Category Archives: The Creative Process

How Liz Schulte Failed Her Way to Massive Success as an Independent Author

Best Seller Liz Schulte

Since starting my publishing career about seven years ago, I have been fortunate enough to speak with and learn from many other authors. These individuals come from a variety of backgrounds, writing styles and professional careers. One thing that we all have in common is that we wrote a book. It doesn’t matter if the book is insanely successful or still looking for its market, writing a book is a major accomplishment. At the risk of sounding cliché, writing is a journey. A journey that is a little different for everyone, but not one you have to do alone.

This journey is the reason I am talking to you today. You see, I found myself traveling down this road to becoming an author without ever knowing it was where I wanted to be. A lot of writers knew they always wanted to be an author—I am not one of them. I wanted to be a lawyer then I was toying with the idea of forensic psychology. I never considered writing because it wasn’t a “real” career.


However, after a fair amount of prodding I set out to write a book. Little by little I wrote bits and pieces as I had time, never breathing a word to anyone about what I was doing. The book wasn’t for other people, it was for me. I used every single idea that came to me. I remember thinking I would never be able to write another book because I used every good idea I had. In the mornings, the book was the first thing I thought about and it was my last thought as I fell asleep at night. Finally, I made it to the end. I was overwhelmed by the immediate sense of accomplishment that was quickly followed by sadness. My journey had ended.

After a few days, I started to read this book that I had poured so much of myself into and it was … awful. It was slap in the face. I grew up reading twelve books a week. How could I have written something so horrible? My first thought was to delete it, but something stopped me. Maybe it was the countless hours I poured into it or maybe I knew I couldn’t simply delete an accomplishment because it didn’t fit the narrow definition of what I wanted it to be. I finally decided I needed a second opinion. I confessed to my best friend that I had written a book and it wasn’t very good. She wanted to read it and I kind of wanted to hide under a rock. However, I did the brave thing and let the book go. A few days later, she finished reading it and told me something I wasn’t prepared to hear. She liked the story.

The next several months I devoted to making the book better, more like it was in my head. I tweaked and fussed until it was something that resembled what I wanted it to be, though it still hadn’t quite gotten there. By this point, I had already started another novel in a completely different genre. I made a folder for the first book and tucked it away as I fell in love with a new group of characters.


I had no clue what to do with the first book. The extent of my plan was to write a book. I hadn’t thought beyond that. After much discussion, I agreed to query some agents. I sent out ten letters and received ten blandly polite form letters in return—though one did have a nice hand written note directing me to someone else, but I didn’t contact him. You see I loved writing and no one was going to steal that joy from me by telling me they didn’t like my books. I was happy just writing them.

This attitude brought me to a crossroads in the journey. I could keep writing just for myself, or I could find a way to share my stories. That’s when I received my first eReader as a gift. I promptly downloaded several books and read one that was really cute. I went in search of who her agent was only to discover she had self-published. It was an option I didn’t even know I had. I sent her a nervous email asking about self-publishing and what it required. In less than a day, she responded with a very long email telling me about her journey as a self-published author. Though I had no idea at the time, the woman I contacted just so happened to be one of the early Kindle millionaires.

I chose my path. I was going self-publish my books.

However, being a reader didn’t help me when it came to marketing or even the finer writing points. I began to devour as much information as I could. I saved my money and went to conferences, joined online writing groups and indiscriminately read everything my Google searches brought me to on the subject. Those early times were fraught with floundering blog posts trying to figure out what in the hell a brand was and whether or not I had one already.


The first book released to lukewarm sales. I determined it was because I had done everything wrong. At one conference, they told me that flashbacks were bad—my book had them. At another conference, I was told that dreams were the worst—yep had those, too. It didn’t matter though because I had another book and this one was going to be different. This time I would do everything right. The new genre was hot and surely everyone would immediately snatch it up and Joss Whedon would want to buy the movie rights.

The second book came out, and much to my horror, it did worse than the first. What was I doing wrong? Marketing. Obviously, marketing was the answer. I would just market the hell out of the first book and then they would read my second book, never mind that I had written in two different genres. I set up blog tours, bought advertisements, set up some free days and did absolutely everything anyone had ever suggested about marketing. The first book started to sell. It had momentum, but guess what? The sales never transferred over to my other book. Instead people wanted to know when the next one would be out. I didn’t have another mystery. I was in the midst of writing a paranormal romance trilogy that wasn’t selling. I hit yet another crossroads in my journey: should I throw over my trilogy to write another mystery?


Part of me wanted to follow the money, but I followed my gut. I wanted to write the trilogy so I did. And I couldn’t have made a better decision. After a fairly mediocre year, I released the third book in the trilogy and I used what I had learned marketing that first book to market the first book in the trilogy. The month of the release I made $12,000 and realized for the first time that maybe writing really could be a career.

I did a lot of things wrong along my journey, but I also did a lot things right. If I had to narrow it down, I would say these were the more influential decisions I made:

  1. I believed in myself.
    No one has ever told me I don’t have confidence in myself. I wrote a book and never once thought that I shouldn’t try it or it might be too hard. I simply wrote it because that’s what I wanted to do. That same confidence gave me the courage to undertake the overwhelming task of self-publishing and it helped me believe in my stories enough that I didn’t give up on them.
  2. I never stopped learning.
    Twenty-four books later, I am still learning. I still read about the industry, writing and marketing. Now, I am a bit more discerning about who I take advice from, but I still actively seek out new information. Recently, I heard the term influencer marketing. I didn’t know what it was so I read every article I could find on it until I started getting ideas about how I could apply it to what I do.
  3. I treated writing like a business.
    Yes, writing is a creative pursuit, but publishing is a business. I set deadlines and went through hell to keep them. I made professional connections and respected other people’s expertise and time like I would my own. To be a good self-publisher you have to be prepared for both aspects of the business.
  4. I did everything wrong.
    This is my favorite point to make. I didn’t do any of the things the blogs and speakers told me to do. I listened to them and respected what they had to say and where they were coming from, but this journey was my journey, not theirs. All the well-meaning advice in the world will not get you further down the road. If you are writing a book and you want a prologue in it, then put it in. You are the writer. Even if I rewrote my first book today, I wouldn’t touch a single one of the flashback scenes. They are just the way I wanted them to be. It is a part of that story and just because someone else got sick of them, doesn’t mean that I can’t use them. Always be true to your creative vision first. If it doesn’t work, cut it in editing, but trust your characters and let them have their own voice.
  5. I didn’t listen to the fear.
    I didn’t tell people I knew in my daily life that I was writing and publishing books until I had multiple books released. Even then, the thought of people I knew reading my books made me feel sick. It was ice-cold fear. I still have it. When people I know read my books I wait for them to tell me how much they hate it or everything I did wrong. I feel sick to my stomach when I send each book to editing, always fairly certain this is the book when they take away my laptop and tell me no more writing. The fear is everywhere and all authors have it. Had I listened to the fear I would have deleted my first book. I would never have let my friend read it. I wouldn’t have emailed that first author. I wouldn’t have joined and been active in author groups. I wouldn’t have tried self-publishing. I wouldn’t have put so much into promoting a book that wasn’t selling. I wouldn’t have finished my trilogy. I wouldn’t left my day job. The list can go on and on. Fear has long been the killer of dreams and I simply wasn’t willing to place mine on the chopping block.

So that’s my story about how I got to this place where I can be a self-supported self-published author. Kim also asked me to tell you about my marketing plan. I am going to do this as a bulleted list in the order of importance:

  • The book
    Great marketing might sell one book, but it doesn’t make a career. The story, especially the ending, is what makes loyal readers. This is part of the reason why I am always learning. Each book is a chance to hone my craft and tell a better story so I always try to produce novels I can be proud of—stories I would like as a reader.
  • The quantity of product
    This was a mistake I made, but it was a lesson well learned. I focused a large amount of money and time on marketing one novel when I didn’t have a backlist. It worked, the book sold, but there wasn’t the return on investment that I should have had. If one book is all you ever plan on writing, then market it as much as you want. But if you are planning a series, wait until you are at least three books in to start ramping up marketing efforts. You will get more return on your investment.
  • Advertisement
    The best way I have found to get word out about my books isn’t plastering social media with “please buy my book” posts. It is forming a strategic marketing plan for each book. First, I submit my book that will be on sale to Bookbub. If they choose my book, I will then form a strategy around that post. Bookbub still has the best reach of any of the book mailing lists, but they are also very selective, so don’t get discouraged. If I don’t get that ad, I select my sale period and will systematically go through the various sites stacking as many ads as I can for a period of a week to two weeks. The more exposure I can get the better. I will also set up targeted Facebook advertising for the period and send out my newsletter.
  • Networking
    Writing can be solitary, but don’t shut yourself off too much. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there from your fellow authors. Make friends, help others and accept their help. The indie community is kind and embraces new authors. Be respectful of other people’s time, but don’t be scared to ask your questions. Also, attend conferences. Meet authors, writers and publishers. Talk to them and share about your own experiences. Those connections will come back to reward you.
  • Social engagement
    I love social media — maybe a little too much. However, keeping in contact with your readers helps you, as an author, stay on their mind. Remember that you are there to be social, not to sell. Be yourself and only do the platforms you like. If you don’t like any social media, then don’t use it. Set up an email and website where readers can reach you. The idea is to make a direct connection between you and your readers.

That’s it. That’s my entire marketing strategy. There aren’t simple answers or easy solutions. Working hard and believing in yourself is the only way I know how to make a book series successful. I wish each of you the best of luck and would love to hear from you.


Liz Schulte is a self-published author in mystery and paranormal romance with more than twenty novels, multiple short stories and audiobooks. She is a member of RWA and her local guilds in Missouri, the Missouri Writer’s Guild, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers of America.

Though success in publishing didn’t happen overnight, like she envisioned it would, the journey has been worth the trials along the way. Liz became a self-supported full time author in 2013 and wouldn’t trade her hard begotten knowledge or the wonderful friends she has made along the way for anything.

Liz has a degree in psychology from the University of Missouri and a minor in philosophy. She has taken numerous forensic courses and writing classes as well as attended several symposiums on writing. She speaks on subjects ranging from self-publishing to marketing and social media.

Website                    Facebook                    Twitter                    Pinterest

© Liz Schulte 2017

[2017 MWG Conference] When Traditional and Contemporary Publishers Join Together

Afternoon break-out session with Kim Staflund at the 2017 Missouri Writers Guild conference: Mastering the Elevator Pitch

I had the opportunity to present two break-out sessions at the 2017 Missouri Writers Guild conference in Columbia, Missouri, this past weekend: a morning session on dealing with the fear of writing/publishing and an afternoon session on mastering the elevator pitch when selling your manuscript or book. In between time, I had the opportunity to sit in on other educational sessions presented by agents and writers who work within the traditional (trade) publishing sector: Jenny Goloboy presented “Writing the Query Letter” to the authors who were interested in obtaining an agent to help them land a traditional (trade) publishing deal; Tim Waggoner, author of Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and Kingsman: The Golden Circle presented an informative talk about novelization (which is turning a movie into a book as opposed to adapting a book for film).

There were also sessions from contemporary (hybrid) publishers similar to PPG as well as self-publishers. One of my favourites was a class about self-publishing by a highly successful independent author of paranormal romance novels named Liz Schulte who earns “six figures” per year from online book sales alone. (Liz has agreed to write a guest post on here for us in the very near future.) I was also inspired by our keynote speaker at the dinner that evening, Sheri Fink. She is also a successful independent author like Liz. Sheri held the number one best seller spot on Amazon for her children’s book titled The Little Rose for 60 weeks straight; and she, too, earns a six-figure income from online book sales and has agreed to write a guest post on here in the near future. Being surrounded by so much talent and creativity certainly inspires one to write! 

New friends and fellow writers/authors from the 2017 Missouri Writers Guild conference: Kim Staflund, Judy Ellsworth Giblin, and Linda Story Runnebaum

These are my people. If I didn’t already know that before, I know it now just based on how motivated I feel after spending time with them. Writers. Authors. Publishers. Agents. All of you. You’re my people.

I think what I admire most about how the Missouri Writers Guild set up this conference was that they brought together people from the traditional (trade) publishing sector along with contemporary (hybrid) publishers and self-publishers. Attendees could draw information and inspiration from both groups to get a fuller picture of this dynamic industry. This is so forward thinking. We need to be doing this type of thing in Canada. In fact, we need to be doing it everywhere. It’s time.

Enjoying a great visit with “my people” at the 2017 Missouri Writers Guild conference

It’s time the traditional publishing sector begins to accept and acknowledge the legitimacy of independent authorship as more and more authors such as Sheri Fink, Liz Schulte, and Mark Dawson prove what’s possible. It’s time to bring together the traditional (trade), contemporary (hybrid), and self-publishers at the writers’ conferences everywhere that have, up to now, been reserved for traditional talent alone.

I’m looking so forward to sharing the upcoming guest posts on this blog with you. I used to spend my time “preaching” about the importance of selling to every author I came across. Now I want to focus on sharing the possibilities of it. I want to inspire authors to take the necessary steps to improve their own sales, and so I’m in search of today’s entrepreneurial authors who can share their success stories and tips with you all. I’ve named three of those authors in today’s post. You’ll hear from two of them directly very soon. Stay tuned!

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

How to Create Your Best Novel

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Creating your best novel is a team effort. There is the writing portion which you will do on your own, within the solitude of your imagination and writing room. And then there is the “polishing” portion of the process which is equally important to your success and requires an outside team of professionals for best results.

Writing Your Novel

I’ll start by including one of my absolute favourite quotes about writing by Gary Provost:

This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety.

Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals—sounds that say listen to this, it is important.

It’s beautiful, isn’t it? It’s like music, as he says. This is the kind of writing that will keep an audience engaged. It not only sings to them; but, with the right combination of vivid adjectives and visceral verbs, it can create such authentic, powerful imagery inside their minds that it keeps them turning the pages for more. That’s what you’re after.

And yet, there’s more to writing your best novel. Two more elements must be considered: character development and plot development. Here are two links that go into great detail regarding these two aspects of writing, so I encourage you to click on both and really take in this advice before sitting down to write your book:

Once your novel is written, now the rest of the team comes into play. The best advice I have for all writers—but especially the ones who plan to self-publish—is to get support. Invest in proper copy editing, graphic design, and proofreading. If you’re serious about book publishing and want to present yourself to the public as a professional author, then these things are so important to your end result.

Polishing Your Novel

The fact is, self-publishers’ books are competing in the marketplace with trade publishers’ books. Trade (traditional) publishers always have their books professionally edited. Always. This is why they can boast such high quality. In light of this, can self-publishers truly afford not to have their work copy edited in the very least? It may seem excessive to some, but it is a necessary investment if that author is serious about publishing and competing in the marketplace.

And no matter how engaging your story may be, the public is going to “judge your book by its cover” before they ever decide to read it. In fact, they’ll judge the interior, too. So, the graphic design of your book—both inside and out—should receive the same professional attention as the content itself. Hiring a professional graphic designer is always better than using a generic template builder.

Last but not least, I highly recommend you also hire a professional proofreader—a different set of eyes from your copy editor—to do the following nine-point check of the final designed book before you self-publish it anywhere:


• the front matter (such as the table of contents) is accurate and correct
• the back matter (such as the index) is accurate and correct
• headers and footers are accurate and correct
• bad breaks are eliminated
• text is kerned to flow smoothly throughout
• margins and trim size all measure properly
• spelling and punctuation is correct


• spacing, bleeds, and trim size all measure properly
• spelling and punctuation is correct

These are the steps the traditional (trade) publishers put each and every one of their books through. These are the steps you should also take to create your best novel. This extra attention to detail with make a huge difference in the public perception of your book and your overall success as a result.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2017 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

New Author Ash Borodin Discusses the Writing and Editing Process


First and foremost, I want to thank Ash Borodin and his editor, Elisa, for providing this unique guest post about the writing and editing processes for the PPG Publisher’s Blog. I smiled all the way through the below dialog and found myself nodding “yes” through much of it.

The creative process of writing a book takes on many different forms, as Ash discusses below, and the editing/ghostwriting processes require much patience and collaboration between two willing participants…

The editing/writing process

My name’s Ash and my debut novel is called The Jealous Flock. It’s about the parallel lives of unique individuals struggling to define their values and identity in relation to the major culture clash(es) the world is experiencing right now.

My name’s Elisa and I edited the Jealous Flock…

Ash: Everything I do is experimental, including this interview (which we are collaborating on live through Google Docs). I can imagine I’m an editor’s worst nightmare…

Elisa: Yes, you can say that again.

Ash: Can you elaborate on that… On second thought, actually don’t. Well, give us a rough idea of one of the challenges.

Elisa: Well for starters, having the chapters written in no particular order, so I couldn’t really make sense of the story. And using speech to text didn’t always give the words you intended, so I had to guess what they might be.

Ash: Ah, yes, I’d forgotten about that. I think I had this general master plan in my head for what the final book should be but I had no idea how to weave it all together. So initially it was more just a bunch of short stories. And then I gradually wrote some bridging stories to connect the others and from there more changes had to be made. It really was a mess. I still think it was a pretty good mess, from my point of view, it was like a band improvising, each person takes a solo and the others fit in and react.

Elisa: I also found it strange to read when it was initially in present tense, and I told you it sounded like a play.

Ash: Well, in a sense it was. And when you said that, I thought – alright I’ll make it a play then. But that was more stubbornness than resolve on my part. I think it could easily be adapted to work as a screenplay and that’s something I keep in the back of my mind if the opportunity ever arises.

Elisa: I think it might lack the beautiful descriptions you have put into the writing though, and perhaps make it more bland.

Ash: Yeah, and in part it was vanity that spurred me on to rewrite the whole thing in past tense. I didn’t want to lose my poetic vision, my voice. But finding some way between the two extremes was a real challenge for me as a writer, this being my debut novel especially. Because I wrote a lot of it live – I method acted the lines through a voice-recorder – it had that zeal, the immediacy you only get from the spoken word and some of the intimacy of conversation. To then put that into past tense, well it felt like prostitution of my passion at first. I was really adverse to it.

Now I tell people the importance of having an active reader (or an editor, really) from the beginning. Because writing is one thing, but storytelling is really a higher level of writing and that involves connecting, relating to your audience.

Elisa: Yes, it is, but it’s a hell of a difficult thing to try and convince an author that he needs to make a change like this. Authors really don’t like criticism of any kind.

Ash: Not naming any names, of course….

Elisa: None at all. And by the way, just so people know, I’m editing your writing as we speak. That’s why there are no spelling mistakes.

Ash: Ha! What people don’t know is that you just wrote ‘smelling mistakes’ and I saw it!

Elisa: Yes, okay, you caught me, but I did fix it immediately.

Ash: I think if we were to work on a book again it would be much easier this time because we’ve both mellowed a lot. For those who came in late, Elisa and I are married. And in the 3 years since we wrote the book we’ve been through a lot personally and as a couple, and I think though we blow up at times under great stress, we are generally able to plan ahead for stress and compartmentalise it a lot better.

Elisa: Sometime a good yelling match is exactly what you need to release it all.

Ash: I know, yesterday’s was great. We called each other unprintable names. A good time was had by all…

Elisa: So, back to editing… another thing that was difficult to get a handle on was that each character used first person, which was really confusing during the editing.

Ash: I think I would do that differently now, but surprisingly no-one’s complained about it yet. Yet….

Elisa: I think it actually works… now.  Now that we have each character’s name in the title of each chapter (thanks to me).

Ash: Yeah that was a necessary evil I was forced to accept as well. I was trying to be so clever in my writing that the reader would intuitively know who the character speaking was – that this was now their perspective. But it was too high a bar for me and maybe an unnecessary bar at that.

Elisa: You can’t expect the reader to do too much work themselves.

Ash: Well that was probably the final thing I relented on. I wanted it to be more work than it eventually was – for the reader. I wanted them to really pay attention like one would with a textbook or work of philosophy. But in the end the need to relate overcame the desire to be very serious.

Ash’s book is available here: 

© Ash Borodin 2017

Don’t Call Procrastination Laziness. Call it Fear. (PART TWO)

In part one of this two-part blog series, we talked about the difference sections of the human brain—the reptilian brain, the limbic brain, and the neocortex—and how they each affect our decision-making processes. We discovered that our unconscious, compulsive, automatic fear of things unknown is created in the reptilian portion of our brains. And we discussed that any of the irrational concerns we may have about book publishing, sales, and marketing are variations of the exact same thing: the reptilian brain’s unconscious, automatic “fight or flight” survival instinct triggered by its fear of the unknown.

Instinct is a good thing that serves a valid purpose in our lives. God gave us all an instinct for a reason, and we should pay attention to it; but, whenever your fear of the unknown has you avoiding potentially advantageous opportunities simply because they’re new to you, then it’s time to consult with your more evolutionarily advanced neocortex—the logical, rational portion of your brain—by writing your fears down. Articulate them to yourself in writing. Read them out loud to yourself. When you do this, you’ll begin to see just how irrational many of those fears really are.

Fear #1: What if it’s a bad idea?

I can’t tell you how many authors I’ve sat and had a coffee with who have sheepishly shrugged their shoulders and said, “It’s probably a stupid idea. Maybe I shouldn’t do it.”

To which I always reply, “How long have you been thinking about this idea? When did it first come to you?”

For many of them, the answer is, “Several months.” For others, the answer is, “Several years.”

I always tell them the same thing: “An idea is a life form of its own that wishes to be expressed. It wants to be given life, and it has chosen you as the conduit for its life. That’s a gift . Accept this gift and use your God-given talent to give it the expression and life it craves. The fact that you’ve been thinking about this idea for several months or years tells you that it’s not simply a fleeting thought. It’s a real living, breathing thing.”

As an entrepreneur starting my own book publishing business, and writing and selling my own books, I had my moments when I thought to myself, “Maybe this is a bad idea.” I’m just like you. What I did, in those moments, was seek out inspiration from other people who had succeeded before me, to help me push through that fear and self-doubt. I read books. I watched videos. I used whatever tools I could find to help myself move forward.

One of my most cherished sources of inspiration is a video of Sara Blakely (2011), the founder of Spanx, Inc., speaking to a group at The Edge Connection in Atlanta, Georgia, about how she built her hosiery company from a mere $5,000 initial investment into a billion dollar empire in a short ten years. Very early in her presentation, she describes listening to a speaker at a convention who stated that he would prove to the room, in only four words, that there is no such thing as a bad idea: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES! Sara herself eventually went on to prove to the many early doubters, in only two words, that there is no such thing as a bad idea: FOOTLESS PANTYHOSE!

I highly recommend this video of Sara Blakely to all authors who doubt themselves and their current ideas—whether it’s a book topic idea or a sales idea you have for an already-published book. It is a beautiful example of what’s possible when one pushes past that instinctive, reptilian-brain fear and perseveres in the achievement of a goal—any goal. For those who love humour, you’ll enjoy this video all the more. This woman is not only inspirational; she’s downright hilarious. I truly admire her on so many levels.

Fear #2: What if nobody reads it?

Well, then nobody will read it. And you’ll be no further behind nor any further ahead than you are today. You’re surviving right now, right? Fear busted.

Fear #3: What if people read it and don’t like it?

First of all, if people are reading it, that’s a good thing! That’s the ultimate goal!

Second, accept the fact that you’re entitled to your own opinions— and so is everyone else. Once you can do that, you’ll experience a freedom you’ve never experienced before.

When I published my first book, everything was quite new to me, and I had an expectation (possibly an unfair one) that my friends and family members should support me 100 percent and compliment me on my book, no matter what they thought of it. Luckily, that did happen with my first book. Everyone around me was very supportive.

Unfortunately, when my second book came out, it was a different story. I received an unexpected criticism from someone dear to me that left me shocked, hurt, and unsure how to react. I’ll be honest; it took me a couple years to come to a place where I was willing to put myself out there again. During that time, I had to rethink my expectations of those closest to me and find a way to remain confident in myself and my craft regardless of others’ opinions.

In retrospect, I’m glad I experienced that criticism so early in my publishing career because it taught me a valuable lesson about how I should measure the true merit of my work. A few times, I’ve had to ask myself the question: What is the truth here? Is it the joy and enthusiasm I felt when I held a printed copy of the book in my hand for the very first time? Or is it the self-doubt I felt when someone criticized it later on? Which one of those two moments will I use to determine the value of my book?

A wise woman named Lisa Nichols once said:

Oftentimes, you give others the opportunity to create your happiness, and many times they fail to create it the way you want it. Why? Because only one person can be in charge of your joy . . . and that’s you. So even your parent, your child, your spouse—they do not have the control to create your happiness. They simply have the opportunity to share in your happiness. Your joy lies within you.

A beautiful sentiment, don’t you think? I believe the same can be said for self-confidence and faith.

I’ve gone into every book project since then with a new set of expectations that take the pressure off both me and those around me. It’s always nice when people acknowledge a new book with a hearty congratulation, but I’ve decided that’s where their obligation ends. I no longer base a book’s worth on whether others read it, agree with it, enjoy it, or discuss it with me after the fact. The truth I try my best to hold onto is the joy I felt when I held that first printed copy in my hand. I hope you will do the same for you. I hope you will find a way to hold onto your enthusiasm even if you come up against any criticism along the way—whether it’s from friends, family members, reviewers, or anyone else. Keep writing! Keep the faith!

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Don’t Call Procrastination Laziness. Call it Fear. (PART ONE)

From the very beginning, one of my primary goals has been to ensure that all authors have access to professional-quality book publishing, sales, and marketing—even those who can’t easily afford these services. Every year, I’ve offered this opportunity to them in the form of simple contests and free giveaways. But, far from helping more authors transform their dreams from the invisible into existence, this exercise has instead provided me with some very interesting insight into the mind of an artist. It has made me rethink my whole strategy and tweak my focus so I can help these people in hopefully more effective ways.

In part one of this blog series, we’ll take a closer look at the experiment, the result, and the subsequent conclusion I came to regarding what is stopping people from moving forward with their books. In part two, which will follow in a few days, we’ll look at some effective strategies an author can use to work with his or her own brain rather than battling against it. Success as an author is just around the corner once you can conquer this.

The Experiment

The first year, I took out a specialty insurance policy which allowed PPG to offer authors a chance to win $100,000 in cash if they referred aspiring authors to us who ended up purchasing one of our book publishing packages, if they purchased one of our book publishing packages toward the publication of their own book, or if they could prove they sold fifty copies of their already-published PPG book in a bookstore consignment deal. Long story short, there were very few entries into this contest and nobody won. I deemed this experiment unsuccessful because it didn’t drum up anywhere near the new business I had hoped for; and, I attributed that lack of interest to the fact that it required people to invest a significant amount of time or money upfront for a chance to win, and that it was only a chance instead of a guarantee that at least one person would win.

So the next year, I offered a chance to win $5,000 toward a professional PPG publishing package to all Canadian adults aged eighteen years or older with a guarantee that one person would win. This time, no one had to pay any money upfront. People could qualify for more than one chance to win in various ways: by liking our Facebook page; by following us on Twitter; by subscribing to the PPG Publisher’s Blog; or by joining the PPG Writers Forum. I figured there would be much more interest across the country—and there was—but something curious happened. Despite the fact that we had quite a few contestants and one seemingly solid winner, a book was never published as a result of this contest.

The Result

Despite being given the opportunity—the written guarantee!—to have a professional-quality book published free of charge, in which 100 percent copyright ownership of both the written words and the artwork produced for that project would remain with the author, our winner still procrastinated on publishing the book for several months. Halfway through the year, we had a conversation about this. I expressed to this author that the prize was to have a book published within the year; and if we didn’t begin the publication process within the next month or two, it would be impossible to have it completed within the year, which would render the contest null and void. I provided a deadline that the winner agreed to meet; and it was also agreed that if we didn’t begin publication of the book by that date then, out of fairness to the other contestants, the contest would be re-opened to them.

The winner procrastinated some more . . . right past the agreed-upon deadline. So, a letter was sent out to all of the contestants (including the winner) offering everyone one more crack at this prize. (This letter was also posted publicly on the PPG Facebook Page.) Due to the lateness in the year, everyone was given two weeks to submit their properly-formatted manuscripts and artwork to PPG in order to qualify, otherwise the contest would be deemed null and void. Four of these contestants (including the first winner) expressed a solid interest and said they had books ready to go, so it was hopeful for one gleaming moment in time that we might have ourselves a winner. But guess what happened? Everyone procrastinated past the deadline. No one submitted their work. The contest was deemed null and void.

I can vividly recall one of these contestants using the excuse of limited time. “It’s going to take me four hours to put together everything you need in order to submit my book to you. I don’t have that kind of time right now.” I’ll admit I was not only shocked by this but also a little annoyed. I didn’t respond to the comment. I didn’t know how to respond to that, because I found it so perplexing that someone would abandon $5,000 in free cash for only four hours of work. It was the equivalent of me paying that person $1,250 per hour to do what needed be done to get that book ready for our professional publishing process; and yet, this contestant still wouldn’t (couldn’t?) do it: nor would any of the others.

The Conclusion

I’ve come to realize that an author’s procrastination has very little to do with him or her being too frugal to invest the amount of money that is necessary to produce a professional quality book; because, even when given the opportunity to do it for free, many people still can’t bring themselves to do it. And it has even less to do with simple laziness. This is about fear. Only an intense fear of something can prevent an author from publishing and selling his or her book. But a fear of what? That’s the question.

Or maybe a more accurate way to word that question would be, “What exactly causes fear?” And perhaps the answer is simple genetics—a surplus, irrational “fight or flight” survival instinct that is still present in the human brain even after thousands of years of evolution. According to an article titled The Brain from Top to Bottom, written by Bruno Dubuc and posted on McGill University’s website,

The first time you observe the anatomy of the human brain, its many folds and overlapping structures can seem very confusing, and you may wonder what they all mean. But just like the anatomy of any other organ or organism, the anatomy of the brain becomes much clearer and more meaningful when you examine it in light of the evolutionary processes that created it.

Dubuc goes on to compare the three components of the human brain: the reptilian brain; the limbic brain; and the neocortex. Of these three components,

The reptilian brain, the oldest of the three, controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile’s brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive.

Your unconscious, compulsive, automatic fear of things unknown is created in the reptilian portion of your brain. It’s purely instinctual, just like reptiles. They don’t “think” or “rationalize” things through. Nor do they have any sort of emotional response to things. Reptiles simply react out of their natural survival instinct. When they are faced with a common situation that’s known to them, they either live in/on it . . . or they eat it. When they are faced with a potentially threatening (unknown) situation, they run and hide. Theirs is a pretty simple, straightforward existence.

Instinct is a good thing that serves a valid purpose in our lives. God gave us all an instinct for a reason, and we should pay attention to it; but, whenever your fear of the unknown has you avoiding potentially advantageous opportunities simply because they’re new to you, I encourage you to consult with your more evolutionarily advanced neocortex—the logical, rational portion of your brain—by writing your fears down. Articulate them to yourself in writing. Read them out loud to yourself. When you do this, you’ll begin to see just how irrational many of those fears really are.

There are the fears that come up before you’ve published your book, and then the ones that creep in during the publishing process itself. And if that’s not enough, once you get past those and actually publish your book, then there’s the fear of book sales and marketing to contend with—the anxiety you feel at the idea of exposing yourself publicly. Julia Cameron put it best in her book titled The Artist’s Way when she wrote:

Do not call procrastination laziness. Call it fear. Fear is what blocks an artist. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of not finishing. The fear of failure and of success. The fear of beginning at all. There is only one cure for fear. The cure is love. Use love for your artist to cure its fear.

All of your concerns about book publishing, sales, and marketing are variations of the exact same thing: the reptilian brain’s unconscious, automatic “fight or flight” survival instinct triggered by its fear of the unknown and coupled with its inability to feel love. That’s it. That’s the cause right there.

My goal in writing this blog entry is to do my best to put your reptilian mind at ease so you can use your neocortex more effectively in the successful publishing, sales, and marketing of your book. In fact, you’re going to use more than your logical neocortex. You’re also going to learn how to put your emotional limbic brain to good use so you can appeal to others’ limbic brains to get them to buy your book after its been published.

As Zig Ziglar, a well-known and often-quoted American author, salesman, and motivational speaker, so aptly stated, “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.” The most effective salespeople appeal to their customers’ emotions to sell their products and services. I hope to teach you some effective ways to do this so you can publish that book at long last and enjoy more commercial sales success as an author. That is my intention.

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Ten Questions To Ask Yourself Before Publishing Your Book

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s BlogWhere to Begin?

Where to Begin?

Every author who wishes to sell his or her book commercially is an entrepreneur. Your book is your business.

As a business owner, doing one’s due diligence is especially important when it comes to finding a suitable partner to help you publish that book. In this day and age, so much information is out there on this topic that it can be quite overwhelming and more than a little bit confusing. What road should you take? Which choice will bring you the best return on investment? Who can best help you to achieve your goals?

Well that all depends. What are your goals? The very first thing that everyone should do—individuals and businesses alike—is to sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of the reasons why they wish to publish their books and what exactly they wish to gain from doing it. This is the first step in determining which avenue to take toward fulfilling your goals.

Ten Questions to Ask Yourself Before Publishing Your Book

  1. Who am I? What image do I want to project with this book (i.e. do I offer the best value or the best price in my field)?
  2. Who is my target audience? What demographic group am I after (i.e., what gender, what age, et cetera)?
  3. What is my deadline for this project? Do I need this book completed quickly (within around six weeks, give or take), fairly soon (within three to six months), or can I afford to wait up to two years for the final product to be printed?
  4. Am I willing to invest my own time and money into this project or do I want it published free of charge?
  5. Do I want to earn a profit from this book?
  6. Do I want to produce this book as a paperback, hardcover, audiobook, or ebook—or all four formats?
  7. Do I want to have complete creative control over the design of my book, do I want to collaborate with a professional over the design of my book, or am I willing to give up majority creative control to the publisher?
  8. Would I prefer to work with a knowledgeable project manager who can guide me through the book publishing process from start to finish, including arranging all the contracts and dealing with the various vendors (editors, designers, et cetera) on my behalf, or am I fine with (and have the time for) doing the bulk of this work myself?
  9. Do I want to keep 100 percent of the copyright ownership of my story (words)?
  10. Do I want to keep 100 percent of the copyright ownership of my book cover (artwork)?

After deciding which of these points is most important, the next step is to prioritize your choices. For example, the authors who value both a quick turnaround and profit should now decide which of those is most important and put it at the top. From there, you should move down the list and compare the remaining questions until you have created a personal hierarchy of values. Then it will be time to look at the various book publishing business models to determine which model best matches your personal list of needs.

To learn more about each book publishing business model, click here.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2016 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Book Publicists (Advertising Versus Publicity)

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

Kim Staflund: founder and publisher at Polished Publishing Group (PPG) and author of the PPG Publisher’s Blog

We often discuss ways you can market and sell your book using various forms of both free and paid online advertising. Now we’re going to talk about publicity. In her ebook titled The Power of Publicity for Your Book, Marsha Friedman provides us with a clear distinction between the two:

By definition, publicity is not advertising; it’s coverage by the media of people, events and issues deemed to be of interest to their audiences.

. . . The nice thing about publicity, also referred to as “earned media,” is that you don’t buy it; you earn it. If you can get a journalist or talk show host interested in your story idea or topic, you might be interviewed for an article, asked to write an article for publication, or invited to be interviewed as a guest on a radio or TV show.

The endorsement of traditional media, even if it’s simply mentioning your name, has always been marketing gold to anyone trying to build a reputation as an author and gain visibility for their book.

Some authors misunderstand the role of publicists. They hire a publicity firm assuming that organization will advertise and sell their book(s) for them, but this is incorrect. The true role of a publicist is to garner publicity for their client—to get that author mentioned in the media via Associated Press-style articles and press releases written about the topic(s) in his or her book, and by promoting that author as an industry expert in his or her field. The idea is to attract newspaper, radio, and television interviews that will highlight the publicist’s client within the mainstream media. The by-product of this publicity is a heightened interest in the author, which should boost sales of his or her book much like advertising does.

Both advertising and publicity are about putting yourself in front of a larger audience as often as possible to build on (and maintain) that top-of-mind awareness we talked about earlier; but, by contrast, advertising is essentially you talking about yourself and your book whereas publicity is the media talking about you and your book. Obviously, when someone else is talking about you, it has more credibility in the eyes of the public. That’s the power of publicity.

It is possible to generate publicity on your own, free of charge, without hiring a publicist to write the news stories for you. Friedman offers some helpful tips about this in her ebook, as well:

You can hire PR professionals to help you get publicity, but you can also work at getting it for yourself. . . . for a newspaper, you might write a short, bona fide news story, or a list of tips that address a problem relevant to your book. For TV and radio, briefly describe the topic you can address and what you will contribute. . . . Most mass media are focused on issues and events in the news today, so you’re much more likely to get publicity if you can speak to something going on now. That’s not as difficult as it sounds, but it does require creative thinking.

There is a definite benefit to hiring a publicist to do all this for you, though. Publicity firms have developed long-standing relationships with all the “movers and shakers” in the media, and their staff knows exactly how to format news stories to have an “Associated Press” appeal that is more likely to be picked up. They watch the news regularly, so they’re aware of what is going on and how to tie you and your book topics into current events. Hiring a publicist is somewhat expensive but, in my opinion, it’s worth the investment when you’re working with a reputable firm.

How expensive is it? Well, it depends. There are different types of publicists out there. Some firms want a retainer, much like a law firm, and they will charge their clients for time spent researching, writing, and contacting the media as well as for telephone charges, postage fees, and any other materials they create for you (i.e., printing and copying). And then there are the firms that use a pay-for-performance business model where they charge only one lump sum fee in the beginning and guarantee a certain amount of publicity along with that lump sum fee.

To clarify: If you want someone to publish your book and provide you with worldwide distribution channels to sell it through, hire a publisher; if you want someone to sell your book for you, hire a salesperson; if you want someone to advertise and market your book for you, hire an ad agency; and if you want publicity for yourself and your book, hire a publicist. Or, you can manage your own publishing, distribution, sales, advertising, marketing, and publicity by yourself using all of the techniques discussed my latest book, Successful Selling Tips for Introverted Authors, plus my two previous books.

As with everything, there are pros and cons to hiring any of these professionals. It’s important to do your homework to determine which one is best for you or whether you even want to hire one at all. You may decide to do it all on your own. Just make sure you’re doing something. Remember, you’ll sell many more books if you’re in the driver’s seat than you will if you leave it all up to your publisher.

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As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2015 Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Change is the Only Constant: Welcome to the New PPG Publisher’s Blog!

Coming soon! Watch for this new book around the world in early August 2014!

Coming soon! Watch for this new book around the world in early August 2014!

First and foremost, thank you to every PPG Publisher’s Blog subscriber for your patience while we transitioned from one blog service provider to another when the former discontinued this particular product from their offering. (Such is life on the Internet.) And hello to all the new subscribers who have joined us here. Glad to have you on board!

While it’s taken me a little while to get back into the swing of things on this blog, not to worry! I haven’t forgotten you; and, in fact, I’ve still been writing much helpful content regarding book publishing, sales, and marketing to help you all succeed with your own books.

As you already know, in 2013 I launched How to Publish a Book in Canada . . . and Sell Enough Copies to Make a Profit! to address the frequently asked questions that are specific to Canadian individuals and businesses that wish to publish their work. This book was (and continues to be) a tremendous learning tool for many—so much so that it became a bestseller on Amazon within its first month and a half and has spawned even more questions from aspiring authors all across North America and even “across the pond” in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe. You’ve asked and the Polished Publishing Group (PPG) has listened. Introducing How to Publish a Bestselling Book . . . and Sell It WORLDWIDE Based on Value, Not Price! which has been written for all the aspiring authors and business professionals who wish to produce a book that presents you as professional writers and industry experts within your fields.

Whether you’re writing a fictional novel, a cookbook, or a “how to” book, publishing a book is a business venture. All authors are entrepreneurs. And the first thing every entrepreneur should ask himself or herself is this: do I offer the best value in my field, or do I offer the best price? This is a vitally important question to ask of yourself before you begin the publishing process of your book. Why? Because, if you offer the best value in your field, you need to promote your business (and everything related to it—including your book!), using value-based selling. If you offer the best price, you need to promote your book using price-based selling. Consistency is the key to long-term success no matter what industry you’re in.

This new book, due to be published around the world in early August 2014, contains answers to pretty much every question you could possibly have about how to publish and sell a truly professional-quality book all around the world. Further to that, it contains an elementary introduction to international copyright (graciously written for us by Ian Gibson, Esq., an attorney who is licensed in the State of California) to provide aspiring authors with a solid starting point of reference that answers all of your basic copyright questions and a couple more, including, “How does working with a publisher in another country affect my copyright?”

By the time you’re done reading this book, hopefully you’ll have gained some valuable insight into what it truly takes to produce a saleable book and how to market it to your desired demographic. Better yet, you’ll have all the tools you need to get that book into the hands of those desired customers all around the world, land on a coveted bestseller list in your area, and earn a healthy profit in the process. That is my wish for you.


Kim Staflund
Founder and publisher of Polished Publishing Group (PPG)

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PPG is a professional book publisher dedicated to serving serious-minded authors around the world. Visit our group of websites today:

PPG Book Publishing Website:
PPG Publisher’s Blog:

As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2009 to [current year] Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.

Your Book Will Never Be Good Enough For You: Learning When to Let Go

In a Perfect World

In a perfect world, every author would have their entire manuscript—including all front matter, the main body, and back matter—completed before they submitted it to PPG to begin the publication process.

In a perfect world, they would also have scanned the shelves of bookstores ahead of time to know exactly what types of book cover/interior designs and fonts they prefer to use for their books, and they would have all these instructions (along with their back cover copy) ready ahead of time to send along with their manuscript. (This way, the back cover copy can be professionally copy edited along with the entire manuscript for consistency in style.)

Then authors would sit back and let the “polishing” process begin and watch their raw manuscripts take form as professional quality books. They would thoroughly enjoy the entire process and completely trust all the recommendations of the editors, designers, and proofreaders all along the way. Most importantly, they would trust themselves. They would trust that the book they have created is good enough as it is.  

But this is far from a perfect world.  

The Realities of Book Publishing

It never ceases to amaze me how many additional changes authors want to make to their books even after they’ve gone through the copy editing process. Copy editing is the very first step in the book publishing process. This is where the majority of text changes (movements, additions, deletions, etc.) are meant to take place. By the time the copy editing process is complete, the content itself should be complete for the most part. It should be where the author wants it. 

Once the copy edit is complete, the raw edited manuscript and design instructions are given to the graphic designer to create the first draft of the actual book; and then a soft copy (.PDF) version of it goes back and forth between the designer and the author to tweak it here and there. There is a very good reason why PPG only allows for two author proofing rounds that include up to five structural changes to the cover and 50 typographical changes to the interior per round. (Additional charges apply to any additional proofing rounds ordered.) It’s because we know the nature of authors to pick and pick and pick at their own work … and we are saving them from themselves by limiting the amount of picking they can do. Otherwise, it would go on forever. That is the nature of the author … of every author, I’ve learned. (And I assure you I totally understand. Not only am I a book publisher. I’m also an author of three books that I picked at and picked at and picked at to the brink of insanity.)

As mentioned above, the purpose of this back and forth process between the author and graphic designer is to allow authors further opportunity to simply tweak (fine-tune) the content now that they can see it in actual book form. The time for major character changes and text block movements/additions/deletions was long gone with the copy editing process; and now the purpose is simply to catch those last minute spelling errors and punctuation issues that were missed beforehand.  

From there, once those two author proofing rounds of the soft copy version of the book have been completed, a hard copy is ordered and sent to a professional proofreader for another once-over by yet another fresh set of eyes. If that proofreader notices anything else, those changes (which should be minimal by this stage) are completed and a final hard proof is sent to the author for final sign-off and approval.

It’s Good Enough. Trust It. Trust Yourself.

It’s an emotional process, this book publishing business. Authors’ emotions and insecurities can get the best of them throughout this process, and it can make them second-guess their own decisions all along the way. At PPG, we understand this; and our book publishing process was developed and perfected with this in mind after extensive discussions and experience dealing with authors, copy editors, designers, proofreaders, indexers, you name it. If there’s one piece of advice we want you to walk away with after reading this blog entry, it’s this: it’s good enough. Trust it. Trust yourself. (And, of course, we’re here to help. It’s what we do best. You can trust that, too.)

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PPG is a professional book publisher dedicated to serving serious-minded authors around the world. Visit our group of websites today:

PPG Book Publishing Website:
PPG Publisher’s Blog:

As a user of this website, you are authorized only to view, copy, print, and distribute the documents on this website so long as: one (1) the document is used for informational purposes only; and two (2) any copy of the document (or portion thereof) includes the following copyright notice: Copyright © 2009 to [current year] Polished Publishing Group (PPG). All rights reserved.