Do You Write to Sell or Do You Write to Tell Good Stories?

Yesterday, when I was texting with a dear friend of mine who has been quite influential in my life and career, I shared with him that I was taking a break from writing for a bit. Which, as you know, if you’ve followed along thus far in my tales of woe, really means that I became burned out doing book promotion as opposed to book writing. Anyway, he asked me this question at end of our text thread:

Do you write to sell or do you write to tell good stories?

I looked at what he had written for a long time, pensively, unsure as to how I would answer that question, because it’s a good one to ask. It made me pause and reconsider everything. It’s tricky because there are many components to it, but let me do my best to answer, and then, if there are any other writers out there reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts on it. I think all writers should be forced once in a while to examine why they write…why they slave away doing what they do. Therefore, I decided to enumerate my top four reasons for my own sake, with a caveat about the whole writing life exercise in one #5 summation.

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#1- I write to tell good stories. I have been writing stories since I can remember, telling stories for longer, and wanting to publish a book since the age of 13. I love the whole aspect of storytelling, of a tightly woven narrative, and of the clarity needed to tell a well-constructed story. I write to tell good stories, for sure, and it is at the crux of why I write.

#2- I write to show my students that I actually practice what I preach. If you have me or have had me as a teacher at Stevenson University, I hope you can verify that I am passionate about writing–about being able to articulate your thoughts on paper. It’s a skill that is imperative today. Being a clear writer means you have clarity of thought; you are a critical thinker who knows how to communicate. This skill takes you places in business for sure. A recent survey that polled top executives in large companies proved that the two skills employers want to see in candidates are the ability to write and the ability to speak and present in public. My job is to help both facets, with an emphasis on writing. Being able to show my students four books I have written serves as an example that I do, in fact, practice what I preach.

#3- I write as a creative outlet. I think of myself as a creative person even though I can’t draw or paint. My creativity comes in the forms of words and storytelling (and even blogging)! If I don’t have this outlet, something feels off in my life. It has become and will continue to be an outlet for the fostering and release of creativity.

#4- I write to make people happy. Being able to communicate here on the blog to an audience or through my novels seems to make people happy and that, in turn, makes me happy. Last night at a book club where members had read my novel, Inn Significant, the ladies told me I had a gift for storytelling (and they also liked the happy ending). Again–why not bring some happiness into the world? There’s plenty for us to be sad or angry about already, so a bit of joy in the form of a novel is a good thing.

Now, here’s the caveat:

#5- Writers need readers. And it’s not so much about selling as it is just having readership. We write to share stories and to be read. We write to connect with people. But in order for that to happen, we actually need some readers. And it was the constant time spent soliciting readers that was beginning to kill my spirit.

But when I look at this all now, a couple of weeks after my little meltdown, I may need to rethink my writing, strategy, and approach.

I’m being quite frank and candid about my writing philosophy. To those other independent authors and those with small presses—Why Do You Write?

Stephanie

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

The Truth About Burnout, Steps to Rejuvenation, and A Cup of Candor

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 11.07.11 AMI know this post is coming sooner than you or I expected it to come, so let me explain.

Earlier this week, I experienced something unfamiliar. It came out of nowhere and yet came from everywhere. I imagined myself in the image of an old wind-up toy that had hit a wall; I was marching along, but I wasn’t getting anywhere. I was swimming in “noise,” as we communication folks like to call it. It was filling up my head and causing me not to think clearly.

Some people might call it burnout.

Burn•out (noun) /ˈbərnˌout/  def. physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress. “high levels of professionalism that may result in burnout”

It was an emotional reaction that, quite frankly, had my friend Elizabeth puzzled when we talked on Tuesday.

“What happened?” she asked. “What happened after our lovely visit to Oxford?”

Screen Shot 2017-07-21 at 1.19.54 PMShe had sweetly volunteered to come with me and my daughter to the Plein Air event in Oxford where I was signing my latest book, Inn Significant, at the bookstore, Mystery Loves Company. I had been excited to go for weeks as my novel happens to be set in that sweet, picturesque and welcoming town.

“Nothing happened because of Oxford,” I told her. “It just happened after Oxford. I woke up in the morning the next day and didn’t know if I could write one more post about the book. I was becoming exhausted by the idea of book promotion.”

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When I told her more about it, she completely understood. So let me try to articulate it here. Forgive me if I don’t do it perfectly, but here are my thoughts on last Monday’s meltdown.

