Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile!

When the Universe Wants You To Pay Attention

The other day at my day job I had a moment when the universe up and smacked me in the head.

We’ve all been there. Nearing the end of a crazy busy day and trying to cram in the rest of a project. The phone rings and caller ID tells you it is someone who for the twenty years has been difficult. You cringe a little and think, “No, not today. I just don’t have it in me.”

But you take a deep breath and you answer the phone, because you are the only person there, and really, if you don’t take the call now you will just have to return it later, so why not?!

A little background – this is a patient who even though we have not provided services to her for ten years, she is impossible to get off the phone. There is nothing really that you can help her with and she knows that, but she is going to call you anyway. When her calls come this late in the day, it usually means I won’t be able to leave on time. Despite this, I have always tried to listen when she calls. I understand she is older and alone and has some chronic health issues. But I am human and some days when you are completely buried and not really having a great day yourself, it is hard to pick up that phone.

But I am so glad I did.

I turns out she has a lung tumor that needs a biopsy. She will be having surgery in three days out of town. After talking to her for fifteen minutes or so, she completely knocked me on my butt by telling me she had just called in case something happens. She wanted to thank me.

Oh. My. God. Let me crawl under my desk and curl into a fetal position for even having a negative thought before picking up the phone.

She was scared about the upcoming surgery and treatment and she wanted to let me know she appreciated me always taking her call and listening to her.

❤️

I will NEVER again hesitate to answer the phone regardless of who crosses the caller ID! You never now what the person on the other end is going through. And you never know what your answering can do for them.

It’s hard sometimes. Work can be stressful and coworkers get on your last nerve. Life has its own stressors. Family and social obligations, while fun, can cause stress. All you want to do is go home and put on your jammies!

But days like today…

They make me realize that there is so much more to life than our own grievances. Even in the middle of the most difficult busy week, there is an opportunity for real connection to others. And that is why I will always pick up that phone, even when it rings a minute before I am “off the clock.” I will strive to put aside my day-to-day stressors and focus on the person on the other end of the line. Because sometimes they just need one person to listen and to hear them.

I didn’t have any answers for this person. Heck, we weren’t even going to be involved in her treatment. But she had found the people at the other facility to be too busy to listen and she just wanted someone to hear her, to connect with her and say “Yes, I get it. I would be scared too.” And to say we will keep them in our prayers, whatever form those take.

I walked out of my office that night thinking that all of the daily tasks and to do lists and problems mean very little in the grand scheme of things. The really important stuff can be found in each of these small connections, in each moment when we truly feel human.

Reach out to someone today. Put down your phone – hell, turn it off-and really hear what they are saying. Stop typing and working and shuffling through papers while you half-listen. Let’s connect with each other again.

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile!

made me smile.

Be My Guest!

One of the fun things about being a member of the blogosphere is being asked to do a guest post. 🙂 Here is a post that I wrote that appeared on my editor’s blog on Monday.

You should check out her blog over at Change It Up Editing! Tons of great information about creating your book and self-publishing.

Self-Publishing Is Not for the Faint of Heart! Guest Post by Cheryl Fassett

Do you have a manuscript gathering dust because the idea of self-publishing is scary? Author Cheryl Fassett recently self-published Magic Key, her second YA fantasy, and although she’s now a seasoned authorpreneur, she worked hard to get there.

I had the privilege of working with Cheryl on both Magic Key and her first book, Far Away and Ever After, and I highly recommend both for children of all ages (and that includes their parents and grandparents). Cheryl accepted my invitation to share some words of advice for authors who might feel intimidated by the self-publishing process.

*****

When I decided to self-publish, I realized there were a lot of things I needed to learn. Just because I enjoy stringing words together doesn’t mean I always know the best order to put them in. The urge to write does not come hand-in-hand with expert knowledge of grammar and the rules of writing. I also had no idea how to go about actually creating a book. So where do you turn?

Break it down

In the beginning, I admit to being completely overwhelmed by the mountain I had placed in my own path. It kept me from taking even a tiny step forward for years. One day I decided that if I couldn’t face the whole project head on, I would face it in tiny bite-sized pieces. So I listed the weeks in the next year and broke down each part of the project into tiny, doable steps.

With the day job and all the things life threw at me, there were some weeks that I could only do one step. But there were others when I managed to do five or six! Some of the tiny steps were “Research how to find an editor,” or “Google cover designers,” or “Ask an accountant about filing a DBA.” One week I made myself send an email to two potential editors or designers. Another, all I managed was to register for a formatting class. But with each task checked off, I was closer to my goal of self-publishing. If I didn’t get to all the tasks I had assigned to a given week, I re-evaluated my schedule and moved that task to another spot.

Save Where You Can … and Spend When Necessary

Self-publishing isn’t free. Editors, cover designers, proof readers, and formatters cost money. To save a bit, I looked for areas that I thought I could learn to do myself. A book formatting class was cheaper than hiring someone to do it for me, and I knew it was a skill I would need each time I completed a book. I also knew that some of my friends could proofread for me and find punctuation and spelling issues. I knew, though, that in order to put out a professional product, I needed to act like a professional. Professional authors use professional editors and cover designers to create a polished product. Plan on spending a bit of money to hire good people to assist you in the areas you shouldn’t handle yourself.

Do Your Research

Finding a team to help with your dream of self-publishing is scary. You have to reach out to complete strangers and admit you harbor this fantasy of being a writer. You have to trust people you don’t know with your dream. You have to believe in your skills as a writer and put yourself out there. The good news is that once you have a team, the next book isn’t nearly as terrifying! My best advice to those of you who are in a similar position is take the next step but with care.

Be cautious. Do your research. Don’t just run willy nilly all over the internet giving away your manuscript and plot line to everyone you think can help.

Be choosy. Your hairdresser’s neighbor’s nephew’s roommate may like to draw, but that doesn’t mean you should throw a few hundred dollars at him and await your perfect cover. Your great-aunt Mary Margaret may love to read, but that doesn’t mean she can edit your book. (She may make a great beta reader though!)

Connect with Your Team

Reach out to other writers in forums you frequent or in social media groups you belong to. Ask for names and then research those professionals. What have they done? What is their background? Reach out with a phone call or email and ask questions about how they work, what their availability for your project is, how much they charge, and what their payment schedule is. Ask to see a sample of their work.

Be Part of the Process

Once you begin working together, don’t be afraid to have an opinion. Be mindful of their expertise that made you hire them in the first place, but if something doesn’t feel right, question it. This is your book in the end.

Be prompt with your material and get it to them when you say you will. Same goes for the payments. Remember it is a small world out there, and authors who are difficult to work with may find it hard to find a team for Book 2!

In the end though, the first time you hire someone to edit your work or format your book or design your cover, it is going to be scary. No way around it. It will feel like jumping off a ledge. Take a deep breath and do it. You will never move forward until you take that leap.

*****

A great, big thank you to Candace Johnson and Change It Up Editing!!

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Book Promotion for Introverts

People who knew me back in the day may be surprised that I land firmly in the introvert category as an adult. In high school, I loved to be in the musicals, singing solos center stage and dancing around. In college I preferred to sing in groups. Now, I only sing in the shower or the car when the anxiety is under control.

As you can imagine, promoting my writing and my books has posed a  challenge. After all, many of us write so we don’t actually have to speak!

The first step was to come out of the closet as a writer. Admitting to the world that I write and actually labeling myself as an author was difficult. I had to set all my anxiety aside and fake a certain level of confidence I rarely feel.

Once I actually pushed the “publish” button, I had to contemplate how to get my book seen by more people so I had a fighting chance of actually selling it. After all, isn’t that the goal?

I started with promo cards that I got for a great price through Vistaprint. Their site allows you to design everything yourself and it turned out to be very easy. I left small stacks of these every place that allowed it! Friends and family took some and distributed them even further.

I shared my book cover on social media and asked friends to share it far and wide. Word-of-mouth is literally my only marketing tool! 😊

I donated copies if my book to all the libraries within driving distance. I still remember and love books that I discovered in the stacks of the children’s section when I was young. I think the very best thing as an author would be to have one of my stories resonate like that with a young reader, to have them  seek out those favorite titles as an adult and share them with their own children.

One of the greatest things family and friends can do is to share an indie children’s author’s books with their local library and the young people in their lives. When someone asks me to sign a book that they have purchased as a gift, it makes my heart swell.

I know deep down that I should seek out opportunities to do readings and appearances as a speaker at schools. My anxiety has kept me from trying this as I feel yet. I hope some day to push past this fear and try that!

Self-promotion is not for the faint of heart. One of the greatest fears many writers and artists have is fear of success. It is almost as prevalent as the fear of failure so many people have, the one that keeps them from ever making the attempt in the first place. whatever your dream, you have to decide how you define success. Is it hitting The NY Times bestseller list? Is it seeing your story on the big screen? Is it simply sharing your work with others and having them enjoy it?

