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Follow Your Bliss and Self-Publish in 2013

Presented by Rozsa Gaston to Dept. of Citywide Administrative Services, New York, NY, Jan. 4, 2013

Self-Publishing by Andrew Rice Time Magazine 12-10-12
Self-Publishing by Andrew Rice Time Magazine 12-10-12


Happy new year. My goal with today’s blog post  is to make you feel like you’re fourteen years old again.  Believe it or not, we are now living in an extraordinary moment in history. For once, it’s good news, not bad.  It’s not global warming, it’s not war, it’s a revolution.

We are in the midst of a revolution in the publishing industry See Dec. 10 Time Magazine article on The 99 Cents Best Seller by Andrew Rice.

The Pleasure of the First Draft - Julian Gull

It’s a revolution that puts power in the hands of writers and sweeps away the power of publishing houses to determine whether your writing is good enough to be published. The barriers have fallen.  In 2013 you can see your work published. Online readers will decide if your work is good enough to buy, not publishing houses.

The handout I’ve given you is for you to take home and read later. If you don’t believe what I’m saying, believe what Time Magazine says about self-publishing in it’s Dec. 10, 2012 issue. Our moment is now. Let’s get started to find out how.
1. Why your life and health depend upon following your bliss
You will function more efficiently and attract more people to you if you yourself are happy. If you follow your bliss, you will be happy because you will be engaged in pursuing something that revs your engine. It’s important to go through life with your engine revving. Otherwise, you will get old and grumpy and no one will want to be around you. Don’t let that happen! Start following your bliss now and if you have no idea what or where that may be, start a blog.

Starting your own blog is FREE on wordpress.com.  If you have no writing skills whatsoever, start a pinterest account (http://www.pinterest.com) and start collecting images that please you. Pinterest is an online pinboard. It’s like a scrapbook. The act of doing this for 15-20 minutes everyday will relax you and help you better zero in on exactly what you’re all about.  It’s FREE and sooner or later you will pick up online followers with like-minded interests. You will be very happy when this starts to happen, especially if you can’t find any like-minded members of your own family.
A study was done of Minnesota nuns who had died and donated their brains for medical research. Some had Alzheimers, others had dementia, others had neither. The healthiest nuns were the ones who had a hobby completely unlike their daily jobs at the convent. For example, being an accountant and playing cello as a hobby. Or being head of the laundry by day and playing chess in one’s free time. Nuns whose hobbies most closely resembled their convent jobs were the ones most likely to have brain degeneration. In other words—mix it up to maintain your mental health. When you write, write about something entirely outside of what happens to you in your daily life.

Black is Not a Color cover mock-up 10-11-12_crop2. Why writing helps you follow your bliss
Simply put, it’s an outlet to escape from daily stress. It’s also an inlet into your inner mind, where you unlock secrets about yourself, including your own behavior and perceptions about your own life and the world around you.

3. Why you need to write as if your life depends on it
If you don’t, you will never finish a book.

4. Why you need to have a problem in order to write as if your life depends on it
You won’t have the driving force you need to niggle at you, hound, harass, and irritate you to get to your writing desk everyday. When you get there, you’ll sit down, begin, and suddenly everything bothering you in your life will disappear. TRY IT.  You will be delighted and you will become addicted to the process. I don’t mind doing social media, blogging, editing, sending out query letters, writing guest author interviews or preparing presentations like this one. But I LOVE writing books. I’m now writing the sequel to Paris Adieu and even though I’m struggling with the plot, I love the struggle. I love the entire process.

5.  Why it’s not so bad to have a problemor two—if you’re a writer
Not only is it not so bad to have a few problems to make it as a writer—it’s necessary.  If everything was going right in your life – you have enough money, free time, good health, no one is irritating you in your own family – you might start a book, but you would never finish it. Why bother? Life’s good, so you would spend your time enjoying it instead of slaving away in front of your computer.  For those of us who can’t escape our situations – not enough money, poor health, you’re in a care giving role with no end in sight – the only way to escape your present reality is to escape into your inner world by writing.  It’s free and you don’t have to go anywhere to do it.

By Deirdre Donahue, USA TODAY 10-20-11

 WASHINGTON — Writer Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Sea Biscuit, doesn’t write about what she knows. She writes about what she can never have in this life.

“I write about people and animals in motion,”says Hillenbrand, seated on a chair in the house she almost never leaves. Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), a mysterious and debilitating malady with a trivial-sounding name, has turned the 43-year-old into an unwilling recluse, a modern-day Emily Dickinson.