If you are not an independent author or an author with a small press, you may not understand fully the trials and tribulations of book promotion, but I know that these folks will get it — completely — so here’s the way it goes. Every morning you wake up with the thought, “How can I sell some books today?” For the last six years, that has been my relentless task, in addition to being a full-time professor, wife, mother, writer, blogger, and member of society who also likes to spend time with family and friends. That one, singular thought became an obsession for me, and here’s why: we care about our work, the stories we are producing as authors, but what good are they if no one reads them? The only way to ensure that doesn’t happen is to chip away at book promotion little by little, day after day. We write press releases. We enter book contests. We attend book talks, festivals, and signings. We are omnipresent on social media. We take photographs and come up with tidbits about our books to share on social media sites. We check our blog stats and our Amazon and Barnes & Noble pages to see how many books we have sold daily. We follow other people who are doing the same and see if we can learn from them. We see where we need to improve. We examine peak points on social media and try to post at those times that yield the biggest results. Then, we wake up each day and start over. And over. And over.

We drink a helluva lot of coffee.

And then we hit a wall.

Just like that.

Boom.

And the worst part is, I LOVE creativity. I love it so much, you guys. I love to talk about it, research it, read books about it, and just be creative through my writing and blogging and teaching, and yet, guess what was being zapped?

My friggin’ creativity.

Sucked away like Potter’s Dementors.

And so I had a knee-jerk reaction.

Stop writing. Stop blogging. Stop book promotion.

The problem came two days later when I realized that I didn’t want to stop blogging or writing, I just needed a sabbatical from book promotion.

I also realized that I needed to change my blog. It has been on my mind for a couple of years to rebrand it a bit, while still keeping the Steph’s Scribe flavor. As anyone in business knows, things can’t always stay the same, and change is good.  I’m one of the top Entertainment bloggers on Paperblog, and I have over 10,000 blog followers, so the last thing I wanted to do was start over.

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So you can see I’ve compromised. It’s got a new title, with Steph’s Scribe as a subtitle so I don’t lose my followers; it has topics that I would like to cover regularly; and my goal is for it to have a little more spirit and candor.

Not everything in life is roses and caviar, and I believe I didn’t always allow myself to be as candid as I would like. So, we’ve got a new approach and a new focus.

And now to you, my dear readers: I would love to hear from you about what you would like to see in the new revamping of the blog. I need some input. Creativity takes brainstorming and often can’t be done alone, so if you have some ideas for me, I am open and in need of them.

To those of you who wrote to me, people like Danielle, Jack F. and Jack G., Deborah, Elizabeth, Whitney, Heather, Linda, Leeanne, Chip, Laurie, and so many others, your words made me examine this much more quickly than I thought was possible. So thank you. Thank you so very much.

And while the “noise” may not be completely cleared and sent to Mars, it’s getting better. And while I cannot fully stop book promotion if I want my books to be read, I can still take a breather from it and perhaps manage the chaos in a different way. And while I may not be ready to write another novel, at some point, I will probably do it again.

And if I love blogging, well then, damn it, I’m just going to keep on blogging.

Was this candid enough for you? If so, I look forward to a cup of candor each week with you as we progress.

Love to you all.  Have a wonderful weekend…

Stephanie

Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

 

Answering the Question: How Many Books Have You Sold?

How many books have you sold?

It’s the question people like to ask me about my recently released novel entitled Inn Significant. It seems to be the question people have on their minds as the marker that indicates how successful the book has been thus far.

The funny thing is, I liken the question to someone asking me about my age, how much I make, or how robust my sex life is.

Sometimes we are focused too much on the results and not on the process. At least that’s what my husband and I try to teach our kids. The most important aspect revolves around the process that helps us achieve our goals; the results are often secondary (and yes, at times, can be quite important).

As for Inn Significant, I didn’t set out to write a bestseller. That thought is not based in reality; I like to think more realistically. When I began writing the novel, I set out to start the process, see the process through, and complete a project. A writing project. Do you know how many people start something and never finish it? My goal is always to complete it. Writing has been in my blood since I was about 13 years old. I feel compelled to tell stories, and I’m more concerned with the process of that storytelling journey than I am with the results of that journey.

Moreover, I find myself echoing the sentiments of writer Elizabeth Gilbert when she says, “…if I am not actively creating something, then I am probably actively destroying something (myself, a relationship, or my own peace of mind).” Well said, Ms. Gilbert.

If you have the creative inspiration to redecorate a room, you do it, don’t you? If you have the urge to build a spectacular garden with a fountain in your back yard, you take it on, right? If you sit at a blank canvas and paint something that moves you, you don’t tell your inspiration to run away and hide, do you?

