How to Find Reviewers

How to Find Reviewers

Today, we’re talking about a hot topic. One that will always been hot. It’s been hot so long it doesn’t know how to get cool.

Reviews.

More specifically—how to get them. In the Facebook group Indie Parent Life (what, you’re not a member? Remedy that here.) I asked what kind of content the Indies in there wanted to see. Promotion was high on that list. When someone niched it down to ‘How Do I Find Reviewers?’ I knew I had a winner. Why?

Because there are three things I want to talk about today.

  1. How do I get reviews?
  2. Are reviews important?
  3. How do I deal with them when I have them?

*cracks knuckles*

Let’s begin

How Do I Get Reviews?

There are a few ways to go about this.

Book Bloggers. This may come down do you cold-emailing them with a very well-sculpted pitch letter. Or reaching out to them on social media. Or finding a friend that knows someone who runs a book blog and have them connect you. A few suggestions here: do your homework first. Follow their blog. Tweet their reviews. Thumbs up their posts. Make yourself seen a week or so before, then send your email. It’s amazing how far a little attention goes.

Net Galley. I’ve promoted several books on NetGalley in the past. My first one was wildly successful. The rest have been abysmal. But hey! I tried.

Book exchanges. Find some other authors that need reviews and ask them to swap. Read and review theirs. A lot of indies do this to get going. It’s time consuming, but when you need to get out of the hole of only having 2 reviews, it can at least get you into the double digits.

Goodreads. There are a lot of book groups and lists and other things on Goodreads. I know some authors have had varied success with getting into those. (Some of my books have been featured without me even knowing it, and it seems to help traction, but I rarely log into Goodreads except to add a new book. More on that below.)

Ask your fans. This can be tricky, because you don’t want to be annoying, and I would never suggest asking more than once. Also, be cool. If a fan emails you and says, “I loved your book! Thank you so much for writing it!” don’t respond right away with, “Can you leave a review?” Ask them some questions, get to know them (they’ll love it, seriously) and then just ask them to help you out after you’ve made it about them a little bit. No one likes a diva.

Start a Street Team. Street teams are basically your super fans. They can definitely include your Mom, your neighbor, or your weird cousin while you’re getting traction. Especially in the beginning, pull some of your best friends in to help you out. These are people you can rely on to write reviews, share on social media, and get the word out. Before a book launch, be sure to follow up and just ask if they were able to put out their review.

Put it in the back matter. The end of my books all include little snippets that say, “Hey, if you liked it, I’d love it if you read a review.” I can’t give you any hard data because I don’t track my reviews, but I do believe it’s helped.

Are Reviews Important?

Yes.

And no.

Let’s discuss.

Reviews are absolutely important as a marketing tool. It’s a handy little star that readers can look at and say, “Oh. I get it. X number of people liked it this much.” It’s a way of verifying that a book is worth spending money on. In a slushy book world like we have, that can be very helpful. Especially if your books score on the higher end. It’s almost like being “vetted”.

When aren’t they important? When they affect your motivation and confidence. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that with tough reviews. I’ve shed a few bitter tears over the fact that people kind of turn into monsters. They think it’s their right to say whatever they want (which it kind of is) and the digital age provides a level on anonymity that’s frightening. It’s easy to forget that a human exists behind that book they just shredded.

In the book Playing Big by Tara Mohr, she states a revolutionary new idea: Feedback doesn’t tell you anything about you; it tells you only about the person giving the feedback.

 

‘Feedback doesn’t tell you anything about you, it tells you only about the person giving it.’Click To Tweet

 

For example, someone critiques your short story as boring. Well, that means they probably like something with action. Sometime says your book didn’t grab them? Then they didn’t relate to your characters.

But I implore you to keep this in mind: reviews come from biased people with big opinions and the need to express them. Which is great. It’s awesome. It’s part of a healthy economy. But they shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all of your opinion of yourself. It’s something you take, note down with your business brain, and explore later. Remember? Opinions are about the people giving them. Not really about you.

This leads to our next section.

How Do I Deal With Them When I Have Them?

Crappy reviews really, really suck. But sometimes they tell us the truth.

1. I would never suggest that you dive face first into a single review and take it entirely to heart. HOWEVER—If you see a trend in your reviews—like maybe everyone is mentioning that the ending fell really flat for them—then it may be time to take a step back and re-evaluate. Or talk to the professional editors at Quill Pen Editorial. They’ll definitely help you out.

2. Feel your feelz. It sucks. It hurts. They don’t get you. They totally missed the point of the story, and they probably eat toads. Let it all out however you have to. (When I get the ones that really strike deep, I cry and cuddle my dogs and call my best friends to have them tell me that person is an idiot. Oh, and I eat way too much chocolate.)

3. Learn to separate your feeling of rejection from business. If you’re convinced you need to read all your reviews, try to teach yourself the art as seeing it as something other than your book child. It helps. It takes practice (and brutal editors help with this too) but it’s something you can learn to do.

4. The best advice I ever had on reviews came from Ted Dekker. I met him at a writing conference in Tennessee and asked him about bad reviews and how he dealt with them. I had just released my first novel, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls, and the following novella, The Isadora Interviews. I’d had a few less-than-favorable reviews that really hit me in the heart.

His advice?

“Don’t put your eyes on them.”

Absurd, I thought. That is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard. 

Except . . . it wasn’t.

At that time, I considered reviews to be kind of an editorial warning to me of all my flaws that I needed to fix ASAP—and they can be that. But the truth is I had already built in a great line of defense and by turning to reviews was really just leaning into sand. My team? Solid beta readers I trusted. Multiple editors. Readers that genuinely loved it. So I did what Ted said. I stopped logging into Goodreads. Stopped looking at my Amazon reviews (or ranking for that matter) and just kept going.

You know what? It’s been really freeing. 11 books later, I still never check.

5. Remember: you can’t please everyone. You really can’t, and trying to is just going to make it so someone else doesn’t like you. I remind myself I didn’t go into writing for mass approval. I did it because I love influencing peoples lives for the better. And in fantasy, I can eat whatever the heck I want.

How do you deal with bad reviews?

 

Profit First and Money Organization

Profit First and Money Organization

To say that I jumped into self publishing without knowing anything about business is undercutting it a little bit.

Read: a lot. 

Words like quarterly taxes and sales tax and revenue and Quickbooks were SO not important. Writing was important. Making money was important so I could publish more books, but not because I needed to make a profit.

Silly reader.

Paying Yourself a Profit

Pulling a profit? That would come later. When I had more books and was selling more copies per month. The most important thing for my business was creating more books for more people to buy, right? Ebooks. Paperbacks. Audiobooks. #allthethings ALL my money that I pulled in from Antebellum Publishing went back into Antebellum Publishing. Wasn’t that how entrepreneurship worked?

Until when? Husband would ask, and I would just wave it off. Until I’m making more money. I can’t afford to take a profit right now.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Husband switched from active duty Army to the National Guard so he could get his Master’s degree, which left me sitting in the chair of provide as much money as you can to feed our child and pay our electricity bill. Which is awesome, because if anything, I luuuuhv the presshah!

In regards to my finances, I couldn’t put a finger on what was wrong, but I could tell something wasn’t right. How could I be making money, but not have any in my account? My Quickbooks screens were depressing: from April 2016—April 2017 I had made a profit of $10. (I had pulled in over $20,000, but somehow spent all of it again.)

I looked at those numbers and thought, WOT. Where has it gone?

I was basically Titanic heading right for that iceberg and I didn’t even SEE the iceberg. My business coach Natalie Eckdahl with the Biz Chix referred Mike Michalowicz’s book Profit First to one of her clients during an on-air coaching call, and I immediately checked it out. (When Natalie speaks, I listen.) Before I’d even bought the book, I emailed Mike about it.

The book arrived, and everything changed.

Picture of the book Profit First by Mike Michalowicz

Money Management In a Nutshell

Profit First is a system to organize your finances. That’s pretty much it. Mike breaks your business (as an entrepreneur) into five accounts and walks you through the process of slowly cutting expenses while paying yourself money. It sounds complicated but it’s really not as bad as you think. I’m the least detail-oriented human in the world. If I can pull this off, you can.

This is the basic breakdown. You’ll create five checking accounts. (Yep. Five.)

  1. Profit
  2. Owners Compensation
  3. Taxes
  4. Operating Expenses
  5. Income

Twice a month, you’ll divvy out your funds based on certain percentages that you slowly tweak from quarter to quarter. (You won’t go from all-in to only having 25% of your income go to operating expense, for example. He eases you into it.)

These days, I may a biweekly salary and a quarterly profit.

My Experience Implementing Profit First

Here’s a little advice in putting Profit First into motion.

  1. Read it first. All the way through.
  2. Don’t psych yourself out when he starts explaining percentages. It’s not that bad. I promise. He basically holds your hand with witty vernacular.
  3. Find a bank that doesn’t charge monthly costs for having 5 checking accounts and 2 savings accounts. They’re out there. Trust me. It’s so worth it. And work with them however you have to. It took me about two weeks to really get things set up and in motion. I called the bank at least six times to arrange things to my liking. Right now, I have 5 checking accounts and 3 savings accounts without monthly fees that I can transfer through as needed. It’s WORTH THE TIME.
  4. If you aren’t already using Quickbooks Self Employed or some other means to stay organized, start right now.
  5. It’s really tough to face this music. I had a hard time swallowing the fact that I’d been breezing through thousands of dollars in expenses that may have not helped me, or have been unneeded charges.
  6. Buy yourself a brownie when you’re done. That is a lot of work that’s literally going to change your life.

Why You Should Buy It Right Now

For me, Profit First has been more of a mental revolution than anything. It’s changed my focus. Thanks to Profit First, when I work now, I know I’m going to get paid, and that makes me work a lot harder.

 

 

Instead of all my funds going into one giant plate, I have lots of little plates. I can look at one aspect of my business and know exactly what’s going on. This pulls the entrepreneur that loves a challenge out of me. If I don’t have the money to throw at something, I’ll just find another way to make it happen. Because that’s what we do.

We make magic happen.

Questions?

Are you thinking about self publishing but don’t know where to start? Or are you a self publisher that just needs to sit someone down and get help? The great news is that coaching calls have arrived! I’ve absolutely loved helping all of you out via email, but the problem is I can’t do much that way. (read: toddler. dogs. husband. dinner. life.) In order to serve you guys best, I’m offering 60 minute sessions dedicated totally to you and your self publishing questions. We can dive in and get dirty.

Right now? They’re only $99. Join my KCW email list and get a 10% discount (not to mention other great discounts off indie publishing services too!)

Click right here if you’re interested.

I can’t wait to chat with you!

Ebook Formatting

Ebook Formatting

The stunning, talented, thorough-to-the-point-of-ridiculousness, Kella Campbell is the owner of Ebooks Done Right, which is the ebook formatting service that I use for all my ebooks. I literally cannot tell you all the ways that she has saved me. From pristine formatting, quick deadline turnaround, and an eagle eye for spotting errors, she is the best of the best with ebook formatting.

And she’s here today to tell you a bit more about your options as well as some e-book options before you dive face first into formatting on your own.

Because it can be kind of intense.

Take it away, sister.

E-books are a lot like cupcakes at a bake sale.

You want yours to be admired and coveted, not laughed at and left unpurchased. And as an indie author, you’ve basically got two choices: learn how to do them yourself, or pay someone to do them for you.

Home-Baked Goods

The tools are out there for you to learn how to do your own e-books — and do them right — but it takes time. Time to learn the skills, and then time to do the work.

Here’s a quick guide to peruse to see if you’re ready—or interested—in e-book formatting:

  • If you already know some computer coding (HTML and CSS) and are comfortable learning new programs, you can pick up the basics of e-book formatting fairly quickly.
  • Do you like problem-solving, troubleshooting, and online research? These things are a huge part of taking your e-book to the next level (or just figuring out why you’re getting validation warnings or something’s looking weird).
  • Until you know your working speed and have a couple of completed e-books under your belt, it’s smart to have a flexible deadline or a lot of lead time.
  • Patience and nitpicking are required.
  • Being a perfectionist is also helpful.

It took me over three years (and a dozen books formatted) before I considered that I’d reached a professional level of e-book production. As an indie author, especially if you’re not particularly handy with computer coding, that may not be the best use of hours you could spend writing.

Not every home baker needs professional cake-decorating skills, but some want to learn because it’s an art and skill set that appeals to them.

It’s the same with authors and e-books.

The Pinterest (and E-Book Formatting) Fail

See the gorgeous cupcakes on Pinterest? Follow the easy instructions! Bakery-perfect cupcakes at home, first try, no experience necessary.

You hope, anyway.

Plenty of cheap or free services promise no-hassle e-book conversions; just upload your manuscript and get an e-book edition. Many writing and desktop publishing programs even come with a save-as-ePub option built right in. But the chance of getting a quality e-book using an automated meatgrinder tool is slim, and even if it looks acceptable on one preview program, there’s no guarantee it will look polished across multiple platforms.

The chance of getting a high-quality ebook using an automated meatgrinder tool is slim.Click To Tweet

Here are a just a few of the fun things I’ve seen while troubleshooting meatgrinder e-books:

  • HTML error warnings — some part of the code is wrong… can you find and fix it?
  • Multiple stylesheets — one popular writing program’s ePub-maker generates a new stylesheet for every chapter, so there’s no guarantee of consistency throughout the book.
  • Missing or poorly-generated stylesheets — dozens of similar styles with incomprehensible labels, or styles in the page headers instead of on the stylesheet where they should be.
  • Random white space — tabs and non-breaking spaces are invisible to you, but they’re not invisible to the meatgrinder or e-reading software.

It’s possible to start with an automatic conversion tool and then tweak the details from there, but you’d need to know how, which goes back to investing time and energy into learning e-book formatting skills.

Unless you think buying a set of Russian piping tips is going to give you Pinterest-perfect cupcake decorating skills, you can probably see that using a cheap or free converter or uploading your manuscript directly to the sales platform of your choice isn’t likely to end in the professional e-book you wanted.

The Frosting Cottage Option

In Katie’s The Health and Happiness Society series, there’s a bakery called the Frosting Cottage (read more here). I don’t bake much, but I saw myself in the bakery owner right away — a woman with a professional skill and an independent small business.

Working with an e-book professional is like ordering your cupcakes from a bakery:

  • You’ll spend minimal time on it, and that’s mostly making decisions about what you want and checking the finished files.
  • You can ask your consultant to make your e-book exactly the way you’d like it — as with cupcakes, e-books can be fancy or plain, traditional or quirky, and you can choose embellishments as romantic as buttercream roses or as modern as edible glitter to fit your genre and style.
  • If you don’t have any ideas or don’t know what’s possible, just ask! A good e-book designer will be able to make suggestions and offer options for you.
  • In general, you get what you pay for; discount superstore prices aren’t likely to lead to the best bakery-quality cupcakes.

If anything, an e-book formatter should be more invested in creating a beautiful end product than you are, since it’s a business that depends on word-of-mouth and happy clients.

Adding Sweet Touches

Here are some ways to make your e-book pop, whether you’re doing the work yourself or talking to your e-book consultant:

  • Your chapter titles don’t have to be plain black; use color and decorative elements to avoid the “manuscript” look.
  • Starting each chapter with a larger capital letter (called an initial) is always a nice touch, and you can add a bit of color there too.
  • Give your characters’ communication an evocative touch (e.g., I like to tint italicized “handwritten correspondence” with ballpoint blue or old-fashioned sepia, and make “text messages” small caps in electronic green or computer charcoal).
  • Avoid using asterisks or an octothorpe (hashtag symbol) for scene breaks, as those are commonly associated with unformatted manuscripts; choose typographic details that look more polished, or use a scene break graphic (if you don’t already have one, your e-book formatter or cover designer may be able to help).
  • Make sure any graphics are the right file type for your purpose — JPGs are not transparent and will show a white rectangle background in sepia or night modes, so save your decorative elements as GIFs.
  • Don’t like the default URL color? Override it. Just set your preferred link color in the stylesheet. To judge/test the link color, look at the table of contents and (if you have one) the page listing the author’s other books.
  • A tip from the prose department: too many million-dollar words in a row can create awkward white space or excessive hyphenation that no amount of design skill will resolve.

There’s more, but it would take years to write everything down, and I’d be giving away all my working secrets. So I’ll just say this: may all your e-books turn out as beautiful as bakery cupcakes.

And if you get stuck and need help, just ask.

Contact Kella:

Facebook

Twitter

Official Website

 

Manifesting Abundance as an Indie Author

Manifesting Abundance as an Indie Author

The topic of Manifesting Abundance came to me a few months ago while listening to the Write Now Podcast with Sarah Rhea Werner. She interviewed the beautiful Honoree Corder, a well known author coach, author, and speaker. During their discussion, Honoree started talking about her relationship with money.

And my brain started to turn.

It’s no secret that being an Indie Author is hard. So is being a parent. Attempting to smash those two worlds together is a bit like trying to fit a square puzzle piece into a triangular hole, am I right?

#preachit

Manifesting Abundance

For me of the most interesting points of the conversation between Honoree and Sarah were these:

“The belief has been installed  . . . that money is hard to come by, or money doesn’t grow on trees . . .that I had to work hard for money . . . So whenever I spend money I say, ‘Oh, there’s more where that came from.’ And I also say, ‘As soon as money goes out, immediately money comes in.’ . . . And it works!”

'I got rid of the belief that (earning money) was hard, and installed the belief that it was easy.' —Honoree CorderClick To Tweet

At the time I was listening to this (just a few months ago) I’d run into some budgeting issues. I’d already spent, in 3-4 months, over $7,000 in upcoming book releases, editing, formatting, and other overhead for KCW. My bank account was pinching, and I still had to release a cookbook and find money to fund a translation editing project for MMSFG. (More on that later!)

On top of it? We’re moving and husband is switching careers, going back to school, and I’m losing my childcare situation.

So I latched onto this idea that we have power even in these difficult financial situations. That money is more of an energy and a thought than a physical thing to hold. Although not my usual thing, I decided to try it. I started thinking, at random times (but especially while driving or stressing about the financial situation):

Money comes to me. My budget is fine. Somehow, money will find it’s way to my business. 

This sounds so hokey.

But it’s actually so powerful.

Here’s What Happened

Nothing spectacular. But I didn’t expect that.

However, I found another stream of revenue. In fact, a big one. After mulling over these mantras, pondering my situation, and attempting to find solutions, I had an idea. So I contacted a friend and looked into freelancing as an author. (More on this later too!)

I found a project that appealed to me. Then two. Then four.

The people I contacted and started working for chose me over 30+ applicants. More clients came. More jobs came. And suddenly, I had 6 active contracts, and money coming back into my account every week. (I chose to get paid every week to purposefully help cement the idea that money comes to me that Honoree spoke about.) The money wasn’t ridiculously high or ridiculously easy to earn.

But it was there.

My sales didn’t sky rocket. My bank didn’t burst. Enough came in that my projects continued. My company product expansion didn’t have to stop. My husband found a job opportunity we hadn’t anticipated, and another unexpected stream of revenue manifested itself.

It’s Not That Easy.

Manifesting Abundance is more than just a mantra.

It’s hard work.

The universe/God/abundance doesn’t reward the lazy.

In fact, in the podcast Manifesting Abundance with Yoga Girl Rachel Brathen, I had a cementing glimpse into just how much work abundance requires. She speaks of living in poverty in Costa Rica (chosen—she’s a free spirit that way) and how she chose to live a mindset of abundance. She discusses trusting life to take her where she should be. In trust, we remove fear. She worked up to 12-14 hours a day as a waitress and bartender. As she grew in her trust for manifesting her abundance and her yoga practice, so did her money situation.

This is one powerful podcast episode. And a great place to start learning about Manifesting Abundance if you’re not familiar with it.

Money didn’t spill into my life; but opportunities came to me. I work hard at my freelancing to bring that other stream of revenue in, and God/The Universe/Abundance comes to me.

The Power of Your Frame of Mind

I believe that Manifesting Abundance has power.

But I also believe I get in my own way.

Putting energy into manifesting abundance, for me, turns my brain away from fear. It makes me think. It opens my mind and turns me away from stress. I find greater peace, therefore, a greater ability to think. And see. And, honestly, maybe it’s just increased awareness. Maybe all those things would have happened anyway.

But maybe not.

Maybe turning my mind away from fear enabled me to open up my thinking. To actually bring those things to me through sheer belief and power. More opportunities. More time to work. More living in the moment and seeing the details.

Perhaps I just get in my own way a lot less, allowing abundance to come in.

How to Manifest Abundance as an Indie

Manifesting Abundance doesn’t have to apply to money, either. Although, let’s face it, that’s one of the biggest issues indie authors—and parents—but especially Indie author parents face.

Rachel Brathen, and others, have spoken about this kind of cycle to bringing abundance to them.

  1. Ask for what you want to manifest.
  2. Meditate for ideas
  3. Start your plan—even if nothing comes to you. Just start working.
  4. Trust. That a plan will come to you. That abundance will come.

