5 Things I Learned While Writing a Memoir That You Can Apply to Your Daily Life

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Wise Ink author Jake Widmann's memoir, Up, is coming out this Fall, and we cannot wait to share this incredible memoir with all of you! We asked him to tell us five things he learned while writing his memoir that people could apply to their daily lives, and the result is this lovely post offering inspiration to any of you who are struggling with writing your story. For more information about Jake Widmann and his book, visit Sologood.co.

COMMITMENT IS KING

I wish that I would have kept track of all of the things I have started over the years. Notice how I conveniently left out words like, completed, finished, finalized, and concluded. I was the Idea-master, the King of beginning, the Sultan of starting, the Emperor of initiation . . . you get the point. However, I was also the epitome of the consequences of S.O.S. – Shiny Object Syndrome.

Whether it was internet businesses on eBay, or craigslist, the front yard lemonade stand, wood projects in my dad and step-dads shop, a painting I became bored with, a blog I wanted to start, or perhaps, a book I wanted to write I started everything, and finished nothing.

UP began as a conversation with my wife while lying in bed late one night. I have a deep need to leave a positive impact and influence, and to feel like my life is significant in the eyes of others. This is part of the reason I stopped and started so many other things—my eyes were also looking for other opportunities in which I could create something that would have a larger impact. The problem with that is that impact isn’t found in starting, it’s found in committing and building something people want or need.

From that conversation came the idea of writing a book, tossed out by my wife. I gave excuse after excuse why I didn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t write a book. To give credit to my superiority as a starter, I did begin writing that next morning. I woke up at five a.m., made some coffee and scribbled down seven pages into my newly designated, “book” notebook. I woke up and did the same thing the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that, and the morning after that until I had a rough draft consisting of 276 pages of absolute trash, honestly—more on that in the next section.

Seriously, it was awful, but nothing else mattered because I had the pure joy of having committed to something for so many days consistently without stopping to whine and say, “Wahhhh, no one is noticing my hard work yet. No one is being impacted by me sitting here writing this book.” Every morning I put the darn pen to the paper and scribbled away until my hand was about to fall off, and the pages were covered in a smear of ink from my left-handedness. Then, I the cramping from my hand and wrote a few more pages until had to close the notebook and head to work, or bed.

How this can benefit you: Find something that mildly excites you, something that you’ve been putting off for a while or once started but put down, something that will require hard work and time, and/or something that you think could be scaled and be turned into a sustainable model for a business, non-profit, organization, club, or otherwise and start working on it in your free time. Explore your brain a little bit and find where the part is that is attracted to new and exciting ideas, you know, the part that is responsible for every other half-finished, barely started, just begun, and almost done project. Then smash that region of your brain to pieces and get to work.

EVERYTHING IS TRASH . . . IN THE BEGINNING

Do you remember a few paragraphs back when I said that after finishing writing my initial draft I had “276 pages of absolute trash.”? That’s exactly what it was. No one, not even me, would have wanted to read it. It was a boring chronological ordering of my life from the first memory I could recall until that present moment when I finished writing it. It was told as a matter of fact basis, like the local radio guy who reads the price animal feed and livestock are currently fetching in the market. It was awful, but I was okay with it, because as I mentioned, the pride and joy that I overflowed with for just having written 276 pages of trash was enough for me—in that moment.

Wherein lies the beauty is in your commitment to take that original thing and turn it into something that expresses the fullness of your capabilities as they currently are. I say, “as they currently are,” because if you’re living life the way that I and many others do—by always progressing, then this thing that you’re creating would never be finished, because you’d always be growing, thus, expanding the capabilities for this thing to improve infinitely, and sorry to break it to you, life isn’t infinite.

Start by accepting the fact that what you’re creating will undoubtedly suck more than you want it to. The fact that you can detect and sense this subpar quality is clear proof that you have the potential within you to make it better. You can envision it being better than it currently is, but you don’t have the skills to take it there yet. Ira Glass has a quote that sums this up PERFECTLY. It’s too long to share here, so I’ll let you click the link if you want to read it, which I highly recommend.

How this can benefit you: The thing that often holds people back from starting is that they don’t yet have the skills they need to do what they want. Well, if you refuse to start the thing that is going to slowly afford you the skills you need to actually be good, than you’ll never become good at it. Talk about a catch twenty-two. Start the thing with the skills, knowledge and abilities you have. You’ll learn everything you need along the way, if only you’ll be patient enough to get there.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH AN ARMY OF SUPPORTERS

This advice isn’t just for someone writing a book, building a brand, starting a coffee shop, or really . . . creating anything. This is advice for everyone.