My writing, at this point in my life, will not support me. It doesn’t pay the bills. Some day it may. I am okay with this at this stage in my life. I have a day job that is completely unrelated and accesses other skills that I enjoy. If I had to write to put food on the table, I fear it would no longer be as enjoyable. Some day I may push myself to prove that theory wrong, but for now, I will continue with my grass roots style of promotion.

Monday Morning Pick-Me-Up

Let’s face it. Monday’s are rough. The end of the freedom that came with the weekend, the start of a long week, the return to work. To help ease you into your week, I wanted to share a little something that made me smile.

Which Button Do I Push?

Before you run off and upload your masterpiece to a distribution channel, you need to get an ISBN number and barcode for your print version. While ebooks don’t require ISBN numbers, I have always attached one to both the kIndle and other ebook versions. Some platforms allow you to purchase these through them. However, I found that going directly to Bowker ended up being cheaper as they have bulk sales. They don’t expire! So plan for the future and buy a bunch. Barcode placement is very specific so check those guidelines carefully.

Indie authors have a lot of choice when it comes to choosing a distribution platform. Lightning Source, Lulu, Bookbaby, iUniverse, Sparkpress, the list goes on. So how do you decide?

One of the first things I considered was whether a platform looked like a boutique publisher or a do-it-yourself platform.

Some companies allow authors to publish their books but charge them fees. These are boutique publishers. They do much of the work I have been writing about these last few weeks for you – editing, cover design, formatting. They claim you keep control of the project. Some even claim that they won’t publish just anything that crosses their oath, that they vet your manuscript to ensure it is sellable before taking it on. They charge money up front, and then also take 30-50% of any royalty, keeping in mind that all production and distribution costs come off the top.

Other options are true do-it-yourself platforms. You do all the work. They provide tools to help you. They keep a portion off the top of your sales for print and distribution costs and you keep the rest. This is the route I chose.

Amazon truly makes it easy for indie authors to get their work out there. Their Createspace platform for print and KDP for Kindle books are loaded with tools to assist us on the front end, and track our sales and royalties on the back end.

In Createspace, you set up your book by uploading your interior file and your cover. If you don’t have a cover, you can use their cover design tool. (I can’t attest to how that works as I had the wonderful covers by Evan to work with.) You can review the interior and adjust and reload your files as needed. Once you are happy and submit your book, it goes through their review process. This takes about 24 hours. They alert you to any major formatting issues with both the interior and the cover.

Once it passes, you can check the whole thing on their digital preview tool and also order an inexpensive proof copy. I highly recommend doing this as many times as you need to! I went through no less than four proof copies each time I published. Not only did I reread the book and check for any glaring editorial errors, but I checked formatting in each page and made many small adjustments.

You may be thinking that after the editing process there couldn’t be any more editorial errors. I am here to tell you that there will be. A misspelled word here, double spacing there. It happens. We are human after all.

You may find, as I did, that a change in interior formatting requires a change in cover formatting. (Poor Evan, resized the cover on this last book three or four times for me!) Changes in page count I really even page color (!) effect the size of the spine. Who knew?!

After the entire print upload process is complete, you can simply press a button to upload to Kindle, or you can go directly to KDP and upload your own formatted version for it. Kindle books require a different file format than print or other ebook types. KDP has many review tools as well.

Createspace then allows you to choose your distribution channels – Amazon US, Amazon international, other online retailers, and library distribution.

Once you are live on Amazon, you need to go to their Author Central and set up your author page. You can link it to your blog, upload a bio and photo, and it even allows people to follow you on Amazon. If you publish in both print and Kindle, you will also want to make sure that you have all your formats linked so a potential reader can access all of them through the same product page.

I also use Smashwords for all other ebook retailers, including Nook, Kobo, Sony, and iBooks. Their process is similar in set up, but they don’t have the many review tools for checking formatting prior to publishing.

Once you are live in Smashwords, it takes about a week to be reviewed for their premium catalog and to show up on all the other websites.

Regardless of the platforms you choose, be sure to read all the fine print. There are some pricing rules and formatting requirements that you will need to be aware of. You can also choose various promotional programs that come with their own sets of rules.

The entire ebook publishing process has become much simpler than it was a few years ago when I published my first book. Back then you had to use third party software to process your Kindle (mobi) format and ePub formats to upload to these same platforms. It is so much easier now that they will accept Word documents directly. Still, be careful. Some require the new .docx format, while others still want the old .doc format. Even though these are both Word document formats, they behave differently with some formatting tasks.

Don’t forget to file for copyright with the Library of Congress!

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