Volume 2 | March 29, 2017
Welcome and thank you for subscribing!

Each Conspired newsletter for nonfiction authors will include four to five articles and will arrive four to tens days after the previous one. This gives you enough time to read it and implement some of the ideas, but it's also frequent enough to keep you on track, focused on what you want to accomplish as an author, and moving towards those things.

Not everything in these newsletters will apply to all authors, but before you too quickly dismiss an idea as not being relevant to you, I suggest that you go through the motions of seeing how it would apply to you and your book first. As a mental exercise, make it fit somehow in some way. Then decide...

To review the introduction newsletter,  click here . To ask questions you'd like answered, suggest themes you'd like addressed, or propose nonfiction author/book problems for which you'd like to hear some creative solutions,  email me here  and I will respond in a future newsletter.

Sharon Woodhouse
Book publisher, publishing consultant, and small business coach
Everything Goes Media, Lake Claremont Press, and Conspire Creative

Don't Break the Chain

At book party after book party for the last twenty-something years, I hear guests marvel at the author's accomplishment. These people haven't actually read the book yetthe contents of the book aren't what amaze them at this point. It's the time commitment. Where do they find the time? With their job? Their family? Their commute? All I know, I tell them, is that the authors who do one book after the other all seem to have the same "secret." They write every day. Usually at the same time. Usually in the morning before the rest of their life starts. Every day.

Similarly, at author gatherings over the years, I hear authors murmur over the seeming constant stream of attention some particular authors get. Now, each book has its own path and gains attention for various reasons in its own way, but in general, when we're not talking NYT bestsellers and word-of-mouth blockbusters, and we are talking about independently-published nonfiction, there's a parallel secret at work. Those authors have integrated book promotion and a commitment to marketing into their daily lives. Some are adherents to the classic advice of John Kremer (1,001 Ways to Market Your Book), who rose in the 1990s to support the flourishing of independent publishing in the new age of the personal computer: Do five things a day, every day, to promote your book.

Year in and year out, I saw the power of this message, these habits, and I shared it with just about every new author I encountered. Of course not every piece of advice fits with everyone's life or personality or goals, but by my estimates I'd say that not more than 5% of those who wanted their book to be a success ever attempted this level of commitment, much less made it a habit. Yet, the single most effective thing I've ever seen work for authors is still this, which is why I make it topic of the very first article in the very first Conspired.

But it turns out that comedian Jerry Seinfeld says it better and does the daily habit one better. He calls it Don't Break the Chain and he uses a calendar for visual tracking. He spends a certain amount of time each day writing material, then putting a big red X on the calendar when he's finished, challenging himself not to break the chain of Xs, days in a row he's honored his commitment to joke writing.

As someone who's been self-employed for most of the last 32 years, I consider myself to have a decent amount of self-discipline and reasonably good daily habits so I never personally made such a formal commitment. Over the past year, however, I realized I had a backlog of writing projects that were incomplete. That's when I tried Jerry's Don't Break the Chain for myself and was amazed at what I got done with that time blocked off and committed to. My longest chain since I started has been four months...writing just one hour a day before I start any other work. What did I get done in those 120 days? I finished writing an online course that I started two years prior, I turned the course into a book, I got started on a syndicated column, and I was able to get this newsletter off the ground, as well as handling miscellaneous press releases, back cover descriptions for books, web content, and press kits without procrastinating. After years of dispensing this advice, I now have my own firsthand proof (I don't use Xs, I use numbers, so I can see the count go up every day).


  • Locate a spare calendar (is there a freebie from the dry cleaners or mechanic still lying around?) or print off monthly / quarterly / annual calendars here.
  • Decide: What do you need to do 30 or 60+ minutes a day, every day? Work on your next book? Look for an agent or publisher? Market your book?
  • Make the commitment.
  • As long as you don't break the chain, you're good. Some folks like the extra discipline of selecting a specific time of day for their commitment. They report that in a few short days or weeks, they've trained their brain to show up on schedule to the task at hand and they are especially creative or productive on cue.
  • If you need additional convincing on this one, blogger Gretchen Rubin has recurring commentary on the idea that doing something every day is often easier than just doing it some days.
  • If you do break the chain, don't despair and don't delay. Start over and work on making your next chain longer than the last one. I recently broke the chain when I went on vacation and it took me almost over three weeks to resume. My current chain is nine days.
What's Working Now