“You get supporters, and you get supporters, everyone gets supporters!” No? Okay.

I don’t know when friendship devolved into being a person who only ever makes you feel good, instead of occasionally helping you face your hard truths, but those are not the kind of friends I want. If I’m being a jerk, I want my friends to tell me. If I am traveling down a path different from the one they know I want to be on, I want them to stop me. If I am dealing with some serious adversity, I want them to be there for me in whatever way they can be. I don’t need friends in my circle who are going to blindly follow what I say and do. I don’t need people in my circle who will gladly take me out to the bars when I SO OBVIOUSLY have a severe problem and am in a lot of pain.

This is not to say that anyone who does these “feel good” things are bad people. Rather, I am pointing out the fact that we, society as a whole, need to demand more from our friendships, but first, we need to demand more of ourselves—both as people and as a friends.

Jim Rohn says, “You’re the average of the people you spend the most time with.” If you’re happy right where you are and you are not looking to grow anymore in life this is not for you. However, if you know there is more out there for your life, and you generally know what that unique more you’re looking for is, then you need to begin finding and surrounding yourself with the people who’re going to help you obtain it. Enough with these subpar, fair weather friends. The more that you want from your life is undoubtedly worth the sacrifices you’ll have to make to get there.

How this can benefit you: Join social media groups that you’re interested in. There is essentially something out there for any possible interest a human could ever come up with. The people in those groups are inherently into the same thing you are, and as such, will make befriending them all the more easier. Get over your introvertedness and make some new friends—ones who will help you, guide you and give you all of the support you need to get where you want to be.

YOUR STORY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

Why we don’t stress enough the importance of sharing our individual stories is up to me. Fortunately, I think, dare I say it, the millennials have done a good job on this matter with their perceived oversharing of information online. Storytelling is an as old of an art as literally anything. Cave paintings, storytelling. The bible, storytelling. Ancient cultures thrived on storytelling to pass down important information about weather, dangerous animals, enemies, and unexplained phenomena.

Think about the shows and social media personalities you follow today. Every single one of them is in some way telling a story. One of my favorite shows, America’s Got Talent, is one of the best outlets to see the true power of not only storytelling, but that of a person’s (or group of people) own story. You want goosebumps, tears, emotions of joy, happiness, sadness, empathy and countless more, watch one episode of America’s Got Talent and you’ll experience what I do every Tuesday at 7PM CST/8PM EST.

Yet, somehow when we encounter difficult times, have a hardship, or just need someone to talk to we think that our problems and challenges are so unique that no one will be able to help us. I’d like to add, whether or not they can help us doesn’t so much matter. What does matter is their ability to listen, to empathize, and possibly, to be able to say to you one of the most powerful phrases known to humans, “You are not alone.” There is infinite power in knowing that you’re not alone. And at a time when suicides are a hot topic in current events, I think we could all use the added encouragement that accompanies the feeling of no longer feeling alone.

I get that it’s not easy. I believe you when you tell me that you’ve had a difficult life. I understand the challenges of opening up and being vulnerable. However, I also understand the profound freedom that comes with sharing your story with a person, with a group of people, on social media for the entirety of the world to potentially see. None of this is easy, or I would assert, meant to feel good initially. Growth doesn’t happen in the comforts of your own made up world in your head. Growth happens when you do something new, when you challenge yourself, and when you allow others to look at you as you truly are, instead of as this pristine, unflawed, being, of which none of us are.

How can this benefit you: Start by opening up to one person whom you know to be someone you can trust. If you’ve already done that, or you want the added challenge, take to social media and share an element of your story in a way that highlights something you’ve learned from a challenge in your past. Continue sharing personal stories like these and you’ll be surprised how many people relate to the very things that you thought made you unique. Enjoy how good it feels to release these burdens, and better yet, to help others in the process.

LIFE IS LONG BUT IT GOES FAST

While writing those 276 pages I recounted roughly sixteen or seventeen years of my life. It’s a weird dichotomy to think about; that of each individual year, and the experiences that contained within them, and that of the timespan I covered in my writing, and the entirety of the lessons I’ve learned, the hardship I’ve endured, the memories I have, the growth I’ve experienced, and more. On one hand, there are these memories I was writing down from my childhood and they seemed as fresh as the one’s I had formed the day prior. On the other hand, some of those memories I would’ve thought were lost forever, but when you continue peeling back layer after layer of your life, the individual experiences that make it up are more often more formative than they appear, meaning, they affect us a lot more than we often think.

