Selling Your Novel for a Song

Selling your novel online has at once become an easily accessible endeavor and a wicked web of unknowns. The new self-publishing capabilities we now have at our fingertips seemed at first a gift from the heavens, but I’m noticing a disturbing trend and cannot hold my tongue (or keyboard) any longer.

A lot of people I love love writing. And most of them probably cringed at that last sentence, and this one too, for that matter. But not as much as I might cringe at the prices they put on their work.

It occurred to me recently, as I was browsing the listings on Amazon for under $1, that there are far too many writers undervaluing their work. Far too many great books going unnoticed in the sea of “$0.99 and less.”

And if “50 Shades of (f*&^%$#@) Gray” can sell for $9.99…what the hell are the rest of you doing wrong?

During a friendly debate on the topic of pricing literary fiction, someone noted that “Consumers do not value creativity,” thereby dooming all writers to sell their Great Work for the same price as a song on iTunes. A. Song. One song. Not an album. Just one song.

As much as I love this friend and value her opinions, I also must wholeheartedly disagree with her here.

Consumers (you) absolutely value creativity, don’t you? You crave it, seek it out, get your hands on it whenever you can. Am I right?

All of you proud owners of Apple products, even if you don’t care to admit it, spent at least 3-4 times as much for that product because it was…creative. As far as I can tell, that’s the main distinction between Apple’s products and the far less expensive equivalents. Oh, I can hear the protests already, but spare me. You and I both know why you bought it.

Because Creative is Cool

Let’s dig a little deeper here into the topic of what consumers value and what they don’t. In the wise words of the late Steve Jobs,

It isn’t the consumers’ job to know what they want.”

Truer words have rarely been spoken with regards to marketing. This is where the crux of the problem lies for many literary fiction writers.

Sweeping Generalization #1: Writers want to write. They don’t want to socialize, they don’t dig marketing and they certainly don’t want to have to push their wares. They write their novel, slap it up on Amazon, and then go back to writing.

This is a great strategy if you don’t actually care about selling your book. But, if you do want other people to buy and read your book I have some bad news for you: Your greatness, your talent and your creativity is not going to seep into the masses by osmosis while you ignore them and move onto your next project.

You must tell them!

Writers who are self-publishing don’t just take on the added task of getting their books in print, they also must take on the marketing and PR of their work. If they are to expect any measure of success, they must take these additional responsibilities as seriously as they did in creating their novel.

Yes, this means social media *gasp.* Yes, it means writing your own press releases on a regular basis. Yes, this means networking and relationship building. Just like any micro business online today, the onus falls on you to spread the word about your product.

“But this is my novel! I poured my soul onto those pages. I worked for years to complete it. This is NOT just another product.”

Yes, it is.

Publishing houses have known this to be true for hundreds of years. And you resented them for it, didn’t you? We all did. As if it was their fault. But now it’s time for us to face this unpleasant fact: Your book, even if it is the next Great American Novel, is just another product in an already overcrowded marketplace.

And we don’t even have the Oprah show anymore! Gah.

Sweeping generalization #2: Writers, especially literary fiction writers, are arrogant introverts. It takes a certain level of arrogance to write this type of fiction effectively. They don’t feel they should have to explain themselves to anyone and don’t particularly like conversing with the masses. They are artists and the world should respect them as such. They will not stoop so low as to pimp their own work to readers if those readers don’t automatically “get it.”

Not gonna work. At least not without a huge publishing house to do this “dirty work” for you.

So please, allow me to repeat myself:

You must tell them!

One of the ways we communicate value to our potential customers is in the way we price our work. If you tell me your book is worth pennies, I’m going to take your word for it. I might buy it but, let’s face it, I’m probably not going to read it. I’ve spent $5 on another book and am far more committed to reading it than yours. You’ve already told me your book is worth less of my time, because you told me it’s worth less of my money.

How can you get the reviews you need if no one actually reads your book? How can your book go viral if no one is talking about it?

And then you ask…but how will people know my book’s worth their time?

YOU MUST TELL THEM!

We are at a turning point here, writers. This is a call to action, a battle cry if you will, for you to step up and define what self-publishing means today. You must do this not just for yourself, but for tomorrow’s writers as well.

This is brand-spankin’ new territory. As someone said to me recently, “It’s like the Wild West out there!” Well, get the horses watered bitches, ’cause it’s time for a new sheriff in town.

Are you really willing to let Amazon or Apple decide what your art is worth? Because I promise you, the giants are deciding your fate even as I write this. Or will writers, as their own publishers, collectively stand up and take on this responsibility themselves?

If you do not take charge of this process, it will take charge of you.

Sweeping Generalization #3 (and the last): Writers are not very savvy in marketing, online or off. As a result, they are getting their advice from blowhards who know very little about this market. How do I know these “experts” don’t know what they’re talking about? Because nothing’s been truly tested yet. This is all still too new. Everyone’s simply guessing.

Please note the distinction I’m making here. I am speaking to self-published literary fiction writers. Writers who can only produce a book once every year or so. I am not speaking to genre fiction writers who are pushing out a pulp novel every month as part of a series. For those equally talented writers, the $0.99 model may work nicely for a short time whilst they build their fan base…but guaranteed that low price isn’t going to stick around for long. They are following a current online strategy for selling this specific type of fiction.

By my estimations, the same model does not apply to literary fiction (unless you’re able to produce a full-length, high-quality novel every month…in which case, I’d love to represent you) and yet, this distinction seems to be lost on many.

Self-published literary fiction writers are going to have to develop their own strategy. Gone are the days of sending out your manuscript and waiting for an advance while you continue to write, leaving all that unpleasant marketing stuff to the house that selected you.

Be willing to experiment. Question everything you hear or read about this topic (including this post). Then, go out and share with the world what you’ve learned.

