Taking on the world: basic project management for authors

business-coaching-planning-tip

 

If you’re a new writer you may not have linked what you do with basic project management yet our whole life is one great big project to manage. Narrowing it down into a few simple plans will make juggling everything and still getting ahead much easier to manage.

Let’s take a look at one important aspect of your writing career, Marketing Yourself. To sell books you must market them. To help market the book you must also market yourself. We’re going to start with a basic project management technique that will help you along this path.

Open a Word or Excel document, or grab a pen and some paper.

  1. Title and purpose of Project

Insert your name for title and, for this example, Develop a Following as the purpose.

  1. What is your goal?

A goal is a long term achievement to aim for, for instance (and to keep this post simple) to have a fan base of 100 people on Facebook within three months. Your goal can be anything but remember that it’s longer term; where you want to be with this project in three, six or twelve months.

  1. What are your objectives?

 

Objectives are short term. These are the weekly or monthly achievements that will get you to your main goal. With the sample goal above, one objective might be nine new Facebook fans per week.

 

  1. Outline the tasks and/or activities that you will need to complete to achieve your objectives.

This section is where the planning really starts. How are you going to achieve nine new Facebook fans each week?

For Facebook you will need the following;

  • One Facebook account
  • Topics  to post about
  • Images

If you have a personal account, create a page under your official author name. If you don’t have a account yet, you will need to create the account. Do some research first; your author account should not be personal so create your personal space and then create a page.

Make a quick list of topics to post about. These can also include sharing links from webpages, pertinent quotes, and image uploads. Aim for around three or four posts per week.

Collect some images. You will need large ones for your cover photo, a small one (preferably of you) for your profile image and a pile of images that you can upload with your posts.

Measuring. At the end of two weeks, measure your results. Are you getting the numbers you’re after? If not, why not? Is it interesting? Are you writing too much/not enough? Are you sharing links? Adjust what you’re doing if you need to. After one month, measure again. Any change? You may need to tweak  your objectives or, if the numbers are going up but not as fast as you expected, you may need to be patient.

Tip  #1 Do not expect amazing results overnight. Numbers that go up steadily are as important as an explosion of likes.

Tip #2 The reach of your posts is more important than your overall page likes. Reach refers to how many people are seeing or clicking on each post. This includes people that have not officially liked you (remember the ripple effect).

Keep doing the last few steps until you’ve reached your three month goal and then write yourself a report. How well did the project work? What can you do better next time? How close did you come to reaching your goal? Conclude with some recommendations and then get back to work and start planning the next three months.

Tip #3 If you’ve published a book, articles, been a guest blogger, appeared in the local paper do make sure that these events or milestones are included in your Facebook content. Creating awareness of you is going to help sell books.

Congratulations, you’ve completed Patricia’s Project Management 101. Now, go off and translate the steps above into any project you need to plan.

I manage several social media communities as part of my day job. If you’d like to receive a sample plan to project manage your blog (Excel or Word), drop me a line via the comment box below or send an email to patricialeslie.author@gmail.com, or follow my blog as I’ll be writing more about using social media to promote yourself soon

Come visit my fledgling Author Facebook page: Patricia Leslie

Follow me on Twitter @PatriciaLeslieA

Next week: More on my journey as a writer.

 

 

Travels with Charley: in search of America

Travels with Charley

John Steinbeck and his dog, Charley.

One of my favourite writers is John Steinbeck and his two best books are Of Mice and Men and Charley’s Travels. I know what you’re thinking… Grapes of Wrath. East of Eden. Tortilla Flat. All very good, I agree. But not my favourite. In fact, after the first two mentioned, my next preferred Steinbeck story is The Red Pony.

The issue is that while Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden are classics, they are long, complex and involved. In each are gems of words; passages that stabbed me through the heart with their quality but these were shared out sparingly.

In my favourites though, I find pure enjoyment on almost every page; concepts and endeavours that stick with me years after I’ve read them.
Travels with Charley is a simple travel log of the author’s three month road trip with his dog, Charley. The observations shared within these pages are often poignant, always visual, and occasionally look into a future since unravelled.

Steinbeck comments on nuclear war, wasteful humanity, and Americans and their guns. There are customs, attitudes, myths and directions and changes that seem to be a part of the structure of America… And the first of these has to do with hunting.

I could not have escaped hunting if I had wanted to, for open seasons spangle the autumn. We have inherited many attitudes from our recent ancestors who wrestled this continent as Jacob wrestled the angel, and the pioneers won. From them we take the belief that every American is a natural born hunter.

Steinbeck was not against hunting persay or the killing of animals yet saw past the activity to the reasons men hunted.

… it isn’t hunger that drives millions of armed American males to forests and hills every Autumn… Somehow the hunting process has to do with masculinity.

His observations on humanity’s materialism and wastefulness are as insightful as they are a contradiction to his own practices. Like many of us, seeing and understanding issues is not the same as positive action to tackle them.

American cities are like badger holes, ringed with trash – all of them –surrounded by piles of wrecked and rusting automobiles, and almost smothered with rubbish. Everything we use comes in boxes, cartons, bins, the so-called packaging we love so much. The mountain of things we throw away are much greater than the things we use.

Steinbeck goes on to note that in other countries such waste is put to a second use,

and I do wonder when there will come a time when we can no longer afford our wastefulness – chemical wastes in the rivers, metal wastes everywhere, and atomic waste buried deep in the earth or sunk in the sea.

Somewhat prophetic for an aging writer in the early 1960s and yet two pages later he notes that,

There are so many modern designs for easy living. On my boat I had discovered the aluminum, disposable cooking utensils, frying pans and deep dishes. You fry a fish and throw the pan overboard, and makes no apparent connection between his moveable badger hole and the permanent mounds around the cities.

Oh, well.

But it’s his poetic descriptions of nature where with a few words he can show us what he is experiencing that makes Travels with Charley a stand out piece of travel writing. This encounter of the Aurora Borealis, for instance, after he’d stopped for the night at a disappointing and dissatisfying sterile, plastic motel.

I put on clean clothes and went out with him [Charley] into the star-raddled night. And the Aurora Borealis was out. I’ve seen it only a few times in my life. It hung and moved with majesty in folds like an infinite traveler upstage in an infinite theater. In colors of rose and lavender and purple it moved and pulsed against the night, and the frost-sharpened stars shone through it.

Throughout, Steinbeck shares with us his stories. Not those that have been published but the ones he’d lived; his memories, family, old friends and places; his wisdoms. Steinbeck travelled widely, wrote fiction and non-fiction, wrote screenplays and made films spent time as a war correspondent, undertook scientific pursuits, and researched and translated Morte DArthur.

His first published work was The Pastures of Heaven in 1932. His last novel, The Winter of our Discontent, was published in 1960 followed by Travels with Charley in Search of America in 1962 (the same year he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature), and finally, America and Americans in 1966.

John Steinbeck died in 1968.

Steinbeck linked landscape with people and community so well we are drawn into a world we already live in; where there is no whole truth only truth as any individual experiences it. A place where people live their lives as if travelling a road map, not often looking around or taking unplanned turns unless forced to. Steinbeck’s characters show us not how other people live but how we could live (not always for the better, I might add, let’s not idealise the situations and people he writes about).

Travels with Charley gives us a glimpse into a writer’s life showing us how a writer sees the world without glossing over his own part in it.
I recommend reading this after his more well-known works and if you can pick up a copy of Steinbeck: a life in letters, edited by Elaine Steinbeck and Robert Wallsten, read that as well. Only then will you be ready to fully understand Travels with Charley’s and perhaps have an idea of what made John Steinbeck tick.

For some other reviews of Travels with Charley, visit GoodReads

For more information on John Steinbeck, start here at the Authors Road and the National Steinbeck Center

travels with charley TravelsMapWb

Map of John & Charley’s travels.

Anyone can write… and dance and sing and…

Every one of us has a life to shape, to give meaning to, to use as we wish. For writers, there is never any One day I am going to write an amazing book. For writers, there is only writing the book…

Susan Johnson

It’s true. Anyone can write. Anyone can dance and sing and paint as well. But not anyone can do it professionally or even semi-professionally. To do that, you need to start with the basics. You learned to walk and talk before running down the footpath or holding a conversation.

I did not go to university to study creative writing or literature. I read a lot of books, took weekend courses, and joined writing groups. At the same time, I also completed courses in editing and proof-reading. I wanted to do play-writing as well, but every Saturday for six months was far too much commitment for a woman who is also the mother of three active children.

Before you do any courses though, you must start writing. This is stating the bleeding obvious, I know. I’ve had a lot of people tell me that they,

a) could write too if they had the time

b) have a great idea for a book (fiction or nonfiction), or

c) “so and so” told them to try writing

None of those people went so far as to pick up a pen or open a word document. They might know they could be writers, but have already missed the point. The baby steps are missing. They’re not writing and have not realised the commitment, determination, and learning required before their first novel can be released upon the world.

The earliest pieces I wrote are pretty much crap. I used to attempt poems. I’m not good at it but sometimes thoughts, ideas and feelings just require short sentences that rhyme. Now I write rambling articles…. Anyway, where was I. Oh, yes… crap! I’ve kept it all (maybe one day tastes will change). I realised, part way through one crappy poem already three A4 size pages long, that I should be writing stories. I’d outgrown poetry (now all breathe a collective sigh of relief). What I’d been doing was toying with concepts and styles; playing around with sentence structure and coming to grips with words.

Moving to fiction was like a light going on in my head. I filled notebook after notebook. I bought a computer and a modem. Then spent hours more of writing, reading, researching, and sending snippets of my work off to people on the other side of the world who provided feedback.

I joined the local writing centre to make use of their courses and started going to evening college classes, etc to extend my knowledge and skills.

I’ve entered short story competitions (and won a few prizes) and had articles published. My travel over the past 20 years has included research side-trips and my bookshelves groan under the weight of all the history books. All of this, plus writing, rewriting and submitting, and it still took almost ten years to obtain a publishing contract.

Yes, anyone can write. But not anyone can keep at it like a dog to a bone. It’s those people who will eventually (hopefully) see their name on a book cover.
If you believe you can write here’s my advice to you in three simple steps.

  1. Stop thinking about it. Start writing
  2. Understand that what you are writing is probably crap. Start learning how to write
  3. Take every piece of feedback you receive and use it to improve your writing.

 

Becoming a writer is easy. Staying a writer is another matter entirely.

Kristen Lamb

On getting the gig: a long road travelled.

I write part time, fitting it in around a full-time job, full-time family, and study. So every goal I’ve achieved seems to have taken forever. I believe the key is dogged determination, almost obsessive persistence, and the realisation that writing stories is more than the putting down of words on paper. Writing begins with imagining and is filled with experiencing. Knowing this helps me get through the times when I cannot write and takes the pressure off the need to obtain visible results.

Which is just as well as its taken 13 years from the start of my first serious manuscript to being offered a contract to publish. Eight years to write the darn thing (including several rewrites) followed by six years of submitting to agents and publishers. In that time, I learned many things. The most important is to not take rejection personally.

In 2005, I went on a research roadtrip to the USA. Here I am (green top) with friend Jacquie beside the Animas River, Farmington, New Mexico.

In 2005, I went on a research roadtrip to the USA. Here I am (green top) with friend Jacquie beside the Animas River, Farmington, New Mexico.

Late 2012, I thought I’d give the manuscript another try. I found an independent publisher who sounded like a good match for my story, and prepared a proposal and a cover letter. Then heard about another publisher from a friend on Twitter. Vacen Taylor is someone I “met” from commenting on blogs. I liked what she wrote. She liked what I wrote. When Vacen announced a contract with Odyssey Books the same week I was preparing my latest proposal I thought I’d go take a look.

Odyssey Books is a small independent publisher in Australia run by Michelle Lovi. Michelle has a varied list of books and the submission guidelines on her website are encouraging. Also, her turn around for submissions was shorter by two weeks than the publisher I was about to approach. I rewrote my proposal to suit and sent it off.

About a month later, an email arrived requesting the complete manuscript. I obeyed and tried not to read too much into it (a third thing I’ve learned over the years is patience). Christmas and all its busyness came. We slipped into January, a high-pressure work period for me and I received another email asking me if my story was still available and was I interested in publishing…

Not as practiced with acceptance as I am with rejection, I all but jumped out of my seat with astonishment. Excitement followed on astonishment’s coat tails. Then gut-churning fear took over as I mentally leaped forward in time to when the story was published and nobody liked it!

A week’s worth of hard self-talk ensued and I thank my daughter and John Steinbeck in helping with that (more on Steinbeck in another post).

So, I’ve got the gig. The story is now being scrutinised by an editor. No doubt, there’ll be some rewriting in order next as I’ve been so close to it for so long, blind spots are sure to have developed.

In the meantime, Vacen’s book, Starchild – Book One: The Age of Akra  has been released and is on the receiving end of some good reviews. I’ve ordered my copy and can’t wait to read it. Michelle at Odyssey Books is ever helpful and has encouraged me to start promoting my upcoming novel by joining in the social media marketing circus and building up “Brand Me”.

Here are ten tips for readers who are writers waiting to be published authors.

  1. Write, rewrite, edit, rewrite, edit, rewrite…
  2. Research to the nth degree. Most details won’t go into your story, but you’ll know what you’re talking about and that comes through in your writing
  3. Workshop chapters with writers. I took part in many online writing groups and a few real life groups
  4. Obtain a manuscript assessment. I spent a week with Peter Bishop at Varuna Writer’s House. It was a rewarding time for the story and for me. At the end of the week, my manuscript was complete
  5. Spend time developing your proposal. This is your toe in the door so it needs to work. Do some research into proposals and cover letters. Keep it clear and concise, and submit to agents/publishers who are a good match for what you’ve written
  6. This all takes time, be patient
  7. Rejection is an opportunity to fine-tune your submission. Learn from each rejection and take the time to read what has been said. Some of the correspondence is form, others will provide feedback
  8. Rejection is not failure. Failure is giving up. I was close to giving up with this particular manuscript, but not to giving up all together. I have another manuscript waiting and one in progress
  9. Go to TED talks and listen to JK Rowling’s talk: The Fringe Benefits of Failure
  10. Be brave

Join me on FaceBook and Twitter: @PatriciaLeslieA