Being a wife and a mom is hard work. We’ve fought for women’s rights and so our lives have more freedoms and liberties than that of our grandmothers and yet our job is still hard. Human beings are tribal, we seek connections and community. We often form these tribes and communities around shared experiences and life circumstances - our personal stories.
I started making the Conversation Journal so that I could better connect with one of my 5 children. It occurred to me that there might be other mothers and fathers out there that would also want to connect with their kids in this way so M and I decided we’d share our Journal with everyone. I also feel a calling to share my story and experiences as an encouragement to other mothers out there who may struggle with some of the same things that I do or have struggled with.
My initial intention wasn’t to sell the journal to others. M likes to be artistic and so do I. A journal that represented us wouldn’t have been able to be a simple spiral-bound notebook. I began designing pages that I intended to print and glue into a spiral notebook, but the number of pages grew and grew until I realized I had designed an entire book for us. M saw my work and while I sat at my computer wondering how I was going to glue all the pages into a notebook she “You made us a book, we can share it with my friend and her mom. I’ve been telling them about our journal and they want to do one too.”
From there the path seemed simple. Upload my designs at no cost to myself to CreateSpace, Amazon’s self-publishing service. Once published I could then order myself a copy and share the link with M’s friend, end of story. My darling daughter was very excited about this idea and went straight to school to tell all her friends that her mom had written a book and they could all get one. I came to the school for a visit a few days later and got bombarded by a half dozen girls who all wanted a copy of the journal to do with their moms.
A few days later I was talking to a mom friend about a conversation I had with D and she marveled at my genius. I of course knew it wasn’t genius and that I have little to no conversational skills, so I told her about another mom who had given me my idea. I then proceeded to tell her about the village of other mothers who I regularly hounded with questions about mothering skills. She said she wished I had recorded those conversations so I could share them with her.
I laughed when she said that, but it planted the seed for the podcast. Everything ended up way bigger than my initial intention of gluing a few pages into a notebook, and that is extremely scary to me. However after reading Kobi Yamada’s book, What do You do With an Idea, I am pushing forward through my fears. It is important to know I am not pushing past my fears, I wish I was past them! I am smack dab in the middle of my fears and slowly going forward.
I am standing out here on my own admitting that I don’t always know what to do as a mother and I have to ask other mothers for advice. I can’t always sit down and have peaceful and meaningful conversations individually with my five kids. My confession, I may be a seasoned mom with little kids, but I am not an expert. I need help and I need to ask other mothers for advice and help.
If you like what you read and you want to interact more I’ve created a group just for you on Facebook. We can share our struggles and ask for advice from other parents who have been there and share the same vision of having deeper longer conversations with our kids.
We chose to self publish for a number of reasons with our previous experience marketing books as a top factor in that decision. In this article, I’ll lay out some of the steps we take as well as link to a few useful articles and podcasts from other authors. If you want to read about the tools we use to write and publish our books click here. Interested in how we design our covers, read the article here.
We’ve worked with a few books published by major publishing houses. Yes, you get some major retailer shelf space when you publish with them, but if those books don’t sell they go back to the warehouse and you don’t get a dime. The bulk of the advertising, as well as the expense of it, falls on the lap of the author. You typically get a portion of your royalties upfront and can use that money to hire a marketing firm but still, the responsibility of getting the word out there falls on you as the author. A dirty little secret of the book publishing industry, right? Below are four actions we take in every one of our book launches.
You’ve got a social network right? I mean who doesn’t have one these days? USE IT! You don’t have to be that super annoying friend with the multi-level marketing scheme that’s constantly plugging a product you don’t care about, just drop simple updates on what you are doing. “Hey, guys it’s been a long day of writing, 20,349 words and counting.” Something simple like this gives them just enough information to get them curious but not so much information that they feel imposed upon. Start out slow, with an update every week or two as you are writing your book (it takes longer than a week or two by the way). Then once you have a finalized first draft you can up your game a little with a post a week. Snap pictures of the proof copy, if you order one, and show all your mark-ups. Don’t give more information than you need to until you have a firm date settled on for launch. Allow your audience to ask you questions!
You’ll have some friends that show more interest than others into what you are writing. When you’ve gone through a proof or two and you feel you are nearly ready, approach a handful of these friends and ask them to give your book a read through before you publish. I know you may be hoping to squeeze pennies out of all your friends at first hoping every one of them will buy your book, but giving away a few copies will be better for the long game. You’ll get helpful feedback and hopefully, your friends will give some reviews and on launch day you can ask all of your “Launch team” to post on their social profiles about your book along with their review of it which automatically extends your reach. I know I just bashed multi-level-marketing schemes, but the fact is they work, so tapping into some of the less obnoxious elements they use can come in handy.
Especially if your book is non-fiction; Facebook groups are a valuable asset. Ask yourself if your topic is something other people might want to discuss or you can build a community around. Chances are the answer is probably yes! If you are writing fiction consider creating a Facebook Group or page around yourself as the author. The group can be a place where they learn what you are up to and talk with (or nerd out with) other fans of your work. Launching a Facebook group at the same time as your book can be a great way to stir up buzz. This also creates an audience for promoting future books and speaking events if that is a goal for you. Here is a really great podcast with Nona Jones, of Facebook, on how best to utilize Facebook groups.
For my book the Conversation Journal I launched a Facebook group for parents who want to have conversations with their kids. The group is designed to help and encourage parents as they are going on this journey. I share relevant content on this topic as well as experts and freebies that keep the book in mind.