Today, publishing is our industry to shape. Finally, it belongs to the writers (if we’ll have it) and the windows of change are closing fast.

So…go. Be brave and daring with your pricing. Be humble and available to your readers. Above all, value your work for more than the price of a song…even if it’s just a little bit more.

Questions for book makers: How does this topic sit with you? What is your experience around pricing?

Questions for book lovers: How likely are you to read a book if you paid less than $1? What’s the most you’ve paid for a fiction book…and did you read it

Please leave your comments below and let’s get this discussion going. I want shits to hit fans…let’s take off the kid gloves and really have an open debate about the issue.

Friends With Benefits

 

Okay, it’s been kind of a heavy week around here. Heavy, but good. I had my guest post on Heart of Business talking about overcoming guilt, then the post here the other day talking about forgiving the people who’ve hurt us the most. I’m also going into week 3 of no gluten, no sugar AND the amazing Sandi Amorim and I kicked off our first week at the S’mores Summer Camp.

I’m SPENT people. Spent. I feel good, I feel healthy, but man do I feel spent. Which means it’s time to slow down, relax, look at beautiful things and schedule calls with friends I haven’t spoken to for too long.

Speaking of friends, that’s actually why I’m writing this to you. I want to talk about one of my friends. I love talking about my friends, especially this one. You might even know the beauty already, her name is Paula Swenson and she is a creative spiral of love and adventure. She travels the world and always ends up somewhere exotic and exciting.

Isn't she gorgeous??

Paula is a talented artist, teacher and coach and when I heard about her personal iconography offer, I knew I had to have one. Who wouldn’t?

Here’s how it went down. Paula and I had a brief chat where she asked me a series of seriously fun questions. (I like to talk about myself, so this part was a breeze.) Then, she told me to sit back and relax and she’d send word when the painting was completed.

THIS was the hard part. Waiting. Because, although I know great art takes time to create, I also knew that Paula’s personal iconography painting of me was going to be amazing and I could not wait to see it.

Being the kind and compassionate woman she is, Paula sent me a video of the progress on the painting (go watch it, it’s so FUN). It was love at first sight.

When it was finished, Paula created a second video highlighting the whole creation (how cool is that?) and shipped my new favorite painting to me (from Tunisia, her latest adventure).

I have the painting in my office, surrounded by some of my other most-special things, where I can look at it every day. Hell, I can look at it all day if I want to, it’s that beautiful.

To be honest, I’m not sure how she created something so utterly, perfectly personal to me with the few questions she asked during our chat. I’m still blown away. She even put Adred in it!

Paula’s a creative alchemist. I highly encourage you to take advantage of her personal iconography paintings before she realizes they’re sorely under priced. But knowing Paula, she just wants to make sure everyone who wants one can have access to one. She’s truly one of the most kind and giving people I’ve had the honor to meet.

It’s not just a creative process she takes you through, it’s a spiritual one. Learn more here:

Creative Spirals Personal Iconography

Full disclosure: I’m not receiving any affiliate monies through this. I received what Paula was offering (at a discounted ‘friends with benefits’ price) and my life was made better by the experience. I have a beautiful painting that will be with my the rest of my life. I just thought you might want one, too.

How I Forgave My Childhood Rapist

There are three main stumbling blocks that can hold us back in everything we do, especially in our soulful businesses and close relationships: Guilt, Fear and Resentment. Each has its antidote and today we’ll explore the cure for Resentment.

The process of forgiving my molester was not an easy one. It was actually, quite literally, a nightmare. I’m going to share this story with you now only because I hope that within it, you can find what you need to forgive the people who have hurt you in the past.

I’ve spoken openly here about my history of childhood sexual trauma and the effects it has had on my life. It’s a topic that never stops coming up for me, even now as I walk strong on the path of recovery and healing.

And forgiveness is a topic we’ve talked about before here, too. When I wrote the previous post on the subject of forgiveness, it really resonated with a lot of people. But it also pissed a lot of people off. Some so much so that they wrote about their pissed-offness on their blogs. I mention it because this post may feel as raw as the last, so if you’re overly sensitive or don’t believe in the concept of unconditional forgiveness and the freedom it can restore to your life…please just stop reading now.

There is always someone, somewhere, suffering from the restraints this type of trauma inflicts upon our lives. If you live in a relatively populated area, there is a very good chance that at this very moment a child is hiding from their abuser only a stone’s throw away from where you are sitting.

One of my deepest, and least rational, wishes is that I had a magic wand I could wave to spare any child of ever going through that pain. But for me, for my life, I would not want to change a single thing.

This story must begin with an introduction to a woman commonly known as Amma. She is a living Hindu saint, often called the “hugging saint.” The miracles and mountains she has moved are too numerous to list here but I encourage you to learn all you can about her and her work.

She’s called the hugging saint because, well, she hugs people. Tens of millions of people worldwide. Her devotees, including myself, believe that she is an incarnation of the Divine. She is, at the very least, a fully self-actualized being.

I’ve watched her, numerous times, sit perfectly still in one place while each of the thousands of people who flock to her receive her darshan, her hug. Despite having several physical afflictions including diabetes, she doesn’t move from that spot until everyone has received her blessing. She does not leave to go to the bathroom, does not take a sip of water, does not take a bite of food. For 12, 15, 18 hours she sits there. By the time she’s done, her white sari is muddied with the tears, sweat, grime and makeup of everyone she’s hugged.

Amma was born in a poor fishing village in the south of India. Her family shunned her as a child because of her dark skin and odd ways. She was never educated, never taught to read or write, and yet she has built schools, hospitals, AIDS hospices and orphanages. She’s met with the world’s top physicists to discuss the nature of the universe and can understand, and reply to, any language she hears.

There is no explanation for how a person like this can exist. And yet, she does.

