Kathi is back with Niki Hardy, the author of Breathe Again, for part four of how to get a book deal on a small platform, discussing ten lessons from a first time author. In part one of this series they discussed what publishers are looking for, followed by how to maximize your small but mighty platform and common mistakes of first time authors. You will definitely want to take note of these ten important lessons and how you can apply them.
In this episode you will learn:
- Ten great lessons from a first time author
- Tips on goal setting and staying organized
- Ways to avoid comparison.
- Why and how you should celebrate along the way
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Meet Your Hosts
Author, Speaker, Communicator Academy Creator and CEO
Niki Hardy is pastor’s wife, cancer survivor, and teller of terrible jokes. As the author of Breathe Again: How to Live Well When Life Falls Apart she’s all about helping you discover that with God, life doesn’t have to be pain-free to be full, then living it. You can find her at www.nikiHardy.com and https://www.instagram.com/niki.hardy/
Transcript of this Episode
Read along with the Podcast!
Writing at The Red House Podcast # 202
Ten Lessons from a First Time Author
Welcome to the Writing at The Red House Podcast, where we gather at the table to break bread, and tell tales with some of our favorite writers and speakers.
Kathi – Well, hey friends. Welcome to Writing at The Red House Podcast, where our heart is to equip and encourage men and women to become the communicators that God has created them to be. I am back with our final episode. Sadness! It’s going to be a great episode, though, so it’s actually happiness. It’s Niki Hardy, and Niki is the author of Breathe Again and she got a book deal on not the world’s biggest platform. So, I wanted to have her on here, because so many of you are talking about “How can I get a book deal when I don’t have a hundred thousand Instagram followers?” By the way, nobody on this podcast does, but we are going to help you figure out: What is your super power? What is your niche? What can you do? So, Niki, we’re going to talk about these Ten Lessons from a First Time Author. We’ve got 10 lessons in fifteen minutes, so we’re going to get on this. First is, Own Your Own Story: Niche Down Until It Hurts. Talk about, how do you niche down until it hurts?
Niki – Yes. It’s very easy to want to write for everyone, but we really have to think about “Who is our person? What’s the thing they are going through? What’s the pain that they are feeling?” It’s not about writing for everybody whose life has fallen apart, but how has it fallen apart? Is it divorce? Is it kids with a diagnosis? What is it? Speak to them.
Kathi – Here’s what I love. Your first thing is think through what your audience need is, but your second point is: Ask Your Readers What They Are Struggling With. How did you do that? How did you specifically ask them?
Niki – I was part of Facebook groups where my readers were hanging out. I still am. It’s there that I would ask questions. One of the things I talk about is cancer and a cancer diagnosis. I would say, “What’s the most annoying thing someone has said to you?” or “What do you find most frustrating about your cancer journey and being a Christian?” and I was getting all these things that were a complete surprise to me. So that was super helpful. It gives us a window to our reader. It sounds creepy, but it’s like we’re standing outside their house and we’re looking in and what are they doing? Are they pacing backwards and forwards, biting their nails, ‘cause they’re worried? Or are they smashing plates because they’re just so angry. Or are they turned off watching their church live, because they’re just angry with the church? What’s going on?
Kathi – I love that. And having some concrete examples. Not just saying, “They’re angry.” No, they’re throwing plates, or they’ve turned off the livestream of their church. Those are concrete examples that people are going to resonate with. Okay, Number Three. You say, Keep Writing Until Your Voice Emerges. Yes! This isn’t about your first draft being the most amazing book that has hit the topic of cancer, ever. This is about writing and writing and writing, until you find your unique writing voice. I bet you found your voice in the midst of, we talked about you writing on Caring Bridge, and that was probably pretty raw. Pretty exposed. But it probably gave you great insight into your own writing voice.
Niki – It did, and when it came to writing my book, I thought that suddenly I needed to be a lot more formal. Or a lot more poetic. Actually, I just needed to be me. It was as if, you know, I’m in my fifties and throughout my life, I’ve gone through different types of clothes that I would wear. Kind of, trying on other people’s style. I’m like, “Ooh! She looks so good in floral. I need to wear floral.” I’m like, “I don’t wear floral!” So, figuring out what writing voice we wear and sits well on us and sits well on us and is authentic is a way to go through it.
Kathi – I love that. When we become more like ourselves, people identify more deeply with us. It doesn’t just develop your writing voice, it really develops your unique sense of humor. Especially in these hard topics, cancer, clutter (which is a very hard topic for a lot of people). Having that sense of humor is like slicing through to the heart of somebody.
