perfect audience (see my series on how to find your perfect audience) when you are coming up with content ideas to create. In the same way, think about your target audience when you are choosing Tweets to Retweet or pins to share on Pinterest. Ask yourself: Does this serve my perfect audience?  When you share awesome content (your own and others), a really cool thing happens. People start to see you as an authority. You become their go-to for news, trends, and resources. You save them the time so they don't have to research all the latest trends or news. Sharing quality content will help you get more followers that are truly interested in you. That's why it's really important to share relevant content. PRO TIP: On Facebook in particular, you need to not only consider the topic, but the kind of content. If you keep sharing viral videos because they get great reach, but you don't CREATE video, this may hurt you in the long run. When you share your blog posts as links, your page is used to doing well with video, so the reach may diminish for link posts. An active page doesn't help you if it's active for video, but you are trying to drive traffic to a blog. Examples of People Sharing Consistent Quality Content Here are a few of my favorite creator/curators in different niches: The Sell More Books Show - Each week Bryan Cohen and Jim Kukral share five big newsworthy items and three tips related to book writing and marketing, especially in the indie space. I want to know what's going on, so I follow their podcast, follow them on Twitter, and like their Facebook page so hopefully I won't miss anything. Jenn's Trends - Jenn Herman has a blog focused on social media, specifically Instagram. Even though I've temporarily told Instagram, "it's not me, it's you," I can count on her to share big news I need to know about social media. I joined her Facebook group to keep up with what she's sharing about social media. Social Media Examiner - While this seems like a no-brainer because this is a hugely established site, I love Michael Stelzner's curiosity and passion for social media. (You can hear this particularly through his podcast, where he seems genuinely excited and interested in the guests.) HOW TO GET FOLLOWERS THROUGH CONTENT-SHARING TOOLS Sharing consistent quality content is HARD. Especially when you are also creating content too. I really rock at creating content. I love it. Give me content creation all. day. long. And while I shared in my post on why your blog isn't growing that it's not just about promotion, YOU HAVE TO PROMOTE your awesome content. If you are trying to curate good content from other people as well (which you should do), then you have even more posts to share and schedule. Promotion is a lot of work, so you'll want some tools to help with that. Note: Don't forget that you can't JUST promote. You have to engage with people as well! Read the previous post in this series for ideas.  So what tools can help you get followers on social media through content sharing? My favorite tools to share quality content- Quuu - (Facebook & Twitter) This app will generate and autopost relevant content to your Twitter or Facebook feeds for you. Like most apps, you can use some features with the free version and then upgrade. I honestly don't LOVE pushing out content that I haven't seen first. But they have a great vetting process for the posts that they take, so you will get great content! Quuu Promote - This is a paid part of Quuu where you can submit posts to go in the Quuu feed. I've seen really great results from putting my posts in here. This means that when other people sign up for Quuu and autopost links, YOUR links go in the pool to be shared on a particular topic. This has resulted in a good amount of traffic and also shown me what content is working well. Check out these two posts, both about email marketing. (For reference, another promoted post I did had 17 clicks from only 80 shares, as compared to the 300-something shares for only 8 clicks.) They don't accept posts automatically, but look through each. Promo Republic - I love this social sharing tool because it comes with templates and stock photos that you can edit (think: Canva), but you don't have to LEAVE the platform to share them. Instead, you create them right there, write your text for a post, then choose to share on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram (reminder, not autoschedule, since Insta doesn't allow that). They share trends that may help you come up with post ideas and you can create a queue of content that will post at optimal times. Get this on AppSumo for a limited time with my referral code (that gives me credit at no extra cost to you) HERE.  Tailwind - I love this app for Pinterest! (It also does Instagram, but I don't use it for that.) It has one of the easiest scheduling dashboards I've used. You can click a button to shuffle them all, choose the best time slots you want per day, how many shares per day, and even join tribes of other Pinterest users to promote each other's content. If you use my affiliate link, you'll get a free month to try it out! Learn how to use tribes and where to find them Hootsuite - I have been using Hootsuite maybe longer than any other social tool! It's very similar to Buffer, which a lot of people like, but because I have never seen a reason to switch! Choose which one works for you. You can manage up to three accounts with Hootsuite's free plan, including Facebook (page, group, or profile), LinkedIn, and Twitter. I create Twitter lists within Hootsuite and then can easily go in and schedule content on a weekly basis. (Though I've been HORRIBLE about this lately.) It clears the clutter when you just want to pop in and see what's going on over on Twitter. This makes it easier to get in, engage and schedule, then get out without getting lost. How to Use Twitter in 15 Minutes a Day Iconosquare - Iconosquare is NOT a social scheduling platform and is strictly for Instagram. But it's a really helpful tool to manage your followers and to see what content people engage with so that you can create more of the same. You can even track details like which hashtags performed well for you. As with most tools, you can get more when you pay. Social Jukebox - This is a great tool to create a content library (or "jukebox") of evergreen content that get shared again and again over time.  