Archive for tips

word writer on old fashioned typewriterLynn Serafinn shares thoughts on shifting from a being die-hard indie artist to approaching a major publisher.

Some of you who know me and my work might be surprised to find out that it was only a few months ago when I wrote my first full book proposal. It’s true I was a ghost-writer for another author and my work has been (anonymously) published in several books by a prominent New Age publisher. But I never needed to write proposals for those books. And it’s also true I’ve written loads of business and project proposals in my time– especially when I was the head of a college department– so I know what it takes to write a proposal to “land” a contract. But I had never written an actual book proposal for my own writing until this contest.

Why? Because most of my life, I’ve been something of a “die hard indie”. It comes from my background as an independent musician/label owner in the 1990s. Since the 80s, our band had tried to get our recordings heard by major labels, but learned quickly that it was virtually impossible to get a big label to listen to an unsolicited demo. So, we started our own label, and gradually built up a following by getting our titles into major independent distributors in the US and the UK. We reached a level of success when our release entitled the Imagine EP hit #1 on several club charts in 1994.

It was then we had a brief encounter with a major record label-one of the top 3 in the world. The A&R (the person who signs artists to the label) had been given our record as a “buzz” title from the owner of an underground record shop in Boston, and he called us from New York saying he wanted to come down and meet us in Arizona (where we lived at the time), as he was interested in signing us. Had they done so, it would have meant we would have had worldwide distribution, MTV videos and have been sent on tour with some of the biggest names in electronic dance in the world at that time. It was every musician’s dream come true.

Or so we thought.

When we actually met the A&R face-to-face, it became very obvious he had clear intentions of changing our image and sound into something we were not, and we simply didn’t want to become. Our band was an electronic trance group, but he proposed a long list of “improvements” for us, including bringing in big rock drummers and sexy young female vocalists. Being in our late 30s, the A&R more or less said we were “too old” for MTV and we would have to do something to make us “saleable.”

But the truth was, in spite of the A&R thinking we were “too old”, we were actually “too young” as artists to move into the arena of working with a major label. We weren’t used to working to deadlines and were accustomed to having the luxury of taking as long as we wanted to complete projects. We were still finding our “voice” and creating our sound, and bringing in professional producers who would impose their own “spin” on our embryonic sound threatened to stop our creative growth altogether. And from a marketing standpoint, although we had managed to get a #1 club hit, we were still just getting started on building our following and didn’t really know our target audience fully, or how to reach them at a global level. Because we had a very small platform, if the A&R changed our image as he intended, we were likely to lose the audience we already had, and not appeal to the audience to which he would be targeting.

We started to realise we simply weren’t ready for this leap. Believe it or not, I used to wake up at night with panic attacks at the thought of it! After all those years of thinking this was what I wanted, I realised something wasn’t right about it. As a result, our connection to the label just sort of dissolved after a couple of months, and our label continued on with our own independent enterprises.

My experience in the music industry certainly coloured my decision to go self-published when I was getting ready to release my book The Garden of the Soul in 2009. I figured big publishers are probably like big record labels in that you needed to know the right time to approach them. And now that I have been self-published for the past year, and have since created successful marketing campaigns for many other authors, both published and self-published, I do think my reasoning was correct.

In my experience, there are 7 main factors to consider in your decision to approach a publisher:

  1. Discipline. Could you make a commitment to meet writing deadlines if given them? Have you transcended the trap of ONLY being able to write when you are “inspired” or can you sit down and get into the groove when you need to?
  2. Stylistic maturity. Is your writing style “mature” (well past the embryonic stage)? Could others easily talk about your style and your message as compared to other books? Is your style powerful and developed enough that editors would not want to change it significantly?
  3. Emotionally prepared. Are you ready to “show up” as a public image? Are you ready to be seen, and critiqued? Are you ready to speak transparently on a global level? Are you ready to release your vision, unattached to whether people like it or not?
  4. Identity. Do you know who you are as a writer and as a person? Do you have a clear idea of your ‘public image’, i.e, who you are to your readers, fans and audience? Can you stand calmly within the wisdom of your own identity when dealing with a publisher?
  5. Platform. Do you have a well-established platform (i.e., a large fan base of people who know your name and your writing)? This is undoubtedly one of the major factors publishers will consider when you approach them, and something that will make it much less likely for them to try to “reshape” your image.
  6. Marketing. Do you know how to reach your audience? Do you understand principles of marketing? Can you explain how you would market your book to publisher in a way that would make them say, “Hey, this one has some great ideas”?
  7. Time Commitment. Are you ready and able to commit LOTS of time to promoting your book? Is your life free or flexible with regards to family or other work commitments? Could you travel frequently without disrupting the rest of your life?

Speaking for myself, I couldn’t give a 100% “yes” answer to any of these things when I first met the A&R back in 1994. In 2009, when I went to publish The Garden of the Soul, I’d say I had these covered about 75%. But, in my opinion, 75% wasn’t enough for me to approach a publisher at that time. Before I approached a publisher, I wanted to be able to give my full 100%. THEN the time would be right… at least for me.

When I wrote my proposal this year, I felt it to be truly a transformative process. I realised when I was writing it that I had finally reached my “100% Ready” place. I knew who I was. I felt I could write at the drop of a hat. I had a platform. I understood marketing. And most of all, I had already written my book and I completely believed in it.

Being a self-published writer was ABSOLUTELY the best thing for me when I had chosen to do so. The experience helped me develop as a person, as a writer and as a businesswoman. But now I have firmly established my platform, and really know who I am as a writer, I feel confident about making the shift to working with a publisher over the coming year… and at the same time, I also have the confidence that I am able to flourish as a proud indie author, and enjoy the ride on my own as well.

I hope you found these reflections and pointers to be of value in your own journey as an author. Please do leave a comment below to share your own thoughts and experiences.


About Lynn Serafinn, Creator of Spirit Authors

Lynn Serafinn

Lynn Serafinn is a transformation coach, book promotion coach, radio host and
bestselling author of the book The Garden of the Soul: lessons from four flowers
that unearth the Self.
She also works as a campaign manager for mind-body-spirit authors and has produced several #1-selling book campaigns. She is the founder/creator of Spirit Authors, a virtual learning environment and community that offers training, coaching, business-building and inspiration for mind-body-spirit authors, whether established or aspiring. As part of her work with spiritual and self-help authors, she also regularly hosts large-scale online virtual events (usually free of charge) with world-class speakers on a range of mind-body-spirit topics. Subscribe to her Spirit Authors blog at http://spiritauthors.com/category/news/ so you can receive more useful tips and news about upcoming online events. While you are there, do check out the excellent and affordable online courses for authors available. If you are an author seeking 1-to-1 support or campaign managment for your upcoming book launch, you are also invited to request a free consultation by filling in a contact form at http://spiritauthors.com/contact.


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A great writing tip from Virtual Faculty member Laurel Marshfield of Blue Horizon Communications

The most difficult problem you face in writing your book can be summarized in just two words.

Getting started.

You have a brilliant idea, of course, and an outline or some notes. Maybe even a chapter draft, or two. But now what?

If you are like most will-be authors, you begin casting about for other things that demand your attention — first.

The birdfeeder needs cleaning. The gardening stuff at the back of the garage needs weeding. Heck, the entire garage needs to be emptied and put back in pristine order. It’s good feng shui, you tell yourself.

In other words, after the brilliant idea, the outline, the notes, and the drafts, you’ve earned the right to your resistance.

Why? Because you don’t know — that is, know specifically — what to do next with your book. Writing it feels so frustratingly vague, so frighteningly VAST.

So, you tackle the things that you do know how to do: birdfeeder, gardening stuff, garage. And then you feel guilty and pained. Uncomfortable.

But wait. You needn’t be stuck in discomfort. There is a solution to resistance. A simple solution. It is a . . . Box.

Yes, a box. Not a literal box, but the imagined form of a box, which you can use as a magical tool to get to work on your book — without suffering from let’s-just-do-other-things-first-itis.

Here is what it takes to create a Box:

::: First, you set a “start” time for your writing period. This is the top of your imagined box. (10:00 AM, say)

::: Second, you set a “stop” time. This is the bottom of your imagined box. (11:00 AM, say)

::: Third, you write a list of small and very specific tasks that you will complete during your allotted sixty minutes of writing time. This is one side of your imagined box. (For example: Write notes for Intro, list contents for Chapter Three, check Amazon for books about _____)

::: Fourth, you check off each task as you complete it (surprisingly reinforcing), during your pre-set writing time. This is the other side of your imagined box. (Notes: check; Contents: check; Amazon: check)

Why does this oh-so-simple Box strategy work?

Because, when you know precisely what you need to do, your mind will help you walk down precisely that road . . . writing the notes, listing the contents, doing the research.

But when you don’t know, how is your mind going to help you do that? It isn’t possible.

And so, your mind presents you with all sorts of other tasks, tasks it does know how to do — a brilliant solution for an unsolvable problem!

But the take-away is this:  It really is up to you to tell your mind what to do. And you can do that best by creating a Box: Start Time, Stop Time, List of Tasks, Checklist (aka: Top, Bottom, One Side, Other Side).

One word of caution: Begin using the Box by assigning yourself a short, thirty-minute work period with a few quickly accomplished tasks. Practice a little, before you Box a full-out session of, say, two hours or more.

While you’re planning your starter session, I’ll tell you how I happened to invent this resistance-dissolving tool.

Several years ago, after my parents passed away, I was faced with the overwhelming job of organizing and selling the accumulated (and I do mean accumulated) contents of their home. I spent days wandering from room to room and floor to floor, wondering where to begin.

Finally, I started writing down what needed to be done in each room. And what needed to be done overall. And what might come first, second, third, fourth . . .

By writing lists, I made sense of the seeming chaos that had no discernible starting point for establishing order.

After that, I made a task list for my first day of real work, drawing courage from the preliminary order that my Big Picture lists had given me.

But in reading my task list, I felt myself slipping into avoidance. Should get light bulbs before stores close. Only seven hours left.

Thirty-five things shouted up at me from my task list on that first day. Important Task! Very Essential Task! Get This Done, or Else!

But, I reasoned, I had all day, so. Why not take a break, for right now? Go buy those light bulbs.

Ironically, a light bulb went off in my mind, just then. The avoidance-busting Box solution had arrived.

I made a new list, one with just three things on it. Then I looked at my watch, gave myself an hour, told myself that if I got all three things done in under sixty minutes, I could have a small reward. Thus primed and motivated, I set to work. And it worked.

After my reward (not buying light bulbs), I Boxed another hour’s worth of tasks and churned through my second set.

On good days, I was able to get through seven or eight work periods this way, leaving my parents’ house after nine or ten in the evening, driving an hour and a half to get home and feed my cat, before falling into bed, exhausted.

In the end, I got it all done by using the Box. There were estate sales, the house sold, and the rest is a strategy that can be used for anything.

But it is especially helpful for authors struggling to leap over their resistance to writing . . .The Book.

So, whenever you feel stuck, just remember this little resistance-dissolving mantra:

Start Time, Stop Time, Task List, Checklist.
Box Your Book Time, You . . . Won’t . . . Resist, BigTime.


Laurel Marshfield is a developmental editor, ghostwriter, and co-author who helps new and experienced authors prepare their books for publication. For daily book tips, advice, and book news, follow Laurel @BookEditorLM on Twitter. To learn more about her editorial services for authors, please visit her website: BlueHorizonCommunications.com She is a member of the Virtual Faculty here at Spirit Authors.

Click HERE to download 5 free podcasts from Spirit Authors, where you can hear Laurel speaking on “Preparing for Publication.”

Note from Lynn: The topic of resistance Laurel discusses in this article is also addressed in Week 5 of Spirit Authors Module 1, where we explore “Knowing What Blocks Your Progress.” Get a preview of that lesson HERE.

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Categories : News, Writing & Editing
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In a previous post, I told you about the Next Top Spirit Author Contest in which I am a contestant. The contest is open to unpublished or self-published authors. Authors did not need to have completed (or even started) their book to enter. I entered my book The Garden of the Soul: lessons from four flowers that unearth the Self, which I self-published just a little over a year ago. My hope is to take it to a much wider audience, and also to get some backing for the follow-up I am currently writing, A Practical Guide to the Garden of the Soul, which contains 80 practical lessons for cultivating the four principles in The Garden of the Soul.

Today (Monday May 3rd) marks the final day of Round 1. Since the contest opened to the public vote on March 29th, tens of thousands of people have voted for their favourites amongst more than 3000 entries. Now the field is going to be narrowed down to 250 who will advance to Round 2, based primarily upon their public vote, as well as a small challenge the authors were given to do.

Round 2 will be a bit different because the 250 Round 2 authors will then construct a book proposal for their book, which will go under the scrutiny of Hampton Roads publishers, who are offering the Grand Prize in the contest– a pretty nifty publishing contract. A portion of the points in Round 2 will once again come from the public vote.

So by Tuesday, thousands of authors and authors-to-be, including myself, will find out whether or not we will advance to the next phase of this competition. I can feel the energy getting really “buzzy” amongst the authors these past few days.

Although this is only Round 1, the contest has already been quite a journey. For many, the very act of creating an audio or video “pitch” was a major achievement. For others, it was the challenge of stepping out of their comfort zone to ask people to vote for them. Speaking for myself, if nothing else happens as a result of having entered this competition, I am grateful for two things: 1) being put under a deadline to make a new book trailer (I am SO pleased with how it turned out and it is getting a lot of hits on YouTube) and 2) meeting dozens of great new authors who are now connected with me on Facebook and Twitter. Both of these are great gifts in their own right.

In some ways, Round 1 has been a bit like being in the auditions for the X-Factor (our UK equivalent of “American Idol”). Behind the scenes, we have a “share” page on the contest site that is sort of our equivalent of “The X-Factor House”, where everyone hangs out together and learns the idiosyncrasies of the others. It’s really interesting to watch and interact with all the fascinating personalities there. And just like The X-Factor, while there is a lot of love and connection amongst the contestants, there is also the underlying knowledge that this is, after all, a competition, and people will be voted off, bit by bit. It could happen to any one of us. That’s the nature of any competition, and it is vital for all of us to know how to “be with” the competitive process, without allowing it to affect our sense of Self and inner determination.

When I was a young musician, I took every defeat in competitive scenarios as a blow against my self-worth. Because I grew to fear judgment and rejection, I became afraid to take risks for many years, and thus I limited my creative growth and personal empowerment for a very long time.

But these days I approach such challenges quite differently. I apply my whole self to the task, and allow myself to take the risk of being “rejected”. These days, I feel the most important thing in life is to have the self-knowledge that I did not hold myself back from applying myself fully, and that I did the absolute best I could at that particular moment.

While taking this approach to a competition (and life in general) does not ensure we will “win” a specific reward, I do believe when we are fully ready to step into both the risks and responsibilities involved in the act of succeeding, we will win the award, the title, the prize, the praise, the gift– or the learning– we are meant to receive. If you do not hold yourself back from the Universe, it will hold nothing back from you.

As far as I am concerned, the fact that everyone in the contest has stepped up to the plate and “pitched” their vision to the world makes them all winners, already on the pathway to their own dreams.

I wish all the spiritual authors in the contest the very best of luck.

If you have voted for me already, I’d like to thank you warmly for your support. And if you haven’t had a chance to yet, it would be great if you took a few minutes to do this before the end of the day today (Monday). Here’s how:

  1. Go to http://www.nexttopauthor.com/profile.cfm?aid=2016 and watch my video entry.
  2. Register to vote; they will send you a confirmation email before you actually can vote.
  3. Check your email for the confirmation email, and click on the confirmation link
  4. Go back to http://www.nexttopauthor.com/profile.cfm?aid=2016 and vote for me (you can also vote for other authors by doing a search).

As my thank you gift to everyone who votes for me, you can pick up 4 audiobook excerpts from the book. That’s over 1 hour of fr*ee audio. You’ll see the link to the gift right after you have voted.

If you are on the social networks, it would be great if you clicked the big Twitter or Facebook buttons on my page and shared them with your friends.

Thanks everyone!
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Categories : News
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Champagne CelebrationMany people hire me to create and manage their Amazon book campaigns, or to support them as a book promotion coach/consultant. In either case, I have noticed many of my clients experience a steep learning curve at the beginning of their campaigns, as they try to get their heads around all the components and how they work together.

For that reason, I thought it might be a good idea to write a short article giving an overview of the initial steps I use when I put together an Amazon campaign, so you can become an Amazon bestseller like my clients.

The basic concept of an Amazon book campaign is to drive people to a special page you will create that tells them about your book, and to get them to return to that page to buy your book on the specified day of your launch. The reason why you want them to come on a specified day is to drive up your Amazon sales rank. The reason why people will want to return to your page (as opposed to just going to Amazon to buy your book) is that after they buy your book, they can come back to your page to claim some great bonus gifts.

Who is offering the gifts? A group of “JVPs”, or “Joint Venture Partners” you have brought together. Finding and choosing JVPs is a topic I cover in the first week of Module 4 at Spirit Authors. For now, let’s assume you already have a good selection of JVPs who have confirmed their participation in your launch, and let’s move on to our 5 steps to get your campaign going.

Step 1: Design the Timeline and Components of Your Campaign
First off, you will need to choose the components of your campaign, and construct a timeline showing when all these components will occur. Here are a few examples of components that go into a typical Amazon campaign:

  • Bonus gift offers from JVPs
  • Email/ezine blasts
  • Twitter campaign
  • A Contest
  • Virtual Blog Tour

There are different strategies, technical aspects and creative elements to each of these components, which would take too long to discuss here. For now, let’s say that you decided you were going to utilise all of them in some way.

Step 2: Coordinate Your JVP Materials
Assuming you have already determined the level of commitment promised from your JVPs, your next step would be to gather relevant materials from them, such as headshot, bio, and bonus material information, including a link to the opt in page where people will sign up to receive their gift.

A word of advice: It is highly likely you will need to guide many of your JVPs as to what is an appropriate bonus gift. A good bonus gift should be a downloadable entry-level gift. A not-so-good gift is one that requires the customer to buy something else to receive it, or requires them to travel to specific geographic location. The bonus should also not be an offer of free or discounted coaching or consultation, because if they have a high number of requests, they might find it impossible to honour them all. You, as the manager of your campaign, need to guide your JVPs to choosing the right kind of gift.

As you collect this information from your JVPs, make sure you use some sort of tracking system to cross check you have received all the info. I use an Excel spreadsheet for tracking.

Step 3: Creating Your Pre-Launch Page and Follow-Ups
Next, you will need to assemble all your JVP information, along with key info about you and your book, onto a webpage we are going to call your “pre-launch page.” On this page, people will find out about you, your book, the date of the launch, and the bonus gift offerings. Make sure you standardise the format in which you will publish the JVP content on the web, so everyone’s entry looks similar.

Apart from the JVP information, the key ingredient on this page is a sign up form, where they will sign up to receive a reminder about the book launch. This sign up form should be connected to an auto-responder that sends them a follow up message saying something to the effect of, “Thanks for your interest in my book. I’ll be sending you a reminder the day before it comes out so you can get those great bonus gifts you read about. Be sure to mark your diary.”

Step 4: Create Promo Copy
The next thing you will need to do is create some great promotional copy for your JVPs to use for your campaign. There are basically 3 types of promo copy you will prepare for your JVPs:

  1. Newsletter/ezine articles
  2. “Tweets” (for Twitter)
  3. “Virtual interviews” (if you are planning to do a Virtual Blog Tour)

I usually make two contrasting pieces of ezine copy for my JVPs per month, to give them diversity and choice (they are likely to send only one per month).

I usually make 50-100 Tweets for my JVPs—and I try to make them 120 characters or less. It’s really not as complex as it might sound, and it can make your campaign vibrant, fun and very effective.

A “Virtual Interview” is when your blog tour hosts send you a few questions in advance before the date of their “stop” on your tour.

I cover the details of how to create all these types of copy on Module 4 at Spirit Authors. In fact, I dedicate an entire week to EACH of these types of copy.

Step 5: Create Clear Instructions for Your JVPs
The last step to getting your campaign off the ground is to create a set of clear, written instructions for your JVPs. I always include a timeline, a description of the components, and a break down of how everything will run. I write it in such a way that it is visually easy to read, and convert it into a PDF document. I give them tips on how to use the materials, and how to increase traffic to their bonus.

Follow a Real Live Launch
As I am currently the project leader for the upcoming Amazon campaign for Patrick Ryan’s book Awakened Wisdom: A Guide to Reclaiming Your Brilliance, the easiest thing you can do to understand the things I have been describing would be to look at the page we have put together for that launch at http://www.awakenedwisdom.com/Public/Amazon/booklaunch/index.cfm. As of this writing, we are still finalising some details on it (and there are a few more JVPs coming along). Of course, I also hope you’ll check out Patrick’s book and sign up for a launch reminder while you’re on that page (I made the video, by the way. Do you like it?).

And if you are on Twitter, follow me at http://twitter.com/LynnSerafinn and you can see some of the Tweets I’m sending out about the book. Hopefully they will give you ideas of how to make your own. Most everything I have learned about online promotion is the result of watching others who know what they are doing, so now it’s my pleasure to invite you to do the same (hopefully I know what I’m doing!).

This article has been a very brief overview of the 5 steps needed to put together your Amazon book campaign. If you’d like to know more about creating, running and benefiting from an Amazon book campaign for your upcoming book, have a look at my 8-week course on the Spirit Authors website: Module 4: Your Book Launch – Designing and Delivering. For a limited time, you can take a 14-day test drive for only $1, and receive some special bonus gifts that are yours to keep just for trying it out.

If you feel you need a more personal touch, fill in a contact form on the Spirit Authors site to request a 1-to-1 consultation.  Please be aware that I only take on a limited amount of book launch clients throughout the year, and that we will require 4-6 months to work on your launch, depending upon the strength of your online platform.

I hope you found this whistle-stop tour useful. Drop me a comment below to let me know what you think.
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