Can you profit from writing like Loris Straus?
I recently had the privilege of interviewing Lori Straus about how she’s created a profitable business through both fiction and nonfiction writing. She’s the author of the Between Worlds series, a historical modern mashup for 12-year-old girls and their moms. She’s also a translator and copywriter for international brands in Germany and Canada.
We spoke about creativity, genealogy, marketing, the struggles of running a solopreneur business, the importance of hiring partners to grow and how hard it can be to define what it means to be Canadian.
Listen to our conversation or read the transcript below.
For more about Lori’s fiction writing, visit http://loriwolfheffner.com.
For information about her copy writing services, visit http://loristraus.com
Tracey: So today we are speaking with Lori Straus. Lori, how are you doing?
Lori: I’m doing fine, Tracey. How are you?
Tracey: So, you are what I like to call a creative entrepreneur. What would you call yourself?
Lori: A writer. I like it simple.
But you have two kinds of writing, because you do nonfiction and fiction. Can you talk a little bit about why you do those two types of writing?
Started Writing Magazine Articles
Lori: So, the freelance writing was my first foray into “being a writer.” Writing was a childhood dream of mine, but I thought that meant you had to write novels and you had to be published by a publisher, because back in the eighties, that’s the way it worked, right?
Lori: But I never realized that that writing could also mean writing nonfiction type things and writing marketing material and such. So I think in 2010, I don’t even remember anymore. I was at least pregnant with my first child, but I think it could have started before, which should actually back in 2008. I don’t remember.
Anyways, I finally start looking into at least writing magazine articles. I thought the very least I could write about dance and just gonna kinda start there, except I danced myself for twenty years, fifteen or so in competition. So I had a decent background and I found a dance magazine that was published out of my city here and, through you know, through connections, I sort of knew the editor or the publisher is probably more accurate.
And so, I started writing for them, and I got my first cheque at ten cents a word, I was so ecstatic. I felt like Winona Rider in Little Woman when she gets her two dollars or whatever and she runs through the house yelling “I’m a writer.”
So at that time I was still working full time at a company, a tech company. And long story short, I just started looking for more writing opportunities within whatever company I was working for. I was at that tech company for four years. I finally finished the marketing, where I worked for eight months before getting laid off.
I did whenever, whenever continuing education I could, just to start learning more about writing today, because, certainly the writing I love doing, was really attached to my ten-year-old self, which doesn’t work when you’re in your thirties.
Rediscovering the love of fiction
And then the novels, that just sort of happened. It didn’t just sort of happen. It was in the back of my mind for a long time, but it stopped creative writing when I went to university.
A couple of years ago, an event came up and it was at the Schwab Club, a local German club in Kitchener. And all the people from this aspect of German culture from the entire continent, not all, but many, were going to come to Kitchener for a weekend to celebrate altogether. Some from Cinncinati, some flew in from California, from Chicago, from all over the place.
I thought well, the idea I have for this book, that’s the time to release it. So it was like shoot, I should start research.
So the book “Between Worlds” was put together. Book 6 is coming out shortly.
That was a first novel.
There was a project in-between. I was part of the mentorship programme of the Canadian senior artist resource network.
So there was a small project between, but in terms of thinking of it more commercially, Between Worlds was the first step into fiction writing as an income stream.
Between Worlds Summary
It’s about two teen girls: Juliana who lives today in Kitchener. Kitchener’s my hometown. I live in Waterloo now, but you don’t know there’s a border unless you see a sign.
Juliana has just moved to Kitchener from Calgary with her parents. Her grandfather’s in the early stages of dementia and all the other extended family around are too busy to be able to look after him as much as he needs it now. So Juliana and her parents move in with him.
She finds in his basement an old book of drawings that belonged to his mother Elizabeth that she had completed when she was fourteen years old.
So the books alternate between Julianna’s life today in Canada and Elizabeth’s life in Eastern Europe after World War I.
Tracey: Is it based on a true story?
Lori: Inspired by, not as much based on. I don’t count them as historical fiction, because half of each book takes place in modern day Canada.
With historical fiction, you expect the entire book to take place in a period of history.
Character inspired by ancestors
Elizabeth is inspired by a great grandmother of mine. Her name was Catalina, Catherine, if you will. Catherine.
She was my great grandmother so her grandmother’s name was Elizabeth.
Elizabeth the character, her personality is inspired by Catherine, who I guess was a bit feisty. Elizabeth the character is a bit calmer, but she still speaks her mind even when she’s not supposed to.
But her name came from this great great great grandmother named Elizabeth, who my great grandmother spoke quite fondly of in a postcard to my mom.
The whole thing is really cool actually.
So as I did more family research—I’ve been doing research for a long time—but my mom’s dad’s side, we hadn’t…I didn’t know too much about because we don’t know who his biological father is. So when you’re doing standard genealogy, it’s hard to locate somebody when you don’t know who his biological father is.
So, anyways to make a long story short, I found these postcards in my grandmother’s closet, a bunch of old photos, and these postcards…
In here, my grandmother Catherine, she talks about her grandmother, Elizabeth. As I did genealogy, you’ve done genealogy yourself, too Tracey, and you know how the data is so stark right, someone died, someone was born, they died, born married, right.
I finally found the patriarchal line and this woman who had given birth to sixteen children and four survived adulthood. Four. And what makes it even sadder was, the German culture that I stem from, and I’m sure other cultures have similar practices, it was common that you would name children after people in your family. It’s a way of honouring your family, right?
Often that would mean naming children after the mother, as well as the father, and then godparents and grandparents, and what have you, but the mother was certainly bonafide. So, this woman had—was it three daughters or four—each one named Elizabeth,. None survived into adulthood. What they would do is, if a child died than usually the next child of that same sex was given that child’s name.
So a name, in my opinion, wasn’t viewed as something individual. It was viewed as honouring your family.
Tracey: Well, we have that in my family too. Both on the males and females side. If a younger child died and then another child got that name.
Lori: Okay. It’s been common at least historical.
I don’t know but that has got to be painful. I mean, I think if you live at a time when children die, I presume you develop some sort of I’m going to call it emotional immunity to it, because otherwise your entire inside would fall apart.
That being said, 16 births, four turned to adults, and three or four that you name after yourself, none survived. That’s gotta take a toll on you somehow.
So, that’s why this series is not based on true stories but it’s inspired by it.
Research versus making things up
I’ve had to hire researchers in Eastern Europe to help me because my German only goes so far and once you go beyond World War II historically, your suddenly getting into material that might be Hungarian or Romanian and I can’t read those languages.
So I research what I can. It’s fiction, so I do make up some things when I need to, but I stay as close to historical fact as I can.
Missing Home: Book Six in the Series
Tracey: And you’ve got book six in the series coming soon.
Lori: Yeah, it’s coming out in a few weeks.
Tracey: And what age group does it appeal to?
Lori: This iteration of the series is for ages twelve and up, but readers have been everyone from parents reading to their preteen daughters so far that I know of, and also there’s a ten year old boy from my kids’ school who loves the series, and I know there are women in their nineties who are reading it as well, so its a huge age range.
I write with the twelve year old in mind, because when I started the series I wanted to write for a twelve year old me.
In my teens, I had a hard time finding anything to read, because I wanted Jean Little style topics to deal with, but my reading level was increasing, so I wanted something a little more complex reading-wise and I couldn’t find it. So after a few years of reading Nancy Drew and Star Trek, I stopped fiction reading for a long time because I couldn’t find it. This series is meant to act as that bridge.
Mature Topics Covered
I start going into PTSD in soldiers in World War I. I have one character who is dealing with what they called shell shock at the time. And I bring that into the present day. Juliana is trying to figure out why her mom keeps avoiding her grandfather, so the mom’s father. She as a teenager doesn’t understand how a grown child suddenly sees their ailing and deteriorating parent. Right. She doesn’t get that.
I deal with a lot of different topics.
I’ve had people ask if it’s suitable for an eight-year-old. I’ve recently learned that there are parents who have kids as young as eight who want something more complex to read, but don’t have the maturity to deal with stuff that’s really written for a fourteen-year old.
So, the language is relatively easy, but I do deal with some pretty deep topics but trying to keep it age-appropriate, which is also enjoyable for adults too.
Tracey: Can you give me a bit of background on how you are marketing it? Are you on Kobo writing life? How are you selling your work?
Lori: A lot of it, honestly right now, is in person, which is not a good way to make money. I’ll tell you that much.
The hardest part when you’re starting out is visibility.
I’m a copywriter by day basically, and so in theory, I should be able to market my own stuff, but the problem with being the creator of what I’m trying to market, I see every single detail. Even though I know what the crux of this story is- and I know why I wrote the series—I know those basic questions that any copyrighter would ask a new client.
At the same time, I see the areas where it might appeal to other people as well. For example, Juliet is a dancer, so it would appeal the dancers, hopefully right end with PTSD, there’s all mental health aspect in there. That veteran gets bullied quite frequently in his village and stuff, like that he’s pushing thirty. Racism, teenage bullying.
So, marking has been difficult for me. I publish wide. Im on Amazon, I use it as it uses me. I am on Amazon, Kobo Writing Life. I use Ingram Spark for most of my print distribution, except for Amazon, I use KDP for print on Amazon. You earn more per book that way. I use Draft 2 Digital as my aggregator for the smaller ebook platforms, and some not so small. I tried uploading to Apple directly once and I kept going circles and I gave up and Draft 2 Digital goes directly to Apple. So they do that as well as Nook.
Marketing wise, I’ve got Facebook going. I’m finally get the hang of marking to the Facebook crowd.
Twitter, I’m using more for professional connections but I hope to build that up to readers as well, with time.
Instagram, I’m just building up to readers too.
LinkedIn, I use for my freelance writing, but I will occasionally put up an announcement that a book is coming out for example, that is part my writing business overall.
Tracey: I guess we should now switch to the nonfiction side of your life. You have an active copyrighting business.
Tracey: As you said, it sort of gets fed into by your fiction. You probably get more credibility because you are doing fiction writing is well.
Lori: I’ve had actually had one client, she’s a good friend of mine, like our kids are friends at school, but we’ve know each other for several years and it was only last year or maybe earlier this year, but she approached me because they need a creative writer for project. So it does help that way. I can say: look I wrote a novel in a hundred fifteen hundred seventy hours and I meet my own deadlines. When I say it’s going to be released it will be released. So it does help that way too.
Tracey: What kind of writing do you do as a copywriter? Can you tell me about your favourite project?
Business to Business Copywriting
Lori: I do mostly B to B, so business to business as opposed to business to consumer. I have written for a range of clients. I had a three year contract with a local roadhouse theatre, so that was challenging because everything that comes in is a different voice, difference audience, different background. I was always relearning that was really challenging.
I do work for tech companies as well. I’ve done some social media coordination. Favourite projects, nothing really jumps to mind.
I find with the freelancing, you certainly look for a project you enjoy, but I also look more for clients I enjoy working with. With fiction, you don’t worth with with anybody except your very small editorial team as you need them, but with clients, you’re often, hopefully frequently in contact with them.
Tracey: If you can talk about the kind of thing that you’ve done. What kind of a writing do you like the best on the nonfiction side?
Blog Posts that Change Your Mind
Lori: I actually enjoy blog posts for other people not myself. For myself, I get too tied up in what do I really want to do with this? and I get stuck in the strategy aspect, but when the blog posts is assigned to me, I can’t question any of that. It makes it easier.
I like blog posts that are a bit meatier, not as in a rock coming out of the sky but one that has more meat to it. So, for example, I had to do one. I guess there had been a study last year, I think, that come out of the University of Toronto about how car emissions are no longer really the big polluter as far as vehicle pollution, it’s actually all the transport trucks. They had measured this by using the 401 as their area. So I had to look into that topic a bit more and that also coincided with Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s decision to cancel a program that the previous conservatives had implemented whereby used vehicles had to go through a certain inspection to make sure they are environmentally clean enough to be driven on the roads to make sure that they weren’t contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. And Doug Ford, I don’t know what it’s like over in your neck of the woods but in Ontario, we call him mini Trump, so he’s not liked.
Unfortunately, this blog post forced me to agree with one decision he made which was to cancel that programme.