How to Manifest Abundance by @kcrosswriting

Since my experiment went so well, I’ve decided I don’t have to make this power small. So here are other things I plan to manifest that I need as an indie author.

Because I believe that what I need will come to me and I trust life/God/the Universe/Abundance to put me where I need to be.

  • Words
  • Patience with my son
  • Health with my body
  • Time
  • Sleep
  • Knowledge of my profession
  • Subscribers
  • Sales
  • More podcast opportunities

The great thing about manifesting is that it takes very little time from my day and less emotional energy than I expected. It’s something under my power, and that, in itself, is empowering.

What do you need to manifest as an Indie?

Managing a Multi Person Project as an Indie

Managing a Multi Person Project as an Indie

The easiest part of creating the Health and Happiness Cookbook was pulling together a team. I already had my people in place! The wildcard ended up being the how it happened and how we communicated. Because my team is the very patient and amazing, everything went beautifully.

These are a few of my observations on the process and how we, as indies, can simplify our collaborative projects.

Managing a Multi Person Project

Have a Fluid Deadline.

The Cookbook was a new project for me. I wanted it for several reasons: to draw in a new audience. Create a new funnel. Get delicious goodies in my belly. Expand my brand.

But these were new waters.

Having no deadline for finishing the cookbook notched down my stress. A lot. Every project conjures up new challenges. I’d never worked with another creator on a book, nor one requiring such in-depth graphic design. Kimberley and I signed a contract in September, and I started letting my team know about it around then. Giving them a heads up and allowing for flexibility also let things bend.

In the end, we decided to let the cookbook process dictate the schedule. As soon as I had a paperback proof, we initiated our social media marketing plan, announced the project, and set a date two weeks away.

Keep Communication Simple.

There are great apps like Asana that allow for quick project management with many people. (I’ve used Asana before and it’s great!)

But I didn’t want to take the time to learn a new dashboard on an intricate level and ask my team to do the same. So instead I kept it simple with group emails and Skype calls. This made me the middle man for most of it, but more on that later.

For this project, it worked. If I were to add any more people/elements, I’d probably do Asana.

One Coordinator.

Because the Health and Happiness Cookbook is published under my imprint THHS Publishing and incorporates/originates from my Chick Lit series, I was the Decision Maker. The Answerer of All Questions. The One Who Kept Things Going.

I already had the needed contacts and skills in place to pull this together, and I underestimated my ability to do it. While Kim created delicious recipes, I coordinated book sizes, typesetting format, ISBN allocation, and social media marketing plans. Having everything go through one person (me) meant the margin for error or missed things came out surprisingly low.

(Don’t worry. I totally messed up the plenty of things!)

Skype Calls.

Sometimes there was just too much discussion to merit an email, so I’d dedicate one day/afternoon/nap time to the cookbook and I make Skype calls to everyone. My graphic designer Jenny, my typesetter Chris Bell, my ebook formatter Kella Campbell, Kimberley herself, etc. Having only the cookbook on my mind in that time frame helped a lot too.

Being able to speak about the project and my plans for it face-to-face really simplified and streamlined it for me. Then, when we sent emails, it was quick reference stuff that was easily dealt with.

Establish Expectations.

My team is my team because they’re experts at what they do, so I gave them free reign to control their niche. I’d tell them the end game and let them get there with feedback and collaboration.

It worked beautifully.

Be Open to Feedback.

It’s not always easy to hear that I can’t do everything and do it well, but it’s the reigning truth. Kimberley knows the baking/cooking/food blogging/recipe world far better than I do, so getting her input on layouts, final pictures, recipes, presentation, etc. was crucial to creating a cookbook that fit my niche, her niche, and would sell on its own. Jenny had professional ideas for the photos that ended up making a better cookbook, and Chris knew the best structure and font layout for the interior paperback.

Which meant I listened, questioned, and ultimately, agreed. Although tempting, as an entrepreneur, to be the all for my business, setting aside my pride and listening to my team helped everything come together.

Have a Contract.

Not only to protect yourself, but everyone else.

Kimberley and I worked out the details of us collaborating on this project before we ever stepped into it (although she was super excited and started brainstorming recipes ASAP!) There’s a lot to keep track of during a project like this, so having everything like royalties, timing, deadlines, and the end state established beforehand gives you a mutually-agreed upon place to retreat back and see what was decided.