Receiving darshan from Amma is a life-altering experience. It is one my daughter and I were lucky enough to experience on several occasions. As the hugging saint pulls you into her arms you see nothing but bright, white light. It feels like you are being pulled into the universe itself. After the hug, you smell like roses for the entire day. My daughter and I used to joke “You watch and make sure no one’s spraying me with rose water when it’s my turn, okay?” Of course, no one ever did spray us.

During one of these visits, my daughter and I were lost in bliss after a long day in Amma’s presence. As we got ready for bed, I decided to do something crazy…I prayed to Amma for the strength to forgive the person who had sexually abused me as a child.

I drifted off to sleep innocently enough after my prayer. We had a long drive home the next day and I wanted to be well rested. I had no idea what I was in for.

It’s no joke: Be careful what you ask for.

The next morning, thankfully before my daughter woke up, I sprang out of bed and went running into the bathroom to vomit. I was covered in sweat and shaking violently, having had the worst nightmare of my life (and I’ve had some pretty bad nightmares).

It was the only time I can recall where I dreamt I was someone completely different than myself. I was a man. I had children. And I had the irresistible compulsion to rape those children.

There are no words to describe the terror of this existence. In my dream, I was constantly tortured by my evil compulsions and yet, I could not resist them. It was a life of agonizing pain and self-loathing. A life lived in what can only be described as pure hell.

In the dream, I did not want to harm my children. I loved them and the pain in their faces as I attacked them in their sleep haunted my days without end. It felt like I was trapped in a cage of my own sickness. There was no way for me to stop myself despite all the agony my actions caused.

When I stopped throwing up long enough to realize what had happened, I was furious! I immediately threw out all faith in that woman called Amma and everything she had ever touched. I was so enraged, a part of me wanted to tear apart the hotel until I found her so I could give her a good piece of my mind.

I pulled myself together and got my daughter ready for the drive home. She was a pretty big sleeper back then, being a ‘tween,’ and pretty soon into the drive drifted back into deep slumber.

As my daughter slept peacefully in the back seat, I took the opportunity to continue to curse Amma for what she had done to me. I banged my hands on the steering wheel in anger. “How could you do that to me?! How could you be so cruel?! I loved you! I trusted you!” Waves of nausea still tore through my gut as the memories of the dream refused to subside.

For hundreds of miles, I went back and forth between cursing the hugging saint and demanding an explanation from her. She let me have my tantrum and then, finally, I heard a woman’s sweet voice – clear as day – whisper in my ear.

“How can you forgive what you do not understand?”

Fuck! Dammit! Shit! And fuck again! She was right.

It may sound overly simplistic to you here, but I swear to you at that very moment not only did all of my frustration towards Amma disappear but I was washed clean in a silvery shower of true forgiveness for my abuser.

She was right.

There was no way for me to ever fully forgive the man who had molested me if I was not given such a clear understanding of how he suffered for his actions. In truth, I had never really stopped to consider, or care about, his suffering…only the pain he had caused me.

By experiencing what it is like to be afflicted with whatever mental illness causes people to harm a child in that way, I had no other recourse but to forgive.

For I had seen, under no uncertain terms, that he had suffered so much more than I. Unlike me, there was no recovery for him. There was no way out of his hellish prison. No escape from his constant agony. Eventually, he took his own life.

We are not often allowed such a clear insight into the reasons why people hurt us. This was a gift beyond measure. Once I got through the sheer horror of the experience, I was able to see it for what it really was. A blessing. A miracle. Amnesty. I was instantly liberated from all the anger and resentment I’d carried with me for decades and it was replaced with unconditional forgiveness and love.

My prayer had been answered.

She had only given me what I asked for and my eyes still fill with tears of gratitude at the memory.

And now, I ask you to do the impossible too. I ask you to find the one person you feel you can never forgive, the one who hurt you above all others, and try to feel what it must be like to be them. I know this might not be as easy without a hugging saint beating it into you whilst you sleep, but spend some time in contemplation and meditation, asking for guidance from a Source that feels comfortable to you.

Really sit with the impact their actions must have on their own life and how they must suffer as a result. Allow this understanding to wash over you and release you of the burden of that anger. Feel how it is replaced with compassion and forgiveness.

You have just freed yourself.

 

Note: Feature image of child courtesy of Southworth Sailor

Life Coaching and Lizard Brains: An Interview With Deva Coach, Sandi Amorim

I’ve been blessed to know Sandi Amorim for a little over a year now. During that time, we’ve worked together on many levels including my taking advantage of her amazing coaching skills. (If life coaching were a video game, Sandi would be a world champion. It’s not, of course, but she still is.)

A few weeks ago, an idea sprung up from a conversation she and I had right here on this very blog. We were talking about what great friends we would’ve been growing up. Then, realizing we were STILL growing up and could revert back to childhood humor (including fart jokes) any time we wanted, we concocted the super-fun S’mores Summer Camp for Solopreneurs. This is not just any summer camp, this is a camp chock-full of the most amazing, enthusiastic and inspiring micro-business owners I’ve ever met. (There are still 2 seats left, by the way.)

Sandi is an incredible person to know and to work with. She’s sensitive, intuitive, strong, sassy and always leaves me laughing…and I really love that in a person. If you haven’t had the pleasure yet, go visit her blog, follow her on Twitter, friend her on Facebook and tell her I sent ya 🙂

 

You have over a decade of experience and training as a life coach. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey and why this profession called to you?

I had been working as a photographer for a year when I discovered coaching – or more accurately, coaching found me! I’d hear from clients over and over that they were surprised at how much they loved their photos, and I began to wonder what I was doing that contributed to this. I realized that I talked to them during the photo shoot; asking questions, getting them to think of anything other than the fact that a camera was pointed at them. It worked and helped them show up naturally rather than stiff and posed. Eventually, the conversations became more satisfying than the photography and that’s when I decided to explore coaching. Shortly after I began my coach training, I registered my business almost immediately because I was so excited to get started. I was on fire with this new passion which at the same time felt like it had been mine forever.

For the solopreneur, why is having a life coach so important?

After almost 12 years as a solopreneur, I can safely say that working on your own, often from home with little or no outside support is the greatest challenge I’ve both experienced and coached. All the structures we’re familiar with in a work environment vanish. Teamwork, discipline, accountability – gone as soon as you launch your own business. And unless you have someone in your life to talk to about everything, it can get a little crazy up there in your head!

I’m not just talking about a life coach, although a coach does provide the most comprehensive skill-set for this purpose. I think it’s invaluable to have what I call strategic support, be that a mentor, a business partner or what I call a committed listener; someone who is listening for you to be greater than your stories, reasons and excuses. Someone who hears your vision and hangs onto it like a dog with a bone when you forget!

My first expense as a solopreneur was to hire my own coach and that was definitely money well spent. She helped me get through the initial transition and shock of leaving the corporate world, and discover who I was, not only as a professional coach but also as a business person with a new range of responsibilities. I still have a coach on and off during specific times when I need extra support.

What do you find to be the most common stumbling blocks your clients struggle with?

Most definitely fear. Fear of failing, of looking bad, of others’ judgments and assessments, even fear of succeeding. I recently read a post by Josh Pais who said, “Fear is just atoms vibrating around. No biggie.” Well, I just nodded my head in agreement as I read that!

What the heck is a lizard brain? 

Yay, one of my favourite topics! The lizard brain is that primal part of your brain that exists for the survival of the human species. It usually feels like fear or resistance, but it’s actually a physical part of your brain, located near the brain stem. It’s responsible for that split second response we call “fight, flight or freeze” in both humans and animals and its only purpose is to keep us safe.

People talk about killing off the lizard brain, but first off, that’s impossible and secondly, it’s there for a good reason. In my work I coach people in how to manage it instead of killing it; almost as if you could turn down its volume. Why would you want to kill something that’s got your back?

You talk a lot about “someday thinking.” Can you explain what this is and why it sucks so hard?

We’ve all done it; it goes like this:

Someday I will…

  • Write a book
  • Lose weight
  • Start a business
  • Be in a great relationship

Then we talk about it, tell our friends, beat ourselves up when we don’t take action, refine our to-do lists, etc. Years go by…and then one day, we wake up – often due to a death or illness, usually some traumatic life event – and connect to this deep well of regret.

I’ve witnessed this at funerals. I’ve heard it from so many clients. And of course, I’ve experienced it myself, until my father-in-law’s death last year stripped away yet another layer of resistance and I woke up as though struck by a bolt of lightning. I realized that I was going to do whatever it took to wake people the fuck up so that they could experience more joy and satisfaction in life and fewer regrets.

It has been terrifying to put myself out in this way. I mean really, who the hell do I think I am to be the one to wake people up? Then I take a deep breath and thank my lizard brain for doing its job. And I take the next action.

You’re known as the Deva Coach, which often gets mispronounced (but hopefully not mistaken for) “diva.” So, what’s the difference between a “diva” and “deva?”

Great question, and I have to admit I can be a bit of both 😉

A diva is traditionally an opera singer, a prima donna. Less traditionally, it usually refers to a woman who’s not afraid to ask for (even demand) what she wants and will not settle for anything less.

Deva is a Sanskrit word that means deity or good spirit; one who plays in the light. It resonated so strongly with me when I first heard it, and immediately came to mind when I thought of a business name. Ultimately, my work is to have people shine. It fits and makes me smile whenever I think of it, even after all these years!

What are some of the techniques you use in your coaching practice?

I’ve studied Solution Focused Coaching, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and a whole range of personal development work. Learning is one of my core values and I’m always on the lookout for my next course of study. It’s one way to keep me on track in my own life, but also provides a huge toolkit for my clients.

Mostly my work involves listening and asking key questions. Sounds simple until you realize how little people listen, especially now when we’re inundated 24/7 by various forms of technology. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology, but it also takes us out of being present to each other. I’ve heard hundreds of times how the way I listen makes a difference for people.

But I also use various processes and techniques to get people out of their heads and more fully into their bodies. The head has a tendency to over analyze and keep us stuck (thank you lizard brain!) but the body doesn’t lie. When you learn how to listen to it, it will guide you more successfully than any intellectual conversation you could have with yourself!

I also love to surprise people with the amount of humour, play and laughter in our conversations. Studies show that we learn better when laughter is involved. It eases fear and tension, relaxes the body and allows us to think more clearly. There’s nothing like a good belly laugh during a coaching call!

Who are your perfect people?

They are ordinary people who suddenly realize it’s time to take some extraordinary actions. They are DONE with someday thinking and are ready to kick some serious ass with regard to their dreams. Mostly women, usually solopreneurs, they are ready to take a stand and fight for what they want. They’ve had that a-ha moment and don’t want to waste one more precious minute of their lives.

What’s the single most important piece of advice you can offer coaches who are trying to build an online presence?

(Jenny’s note: Pay attention here!)

Be yourself – reliably, without apology, without comparison. When you show up authentically with all your gifts and geniusy self, people can’t help but take notice!

Didn’t I tell you she was amazing? Didn’t I??

Gratitude Is Also a Verb

Whatever our individual troubles and challenges may be, it’s important to pause every now and then to appreciate all that we have, on every level. We need to literally “count our blessings,” give thanks for them, allow ourselves to enjoy them, and relish the experience of prosperity we already have.” — Shakti Gawain, author

I’m coming up on my tenth anniversary of having a gratitude practice. When I started working with Jackie Woodside (she was my business coach for over six years), I am sure I radiated disillusionment, disappointment and resignation. You see (I learned this much later, but let’s lead with this powerful knowing, shall we?), I was (and still can be if I’m not mindful) habitually negative. For whatever reason (we all have ‘em), I developed the habit—early in life—of reacting and relating to life from a victimized, deprived and entitled set of responses. Negativity became my grooved neural pathway—my “thrown-to way of being”. And over time, sadly, negative interpretations of reality became my comfort zone.