It hurt that I had to admit that I agree with one thing he’s done. That’s the kind of stuff that I like, because, and the reason I had to agree with him was that it was his previous government that put in that programme in the first place. With the Liberals in the middle, I think it was the auditor general had said this program has passed its due date and c. it was because the cars that are produced now, even the really old used cars now, were produced under much more stringent environmental standards so they are nowhere near as polluting as cars are built, in the 80’s or the 90’s for example. Plus in car dealerships it was just taking up space in their mechanic bays, so it would bring in hopefully more money by having more space open for repair jobs and stuff instead of these required inspections that had to be done. Disclaimer, my family has a car dealerships so there’s a bit of bias in that opinion.
But anyway, so that was really enjoyable with that blog post. It took me five or six hours to research and get it all together, but that was gonna cool. I like writing something that makes me go “oh” that challenges me. I don’t those too often.
Tracey: Your presupposed ideas were wiped out by your research.
Lori: Yeah, right and there’s nothing more grounding than realising you were wrong.
International Business Contacts
Tracey: So you live in the Kitchener Waterloo area. Are most of your clients in that area too, or do you work worldwide?
Lori: I work actually worldwide. One of my best clients is in Germany and I ve been working with them now I think five years or something like that. That came from a connection from that tech company I worked for.
So when I started at that tech company, we’re talking about we’re going back what ten years now I got laid off from there in 2013. So I think I started there in 2009 or so. That’s where I learned about LinkedIn as a social media platform for professionals, because I had I had a front end job so client-facing job and clients wanted to connect via my Facebook page, and I said ah no. So a boss told me about LinkedIn. So I built up my profile there, and then through that network that was heavily based on that one tech company, one woman who had moved on to this company. She and I were following each other on Facebook because we done a little bit of work together or I had done a bit of work for her when she was at our tech company and then she made the connection from with that company.
It was fantastic.
Its a translation and localization company so I get to do research on how the brain changes when it has to work in a foreign language.
The translation company is trying to get people to realise that there are more languages out there besides English, and that is my world view.
The more languages we have, yes it is more difficult to sometimes understand each other, but in trying to figure out what each one is trying to say, you also get closer to each other. Because that’s a challenge that the relationship has to go through.
So a company like that is like heaven for me, because I get to new help broadcast that message, but in a very businesslike way. You talk about return investment, higher performance from your employees or things like that.
Tracey: Do you speak German?
Lori: I do speak German yes.
Tracey: Are your books also in other languages?
Lori: Not right now. Because I self publish, and so I foot all the costs for that myself. I have a graphic designer. I have two editors, one who helps me at the beginning, so call her my consulting editor and then one who helps as a detailed reviewer and then does a copy edit but not a proof read, I have to handle the proofread to me because the budget is long gone by then and so to translate. With these books, I’d love to put them into German. I would feel comfortable doing a first draft myself. I would certainly experiment with machine translation.
I know that Joanna Penn was talking about how fantastic machine translation is, and then she got like lambasted by people who did not agree with her.
There are some authors where machine translation isn’t going do anything at all. Right now, I’m not one of those authors. It can help me with that first draft, because then your reading it and that’s so not natural. That’s not what I want to say. You’re not stuck on basic questions of what version of the do I want because German has sixteen of them.
I’ve got that draft and I can see that does not sound natural. It’s not what I want to say, but the initial draft is done. I feel comfortable giving it that first pass, because I know what I’m trying to say, but I’d still need a German literary translator to go through it and make sure that it sounds natural to them.
German Translations in Future?
On top of that, because I’m dealing with this German community in Eastern Europe and they had their own dialect and my grandparents spoke these dialects. There’s a range of these dialects, so I would need a literary translator to help me give that community its flavour through the dialect, but without looking making them sound like hicks.
Tracey: You don’t want to make fun of them.
Lori: Yeah, I’d want them to sound real and I would don’t want their dialect to be preserved a bit. I don’t speak it myself. I have some written out in reports or poems written in this dialect so if there are ways that we could pick some words out and use them or sit down.
So I would need to work with someone to do that and that’s time and money and first I need to make a bit more money with these novels before I can sort branching into German.
But I think they would work. Canada is quite popular in Germany. My timings off, though, because Canada is the guest country at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year.
Tracey: I know. It’s exciting.
Lori: It is, but I’ll have nothing to do with it because I’m behind a bit. But at some point you’ve got to start letting go and take your own path.
Promoting a Series
Tracey: Because you’ve got a series is well, you have an opportunity to get people to read the entire thing. So, do you give the first one away? Do you do some sort of promotion? How do you get people to continue reading the series?
Lori: I’m experimenting with that right now. So I’ve done ninety-nine cent promotions. They haven’t really done much for me. That being said, I wonder if those kinds of motions benefit from a lot of awareness advertising, so my ten dollars here, twenty dollars there might not be enough to keep things going.
I also last year had to redo all my book covers, and that was four books that I had to redo and that was not a welcome expense.
Tracey: Oh I remember that. That was a nightmare.
Lori: That was a nightmare. That being said, I am very happy with who have chosen and she’s out in Victoria.
They all had to be redone because my previous designer changed how she was running her business and the way she had proposed that to me did not strike me as quite frankly professional. So I chose to not continue with her, but that meant—and so I assumed, because as a freelance writer, what I write something for clients, copyright goes to them. That’s just to me an assumption. I know that most magazines and newspapers are different, ballgame, but we’re ready for clients, corporations, copyright goes to them. I even have that in my contract right now.
So I made the mistake of assuming that was the case with the previous one. She said it wasn’t.
I didn’t want to be in a position of a) finding a graphic design and asking them to copy her style or b) having to licence the work. That’s what my previous one offered me, and I thought no.
So I thought well, if I’m going to be redoing them, I might as well just do it right. And I want to work with a graphic designer who feels fulfilled doing these books. Like that’s what you’re hoping for right?
And what artist can feel fulfilled copying someone else’s style. They’re not like copy graphic designers. And she’s running her own business for a reason, and yes, she does corporate work, so she could do it, but the way the previous designer worked is very different,
And I found out later that she was pulling everything from Unsplash so I have no clue who else was using even that sole image of one person and that’s all image of one character. So, for the most part we don’t use people anymore, because with a novel that’s partly historical and I’m not gonna find stock photography with the exact dress and hairstyle and stuff that these people wore. Impossible.
So but that being said, for the sixth cover, because I dedicated to this my ancestor Elizabeth, it fits topic wise. I have a picture of her with one of her daughters, and so that’s on the cover of this one. So I fit those things in here and there as it suits, I hope, commercially the whole series.
Last year was a headache, but it’s much smoother now for sure.
Investigating Audio Books
Tracey: Are you distributing them via audio versions as well?
Lori: Not right now. I looked into that and it was probably going to cost me another twelve hundred dollars or so to do, and that was including a very kind volunteer offer from a friend of mine who volunteered to do the engineering for free, but by the time you pay artists what you would like to pay them, you know you’re looking at twelve hundred dollars and I need the ebooks to take off first before I start looking at audio books for this series.
Because, once you’ve done one, you gotta keep going right, and the money is just not there right now. So I can do it myself, but that’s my time. I would only do that if I did some voice training to help me sound, better and more appropriate for audio books, but then again, you’re looking at trying to build a mini-sound booth somewhere so you don’t sound so echoy or hollow. Trying to do while the kids are at school, but that’s my prime time for freelance writing because that’s when my clients can get a hold of me. So right now, it’s not in the books, but maybe next year.
Tracey: Well, it’s still there now but we didn’t ask about the biggest failure.
Learning from Struggle
Lori: That took me a while the figure out, because you know I talk about failure naturally, or socially but your question was “the most challenging,” those are the ones I’m trying to leave behind, but it took me a while to figured out because I’ve overcome it now and I’d kind of forgotten about until I thought about it.
In 2018 going into 2019, I had this bizarre spree of three new clients who fired me within a few weeks or six weeks. That’s when I started wondering “what is wrong with me?” because I have other clients, like the one in Germany, who are very happy with what I do. What on earth is going on here? They would tell me what they want. I would do it. Then they would say no, we don’t want that, we want this. So I would do that, and they would say no, I don’t want that, I want this. And it was just frustrating to see at the least, because you would give them what they want and they would say, no they don’t want that.
So to get me through it, I actually hired a business consultant. Someone locally, because I wanted to work with somebody I kind of know. There are so many business consultants, you need somebody who stands out and who you could trust. So I went with a woman called Lois Raats and she and I sat down and she helped me find all the holes that I had in my business.
