Year’s End

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Another year is coming to an end. I realize this is my only post of 2014. This year has been challenging but I’m glad to report that I survived and live to tell the tale. This year also marks ten years since I started Azreal Publishing Company on a hope and a prayer. I’ve learned a few valuable lessons that I’d like to share with you. It is my hope that something I say here will inspire you and give you the insight you need to go forward with boldness and confidence in 2015.

1. Authors Are Entrepreneurs
Even if you have a book deal with a major publishing company you are still self-employed. If you want to be a successful author, stop thinking like an employee and start thinking like an entrepreneur. In 2015, think about the type of brand you want to be and work on growing that brand.

2. Grow Readers Not Receipts
I used to be really concerned that I wasn’t selling enough books. I have a surplus of books and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to sell more. But a better question is, how do I get more people to read my books? Because once they read it, sales tend to follow. In 2015, focus on doing what you can to get as many people as you can to read your book. Build relationships with those readers and the books will sell themselves.

3. Writers Must Write
When you are self-published you wear a lot of hats. In the beginning I enjoyed being a one woman show. But over the past ten years I’ve learned my strengths and weaknesses. I know that writing is the thing I do best. Speaking is something I do pretty well too. However, there are a lot of other things that have to happen to get the opportunity to release a new book. In 2015 build a team of people who can help you do the things you are not so great at. This will free you to do the things you do best.

Please take a moment to check out my new website and leave a comment on this post if it has been helpful.
www.azrealbooks.com

I wish you joy and peace in the New Year. May you write much and publish what you’ve written. May your voice be heard in 2015.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

Resources for Freelance Writers

I began seriously trying to make a living as a freelance writer around this time last year.  It took a few months, but I now have a pretty good system for getting regular work from a few trusted sources. If you are still struggling to find work I’m sharing my list of resources in the hopes that next year, you’ll get more work.

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  1.  Elancehttp://www.elance.com is my number one go to for writing assignments. I’ve been successful in landing long term relationships with vendors who come to me time and again to ghostwrite books for them. I’ve gotten the occasional editing jobs as well as daily writing assignments. Eighty percent of my writing jobs come through  Elance.
  2. Odeskhttp://www.odesk.com is a secondary place where I’ve found work. I’ve done everything from editing books to writing promotional video scripts. The work is varied and I’ve had some very exciting projects on Odesk.
  3. Freedom With Writing – www.freedomwithwriting.com is a website that post all of the various places you can find writing jobs online.  I signed up for the e-newsletter and every week I get a list of new places to look for work. One of those places is the next place on my list to look for work.
  4. Guruhttp://www.guru.com – is another site similar to Elance and Odesk. The main difference is that anyone can post jobs on there for free. As a result the jobs don’t pay much. I must admit that I don’t use Guru much because there are just so many people out there on the free version that it’s hard to get work without paying. I don’t think I should have to pay to get hired for work.
  5. I also recently, began offering my services to friends and local business owners that I know. Writing newsletters, reports, and marketing materials can be a big help to small business owners who are trying to do everything on their own. If you can take one thing of their plate, they will happily pay your for it.

Using these resources to find writing jobs has kept me plenty busy and provided extra income. I don’t do it full-time, but I believe that with the right focus, you could make a decent living as a freelance writer. I wish you the best in the New Year. You have three more weeks to create your game plan to get more work doing what you love next year.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

The Business of Writing

The moment you decided to become a writer, you become a business. Not only are you in business, you are the CEO of You Incorporated. Everything you do and say from this point on will be scrutinized. People will suddenly care what you have to say and genuinely want your opinion on everything. What exactly, is the business of writing?

Writing as a business is about more than putting words on paper. It’s about sharing ideas and at times challenging beliefs. Writing is about giving a voice to the disenfranchised or being an authority in a field. It’s about communicating effectively as both a teacher and a storyteller. The hardest part of the business of writing is discovering your platform. Once you decide what being a business means for you, then you can sit down and be about the business of writing.

When I began my publishing company back in 2004, I branded myself as a writer of Christian books for children and young adults. I’ve since expanded that to include adults. The subject matter is on a different level but my message is still the same. My mission has not changed. There is room to grow and evolve even within the brand and platform you’ve chosen.  Just be strategic in how you roll out the new direction of your company. I’m always looking for ways to improve the business and to find what I consider to be success.

Success for some writers is being published. For others, it’s writing a best seller. For me it’s being able to use my gifts and talents to make a living that will help support my family. It’s writing this blog in the hopes that I’ll share something that will help you take things to the next level in your writing. This is the cake for me, public recognition would be the icing.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Outlet

images-1Writing is used as a form of therapy. The act of journaling provides a much-needed outlet for many. However when you are a writer, what do you do? I still journal but I find that I need something more at times. I’ve taken up running and exercising to release tension and stress. I work through many issues and plot twists while I’m out on the trail or sweating it out on the elliptical. I often write listening to music because it helps me to relax and provides the emotions needed to write from the heart.

