Writing Inspiration Round-Up: Maya Angelou, Bears, and Idleness

Sometimes the key to writing is in finding the right inspiration to keep you going, to get you through that next blank page, to give you the fodder you need to build that next character.

So, as we do sometimes here on the Winning Edits blog, this post is made for exactly that:

To inspire you!


Writing Inspiration Round-Up

1. Be a Writer-In-Residence at the Mall Of America

Yes, we said that correctly. That gargantuan mall in Minnesota, the one you visit to escape the frigid death-snows of MN winter, is seeking a writer-in-residence to capture the magic of the mall for its 25th anniversary. Cinnabon included? There's a chance!

The point is, it could be a fascinating and inspiring writing adventure. And what’s the point of being a writer if you’re not going to be an explorer? Go explore!

2. George Plimpton Interviews Maya Angelou

In all my work, in the movies I write, the lyrics, the poetry, the prose, the essays, I am saying that we may encounter many defeats—maybe it’s imperative that we encounter the defeats—but we are much stronger than we appear to be and maybe much better than we allow ourselves to be.

Maya Angelou said that to George Plimpton in an interview in 1988. The hour-long conversation is available for your listening pleasure right now here. It’s truly awesome. There is no one so inspiring as Maya Angelou. No one, we say!

3. Big (Like Huge) Magic

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a book called Eat, Pray, Love. You may have heard of it! She just published another book, Big Magic, that is, according to our own Jennifer Snyder, bonkers inspiring for writers and creatives like yourself.

Embrace curiosity, let go of needless suffering, and the the necessary habits to fulfill our creative lives. Sounds pretty amazing to us!

4. Write Like an Adorable Bear

Okay, bears can’t really write. That would be terrifying. Way too many sad “Where have all the fish gone?” journal entries. But you can write with Bear (not the animal; the app!). Matt says it’s a wildly nifty new markdown-driven writing app he uses all the time.

It’s beary good if you ask us.

5. Bruce Lee on Being vs. Having

Not only was Bruce Lee a kick-ass martial arts master, he was also incredibly introspective when it comes to personal development, authenticity, and how our minds affect us—all of which are integral components of being a creative human, developing that creative muscle, and succeeding as creatives.

His letters to himself are worth reading, especially this here:

Where some people have a self, most people have a void, because they are too busy in wasting their vital creative energy to project themselves as this or that, dedicating their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like rather than actualizing their potentiality as a human being.

6. Moving Paper Forward

One thing we like to do as a team when we’re in the same room is to use a whiteboard for idea brainstorming. Also to play hangman. But mostly brainstorming. Often times one of us takes a picture of the whiteboard at the end of our sessions so we can make sure we don’t lose it all.

But that’s a little clunky. So, Janna just discovered this neat tool called Scannable that makes it super easy to capture notes and transform them into high-quality scans you can share seamlessly.

7. Rejuvenate with Idleness

And, finally, sometimes—when we’ve had a day of writing, our hands are tired, our minds frazzled, our metaphor jar empty—we need to find a bit of time for idleness.

We hope this has inspired you to keep writing, keep creating, keep being as cool as you are.

Source: Incidental Comics by Grant Snider

Source: Incidental Comics by Grant Snider

Happy writing!

Want more inspiration? Follow us on Twitter @WinningEdits!

3 Pre-Book Launch Marketing Tips for Busy Authors

This post comes from Senior Strategist Jennifer Snyder who recently self-published her first book, 100 Days of Discussion, and enjoyed the pre-launch process more than she expected.

Writing a book can be a daunting task. As authors and content creators, ourselves, we know how much work goes into finishing a manuscript. We also know that writing the book is the part of the book launch iceberg everyone can see. What often goes unnoticed are the marketing elements at play well before a book is launched.

If you’re writing and publishing a book, here are three simple steps you can take to start marketing your book now—before you’ve even sent the draft to your editor.

Create a landing page on your website.

A landing page is exactly as it sounds—it’s a place for people to land when they want to find out more about your forthcoming book. Because you’re still writing the book, you can keep this page fairly simple! We recommend sharing a blurb that helps readers understand the premise of the book, a link to the book waiting list we mentioned below, a few essential takeaways for readers, and any cover art or photos you have to help show readers what they can expect from the book.

