10 tips to work from home and get stuff done…

This isn’t my office…

Working from home. It’s the dream, right?

You lie in bed until five minutes before you’re due to log into work and then spend your day in your pyjamas while you are working. Yeah, that doesn’t work for me.

These days I work completely from home – juggling part-time hours in my partition job (remote work back to Sydney), with my fiction writing, astro writing, and content creation/ marketing. The thing is, I’m not naturally disciplined – I need the commitment to a routine in order to get anything accomplished. It’s a boundary thing.

Anyways, here are my tips to working from home and getting stuff done.

  1. Have a work routine

Just as if you had to get up, get dressed and commute to work, set a repeatable routine for yourself.

In Sydney, my alarm would go off at 5.30am so I could leave for the bus at 6.20am, to be in the city for coffee by 8 and at my desk and working before 8.30

These days, my alarm still goes off at that time, but I head down to the beach for a walk.

I’m still at my desk and working by 8.30, but I’ve had some exercise and fresh air as well. Hashtag winning.

  1. Get dressed

Yes, get out of your pjs. You don’t have to dress up and do the make-up thing, but getting dressed is you telling yourself that you mean business. It’s part of the ritual of going to work.

  1. Go to work

I’m lucky in that I have a dedicated office slightly away from the rest of the house –up 5 stairs. When I go to work, that’s what I’m doing. If you don’t have your own space, dedicate an area to your work zone. It doesn’t need to be huge, but it does need to be where you work. It’s a symbolic thing.

Of course, going to work could mean picking up your laptop and escaping to the nearest coffee shop, park, beach, or whatever. I do that too – especially if I need to change my headspace from partition to creative.

  1. Implement a reasonable internet use policy

Just as you have a reasonable internet use policy in the office, do the same when you’re working for yourself or at home. If it would be unacceptable to sit on Facebook all day while you’re in the partition, why is it ok to waste your working hours on it at home?

Naturally, the exceptions are if you’re on there for genuine research purposes, or for social media marketing/ content scheduling.

  1. Take regular breaks

Although the temptation might be to work through, make sure you completely stop for a lunch break. If you’d normally have a sandwich and a walk during your lunch hour, do this at home too. Just stop – for at least 30 minutes.

  1. Stock your pantry

If you don’t want your lunch hour spreading into a lunch 2 hours, have your pantry (or freezer) stocked with lunch options.

  1. Clock off

Again, because you’re at home, it’s way too easy to just keep working. Set a knock-off time and stick to it. Of course, the exceptions are deadlines and those amazing days when the words are flowing easily – but for all other times, close the laptop at the end of your designated working day.

  1. Put a full stop under the day

If you were commuting, you’d usually have a period of time between the end of the work day and the beginning of home time. Do the same here. Whether it’s taking the dog for a walk, relaxing with a book, pouring a glass of wine – whatever. Make a ritual of something that symbolises that your work day is done. I usually take the dog for a walk, or duck back down to the beach to watch the sunset. Then I come home and it’s time to make dinner.

  1. Set boundaries

By far, the hardest part of working from home is persuading others that you’re working from home.

My husband isn’t working at the moment, so is home most of the time. At first he had a few issues with this concept.

‘But I never know if you’re working,’ he’d say.

‘If it’s Monday to Friday and I’m in the office, it’s safe to assume that I’m working,’ I’d reply.

‘But I don’t know whether you’re work working, or working on your stuff working,’ he’d say, the inference being that if I was work working ie back to Sydney being paid directly for what I do working, he wouldn’t interrupt me. Hmmmm.

  1. Maintain a schedule

Ok, this is one I struggle with at present. The work I do back to Sydney is the only income producing activity at present – we certainly can’t pay the bills on what I earn from my writing…yet. This means that although I start each week with a schedule of when I’ll be doing partition work and when I can work on anything else, if it has to change to squeeze more partition hours in or move them around – then that’s what I have to do.

Blogging gets squeezed in usually on the weekends, and I always find extra time over the weekend or in the evenings for my novel.

