BookstockTent 1

One of the book tents at Bookstock this year.

As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, “It’s easy to get published – and hard to get read.” I was reminded of this at Bookstock, where I met many self-published authors selling their books.

Selling books at a literary festival makes sense but not cents, according to author Bruce Hartman, who was there with his novels. He came to Bookstock from Philadelphia, he said, because he used to live near Woodstock, and he thought he’d see some old friends. He was also offering his books at a discount – and still hoping to earn back the cost of renting a table under the tent.

With all the new technologies for print-on-demand (POD) and self-publishing (eBooks), it’s easy to break into print, but the difficulties of finding outlets at which to sell your books are great. This is the other reason to “know your audience.” The first reason, is to write for that audience.

Generally, it’s easier to sell non-fiction than fiction, especially if you have a special niche – a how-to, a travel narrative, a memoir with a certain slant (epiphany, recovery, rags-to-riches success).

But fiction has its own niches, too. First, there’s genre for those who write mysteries, sci-fi, romances and the like. Then there’s the issue of subject. Personally, I love novels that not only entertain, but also teach me about something, the way Dick Francis explains horses and racing.

But marketing, like aging, isn’t for sissies. And these days, even writers with publishers are expected to do their own marketing. That was certainly the

Bruce Hartman selling his books at Bookstock, July 2014.

Bruce Hartman selling his books at Bookstock, July 2014.

case for me, when I was out stumping for Into the Wilderness.

Originally published by a micropress, the book was not a candidate for any big-name reviews. But because the book included a lot of Vermont social and political history, a lot about chamber music, and a love story between a Jewish woman and a Vermont bachelor in middle age, I was able to score reviews in Vermont newspapers and magazines, on some music sites, in some Jewish newspapers, and in some magazines for retirees, as well on book reviewers’ blogs.

In addition to reviews, I sought interviews, especially in advance of a reading – to make sure there would be potential customers at each venue. Speaking to reading groups proved even better than reading at libraries or bookstores. I spoke anywhere I was invited, including synagogues and retirement homes.

I also spoke about my publishing and marketing experience at writers’ conferences and about history to local and state history groups, all of which promoted the event to their entire memberships and not just those who were able to attend. In fact, I’m a speaker for the Vermont Humanities Council’s Speaker’s Bureau, and I’ll be talking about Vermont in 1964 next week at a mid-state library – making use of all the research behind the novel to educate, entertain and – yes – sell books. (Not incidentally, I’ll also be collecting an honorarium equivalent to the royalties on a hundred eBooks.)

“Back of the room” and “Hand sales” – where the author sells each copy to each reader – is exhausting and has limited sales potential. In the world of book marketing, it’s good to pitch a book to an interested crowd, but it’s even better to find others who will pitch the book for you, including bookstore owners and on-line reviewers who have a wider reach.

Best of all is writing a book readers love so much they talk about it to all their friends. For this to happen – and for the effort of marketing to make sense – brings us back to the most important part of publishing, and that is writing the best book you possibly can.

BookstockDeborahDeborah Lee Luskin writes fiction set in Vermont and is a regular commentator for Vermont Public Radio.


The Got Done List

Do you ever have days when you look back at your To Do list and only 1 or 2 items are checked off?

Days like that can be frustrating and disappointing. (I know I like to see a lot of crossed off items at the end of the day to feel I ‘did good.’)

Maybe the tasks were large and could be broken into smaller tasks. Maybe the day became hectic and getting the 1 or 2 items done was a feat in itself.

Whatever the reason for only a check or two, it’s okay. Really.

On days like that, you can try this: Sit back for a moment and take a deep breath. Think back on the day and how it played out.

Pick up a pen and paper – or open a new document – or open an online task list.

Write down everything you accomplished — small, medium, and large, business-related and personal.

GotDoneYes, create a Got Done list for the day. (I like to add these items to the bottom of my existing To Do list.)

