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Don’t Focus the Book: Build A Strong Brand

There seems to be a misunderstanding amongst today’s massive sea of Indie and self-publishing authors. They are more apt to ride the coat tails of a single title or series rather than focusing on building themselves as a brand.

Whether we like it or not, we as authors will most likely not be remembered for a single title. It is imperative we learn this if we wish to be recognized in the industry.

One of the leading gurus I know on this subject is Rachel Thompson. She has some very good points on why authors need to focus on building their brand and not their book titles. I would recommend her blog to anyone struggling to build their platforms.

I’m Not a Brand; I’m An Author

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on Unsplash

And Apple is just an iPhone. Starbucks is just coffee. Pixar is just known for Frozen and Frozen II. Wait, no they aren’t.

How many times have you seen a well-known author walk around calling themselves by the title of their books? Probably never. For example, we don’t walk up to JK Rowling and say, “Oh you’re the author of Harry Potter!” If you meet her (which if you do, please get an autograph for me too!), you probably greet her by Ms. Rowling and have her sign her book. Why? Because she builds her brand, not her books. Going further, did you ever wonder why Ms. Rowling went under the name of Robert Galbraith before her secret was leaked?

It’s because she wanted to see if people were loyal to her as an author rather than being loyal to her only for Harry Potter.

Stephen King doesn’t tweet about his books or identify himself by a single book but rather tweets about what he’s passionate about and brands his name. More on this later.

If that doesn’t prove a point, I don’t know what will.

Titles Come and Go

Yet another reason why an author should avoid promoting a single title: They come and go as do series. I learned this when promoting Blessing of Luna. I focused so much on making banners, bookmarks, cards, social profiles, you name it on a single title. It wound up being a huge waste of time and resources. When FyreSyde — and now with the opening of Greenwood Grove Booksellers — came I had to repurchase everything I spent hundreds to obtain. Truthfully, I should’ve held the release until I had at least two more titles and knew for sure what my business plan was.

Titles come and titles go but you as the author will remain constant in your personality and approachability. Focus on relating to people as your brand name; it is what readers will bond to and potential readers will buy for.

You’re More Than Your Book

An author platform doesn’t only focus on you as an author. Too often “writers” think all we can do is write about writing. This is not the case. For me, I took Rachel’s advice and focused on five keywords I’m passionate about that don’t focus solely on writing. This offers people a bigger picture of me and less of that of a salesman at their door wanting them to buy buy buy.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Look at the themes of your book. What do you find yourself trying to bring attention to? Are you a mental health advocate? Do you have a deep backstory you want to share or are sympathetic to? Are you trying to bring attention to the effects humanity has on nature? Use those passions to bond with each of those niches. These are all potential readers who will attach to you for being a human being.

To make this personal, I’ve decided to share mine: Gardening, Sustainability, Books, True Crime (yes, I like to study serial killers), and Marketing (there are more but these are the main ones). These keywords take up large amounts of my blog posts and social media posts for those who follow and know me.

You’ve heard this a million times: One of the most powerful tools in building an author platform is to have a blog. It builds credibility and leaves valuable “digital bread crumbs” that can lead people back to your book.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve coached to start a blog, telling them they will find more people are locating them than if they just blabbed on social media about their books.

Tip: Knowing your passion keywords will alleviate the stress of not knowing what to blog about or to post on social media.

Pro — Tip: Avoid Branding Dilution

Photo by Mikael Seegen on Unsplash

In this article, Rachel Thompson (Rachel Thompson) makes a strong argument as to why focusing on promoting a single title is potentially dangerous. New authors become so excited about their book, they create social media profiles based around it. To paraphrase her:

What happens when book two or book three come around? — Rachel Thompson

You might feel like you have to make different profiles for each title or series. To once again draw from Rachel’s article, this is called “brand dilution.” Meaning, readers who found you for book one (or series one) will either have to follow the other profiles or become so flustered they stop reading altogether. I’m no expert but the latter doesn’t seem too great.

Getting stuck managing multiple profiles for the same series can cause horrendous stress and thus “dead” profiles and abandoned accounts.

