Posts tagged: managing the publishing industry

Should You Set up a eStore to Sell Stuff to Promote your Book?

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3)

In Love by Christmas (Bloodsong 3) This is actually 20" X 30", a poster mounted on a board by Costco.

After having mugs made with images of my covers on them for Christmas gifts (an adventure), and designing a calendar for my own use yesterday (arm still aches from too much computer time), and completely giving up on ordering T-shirts from one manufacturer, I got the probably masochistic idea of  starting a store on my site. I’ve been researching that possibility and wanted to ask my readers who’ve tried it if it was worth it in terms of financial reward or anything else. Satisfaction? Also,  which services are best–I’ve got some experiences to share on this.  Well, if anyone has anything to share, please do.

My experience working with some of the main “swag”–stuff used to market books or anything–providers is below. My words aren’t a comprehensive review. I’ve included links to a few sites that thoroughly evaluate more of the various POD “printing stuff”  services, including those I mention below.  All are worth studying.

Tested: Best Sources for Company Schwag Evaluates 5 of the biggies.

Printaholic.com 2015 T-shirt rankings. Interesting. T-shirts only here. The “usual suspects” are reviewed, but they don’t end up in the order you’d expect.

Printaholic.com’s overall best 2015 rankings. They review all print-related stuff: business cards, photos, brochures, T-shirts. Definitely something to look at.

Listio’s 2008 comparison of printing and merchandising Very thorough ranking of 4 top services with comparison table and screenshots of what the sites look like and how easy they are to use. It’s from 2008; don’t seem to have done one since. They rank the sites overall and talk about site useability and the market the site seems pitched at. I.e.; kids (young people) vs. adults.  Interesting rankings.

 PRINT PERFECTION: “Our platform handles the purchasing, management, and fulfillment your company’s branded swag.” Interesting to know about if you decide to go into the swag game with a vengeance. They handle merchandising and giveaways of “A wide variety of tools to help you easily run swag marketing campaigns:”

And now I hear from Valerie Douglas that YOLA.COM will set up a whole website store for you, for free, it looks like. Whoa.

You can explore these and do your own searches. I searched Google for “ZAZZLE, VISTA PRINT OTHER WHICH IS BETTER FOR MERCHANDISE STORE”

Here’s my experience with these places:

This is a handout for our "Holiday Potpourri at the Grange" I made the post on Photoshop and had reproduced as an 8" X 12" one-sheet and a big 20" by 30" image mounted on board for the sandwich board out front. CLICK THIS IMAGE: IT'S PRETTY FULL SIZE.

COSTCO PHOTO CENTER: I use this service on-line. The Photo section is separate from the rest of Costco. To get to it, sign in on your Costco account (which means you set up a password and give them your email),  and hit Costco Photo on the menu bar at top. You’ll be presented with a bewildering array of choices of stuff they make with photos.

I use them for BIG poster boards using my book covers. I display these at events and speaking engagements. (These are posters of my covers mounted to a stiff board. You can put them on easels or tripods or lean them against walls.) When I’m done speaking, I leave the big blow ups around my family room where I work. Seeing my covers writ large subconsciously reinforces that SOMETHING will come from my efforts.  We had a “literary salon”, an authors’, musicians’, and artist’s event, locally before Christmas. I made 2 of the 20 X 30″ versions of our announcement for sandwich boards outside the building. One is in my family room now. Again, makes it real.

If you want to make a poster, ask your book designer for a 16 X 20 @300 dpi version of the cover, or 20″ X 30″ if you’re feeling expansive. Some designers charge for this, others don’t. What you upload to COSTCO is what you get, so if upload a 16″ X 20″ image at 72 dpi or save a 72 dpi image at 300 thinking it will work, your image will look lousy printed, no matter who prints it.

CALENDARS AT COSTCO: They do really big, high quality calendars. I’ve ordered them for years, using the book de jour for the images. I use covers, photos of the characters and locations I’ve downloaded, new author photos, etc. This is more “Make it real”, but I love to look at my covers. A new image every month is great. Costco also allows you to customize individual days with photos and text. You can put hearts or your book’s heart-throb hero in on Valentines.  Or your real-life sweetie’s photo! Pictures of family members on their birthdays. For instance, I used a photo of my dad in uniform for Veteran’s Day. This type of customization is not particularly hard to do, just requires attention to detail.

If you do videos for your books, this is a terrific use of the images you produce for the videos. Make ‘em the photo of the month!

