Saturday, February 23, 2019

Why Self-Publishing Shouldn't Equal DIY

As someone who has self-published, I've seen a vast variety of self-published products on the market. Some are brilliant and could easily pass for traditional in both popularity and quality. (Hello, some are being made into movies now?!) Others sit in a dusty corner of Amazon and looking at them makes me think rightly so. That second category is part of why I would argue that self-publishing should not equal a DIY project.

The very things that drew me to self-publishing were the control, speed, and low cost. What better way to have even more control, efficiency, and savings than by doing everything myself? No. No no no. That thought never even entered my head!

I didn't set out to self-publish because I was a cover designer, editor, and interior formatter (all of which I paid for by the way). I set out to self-publish because I was a writer. Not just that, but a writer hoping to make her name for herself as an author.

In order to make a name for yourself, you have to make a good impression. As materialistic as that may sound, it's a reality. And to one degree, it makes sense because quality talks. I mean, Mary Poppins can sing "a cover is not the book" all she wants, but I'm here to tell ya that people are hardwired to think otherwise. Myself included.

I find it unfortunate that self-publishing often turns people into a jack-of-all-trades, because that often sacrifices quality. If you have true talent as a cover designer, then I think the argument can be made that you're worthy to do your own cover. Other than that, stick to writing and writing only.

I think everyone who publishes can say professionalism is the goal. (If it's not then you can disregard everything else I say here today.) This quite simply means that you should be paying the professionals. I don't mean spending $5,000 on a single book. There are talented people out there with reasonable prices if you look hard enough!

I die a little bit on the inside every time I see a new book with a pencil drawing cover. Or maybe it has a beautiful watercolor cover and the grammar rules have hit the fan. Maybe it's simply ugly to look at on the page. Whatever the issue is, it will have an impression on all your readers! I die a little bit not because it's so bad, but because it could have been so much better. Instead, it's wasted potential.

Even though I know it can be hard to consider having to pay for so much when the return may not be great, think about it like this. How much we value our book should show. I would argue that means we should shell out some money to make it look professional. You've worked hard on the words inside, so don't sell yourself short of the whole package.

As overwhelming as that may be to some of you new writers, have no fear! There's such a community to be found of people willing to give you a helping hand. Farming out jobs doesn't even always mean you're paying. I used my uncle who had tech/photo skills to do the font design on my cover. In future, I'll probably have photography friends help me put together a book trailer. By all means, use what resources you have. But please don't use resources you don't have.

After all, this self-publishing thing is a great opportunity, don't you think? As such, we should bring  a good name to it. Let's be honest, the bad rap exists because bad self-published books exist. But let's not do the snobs any favors by contributing the pile of "meh" self-published books.

Don't we want to give our hard the work the best leg up possible? Of course! To me, that means doing a stellar job on all fronts, even if it costs a little more time and money.

If that's not enough for you, I think we can all agree that writing is a gift from God. Don't we want to do our best to bring Him glory? Yes of course! It's simply the nature of the world that people will be more inclined to listen to your message if it comes in a pretty package. And it's simply the nature of God to expect nothing but our very, very best.

Now simple doesn't mean easy, so it's fine if this sounds like a lot to you. But, trust me as someone who's come out on the other side twice now, no one has ever regretted making their work the best it could be.
I hope that didn't come off condescending and instead gave you a perspective for why self-publishing can be so good! What are your thoughts on why quality matters? Does this seem obvious or was something new to you here?

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Creating Content that Sparks!

So excited to have a guest post from my friend Livy Lynn today! She's a sweet young woman doing amazing things (and I just might get to meet her this year?!). Check out these wise words, a giveaway, and her launch of a new blogging course! Without further ado ...

Words are powerful little tools. With them, wars are waged, minds are changed, and cultures are formed. Every word has the potential to flicker like a flame and set the world ablaze.

As a blogger and novelist, my life pretty much revolves around words. Each time I sit down to write a post, I ask myself, “How can I create content that sparks? How can I write a piece that will touch hearts, change lives, inspire my readers to action, etc?”

Today, we’re going to be answering this question.

Creating blog posts that readers truly value is something every blogger strives for! We want our readers to be delighted, connect with us on a personal level, and keep coming back for more!

The first thing to discuss while exploring this topic is to realize that each post serves a different purpose. Sometimes we wish to encourage and inspire our readers them, other times we want them to laugh, or check out a book we can’t stop fangirling over!  

When we sit down to write, it’s important to know the purpose for our post, and what we desire the end result to be in our readers' minds and heart.

Let’s talk about three different kinds of digital content. Now, there are certainly more than three types of blog posts, but I’ve found that most every post can be categorized by these three umbrella categories.
  1. Connection Content
  2. Viral Content 
  3. Monetized Content 

Let’s take a closer look at each of these and find out how you can create that sparks!

