Thursday, March 19, 2015

The SWOT plan

Yep, those of you who have worked in corporate America have just rolled your eyes. You think this is BS that they just put on paper. The others of you are wondering wtf SWOT is. Well, make sure you have your four P's out for this. Now this may not be the way every one does it, or exactly how it is used, but this is how I did it. First let's cover SWOT.

SWOT is normally done in a two by two chart. Each square is labeled: Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Pretty simple yes? Okay so take your four P's first one should be Product, yes?

Now look at your SWOT.

What Strengths do your products have? Pricing? Amazing Cover? Unique twist? A good schedule for releases?

What Weakness do you have? Marketing? Exposure? Little fish in big pond syndrome? Be honest with yourself, it's the only way you're going to make progress with this. Are your covers horrible? Do they match?

Opportunities: Unlike the other two, this one isn't quite as self explanatory. This is where you know you can make improvements and can go hand in hand with weaknesses, or they could be different. Could you, realistically, write and publish more? Produce more product? Increase exposure?

Threats: These are things you MAY have no control over. Over saturation is a huge one. Lack of funds? Things that could change as you further your career.

Now, rinse and repeat for the other 3 p's.

When you're done with that, look at each of your squares, and start writing down what you can do to either keep it that way (in terms of Strengths) or improve. How can you over come your weaknesses and start maximizing on your opportunities?  What can you do about your threats, if anything?

You maybe surprised as to what comes up. It's a bit like brain storming. Like I said, the key here is to be honest. Through this I've found a plan for Black and White I didn't expect, as well as a plan for my series.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Four P's and where to start for Marketing

So now that you figured out what you want from you writing life, how do you get it? You’ve done your research, your story is up for sale or you’re getting ready to hit that point. You don’t have a lot of huge connections, really it’s you and a few friends and a finished, polished book that you’re ready to show the world. Your hopes are high, you dream of USA Today best sellers and NY Times best sellers and top Amazon spots. You put your book up and it’s either not selling, not selling as well as you like, or you’re an overnight success.

What’s the next step? Well, look at your marketing plan. Don’t have one? Think that you need a degree for one of those? You have no idea where to start? Yeah, that’s how I felt too, ironically I am working towards my degree in marketing. So let me share a little bit of what I learned from my first class in marketing. Now I’m sure you’ve read a ton of books that tell you what to do and how to do it, but part of you is wondering why. This post is going to cover the very basics, called the Four P’s. I encourage you to sit down and write down, physically write down, thoughts in each of these sections.

Product: This is where to spot. Why? Because you have to know what you’re selling. Apply this to your writing, what genre are you selling? Is it better classified as something else? Are you selling great pieces of what you hope will be classic lit? Or are you selling Urban Fantasy? Do your customers know this? Does your brand reflect this? You may think this is easy and be tempted to put ‘books’ down as your answer. But is that it? Are those books a series? Do you do short stories? Do you have multiple series?

Price: This one is tough in the Indie world, we want to make money, but we don’t want to price our books too high. We often get frustrated with those who hit lists by selling their books at a low price. The Indie Romance Convention did a pricing guide, but sometimes people just aren’t willing to pay the prices for the longer books. Sit down and really look. Is your novella over priced? Is your novel priced appropriately? I encourage you to look at the top sellers and see what they are priced at, other than the .99 authors. You’ll see it is possible to sell a book at $2.99 and up. Are you part of KDP select and can run a promotion? If not, are you willing to do the work to run a promotion through all channels? (This requires to manually change the price) Are you at that point where you can do a loss lead (first book free)?

Place: I know authors who swear by KDP select, and I know others who do not. I make ¼ of my sales through other channels. I’m not willing to give that up to go to kindle only. I don’t think it’s fair to my readers. But Place isn’t only about distributing, though that is a big part of it. It’s about where your exposure is as well. Website up-to-date? Facebook page? Twitter? Does it all look presentable and point readers to where they can buy? Can they buy directly from your website? Are you active where you can be? Pinterest? Instagram? You don’t have to do all of these, but really consider where you might better be able to reach your audience.

Promotions: This goes back to price a little bit. Can you run promotions to help with the price? What about promotions in your newsletter? Giveaways on guest posts? Blog tours? (which can tie back to place) It doesn’t have to be expensive (though it can get expensive) and this section will expand as you grow.

Okay, get to brainstorming and writing! We’ll discuss how to start putting these things into a functional plan my next post. Happy marketing!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Jeepers Peepers: A Writer's Eye Health

Do me a favor and blink. Just blink. I promise no Weeping Angel will come and get you.

When we stare at a computer screen or any detailed, focused task we forget to blink. So while you are reading this and afterwards when you are typing away at your latest manuscript please remind yourself to blink.

Okay that is the end of the blinking PSA. And here is what prompted it, my eyes have been failing me. I get terrible migraines, I have vertigo all the time, and my medical doctor can’t figure out what is going on. She suggested I go to the eye doctor to see if maybe my poor eyesight is part of the problem. It turns out it is, in a big way.

I knew I had vision problems, what I didn’t know was how bad they were. I’ve dealt with having a condition called Nocturnal Lagophthalmos for almost a decade, so that I could handle. Nocturnal Lagophthalmos is what they call it when you sleep with your eyes open. This presents the problem of your eyes drying out. The description of feeling like you have sand in your eyes is most often heard when a person has slept with their eyes open. It’s a form of partial facial paralysis. Really not a biggie, but it does lead to dreadful pain. When I feel that sandpaper sting in my eyes I know I need to tape my eye closed at night and on top of that I have to patch it. Arrggg, me matey!

But after visiting the eye doctor I found out that is only the tip of the iceberg with my eyes.
1) Now not only do I have to patch my eye, but I have to stick this ointment in my eye before bed to help keep my eye moist (yes, I know everyone hates that word. Sorry) which renders me nearly blind, so that is always fun
 2) My eyes are uneven, meaning one is set higher than the other, so I need a prism in my glasses.
3) I most certainly need glasses.
4) I am both nearsighted and farsighted, can’t see up close at all and can barely see anything in the distance. So that means I need progressive lenses.
5) There is a natural degeneration of the eyes that takes place once people are in their 40’s, it’s called Presbyopia. The doctor found that I have Prebyopia now in my 30’s which they usually don’t see in people. Why? No idea. Is it dangerous? Well, it’s normal, eventually everyone gets it to some degree, but the fact that mine is setting in earlier than usual and at a sever rate is worrisome. Not dangerous, but worrisome.
6) My eyes don’t dilate like they should… This is a problem. I am so super sensitive to light and get so dizzy and nauseous with even the slightest light changes that this seems to be my biggest area of concern. The only way to help it for now is the literally where sunglasses everywhere, at every time of day and if it worsens then I’ll have to wear them at night too. Which I find hilarious, but my eye doctor didn’t find quite so funny. The other option he had for me was he could put me on glaucoma medicine which would make my eyes dilate, however those medicines are an extreme solution which come with a bevy of side effects. No thank you! He agreed with my decision to just say no, but did say, eventually it would have to happen. Even though I do not have glaucoma I will eventually have to be put on the medicine. Ugh.

So what is contributing to my laundry list of eye problems? A couple of things. Poor diet, which I’ve been working on. Long (and I do mean LOOOOOOONG) hours in front of the computer screen without blinking properly. The drying out of my eyes from my nocturnal lagophthalmos. Improper lighting when working. Not sitting correctly. Genetics. Stress. And the factor of the Unknown… He just doesn’t know.

As a writer, someone who wants and needs to get the stories out of her head and onto the computer screen it’s been hard when I can barely make out what I’m typing or writing. It’s been a struggle. It’s been discouraging. My list of To Be Read books is so big it’s ridiculous because I couldn’t read for more than 10 minutes at a time without getting a migraine and getting sick. Unfortunately my glasses that I paid a ton of money for aren’t helping. I’m going to go in and have them try to readjust them or something I can’t keep them on for very long and when I do I can’t move my head, the slightest movement and I’m feeling like the world is spinning. But I’ve found some things that work on my own in the mean time.

1)      I do wear my sunglasses at all times during the day, except in my house which is fairly dark.
2)      An hour before I start up my computer I put some ointment in my eyes to help keep them lubricated. Then wipe it off so I can see when I go to start working.
Gooey eyes before writing.
3)      If I am reading or playing video games I wear my glasses and make sure not to move my head too much.
4)      Remind myself to blink. It’s such a small thing but it really makes a difference. I never noticed how tired and dry my eyes were getting because I was so focused on my task that I forgot to blink.
5)      I make sure to sleep with my eye patched and ointment in.
Arrg. No one be messin' with me eye patch.

Sticky, gooey, and uncomfortable. Welcome to my nightlife.
6)      I’ve set up my computer desk to have the screen at eye level, and sitting a proper distance from it. When I’m sitting at my desk I have no need for my glasses because it is in my vision sweet spot. Just the right distance where I can see clearly.
Proper Computer set up. Perfect for my eyes.

7)      I now remember to take breaks. Look away from my task on the computer and look at something in the distance to give my eyes a break.

It’s not a perfect system. I still get headaches, but not nearly as often. And thanks to my friend Andie who sent me an essential oil blend for headaches and tension I've been able to manage my headaches better. My vision still sucks but at least I can get some reading done, get some writing done, and not feel like I’m drowning in a sea of things left unfinished. So here’s my next little PSA, Writers- get your eyes checked regularly! Especially if you are having fuzzy vision, light sensitivity, headaches. It’s important, you can’t write if you can’t see. And that was honestly my biggest fear and the motivating factor of me getting vision insurance and getting myself to the eye doctor. I love writing, I love crafts, I love reading and I can’t do any of those things if I can’t see.

Hopefully the eye doctor can figure out what is wrong with my glasses and I will be able to give a positive update to this post soon.