What was also happening at about the same time, is my husband had surgery and he was supposed to be back at work in about three weeks and he returned in six months. It was brutal. And he only returned because he had to, because his short term insurance had run out. I think partly he was going stir crazy as well. He’s an extrovert. He loves working with people. I’m an introvert, so if we stay in the same house too long, I think we can drive each other nuts sometimes.
My business did not tank, that’s too extreme, but certainly my self-confidence tanked, because my business was not meant to support the family. I wasn’t there yet. I want to be there some day, where if something happened, I had enough income coming in that I could support the family, even if only for a few months, just to get us over hump run, but I was not there yet. So I took on any client I could, as long as they were in the country. Sometimes you get phone calls from Peru, no thanks.
Appropriate Client Vetting
So I wasn’t putting these clients through an appropriate vetting process. One I had met while he was giving a presentation and he was looking for help with content creation so we never really had a good “what are you looking for” type of discussion, or if we did have it, then I wasn’t bringing my all to it. Then, with the other ones, yes, you have that initial how’s it going? How do you operate? How do you work? kind of discussion. I didn’t look at it from the standpoint of “do I want this client?” I looked at it from the standpoint of “how do I get this job?” and still being honest, obviously.
I was in job interview mode, not business-building mode, and those are two different modes, mentally speaking. Lois help me figure that out.
Then over the course of a year, I’d get the odd inquiry. I would send them these questions. Do you have a marketing plan? What exactly are you hoping that I do? There is a common misconception with copyrighting in that it means that I can also look after their marketing strategy. Often, small business owners don’t understand that I don’t do strategy. I can do content strategy, but that still comes after the overall marketing strategy has been written down and disseminated to the team.
So you know, when they say we want to increase sales on Facebook. And my question is to whom? how? What have you done so far? I need all this data and it turned out very quickly that they wanted me in this case to do their whole marketing strategy for social media. I don’t do that. Instead, actually I referred him to my business consultant and he signed on with her. So she’s helping him figure those things out. And then if he needs a writer, he’ll know when he needs an actual writer, not someone who, because she writes, she must be able to do all those other things too.
Learning that was huge and I said no to a couple of clients, potential clients, over time just because I had those questions in place. I had cleaned up my business from that. That’s how that worked out.
Finding New Clients
Tracey: How do you find new clients and bring them on?
Lori: Actually for the past year or so, it’s been mostly referral, or they found me, which is a nice position to be in.
That being said, I am finishing up with one client, because it’s high time that they take what they’ve hired me to do and take it in house. I’m not the right person for the job anymore. So now, I actually have to go out and find a replacement client, because it was a good income I was getting from them and it was very, very fulfilling work. I was just the wrong person for the job moving forward.
So, I met with Lois again. We’ve met a few times this year. I stayed on with her. And I was going through a bit of a funk with the freelancing. I wasn’t sure if that was a funk, because you know, when you go through a life transition because you know you have to go through a transition and life will be good or was it a funk because something has to change and it can change and then it gets resparked.
We just actually met couple days ago and I realized what kind of clients I want to look for now. So I’ll be creating a new web page on my website and there will be a menu item that takes people in that market directly to that spot, and so once I’ve got that up and running, then I’ll go to my network and say hey, you know, I’m looking for new clients. I’m opening up this area of my business. Here’s my background. Here’s how I can help. If you have anyone you know, feel free to pass this on or put me in touch with them. So it will be be an active networking effort.
Tracey: That sounds like a lot of excitement.
Lori: Exciting and work.
Tracey: It is difficult too. Holy cow. That’s an interesting way of going about it. It’s lucky that you’ve had this coach to help you figure out all this stuff out.
Work with the Right Business Consultants
Lori: I know that you were saying that part of the reason that we wanted to do this podcast is to talk about creative entrepreneurs and advice.
One thing I would advise people is not to get trapped in that “if it’s not free, I’m not using it” mentality that you can easily get trapped into when you start your own business.
Business consultants are not cheap by any stretch. When you look at their hourly rates, your eyes pop out, like in the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Your feet do this run underneath you, because you want to run from the price tag.
At the same time, you talk with them for an hour. They go “you’re doing this wrong,” “do this,” “do this.” Oh. Okay, well I’ve just saved myself ten hours of work, which is twice the amount of money they’re charging me right now. Hopefully that will bring in more money afterwards. So, whereas I can go through numerous self help books in trying to find my calling and all that kind of stuff or I can meet with Lois for an hour, and boom, I know what I’m doing next.