Jackie, with what I would come to know as her remarkable intuitive brilliance, offered me this assignment in our very first session: Write a list of 15 things for which you are grateful every day. “Fifteen?” “Every day?” “Seriously?” Yes. Yes. And yes. Well, I took it on (one of my very first mentors told me that my willingness would set me free, and I think it has). I wrote that list every single day. For the first four years, I wrote my gratitudes in an email and sent it to Jackie, who read each one, and commented on the ones that moved her, that touched her heart. She reflected back to me the jewels that landed up on my list among the mundane and the agonized. How beautiful and inspiring it was to have that goodness in me recognized, as I couldn’t really see it in myself!

I get how challenging developing the gratitude muscle can be. I also can tell you how big the payoff is. Not just based on my own experience—over the nine years since I’ve become a coach I’ve had clients embark upon this very practice and I’ve watched them visibly change, and listened to them tell me the beneficial, heart-opening, grounding effects this practice had on them.
While gratitude lists and gratitude practice are common now (I get 31 million results when I Google “gratitude practice” and 37 million for “gratitude list”), which might make one think it’s an easy thing to do, I remember how it was when I started.

There were more days than I care to remember when the best I could come up with were things like “I’m grateful that I’m not having surgery without anesthesia.” Or “I’m grateful I’m not staked to a hill of fire ants with honey poured all over me.” With gnashing teeth I began to write. Like this:

I am grateful for life
I am grateful that I’m sober
I am grateful for this roof over my head
I am grateful for a reliable car
I am grateful that I have good food to eat
I am grateful that I am an amazing cook
I am grateful for friends
I am grateful for my coach
I am grateful for technology
I am grateful for entertaining tv and radio
I am grateful for bills being paid
I am grateful for my smarts and curiosity
I am grateful that my daughter is safe and healthy
(just counted, 13 down, two to go)
I am grateful for dancing
I am grateful for music

The substance of my lists haven’t changed much over time. Sometimes they are very deep, powerful and profound. Sometimes they are a list of simple blessings.

Here’s a big fat important secret: More than one of the items on the list above are a reach—out of my comfort zone. I write: “I am grateful for bills being paid,” even though there are monkeys in my head screaming “Not enough money!” “You’re running out of money!” “Business is bad and not getting better; be afraid!” Or I write: “I am grateful for my friends,” while my monkey mind reminds me that “You’re not popular,” “Nobody loves you,” and my personal favorite “You are just unlovable—too old, not cute enough…” This gratitude practice creates new neural pathways. My monkey mind has been in charge of my thoughts for many years, and those monkeys dug deeply grooved neural pathways that are anything but loving, like this: Someone I like doesn’t accept my invitation=I’m a loser. A coaching client leaves my practice=I did something wrong and I’ll never succeed. What gratitude does to heal this: Every written gratitude scratches a new pathway. It takes time and consistent practice to make the new pathways deep and habitual, habitual enough that the old ones start to fill in, dry up, get grown over, disappear, from lack of use.

Here are some of the new thought pathways I can recognize in myself:

• I look around at who has accepted my invitation and I express gratitude for their presence (instead of complaining about whoever didn’t attend).

• I accept the invitations I receive and make sure to let the inviter know how happy I am to be included (instead of staying home scorning the invitation because, after all, why would I go to any gathering to which I had been invited? Thank you Groucho!).

• When our work is complete, I release clients with love and thanks knowing that I am exactly where I am supposed to be in my business (instead of sinking into a tailspin or worry and stress about what I did wrong and why they’re gone).

It all comes back to the central tenet of transformational technology— doesn’t it?—which is [trumpets please]: Change how you are thinking and you can begin to lovingly change how you are living. Or, put another way: How I think informs my experience.

When my thinking is loving and trusting and positive—grounded in gratitude—I have a much better experience of Whatever.Is.Happening. When my thinking is fear-based, victim-based, entitlement-based, deprivation-based, I have a crappy experience of Whatever.Is.Happening.

Are you getting this? I want this to land loudly and lovingly in your heart. Life happens. Joyful stuff. Difficult stuff. Illness. Death. Endings of relationships. Financial setbacks. Fabulous wealth. Life happens. And it’s completely up to me how I react and how I think, what I say and what I do about what life serves up to me every moment of every day.

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Sue Kearney is Chief Inspiration Officer at Magnolias West, her coaching, branding and web design practice. She is a dancer, DJ, artist, and a maker of kombucha, sauerkraut and herbal medicines. Sue is a student of astrology, tarot, and a practitioner and facilitator of women’s spirituality.

This year, Sue opened up her gratitude practice to anyone who wanted to join, by creating the Magnolias West Gratitude Challenge. For free. Although the year is more than a quarter gone, you can join any old time you want, simply by sending me your first gratitude list in an email. Sue will be personally reading every one of them! Join the Magnolias West Gratitude Challenge 2012 community! Send your emails to Sue [at] MagnoliasWest [dot] com.

Sue coaches women in business who want to reconnect with and fully express their juicy audacity without losing what makes them successful.

She offers a Self-Love Coaching program, as well as a Brand Refresher Review. Contact her at Magnolias West.

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The True Power of the Present Moment

 

Beautiful background image courtesy of pranav.

 

What Orwell meant when he wrote this lovely quote is that the leaders who are in control at any given time also have control over rewriting their nation’s past. This edited version of a nation’s history significantly affects its future. For more on the political background behind this quote, you’ll have to go read 1984. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about today…

This same truth holds steady when we apply it to our own personal lives. Our future is determined by the stories we tell ourselves about our past. These stories, whether accurate or heavily skewed, play out in our minds every moment of every day. They can destroy our relationships, our businesses and create a pretty stark and empty life. (I’m sorry, but I’m in a “Tell it like it is.” mood today. Blame it on the New Moon comin’….on second thought, I’m not sorry. So there.)

Stay with me here as we enter the enigma of time: By not living in the present moment, we abdicate our power to control our past and future to the past. And that is a very dangerous and reckless thing to do. Believe me, I know how deep that dark well can go.

As I work with clients, I can hear these stories of the past seeping through. I see them holding people back from doing what they are meant to do…what they dream of doing. I see these stories whisper their lies and sabotage the meaningful growth these people are seeking.

When I am performing a reading for someone who is still tightly connected to their past, these stories seem to jump off the cards at me as if they are the most active part of the person’s current reality. I’ve had to deal with the ramifications of my own “sad stories,” too, and totally understand their insidious nature.

The answer is mercifully simple.

To stay present, in this moment right now, means that you take back control not just of your future but also of your past.

In this moment right now, you are closest to the Divine.

In this moment right now, you are strong, capable, safe and able to accomplish whatever you desire.

This moment is timeless.

This moment is infinite.

It is the only reality worth living.

Once we loosen our grip on the past and cease our grasping for the future, we can only be at peace. There is nothing else in this moment right now. Only peace.

So will you join me in this magical moment, right now?

 

Selling From Your Heart

I discovered Mark Silver’s work about two years ago and have been paying close attention to him ever since. His ability to effectively combine spirituality with marketing is unsurpassed in my opinion. His capacity for kindness and giving serves as an example to us all.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know him a bit more as I am one of the facilitators for the Heart of Business Alumni Community. I can tell you that, after working with him closely over the past few months, I am now totally unconvinced he was not bitten by a radioactive spider or dropped from a meteor onto his parents’ farm as a child. Superhuman, in every sense of the word.

Mark’s about to launch this year’s Sacred Selling course and the core message of these teachings is something we can all benefit from. The following insights and advice can transform your sales conversation from one of discomfort and doubt to soulful success. Don’t forget to leave a comment and let us know your thoughts and experiences with this topic. Enjoy!

Jenny: Can you tell us about your journey? What did you find most difficult when you first started out in your business? What had to happen to transform that?

Mark: There was so much that was difficult. The biggest thing was that I hated business. 🙂 You see, I spent a lot of time as an activist early on, and I witnessed injustice and unethical actions from large corporations that hurt my heart and outraged me. I never could trust that.

On the other end, there were lots of small businesses, including my parents’, that seemed to be full of a tremendous amount of hard work. Just an exhausting, day after day grind.

Finally, when I went into business, early on I was in a model of business that involved a lot of cold calling, a lot of approaching strangers, and it was just painful.

So I had to work through all of that: that business was unethical, that it couldn’t do good, and that to make it successful was a grind of painful, unenjoyable tasks.

Not so much, right. 🙂

What transformed that was being introduced, through my now-wife Holly, to the holistic healing community, and all the people who were doing tremendously fantastic work, and yet were struggling so hard to get clients. I found that my experience in the nonprofit world, and later my spiritual work in Sufism, allowed me to find a different path through business, one that was both effective and heart-nourishing.

Jenny: When I first heard you discuss the sacred origins of selling, it was such a welcomed insight for me. Can you explain the beginnings of selling and what’s happened to make us so averse to it in our modern world?

Mark: One of my favorite things to do is go to the dictionary, it often provides a wonderful insight into the intellectual origins of ideas. In this case, the verb “to sell” comes from the Ancient Norse “selja” which meant “to give up” in the sense of giving an object to someone in response to a request. So for me to ask you to give me a book, you giving me that book is to “sell” the book to me.

This insight is at the heart of all sales, and what makes it MUCH easier. That we, as business people, are providing something that people are needing, something that are asking for. Far from bothering people, we are helping people out.

The problem, of course, is that selling has moved from that to trying to get people to take what you’re offering in exchange for money, so that the focus people in business have had over the last centuries has almost solely been on the money, losing sight of everything else important in the sale.

What is so sacred about these interactions, I won’t say “transactions,” is that it takes a tremendous amount of trust, vulnerability and intimacy to create the trust that is needed for a significant purchase to happen. Trust, vulnerability and intimacy are the foundations of something very sacred indeed, if you’re aware of it.

Jenny: Heart-centered business owners are natural born nurturers and givers. They would help the world for free if they could and nothing would make them happier. This can show up as a big brick wall of hesitation in their marketing, preventing them from making a decent living with their businesses. What steps do you suggest to climb over (or blast through?) this wall?

Mark: The first thing I say to this is: trust your heart. If your heart is stopping you from marketing, trust it. However, also look more closely. Notice that what your heart is saying is “don’t market this way” whatever way this is. You may have seen how someone else markets, and it doesn’t sit right with you. Don’t do that. But also don’t generalize with the decision that because some people are marketing in ways you don’t feel comfortable about, that marketing is therefore this thing you can’t approach.

So, trusting your heart, begin to approach marketing and see what it is. I define “business” as the “relationships around your livelihood.” And I define “marketing” as the “art of starting, maintaining, and deepening relationships.”

Does that feel a little better?

Something else to notice is that great marketing, marketing with integrity, comes from the core of your business. However you help your best people, marketing is on the spectrum of help you provide. At your most engaged, you are giving everything to a client/customer, and they are giving back to you in a sustainable manner.

Earlier in the relationship, before that much trust has been built, marketing is the help you are giving to people before a two-way relationship has been formed, before they have decided to receive really deeply from you and your offer, and before they have felt the generosity of wanting to give back to you.

Therefore, because the relationship is newer, less deep, less committed, you give less.

Not out of any sense of “holding back” or miserliness, but because it’s inappropriate given the depth of relationship there.

“Let me repeat this: marketing is on the spectrum of giving help to your clients.”

Jenny: What are the keys to holding a successful sales conversation? Are there any practices you recommend to help acquire these keys?

Mark: There are a few keys to having that conversation with a potential client who hasn’t decided to hire or buy from you yet. The first key is to know that these conversations don’t happen in a vacuum. That you can’t just launch into a sales conversation right off the bat.

Often someone’s first expression of interest means “Oh, tell me more. I’m curious.” Not,”I’m considering buying from you.” Treat the initial interest at the level it’s truly at, instead of jumping the gun. It takes the pressure off you and them.

When you do get into talking to a potential client, you need to 1) be prepared, 2) be focused, 3) have your heart open, and 4) be curious and wanting to know about them.

Prepared means you know your own business and what you offer.

When participants go through Sacred Selling they are often surprised by how much vagueness they have in what they are offering and in their enrollment process, so it’s no wonder they stutter and trip at key points of the conversation. Price is a big stumbling block, but there are many others.

Focused means don’t waste your potential client’s time. You want to be friendly, you want to be open-hearted, but you also want to be a professional, and dive into the meat of the conversation. Friendly people without focus can have a sweet chat that lasts two hours, and no client at the end of it.

“Heart open goes without saying. You want to care. You want to be in service.”

Curiosity is linked to having your heart-open. You want to ask questions to help determine if this person is someone you can help. You want to spend a lot less time talking about what you do, than you do asking about what’s going on for them.

Jenny: Your Sacred Selling course is coming up soon, can you tell us a little more about it?

Mark: Sacred Selling is a process I love! One participant finished it and said, “If people would follow this process in their lives generally, we would be creating peace on earth.” And I think it’s true. Sacred Selling is based on profound spiritual principles I’ve learned through my Sufi teachers, as well as practical business knowledge, and helps connect the sacred, the practical and the effective in a ways that feels totally natural and organic.

It’s common for folks to come out of the course, or even during the course, to find so much more ease in the enrollment conversation that suddenly it’s fun, it’s effective. One past participant shared that their newest client remarked on how fun and pain-free the sales process was. Who has clients who remark on the sales process? And this client was at a new, higher price our participant was charging.

There are three areas that people need to prepare prior to the conversation, and three part of the sales conversation that help to structure it, not script it, but give it form and focus so the flow is incredibly easy.

In preparation we cover how to craft an offer that sells itself, how to price yourself from the heart, and how to have a trip-free closing process.

In the sales conversation, we teach a profound way to connect and create trust at the heart-level, based on ancient Sufi principles, without even using words. We then teach how to translate that heart-connection into words so you know what to say during the conversation, and how best to use the time. Then the third part is how to reach an agreement, what is commonly called the “close” (ugh!). It’s not a close, it’s an opening, and there is a very natural, stress-free way to reach that agreement and get paid.

94% of past participants report the course as incredibly effective. I’ve taught hundreds of people over the last seven years, and it continues to be a foundational part of business-building skills.

We have a free learning series right now, and a free call coming up April 17, you can sign up here: Sacred Selling Free Learning Series 

And the full course begins May 1 and runs seven weeks. You can learn more about it here: Sacred Selling Course

Hopefully that helps! We’d be delighted to see people take advantage of the free learning series, and to join us for the full course in May.

 

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Mark is a fourth-generation entrepreneur who has run a distribution business, turned around a struggling non-profit magazine, and worked as a paramedic in the San Francisco Bay Area.

He is the author of seven different in-depth programs and a number of other smaller teachings and classes for entrepreneurs. Together they form a comprehensive entrepreneurial wisdom academy curriculum. Learn more about this work at HeartofBusiness.com

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3 Must-Have Ingredients for Any Successful Micro Business

Do you ever wonder why some micro businesses flourish while others quickly fade away? Ever wondered why some people always seem to be busy while you’re struggling just to get the next client? Of course you have. We all have.

A successful business is like a successful recipe.

While every successful small business is unique in what they offer, who they offer it to and how they approach those people, there are three main ingredients they all share. These three main ingredients are absolutely essential to their ultimate success. They cannot be substituted for, cannot be omitted and each must be present in sufficient quantities to let their flavor shine through.

If you do a quick search on Pinterest for “s’mores” you’ll see an example of what I mean. There are hundreds of permutations on this most basic (and yet oh-so-wildly successful) recipe. There are s’mores martinis, s’mores cheesecakes, s’mores ice cream, s’mores in a box, s’mores on a stick and s’mores stuffed into jars. The list seems endless.

How can three simple ingredients lead to so many mouth-watering creations?

Once you have a trifeca of flavors, anything is possible. While we’re using the sweet toothed combination of graham crackers, chocolate and marshmallows the same can be said for basil, tomato and mozzarella or raw tuna, sticky rice and seaweed or chickpeas, sesame paste and lemon…you get the point and I’m getting hungry.

You want to create something that is uniquely you with your business but you still need to rely on time-tested flavor combinations in order to build a recipe that will appeal to all of your guests.

The Graham Cracker

Let’s think of this ingredient as the foundation on which everything else is built. The graham cracker is your marketing and this includes your blog, social media interactions, copywriting, email list and product creation. If your cracker is cracked everything else is going to fall through the…cracks (fuck it, I tried to resist but I’m only human). But really, it’s that simple. If your cracker falls apart your business will too.

The Chocolate

This rich and delicious ingredient is your support network. It is the glue that holds everything together. Learning how to build meaningful relationships in your business is the only way to expand your field of opportunity. From these relationships spring accountability, advice, friendship, joint venture projects, increased visibility, people who will celebrate your wins and shoulders to cry on when needed. Without it? Well, you’re just a sticky cracker that no one really wants to touch. Not only is this a lonely place to be, it’s not very profitable either.

