The Grind Stage

A few weeks back (maybe, what is time anymore) I watched a Wharton seminar where they interviewed a couple of very successful entrepreneurs. And one of the comments from that session was that to succeed in business you need a lot of persistence.

I think about that often. (I also think about Seth Godin’s The Dip often.)

Because probably any successful venture has what I’m going to refer to as the grind stage. You’ve started out, you’ve chosen a direction, and now you have to get to the top of the mountain. Which is a bunch of putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

I hiked a 14’er once. (That’s a 14,000 foot mountain.) We had to go up 3,000 feet in elevation to get to the top. I was not in good shape. I wasn’t in bad shape, but it was not an easy hike for me. The guys I was hiking with were in good shape. This was not their first. And they eventually left me in the dust.

But I got to the top. By pushing through each and every single step forward. Literally. Sometimes on that hike I would take only three steps before I paused for another breath.

But I got there eventually.

Was it worth it? Yeah, probably. The view at the top was gorgeous. I recovered after a few days. And I can always say I did it. No one can take that from me.

But to get there I had to go through the grind stage.

Publishing I think is like that, too. Or maybe on a broader scale, being a writer is like that.

You have those early bright moments. That first book in your hands. That first person who loves it. That first big promo that gets you that pretty best-seller tag for an hour. That first fan email asking for more.

But then the shine kind of wears off.

Sure, more people love it, but some don’t, right? Or you get another promo and you’re happy to get it, but you know that as high as you’re flying today, you won’t be tomorrow.

Or maybe you get the fan email that says they’re never going to read you again because you took too long to write the next book or you killed their favorite character or you included the wrong kind of character or whatever their personal peccadillo is.

That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you have to show your mettle. When it’s not shiny and fun and new anymore and there’s 2,500 feet of mountain still to go to get to the pretty view.

That’s the moment when you need to put your head down and force yourself to take the next step. That’s the moment that sets apart those who make it to the top from those who don’t.

(Unless, of course, you’re really not on a path to the top of the mountain at all, which, well, yeah, that happens, too. What’s that they say about the journey being worth it? It better be, because you may never get anywhere you were trying to go. Haha. Sigh.)

Anyway. Perseverance. It has to kick in at some point if you want to make it somewhere that’s hard to reach.

(This post brought to you by my first box set promo with Bookbub that’s coming up tomorrow. I actually felt a little shiver of excitement about it today and realized how rare those moments have become now that I’m in the grind stage. The first in series has had a handful of Bookbubs at this point, but this will be the first one for the box set. Fingers crossed it does well even though there’s nowhere for readers to go because I sit around having deep thoughts or taking side paths into mountain meadows instead of writing the next damned book.)

Random Thoughts

I currently have the first title of my cozy mystery series available for free until the end of the year and my YA fantasy box set on a 99 cent sale in anticipation of a Bookbub. And I am reminded once again that the best possible promo is when one of the stores picks the title up for promotion.

I was lucky in February to (I believe) have Apple promote the first in series of the fantasy series when it was free, and I’m pretty sure they’re doing so right now or just did so for the cozy.

It’s sort of a black hole where you tell them, “Hey, I have this set to free” and then you suddenly see a spike in downloads on that one store and have to assume that’s where it’s coming from.

But that promo right there moves the needle more than any amount of paid newsletters or CPC ads can for me, especially since, you know, it’s free when they do that.

So if you don’t have the Kobo promo tab, the Nook promo tab, or the Apple contact info, look out for opportunities to get that. (Apple you have to attend an info session or a conference, generally.) And then apply when it makes sense to do so.

Of course, that’s also the argument for writing more content. Because they’re great about including books they think will sell, but ain’t no one wants to promo the same tired batch of books for the next five years. Which means you need to be giving them new material to promote.

(A lesson I can know and still not follow year after year because from what I can tell they rarely have an interest in promoting non-fiction.)

