I have decided to do a trial and put my writing workbooks on Kindle Select. At the moment only the 7 Day Creativity Jumpstart is available. But Unleash Your Writer will be up as soon as it is out of extended distribution on Smashwords. After refusing to put a single book ever into Kindle Select you may be wondering why I have decided to do it now, at the very moment when most people are saying that the select program is failing authors and kindle unlimited even more so.
It is true that I am not a big fan of exclusivity and the books will not remain permanent features on the site. When I started to self-publish I was ecstatic at what Amazon was offering and the new world of publishing it opened up. I did not delude myself into thinking that Amazon was a self-publisher’s best friend. They want to make money and they will do it whatever way they can. Sometimes that will benefit independent authors and other times it will not. My advice is to educate yourself as best as possible and then make educated decisions on what you think will best benefit you and your author’s platform. And having as many venues for readers to find you as possible just seems like sound and reasonable advice.
Which leads me to why I have decided to close some of those opportunities for discovery.
Unlike my motorcycle travel memoirs, the workbooks are not selling on any of the other platforms. So although I am closing the chance of discovery for a few months, I am not shutting down an income stream. I want to use the select program as a tool and see if by utilizing the free days I can get my books into the hands of more people. And from there find out if the workbook market is just a much harder market to break into, or if I just have not found my readers in that market yet. I am also hoping that with the free days I can capitalize on getting some more reviews. The 7 Day Creativity has no reviews as of the moment, which can be a killer when people are deciding if they should buy the book or not. And Unleash Your Writer only has one, and a dismal one at that! I plan on writing a post about bad reviews and what we can learn from them next week. But in this case 90% of the review was less something I can take and use and more that she did not read the description of what the book was about. It happens, but with only one review, and that one being a 1 star at that, no one is going to buy that book. Or at least very few people. So I would rather take it out, offer it for free, and see if it really is the book or if it is one reader who is angry that she did not get the writing prompts I specifically said were not in the book in the first place.
People like motorcycles better than books about why you may have your creativity blocked. Or at the very least they like talking about them more. But it turns out I like writing about creativity more! So I guess I will just continue to do both!
I want to write that a new year is the perfect time for new beginnings. But that is just lazy thinking and writing. A new beginning can be made at any time. And they are created from moment to moment and not from a complete break from the past or the need for a new calender. The fact that most people have abandoned their new year resolutions by February just goes to show that a new year is less about a perfect time for a new beginning and more about the illusion that it is.
And let’s be fair to ourselves. Breaking from our past is rather hard, as it makes up who we are. Instead, working with the past, learning and relearning from it, and trying to remain as conscious as possible about the process, that is the harder, but truer, path.
Or at least I believe so! And that can be started at any time, although it needs to be constantly attended to. We need to be reminded we are only human. And setting goals and forcing high standards of change while beating myself into submission seems like, well, soul sucking rather than soul enhancing work.
And so that is why I am not making any resolutions this new year. I want my year to be soul enhancing rather than sucking. I am going to try and follow through on what I love and practice self-forgiveness rather than beating myself up when I slip up. I am going to try to embrace my writing and enjoy the process rather than fretting I am not doing enough or being enough. I am going to accept that being a mother separated from her mother by an ocean means I am allowed to accept a dip in productivity.
I also get to accept that when I feel guilty sometimes it is because I know I am indulging in behaviour that does not ring true with the “ideal me” and sometimes it’s just because being a mother did not come with a manual. And even if it had, let’s face it, I probably would have disagreed with all of it and tossed it out the window to do it my way anyway. And that brings uncertainty, which is often the price you have to pay to walk your own path. But then you also get to be rewarded with the joy that comes with finding that sweet spot that lets you touch happiness you have defined for yourself. (It doesn’t always stay, but at least you know how to fumble towards it again!)
As a mother or a writer I often have no idea what I am doing. But this year I am practising forgiveness and enjoying the ride. No resolutions, just mindful practice of my life.
My newest workbook, The 7 Day Creativity Jumpstart Workbook, is now out on Amazon and Smashwords, AND with the following coupon (type in WJ29E) you can get it for 50% off at Smashwords from now until December 8th, 2014. Which means only 2 dollars!
Despite the joy and fulfillment we receive from living a life with creativity in it, few of us allow ourselves the right to create. Instead we allow outside pressure to stop us from what we consider an indulgence rather than a right. We force ourselves to do things we don’t love and deny that which we do. We let the everyday overwhelm us and always assume that some day we will finally do that which we love, all the while never appreciating that we need to actively create a space to practice our creativity. In the words of Andy Warhol “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”
This workbook is about helping you identify where you need to make changes in your life in order to allow creativity to come in. It aims to be a jump start to reconnecting with your creative self, finding the blocks and getting past them to do whatever creative art it is that you love. What it is not is a book of creative prompts.
If you want you can compare it to financial problems. A person who needs money can borrow it and be temporarily cured of a financial crunch. However, that is not going to remove the deeper problem of that person’s relationship to money. The 7 Day Creativity Jumpstart looks at fixing the real reasons you are not creating and not just addressing a lack of ideas you may have.
You may have noticed the blog went quiet again. (And then again maybe not, as nothing kills off a readership like never updating.) I have periods of activity where I can work on my writing projects and post regularly. Sometimes I need to choose between the two and I choose my writing projects over the blog. And sometimes life spins out of control and I get nothing done on either of those two fronts. Sometimes this is in the form of something out of my control (an exploding toddler, first trimester daze etc). And sometimes it is a direct result of laziness that gets coupled with apathy that then spins out of control. You know the drill.
I am not alone here. Something happens to throw you off your writing routine. A friend has a crisis and knows you work from home or you have a blue day that turns into a blue week. Much like a gym routine, once you have broken from your writing it is so difficult to return to it.
Something you loved has become something to be squeezed in. And this despite the fact that not only do you feel better for having done it, you KNOW you feel better when you do it.
And yet you avoid it like you would rather have pencils driven into your eyes. You may even find yourself being snappish and irritable and have no idea why. Although you may strongly suspect that it could be because you are neglecting that part of you that needs to create. That part that shrivels up when it is bound and gagged and takes you down with it. Yet we choose not to act upon it.
Why are human being like this? Creativity is like our muscles. When we use it regularly it becomes strong and easy to use. It makes the rest of your body and soul feel great. Using it is a joy.
And just like your muscles, when you stop using creativity on a regular basis it loses its power. And it requires effort to get back into shape. Effort that is fuelled by energy that needs to come from other areas of your life. And we often feel like we just do not have it in us to do so.
When I find myself in this situation I start to beat myself up. And then I forgive myself. Admit that I have gotten off track. But I do not need to stay there. Instead I need to forgive myself for the past and use my butt kicking for the present. As a tool to move forward, not a way to continue to be unproductive while taking potshots at my self esteem.
It helps no one and allows me to continue to be unproductive and is a pretty crappy way of assuming accountability while still doing nothing about it.
And just because my first day back is not as good as it was before, I do not allow myself to quit. Just like I would not expect myself to run a marathon after 6 months of not even lacing up my sneakers, neither do I expect to be able to just pick up where I left off with my writing. That is not to say that I allow myself to slack off at first sign of trouble. But I take note of it and like I would with my toddler, I guide myself back to where I want to be. Maybe its just morning pages over coffee for the first week. Or a slotted hour in at the cafe near my daughters daycare. But it is something manageable and I do it.
I start practising setting my boundaries again, as I have come to accept that this is also something that requires constant practice. I set my priorities and I say no to friends who want to meet for coffee during my set writing time. If I would not cancel a class to go for coffee why would I cancel my writing time to do it? And I find that a little self love and acceptance with some boundary control has me back writing again. (And in this case I expect to have another handbook out by early next week.)
Finally, when I feel myself starting to stray, I remind myself that even if I am not as productive as I want, I am still writing and publishing, something that 4 years ago I was not. Then it was just a pipe dream. Now it is a reality.
And better to be doing something rather than nothing. And that normally gets me back on track as well.
And yes, I do need to revisit and go through the exercises I established in my Unleash Your Writer Workbook. Life is a constant cycle of learning.
Good news! We successfully ran a crowdfunding project to get Iceland: A Stormy Motorcycle Adventure translated from English into German. I do believe it was more out of luck, rather than a well thought out and successful campaign. So if you are thinking about crowdfunding your own book or creative project, read on for some of my thoughts on the entire project as well as some lessons learned.
Some Background To The Project
Our translator is a new translator looking to build his body of work. As such he quoted us a low price on the cost of the translation. When we compared his work to the other samples we received from other more established translators we found he was almost as good and way cheaper. He would do the entire work for 600 Euro. As we (myself and my partner Patrick, who helps out in someway on every book and at times co-authors them), wanted to make sure that we reached our goal we thought a low price for the same quality meant a much higher chance of reaching our goal. So we posted our project on Startnext (a German crowdfunding platform) and left the amount needed at 600. Any amount we made over the 600 we would use for professional editors/giving the extra profits direct to Robert, as he was doing the work for a rock bottom fee.
Choosing a small financial goal seemed like a good idea at the time. After all a small amount of money must be easier to raise than a large amount – right?
As we learned, not necessarily.
To run a successful campaign requires a large amount of effort. Ideally you have the idea and begin to promote and develop interest in your project months before you go live with the actual crowdfunding campaign.
