Little Free Libraries
There’s a 99.9% chance you’ve seen one while driving or walking around. A precious little house on a stick with a door you can open and BOOM—inside, it’s full of books. What a beautiful world we live in. But do you know what these tiny book havens are, or where they come from?
These boxes of bookish goodness are called Little Free Libraries. Most of them are registered with the Little Free Library 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization; you can tell which are registered by the plaques they bear featuring their ID number. But even those that aren’t registered are still lovingly referred to as Little Free Libraries, because we are not here to gatekeep book access.
How did Little Free Library start?
The very first official Little Free Library was created in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009. A very cool dude named Todd Bol built a miniature model of a one-room schoolhouse and then filled it with books to honor his mother, who was a teacher and a lifelong booklover, and mounted it on a post in his front yard. His friends and family loved it so much that he happily made more to share with them.
The next step for Little Free Library was Rick Brooks, who was an outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin. Together, Bol and Brooks decided to make Little Free Libraries their next endeavor. Andrew Carnegie once committed to creating 2,508 libraries; to honor him, Bol and Brooks committed to creating 2,508 Little Free Libraries by the end of 2013, a deadline they beat by a year and a half in August 2012. In 2015, they were awarded the Library of Congress Literacy Award. In 2020, they were awarded the World Literacy Award from the World Literacy Foundation.
Todd Bol tragically passed away in 2018 from pancreatic cancer. According to the organization’s site, “He remained dedicated to Little Free Library’s mission in his last days, saying, ‘I really believe in a Little Free Library on every block and a book in every hand. I believe people can fix their neighborhoods, fix their communities, develop systems of sharing, learn from each other, and see that they have a better place on this planet to live.’”
This year, 2022, Little Free Library hit the 150,000 library mark, which is truly incredible. And this number doesn’t even include the unregistered libraries!
What’s the point of Little Free Libraries?
Today, Little Free Libraries are about two things: community and book access. The main point of Little Free Libraries is to provide books freely to communities, especially those communities where getting books can be a challenge, particularly for children. According to the LFL website, 2 out of 3 children living in low-income communities own zero books. Little Free Libraries are a great way to change that. Anyone can start a Little Free Library anywhere (on their own property, anyway). But on top of that, LFL has their Impact Library Program, an initiative that strives to install and maintain Little Free Libraries in book deserts in the US and Canada.
Who can start a Little Free Library?
Anyone who owns land that the public might walk past can start a Little Free Library! A LFL does have to be on your personal property, and it has to be somewhere people can easily access it from public property. This is why most of the LFLs you see will be in someone’s front yard or by a business’s front door, right up against the sidewalk.
Little Free Library owners are called “stewards.” This language, rather than calling them “owners,” is meant to indicate the long-term commitment of opening a LFL. You can’t just install one and then never think of it again. LFL stewards are librarians, caretakers. It’s their job to make sure the LFL stays safe and clean and full of books!
How can I find a Little Free Library?
The funnest way (in some people’s opinion) to find a LFL is to drive or walk around and happen upon one. This is part of the charm of the LFLs—they pop up when you’re not expecting them.
But if you’re a planner, there is a way to seek out LFLs near you. Little Free Library has an amazing app that features a map where you can find all the registered LFLs near you! As a reminder, there are plenty of unregistered LFLs as well, so this map is not comprehensive, but it’s a great place to start if you’re unsure where your local LFLs are, or if you’re traveling and seeking out new LFLs as you’re sightseeing.
This LFL isn’t full of books. What’s up with that?
There are some small house-looking constructions, especially in cities and low-income areas, that don’t have books inside, but instead have food and other necessities. These are community food pantries run by amazing people to support their local communities. If you open up a LFL and find canned goods and other food items inside, be glad you’re in such an amazing community, and move on in your search.
Sometimes, you might open up a LFL to find that it’s totally empty. No books, no nothing. This usually happens when a LFL steward has moved away from their home that had the LFL, moved from the business where they built the LFL, or for some other reason isn’t able to care for the library. The best thing you can do if you find an empty LFL is to fill it! Go home, grab some books you no longer need, hop in your car, and go fill that bad boy up. You might even consider bringing wipes or other materials to clean the library up a bit and make it appealing to the community!
