Five strategies for managing your author business during crises and upheaval

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It’s been less than two months since the coronavirus outbreak started, but in the past two weeks, the impact of this pandemic has reached global proportions. It’s no longer a threat to citizens of a continent on the other side of the world—it’s a threat to communities everywhere.

The situation changes daily, leaving people worried, stressed out, distracted, and fearful. Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) has disrupted life to differing degrees for each of us, but the bottom line is that life right now is far from normal.

As a small business owner, you need to be aware of how this crisis could impact operations—what does it mean for you, your readers, your business partners, your suppliers? How will it impact sales, production, distribution, and promotion?

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I don’t have any easy answers on how to best deal with the sweeping effects of coronavirus, but I’d like to offer five strategies for managing your author business during crises and upheaval.

1.  Put your oxygen mask on first. You hear this advice from flight attendants before every flight, and with good reason. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. When confronted with any crisis (big or small, global or personal), take time to assess what you need—practical, emotional, and physical. Activate your support system or deal with preparations, and then get back to business. Keep in mind this isn’t necessarily a linear process. As the situation changes, you may need to step away from work from time to time.

This strategy includes ongoing self-care. Manage stress through meditation, exercise, getting enough sleep, confiding in trusted friends, stepping away from the news and media, eating nutritious food, listening to music. It’s easy to wallow in panic and fear–taking control where you can is empowering and eases that sense of overwhelm.

2.  Know your priorities. When confronting a crisis, you may find your resources (physical and mental) are limited. Are you now taking care of children because schools are closed? Are you too distracted by worries and concerns to focus on writing? Have travel restrictions stranded you in a foreign country? Take time out to prioritize work tasks. What is most important and cannot be deferred? What is next is terms of value vs. effort? What can be adjourned for later? Knowing what needs to be done and when is helpful in managing stress and sharpening focus.

3.  Adjust expectations. When faced with a multitude of distractions, productivity is the first casualty. Your word count may be down or you may have to step back from commitments. Engagement with readers may decrease or take on a different tone. Service providers may require an extension or more flexibility than usual. Sales might drop. A disruption in service/operations may cause problems. Most importantly, maintain your professionalism. Poor attitudes do little to improve any situation. Look for creative solutions to problems and be flexible.

4.  Look for opportunities.  The world is a scary place right now. Share resources, acknowledge the struggle, lend a sympathetic ear. All of this can lead to a stronger, more authentic connection with people. Can’t focus on your current WIP? Try writing something else and sharing it with readers as a free read in your newsletter or on your blog. Temporarily discount your books so people can escape from reality without worrying about the cost. (I got a newsletter today from one author who discounted her books to 99¢ and even offered a free download option for folks who couldn’t afford to pay a buck for each book. That generosity inspired me to buy her books even though I don’t usually read that genre.)

5.  Be honest and transparent. These are challenging times for all of us, and that includes small business owners. Continue to communicate with your customers (readers, author peers, editor, agent, cover designer, publicist, etc.) and be upfront if the crisis interferes in operations. If a release date needs to be pushed back, announce it to your readers. If you won’t be able to meet a deadline, work with your editor to reschedule. If you need to downsize operations, let service providers know as soon as possible.

How is the current situation impacting your author business? What are you doing to cope and manage? Reply to this email to share your thoughts and suggestions. I’d love to share them with others!

How to survive a social media outage

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Yesterday, Facebook and its related apps, including Instagram, experienced an outage. Many users reported the inability to log-on and use these social media platforms. While some people might roll their eyes and deem this a non-priority issue, there are many for whom the outage was crippling.

Really?

Yes, really!

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Facebook (which also owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) has evolved into more than a cool place to post cat memes and recipes. There are almost 3 billion social media users worldwide, which translates to more than a third of the world’s population using social media to communicate.

For many people, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms are today’s virtual water cooler. They are communication tools, often critical for sharing information and connecting with professional contacts. They are also advertising platforms so an extended outage like the one we just experienced can affect revenue.

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My work was directly impacted by the Facebook outage. I could not post social media content related to clients’ products and events. I could not check metrics to evaluate advertising performance. On a more fundamental level, there were individuals I could not exchange information with.

I’ve identified seven strategies to avoid a work interruption when Facebook (or any other social media platform) goes offline.

1. Email clients to alert them to potential problems. If you anticipate the outage may impact specific issues (such as a prescheduled live event) be prepared to offer solutions to minimize impact on clients’ followers/audience (such as sending out an eblast/email).

2. Check other social media profiles for messages or outreach from clients/contacts who usually rely on the channel(s) experiencing an interruption.

3. Monitor the outage so you can resume work as soon as access is restored.

4. Post a message acknowledging the outage on other social media profiles. Include instructions/contact information if appropriate.

5. Expand your social media footprint. If you only have profiles on one or two platforms, create “social media outposts” on other channels to remain accessible. Chris Syme has how-to advice on using outpost channels.

6. Collect contact information for clients/contacts. Include email and phone numbers, as well as social media links.

7. Diversify how and where you communicate, connect, engage and advertise.  Social media is just one method for communication. Others include your website, blogs, newsletter, texting, phone calls and–my personal favorite–in person.

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Just Five Things: Time Tamers for Authors #just5things

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One of the most common challenges for authors is time management. It’s a struggle to balance career and family, but within the hours dedicated to work, one must balance writing time with admin, marketing, social media and the myriad other tasks that require attention.

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Here are five time tamers to help authors stay organized, productive and sane.

1. Structure your day by 1) scheduling uninterrupted blocks of time and 2) grouping similar tasks. You’ll be surprised how much you can get done in as little as 15 or 20 minutes without interruptions. Similarly, bundling tasks that utilize the same tools, applications, even mindset, is more efficient than bouncing between creating graphics then answering an email then editing a few pages in your manuscript.

2. Create a To-Do list. If you’re not a list person, keep a notepad beside your keyboard. Jot down action items, thoughts or other mental clutter that distract you and dilute your focus so you can be more efficient and attentive to the task at hand.

3. Identify your peak performance time and handle complex or demanding tasks during this period. Are you a morning person or a night owl? When is your creativity the freshest and strongest? How long can you write or work before hitting the wall when nothing more stands a chance of being accomplished? Answering these questions about yourself will enable you to work smarter, not harder.

4. Prioritize your tasks so the important stuff gets done. Writing time should always be your top priority. Other top priorities include self-care and personal time.

5. Use a timer to enhance focus (no distractions checking the clock every few minutes) and stay on schedule. This is my all-time favorite time management trick because it’s simple and it works.

Are you an author who struggles with time wasters? What’s your favorite time tamer?

Dec. 3 ~ Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day

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Founded by Jenny Milchman when her children were young, Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day is an opportunity to celebrate the joy of books with young readers. It is also an opportunity to support local booksellers, become active in the local reading community  and reinforce the importance of literacy.

This year’s celebration falls on December 3, 2016, the first Saturday of the month and, not by accident, the start of the holiday shopping season. Thanks to the support of bloggers, bookstores and book lovers, the event has grown each year. In 2015, more than 800 bookstores across 50 states and five continents participated in Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day.

For ideas on how to get involved, visit TakeYourChildToABookstore.org.

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Just Five Things – How authors can work smarter, not harder

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5Just Five Things, a list of simple actions that can enhance your publishing career. One tip for each day of the week related to every aspect of publishing from time management to marketing to writing.

1.  Track your word count and then calculate the average hourly rate. Knowing how long it takes you to write a book will allow you to create realistic deadlines.

2.  Batch similar tasks such as posting on social media or responding to emails, etc.

3.  Identify tasks that can be accomplished in short bursts of time or while away from your desk, such as editing pages, making phone calls, etc.

4. Disconnect from the internet to eliminate interruptions and the temptation to constantly check your email/social media. This makes it easier to focus 100 percent of your attention on the task at hand.

5.  Use a timer to keep you on schedule. Another focus enhancement strategy so you aren’t clock-watching or stressing about missing an appointment.

See you next week for another list of Just Five Things.

If you have a tip to share or need help with a challenge, email me at myauthorconcierge@gmail.com.

Just Five Things – Why authors need a website

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WhiteJust Five Things, a list of simple actions that can enhance your publishing career. One tip for each day of the week related to every aspect of publishing from time management to marketing to writing.

1.  Authors need a website (or blog or landing page) so readers can find them on the internet.

2.  A website serves as “Grand Central” for authors. All others resources, such as bookmarks, swag and social media, should redirect readers and fans back to your central hub (website).

3.  A well-organized website will provide information commonly needed by readers, fans, media and marketers: bio, book list, reading order of series, new releases, career accomplishments, etc.

4. Websites are the internet-version of business cards so they should include contact information and other online profiles, such as Facebook, Twitter and  YouTube.

5. Websites give authors autonomy over content vs. having to abide by the rules and regulations of social media sites or internet “real estate” owned by another individual/organization.

See you next week for another list of Just Five Things.

If you have a tip to share or need help with a challenge, email me at myauthorconcierge@gmail.com.

Just Five Things: How to network online

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5 2Just Five Things, a list of simple actions that can enhance your publishing career. One tip for each day of the week related to every aspect of publishing from time management to marketing to writing.

1.  Establish an engaging, interactive online presence that reflects your brand, service, product, business, etc.

2.  Identify  professionals peers who share your target audience and connect with them on social media.  Like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, subscribe to their newsletters/blogs.

3.  Create a list of 10-20 most influential contacts and engage with them on a daily or weekly basis by making thoughtful comments and sharing their content.

4.  Send a personal email or message to individuals when you’ve found their information or expertise helpful. Be sure to include your credentials as a subtle invitation to cross-promote and/or network with you.

5.  Create profiles at social networking sites such as LinkedIn, but also those specific to your industry.

See you next week for another list of Just Five Things.

If you have a tip to share or need help with a challenge, email me at myauthorconcierge@gmail.com.