If you find you are struggling with branding, I highly recommend any of Rachel’s books. They have been lifesavers on many occasions and her poetry is absolutely beautiful.


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Querying: What You Need to Know Right Now

Querying. The word of shaking bones, chattering teeth and chewing on nails as you wait for the agent or publisher to respond. Hours upon hours, days upon days…well, you get the idea.

As we said in a previous article (featured in NaNoProMo) about pitching, the publishing world is an absolute struggle. Agents and publishers are getting over-run with queries from authors wanting to publish their latest literary masterpieces. It is so easy to get lost in the nightmare known as the “slush-pile.”

Recently, FyreSyde had the privilege of opening our doors to the authors looking for a publisher who doesn’t require an agent. We received a total of almost fifteen queries in a short span of time (and that’s just the emailed ones).

Why is this number important? Because, it shows just how busy a publishing company can be and how many queries we receive (in just a month!).

Something we noticed in this submission period is how important it is for authors to be well-aware of what their publisher expects and to follow their rules for querying to avoid automatic rejection. Your publisher (or agent) should never have to instruct you on how to query them.

Let’s begin.

What Is a Query?

Look at a query the same way you look at a job application. You’re selling yourself to your potential employer by telling them a little about you, your work history, achievements, etc. What they don’t want is to be blasted with how much of a god-send you are to their company (more on how this applies to books later).

The query is pretty much the same thing. It includes:

  • If you know the agent or publisher from somewhere (a connection) then tell them. If not, don’t.
  • The title and genre of your book (maybe include the word count as well)
  • A bit about your story (main characters, etc)
  • Who you are as an author
  • Any achievements, experiences, etc that you have gotten

1. Connection to the Agent or Publisher:

What do we mean by connection? Did you meet the agent at a conference? Were they recommended to you? Maybe you heard they liked a certain genre or sub-genre somewhere? Anywhere you might have heard of them, let them know. It creates a rapport and can help with the querying process.

FyreSyde loves to know where people found or heard of us. We often ask to get a feeling about the person and what they’re looking for in a publisher. An agent (or publisher) might want to know the same thing.

2. The Title, Genre and Word-count of Your Book

Yes, we want to know these things. They can often be a good selling point or help us in deciding if we want to pursue a contract.

Almost every publisher includes a list of genres they’re looking for, what they aren’t looking for and what they’re very picky with. Taking the time to learn these things can help you (the querying author) avoid serious heartache. It also gives you an understanding of the current literary market.

FyreSyde also has a word-count limit, as do many others. This helps us not only in printing costs but also to check and see if the book is marketable to our readers. Longer books tend to be cumbersome so we put a limit of 95K on our submissions (look for a later blog post on “over” and “under” writing, coming soon). Being aware of these can help an author do some final revisions before submitting.

Novels: 55,000 up to 95,000 words
Novellas: up to 50,000 words; must have at least 10,000 words

FyreSyde Word-Count specifications, FyreSydePublishing.com/queries

3. About Your Story (avoid giving away the plot)

Of course we want to know about your story. It’s the main reason you’re contacting us after all, yes?

FyreSyde has specific things we look for when it comes to deciding on whether or not we want to ask for a partial manuscript:

What we look for when reading pitches: Strong world development, deep character arcs, flawed characters, showing not telling, well-edited writing, original ideas, and consistent characters. Having these things will be more likely to land our interest as we are avid readers as well.

Found via FyreSydePublishing.com/queries

The same can be said of our fellow publishers. The more unique and strong your story is, the more apt we are to ask for a partial manuscript. If we like it enough, we’ll ask for a full.

A general rule of thumb: This is not the time to tell the publisher or agent (at least not FyreSyde) how badly we need your book. Please don’t do this. FyreSyde automatically rejects queries who say things like this.

You can include your main characters, the trials they face and the conflict we can expect in your story. You don’t have to give away the entire plot. Keep us guessing and wanting more.

4. Who You Are As An Author

Tell us a little about yourself but keep it about writing and publishing. What achievements have you accomplished? Have you attended any writing conferences, hosted any panels or received an award for your story? Now is the time to tell us. Keep it brief.