EASE OF USE of Costco’s photo system? Horrible. Drives me crazy. The size the COSTCO calendar I like has 14″ W X 11″ H images. What I upload has to be that size at 300 dpi to fill the calendar page. Books are typically 6″ X 9″ high, which means I have to use the high resolution poster size image and cut it down or do some fancy Photoshopping with the 6″ X 9″. Assembling the images takes forever, as does loading and arranging them on the calendar’s pages.

The way the Costco calendar system works, you create an album for each project. To upload, you click the album title and select the images. Then you have to select the album again when you upload the image(s), or it makes a new album. I forgot that second click every other time and ended up with about 8 or 9 albums, all with one or two pics in them. Took a while to figure out where my photos were, but I did. You can move the photos to the right album and delete the superfluous albums later, after you’ve found them.

So, steep learning curve. Products can be delivered to your local Costco warehouse in a week to ten days. No shipping with this option, and you don’t have to pay until you see and approve the calendar if you do this.

With all the hassle, I love my calendars and the pain of creating them fades quickly. The one I chose ended up costing $20 and change, including tax, picked up at my local Costco.

COSTCO ENLARGEMENTS: Easiest and cheapest I’ve seen. Upload at photos at home, order on line, pickup in the warehouse an HOUR later. I now use Costco enlargements of my cover images as the front of my press packets. Slick and NICE. I did an 8″ X 12″ One Sheet on Photoshop and printed it at Costco. It looks way better than one printed at a print shop: it’s a photo. Clear and distinct as clear can be.

With all it’s foibles, I love Costco, but haven’t used the other services as much. VISTAPRINT, ZAZZLE and the others also do calendars and enlargements. Maybe not big poster banners, but …

A BIG BUT–if you want to have a gallery or store from which you can sell the stuff you make, Costco doesn’t offer it. I use the calendars, etc. for my own use. Bears searching elsewhere.

ZAZZLE IS A TOP-RANKED CUSTOMIZABLE/CUSTOMIZED SUPPLIER OF ALMOST EVERYTHING THAT CAN BE PRINTED. They have lots of calendars, both to buy as is and to do up yourself. One pretty similar to the one I ordered from Costco (14″ X 11″ and customizable month image as well as special images for holidays) for $18.95 plus tax was $20.95 at ZAZZLE. It was shaped a bit differently, 11″ W X 17″ H, which is better for working with rectangular book covers. And you can mark them for sale when you design them.  And have your own store. Find out how on the site: search My Own Store. I think I’ll look into this, after plowing through all those evaluations on the sites way above. I don’t think you make much money with ZAZZLE, but set up is free and they DO handle merchandise well. How do I know?

Uh, my initial, well, my first two orders of my own stuff from ZAZZLE were a bust. Which is why I did my calendars with COSTCO rather than ZAZZLE. I ordered T-shirts for my family with my book covers on them for Christmas, having barely enough time before Christmas to get them for the holiday, my typical ordering style. ZAZZLE took the order, then contacted me a week or so later, saying they’d canceled it because I’d used copyrighted material.

Yeah, I had used copyrighted material. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL THAT I OWNED. I hold the copyrights to the books, their covers, and everything about them.  So, what’s the problem?

“Oh,” replied ZAZZLE, “no problem, now that you explained it. Order again and we’ll make and ship your shirts.” By this time, they couldn’t produce and ship the T-shirts by Christmas. Also, when I ordered the first time, the shirts were on 40 or 50% off. The sale was over when the snafu got cleared up. They offered me 15% off the second time around. Sorry, not good enough. Got my dander up.

DOING T-SHIRTS ON ZAZZLE: I would make sure I had plenty of time to get my images together, and carefully read Zazzle’s guidelines for image quality. I couldn’t find any more than “Use 300 dpi.” Maybe there’s more. Remember: they run sales all the time, so get 40 or 50% off when you order. If you miss a sale, you can get the next one.

With my next order, I will include a statement that I own the copyrights to my book covers.  I wrote a note to ZAZZLE after they cancelled my order, proving that I had the copyrights.  I put links to my Amazon page, my websites, my blogs and offered to send them screen shots of the books’ copyright pages and documentation from my designers that I held the copyrights. ZAZZLE said that was fine and agreed to do the T-shirts. Too late. If I order a T-shirt from them again, I will include all this at the start.

You can do the same, telling them what happened to me and that you don’t want our order delayed the same way. (You do own the the copyrights, don’t you? Different designers work in different ways. Note that this order was not for sale, just for gifts. I don’t have the right to make swag with the Mogollon cover. My contract with the model/actor on the cover precludes sale of the image on secondary products.)

QUALITY OF T-SHIRTS ON ZAZZLE: I knew about the quality of custom T-shirts from ZAZZLE, having ordered a T-shirt for my husband from them. Wendy Potocki had some wonderful shirts designed her Halloweenpaloosa promotion in October.   I ordered a shirt from that promotion from ZAZZLE, and put the cover of my Vanessa Schierman PhD, WITCH, on the back. Vanessa Schierman PhD, WITCH was my long short-story contribution to Wendy’s promo. If you click Vanessa, you’ll be taken to my website, where you can download the short story I wrote for Wendy’s promo for free. It’s cool. I’m going to augment it with more short stories over the year, hopefully generating a book.

ZAZZLE did a high quality T-shirt with a great printing job.

These are the first mugs that arrived from Zazzle. Print is so bad you can't read it. Images are blurred and the wrong colors.

MUGS FROM ZAZZLE: Another painful story. Also for Christmas gifts, I ordered porcelain mugs with images from my book covers on them.

I LOVE PORCELAIN MUGS! So much lighter and more elegant than those honkin’ earthenware ones that break your arm to lift and chip if you look at them. ZAZZLE has some really pretty porcelain mugs that you can customize with your own images. If you order during a 50% off sale, they’re a great buy.

I put together an order for my family and uploaded it, Photoshopping up some images of the right size and resolution. Very quickly, THE THINGS arrived. They were my mugs, but with distorted colors, illegible print, smears in the design. The physical porcelain mugs were GREAT, but the artwork was mangled.

I complained and asked for a refund. Didn’t want to go through another round of the above, so I asked for my money back. This takes way longer than a store credit, but I didn’t want to try again.

By pure happenstance, my description of what was wrong with the mugs and why I wanted my money back specifically outlined their problems. I waited for my refund, arms crossed, toes tapping.

They sent me a whole new order and they were perfect! And in time for Christmas, too! Which made me think, “Why didn’t you do this the first time?”

If I were to order porcelain (also known as fine bone China) mugs again or ANY mugs, which I would, I’d put a note in my order: Please make sure the print is legible and colors and the design are not distorted. I’d tell the story of my first order right off. And also tell them that I had the copyrights.

I learned about design from this. My first few mugs I designed with the specified 3.25″ high X 3.25″ W image and applied it one on one side of the design area. Since book covers are 6″ X 9″, the 3.25″ corresponded to the 9″ high dimension, the reduced size graphic was narrower than 3.25″– about 2.2″ wide by the 3.25″ high.

After doing a few pieces with single images, I discovered somewhere on the ZAZZLE site that I could use a 7.25″ W X 3.25″ H image on the mug I was using. After that, I Photoshopped a 7.25″ W X 3.25″ H canvas  and put TWO images on it, pushing them to the outside of the 7.25″ canvas. Loaded, that gives you an image on the mug’s front and back, very slick. You can use the same image, different ones, or two colorways of one cover. Ultra cool.

I’d definitely use ZAZZLE for T-shirts and mugs, with the caveats noted.

VISTAPRINT is another highly rated purveyor of customized print materials. I’ve used Vistaprint for One Sheets (single one-page sell sheets) for my books and for post cards. Both were adequate. I’ve also used Tu-Vets (they’ve since retired) and SIMPLY BROCHURES. They were AMAZING… HEAVY PAPER, GLOSSY BOTH SIDES, killer color. Way better quality cost way way more than Vistaprint. Unfortunately, you had to order A LOT. Vistaprint was fine for the small jobs and I didn’t end up with 500 extra copies.

I tried to used VISTAPRINT for T-shirts after my fiasco with ZAZZLE. I found that they had LOTS of information about the graphics that should be supplied for the T-shits and templates for the images. I didn’t find these on ZAZZLE and thought that I might not have had the problem with the mugs had ZAZZLE included stuff about CMYK color instead of RGB.

Whatever. I found VISTAPRINT specified the image for the T-shirt had to be 12″ X 12″ CMYK color, and 300 dpi. OK. Book covers are 6″ X 9″. You may have a poster size you can cut down, but you’re going to have to do some major surgery, including butchering its design, to get your cover to 12 X 12. I designed one T-shirt out of about 10 that I wanted to order and gave up. It sat in my shopping cart until Vistaprint removed it. (Checking, it’s STILL there.)

Well,  having created another monster blog post which doesn’t fully cover the subject, I’m going to wind down. What was the subject?

What does having a store on one’s website or anywhere do for an author’s career? Does such a store even make sense? My interest in my book covers is likely to be higher than anyone else in the universe’s. Does a demand for T-shirts with Leroy Watches’ image on it, or Will Duane’s, or Elizabeth Bright Eagle’s exist?

Did my relatives even appreciate the mugs I gave them? Would they order calendars or mouse pads or mugs or anything else I might turn out if they didn’t know me? If they did?

That is the question, as is: Does the investment in time to get all this stuff set up pay off in monetary reward? Don’t have the answers, but if you have more experience, I look forward to hearing for you.

Ciao,
Sandy Nathan my website
my interactive website
my FB author page
my Amazon Author page

Yoo-hooo! Calling my Tribe – Where Are Youuuu?

MY PLATFORM AND HOW I GOT IT

I received a message from a fellow author wanting to know how I, as a successful person (and assumed, successful author) built my platform. She loved what I was doing and asked for advice on what to do to gather her own tribe and have her message resonate with potential readers. She mentioned a bunch of stuff she was doing, in addition to writing her book and sharing it widely. What else should she be doing?

I thought to myself, I can answer this in two ways: Give her the truth, or make up a bunch of **** and sell it as a seminar.

Truth or consequences? I may end up doing both, but I’ll start by telling the truth. Here’s the basic question, authors: If you aren’t already making a living with your writing, do you need to for some reason? Some people make big bucks as authors. That’s cool. But if you are struggling to make a living with your writing, thinking any day will be the big break through––I would suggest that you change professions. That’s even if you did take a course on following your dream and living your passion. Writing is just a dismal, hard way to earn a buck. I wrote a blog article somewhere about the tens of thousands of Bureau of Labor Statistics job categories that will earn you more than writing. Pick one of those and do your scribbling in your spare time.

If you already make tons of money with your writing, cool. If you don’t currently rake in the dough and don’t need to make a living with your writing, you won the jackpot. You can have lots of fun without spending too much, and maybe make some money, if you pay attention to what I say below. If you don’t pay attention, you’ll end up crazy, just like authors trying to make living at the dismal occupation. (The unofficial name for economics is “the dismal science.” It’s not as dismal as writing.)

I used to be an economist. It was easy: just earn straight As for at least a BS and an MS, and a PhD if you can. (Though I only did a year of the PhD.) While in school, wow your professors with your erudite and insightful grasp of the subject, so that they enthusiastically recommend you to their friends, who are in a position to hire you. (Remember the days when a person got out of school and there were jobs?) After getting a job, I found success was a simple matter of analyzing the **** out of whatever my bosses pointed me at. And presenting it at professional meetings and to local governments. I did that, and my bosses loved me and so did their bosses, and even people like the economists and analysts at the RAND Corporation and National Science Foundation. Easy peasy.

Not so with writing as a career. The woman who asked me “What do you do to build your platform?” does not want to know what I did to succeed or for how many years I did it. I did everything any writing pundit, no matter how obscure, said, for years and years. Enough so that when the IRS audited our literary adventure and I told them what I had done to be a commercially successful author, they fell to their knees, sobbing, “Oh, you poor baby.” No, the IRS does not do that. But we won. Anyway, I did everything that the major books about what you should do to succeed as a writer say.

After years of study and doing everything, I have formed the following basic principles about succeeding as an author that I’d like to share with you. Buckle your seat belts, compadres: my maxims pack a wallop. (I wrote this yesterday when I was in a feisty, facetious, and, indeed, flippant mood. Perhaps too flippant. I’m going over this today to make sure I said what I really meant and to clarify where needed. This “turn all the rules on their heads” model is new to me. I’ve tried it in previous years, often for days at a time But I always fell back into the crazed maw of obsession with sales that is the publishing world. Well, the worm-ette has turned. I’m going for what feeds me. And that’s below:)

1. FORGET YOUR MARKET. ALSO FORGET YOUR TRIBE. THINK ABOUT YOURSELF.
All the marketing/authoring pundits say the opposite. Great. They aren’t you and they don’t live in your skin. If you feel lousy because you’re hanging your well-being on your Klout score, your writing will stink. I need to amplify that.

Of course you want your work to succeed and you want profession friends and buddies. Of course you want to show up effectively in whatever genre you write. But at what cost? Your individuality? Your soul? Do you want to sound like everyone else–”Grow your tribe.” “Establish your platform.” Do you want to lose yourself running from one pub-guru to another? This is funny, because I’ve been self-pubbing since 2006. Most of the dudes giving the classes and seminars had not heard of independent authors or presses then. There’s a scene in my book Stepping off the Edge where I’m in Mark Victor Hansen’s huge MEGA Selling University. The MEGA University is reduced to a set of CDs now, but it was a big deal when I took it. In that scene, an editor from a Major Publisher speaks, and the floor tilts toward her as thousands of publication-lust-maddened wannabe authors stampede toward her … The scene captures the world in which independent and traditionally published authors find themselves as well as I could capture it.

I am going to be extremely snobby and judgmental for a bit. I write visionary fiction (Amazon calls it Metaphysical Science Fiction and Fantasy. Amazon will call it whatever wants. That’s the thing about a monopoly.) To me, visionary fiction is fiction–made up stories–with a moral core. That means that right and wrong, good and evil, exist and the book is about the struggle for right over might. Doesn’t mean good will win. In addition to having a moral core, my kind of visionary fiction features at least a few characters who reach a higher level of human development. I don’t go so far as some writers in positing that the species elevates to the woo-woo sphere, because I see no empirical evidence that our species is on anything but a dive into the nasty. But to be my kind of visionary fiction, some people in the book grow in spirit and consciousness.

This type of writing is more demanding of the writer than, say chick-lit (Most likely. I’ve never written chick-lit, nor have I written romance or other addiction-based genres. Yes, that’s judgmental.). My soul writes my books and does everything else for me. For this to work, my soul must be cleaned up so that it coughs up verbal sparkles of enlightenment, rather than dirt clods. Chiefly, this means taming my major addictions and being whole spiritually. What does this mean in concrete terms?

This is what I feel like if I’m in good shape spiritually: I feel the outlines of my body, a solid core. I feel my heart beating. It radiates, light, love and good will. That’s what hearts do. It’s state pulsates outward. I feel my chakras, those pesky energy centers that no one can see but are there anyway, lined up from my tail-bone to the crown of my head. My energy is pulsating and I can feel all of it.

Nothing disturbs my equanimity, my peace. I’m not reaching out trying to grab for something, living in a state of lust. I’m not attached to getting anything, nor am running in terror or any kind of aversion from anything in my world. I am free and blissful.

“Detached from aversion and attraction, the yogi lives in peace with a silent mind.” (The Bhagavad Gita says something like this. Google wouldn’t find it for me.)

You can write some killer visionary fiction from that state. Any kind of fiction or nonfiction, too. My Stepping off the Edge, a cross-genre nonfiction memoir/self help for writers and everyone else, was written in that state and higher. (Meditative states have an infinite up side.) I expect that regular writers do their best work from that sailing “wheeeee” that accompanies the state I just described.

Say I read a  book or go to a seminar and someone tells me that I have to find my tribe and grow it and have a brand and follow the hottest, sure-fire marketing plan? How about I start charting my daily sales figures and looking at my website stats all the time? What if I read all the writers’ blogs and FB threads about everything I have to do to be a writer? What happens?

I lost my tribe, before I found them. And my sales . . .

My chakras deflate in an instant. If I’m hanging on people, numbers, friends, or likes, I cripple myself as a writer of spiritual fiction or any kind of work that requires “soul clarity and truthfulness.” I might be able to cough up a salable book or two, but they won’t be of a caliber that will satisfy any spiritually developed person. Spirit sings. Also spreads its bliss.

Think about yourself. This upside-down thinking is new to me. I used to play “She with the most FB Friends wins.” “Every five-star review is a step closer to heaven.” I used to get really upset if my books didn’t sell the way I thought they should. In other words, I used to think marketing, platform, selling first, and Sandy second, or maybe fifth. What I did with that was run that racket hard enough to make myself sick.

Not too long ago, I was a mess. My hands hurt. Thumbs most, but a good writing session on the computer will cause everything, including my pinkies, to howl.  My hands are well on their way to being wrecked from spending so much time on my iMac. Not too long ago, my brain was fried. I was crabby, and exhausted. Snapping at everyone, mostly my dear husband. I thought obsessively of going to Venice, the one in Italy, not the one near Los Angeles. I wanted to escape.

About a week ago, I made the inner flip that resulted in what you’re reading here. I’m changing my behavior so that how my body feels and the joy I feel with my profession is the barometer to success. I want those chakras flaming! Spinning! Frolicking! And I want to write and sell a lot, too.

How does my brave new world work, relative to the opposite? I have no clue, other than to say that I had just made the transition to putting my soul and my physical well-being first when that stranger-to-me author contacted me about my great platform. Just a coincidence?

WHY YOU SHOULD BE INTERESTED IN SPIRIT I started making these Maxim cards when putting out the second edition of Stepping off the Edge. The book bristles with these pithy bits. I may make a picture book out of them, ir some on-line, subscription presentation. Who knows. Was this the result of building on my book's platform? Was it part of my marketing program? No. The idea just came to me. It's a good one. If people can't/don't get my book with words, they'll get it with pictures.

2. LEARN TO WRITE
Looks like this will be a series of articles. This particular article is I’m already at 2,900 words, but I can’t quit without adding this crucial bit about writing books that get read. I have more than 700 books on my Kindle. Most of them I got through BookBub, ENT, Blurb-a-minute, or Read-Me-or-I’ll-Die–the emailed, juried lists of new, cheap, or free books that fill our in-boxes every day. Those arbiters of mass taste and harbingers of our success as authors are hard to get on. You may have to beg, as my friend Consuelo illustrates here, but it’s worth it for what they can do to your sales, often for a week or more.

So, as a self-pubbed author, you devise the perfect book cover and two sentence blurb, hustle up fifty great reviews (this requires magic, black or white–whatever works) and you are accepted by one of the big book advertising sites. By some trick of fate, I see the ad and your efforts snag my attention for the approximate ten seconds needed to download your tome. I get it. And forget it. I’ve already downloaded 700 books. But say I open your book for some reason.

I read two pages. Blecch. Delete. Bad writing shows up that fast. A book has to  hook me in a page or it’s off my Kindle.

Writing fiction is not the same as professional or academic writing. I did LOTS of both. Here’s an example from a study I participated in with the RAND Corporation. (My previous married name was Tapella.) Here’s an amazing example of academic writing from my MS thesis in economics: 

“The determination of the cost of sprawl is based on the differing responses of service providers to increased demand for services from contiguous and noncontinuous new urbanization.”

That was an easy sentence compared to some in that thesis. If you’re going to have anyone read your stuff, it can’t sound like that. (However, that sentence and many more like it got a master’s degree that got me a job that earned me more than 90% of the population of female workers, including writers. So, go figure.)

Though I’m pleased with the way my work reads now (and so are my reviewers), it took me nineteen years to attain that proficiency. In 1995, I had the big YOWSER spiritual experience that I write about in my Author’s Notes that started me writing full time. From there, it was work, work, work. I was in one writing group run by a local poet for nine years. It petered out and I joined a group of traditionally-published professional writers led by a professor of literature for two years. (In the following article, when we discuss controlling your PTSD in writing groups, I’ll go into this more.)

After eleven years in writing groups–let that sink in: eleven years–I had a giant breakthrough and met my current editor. She is reputed to be a niece of Freya, the Norse Goddess of War, and does her edits with a golden machete. I love her. She’s tougher than the lit professor was and does not let an extra word slip by. It’s all: action, action, one word of dialogue, then climactic action. That’s the modern novel. She delivers the manuscripts she has dissected in such a kind way that I seldom sob for more than an hour after receiving an edit back. I’ve been working with her for eight years. I don’t claim to be the best writer in the world, but what I’ve become, I owe to her. I’ve internalized her voice, so that when I begin to write words like “price elasticity of demand,” my fingers refuse to type.

So, if you spend nineteen years working on your writing and learn to throw out everything but verbs, you may develop a writing style that guarantees success.

In future articles I will divulge my other secrets.

All the best! Don’t forget: put yourself first! If you feel lousy, your work will stink.

Sandy Nathan: Remember, You Come First

Sandy Nathan
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WHERE’S MY TRIBE? THE SERIES YOU WISH YOU’D READ FIRST.

This lil’ article kicked up a fire storm for me. Here are a few topics for later posts:

  • TO RESONATE WITH YOUR POTENTIAL READERS, JUST RESONATE. They’ll find you.
  • FORGET FOCUS GROUPS AND BETA READERS AND MOST PARTICIPATION ON LINE. Don’t forget editors, copy editors, and proofreaders.
  • DON’T BE AN IDIOT. If it seems too good to be true, it is. This is a predatory industry. Lots of people want to take your money to help you with your book. They’ll promise anything to get it.
  • IF YOU HATED SENDING IT OUT, OTHER PEOPLE HATE RECEIVING IT.
  • GIVE UP YOUR MESSAGE. Whatever your message is–save the planet, get everyone enlightened, treat the breweries right, kill the immigrants, or a least their parents (these are real messages I’ve seen on FB)–it is wrecking your writing. Stop it. Or write your message out it full, put it in a drawer, and write something else. If you have a real message, it will come through your words without effort or thought on your part. I have a great example here using my Earth’s End sci-fi trilogy. When I dropped my message, the writing sizzled.
  • DON’T PARTICIPATE IN SOCIAL MEDIA TO “FIND YOUR TRIBE.”  Finding your tribe is a good concept: connect with people similar to you who like the same stuff. Maybe you can help each other, or, if not, have a good time. How many people are currently selling seminars, running FB groups, or trying to teach you to “find your tribe”? The tribal concept is overdone, like vampires. Time has come and gone for tribes and bloodsuckers.
  • DON’T PRETEND YOU’RE INTERACTING WITH PEOPLE ON-LINE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO BE FRIENDS AND YOU CARE ABOUT THEM. YOU WANT THEM TO BUY YOUR BOOK: THE FRIENDS BUSINESS IS A PLOY. ONCE YOU’RE HONEST ABOUT THAT, THE POSSIBILITY THAT THEY MIGHT REALLY BECOME FRIENDS OPENS UP. MAYBE THEY’LL EVEN BUY SOMETHING OF YOURS. Pretending to be friends to get someone to buy your book is phoney and rude.
  • HOW TO HAVE A GIGANTIC TWITTER PRESENCE EASILY. I have about 6,700 Twitter followers. A famous author found out about that and wrote to me, ecstatic. “Oh, you have such an amazing Twitter presence.” She still didn’t give a blurb for my book.
  • THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT: MAKE IT BEAUTIFUL! THAT’S MY PLATFORM. BEAUTIFUL WORK, BEAUTIFULLY PRESENTED AND ILLUSTRATED. WITH BEAUTIFUL VIDEOS, COVERS, BOOKMARKS, NAPKINS AND MATCHING TOOTHPICKS. Whatever is associated with the book should be beautiful. Beauty attracts.

 

 

 

Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul – Coming at you!

Are you ready to step off the edge?

Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul  is the new edition of my spiritual classic. Why should you be interested in Stepping off the Edge? Do you have an on-line addiction that is threatening your job, relationship, and sanity? Do you feel that you don’t know who you really are–in the big sense of  what you’re doing on the planet and in the little sense of why am I here? In Podunkwalla USA? In this skin and particular life? Have you lost something important–a spouse or kids or everything you owned? Is life a pain, or even worse, dull as sawdust? Would you like to go somewhere where you could learn something worth learning with people worth knowing?

I have just outlined what’s in my book and why it’s for you. Stepping off the Edge is a roadmap for navigating the hardest, most important journey you’ll ever make: your life. I wrote Stepping because I wanted to share what I did that facilitated my life working out. The book is a memoir, a very personal series of stories and vignettes that illustrate spiritual principles. It’s not a text book, though it does contain theoretical material. It’s not a how to book, but it does contain exercises you can use to apply concepts. Above all, it’s not a 1, 2, 3 guide to how to be spiritual. I don’t sit you down and teach you how to meditate or pray. (Some things, a person has to figure out for herself.)

My life has worked out and that’s my primary credential in writing this book. I’m sixty eight years old and an happy! That may be the most important thing. I’m happy, content, and in love with my husband of forty years. I love my work–writing for you–and live a beautiful California horse ranch surrounded by animals and people I love.

LINDENWOOD-GATES

These are the gates to the estate on which my family lived. We didn't own the whole thing, it had been subdivided years before. We had an acre of paradise.

My life wasn’t always like that. When I was eighteen, my father was brutally slain by a drunk driver. At that time, I had a charmed existence. My parents owned the tenth largest residential construction company in the USA. We lived in what is now the third most affluent town in the country. I showed horses and water skied on weekends.

Within months of my father’s death, I lived in a tiny apartment at below poverty income. I won’t talk about how that happened, but it did. My brain still thought I was upper class, Why aren’t you doing more charity work, Sandy?

I was seriously depressed for a decade after my father’s death. I didn’t know it and it didn’t slow my down; I earned two master’s degrees and part of a PhD. I was the Santa Clara County economic analyst. Big titles, big jobs, while my soul labored to keep me moving and darkness drifted just out of sight.

Angst

Darkness nipped at me

A huge breakthrough occurred when I attended one of the giant enlightenment seminars during the 1970s. One of the participants wore a blanket around her hunch shoulders. She shuddered and cried the entire weekend, a living plea for help. The seminar leader gave it to her, stripping her to her truth. He showed her and everyone else that she was identified with physical illness and in love with the attention she got as a sick person. He also helped her expose what her sick act had cost her: a husband had walked out on her; she’d lost her kids. She got it, at least then.

Some people really have sickness down. They may be "sick" all their lives, eighty five years or so

Some people really have sickness down. They may be "sick" all their lives, oh, eighty five years or so.

Someone in my life was like that. I had assumed that her “sick act” was as immutable as the fabric of the universe. A Mount Rushmore of the soul. I was also forbidden to feel/express any resentment or be anything but kind and empathetic. The seminar leader showed me that the woman’s behavior was an act, an unconscious but very powerful role that had taken over her life.  As an act and not the real her, it could be changed. I saw. Even if that person who was impacting me so much couldn’t change, I could. 

How did I get from that moment to now? It’s all in Stepping off the Edge Took thirty-nine years. I did everything from getting an MA in Marriage, Family and Child Counseling to spending thirty years with a meditation school based in India, to coaching negotiations at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford, to working on myself every way I could.  Stepping contains the fruit of my spiritual pilgrimage.

I’m pulling out the stops in getting the word out about Stepping. You can buy it as a paperback and as an eBook very soon. I’m puttin’ the message out in other ways, via Facebook albums and Pinterest boards and who knows what else I’ll think of. These new social media offer terrific ways of sharing content and giving readers a very clear look at what a book is about. Like this:

Bliss accompanies spirit. If you're thinking about studying with someone don't feel blissful around him or her, you're in the wrong place.

My intent is to get  your attention. What Stepping is about is very important: you and who you really are. Want another teaching aide? Check this out. I’m having a bunch of these “Maxim Cards” made up on key points from Stepping. The three presented here deal with the basic issue: What is spirituality? What is spiritual? I’ve got cards made up in nine other areas, ranging from What is your true identity? To How to establish a personal spiritual practice? All the way to Spiritual traps and dealing with evil.

I like things presented so everyone can understand them. Take a living person. Then look at a dead one. The difference is spirit. No spirit, no life.

One of the things about being an older person is you know you don’t have forever to do whatever you came to this earth to do. That’s one reason I’m putting the new version of Stepping off the Edge. It’s behind my push to get these materials to you. They’re beautiful, impactful teaching aides giving you jewels of spiritual exploration. What do they cost? Nothing, at the moment. I am discussing selling them with a retailer. So, download while you can. Contemplate and apply always.

How to you fully experience your spiritual nature? Contemplation–attention fixed on an object–is a very good start.

Want more than pictures? How about music, color and movement? A video! Let this run through once to buffer. It’s HD so you can watch it full screen. Enjoy!

 

Here’s where you find these Maxims from Stepping off the Edge: A Roadmap for the Soul:

Sandy Nathan/Vilasa Press on Facebook, my professional page:   My albums from Vilasa Press. All the Maxims are in there. Please “Like” my page!

Sandy Nathan/Author on Facebook, my personal page:   My albums. Lots of them. You can look through the ones on Stepping and all the rest. If we aren’t FB friends, send me a Friend request and I’ll Friend you.

My Pinterest boards are here. The Maxims have boards of their own and you’ll find lots of other interesting stuff. Feel free to borrow and repin.

All the best,   [I'm not quite sure what the Facebook badge below does. May take you somewhere where you can get to the Maxims faster. Below the badge is some info about Stepping off the Edge. What it's won in contests and so on.]

Sandy Nathan

Promote Your Page Too

The text of the second edition of Stepping isn’t much different that the first edition. I didn’t change the book very much for a bunch of reasons. Reading it again told me that nothing has changed; in fact, spiritual life has gotten much worse for many people in the last. More on-line addiction, more seeking and striving and killing one’s dear self to attain success as a commercial writer, more of everything I talked about back in 2007 when the first Stepping came out. What’s to change?

Also, not many people read or even heard of Stepping off the Edge, even though it won the most prestigious awards of my multi-award winning books. When the first Stepping was pubished, it won:

  • 2007 Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist in New Age (Spirituality/Metaphysics)
  • Bronze Medal Winner in Self Help, 2007 IPPY (Independent Press) Awards
  • National Indie Excellence Awards 2007: Finalist in THREE Categories: Autobiography/Memoir, New Age Non-Fiction & Spirituality.
  • Best Books of 2007, USA Book News, Finalist in Autobiography/Memoir

The Benjamin Franklin Awards and IPPY Awards are probably the most prestigious, largest, and oldest contests for independently produced books. This was my first book and I didn’t realize what a big deal those wins were. Now I do.

For more about the original Stepping off the Edge, check out my website.

 

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