The key is to entice your audience. What makes your book special? Why should they read it? You put in all this amazing effort to create something cool. Show them how cool it will be!

Rarity is stressed out! Because she doesn't have a pre-book launch marketing plan. :D Source: My Little Pony Wiki. 

Rarity is stressed out! Because she doesn't have a pre-book launch marketing plan. :D Source: My Little Pony Wiki. 

Start a book waiting list.

Do you already have an email list? Good! You’re ahead of the game. If you don’t, we highly recommend starting one. An email list can be used for many purposes, but we’ve had success creating buzz for a book by creating a list specifically for those interested in getting book news and updates. If you start this list early enough, you could build an audience of people who are simply waiting for you to finally publish that book so they can turn around and buy it!

Remember, too, your book waiting list doesn't have to be gargantuan. A small, passionate group of interested book nerds is all you need. If your book topic is intriguing enough—and we have no doubt that it is—more and more people will come. After all, if you write it, they will come.

Begin sharing information about your book on social media.

Whether you’re soliciting honest feedback about characters or simply sharing your process, readers love getting a behind-the-scenes look at what you’re creating. Doling out information bit by bit is a great way to gauge interest in the book, let your readers know how much effort you’re putting into your work, and to uncover the often mysterious act of writing a book.

Instagram is a great place for sharing book cover progress, or book art. Try Facebook for a bit more long-form engagement like having your audience take part in a creative exercise. On Twitter, try a poll!

Keep in mind that all of the tips above are connected! When you share your behind-the-scenes snippets on social media, be sure to link to your landing page and let your fans know they can sign up for the book waiting list to get exclusive news and updates. Fans who have a connection to the book and the author behind it are always more inclined to support the project once the book is published and, when it comes to book marketing, letting readers know that they are both appreciated and in-the-know is the ultimate goal.

And hey, we just wanted to say that what you're doing, writing a book, is awesome. Not everyone can do that. Keep it up, and we can't wait to read it! 

Say hello to us on Twitter @WinningEdits.

Want to work with us? Connect with us here.

Oh, and if you're curious to learn more about the more extensive book launch marketing we crafted for Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, you can here! 

Creating and Promoting from a Place of Abundance

This post comes from Senior Strategist Jennifer Snyder who attempts to live her life and approach her work from a place of abundance. She sometimes fails, but she also believes that the magic is often found in the attempt.

Tell us if these phrases sound familiar:

“There’s never enough time to get it all done. How does anyone get everything done?”

“How on earth am I supposed to land that big press interview over that other author?”

“I tested my idea, but what if nobody buys my product?”

“What if my book never sees the light of day?”

We’ve all been there. We’ve all told ourselves that our competitors are faster, better, and luckier than us. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’ll never reach that deadline. We’ve worried that work would dry up.

However, what we’ve found to be true is this: if we reframe our mindset from one of scarcity to one of abundance, we’re able to not only reframe the challenges we face, but we also end up with better results from our work.

At the core of the issue of scarcity is one very tricky emotion: fear.

When it comes to creating and promoting work, fear doesn’t always manifest in ways that resemble true terror. Instead, it manifests in roadblocks like procrastination, the delay in sending that scary email, comparison to others instead of keeping our eyes on our own paper, and misunderstanding our audience.

If we reframe our thoughts and our words to come from a place of abundance, many of those roadblocks go away or we simply discover that they hold less power over us and our work. In fact, we’ve found that by reframing our thoughts we end up back the driver’s seat with more control than ever.

Take the above phrases for example. Let’s rework them to come from a place of abundance:

“There is enough time to get this done.” I’m going to revisit my timeline to see if I’m being realistic with my deadlines, the capabilities of my staff, and the resources available to me .”

“Even if I don’t land that big interview, other interviews might be possible! I’m going to do a bit more media and public relations research to see if I’ve reached out to all of the right people.”

“I have faith in my idea brainstorming and product testing. People will buy this product. If they don’t, I’ll get great data on how to improve it.”

"My book will be published in one way or another. If I don’t land a traditional publishing deal now, I can try again sometime in the future or opt for self-publishing or another non-traditional model."