Off on a Tangent

Formulas used to work for my company, marketing and promotion formulas that worked for years. Until they didn't. Then we'd devise a new formula. When I went from tinkering with a model every year to every six months to every few months to every few weeks, I knew it was time to scrap the idea of a winning model. At best I now work from very loose templates; I customize an approach for every book, author, and situation; and do a lot on the fly as opportunities present themselves. What's Working Now features in this newsletter will be just that—real-life examples of things that have worked to sell books and increase exposure in the previous few days or weeks.

In the last few weeks, we've seen great results from putting forth stories and angles rather tangential to a book's content:

Good Old Neon: Signs You're in Chicago is a book of Chicago neon photography that's been out for a few years and sales have flattened. Just to keep the name in front of people, we promoted the author's neon photography for Portland and Denver in newsletter articles to our individual and retail customers. Within days, we sold 35 copies of the book with no extra effort. A few days after that spree, we sold 250 copies to a Chicago hotel to place in their rooms, with one brief email exchange to one of our contacts on the newsletter list. 

Bandstand Diaries: The Philadelphia Years, 1956-1963 is a wonderful book our client Coney Island Press put out at the beginning of November 2016. They have sold thousands already and are about to go into their third printing. They'll need another printing soon because they just landed a feature in the March 12 Sunday NY Post on the side story that American Bandstand kept the secret that so many of its teen stars were gay. Check it out. It's the kind of high-profile coverage what we all want for our books all the time!

It reminds me of the mileage we received years ago from a tangential story...one of our books, Muldoon: A True Chicago Ghost Story, was called on the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times, "The New 'It' Book for Chicago Priests." A story by a religion writer sold hundreds of books that month and brought us calls and inquiries for years afterwards. (No joke—the most recent inquiry was in the past month and the article came out ten years ago.)

We are in the process of securing early reviews for a late May release, Your Breath in Art: Acting from Within, notifying the usual players and wracking our brains to figure out who else would be interested in covering "the story of the book." We have an extra challenge with this title: the author has been dead for fifteen years. But we do have the input of her son, who has been the impetus behind the re-release of his mother's work and he sends us bits of info about her as they occur to him. Two such ideas led to responses within an hour last week to five of five pitches.

First, an email telling us that author Beatrice Manley sometimes taught her breathing techniques to opera students..."maybe that's something to go on"...led to some quick queries on our part and two responses from two top opera magazines for review copies. Then, a similar email mentioning that Bea had once taught briefly (once! briefly!) at the Chekhov Studio in NYC, prompted us to Google Michael Chekhov, and then query the NYC studio, a Chekhov association, and a Chekhov school. We received affirmative responses from all three regarding reviews and mentions in publications and making the book available in a school bookstore and to actors at a summer workshop. Total time for receiving ideas, Google research, writing pitches, replying to pitches, and mailing review copies? About one hour.


  • Consider: What are some tangential themes to your book? Who's interested in covering those themes?
  • Consider: What are some tangential stories about you as an author? Who's interested in covering those stories?
  • Research contact information for those reporters, publications, and organizations that may be interested in this new angle on your book and its contents.
  • Flesh out your ideas into media pitches and / or event ideas. No agonizing or overwrought wordsmithing on this. Think through the message. Throw down the words. Re-read and tweak. Proofread. Send. Develop a bias for taking action.
  • Contact those people by email or phone. If not now, today, then when? Put it on a to-do list or calendar.
Big Ideas
Not Easier, Better

“Don't wish it was easier, wish you were better. Don't wish for less problems, wish for more skills. Don't wish for less challenge, wish for more wisdom.”

--Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur and author

Oh, do I remember where I was when a small business coach sprung this quote on me! About eight months prior I had just made the biggest sale of my life sold another publisher the rights to four of my books for six figures. I took 10% of it for myself and moved into a dream apartment in Marina City with a sweeping view of Lake Michigan, the Chicago River, and downtown Chicago. I used another chunk to pay off business loans. Then, I "invested" the remainder in five new titles that according to the formula that had worked for my company for years would set me up for whatever I wanted after that...selling the business, expanding, early retirement. I had learned what worked in a tough business and now I had the money to do it right, I knew the right risks and I would be rewarded for working away far too much of my 20s and 30s.

Except that was 2008. In June, I realized something wasn't quite right when one of our authors was on two high-profile local television shows, did a big-time radio show interview, and appeared in both major Chicago newspapers, all in a ten-day stretch, and we saw not a blip in sales on Amazon. I had seen it coming over the years, but in my mind that was the dividing line. The public's relationship with the media had changed for good and what it was doing with the Internet and social media remained to be seen. A couple months later, the reality of the financial crisis and the Great Recession hit and didn't let up. My big payoff translated into pallets of unsold books in the warehouse. My investment was a gamble and I had lost. Now I had "Don't wish it was easier, with you were better" to show for it. Eyeroll.

The tough-love wisdom has since hit me and continues to serve me well, so I pass it on to you. We all know that writing, publishing, promoting, selling, and making a living from books is not easy. We wish it were. Boohoo. When you find yourself, again, in the I-wish-it-were-easier funk, indulge your inner baby a bit, then move on to more productive musings: Where can I get better? How can I get better? What can I learn?

  • Oh, just move straight on to the indulge piece! Wah! It should be easier. I deserve it. I've worked so hard. My book is awesome. Everyone should buy it, read it instantly, love it, and give it five stars on GoodReads. So true, sweetie. There, there.
  • OK, now on to better, skills, and wisdom. Select some places where you can get better in one of the most insanely difficult businesses in the world. To make it all more palatable, why don't you choose to get better at those things that interest you, that mesh well with your personality, that build on skills you already have, that align with other goals and bucket-list items. Make it a twofer.

Before, During, After

You may have seen them too—articles instructing that the way to maximize vacation happiness is to experience them as three distinct phases: Before (planning, dreaming, imagining, letting the anticipation build up), During (actually going on vacation and enjoying the heck out of it), and After (relishing the afterglow, sharing photos and stories, posting it all on social media to gather likes and chitchat).

What's true for vacation happiness is at least as true for top results from author events. The event is not only the time you show up to give a talk or sign books. Treat an event as three distinct aspects—before, during, and after—and you will begin to see better exposure and sales from them. Your mind will be tuned to treating the whole affair as a many-tentacled platform (sorry, no time to wordsmith) and you'll start noticing and behaving in ways that optimize the components and interactions that come along with a single one- or two-hour commitment.

I'll get into more specific details, best practices, and opportunities for the three phases of events in future newsletters. For now, just grasp the concept and consider that it's true.


  • If you have speaking or signing author events in the works, take note of all the before, during, and after elements involved.
  • Choose a couple places where you will up your game in some of those elements for the next event.
  • Review the event that will take place in your mind, noting where you will making the enhancements.
  • Add any necessary tasks to your to-do list. There's too much to remember. Find the best ways to remind yourself.
  • During the event, mentally register ideas for "after," any follow-ups you can, should, or need to do.
  • As soon as you have a chance, write them down so you won't forget, then schedule the doing of them in your phone, computer, or calendar as soon as possible.
  • If you don't have any author events lined up, but you have a set program, brainstorm ten possible places for future events and reach out to those organizations and their event coordinators this week.
  • If you don't have a set program yet, brainstorm on possible event ideas and schedule time to develop and practice the best one.
If you found this newsletter useful, will you please share it with other established and aspiring nonfiction authors you know? 

If you are seeing this newsletter and haven't yet subscribed, you may do so here.

Coming soon in Conspired, vol. 3: Cold, Hard Calls; Defensive Entrepreneurship; Win to the X; Networking and Taxes; and On the Spot Media Responding.

 © 2017 by Sharon Woodhouse
No part of this newsletter may be reproduced without permission.

Sharon Woodhouse | Conspire Creative

10,000 Pitches

10,000 Pitches: Savvy Nonfiction Book Proposals:
A Publisher Shares Her Checklists, How-To's, and Fundamental Notions for Approaching a Publisher with Your Ideas

30-page ebook for Kindle, available at Amazon