Niki – Yes. The number of times my cancer, and I don’t think I’ve said it on this podcast. It was rectal cancer. When I stand up and say, “That’s a bummer. Literally.” People suddenly go, “Oh, it’s okay. I can talk about it. She’s relatable.”
Kathi – Yes. I’m sorry that it was relatable in that way, but I love the hope you’re giving to other people. Number Four: Write Tangible, Measurable Goals For Yourself. Okay, this is so my jam. You say annual, quarterly, daily, and I also believe in hourly and minute-by-minute goals, sometimes. So, do you sit down once a year and write annual goals? How does that look for you?
Niki – So, I found myself falling in love with Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner. I tweak it a little bit, to make it more mine, but he talks about setting goals for the year, then you update those every quarter, setting quarterly goals. Then, weekly and daily. He talks about having your weekly big three. “If I get nothing else done this week, I want to get done X, Y, and Z.” Then the daily ones relate to your weekly ones. So, that really helped me. Going back to this feeling like we have to everything. No. What is the one thing that I’m going to do to move my goal forward?
Kathi – I will add to that. Set goals and hold them loosely. Work hard towards them, but sometimes life circumstances change, goals change, your ministry, your business changes. To be able to say, “Hey, you know what? I was pushing towards this goal, but things have changed.” We finished our annual retreat, where we set all of our goals with my team leadership. We finished that on March 4th of this year. Well, yeah. Then the entire world tipped off its axis. So, we had to change everything. Having writing retreats at our house is no longer our goal. We’re trying to figure it out. The person who survives is the person who can adjust. So, constantly going back to your goals and saying, “Okay, this one is no longer possible, so we’re going to figure this out.” And being able to adjust and pivot when you need to. Number Five: Start And Stay Organized. That’s adorable. That sounds like, “Oh! Okay! I’ll just stay organized.” Tell me your number one tip for staying organized as a creative, as a scientist and as a publisher of words.
Niki – I say this because I am not organized. I have really had to work at how I organize. So, whether it’s my files or my computer or the things I’ve downloaded and printed off to reference later. What I often do is, “Oh, I’ll just put it there. Just for now.” Just for now ends up being forever. So, I’ve had to embrace the essentialism manifesto of following through to save yourself time later. “No. I must go put that in the right folder in my Drop Box.” So those were the things I struggled with, and still struggle do.
Kathi – I call it Taking Care of Your Future Self. So, Right Now Niki wants to put it there because it’s easy, but Two Hours from Now Niki, when she’s looking for that piece of paper? I’m going to take care of her, and I’m going to put it where it needs to be. Even if it feels like an extra step. It helps so much. It’s such a kind way of saying, “Don’t do that, Kathi. Stop that. Don’t put it there.” No, I’m taking care of my future self, so Future Kathi can find that and not be frustrated. It’s very kind. Okay, we’ve gone through one through five of Lessons from a First Time Author, from Niki Hardy. Own your own story. Ask your reader what they’re struggling with. Keep writing until your voice emerges. Write tangible goals. Start and stay organized. Number Six: Constantly Remind Yourself That Your Value Is Not Proportional To Your Numbers. Whoo! Okay, talk through that. I know that that’s something that many of us struggle with on the daily.
Niki – And I still do. We can look at other people’s numbers, whether it’s on Instagram or Facebook, and somehow feel that that person is better than us, or has had more lucky breaks than us. Whatever it is. We equate our value with our numbers. We have to remind ourselves that we are not our platforms. Our value does not come from how many people follow us, or like us, or we have on our email list. So, it’s just a constant reminder to not get caught up in that world.
Kathi – I love it. Exactly. It’s interesting, because I had a publisher that I was talking to before, and they said, “You don’t have a hundred thousand people on Instagram.” I’m like, “Okay, that’s adorable.” I still sell books. It’s interesting. “But I still sell books.” So, they’re even doing it to established authors. So, we have to go in and say, “I know where my value lies, if even if you are too shortsighted to see it. It’s okay.” Seven: Ask Yourself, “Is There Another Way To Get Your Message Out There?” Okay, so this is interesting. If you want to be an author, but you’re saying, “Is there another way?” So, talk about that.
Niki – I think it is very easy to get fixated on “I want to publish a book.” If we turn that into “I want to serve my audience.” Maybe the best way might not be, at the moment, to do that through a published book. It might be that it’s a podcast. It might be that they’re reading online magazines and contributing there. It might be hosting a Facebook group and showing up live to encourage them. All those things will, actually, if you do them in the right way, serve your audience in such a way that it builds your platform. Then a book deal is a no-brainer. I think we can very easily get into the “I must publish a book. It’s the only way to do it.”