To me, the amount of 600 Euro seems so low that it did not require the extra effort. We were so wrong. Asking people to part with their hard earned money is asking them to part with it. No matter if you are asking 300 people for 2 Euro or 3000. They want to know that the money is going to something they feel is worth it.
The other obstacle faced with such a low goal was one I had not anticipated. Due to the fact that 600 seemed like a low goal, I did not feel like it was worth the effort of putting a lot of promotional effort in. It was a combination of feeling it should not be too hard to hit 600 and that there were so many other things I could be doing with my time. Things like writing or promoting books that were ready for purchase right away. Things that might result in the 600 anyway. Or even if not, if I made 300 that month I got to keep it, whereas with a crowdfunding project I would only see the payout if we made our goal. Anything less is returned to the supporters.
That I had not anticipated.
In the end, the fact that we got funded was more a fluke. Right up until the last minute we only had 50 Euro of our total goal of 600. The weekend before the campaign was due to close Patrick had a radio interview to promote his book Fernweh and talk about travelling the world by motorcycle. Happily, the interviewer was just as happy to devote part of the program to our journey through Iceland and the campaign to get our book translated.
Iceland was never an easy ride
But it was always an amazing one!
Did the radio plug make that big of a difference? We have no idea.
One donor swooped in last minute and donated 600 Euro, pushing our final total up to 650 Euro. The book would be translated! (And Robert is about halfway through it at the moment). We still do not know who this person is. They never requested a single one of the thank you incentives. We wrote them to thank them and never heard a thing back. Not a request for a package or why they wanted to give us the 600 Euro. Was it because they heard it on the radio? We do not know. We just know that neither of the 3 of us know the donor in question. No family or friend who wanted the project to go ahead.
The main thing is we were successful, but it may have had a lot more to do with luck!
So would I do it again?
Absolutely. We are looking into crowdfunding the documentary of our trip through Iceland.
Some key things we will be implementing this time around:
We are working with someone we know and trust and has a solid reputation as a graphic designer and film editor.
We are already planning the campaign that will be launched on a crowdfunding platform in 3 – 4 months time. AFTER we have done the building of a community to support the project and to build awareness around it. And since this one will be a highly professional project we are going to be looking for thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. And this is not to suggest that the Iceland book was never meant to be a professional product. But the price was one based on a new translator and no extra funds for professional formatting. The content might be solid, but the book was still one done by an individual rather than a publishing house. The sale price will reflect that. Under 5 dollars as opposed to 10 or more for an e-book. The work on the Iceland documentary is with an individual who does this for a living. This is not a building of his brand. He will do the work for a fair price, but not a low price. And that is ok as the end result will reflect that.
A teaser video from Andi when we first thought we would be doing the project. Then we realized how much time it would require and in fairness, Andi needed to be paid to finish such a large project. That is why now we are back to trying crowdfunding.
Also, somehow aiming for thousands and failing does not seem like the same waste of time that trying for 600 and potentially failing did.
And I think that is where I fell short in the Iceland translation campaign. I didn’t feel like the effort required to reach out and do the promotion required would be worth it no matter what the outcome of the campaign. And that was not something I had anticipated as a potential problem. Promoting would still get my name and my books out there, I really thought I was ready to do it. But with my daughter under a year and a half and not in daycare at the time, combined with no family living in the country let alone the city, my time was precious. I had two days a week where the babysitter came for 3 hours.Those 6 hours encompassed all the time I was to have to myself for the week. To do all my writing, book promoting and self care. Somehow each time the babysitter arrived, doing the promotion required for the Iceland campaign seemed like more effort than it was worth. I wanted to spend that time writing new things.
And in the end, for my sanity, that really was more important. I needed that time to write. I was a happier mother and partner for getting it. To have spent it otherwise was not a good idea. Perhaps now that she is in daycare it would be different. But at the time it was not. I needed to write and not promote.
So am I suggesting that you should only crowdfund if you’re looking for big money?
I am saying that you should set a financial goal that is not only achievable but makes the entire venture worth it no matter what the final outcome will be. And assess the time you have to devote to making the project worth it beforehand.
This is a really great and inspirational video from Raw Story Life and Joanna Penn. Worth the listen and the reminder that even if success seems to come with ease or overnight it so rarely does. Or that overnight bit was actually the result of a number of years finally snowballing into an avalanche!
For any other author out there wondering if crowdfunding a book is right for you or not, check out this interview where Amanda Barbara of Pubslush shares her crowdfunding tips with Writer.ly CEO Kelsye Nelson. (We went with a German bilingual crowdfunding platform, but if I was to crowdfund an English book I would go with Pubslush.) No matter the platform you choose, it is a good video that covers the basics and some great tips on how to succed in crowdfunding your book.