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Author/Entrepreneur

Building a Team to Build Momentum in a Creative Business

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Building a Team to Build Momentum in a Creative Business

The “lone ranger” small business model works perfectly for some creators – those people who can successfully wear all the hats in their creative business and have no need for additional team members. But big visions require more hats – and more people to properly execute.

Sarah had a big vision:

Combine the traditional power of storytelling with the latest in touchscreen technology to create portals to the past and bring history to life at the tips of your fingers.

Her vehicle is Time Traveler Tours, a new generation of tour guides for a new generation of traveler, and Time Traveler Tales, the multi-format cousins of her story tours. Together, they #TurnHistoryOn.

Sarah’s goal is to harness cutting-edge technology for the benefit of educational tourism, bringing history to life for young people through story-driven interactive mobile tours, then...

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On Kickstarts and Finish Lines:  What a Difference a Year Makes!

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On Kickstarts and Finish Lines: What a Difference a Year Makes!

Exactly a year ago, you held the fate of a dream in your hands. We were asking for $40,000 to fund our moonshot. And in Kickstarter, if you don't reach your campaign goal, you get nothing. Now, remarkably, we are feeling the gravitational pull of the App and Google Play Stores.

Without you, we'd have never gotten our time-traveling machine off the ground!

No one's taking anything for granted, but a year on from our Kickstarter launch in May 2015, hosted by Julie Gribble and KidLit TV, we wanted to pause for a moment, take stock and recognize all of you who shared the vision strongly enough to reach out and help us cross that first finish line… before we cross the next one — toward which we inch closer every day...

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Digital Discoverability: The Importance of Reviews

I need your opinion. But first let me tell you why…

Ensuring that your digital publication—whether StoryApp, interactive eBook, or print-on-demand product—is discovered and read by customers continues to be one of the greatest challenges facing authors and publishers in the digital space today.

  • Online distribution channels are “noisy” places. They are flooded with content, not all of it good. (Some might even say most of it.)
     

  • Online distribution channels are not well organized, especially the App Store, making it difficult for publishers, both big and small, to successfully “shelve” their digital offerings for easy discovery. (In fact, it remains quite mysterious how to best choose your categories.)
     

  • Online distribution channels can be daunting for the consumer, many of whom never dig deeper than what is “fed” to them by way of top picks, editor's choices, and other recommendations.

For the producer, the mere act of being on the App or iBookstores, Google Play, or on Amazon does not mean your job is done. Far from it. You now need social proof that your content is worth someone’s attention. This involves marketing. Lots of it. Ongoingly. And for the long haul.

I can state from experience, that digital publishing, while seemingly the opportunity of our age, is not for the faint of heart.

Because the name of the game—the way to get highlighted by Apple or Amazon, for example—is through downloads, lots of them, as well as high ratings and positive reviews. The more you get, the more likely you are to hit that magical tipping point where the system works for you, so you get even more. Only then does quality content rise above and get noticed in the crowd.

Developers with big marketing budgets know this. That’s why they allocate resources in an attempt to trip the system: giving their product away in order to boost downloads and/or paying for reviews are just two examples. These practices prove my point:

To survive in the digital ecosystem, you need ratings and reviews.

Reviews, especially good ones, are a kind of social currency. If I give your book a positive review, someone else is more likely to take your book seriously, purchase it, and also post a glowing review.

Even a bad review, if well-founded, can be turned into a positive if you use it to update and improve your book or product.

True, not all good reviews guarantee quality content. Some are just plain fake. But the power of a positive review cannot be overstated.

It’s exactly this type of community engagement that has driven such powerful social engines as TripAdvisor.

So, on behalf of all content creators out there, when you buy your next favorite book or app, the one you think deserves mention, please take a moment to go back to the store where you bought it and send up a starred review.

It takes many years, a lot of faith, and valuable resources of both time and money to write a great book or to produce a winning app. Yet, it takes mere minutes to let an author or developer know how much you appreciate their efforts.

* * *

Consider adding
Beware Madame la Guillotine
to your reading list this summer.

Request your FREE pdf download
in exchange for an honest review directly on Amazon.

I will be forever grateful.

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On Revolutions and Resolutions: Best Wishes for an Abundant 2014!

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On Revolutions and Resolutions: Best Wishes for an Abundant 2014!

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Another year has come and gone. We’ve revolved once again through twelve months and four seasons. We've passed through the darkest days of winter and begun our ascent toward the longer, lighter days of summer. I already feel the days growing longer and that just makes me so glad. 

The new year brings new beginnings. It’s a time for resolving to take on new challenges and setting the goals that go will them.

But it can also bring on serious overwhelm. And who wants to start a new year feeling that?

All this resolution-making can be depressing if we approach it from a place of lack, or failure; if we reflect only what we should have done (and didn’t) or what we intended to change last year (but couldn’t manage for whatever reason).

To punctuate this year’s reVolution, I took a page out of Katie Davis’ book, literally. I looked back on the year just gone to identify my achievements, before setting my resolutions for the year ahead.

I invite you to do the same. Because one accomplishment per month is a lot to celebrate when all is said and done, even if they were unexpected!

Rather than dwell on what wasn’t, highlight instead what was. I am sure you will see, as I did, that many boxes were ticked, even if they were unplanned.

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Perhaps life intervened to take you off your original course. Maybe there were unforeseen necessary steps that had to be taken on the way to what still can be.

Don’t worry, it’s all good!

Because you’re now a bit wiser for it.

Because these achievements become the foundation stones upon which you may now climb toward your goals in 2014.

So let’s do it together --

What did you accomplish in 2013? How will that carry you through the 2014 revolution?