Mutual Meeting Place for Documents

For this, I used Google Drive.

I did a separate shared folder for just the cookbook and invited all concerned into it. I organized it by recipe, photos, promotion, and more. We used a spreadsheet to coordinate to do lists so everyone could see the process. (Kim included! This was a whole new world for her.)

It was nice to have a place to put #allthethings. Then when anyone had a question, they could refer there first, and if still not answered, shoot me an email.

In Conclusion

It’s hard to quantify everything that goes into something this big, but I think working with people you trust, ensuring solid expectations and communications from the beginning, and being flexible to life (I don’t need to tell you about that!) helps all of this go so smoothly.

Do you have any tips for managing a collaborative project?

Leave them in the comments! I can’t wait to hear from you. Don’t forget to grab your copy of the Health and Happiness Cookbook on May 1st!

Working With a Virtual Assistant

Working With a Virtual Assistant

The fateful day when I realized I needed an assistant came on a Wednesday.

While drowning in my poor attempts at website coding, horrible layouts, a looming writing deadline, LM’s four molars breaking through AT THE SAME TIME, Husband deployed with infrequent contact, and 8,000 emails—many of which needed answering yesterday—I realized something.

I turned to myself and said, “Self . . . I can’t do this.”

Working With a Virtual Assistant

Being a parent is hard. Throw work on top of that and it swirls into a disaster. There are schedules to merge. Priorities to make. Sales to increase. Books to publish. Health to maintain. And heaven forbid—mouths to feed.

*eyes whiny dogs and toddler*

I found that paying for a virtual assistant makes it a little less hard.

Bottom line: as a working parent, I don’t have time for everything. So I pick my work priorities carefully.Click To Tweet

I reached out to Cristina with Faithfully Social and said, “halp!” So she threw me a chocolate donut and we started scheming, starting with a list of responsibilities for her, a massive overhaul, and major rebranding.

‘Cuz why not?

We worked together for several months. She helped get me organized, brought new ideas to my business, and helped me think outside the box. While I wrote, she optimized my website. We aren’t working together anymore because finances and life situations didn’t allow for it, but I had a wonderful experience hiring a VA, and I learned a lot about delegation and working with others.

A Checklist of Requirements

This will look different for everyone, but for me, the following criteria had to be met.

  1. Flexibility. I live and breathe toddler-and-needy-Vizsla-military-wife time. Which means I’m all over the place and miss or rearrange deadlines as needed. Things shift. My assistant needed to be okay with that.
  2. Inherent organization. I am not organized. (see above)
  3. Professional bearing—with a hint of spice. I just can’t take life too seriously. But when it’s time to knuckle down, it’s time. Maybe we sometimes tweet crazy one-liners from our business meeting, too.
  4. Clear communication. When I’m in author-blogger-nap-time mode, I’m kind, but firm. I need someone who doesn’t take giving orders or writing to-do lists personal. #itsnotyou
  5. A Sounding Block. Someone I can say, ‘Hey! Just had this marketing idea. What do you think?’ or forward them an email and say, ‘Hey! Let’s do a cookbook!’ or ‘Hey! I started this project and need organization help.’
  6. Someone who knows their crap. I needed someone who could help me in the industry, with the industry.
  7. Number one priority: Katie writes. If my virtual assistant couldn’t understand that their goal was to make it easier for me to write and interact with fans, it wouldn’t work.
  8. Self motivated. Look, guys. I can hardly get myself outta bed. Not doing it for my virtual assistant.

From what I’ve heard and experienced myself, success is all about finding the right person. They should fit like a puzzle piece.

Here’s what our division of responsibilities looked like.

Me:

—I create all content.

—I make decisions.

—I handle all fan interaction—blog comments, social media, emails, etc.

—I write books.

Cristina:

—All the other things that I sent her.

We shared a folder in the Google Drive with folders, spreadsheets, calendars, to-do lists, password stuff, and then connect with Skype sessions as needed. Her goal was to sweep away stuff so when I have writing time, I focus on what matters—my readers and my writing. She’s has a life too. By common consent, most of our magic happened Thursday and Friday. We communicated through FB messenger. She proofread my posts or told me when I’m getting too in-the-clouds or wrote out a pretty calendar so I could see it all.

 

What would you get off of your plate so you could get to writing all the things? Tell me in the comments!