It’s so important that a writer has an outlet or a way back into the regular world. The mind of a creative person can be a playground but it can also become a toxic place. It doesn’t matter if your outlet is a social (bowling) or solitary (knitting), you just need a way to decompress and exit the world of your latest and greatest masterpiece. There is a reason writers gained the reputation for being a bunch of drunkards. Some turned to alcohol as a means of escape. Others thought alcohol sparked creativity. I’d caution you to choose your muse wisely.

In addition to adopting a hobby, it may also be beneficial to totally unplug from time to time. Many years ago, I instituted what I called, “unplugged weekends”. From Friday morning through Sunday night I would totally unplug all of my electronic devises. I’d let my family and close friends know on Thursday, not to call me till Monday and where they can find me in case of an emergency.  I’d spend those times of silence, reading, praying, and journaling. I’d often add fasting and meditation to detox my mind, body and spirit. On Monday morning I awoke refreshed and at peace with renewed vision and energy.

If you find yourself feeling stuck and uninspired, look for a new outlet. Do whatever it takes to sharpen your focus and rekindle your passion for writing. This often means taking a step away and doing something else for a while.  Distance indeed makes the heart grow fonder.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Book Covers

Book cover design by Tony Sarg

 

As children we were all taught to never judge a book by its cover. But readers do it all the time. We look at the title, then the images and try to determine if we want to read the book. If we have time, we’ll turn the book over and read the back cover copy and maybe look at the table of contents. Like it or not the cover is the first impression that your book will make on potential readers.

 

A publishing friend of mine asked the question, “Are there certain things on a book cover that will turn you off?” I wish I could give you a magic formula that would make your book attractive to everyone who sees it. But the reality is, that everyone who sees your cover will view it through their own set of experiences. However, you can make sure that your cover has the following characteristics that readers are looking for.

 

  • Choose an image that reflects the title
  • Choose background colors that reflect the theme
  • Make sure that the overall design draws people in
  • Choose a spine font that is interesting, yet readable
  • Make sure the back cover copy is intriguing

 

You may spend months or years writing your book, spend just as much time and energy on your cover design. Pay a little more to get a custom design if that is what is needed to make your book stand out from the others on the shelf. Even electronic books, have covers so this advice applies to e-books too. A good book cover can be your best marketing tool.  You can take the image and make post cards, posters, flyers, whatever materials you need in order to promote your book.

 

Until Next Time,

 

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin

 

 

 

Motivation

English: Motivational Saying

The life of an author can be lonely at times. We are often misunderstood. No one really knows why we continue to do what we do. No one writes to become rich and famous. It’s nice when it happens, but it’s the mission and the message that keeps me going day in and day out. I know that I have a unique way of looking at the world. I’ve also been given an amazing gift. I believe that I must write for all those people who need to receive the message I’ve been sent to share.

It’s not easy to keep going at times. Especially when bills are due, the books are not selling, and your spouse is thinking it’s time to get a real job. If writing and self-publishing is just a hobby, then it is wise to get a regular 9-5 to pay the bills. However, if you have made writing your business, then you must find ways to get paid to write. Here’s a short list of things you can do to generate an income.

Also look for ways to improve your craft. Enter writing contest, attend writer’s retreats and conferences. Winning a few contest can bring in some much-needed cash. Retreats and conferences are great opportunities to network, and learn about the craft as well as the markets. This next piece of advice may seem unrelated, but make sure to take care of yourself. If you are down and depressed, the odds are you won’t feel like writing. Engage in some sort of regular exercise and eat well so you can remain focused and have the energy to write well.  Remember where there is a will, there is a way.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Synopsis Paralysis

I’ve been asked to make a submission of my work for a writer’s clearing house where they attempt to connect writers with agents. For whatever reason I could not sum up my plot and main idea of my novel in 200 words or less. I was suffering from what I call synopsis paralysis. So in order to get my submission done I did a little research on what makes a good synopsis and this is what I came up with. A good synopsis is between 150-200 words and answers the following questions:

  • What is the main conflict?
  • Who is the main character?
  • What is at stake for your main character if they don’t resolve the main conflict?
  • Where is the story set? (if the setting is important to the story)
  • When does the story take place? (if the year or decade is important to the story)

Remember the synopsis is like the back cover blurb and so you don’t want to give away every plot twist or the ending. Give enough information to make it interesting and then leave the reader curious to find out what happens. I’m still working on the synopsis for the submission that is due on Wednesday but at least now I have moved past paralysis and have a good draft that is right at 200 words that I can continue to tweak for the next two days.

Because I would like this blog to be a place where ideas about writing can be shared freely I open it up this week for your comments.  If you have any tips or resources you’d like to share with me or the other followers of this blog don’t hesitate to comment. Also feel free to make suggestions as to what topics you would like to read about.

Until Next Week,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin