Releasing Your Potential

2016-05-04 soaring, high, top, mountain, potentialAre you putting unnecessary limits on your own potential? I certainly was.

During second draft of my work-in-progress, I was only editing one scene a day. I felt mentally exhausted after just one scene, but progress seemed too slow. So I asked myself, could I edit two? How was I going to double my output?

2016-05-04 Releasing Your Potential


Parkinson’s Rule

2015-06-17 Clock fleur de lisA book I read recently, Self-Made Success by Shaan Patel, talked about a phenomenon known as Parkinson’s Rule. It basically says that the time it takes you to finish a task morphs to fit the amount of time you give it. Got a week to write a chapter? It’ll take you a week. Got a day? It’ll take you a day.

In wanting to edit two scenes a day instead of one, I was basically working with a variant of Parkinson’s Rule. Got a scene to edit today? It’ll take me a day. Got two scenes to edit today? It’ll still take me just a day.

Creating a Mental Model

2016-05-04 daydream, mountain, challenge, high, top, lake, clouds, man, personBy the end of editing just one scene, I felt mentally drained. I’d invested myself in that scene, and my mind wasn’t ready to move on to a new POV, a new character, a new set of problems. But darn it, I wanted to edit two scenes a day.

So what did I do? I used a tactic I learned about in another book, Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg. I created a mental model–a picture in my mind of what was going to happen. I told myself that when I finished the first scene, I was going to allow myself up to a few minutes to simply breathe and detach from that scene. Then, without getting up from my sofa (where I often write), I was going to dive right into the next scene.

How Well This Worked

2016-05-04 bike, bicycle, race, fast, run, challengeOn every day that I edited my work-in-progress, I successfully completed two scenes per day. In fact, on one day, I edited nine.

Nine? How did that happen? Actually, it wasn’t that hard. By the end of a scene, I saw that I still had time available on the clock. I would then visualize my mental model: me taking a breather, then charging into the next scene. And before I knew it, I’d gotten through nine scenes in a single sitting.

Are you bottling up your own potential? Could Parkinson’s Law and mental models help you double your output, or better?

Daydreaming Run Amok


2016-04-27 daydreaming woman bubbles floating happy green blueOne of the top reasons why I struggle with time management and productivity is because my mind wanders way too easily. I’m never thinking about what I should be thinking about–a.k.a., whatever project is right in front of me at the moment. I daydream! So … assuming you want to quit daydreaming … is there a way to curb it enough to get the work done?

2016-04-27 Daydreaming Run Amok

A Brain Run Out of Control

2016-04-27 raining light sad dramatic intense dark circleI talk to myself. Let’s just be honest about that up front. (Then again, don’t most authors talk to themselves?) There’s a conversation going on inside my head at all times, and there’s never any knowing where the conversation will go next. My brain runs out of control! And it’s so much easier to just follow my brain wherever it may lead, rather than try to curb it and focus on things like writing blog posts or the next book.

Radio Silence

2016-04-27 woman happy flowers colorfulBut there was once–for the first time ever–when I had the experience of complete radio silence in my head. It came after several hours of being so dazed that I truly had nothing to say. It wasn’t a distressed dazed, but a peaceful dazed, because something unexpectedly good had happened. When I sat down to my writing after that, I got twice as much work done in half my usual time.

Getting in Control of Your Mind

2016-04-27 coffee woman happy smile peaceful quiet redMore recently, I read an excellent book (Self-Made Success by Shaan Patel) in which the author talked about gaining control of your own mind. “Try to become a third-party, objective observer of the thoughts that occur in your mind,” Patel wrote. This idea really struck me. I don’t have to be carried about by the changing tides of my thoughts! All I have to do is stop and think about my thinking.

My usual habit is to jump into my pile of work and tear away at it until it’s done, without stopping to ask myself what I’m doing. This never quite works, because I end up daydreaming. Instead, a better way to start the work day may be to simply sit quietly and let my mind wind down for at least a few minutes. Get in control of my thoughts.

Then start writing.

What about you? Do you daydream when you should be working on something? What do you do to curb it?

Landing Freelance Work with Your Book

You wrote a book. Great! Aside from selling it in ebook, print, and audiobook versions, how else can you leverage it for income? How about use it as the basis for getting some freelance work?

2016-04-20 Landing Freelance Work with Your Book

My Sad Story Pitching on Upwork

2016-04-20 journal notebook laptop pen paper page bookNot long ago, I decided to add freelance writing and editing on top of my indie publishing activities. The first place I went was Upwork, a site that helps freelancers and potential clients connect and collaborate. (I’ve worked with Upwork from the hiring side, too, and love their service.)

My initial foray into pitching clients was pretty dismal. I pitched numerous clients for proofreading and copyediting and couldn’t get a bite in the cesspool of competition. I was getting discouraged.

Don’t Pitch Useless Jobs

2016-04-20 writing writer pen paper page book journal notebook coffee mugThe first thing I did was to re-evaluate the kinds of clients I was pitching. You’d be amazed how many job descriptions on Upwork read like this:

I have a 24,000-word document that needs editing.

That’s it. No elaboration. No explanation of the content of the document. No idea what kind of editing we’re talking about–content editing, copyediting, or proofreading. Just words that need edits.

I stopped pitching these jobs. Given such limited information, how was I supposed to explain the ways in which I was the perfect fit for the job? “I can edit. Hire me.”

Pitching Awesome Clients

2016-04-20 writer writing pen paper pagesI started using a keener eye when looking for clients.

  • Did they specify what kind of editing or writing they were looking for?
  • Did they mention specific tasks that were a unique fit to my skill set?
  • Did they say what their document was about?

Here’s an example of a (pretend) client that would be a perfect fit for me:

Hello! I’ve written a 52,000-word memoir about growing up in foster care. I need help with the flow of the writing, grammar, and punctuation. I’d also really like help with formatting the book for Kindle and CreateSpace.

This is a job I could ace. Here’s why:

  • My book Journaling to Become a Better Writer is part memoir; so I have experience writing and publishing in the genre.
  • My up-coming series stars a girl who is growing up in foster care, so I’m very interested in the topic of this person’s book.
  • She’s told me exactly what she needs help with–and it amounts to both copyediting and proofreading, my two specialties.
  • To tie the knot on the deal, I’m one of few freelancers who can not only edit but also format.

Using Your Book to Clinch the Deal

2016-04-20 books pages wordsIf you’ve written a book, you’ve suddenly joined an elite club–never mind that anyone can write and publish a book now days. Potential clients are still impressed if you pitch them and say, “I’m the author of xyz.

Let’s say you’ve written a romance. If you’re looking for jobs on Upwork or other sites, you should zero in on people looking for help with their romance novel. You’re a shoe in!

Get creative, too. I leveraged my book about journaling to land a job proofreading a book about business and life success. How? I mentioned the important part: that when I sent my book past my beta readers, entire chapters went by with no red marks. I used that to prove that I was an attentive copyeditor and proofreader. And I was hired!

If you’re looking for freelance work to supplement your income, how can you leverage your book to land jobs?

Asking Bloggers to Review Your Book

2016-01-20 books pages reading reader relaxing calmYou wrote a book. Great! Now how do you get people to read it? Marketing is probably one of the hardest parts of being an author–but oh, so essential! You worked so hard on your darling. Don’t let it languish.

One marketing technique I’ve been trying is to reach out to bloggers and asking them to review my book. Here’s how to do it–and how it’s been working out for me.


2016-04-13 Asking Bloggers to Review Your Book

How to Find Bloggers

You may be familiar with book bloggers–people who specifically read and review books. Their “to be read” lists can be crazy huge, and if you get in with them, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back!

Because my book is non-fiction–and because book bloggers usually review only fiction titles–I took a different approach. The title of my book is Journaling to Become a Better Writer: 7 Keys to More Authentic Fiction. My topic is creative writing. There are countless creative writing blogs out there. I thought, why not see if any of them are interested in reviewing?

You can use this same approach even if your book is fiction. What are the topics in your book? Is it a Western? Why not look for country life blogs, ranching blogs, etc., and see if the owner likes to read? That could get you into a niche where the competition for book reviews is much lower than with book bloggers.

To find bloggers for my book, I started with a basic Google search: “writing blogs.” My first link gave me one blogger’s top favorite blogs for writers. From there, I’ve found other lists. And I literally start at the top of the list and work my way through.

How to Approach a Blogger

2015-05-13 laptopI’ve put together a form letter that I can send out to any blogger without having to write a new one from scratch every time. I keep my voice friendly and cheerful. And here’s the important part: I take that form letter and personalize every one.

