Episode Summary

Goals—the secret sauce of success for every endeavor of your life. And the author life is no different! Writers need to know how to set goals and how to measure their success (or, sure, sometimes failure) in meeting objectives and getting things done. Goal setting is the focus of this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, with Kevin Tumlinson and Mark Leslie Lefebvre.

Episode Notes

Starting a new year has a lot of challenges (especially some new years in particular), but one of them is planning your approach for your author business!

In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital, the D2D team talks about approaches to setting goals and planning out your author career. What to think about, what to include, and what to ignore—we’re covering it all.

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book, authors, writing, plans, read, year, publishing, link, people, draft, write, marketing, writer, question, find, building, words, listening, sharpening, idea

Kevin Tumlinson 00:01

Well, hello, beautiful. Thank you for tuning in to another episode of Self-Publishing Insiders from Draft2Digital.

Mark Lefevbre 00:07

Oh Kevin, stop calling me beautiful.

Kevin Tumlinson 00:09

I can see where you’d make that mistake, Mr. Mark Lefevbre. So, I am Kevin Tumlinson. I’m the Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Draft2Digital. To my virtual right is—go ahead and introduce yourself, sir. 

Mark Lefevbre 00:23

Mark Leslie Lefevbre, I’m the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital, and thrilled to be sharing this content with you here today. 

Kevin Tumlinson 00:33

This is officially the first broadcast of the New Year, 2021. We made it, we’re alive. I know, there were some rough patches right there in the first week, but we’re gonna be okay, everybody’s gonna be okay. So, and that’s some of what we’re gonna talk about today is about how we make sure that we are okay as authors in this space. We’re really excited to talk about some of this stuff. Every year, everyone does a sort of New Year, new you kind of thing. We’re not that different. We are doing a little bit of how to kind of get the most out of the new year. We’re gonna give you some links to some stuff here in a bit. But Mark and I want to hop in and talk to you guys about—well, you saw the topic for the show. It’s about author strategy and goal-setting. And we want to make sure we give you some useful, actionable tips for how you can do some planning in your own author career. And I apologize, I’m hearing like doubles of myself. So I’ve been a little distracted by my own gorgeous voice. 

Mark Lefevbre 01:33

I can see how that can happen, Kevin, how you can be easily distracted by that gorgeous voice. But the other thing to remember is, okay, it’s the 14th of January 2021, when we’re recording this. If you haven’t set goals, or writing goals, or whatever, it’s never too late. So it’s not, don’t beat yourself up if you’re a little bit occupied and not able to take care of that, it’s okay, because you can kind of pick up setting goals at any time. And the other thing is, I do this all the time, I think of a goal as like an outline for a book. You create the outline as a plan. But as you’re writing it, sometimes your characters demand or something comes up, and it changes, right? So you can actually be flexible with your goals, which is at least something that I like to tell myself, so that I don’t go, “Oh, wow, I never did this thing. But I did this other thing.”

Kevin Tumlinson 02:21

Outlining. That must be why I can never actually get the whole goal setting thing going.

Mark Lefevbre 02:28

It’s the outline, right? 

Kevin Tumlinson 02:31

Yeah, it’s the outlining. I think I figured out what’s going on with the doubling of my voice. So maybe this will help. So we, in that light, you and I had talked a little bit about how we plan and strategize for our own stuff. But I did come up with some topics that we can use to guide this whole conversation. But I do want everybody watching, please ask us anything, anytime during the show. We’ll take questions throughout. And make sure, we want to make sure that we’re addressing all the cool stuff that you guys want to know. But first up, so like you said, that whole concept of thinking of planning your author career and planning your year and writing, just like an outline for a book. That always has been kind of a hang up for me. Because I am famously a pantser, or a discovery writer. And I always kind of ran my career that way. But I’m going to confess, Mark, to you, and only you, so everyone else has to stop listening. 

Mark Lefevbre 03:33

No one else is listening right now, Kevin.

Kevin Tumlinson 03:35

I discovered quite a while back that if I don’t do at least a little bit of sitting down and sketching out what I want my year to look like, then I’m not going to accomplish the things I really wanted to accomplish. And for me, it really kind of came down to just flat out saying, what do I want to do this year? What’s the biggest thing? And then determining like maybe five steps that I can take throughout the year to get to it. Once I kind of realized that was the bare minimum for planning and goal setting, it didn’t seem so intimidating anymore. So that’s kind of what I do. How do you handle strategizing at the beginning of the year? 

