Lisa Manifold

Writing From the Top of the Street

Tag: organization

Post Con Collapse

Two Conventions in less than 10 days. That’s what I did last week, folks. June 17-19 I attended Denver Comic Con (awwwweesome!) and then June 22-26, I flew off to Nashville for UtopiaCon 2016. Another awwwweesome.

While not everyone who reads this is an author, I wanted to share some of the wisdom I gleaned from these hectic ten days.

1. Plan in advance, and actually DO the things on your to-do list. Don’t wait until the last minute to get everything done. If you have to fly to a convention, make sure you have the right luggage to get your books, marketing materials and display items to the venue. Otherwise, you’ll end up scrambling for appropriate luggage and sweating over the weight limits.

You really don’t want to know how I know this.

2. Find the balance between taking too much, and not enough. It’s not easy – but talk to people who have done the event before. Look on Facebook. Is there a group for the people going? I was fortunate to find a group dedicated to authors heading to UtopiaCon. I didn’t really need to ask questions because so many other people did it before I even thought of any. But I did read the discussions and follow them, and it helped me tremendously in deciding what I needed to bring with me. When you have to travel to the venue, the logistics of what and how much to bring are paramount.

3. It’s okay to sell out of a product. I sold out of HEART OF THE GOBLIN KING, and I took orders for it. I added a small fee for shipping, and boom! Done! So bring the amount of product that works without hurting you logistically (thank goodness for Southwest and their two bag allowance!). You can still sell and be successful if you have overwhelming demand beyond how much product you have in hand that day.

4. Prep your display before you show up for the event. I hadn’t done any conventions as an author, and nothing on the scale of either of the two I attended. So I researched table set up, and made notes about what has worked for other creative people who are selling at these events. You know what? It worked. I found a great blog that broke down how people decide you’re not the artistic equivalent of a used car salesman. Set up your table beforehand and look at it as dispassionately as you can. Does it appeal? Is it cluttered? (Side note: Give yourself time to set up at the venue and eyeball your table as well. De-clutter. Make everything visually appealing. If you’re not sure, bring a friend for set up to help you look at your display objectively.)

It worked. BUT – and this is a big but – it’s work. You cannot spend the time and money that working conventions takes without committing yourself to hard work. Comic Con started on June 17, and I was home and done by June 27 with both cons, and I am EXHAUSTED. Be prepared for that. Have help so you can get something to eat and drink, and the ability to go to the bathroom. These things matter as much as anything else you do, people!

5. Come up with a one line description for your work. People are moving by. They don’t want to stop and hear the entire 5 page synopsis. Make it quick, intriguing, and snappy. What would interest you as a potential reader? That’s how I developed my descriptions.

6. Don’t hard sell. People don’t mind being sold, in my opinion, if you lead them to it logically, and without a baseball bat. No one likes the used car salesman. Don’t be that guy for your book. People will nod, take your swag, and scurry away, sorry they made eye contact. That’s not the kind of impression you want to leave with them. Practice how you’re going to talk to people. This is important if you’re not really a people person. Let’s face it, writing/creating is a solitary profession. So if you’re not comfy with it, stand in front of a mirror and practice.

That leads to my final takeaway-

7. Always put yourself in the place of your audience.

I’m a reader. Most authors are readers as well. It’s part of why we write – we want to transport others as we ourselves have been transported. So what would work for you, as a reader? What sort of table display at a convention would draw you in? What kind of chat from the author would inspire you to take a chance on an author you aren’t familiar with?

What would turn you away? Think about what sort of message you like to see from those selling a product, and what works and doesn’t work for you, as the audience.

I find that if I think of my audience at all times, I tend to do things that they like. Because they’re things that I, as a reader and a fangirl of various fandoms, like.

You do all these things, and you’re probably going to have a pretty fantastic time. No voice at the end of it, but who cares? You had fun losing it!

The Evil Voice Within

We all have it. None of us want it. What do we do with it? (A little Buffet-inspired intro to start your read here.)

One of the things I’ve been chatting with other authors recently about is that dreaded Voice Within. Or as I call it, the Evil Voice Within. You know it. The one that takes your self-doubt, insecurity, worry, fear, whatever that go-to negative emotion is, and makes it a fire-breathing dragon.

A real, live dragon, who’s in a bad mood, snarky, and rampaging around in your head. dragon

I want to evict the %)^$@^&%, but he always finds his way back.

Why is that? We’re doing something amazing. Contrary to popular belief, not everyone can write a book. Most of us can start, and get part way through, but finishing the thing? That’s a feat. I should know. My thumb drives are littered with sizable works that are not done. Writing it is only the first part of the whole thing.

Then, one must finish it. After it’s finished, you really need to read the thing again. For content. To see if it’s something you want to let out into the world. To see if you need to take your hacksaw and weed-wacker and do shaping and pruning. To see if you love it when you read it, or if you cringe. Hint: If you cringe, you don’t need to trash it. You may need to just leave it for a bit, and then come back and do some revising.

All along the way of the aforementioned journey, you have to listen to Mr. Snarky Dragon. Telling you all his stuff and nonsense, tossing in his one liners when you’re least expecting it.

So how to get around him? Everyone, no matter what you do, occasionally comes up against that dragon. I think authors have a particularly assy dragon, but I’m willing to admit possessing a bias.

Here’s how you do it. You ignore it. Tell it to )%$^#%^ off. Go read a good review. Go look at your latest craft book (folks, you need to be reading them. I am the worst about actually doing it, and now that I have, I am kicking myself for dragging my feet before).

Plan out your next marketing campaign. Then go and visit the social media of your author friends. Talk about their awesome cover, or let them know what you loved about their book. Discuss ways to market, talk about how to ramp up something for the holidays.

See where I’m going with this?

Own that you occasionally give Snark Dragon space in your head, and then move on. Know that you can and will be successful, and it will probably take some time. It’s also going to take work. Hard work. Sadly, I’ve yet to meet any authors who have that lovely cabana boy offering them grapes with nimble fingers and an adoring gaze. Or if they do have one, they’re being verrrrry low-key about the whole thing.

poolboy

We can all aspire to a pool boy, so to speak. We just need to get our minds around it.

But Lisa, you cry. I love me a good Ryan meme, but that’s a meme! I see no Ryan, nor any grapes! And certainly not peeled grapes.

Here’s what I do:

If I’m frustrated with a particular work, I walk away from it. I leave it to simmer on its own, and I go do something else. At this exact moment, I have a WIP I’m writing, another WIP I work on when I’m tired of WIP #1, and I am outlining a new series. So if I get caught up and stuck, I have something else to do. Not everyone can work on more than one project at a time, so if you can’t, get out of your chair, and go for a walk. Take the dog. Go look at nature. Hang out with your kids. If you feel you MUST be doing something, get a digital recorder, and talk out your story issues. Sounds silly, but it works. I also find if I’m stuck, a long shower helps. I think a lot in the shower. It’s relaxing.

If I find that my book sales are not where I want them, I go and look at what others in my genre are doing. Not to give SD ammo, but I want to see if they’re doing something I’m not, and ought to be. I am an avid reader of promo threads – forum threads where people write up their marketing plan for a set period of time, and then report on it. Reading the successes and challenges of others not only gives me ideas, but it reminds me I’m not alone on this journey. That’s important for us.

I said it earlier, but go read a craft book. I am a dedicated pantser. I don’t like to plot – or at least, I didn’t think I did. However, I’m reading a lot about increasing your output, and all the people I see who are doing it right, and creating success are doing so while using some pre-writing organization. So it’s worth considering, in my opinion. It can help you to get out of the corners we sometimes paint ourselves into.

Finally, I realize that no matter how much I love this career, I’m going to have some off days. That there are going to be times when it’s just going to be sucky. I am more thin-skinned than I ever realized, but putting myself out there as an author is forcing me to toughen up. To know that I am doing the best I can, that I don’t see this as a scheme, but as a long term career where I wish to put out commercial quality content for essentially the rest of my life. And that the one day where Snarky Dragon gets free range head space with me – it’s ONE DAY.

