My 5 pieces of advice to get through trauma: For self-published authors and business owners

My first blog post in months. Things have changed dramatically for me this year, due to some very traumatic experiences that happened to me at the end of last year, and the beginning of this year. Events that changed the course of my life and changed me as a person.

This year the Agency had a really rough start. One of the worst 6-8 months I’ve experienced since this business came to life back in 2008. I’ve experienced mental illness to the point of paralysis, and being unable to work. And this week I have lost a dearest and darling family member, and my heart is broken again.

But instead of hiding my pain, I use it to teach myself lessons. I use my darkness to give me strength, I always have. And I have decided to write this blog in the hopes that other authors and business owners out there who feel the same pain, know that you will get through it.

So these are my top 5 pieces of advice for anyone out there trying to build a business for themselves (especially you self-published authors, because that’s what you’re doing) about getting through trauma, and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel:

 

Accept your pain.

Our society teaches us that it’s better to get up, dust yourself off and move forward. They forget that we can’t exactly do that if we’ve broken a leg. If my experiences over the past year had displayed themselves physically, I would have been in the hospital under constant care, with bruises and broken bones and internal bleeding. I’m under no illusion about the severity of what I went through, but we are not taught to view our emotional and mental states in the same way.

It is important for you to recognize when you are in pain and need care. Accepting your hurt and pain paves the way for healing. You are allowed to hurt, you are allowed to feel all the emotions that are going on inside you. You don’t have to keep pushing them away and pretending they’re not there. You’re a human being and deserve great love and care, and the way you give that to yourself is by giving yourself permission to feel it, and heal.

 

Get people around you.

I am very used to isolating myself in crisis mode. I’m naturally an introverted homebody, and I love being on my own. But you need people around you. It is very easy to get swallowed up in your own self-criticism and punishment but you need people around you to tell you to stop doing that and that you’re being too hard on yourself (because you are). You need people to be your strength when you have none, to help you.

This year I have bonded more closely to my family than I ever imagined. They were at my door and calling me on my phone when the shit (repeatedly) hit the fan, and they have been there ever since. I have carved new intimate friendships with people in my life who I had no idea would ever become so important to me. I learned a new aspect of support, one I didn’t think was there and I didn’t understand how everyone else had people around them and I didn’t. But I did, and I do. And so do you.

But you have to ask for it. These people probably have no idea what you’re going through, or don’t know how to help you. You must ask for it. People want to help you, they often don’t know how. How many times have you seen a friend or family member go through something and felt totally helpless? Don’t be afraid to ask. There is no shame in asking, only love for yourself. Asking for help means you are taking action with trying to help yourself. You will be surprised at how willing the response will be.

 

Do things that make you happy.

When the storm clouds are above and the waves are crashing in upon our ship, we may forget that there are things out there that make us happy. Writing makes me happy. Playing Magic the Gathering makes me happy. Watching and analysing movies makes me happy. Learning about business makes me happy. Listening to music makes me happy. What makes you happy? When was the last time you gave yourself time to do those things, simply to be happy and enjoy it? Without any expectation of success, achievement, or improvement. Just… cos it makes you happy?

Actively find things in your life that will trigger that happiness part of your brain. The more that triggers, the bigger the ripple effect it will have in your life. These aren’t just temporary moments, but they are influencing how you feel the rest of the time. Piece by piece, feeling good about yourself will begin to chip away at the feeling bad about yourself. Give these moments to you, each day, to remind yourself what it feels like to be happy.

 

Recognize your strength

I’m not good enough. I can’t do this. I’m not capable.

Are these familiar thoughts? I have them every single day. But it’s thanks to #2 on this list (people) who remind me of how strong I am. That my recovery throughout this year has been far faster, and with greater emotional health, than normal. Others in my position would probably not have felt the way I do for another two years.

I lose perspective so easily. I forget how much I’ve been through and all that I’ve achieved through it. I tell myself “Anyone would have been able to do better than me,” but that’s total bullshit. They wouldn’t. And we don’t know these things because they’re private, we don’t hear about it except from the Fortune500 CEO’s who experienced these things ten years ago and became stronger for it. Whoop-de-do, but what about the people now? Where are the other people who are hurting as bad as I am? Everyone else seems to have a handle on life pretty goddamn well.

This is not true. Everyone is fighting a hard battle, and everyone has their ways of dealing with it. And most of us do it quietly, because we don’t want the world to see what’s really going on.

Everyone struggles and suffers in their own way. Including you.

It takes so much strength to overcome trauma. You can drown in a wave of doubt, guilt, and shame, collapse under the weight of helplessness and loss. Don’t be blind to how much strength it actually takes to sometimes get through the day. This is not you being weak, this is you being strong.

Look at the reality of your situation, of what you have been through. Pretend it had happened to a dear friend or family member, would you be so willing to tell them that they’re being weak? Or would you understand how hard it must be for them to get through what they’ve been through? You are so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, I think it’s about time you start believing it.

 

Hold space in your life for you

A lot of the damage I experienced this year was due to the fact I was putting others before me, when I needed to put me first. I was surrounded by people who wanted me to bow to them, to make sure they had enough before I had enough. This happened with relationships, with family, and with friends. I am naturally someone who puts others above myself, and I hit a breaking point. After everything I had already been through at the end of last year, they drained me of all I was. I was getting to the point where I was losing my own identity. I didn’t even matter anymore. And it took the support of others in my life to be able to step back and say no. To begin to rebuild the walls around me. To know that I matter.

The same can be said about business. I was brought up in a family that put work above myself. Work is more important than me. And so I worked and worked and worked when I shouldn’t have, and I was going through serious breakdowns, and again paralysis. Where was I in all of this? I didn’t matter.

Finally, as I began to emerge through the trauma (I still haven’t completely recovered, and it will take quite a while until I’m feeling 100% again), I started to put myself first. Because there is no life for me, without me in it. Not only that but if I continue to bow to the will of others in my life, who want me to sacrifice my entire self, happiness and life to make them happy, then I have no life at all.

Holding space in your life is you giving yourself permission to be who you are, to enjoy all the things you want to, to give yourself the time and space you need to in order to heal.

To hold space means you recognizing this is your life, and you are allowed to live within it. You are allowed to exist within your own moments. You are important.

And most of all, keep writing. Writing is our vice. Writing is our voice. You need to get the stuff inside you out. Seeing it outside of ourselves helps give us perspective, and something to reflect on. It’s also a record, so that in six months you can look back and realise how far you’ve actually come. And it is in your blood, as it is in mine. Writing is our calling, and we must continue to let it flow.

Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. And don’t take anyone in your life for granted. Go out today and tell your friends and family how much you love them, because they may not know. Treasure them. And treasure you.

16 New Year’s Resolutions For Writers

When we look back on a year of writing, we can be filled with a feeling of guilt for not having done as much as we set out to do. Or we can be overcome with pride and gratitude for everything we’ve managed to accomplish. But with each new year comes a fresh press of the reset button, enabling us to turn to those things we’ve not yet tackled.

Here are 16 new year resolutions for writers to help you choose yours. Please leave a comment letting me know which you’re taking on, and how you’re going to tackle them. Good luck!

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

 

If you need the text for those:

1. I resolve to call myself a writer
2. I resolve to make time to write
3. I resolve to complete that unfinished work
4. I resolve to write what I feel the calling to write
5. I resolve to read more, and to read more widely
6. I resolve to tell the world about the book I love the most
7. I resolve to find the perfect place to write
8. I resolve to try a new genre
9. I resolve to tell the truth
10. I resolve to break some rules
11. I resolve to overcome my writer’s block
12. I resolve to back-up my writing
13. I resolve to rectify my weaknesses
14. I resolve to tell people about what I’m writing
15. I resolve to publish my work
16. I resolve to be less critical of my writing

Here’s to an incredible 2016!

Three Tips for Surviving NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo is a writer’s version of blood sport. Fifty thousand words in a month, take no prisoners, a first draft heaven where anything goes. The goal is to get a novel together in a month and writers have a tendency to form a love-hate relationship with their manuscript and everything around them. This blog is going to touch on the top three things to do while preparing for NaNo so you get the most of it and not end up a wreck by the end of November.

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 Direction

Writing a book is like being dropped into the wildness, so it’s important to have a map and a compass. Finishing a first draft in a month is a huge and daunting task so it doesn’t matter if you are a plotter or a pantser, having a plan is essential. You are going to want to focus 100% on getting words on the page. Having a rough map will make sure you don’t waffle yourself into a corner and burn out. Here are some quick ideas, whether you are a strict planner or not:

  • Beat sheets– some writers hate these but they can work well to prompt you when you need to put your big events in.
  • Mind maps– grab a pen and create a scribbled mind map even if it’s to get your ideas down.
  • Chapter Plans– these can be as loose or rigid as you like. Try to view them as a suggested route but don’t forget you can move and change stuff about as you go.
  • Notebook– have a notebook designated just for your story. This is a place to jot down ideas, write snippets on the run and keep any research you will need.

Whether you plan chapter by chapter in Scrivener or jot down plot points on a wine stained napkin, you need to know where you want to go before you start. For more ideas and ways to plan go and check out Chuck Wendig’s blog, he offers some great ideas that any writer can adapt.

You Are an Island (in a Chain)

During NaNo your mind needs to be free to focus on your story and roll with all the emotions that go with it. Announcing to your friends and family that you are on a writing challenge will hopefully give them a pre-warning about respecting the space you will need. Writing is a tough, solitary business but remember; meeting up with other writers and NaNoWriMo sufferers can help refresh your mind, bounce feedback off of each other and get you a much needed break away from the keyboard.

It is going to be a busy month so setting extra reminders about birthdays, engagements or bills due dates isn’t a bad idea either. Knowing that everything is covered will free your mind of the mundane so your story can move about freely. Plan to connect so you don’t burn yourself out.

Know Thy Distractions

8583949219_f55657573e_z   Everybody has a weakness or an excuse not to write. Social Media and the ease of checking in while on your computer can seriously cut into your writing time. For 90% of us you have to fight for your writing time and protect it. Don’t waste it on Facebook updates and cat videos. If you have a Social Media weakness it’s a good idea to turn off your wifi before you start. “But I need it to research!”…No, you don’t. The point of NaNo is to write a first draft not a finished copy. If you need research then it should have been done before NaNo started (which is why it’s important to start with a rough plot idea). You can always go back and add the research information into it.

Turn the internet off, everything will be fine, I promise.

The same goes for TV and Netflix, if you know that it’s going to be a distraction, get rid of it. If you have kids or a loud flatmate then maybe head out to a café or for some quiet time at the local library. Libraries usually have quiet rooms you can book if the normal library is too loud. Know what your weaknesses are and prepare for them.

NaNoWriMo can be fun, exciting and productive, but remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Preparing your month by having a novel outlined, planning to step away from the computer to recharge, and minimising your distractions, will ensure you hit your word count and get the most out it.

What Are Your Survival Tips for NaNoWriMo?

What Are Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs), And How Do They work?

ARC is a commonly used acronym in the publishing industry that stands for Advanced Reading Copy. Here, we’ll go into some more detail about ARCs and why they can be a useful marketing tool for self publishers.

What are they?

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Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) are a preview of a writers upcoming release. ARCs are not always perfect copy, and they usually have a variant of the final cover, and are stamped with wording identifying it as an advanced copy.

They may also differ from the final published work if any additional editing is needed prior to publication. In general, ARCs will be sent out by publishers to reviewers, critics, magazines etc. before the launch date.

When should they get sent out?

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Three to six months used to be the official lead time for ARCs to be sent out by publishers. Yet thanks to e-reader technology, the distribution of ARCs has become a lot easier and less expensive.

Ideally as a writer you want to give your readers a chance to read your work and hopefully put together a review. This means a 6-8 week lead time is a good period. Don’t forget, it doesn’t have to be a perfect copy, or include a final cover, but it at least has to be edited.

These advanced readers will not only be able to offer you genuine feedback, but you’ll also come across as a a professional who really knows what they’re doing in the publishing world.

How do you find advance readers?

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If you’re lucky enough to already have an email list, this is generally a good place to start. These are the people that are already interested in your work and would jump at the chance to read a new book before everyone else.

If you don’t have an email list, put the call out on your social media pages. People love free stuff and, like your email list, if they are following your social media, they are (hopefully) interested in your writing.

Another option is to ask other writer friends to offer you feedback in exchange for reviewing their work in future. If you’re using Kindle Boards or other forums you could advertise with a new post, but don’t be offended if people are too busy working on their own books!

Benefits of ARCs for independent publishers

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ARCs can provide authors with valuable feedback for the work they wish to release. Remember, reader feedback is different from the feedback you’ll receive from an editor.

Readers will be able to tell you how they connected with your protagonist (or didn’t) and will be the first to tell you their emotional response to it. Sometimes people just won’t like your story, but if the feedback is consistent with a problem such as grammar or spelling, this is something you need to adjust before your final release.

Reviews received from ARCs also generate interest on sites such as Good Reads and Amazon. So, having some ready before your official launch date can help to drive sales. A good technique is to make your new release free on its first day to allow Advanced Readers to download a final version, adding the important Verified Purchase label for when they lodge their reviews.

Final tip

Be honest and don’t mislead your Advanced Readers about what your book is about. The last thing you want are for people who love romance to get a horror story that they will hate. You want people who understand and enjoy the genre you are writing. They will be able to identify holes within your story that unfamiliar readers may not notice.