I know we are struggling authors and we want to make money off of our work, now I’m telling you to give it away for free? Yes, yes I am. Not all of it, but a portion of it. Drive people to your website with a free offer of chapter one or a simple Google app-based quiz that supports your topic. Freebies serve two purposes, to inform the world about your book with a sample and to build up a contact list. Don't forget to use a tool like MailChimp to capture the contact information of the folks utilizing your freebies. I’m going to give another link to a Carey Nieuwhof Podcast because the dude is great! He launched his book I Didn’t See it Coming in August of 2018 and his rollout and promotion were superb. In this podcast, he details the steps he took, some really great advice here folks!
Now you have read about our four go-to actions and you are thinking “But I just can’t”. You don’t have the time, patience, or know-how - that’s fine! That is what we are here for, if you want to work with us we’d love to help you position your book for a successful launch. Click Here to contact us.
I’ll be honest with you, Jason and I owned a marketing company so I have a bit of design knowledge and skills already. They are rusty from lack of use in the past ten years, but it doesn’t ever entirely go away. That being said I believe with these four tools anyone can design their own beautiful book cover with little with very little learning required.
Let’s start with the simplest one and one you probably already have access to already if you use Google, and that’s Google Draw. I used Google Draw to create the first draft of all the illustrations in the Conversation Journal. Remember that print and digital are very different quality when you design so make sure you set your page size based on 300 pixels per inch (best quality for printing). If you are making a 6x9 book your Drawing will be 1800x2700 pixels, pretty simple.
The next tool we use is a web-based app called Canva. Canva is great for just about everything you might want to create and design. You can do your entire promotional packaging using Canva, web ads, social media items, cover and much more. There are quite a few FREE elements but they’ve also got a great option to buy elements if your design skills are lacking. Plus they’ve got hundreds of great templates to help you with the layout if that’s not your jam. I personally hate layout design so Canva has been a great tool for searching ideas for me.
The next tool we use is Inkscape. It is a free tool that is very similar to Adobe’s Photoshop. There are a web-based app and downloadable software. Jason starts his designs out in Canva and then refines them using Inkscape.
The last tool we love is UnSplash. They’ve got amazing quality royalty free images. We used paid stock photography when we were running our marketing company and let me tell you these free images are just as awesome, if not more so. You don’t have, but you can always drop a call out on the inside of your book with photo credits.
Once you’ve got your cover designed and you want to make marketing and promotional items this guy has some great free templates you can use.
Is your laptop slowing you down? Yeah mine was too, here is the machine I now use that keeps me up and running, and here is my honest review of it.
If you want to read about my must-have tools for self-publishing go back to last week's article here.
So you have an idea and you want to write a book. It can seem like a scary process but with a few tools, you can get it done! That is if you can push past the actual act of sitting down and writing the book in the first place!
The first tool you’ll need before you can go to print is Grammarly. You are going to want to get it grammar checked, poor grammar in a book is more than just a little annoying. People forgive a lot in a blog post because they expect it to be conversational, but in a book, you’ve got to tighten your game and Grammarly can help you do that.
Now you’ve got a written and grammar checked document, and you are ready to go to print. Your next step is Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). They have made the book creation process super simple and easy. They’ve got a host of tools you can use to create and design your cover, even if you aren’t design savvy. The only tool you need is a digital document. I use Google Drive for on the go editing and creation because it syncs up with all my devices, but you can use whatever word processing program you want.
As you are getting ready KDP will give you several different book sizes to choose from. For me, I like the 6x9in paperback. Once you have picked out your size return to your finished document and under the file, menu go to “page set-up” and adjust the size of the page on your document. Don’t want to bother with all that? Download my free 6x9 template and add your content for a simple formatted book.
Want to learn the tools we use to create our covers? Read the article about our top four free resources for creating an amazing book cover on your next week.
Here are some other really great resources to help you out on the journey of self-publishing and launching a book.
Carey Nieuwhof did some recent interviews with Drew Dyck and Margret Feinberg that have some great content in them for aspiring authors and those getting ready to enter the publishing arena.
In high school, I was a class clown. I enjoyed - and still do - making people laugh especially with my totally nerdy raps about whatever the teacher was lecturing on. That’s right all y’all high school friends some of you know the only reason you passed biology (the 3rd time you took it, yeah you know who you are) was because of my catchy songs about osmosis! I’ll also admit to being a pretty fast learner and being completely board in school most days and not really taking any of it seriously. I had 100% in most classes higher in some because the teachers forced me to do the extra credit to keep me busy, that was all that mattered… a big fat A!
The one exception to this was Astronomy class. I was quite determined that I wanted to be an experimental particle physicist and this class, and the internships and independent studies I knew the teacher could get me, were all very serious. I had no time for distractions, no room for fun!
When I walked into class the first day and discovered the normal teacher was on maternity leave and we would have a sub for the first 4 weeks I was quite upset. I didn’t want to lose valuable time with a real teacher and the connections she had at the local observatories - and their relationships with international observatories. I had my eye on Budapest and Switzerland, I was focused!
The sub called us all to gather around for a very rudimentary experiment in physics, I took my spot in the circle with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. The sub attempted her experiment, but she wasn’t impressing anyone else either, but she wouldn’t let us move on until she finished. Normally I probably would have been at the lead of the trouble-making jokesters, but like I said chip on my shoulder and serious about the class… So that is why I got extra irritated at the short kid across the circle from me who wouldn’t stop messing around. I knew of him, he was the grade above me and my friend had once had a crush on him in middle school, but I didn’t remember his name.
At last, I couldn’t take it anymore so I called across the circle to him, “Shut up short stack let’s get this experiment over with.”
In that moment I had no clue that 4 years later I would marry that kid - who was nearly a foot shorter than me at the time, and 18 years later we would have 5 kids together. It’s crazy sometimes to think how far we’ve come! More than half of my life has been spent crushing on and loving that “short stack” from Astronomy class.