So kick your dragon back to his cave, and know that you’re on the right path. Even if it turns out not to be the right path in the long run – that’s the beauty of being a writer, and an indie writer in particular. We can change. We can shift focus. We can adapt.

And we will succeed.

Now go write.

One week to go.

Until Dragon Con, that is. Not anything on the radar of most of America, I’m sure. But for the geeks in the crowd – It’s Nerdi Gras, baby!

On deck are the Tardis costume – along with the lovely Sap, of course.

CThomasHowell

I do not believe there will be a C Thomas Howell in the offing this year, however. Sadly. BTW, how is it the guy looks even better older than he did younger? Or is it that I am just older? Nah. Never mind. Not going there.

I’m testing three new costumes. One is my Chiquita Banana, which I will be rockin’ for the DC Parade, in the Parade of Elements group. As Potassium, the banana is a must.

Then I am trying out my Supernatural Baby costume –  I’ll post pics.

Finally, there is my awesome, amazing, fantabulous incredible G Force Costume. I’m Jason/Joe (what his name is depends on when you watched it). I have the boots and gloves, and am waiting on the dress and cape. Got the helmet and other accessories.

helmet

Just to give you an idea of the amazing awesomeness.  The entire costume looks like this:

charactor_joecondor0

Except I’m wearing a dress instead of that unrealistic body suit. So I’ll post pics of that too.

And in honor of the one week countdown, I’m getting things done. All the house stuff, kid stuff, groceries, schedules, NEWSLETTER!, and books. Yeah. Two books out this week – One Night At The Ball is live now, and Casimir’s Journey on 8/31. In print, even. I’m all sorts of motivated.

Now I gotta go find a hat for my banana.

Organization!!!!

I’ve been so busy with writing that not having a looming deadline has left me sort of at odds.

I’ve caught up on sleep. My house (see previous posts, LOL) is now clean. Organized…not so much.

I am one of those people who gets overwhelmed with trying to get organized. Lord, the paper piles in my clutter ‘Hot Spots’. Like many of us, I look at the clutter, and go, “Well, dang. What am I gonna do with this mess?” I consider where to start, and then get depressed just thinking about it, and go and watch a Jane Austen. I feel marginally better, because Hey, at least I considered it, right?

This means I have what my Dear Husband calls the Corner of Hell in our kitchen. It’s where paperwork goes to die. The kids have a Corner of Hell with their things – because I don’t insist on getting rid of stuff (my poor kiddos – I already see some pack ratting in them). I cannot even begin to discuss my closet and dressers. Yes, I have three dressers. They’re not all the same size – but one really doesn’t need three of them.

I was bemoaning this earlier in the year to some of the ladies in my Tuesday critique group. I think clutter is a universal language. Recently, one of the ladies shared what has become a solution for her.  It’s this.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KK0PICK/ref=kinw_myk_ro_title

The whole idea is to only keep things that bring you joy.

That idea is thrilling to me. One of the things I’ve struggled with over the years is that the act of acquisition is fun for me. Particularly if I can get it for a bargain. Lord-a-mercy, I love a bargain. For a long time, I didn’t bother to look and see if I NEEDED it. I paid attention to the fact that I wanted it, or thought I did. That meant I ended up with a lot of STUFF.

Home decor is a prime example of this. I have specific things I like to have in my home. I search them out, and the hunt is as fun as having them in the home. But I don’t have enough wall or display space for all the things I have. So I have begun to pare down my decor. It’s really HARD. I also bought two more display cases, but I’m not going to chastise myself over that. It organizes things, right? And with more space, it will allow for the things I have to be more readily enjoyed, right? LOL. I am actually moving one case down into my office, thus freeing up space for enjoyment in more places in the home.

I digress. Back to the book, and the premise behind it. Several of the ladies in my group have started working through their clutter hell based on this book. They report a high level of success so far. They also report that they feel better. Lighter.

I have company coming in two weeks. I want my house to show to the best advantage. So I am going to be employing the techniques listed in the book, and working through my areas of embarrassment.

I will keep you all updated on how it goes.

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