5. Tips from a Publisher

  1. Read the querying page in its entirety. By no means should the publisher or agent have to instruct you on how to query. FyreSyde experienced this many times during our first submission window. We will no longer be looking at queries that don’t follow our submission terms. It got ridiculous. So, please, read the submissions page. They are there for a reason.
  2. Keep it short. Don’t send two or three pages to the publisher or agent. One page is the comfortable maximum. Remember, we see many (and we mean many) queries we have to answer. This can be a source of auto-rejection for some agents and publishers.
  3. Make it exciting. An article via Nybookeditors.com that we found helpful when formulating a query letter had a great idea: Query in the tone of your book. It can be an amazing way to get us interested in what to expect.
  4. Build a rapport. Don’t just come to us and demand to query with us. Most of us have social media and like to engage as normal human beings (but a bit more professional). Getting to know us, following our social media and interating with our content can help when it comes to the querying phase. We might just help because we want to.
  5. Be Unique. Here at FyreSyde we treasure uniqueness in stories and in authors. We don’t like to see plots we’ve seen a million times. Be willing to be bold and show us who you are as a writer, not what the market expects you to be.
  6. Hire an editor (or have someone look over your letter). Many publishing houses require at least a rough round of editing and revision before even looking at a manuscript. The same can be said for a query letter. There is nothing more damaging than a query letter with missing words, bad spelling, incorrect grammar and poor wording. You’ve heard you never get a chance at a first impression?
  7. Be aware of submission windows. FyreSyde doesn’t even look at letters sent outside of these windows. They’re deleted immediately.
  8. Don’t be scared of us. Yes, FyreSyde may reject manuscripts and query letters but that doesn’t mean we’re something to be afraid of. We’re human beings just like you and often know what it feels like to be where you are. FyreSyde goes as far as to help critique query letters prior to submission.
  9. You are going to be rejected. Rejections happen all the time for a variety of reasons. Just because we reject one query, it doesn’t mean we’re going to automatically reject the next. If we have time, FyreSyde tries to say why we’ve rejected to help the author understand.
  10. Follow the template. Nybookeditors.com has a beautiful breakdown of how to format a query letter. It’s exactly what FyreSyde wants to see in the letters we receive.

If you liked this post, here are a couple of others that might help:

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NaNoProMo Day 29: Why Good Editing Is Good Marketing by @Alexandria_SZ

Day 29 of NaNoProMo is all about editing and how important it is in marketing your book by Dr. Alexandria Szeman.

Editors are there to make your writing look cleaner and more professional The hard truth is, unless you are willing to do some of your own, it can be hard to market your book.

This has become such a problem, especially with indie and self-published authors. So often, we see manuscripts that have not been looked at by a beta reader or read by another to spot preliminary problems. It can and most likely will result in an automatic rejection.

We require our authors to have their manuscripts read at least twice before they even submit to us.

Editors can be expensive, we know this, however, there are other ways to have editing done or get your manuscript cleaned up. Beta readers, critique partners and friends who have some editing experience can also help.

The point is, there is indeed, no excuse for good editing.

Excerpt:

Why IS Good Editing Good Marketing?


You’ve probably heard at least one fellow writer claim that s/he doesn’t have to worry about spelling or grammar or even plot-holes because, once the book is accepted by a publisher, the editor will fix any errors. Maybe that was true before typewriters were invented, but it wasn’t true when my agent was sending my first novel out to publishers 27 years ago.
The hard truth is that, unless you’re already a bestseller or a major celebrity with an established audience, no agent or editor will even look at your book unless it’s already well written and well-edited.
In traditional publishing, agents and editors are marketers: agents “sell” manuscripts to editors, who “sell” the books to the rest of the editorial staff before making the author an offer to publish. (Once the book is published, the bookstores, not the publishers, are the ones that literally sell the books to readers.) Agents and editors simply don’t have time to edit a book, especially not for unproven authors. And if you self-publish, your readers will expect your work to have the same quality editing that traditionally published books have.
That means whether you’re looking for agent representation, submitting directly to publishers, or planning to self-publish, anyone who reads your book has to be completely engaged by your story, has to like your writing, and should never notice that there’s anything that needs to be changed, i.e., edited. Good editing is essential for all books, but there are lots of different kinds of editing, only some of which is done by traditional publishers.