RecurPost - Similar to Social Jukebox, this tool will let you schedule posts to share again and again. If you don't want to pay for Edgar or SmarterQueue, you can use these two together to get the max number of posts without paying.  PRO TIP: Remember to share your own posts with as much gusto and passion as you share other people's posts. This tip comes by way of Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection and her Facebook Group, Actionable Blogging Tips. HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS THROUGH FOLLOW FOR FOLLOW I know that in the past year, the idea of getting followers by following people brings out the eye rolls. Especially on Instagram, people talk about getting 300 new followers in a day, then losing 294 two days later. (True story.) That's a LOT of people doing it wrong.   The BEST way to follow people to get followers on Instagram and Twitter is to follow people you are actually interested in, interact with them in a way that isn't smarmy (ex: DON'T follow, then tweet at them telling them you followed and asking them to follow back), and then in a few weeks or month, unfollow the people who aren't following you back UNLESS they are stellar content creators and you want to keep following.  Give this practice a little more of a personal touch and a little more time to see it actually work for you. A Note on Facebook I have not mentioned much about growing a Facebook page here. There are a few reasons for this. First, this can be one of the harder platforms to grow. Because of the way the Facebook algorithm works, people often won't see your content. Even huge pages have very little reach on posts. I'll talk more about this in a separate post, because it's a HUGE topic. HOW TO GET MORE FOLLOWERS...SPARINGLY Facebook groups - Many blogger Facebook groups have threads on a weekly or daily basis where you can link to your social profiles and then follow everyone and have them follow you. You really want TARGETED followers, so these don't always work well. But depending on your goals or while you're trying to get past that social proof number, this may really help.  Giveaways - You can definitely grow quickly and with big results using giveaways. But you are more than likely going to end up with people who don't care about you or your content. Particularly if you are giving away money or a gift card to a store. Try to be more targeted to your audience and give a great prize, but one that is specific to writers or moms or your audience.  Ads - You can run Facebook ads to get likes for your page, but this is something I would do sparingly. Facebook seems to drop your reach right after you pay for things to make you think you NEED to pay for things. So, realize this is an option in the ads manager, but don't rely on this.  Remember the Context When You Are Trying to Get Followers! If you are trying to get more followers on social media, don't forget your overall purpose. Think of the kinds of followers you really want and the long-term goals.  Consider all these tips in conjunction with the reasons your social media isn't growing, particularly thinking about the idea that you need to be SOCIAL.  What are YOUR tips for getting more followers on social media? Share in the comments!
Why Your Social Media Isn't Growing
Today's post is all about why your social media isn't growing. As in, why you can't seem to grow your social media followers. It's the second in a series called Why Your Audience Isn't Growing. You can click to read the first post, Why Your Blog Isn't Growing.  Social media can be one of the most valuable tools in your arsenal...but it can also be the most frustrating. It takes a lot of time, can feel like a part-time job, and sometimes doesn't seem to bring in results. If you are one of the many people stuck wondering why your social media isn't growing, I've got some explanations and some tips for what you might do differently.  Listen to Episode 108 - Why Your Social Media Isn't Growing Keep scrolling to read the post! You can also subscribe and listen on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, I Heart Radio, your favorite podcast app, or find the audio on YouTube. WHY YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA ISN'T GROWING  Here are three reasons why your social media isn't growing.  You Aren't Sharing Relevant Content Back when I first started using Twitter and Facebook, I'd been blogging for a few years. But I NEVER shared my own blog posts.  Why? Because NO ONE DID. These social media platforms evolved to be a good place for promotion, but they didn't start that way. Now many people use them ONLY for link-sharing. (More on that in the next point.)  Part of growing your blog IS utilizing the power of you social platforms. (But your blog still won't grow without fixing the three mistakes we talked about in the first part of the series!) We should be sharing links on our Twitter profile, our Facebook page, on Instagram, and wherever you hang out online.  