Mark Lefevbre 04:17

I take a look at the goals I’d set for the previous year. Now, I do that on my weekly podcast as well. So I kind of hold myself accountable to listeners. And I look at what I did get done, what I said I’d get done, what I actually got done. And then you know, when you first look at it, you go wow, you didn’t get much done on your list. But then I also include all of the other things that I did. So instead of beating myself up for the things I didn’t do, I take a look at the stuff I actually did get done. And even though I’m not—like yourself, I’m a discovery writer, and I think it was Diane who said she likes that term “discovery writer” in the comments—I’m a discovery writer as well. My outlines are so loose, so fast and loose, right? They’re just basic ideas like, yeah, we’ll just kind of jump in and see what happens. So my own plans typically are high level, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that. And because I approach it that way, with the, this is going to be a discovery year for me, just like this novel is a discovery novel.

Kevin Tumlinson 05:23

This year is kind of a discovery year for everybody, Mark.

Mark Lefevbre 05:27

Yeah, who knows what’s gonna happen, right? But, you know, because I mean, like, last year, this time last year, you and I still had a full travel schedule and stuff, right? So thinking about Draft2Digital plans, and we had plans to connect with writers and stuff. We went to a few conferences early on in the year, and then, obviously, I’m gonna overuse the word “pivot,” but we did have to pivot. And that’s where this thing that we’re doing now was born out of, right? 

Kevin Tumlinson 05:54

Yeah. We had to pivot like a ballet dancer. We were pivoting all over the stage, all year long. So any plans that we had, all the strategies we had, everything had to be adjusted? And I think that’s true of authors as well. I know it was true for me. All the things I had strategized over, say, January 1 through 7, 2020. Almost none of that happened last year.

Mark Lefevbre 06:24

Same here, same here, which is why I didn’t beat myself up. Now, I would be curious for anyone who’s watching live to share any tips or strategies that have worked for you for planning, or productivity or whatever. Because, you know, we’ll answer your questions. But we’ll also, hey, we’re here to learn too, because we’re both writers as well, right? 

Kevin Tumlinson 06:46

Yeah. So giving that, let’s take a look at … I pulled this together, and it’s just kind of a, we’re not gonna do a blow by blow presentation or something here. And if you’re listening to the show, don’t worry, you’re not missing anything. But as a way to kind of guide the conversation a little, I put something together real quick. So one of the things that I spend time planning is releases. And here’s what’s funny about me, Mark. I don’t actually know what books I’m going to write most of the year. So for my planning, it’s like, okay, I want to put out three or five or ten books this year. That’s the way I do that. 

Mark Lefevbre 07:30

Just generically, books, you say, right? 

Kevin Tumlinson 07:32

Books. Yeah, something I know now, because last year, one of the things I did was a pivot. Because you know, I have my main thriller series, the Dan Kotler books. And I decided after 11 books, I wanted to start incorporating other ideas that were outside the Kotler-specific universe, but maybe still related. So I started another series last year during the summer. And I retooled a book that I rereleased toward the end of the year. So I basically have three series going. So the plan this year, so far, I planned releases for—you know, I got months in mind for a release. I decided to start alternating this series, this series and that series. So, because I know there’s gonna be a book in that series, I don’t need to know what that book is. I just know that by this time, I need that book written. So that was one of the ways I handled releases. How about you?

Mark Lefevbre 08:29

Now, one of the ways I handled some releases for 2021 is, I put them up for pre-order last year. And I’ve got a novel in my Canadian Werewolf series coming out, Fear and Longing in Los Angeles comes out on the 23rd of February. I’ve got Wide for the Win, which is coming out in March. Now that was planned for January. But I actually had to, because some of the retailers I’m talking to, to learn more about their services, and some of the data I’m collecting from authors, is taking longer than planned, I had to push the release date back. Now fortunately, I did not put the pre-order up on Amazon. So they’re not going to come and kneecap me for changing it. But every other retailer is 100% fine so long as you’re not changing, you’re obviously not changing your preorder date every day. But you know, I changed it from the end of January to, it’s coming out in March now. So I’ve got two books for sure that I’ve dedicated to put up for pre-order. I have probably another six books or seven depending on how things shake out in the works. And those six books are a lot more, like you, “Yeah, I think it’s gonna be …” I’m probably more specific, right? There may be another Canadian Werewolf book if things work out well. But there may be a book on this topic in this area. There may be a book here, and a lot of them for me are combinations. So some of them are collaborative projects. And some of them are stuff that’s just on me. But that was the other thing I think that’s interesting, speaking of collaborative projects. I published several, I think, three books last year that I had—more than three—but I had no idea I was going to ever publish, including a collaboration we put together, right? Like a Dan Kotler story, a Michael Anderson Canadian Werewolf story. And we did it, because we wanted to alpha test the Draft2Digital payment splitting. And it was kind of like, oh, we need to put something through the cycle before we release it to authors, because we want to make sure it works. So we just grabbed really, really quickly and put it together. So I had no idea we would release a book together. That’s kind of cool. 