I break my days into three sections:

  1. Mornings 8.30- 12pm I’m most productive in the morning, so this is the best time for me to be doing partition work, and anything where I need a clear run.
  2. Pm 1: 1pm – 3pm I use this for any leftover partition hours
  3. Pm 2: 2.30 – 5.30pm

At present I’m working on converting some astro blog content to an ebook, and my latest novel – although it changes depending on whether I have any freelance work booked. In general I prioritise whatever is associated with actual now income rather than future income e.g. from next week I’ll be putting together my presentation for the RWA Conference.

Anyways, on an ideal week, my days might look something like:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
am Partition Partition Blog to book Partition Blog to Book
pm 1 Partition Partition Novel Partition Explore & lunch
pm 2 Blog to book Novel Novel Blog to book content scheduling/ admin

What about you? Do you work from home? How do you get stuff done?

An interview with…Samantha Wood

 

Last week I went all out and brought you an interview with me. This week I’m talking to someone who isn’t me – and yes, I’m aware of just how that sounds!

So, without further ado, allow me to introduce you to Samantha Wood. Her novel Bay of Shadows is available now and, spoiler alert, we share an editor…

Ok, so we can get to know each other a little better, do you have a specific genre that you write in?

Ooh, tricky one. My first book was a travel memoir, but this one is ‘gothic noir’, which sounds decidedly mysterious. My readers have called it a psychological thriller – I quite like the sound of that!

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you manage or schedule your writing around it?

I do have a day job, but I’ve been on long service leave for three months now so it feels like a lifetime ago. I work remotely for a company called Access Innovation Media – they provide captioning for television and live events so that the Deaf and hard of hearing can have access to content. I come from a Deaf family so it’s really special to be involved in the bigger picture, so to speak. (And I get to work from home in my trackies.) It’s a struggle to schedule my writing around full-time work but somehow I manage, even if it’s only a few words here and there.

Where do you write? Office, coffee shop, all of the above?

Well, I moved my office lock, stock and barrel into the garage – which also doubles as my pottery studio – but whenever I’m in Melbourne I love to haunt the State Library of Victoria. I think it’s the smell of all those old books – it is like catnip for us authors! There is so much inspiration in that beautiful place. I write most of my notes in coffee shops or outdoors – anywhere or anytime ideas strike.

What about notes? Are you old school – eg journals or manual notes – or new, ie digital?

I’m old school when it comes to notes. I also have a slight obsession with notebooks so have about six on the go at any one time. They all have different purposes: blog notes, marketing schedules, story ideas; they’re also a good way of posting my progress – or lack thereof – on Instagram for whatever project I may be working on at the time.

What made you decide to go indie?

I got sick of waiting! I’d finished the manuscript for THE BAY OF SHADOWS back in April 2016, did a big mail-out to publishers and agents alike, then waited. And waited…and waited. I got a few responses from different publishing houses saying they loved the story and would get back to me in due course. By November of that year I still hadn’t heard back from anyone so, on a suggestion from my wonderful editor, I went down the indie road, and never looked back.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

Absolutely everything! When I published late last year I had no idea about author platforms or marketing strategies – I didn’t even know what SEO stood for. The past six months have been a monumental learning curve and while it has been exhausting at times, it has been a wild ride.

Any regrets? Things you wish that you’d known or would have done differently?

Probably that I waited so long to do this, although having said that, nothing happens until the timing is right. I had the mind-set that being traditionally published was the only way to go, but going down the indie route has given me so much freedom to do things my way – from the cover design of THE BAY OF SHADOWS to the design of my website and my social media platforms; I don’t think I would have found my voice as an author if I’d secured a publishing deal from the outset. As someone mentioned to me years ago, “That’s my name on the shingle above the door,” and they were right. As an author I’m a brand so I know how best to represent myself. (And maybe I’m a secret control freak after all!)

What about your team? Do you use the same team each time?

I use the same team every time for one very important reason: they are AMAZING! Nicola O’Shea has been my editor for many years and apart from being one of the best editors anywhere, she is also a beautiful human being. Keith Stevenson does the formatting for all my books, and is also exceptional. They can both be found at ebookedit. Xou Creative did my wonderful cover design and I have all my proofreading done by Pauline at In The Garret Writing Services. My friend Mark Flores at Falcon Creative does all my video production.

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, definitely a pantser. I wish I was a plotter – they seem to have it far more together than I do.

Your desk – messy or neat? Care to share a photo?

Ah, somewhere in between. See the insulation at the back is a lovely touch.

Coffee or tea…or something else?

Coffee – as my Instagram page will attest – so so much coffee.

Music? Or do you prefer to work in silence?

I love music but I’m so easily distracted that it has to be silence. I’d even started putting in my earplugs but that was the kind of silence that was so absolute that you start to wonder if you’re still alive! The garage is down the bottom of the garden so it’s really quiet down there.

What are you working on right now?

I’m working on the rewrite of my next novel UNDER TEN THOUSAND STARS which is going back to my editor in August. I’ve had a couple of weeks away from it so I can’t wait to get stuck back in. Wish me luck!

Good luck…and thank you!

Bay of Shadows is available now on Amazon.

If you want to know more about Samantha and her books, you can find her here:

Samantha’s website

Samantha on Facebook

Samantha on Instagram

If you want to know more about Samantha’s team:

Ebookedit

Falcon Creative 

Xou Creative 

Pauline @ In the Garret Writing and Editorial Services – paulineprivate5@gmail.com

An interview…with me!

Over the next few months – or longer – I’ll be bringing you interviews with other indie authors or indie publishers. To get the ball rolling, I figured I’d interview myself!

 Ok, so we can get to know each other a little better, do you have a specific genre that you write in?

Absolutely…chick lit…women’s fiction…call it what you will.

Do you have a day job? If so, how do you manage or schedule your writing around it?

I do. I remotely work back to Sydney. I’m part-time, so 3 days a week I’m on spread-sheets and processes, and the other 2 days (plus whatever time I can grab on a weekend) I have for fiction. I make the absolute most of that time.

When I lived in Sydney and was working in the city 4 days a week, I’d get up at 5am and write for 45mins before I had to get ready for work – and then again every night. It all feels so much more balanced now.

Where do you write? Office, coffee shop, all of the above?

I write in my home office, sitting up in bed (promise you won’t tell my chiropractor), and also down at our local surf club at least one afternoon a week. Why wouldn’t you with this view.

What about notes? Are you old school – eg journals or manual notes – or new, ie digital?

For notes, I keep a journal that I write messily in. I’m in the process of organising my notes into bullet journal format (I wrote about that here) – and that, I think, is going to change my life #notexaggerating

What made you decide to go indie?

I’ve written about that before – you can find the post here. Essentially it boils down to creative control. Thinking about recently when I trashed my novel and decided to turn it into 3 novelettes, there’s no way a traditional publisher who had accepted my original pitch would have allowed me to do what I’m doing.

My next projects are a huge departure from what I’ve done before too – being an indie gives me the ability to take my career in the direction that I want it to go – for better or for worse.

What has been your biggest learning so far?

This whole thing has been a huge learning curve, but my biggest takeaway is that indie publishing is absolutely not about overnight success. I thought I knew that, but I’m not sure that I knew it…if you know what I mean.

Any regrets? Things you wish that you’d known or would have done differently?

No regrets. They don’t work (to quote Robbie Williams). The thing I wish I knew? Just how important an email list and social media platform is.

What about your team? Do you use the same team each time?

I do. I use Nicola O’Shea for my editorial work, and Keith Stevenson for formatting. You can find them at ebookedit. I also use the same cover designer – Jacinda May.

Plotter or pantser?

Pantser, although, for my next project (no spoiler alert) I’m going to need to learn how to plot…at least a little…

 Your desk – messy or neat? Care to share a photo?

I’m trying to be neat at present. My office is right near the front door, so visible to anyone coming into our house. Plus, I’m juggling partition with creative work, so need the clean lines of division. I even use 2 separate laptops. The one constant is my muse – Kali, @adventurespaniel

Coffee or tea…or something else?

Tea…or wine!

Music? Or do you prefer to work in silence?

I create playlists – or mixed tapes – for each project I work on. This really helps with re-writes. When I’m writing, though, I pop my headphones on and play anything from the classics to indie songwriters.

What are you working on right now?

The I Want You Back trilogy. I’m about to start the re-write and can’t wait to get stuck back into it.

What I’m working on…

After trashing my book (remember, I told you about it here), I’ve put it back together enough that it’s now gone off to my editor for a structural look-see. Rather than do a full structural edit, at this point it’s about working out whether I’m on the right track.

You see, what I’m doing with this one is splitting it into three short novels – almost novellas in length. They’ll each be around the 50,000 word mark – about the length of a Sydney commute. Because they’re three different stories occurring in the same timeframe, there are crossovers that I have to keep an eye on through the editing process of each.

Each character is not only telling her own story, but also giving her perspective into the story of the others. Confused already? You wouldn’t be alone. In drafting no.2 of this series (at the moment untitled, so I’m referring to it as Tiffany), I’ve already worked out at least three places where I Want You Back (Callie’s story) needs re-work and layering. Callie herself is still feeling a tad passive – so I suspect more will need to be made of her motivations.

Anyways, the plan is to release them all a month after each other – which essentially means that I’ll need at least two ready to go before the first is published.

Yes, that does put a certain amount of pressure on me. While I Want You Back is off getting the assessment treatment, Tiffany is being drafted. I’m giving myself just a month to do this.

What I’m discovering as part of this process is that in writing quickly, not only is my voice coming through more clearly, but I have less time to faff about and deliberate over whether I’m doing the right thing, or not being clever enough. I have less time to second guess myself.

Sure, it makes the reviewing process a nightmare, but as they say, you can’t edit words that haven’t been written.

As well as madly drafting Tiffany, I’m also building the story for Alice in my head and gathering ideas for the covers and titles.

These three books (or book-ettes) are sequels to Baby, It’s You, so not only do I want to keep the cover design the same, I also want to add that same feeling of light and fun to the cover.

In the month prior to release date of I Want You Back, I’ll run a special promotion on Baby, It’s You, as for the publication date itself? I’m aiming for September, but that will depend on how much work I need to do to get I Want You Back to publishable standard.

I’ll keep you posted on that one…

My writing playlist…

So anyways, you know how I told you last time that I’d trashed my novel and I was now writing three short novels – almost novella length? Well, it’s going well again – thanks for asking. It’s almost as if once I told Tiff and Alice that they’d have their own books – and wouldn’t need to wait for too long to get them – that they behaved. Now I can hear Callie loud and clear.

I can also hear Callie’s playlist – or mixed tape – more clearly – so of course I’m going to share it with you. Naturally, you can youtube or spotify or download or do whatever it is that you do to listen to music if you don’t know some of these songs. Some of you might be too young to know some of these songs – some of you won’t have even been born when a couple of these came out.

As an aside, I never knew that Manfred Mann’s Blinded By the Light was actually written by Bruce Springsteen. Now, there’s a little something for your useless book of knowledge. Yes, I was surprised too – not as surprised as I was to hear about real life zombie jellyfish, but that’s some trivia for another time. You’re welcome.

Ok, to the playlist for I Want You Back:

I Want You Back – Bananarama

Here With Me – Dido

Love Me Like You – Little Mix

Any Other World – Mika

Especially For You – Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan

When We Were Young – Adele

Busting Loose – Moving Pictures

Xanadu – Sarah Blasko

Hot Summer Night – Night

Blinded By The Light (the extended play version with the seriously funky guitar work in the break) – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Turn The Lights On – Natalie Bassingthwaite

Jar of Hearts – Christina Perri

Please Don’t Say You Love Me  – Gabrielle Aplin

The Way You Are Tonight – Missy Higgins

That time I trashed my whole book…

Ok, so last week this happened: I trashed my book. Yep, ripped it apart. I could say ‘Just. Like.That.’ for dramatic embellishment, but far more thought than that went into it.

It’s something that had been playing on my mind for a few weeks, but doggedly I kept writing. I had a schedule I wanted to keep and surely what I was contemplating was not something that I should be contemplating?

When I talked about it we were in a mini bus heading out to Trang An – it’s an eco tourism complex of limestone karst peaks and grottoes. You sit in a boat and get rowed through the caves and valleys. It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list and, located not too far out of Hanoi, absolutely worth a visit.

Where was I? Yes, on the mini bus to Trang An and chatting to my girlfriend about the problems I was having with finishing I Want You Back. This particular friend is an avid reader – and has also been an early reader for me – so was the perfect sounding board for this particular conversation. Hers was an opinion I valued.

‘I’m just not feeling it,’ I complained. ‘I’m bored, and if I’m bored then so will my readers be.’

As she listened, I explained the problem. This story has been in my head since I finished Baby, It’s You. My heroine, Calliope Jones (Callie), used to go out with Jamie, the bad boy in Baby. (I can’t tell you more than that without issuing a spoiler alert – on the off-chance that you haven’t already read Baby.)He was the love of her life and she’ll do pretty much anything to get him back. I actually even had the tagline before I had the story:

Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it…

If I’d stuck with that premise I might not be in the trouble I am today. The thing is, like us, characters don’t live in isolation. Yet when I brought Callie’s friends in to join the party – Alice Delaney and Tiffany Samuels – things got out of control. They had their own story and wanted to be heard too.

Now, here’s where the confusion and awkwardness comes in. Alice, you see, was the subject of my first never ever to ever ever be published novel. It was always my intention to rewrite her story as the final episode in this little series of books, but somehow she forced herself in here. Alice also appeared briefly in Baby, It’s You

Ok, I thought. I’ll make this an ensemble cast and seamlessly weave all three stories together. It will be like something that Cathy Kelly would do. How hard could it be?

As it turns out, very hard indeed. More than that, it simply wasn’t working. I was writing third person – something that I feel removes me a bit from the head of my character – and the voice just felt wrong.

‘Maybe I should just write it as three books,’ I mused to my friend. There are quite a few people in the romance field doing that now: Anna Campbell is doing it very well with her regency widows series, Carole Mortimer does it very sexily with her Knight Security series, and I’ve just started reading some Kylie Scott as well.

Being the wise friend that she is, we talked it through, but she didn’t agree or disagree with me. This had to be my decision.

But, I had virtually finished and the book was due to my editor by the end of the month… WTF was I doing even thinking of making a change of this magnitude at this stage of the process?

It wasn’t until I was on the overnight flight home from Bangkok that I did it. I started again to tell just Callie’s story…and I’m telling Tiff’s story…and I’m telling Alice’s. Three shorter books, tied together, to be written almost together, and released at 2 monthly intervals.

I have no idea whether I’ve made the right decision. I’ve definitely made life tougher for myself, but part of doing this whole indie thing was making two promises to myself:

  • That every single book that I published would be the very best that it could be – and not finished for the sake of finishing
  • That I’d learn more about both the craft of writing and the business of it with each project – and that doesn’t mean taking the easy path.

In doing this, as crazy as it is, I’m honouring those promises to myself.

But then, after it had all been ripped apart – and before it’s all back together – I had to confess what I’d done to my editor…thankfully she understood and it hasn’t impacted her schedule too much.

All the words I’ve written are re-usable, just across three books instead of one. My mission is to now to get the bones back together for at least the first and part of the second so my editor can get an idea about what I’m trying to do…I’ll keep you posted…

A big announcement…

I got some seriously exciting news a month or so ago that I’ve been bursting to tell you about…and now I can…

Ready?

I’ll be presenting a workshop at this years Romance Writers of Australia Conference- Love Gone Wild.

This is huge for me – and will represent the achievement of a bucket list type goal.

My workshop is on how you can use basic astrology to help develop your characters and create the conflict that all storylines need. I wrote a bit about how I do it here, but will be talking a whole lot more about it at the Pullman Hotel in Brisbane in August.

It’s a workshop that’s aimed at anyone with an interest in understanding what makes people tick – and how this can be used to identify the deeper motivations and deal-breakers of the characters that come to life on our keyboard. You don’t need to have an understanding of astrology at all – although you might learn something about yourself if you know your own sign.

Doing presentations like this is one of the things that I pinpointed when I sat down to do my marketing strategy and document my longer-term business goals. I committed to do something this year that would align with this goal – and so I have.

Am I scared? Absolutely. Excited? Absolutely.

I’ve spoken in front of large groups of people before in a corporate environment, but this is different. For a start, this is a subject – and a group – that I care about. I certainly can’t say that about any of the work presentations or training sessions I’ve done in the past. Hopefully none of my bosses – past or present – are reading this.

Seriously though, of course I care about my job, but anything that happens in the partition world is towards the achievement of someone else’s business goals and, as a result, I was detached (to a certain level) from it. This, though, integrates the two subjects I’m most passionate about – astrology and story-telling. And yes, I’m aware that in some circles astrology is story-telling.

The organising committee have shown a lot of faith in me – and having a subject like astrology in the workshop schedule is a departure of sorts from the usual topics offered. I won’t let them down.

Will I see you at this years Romance Australia Conference – Love Gone Wild – in Brisbane? Registrations are now open.

How to seek permission to use song lyrics – and why you should…

I was well into the final version of Baby, It’s You, when I realised that I’d need to seek permission to reproduce a few lines from a song, One Crowded Hour, by Augie March.

When I was telling the guys at work about this, I got a combination of:

‘Really? It’s just a few lines!’

‘Really? I’d operate on the use now and ask for forgiveness later basis!’

I even got the:

‘Really? It’s not like anyone is ever going to read it to know….’ Ouch.

The thing is, if you want to use (commercially) anything by another artist, you have to seek permission to do so. That means discovering who owns the copyright and contacting them to ask permission – and being prepared to pay a fee for the privilege to do so.

When it comes to songs, that’s easier said than done. You might know who has performed it, but who actually wrote it?

The thing is, most performers don’t actually own the rights to their work. Instead those rights are assigned or licensed to their publisher. It’s the music publisher who collects the royalties and arranges the distribution of them. As a result, most songs will belong on one of the following performing rights databases:

You can search by song title, and will get the publishers name and contact details from this. This post has some great information in it and was a wealth of information for me.

What about the concept of fair use, I hear you ask. Despite watching every episode of Rake and The Good Wife, my knowledge of the legal system* is not comprehensive enough for me to risk it – and nor would I want to. Even if you’re just using a single line, it’s common for the music industry to say you need permission.

After all, even though Baby, It’s You was my first book, I was going into this venture with a view of eventually making a living from my writing. I had to, therefore, approach the transaction as as a business would. The way I figured it, to assume I would only sell a handful or a couple of hundred copies of Baby, It’s You would be like planning for failure. What if I sold thousands and then got a cease and desist notice from the publishers? This was one occasion where it could be far cheaper to request permission and pay the probably nominal fee than to deal with the consequences of not doing so.

Most important of all, though, those few lines i wanted to use were someone else’s creative product – and the artist responsible for those few lines deserves to reap the rewards for their work. Would I be happy with someone doing the same to me without permission or credit? No, I wouldn’t.

Song titles are a different matter. Except in a few circumstances, song titles aren’t usually subject to copyright. The official argument is because they are short and don’t represent sufficient originality of thought. How many CDs have you picked up with the same title? Books? Songs? Exactly.

Naturally, though, there are some titles that are iconic enough or long enough or original enough that you’d probably want to check it out first. In fact, to be on the safe side, I’d be checking all of them out anyway– but that’s just me. As an aside, I’m sure I read somewhere about how Taylor Swift placed a copyright on the term “shake it off”… Of course, if could be just an urban myth, but I certainly wouldn’t want to be testing it.**

Anyways, this problem – of obtaining permission – is not restricted to the indie author.

When you sign a publishing contract, most will have something in it stating that the work is entirely yours. The contract may have something in there about whose responsibility it is to seek permission for copyright owned by others. Usually, unless you’re important enough to have minions for this, it falls upon the author to obtain the appropriate ok, although most publishers should be able to assist you with the process.

So, how did I go with my request?

As I said earlier, I was looking to use three lines from One Crowded Hour by Augie March. Through the performing rights database I managed to find the name of their management – who forwarded my request to the publisher.

In my email, I told them:

  • That I was self-publishing a work of fiction
  • That the work would be available digitally on the Amazon and iBooks platforms
  • The lines I was wanting to use
  • I included the passage that the lines were in – for context

I requested they forward the request to the song’s publishers for approval, and also stated that as I had a limited budget, I hoped they’d consider my request for no fee.

They came back and also wanted to know the name of the licensee (that would be me as the author), the estimated RRP, and the number of units I hoped to sell. For this last one, I advised the number I needed to sell in order to break even. (As an aside, consider this one carefully – often there’s a difference between a fee for an estimated 1000 copies versus 100,000 copies.)

Permission was granted – for a cost of $200 – which I thought a tad steep. I was expecting maybe $50, or even $100.

In the end I decided not to include the lines and rewrote the passage. I was already over budget on the project and I don’t think the story suffered at all from the omission.

I’m coming across a similar problem in I Want You Back, but this time I’m choosing to write around the lyrics instead of quoting them. As much as I’d love to include something by Bananarama or Manfred Mann (you’ll need to read it to find out why) I’ll be resisting the temptation.

Have you ever used lyrics in your work? How did you go about seeking permission?

*which is, of course, why you should always seek appropriate qualified legal advice and not rely on posts like these! This post should NOT be relied upon as advice .

** and nor should you. This post should NOT be relied upon as advice . I already said that…right?

Marketing strategies – and why you need one…

Midway through last year I had a crisis of confidence. I’d already published Baby, It’s You and Big Girls Don’t Cry and was about to publish Wish You were Here. I was proud of what I was doing, but at the same time aware that no one knew my books were were out there. That had to change. I had to start getting my message out…but how?

Did I need to find an agent? Maybe start the run around of publishers again? Or, was there a part of the publishing cycle I was missing? There was: marketing.

The way I figured it, if I had a contract with a traditional publisher, they’d do some marketing for me, although as a newbie author, I’d also be required to do quite a bit of it for myself too. It followed, then, that if a publishing company had a marketing department, then I’d need one too.

Why invest in a marketing strategy?

Because I wanted to sell more books.

As I’ve mentioned before, this business of writing is, for me, a business. I do it because I love it and I do it because I want to be successful at it – and success for me is measured in terms of sales and, therefore, income.

Besides, what’s the point of writing a book that’s as good as I can make it, and spending the money on a great editor and a cover I’m proud of to have no one buy it?

What to expect from a marketing strategy…

It really depends on who you use and what you want to achieve. If you want to sell more books, a good marketing strategy should give you the tools and the information to help you do that.

I chose Mel Kettle, from Mel Kettle Consulting, to help me with my strategy. Mel and I had got to know each other (virtually) though various forms of social media and, despite having been in weekly fitbit challenges with each other for a couple of years, we’d never met in real life.

Mel broke my strategy down into 3 parts:

  1. What do I want to achieve?

First up was an introductory session. This was where Mel got to know me, my motivations, my background and my goals – all of which were important for the next step. Mel is based in Brisbane, so rather than do this by skype, we arranged to meet when I was on the Sunshine Coast last July. I won’t post the photos because I think I had dreadlocks…ok, I know I had dreads.

Anyways, this was the most challenging part of the process for me – it was also arguably the most valuable. Why? Although I’d said that I wanted to sell more books and be successful as a writer, when asked I had absolutely no idea what that looked like.

Mel asked me questions that I couldn’t answer – not properly. Questions like:

  • How do I measure success?
  • How many books do I intend to sell this year?
  • Next year?
  • The year after?
  • How do I see my business looking in 5 years time?
  • How much am I prepared to invest?
  • How much work am I prepared to do myself?

Answering questions such as these was a huge step for me. From this I was able to develop my business strategy to complement Mel’s marketing strategy.

  1. How do I want to achieve it?

The second part of the process was a brainstorming or planning session.

We worked through strengths and weaknesses; examined opportunities; and looked at where I tend to waste my energy (I didn’t tell her about my procrastiwatching, procrastibaking or Midsomer obsession…but I think she knew). We also identified issues that were obstacles to me achieving my goals. In my case these were summarised into just 2 areas:

  • Limited time – I work 4 days a week (sometimes 5) and they are long and full days involving me being away from home for over 12 hours a day (3 of which are spent commuting).
  • I have competing priorities – As well as my partition job, I also dabble in some freelance astrology writing, and maintain a content-hungry astrology blog.

The key take away for me was learning to prioritise the time that I have available, and committing to set aside a particular chunk of hours each week to focus on marketing activities.

  1. What do I need to do?

From this planning session we agreed some actions – some of which I could put into place immediately, and others that would require a little more thought and commitment. These were clearly outlined in a strategy document for me to follow.

We then agreed to catch up in three months to see how I was going against these actions. This too was a super valuable part of the process as it kept me accountable for my results.

Was it worth it?

Yes. Without a doubt.

Mel came up with ideas I hadn’t thought of, and simplified concepts I’d thought were too complex or time-consuming. Before writing the plan, she’d taken the time to understand me – and my goals – and tailored the strategy accordingly.

I’ve completed a number of the action items on the list, but others I’m yet to do. A few more will be appropriate for when I publish I Want You Back. Most importantly, the strategy Mel devised for me can also be used to grow my readership and email list on the astrology blog – and sell product through there as well.

The bottom line is that paying for a marketing strategy is a little like reading a diet book. It’s not enough to read it – and just having it won’t guarantee you success…you actually need to live it and commit to it. Nor will it bring overnight success – it takes time for improvements to be seen, but when they are, if you’ve been keeping a track of your sales before and after, it’s relatively easy to measure the impact of your strategy.

The way I figure it, I’ve paid for a tool – if I sit on my arse and don’t use or refer to it again, I’ve wasted the money.

When should you do this?

There are some marketing actions that you can do from the start – before you even have anything published. These are things like:

  • Creating a website
  • Creating a blog – and creating regular content for it
  • Establishing your presence on social media.

For other actions, it’s best to already have some books out there. Not only do you have something to measure your results against, but you can also spread the expense across each of those books – rather than attributing it to just one.

The biggest message though? It’s all very well having a marketing strategy, but you have to have something to market. Speaking of which, I have today’s word count to finish!

What makes a happy ending?

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So anyways, I’ve got to thinking about happy endings – which is probably a good thing given that my tagline is all about happy endings: Happy Endings Begin Here. When you think about it, it’s pretty much the ultimate spoiler.

The thing is, my current character isn’t really playing ball – at least, not as far as the stereotypical happy ending goes.

I had a similar issue with Emily – my lead character in Baby, It’s You. She had a happy ending (hey, it’s not a spoiler alert to say that – after all, as I said, it’s in my tagline) but it wasn’t the down on one knee proposal sort of happy ending. That wasn’t the point with Em.

I had quite a few people asking me why she didn’t – or rather why I didn’t give her that particular conclusion. I wrote the ending I wrote for Em because that was the ending that she needed. Anything else would have made everything else all for nothing. Besides, it was still a hopeful and satisfying end. I think Em was happy with it.

Callie, my lead in I Want You Back, is proving to be just as elusive.

The thing is, a happy ending doesn’t have to be a proposal and a white dress and a happy ever after – especially if that doesn’t fit with the journey the character has taken. As an aside, I hate that word – journey…but I digress.

I’ve been reading some straight romance genre of late – namely some regency romances by Anna Campbell, an Aussie author who I admire greatly. Unusually for the genre, her heroines don’t always end up in the frothy white toilet roll doll dress – well, not immediately anyway – unless it suits the story arc for them to do so. Of course, we know that they’re in love and assume that it’s a forever thing, but these women don’t say “I will” until they are ready to do so. I find that refreshing. It shows a strength of character and, dare I say it, a sort of feminism that way too many people believe can’t be found in a romance novel.

I want my girls to find love and the forever thing too – but also on their terms….although very often they need someone else to help them with that – or, at the very least, help point them in the right direction.

As for Callie? She’ll get her happy ending, but I’m not quite sure at this point what that looks like. Nor is she anywhere near to deserving it. Not yet. She’s still got a bit of work to do.

Aaaah the joys of being a pantser.