But if that's ALL you are doing, you aren't going to grow your followers on social media. Which means in turn that you won't have as much traffic to your blog. You do NOT want someone to come to your profile and find that every post or even every other post is your own.  The Fix If you really want to grow your social media platforms, you need to be a curator of content, not just a creator. Being a good curator means that you are picking and choosing things to share as a kind of collection or gallery. People often talk about the 80/20 rule: 80% of what you share should be from other people and 20% from your own content.  Ask yourself what kind of content would COMPLEMENT your own. What links would add to the conversation you're starting with what you write? What other people are creating quality content in your space? What words of encouragement or news do your people need?  Consider how you can curate a collection of links and posts that will reach your target audience. Share your own, but share links from other sources MORE.  You Aren't Being Social Social media isn't always the best name for Facebook or Twitter or Google Plus or Instagram anymore. It's often more like Self Media. You promote yourself. And, if you aren't actually being social, you're only talking to yourself.  If you aren't having actual conversations with people on social media, you aren't being social. This happens a lot when people automate their social shares. They use tools to send out links automatically so they never have to actually go ON Twitter or LinkedIn.  It also happens when people try the follow-unfollow method of growth. This looks like following a bunch of people and then unfollowing them the next day or week. (Um, that's just smarmy, PERIOD.Stop.)  Clearly, if you are automating everything, you CANNOT be social. Without showing up and talking to other people, you will not grow your social following. The Fix Automation is great (see this post on the difference between scheduling and automation), but you need to have conversations. You must be social.  This means that in addition to scheduling and automating content, you must actually show up on those platforms and engage. Here are a few ideas for how this can look:  Reply personally to people who share, like, or comment on your posts.  When you follow someone, check out their profile and comment to them about something in their profile that stood out to you. (If nothing stands out to you in their profile, why are you following them??) Instead of just dropping links on your Facebook page, go live and answer questions or engage with your fans. Join Twitter chats where you can talk to as many as a few hundred people in an hour.  Try an Instagram hop where people on a particular day join in on a hashtag like #itssimplytuesday from Emily P. Freeman or #fridayintroductions from Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan.  This is not rocket science. It isn't hard to do. But it also takes a bit more time and investment. Life would be wonderful if we could just step back and automate everything...but then we wouldn't really make connections or increase engagement.  You Aren't Laser Focused One of the reasons your social media isn't growing is that you are trying too many things at once. You are on five platforms, trying to manage all of them at the same time.  Each platform has its own quirks, social media sizes, audience, and best practices for how often to post. (See my post on Seriously Simple Social for more and a free guide!) Unless you've been doing this for years or have an assistant helping you out, it can be near impossible to manage all of the platforms well.  I also see people often having one post from a social platform automatically post to all the others. So if I'm following someone on Instagram, I might see their post there first. Then I see it on their Facebook page. Then I see it on Twitter. Then I see it on their Facebook profile.  Each platform has its own nuances. You aren't going to get a ton of Instagram OR Facebook followers when you automate your Instagram images to post on Facebook. You'll look silly when you have 11 hashtags on Facebook or you tag people and it doesn't work because the original tag was on Twitter, not Facebook.  Don't cross the streams! It is more work, but even changing a few things about your post (image size, hashtags or NO hashtags, description length, etc) can help it do well on EACH platform.  The Fix Start with a focus. You may want to make sure you secure your name on several of the big platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for sure) before someone else gets it, but you don't have to be fully active on all of them.  Pick 1-2 platforms you really like where your ideal people also hang out. Consider an overarching strategy for the kind of content you'll post and how often. Set an alarm or set aside time daily or weekly to engage with people on that platform. Master the kinds of images and posts that do well there. (Again, get my Seriously Simple Social Guide for that!)  