Kevin Tumlinson 10:44

Yeah. And I never considered that either. And that’s a really good example, although we’re kind of specific on that, because the nature of that is specific to us and what we do. But you never know. Toward the end of the year, I got invited to participate in a box set that I wasn’t expecting. I had to kind of rush and write something pretty, you know, it was a novella but it was a lengthy novella, it was nearly a novel-length book that I hadn’t planned to write. So, you know, those are opportunities. So you have to, in your planning, make sure you leave room for those opportunities that just pop up that you didn’t know were gonna be there. Here’s a comment from Victor. He’s coming in from YouTube. Hello, YouTube. My goal is to sell a 20-30 page ebook/print-on-demand through D2D. I think that’s a worthwhile goal, Victor. 

Mark Lefevbre 11:43

Well, half of the goal is good. Ebook, for sure. Print book, that’s gonna be tricky, because it’s gotta be a minimum of what? 60, 64 pages?

Kevin Tumlinson 11:54

Yes, I think actually Elyssa answered that. 64 pages. Elyssa always takes care of us, and has to because we’re never gonna be able to take care of ourselves. Here’s a question from Nickolaus: “What would …” Oh, well, I saw the question mark, and I didn’t read the question. “Why would you when history and current events have no outline?” That’s more a philosophy. 

Mark Lefevbre 12:22

Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. Why would we plan, if everything else can’t be? I think, Diana, did you see Diana’s question, actually? This might be, it’s about productivity?

Kevin Tumlinson 12:37

Is it this one? Yeah, here it is. That’s the one I was looking for. So “I’m adding my series to D2D. I’m not sure how to add a link, add links to the book following book one. Right now I’m loading book one and publishing, then loading the next book and publishing so I can get the link, then returning to book one and adding the Books2Read link and reloading the book. Is there an easier way? It’s messing up my productivity mojo.” Yeah, I can understand that. So she, so what you can do is, you can go ahead, and you can actually set up the books in advance without publishing them. So you’d have sort of a placeholder. And that way you can in, if you’re using our built-in tool for our automated in-matter, which I think Elyssa just popped something up about that. Our automated in-matter tool lets you link to the next book you want to promote. And you can use that if your book already exists in our system, you should be able to link to it from there. So that might help. And that includes like the book’s cover and a description. If you don’t have the cover or anything yet … Actually, I’m not sure what happens if you don’t have a cover when that goes out. But you can set up pre-orders and things like that without the assets, meaning you don’t have to have a manuscript.

Mark Lefevbre 13:51

I think she is gonna have to go back. Like, she’s gonna have to go back at least once in the process, but at least you can get the majority of it done, and then go back and do the publishing. But I think she’ll have to do them one by one, because I think the link is assigned when you hit the publish button. It may not be live until there’s active titles, like retailers that we find. But you could at least have the link and go back and insert them. I think that’s how …

Kevin Tumlinson 14:18

Yeah, if nothing else, I think I would just put … the low-fi version of this is, I would put a page in the back of the book that just describes the next book and gets people kind of primed for it. Even if you don’t yet have a link. And that way, all you got to do is go drop that link in later. So it’s a little less editing. So that’s the way I used to do that in the past.I’m sure that I’m getting yelled at right now, some people in CS here at Draft2Digital are probably yelling at their screen saying, “Dummy, why didn’t you think of this?” You sit in front of a camera and remember stuff, okay? All right.

Mark Lefevbre 14:57

But there are much smarter people on our support desk, right? Support@draft2digital.com.

Kevin Tumlinson 15:03

Yeah, the real answer is, if you have a question like that, and the two dummies on the podcast weren’t able to get you the right answer, email us at support@draft2digital.com and much smarter people than us will be able to answer your question. This is one I hear a lot. My goal is to find more reason to write and less excuses why I can’t consistently. And to publish my first book of poetry in March. It’s waiting on cover art, and first novel or novella by August.” You have a schedule right there. I mean, a lot of people don’t know that much in advance. So finding the reason to write is … that’s, what can I say? It’s all up to you. It’s all personal. For me, the reason to write was, I get really cranky … Actually, for Christmas, my mother-in-law gave me a little sign on my wall that says “Writing: because murder is wrong.” So that’s my why, for why I write. So your mileage may vary. So let’s pop back into my little slideshow here. All right. I’m that guy now, I have slideshows. So production. This is another thing you can work on when you’re sitting down to plan for your author year. And when I say production, I mean, what is it going to take to get the books that you need written, written? So I tend to target a daily word count, that’s not everybody’s target. Sometimes people write to a page count. But I find word counts are a little easier for me to manage. Because I can kind of estimate—I know, in general, that a book’s gonna be, say, 80,000 words long. I know how to figure out, using math, how many words per day I need to put on the page in order to get the first draft written. Mark, how do you …

Mark Lefevbre 17:02

Yeah, well, I was gonna say, one of the ways to first figure out, if you’re not sure, is to set a timer when you start a writing session. And you may need to do this multiple times, because there will be times when you’re really going to town, and the words are flowing, and other times where they’re not flowing. So you kind of get an average. So in an hour, I write approximately X. And then that way, when you’re mapping out and scheduling—and I am an advocate for, I may not be an advocate for outlining, but I’m an advocate for scheduling—so the first thing I do after I feed the animals, when I get up in the morning, put on the coffee, is I usually from 5:30 in the morning til probably 7:30 in the morning, is just dedicated to writing. And I usually specify what project I’m going to be writing. And it’s writing. It’s not research. It’s not marketing, it’s actual writing. So I know, sometimes those two hours are really solid writing, where I can get … So I go okay, if I write X amount of words, on this kind of project, because it’s different from fiction and nonfiction. Fiction, I can tend to just make stuff up on the fly. When it’s nonfiction, I actually have to pause and think a little bit. So that first draft is a little bit slower. 

Kevin Tumlinson 18:18

What? I just make nonfiction up as I go. 

Mark Lefevbre 18:20

But that’s valuable, because you need to have a feel for how many words you can write in a timeframe. And then looking at your situation, if you’re working full time. You know, maybe you only have half an hour at lunch every day. Or maybe you can only spend time after the kids, and you know, anyone’s in bed and you have time alone. So looking at that and being realistic, too, right? So 80,000 words, if you only have an hour a week to write and you write 500 words an hour, and you only get so many … You don’t even like, you can’t go, I’m going to have five books published this year. You can’t do that to yourself, you have to be a lot more realistic. I think that’s important too.

Kevin Tumlinson 19:01

And in that case, what I recommend, and I actually—we may not get to it, but I actually have another “slide” about this topic, is what’s called sharpening the saw. How are you working to improve your craft, what are you doing? And that’s something we don’t often think about. But improving what we do so that we can do it better and so that we can earn more money and get more out of it, is an important part of formulating a strategy for … And doing something each year, where you sit down and figure out, what’s the stuff I’m going to do? What’s the time I’ll set aside to improve myself? What books will I read, what courses will I take, what videos will I watch? What authors will I connect with? That stuff is just as important as deciding how many books you’re going to write and how many words you’re gonna put down. If you’re only doing 500 words a week, and you want to write five books in a year, I would put more emphasis on figuring out how to improve your productivity than I would on your word count. So we have a question from YouTube. “As an experienced author, how long does it take, or would it take, for you to complete writing a standard novel?”

Mark Lefevbre 20:16

It’s arbitrary, right? Four days. No, I mean, like, four 24-hour days, like, you know, writing 20 hours a day, right? But that could also take six months.

Kevin Tumlinson 20:32

I have a book, I wrote one book in my life in a single day. And that book is called Evergreen. Now, that doesn’t mean it was ready for primetime at the end of that day, but it was written, in the 60,000 word range. And I have a whole story about it in the back of that book, if you want to check it out. But, that said, I’m continuously trying to push myself to see how far I can go. And that was the most extreme, and I’m not going to ever try that again. But on average, for me, it’s about a 15-day period of writing each day, at about 2,500 words a day. That generally will get me a book in 15 days. So that’s, again, your mileage is gonna vary, because it all comes down to: what’s your target? How much time do you have to write? Or how much time are you going to make to write? And how much can you write in that time? And once you’ve kind of got all those numbers, you can start to figure it out. And what I did, the way I got to a point where I could write a book in one day, or a book in 15 days even, was always pushing myself to go just a little further. So I wrote that first book in three years, I wanted to see if I could write one in a year. And then I wanted to see if I could write one in a month. And then I wanted to see if I could write one in 15 days, etc. So as long as you keep pushing yourself, you’ll grow. Okay, so I’m gonna pop us up in the guide again, and think about marketing. This is something I think gives everybody what I call “the hollow,” which is that feeling of dread and anxiety in the pit of their stomach, because thinking about marketing is scary to a lot of people. It doesn’t have to be, and it can actually be pretty important. And the note that I put here was to write down ideas for marketing that fit your budget and plan when to implement them.That’s a method that works for me. The three to five idea always works well for me, like, what are three ways I could do this? And just make myself come up with three ways to do it. That’s always been a good strategy for me. So things that fit your budget would be, if you have no budget, then what three free things or five free things you could do this year to at least get your book out there. So Mark, how do you strategize around marketing? 

Mark Lefevbre 23:00

Yeah. So in the in the part where I’m planning a book or working on the book, my marketing thinking is not necessarily the strategies or tactics I’m going to use. It’s more about who the people are that are going to enjoy this. So while I’m writing it, I’m thinking about what kind of reader would resonate with this scene, with this character, with this thing that happens. And when that comes to me, I may write down comp authors, comp titles, right? This reminds me of a scene from this movie, this reminds me of a song, this reminds me of whatever. And I just put it off to the side, because then when I’m finished, I can go back and say, what are—because a novel, it has, so let’s assume it’s an 80,000 word novel, has so many intricate things about it, right? It’s not just this simple, you know, tweet, right? It’s not like a simple like, A, B, and C or whatever. It’s a lot more complex. There’s multiple characters and situations. And so there may be elements of your book that you forget, when you’re standing back and looking at the big thing. But they resonated in the moment. They may, if they resonated with you while you were writing them, chances are they’re going to resonate with the right reader. And so I often, when I’m looking at marketing, I try to go back to those touchpoints. Because I’m always thinking about, who is the person who is going to appreciate this story the most? And then when I do my marketing, it’s kind of like, am I keeping them in mind? Am I going to reach them in the right places at the right time?So that’s kind of the approach I take. It ends up slowing down my writing in some cases, because I’m pausing to put little notes in the margin. But you can record them too, right?

Kevin Tumlinson 24:50

I kind of collect marketing ideas like collecting rare stamps. You know, as I’m kind of moving around in the world, someone will tell me something or I’ll read something. I tell you, I get more marketing ideas from reading autobiographies than from any other source. So if you are looking for an education in marketing, I could recommend starting by listening to a bunch of like modern-day autobiographies. Autobiographies are important in that statement, because it’s the person telling you how they did it. So when they say, like, for instance, right now I’m listening to Kevin Smith’s Tough *swear word*, and—go look for it, find it, pronounce it yourself.

Mark Lefevbre 25:39

It’s not Tough Poop, is it?

Kevin Tumlinson 25:42

Tough Poop. I’m listening to that. And he’s talking about, you know, his kind of temper up until about 2012. And he actually talks a little bit about how they marketed some of his work. In particular, how he marketed Red State. And whether you’re a Kevin Smith fan or not, and I’m not usually a fan of his movies, but I like the guy. But the stuff that he talks about can translate over to the writing world. So keep your mind open, when you’re out there looking, you may find answers to some of these questions that you didn’t … Because he marketed that movie with basically no money. So that’s an important fact to know. So Charles Harvey on Facebook is asking, “Does D2D plan to have some kind of online bookstore soon?” And we’re gonna segue into something after answering this question, Mark. But … go.

Mark Lefevbre 26:36

Yeah, I’ll let you let you do the segue. So, we’re not about selling. That’s a whole different atmosphere. We’re about helping you create the book, saving you the time, the tools and resources. Now, we do have Books2Read, which links to retailers and places where people can buy books. And we have been adding, have already added, if you’re selling direct as an author, the ability to add links to that. And that’s going to continue to expand, but I can’t see any plans in the near future for us to create a bookstore. It’s not our forte. Our forte is helping you make it easy to get those books created and pushed out into the world. Does that help you to segue?

Kevin Tumlinson 27:19

That does, because I wanted to show everyone a shining example of one of the tools that we have, that is a sort of storefront, that is a way for you to build your own bookstores if you’d like. And we’re going to be leveraging this tool ourselves to help promote your work and others, the work of others, as we go. We have, right now we have one of our D2D reading lists, or Books2Read reading lists, available with books themed for this exact idea: how to how to plan and strategize and improve your writing world. Now when we were talking about sharpening the saw earlier, this would be a good example. Writing and Publishing Reads, if you go to this link, and I’m going to pop it right into the comments as well. And for you who are listening, it is books2read.com/rl/writingandpublishing, all spelled out, all one word, all lowercase. If you go to that page, there are all these carousels of books that are all about writing, publishing, marketing your work. All the useful things that a writer needs to learn about and know. And there is a variety of topics, there are a variety of authors there. So that is an example also, of one of our tools that you can use for free. You can actually build your own reading lists at books2read.com. And those reading lists can be geared towards anything you want. They can be all about your books. So if you want to build a special series page, there is a way to do what we call a hero book, where if you have a carousel that only features one book, that book is bigger and has space for you to type something in beside it. And so you can actually do that to promote a specific book. But like, I have a reading list that’s all about thriller authors. And I have my feature book up top, and each carousel is themed. So like, I have one that’s all about Mayan tombs, so all the books that are featured feature the Mayans. Another carousel, it’s all books that feature Antarctica, all by different authors. And one of the cool things about that is, you can set up affiliate links through sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple. If you’ve got that stuff set up, you can include those on your Books2Read dashboard. You can add all those affiliate links and every time you send out a link, when people click on it and they buy something, you get affiliate money for that. So you can actually monetize your own bookstore, using the Books2Read reading lists. But I do recommend that you go right now to, and if it didn’t translate, I think it can get moved over to everybody’s comments. But in the comments, I dropped a link with the Writing & Publishing Reads. And that is books2read.com/rl/writingandpublishing. 

Mark Lefevbre 30:27

And just to highlight this, because I think it’s important, anyone can build their own reading list for free, using the free tool Books2Read.com. Now, Kevin has mentioned he’s worked collaboratively with other authors where they’ve put together similar-themed books. You don’t even have to own the rights to the book to be able to link to it. I have reading lists of my own books that are traditionally published, some of them are published through Draft2Digital. You can do, I think that writing and publishing, for example, we highlight some traditionally published books alongside books that are on different platforms. And the cool thing is, you find the book you want, and then Books2Read, the magic of Books2Read, is it takes you to the right geolocation for the version of your favorite store, if they exist in another geo. Some stores don’t exist outside the US. But you know, Kobo and Apple and Amazon, for example, do have international stores. And it’ll take Kevin to the US, it’ll take me to Canada, it’ll take, I think Nicholas might be from Italy, if I remember correctly? So folks from around the world, it will take you to the right version of the store you prefer. So it’s almost like a universal book link or something like that. 

Kevin Tumlinson 31:46

Haha. Universal book links. Yep, it’s built on our universal link tech. So you can you actually, yeah, you can target everybody and send them to their preferred store in their preferred region. Very, very easy, and can be kind of fun to do. Does take some work, I mean, you’re gonna have to spend time building the links, and then building the carousels. But here’s, I love psychological advantages. And one of the cool psychological advantages to building your reading list and featuring your books and the books of others, is that you can basically … Our readers are geared towards the idea that if they’re on Amazon.com, looking at a list of books, the cream of the crop is at the top. The bestsellers are right there. That’s why you see John Grisham and Stephen King and Danielle Steele are always at the top of those lists. But when you build your own reading list, you can put yourself right next to Stephen King and John Grisham, and have your book prominently displayed right next to theirs. And when people do visit that link to that page, they get that psychological impression that you are right there, right next to the big swingers. So something to keep in mind. I love psychological tricks. So please, if you haven’t already, make sure you are asking us questions in the comments. I’m kind of scanning through to find things as we go. So here’s a comment from Alexis I wanted to read. “Wehn you aren’t your own bookstore, you don’t have to focus on competing with the places you distribute to and you can focus on mastering distribution.”

Mark Lefevbre 33:27


Kevin Tumlinson 33:31

So here’s a question, or comment, from Vivian. “I start writing my blurbs once I’m one to two chapters into the writing, one to keep me focused, but two, if I learn something about marketing keywords, have another idea, or think of something else that might resonate better, I have something to edit.” I think that is a smart thing to do. I am, and one of the things I tell people. And this is, I have a whole book dedicated to this idea. But I liken editing and writing … I always tell people, do not edit while you write. That’s the quickest way to never finish what you’re writing. And instead, write and then go back and edit. And the reason I say that is, it’s kind of a similar idea. When you do that, you have something to edit. It’s like trying to carve a statue out of a block of marble. Unless you have the block of marble, you’re not gonna have a statue. So, write and then edit later. And using that same kind of concept, write your blurb as you go, and edit as you go. That’s a brilliant idea. 

Mark Lefevbre 34:43

I love it. I think the other thing too is, and this could be useful for people with writer’s block, so Vivian’s got this running document on the side that she’s capturing elements for the blurb which can be important. Let’s say she gets to a scene and she’s stuck, feels like there’s some sort of block. But just, instead of stopping, just moves over to another path, starts playing with the blurb. Maybe even in that work, she finds the answer. Because sometimes when you’re not focused on it, sometimes when you look the other way, you know, the pot boils. So that could actually help you with productivity, so that you’re still making forward momentum on that book project, even if you’re not necessarily always getting those next words down right away.

Kevin Tumlinson 35:23

Yes. All right, let’s hop on over to our primer again. So the next slide was all about newsletter building. And there are a lot of tools that can help you with this. You’re gonna hear us and everyone else tell you a million times between now and the day you die that newsletter building is still the number one way to market your work. I don’t think that’s ever gonna go away. I’ve been proven wrong about things before. But so very rarely, I can’t even recall them. If you are serious about building a career around your writing, the way you do that, in my humble opinion, is focus on building as big a newsletter as you can. If you do no other marketing this year, but focus on building a newsletter, I think you can end the year in the black and make a profit from your books. I’m not gonna guarantee it. But I think that most of the time, that’s the case. So spending some time at the beginning of the year planning how you’re going to do that is useful time. I recommend tools like BookFunnel and BookSweep, which both have promotion tools and ways to get people on a mailing list. But you can also do cross promotion with other authors, which is when, you know, two authors email their mutual lists, to say, “Hey, this author has a book, get on their list to get it,” etc. So there’s a lot of ways to do this. But what you need to do is to sit down and figure out the path that’s going to work best for you and how often you’re going to do it through the course of the year. So Mark, I’ve never asked you how you feel about email and newsletters.

Mark Lefevbre 37:11

Oh, I think no one should ever do it. No, I’m kidding. Of course, it’s one of the most valuable tools you can have. Even—and this is really, really critical—because even if you only have a small number of people on your newsletter, there are people who’ve signed up because they want to hear from you, they want to be updated. So don’t worry about, you know, I don’t have 10,000 people or something like that. You’ve always got to start … I would rather have 10 of the right people who really resonate with my writing and want to hear from me than 100 people who only signed up because maybe they got something for free, but they don’t really care. So in terms of planning for a newsletter, one of the things I was talking to an author the other day, and she told me that she actually plans out an auto, because you can set autoresponder sequences. Because oftentimes writers go, what do I say, what do I share? What do I do? And she plans out 80% of her messages are autoresponders, which are, you know, behind the scenes, and they may be things about the writing of the various books or things that are kind of in line with her audience and what they want to read. She plans them out at the beginning of a cycle, of a year or maybe a quarter, and then plans them out and just schedules them now. And so she optimizes her time. So instead of, you know, once every two weeks or once a month when she’s going to do, that she has that. And she auto-sets that out for the … Think of the reader journey. They sign up, they want to learn more about you. So there’s these progressive emails that are automated, to just keep them, with interesting and informative and entertaining content. And then in between, when she has a new release or a BookBub or Bargain Booksy promo, or she’s in an Apple promo, or whatever promos come up or anything, or a new release or something, she can then fill in those blanks with the promotional. So 80% of her content is entertaining, informative, connecting with our readers. And 20% of her content is push, promote, promo advertising kind of thing. Which is a good balance I think to have. But I love how she plans it out. Whereas I go, oh my god, it’s almost the end of the month. What am I going to say? And I waste a lot of time, right? I do waste a lot of time. 

Kevin Tumlinson 39:27

And to just give you an example of how planning ahead can be very, very useful to you and can kind of save you.Toward the end of the year, my wife and I both got very sick. And there was a good two or three months in there where it was very difficult to do anything, much less think of fun and creative ways to reach out to your mailing list. And so unfortunately, I had not prewritten and pre-planned a bunch of emails to go out. So they basically went without hearing from me for a little while. And I generally try to touch base with my readers once a month at a minimum. So that to me was an offense, I just felt like I let them down by not being prepared. So this year, one of the things I am working on is starting to preprogram some emails. And you don’t have to let those emails go out. You can schedule them, they’re the generic emails, they aren’t quite as personalized. And you know, you can include some personal stuff in them. But they’re not gonna have current events or whatever’s going on. But knowing that email’s coming up, if you can’t get to it to make an edit, you want to make sure it’s clean enough to go out. And that will save you. But you can always pop in beforehand, do a quick edit, add some details, add a link to a new book, whatever you need to do. And then that email becomes a current email. So having that stuff there, it’s again, we’re going back to that idea from earlier of, you know, having something to work with, having something to edit, is a good way to save yourself when things go wrong. And I think if 2020 has proven anything, it’s that things can go wrong. So here’s an interesting question. Victor popped in with, “How do you protect the rights to your book if you get sued? Should you put your book in an LLC or something like that? Maybe these are lawyer questions, I don’t know.” These are lawyer questions. But I can give you some generic advice, and then tell you to go seek out the counsel of an actual lawyer. But an LLC is actually a good way to protect yourself from liability in most circumstances. I don’t know about elsewhere, but in the United States, you can generally file an LLC for a couple 100 bucks in your state online. So it’s not a difficult thing to do. And it is a good way to at least provide yourself with some protection. I’m not gonna tell you it will protect you from all liability, but it is a limited liability. So it’s probably not a bad idea to have that. I don’t know what that would look like in Canada. 

Mark Lefevbre 42:14

It’s similar. Obviously, the laws are going to be different around the world. But it’s similar. Victor, go and look for the Writers, Inc. podcast with Jay Thorne and JD Barker. They had a guest who was a lawyer in this area on the show. He was not giving legal advice, but he knows a lot more than we do about this. And he offered advice along those lines specifically, I do remember. And it was just within the last three or four, I’m kind of behind in my listening, but it’s probably in the last three or four weeks that this episode came out on the Writers, Inc. podcast. I think you’ll probably find some good value there.