How can I engage?
The best way to support your local Little Free Library is to take a book, leave a book. When you have a book you don’t need or want anymore, take it to your local LFL, and perhaps peek inside to see if there’s anything of interest to you in there. The more that books are coming and going from these LFLs, the more people will want to visit again and again to see what’s new. Some LFLs even have social media accounts where you can follow to support them. You can make a post when you visit to share that LFL with your networks.
Little Free Libraries are amazing little oases of books that came from a wonderful initiative to make books more accessible to children who need them. We’re lucky that we all get to participate in taking a book, leaving a book, reading a book, and sharing a book. So if you’re wondering how to spend your afternoon, download the LFL app, see where the libraries are near you, and set out on a bookish adventure!
written by Christina Kann
Sci-fi / Fantasy—they’re grouped together all the time, and for good reason. The genres overlap in many aspects and are both categorized as speculative fiction. So, what exactly makes them similar, and what distinguishes one from the other? And why should you even care?
Science fiction explores how science might impact a society or individuals, oftentimes in the future. Sci-fi presents a world that doesn’t exist but could exist with technological advancement—classic examples are Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Fantasy, on the other hand, contends with the supernatural, the magical, with settings in different worlds that could not exist—see The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin.
Both include super fun sub-genres. Here are some examples in a very non-comprehensive list:
Writing a science fiction or a fantasy novel will require creativity and imagination to be sure, but you’ll also need to follow some rules. Oftentimes people think of science fiction as logic based and differentiate fantasy by chalking the genre up to a magical nonsense land where the rules don’t apply because . . . well, magic! We don’t recommend taking this approach.
Like science fiction, fantasy also requires a set of rules that the reader can follow so that the story remains satisfying and impactful.
Science fiction and fantasy both deal with worlds that are unlike our own. The differences come into play when building those worlds.
Common (not required) characteristics of science fiction:
Common (not required) characteristics of fantasy:
Why does any of this matter? Well, if you’re writing a sci-fi or a fantasy novel, it’s important to know the elements characteristic of each genre. You wouldn’t want to leave readers scratching their heads by including a wizard, a selkie, and a hobbit in your sci-fi novel, right? It’s important to be familiar with the genre you’re writing in so that you can be aware of the conventions of that genre. There are certain elements of each genre that readers come to expect, and we wouldn’t want to disappoint!
So, when does defining your genre become important? When querying your book, publishers will want you to be able to be able to sum up your book succinctly and clearly, and oftentimes genre can be a great first step in doing this. The reason publishers tend to care about this categorization is, ultimately, the genre will determine certain elements of marketing and how your book gets into the hands of readers. If you’re unable to clearly define your genre, categorizing your book in industry databases becomes more difficult, which could inhibit readers from finding it.
Whether you’re writing the next great sci-fi or fantasy novel, keep your reader in mind, and do whatever you can to make your book as accessible to them as possible.
written by Grace Ball
The definition of metadata is quite simple: it’s any data that describes your book—including title, subtitle, price, publication date, ISBN, and any other relevant information that readers use to find your book when searching online or in a database. Metadata is critical to the success of the marketing and distributing your book, and it should not be glossed over or ignored.
Let’s go down the list of metadata and briefly explore each of them.
This is the title of your book, including subtitle. Keep it fewer than 80 characters long so that it is mobile friendly.
This includes all names of those involved in the project that are on the cover or title page. Be consistent with spelling, middle initials, etc.
Keep this under 250 words for each contributor. Avoid adding external links that could drive customers away from purchasing your book.
If applicable, include the series name and number so that your readers are aware of titles in the series
In 200 to 600 words, describe your book in a conversational tone. This is probably the same as the synopsis you have on your back cover.
Choose 2 to 3 BISAC subject codes that are specific to your book’s genre. Be careful when choosing general genres like “drama” because many bookstores categorize plays as dramas. Choosing the wrong BISAC codes can make your book harder for your intended audience to find.