Dr. Alexandria Szeman, Why Good Editing Is Good Marketing

Where to find Dr. Alexandria Szeman:

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NaNoProMo Day 28: 5 Reasons Authors Should Market Themselves With Email by Conor Kelly

Day 28 of NaNoProMo (founded by Rachel Thompson) is all about emails and why authors should be willing to market themselves via email.

Email lists are used widely here at FyreSyde. We use them for our street teams, our blogger list and of course our newsletter. Having email lists can be crucial if social media should suddenly become useless. Where would you find those readers or get in touch with them?

Excerpt:

Email. We love it, we hate it.  We like to complain we get too much of it, but we’re also addicted to our inboxes.  If you’re an author who’d like to build a following, sell more books, and be seen as the go-to person in your industry, then this article will show you how – by using simple emails.
Without further ado, here are 5 reasons why every author should market themselves using email:

Conor Kelly, Reasons Authors Should Market Themselves with Email

Find more about Conor Kelly:

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NaNoProMo Day 27: How to Pick a Bestselling Title by @BarbaraDelinsky

Day 27 of NaNoProMo (founded by Rachel Thompson) is all about titles and why they make such an impact on book sales, courtesy of Barbara Delinsky.

Excerpt:

Your novel is done and you’re ready to start hyping characters and plot on social media, which is the current marketing tool of choice, right?
Only in part. Social media is important. Same with building hype with blog endorsements. Before you get to those, though, you need a good title. Studies suggest that the average reader makes a book-buying decision in less than three minutes based largely title and cover. Okay, the recommendation of a friend (or Reese Witherspoon) helps, or, if you’ve published before and have a devoted following, they may snap up your book on the weight of your name alone. A gripping plot description on the book jacket helps, but only if the shopper actually opts to read this summary.
How to make that happen?  How to get the reader to actually pick up your book and take a closer look?

Barbara Delinsky, How to Pick a Bestselling Title

Where to find Barbara Delinsky

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NaNoProMo Day 26: 3 Reasons Authors Need a Content Strategy Now by @AbbieMood

FyreSyde has a saying: “Authors don’t always have to be authors.”

Why we say this has everything to do with one little word: content. Often, authors think they have to talk about nothing but writing and focus only on their books. This is not the case.

NaNoProMo Day 26 (founded by Rachel Thompson) offers three reasons why authors should focus on developing a content strategy courtesy of Abbie Mood.

Excerpt:

Why Is Content Marketing Important for Writers?


Over the past few years, content marketing has gained popularity as a marketing strategy. And rightfully so—businesses all over the world are successfully using blog posts and social media to gain customers, clients, and brand fans. In fact, content marketing converts people to paying customers at a rate SIX TIMES higher than other/traditional methods. While it’s becoming a no-brainer for businesses, content marketing and having a content strategy is just as important for solopreneurs, writers, and authors.
You might not realize it yet, but if you’re writing full-time or trying to become a published author, you’re running a business and it will greatly benefit you to think of it from that perspective. And that’s why a content strategy is integral to your success as a writer.

Abbie Mood, 3 Reasons Authors Need a Content Strategy Now

Where to find Abbie Mood:

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NaNoProMo Day 30: How to Create a Book Marketing Roadmap by @Beth_Barany

Marketing. We talk about it so much and find so much on the internet but still new authors struggle with how to go about it. It’s intimidating, horrifying and can, at times, be confusing.

NaNoProMo day 30 (founded by Rachel Thompson) offers a great roadmap on how authors can go about their marketing. Beth Barany shares some steps you can take to make marketing your book a bit less daunting.

Excerpt:

Why Market Our Books?


We writers want to be read. Otherwise, why would we publish our work? Well, it is so gratifying to hold the book and see it on the shelf. But it’s the readers’ joy in reading is what it’s all about. Otherwise, why publish?

