Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Do You Have a Story?

From the beginning of time, storytellers have enthralled audiences with tales of adventure, romance, courage, and triumph. People love stories. We’re curious about each other. Your friends want to know how you found Mr. Right. Your business associates want to learn your secret to success.  Your family wants to help you over your heartache and heartbreak and celebrate the good times.

Everyone has a story. Have you struggled to find work and finally landed the job of your dreams? That’s a story. Were you stuck in bad relationships for years before you learned how to attract the right person? That’s a story. Did you always want to write a book but lacked confidence until you found someone who inspired you to take action? That’s a story.

The power of stories lies in their ability to teach and inspire. Heroes inspire others with their courage. Think of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Mahatma Ghandi, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr. They believed in the power of dreams and helped make our world a better place. Or William Shakespeare, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, and Lewis Carroll. Their writing has shaped the minds of students for years and inspired many to become authors.

Stories share themes that people can relate to. You’re not the only one who searches for a dream career. You’re not the only one who desperately wants the love of your life. And you’re certainly not the only one who wants to make a million dollars. If your story addresses one or all of these themes then you have something in common with other people. Those reading your story feel a connection to you and to your experiences, giving your story universal appeal.

With universal appeal your story can reach hundreds, thousands, even millions of people. But how do you put that in your book, especially if you’re writing nonfiction?

Spice It Up

Nonfiction books can sometimes seem dry or technical with page after page of detail. Although readers want the information you share, there is a way to make that information interesting: do it with personal stories.

Suzy had a great idea for a book to help people with relationship problems. She’d been in and out of bad relationships for over 10 years and finally found the man of her dreams. But she didn’t know how to start writing. Every time she tried to write she froze. She’d start a sentence then erase it. Start again and write a couple lines and decide to change direction. After 15 minutes of this she wanted to tear up the paper. This happened for several days. She was in tears when we met and ready to give up hope.

I suggested she take several deep breaths to calm down, then I asked her to tell me how she met her current husband. Her eyes brightened, her slumped shoulders straightened, and her entire body radiated purpose. She was relaxed, passionate, and on a mission. When she finished her story, I told her, “Start with what you know. Start with the story of how you met your husband.”

The last two paragraphs are a personal story.  They’re not about details or technicalities. They don’t tell you about sentence structure or character development. They demonstrate a personal struggle and how a shift in thought helped one author achieve a victory. Suzy was inspired when she left her coaching session and she was able to go home and write.

You want your stories to inspire people, to show them a way out of their struggle, to let them know someone has been successful and they can be too. The next time you write, include a personal story. What happened to you? What struggle did you overcome? What personal stories can you share?


Nanette Littlestone is a freelance editor, writing coach, and author who has worked with both fiction and nonfiction for 20 years. She specializes in helping authors to use their passion to achieve their own unique voice and message. For more information, please visit



Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Home Office Deductions

Are you one of the 26 million[1] Americans who has a home office, and are you part of the lucky 3.4[2] million taxpayers who claim the home office deduction? If you're not among the lucky, read on. The first mistake you are making is not claiming the deduction. Many business owners have a fear that the write-off will trigger a tax audit or that the required paperwork is complicated or burdensome. Start by getting over the fear of audit.
In my 25-plus years of working with clients, I have never seen an audit triggered by a home
office deduction. As long as you meet the rules you should be fine in claiming the home office deduction. A legitimate home office can turn nondeductible personal expenses into tax deductions to reduce taxable income. The deduction for your home office cannot exceed your home-based business income.
What are the rules? The two red-letter words that matter most to deduct home-office expenses are “exclusively” and “regular use.” The second rule is “principal place of business.” What do these rules mean? Regular and exclusive use means you must regularly use part of your home exclusively for conducting business. Probably your dining room table that you clear every night for the family dinner would not meet the test, but a corner of your bedroom or a spare room could meet the test. The second test, you must show that you use the home office as your principal place of business. If you conduct business at a location outside your home, but also use your home substantially and regularly to conduct business, you may still qualify for a home office deduction. You must use the office on a constant basis, not necessarily daily. Your use of the space once a week to bill clients, pay bills, or write articles would qualify for regular use.
There are two types of deductions: direct and indirect. Direct expenses are incurred specifically on the office space. Perhaps you had the room painted and installed built-in bookcases. The cost of painting would be a direct expense, considered repairs and maintenance, and thus would be 100 percent deductible for the office in the year paid. The bookcases would be written off 100 percent over the useful life of the asset.
Indirect expenses might include a portion of the home mortgage interest, taxes and insurance, utilities, security, as well as general repairs such as HVAC repairs. How do you determine the portion for allocating indirect expenses? The ratio is home office square footage divided by the total square footage of the space. For example, the home office might be 300 sq. ft. and the total home is 3,000 sq. ft. Therefore, the portion for allocating indirect home office expenses would be 10 percent. 
It is not necessary for the office to have permanent walls to define the space, but you do need to make sure your home office is really an office. Document the space you have designated as the home office by adding a copy of the floor plan and identify the space you are using. Take a picture of the home office space and add to your tax file for that year. With any moves and changes in subsequent years you should update the calculation and documentation.
The form used to claim the deduction (Form 8829) is 43-lines long, but you only need to complete a few lines. After the first year of claiming your home office deduction, you have a model for subsequent years. In January 2013, the IRS announced a “Simplified Option” for claiming a home office deduction, providing eligible taxpayers an easier path to claiming the home office deduction.
There are some limitations on the new option, however. Homeowners using the new option cannot depreciate the portion of their homes used in a trade or business. The mortgage interest and real estate taxes can still be deducted on Schedule A without allocation of personal and business portions. The cap is $1,500 per year based on $5 per square foot for up to 300 square feet. The taxpayer still has the burden of documenting the square footage for the deduction. The new simplified option is available starting with the 2013 return.
Don’t rejoice too soon as there is a trade off: the simple option will save time, but for many taxpayers the $1,500 cap will reduce the amount claimed by completing the more complex and lengthier form. A discussion with your tax advisor should help you determine the most worthwhile method to use.
Finally, if you use the more complex Form 8829 for the higher deduction, your self-employment income might also be reduced, which also reduces your self-employment taxes. If you have a legitimate home office, the decision should be which method to use, not whether to claim the deduction at all.
If you would like a more extensive list of deductible expenses, send me an email with subject “Writer’s Deductions.

[1] New York-based CDB Research & Consulting
[2] Internal Revenue Service tax year 2010


Photo by Byron Small
Mary Rodriguez is the founder and president of HilRod Group, a professional services firm providing financial leadership and specializing in strategic financial solutions. Mary is a Florida CPA and Fellow with the Georgia Society of CPAs with more than 25 years of accounting and finance experience. She holds the degree of Master of Accountancy and is designated a Chartered Global Management Accountant by the American Institute of CPAs. She is an active member of the Atlanta Venture Forum, the Association for Corporate Growth, and The Women's Finance Exchange. She served a two-year term on the Board of Advisors for the Georgia Small Business Development Council. She was recognized by the SBA as Women in Business Advocate of the Year and has chaired CEO roundtables for several years. 


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

What's the Lifespan of Your Book?

What's the lifespan of your book? How long should your book be on the market? How long should you tour with and promote your book for extended sales? Here's a brief case study that might help you answer that question.

Recently, I met an author who suggested to me that his book had probably run its course. The book has been available for 12 months. The author, a university professor, has done numerous speaking engagements. He feels that after 12 months, that's pretty much enough for this book, and he's ready to move on to the next book. He has done quite well with his book sales, so I say great, congratulations, and thumbs up to him. 

Another author I recently met is also an academic who wrote a book 12 years ago, and he is still marketing his book to this day. How does he do that after 12 years? When he initially wrote his book, he established himself in his industry as the definitive, go-to person for this particular topic. Since writing the book 12 years ago, he has established himself on the speaking circuit, and he does numerous speaking engagements each year. He has written articles in several high-profile publications, and he has utilized the content in his book to reach a variety of audiences, thereby extending the lifespan of his book content.  

So you tell me which author has the best deal going: the author who, after 12 months, decides that his book has reached its lifespan and that he's ready to move on to the next venture, or the author who, after 12 years, is still marketing and exploring opportunities with his book? I suggest it's the second author. 

Here's how you can extend the lifespan of your book beyond 6, 9, or 12 months:
  • Begin with your platform. You must come to the writing table with a solid platform for your book to leverage. Be clear on what you want to be known for and what you want to be known as. Then, write your book with that in mind.
  • Leverage your platform. Once you complete your book, utilize that content to leverage your platform.
  • Repurpose your book content. This helps extend the reach of your book and allows you to touch numerous audiences. You can repurpose your content as a blog post, an article for online or offline publications, as website content, social media posts, or presentations. So there are a variety of ways to repurpose the content in your book, therefore, giving the book a broader and longer lifespan.

So don't give up on your book after 12 months. Realize that your book has a life far beyond 12 months, and that it could actually last for 12 years. Remember these tips when considering how long your book should be relevant to audiences.


Anita Paul, known as The Author's Midwife, coaches aspiring authors to write a phenomenal book and helps current authors use their existing books to leverage their business. She is the author of the-book Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and The Book You've Been Wanting to Write, and is the creator of the Write Your Life program, through which she has created a dynamic system to Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less. She has owned The Write Image for 15 years, and has had her freelance articles featured in over 25 publications in the U.S. and Canada. Anita is also the host of "Book Your Success".
Facebook: Write Your Life Coaching Program
Twitter: @AnitaRPaul

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

15 Tips to Prepare for a Book Signing

As a publisher, I am saddened by how little effort some authors put into publicizing and promoting their book signings. There can be several reasons, but one is most often the case; authors do not know how to promote their book signings. Listed below are 15 tips to prepare for a book signing than can enhance results. 

  1. Email: Email all your contacts to let them know you will hold a book signing. Provide details about the event and encourage them to attend. Ask them to forward your email to at least 10 friends. Within minutes, you could reach thousands of people.
  2. Newsletter: Send an announcement about your book signing to organizations you belong to (e.g., church, community, school, alumni association, sorority, fraternity, etc.). Request that they include the announcement in their next publication.
  3. Facebook Friends: Create an EVENT on Facebook and invite all your Facebook friends and followers. Ask them to SHARE the event with their Facebook friends.
  4. Facebook Networks: Send an email to your Facebook Networks and ask the FAN page owner to announce your book signing. Also, ask them to enter the book signing as an EVENT on their FAN page.
  5. Facebook Page: Create a Facebook Page for you as an author and SUGGEST the page to your Facebook friends.
  6. Twitter: Tweet… Tweet… Tweet… about your book signing and ask your followers to retweet. 
  7. Website: Add the book signing date, time, and location to your website. 
  8. Promotional Materials: Bring promotional materials related to your book (e.g., banners, posters, bookmarks, postcards, business cards, flyers) to the book signing. Make sure your materials look professional, clear, and concise.
  9. Interaction: Plan activities at your book signing such as author readings, trivia contests, giveaways, or mini-workshops. Pass out candy, bookmarks, and stickers. Hang a schedule of events so people will be informed. Consider offering a gift with purchase (e.g., a coloring page based on your children’s book with a small box of crayons).
  10. Decorate: Create an atmosphere that is warm and inviting. Decorate you book signing area with touches such as tablecloths, plants, beanbags, artwork, music, etc. Provide space for attendees to sit and read your book(s).
  11. Book Display: Make your book display fun and inviting. For example, if you have a cookbook, wrap a spoon, fork, napkin, and plate around it with raffia or create a basket with fun items related to your book.
  12. Dress: Dress the part so people will have a visual of the main parts of your book. If your book is about a princess, wear a tiara and a pretty dress.
  13. Mailing List: Encourage attendees to sign up for your mailing list so you can communicate with them after the book signing. Be sure to follow up immediately to thank them for stopping by and inform them of your future events.
  14. Network: Prepare your 30-second elevator speech. Book signings are attended by a variety of people (literary agents, publishers, booksellers, librarians, educators, and more), so network with as many people as you can. Ask everyone a prepared question to break the ice.  Look for ways to share your elevator speech.
  15. Exposure: Develop a plan to get exposure. For example, tell attendees an unforgettable vignette about you or share a story behind the story (e.g., your book) that is intriguing and will be remembered.

Book sales are not guaranteed at a book signing, but you can make a lasting impression that could lead to future sales. Remember, book lovers can purchase your book on the Internet 24/7, so leave an unforgettable impression. For more tips to prepare for a book signing, order How to Market Your Book Free on


Nicole Antoinette owns and manages Faith Books & MORE Publishing in Gwinnett County, GA. She believes writers have an obligation to preserve their thoughts, experiences, creativity, and most importantly, their faith in print, as well as through other forms of media. To learn more about publishing your book or republishing this article, contact Nicole Antoinette at or 678.232.6156.
Copyright © 2012 by Nicole Antoinette Smith.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Who's On Your Team?

As an author, you're in high demand. Your phone is ringing off the hook with offer after offer to speak, teach, or appear at high-profile venues all over the country! Okay, that's the hope for most authors, anyway. You might not be there yet, but if part of your marketing strategy is to do appearances, have speaking engagements, attend book signings, and participate in other events, you'll need a team to help.

To make events as close as possible to effortless and flawless requires the support of an effective team. You might think that paying people to help you is out of your budget, but trust me, when your schedule starts to fill up, you’ll wish you had a team to assist with the multitude of activities that come with being a popular author.

I recently attended an event where one of my clients was a workshop presenter at a 2-day event. As part of his appearance, he also had a display table with information about his book and where he signed books after his presentation. I must say that I was impressed with the efficiency of his team. There was one person responsible for the audio/visual portion of his presentation, making certain that the computer, projector, and sound worked well. He also had someone assigned to set up his display and sit at his table to answer questions about his book until he arrived for the signing. This person was also responsible for printing the correct name spelling of each customer on a sticky note and placing it on the page that the author would sign. And then there was what I call “the clean up crew” assigned to gather all of the technology, table drape, display material, and signage when the event was over. What a team, indeed!

Oh, if every author was this organized and supported all the time. I can only imagine the coordination it took to organize this event and the preparation that took place prior to the event. It was clear that this author understood the value of making a good impression from every aspect of his participation, and he knew that he, the author, should not be the one responsible for doing all of the stuff. Instead, he was the calm focus of his workshop and book signing table. He had a competent team assisting him and it seemed to make his presence at the event relaxed, enjoyable, and interactive with the audience, rather than hurried, disorganized, and confused.

So how to do you form such a team? Begin with your advocates, your employees, your family, and your friends. These are the people who want to see you succeed. Offer an incentive for their support. Something as small as a nice meal, reimbursement for gas, or a thank-you card might suffice for most people. For others, a small hourly stipend or percentage of book sales might be a more suitable compensation for their time.

To determine how many people you need at the event and what their responsibilities should be, consider your involvement in the event and what the anticipated attendance is. Depending on what you, as the author, will be doing, you might need help with any of the following (and remember, some of your team will wear multiple hats):

  • Setup/Break down: book signing or display table, signage, take-one materials, giveaways
  • Audio/Visual: computer connections, microphone and speaker clarity, troubleshooting, photography
  • Audience interaction: distributes fliers, handouts, answers questions, introduces you, collects names/business cards (better known as lead generation)
  • Handler: makes sure you are not overwhelmed by the crowd or that one person is not monopolizing your attention/time, guides you to your next location, collects correct spelling of customer names for book signing

These are just a few of the areas you might need help with at an event ... and this doesn’t even include the pre-work required to get there. So at your next event, plan to have a team—even it’s a team of one (besides yourself)—to help. You’ll be glad you did and your success at the event is almost guaranteed to be greater with help than without it.


Anita Paul, known as The Author's Midwife, coaches aspiring authors to write a phenomenal book and helps current authors use their existing books to leverage their business. She is the author of the-book Write Your Life: Create Your Ideal Life and The Book You've Been Wanting to Write, and is the creator of the Write Your Life program, through which she has created a dynamic system to Write Your Book in 90 Days or Less. She has owned The Write Image for 15 years, and has had her freelance articles featured in over 25 publications in the U.S. and Canada. Anita is also the host of "Book Your Success".
Facebook: Write Your Life Coaching Program
Twitter: @AnitaRPaul