It’s in all of those individual memories that we’re able to revisit periods of time in which we were such a different version of our current selves. Important to realize is that every event which happened between the memories we’re recounting and present moment is what made us who we currently are. Every event, good and bad, makes up a small fraction of us as we exist currently. It’s in the times when we allow ourselves to just be and reflect that time slows down to a crawl, and we’re able to determine the path we’ve walked to get to where we are, and further, the path we’ll likely need to walk to get to where we want to be.

The journey of getting to where you want to be can be a painfully long and slow one, but even more painful and slower is to get to the end of your life and have to live with the unbearable regret of not having done the things you knew you should’ve done all along. When you do get to that period of your life, I hope that you’ll have eighty, ninety, a hundred years or more of life to revisit, and ultimately, that you’ll proudly be able to proclaim in the longest held, loudest Frank Sinatra-like voice to have ever said it, “I DID IT MY WAY!”

How can this benefit you: I don’t think this one needs a lot of explanation. Live your life in the way that only you were meant to. Embrace your individuality. Be proud of your uniqueness. Go do what makes you happy in the face of those who are too afraid, or not good enough, and let them know the truth.

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Eight Underrated Skills That'll Make You a Rockstar in the Book Industry

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So you’re thinking: writing a book, getting published, being a successful author—all easy so long as you’re a good writer and have the right hook ups, correct?

No, not necessarily. It’s easy to say “Just do it already!” It’s much harder to actually sit down and write. It’s much harder to put yourself out there and have your work picked up. It’s much harder to flourish as a published author. Being a killer author takes a few more qualities than innate good writing and luck—and if you can nail these eight qualities down, you are much more likely to succeed.

1.) Time Management Skills: If you’re an author or author-to-be, you know the battle well: sit down to write, have absolutely nothing to write about, dig deep into your soul for inspiration, give up and spend four hours on Buzzfeed and Netflix, return to work and write three crap sentences, call it a day. It’s rough. That’s why developing an author routine is so important. If you don’t plan out time to write, to respond to fans, to post on social media, etc., you just won’t do it. Time management is a pain, but it’s a necessary pain, and even simple things like downloading apps to keep you on track or buying a planner can help immensely.

2.) Listening Skills: You’re going to have people critiquing your work nonstop, from friends and family members to editors to readers of the final work. This can be extremely frustrating, but it can also be extremely helpful—especially the feedback that comes from fans of your work once it does get published. Don’t be too proud to listen to what your readers want. These small insights via email or letter or social media could be the key to your next character or plot. And the best way you can create meaningful connections with people is to listen to them and to respond. If people feel like you care, they’ll stay loyal to you and to your books.

3.) Fearlessness: Also known as your ability to take the plunge. How many potential authors could be knocking it out of the park right now if they could only build up the courage to send their work out? Too many. That’s the answer. Sending out something so personal can be terrifying, but it’s the only way to show it to the world.

4.) Ability to Take Criticism: As stated above, you will constantly get feedback about your work. This can be difficult, because this work is your life: you’ve put hours of love and hard work into each and every page. Your editor and publisher know this. They aren’t trying to tear you down by making suggestions about your characters and plot and title—they’re trying to make your wonderful book even better. This could have to do with best-selling trends or gaps in the story; it could have to do with marketing or cohesiveness. Either way, trust that the experts to whom you’ve entrusted your book will take care of your book. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t veto a decision you really don’t agree with; but make sure you have the conversation about why it was brought up before you do so. There’s a reason they’re in the business.

5.) Perseverance: Here’s the hard thing: you’re going to get rejected. Most likely enough times to seriously reconsider your choice of profession before you get a positive word back. This happens to everyone (if you don’t believe me, take a peek at the rough time these authors had). What sets best-selling authors apart isn’t a great story idea—it’s the determination to get that story out there. We know it’s much easier to give up than to continually put yourself out there even after you’ve been batted down countless times; but if you’ve got a story, you owe it to yourself to see that story through.

6.) Gratitude: This is huge, especially in an industry as tight-knit as the publishing industry. It can be easy to get caught up in the frenzy of getting everything done on time and the isolation of actually writing and the excitement of making progress. But in the midst of all the craziness, it’s important to remember to thank those who have helped you along, and we’re not just talking about giving a shout-out to your mom (although you should definitely do that too). A handwritten card or a thoughtful email to your editor or the guy who connected you to your eventual publisher or even an agent who took the time to give you feedback on your cover letter in your rejection email can go an awfully long way. Think about paying it forward to other authors to help them out just like someone helped you out. The industry can be thankless; be the bright spot, and you will be remembered.

7.) Passion: Also known as love for what you do. This is not a happy-go-lucky industry; if this was a throwaway idea, a “why not?” decision, you probably aren’t going to make it. Just like any other meaningful relationship, there will be hard times. There will be fights and second-guessing and disappointment. You will be forced to ask yourself: “Do I love this enough to keep going?” And your answer, no matter the pitfalls and obstacles, should always be a resounding “yes!”

8.) Belief in Yourself: This is easily the most important. As we’ve said, you will get shot down. You will run into obstacles. You will be critiqued and criticized and it will hurt. Don’t let these things get you down for too long. You have a story in you; you care enough to make that story into a beautiful, tangible thing. Believe in yourself! Believe that you can make it through, can see this thing to the end. If that’s hard for you, then believe us: we know you have it in you. If you didn’t, you never would have started.

Guest Post: How to Survive Quitting Your Day Job to Become a Writer

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By Michael Voss and Jennifer Rock

Nearly three years ago, we left our perfectly comfortable jobs in one of Minneapolis’s largest companies to take the ultimate leap: finishing our debut novel.

We’ll pause here and give you a chance to roll your eyes and question our sanity. That’s a fairly typical response. Unless you also happen to have an unfinished manuscript and a lifelong dream to be an author. That’s when you might ask, “How did you do it?”

The answer is that we didn’t actually ditch corporate America. Not the parts that helped us, anyway. Rather, we clung to some solid business principles and applied them to our writing careers.

If you’re thinking of making a similar leap from office spreadsheets to literary masterpiece, here are a few things we learned about how to stick the landing:

  • Mind your bottom line.

The twice-per-month paychecks stop coming. For real. Maybe you don’t do much around the office to begin with (hey, we’re not judging), but when you officially stop working, your employer will stop paying you. And probably ask you to leave. Few authors get rich off their books, so be sure you have plans to spackle the income gap between your old job and your future book royalties. After all, you’re going to need a kickin’ new outfit for your launch event.

  • Keep a schedule.

Yes, it’s one of greatest appeals of throwing off the corporate shackles: leaving the tyranny of overbooked daily schedules. But your newfound freedom also comes with a Pandora’s Box of potential distractions, and it can be so easy to waste away hours that should be spent at the keyboard. So it’s critical to retain the self-discipline you developed during your corporate captivity, and attack the completion of your book with all the zeal of a first-year intern trying to impress the new boss.

  • Be your own, best project manager.

OK, we’re on point three and you’re probably wondering when we get to all the fun and freedom associated with being an author. But we’re here to tell you not to ditch those spreadsheets, charts and obsessive notes just yet. Writing a book and managing your career as an author requires strategy and organization. You’re essentially running a business—sans the daylong budget meetings and restrictive dress code.  So, create those to-do lists and track those expenses as if it’s still a job requirement. (Wearing pants, however, is optional.)

  • Bolster your network.

The sheer relief of no longer having a boss peering over your shoulder has been known to cause bouts of dizzying euphoria. You’ll be so happy chasing your dream full-time—writing what you want, when you want, how you want—you may be tempted to hole up in your writing room until you feel every word is perfect. But your manuscript will require multiple rounds of input and revisions before it ever meets a printing press or electronic bookstore, so it’s good to get input from trusted experts—early and often. Smart people surround themselves with other smart people.

  • Stay strong.

People will surprise you. Close family members and dear friends will support your writing career, or course. But don’t be shocked when some decades-long colleagues no longer return your calls, emails or texts. Yet there are positive surprises, too. That shy guy you greeted in the tower elevator every morning? He might be the first one to pre-order your book. And that long-forgotten classmate, the one now running her own restaurant business? She just bought a copy for each member of her staff. Finding unexpected people in your corner can feel like a mini-miracle—and restore your faith in humanity.

Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss spent the better part of two decades careening through corporate America—and barely lived to write about it. As company journalists, speechwriters, and communication directors, they survived more than their share of boardroom brawls. Both live near Minneapolis where they work as speakers and consultants. They share their best stories during happy hour.

 B.S., Incorporated their first book, a humorous office fiction, is available here, and their second book, Operation Clusterpuck is coming out this fall. 

Six Tips to Strengthen Your Book Concept

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Before you begin writing your book, it is essential that you ensure your concept is strong enough to build a story and a following (if you haven’t already established your readership). Authors are led to believe that their books are about what they love and what fascinates them. However, it is prudent to remember that your book is primarily for your readers. They are the ones that will be purchasing your books and essentially hold the fate of your book(s) in their hands. So creating a strong book concept is important, as it is the beginning framework for a story that your publisher will be eager to publish and your readers will be intrigued to read.