Tracey: That’s exciting. So it gives you a bit of peace of mind for your business.
Lori: One of the recent biggest changes I’ve experienced is when you pay for the right consultants to help, it takes that worry out of your work, and then you can actually focus more on your work.
I hired marking consultants to help me with my books and they helped me sort of get everything together and give me the whole plan.
And I have now signed up for a year-long worth of webinars and such by someone whose name appears to be highly respected in the indie industry. He takes you through like step-by-step all the marketing stuff you have to do. So whereas, Z G Communications had taken me through…they looked at everything I did and said, you’re missing this, you’re missing this, focus on this, go here. So I could finally bring that all in and stop panicking. Now, with this other person, with the webinars and stuf that he offers, I can do that all with a guide in a sense, but without paying the hourly rate that a marketing company would be charging me to walk me through all of that themselves.
Tracey: You’re going to be marketing your books quite heavily in the next year then?
Immersed in Marketing Books
Lori: I will- and I am already experimenting with things now.
I mean last night, it’s kind of funny but I spent two hours on a webinar about Amazon keywords and then a bit on pricing.
And I woke up in the middle of the night panicking because, my God, Amazon keywords. They started coming up in my head. Have I got the right ones? So, you don’t lose all the worry. At the same time, if that happens to me, it’s frustrating, because it’s cold and flu season and stress is what gets you sick, but at the same time, that wouldn’t have happened if my brain didn’t see all the ideas that can come out of that, that I can now experiment with, to hopefully get ebook sales up.
Because once those get up…When I see some of these indie authors saying “yeah, I was selling selling three books a day and that’s not enough.” I’m thinking oh my God, three books a day. I would die for three books a day, because that would be roughly ten bucks a day, end of the month, $300. Good. Yeah.
So, seeing all that, now I have some things I can experiment with, and sit down, figure it out. Do experiment run it for a couple weeks, see what happens and that’s where the worry comes out of it. It’s no longer, is this even the right thing? It’s ok, I’ve got all these ideas. I think these ideas here are the best ones to start with. If it doesn’t work, I’ll go to the next idea. If that doesn’t work, the next one. It’s not “where are the ideas coming from?”
Tracey: Part of the podcast is also about looking at Canadian identity. You know what the last question is, but just before we get to that, was there anything else that you wanted to give in terms of advice for entrepreneurs like us?
Lori: I would say you have to keep learning.
It doesn’t always have to be about your craft, certainly that too. But keep learning about marketing and business practices.
It can get frustrating, because things seem to change really fast, but mean honestly, Tracey, if things didn’t change, you and I would be sitting here in hoopskirts right now with white wigs on possibly, or if we’re not part of that social echelon, then I don’t know. Maybe bare feet. I don’t know.
Things change and things can get worse, but they can also improve. Any change involves both.
In order to keep your business going, you have to stay on top of all that as best as you can, while still running your business.
You have to get out of the “I’m not using it unless it’s free” mentality because that’s a scarcity mentality. I’m not advocating for spending thousands of dollars and stuff like that, because you don’t want to run yourself into a financial hole either, but you’ve got to look at your business as a business.
Whether you’re crafting, drawing, painting, writing, playing music, it doesn’t matter, you’re still running a business.
If you think that a certain piece of software that’s going to cost you five hundred dollars is actually the ticket to help you, you know improve things, then spend the money.
And get a bookkeeper.
Tracey: You like your book-keeper, eh?
Lori: I, like my bookkeeper yes. I just had to switch, because my previous bookkeeper, they’re focusing more on larger companies who want the full service, including tax preparation. I’m not big enough for that. So I’ve got a new one. She’s awesome. Get a book-keeper. That’s my advice.
Tracey: That’s good advice. So then, in terms of your role as a Canadian, because that’s the other thing that we were talking about a little bit before the interview.
Do you consider yourself a Canadian and if so, what does that mean to you?
Born and Raised in Canada
Lori: I do. I think I have the very basic definition, because I was born here and raised here. I don’t mean that you have to be born here to be Canadian, but I just see it as a situation as opposed to a bloodline of any kind.