With an abundance mindset, anything is possible—not because there is magic to be found in the concept of abundance, but because thinking about creating great work and sharing it with the world in a positive way sheds light on just how much control we have over the fate of our life’s work.

Now it's your turn! How has creating and promoting from a place of abundance helped you? Any tips you'd like to share? We'd love to hear from you!

Say hello to the team on Twitter @WinningEdits.

How to Write a Book Proposal (if You Plan on Publishing Your Book)

This post comes from Managing Editor Janna Maron, who has helped guide several Winning Edits clients through writing book proposals.

How do I write a book proposal?

So you want to try to get a traditional book publishing deal. When you’re writing a nonfiction book, the standard operating procedure for most publishers is to consider book proposals rather than complete manuscripts. This could potentially be both good and bad news, depending on where you are in your writing process.

If you have an idea for a book but have not yet started writing, the good news is that you don’t need to write the entire manuscript before trying to get a publisher to pick it up. This route may end up saving you a lot of time and heartache if it turns out that selling your idea is harder than you thought. Conversely, if you already have a complete draft, the potential bad news is that there is more work ahead of you with compiling your proposal before you have something publishers are willing to consider. 

Why is a book proposal necessary?

You may be wondering why publishers don’t just want to see the entire book right up front before deciding whether they will publish it or not. What many writers don’t realize is that publishers are in the business of selling books. So that means they are much more interested in the target market, the author’s platform, other books that have done well in your niche, how you plan to promote and contribute to the marketing of your book once it’s published—those are all the factors that will give publishers an idea of how many books they will sell if they do end up picking up your manuscript.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

Image courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

What does a book proposal entail? 

Regardless of whether you have a manuscript draft or not, you’ll need to start with a book proposal if you intend to shop it around. Yes, some writers may sign with a literary agent who can help with the book proposal and then will handle the process of pitching it to publisher. But it is still a good idea for authors to understand what goes into writing a stellar book proposal. The important thing to remember, as I mentioned, is that in order to sell your book to a publisher, you need to give them as much detailed information on what will help them sell your book. So think about things like your platform and your network. Here are some questions to get your wheels turning:

  1. How engaged is your audience and how can you activate them to spread the word about your book?
  2. If you have a blog, how many subscribers or monthly visitors do you have?
  3. If you have an email list, how many subscribers are on it?
  4. If you have your own podcast, how many monthly downloads do you get?
  5. If you have published a book previously, self-published or traditional, how many copies have you sold?
  6. If you are on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc., how many followers do you have on each platform?
  7. Who do you know that would be willing to partner with you to promote your book or interview you on their podcast?
  8. Are you willing to travel and put on your own book tour?
  9. What creative ideas do you have that will be of interest to a publisher’s marketing plan?

What are the components of a book proposal?  

Think of your book proposal as a written sales pitch. If you had an opportunity to get in front of a room full of publishers who may or may not make you an offer at the end of your presentation, what would you include in your pitch, and what would you say?

In our experience, the basic components of a book proposal include:

  1. Overview: one part introduction to the book, two parts overview of your proposal
  2. Promotion: how you, the author, will promote the book
  3. Affiliations: others who would support the launch, with qualifications
  4. Additional promotional possibilities: any other opportunities for marketing you have
  5. Potential pre-sales marketing plan: e.g., book bundle tiers and bonuses you can offer to generate buzz before the book is published
  6. Market description: your target audience and the type of media they consume
  7. Author bio: about you and your credentials for writing this book
  8. Related books: similar titles in your niche and how well they have performed
  9. Publishing details: timeline for completing your manuscript
  10. Detailed book structure: complete table of contents plus a sample chapter

Fully fleshing out each one of these sections usually ends up being somewhere around thirty to fifty pages, and you can see that the bulk of the proposal focuses heavily on the marketing and promotion opportunities that you bring to the table—it’s 80 percent about the marketing of your book and 20 percent about the book itself.

You might be thinking that all this talk about market description and promotion opportunities sounds an awful lot like a business plan and, well, you’d be right. Buying a book idea from an author is a business decision for publishers—remember, they are in the business of selling books. Before they take on the risk of publishing your book, they need information to help them decide if the numbers make sense.