When you are really rocking 1-2 platforms and are in your groove, consider adding another. But don't try to be in all the places at one time. You will have a hard time posting quality content on many platforms and  You Are Participating in Too Many Share Groups Wait-- shouldn't we be using Facebook groups to grow? Yes. Ish. Facebook groups are great for connecting with other bloggers and getting our content out there! But share groups may be holding back authentic growth. The kinds of groups I mean are those where content creators can post their links in daily or weekly threads. Then they are required to follow or like or share or comment on the other links in the thread. While this SEEMS like a good idea, it's really not. It might boost your numbers a bit. It might give you some social proof when one post has 20 comments. (Note: whenever I see a post now with more than a handful of comments--ESPECIALLY if it's a newer post--I always assume these are from one of these share threads.) The problem with these groups is that you aren't actually finding your target audience.  Instead of connecting with that busy mom or that just-starting-out author, you are connecting with another blogger. Who, outside of the group requirements, is NOT likely to become a superfan. If you are trying to work with brands, they have grown wise to this (especially about Instagram pods) and they are NOT happy.  It's one thing to have a small group where you support each other and share content. (Like the content curation I just wrote about.) Follow-for-follow threads are another thing altogether. Required follow and share groups do not result in authentic engagement from your target audience. Period.  The Fix Be wise in the kinds of groups you join and what kind of threads you participate in. Ask yourself what you are REALLY gaining from your participation.  Is the group made up of your target audience? Will other people in the group help get your content IN FRONT OF your target audience?  Is the content you are required to share relevant and good for curation?  These groups are popular because they give a FEELING of success. Doesn't it feel nice when you have a bunch of comments on a post? Don't you love seeing other people share your content? If the groups you are in result in real engagement from your idea people, that's GREAT. If they don't, or if they require that you share content you otherwise wouldn't, it's time to rethink.  Though many of these fixes are a bit more time intensive and require more of YOU, that's the cost of real social media growth. A lot of the tactics people teach out there are just that: tactics. They are not a strategy. And they are not about engaged, authentic growth.  If you're looking for the main reason why your social media isn't growing, it's likely because you aren't investing enough of yourself. You are automating in order to create a Self Media that's all about your links and not about real engagement or serving your audience.  What are YOUR struggles with social media? Have you seen some of these reasons in your own social media? 
3 Reasons Why Your Blog Isn't Growing
Today we are going to tackle three reasons why your blog isn't growing. This is the first in a series of Why Isn't My Audience Growing? I see people asking questions constantly in Facebook groups about growth. Specifically people want to know why their blogs aren't growing. It's a complex question! But today I'm going to tackle the top three reasons why your blog isn't growing. And, NO. None of these three have to do with social media! (We'll get to that next week!) Three Reasons Why Your Blog Isn't Growing 1. You're Writing for Yourself, Not Your Audience. Ouch. As a writer, this one really rubbed me the wrong way when I started considering my blog growth intentionally. We all have different reasons for blogging. (And you really should know the why of your blog!) For many of you in my audience, those reasons have to do with loving to write. Yes, maybe you want to also sell books or sponsored posts or make money by having traffic an ads. BUT YOU LOVE THE CREATIVE WORK. I know you! So it can feel like a personal insult to hear that you're being too self-centered about your work. (Plus, who likes being self-centered??) I'm not really telling you that you are self-absorbed, only that your blog isn't outward-focused ENOUGH. Why do people read blogs? Not sure? Think about why YOU read blogs. For me, I might click through to read a blog post if the title grabs me. It relates to me. It's interesting or relevant or solves a problem I have. People read blogs because those blogs offer something. They GIVE to the reader. There is a benefit. Maybe that's a how-to or a series of tips. Maybe that's entertainment or encouragement or inspiration. But there is some kind of exchange wherein the blogger (that's you) gives something to the reader. Readers will not read blogs that don't give them something. And when we write blog posts that are just like online diaries, focused on telling just our life story, people are generally not going to want to read. (The exceptions are if you are already a celebrity, you have a really unique story, you have some kind of "it" factor, or you're a really KILLER writer. Usually we are NOT as interesting as we think we are.)  We need to invite readers IN. That doesn't mean we can't write about ourselves and our stories. If we leave our own story out, our blog could be interchangeable with any other blog out there. Not good. Our unique story and our voice NEEDS to be there, but readers need to know there is a place for them. It has to be relatable to them and give some kind of benefit. Even if that is a simple as a few minutes of enjoyment. How to Fix This: If this is your problem (and MANY people struggle here), you need to consider how you can write what you want to write, but also think outward. Consider how you can use your blog to benefit other people and what you are giving them. What does your blog give? What does it offer that a complete stranger might want to stop and read? 2. Your Blog Design Detracts from the Content Just when you thought the first reason was hard to hear...I give you this. But I just want to write! I don't care about blog design, you say. Plus I have no money and don't know blogspeak.  