I Want A New Drug

Some people say you should write what you know. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, you can deliver a more compelling story if you’re familiar with the subject.

My editor told me from day one to expand out of my comfort zone and do just the opposite.

When I wrote Unlikely Venture, I had a storyline in my head. Okay, that’s not exactly true. I had about a HUNDRED stories in my head before landing on the ONE, and even then I flip-flopped around until I landed on the right resolution. I decided to take a few risks when developing the story but I was always anchored to my original ideas. Two books later, I’ve sufficiently escaped the confines of that comfort zone. I went in directions that I’d have never considered before and I love the result. Hopefully, you all will as well…

Creating…is an addiction.  One I can’t fight.

Now I sit at my laptop scratching my head. Heightened drama, more intrigue, more plot twists…yes, The Venture Series in totality exceeded my expectations. But now what? I’ve written my first contemporary romance series, and though I am completely invested in my characters, it’s…over. Time to say goodbye. Sigh.

I liken it to a breakup. You spend years with someone and eventually part ways because you both want different things out of life. All the time you invested is lost and you need to refocus that energy on developing a new relationship. It’s nerve wracking. How are you going to find someone you think is just as perfect as the former Ms. or Mr. Right? There’s a whole lot of effort involved and you might need to expand your horizons and level set your expectations. You also have to open yourself to the possibility that there may be more heartbreak on the horizon before you find THE ONE.

But then one night, the stars align and you run into the person you were meant to spend the rest of your life with. The initial fear and apprehension may linger…after all, if something is too good to be true…well, you know how that saying goes.

As time goes on, you realize your life would be meaningless without this person and if you hadn’t opened your eyes wide enough to make a change, you would have missed out on meeting your true soul mate. You took a risk and it paid off.

I came to this realization after receiving some sound advice from a fellow author. She opened my eyes to a world where I need to challenge myself and embrace new ideas and direction. It makes perfect sense!

I need to disrupt my writing process, to dig deep and continue mastering my craft. It will take time, dedication and patience (which is always in short-supply). But I’m committed to my end goal…and diversification will be a key driver.

Who says authors aren’t entrepreneurs???

Resounding success is not found overnight, nor is it the result of “playing it safe.” It’s about the journey, not necessarily the destination (unless the destination is the NYT Bestseller list!). And it’s always the biggest risks that pay off the most.

How To Make The Lust Last

Kevin Hale, partner of Y Combinator and founder of Wufoo, recently gave a fab presentation at Stanford as part of the “How To Start a Startup” course. I LOVE these sessions. It’s so great to gain perspective from those who’ve been successful putting their lessons into practice.  You know the saying “those who can’t do, teach?” Not the case with this series of guest lectures.

Aside from the fact that Hale is an entertaining and colorful presenter, he uses dating and marriage analogies when discussing how to build a product with the goal of being embraced by a target audience.  How apropos…totally appeals to my romance author side.

Some key points he hits on are as follows:

  • Build a passionate user base
  • Give them something that will make them successful in some recognizable way
  • Focus on the value used to get your first dollar or customer…if you figure that out, it will help guide you along the path to your first million (with a little luck and a lot of capital – those are my two cents)
  • Build a product you want people to love and form a relationship with

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz_LgBAGYyo

Hale likens attracting a new user to dating and keeping existing users to marriage.  Very clever.

Think about it…when you’re dating, everything is new, exciting, intriguing. First impressions are absolutely key. Little romantic gestures make you melt, butterflies are constantly fluttering about in your belly when you think about the person. It’s pure bliss, right???

Value is established.  But how do you make those feelings last? Because anyone who is in a long-term relationship knows the excitement dies down after a while and it’s only a matter of time before the “dew is off the rose.”

So how do you maintain that value?

You need to keep things fresh and different…always looking for opportunities to enhance.  You can’t sustain a meaningful relationship unless you take your partners’ wants and needs into account and these WILL evolve over time. Trust me. =)

Cater to your faithful customers. Don’t take them for granted. Talk to them, LISTEN to their feedback and incorporate it into your product base to the best offerings possible.  If you want to maintain a healthy rapport with your users, you need to be flexible, communicative and willing to compromise.

 

I’ll Be Wearing Valentino When I Collect My Oscar

Gillian Flynn is living my dream. Not only is she an A-list New York Times best-selling author, but she’s also headed for the Oscars with the film adaptation of “Gone Girl.”  Red carpet, designer gown, borrowed Harry Winston jewels…yes, she is a freaking rock star in my opinion.

My books take me about three-four months to complete. I don’t outline or plan…I just write. I let the characters take me along for the ride. Sometimes I’m surprised at their decisions, sometimes elated at their realizations, sometimes saddened about events for which they lack control, but I’m always excited to find out what happens next.

During the writing process, I get to know my characters.  For example, I wrote a nine-page character sketch on the hero in my latest novel (which is about four scenes away from being in completed draft mode – YAY!). I needed to get inside his head so I could convince my readers who and what he is and why.  I crafted a picture in my mind. I hear his voice in my head as I read his exchanges with other characters. I know his expressions and his mannerisms. He is as real as I am.

So naturally, I can see him on the silver screen.  I’d love the chance to make him as real to the world as he is to me, to create the alternate reality I’ve lived for the past several months.  Gillian Flynn had her chance…and it’s paid off royally….to the point of $77.9 million (as of press time for the 10/24 issue of Entertainment Weekly).

Ahhh…like I said…THE DREAM.

But first things first…gotta hit the lists before I can collect my own Oscar…in Valentino.  =)

I Built The Perfect Product, Now What?

I was overly anxious to get my beloved Krina handbags out to market…and social media was only a glimmer on the horizon…we’re going back about ten years.   So my partner and I had to rely on human contact to make any inroads in the fashion industry – a super-important but near-impossible task.  After all, the first step in building a network is to establish contact…but how were we supposed to find these people…the ones who would determine the fate of our bags?

Finding the Influencers…

Today, startup business owners can easily locate and connect with influencers in their target industries, although now we have a different issue…way too much noise.  How do you navigate around it?  In some instances, the scale definitely tips in the direction of the startup CEOs in that we have a plethora of information available with the stroke of a few keys.  Conversely, it becomes that much harder to stand out from the crowd.

Now, I’m an author so I think in terms of books…

Ten years ago, I could write a book, get it published by a traditional publishing house and it would land on the shelf at a Barnes & Noble where customers may pick it up, peruse the first couple of chapters and if they like it enough, buy it.  Pretty simple.  Finite number of choices, not an overwhelming amount of competition.

Today, if you’re perusing the web for a book, good luck. The choices seem endless and the market is saturated.  And this doesn’t just apply to the publishing industry…it’s much more far-reaching.

Cutting Through the Noise

With tons of information comes a larger mass of information-CREATORS.  Even if you have a great product, how do you get the attention you need without spending a fortune to get recognition for said product?  At the end of the day, what makes someone click to buy?

Heed my words…be careful…do plenty of research…perform your due diligence…spend CAUTIOUSLY.

Trying to launch anything is a daunting task. I’d have paid a small fortune for a plan that laid everything out for me…a checklist of items I could tick off that would catapult me to the land of success and celebrity.  How nice would THAT be?

A Bit of Free Advice

Learn from my mistakes and haphazard spending.  Connect with people who have been successful, study their patterns, follow industry influencers to see how they accomplish their goals, try to get them to notice you, be persistent but don’t stalk.  That will just annoy them.

Make a list of free promotional options and try those routes first.  Then, sprinkle in some lower dollar cost alternatives.  There is no guarantee any of these will yield sales but test them out and study the results to create and refine a publicity campaign that works for you.  For example, lots of entrepreneurs swear by video to make human connection with a target audience.  I’m personally not an advocate. I don’t really watch videos and I definitely don’t like to appear in them. Yeek…nope, definitely not a fan.  I’m no Gary Vaynerchuk. But if it works for you, go for it.

The key is to assemble a plan and work through it.  When I was running promotions for Krina, I was all over the place…trying to boil the ocean.  There was an utter lack of targeted focus.  I’ve since smartened up and while I still don’t know the magic formula for “what works,” I definitely know what doesn’t.

Recipe For A Startup Romance

If you saw my last post “Wanna Learn How To Start A Startup?” you know that running a startup is pretty much a 24 x 7 gig, which begs the question, are there any slivers of time in a given day dedicated to dating and romance? I mean, even entrepreneurs need love, right?

Interesting and intriguing questions, considering I’m a romance author and I basically create love stories out of circumstances that wouldn’t ever materialize in reality.  I can make anything happen…to anyone…and find the perfect resolution for all to end happily.

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

Courtesy of Entrepreneur

But in the real world, things aren’t so simple. They can’t be handled with a few clicks on a keyboard and a couple of glasses of wine.

The Truth About Entrepreneurship And Dating

I read about a company called Underground Attached, a unique dating experience that brings together 40 (20 men and 20 women) prescreened, like-soul and like-minded people for an evening of play (no, get your minds out of the gutter) and hopefully, a few love connections. Put a roomful of driven, ambitious professionals together and hopefully, sparks will fly…as long as they can stay off their iPhones, Galaxies and CrackBerries long enough to exchange business cards.

39 Signs You’re Dating An Entrepreneur

Sounds good in theory.  Of course, if all else fails, they could also find solace in using my brilliant app idea to build their own virtual reality porn star and their own…well, read the post if you can’t figure it out.

Maybe entrepreneurs should look at potential mates as prospective “investors.” You want someone who will support your goals and help drive you to achieve, someone who understands what it takes to be a success and will be patient waiting for the big returns.

Rejection Never Felt So Satisfying

Like all authors seeking validation by gaining acceptance to an exclusive publishing house, I submitted “Unlikely Venture” in hopes of scoring a lucrative contract and promises of making the bestseller lists.  Fortunately, like a Band-Aid being yanked from a wound, two out of the three I submitted to rejected it right away, for a variety of reasons that were kind of evasive and basically not very constructive.  Part of this was my error, as I submitted to the wrong imprints with the publishers.  Oh well.  That’s when my Type A alter ago stepped in and convinced me to self-publish.

Courtesy of writersontheend.com

Courtesy of writersontheend.com

But what about the third publisher?

Well, the third one was a little behind the 8-ball. The editors requested the first three chapters after FINALLY approving my query. That was a couple of months ago, when I was on the path toward self-publishng.  I sent them anyway…couldn’t hurt, right?

Fast forward to this morning.  I scrolled through my emails to find a reply from the publisher. Here’s what I read:

Kristen,
Thanks for letting us take a look. Unfortunately, we have to pass. There’s something in the tone of the heroine that’s just a little to gritty for our contemporary line. We do wish you the best in placing this work.
Gritty?  According to Dictionary.com, “gritty” means “resolute and courageous; plucky.”
Hell, that kind of rejection is AWESOME!  I hate pathetic, damsel in distress heroines.  If that’s the kind of girl they want, yeah they’d be barking up the wrong tree with Jessica Latham.  It wasn’t meant to be.
But shame on me for not doing the correct research.  You see, I was embarking on a new business venture, seeking an investor without knowing if our end goals were in sync.  I assumed an established publisher would be able to reach my target demographic, just because they have deeper pockets and a larger distribution network.  But that’s not necessarily the case.  We don’t share the same vision and strategy.  They are looking for something I don’t offer.  Their response is very clear on that fact.  And the submission turned out to be a wasted effort on my part.  We wouldn’t be compatible business partners because we aren’t aligned in our objectives.
Lesson learned…resources alone do not guarantee an effective business relationship and researching potential business partners will ensure your product or idea gets a fair shot at evaluation.
And as for me, I continue along my path…as a sole proprietor. =)

Please Brand Me Now!!!!

Branding.

Argh.  Sooo challenging…and so permanent.  It needs to be just right.

Identifying your “brand” is kind of like going to college, where the goal is trying to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life.  But at eighteen, who really knows THAT?

You have to pick a major but what are the odds that in a few years you’ll even be interested in pursuing a career in the field?  Your scope of interests expands, you identify and refine your skill sets, you grow as a person. So at the end of the four years, are you where you thought you’d eventually end up?

Haha, not me!

I started out pre-law then decided to become a biology major with grandiose plans of becoming a patent lawyer.  That didn’t work too well, so I tried psychology next, then political science.  Finally, I landed on accounting.  Never used my degree, and the extent of my accounting knowledge is limited to distinguishing a debit from a credit.

The point is, we aren’t the same people at 18 as we are at 25 and then at 40.  We develop and expand our horizons.  So while it’s important to figure out how you’re going to differentiate yourself from the competition, you don’t always know out of the gate who and what you will ultimately become.  The reality may be vastly different than what you imagined.  And that impacts your branding.

I can tell you from personal experience I’ve branded and rebranded myself many times over the years, trying to figure out how I want the world to know me.  This became even more challenging for me as an author because at the end of the day, I write romance novels.  But I am much more multi-faceted – how can I reflect that in my platform?  I finally figured it out, but it was a journey.

I first did an exercise where I created a word cloud.  I wrote down every single interest and skill I have.  It became a little unwieldy, so I narrowed it down.  Way too much for a tagline and nothing of real value popped out.

More introspection followed.