Kathi – I think the lie is, “To serve people, I need to write a book.” I think that all the service comes up front and the book comes later. So, how are you going to do that? Okay, Number Eight. Don’t Compare Your First Draft With Other People’s Published Work. Yes! I don’t even know if we need to explain that one, Niki. Your first time writing is going to be terrible. It’s not going to be good, friends. It’s just not. By the time my book gets published, this last book has been through six editors. Six! So, me writing in my notepad in my bed? Is not going to look the same, even compared to my own work, much less somebody else’s.
Niki – Exactly. Once again, we compare. We look, and we see that the world looks glossy, so we think it must be glossy. Actually, the grit and the grind happen behind the scenes.
Kathi – Number Nine: Hard Moments Lead To Healthy Writing. Well, that’s just mean, Niki. It’s just mean. What do you mean by that?
Niki – When I’m talking hard moments, here, I’m not talking about the story we’ve lived through. I’m talking about getting feedback. Getting unsubscribes. Getting people who say, “Well, actually, your message isn’t for me.” As much as those hurt, and each time I send out an email and see those numbers dip a little bit, because people are saying, “Actually, she’s not for me.” I’m learning to say, “Okay. That’s good. She is not my reader. She is not my audience, and I’m not serving her by what I’m doing.” Unless there’s something that I’m doing wrong, that’s annoying her and she’s fed up with me. It’s a shame that I can’t serve her. But actually, that’s a process of niching down. It means we’re honing our audience.
Kathi – I’m also going to give you some advice, Niki. Are you looking at those numbers every time you send out an email?
Niki – Yes.
Kathi – Don’t! I’m going to slap your virtual hand. Here’s the thing. It’s going to make you question everything you’re doing. You’re right. You should be looking at trends. Now, if you have a bunch of unsubscribes and you’re like, “Okay, what did I do there?” that’s okay. But to look at it every week? I unsubscribe from people I love all the time, just because their message isn’t for me. I unfriend people on the regular. ‘Cause I’m like, “Oh, you’re being evil and we don’t need that right now.” I don’t think you’re getting the evil unsubscribe. I’m pretty sure that’s not what’s happening in Niki’s world. I tell people, don’t have those numbers emailed to you. Have somebody else look. They can just tell you if the trend is up or down. Now, the trend might be down because you’re not publishing enough. Or you don’t have a lead magnet out there, bringing people in, or something like that, but I do think it’s a real disservice to be looking at your numbers on a regular basis.
Niki – Okay, I hear you.
Kathi – Send it to somebody who loves you and can tell you when you need to pay attention. Okay? Just my little free piece of advice, and it’s worth exactly that. Okay, Ten: Celebrate Along the Way. Yes! I would love to hear about some of the small wins that you are celebrating right now.
Niki – Right now. I think it’s important to celebrate little and often, as opposed to, “I will celebrate when I get my book deal.” It encourages us along the way. So, I am celebrating, I’m in the process, as we’re airing this, it’ll be done, but I’m pulling together a group of women to talk about Peace in the Pandemic. It’s the first time I’ve ever done a live webinar, Zoom thing with multiple people. Just even getting those people together is a big win for me. So, I’m celebrating that. Then, a little win. I didn’t my first ever Instagram TV.
Kathi – Oh, nice.
Niki – I was like, “That’s a big win for me!” It’s a small win for many people, but celebrating them along the way acknowledges our progress.
Kathi – I think it’s so important to celebrate things you have control of. You don’t have control over a book acceptance, but you do have control of “I went live every day for five days.” Or “I went on IGTV for the first time.” Or “I wrote 500 words and I did that every day for five days.” Those are wins you can celebrate because they are completely in your control. Not always completely in your control. If you have small children, writing 500 words a day might not be completely in your control. Niki this is so good. Okay, if people want to connect with you, how can they do it?
Niki – Well, I have a website, where they can find me, read more about me, and download the first couple of chapters of my book, or I’ve got an audio talk on there. All sorts of things. That’s NikiHardy.com. I’m on Instagram. Same name. @Niki.Hardy. I’d love to come and meet people and be friends.
Kathi – Yeah. Go find her, you guys. We’ll have links to all of that, below. Guys, don’t forget to download her amazing resource. From Blog to Book Deal Checklist. I love this. This is so great. Niki, thanks for hanging out with us for an entire month of your life. I so appreciate it. Guys, her book Breathe Again is excellent. It would make a great gift for anybody who is going through a hard time. If you read it with your friend? What a gift. Friends, thank you for being here at Writing at The Red House podcast. I’m Kathi Lipp. You have been given the best message in the world. Now, go live it.
You’ve been listening to Writing at The Red House podcast. Thank you for spending a little time getting better at what God has called you to do.
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