I know, friend. I know. I was there! I started on Blogger (which, unless you have a lot of money, will ALWAYS look like a blog on Blogger) and when I started paying more attention to design, I didn't want the clean, white look. I had bright colors and busy backgrounds. It was a hot mess. Here's the thing about design: it impacts the way people read your words. When Rob and I were looking for our first house, we looked at all kinds of places. Some were in pristine condition, some were foreclosures with no flooring and holes in the walls. We are good at vision, so we could see SOMETHING in most places. Except one house. It was older and had original mustard-yellow countertops and shag rugs. It was clean, but it was just so much ugly. Most of all, though, we HATED the layout. We struggled with a vision for the house because we didn't like the floor plan. Countertops you can change, but layout is layout. We bought another house and a few months after moving in, I had this realization as I walked into my master bedroom: this house had the same layout as the house we hated. I couldn't believe it. Even with all our open-mindedness and visioning, we hated a house for (we thought) its layout, then bought a house with the same floor plan...but modern updates. Honestly, we were both floored. THAT IS HOW MUCH DESIGN MATTERS. You cannot underestimate the impact of how you package your words. So if you are a writer and hate thinking about this stuff and don't want to learn to code and don't want to pay have to consider the cost. You don't have to have the most beautiful blog, but you DO need to have a blog that doesn't detract from your content. How to Fix This: If you don't have a lot of money for design, you can use a simple free theme and just keep it SIMPLE. Simple looks so much more professional than busy. Or consider Squarespace, which is something like $7-10/monthly and is drag and drop. Very clean, very professional. If you're using Blogger, it is REALLY HARD (ie- expensive) to make it not look like Blogger. I love working with Merri from WPTech Cafe and I also love the themes from Restored 316. I'm an affiliate for Restored 316 and am currently using their Refined theme, if you want to check that out. (Being an affiliate means if you purchase a theme, I get a commission at no extra cost to you!) 3. Your Writing Style Isn't Unique This is where it gets confusing sometimes. Because I told you in #1 that it's not all about you, and now I'm telling you that it needs to be uniquely you. What gives?  Your blog DOES need to be about other people enough to draw them in. But your unique story and voice and perspective will keep them reading. If you don't have something unique, your blog will be like every other of the million blogs out there. Why should they read or come back to yours?  This can be really difficult and takes practice. It will also shift over time and depending on content. But learning to find your unique voice and find how you can weave your story and perspective through the posts makes you stand out. And, even though you're being uniquely YOU, it will draw in the readers and keep them.  What IS your story? What IS your writing voice? You need to consider these questions in order to help your blog grow. It's not enough just to write helpful tips for people. Your helpful tips need to have YOUR spin. Otherwise they'll get lost in the sea of other helpful tips.  How to fix this: If you haven't been training in a lot of the writing spaces, these may not be questions you've thought about at length. But I've got just the resource for you! Check out my post How to Brand Your Writing Voice.    These three aren't the ONLY reasons why your blog isn't growing. The other big key to blog growth is promotion. We'll hit on that a bit in the second part of the series when I talk about why your social media isn't growing. But just so we're can't write a blog post and think people will find it. (Unless you are an SEO wizard.) Promotion totally impacts this.  But you can promote like a crazy person and if people don't feel included, are turned off by your blog design, and don't find something unique, your blog will not gain and retain new readers. are you feeling at the end of this?  I want you to know: these are not the only reasons your blog might not be growing. And they might be hard to hear. If they ARE, please take some time after you read this or listen to the episode. Be grumpy. Complain. Send me an email about why you disagree. Then come back a few days later when it feels less personal and really LOOK at your blog. Could these actually be the reasons your blog isn't growing? Ask a friend who is impartial if you need help looking with honest eyes. I do NOT mean to be discouraging or hurtful.  What you ultimately need to consider is this: DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GROW?  If so: HOW BIG?  Because if you want to really grow and really want to grow large, you need to seriously consider these three things. But if you want to write for writing's sake or because of a particular passion, then you can worry about them less.  If you want to really grow a platform or build a giant blog, you need to take it seriously. You have to think about why your blog isn't growing...and then what you're going to do about it.  Ready for a Boost in Blog Growth?  Preorder a copy of my book, 31 Small Steps to Grow My Blog, and get the accompanying course, Blog Growth Boost for just $27. (Normally $97!)
