How to Stop Procrastinating (& a Free Brené Brown Art Print!)

Brene Brown quote on writing

One of the toughest things for writers (and really anyone working on anything) is learning how to outsmart procrastination. Our minds are so resistant to being used, and they’re just as wily at coming up with ways to distract us. A quick look at Twitter? Well, sure! Just a peek at Facebook to make sure I didn’t miss out on something super important? Definitely necessary. Another break to search blogs for inspiration? Why not?

We all know the end result of this: we put off the project, and the longer we put it off, the harder and more intimidating it seems. Whether we’re writing a blog post, a book chapter, or a business plan,  it will probably require using more than 5% of our brain. But social media and other passive activities requires so much less energy from our brains–biologically, we’re hardwired to prefer these “easy” activities, like watching TV, because they use less of our energy than “difficult” activities, like writing and brainstorming.

But isn’t there a secret way to trick our brains into preferring these difficult activities?

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3 Secrets to Convert a Casual Blog Visitor Into a Customer

convert blog visitor into book buyer

Hey y’all! This week I’m writing for the Female Entrepreneur Association about what I look for when I scout blogs–and especially why traffic isn’t the most important thing when it comes to supporting a book (or other product) launch.

Blogs are a powerful tool for connecting with potential customers—haven’t we all bought something online just because we followed and loved its creator? But any authorpreneur can tell you that it’s no easy feat to turn a first-time blog visitor into a repeat reader. And then to turn a repeat reader into a book buyer? That takes something more than just marketing.

Part of my job as a Literary Agent is to scout for talent, and every month I look at hundreds of blogs, businesses, and brands, and try to determine which ones have a high “stickiness” factor. Without stickiness (which is a powerful cocktail of engagement, loyalty, and goodwill), it’s difficult to support a major product launch, such as a book launch.

Luckily, there are a few secrets to make your blog an online home for your brand that turns casual visitors into engaged readers. And they’re not the secrets you’re expecting—they have nothing to do with marketing, or social media, or advertising. Those will bring visitors to your site, but they won’t guarantee that they stick around.

As publishers, retailers, and other gatekeepers have figured out, strong traffic and impressive social media numbers don’t always translate into sales. Sales only happen when a dedicated reader loves you and your work so much that they’re willing to put their hard-earned money behind it. We all work hard for our money, so that’s a big deal!

1. Design a site that encourages lingering.

The Internet is full of beautiful, bright websites that offer stunning infographics, gorgeous product photos, and distinct, memorable logos. But the other half of the Internet is littered with generic website templates, poorly lit photos, and amateurish logos. Think of it this way: would you rather spend a couple of hours in an Apple store or a 7/11? Don’t overlook the value of creating a space where visitors want to linger and explore.

Action Step: Go to Pinterest, create a board, and start pinning logos and designs you find beautiful. Then carefully analyze each image and determine what makes it lovely and how you can recreate it for your blog. If you don’t want to build it yourself, you can also search sites like Wix.com for templates (but beware the generic templates we’ve all seen before!). Or, if you have the budget, you can share your Pinterest board with a professional designer who can turn your vision into the website of your dreams.

2. Write in an authentic, memorable voice.

Blogs are not textbooks (thankfully!) so make sure that, even when your post is meant to inform, it’s written in an exciting, engaging voice. This doesn’t mean ending every sentence with five exclamation points (don’t do that, please…). But it does mean writing in an authentic, natural voice.

Action Step: Dig up the last email you wrote to your best friend. Take note of your authentic voice—are you usually upbeat? Sarcastic? Totally nerdy? Go with that. It’ll be infinitely more interesting to both you and readers if your posts are chock-full of personality!

3. Be a real person, not a brand.

Bloggers and writers often completely forget that the most compelling part of their business and brand is them—the real, live person behind it. Readers and customers want to connect with you, the three-dimensional person, not you, the person who’s trying to sell them something. So be open, be real, share your struggles and your victories, and create a community that encourages two-way conversation. That’s why Ree Drummond of The Pioneer Woman was able to successfully crossover into other ventures–her readers really felt like they knew her as a friend. And friendship is much more powerful than marketing.

Action Step: Create a pre-publish checklist for yourself. Alongside checking for typos and adding in links and images, add a check for “You.” Before you hit publish, ask yourself if the post still has some of you in it. Is this a post anyone on Yahoo could have written, or is rooted in your real life and your unique perspective?

This article originally appeared on the Female Entrepreneur Association site. Their site is an endless source of inspiration for anyone who needs extra motivation to get things done (i.e. everyone). I especially love the Tips of the Day they share on their Facebook page, like this one:

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Zen Habits–How To Make Yourself Work

how to write more and be prolific

One of my all-time favorite blogs is Zen Habits by Leo Babauta. It’s amazing because it’s different–just look at the main page, and you’re instantly struck by how it looks nothing like anything else on the internet. No ads, no images, no lists of posts, very few links, and no social media icons. It’s just one post on a blank page, with a few links that lead you to years and years of archived posts. It’s quiet in a noisy world. As much as I always tell my authors about the importance of design, this is the perfect example that website design doesn’t have to be cookie cutter–it just has to be impactful.

Lucky for us, the writing on Zen Habits is just as impactful. Leo’s such a master of condensing so much knowledge and inspiration into just a few short sentences. Makes my long-winded self jealous! And I also think his approach to writing as a profession, particularly writing on the internet, is incredible. He went the traditional route for a while, running a blog with ads and writing a book with a traditional publisher, then decided the whole thing just wasn’t jibing with his minimalist values. So he uncopyrighted his blog posts (more on this here), pulled all his ads, and refocused on helping his readers in a more direct way. He moved his business model to one of building value with his readers, so that now they directly support his business by signing up for his great e-courses and buying his ebooks, instead of having third parties, like advertisers, support the business. It’s both a radical idea and a simple idea–not too different from a business model like that of NPR, where the emphasis is on serving the public, and then inspiring the public to support you back.

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3 Strategies to Help Creatives and Writers Be More Productive

writer productivity tips literary agent

I read an interesting essay this weekend about how the world is split into Makers and Managers, and why these two types of people work completely differently. The idea is that there are those of us whose job it is to make something—programmers, writers, creatives, artists, chefs, designers—and those of us whose job it is to keep the whole shebang running smoothly. (Here’s the whole essay; it’s written by Paul Graham, co-founder of the seed capital firm Y Combinator, found via The Nester.)

But I actually think more jobs fall right in between Maker and Manager these days. The job of an agent definitely requires a bit of Maker and Manager. We’re managing our author’s careers; we’re meeting with editors; we’re coordinating and mediating and generally making sure projects run smoothly. But we’re also creatives, particularly in the initial stages of a project, when ideas are still being molded and the proposal or manuscript is being revised and often rewritten.

I also thinks that most authors are all also part Makers and part Managers. Yes, a big part of their work—the writing—falls strictly in the realm of creative work. But the other stuff that’s just as important—the platform and brand building—requires managing designers and often employees, meeting with potential partners, crafting business plans, marketing, networking, etc. After all, an author who is building a platform is essentially a small business owner, and therefore wears many, many hats. And what does that lead to?

Hat hair. Oh, and burnout.

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