Then go down the list and mark them off as complete. Because they are, right?

And then…remember the ever-important celebration: Congratulate yourself on all that you did.

It’s funny that when I first started doing something like this (it started with adding tasks I did as I went through my day and crossing them off right away), I felt guilty – or it felt like ‘cheating’.

But, really, it’s your list, items you decided you needed to get done, tasks you DID get done (whether planned ahead of time or not).

So, when a day comes along that doesn’t have many check marks in the ‘done’ column, create a Got Done list and see what happens to your mood. I bet you’ll find inspiration for the rest of the week, too.

Honestly, it’s all about forward momentum. If you’re taking at least one step forward in your business each day, it’ll keep you on track to your ultimate writing goal.

 What do you think about the idea of a Got Done list?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. It’s not cheating if you add items to your task list after they are done and mark them off as complete. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook,  Google+, and LinkedIn.

pin voicesThere are voices in my head. And, not the good kind.

As a writer, you are probably used to having voices in your head. You are probably even grateful that they are there – the voices of your characters telling you what they want, what they need, where you’ve gone wrong in your story, and how to get it back on track. No matter the time of day or night, the world inside our skulls is always filled with the murmur of these voices playing out myriad lives in the space between our ears. For a writer, this is not an inconvenience, it’s a necessity.

But, then there are the other voices – the crazy ones that talk over your characters and inner muse. These voices are rude. They are disruptive. They kind of suck. I’ve written about them before in a post aptly titled Must. Stop. The Voices in which I covered the three types of inner dialog that plague me: Distraction Mind, Inner Critic, and Eternal Editor. Bunch of blowhards.

This week has been very taxing in terms of both the quantity and complexity of my writing tasks. Amidst the joyful insanity of summer chaos (including my daughter being home without any camp and the two of us having to scramble to keep up with all her dog walking clients) I had to hit two major deadlines: a 5,000-word ebook on a complex, “thought leadership” topic and a half dozen hybrid case study/personal stories for a medically-focused project. I got it all done (well, the personal stories are almost done …), but I had to battle past The Voices each step of the way.

While the part of my mind that was under my control tried to focus on getting the next word down, the unruly part of my mind split itself in two and commenced an unremitting barrage of unwanted commentary. On the one side, a boorish and disdainful voice kept up a ceaseless drone of disparaging remarks about my abilities. This voice tried, by any means necessary, to convince me that I didn’t have what it took to even finish the piece, never mind do a half decent job. It played out imagined feedback from my client telling me that this wasn’t at all what he had in mind, that he was sorry he made the mistake of hiring me, that the whole thing was a mess and we’d have to start from scratch.

In the other corner of the ring, a much more supportive, but still unwanted voice tried valiantly to undo the damage of the first voice. This kinder, gentler voice quietly reminded me of my past successes, my experience, and my skill. It encouraged me to, “Buck up, kiddo,” and have faith that I would not only meet the deadline, but deliver a draft that was as close to perfect as could be expected for a first draft. This voice assured me that the client would be duly impressed, complimentary, and thrilled to have found a writer who “got it” as well as I did. This voice did everything short of picking up a pair of pom-poms and giving me a rousing cheer.

I felt like a child trapped between two warring parents – one telling me that I’m a useless, talentless, hopeless excuse for a human being and the other telling me that I’m incredibly smart, creative, and capable. I hated them both. I wanted to put my hands over my ears and scream, “Shut up! Just shut up!” But, try as I might, I didn’t seem able to drown them out. It was like they couldn’t even hear me screaming, they just kept talking over me – sparring with each other and completely ignoring my presence.

I share this story not because I can provide a cure. I can’t. I share it because I don’t want you to think that you are alone, or perhaps crazy. You’re not. These voices are totally normal. I cannot remember the source, but the best bit of advice that I ever heard about dealing with these intrusive voices was to take a moment to acknowledge them, but only long enough to pat them on the head, tell them you understand what they are trying to say, and then inform them – gently but firmly – that they must run along now and let you get your work done.

And if that doesn’t do it, put on your headphones, roll your eyes at them, and just get back to work.


What I’m Writing:

Matt Cheauvront's dog, Cowboy

Matt Cheauvront’s dog, Cowboy

I have been beating myself up a bit over how often this space in the Weekend Edition is filled with lame excuses about why I’m not doing much writing. Part guilt and part shame, this feeling is like a little rain cloud in the otherwise bright blue sky of the time I spend writing this weekly post. And then, earlier this week, I read a piece by Matt Cheuvront (@mattchevy) called Look at It With Their Wonder. Matt reminds us how important it is to pause and look at our accomplishments with the eyes of someone who doesn’t take them for granted:

Whatever it is you’re building – creating – making – and/or working toward, you’ll undoubtedly have moments where you’re absolutely sick of thinking about it/working on it. But once it’s out there for the world to see, create a ritual for yourself similar to my own.

Set aside time, even if for just a moment, to admire your hard work, experience it, and look at it with their wonder.

With that in mind, I decided to take an informal inventory of the writing I have done so far this year:

  • 15 columns for my local paper
  • 47 posts here on Live to Write – Write to Live
  • 15 case studies
  • 2 marketing ebooks
  • 7 point-of-view papers
  • 3 ghost-written articles
  • 7 brand messaging briefs
  • 12 architectural house descriptions
  • 5 websites

All told, I have cranked out in excess of 100,000 words since January 1st. (And that doesn’t include all my journaling which would add about another 100,000 words, or the bits and pieces of fiction practice I have managed which would probably add another few thousand words.). Also – because all but 10,000 of these words have been for paying jobs – I have been able to support myself and my daughter with this work.

Does this writing represent my legacy? No. Is it the novel I want to write? No. But I shouldn’t let those truths besmirch the accomplishment or belittle the value of the writing. I should look at that list and that word count with wonder and appreciation and gratitude. And I should stop beating myself up for “not writing.”

What accomplishments do you need to inventory? What have you done – writing or otherwise – that you need to look upon with wonder in order to appreciate its value? Go do that now. You’ll feel less guilty, and – interestingly – more inspired. 

What I’m Reading:

book short guide happy lifeLike writing time, reading time has been hard to find these past few weeks while the workload has been so heavy. Though I’ve stolen a few minutes here and a few minutes there, I haven’t had the chance to sit down for a real read this week. This morning, before I sat down to write this post, I decided to treat myself to a quick reread of a favorite “tiny book” that was calling quietly from the bottom shelf of the bedroom bookcase.

The book is called A Short Guide to a Happy Life, and it was written by novelist and columnist (not to mention Pulitzer prize winner), Anna Quindlen. My friend bought me a copy of this slim tome when she went to see Quindlen speak at a local college. I wasn’t able to join my friend, but she kindly not only purchased a copy of the book for me, but stood in line to have it signed. I have wonderful friends.

The book is very brief, but it is what they call a “little gem.” The text is an essay about learning to appreciate life and really live, instead of just existing. There are no earth-shattering epiphanies in Quindlen’s words, but the earnestness and truth of what she says always strikes me at the core. I also love the design of the book – its small format, rough edges, and the collection of beautiful photographs that she chose to complement her words. The book is a lovely and perfect little gift that you can open over and over again, and always be filled with delight.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin instructions for life

Wishing you a week filled with listening (but only to the right things – the things that matter and make you happy), seeing (with wonder and gratitude), and telling all about it in your writing (whatever kind of writing you do). Have a lovely weekend. See you on the other side! 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and – occasionally –  trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Illustration behind the Mary Oliver quote is from a vintage children’s book called In the Middle of the Night, written by Aileen Fisher and illustrated by Adrienne Adams.

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: We’ve all been there. Sometimes, you pick up a book with great expectation only to find that you just can’t bring yourself to finish it. Whether you’re one chapter in or three-quarters of the way to the end, what types of things make you give up on a book? For extra credit – as a writer, how to you try to eliminate those “crimes” from your own stories?


headshot_jw_thumbnailJamie Wallace: It has taken me half a lifetime to get over the guilt of abandoning a book that I just can’t seem to finish reading. But, now that I have finally learned to be more discerning about how I spend my reading time, abandoning books that aren’t living up to my expectations has become something of a sport. My knee-jerk response to the question “What makes you abandon a book?” is this: I’m bored. I don’t mean to say that a book needs to be full of non-stop excitement and over-the-top adventure. Far from it. In fact, many of the books I’ve enjoyed recently have been what I call “quiet books” in which nothing (or hardly anything) seems to happen at all. But still, despite the lack of outward activity, something is happening in these stories – something that gets under my skin and keeps me coming back for more, page after page. I will confess that I still give each book I read more than one chance to win me over, hanging on just in case the story gets better. I think the death knell is when I realize that I feel apathetic towards the characters. Once I’ve come to the conclusion that I just don’t care what happens to them, it’s all over. Good night, Irene.

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson: First, I have to chuckle that there is an extra credit question. I haven’t had one of those since my college years! Wow. Flash back! I don’t have an answer for that one other than I try my best to write well every time.

As for what makes me stop reading – editing and grammar issues, hands down. If I see more than 1 blatant issue in a chapter, I’m hard pressed to keep reading. Multiple issues within a few pages and I’m absolutely done – the book (gasp) might even get thrown away. If I can tell an author hasn’t even run a spell check on a book, there is no way I’m giving my time to reading it.

When I was younger, I’d force myself to read a book even if I lost interest in it — it’s been many many moons since I’ve done that, but I certainly know that if I lose interest in a story for any reason, unbelievable characters – characters I can’t get behind – unable to suspend my belief – whatever reason, I will close the book and move on. Thankfully, I’ve only stopped reading a handful of books, so far.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I read a book not too long ago that had so many errors in it–glaring mistakes where people who were standing up suddenly “stood up,” and people who were out in the rain carrying umbrellas suddenly had arms full of flowers–where did the umbrellas go? that I actually kept reading because I was so fascinated by how bad the writing was. Usually, though, I put down a book, like Jamie and Lisa, if it’s poorly written or if I’m bored and don’t care about the characters. Also, if something happens that’s so implausible I find myself saying, “Come on!” as I toss the book aside. in Gone Girl, I didn’t necessarily like the characters, but I was definitely interested enough to keep reading!

As far as the extra credit question, one of the reasons I kept reading the book with all the mistakes was to try to make sure I didn’t make any of those mistakes! (I’ll probably just make different mistakes!)

Susan Nye: It is exceedingly rare for me to toss a book aside without finishing it. The few books that I just couldn’t bear to finish committed no great crimes. For the most part, they were written for someone else. I seem to remember dumping one because it was too violent. Another was a best seller with teenagers but it’s been a long time since I was sixteen. Still another was dry as dust but well respected by historians.

So, when it comes to dumping a book, I can with all sincerity reassure the author that … it’s not you, it’s me.



M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I’ve been reading library books on my Kindle, which are on a two-week loan, so if I can’t finish it before it’s due (and disappears) – poof! I don’t finish. Simple as that.


If you are a writer, you have probably thought about building an author platform. I’ve started thinking about that, too. I’ve done a lot of reading on the topic lately and now I’m starting to write more content.

If you are like me, you may have a hard time talking about yourself or promoting yourself. I have found someone who makes talking about myself much easier.

May I introduce you to Alexandra Franzen? She’s a copywriter with a very different attitude. She makes writing copy for your About page seem doable, maybe even enjoyable!

She has a website with some great information and some free worksheets, and she also has a book that I just picked up. I had the opportunity to work with her briefly a couple of years ago on a coaching topic and she was amazing! She’s very down-to-earth and easy to learn from. I was able to create content on the fly with her that day and I’ve started using her worksheets since then to do more.

These days she even does workshops where you can craft your content over a weekend with her.

I have found her worksheets immensely valuable, not only in writing content, but in talking about myself, my coaching business, and my writing life to others.

If you are trying to create content for your author platform, check out Alexandra’s website and take advantage of her free worksheets.

Let me know what you think!

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, mother, life coach and physician. I’m working on a lot of different writing projects right now, and trying to focus on each one as intensely as I can when I can. I’m moving forward little by little.

camera typewriterAs writers, we are – let’s face it – pretty obsessed with words. We get geeky about grammar, excited about syntax, and delirious over great dialog. We have strong opinions about the Oxford comma, have been known to swoon slightly over a perfect turn of phrase, and can debate the merits of different POVs for days.

You know who doesn’t do any of this? Normal human beings. Non-writers care very little about the nuances of language or the underlying structure of story. They are not concerned with finding le mot juste. They do not understand why anyone could agonize over a single sentence for hours. And, they often judge books by their covers.

Normal People do not succumb to the allure of words the way we do. Their attention is much more likely to be caught by an image than by a beautifully crafted sentence. Especially in this fast-moving, clickety-click digital world, The Visual rules a disproportionally large share of the collective mindshare. The vast majority of our popular media channels are highly visual: television news, online “magazines,” Facebook, Google+ and so forth. Even Twitter has become more visual with in-line pictures now showing up front-and-center in the Twitter timeline. And then there are the purely visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine. Even LinkedIn is now incorporating Facebook-like visual features to highlight member-published articles.

Words may be your stock in trade, but if you want to stand out amidst the virtual avalanche of information and noise on the web, images can give you a valuable advantage.

Are there writers who make do without images? Of course there are. Several of my favorite bloggers rarely, if ever, use images in their posts. But these folks are already well established, and I am (as I’ve already admitted) a word nerd, so they don’t necessarily need pretty pictures to reel me in. I’m a sucker for the words, plain and simple. Most people are not.

If you are not already using imagery to complement your writing and – hopefully – capture the fickle attention of visually-oriented folks, here are a few ideas to get you started:

First – where do you find great images?

Gorgeous image by Mario Calvo as featured on Unsplash

Gorgeous image by Mario Calvo as featured on Unsplash

My favorite source for free, Creative Commons (CC) images is Compfight, a third-party search for the massive image database, Flickr. You can set your preferences so that Compfight will only provide you with images that are under the CC license, and they also provide a handy bit of code that includes the proper attribution (“Photo by …”) so you can just cut and paste that into your post and not worry about copyright infringement.

I have also used various paid stock photography from time to time, iStockPhoto has some good images at low cost. But, I do like free photos better. Unsplash has some beautiful images, though they are not always as easy to categorize by theme. The Morgue File has a decent search capability, though the images are not as high a quality. Free Digital Photos has better quality images and an easy search functionality. I also like Death to the Stock Photo (partly because their name makes me laugh). They are a subscription service that emails you a new batch of beautiful images each month for free. For $10 a month, you can get access to additional photos, plus online downloads for all past photos.

You can also create your own photos. I am an Instagram addict and often use my own images in my posts. If you have a smartphone, you can download all kinds of photo editing apps to add special effects to your snapshots. My favorite editing app is Snapseed, but I also like to play around with ColorSplash, iDarkroom, and LensLight. Another handy app is Over. Over is great for adding text to images. You know all those visual quotes you see around the web? Over is an app that can help you create your very own versions of these hyper popular images.

Bonus Tip:

snagitMy favorite app for clipping photos off the web is called SnagIt. This is one of my must-have apps. I use it multiple times each day. Couldn’t do without it. Clipping an image is super simple, and the app also includes some basic editing features. I think the updated version may even have some pretty sophisticated ones. (I’ve been meaning to upgrade …)

Second – how do you use these images?

Use images in your blog posts: Adding images to your blog posts helps them stand out when they are shared (via Facebook, Twitter, etc.) and also in various readers and even in email. I typically use at least one “hero” image in each post, and I will often include additional “accent” images as well. I also always include my (tiny) head shot in my byline bio at the bottom of the post. (It’s great to give your readers a face to associate with your name.) I won’t lie, sometimes it feels like I spend more time finding the perfect image for a post than it took me to write the post, but I always feel like the final product is more “complete” (and universally appealing) after I’ve added the image.

Use images in your social media posts: Ever notice how text-only posts on Facebook tend to seem a little lost in the Newsfeed among all those splashy, image-based posts? When people are quickly scanning through the Newsfeed, their eyes are most likely to be caught by a great image. If you can find one to include in your status update, you’ll increase your chances of being seen and read. The same applies to Google+ and even Twitter.

Experiment with visual platforms: Just because you are a writer doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun with image-based social media.

instagram iconAs I already admitted, I am an Instagram addict. I love the creative outlet Instagram provides, and I love looking at the beautiful images people post from all around the world. (Talk about getting story ideas by the handful!) Instagram has a number of simple filtering and other editing tools included in the app, but the real power of Instagram is in the community.

pinterestPinterest is another goldmine for story ideas. It’s also a great way to share images that reflect the themes in your work and your personal interests and philosophies. Many writers keep Pinterest “boards” (collections of images) about stories they have in development, particular characters, settings, etc. You can also create private boards that no one can see except for you – a handy visual reference to help inspire you. (Please feel free to visit my Pinterest boards.)

vineVine is a six-second video app that my ten year-old daughter loves. To be honest, though I made a valiant effort to “get” Vine when it originally launched, I just can’t get my head around how to create videos for this particular platform. I guess video just isn’t really my thing, but some people have had amazing, breakout success with these super-short clips. I’ve seen a number of “Vine Stars” make appearances on national morning news shows, the Ellen show, and other major media outlets. So, I guess you never know.

As writers, we may not always believe that a picture is worth a thousand words; but, in today’s digital world, a picture might be just the thing to get someone to actually read your thousand words.

Think about it, and then go have some fun with pictures.

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Camera & Typewriter Photo Credit: Olivander via Compfight cc

If you want to make a living as a writer, there’s one thing you must do – take action.

Take any action that will lead to generating an income from writing.

Stop stalling and do something. Now. Today.

Believe me, I know how easy it is to procrastinate:

  • To plan plan plan so no detail is overlooked
  • To read yet another well-intentioned best-selling book on how to be a successful entrepreneur
  • To organize the office, the desk, and the file cabinets
  • To work toward the moment when you can finally say ‘I’m ready’

It’s incredibly easy to do anything, but take action building the business.

It could be fear of failure or fear of hard work. Who knows.

Take Action!But to make a living at writing, it’s absolutely imperative to constantly – and that means daily – find some task that directly leads toward earning an income and to complete that task. 

It’s absolutely possible to generate money from writing. But you have to work toward it consistently.

Do you want to write for magazines? Then submit queries consistently.

Do you want to write for newspapers? Then pitch ideas to editors on a regular basis.

Do you want to write for businesses? Submit proposals on a regular basis.

  • Make phone calls.
  • Send LOIs (letters of intent).
  • Network with people you want to work with or for, or can help you make those connections.

Just so you know, rejection comes to everyone. Use the rejections to improve the next query, the next pitch, the next proposal, the next phone call, the next letter, the next interaction.

Know that every step you take toward building an income stream gets you closer to your goal.

Take a moment to evaluate your actions.

Are you in constant motion toward building a writing business?


Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She consistently reaches out to new potential clients for projects of all sizes. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook,  Google+, and LinkedIn.


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