The inevitable question remains: how do you find the perfect combination of what you love to write and what your readers will love to read? The following are 6 tips to aid in strengthening those book ideas swimming around in your mind and help those elusive thoughts become more concrete.

1. Determine What You’re Excited About:

Although your book is meant for readers, it is important to remember that it is your book. With that being said, pick a topic and concept that excites you and one that you can work ardently on for over a year (depending on how long it takes you to write your proposal and finished draft).

What is your main focus, and where is there a gap in that genre that you can fill with your book? The best way to approach this question is by writing down initial ideas that pique your interest. It’s okay to be overflowing with book concepts at this stage because they will be teased out as we go along in the strengthening process.

2. Talk to Your Audience:

After looking inward at your interests, it is imperative that you also look outward at your audience to discover a place that your needs and interests as an author are met with the same enthusiasm from your readers. This can be done on any of your social media platforms, but explaining your rough idea(s) is a start.

After receiving some feedback, your list of concept ideas will decrease and you can get to the core of what you and your readers are craving in a new book. Not only does your audience serve as a yay or nay group in your particular genre, but they also serve as a second pair of eyes to see if your concepts are coherent and plausible.

For example, if you are writing a science fiction book about extra-terrestrials (an all too common topic in the genre), pay close attention to the unique areas that interest your readers and those that do not receive adoration (if your readers do not say anything). Don’t forget to take their suggestions seriously as your book is a service for them not just for you.

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3. Compare Your Author Platform:

This is the portion of book writing that requests you to analyze your own career. This may be the most difficult part of the strengthening process, because it requires you to assess yourself in relation to other authors in your field.

  • Start by researching other authors with a related background who have written successful books. During this process, you should be able to find their social media numbers (likes, press interviews and mentions, public speaking events, radio appearances, and so on).
  • Next, write down everything you are doing to promote your brand. How do you measure up in comparison to other successful authors? This may be intimidating, but taking an honest look at where you are as an author and where you wish to be will help you structure your growth by highlighting the areas that you need to improve to reach a larger audience.

4. Go to a Bookstore

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Block off a few hours in your schedule to go to a bookstore and see what's on the shelves. It may be helpful to bring a laptop or pad of paper too. While you stand in front of your preferred section (genre), ask yourself a few questions:

  • In general, what’s on the shelf?
  • What books are most interesting to me?
  • What books are being notably displayed?
  • Who published them?
  • What would I buy as a reader?

It would be helpful to check out the books on Amazon to see what their ratings and reviews are. What do the customers say about the books? Where are the books falling short of readers' expectations? Include these answers in a list to use while you write your book.

Do you recognize the authors? Do research on your laptop or phone to uncover who they are and how you compare to their platform.

Doing this can familiarize yourself with what books are being read and who's writing them. You can discover how you relate to the books and authors showcased on the shelves and decide how and what you can do to build your brand and book concept to reflect those authors' books that are already successful.

5. Balance Your Concept and Platform:

This is where everything that you have researched comes together to create your individual spot in the marketplace. Up until now, you have a better sense of what your readers are interested in, how your platform compares to other thriving authors, and what books are out there.

The tricky part is that if your author platform still needs work, the stronger your concept needs to be (to pull new readers in whether or not they’ve heard of you). Essentially, your concept is determined by the size of your platform.

For example, a book (or play) written today by J.K. Rowling (e.g. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) does not have to be too strong, because Rowling has already built up her readership, and regardless of how successful this eighth addition to her series is, it will be the most popular book of the year due to her continued popularity in the fantasy genre. If your platform is weak, a feeble book concept can stunt your growth as a writer, but a strong concept can expand your readership and push you further into the literary world.

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6. Add Concept Value:

After you’ve decided on a general concept, it’s important to begin refining and reinforcing its strength.

What features can you add to make your book more enticing for your readers? How can you make it more unique and original from other books you have seen in the same genre?

This can range from aesthetics (specific styles of photos and illustrations) to special features (quizzes, quotes, sidebars, and so on) and to richer information (your research, research from third parties, comments from other experts in the genre, and so on).

We hope that these tips were helpful. If you have a book concept that you think is strong, don't hesitate to reach out to us! 

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Five Ways to Get Your Social Media Followers to Buy Your Book

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Sometimes, you’ll have people follow you on social media who are in no way familiar with your books. This could be because you’ve interacted with other people they follow; it could be because you have a reputation for being a fun person to follow on social media (in which case, congratulations!); it could just be that they hit the button by mistake and haven’t bothered to correct their error.

