5 Ideas for Writing through the Holiday (Repost)


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Since November is in full swing and I am busy, busy, busy trying to meet my daily writing goals for NaNoWriMo, I thought I could cheat a little bit with my November posts. This repost offers some great tips to prepare you for getting around time commitments with family while still making time to write through the Holiday. Have anything to add or a great suggestion that helps you write through the holiday? Leave a comment below. Enjoy!

Traveling to visit with family can be fun, entertaining, and nerve-wrecking all at once. One of the things I look forward to most about the holidays is not just getting together with family, but also the anticipation of seeing them. It’s no secret that I am a lover of road trips. The building excitement of packing, loading the car, and the hours upon hours of spending time with the kids in the car with their mounting excitement for the holiday, is truly what makes the trip so worth while. But, as fun as traveling is, it can still be difficult to write while traveling, especially if you come from a family that plans out every waking moment of your visit (fortunately I don’t). So what are some ways to get some good productive writing in while traveling without taking away from time with the family?

1. Passenger Seat Writing. The most obvious of answers is writing if you’re not the one driving. If you’re the passenger and have a long road trip ahead of you, there is no reason why you can’t knock out some pages or do some editing, revising, journaling, and/or brainstorming instead of sleeping or staring out of the window. If kids or other passengers are a distraction, take advantage of all technology has to offer and plug those ears with your most inspirational sounds and get to writing. UPDATE: If you have a smartphone, use it! Even if you are driving, use the record features on your phone to voice record your thoughts as you’re driving. If you can do it to send a text, you can do it to advance your writing.

2. Plan Ahead. If you are from a family that plans out every moment of the trip, take advantage of that Type A personality planner and be sure to include your writing time in the plan. Personally, I don’t commit to doing any work that is not directly related to the holiday celebration on the holiday itself, but if you’re die-hard and don’t want to miss a beat, plan to write while everyone is snoozing after overindulging on turkey and dressing. If you’re a big football fan and just can’t miss the games on turkey day, then plan to devote a couple of hours to writing while the turkey’s in the oven. If however you are like me and no matter what the holiday is just that – a holiday – and you refuse to work on that day, then plan an hour or two of writing while the family sleeps in, or while you’re waiting in the parking lot for stores to open their doors for Black Friday. Either way, there is no reason you can’t get your ideas down just because you’re traveling.

3. Be Realistic. No one knows your family better than you. No one knows YOU better than you. Don’t commit yourself to a schedule you know you can’t realistically keep. If you know there are certain traditions that your family simply will not compromise on – don’t. Avoid committing to working on days that will just be impossible to do. You’ll find yourself feeling unaccomplished and will spend the next several days beating yourself up over your lack of commitment to your craft. Spare yourself, your family, and the writing community (because you know you’re going to blog about it) from that unnecessary drama and try this instead. Set a number of (realistic) hours you want to write for your entire trip. Then work those hours in over the span of the trip rather than committing to a day-by-day schedule. If you set your goal at five hours of writing, you can spread those hours out in any way that fits your family’s holiday schedule. Flexibility is the name of the game.

4. Accept All Forms of Accomplishment. When I first started into this venture, I thought that writing was the only way for me to feel as if I accomplished anything in my craft. I was extremely hard on myself if I didn’t write at least 1500 words of something every day. What I know now is there is more that goes into writing than just, well. . . writing. Jotting down some blog ideas; drafting a blog entry or two; journaling an inspired poem that popped into your head; a new story layout; editing/revising current works in progress; laying out a new project plan or plan of action; catching up on emails and correspondence related to your current or future works, are all a part of your writing career. One doesn’t happen without the other. It’s great if you can write thousands of words per day no matter what. But just in case you have these other things on your plate that contribute to getting that masterpiece manuscript in front of your readers, you need to accept that these things also count as being productive and getting you closer to publication. It all counts in my book.

5. Have Fun. The most important rule of all. Some of my most inspiring moments come from life itself. I find that I do some of my best writing when I just relax and let the ideas pop into my head from day-to-day activities. Just plan to enjoy your trip and you’ll end up finding yourself inspired in more ways than one.

Celebrating the holidays with family and friends is obviously a priority. But like most of our American holidays, despite taking multiple days to celebrate, reality is, the holiday itself is just one day. You can still use your time wisely to advance your writing career without sacrificing the much needed time with your loved ones.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving! And (when you have time) write on!

What the Prep?


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I still can’t believe I’m about to do this! The first of November is Sunday. I feel strong going into this, but whoa! This will certainly be a new experience for me and I’m looking forward to it. But every time I think about that word count goal . . .

I’ve spent the last several days getting ready for the big NaNoWriMo event in hopes that a little prep will go a long way toward meeting my goal.

IMG_2808Feeling the Energy As the weather begins to cool here in sunny Florida, I’m revamping a space in my garage (don’t mind the dead plant) because that’s where I’m feeling the most creative these days. I love doing household projects and crafts in this space, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually tried writing in it. Boy did the juices start flowing. I’ve determined that this is where I seem to be most inspired and this will definitely be my “go-to” studio through the month of November, and possibly beyond.

Author Head Spaces Attending local writing events and workshops is always a great way to get your head in gear for writing. I attended a NaNoWriMo panel that really lit a fire under me, not just for November, but in general. I can’t stress enough how being around other writers is always refreshing and inspirational.

I also tuned into an authors panel via Spreecast. This was just as inspiring as the live panel and though I wasn’t able to attend the live event, I love that I could at least replay the panel from the comforts of my home at a time that was suitable for my schedule. The bonus was getting additional tips to help me throughout my writing career.

The Work I narrowed my novel ideas down to two concepts and just decided whichIMG_2813 one I’m going to run with for my first NaNoWriMo. This will be a case of starting from scratch and rewriting that novel that’s just been collecting dust for over a year now. One thing I’ve learned from attending writing events is – sometimes you just have to start over. The work isn’t going anywhere because I’m just not passionate enough about it. So, regardless of how much I’ve already put on paper, this is a must-do-redo and I’m ready. I’ve revised my characters to include more in depth character sketches, thought out the worlds in which my characters will live and interact, and have a general idea of where I want the story to go. I think I was missing some of these elements before, but the gaps are filled in, and there’s nowhere to go but through the pages.

The Distraction Plan I am prepared for that pesky Something Shiny Syndrome to rear it’s ugly head and keep me from meeting my daily writing goals. But not to worry. I’m prepared with a plan to write that incorporates all those planned and unplanned distractions – that holiday road trip, field trips and events at the kids’ schools, neighborhood events and functions, even running low on my caffeine supply and budget. Whatever the distraction, I’m ready to write – in the car, before the field trips and events, and during the kids’ practices. And just in case my caffeine stash and/or budget runs low, those quarters and nickels I’ve been dropping in old jars for years are ready for me to take to the conversion machine at the nearest supermarket so I can turn my coins into cash and restock and reload. No excuses people!

Within Reach IMG_2811Things I’m prepared to have within reach while writing this new novel: CHOCOLATE! Coffee, tea, or my favorite dark soda (pop for my northern folks); My favorite cheddar popcorn (I have to have this stuff); CHOCOLATE; A quick meat source for protein (peanut butter doesn’t always do it for me); paper and pens; any type of mobile device; and last but not least… did I mention CHOCOLATE? (Okay, I admit this is the candy we’re supposed to be passing out for Halloween, but they don’t need all those cavities anyway…right?)

Well, hopefully I can secure an emergency chocolate stash after Halloween. I’m sure the kids won’t mind.

There you have it. This novel is getting done! It has to. Wish me luck. If you don’t hear from me in November, hopefully it just means I’m lost in a good book – my own. Happy writing and write on!

Journal Shopping


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I know it’s been a while, but trust I haven’t abandoned you! November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and it’s fast approaching. In the scramble to prepare, I’ve found myself focused on writing more than ever.

With that, I’m always on the lookout for notebooks and journals and came across this deal that was too good not to share. While I’m usually pretty particular about color and I typically prefer the more flexible styles because they travel well and can easily sustain a lot of abuse, I had to make an acception in this case. This week I came across these lovelies for $5.00 at my local Staples and I just couldn’t pass them up. From the binding to the magnetic clasp, this was an instant winner for me. I grabbed the last two in stock and would have purchased more if they had them. After all, writers can never have enough journals. 

 Click to find out more about NaNoWriMo, stock up on those journals, and write on!

A Day in the Life of a Writer-Mom


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There’s nothing like making a plan and sticking to it (something I don’t often do that well). But it sure does make a little ole’ writer like me feel a sense of personal success when I actually finish every task I set out to do.

Summer has finally drawn to an end, school is back in session, and the peace and quiet of home has set in. This marks the time for me to regroup and get back in the swing of actively writing, revising, and marketing.


Sunday night I updated and recorded everything in my most favorite planner, which I had to contact the manufacturer to get (I absolutely love this planner-style). I recorded to-do lists, purchases, meetings, appointments, writing tasks I should be working on each day – everything! I even recorded meals for the week. I searched for any openings between scheduled tasks or events so that I could carve time in between to work on more writing tasks. After recording the same information into my phone I was ready to go.

With the kids back in school, mornings around here are a lot more hectic (evenings too for that matter). So I absolutely have to make sure I get all the house tasks done if I plan to make the “good mom” list for the new school year. This includes dinner.

IMG_2365Thanks to having a plan, I had all of my ingredients set out the night before so that preparation would be a cinch at the crack of dawn. A quick mix of ingredients, grabbed the chicken out of the fridge, set the timer, and dinner was cooking and would be hot and ready to serve before evening practice. Score!


When I was a girl, I always hated the overnight, refrigerated sandwich in my lunch box. I assume my kids would probably hate it too. Therefore, school lunches are prepared in the morning at my house. But to speed things up a bit, on Sunday I prepared all of their accompaniments for the week. This week, a little homemade fruit salad in convenient lunch containers, along with a lunch treat and a side vegetable would do the trick. Changing up the entree throughout the week gives the feeling of having something “different” from day-to-day and helps keep lunches a little more interesting. On Hump Day, the kids get to choose if they would like to purchase school lunch or grab a Lunchable from the fridge. This breaks up the monotony of the typical lunchbox meal and gives me a break from lunch-prep. If I’m feeling especially lazy on a particular week, I also let them get school lunch on Fridays, but I try not to make that a habit.

From this point, everything else flowed like clockwork. By the time lunches were prepared, my self-sufficient kids had finished their breakfast and were already getting ready for the day. We have a set morning routine. The kids get up, make their breakfast, clear the table, and get ready for the school day. This also makes mom’s life a lot easier in the mornings.

Homework is signed the night before or not at all, which frees me up to get myself ready for the day. One more quick glance at my planner and I was ready to tackle the business of the day.

I said my farewells to the hubby and my oldest son, while heading out the door to walk the youngest to school. A few kisses and hugs later, it was time to put my writing hat on and start crossing completed tasks off my list. The house was nice and quiet, perfect for staying focused and getting things done. On this particular day, I only had a forty-minute window to write between doctor appointments and conference calls, so I got as much as I could done within that small window. I was on time for my breakfast meeting, conference call, and doctor appointment and still had a little time to spare to finish up a rough draft for a submission I had been procrastinating on finishing.

Once the kids arrived from school, dinner was smokin’ hot and ready to serve from my lovely Crock Pot and we managed to make it to my son’s practice on time.

IMG_2369Upon returning home, I am completely exhausted, but it feels good knowing that not a minute of the day was wasted with nonsense or laziness. Nobody’s perfect, especially not me, so all days won’t be as efficient as this, but it feels good knowing that this one was.

Keep up the momentum and write on!



Journal De-Clutter: I Need You!


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It’s that time of year again. Time to clear the clutter. I go through a period of de-cluttering at least 3 times a year, because that’s how often things tend to pile up and stand in the way of being creative and productive.

Like most writers, I’m in the habit of jotting down my thoughts, new ideas, and inspirations. If you’ve read The Idea Book . . . Books post, then you know that I have different idea books, or journals, handy in which I write everything that pops into my head. But, here’s the thing, it occurred to me that my journals are a direct reflection of the way my mind actually works – meaning there is stuff (thoughts and ideas) all OVER the place! I think I’m just a walking mass of clutter.

My idea books have random poems scattered about; different experiences I felt compelled to record at the time;  Inspirational quotes; story ideas and what inspired them; reflections; sketches, the list goes on-and-on. And there’s absolutely no logic to how these ideas are organized, they’re just – there. As I’m staring at my books, I realized I have literally created a visual of my brain. I am constantly bombarded throughout my day with random thoughts and ideas that I have to put on paper or they may be lost forever. I sometimes forget what I’m looking for the moment I start looking! I can’t possibly be expected to remember a new story idea without writing it down. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever, so my journals are essential to my writing.

To add to my clutter woes, I didn’t realize that with the release of my new book, the anxiety, excitement, and stress that came along with writing a new book repeat itself every time I start on a new story or have to embark on a new venture with the existing published book. So, in an effort to not continuously feel overwhelmed, it’s time to, once again, clear the clutter – my idea books. I want to continue to be able to write without feeling overwhelmed. This is where you come in.

I’m thinking about trying to reorganize my Idea Books, consolidate them, organize the different ideas I have written in them, and try to make some sense of them. But I can’t help but ask myself, Is that even realistic? Wouldn’t I need yet another journal to even do that?

So, I’m turning to you, my fellow writers, organization experts, teachers, and friends. What do I do? Do you have any suggestions to help me get my journals cleaned up and organized? Fellow writers, how do you manage your journals? I am totally open to suggestions.

That was a Great Idea! Until…


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Many children’s book authors have some type of incentive, activity or giveaways for their book launch, which sounds great in theory. But keep in mind, whatever great ideas you come up with also have to be executed. Executing some of your more brilliant masterpieces can sometimes prove to be a little daunting.

Practicing the Pen Yes, you should practice your autograph. But I felt I didn’t need to practice because I already knew how to sign. I’ve been signing my own signature for years. How hard could it be? I was all set. But a few days before the book launch I read a blog post that suggested your autograph should be different from your official signature. This is because an autograph is public access. It may be on the internet, it’s in many of your books, and it’s free and open to the public. Duh! That hadn’t occurred to me. So, it’s important to protect yourself. You should practice an autograph that’s different from your official signature. Two days before the book launch I spent several hours practicing the beautiful masterpiece that is now my autograph.

Yay! Coloring Pages What a clever idea to have a coloring page from the book to handout to the kids. This would help grab their interest and keep them wanting more! Well, this also means they’ll need some crayons. I could always just ask the facility to provide crayons for the kids. But what about the families that can’t stick around but their child still wants to participate? I went on the hunt for the mini crayon packs (like the restaurants have for the kids menu). At first I couldn’t find them anywhere and thought I would have to order them online from Crayola®. Fortunately, I hesitated and in doing so, wandered in to our local party planning store, only to find that they sold LOADS of the mini crayon packs in bulk. Jackpot! I saved money and time since I didn’t have to order online. And yes, I cleaned them out!

In thinking about how I would distribute the coloring sheets and crayons, I thought it tacky to just hand the kids a sheet and a pack of crayons. Why not fold the sheets into a cute little pocket, to hold the crayons, then put them on display and hand them out? Yes! And it won’t hurt to throw in a little bookmark. BUT, somebody’s got to do the folding people! And that somebody is YOU! If I never fold another piece of paper it will be too soon. But it did make for a nice presentation though. Unfortunately, kids can care less about presentation. They just want the goods. 


50 Balloons, Oh My! Because my book is primarily about a balloon, I thought it would be great to have loads of balloons at the launch for the kids to enjoy. Instead of paying extra delivery fees, it just made more sense (in my mind) to bring the balloons myself…not a well thought out idea. Fitting 50 balloons into an SUV doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you actually have to stuff them in and drive. Fortunately, my life-saver friend and her super mini-van came to the rescue. Between our two vehicles, we were able to successfully stuff the balloons without any fly-away casualties, into our vehicles, drive 5 miles to the facility (somewhat slowly I might add) and clumsily unload and get the balloons inside the doors without one single pop. And to think, I was originally going to order 100!

Aside from the hassle of getting the balloons to the launch, I also hadn’t considered that actually distributing them to the kids could be  a problem. After getting the balloons all pretty and ready for distribution, of course the first few times we went to happily give a kid one of them, we found that the strings became entangled and knotted up around the bunch. Luckily, there were plenty of safety scissors handy at the childcare center. So the new distribution plan was to cut the string whenever a child needed a balloon. Quick solution, but my lesson learned is, keep the balloons simple. No more fancy stuff.

Oh Yeah – Nourishment. In all the excitement, it never occurred to me that I would need to eat something. As a headache began to rear it’s ugly head (no pun intended) it must’ve become apparent that I wasn’t quite myself. While waiting at the party center for the manager to finish bagging my balloons, my Super Mini Van-friend looked at me and asked, “Have you eaten anything today?” The question stunned me. I hadn’t even thought about food all day. I was running on pure adrenaline. I think I may have responded with a weird, goofy, face because she shook her head at me and gave me the ‘What am I going to do with you?’ shameful shoo.

A true friend indeed, instead of yelling at me and huffing, she simply asked me what I liked from McDonald’s and when we arrived at the facility with balloons in tow, she was heavy one 20 piece McNugget meal which I shared with hubby and kids. Thanks Super Mini Van -Friend!

The Real After Party When all was finally said and done, the launch was a success and the few little hiccups were not enough to shatter my memories of my first book release. These were little giggle moments, but nothing more crucial than that. And it was all made better with a pleasant surprise dinner with close friends and family. Nothing made the event more special than ending the day with those that meant the most to me. Having their support through it all gave me the strength and endurance to make it all possible and it wouldn’t have happened without them. Good food. Good drinks. Good fun. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Have fun in these new endeavors and write on!

Upload to Launch Part 4: The Launch Party (Repost)


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With all the excitement brewing around the release of my new illustrated children’s book, Eli’s Balloon, of course I had to blog about it! So, in keeping with my Upload to Launch series, what better way to end the series than with a post about the launch itself. Naturally, following the book release however, I already blogged about it in my May 2015 post, Week in Review: The “After” Party. So this is more of a repost with a few tweaks here and there about pulling off the actual launch and making it all come together.

Prepare Your Mind Things are about to move – rapidly! So get ready. After months (and in some cases, years) of writes, rewrites, edits, revisions, contract negotiations, research, and more writing, the book launch is now right around the corner and it’s about to take off. There is no better way to prepare yourself for this than to just understand that the launch is about to happen and you need to be the best multi-tasker ever! If getting through a party is not your thing, solicit the help of a close friend or family member to help you get through it. If you can afford to pay a party coordinator, then hats off to you. Make it happen. Otherwise, put your big girl panties on or your big boy drawers, and dig in!

Set up After several meetings with the facility and coordinator, the day has finally come and it’s time to set up. You may be the author, but you’re no celebrity. Yes, You have to be hands on with preparing for your event. I arrived early with my setup crew (my mom and my friends) to prepare the space for the event. Fortunately for me, the facility also pitched in to assist with setup. This was arranged ahead of time of course.

Early arrival meant everything had to be with me and ready to arrange. I arrived with balloons, party favors, table cloths, tape, plenty of signing pens, paper, bins & buckets, my phone and card swiper, and of course – the books. With all hands on deck, we were set and ready to go in no time.

NOTE: How many books you decide to bring will vary depending on the size of your book launch (and budget) and the level of promotion for your launch. If you expect 200 people, you should probably be prepared with more than 60 books. In my case 60 books was a good number. Whatever you decide, try your best to bring enough books to accommodate your supporters. While selling out sounds great, you are a first time self-published author. It’s not likely that most of your new customers will run out to your website and order yet another book that will crowd their kids’ bookshelves. Grab your audience while you’ve got them. Don’t run out of books!

Taking the First Customer It’s always good to be prepared. Because we arrived early to be sure everything was in place, my first customer was early and ready to purchase the book. What was I going to do? Say no because it wasn’t time yet? Ridiculous! I happily greeted my first patron and early or not, things were underway.

Signing This is the thing we all associate with book launches and book signings. . . Actually signing the book. I’ve never been so nervous in my life! But I knew I was ready. After forming the first letter in my name, the jitters subsided and it got easier-and-easier with each stroke of the pen. Thanks to some helpful tips from other bloggers, I was prepared with little cards for guests to write out names so I wouldn’t mistakenly misspell them. That made signing a lot easier. And I must say, signing was one of the most exciting parts of the event.

A Special Treat I invited my illustrator, Mark Wayne Adams, ahead of time. Fortunately, he was available to attend the event – and what a treat it was. He joined me in signing the books and he also illustrated balloons for the kids! He brought the balloons to life which excited my most bashful customer. Seeing the expressions on the kids’ faces was absolutely priceless.

The Program I planned to address my guests briefly. I used a general format for the launch. We had kid-friendly refreshments available throughout the event. So as guests arrived, they were free to mingle, purchase the book, and enjoy refreshments. We chose to serve cake, Italian ice, and water. We replaced the labels on the water bottles with the cover of the book, which really appealed to the kids. I planned a 10-15 minute block to address guests which included a Welcome, Introduction, reading an excerpt of the book, providing the backstory, thank yous, and a Question & Answer period. I’m not sure if I used all of my time because my nerves were maxed out. But my guests didn’t seem to mind, and I’m pretty sure I covered everything I intended to cover in whatever time I used.

Overall, the launch went well. There were only a few minor hiccups which I’ll share in my upcoming post, That Was a Great Idea! Until…”.

It feels good to have the book launch behind me, but Newbies, it’s not over just because the book is published. Now it’s on to the business aspect of writing – marketing and promoting. It feels good finally being published, but more importantly, I feel as if I can finally move on. For weeks, so many other projects and aspects of my life have been placed on hold as I stressed out in preparation for this release. Now it’s behind me, and life can go on.

For those of you almost at the finish line, hang in there. It will be over soon and you will feel a major sense of relief having accomplished your goal. But understand that the train doesn’t stop at the first book. I’m even more motivated now to get my works-in-progress completed and to build my career as a writer. Stick to your guns and get it done Newbies!

Good luck and write on.

Upload to Launch Part 3: Planning the Book Launch


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Let me first start off with my disclaimer: I in no way profess to be an expert on planning the perfect book launch. In fact, just consider this post more of a share rather than a means of advice or guidance. I am quite sure that many writers do things differently and probably a lot sooner than I did in my planning process. But again, I’m just sharing so take it or leave it.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on with the planning!

Your book actually exists! You’ve ordered your copies and now everyone’s waiting for the big release. But you have no idea where to begin. Unfortunately, you didn’t start months ago as suggested by the millions of blogs on the topic and you fear that you’re doomed to have a half-put-together production that will scar your name as a respected writer for the rest of your writing career! Really? You can bring it down a few notches. It’s your first time out and it’s okay to make mistakes. (This was the pep talk I repeated to myself). You can still have a successful book launch and take notes for an even bigger, better, more successful launch in the future.

First Step: Google! I Googled book releases because I didn’t know anything about hosting one and I had no idea where to begin. So I researched to try to find out everything I could. Then the planning commenced. Once I read several blogs and visited several author sites to learn all that I could about book launches, I made a general checklist for myself to get started. It looked a little something like this:

Secure a location
Set a date
 Determine order/flow of program
Schedule speakers/Invite guests
 Hire services/purchase decor
 Flyers/promotions & materials

Securing a Location & Setting a Date Before getting to this point in the process, I stewed for months over finding a location for my book launch. I initially assumed I would probably try to have it at a local library or bookstore because that’s what most writers did and what most readers expected, right? Not at all. What I learned was that many writers try to think outside of the box when it comes to choosing the perfect location for their book launch which was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted a place that would be fun, appropriate for children, and would still allow me to sell the book on site (because some locations will not allow you to sell).

Thinking about the inspiration for the book, I decided that my son’s former learning center would be the perfect place to host the event. Without hesitation, they were on board and we immediately negotiated dates for the launch. This involved a bit of back and forth due to their existing schedule of events for parents and students. We eventually narrowed down a date and planning was officially underway.

Determining Order and Filling in the Blanks Creating a draft of the program was essential to this process. I sketched out exactly how I wanted the event to look including time ranges, guest speakers, and refreshments. I kept the flow very general to allow myself room to fill in the blanks in the event I had to move some things around. For example, instead of jotting down the MC’s name, I wrote in a list of people who may not mind being my MC just in case one of them was unavailable or uncomfortable with speaking in front of audiences.

Armed with my draft, I met with the coordinator at the learning center and together we filled in program gaps including layout for refreshments, greeting guests, seating, accepting payments, signing, and anything else related to layout. We discussed traffic flow which was important for keeping things smooth, interesting, and professional.

Scheduling Speakers & Inviting Guests I was fortunate enough to have a small team eager and willing to help with the event. The director/owner of the facility was happy to welcome guests and introduce me; I prepared an outline of speaking points and practiced it to stay within the time constraints of the program; and, thanks to my team, each person had a responsibility for the event.

My job was to focus on the consumers and sign the book. The facility coordinator handled all purchase transactions. A team member welcomed guests, two people worked refreshments, while yet another team member managed traffic and activity flow. The most important person in place was my husband. He treated the book release like a wedding, diffusing any potential stressful issues before the “bride” (author) ever knew an issue existed in the first place. Thanks Hubby.

I had created a special guest list the previous year and kept it safely tucked away, adding to it over time. Just to name a few, special guests included family, supportive friends, my illustrator and editor, and special contributors to the book publication. With the date set and the general event layout in place, I felt comfortable sending out the invitations. NOTE: I’ll post a separate entry on invitations.

I chose to design my own flyers and selected a local printer to have them printed. My flyers were placed at the learning center and a few local businesses. Admittedly, I could make drastic improvements to flyer distribution for future books. Selling yourself to readers is key to building your reader base. If you are at this point in your process, do not be afraid to ask local businesses to allow you to place your flyers in their establishments. Many are happy to do it.

Hiring Services & Shopping I knew what types of refreshments I wanted to serve. I contacted the local businesses that were my top choices which included a bakery and Italian Ice company which would appeal to the kids. Both the bakery and Italian ice company were available to place my event on their calendars and I was prepared to pay any necessary deposits. NOTE: Try to have your vendors in place prior to printing up the flyers. Including your vendors will appeal to more potential consumers.

With everything coming together, I could focus on the fun part – shopping. I did not allow myself to exceed my book launch budget. I spent a modest amount on decorations for the event. A few table cloths, lots of balloons, eating utensils, and coordinating buckets for giveaways did the trick. Spending an arm and a leg on decorations isn’t necessary. All were purchased at my local dollar store and party center.

Having a plan is essential to having a well organized, successful event. Learn from my experience and make your first book launch bigger and better. Planning can be one of the most stressful parts of the process. But once you get through it, fun times will be had at the event itself and it will all be worth it.

Good luck with your planning and write on!

Next in this series: Part 4: The Launch Party

Upload to Launch Part 2: The Proof Copy Process


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Now that you’ve settled on a printer, it’s time to apply your print selections to your manuscript so you can upload your manuscript and order your proof copy. Remember, quality is everything and there’s no feeling like seeing your book in print for the first time, even if it has errors.

Proofing and Formatting
Speaking of errors, this is the point in the process where you want all of your i’s dotted and all of your t’s crossed. Whatever POD you choose PLEASE make sure you follow their formatting instructions to the letter. Formatting can be frustrating and confusing. If there is any part of the instructions you do not understand call the helpline (if one is offered) to be sure you have no formatting errors. If you are not the most tech-savvy writer, it’s okay to pay a little extra for the formatting service offered by the printer. In my case, I had someone handle this for me. Yes, I paid to have this done. But most PODs offer formatting for an extra fee.

The good news is if there is an error that falls on the POD service, then more than likely, the printer will correct it and reprint your proof at no charge. However, if the error is yours, prepare to pay for another proof. I’ve done this!

So what type of errors might you make on your own proof? Text alignment, font inconsistencies, font effects such as bold facing, italics, etc. These are the types of tiny errors that make you scream and if they repeatedly slip through can end up being costly in the long run.

Now, you’re almost ready. But there is one more very important step that needs to be done. Surely, the more you publish, the sooner this would be done in the process. But just in case you’re still like me and certain details were just confusing and blurred in the research process, I’m going to make this piece clear right now:

ISBN numbers and Barcodes

YOU NEED YOUR ISBN and BARCODES! Was I clear enough? If you have not completed this portion of the process, you can not afford to put this off any longer. This is the point where your ISBN number gets assigned (by you) to your book and the barcode must be on the back cover in order for it to appear on the printed book.

First, notice I mention them separately – the ISBN numbers AND barcodes. This is because they are separate purchases. I’m sure you’ve heard or read that it’s best to purchase the ISBNs in bulk. I couldn’t agree more and this is why. You don’t purchase a batch of ISBNs because of the price break per ISBN. You purchase the batch because you need a separate ISBN number for each format you will be printing the book. So, hardcover, softcover, and in some cases digital, though your POD may provide ISBNs for your digital uploads. NOTE: Research this thoroughly to decide what option is best for you.

Second, they can be purchased at any point in your process prior to printing. Therefore, if you plan to publish multiple works as most writers do, then it is beneficial to have your ISBNs on standby and ready to move your printing process forward.

The barcodes are priced and purchased separately but are inexpensive. You need to have a barcode for each hardcopy version of the book. You can purchase the barcodes in bulk or a la carte, but either way, you need them for your upload process. Again, be sure to follow your printers formatting guidelines. To learn more about ISBN numbers and barcodes or to make a purchase visit http://www.bowker.com.

So, in sum, check and recheck, get the formatting right, purchase your ISBNs and barcodes, and now you’re ready to upload.

It’s Upload Time!

You’ve dotted all your i’s and crossed all your t’s. Now it’s time to upload and wait…and wait…and wait. Your POD will scrutinize and analyze your upload and contact you with any corrections or formatting irregularities. My experience has been that this can occur over one week and may entail some back and forth between you and the POD. Be patient. This was a nit-picking part of the process, but you do want your book to be perfect.

The Proof Copy

After verifying that everything is properly formatted and ready to go, your POD service will notify you that your upload is ready for printing. This is the point where you need to actually purchase your proof copy from you POD service. Decide on your delivery method and wait for it to arrive. When it arrives cry, scream, shout, party. You’ve received the first ever copy of your book in print. Celebrate! Have a drink! Then, settle down and go over the proof with a fine tooth comb. Be sure to scrutinize every letter, word, image and page because once you approve this copy, it’s the copy the world will read.

Hopefully, there will be no corrections and you can begin setting up the book for distribution through your POD. Otherwise, resubmit any error corrections and the process will repeat from the upload step.

Preparing for Distribution

Everything you need to know for distribution will be provided by your POD. Be sure to read through the distribution information carefully when first deciding on your POD service. This will be one of the determining factors in making your initial decision on a POD.

Also, be sure to check with your POD service to make sure you understand if there are any extra steps involved in making your book available to other distributors such as libraries and bookstores. Unfortunately, I erred in this department and it may have cost me significantly as far as marketing the book to other distributors. As frustrated and disappointed as I was upon learning this, there is nothing I can do about it now so I just have to carry this lesson with me for future publications. Learn from my mistakes. Make sure you thoroughly understand your PODs distribution setup process.