Kevin Tumlinson 42:53

Yep. Good plug. They’re good guys and they got a great show. So we got a couple of minutes left, I’m gonna pop back over to our cheat sheet. And the next topic I think was … Yeah, that was sharpening the saw, which we had talked about. Inspiration. This is something no one ever thinks about. And it kind of goes along with the sharpening the saw idea, where sharpening the saw is all about making sure you’re setting aside time to improve your craft, the way you run your business, the way you do your marketing. Learning so that you can improve yourself. Inspiration is about filling your tank. How are you going to give yourself a break from the stress of writing, but also, how are you going to give yourself a source of new ideas? You know, books, films, travel, and I put down here connecting with other authors. These are all ways that you can find inspiration, find your why, like we talked about earlier, like the why of why you’re doing this, how you can actually find that through sources of inspiration that you seek out. I started the year on my Kindle. And I’m sorry, I still use my Kindle, my actual Kindle device. So I’ve got like thousands of books I’ve read but I have 170, at the start of the year I had 174 books that I had not yet read, they were on my to be read pile. And I thought, that’s a little much. So I decided at the beginning of the year, I’m gonna chew through that list. I said I wasn’t gonna buy any more books, but I bought like 50 more books instead. But I’m gonna read that 174 books this year for sure. And I started reading, you know, I have a process, I read three books at a time. I read a book in the morning for about an hour, that’s usually nonfiction, something to sharpen my saw, that’s what that is. I listen to audiobooks when I’m making my coffee or taking walks, driving. And in the evenings I generally read two to three hours of fiction to help me wind down for the evening. And in doing that, since the first of January, I’ve read nine books total off that book list of 174 books. So not quite my old winning score of [inaudible] Kindle books a week when I was poor and all I had was a library card. But these days, pretty good, considering how busy I am. So that’s how I’m finding inspiration and sharpening my saw. So Mark, what are some things you’re doing on the inspiration front?

Mark Lefevbre 45:32

I find the mind/body connection really, really valuable. So going for a run, going for a walk, occupying a different part of my body so that my mind can be free to do those things. Now, in times where you can’t leave the house or can’t go running or whatever, I’ve recently discovered the pleasure of meditation, just actually meditating. Even if it’s only for five minutes, I find that really cleanses. It clears the mind. There’s some guided meditations, you can find them on YouTube, you can find some, I have some through a Fitbit app. And it just is great because it just gives me this reset. And I find oftentimes, when I take that pause, I usually come out of it with some new idea for my writing that’s beneficial. So those are some of the things that I do in terms of filming. Obviously, I’m consuming books. I’m listening to them, I’m reading them on my Kobo, because I’m Canadian. Or print as well, I’m still a sucker for print books, too.

Kevin Tumlinson 46:38

Yeah, me too. But you know, we’ve been traveling a lot in the van and it just takes up too much space. So the Kindle was my solution. Because it’s, you know, it’s kind of hard to carry a couple of thousand books with you in a van. All right, so we are at the end, we’re going to wrap up now. This went very well. I’m so excited to see the number of people who popped in asking questions and participating. Of course, thank you Mark for your brilliance and wisdom. Far overshadowing me. But I think everyone benefited from the show. if you are so inclined, especially if you’re already on YouTube, make sure you are subscribing to us on YouTube. Go to youtube.com/draft2digital. Hit that subscribe button, hit the little bell for notifications whenever we have new episodes. You’re gonna know in advance, usually, it’ll pop up and say “Hey, D2D’s coming.” You can also subscribe and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/draft2digital, where we do these streams live fairly regularly. And make sure to bookmark D2Dlive.com. That’s where you can find it that little countdown timer that tells you when the next live show is going to be, and some links to some of the stuff that we have done in the past. If you haven’t already, go to selfpublishinginsiders.com. I swear, one day we’re gonna build it its own special page for this stuff. But for right now, it points to our blog, where you can find all these posts. And over the next, starting back again in February, the podcast resumes. So as of February 4 and onward, you’ll be able to catch the audio version of this show and the video version of this show and a transcript of the show. It’s just a smorgasbord of Self-Publishing Insiders. So that is going to wrap us up. Thank you so much for your time. I hope you have a wonderful new year. I know it started a little rough. But you know what, you’re an amazing author. You’re an amazing person. Mark, I’m talking to you, buddy. And also to you, dear watcher. We’re gonna duck out now. You take care and be safe and healthy out there.

Mark Lefevbre 48:58

Happy writing.