Regardless of the reason, you want to do your best to make sure these followers become fans and actually read your books. Inflating your follower number is never bad, but inflating your number of dedicated readers is obviously better. So, here’s a few way to pick up those stragglers.

1. Mention what you’re reading/favorite books you have read.

We all know the algorithm bookstores use to get you to buy more. “If you liked x, you might like y,” it says. Maybe you end up buying y, maybe you don’t, but it has been planted in your head, and you’re more likely to buy it knowing it’s similar to another book you like than you would be if you were to randomly stumble across it in a bookstore or library.

As an author, you can indirectly apply that sort of algorithm to your own work by citing influences on your writing. You don’t even have to be direct, tweeting about how x work directly inspired your own recent novel, although that’s certainly an option. Just post about books and authors you like, and do so often. If you truly love a certain author, they will have rubbed off on you in some way, right? And if a follower also happens to love Author X, they’re more inclined to pick up your novel now that they know there’s a good chance it’s been influenced by that author.

2. Share praise that you receive.

Another standard device used to lure buyers into selecting a particular novel is that of the blurb, whether it’s on the front cover or inside the flyleaf. If the shopper sees a list of accolades as long as their forearm emblazoned on the back cover of a book, they automatically have several votes of confidence encouraging them to pick that book up.

Online praise can work in much the same way. And one advantage online praise has over professional praise is that it often comes from readers who are just like that follower you’re trying to convince to read your books. If you retweet or repost several dozen happy readers, Goodreads reviewers, etc. lavishing praise upon your latest piece of writing, it’s direct testimony from a huge demographic that you’re crafting books that are genuinely good. And of course, sharing professional praise doesn’t hurt at all either—fellow authors and industry publications complimenting your book gives it a stamp of approval from on high. Both types of praise have the potential to draw new readers in.

3. Interact with fellow writers.

Camus, Sartre, and BeauvoirLewis and TolkienG. K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw. Authors who are friends with other authors have a unique advantage in that hearing one of their group named will automatically call the others to mind. If someone is a fan of one member of a famous collective of writers, they’re far more likely to seek the other members of that collective out.

Of course, the writers you interact with on social media, save exceptional cases, won’t really be the Sartre to your Beauvoir, but the principle remains the same. If you’re friendly with other authors on social media—authors who you’re friends with in the real world, authors whose work you admire, or simply authors whose social media presence you enjoy—their fans will notice. If those authors are friendly in return, even better. What exactly does this person write? the fans will ask. They like my favorite author, and my favorite author likes them. Maybe there’s something there worth reading. Even if you and the author you interact with don’t have more than a nodding familiarity on social media, people will see the connection and remember it.

4. Market well.

It’s an obvious statement to make, but no less true for that: good marketing results in good sales. If you integrate marketing into your social media presence in a consistent, effective way, you’ll pick up far more readers than if you never marketed at all. This is especially true when certain followers may not have seen your books advertised before.

So don’t waste the opportunity! Market well and market often. Refrain from being an incessant promoter of your own work, but make sure that plugs for your books will be noticed and will be attractive. Sometimes all it takes is one good banner to sell a book.

5. Just keep doing what you do!

If someone has followed your social media accounts without having read your work, it’s probably because there’s something about you that attracts them as a person. Your personality; your sense of humor; your advocacy for certain books, causes, etc.—things that are intrinsic to you and/or things you care deeply about.

So keep caring about them! If a follower likes you for those reasons, you’ll continue to endear yourself to them if you continue to put those reasons forward. And if someone likes you, they’re likely to pick up your books. Because we all like helping out people who we enjoy, right? Readers are no exception.

Your Voice Matters

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As we celebrate Pride Month this June, we asked Wise Ink author Russell Ricard to share his personal journey in finding his writing voice as it relates to Pride, being a gay author, and publishing his debut novel, The Truth About Goodbye

He did not disappoint. 

He wrote this letter to his younger self, and we hope it inspires you as it inspires us!

Dear One,

At five, you will not know exactly why other boys and some girls call you “flower boy” or “fag.” You will not know why you can’t stand being away from your best friend, another boy, but some day you will understand why. And it will be for a wonderful reason.

At ten, you will sing and dance through your body. From your heart you will create prose and poetry and plays on scraps of paper. And while you still will be taunted by other boys and some girls for expressing your creative spirit, something inside will remind you that you are okay just the way you are.

At sixteen, your voice will be violated. A parent will read your private mail, and also your diary. They will discover that you love another boy. They will condemn you based on their religious beliefs, yell in your face that you will burn in hell. But you will find a counterpart to your birth family. This logical family, as you will later discover is a term coined by one of your favorite authors, Armistead Maupin, will lift you up, celebrate your uniqueness, and love you unconditionally. And you will slowly begin to reclaim your voice.

At 18, after the boy you assumed was “the one” breaks your heart into a zillion pieces you will suffer a mental breakdown that will keep you in bed for an entire week. But your voice will once again rise. You will eventually clock this grief as part of your growing pains. You will channel this dance of lost and found into extended creativity—more writing.

At 21, you will take the red eye from Los Angeles to New York in pursuit of your artistic dreams. You will meet success in the theater world, continuing to tell stories through song and dance and acting. And the voice that was violated at sixteen will drive you safely toward storytelling through prose, poetry, and plays.

At 23, you will fall in love with “the one,” your soul mate. This will further help you gain access to your voice.

And at 44, after 21 years together, you and your soul mate will finally hear the words “By the state of New York…I now pronounce you husband and husband” from the officiate. You will be in awe of the sight: witnesses that include your birth and logical family finally there for you. And the wedding cake will be incredible—it will taste like true love. During the celebration you will profess gratitude that you and your soul mate have moved from friend to partner to husband, the semantics of such words not lost on you.

At 50, you will finally take all you’ve learned from your younger selves and channel their spirit into your first novel. You will not censor your voice, your pride, or your bravery for being out and open in both heart and soul. Because you know what true love is for both your self and another man.

You will hear Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s voice say that there shouldn’t be two kinds of marriages. She will say that gays and lesbians should be afforded full marriage not “skim milk marriage.” And further, you will have celebrated that Ginsburg and her colleagues on the Supreme Court finally ruled in favor of Marriage Equality across all 50 states. And even though you know full well that the fight for LGBTQ rights is not over, you will trust that your 5 and 10 and 16 and 18 and so-and-so year self whom you’ve taken care of for decades will find the pride and guts to rise up for love and your rights; and the rights of others.

With the publication of your debut novel The Truth About Goodbye you will take deep pride in telling a story with a universal message about love, loss, renewal; and the celebration that love is love.

You will continue from there, one day at a time.

And so, dear one, have heart and guts and pride. Keep creating. Keep writing. Your voice matters.

Love,

Russell, your 51 year old self

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Writing a Book With a Partner? Read This First.

Is it hard to write a book? Yep. But writing a book WITH someone else? That seems infinitely harder. 

We talked with Wise Ink authors Jennifer Rock and Michael Voss about how they pulled this off for their hysterical first novel, B.S. Incorporated, and what they've learned writing the second installment!

What makes a great writing partnership?

Mike: Respect for the other person's talent and perspective is critically important. As is trust. Your partner will see things in your prose that you can't see, so it's really important to give each other the freedom to build on an idea, take it in a different direction, or possibly even nix it altogether. When you trust that your partner has the story's best interest at heart, it's much easier to make those trade-offs. In our current manuscript, Jennifer wrote a scene in which one of our protagonists struggles to make sense of her father's passing. I saw some opportunities to give it more emotional wallop and Jennifer happily let me take another pass at it. She read my edits and spotted a few lines that came across as heavy-handed. She dialed those back a touch, and now we feel like we really deepened that character's POV in all the right ways.

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Jennifer: I read someplace there's one important rule in finding a writing or business partner: Choose someone you wouldn't mind being stuck with in an airport for four hours. And for me -- wow, that's a very short list :). There's something to be said for building a partnership with someone who has similar interests, work styles and temperament -- because you're going to spend an extraordinary amount of time together, inventing characters and rehashing plotlines and creating unwritten backstories. You better make sure your writing partner is someone who can happily go as deep in the details as you can. And find a partner who is willing to learn and listen, and can build on all the things you say and think, and invites you to do the same with their ideas. Or you will strangle each other before the first chapter is written. 

Lots of people SAY they want to write a book together, but when it comes down to getting the words on the page they struggle. How do you suggest authors handle the "back and forth" of actually writing the book?

Mike: This is probably the most common question we get in media interviews and at book signings. It took us a while to refine our process, but we now feel as if we have it down. We start by mapping out the entire story arc for the book, including the arcs of individual characters and sub-plots. From there we break the story into three acts, and determine which elements of each arc fit into each act (e.g., in Act I we meet "Joe" and learn about his background, in Act II we'll learn that Joe is hiding a big secret, and in Act III that secret will be revealed and resolved). Then we split the first act into chapters and determine the sequence for planting all the seeds that will grow throughout the subsequent chapters/acts. When we know what needs to happen in a set of chapters, we'll divvy up the first-draft assignments: Jennifer takes chapters 1 and 3, Mike writes 2 and 4. 