1. Connection Content

Connection content is a post focused on connecting with the heart of your readers. Being yourself, opening up, sharing a struggle, or something God is teaching you through your own life: those are all Hallmarks of connection content. Your readers want to know you: the real you.

Anytime you open up and are truly yourself, truly vulnerable, readers respond to that.  

On the internet, oftentimes all we see are highlight reels of all the exciting, Instagram-worthy happenings in the lives of others. It’s easy to place internet-personalities on a pedestal and forget that they struggle just as much as we do.

Many bloggers who build up faithful followings over the years, do so by being REAL with their readers.

On the flip side, we’ve all seen online personalities take this to the extreme. Talk about being real, and we all think of that one friend who never stops posting about their bad days, or the YouTuber who is endlessly venting about their woes. That is not what I’m encouraging us to do. If we’re going to be real about what we’re going through, we have to do so with an air of grace and a HUGE dose of hope at the end! Nobody wants to hear another sob story without a happy ending. Remind your readers why you’re sharing your current struggles and the beauty you believe will come out of it.

Connection posts, if done correctly, can truly SPARK and fling open a door to connect on a heart-to-heart level with your readers! One of my favorite way to do connection posts is by sharing what God’s been teaching me in my Quiet Time and through my current season in life.

2. Viral Content

We often think of viral content as something that’s gone viral, spun out of control in popularity and practically broke the internet! And while that’s true in some cases, the reality is, most of us are not going to write posts that do that.

The majority of bloggers don’t write posts that sky-rocket them to blogging fame. The most common path bloggers travel upon, is one that requires slow, faithful, consistency.

So when I refer to viral content, maybe a better phrase would be, “potential viral content”. In other words, posts that have the potential to be passed around, posted, shared, re-tweeted, etc.

Do you remember the last time someone shared your post on Facebook or Twitter? Do you remember what it was about, or why they shared it?

If you’ve never had anyone share your posts before: don’t be discouraged! The majority of your readers are silent admirers, they will never comment on your blog or share posts, but there are some people who will! So if you haven’t seen that happen yet, hang in there. :)

Not everyone is going to feel the urge to share a connection post on their social media, but they might want to share a post that discusses a trending topic, is perhaps a little controversial in a unique niche, or discusses a fun concept, but with a fresh, creative twist!

One example of potential viral content would be my post: If Disney Invaded Your Youth Group because my readers go to youth group, and love Disney, they totally enjoyed this comedic take on what might happen if these two worlds unexpectedly mesh together!

Another example of potentially viral content is an interview with a celebrity, artist, musician, author, or someone who has a larger platform than you. If your readers love for King and Country or the Willis Clan, they’re going to be really excited about your interview, and potentially want to share it!

Potential viral content can also include hot news topics, popular Google searches, or keyword focused pages, but those are just a few examples.

Are you beginning to see how having a mix of heartfelt, connection content, along with fun, pop-culture (or book culture, whatever you’re into), potentially viral content, makes a delicious mix for readers?

3. Monetized Content

Finally, we have monetized content. This is a post style many bloggers avoid, or simply don’t think about. For most writers, blogging begins as a hobby and the idea of earning income from our blogs either isn’t important to us, or it seems impossible. Or maybe you’ve seen longtime bloggers suddenly switch gears and try to turn their blog into a business, and they’ve done it totally ungracefully, and it’s left a really sour, commercialized taste in your mouth.

One of the reasons that happen, is because hobby-bloggers aren’t creating monetized content, then when they suddenly whip out links to their new affiliate program, everyone is totally blindsided by the shift.

If the idea of earning income from your blog makes you uneasy, because you don’t want to sell out or lose the trust of your readers: that’s a good thing! That means you actually CARE about your readers. And the simple fact that you have the heart to always place your readers first, tells me you can earn income from your blog, in a really beautiful, natural, organic way.

So how can you do that?

I would encourage you to consider adding a new style of posts to your line up: monetized content. Monetized content is simply a post which gives you the potential to earn income from it, through affiliate links, sponsored posts, or brand partnerships.

But here’s the really cool part: you can start doing this before you ever sign up for an affiliate program or begin exploring how to earn income from your blog. By sharing your honest opinions on products, books, music, movies, restaurants, etc. (whatever your unique niche is!) your readers will get used to seeing these kinds of posts. In fact, if you add review posts to your blog on a regular basis, your readers won’t just be used to seeing them: they’ll love seeing them! They’ll know you’re the place to come when they want opinions on a book, hair product, etc.

Monetized content can totally spark and delight your readers! If you do this before you start partnering with brands and affiliate programs, your readers won’t be surprised when they learn you’re earning income from these posts. It will also give brands a “portfolio” of how you do reviews, what your style is, and what they can expect when they work with you.

If the idea of monetizing your website excites you, I would encourage you to start adding reviews to your line-up!

Once you’ve got a fun, colorful, tasty mixture of connection content (your readers trust you!), viral content (new readers are finding you!), and monetized content (they value your opinion on products, brands, and services), then you’re ready to slowly begin earning income from all your hard work! How cool is that?

Brainstorm Your Next Blog Posts!

Are you ready to start brainstorming your next blog posts? It’s not nearly as daunting as you may think! Simply grab a notebook and a pen, and divide your paper into three columns, one for each category, Connection, Viral, and Monetized. OR, take the easy route and use this free printable that I made just for you guys! :)

Write down ten ideas for each category and remember to keep the purpose for each post in mind before you even pick up your pen.

Ready to rock and roll? Woohoo! You’re well on your way to creating 30 new, sparkling blog posts your readers are going to ADORE!
Are you a new or aspiring blogger? Or maybe you’ve been blogging for years and the idea of learning how to earn income on your website sounds really appealing. But where do you even begin? I’m SO excited to share my 20 Day video series for bloggers! It’s called Fire Starter: Launching a Blog that Blazes! This interactive course teaches bloggers (both old and new) how to create their dream blog or website, monetize their site, AND give them all the tools, encouragement, and support needed to be truly successful on their journey! The Fire Starter course is listed at $150.00 but I would love to share my special code with you to get $100 off! You can check that out HERE.

To celebrate the release of Fire Starter, I’m giving away a free Skype Session to talk about blogging goals, writing advice, and how to take your blog to the next level! (Or, if you’re too shy to video chat, we can totally do it over email.) My sweet friend Bella and I love coaching bloggers and authors through our Cheerleader Sessions! This is our first time giving away a free session and we’re SO excited!

Entering for a chance to win is super simple! Just hop on over to my blog and sign up for my free email updates (and I’ll throw in a free e-book, just to say thanks!) and you’re all set!

Keep writing, friends!

Lots of love,

~Livy Lynn

Livy Lynn is a twenty-something author, singer, and songwriter. She enjoys crafting YA fiction that is pure, lovely, inspirational, and of course, entertaining! When she’s not writing, you can usually find her playing guitar, blogging, drinking peppermint tea, connecting with new friends, planning her next trip to Disney, or pinning images of Europe and Golden Retriever Puppies!

Come get connected at

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Personality Typing Characters

I love personality typing main characters (and feel like maybe this is unique to me). I can't think of a more fun thing to do to really get in the head of a character! This is also something great if you tend to create cookie-cutter characters.

Using Anne Bogel's book Reading People as my model (which you should read if you are even remotely curious about personality), I'm going to show you how to use four personality breakdowns for your characters! Please realize that this is really just me paraphrasing her (and she's paraphrasing others).

~ Love Languages ~
This one is super simple for any character! Whether you're writing romance or not, knowing how your character feels appreciated and shows their appreciation to others is good info. Besides, different love languages is a great way to cause conflict. People don't feel and show love in the same way!

The five love languages are 
  1. words of affirmation (verbal praise and encouragement)
  2. quality time (singled-out attention)
  3. giving and receiving gifts (cards, a note, something just because)
  4. acts of service (voluntarily doing things for someone else's benefit)
  5. physical touch (touch when speaking, hugs)
These are all pretty self-explanatory. Typically, the one that makes you feel the most loved/appreciated is the one you're also going to use to express your love.

For a character, consider whether their go-to expression is words, time/attention, presents, serving, or touching. Don't forget that children have love languages too! It's important to tune in to other's love language and give them what they need, not just what you feel like giving ... if you want harmony. In a book, this is a great way to cause some misunderstandings and miscommunications. ;)

~ Keirsey's Temperaments ~
Breathe easy--there are only four of these, and it comes down to what you say and do. It's the simplest way to group personalities if you're into basic. These also revolutionized the way I approach Myers-Briggs! 

Artisans say what is and do what works. They make "playful mates, creative parents, and troubleshooting leaders." They're one of the most creative types who have to have excitement in their lives. (ESTP, ISTP, ESFP, ISFP)

Guardians say what is and do what's right. They make "loyal mates, responsible parents, and steadying leaders." They're the most common type with good work ethic and logic. (ESTJ, ISTJ, ISFJ, ESFJ)

Idealists say what could be and do what's right. They make "intense mates, nurturing parents, and inspirational leaders." They're highly empathetic, like to find meaning in things, and think everyone is special. (ENFJ, INFJ, ENFP, INFP)

Rationals say what could be and do what works. They make "reasonable mates, individualizing parents, and strategic leaders. They're the rarest type and taken to be distant and calculating, but don't care about political correctness. (ENTJ, INTJ, ENTP, INTP)

~ Myers-Briggs ~
Trust me, find your character's Keirsey temperament first. Then you'll only have to choose from four Myers-Briggs types instead of all sixteen!

The Myers-Briggs alphabet soup breaks down like this:
Extrovert OR Introvert
Sensing OR iNtuitive
Feeling OR Thinking
Perceiving OR Judging

Use this Pinterest picture to determine what those terms really mean. Once you have an alphabet soup combination, put the MBTI type into Pinterest to have endless "what this type does when ..." These are both fun and helpful!

If you want to type yourself, I suggest using the Myers-Briggs cognitive functions after this step to make sure you're 100% spot on! You could also take this full test. It pegged me correctly even when I thought otherwise. ;)

~ Enneagram ~
This is a newer-to-me personality type. It doesn't correspond to any of the others, but it's an easier way to break down personality types for some people, as there are only nine of them. Everyone has a primary type (say it's the number 3) and then a secondary or "wing" type. Statistically, the wing type is almost always a number next to your primary (in this case either 2 or 4).

Here's the breakdown of the Enneagram types according to Anne Bogel:
  1. Reformer (need to be perfect)
  2. Helper (need to be needed)
  3. Achiever (need to succeed)
  4. Individualist (need to be special)
  5. Investigator (need to perceive)
  6. Loyalist (need for security)
  7. Enthusiast (need to avoid pain)
  8. Challenger (need to be against)
  9. Peacemaker (need to avoid)
Despite the different names people give them, the concept is always the same! Knowing even just a character's primary type could help you map out their motivations. 

There are also pros and cons of each that can be explored more in-depth, as every type is linked to another number when stressed and yet another when growing. I've taken this quick test and recommend this website for more information.
What's your personality type?? Have you ever typed a character? Remember that these are potential tools to create variety, not to put characters or real people into stuffy little boxes. <3 div="">

((Just for fun, my love language is quality time, and I'm a Guardian which confirmed I'm an ISTJ. I've been told my enneagram is a 5 wing 6, but I also have a lot of 1.))

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Outlining for Those Who Hate It

There is continual debate on what sort of pre-writing methods are the best. Some people like to plot; some people avoid it at all costs. It really depends on the writer! Every now and then a writer is called upon to do something they despise for the sake of their story. So today we're going to look at some different ways to make outlining less painful for the pantsers among us.

I'll be honest--I like to think of myself as a plotter. But I'm really half and half. While I will be the first person to start feverishly filling out character charts, personality typing my characters (more on that next time), and creating Pinterest boards ... I hate outlining.

However, for me, it is crucial that I know what I'm writing before I begin. Thus, a certain level of outlining is an important step in my writing journey.

Let's banish some myths before we get much further. Outlining myths like:

  • outlines have to be in actual outline format (chronological facts is the only must)
  • outlines must be used when writing (depends on the person!)
  • outlines are a waste of time (the goal is to save time)
  • outlines have to be intricate (not usually necessary)
  • outlines must be easy to be worthwhile (sorry, I wish)
  • outlines are a killjoy (not when you find what works for you)
  • outlines' every detail must make it into the story (think of an outline as your first draft)
  • outlines cannot be departed from (check whether it's vital to your outline)
Here's what the first chapter of Martin Hospitality looked like when it was plotted out in March of 2016. I did not use this one much once I began writing.
There are some things I love about this outline, but it became better for tracking what I needed to revise instead of what I needed to write. However, going through the very process helped me get things straight. So, if you're at all like me, it doesn't matter what your outline looks like, as long as it helps you wrap your head around your story.

Fast forward almost three years, and here's what my outline looked like for Simply Jane Smith, a novella I drafted in November. I used this one a lot when writing.
So different!! I got the entire novella plotted out in this format before I wrote a single word. Having it in checklist style also really helped me want to get from one point to the next without getting bogged down in the details. Much more user-friendly for me.

In case you can't tell by now, there are a gazillion different ways you can outline. From how I was taught to do it for essays (example 1) to word-vomit bullet points (example 2), the important thing is don't get hung up on how.

Instead, think of what you want to accomplish (your list might look different than mine):

  • eliminate plot holes
  • understand your characters' motivations
  • develop your three-act structure
  • know how it will begin and end
Even just those few things accomplished with outlining is sufficient for me. So whether you're a pantser or a plotter, pick what you need to nail down before you can write well and accomplish that with an outline. This will help you decide what kind of outline style is for you. 

Treat your outline as an early draft. Revise your outline now so you don't have to revise your story as much later. This is, essentially, the whole purpose of an outline. True pantsers who like to dive in without much plotting (and certainly no outlining) tend to have many more drafts than a plotter.

But I think everyone outlines some in their own way, whether they know it or not. What do you think character names, deaths and greatest fears are? Outline material! Just like setting, themes, and plot. Getting those scattered notes into one chronological list may help more than you think!
Are you someone who typically outlines? I hope this has given you some things to think about! Any other outlining methods out there?