No, you don’t; nor do I. If I have the inspiration—if it happens to bless me with a story I think I can piece together in a meaningful way—I write it. Why would I tell my creativity to take a flying leap?

As for book sales, I do my best to try to promote the book, talk up the book, market the book, and sell the book where I can. Just this week, I entered two independent author book contests, and I’m about to enter more. I sent my book off to people who may be able to help promote it. I mailed out press releases. I was booked to talk at a library and a book signing is in the works at a bookstore. I do what I can.

But this is not why I write.

I write, once again, to quote Elizabeth Gilbert, because of this one, main reason: “…at the end of your creative adventure, you have a souvenir—something that you made, something to remind you forever of your brief but transformative encounter with inspiration.”

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 11.07.47 AMTo put it simply, I just like to be able to say that I welcomed inspiration and “I did it.”

I also love the fact that my kids see their mom be fearless about putting her creativity out there.

That’s a process worth teaching.

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15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn SignificantBaseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree.  Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. 
To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

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Sharing The Prologue Because Book Promotion Ain’t Easy

 

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Today, I’d like to invite you Inn.

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Getting people interested in your book ain’t easy. I know. I’ve begun the everyday challenge of marketing a novel I’ve written. Don’t feel too badly for me, though. I’ve chosen to take this on myself; I’ve chosen the path of an independent author mainly because I’m extraordinarily controlling. When I write, it’s from the heart, and I very much enjoy making sure that every word on the page comes directly from me.

Plus, this is the third time around for me. Third time’s a charm, maybe.

I guess you could say, as a controlling artist, that I’ve utilized my collective skills to be able to do this. As the former Director of Publishing for the Baltimore Orioles, I wrote, edited, and designed all sorts of printed pieces. Additionally, having worked in public relations, and as someone who currently teaches the topic, I would hope I know how to spread the word, at least to garner a bit of publicity. And finally, with two master’s degrees in writing, along with the fact that I teach writing at a university, I feel strongly that it is my duty to write and show what folks who call themselves writers are capable of producing. For all these reasons, I continue to “go for it.”

As I publish directly through Amazon via Mimosa Publishing, there are certain recommendations Amazon suggests, and one is to share an excerpt of the book to perhaps entice readers. The prologue is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, but I thought I would also share it here to see if I can whet your appetite and get you to consider reading Inn Significant.

I can promise you one thing: I poured my heart and soul into it.

 

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ABOUT INN SIGNIFICANT

Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful Inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her deceased grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.


15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn Significant,Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt. 
To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

 

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Book Promotion Wrap Up Week One –Thanks for Entering To Win!

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Week one of book promotion for Inn Significant has come to an end, and I wanted to thank all 594 people who entered to win on Amazon for doing so! We had three winners this week–Thelma, Kendra, and Jessica. I hope you all enjoy Inn Significant…I really do.

I’ll be giving away some signed copies this week on my author Facebook page thanks to some good ideas from my savvy students in public relations class. So stay tuned…

I also wanted to thank the Star-Democrat newspaper on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for featuring the story about the book this week. Hopefully, some folks who either live on the Eastern Shore or love visiting Oxford, St. Michaels, and Easton (like I do) will enjoy the story of Milly Foster and her life at the Inn.

If you’ve finished reading the book, you might enjoy my recap of that includes photos and places that inspired the setting of my book that I posted. Check it out and see if it’s what you imagined as you read the story.

The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI
The dining room of the Edgewood Manor House in Providence, RI

Thanks, as always, for reading, following, and caring! Have a great weekend, everyone!

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imageStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of the newly released Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.  To visit Stephanie’s Amazon Author page and see her books, click here.

My Third Novel, Inn Significant, Is Now Available !!!

B I G   N E W S   T O D A Y ! ! !

INN SIGNIFICANT IS NOW AVAILABLE !


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A few weeks ago I likened birthing a novel to birthing a baby, except without the physical pain and need for drugs.

I still think it’s true.

I’m happy to report that my third novel, Inn Significant, is now available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both paperback and for the e-readers.

As those of us who are independent authors know, this is when the marketing work begins, and it ain’t easy. Plus, it requires me to do something that I’m not used to doing, and that’s to ask for help. How can you help, you may ask? I’ve got a couple of ideas.

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If you happen to purchase and like my novel, there are three things you can do that can make a big difference for authors like me. First, you can post a positive review on Amazon or B&N. Your reviews do matter, and it helps cast an author’s work in a positive light for potential readers. Second, you can share it and talk it up on social media. And, third, you can just help spread the word the old-fashioned way—by verbally recommending it. Any or all would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve spent hours upon hours on this novel, and to say I became weepy today as I hit the “publish” button is an understatement. I think this book is my personal favorite of the three novels I’ve written. I became very attached to these characters, and hope you will feel the same way. But more than that, my itch to live in a small town on the water has grown exponentially.

Below you will find the description of the novel that is on the back cover. Please let me know what you think, and I humbly thank you for all of your support.

I’d like to extend a special thanks to three incredible people without whom I wouldn’t have been able to do what I do: my husband, Anthony; my mother, Leni; and my father, Doug. They are always there cheering me on every step of the way.

I hope you enjoy my third baby, Inn Significant. It’s time to celebrate.

To purchase via Amazon for Kindle, click here.

To purchase via Amazon in paperback, click here.

To purchase via Barnes & Noble for the Nook, click here (paperback version should be available later tonight).

With great appreciation,

xx |

15781589_865992106837911_1585157622209528074_nStephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

About the Inn Significant: A Novel

Two years after receiving the horrifying news of her husband Gil’s death, Milly Foster continues to struggle to find her way out of a state of depression. As a last-ditch effort and means of intervention, Milly’s parents convince her to run their successful Inn during their absence as they help a friend establish a new bed and breakfast in Ireland. Milly reluctantly agrees; when she arrives at the picturesque, waterfront Inn Significant, her colleague, John, discovers a journal written by her late grandmother that contains a secret her grandmother kept from the family. Reading her grandmother’s words, and being able to identify with her Nana’s own feelings of loss, sparks the beginning of Milly’s climb out of the darkness and back to the land of the living.

The Game is Always On: The Truth About Being an Indie Author

Verni BooksI don’t know about you, fellow indie authors, but there are only so many hours in the day for us to write and promote our books. However, the game is always on, and you can’t afford to slack. For me, writing is the most pleasurable and most fun part of being an independent author, just because I love the creative process so much. The marketing is by far the most challenging, and so we rely on others to help us via word-of-mouth or shares on social media.

I’m knee deep into writing my third novel, and it’s going well so far. I hope to complete this book by the end of summer. While writing projects are so much fun, we can’t let up on continuing to promote the other works we’ve crafted. It’s a struggle to juggle the sea of promotion and production.

I’ve had to become adept at social media over the years, and truthfully, sometimes I feel as if I’m failing miserably. Nevertheless, we do what we can do. We trudge forth, balancing that time to write vs. that time to market.

My advice? Though it may feel overwhelming at times (it certainly does for me), I don’t regret a single minute of the time I’ve spent on my passion. When I released Beneath the Mimosa Tree, my husband asked me what would make me happy–how many books did I want to sell? My reply was that I didn’t really have a specific number in mind, but that my overall goal was for readers to enjoy it. The same was true for Baseball Girl, which received an honorable mention in last year’s Readers’ Favorite Contest for sports fiction.

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That’s what makes me continue to write, to market, to promote, and to flounder a bit. I’ve taken to Instagram and have a lot of fun on that platform because I enjoy taking photographs; Steph’s Scribe and  Paperblog  provide bloggers with a broad audience; and the daily Facebook and Twitter posts must continue. In the end, being an independent author requires you to focus on one particular segment of the population: YOUR READERS. It’s all about those who actually read your work or intend to read your work, and who will, hopefully, enjoy it.

Marketing your books is a ton of work, but just as we become better writers, we also must strive to become better marketers.

I’m still learning.

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Upcoming Events…Come and see me!

At the first book talk I did at my second home: Stevenson University

September is right around the corner, and there are lots of events on the docket. It will be a busy month as I continue promoting BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE. I’ve had a lot of support from friends & colleagues, local businesses and groups, and students–both current and former. Here’s a list of events I’ll be attending in September, so I hope to see you around town.

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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 8 — Greetings & Readings Book Signing, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Greetings & Readings, Hunt Valley, MD

Greetings & Readings, Event & Author Link

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SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 15 — METAvivor’s 3rd Annual Author’s Luncheon, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.

The Doubletree Hilton, Annapolis, MD (A portion of my book sales will go to this fine organization)

METAvivor Author’s Luncheon Link

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SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 30 — Baltimore Book Festival, Noon – 7 p.m., Author’s Tent

Mt. Vernon, Baltimore, MD

Baltimore Book Festival Link

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Additionally, on September 1, the winners will be announced for the READERS FAVORITE CONTEST in which I placed as a finalist in the category of contemporary romance. Keep your fingers crossed that BENEATH THE MIMOSA TREE does well!