The Marshmallows

Delicate and delicious, sweet and sticky, the marshmallows represent your personal growth. This may be the ingredient that is most often overlooked by the budding solopreneur, but successful small business owners know it is just as vital to building their business as any other ingredients. We can’t carry the same baggage around from project to project and expect different results.

The truth is, you can succeed at anything you set out to do as long as you clear the path of all the stumbling blocks your lizard brain has laid down before you. It’s true, but can be easier said than done which is why I’m a strong advocate of having a kick-ass life coach in your corner.

The Fire

“But you said there were only three ingredients!” Correct, and there are. However without fire, the magical melting and alchemical transformation that turns a plain cookie, a piece of cold, hard chocolate and a so-so marshmallow into the yummiest treat on the planet will never happen.

Sandi Amorim, my dear friend and personal Deva Coach, and I have decided to light that fire for you. Starting May 8th and running until July 17th, we will be hosting the S’mores Summer Camp for Solopreneurs where you’ll get the chance to gather ’round the campfire, roast some s’mores and transform your business into an equally tantalizing treat.

We have a ton of games, monthly challenges and special surprise guests planned. Sandi and I are committed to making this summer the most fun (and profitable) one you’ve had in a very long time. Ready? Learn more and apply for your spot here: S’mores Summer Camp.

I should note that there are only 10 spaces available. While this summer camp is going to be a BLAST, it is also designed to be an intensive program in which you will nurture yourself, your business and leap past those stumbling blocks. Sandi and I want to ensure that all campers get the full support they need on this transformational journey. For this reason, we’ve decided to limit enrollment. So if you’re keen, don’t delay.

PS: There are extra goodies for you if you register before April 17. Go…now…get ’em while you can 🙂

Time is Money (yeah, right)

 

Time is Money. We’ve all heard this assertion before. And many of us believed it…which is why we waste so much of it.

We measure it just like we do our money. We track it in minute increments as it ticks away in an infinite circle showing us how much we have left, how much we’ve frittered away, how much more we need.

In truth, time is so much more valuable than money. It’s so valuable that it defies valuation. And I don’t mean like the Hope Diamond is invaluable or Monet’s The Water Lily Pond is priceless.

I mean like the air you breathe, the life you live, drinking in clear blue skies sweetened with birds’ songs. That kind of invaluable.

And yet, unlike money, it’s the most likely element in our life we’ll ignore. Even as we bemoan our dwindling savings or celebrate that big new contract, we rarely turn this same level of attention to our time.

Makes sense to me. Time’s a scary thing. It’s just so very limited, the time we have here on Earth. And it seems to slip away at an ever-increasing rate of speed.

One of my all-time favorite quotes is:

“Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end the faster it goes.” ~Andy Rooney

As solopreneurs, entrepreneurs, micro business owners or whatever word you use to describe what you do, time is too often seen as our worst enemy rather than our most precious commodity.

When I first started my business as a freelance copywriter working for peanuts, there were days that I’d have to write 10,000+ words just to make a decent wage. I quickly discovered how much time I had previously been wasting and how little attention I paid to it.

I mean, I’d update my Quicken files every day. I checked my accounts sometimes twice a day. I maintained weekly, monthly and annual spreadsheets on all my expenses and income. I knew were every penny was coming from and where it would go.

But time. Meh. Not really worth my time (ahem) to do all that tracking for it, as well. Until I had no choice.

So I approached it just as I did when I first started to learn how to budget money. I wrote down every minute I spent, what I spent it on and what got accomplished. I tracked every minute of every day for over three months until I knew -to the second- how long any given task would take.

I began to recognize cycles where my productivity would slow down. Usually around the New Moon (read: PMS), I would need to give myself longer breaks and more frequently. I was able to prepare for these cycles instead of letting them sneak up on me and totally derail my busy schedule.

Introducing the “30-Day Time is Money Precious-Beyond-Belief Challenge”

I used a system called the Pomodoro Technique to finally get a handle on my time. It not only drastically increased my productivity, it did so with ease and brought about some profound realizations. The technique’s simplicity belies its power.

I’m not an affiliate for this book or the company. Besides, it’s free. But I strongly encourage you to go download it now, pick a date to start, and then use this every day (at least every work day) for 30 days.

Download The Pomodoro Technique here

After you’ve grabbed the book, sign up below to start your 30-Day Challenge. You’ll receive weekly emails of encouragement from me and have an opportunity to get some one-on-one support if you have any questions along the way. Then, at the end, you’ll have someone to celebrate with (ME, YAY 🙂

Click here to sign up for the 30-Day Time is Precious Challenge

The Paradox

You might be thinking, “WTF Jenny? You’re swimming in contradiction here. This sounds like we’re going to budget our time JUST like we budget our money.”

I assure you, I am not. Something magical happens when you start tracking your time with this level of care and attention…you begin to build a healthier relationship with time. You start to appreciate it more and truly value what it has to offer you.

Your perception of time is transformed from one of “never enough” to one of gratitude and appreciation.

This newfound gratitude will, in turn, begin to create more abundance of time.

Don’t believe me? Feeling skeptical? Then I challenge you, good friend, to take the 30-Day Challenge and prove me wrong.

Click here to sign up for the 30-Day Time is Precious Challenge

In This Moment

We worry. O! How we worry.

We worry about money (too much? not enough? what late notice??)

We worry about each other (are you okay? are you mad at me? what are you thinking about?)

We worry about the past (I/you/he/she shouldn’t have said that. I/you/he/she should have done this.)

We worry about the future (where will my business be next year? 5 years from now? will I ever get to retire?)

 But what about the present moment? What if you stop, here right now in the moment, and sink into it?

You’re safe. You’re alive. You may even be one of the lucky 15% of the world’s population who can afford to eat three meals today. Things may have happened in a previous moment which upset you and the future is always uncertain.

But in this moment, there is nothing more you need to do than be.

Just be.

Everything’s already alright.