To be read, we must market our books. How to do that can be overwhelming and feel like a big black box you can’t open because:
There are so many choices out there on how to market
There is so much advice on the “right” way to market that clashes — confusing! and
You may be afraid to actually to do the work because of well, many reasons. (I’ll address this aspect more below.)
To bring some clarity and offer an overview roadmap, let’s start by defining our terms.

Beth Barany, How to Create a Book Marketing Roadmap

Where else to find Beth Barany:

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NaNoProMo Day 23: Tips: How to Leave Digital Breadcrumbs by @LolaAkinmade

Day 23 of NaNoProMo offers insight on how to get your name spread across the internet for other than just marketing your book. Marketing yourself is the most crucial part of the author platform.

For example, FyreSyde does more than preach books. We add evergreen content that can be used by virtually everyone. We also submit guest posts to various blogs and submit stories to literary magazines on our off-time (when we have it).

Lolá Akinmade Åkerström does an amazing job at showing you how you can get your name recognized for something other than your book. It gives you an air of professionalism and authority on subjects you are passionate about.

Excerpt:

“We are like Hansel and Gretel, leaving bread crumbs of our personal information everywhere we travel through the digital woods.”…Gary Kovacs


The last few months have been rather surreal workwise and I will share a Latest News & Updates post soon but there’s something that has been on my mind the last few weeks surrounding my LAGOM Book.
We’re now up to 17 language editions (!) and I thought I just spotted a Ukrainian version recently on Instagram? I still haven’t found the right words to express the gratitude I feel for catching this wave at the right moment when it crested.
But I digress…
The number one question I get surrounding the book is how I got a major publisher.
People are curious about my proposal and pitching process. How did I land that specific publisher? Do I have an agent? (No, by the way). How did I get on their radar? Especially people who are coming across my work for the first time, or have lived in Sweden much longer than my eight years here.

Lolá Akinmade Åkerström, Tips: How to Leave Digital Breadcrumbs

Find Lolá Akinmade Åker:

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NaNoProMo Day 22: How To Grow Your Author Platform by @KatBiggie

Day 22 of NaNoProMo (created by Rachel Thomson) offers more insight on how to develop your author platform. Again, we here at FyreSyde believe in building a platform much earlier than when you hold your book in your hand.

Check out this post by Alexa Bigwarfe, a leading name in the publishing industry about how to begin building your platform.

Excerpt:

There is nothing worse than doing all the things to have a well-written, edited, fantastic book that completely flops when you launch it. That’s all of our biggest fears as writers, right? Okay, creatives have a lot of fears, but this one: “What if nobody buys my book?” is at the top of the list.

Many writers think the hardest part about publishing a book is the writing, the editing, and all of the steps to produce and publish a high-quality book.


Once you’re done with that – you market!


Uh oh. The realization quickly sets in that either you don’t really know your target audience and where to find them, or you haven’t spent the time growing an audience of true fans.

Alexa Bigwarfe, How To Grow Your Author Platform

Find more about Alexa Bigwarfe:

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NaNoProMo Day 24: Tips to Grow Your Author Platform by @IolaGoulton

You’ve heard it preached so many times. Having an author platform is critical before your book even releases. Some will say you have to wait to have the book in hand, but we here at FyreSyde tell our authors to market themselves first.

On average, platform building should begin six months before your book is even released. Some (like us) begin the process (if the author has not already done so) of building a platform fifteen months in advance.

NaNoProMo day 24 (created by Rachel Thomson) has a wonderful post by Iola Goulton on how to grow your author platform.

Excerpt below:

This might seem self-evident, especially if you’ve followed most or all of the#NaNoProMo posts this month. But I do come across published authors who don’t even have the basics in place: website, email list, and basic social media links.
It annoys reviewer-me when I want to promote an author but can’t, because the author doesn’t have anything for me to share or promote beyond an outdated Facebook page.

Iola Goulton, Tips: How to Create Your Author Platform Basics

Find more about Iola Goulton:

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NaNoProMo Day 17: This Is Why Credibility Forges a Strong Brand by Charli Mills

You hear this all the time. As an author you are a brand. Do not fall into the trip trap of thinking you are nothing but a book title. Too often, we hear stories about authors who give off the feelings that they don’t care about their readers because all they do is talk about them and their book.