Creative Work in the Storm
Want to support the show? I've got a totally new Patreon page with awesome rewards! Check that out here: After going through Hurricane Harvey this week, I wanted to talk about creativity in the storm. Here are some thoughts on how creativity works in hard times. A week ago I was in California speaking at Podcast Movement. The weather was 75 degrees. Sunny. Breezy. AMAZING. I started getting calls about the weather. "Are you coming home?" "You know we're getting a hurricane, right?" "You should really come home." Living in Houston, you get used to hurricanes. We weathered through Hurricane Ike when Sawyer (my oldest) was a few months old. It was a harrowing night with high winds making the giant oaks outside bend to the ground. We made it, but lost power for a few weeks with trees downed all over town and some rising water. It was a mess. But you get used to the warnings. Hurricane Harvey Wasn't a Storm Like the Rest By now we've all heard how Harvey was beyond normal. I've heard it called the worst natural disaster in US history. Houston tends to flood anyway and getting trillions of gallons dumped on it in a weekend could not have ended well. A few days later and we have sun again, shining down on all the piles of carpets and furniture by the curb. Some neighborhoods still have five or more feet of water. Up over the doors and windows. Grocery stores  actually have food on the shelves. Roads are opening. Helicopters are flying overhead. Military convoys are parked at the football stadium. Every other pickup truck has a boat in the back. These are strange times. My house? We were fortunate. Lost power for thirty minutes. Water lapped at the doors, but did not come in. (You can read all about our experience HERE and HERE.)  Creating in the Time of Storms Whether you are facing a literal storm or some other kind of hard time, creativity can flow...or get stuck. For me, it's therapy. In the worst moments of the storm, I felt peaceful. But since, I have woken up terrified that water was coming in my children's rooms. I cried in the grocery store today to see food on the shelves. I don't always process in the here and now. Writing? Helps me process. But it isn't always that way. Sometimes you might get stuck instead. For now, I'm without childcare, so some of my creative things literally WILL be stuck. I have less than half the time to create. When I have the time, I want to write. I want to get back to the podcast and to connecting with my people. Whether you thrive or get stuck in the storms, it's okay! YOU ARE NOT A SLAVE TO YOUR CREATIVE WORK.  Rather, it's something that should bring a benefit to YOU. It should be life-giving. That means No guilt if you don't want to be creative for a bit. If you need a breather, it's okay. Your creative work serves YOU, not the other way around. So whatever your storms this week, this month, this year, I HOPE that your creativity helps you flourish in it. But if it begins to feel burdensome instead, take some time off. Refresh. Then return when it feels more life-giving to you. 

Creative Work in the Storm


105 - Tips for Building Traffic
With a crowded internet filled with blogs and podcasts and websites to browse, it can be really difficult to stand out. Today on the podcast I'm bringing you tips for building traffic! I'm also going to share why I don't think traffic is the bee's knees (as in, my main goal is NOT to build traffic).  As a quick note, I am spending a whole MONTH talking about traffic in my paid membership community. We'll have exclusive interviews and resources and a guide to traffic. If you want to see what this exclusive community and training is all about, you can try your first month for $1! You'll have access to hours of video trainings and join our private Facebook group, plus get weekly email check-ins from me. Check the Create If Community Membership!   Tips for Building Traffic When we talk about traffic, we are talking about how many visitors you have on your blog, usually measured monthly. There is a difference between pageviews and unique monthly views, but for now, I'm talking about pageviews.  (If you REALLY want to know, pageviews are the number of times your site literally loaded and unique users separates out multiple visits from the same people, so you'll get a more accurate number of how many different people are reading your stuff. Sessions are kind of in-between-- the same user could have two different sessions and view six total pages, resulting in two sessions, one user, and six pagviews. Read this great breakdown here!)  Traffic from 2007 to 2017 In the old days of blogging, you wrote blog posts and people came. I like to think of this as Field of Dreams blogging: if you blog it, they will come. When I started in 2007, that's how it worked. People found me. I didn't seek them out, and I certainly didn't promote my blog. Social media wasn't really used for self-promotion back then. 2017 is a different world. If you write a blog post, hit publish, and do nothing else, chances are that maybe like 10 people might read your post. No one will just "find" it (unless you do a great job with SEO). Few people will share it (unless you first share it yourself). These days, you have to WORK to get traffic. Tips for Building Traffic in 2017 There are two main ways that you can build traffic to your site.  Get found by utilizing SEO best practices. This means optimizing your post with keywords so that search engines like Google or Bing and even platforms like Pinterest (which is really a visual search engine) will suggest your post. (Pinterest is considered social media, but I'll get into why I put it in this category. Keep reading.) Bring people to you by promoting on social media. This means actually pushing your link out over social media so that other people will see it, click to read, and maybe even share. The best idea is to use a combination of these two methods. When you have your SEO working for you, after the initial setup, you can expect to have traffic continue, no matter what you do. It's passive, long-term traffic. (Not to say that you shouldn't do updates or that you can't strengthen your game.)  