How a book taught me how to travel better

We’re baaack! After two whole weeks in Greece–completely disconnected, fully honeymooning, and gloriously eating–we’re back to our daily routines and our screens. It’s a little weird to go from full days of being out in “the real world” (aka, not online) to spending 8+ hours a day staring at these little boxes we call computers, but it has also felt so, so good to be productive and have a sense of purpose again. Turns out, I’m one of those travelers that needs some useful work to do in between the gyro-inhaling and beach-sprawling.

I don’t know how I got so lucky, but it turned out that my author Jaime Kurtz’s book, The Happy Traveler: Unpacking the Secrets of Better Vacations, published just in time for this big, glorious, and very long vacation we had planned for ourselves. So even though I was thousands of miles away, I got to spend long hours on the beach listening to her wise voice tell me exactly how I could squeeze every last drop of goodness out of our honeymoon.

secrets to better travel

As I wrote about here, Jaime pitched me her book idea at the Writer’s Digest Conference, and I immediately said, “I NEED that book!” That’s the same reaction I got from every editor I later pitched the idea to, and the same reaction I get from nearly every person I tell about it. I honestly don’t know how I spent my whole life traveling without this book!

To give you a sense of how the pitching process works, here’s an excerpt from the pitch letter I sent, along with the proposal, to editors:

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4 Ways Introverts Can Get Comfortable with Video

instagram stories video for writers

But first, the publishing news worth reading this week:

Pete Wells Has His Knives Out (Ian Parker for The New Yorker): This is a fun and fascinating profile of Pete Wells, “the restaurant critic of the Times, who writes a review every week—and who occasionally writes one that creates a national hubbub about class, money, and soup.” It’s a great inside look at the massive influence traditional media still holds, and it’ll also make you hungry.

Instagram Stories: Your New Favorite Way to Engage With Readers? (Martine Ellis for The Write Life): “If Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, what’s the point? Authenticity, engagement, and exposure. Unpolished snapshots of someone’s day are far more interesting than a carefully crafted flat lay featuring scattered rose petals and a strategically placed — albeit irrelevant — pair of vintage scissors.”

How to Be Active on Social Media without Losing Your Mind (Kirsten Oliphant on Jane Friedman.com): “The biggest issue I hear from people struggling with online marketing is TIME. Many writers struggle to balance social media and writing or creative work. Since we don’t have the option to go back before the age of Twitter, we are left with a few options…”

Jennifer Egan on Writing, the Trap of Approval, and the Most Important Discipline for Aspiring Writers (Brain Pickings): “You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

4 Ways Introverts Can Get Comfortable with Video (And Happy Pub Day to Damn Delicious!)

Hey everyone!

I’m baaaccckkk. After two magical weeks of being away for our wedding and mini-honeymoon, Jarrett and I are both back at it.

First things first: yes, I will be sharing wedding photos with you all here! I’ve had a few requests for them already, and I can’t wait to see them myself the very second they hit my inbox. With any luck, we’ll all see them by next week.

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How to Get a Traditional Book Deal if You’ve Self-Published

how to get a traditional book deal if you've already self published

I hope you all had a chance to catch a few lessons from the Profitable Blogging Summit last week! I was following along from the beach in Punta Cana while working on new and experimental kinds of sun poisoning. (Seriously. My skin hates me right now. And yes, yes, I should know better. I have already given myself many demerits.)

I love answering questions at summits and conferences, but the difficult part is that I have to answer questions in 30-60 second spurts. And anyone who knows me knows that I do not excel at brevity. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything but a 6-part answer to a question.

But it’s not because I like to hear myself talk! (I actually very much think my voice sounds ridiculous when recorded.) It’s that publishing is very complex and has so many facets, exceptions, and tangents that there’s no way to provide an honest, hard-and-fast rule about anything.

So today I wanted to give you guys the long, 4-part answer to one of the questions Kirsten asked me: What does it take for a self-published author to get a traditional book deal?

When we chatted about this on camera, I grabbed my copy of The Joy of Less to illustrate a shining example of one author who successfully went from self-published to traditionally published.

The Joy of Less had sold 70,000 copies in just over 4 years by the time I took it on, so clearly Francine had created an incredibly successful and powerful book on her own. But she was ready to see her book in bookstores both nationwide and worldwide. And luckily, we were able to place the book with Chronicle, a wonderful publisher, as well as sell foreign rights in 17 countries.

And because I love ya, I’m going to be giving away 2 free copies of the book to 2 lucky readers today!

The joy of less francine jay book deal

The new edition is gorgeously redesigned, streamlined, and a great example of how a self-published book can live a whole new life with the help of a traditional publisher. I think you’ll love holding it, reading it, and sharing it with other clutterbugs in your life!

To enter to win a free copy of The Joy of Less, scroll down to the bottom of this post!

In the meantime, let me take a big breath and better explain how the self-pubbed to traditional-pubbed process works:

As we all know, the job of an agent or acquiring editor is to make an educated guess about how a book will perform in the marketplace. We all have our own hunches about how marketable a concept is, how well an author’s platform will translate into sales, and how much readers, reviewers, and the press will like the book.

That’s what our jobs come down to: making bets based on hunches. If we make good bets and take on good projects, we do well. If an editor signs a breakout author, she can start getting promoted up the ladder as she works on the author’s next (hopefully as successful!) books. If an agent signs a breakout author, she can negotiate an even better deal for the author’s second book, and then her third and fourth book after that. That’s the part that thrills us to our cores: building lasting careers for authors we admire.

But any agent and editor will also tell you that it’s nearly impossible to predict with total accuracy whether a book will do well in the marketplace. With one big exception: self-published books.

Because self-published books have already had their debut in the marketplace, editors and agents will know exactly what to expect, and they’ll have many more data points when they run their P&Ls.

This can be a great thing if you have a highly successful self-published book, because you’ll be able to show editors and agents that investing time and resources in you will be fairly low risk. But it can also make self-published books with middling sales look like an especially high risk.

So the very first thing I ask myself when assessing a self-published book is:

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The Two Ways to Make a Living as a Writer

How to make a living as a writer

But first, the publishing news worth reading this week:

Sorry, You Can’t Speed Read (Jeffrey Zacks and Rebecca Treiman for The New York Times): “Our favorite Woody Allen joke is the one about taking a speed-reading course. ‘I read ‘War and Peace’ in 20 minutes,’ he says. ‘It’s about Russia.’” So in case you don’t have time to read this article, it’s about why we don’t have time to read.

Creating Easy Branded Images for Your Blog and Social Media (Kirsten Oliphant on JaneFriedman.com): Including a gorgeous image with your online content is such an important part of branding! Here’s the ever-savvy Kirsten Oliphant on Jane Friedman’s blog with some quick and easy tips for designing graphics, even if you’re not a graphic designer.

Integrating a Personal Brand with a Book Brand (Chadwick Cannon): I get asked questions about book and brand integration all the time–things like “Should my book have its own website?” “Should my book look just like my blog?” This is a great explainer on the 7 most common brand integration questions.

How and When to Catch the Elusive Publicity Department–Part 2 of 2 (Lizzy Mason on Pub Crawl): Here’s the second half of Lizzy Mason’s piece on working with your in-house publicist. Lizzy is the Director of Publicity at Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and you can find Part 1 here.

The Two Ways to Make a Living as a Writer

I’ve written about my journey with minimalism before (and the wonderful book that got me there), but I think there are so many more practical lessons that creatives can take from this growing trend.

The way I see it, there are two ways to make a living as a writer.

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