I agree with Laura Hillebrand’s method. Don’t write about what you know about. Write about something entirely different, using experiences you’ve had, but putting them into fictional situations. You will follow your bliss more closely if you move away from your present day reality. Adventure to a place inside where a deeper reality exists that you haven’t spent enough time getting in touch with. When you move toward that place, you will relax, become playful, and be a happier, more attractive person.

My motto is “Stay Playful.” Do I follow it all the time? No. But I’m always getting back to it. I love my motto and I like myself when I’m following my motto.Rozsa's biz card_crop

My grandmother used to say to me, “Zsa Zsa, you’re too selfish not to get your own way.” It wasn’t a nice thing to say. But I turned it around to make it an advantage, not a disadvantage. Are you selfish? Good. If you’re not selfish about taking time to follow your bliss, you’ll never find it.

Does someone in your life constantly remind you that you’re not perfect in some sort of way? Turn it around and use it to your advantage. The quality you have that makes you that way is neither negative nor positive. It’s just a quality that your Creator created you with. Use the quality to good, not bad.

Are you obsessive compulsive?  Good. You’ll finish your writing projects and be a terrific editor of your own work.

Are you a perfectionist? Good, to a point. Remember—the perfect is the enemy of the good (Voltaire). At a certain point, decide you’ve finished your book and hit the PUBLISH button on the CreateSpace platform or whatever self-publishing platform you’re using. If you can’t bear to do this, have someone in your family do it for you.  You need to finish your book and send it out into the public domain in order to be a published author. Just do it and get over yourself.

Are you selfish? Excellent. You’ll carve out writing time for yourself and let nothing and no one interfere with it. Start with carving out 30 minutes a day.

Are you angry? Wonderful. Take your anger and pour it into your writing. You’re the kind of person who can finish writing a book, because something is relentlessly driving you inside. Once you’ve finished your first book, you won’t be as angry because you’ll have a finished product outside of yourself that expresses who you are. That fact alone will dissipate your anger and motivate you to write your next book.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA6.  Fake it till you make itwhat it means for you in getting started in your writing career
It means you begin by naming your project. For example, “Dog Sitters.” The title says it all. Another example is “Wedding Crashers.” “Sudden Money” is another one. Come up with a title for your project and mention it every day. Mention it to yourself in the mirror in the morning. Then when you’ve gotten going on it, start talking about it to friends. Don’t bother to talk to your family about it. Remembera prophet gets no respect in his own land. Mention it to total strangers on the subway, in line at the supermarket, or to friends at social events. A year later, at the same event, your friends will ask, “How’s your Dog Sitters project going? Then you will be shamed into telling them something. Make sure you have something to tell them.

7. How to get started with the daily discipline of writing

Complete your projects—If your project is to write one blog post, write it from beginning to end and post it. It will take you about 30 minutes. Remember – you’re not finished until you’ve posted it. Once you’ve posted it, you’re published. If you don’t like what you wrote the next day, you can go back and edit it. Just get it out there so readers online can evaluate it.

Take a Writers Online Workshop—I’ve taken about twelve workshops over the course of four years.  Go to writersonlineworkshops and look around. Classes cost a few hundred dollars each. Every time you take a class, you get a 20% discount coupon for the next one.  Once you’ve spent the money, you’ll stay honest and do the work. If you take 12 Weeks to a First Draft, you will be forced to finish the first draft of your first book. Your instructor will critique your work, which will be valuable. Your classmates will critique your work also, which will be less valuable but still somewhat helpful. You will be on deadline and you will be strict about sticking to your deadlines (one assignment handed in every three weeks) because you paid to take the class.

Set deadlines and meet them—If you don’t meet them, set new ones and meet them. Don’t beat yourself up about the deadlines you failed to meet. Just get over it, make a new one and meet it. Then enjoy how good you feel. Wait until you publish that first book. You will feel wonderful about seeing your project through from beginning to end. So what if you only sell five copies to your friends? You are a published author. No one can ever take that away from you. It is entirely possible that one day down the line someone discovers your work and your book ends up influencing many people. This can only happen if you publish your work. If you don’t, it won’t.

When people call or interrupt you during your writing time, tell them you’re on deadline. They don’t need to know it’s your own self-imposed deadline. As far as they’re concerned it’s your editor’s deadline, or your publisher’s. It’s none of their business, and the sooner you convince yourself that you don’t need to explain your business to anyone else, the better.

If it’s your children getting into your writing space, train them. They will tell their friends, their teachers, etc. that you’re a writer, and as soon as your first book is in print, you will be. Until that time, remember your new motto: fake it till you make it. (Read Paris Adieu to learn more about this concept.) Your children will be very proud of you and you will be thrilled that they are talking about you in an identity other than as their mother or father. Not only will you feel supported by your own children in an identity outside of the parent role, but you will be providing a positive role model to them for their own successful adulthood.
If it’s your spouse or partner getting into your writing space, forget about training them. Just get rid of them as quickly as possible. Never complain, never explain. Benjamin Disraeli  said it and it’s a good piece of advice. (He’s a 19th century prime minister of England.) Just get done what needs to be done and get back to the writing. Your spouse will ultimately be happier that you’re happier when you get a chance to write. Your spouse will  recognize that if he or she doesn’t give you your writing space, he or she will pay for it in a disagreeable way. Don’t be nice and give way to anyone attempting to waste your time during your writing time. Be firm and professional. “I’m on deadline. May I get back to you when I’ve finished?” People around you will get it, sooner or later. If they don’t, move away from them. Their image of you is not your image of yourself, and your own image of yourself is more important. You don’t need to explain yourself to everyone. You just need to know who you are and what you are doing for yourself. It’s a very good thing to learn how to keep your own counsel while you are on your way to becoming the person you were meant to be. Remember—fake it till you make it.

8.  How to get started with the self-publishing process

Go to CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) and play around. You don’t have to spend anything to start your first writing project and complete the cover with CreateSpace’s free CoverCreator tool. You don’t even have to write a book. You can create and print out your cover, then tape it up next to your computer where you stare at it day after day until you’ve actually written the book that goes with the cover. For example, here’s the CoverCreator cover for Dog Sitters:

Book Cover Preview 10

Cover images – For Dog Sitters I used my own photo of our own dog. It was FREE.

Running from Love uses an image I found at dreamstime.com. It cost me $12.95. Paris Adieu‘s cover was designed by a book cover designer found by my agent. I don’t know how much it cost, but probably not more than a few hundred dollars. It was well worth it, but the point is you don’t have to spend a dime to find a cover through an online stock photography website such as dreamstime.com or weheartit.com.

Cost – CreateSpace’s basic publishing package to create a paperback version of your book is $398.  The additional cost to convert your book to a Kindle Edition e-book format to be sold on Amazon is $69.  It’s cheap. Even more importantly, the distribution channel through which to sell your book all over the world is available through Amazon. Ten years ago, no distribution channels were available at all to self-published authors. The landscape has changed. Authors, not publishing houses, are now in the driver’s seat of their own writing careers.

9.  How to market your work using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress

 You can set up an author page for your book on Facebook in 30 minutes. You can get a Twitter account in 15 minutes and start sending out tweets (messages of 140 strokes or less). If you don’t know what to tweet about, use a line from your book and follow it up with a link to where the book is sold on amazon.com.  I use a shortened link called a “bitly” which I got for free from bitly.com. Paris Adieu‘s link is amzn.to/MLX194.

A typical tweet for Paris Adieu reads like this: Paris Adieu—a literate look at an au pair coming of age in Paris. amzn.to/MLX194

A typical tweet for Running from Love reads like this:

Overcome relationship & running fears in 2013 with Running from Love http://amzn.to/PUiQWx #running #romance

Pinterest is a free online images pinboard (www.pinterest.com). A social media guru told me it’s VERY widely used by women who buy online books.

Make sure you have plug-ins on all your online sites. Plug-ins are the Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or your book cover symbols that people can click on and go directly to your page.

 Make sure your online social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, WordPress blog) all connect to each other.

If the social media stuff seems overwhelming, don’t worry. It’s actually really easy. You find either a high school student or a social media coach to set up all four sites for you. Have them walk you through how to maintain these sites yourself on an ongoing basis. I use a member of my running club from the Bronx. She charges $47 a month and offers a free consultation to get started. Here’s her website.

http://www.sus4-media.comOur mission

To help the little guy become the big guy online. Doubling your leads from the internet. Driving lots of traffic. Getting you seen, heard and experienced. We set the standard when it comes to Internet marketing.

Mandi Susman (@mandisusman) started Sus4Media in 2010 to help small, local businesses in her neighborhood thrive, not just survive, in this turbulent economic climate. Since signing her first client, she has grown Sus4Media to provide social media marketing, video marketing, mobile and text marketing and search engine optimization to small and medium sized businesses from coast to coast. Mandi’s first book, “Trade Secrets for Marketing Your Business Online” can be purchased through Amazon.com.

Final advice

Make it a priority to follow your bliss in 2013. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it, and when you get off track, fake it till you make it to get back on track again. You will be the most attractive person you can be to those around you when you follow your own bliss.

Remember this—Follow your bliss in 2013. Be your own party. Date yourself this year.

Yours playfully,

Rozsa Gaston

Paris Adieu headshot