Download Katie's New Year gift pack today as she'll be taking it down by the end of January 2014. Let me know what you learned in the comments below! Here's mine:

January:
Epiphany brought with it the epiphany that I was wasting my time trying to market my app, and my expertise, through a company brand. So impersonal! So I decided to launch my own website under my name. And here it is!

February:
Beware Madame la Guillotine, the interactive eBook, launched in Apple’s iBook store after many months of preparation that included learning a new software application: iBooks Author.

March:
I made my first conference speaking appearance at Tools of Change in Publishing at the Bologna Children's Book Fair as part of a panel of authors and illustrators,on the topic of “publishing digitally.” I followed that with an article published in the TOC online magazine, Transforming Publishing.

April:
I recognized, once and for all, that my writer’s voice tends more toward an older audience after my agent, Erzsi Deàk, rejected yet another picture book MS. She said. “Sarah, I see you as a natural middle grade author. Don't send me any more picture books.” It was difficult to hear, especially as I'd resolved to sell my first picture book MS in 2013. But she was right. So you see, there is growth in rejection ;).

May:
I wrote my very first ever business plan, people! And if I can do that, anyone can. Even you.

June:
My pet volunteer project, The Young Authors’ Fiction Festival, which I co-coordinated with the American Library in Paris, concluded another year without a hitch and with many happy children, parents, and teachers present. I was thrilled at their collective successes.

July:
I launched my brand new website. This one!

August:
After speaking at SCBWI-LA with Julie Hedlund on crafting and submitting StoryBook Apps, I tucked in for two weeks of R&R with my loving and adorable family. It was there I found the inspiration for my first chapter book.

September:
I started teaching again after all these years – Woot! Woot! In large part thanks to this website. I'm now working regularly, teaching writing and literacy at the Roaming Schoolhouse, International School of Paris, and American Library in Paris. I also made several author visits in 2013 to The Harpeth Hall School and University School of Nashville, both in Tennessee, and St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School in Alexandria, Virginia.

October:
I finished my first full-fledged chapter book manuscript, I Call Him Griffin. It still needs more work, but hey it’s good enough to be promising. At least my agent thinks so. Contact me here if you'd like to share critiques!

November:
I traveled to the US to

  • participate in the Dust or Magic Institute;
  • meet with the various members of the future Team TTT&T (more on that in 2014);
  • make a sweep of school visits. Fun!

December:
Team TTT&T is unofficially assembled, our future development partner is secured, talks with our first client begin (more news coming soon!), and I take two whole weeks off -- two weeks people -- to enjoy the holidays and my family. I haven't done that in a very, very long time.

And here are my words for 2014:

  • Discipline
  • Patience
  • Abundance

Happy New Year to All!
And all best wishes for an abundant 2014!

Please keep us updated with all your good news throughout the year!

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Author/Entrepreneurs in the Balance

Sarah gets a wet kiss! 

Sarah gets a wet kiss! 

It’s La Rentrée in France. And I’m just back from a glorious three week break. Three weeks, people!

But during that time I could not bring myself to crack open any of the many projects I’d brought along to work on.

At first, I felt very guilty about this. Then I grew worried. Was something wrong with me?

Finally, my husband and daughter scooped me up in their loving arms and reminded me that I hadn’t allowed myself a break in a very, very, very long time. We’re talking years, folks!

Such is the life of the full-time (and then some) author/entrepreneur.

So, I gave in. I really had no other choice. 

I slept, sometimes 12 hours at a stretch, took long walks and lazy country drives. I practiced yoga and bought fresh produce right off the farm. I cooked. I ate. I read. And I slept some more.

Then an amazing thing happened: I got a story idea. An idea that has no relation of any kind with either Time Traveler Tales or Time Traveler Tours.

I spent time, every day, for the remainder of my vacation writing creatively. Improvising. Playing with words. Having fun. Because that’s what happens when you stop, make space and let inspiration happen.

And I'm thrilled to say the first draft of my new chapter book is nearly done!

I've spent so much time these past two years, since the launch of Beware Mme la Guillotine, working on my author platform: puzzling out social media, working around an editorial calendar, marketing, attending conferences, trying to make sense of the ever-evolving publishing industry, building a new website.

And it’s all been good.

But I’ve slipped up on making time for the one true thing that got me here in the first place; the one true thing I need to do to drive my writing career forward:

Writing.

I’m reminded of the advice Laurie Halse Anderson offered in her Keynote Address at SCBWI-LA 2013: that Children’s authors should seek to remain children themselves.

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We can't do that without a bit of play from time to time.

Laurie suggested we plaster our creative spaces with souvenirs of who we were as five year olds. She encouraged us to "embrace the sanctity of silliness”, because that’s what children do. Everyday. She beseeched us to “create bravely now”, like children. Because they never ask for permission to create. They just do it.

Stop worrying about your platform, she spat. (Literally. She hocked a super loogey. And spat. Right on the stage floor. I kid you not!) And write, she implored.

I loved these words then, and I love them now. But I can only partially agree with them. For those of us who have not yet been discovered -- who have not yet broken out, who do not yet have numerous award-winning books to our names -- we don’t have the luxury of spitting on our author platforms. We have to worry about them. And we need give them time them everyday.

But we must not get sucked up by them.

We need to find that balance between creativity and career.

Balance can be so difficult in our profession. Finding creative time versus career time versus family time, etc., requires clever scheduling, knowing one’s best work habits and constant discipline.

In the midst of it all, we must not forget our own down time. We owe it to ourselves. Every year. Every week. Every day.

For that’s when inspiration happens.

How do you find balance? How do make time for both creativity and career?

Please click ‘comments’ at the right and offer your tips and advice, for my benefit and the benefit of all author/entrepreneurs.

Merci et Bonne Rentrée!
May the 2013-14 school year be OUR year!


Bisous (big kiss), Sarah

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