Are You on Second Shift?

According to author Dr. Harold Arnold, Jr., people on second shift are those who work at their passion after their day job is done. Many authors fit into this category.

Few authors can afford to quit their day jobs to become writer full-time. Hence, they must devote their “second shift” (after a day job) to their writing careers.

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In his book, Second Shift: How to Grow Your Part-Time Passion into Full-Time Influence, Dr. Arnold looks at the frustration that comes from this position. He talks about DRAGONS (doubt, regret, apathy, guilt, obstinance, and narcissism) that can derail you from continuing to pursue your passion that is already marginalized in your life.

Addressing each one of these DRAGONS, and teaching the reader about each one’s antidote that comes from KINGDOM thinking (Knowledge, Insight, Novelty, Grace, Deference, Other-centered, and Much). Dr. Arnold encourages his readers to continue following their GODprint (the calling or passion that God has placed on your heart).

Dr. Arnold speaks from his own personal experience. For years, he has pursued his passion in his second shift, often running into discouragement and frustration with having to pour his “leftover” energy into these projects. I think my favorite quote from Second Shift that is great encouragement for anyone pursuing their passion in their spare time is:

Your obedience to God unlocks doors for someone else. You become the conduit through which God’s blessings flow to another.” (p. 202)

In his book, Dr. Arnold gives his readers four strategies for success in their second shift. They are:

1. Sacrifice security
2. Fail forward
3. Tame time
4. Promote partnerships

If you are a second shifter, take heart. Digital Book World’s 2014 Author survey found that only one in ten (10%) of writers actually make a livable salary ($40,000+) writing full-time. Another study found that 54% of traditionally-published authors and almost 80% of self-published authors earn less than $1,000 a year.

If you are a second-shift author who needs some encouragement to continue on your path, Dr. Arnold’s words might just be the encouragement you need.

Related Posts:
Encouragement
Words of Encouragement
Finding Connections and Opportunities

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How’s Your Grammar?

The other day my middle-school-aged daughter remarked to me, “Mom, why do so many people have such poor editing skills?” Confused, I asked her what she meant.

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It turns out that my daughter’s friend, who owns a Kindle, had been showing my daughter the books she has been reading. My daughter had read small sections of a few of these fiction ebooks and had been appalled at the poor grammar in them.

Upon a little investigation, I discovered that the ebooks her friend had been downloading were cheap—costing a dollar or less. It appears that the vast majority of these books were independently published digital-only books.

Needless to say, I gave my daughter a lesson in publishing. She learned all about traditional publishing houses with editors who serve as gatekeepers and provide some measure of quality and control versus self-published authors. I explained to her that today it is easy for anyone to publish a digital book without any outside measure of control over the grammar, sentence structure, or even the elements of the story itself in the book.
I recently saw a blog post heading that read “The Overwhelming Majority of Self-Published eBooks Are Terrible.” Sadly, I believe this statement is too often true.

The zero-cost entry and easy access to digital publishing (think Smashwords and Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing) has enticed many aspiring authors—and remember 81% of people surveyed feel they have a book inside of them—to turn their manuscripts into digital books creating a glut of low-cost, low-quality ebooks for readers to choose from. Bowker  Market Research recently reported that self-published ebooks now account for 12% of the entire digital publishing market. In some cases, the number actually rises to 20%, but is fairly genre specific to crime, science fiction and fantasy, romance and humor.

If you are considering independently publishing a book, the best thing you can do for your book is hire an editor and a proofreader. Grammatical errors, typos, and punctuation mistakes are often a turn-off for readers. You don’t want to have a reviewer (as one BookCrash blogger recently graciously wrote) write the following about your book:

My only complaint about this book is that it needs more careful editing for errors, but the content of the book makes the typos easy to overlook.

A well-written book will sell better than a poorly written one, even if you are just trying to sell fiction stories to teenagers.

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Are You Competing in a Marathon?

I have never run a marathon. Twenty-six miles is not even on my bucket list of things to do in my lifetime. I have, however, participated in another type of marathon—marketing and selling the same book for ten years.

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Too many independently published authors I have the privilege of talking to don’t endure the whole race. Instead, they have a spring mentality and, thus, burn out and quit the race early.

Book sales don’t come overnight. They must be cultivated. Some people are slow to warm up to purchasing a book. Remember, on average, it takes seven to twelve times of exposure to a product before a consumer decides to make a purchase. I know, I tend to be one of those slow consumers.

Two years ago, I heard an author speak at a seminar I attended. I did not buy this gentleman’s book that day, but I did add it to my list for later. Now, two years later, I have finally gotten around to purchasing a copy of his book to read.

Had this author had a sprint mentality, his book would no longer be available for me to purchase new. All that would be available would be used copies and, in that case, this author would have missed out on earning money from my purchase.

I know that I am not the only consumer who may take awhile to decide to purchase a book I hear about. Take heart, if you are an independently published author, stay in the race and you will most likely continue to sell books. Remember, selling books is a marathon, not a sprint.

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Are You Minding Your Manners?

Social media is a powerful tool to connect with people and enlarge your promotional reach. However, it only works if you use it correctly.

I am amazed at how many self-published authors misuse social media. Instead of adding to a conversation or making a thoughtful comment and subtly including information on a book, website, or blog, many self-published authors simply post a shout about their book on someone’s wall.

This actually happens quite frequently on Christian Small Publishers Association’s (CSPA) Facebook page. A self-published author will become a fan of CSPA’s Facebook page and within a day or two post an obnoxious message about his new book. What surprises me the most is often when I delete this message from the page; the author comes back the next day and re-posts it.

Here are a few examples of what NOT to post when using social media to promote a book. Please note that these are not the worst of posts that shout rather than add to the conversation. Most of those I have deleted, so I no longer have access to them.

In this example, this self-published author places a link to his book on CSPA’s page. That’s it, just a link that shows the book and includes the description of the book. He doesn’t use a teaser to entice people. He doesn’t make a call to a specific audience the book is geared for. He doesn’t add anything to the information on publishing and marketing that is presented on CSPA’s Facebook page. He just shouts.

In this second example, the comment has nothing to do with the post that the person is commenting on. The first person writes an appropriate response, but the second comment, reporting that a book is available on Amazon, has nothing to do with the post.

Trust me. These types of posts on social media do not encourage people to look at your book. Instead, they make you look amateur and self-published, generating a negative response from the reader, which will not lead to book sales.

So what is the best way to promote your book using social media?

I suggest that you make a thoughtful contribution to a post or conversation and use your contribution to subtly promote your book. Say something useful and relevant. Do not give the impression that you are just there to promote your book.

Above all, remember that you are a guest on someone’s page or profile. Be respectful and use your manners!

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A Message to Self-Published Authors

The other day I received a call from a self-published author. This gentleman told me that he had published his book through CreateSpace and was looking for someone to sell his book for him.

We spent some time discussing distributors and sales reps and what they could do for him. I told this author that regardless of whom he hired to “sell” his book, he still needed to promote his book. This gentleman told me he knew nothing about promoting or marketing a book.

When I heard this, I guided him to my book, Your Guide to Marketing Books in the Christian Marketplace.  I explained to him that I had written the book specifically for people in his position. I informed him that my book would give him instructions on how to market his book.

After all, I wrote the book to help others publishing Christian books. This is the resource I wish I had had starting out in publishing. Instead, I had to learn most of what is provided in this book the hard and painful way: through trial and error and stumbling upon resources here and there over a number of years.

This author asked me how much my book cost. I told him $23.99.

This gentleman then proceeded to tell me that he had just spent over $1,000 printing his book and that he did not want to spend any more money.

As gently as I could, I informed this author that he would be well advised to spend $23.99 to learn how to market his book so that he could begin to recoup the money he had spent on printing the book. Or, he could spend nothing and, a year from now, have all his books still sitting in his garage and not recouped any of the money he had spent on printing his book.

That’s the truth. Every self-published author has a choice. Spend money on marketing and promoting your book and, as a result, actually sell copies of your book – or – don’t spend money on marketing and promoting your book and not sell copies of your book.

The old adage “It takes money to make money” is still true, even in book publishing.

If you have not yet published a book but are considering doing so, you would be wise to budget at least as much money for marketing your book as you do for publishing and printing it.

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