As an author you are a brand

FyreSyde Team

This is not the way to do this. It’s why today’s NaNoProMo (created by Rachel Thomson) is so powerful it gave us chills.

Charli Mills gets real in a post showing why credibility is so crucial in maintaining a strong brand. She gets real about her struggles she’s encountered during her journey of being a military spouse. As a former Army wife and husband team, we can relate to these struggles.

Excerpt from Charli’s Article:

In October of 1983, my husband jumped into a war zone known as Urgent Fury. As far as battles go, the one for Grenada barely registers. In fact, the US government declares 1983 as part of a “non-combat” era. However, the reputation of my husband’s elite unit of US Army Rangers earns him respect regardless of where he served.


He volunteered for the Army in 1981, volunteered for Airborne school, and volunteered for the Rangers. He had to pass three phases and accept an assignment to a Ranger unit. He also qualified as a combat diver and managed his unit’s Zodiacs. He emphasizes that he volunteered for service and dangerous duty, something he’s fiercely proud of achieving.
But it’s made for a rocky after-service life.


Not only did my husband bash his knee on that Grenada jump, but he also struck his head twice. Just a week before, he took a hit to the head that knocked him out. None of these incidents warranted a Ranger seeking medical attention and wouldn’t be worth mentioning decades later had it not been for puzzling changes in his cognition.
He’s needed a total knee replacement for 35 years. As he aged, chronic pain aggravated combat PTSD, the kind rooted in survivor’s guilt and anger – the fuel a soldier is taught to use but not neutralize. While seeking VA treatment, we discovered an alarming loss of processing ability linked to long-term effects of subconcussive hits.

Charli Mills, Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Find more about Ms. Mill’s here:

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NaNoProMo Day 16: How Working With an Author Assistant Helps Writers by Guest @TheRuralVA

Here we are again (still a bit behind) but hey we promised to deliver NaNoProMo (created by Rachel Thomson) and come heck or high water, we are.

Today is something special. Here at FyreSyde, we know nothing is more important than learning to delegate. As human beings who carry jobs, have kids, go to school and somehow still find time to write, finding someone to help can mean a world of difference.

Emilie Rabitoy brings to you how important it can be to have an author assistant. Read the full article about it here.

Have a juicy excerpt:

When it comes to hiring an author assistant, it can be difficult to know where to start. The possibilities are sometimes limitless, so it’s hard for an author to know which tasks they should hand off to their assistant or which they should continue to do on their own.


One of the first things I ask my clients is if there is any task just they cannot stand, or feel is necessary but don’t have the time or skills to do. These are absolutely the most important tasks to give to your assistant, because either they currently aren’t getting done at all, or aren’t getting done very well.


The most important part of the relationship between an author and their assistant is communication, so finding a style that works for both parties is crucial. Though many writers don’t feel they can afford an assistant, they’d be surprised by how reasonable the cost is.

Emilie Rabitoy, The Rural Virtual Assistant

Find more about Emilie here:

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NaNoProMo Day 12: How to Make Your Book Marketing Plan a Success by Maureen Joyce Connolly

Marketing can be daunting if you don’t know what you’re doing. Trust us, we’ve been there. We know how you feel. Breaking it down into a marketing plan can help ease some of strain, especially for Indie and self-published authors. Here’s the kicker, bashing people over the brain with “buy my book” tweets is NOT the way to go.

Often times, as authors, we forget that our readers are people too. As part of NaNoProMo (created by Rachel Thomson), Maureen Joyce Connolly offers ways to make your marketing plan successful. Check out the full article here:

And to get you interested:

The very core of my approach was to learn as much about launching a book as quickly as possible, to compile a strategy and to execute it with support if I needed, but for me to be the driver of my plan. I also understood instinctively, that I would need to identify my personal strengths and use them to my advantage since I had no social media presence – nada, zip – as my business had flourished via referrals.
In the social media arena, I wasn’t starting from the ground floor; I was starting in the basement. But I have a bulldozer work ethic and creativity. Two killer strengths.

Maureen Joyce Connolly, author of Little Lovely Things

Find more about Ms. Connolly: