In Defense of the Oxford Comma
First things first—let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about the Oxford comma.
So, what is it?
According to Webster’s, the Oxford comma, sometimes called the serial comma or the Harvard comma, is a comma used to separate the second-to-last item in a list from a final item introduced by the conjunction and or or.
Which American style guides support the Oxford comma?
Because AP style is used by journalists, there’s a real space-saving mentality. So, in an effort to pack in more news per square inch, the Associated Press and journalistic style guidelines advise against using the Oxford comma.
To be very clear, here at Wildling, we’re huge supporters of the Oxford comma. It’s true, though, we also love concision, so AP’s reasoning isn’t totally bonkers to us. However, their reasoning falls apart when concision hampers clarity.
See? No Oxford comma = chaos. CHAOS.
Still not convinced? You may concede that there are times when the lack of an Oxford comma could lead to ambiguity, but the frequency of misinterpretation is just not high enough to worry about the little guy. Well, I’d argue that the clarity an Oxford comma provides is essential—even lucrative, according to a judge.
Hear me out: Three drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy for four years’ worth of overtime pay that they said they had been denied. Maine law requires time-and-a-half pay for each hour worked after forty hours, but the following were listed as exceptions to that rule:
The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of:
Meat and fish products; and
Without the Oxford comma, the line “packing for shipment or distribution,” could be referring to packing and shipping as a single act or as two separate tasks.
The drivers argued that the line reads as a single act, and since they didn’t actually do any packing, they shouldn’t have been exempt from overtime pay. In the end, Oakhurst Dairy agreed to pay $5 million to the workers!
Need I say more?
by Grace Ball
Butt in Chair with E.S. Christison
Christina Kann 00:00
Welcome to How Do I Book? with Wildling Press. We like to chat about book writing, book publishing, book marketing, and, of course, book reading. We're trying to help new and experienced authors develop their craft, widen their perspectives, and learn to get a little wild every once in a while. I'm Christina, and I'm really excited because joining us today on the show is one of my favorite authors of all time, ES Christison, author of The Blameless series, and a person who I like a lot. Hey, Liz, thank you so much for joining us.
ES Christison 01:01
Hey, Christina. I'm super excited to be here today.
Follow Christison online:
Christina Kann 01:05
For starters, what are your pronouns?
ES Christison 01:09
She and her.
Christina Kann 01:11
Thank you so much. Tell us a little bit about The Blameless and your other work.
ES Christison 01:18
The Blameless is about a 13-year-old princess named Briana. She lives a safe and happy life in her kingdom, until one night, her kingdom is attacked, her city is overthrown, her family is killed, and she's being hunted. She's on the run. She gets rescued by a group of three mysterious magical people who take her under their wing. They teach her how to use her own magic. It's about her learning how to use her own magical gifts and how she recovers from this devastating loss she's experienced.
Christina Kann 01:56
And let me tell you, listeners: I have been working with this book for a long time, I helped publish it twice -- the first edition and then the second edition. I've read it probably probably going on 10 times now. And I'm not sick of it yet. I think that's incredible. I don't think I've read a book this much besides the first couple of Harry Potter books.
ES Christison 02:19
That's very flattering. Thank you, Christina. Sometimes I shudder to think how The Blameless would have turned out without Christina. She has elevated this book and prodded my brain and helped me so much. You deserve a huge amount of thanks for how it turned out.
Christina Kann 02:37
Oh, my God, thank you. It's just so fun to work on a book that you love so much. So what inspired you to write this story about Brie and her Blameless powers?
ES Christison 02:53
I am actually not a writer by trade. I didn't go to school for writing. I'm a nurse, and I'm a busy person. I've got a large family, so it's not like I didn't have anything to do with my time. But one night, I had this dream, actually. It sounds a little cliche, but I had this dream, and I woke up in the middle of the night. It was about this girl whose family had been killed, and she was in hiding, and someone came and rescued her. I woke up at that point. It was basically the first seven pages of my story, and I couldn't get back to sleep. I normally don't dream in such a detailed way. I just couldn't get it out of my head. I told my husband about it the next morning, and I said it would just make an amazing book. And he said, "Well, sell the idea to Disney and make a movie out of it." He just laughed about that. Then I continued on with my busy life. But the dream didn't leave me. It just stayed with me for months and months and months. I couldn't get this girl out of my head. I wanted to know what happened to her. So then I just decided after about six months that I was going to try to write the story. And since I've been writing, I have fallen in love with it more. I'm very invested in this book and invested in getting this series completed.
Christina Kann 04:17
Tell us about the sequel. I happen to know that there's a sequel in the works.
ES Christison 04:21
Yes, my sequel is called The Tarnished, which is coming out in November 2022. It's Brie's continued journey, and her goal now is to basically avenge her family and take back her kingdom. We're going to read more of that journey in The Tarnished.
Christina Kann 04:40
Yes, I'm so excited. I've read it. It's amazing. Liz, you mentioned a couple of minutes ago that you're a nurse; you have a large family, many children. You got other stuff going on in your life. We're here to talk about "butt in chair"; that's the name of this episode, which is a bit of a PG-rated version of Stephen King's quote. I'll adapt it for our audience. Stephen King has this quote that the the first step to writing is "butt in chair." I think a lot of writers can relate to this. It's so hard to just sit down and get writing. You've managed it, though, with all that you have going on in your life. So I want to talk a little bit today about how you make it happen.
ES Christison 05:28
Sure. The way that I make it happen is, first of all, I've always been lucky to be a night owl. My most productive hours for thinking and doing things is typically in the evening. A lot of that writing has happened in the evenings after work and after my kids are in bed, at least the youngest ones. That's where I spend most of my writing time. However, I also have made it a motto of mine that I'm going to write a little something every day. It has actually happened many times -- or a few times, in any case -- that I've sat down, I've opened up my book, and I've written about a sentence. I've looked at that paragraph and thought, "Okay, I'm done for tonight." So it's not like I have to do huge amounts. My most productive times for writing are probably Saturday mornings when the house is waking up. I sometimes will get up early and work on Saturday mornings. I just have been devoted to being consistent. I listened to a podcast about how to write a book. I think all of us can relate to this: when we open up our story, we start reading what we wrote, and we immediately want to start editing it because we want to tweak it, it doesn't sound quite right. I forced myself to just continue; I just move forward, and I don't go back and reread it and re-tweak it. That's for the second draft. So the first draft is very much a skeleton. If I'm writing along, and I know that I need to have some witty dialogue but it's not coming to me in the moment, then I write in parentheses, (tell a story) or (add dialogue). And then I keep going. Or if I can't think of a character name, I'll just put it in parenthesis, you know, (name the character). And then I just keep going. That first draft is really the skeleton of my book, and then I go back through on the second draft, and I add the meat.
Christina Kann 07:34
A couple episodes back, we talked about writing drunk, editing sober. No alcohol required. It's more about the mindset of just being able to get your first draft down, because that's the hardest part. It's so much easier to fix what's there than it is to produce something from nothing.
ES Christison 07:53
If I'm in the middle of a thing, I'm writing and I'm really passionate about it, then I also occasionally have been known to have my laptop open on the counter. And if I'm cooking dinner, and it's taking a while and it's got to simmer for a while, then I'll click away on the laptop a little bit as I'm cooking. I do squeeze in as many moments as I can, and I really try my hardest to be consistent.
Christina Kann 08:16
I do a lot of reading while I'm cooking, while stuff is simmering. My husband comes home from work, and I'm just leaning against the counter with a book. So, Liz, it's a weekday night, maybe a Saturday morning, and it's time to write. What's your writing routine? Do you do anything to get ready? Do you like to have anything with you?
ES Christison 08:33
I like to have coffee or water, something to drink. Other than that, I try my hardest to be in a quiet environment. Sometimes in the evenings when I'm writing, I'll just sit in the living room with my husband, and he'll have the TV on, so there's a little bit of a distraction, and I am not as productive then. My most productive times are when I'm alone in my room or an office space. If I'm alone and I've got a keyboard and I've got something to drink, I just go. I don't listen to music. I don't really do anything else. I just type.
Christina Kann 09:05
Laser-focused. I love that. You kind of alluded to this: What's your ideal writing environment? You mentioned you write in your room. I guess maybe the living room with a TV on maybe is not your ideal writing environment. What's the ideal?
ES Christison 09:22
Actually sometimes not even in my room is ideal, though, because I have children who often will knock on the door and want to come in. Sometimes I've actually gone to my father's house when he's been gone, and I have sat down and just used his place as a quiet space.
Christina Kann 09:37
Nice. That's awesome.
ES Christison 09:38
Sometimes I have gone to a coffee shop when I have a chapter I really need to finish or an edit I need to finish, and I've got to get it done. Then I will leave my house and try to focus on that. But just a quiet space for me, just an uninterrupted, quiet space.
Christina Kann 09:56
I feel like every time I go to work at a coffee shop, I go with Grace and/or Mary-Peyton, and we end up doing so much more chatting than working, it always backfires. Maybe I should go by myself one day.
ES Christison 10:09
There was actually even one time when I was in my car, and I pulled up my laptop, and I had to finish the scene. I just clicked away there in my car, you know, and finished a really important chapter.
Christina Kann 10:24
People podcast from their cars. Cars are safe spaces.
ES Christison 10:27
They are, they're quiet spaces. When I am alone, my writing speed is probably at least four times as quick as when I am sitting with distractions all around me. But I still get work done that way. I try to focus some of that time with things like maintaining an author presence on social media.
Christina Kann 10:48
That's a great thing to do when you've got the TV on.
ES Christison 10:51
Posting and marketing and emails and things like that.
Christina Kann 10:54
My husband's not a big reader. I'm a big reader. Obviously, I spend a lot of time editing and writing. So my husband knows that if I'm reading or writing in the living room, he can only watch his anime, because it's in Japanese, so it doesn't distract me the way English language does.
ES Christison 11:12
That is priceless. I love that.
Christina Kann 11:16
What motivates you to write when you're not really feeling it? When the creative juices aren't flowing? When you've had a long, hard week, but you gotta get in that little bit every day? What what do you do to motivate yourself?
ES Christison 11:26
First of all, my kids are a huge motivating factor. I feel like I'm kind of doing this for them. That really is the reason I wrote the story, in one way -- to give it to them. They ended up sharing it with their friends. It has spread into something actually a lot bigger than I originally expected it to be, really, honestly. But so they have been a huge motivating factor for me. Also, now that The Blameless has been out in the world for a long time, I have a lot of readers who, every time I see them, they ask me when the next book is coming out. My fans are motivators. I don't want to disappoint my fans. I want to give them this next book in the series.
Christina Kann 12:09
It's really important for authors to take their platform seriously. You can't can't start a story for people and then never finish, George RR Martin! I've given up waiting for his next book. Do you ever get writer's block?
ES Christison 12:26
I do sometimes. It's more like Where am I going to go next? And needing that motivation to use up my mental juices or capacity to try to figure out what it is. Sometimes there's a scene or a moment that I'm struggling with. Those are moments where I will put it down, and I will walk away from it. And I will come back in maybe a week. If I need to, I will just put it down for a minute and focus on some other aspects of being a writer, and then I'll come back to it. In that time when I am not writing, I am mulling over all the possibilities of things, different ways I can take my plot.
Christina Kann 13:08
Yeah, absolutely. I find that when I'm trying to figure out next steps in a story or how to approach a developmental edit with an author, the best ideas always come to me when I'm driving. You're not expecting it; you gotta stop sometimes and let the answer come to you. I have this long series of voice memos -- because you can't write anything down, you're driving! -- a long series of voice memos on my phone that are like, "Wait, I figured it out. What if, in the third act, you learn that they were brothers all along?"
ES Christison 13:38
Yeah, that's incredible. One more thing I do that helps with my writer's block: I have three boys. I call them boys, but they're men. They're in their 20s. Okay. But I have three sons who are into DnD, and they're super creative. Sometimes my husband and I will just go sit down and hash out something. Sometimes, I'll ask my sons' opinions on something and get a little bit of feedback. That's been a lot of fun too, that they have helped me get through plot.
Christina Kann 14:07
DnD is a really wild, different kind of storytelling. It is so immersive, and you have to think on your feet and be so confident of every choice, because there's no going back. I'm sure that their storytelling skills are really refined because of playing Dungeons and Dragons.
ES Christison 14:25
Absolutely. I mean, sometimes they've said to me, "Hey, we're gonna play DnD over Christmas break, or over the holidays," and then the days are ticking by, and I'm like, "When are you playing DnD?" "Mom, we're creating our backstories!" So yeah, it takes days. It's involved.
Christina Kann 14:43
It's a very involved process. Is there anything that discourages you when you're writing or when you're percolating?
ES Christison 14:44
I do put a lot of pressure on myself that it needs to be done quickly. So as far as being discouraged, I sometimes feel like I don't have enough time, or as much time as I feel as necessary to dedicate to it to get it completed. My lack of time is sometimes overwhelming, because I am such a busy person.
Christina Kann 15:20
How do you combat those moments?
ES Christison 15:23
I have to be realistic with myself, and I have to think I can only do what I can do. I can only do so much, and that's got to be enough. That's enough. If my readers like my story, then they'll be patient and wait on it. I have to kind of talk myself off the cliff sometimes. "Don't put this unnatural pressure on yourself. Just do what you can do, and do it as well as you can do it."
Christina Kann 15:50
You gotta keep it fun! If it turns into really hard work that you're not looking forward to -- Oof.
ES Christison 15:58
Yeah. I was not a writer before. I was a nurse. I don't know if you know about nursing documentation, but it is cut and dried, and simple and short, and abbreviations, and very minimalistic. To start writing in a creative way is a huge learning curve for me, but I have really learned to love it. I do enjoy it. It's not so much a burden for me when I sit down and write it. You're exactly right. If it becomes heavy, then why do it? You know, you gotta love what you're doing.
Christina Kann 16:33
I think most writers can probably relate to "I love this craft. And yet, I also dread spending time on it. It makes me so anxious." It's a balance, just like anything else in your life that you care about.
ES Christison 16:48
Also, there's your own self doubt that the work is good enough. I personally have huge amount of imposter syndrome. Sometimes I'm like, "This story isn't good enough. Nobody's gonna like it. The plot's terrible." You know? Sometimes those doubts can come in too.
Christina Kann 17:12
I hope that gets a little bit better every day. Liz, we've been on this journey together. We both were working on this book before many people had read it, before it was out in the world. Both of us were like, "I think this is good! Yeah, I think this is pretty good." But you don't really know for sure until people you don't know start approaching you randomly to talk about it. So every time a new person is like, "I just discovered The Nlameless and I love it!" I'm like, "Really? Oh, my gosh, that's so exciting."
ES Christison 17:44
I know. Every time I hear that, it still blows my mind. Just today, I got a message from a mother who said, "I bought this book for my 13-year-old son, and he's read it twice this week and loves it and can't wait for the sequel!" I was just like, "How did you find out about it?" "Oh, I saw it on on Instagram."
Christina Kann 18:02
Shoutout to everyone who's posting about it on Instagram.
ES Christison 18:05
Yeah, thank you. I feel like I need to say that. Thanks to every single person who has opened their mouth and spread the word and shared things on social media. Thank you.
Christina Kann 18:15
Just because we have a little bit of extra time here at the end, I have a couple fun questions. Are you a pantser or a plotter? Do you fly by the seat of your pants, or do you plot your story out scene by scene before you get started?
ES Christison 18:29
I am absolutely a pantser. For example, with The Tarnished, I had about six to eight things that I knew had to happen in the book. And I kind of knew chronologically how they would occur. But that's about all I knew. When I sit down at my keyboard, that is really when this story flows for me. I know everyone is different. I have tried my hardest to do a teeny bit more of an outline on the third book, but for the most part, it's coming to me as I type. I'm fortunate that it happens that way.
Christina Kann 19:07
Do you ever find yourself stopping and being like "Wait, I need to figure out where the trajectory of the story is going"? Or is it usually just a "what happens next?" kind of inquiry?
ES Christison 19:19
I haven't typed myself into or written myself into a spot I can't get out of. I kind of know where it's going, and normally I just think, "What's the next phase?"
Christina Kann 19:31
I meant to ask earlier -- but I feel like you kind of addressed this. The question I have written down here is How do you balance writing time with family time? But it seems like you also manage to incorporate the two by writing this book that your kids can enjoy and including your super cool DnD sons in on the storytelling. I feel like that maybe sounded sarcastic, but it's not. I also play DnD.
ES Christison 19:54
It is super important that it can't take over. My writing can't be my priority. I have a lot that needs to go on. I work full time as a nurse, and I have seven children. They range in age from 12 to 25, so it's not like they're babies, they're all fairly self sufficient, but I'm still extremely busy. I'm still very much needed. If I know I have a deadline, for example, then I make sure I spend time with my kids first. We do something first: we maybe go shopping, or we go out to dinner, or we spend a little bit of family time together first, and then I'm like, "Okay, guys, Mom's got to get this done. I'm going to be really busy for the for this weekend. So we can plan other things. We can get you together with your friends. You can have a friend over if you want." And on vacations and things like that, of course, I don't take my book stuff with me. 100% of my focus is on what we're doing in that moment.
Christina Kann 20:56
I feel like I always take work stuff on vacation, and then I ignore it the whole time. And I'm like, "Why did I bring this?"
ES Christison 21:03
It's not worth it. Live in the moment, and enjoy your vacation.
Christina Kann 21:07
Absolutely. Well, Liz, it has been just such a pleasure talking with you today. You know, we chat a lot all the time via email, but I don't often get to talk to your face. So thank you so much for joining us on How Do I Book?
ES Christison 21:21
Thank you so much, Christina. I feel like everyone at Wildling Press is amazing. Your talent is amazing. I love listening to your podcast. And if anyone has any doubts about if Wildling Press can do a good job with publishing their book, they absolutely can.
Christina Kann 21:38
Well, thank you so much, and we feel the same about you. Please, everyone, go grab your copy of The Blameless it's available in paperback, hardcover, ebook, and audiobook. The Tarnished is coming out soon, so you definitely want to get that first installment read so you're ready when the sequel comes out. And that's how you book!
Getting in the Publicity Mindset with Jody Sperling from The Reluctant Book Marketer
Christina Kann 00:24
Welcome to How Do I Book? by Wildling Press. We like to chat about book writing, book publishing, book marketing, and, of course, book reading. We're trying to help new and experienced authors develop their craft, widen their perspectives, and learn to get a little wild every once in a while. I'm Christina, and I'm extremely excited to be joined today by Jody Sperling, host of The Reluctant Book Marketer. Hi, Jody!
Jody Sperling 00:49
Hi, I'm excited to be here.
Christina Kann 00:52
We're so excited to have you. Before we go any further, what are your pronouns?
Jody Sperling 00:57
Oh, I'm a he and a him and all of that good stuff.
Christina Kann 01:01
Awesome. Please tell us a little bit about your podcast, The Reluctant Book Marketer, and any of your other work.
Jody Sperling 01:10
I started The Reluctant Book Marketer back in January of 2022, so it's pretty new. I came to a crossroads in my life where I realized I was doing a whole bunch of stuff that I was having fun doing, but I wasn't passionate about it. I thought, "I'm going to regret my life if I don't jump out into the unknown and get my books out there." So this is part of me building a brand. I want everybody to hear my name everywhere they go, and I want to teach people how to do that for themselves if they want to sell a million copies of their book. That's the goal.
Christina Kann 01:45
I love that so much. For all of our listeners out there, if you want to try out The Reluctant Book Market, or maybe sample an episode, I guested on last week's episode.
Jody Sperling 01:55
Yes, and it was a great conversation. It was a fantastic conversation.
Jody Sperling 01:59
I completely agree. I really enjoyed it. We got into some philosophical publishing industry stuff. I definitely recommend everyone check it out.
Jody Sperling 02:10
Yes, me too.
Christina Kann 02:13
We're here to talk today about publicity mindset. How do you get your brain in gear when it's time to publicize your book? This is something that you talk about a lot on your show. People don't talk about that a lot, but it seems pretty important, actually.
Jody Sperling 02:35
What I realized for myself is that getting in the right mindset is more important than every other action I take, and mindset and action can't be pulled apart. There are things I have to do every day. I woke up really low-energy today, for example; I had a really busy weekend. I just felt worn out coming into today. I realized I had to run up and down the stairs in my house like 20 times and do some push ups and stuff like that to get my blood moving, because I knew if I didn't come to the day with a lot of energy, I wasn't going to get anything done. And that's all about mindset. It's not about exercise. I don't take very good care of my body; I probably should. But really, I'm fully bought into the idea that if we get our mind right, the actions we take will result in big, awesome things.
Christina Kann 03:24
If another person is looking to get their Monday brain in gear, energize themselves, maybe they don't have to run up and down right staircases. You are certainly welcome to, but for somebody else, maybe that's a healthy breakfast or a cup of coffee or a brisk morning walk to energize you and get you in the right headspace to do whatever it is you have to do. When is the right time for authors to get into a good and energized publicity mindset?
Jody Sperling 03:28
I've been having this conversation with folks over on Twitter quite a bit right now. I keep telling people: As soon as you know you want to write a book, you should start marketing yourself, and be really assertive about it and go overboard on it. Don't wait until you have the draft of the book done. There's disagreement there. Some people believe you should give your whole heart to the creative process and then think about marketing later. But that's where a lot of my regret lives: I waited too long.
Jody Sperling 04:26
That is the one trick question I'll ask people: When should you start marketing? Because the answer is: You should have already.
Jody Sperling 04:34
Yeah. 20 years ago, right?
Christina Kann 04:37
If you haven't yet started, start today.
Jody Sperling 04:39
Christina Kann 04:40
Yeah. Should an author's mindset shift at all when it comes to publicity? As they go through the stages of publishing, drafting, editing, publishing, to selling, does that mindset shift at all?
Jody Sperling 04:57
I don't think the mindset shifts. The best thing we can do for ourselves is get into the headspace where we're all in. We're not doing ourselves any favors if we're halfway in, half-hearted, taking smaller measures than we need to. It always benefits us to have an all-in mentality. That can sound really frightening to some people, because maybe you don't even know like how in you actually are. But figuring that out and then getting all in on it will will really prepare you for the journey. Practically, you're going to do a lot of things differently as you get closer to publication. So the actions you take will be different for sure.
Christina Kann 05:36
The actions will probably become more concrete, as you have a confirmed title and a cover and fun stuff like that. But the mindset stays the same. If authors have answered my trick question correctly, and they started publicizing themselves as an author before they even started drafting their books, should they write with a publicity mindset?
Jody Sperling 05:59
I think we touched on this a little bit in our conversation on The Reluctant Book Marketer. I think so. I really feel that there is a strong benefit to thinking about your reader. The other day, I kind of went on a little bit of a rant, and I was talking about this. How did it happen -- in the art sphere, specifically -- that we use the phrase "I write for myself"? I get what that means, and I think some people also get what it means. You have to write what you're interested in. But if you write for yourself, you might as well journal, because you're never going to share it with somebody. In that way, think about your reader. It's pretty profound.
Christina Kann 06:40
I would agree with that. The publicity mindset is sort of about sales. It's about selling your book and selling your brand. So how can authors bring their publicity mindset to their personal network, when they're at the beginning of marketing their book and they're trying to make the most of their own personal network without being weird and salesy?
Jody Sperling 07:04
That's a great question. You know those people who started selling Amway, or they're doing some kind of diet program, and you hear from them after 14 years of nothing? They message you on Facebook, and they're like, "Oh, Christina, how are you doing? It's been so long." And immediately, you know they've been scammed. I really advocate for being upfront with what you're doing. "Hey, I wrote a book, and I think you would love it. Do you mind if I share it with you?" I think it gets rid of the awkwardness. That's how I do it. I'm kind of in a transformative point in my own mindset, where I was so focused on niche, paying attention to exactly who my book was for and who my podcast was for. Now I'm starting to realize I'm actually limiting my own opportunities. I just try to tell people what I've got, any opportunity I have, and be natural about it.
Jody Sperling 08:02
Yeah, be natural. Totally. That is the key to all interactions. But specifically, especially when you're trying to sell something, you just want to be really organic. Does the mindset and the approach change change at all when an author moves out of their personal network and into the public sphere, with cold emails and cold calls and trying to get get the attention of people they don't know personally? How does that mindset change, if at all?
Jody Sperling 08:33
When you start doing any kind of cold calls, or building outside of the network you've established for yourself, you're going to feel more frightened. You're going to have more negative interactions, and people are going to say things to you that probably don't feel good. It happens, even when you are just going out into the world. With a spirit of total generosity, I want to give you what I have to make your life better. Even if it's entertainment for a novelist or something like that, you are giving something generously. Some people will still be really angry at you. They will ask, "How dare you waste my time?" So I don't think your mindset changes. But those are the things you should be prepared for. I try to use that word, "should," very carefully, because I'm not here to tell you how to do what you do. But you should be prepared to get pushed back. And if you aren't, you're probably not pushing hard enough to get your work into the world.
Christina Kann 09:28
Yeah. So maybe starting with an author's personal audience, personal network can be a bit of a dress rehearsal before going out and trying to approach the public with it. Your personal network, even if they're not interested, will be nice to you because they value their relationship with you.
Jody Sperling 09:47
Let me share something with you, because I think this will be applicable for people listening. I do a lot of cold marketing on Twitter, and it's effective for me. But what I've noticed is when I go to reach out to some audience, send them a message -- If they are my target, I actually have a harder time sending a message than if there's somebody with esteem, if they have the the checkmark or something like that. If they have a bigger audience than I do, I get really scared. And I think that's something to pay close attention to, because the people you value are the people who are hardest to talk to. It's weird.
Jody Sperling 10:23
It's a higher risk because they are a more meaningful connection to you.
Jody Sperling 10:29
Yeah, and they could walk away. You could scare him away. But here's the truth. I've never scared anybody away so far. I have made some people angry, but I've never scared someone away.
Jody Sperling 10:40
Some people are just really ready to get angry on the internet, and there's nothing you can do about that.
Jody Sperling 10:44
Christina Kann 10:47
Your podcast is called The Reluctant Book Marketer, and I have always really loved that. And by "always," I mean in the couple of months since I happily discovered your podcast. I've found that a lot of writers are introverts; it just comes with the territory, I think. So I really like the notion of encouraging reluctant book marketers, people who have a hard time self-promoting. How can shy, introverted authors -- who started out writing for themselves and are now trying to turn it into a busines -- how can those people get into this mindset?
Jody Sperling 11:25
It's hard to tell somebody how to make that shift. It's a necessary thing. Embrace the the reality that we are reluctant, and accept it, and don't expect it to ever change. I think that's a really big piece of this: you're not going to change; you're always going to find this uncomfortable. If you do right now, you will continue to find it uncomfortable for the rest of your life. But you do it. Reluctantly, you do it every day, because what you're putting out into the world is so important. You can't bear to not see it out there. I wish I had something a little more concrete to help. But these podcasts, honestly, they're here for you. You can get in that mindset and slowly work your way up to new actions that bring results. When you do see results, when you see a measurable result, when you know, "Hey, I reached out to Katherine, and I asked her to buy my book, and she bought my book" -- that feels good, snd it makes you want to do it again. Success is a cool thing that way.
Jody Sperling 12:31
Yes, we are success-oriented at Wildling! We start all of our meetings by talking about recent successes, things that have happened recently that we're excited about. And then we're like, "Okay, let's move on to the nitty gritty of the meeting."
Jody Sperling 12:45
I love that. That is a great way to get your head in the right spot.
Christina Kann 12:49
I love what you said about listening to podcasts. These kinds of podcasts can really help because... Sure, if you're uncomfortable inherently as a person with something like promoting yourself, your brand, your work, it is always going to be uncomfortable. But by learning and educating yourself, you can make it a little less uncomfortable every day.
Jody Sperling 13:11
You can get familiar with anything, like speaking on stage. At some point, you're going to have to do a reading, and most likely, that first time, you're going to be terrified. But familiarity does breed a little more comfort.
Jody Sperling 13:22
Yeah, yes, absolutely. Hand in hand with that, a great way to get comfortable with something is to just dive right in and get that first terrifying reading out of the way so you can start to get better at it and get more comfortable with it.
Jody Sperling 13:36
Christina Kann 13:38
How has publicity changed in the past couple years due to the COVID-19 pandemic? How has this forced authors to sort of pivot with their mindsets and approaches?
Jody Sperling 13:51
I love that. I love that question. I'm probably not 100% the most qualified person to to answer it in some ways, because my own personal journey is very much defined by COVID. I left the W-2 world, like so many people, because COVID opened my eyes and showed me things I was not doing in my life that I needed to be doing, and some things vice versa. I think what's changed is that there's a reluctance in people that you reach out to to want that personal connection. It almost feels like we automated a lot more. And I'm not sure why. But there are ways we can take advantage of it; I think that we need to push back. I've really been advocating in my own world for one-on-one connection as much as possible. I think writers can take advantage of that, especially early on. At some point, you have to pay to reach a larger audience. That's just the advertising part of marketing and your mindset, getting real clear on "I want to touch one person's life at a time and have a meaningful interaction." I think we lost a little of that during COVID; that's my feeling.
Christina Kann 15:02
Since we sort of lost that one-on-one interaction, like you said, everything became a lot more automated, because digital stuff can be so much more easily automated. What creative approaches have authors use to publicize their books during the pandemic, despite that lack of one-on-one interaction?
Jody Sperling 15:23
Thanks for asking this. I think there's a real, concrete, measurable way to have results. Think of whichever social media channel you're most comfortable with, the one where you feel you have an audience who is engaged with you. Continue to build into that. But then, instead of posting on your wall about what you're doing, go for the message. I know it can feel weird, but jump into people's messages and send them a message and engage with them there. You change the nature of the interaction when you're not performing publicly. And then maybe you can have a cup of coffee with somebody, if you want to dive deeper and have them be like closer in your network. But, generally speaking, I think there's more value in messages than we give ourselves room to operate in.
Jody Sperling 16:11
Absolutely. That kind of takes it back. Even though it's not a face-to-face encounter, it is a one-on-one encounter, and that person feels special. They also feel a personal obligation to respond, whereas people can ignore posts.
Jody Sperling 16:31
When I'm on Twitter, I do one of my normal questions. I'm sold out; Twitter's the best social media for writers, and you can disagree, and that's great. But I realized a normal question would generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 60,000 impressions; everybody was seeing it. But then, if I would promote my podcast or my book, I'd get nothing. I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. It felt really intrusive to try to go and message somebody, "Hey, would you check out my podcast?" But what I realized was that people who really like me and engage with me already didn't even know I had a podcast.
Jody Sperling 17:09
Wow. The dreaded algorithm.
Jody Sperling 17:12
Yes, exactly, it was suppressing that stuff. And people wanted the podcast, they were excited, and now they are listening to every episode. It's amazing. That applies to your book as well. You think you're doing a ton of self-promotion, but most of your audience has never even seen what you have to offer.
Jody Sperling 17:30
That can be a really great shift in an author's mindset: It's not that you're messaging them to ask them to buy your book, but you're messaging them to let them know your book exists.
Jody Sperling 17:39
Christina Kann 17:41
How can authors stay motivated when they're starting to feel that publicity burnout? I think everyone, at some point, feels, "Oh, my gosh, I cannot write one more social media post, I can't, I don't have the energy." How can authors stay motivated?
Jody Sperling 17:55
Motivation is tied to success. Like you said, if you're having success, you have limitless fuel. If you see the results of what you're doing, you will never be burnt out or feel tired or demotivated. But you're not going to have success all the time. In fact, a lot of times, it feels like you're speaking to nobody. When that's the case, having concrete goals is more important than I ever gave it credit for. If you're listening right now, and you're not a goal setter, and you hate goals, I really encourage you to to reflect on that. Something weird happens when you make goals, and you can at least see what you're striving for.
Christina Kann 18:41
It circles back to what we were talking about before: If you stay positivity-oriented, and look at what you've done, and set small goals for yourself you can hit, then it's easier to stay motivated, because you're constantly seeing small successes. What's one thing that authors can do today to start getting into the right publicity mindset?
Jody Sperling 19:05
This one is so important. If you take me up on this, it will change everything for you. Talk to somebody you're not familiar with, and let them know you've got your book. It'll change everything.
Christina Kann 19:17
Just dive right in to it. Yes, I love that. I love that so much. Well, thank you so much, Jody, for coming and joining us. Where can people find you on the internet?
Everywhere you go. I'm @jodyjsperling on Twitter. And I have my website, www.thereluctantbookmarketer.com. But if you go to Twitter, it's all branching out from there. I love Twitter.
Christina Kann 19:39
You ask some really fun conversation starter questions on Twitter, some writing, some not writing and I love those. So everyone, please go follow on Twitter. Lots of fun over there.
Jody Sperling 19:51
Thank you, Christina was great talking.
And please check out The Reluctant Book Marketer episode featuring Christina!
Sociolinguistics for Beginners
Based on "Linguistic Facts of Life" from Rosina Lippi-Green's English with an Accent
All spoken language changes over time.
Language is constantly changing in so many ways. Slang comes and goes; industry jargon has to be expanded to accommodate new industry. Society is always shifting, and language must change with it. Can you imagine trying to have a conversation about your computer issues in Latin? You'd be hard pressed to convey the problem clearly and directly. Don't resist this change; instead, celebrate and embrace it!
All spoken languages are equal in linguistic terms.
From your perspective, you speak "normally" or maybe even "correctly." But from someone else's perspective in another location or culture, they are speaking "normally." Far in the northern United States, people speak differently from how they speak down south. Beyond that, certain age, gender, interest, ethnic (etc.) groups speak differently. Some individuals even speak differently in different situations (codeswitching). All of these different methods of speaking--these different dialects--are equally valid in linguistic terms. They all have grammatical systems (even if those systems don't match what you were taught in school), and they are all shared among a community. It's wrong to judge someone based on how they speak because it's wrong to consider one dialect as subordinate to another.
Grammatical and communicative effectiveness are distinct and separate issues.
Grammatical and communicative effectiveness are distinct and separate issues.
In school, you (hopefully) learn some grammar to hone your writing skills. What you may not have learned is that the grammar of how you speak is completely different, and oftentimes spoken grammar is more creative with greater opportunity for variation. A great example of this is a classic from some African-American Vernacular English varieties: "Let me aks you a question." You may have learned the correct spelling "ask" for this word. It's important in writing to have this coded system of spelling to avoid large-scale miscommunications in industry, etc. But if someone were to say this sentence to you, you'd understand what they meant. That's all you need for "communicative effectiveness"-- to be understood.
TL;DR: It's not cool to be pedantic about how people speak if you understand them.
Written language and spoken language are historically, structurally, and functionally fundamentally different creatures.
Language is a biological imperative; all humans seek it, and if they're not provided it, they make it up. Writing is a learned skill. Why does this matter? While the brain is hardwired for language (like it's hardwired for eating), it is not hardwired for writing (like how it's not hardwired for algebra). Some people will be naturally skilled at writing and pick it up easily, but some other people might struggle with it their entire lives. Some people may even have a learning, physical, or other disability that prevents them from writing in some way or another. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself or anyone else about your writing skills. Furthermore, don't apply the same rules you've learned for writing to the spoken word. They're not the same at all! If you listen closely, there are a ton of tiny differences and some pretty major differences between the two.
Variation is intrinsic to all spoken language at every level.
Variation in language is the norm, not the exception. When a language stops changing, it dies. Remember Latin. Remember its fate, now relegated to high school classrooms as reluctant children prepare for their SATs. Celebrate language's change around you, and be part of its journey!
by Christina Kann
How Do I Book?
We'll try to find the answer to that question in our blog.