Next, decide how many books you want to have in your personal inventory and order your books. This is truly a matter of budget and preference. Some authors order as many as 2,500 and some order less. I thought it best to be conservative for a few reasons. 1) I wasn’t confident that I did a good job marketing my book prior to this point, so I didn’t want to overdo it; 2) I wanted to have enough copies for the book launch; 3) Enough copies for complimentary thank you distribution; and 4) Copies for any additional appearances before or immediately following the book launch. Additionally, I figured if I started with a modest amount, I wouldn’t overwhelm myself with having to figure out how to move so many books. To date, I don’t regret my decision. Do what makes you comfortable. There’s nowhere to go but up at this point.

As tedious as the upload process can be, it is not impossible to get through it and trust me, you will get through it.

Questions? Anything to add? Leave a comment below and write on!

Next in this series: Part 3: Planning the Launch

Upload to Launch Part 1: Choosing a Printer

If you’re anything like me, you like to know the answer to every question leading up to something you have to do. You need to know every tiny step prior to taking it because you just can’t bear the thought of mis-stepping. If you’re anything like me then you also know that mis-steps are inevitable and despite your best efforts to try to avoid them, they will happen. So what did happen prior to launching the book? How did we get from upload to launch? What in the world happened in between? As promised I’ll share my far-from-perfect process leading up to the book launch in this series: Upload to Launch.

Choosing a Print on Demand Service (POD) 

Before you can even begin to entertain uploading and party planning something has to happen before uploading the the book. You must first decide how you’re going to get your manuscript transformed into a tangible book. You need to choose a printer, or (in my case), a Print on Demand service or POD. There are an abundance of blogs out there that provide information on the different printing options for self-publishers. I chose POD beause it was the best fit for me.

After loads of research and tons of procrastinating (because I’m really good at that) I chose Ingram Spark (a division of Lightning Source) as my print distributor. A lot of factors went into making this decision including overall print cost, print quality, and services relevant to me. Though not the most inexpensive of all the PODs out there, they offered the best services to fit my needs.

Since my book is illustrated, I thought it best to select a POD service that could print in hardback because not all PODs offer hardbound printing. In fact, the most cost effective services scimp in the hardbound printing department. They just don’t do it.

When I started this journey, I had my mind made up that I would print in paperback because hardbound was just too expensive and I simply couldn’t afford it. I figured I could pay for hardcover printing later once I reaped a profit from my book sales. However, as the weeks went on and I conducted field research and paid close attention to the quality and presentation of children’s books on bookshelves in commercial bookstores and libraries, I quickly began to see that printing in hardcover was a no-brainer.

Now, it’s easy to criticize and say Who doesn’t know that? But you tend to look at things from a very different perspective as a publisher versus just being a writer. Self-publishers play a double-duty roll. You not only write and create the manuscript, but you then have to conduct the business of an actual publishing company – paying  for and managing the illustration process, paying the printer, managing distribution, calculating expenses, developing and executing a marketing plan, the list goes on-and-on. And these tasks are far from simple.

I definitely needed to cut corners due to my small budget, but I didn’t think that printing was where the cut should take place. After all, this is an illustrated children’s book. And more often than not, the first thing that attracts children to a book are the pictures.

As a classroom teacher, I have seen the process by which children select books, and believe me, they can be very brutal and critical of books when the books don’t meet a certain quality or standard. Kids put a book back on the shelf or toss it on the table if it looks too old, raggedy, dull, or complicated. Kids want simple, clean, bright, attractive, and fun looking books and illustrations.  Cutting corners on print quality was not an option. Of course, I’m referring to the independent process of children selecting books. If an adult is present naturally they can intercede for children and help them in their selection process. But the goal of getting children to read is to move them toward independence in reading. So thinking about independent selection is important when making your print choices for children’s books.

You will need to pay close attention to all aspects of printing: the size of the book, the type of binding, cover finish, paper quality and weight – everything. Be sure to choose a paper quality and cover quality that will enhance your illustrations. Order samples ahead of time. Some services provide free samples, others require you to pay for samples. Either way, get the samples. In the end, you will not regret it.

Though I couldn’t choose the best quality for every aspect of printing, I did my best to choose a quality that enhanced the illustrations but still didn’t completely break the bank. As a result of all of that attention to detail, I must say, the book is stunning! I couldn’t be happier with the print quality. Admittedly, I feel a little sting in my pocket every time I have to place an order for new books (because you have to pay the POD for your own books), but the reaction of a parent or child the first time they set eyes on my book is absolutely priceless. It’s like spraying that cool anti-itch mist on a bug bite. It’s soothing and makes the sting bearable.

Eli Cover Quality

Questions? Input? Feel free to leave a comment/question below and write on!

Next in series: The Proof Copy Process