Combine great SEO with promotions on social media, where you will see short-term spikes of traffic. It's great to diversify your traffic sources so that you can have a more secure foundation in case something major shifts or an algorithm kills off your traffic.  How can you grow the traffic you currently have? In theory, this is simple. Choose #1 & #2 (or, ideally, both) and work on your game. In practice, this is obviously not as easy as it sounds. SEO is more of a long game, which means that you can put things in place now and hopefully see some increases in the coming months. But the benefit is that after you set up SEO, it keeps going. Social media is more of a short game that will result in temporary traffic spikes. I've had a post go "viral" on Facebook that resulted in 50k pageviews in a few days. But then it dropped to 2k and then 500 and then...nothing. Social media is something you need to do once and then do again and then do again. In fact, a lot of people will say that you should spend 20% creating content and 80% PROMOTING. Yikes. But what is the purpose of building traffic?  If you are building an ads-based monetization strategy, straight-up traffic is what you want. Numbers = $$$. But it takes a LOT of traffic to make a significant impact. For reference, one of my sites gets between 10k-20k pageviews per month and I get about $200 or less in ads revenue. Traffic is fragile. So if you are building on straight traffic and straight ads-based revenue, you are building something delicate. One algorithm change and everything shatters. So it's important to think about how to capture traffic and what you want those visitor so DO on your site. My biggest recommendation is (surprise, surprise): EMAIL. The most permanent way that you can connect is by getting people on your list. Email is also a third, not as often talked area in terms of building traffic.  You also may want them to read more posts, check out your about page, or generally hang out for a while. So you can work on optimizing your site in a way that encourages reading, clicking around, and signing up for your email list. It makes #5 on Neil Patel's great list of ways to build traffic! Make sure as you think about ways to build traffic that you are thinking about WHY. You need a purpose. You want people to DO something. At the least, try to connect in a more permanent way with your readers by getting them on your email list.  Some Practical Tips for Building Traffic This is NOT an exhaustive list, but a few things that have been working for me in 2017. Also! I want to make a big note that in these things that are working, not ALL of them are about building traffic to my site. Many of the things I'm doing are about sending people to a landing page for my email list. So...why am I including them?  The reality is that whether you are asking someone to click to a blog page or a landing page for email, these tips ask people to click through to something. And these tips are working right now to get people clicking. I am simply focusing on my list right now and making that a priority over blog traffic.  Again...WHY? As I mentioned before, traffic is fragile. It can be awesome, and there is something powerful about having millions of pageviews a month. I have friends doing that and they are making more than full-time incomes on their blogs through ads and sponsored posts and other revenue streams. Since my main revenue streams are NOT related to ads or sponsored posts, I utilize my email list primarily to build relationships and offer products and services that fit their needs. Yes, I'd like to build my blog traffic. But it's not my main thing.  Utilize timely or time sensitive things. I did an experiment with social media over the last month. I scheduled out daily posts to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn advertising one of my big freebies, Seriously Simple Social. I found that I got less than 50 in total for the month. Meanwhile, I held a webinar and started signups for Summer School, a 6-week free class I'm holding this summer. In just a few days, I more than doubled the other signups. Even though these were events with email signups, you could try something similar by promoting timely blog posts-- like my boredom busters for kids, which I promote more heavily at the beginning of summer.  Post to popular Facebook pages.  I've seen the power of large Facebook pages sharing your posts. See this list of pages who allow or encourage sharing HERE. Basically, you can post on their page wall, where the post isn't super visible to regular visitors, but the page owner will see it. If it's a good fit, they will share it themselves on their page so it IS visible. When I had that 50k pageviews in a few days, it was from several large pages sharing my post.  Post with GREAT DESCRIPTIONS to Facebook group share threads. If you are a member of 1 million Facebook groups like I am, you'll know that there is usually a no-promo policy. This keeps everyone in the group from posting their blog links 100 times a day. (As a group owner, trust me that I delete a billion of these every day.) There is often a thread once a week where you can share your links. Many people miss this opportunity by just literally pasting a link in that thread. The people who see the most engagement and clicks are those who put a description and actually talk about their link and give a mini pitch.  Get excited about your own content. This is a tip from Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection. (She shared it in her Quick Blog Tips Group, which you should join!) She pointed out that often when we promote other content, we gush and give a great testimonial for why people should read. Then, for our own content, we say something like "Read my latest post." We can tell people our content is great without being smarmy. I know it's often hard to talk nicely about ourselves and it can But if you believe in your own content (and you should), then give people a reason to read!  There are TONS more tips for building traffic, but these are a few specific actions that are helping me see results!  Want to up your blogging game this summer? Join me for Summer School! You can choose to focus on SEO, Blogging, or Building Your List (or all three!) after you register. You don't want to miss these classes, which start on June 15!