I know my grandfather would still call me German once in a while…I’m Canadian.
But I think for me I love the vast size of the country. I haven’t been to Europe for a long time, but I still get miffed when you know, ten hours in the car, you’ve through four countries.
I like that as part of our country’s mythology (I’m going to call it that, or maybe ethos might be better), is this idea of sort of being considered fence-sitters. Because if you’re a fence-sitter, it means you can’t decide, and you can’t decide, because you can see both sides of the fence. That can certainly be paralyzing for sure, but I don’t feel like I have to go out there and make a decision all the time just because that’s been fed into me about what being Canadian means or anything like that. It is not part of our culture to be forthright with opinions. I think that sometimes we can be a bit more forthright with opinions. I think a lot comes from people respectfully sharing opinions in the right situations/
I think that being Canadians means diversity. I really don’t mean that as a catchphrase, or I’m not saying it because its trendy. Humans were not meant to be one kind. At its very basic, you need a man and woman to create a new life, biologically speaking. Past that, you need these men and these women who are creating new lives to do that with …
This is where I’m getting philosophical. You can’t have a small little community and keep producing children and not have something happen, because our genome requires diversity. In terms of functioning of the people, if you put yourself out there and discuss different ideas, you come to different realizations.
Like I had to do a blog post where I had to admit that my premier did something right.
You get that through diversity.
Yes, it’s very comfortable to be able sit down and talk with I’m going to call them your own people, people who think like you. It’s nice to be able to say something and everyone knows what you’re talking about. You don’t have to explain anything. It’s nice sure, but it’s also extremely boring really fast.
The one downside to being a writer, is you spend a lot of time at home and you’re not out in the community as much anymore? When you’re working at a tech company, you do come across different cultures and it was refreshing. People were open about their cultures and what they like and don’t like, all that kind of stuff. It was very nice. I don’t have that. I miss that. So I like that diversity, that Canada brings with it as an immigration country with our First Nations as a foundation. Hopefully that’s okay to say. I don’t mean an insult by it if that’s the case.
I think that’s it in a nutshell without doing another whole podcast about what it means.
Tracey: It is a challenging question. It’s not necessarily clear. And of course, I’m in Quebec too, so that’s why I have to ask if you actually do you call yourself a Canadian because people here tend to be quite reluctant about it sometimes.
Lori: I can kind of get that too. But look. We have a bit of I’m going to call it cultural protectionism going on with my grandfather’s generation.
They lived, sort of like the Mennonites, they had their own German enclaves all throughout Eastern Europe and there are different subcultures in there. So they kept these cultures going for some three hundred years, two hundred years, others almost a millennium. That’s how long they’ve been there and they kept the German going the whole time. They come here and poof, it’s gone in two generations. There was a bit of that “you should be because its you’re German, and you should be speaking German. It was pushed. Certainly not on a provincial level as it is in Quebec, but I understand where it’s coming from.
Like I said, I was born here. I consider myself Canadian and I was raised here. But again that doesn’t mean that those who are not born here nor raised here are not Canadian. That’s just why I define myself as Canadian.
Tracey: Yeah, well, it’s your definition. You can use it however you like.
Lori: Yeah, I know, but that can sound horrible. To me, someone’s Canadian because they’re..to me, a Canadian is someone who’s a citizen who lives here. You ve got your citizenship, you’re Canadian. The rest I could care less about. For me, it’s where do you live and where do you have your citizenship. That’s what it comes down to me.
Tracey: To me, it depends on the day. Sometimes I think that if you wanna be Canadian, you actually get to be too. Sometimes it can be like a state of mind.
Lori: It could be. If I moved to Spain, would I start calling myself German after a while, because it’s Europe and you have to have some kind of ethnicity and I don’t know if Canadian is an ethnicity. It isn’t.
So I dont know what I would do in a different context, but the context I’m in is this country, or Germany and either case, I’m Canadian.
Tracey: Well thank you. I really appreciate your time, It was great speaking with you.
Lori: Well, thanks a lot Tracey and thanks for inviting me on the show.
For more about Lori’s fiction writing, visit http://loriwolfheffner.com.
For information about her copy writing services, visit http://loristraus.com
About the Author
Tracey Arial helps Canadians grow with notable nonfiction and urban agriculture.