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

Fact Stranger than Fiction

The greatest story every told begins with these words. “For unto us a child is born” (Isaiah 9:6) . What we know as the Christmas Story, can be found in the biblical accounts of Matthew and Luke (Matthew 1:18-25; Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 1:26-38; Luke 2:1-20). Although there has been much debate over the details of the birth of Jesus, one thing is certain – His mission.

I often marvel at the resolve of the writers of this story because of the risks they took in telling it. An old priest is visited by an angel while serving in the temple. The angel tells him that he and his wife will have a son and that he is to be named John.  The old man can’t believe it and so the angel makes him mute until the birth of the child as a sign that what he says will be so.  Some how he is able to communicate to his wife what happens. Sure enough she gets pregnant at her advanced age. Six months into the pregnancy the old woman is visited by her cousin, a young girl who is also pregnant with the Son of God. The young girl was also visited by an angel who told her she would become pregnant without knowing a man and that her son was to be called Emmanuel (Jesus).  The news was so shocking that her fiance was about ready to call off the marriage until he was visited in a dream by an angel that told him not to worry.  Zechariah, Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph had a lot riding on these angelic visitations. Can you imagine waiting nine months for a child to be born with everyone around you speaking  words of doubt and unbelief? Then watching and waiting as the child grew to see if there was any sign of what you claim was true.

Fact is often stranger than fiction. When this story was told it was written as historic accounts of the birth of a savior. The Jewish world at that time was awaiting a Messiah that had been promised through the prophets of old. Some believed that Jesus was that Messiah and others did not. For those of us who believe, Christmas is a celebration to this miraculous birth.  There is no greater gift than the gift of salvation and there is no better time to receive that gift than today.

Merry Christmas,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

 

What If …

images-5                 I’m convinced that the best sellers are those that ask the question, “What if?” I admit that I’m a little partial to a Mystery or a Whodunit. However, what a reader really wants is to be taken on an adventure. I also happen to like learning something new or being challenged in some way. So let’s examine what would happen if …

Christmas is the perfect time to ask this question and many of our beloved holiday stories start with this premise. Frosty the Snowman asks the question, “What would happen if a snowman came to life?” Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer asks, “What would happen if one of Santa’s reindeer had a red nose?” The Grinch Who Stole Christmas asks, “What would happen if someone stole Christmas?” I followed this same formula with my own children’s story, I Wish For Snow. I was curious to know, what would happen if a little girl asks for snow on an island?

I Wish for Snow Cover

The next time you are having difficulty with a theme or plot twist begin with a question – What if? Exploring all the possibilities and even the impossibilities of a situation will open the story up to intrigue. The best way to give your characters an interesting dilemma is to examine how they would respond if the rug is pulled out from under them. The most interesting characters are those that are a little abnormal in some way.  Edward Scissorhands was one of the most unusual Holiday tales that asks, “What if a man was created with scissors for hands?” The answer, is what makes this a classic story.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D.P. McLaughlin

Book Trailer for I Wish For Snow by Flye Books

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

Focus

Today’s post is about how to make it as a professional writer.  Most artistic types are  resigned to struggle and barely make it in life.  I for one have never wanted to be a starving artist, and so I’ve done my best to find ways to make money writing.  I know a hand full of writers who like myself, are at various levels of making it. I also know many other writers who would love to write for a living but for now, writing is basically a hobby. The difference between writing as a hobby and writing to pay the bills is an issue of focus.  If you know anything about self-actualization, you know that what you focus on the most is what will manifest. So where is your focus?

If your focus is off, try adopting some of the following practices to renew your focus.

  1. Write everyday. Give yourself a word limit and do it everyday.
  2. Read something everyday. Preferably in the genre you want to write in.
  3. Learn the business. Everyday research and learn something new about the publishing business.
  4. Enter writing contest. If you’re writing everyday, you should have enough material to enter several contest every year.
  5. Travel as much as you can. Journal about your experiences and the people you meet.
  6. Attend book fairs, writer’s conferences, and any gathering of authors and or publishers. Get to know people who are already doing what you want to do.

Until Next Time,

Nicole D. P. McLaughlin