Choose 7 or more keywords and phrases that will draw the consumer and describe your book. These are hidden online search items that will help your book be found, so be specific when choosing your keywords.
This is the description of the book binding, is it a paperback, hardcover, e-book? A combination of these? Include all formats and be sure to use one ISBN per format to keep them distinct from one another.
If applicable, include 2 to 8 positive reviews of your work. These reviews can come from industry sources, publications, and relevant people such as other authors and reputable bloggers.
Is your book for the general adult market, juvenile (age 0 – 12), or young adult (Age 12-17)? Make sure you choose your correct audience and that your BISAC codes are chosen from the audience selected.
Age and grade
If your book has a juvenile or young adult audience, pick an age and grade range to target the appropriate audience for your book. If you do not know your target age and grade range, a simple search will direct you to readability meters where you can cut and paste a portion of your text to see what grade and age range your book falls under.
Publishers take metadata very seriously, and so should you. If you are self-publishing, I leave you with one very important tip: don’t rush compiling your metadata! I know you are excited to get your book out into the world but take your time choosing the proper keywords and subject codes. Metadata is a most often times forgotten key to a book’s success!
Anatomy of a Book Cover
We all grew up hearing the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” That makes perfect sense when that “cover” is a person you know nothing about. But in the book publishing world, this piece of advice couldn’t be farther from reality.
When you’re in the bookstore, real or virtual, what initially draws you to learn more about a book? The cover, of course. But to create a compelling cover, you must first know what pieces make up the cover's anatomy. Don’t worry, this is a lot less bloody than health class . . . well, unless you're designing covers for Stephen King.
The front cover is where you want to capture your reader. This can be done by choosing fonts and imagery that best represents your book. Your book cover will need to include the title, subtitle (if there is one), and bylines. You can also add an endorsement blurb if you have space.
I can’t express enough how important typography is in cover design! When choosing a font, take into consideration what genre your book is categorized under. For instance, you don’t want to design a children’s book using fonts that would be found on the cover of a legal drama. And you want a font that is legible at a glance.
Just as importantly as font choice, you want to pick imagery that will attract your reader while conveying what your book is about. You’ll want to choose imagery that leaves space for your title to be seen clearly. Especially since your cover will be seen in all sizes from a thumbnail on a website to poster size at your meet and greets.
Your book has attracted a reader and they have picked it up and flipped it over. Great! On the back cover, you want to have a book description that doesn’t give away the entire story but draws the potential reader to want to purchase it and begin reading.
You have options on what else you would like to include, depending on space remaining. For instance, you can include a short author bio and author photo OR you can add an endorsement. You will also find the barcode and publisher imprint (if applicable), usually in the bottom quarter of the cover.
The spine should never be considered an afterthought. I have been told in the past that some bookstores pick books based on how compelling the spine looks, because they shelf their books spine out. Here you want to have the author’s name and the title of the book. If there is a publisher, you will also want the publisher’s imprint (logo) in this space. Traditionally, spines are designed with the author’s name at the top, title in the center, and imprint at the bottom.
These three elements will be found on paperbacks and casebound hardcovers. Books with dust jackets will have a similar anatomy, but they will also have jacket flaps (the folded part of the dust jacket that wraps around the hardcover). With dust jackets, you have more space to spread out the descriptive text of your book. You can move your endorsements to the back cover and reserve the jacket flaps for the book description and/or a lengthier author bio.
So there you have it! The basic anatomy of a book cover. When designed correctly, the cover becomes an invaluable tool for promoting and selling your book! It is the branding of you and your story. The more professional your book cover is, the more seriously you are taken by readers. Just remember, in this case, the reader does judge a book by its cover!
written by Michael Hardison
Giving Generously with Becky Robinson
Join Christina in conversation with Becky Robinson, founder of Weaving Influence, host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast, and author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause.
Christina Kann 00:06
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 Kann, and I'm extremely excited to be joined today by Becky Robinson from over at Weaving Influence! Becky, say hello to the listeners.
Becky Robinson 00:33
Hi, everybody, I'm so happy to be here with you.
Christina Kann 00:36
I'm really happy to have you here. Tell everyone a little bit about what you do over at Weaving Influence and your podcast.
Becky Robinson 00:45
I would love to. Weaving Influence is a full-service comprehensive digital marketing agency, and we specialize in serving authors and thought leaders. I founded Weaving Influence in 2012, and we have primarily served nonfiction business book authors. However, in recent years, we've had the opportunity to support some fiction authors. What we've found is that many of the approaches we use in nonfiction translate well to fiction. In the meantime, we've been learning about the differences in how to market fiction as well. My podcast is the Book Marketing Action Podcast. We are just wrapping up our third season, and we primarily focus on actions authors can take immediately to expand the reach of their books in the world. I'm also an author myself. My first book, Reach: Create the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause launched in April of 2022. I was so glad to be able to bring together the thinking and framework I use in helping authors figure out how to reach more readers with their books. I was really happy to be able to put that all into writing, into something people could access easily.
Christina Kann 01:55
I'm also incredibly happy you were able to put that into writing, because it's such a valuable resource. You were kind enough to send me a copy of your book, Reach. It really has so much excellent information for people who are engaging in the digital marketing arena, so definitely check it out. I'll put a link in our episode notes. If you are trying to build an online audience and engage in an authentic way, this is a great, great, great place to start getting in the right mindset.
Becky Robinson 02:27
And if you don't mind me mentioning, Christina, we also have started the Reach More Readers Workshop, which is a live and interactive workshop that authors can join. It's 10 hours of training across two days. While the content is similar to what's in the book, there's the chance to interact with other authors. One of the things I'm most proud of is the way the groups who participate in our workshop are really an inclusive community where anyone is welcome. People can really meet and connect with others who might want to support their work. In those workshops, we have had fiction, nonfiction, memoir, self-help, business -- all different genres of people, but they all share this common goal of making a difference in the world. When we get together for the workshops virtually, it's the most beautiful chance to connect. And I love doing it.
Christina Kann 03:18
That is so amazing. We're here to talk today about one really specific facet of your book. Your book addresses your four commitments, the four components you break digital marketing into. I love that. Do you mind telling the listeners briefly -- because, obviously, they need to buy your book -- what those components are?
Becky Robinson 03:42
As I was crafting the book, what I started to notice as I interviewed different authors and thought leaders about what reach meant to them or how they achieved reach for their work, hat kind of surfaced were these. At first, I called them "four factors." They were things that every author or thought leader I talked to seem to have in common. The amazing thing is, when we got to the point of editing the book, my editor said, "Well, 'factors' is super boring." So he threw out a whole bunch of different words that I could use instead. "Commitments" is really special and powerful to me, because if you want to do something big in the world, it's not something you can take lightly. It does require a commitment; it requires focus. I love that we ended up calling them the four commitments in the book, and I'm happy to share them briefly.
The first commitment is value. If you want to build an online presence, the only way you can attract an audience is if you have something they perceive to be a value. If you're a fiction author, maybe you're telling a particular kind of story; the value you're providing is entertainment, art, craft. If you're nonfiction, you're providing value around a topic, and your audience has a felt need in that area. Every author who wants to build reach really has to start with getting clear about the value they have to offer and who the audience is who's going to find that valuable. Value is determined by the person receiving the value. So that's the first commitment:" value.
The second commitment is consistency. It's not enough to just create a thing of value. What you want to do is consistently show up with value. In the book I talk about how this doesn't mean you have to blog daily; it doesn't mean you have to release a podcast weekly; it doesn't even mean you need to tweet X times per day. The idea is that you need to consistently show up with value. I always coach authors to figure out what sustainable. Some of us can really turn out content every day. Others have a busy day job, and that might not be possible. But what you want is to be able to create an expectation that you will keep showing up so your audience knows they can count on you and trust you. So consistency is the second one.
The third commitment is generosity. This one is sometimes unexpected. When I talk about generosity with your online presence, it really has to do with being willing to share value freely with others. Sometimes that value is just your authentic self. You can be generous by showing up as your authentic self, sharing vulnerably about your experiences or perceptions, sharing what you know about the craft of writing. Fiction authors especially seem to be able to gather an online community by talking about how they do what they do as a fiction writer. Readers are interested in that. They want to hear how you do what you do. They want the behind the scenes; they want to know what's in the head of that fiction author as they're crafting their characters are telling their story. So whatever that value is that you have to offer, having kind of open hands, if you want to think about generosity that way. It doesn't necessarily mean you're giving away products and services for free. But it does mean you're giving energy, encouragement, and inspiration, as you show up consistently in online spaces.
The final one is longevity. Honestly, I think this is the one that has the biggest potential upside, because people get excited to start things. People are not necessarily always as excited to finish things.
Christina Kann 07:47
So true. My husband loves to start a video game and never ever, ever finish it.
Becky Robinson 07:53
That' s funny. I want to reference Dorie Clark, who's a thought leader in this space. She wrote a book called The Long Game, and in it, she talks about the fact that growing an online presence that's worthwhile does take an extreme amount of time. She notes that you have to consistently show up with value in online spaces sometimes for an entire year before you see any results. If you think about that, from the perspective of someone who writes a book, and then just gets online for the first time, a lot of times, if it's going to take a whole year to get results, you're gonna give up before you even see the results. Dorie Clark also says that to be recognized as an expert online, you have to consistently share value online for five years. So that long-term view, that long-game view, is critically important. Just to quote Dory one more time -- I'm a super fan, obviously -- the reason why some people become successful and others do not is because some people keep going and other people just give up. If you think about Wildling Press -- you're new on the scene -- when you're still here, Christina, in 10 years, you're likely to be successful, because other people who started publishing companies when you did will have quit by then.
Christina Kann 09:11
I love all of that. Thank you so much for sharing. For more detailed explanations and investigations into these four commitments, definitely check out Reach. I'm not gonna stop plugging it because it's an awesome book. Today we're here to talk about one specific commitment that really struck me, and I guess it struck you as well, because you said it was the most unexpected commitment: generosity. I think this is one that authors and other people who are marketing themselves online tend to skip over because it's not exactly intuitive. If you're trying to earn money writing, it's not exactly intuitive to give out a lot of stuff for free. Can you expand a little bit about the role of generosity in digital marketing?
Becky Robinson 09:55
Well, it's a great way to say it. I love that. So before getting ready to get generous, before creating their generosity plan for how to freely give value online, does an author need to shift their mentality at all? Is there anything that an author can do to get ready for that? If they have gotten online being like, "I'm here to sell," but now they're realizing they need to make a little bit of a change, how can they prepare for that?
Becky Robinson 09:55
I think that one of the reasons why generosity is so important is because it really helps us rise above the noise. There is so much noise. Especially if you show up and you have something to sell... We get sold to constantly. I get pitches in my email multiple times per day by people who want to sell me something. But I think it's so much more rare to have someone show up with an offer of something for free. So whether it's a free event where you're sharing something that you know, or a free resource that you're making available, by offering something of value to someone who needs it, you can make that more immediate relational connection. And that relational connection over time is what sets up the possibility of that person becoming someone who might share your work with others, of that person becoming someone who might continue to be in relationship with you. Generosity is the key that unlocks that relational connection door. And I've never said it this way before!
Becky Robinson 11:24
That's a good question, and it can be challenging. I'm going to roll back way too many years, more than a decade, to when I first began this journey. One of the first things I did is I wrote these ebooks. They were on different topics related to digital marketing. I'll admit, Christina, when I created them, I thought it was going to sell them. I thought I was going to actually sell them for hundreds of dollars, because they were so valuable. We set up a landing page to sell these playbooks, and very quickly, what I realized is I didn't have anyone to sell them to. One of the phrases I like to repeat to myself is before you want to extract value, you have to add value. And so the shift that that required for me is this mindset shift of "I'm gonna focus on serving instead of selling." When you focus on serving, which is an act of generosity, again, it's the key that unlocks that relational door. It also helps to cement who you are as a brand, so people can begin to know you for the value you want to bring.
Becky Robinson 12:32
I want to pause for just a minute though, Christina, because I know there might be some people listening for whom selling is not optional. If you are in a situation in which to survive, you need to sell, this advice might seem like I'm tone deaf. I want to just recognize that the ability to be generous, or the ability to serve before you sell, does in some ways require that you have a certain level of financial freedom, or that you have some other means of making money that isn't through your online presence. I'm definitely speaking from a place of privilege. I do have a business that's financially viable that frees me up to be generous. For those of you out there who may be just getting started as an author or really trying to navigate how you're going to make a living from this, it's hard to make a living from writing. I've heard people from marginalized identities talking about, "Well, it's all well and good to talk about giving things away, but I just don't have that margin." I just didn't want to go too far before I acknowledged that this content could be received in a lot of different ways.
Christina Kann 13:46
Of course. I think it's important what you said. You can give generously without that being your main thing. You and I both run businesses, but we also host podcasts that are free information for whoever needs that information. It's about balancing the things you need to do to make money to survive with the ways you can engage with your audience. It's okay if sometimes you have more spoons to give that generosity than other times.
Becky Robinson 14:15
Certainly so. It's generosity of spirit as well. Now, again, that takes time. It takes time to pause to encourage someone else or amplify someone else. But we all have something we can give.
Christina Kann 14:30
Absolutely. What kind of spaces online are good for being generous and sharing value? How are the different online spaces good to share different kinds of value?
Becky Robinson 14:44
You need to know your audience and where they're showing up to figure out what type of content would be most valuable to generously share with them. I think any online space is a place where you can be generous. I don't know necessarily that there's one particular channel that's easier than another. But because your audience is primarily people who are authors, one of the things I want to highlight is that a way to grow your network through generosity before you have a book come out is to find ways to be helpful to other authors. For example, if you're writing fiction in a particular genre, you could choose to participate in a book launch, or to help an author with their release, who's in a similar genre. That helps to build a relational connection. Not only that, but it also opens up an opportunity for you to learn from someone who's ahead of you on the journey.
Becky Robinson 15:37
I have an author who launched a book earlier this week, and I was digging into some of our older correspondence. And what I discovered is that before he was my client, he was promoting other authors by being on the launch team. For those of you who might not know, a launch team is also sometimes called the street team, and a lot of authors will gather a group of people who will read a book in advance of their publication date so they can share Amazon reviews and do social sharing. What I'm recommending is if you're an author who's listening, or an aspiring author who's listening, one of the ways you could practice generosity is through other authors who are in your same genre or niche so you can build those relationships -- not only because you want something in return when your book comes out, but also for just the joy of supporting someone else and to learn from what they're doing.
Christina Kann 16:28
I think this next question ties back a little bit into what you were saying earlier about knowing your audience. What kind of materials are good for sharing generously? We mentioned that time and energy are also things you can share generously. But if someone is interested in getting a little bit more concrete, what kinds of things are good for sharing?
Becky Robinson 16:51
I'm happy to give a few ideas here. You mentioned the whole idea of a podcast. Podcasts are typically free. Obviously, there are models like Patreon, where creators will create content beyond the free content. That's a subscription model. That is that is an approach that works for some people.
Becky Robinson 17:10
I referenced that playbooks that I wrote that I thought it was going to sell for hundreds of dollars. The shift that I had to make was, "Instead of making those playbooks for money, what if I gave them away for free?" which I actually ended up doing. The value of that was it drew an audience. Anyone who downloaded those playbooks for free could see my areas of expertise, etc. Any kind of content that you might create, you have that choice between, am I going to make this free, or will there be a cost associated with it?
Becky Robinson 17:44
If you think about all the possibilities with content... You could do free videos. You could do free audio. You could do free written articles and ebooks. You could do free assessments. You could do free interactive events, if you wanted to. I have an author I'm working with right now who created this series called "Where Fact Meets Fiction." She is interviewing other historical fiction authors about their craft and about how they researched to write their fiction. It's very cool. It's free conversations; people can join them live. There are two benefits to that, and I'll tell you what they are. One of the benefits is all the readers who get that kind of inside view of how the authors are thinking about their writing are also getting kind of that chance to get to meet their favorite authors. So that's one value to the readers. There's also the value of the relational network that my client who's an author is forming with each of those authors. So if you're an author who's really been solo in your craft, and you decide you're going to do a series of interactive webinars, every single guest you have is another person that you're building that connection with. Not only will you have the opportunity to support their journey as an author, but they also may pour into yours.
Christina Kann 19:00
Mutual support is such an important tenant of this like generosity mindset. In that same vein, how can authors engage with others and support others who are trying to share their value?
Becky Robinson 19:17
There's always the idea of amplifying other people's work. I'll give you an example. I have a friend who's also in the digital marketing space; she runs a company that produces audiobooks, and I consistently refer business to her. In fact, her company helped me with the production of my audiobook. Well, she was out there generously today sharing a little audio clip from my book and talking about me and the idea of generosity, which was beautiful to see. Anytime you can take someone else's content and amplify it, that fuels that mutual supportiveness. That's probably one of the best ways to be generous, especially when a fellow author is publishing their book on their launch day, in their launch week. That's the very perfect time to be able to amplify someone else. The other thing is buying the books of those people you admire. As often as I can, when I have a client who has a book launching or another author friend who's having a book launch -- even if I don't even expect to read it, I'm gonna buy it. If they were in my hometown and I had the chance to take them out for lunch, you better believe I'm gonna try to fight them for the check and treat them to lunch. If I would fight them for the check and treat them for lunch, I'm gonna go buy their book.
Christina Kann 20:37
Absolutely. Last question for you, Becky. What's one thing authors can do today to start being more generous in online spaces?
Becky Robinson 20:47
I love that question. I'm going to go back to some of the tips I had before. One thing I'd like to encourage everyone who's listening today is just think for a minute about the authors you admire, and whoever the first one is who pops into your head, if you've read their book, go leave them an Amazon review. If you haven't read their book, find some other way to reach out and amplify something they're doing: share a post of theirs on Instagram to your own story and shout them out. If you're a more of a LinkedIn person, find a post they've made on LinkedIn and share it to your audience. Be generous with your praise by giving a very specific reason why you admire what they're doing in the world.
Christina Kann 21:28
If you're already on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, doing your authorly social media upkeep, it is really so easy to share something to your Instagram story or to retweet something. It's small for you, but for the person you're doing it to uplift, it can feel so big.
Becky Robinson 21:50
Certainly. We all want to be seen and valued for the contribution we're making.
Christina Kann 21:55
Yeah. Well, Becky, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for being generous with your time and energy to come on How Do I Book?
Becky Robinson 22:03
Thank you for having me. For those who are listening today, be sure to come over to the Book Marketing Action Podcast, because I will be interviewing Christina very soon. I'm not sure how these episodes will be launched, but if you're listening to this episode, definitely go look for Christina's interview on the Book Marketing Action Podcast.
Christina Kann 22:22
I recommend listening to the whole backlog of episodes because y'all's podcast was actually the podcast that got me into marketing podcasts. When I first started listening to podcasts, I did a lot of comedy and fiction, because that's just more my vibe. But once I started listening to your podcast, I was like, "Oh, there's a lot of value out here in podcast land." That's another part of it: all of us producers and marketers are sharing information with each other in these ways as well. I just think that's so awesome and special.
Becky Robinson 22:57
Very cool. I'm so glad. Hopefully people will listen to episode 100, where I share my top 10 lessons of 10 years of marketing books and 100 podcast episodes.
Christina Kann 23:06
Oh my god, I'm so excited for that.
Becky Robinson 23:08
I had fun recording it. It was really a lot of fun. It was just me in a room recording, but one of the things it cemented for me is how far I've come. If I'm honest, when I started the podcast, the early episodes I was recording solo -- we didn't have any guests at the beginning, Christina -- and I hated it. I thought I would want to quit. And now, 100 episodes in, it's so much fun. I can start recording and I don't blink.
Christina Kann 23:37
Yes, I love that for you. I love that so much. Besides your podcast, where can people find you on the internet?
Becky Robinson 23:44
There are two main places to find me. If you're interested in finding out about my company, Weaving Influence, you can go to weavinginfluence.com. If you're interested in me personally and my book and my journey as an entrepreneur, you can go to beckyrobinson.com. And then on all the social media platforms except Tik Tok, @beckyrbnsn.
Christina Kann 24:13
That's linked below, as well as a link to purchase Reach, which I do recommend for everyone who's getting started on their book marketing plan. This is a great place to start sourcing ideas.
Becky Robinson 24:27
One generous offer for your listeners, Christina. If there's anyone listening and you'd like to read my book, and you can't afford to buy it for some reason, maybe you're facing some hard times -- go ahead and email me. I'm email@example.com. I'd love to get a copy of my book in the mail to you.
Christina Kann 24:43
Wow, that's so generous! That's so on-theme of you. Love that so much. I so appreciate all that you do in the community. You really are an example of generosity. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing your expertise about generosity and digital marketing.
Becky Robinson 25:01
Thanks, Christina can't wait to talk again.
Christina Kann 25:05
And that's how you book.
Follow Becky Robinson on socials:
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
Until late 2007, hashtags were just one of the buttons you never used on your phone. Then people started to use them to categorize social media posts, and a new way of reaching your target audience was born.
Social media is completely saturated with influencers and people vying for attention. It can be hard to stand out! That’s where hashtags come into play. Hashtags help people organize how they browse through social media apps and indicate to viewers what kind of post they’re looking at.
So, what makes for a great hashtag? Here are some tips that can help you reach your audience and hopefully up for interaction and followers . . . if the dreaded algorithm doesn’t play against you.
Keep it simple
Pick hashtags that are short and straightforward. If you’re a Tumblr user, you might be familiar with their rambling hashtags that one should read as part of the post (like #justkidding #whywouldtheywriteitlikethis #helpimtrappedinmybroomcloset, etc.). Other social platforms like Twitter and Instagram do not use hashtags like this. Instead, you’ll want to keep the hashtags simple.
Keep it relevant
Your hashtags should be true to the post you are making. For example, don’t use #PrideMonth just because you’re making a post in June, which is Pride Month. That post will need to be related to queer culture or a Pride Month event for that hashtag to be relevant.
Do your research
Look up hashtags before you use them. If the hashtag has been used a lot, your post may get lost in the mix of everyone else who is using it. An example of an overused hashtag is #outfitoftheday, often abbreviated as #ootd. Fashion influencers may still use this hashtag, but they don’t expect a huge impact from this hashtag alone.
Use trending hashtags
A hashtag’s popularity will come and go. But how do you know which ones are currently hot? Thankfully, there are sites out there that will do the work for you, like hashtags.org or best-hashtags.com. At hashtags.org, you can enter a hashtag and see how it has been trending. At best-hashtags.com, you can look up a hashtag’s popularity, and you can even cut and paste hashtags from that site into your post. Just remember to edit and add to this list and use only the ones that are relevant to you.
Limit your hashtags
Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags per post. If you exceed 30 hashtags, Instagram will post your photo without any text or hashtags. You’ll have to retype your whole caption, which sucks! (Trust us, we’ve been there.) On Twitter, you only want to use one or two hashtags that can be worked organically into the post, so make sure they are relevant. On TikTok, you’ll want to use only 4-5 hashtags.
We’ll go into deep dives later about how to use hashtags uniquely on each of these platforms, but this is a great starting point!
With these tips you will be on the right path to reaching your target audience. So, get out there and engage, and before you know it, you will be reaching your audience, and your following will grow!
How Do I Book?
We'll try to find the answer to that question in our blog.