Jennifer: When we finish our first drafts, we flip it to the other person to make edits (tracking every change). Then we review the edited version together and make any final decisions before considering it final and adding it to the working manuscript. We continue that process to the end. That way, we both touch every word. People often ask if I write all the female perspectives and Mike writes for the male characters, but I think our characters are much better, stronger and more real because we both write for all of them. It's funny -- sometimes I'll pull a quote out of the first book and say "that's hilarious!" -- and Mike will remind me that I wrote that part. We can't honestly tell who wrote what anymore. That was a long journey to go from having Mike's style and my style to creating "our" writing style. 

We can't imagine it's always been an easy journey.... would you be willing to share any of your partnership struggles? How did you overcome them?

Mike: We've definitely had some struggles along the way. Our very first manuscript was 167,000 words - or twice as long as it needed to be. That happened in part because we were not disciplined enough to make the hard choices we should have made early on. Stripping out 70,000 words - and one major character - forced some uncomfortable conversations. It's really difficult to hear your partner say that something you wrote is not strong enough to make the cut, or that readers won't find it funny, or that it's just poorly written - and equally difficult to deliver that message to someone who has been working just as hard as you to achieve your shared dream. We tiptoed around that kind of honest feedback early on, and it resulted in a lot of painstaking manuscript surgery later. But over time we developed that trust we mentioned earlier and learned to make hard choices before getting too far down the road.

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Jennifer: Ooh boy. Yes, we had struggles. With the first book, before we had a good shared writing process, we'd argue over how I'd rip my way through the first draft of a few chapters, then twiddle my thumbs waiting for Mike to finish writing a few pages. We took 100 steps back and spent a lot of time talking about how we each approach writing. My first draft is like painting a room with a roller -- get the big spaces filled in and see what the color looks like in the daylight. Mike paints his first draft with a watercolor brush -- amazing attention to the finer details. Once we realized that, we figured out how to respect each other's thinking and approaches, and give each other space to do our best work. Honesty and communication. That's how you overcome any partnership struggles. 

You're actively drafting your second book now. How is that process going versus the first book?

Mike: Like a dream. :) We were learning as we wrote the first time around, so the process is much more efficient and enjoyable now. The biggest key, in my mind, is that we're so much clearer on what our shared voice sounds like. Our first drafts are much closer to what they need to be, and we have a better eye for making edits that punch up the prose, deepen a character's POV or strengthen the story. (Props to Laura Zats and our other editors for teaching us some of these tips.)

Jennifer: The first book took us six years! The second took us about nine months -- and that's even introducing a host of new characters and settings into the crazy little corporate world we created. We learned so much about planning and outlining. For the first book, we wrote our last chapter 10 or 11 times (including writing the last page while it was going to the printer!). On the second book, we always knew what the last page would be. I think that's the difference in process: It's like on the first book we had just a compass. This time, we created a map.

Look for B.S. Incorporated at rockandvossbooks.com! 

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Five Secrets for Throwing an Epic Book Launch Event

It’s a question we get all the time— do you really need to throw a launch party when your book is released?

YES!

For some authors, this is great news. For others, the thought of throwing a book launch party is daunting. We get it.

We’ve attended a whole lot of book launch parties, but one that stands out for us was one thrown by Wise Ink author, Tera Girardin. Her book, Faces of Autism, is a gorgeous coffee-table gift book celebrating the lives of autistic kids. We recently asked her to give us a few of her secrets for success, and being the awesome person she is, she agreed!

  1. “Make it a community event.” Tera’s event was held in an elementary school gym, which had stations for balloon art, a photo booth, a dance area, and a place to eat and sign books. “It was less about me and the book and more about the kids and the cause and celebrating.”

  2. “Have other things for sale related to the book, such as notecards and T-shirts.” Tera had her volunteer helpers all wear the shirts and add to the sense of community and celebration.

  3. “I put my ambassadors to work”. Because Tera’s book focused on kids and their families, she made it clear to them that they should be sharing and inviting people to the launch. “Let people help!”

  4. “We launched in a month that counted.” For Tera, this was Autism Awareness Month. This meant that there was interest in the media around her event, and she got lots of coverage and support.

  5. We did something exceptionally special”. Tera’s book launch was really about celebrating the kids IN the book. So while she did sign books herself, she also set up signing tables for each and every child featured in the book. This extra touch is something that people STILL talk about when they remember her launch.

Whatever you choose for your launch, be sure to take tons of pictures and soak it all in. You’ve worked hard- you deserve it!

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