Another random thought I’ve had as I had to update a couple of screenshots in one book and a description of a function in another that were published years ago is that (a) I hate making mistakes, and (b) I kind of hate that no one else notices when I do.

I mean, it’s very possible someone noticed and didn’t think it was worth bringing to my attention. That’s absolutely an option.

But when I was full-time in an office with multiple levels of supervision and a team around me I would catch errors I’d made months earlier and no one else had noticed in the meantime.

Which meant it always felt like I was out there without a net because no one was going to notice the things I screwed up. And we all screw up. None of us are perfect.

And then I’d have the fun moment of “no one noticed but me, but I really should tell someone” which, depending on your boss, can be an “oh, good catch” moment or a “why did you do that wrong, how could you mess that up?” moment. But it had to be done either way.

Man do I not miss that.

I also realized this last week as I recorded a video course on Excel formulas and functions that to me Excel formulas are a language. I read them like I do English. I form all those little commas and parens into complete sentences in my head. I think I do the same thing with computer languages, too. It might be why they feel intuitive a lot of the time for me. Because I’m not seeing cell references and numbers, I’m seeing a written sentence.

Something to ponder. And maybe something to try for those who struggle with either one.

What else?

I think the paper shortage is going to hurt at least me personally. Some of my titles are probably 80% print sales and since they’re printed when sold that means there’s no inventory sitting around to draw from if Amazon or IngramSpark run out of paper to print with. Which on one hand justifies doing some video courses right now, but on the other hand probably just means lost sales.

Oh, and FB sucks. At least from an ad perspective. Not because they aren’t effective. Those ads can be great. I was getting 10 cent clicks on my cozy freebie. But then they disabled my account and I said I didn’t know why so they gave it back. And then I copied the exact same ads for a new audience and they disabled my account and I said I didn’t know why and they said “tough, can’t help you” and I said, “but I don’t even know what I did wrong” and they gave it back again. But never told me what I’d done wrong, so now I feel like anything I do may make them disable it again.

And I’m pretty sure they did it over either a checkbox image in the ads or a series of questions in the ads. Like, why is that an issue? What is your deal. Anyway.

There are days I miss nice, steady paychecks that get deposited into my account every two weeks as long as I show up at the office and don’t anger anyone enough to get fired. (I did far more than that, of course, but really those were the basic requirements.)

But for some reason I like this whole creating things out of nothing gig more. So, onward.

Video Courses and Affinity Templates

Those who’ve been around here a while may remember that at one point I had Excel for Beginners, Intermediate Excel, and the Easy Excel Essentials content (Printing, Formatting, Pivot Tables, Charts, IF Functions, and Conditional Formatting) available as video courses through Udemy.

I pulled those courses when they introduced a nonsensical tax form that I couldn’t fill out. But I still had the videos. And when I went back and looked at them this week, they were actually good.

They use the whole “I will tell you, then I will show you” approach which is not my personal favorite, but it is theoretically the best way to present information for a large audience, so that’s why I did them that way.

Anyway. I have now added those videos to the Teachable store I set up. So if you prefer to learn visually that is now an option. Use code MLH50 on Excel for Beginners or Intermediate Excel to get those half off. The individual Easy Excel Essentials courses are also available for just $15 a pop.

I expect I will add more video courses. I’ve started prep for an Excel formulas and functions course and know I definitely want to do that one to complete that series of videos, but not sure what will come next. So if there’s some topic you’d really like to see covered, now is the time to let me know. No guarantees I’ll cover it, but if it was already on the list it may move higher.

Also, when I put together the Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts content, I decided to put templates that people could download up on Payhip. So if you want an Affinity Publisher file that already has the master pages and text styles created that’s where you can find them. It saves some time, for sure, but you still absolutely need to know the basics of working in Affinity Publisher for a print layout to effectively use them. They’re not for an absolute novice.

Alright then. That’s it. Hope you’re all doing well.

Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts

I mentioned my newest project the other day and it’s now done. Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts is available in ebook, print, AND video.

So what is this book about? Can you guess from the title?

Basically, it walks a new user through how to use Affinity Publisher, one of the Affinity suite of products, to format a fiction title.

I actually started using Affinity Publisher for my non-fiction because I ran into an issue with using Word where the resolution of the images that exported into PDF weren’t what I wanted them to be and the only way to fix it was to use a paid Adobe product.

I’d heard a lot of buzz about Affinity so decided to give it a try and loved it.

They have great instructional videos on their website which is what I used to learn the program, but for me the videos just weren’t in the order I needed them to be. So I was 80% of the way through them before I knew that they covered everything I needed. Also, there are just certain things that are specific to self-publishing (like exporting All Pages not All Spreads) that trip new users up.

So in my latest “I don’t know what to write next” funk, I sat down and started to write up how to use Affinity Publisher for a print layout.

175 pages and 100 screenshots later, I had a book and hadn’t even touched upon how to use it for non-fiction. And then I realized I should probably do videos as well.

Sixty-plus videos later…I now have three video courses listed in addition to the books.

The video courses can all be found on Teachable. And if you use code MLH50 you can get them for 50% off.

Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts is the video version of the books. There are about eighteen videos and about 90 minutes of content.

Affinity Publisher Quick Takes is basically a reference library for when you’ve forgotten how to do something and need a quick one-minute refresher. That one currently has fifty videos, but most are a minute or less.

And then there’s a bundle that lets you get them both at once.

I’m new to Teachable so if you see something that looks unfinished, please let me know. There were lots of moving parts on that one.

Anyway, hope this is something someone out there can use. I know I would’ve certainly appreciated having it when I was getting started with Affinity. (Not that I would’ve bought it because I’m that do-it-yourself-as-cheap-as-you-can sort of person, but ya know.)

Knowing me there’ll probably be a non-fiction supplement at some point as well as one for basic cover and ad image design. Hard to believe that there’s still that much content left to cover, but it really is an amazing and versatile program that I’ve found invaluable over the last year.

Learning Curves Are Time Consuming

In my infinite wisdom (not), I decided to create a video course to go along with my latest book. (Upcoming, more on that probably Tuesday.)

I figured I already knew how to do this. I had the software, I had the microphone, I’d created video courses before. Should be easy enough to record, edit, and get those puppies up and done.


I decided I’d post the videos to Teachable, a platform I hadn’t used before. And I’ve moved since I last recorded videos and my current location had more sound in the background than my last one. And with video you basically have to wait the length of the video each time you export the video.


I edited the video. I exported the video. I watched to the video. I made edits to the video. I exported it again.

Then I uploaded to Teachable when all the videos were ready. Except when I listened to them on that site I didn’t like the sound.

So I tried to fix them. And then exported the videos again. And uploaded them again.

But some still didn’t work. So I edited them again. And exported them again. And uploaded them again.

But I still wasn’t happy. So I did some research and decided that the best option was to actually export the sound file, edit it in a different program, reimport it into the video program, and then export again. And while I was at it I decided to make some sound adjustments to all of the audio so they’d be consistent.

So I did that. For 75 videos. About three hours of content. Which I then had to reupload. That means five exports for most of the videos, or fifteen hours of export time alone.

I now have a process. I know what I’ll do for any videos going forward. I think it works. (I hope it works, because seriously…)

But that learning curve cost me about three extra days’ worth of effort to get to that point.

And then there was a couple more hours spent figuring out all the little issues with publishing on Teachable. Like I thought I’d published the course, but it didn’t publish. And I’d done images for the course page, but not my main page. Those sorts of things.

Lots of learning and trying and figuring it out. (Which as a Learner I kind of crave in the abstract. I like to master things. It’s just the wasted time that kills me)

But hopefully I’m good now and can finally publish the book that prompted the existence of that course.

(And hopefully when I go back to those older courses I don’t hate them so much I think they need to be redone…Hopefully…)