You could have the best book concept in the world and if the numbers don’t pencil out then your chances of getting a deal are slim. This is why there is so much emphasis on authors building a platform and an engaged audience even before they have written a book. If you can start thinking about your book as a component of your larger business, you’ll be one step ahead of most authors and set up for success when you’re ready to sit down and tackle your book proposal. 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about writing your own book proposal, we're here to help. Please let us know my commenting below or saying hello to us here

And, as always, if you feel like taking a break from writing your book proposal and want to exchange puppy gifs, we're @WinningEdits on Twitter. :D

Our Favorite Books, Gadgets, & Tools of 2016

It’s our favorite time of year!

And that’s not strictly because we start compiling our “Must Read Books” list for next year, or because we get to watch our dogs treat snowfall as though it were a manic cornucopia of never-before-seen chew toys falling from the sky.

Don’t get us wrong. We love making book lists (and then consequently failing to read all of the books we want to read, getting sad and reminding ourselves that it’s a good problem to have: all the great books, so little time, a vicious cycle bibliophiles understand deeply). And, yes, dogs in snow is as joyful to watch as just about anything.

The main reason this is our favorite time of year is simple:

End of year lists!

So, with this post, we’re going to be creating our own end of year list, with a few of our favorite things from 2016 (note: these lists could also include holiday gift ideas too!).

But, before we get into that, let’s do a quick roundup some 2016 end of year/holiday gift lists we are adoring:

Okay, now it’s time for our end of the year list! For this list, each Winning Edits team member will list a couple of different things (books, gadgets, tools, etc.) that made an impact on their 2016 in some way. These “things” are important to us. They serve us in our personal lives as well as our work lives, and we feel happy about sharing that with you.

So, let’s get to sharing!

The Winning Edits 2016 Favorite Books, Gadgets, and Tools

Jennifer’s Favorite Book of 2016:

I love reading about why others do what they do, the lessons they've learned, and their overall process. In her latest book, In the Company of Women, Grace Bonney did an excellent job highlighting a diverse group of women whose work speaks for itself.

For example, she interviewed Nikki Giovanni, who is a poet and professor in Virginia, and her pull quote hit me right in the heart. She says, "All mistakes teach us something, so there are, in reality, no mistakes. Just things we learn."

Right after that quote hit me in the heart, my head got on board and started nodding in agreement. It's sometimes hard not to kick ourselves when we mess up, but I love the idea that mistakes are allowed—encouraged, even—as long as we learn from them.

Buy your copy of In the Company of Women here!

Janna’s Favorite Tool of 2016:

When I discovered the Bullet Journal I immediately took to the flexible system it offers to organize monthly goals, daily tasks, and to track progress toward goals or habits.

There’s an official Bullet Journal book, but it’s more than just the journal itself. It’s a method that people have adopted and customized based on all different types of ideas and projects. There’s an entire community around it, and it’s particularly popular in the crafty DIY world, which isn’t necessarily my thing. I keep mine more simple. But I think that’s what makes it such a great method: you can adopt it and make it work for you however you want.

There are tons of YouTube videos of people showing how they use it and the hashtags #bulletjournal and #bujo are also super popular for sharing photos of different implementations.

Try out the Bullet Journal yourself!

Photo via the Bullet Journal Blog.

Photo via the Bullet Journal Blog.

Mindy’s Favorite Gadget and Book of 2016:

10% Happier by Dan Harris came out in 2014, but I read it in 2016. It’s my favorite book that I read this year. It’s about a skeptical journalist’s path into a meditation practice, and I found it very entertaining. While I’m interested in adopting meditation as a practice, there are a lot of elements of it that make me hesitant—and Dan hits on every one of them in his book. Will I lose the nervous edge that keeps me running? Do I really want to hear what my brain has to say if I turn off all distractions? Will I become a bore at parties because I talk too much about meditation?

Buy your copy of 10% Happier here!

Because I’ve already extolled the virtues of YouTube Red on the Winning Edits blog (No commercials! More app features! Unlimited music streaming!), my favorite tool of 2016 is my very favorite pen, the Lamy Al-Star Fountain Pen (I prefer the fine nib) with an ink refill converter.

I’m very picky about pens, and I used to switch pens styles constantly, trying to find the perfect pen. This is it: lightweight aluminum with a wide barrel means it’s more comfortable than a disposable pen for longer writing projects. With the converter, I have to fill the ink about once a week; I’ve been using the pen for three years and I’m still on my first pot of ink. After three years of use, the pen’s purple paint is getting a bit chipped, but the nib is still in great shape and the cap still closes with a satisfying clip.

It’s a great entry-level fountain pen. With a pot of ink and the converter, it’ll cost you about $45—considering how much I used to spend each year trying out different rollerball pens, I’ve saved money.

Get a fun writing tool for yourself here!

Non’s Favorite App and Book of 2016:

I just started meditating this year for the first time. It’s been a challenge to maintain my discipline with it, especially when my dog thinks it’s play time or, even more distracting, fart time. 

But despite the challenges to adopt it with regularity, and the sometimes overwhelming anxiety or depression that get in the way, I’ve pushed through and now have a semi-regular relationship with meditation thanks to a cool app called Headspace.

I dig Headspace because it’s simple. I didn’t want anything that would be too complicated or that would seem judgmental in some way. I just need a kind, understanding robot telling me what to do: Breathe in. Breathe out. Please refrain from thinking about New Comic Book Day. Breathe in. Breathe out.

The results so far? Honestly, I’m getting much better at being present, and avoiding the anxiety trap of future thinking and “Why on earth did I do that thing?” thinking. I’d recommend it for any humans, but since I’m speaking to you, I’d certainly recommend to writers, entrepreneurs, and authors whose lives tend to be a bit more frantic (like mine!).

Get your Headspace on here.

Photo via Headspace.com

Photo via Headspace.com

As for my favorite book of 2016, I have so many of them. Don’t you realize that’s like narrowing down your favorite particle of air to breathe? Gosh. So, I’m going to just list one of my favorites; not the favorite, as that’s impossible.

But the one book I will mention is Not a Self-Help Book: The Misadventures of Marty Wu by Yi Shun Lai. Full disclosure: Yi Shun is a friend of mine, so that may be construed as bias. But hear me out, please.

Not a Self-Help Book is a beautifully written novel about a Taiwanese woman named Marty Wu. Yi Shun describes the book as Bridget Jones’s Diary meets The Joy Luck Club. And that’s a perfect description. The book is hilarious and lyrical. It’s inspiring and heartfelt. It’s best trait is that it is a wholly human coming-of-age story about self-discovery and identity. And you should read it.

Buy your copy of Not a Self-Help Book here!

Matt’s Favorite Sleep Hacks & Tools of 2016:

Power naps are absolutely essential to my optimal daily productivity. When I’m “on,” I take a nap somewhere between 1-3 p.m. for precisely 20 minutes. This amount of time is proven, scientifically, to be enough to refocus brain activity while not allowing the brain to drop too deeply into REM sleep patterns, which are difficult to awake from. I can easily extend my working day by 90 minutes with one 20 minute nap . . . and the quality of all of my working hours are noticeably better as a direct result.

Consistency is key; taking regular strategic naps daily makes each successive day that much more focused, productive, and positive. When I “fall off the bandwagon” of this daily habit, it absolutely affects my mood, productivity, and focus, and negatively so at that. This concept of a strategic daily “mental reboot” plays into polyphasic sleep theory, which I believe in. It supports related evidence about the power of a daily meditation.

Within that universe, I have grown to rely on the Bedtime feature of the latest version of iOS, which more easily allows you to plan your sleep patterns in REM cycles as well as the brain.fm website/mobile app, which optimizes musical patterns to match your preferred working mode.

Sleep FTW!

Learn more about iOS 10’s Bedtime feature here, and brain.fm here.

Holiday gift ideas. Ways to make your 2017 more awesome. Insight into how we editorial nerds operate. Whatever you take away from this, we hope you enjoyed our end of year list!

As a recap, here are all of the items:

Do you have any favorite books, tools, apps, or hacks you discovered in 2016? We’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

Work with us!