104 - Must Know Publishing Tips with Honoree Corder
There are so many ways to publish a book these days that when it comes to publishing tips, it seems okay to say: choose what works best for you! But it's great to trust those who have found success before us. Honoree Corder just released her FIFTIETH book and shares practical launch strategies, whether you should use a hybrid publisher, and more publishing tips in this episode! Read more or listen below! Connect with Honoree Official bio: Honorée Corder is the author of dozens of books, including You Must Write a Book, The Prosperous Writer book series, Vision to Reality, Business Dating, The Successful Single Mom book series, If Divorce is a Game, These are the Rules, and The Divorced Phoenix. She is also Hal Elrod’s business partner in The Miracle Morning book series. Honorée coaches business professionals, writers, and aspiring non-fiction authors who want to publish their books to bestseller status, create a platform, and develop multiple streams of income. She also does all sorts of other magical things, and her badassery is legendary. You can find out more at This post contains affiliate links! Must-Know Publishing Tips with Honoree Corder Tips for Your Launch Strategy Start building your list from the time you consider writing a book. It's the one thing you need for short-term and long-term success. Each book launch may look different. It depends on the outcome. The launch starts 2-3 or even 6 weeks before the book with the formation of an advanced reader team. This will be made up of your ideal readers, not just friends or random people who say yes. PRO TIP: Make sure your ideal reader team is targeted to the audience who would be likely to actually BUY your book because of interest. Not just friends or your mom. Probably NOT your mom. When these people buy your book, it can skew your also-boughts underneath the sale area on Amazon, which means that your book may not get shown to the right audience! You can gift a free advance copy to your reader team, but also ask them to buy and review and explain WHY it matters. If people cannot afford your book, consider how they might help you out in another way. Should You Try Hybrid Publishing? For a moment, let's define the terms. Traditional publishing is when you have one of the big five publishers or a small press publish your book. They pay you an advance and royalties if you sell more copies than the cost of the advance. Indie publishing is the new term for what we used to call self publishing. It means that the author takes control for all aspects of the book (though often this means hiring an editor, a cover designer, etc) and publishes the book without an outside publisher. Hybrid authors is a term NOT to be confused with hybrid publishing. These authors may have some traditionally published books and some indie books. Hybrid publishing is when a company asks for an upfront payment from authors in exchange for publishing, printing, distributing, or other aspects of the publishing process. The contracts and terms vary. Why Hybrid Publishing Might Not Be the Best (or a Good) Choice There are horror stories. Many. I hear them all the time from authors who paid thousands of dollars to get hundreds of copies of their book that may or may not even look professional. At best, you may end up with a book that has been formatted and have a cover designed...both things that you could do yourself or pay someone to do for MUCH less. For more warnings on companies to avoid, here is a great site! Hat tip to Elle Mott for this one! But one of the big points to consider is WHAT ELSE COULD YOU DO WITH THE SAME AMOUNT OF MONEY? (Or even less.) You could hire a top cover designer, editor, and even pay for Facebook ads or AMS ads for less than you would pay a hybrid publisher. Other Publishing Tips for Authors For non-fiction authors, consider how you can intentionally network. (See Business Dating.) Find 11 other professionals who serve the same client or ideal reader, but are not your competition. Then you can support each other and share clients. Intentionally seek them out. Then if you REALLY like them and connect well, ask for referrals. Practical tip: offer them copies of your book. For fiction authors, consider making a square cover that you'd be using for ACX (audiobooks) and have your followers and readers change their profile image to your book cover on launch day or as they finish the book. Consider having stamps made with this same image and use them to send mail. Ask yourself if you could spend your money in a wiser way. But don't think about trying to be CHEAP. Consider the way you send money as an investment. Your covers will be helping you sell books and bring in money for YEARS. Hire a professional copywriter or invest time to learn this. A cover gets people's attention. Copy converts people into buyers. You must write a book. Even if it's ONLY for your family and the people that follow you. Can I just say that I LOVE that Honoree burned her own books? There is something freeing there. And humorous. Links from the episode: You Must Write a Book  Amazon's Media Breakfast Honoree attended The Prosperous Writer's Guide to Finding Readers
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132 - Tips for GDPR Compliance and Why Data Matters

132 - Tips for GDPR Compliance and Why Data Matters

Kirsten Oliphant