Courtesy of melodyhossaini.com

Courtesy of melodyhossaini.com

I’ve blogged for years, primarily about the trials and tribulations of being a working mother with three kids.  Maybe that would be a good platform.  But what’s the hook?  How does that differentiate me from other romance authors?  I’m not the only one with kids and a lot of angst.

It may make me relatable but…it doesn’t set me apart.

I consulted with the experts, read books and articles, searching for inspiration.  I created a bunch of different taglines using the thesaurus app on my phone.  I blogged some more.  I made notes about themes from my books.  Nothing, nothing, NOTHING.

Fast forward a few months.

As I prepared for my upcoming book launch, I realized I needed business cards….and a tagline.  Darn it!  Back to the drawing board.  There was no way I was ordering business cards without a logo from Fiverr.  That site rocks!  And I couldn’t get a logo unless I established a BRAND!

So how can I tie my interests to my books?  I write romance…set in Silicon Valley.  Think venture capitalists, startup CEOs and IPOs…

And now I blog about innovation and entrepreneurship and…IDEAS!  My own personal business experiences combined with interesting startup concepts.

The rest, as they say, is history.  I finally figured myself out.  I am “The Idea Mama, Vogue Entrepreneur and Author.”

It was a good day…and my business cards look fabulous!

Yet Another Teaser & Giveaway…YAY!!!!!

Hubby was just on Facebook and pointed to a picture of a girl named Gina who just had a Scrabble piece of the letter “G” tattooed to her ankle.  He said, “Would you ever do that?”  And I shook my head vehemently.  “No, absolutely not.  My name doesn’t begin with a ‘G’.”

LOL.  But seriously….

I’m so excited to plan for the launch of “Unlikely Venture!”  It’s been a long time preparing for this and I can’t believe the launch is almost here!

So I had to release yet another fabulous teaser…accompanied by a giveaway!

Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card but clicking here:  http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/f30243524/

All you need to do is: sign up for my mailing list, like my Facebook page, follow me on Twitter or friend me on Booktropolous Social.  You can enter once or up to four times!  It’s super easy!!

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Wouldn’t It Be Awesome If I Was A Developer Who Could Program My Own Freaking Ideas??

I’ve been extremely occupied with edits for my second novel, “Nothing Ventured,” this week.  And I thought there was no creativity left in my overworked brain to pour into the old entrepreneurial arsenal.  Thoughts of Mia and Chris incessantly swarm my mind and my sole focus is to finesse their love story to the satisfaction of my editor.  In fact, I think I’ve dreamed in italicized subtitles for the past few nights.

I didn’t think I had anything left.

But then I came up with..ta-da!!!!  An idea.

In my past life, like a waaaaay long time ago, I was responsible for putting together business requirements for system development projects.  Of course there were endless Microsoft Word doc templates available for this exercise, with tables of contents so long they’d rival the length of the actual document.

I’m exaggerating. Kind of.  =)

But then software packages were developed to simplify the process and analysts could input their requirements into a program and answer a whole slew of questions that would translate into a section of the overall deliverable.  The software package would tie all the components together and take the work out of building the narrative.  Analysts input the pertinent information, the software does the rest.

Not that I’m suggesting authors write books with this type of software but think about applying this concept to the editing process.  Developmental edits are a huge pain.  If an author needs to move chunks of a manuscript around, it becomes very tedious to track all the downstream changes.  Plus, sometimes an author may want to “test” a scene out in a different location but wants to see how it might impact the overall story WITHOUT messing everything up.

A software package that could help with this process would be super useful.  Instead, authors (read: ME) end up saving multiple versions of the manuscript, trying to test out various scenarios and often forgetting which one is the gold copy.  To mitigate the risk of THAT, my titles are normally something like this…

NothingVentured v1.12.3.4 ChrisGetsDrunkMiaGoesOverboard.docx

Not confusing at all, right?

 

Would You Please Sign My Kindle??

Okay, I spend a lot of time covering ideas that others have but here’s one I’ve mulled over…

People love autographed copies of books, especially books they actually enjoyed reading.  But how does that work if your library is in electronic form and all of your books are downloaded to a Kindle or Nook?

No hard copy to treasure and pass on to your kids?  Or to eBay if the author is(gets) really famous?? =)

There are many varieties of autograph apps out there but I haven’t seen something specifically compatible for the e-readers. Wouldn’t it be great to bring your device to a book signing? Or have an author gift you an electronically signed copy of their bestselling book, Unlikely Venture? (Wink, wink).

Sign with your finger and BAM! You’ve got digital swag!!!

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