Offer your Advanced Readers a free copy of your final work, by using Free Day technique or emailing it out to them. This is a thank you for their help and will hopefully encourage them to rleave you an (honest) review in the future.

What are your personal experience with distributing ARCS? What do you look for as an Advanced Reader?

 

Image Credits: Reading by Moyan Brenn, Calendar* by Dafne Cholet, Reading by Pedro Ribeiro Simões,  black & white Glasses & Book – exhausting read by photosteve101

How Authors Can Beat the Post-Publication Slump

Writers love to read about how famous writers failed before they became famous. Hundreds of articles and anecdotes abound on the Internet about how Carrie, by Stephen King, was rejected thirty times. And about how J.K Rowling was told “not to quit her day job.”

As self publishers, getting past the gate keepers is no longer the problem. For the self-publishing crowd, the biggest hit you can receive to your ego is right after you press that almighty PUBLISH button.

This article is going to deal with that post-pub slump and how to move your focus off your stats and back onto your writing.

You’re Published! So Why Aren’t You Excited?

Getting to the point where you press the publish button is a BIG deal. You’ve probably worked years towards this moment; writing your manuscript, sourcing professional editors, cover designers and formatters. It is a big journey only made possible through hard work and tenacity. The rush of the moment is there and you celebrate in whatever way you like. But then, The Slump may hit hard. This generally happens for the below reasons:

  • You’ve been working your guts out to produce your book and your body collapses from sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Well hello, burnout!
  • You realise you’re a very small fish in a very large pond.
  • You’re suddenly very aware that your difficult self-promoting and marketing journey has only just begun.
  • You start obsessing over your reviews and sale stats.

The majority of writers have impressive, yet grim stories of self-doubt that they try and keep hidden. It takes focused courage to put yourself out there, open yourself up to an audience you don’t know, and to receive criticism. This does not mean you have to dwell on it and allow it to cause you to question your writing ability or style.

What Should You Do About It?

First things first; remind yourself of your massive achievement and give yourself a pat on the back. Then consider the following alternatives to slumping:

  • Take a few days to relax, binge watch a favourite tv show or read something you have been waiting for. Let your body rest and catch up (sleep and real food is good.)
  • Create a marketing and promotional plan that fits with your budget (if you don’t already have one). Allocate a few promotional ideas each month. Remember, self-publishing is marathon, not a sprint (more on this in a moment).
  • Only permit yourself to check reviews and stats once a day, maximum. Take a moment to savour the good and the bad, then let it go. There’s more to life than analytics.
  • Get focussed on planning and writing your next project. Don’t just hitch your hopes and dreams to one horse. You are a writer so get writing!

A Reminder About Trad vs Self Frameworks

Before you crawl into your sulking comfort hole with chocolate and whiskey, remember this important fact – self publishing is the art of delayed gratification.

The traditionally published writers receive their royalty cheque with instant gratification and recognition. The traditional marketing platform works to produce and sell as many books as they possibly can in order to cover their investments and the writers royalty cheque. As time passes, the marketing efforts will fade away leaving the author to wait for their 2.5 % royalty cheque to come in (sometimes months or years later depending how well the book went).

The self publishing marketing framework is a different beast. You’re building your business from scratch. More often than not, when you hear about a successful self-publisher, it’s because they have been working at it for 5-7 years, have multiple titles and are now collecting their 70% royalty reward.

How To Keep At It Without Going Crazy

Firstly, try and think of yourself as having two separate creative personas. One is the writer and the other is the publisher. As such you need to consider these things:

  • You must allocate time for writing and time for publishing. Do not cross them over.
  • If you’ve already written a few books, or have some planned, write up a release guide for the next 5 years (or as long as possible).
  • Keep in mind your goal; whether that’s to be no.1 on The New York Times best seller list or to be able to quit your day job, it doesn’t matter.
  • Remind yourself of why you chose to self-publish in the first place. If you aren’t willing to learn about the business and acquire multiple skills (or network to find people with those skills), then it may not be for you.
  • Learn as much as you can about the industry, read about the ones who were successful and find out the marketing techniques they used. Not everything will work for you, but you don’t know until you try.

Publishing is a tough industry whether you’re traditionally- or self-published. As writers we have more options and opportunities than ever before, but self-doubt will always be there. Having goals, being even more guarded with your writing time, and remembering why you wanted to be in the business in the first place will ensure that you are too focussed to give self-doubt the time of day.

What do you do once you press publish? How do you stay focused on you end goal?

Image Credit: Diary Writing by Fredrik Rubensson (Flickr)