How do I do that? I always make sure to read at least one of the blogger’s posts–one with a title that particularly interested me. I may also read their “about me” page. Another new trick I’ve taken to doing is to search their site for the word “journal” to see if they are journal keepers–which gives them a lot in common with both me and my book. (If they don’t have a search box, you can type this into the URL bar: “ journal.”

Once I’ve found some common ground, I start my letter with a line like this:

I just had to write and let you know how much I enjoyed your blog post, “Journal Every Day.” I agree that it really helps the creative juices start to flow! I shared your post on Twitter and Facebook.

P.S., sharing their stuff is so darn nice, you should really do it. It’ll show that you’re willing to do a favor in return, and not just begging the blogger to do a favor for you.

Then I merge into the request. Try to be friendly and non-salesy, and keep your letter short to respect their time.

Allow me to introduce myself. We. Us. Whatever. We are Indie Plot Twist, a blog for authors interested in the indie publishing revolution – though all authors are welcome to grab a mug and a chair at our writing table. Our first creative writing guide, Journaling to Become a Better Writer, is currently available, and we’re very interested in getting some eyes on it. May we interest you in a free copy in exchange for an honest review? (All the book details are below.) Both ebook and print copies are available.

From there, I mention that we’ll be happy to share some social media love with any review they post, then thank them and close my letter. I then separate the main letter with a few dashed lines and include the back cover copy from the book.

After the book description, I use a few more dashed lines and invite the blogger to reply to the email to request a copy.

What to Do if They Don’t Answer

Write to them again! I keep careful records of who I contacted and on what day. Two weeks after my initial email, if I haven’t heard back, I send a follow-up letter. It’s a form email again, and this time I don’t bother to personalize it. It’s a very short, simple message:

Hey again! Danielle from I got in touch with you a couple weeks ago to see if you’d be interested in reviewing our creative writing guide, Journaling to Become a Better Writer. I haven’t heard anything, so I assume you’ve been busy. (Story of our lives, right?)

Don’t worry, I kept the coffee on! If you’re interested, the book details are below. I look forward to hearing from you!

Have an awesome day.

From there, I include the back cover copy again and the final invite to get in touch with me. If this email hasn’t returned an answer in another two weeks, I assume the blogger is not interested and mark them as such on my spreadsheet. That way I won’t accidentally bother them again!

How Well It Works

I wish I could tell you that every blogger writes back within minutes to beg for their review copy. In reality, I have about a 20% success rate.

Now, I consider 20% to be pretty darn good, when you take into account my 1% rule. Whenever it comes to anything marketing, I simply assume that only 1% of my efforts will return results.

Bloggers are busy, maybe they don’t think my book is the right fit for their audience, my emails are getting sucked into spam folders, etc. There are many reasons for them to not read my book, and the likelihood that it’s just the read they’ve been looking for–and that they have time to read it now–is pretty slim. So I consider anything above 1% to be really good. Twenty percent is amazing.

How to Turn a Rejection Into Success

2016-01-13 joy, happy, smile, smiling, runningI’ve had plenty of bloggers write back to me and graciously decline. But I’ve learned how to turn even a rejection into success. The first thing I ask is if I can write them a guest post instead. Ten percent of the bloggers I’ve contacted have asked for a guest post.

If they don’t want a guest post either, I’ll ask if they’d be willing to share the link and cover with their followers on Twitter and/or Facebook. Fifteen percent of the bloggers I’ve contacted have shared my book with their followers.

Since my goal is for my book to eventually turn up everywhere (like dandelions), even a share on someone’s Twitter feed counts. It usually takes a reader several opportunities before they finally decide to buy, and if they see my book being mentioned everywhere, they’ll really start to pay attention! Or so my theory goes. Hey, if it worked for Jack Canfield …

When you add 20%, 10%, and 15%, I end up with a whopping 45% success rate of people who have promoted my book in one form or another. Farewell, 1% rule!

Stick With It

The most important thing to remember, no matter what marketing technique you’re deploying, is to keep at it. Contacting one blogger may not get you your book review. One book review may not get you your hundreds of sales. But just like millions of drops of water can carve out a canyon, a flood of effort can get you your book sales. Be optimistic, and be determined!