April 25, 2017

visualizing my plot

I'm working on the first draft of my seventh novel right now. This is the first book in what I anticipate being a six-book series (with two spin-offs). Each book will focus on a different pair, but characters will make appearances in multiple stories and the timeline matters a lot.

With this big project in the works, I've done a few new things from a creating/crafting standpoint.

1. I created a series bible.


This is the physical version, but it also exists in a Scrivener file that will carryover from story to story. It includes detailed character sketches for the main characters, my outline, and major beats. But it also includes tools for me to track what characters reveal about their back story and personality--particularly in the stories where they're background characters. This will hopefully help me stay consistent and avoid having someone change eye colors from book to book.

Here's how the content of my physical series bible breaks down:

Section 1: Overall Series (timeline of books, character key (a living document where I will add elements revealed about reoccurring characters in each story for consistency/continuity), setting sketches (my current project focuses around a bar, so I created a floor plan and a small file of photos of different elements that exist in the bar))

Sections 2-7: Separate folder for each story, then within that:

  • Tab 1: Cover image (This is subject to change, but designing it helped put me in the mindset to tell this story)
  • Tab 2: Word count tracker
  • Tab 3: 10-Scene Outline
  • Tab 4: Working Synopsis (scene by scene/chapter outline, which also changes and evolves as I write)
  • Tab 5: Main Character sketches (I have two main characters in each of these stories and the sketches are four pages long, which includes a photograph of an actor/actress who looks a lot like I envision this character)
  • Tab 6: Secondary Character sketches (also contain a photo and bullet points with what we will know about this character in the book--and maybe a hint of what readers will eventually come to know--that are one-page each)
  • Tab 7: List of extremely minor characters who are only mentioned and maybe a one- or two-line description of who they are and their role in the story (this is one I'm working on as I go--I'm still outlining, and rando characters pop up as I write)
  • Tab 8: Setting sketches (with specific scenes being used in this particular story, which include locations that will be one-offs or revisited in one or two stories down the road)

It's so pretty. Seriously. I sometimes just sit and hold my little series bible and admire it to the point that I wonder if it's even necessary to write the book, because I put together such a lovely binder of supporting documents.

Then, I remind myself that I put a lot of time and energy into creating that lovely binder with its supporting documents, so I should probably put it to work.

Plus... at some point during the creating process, one of my kittens must've stepped in something then tracked it across the cover. So now it's decorated with his or her (I'm guessing this has Bing written all over it, though) handiwork too. Love.


If you're curious about making your own series bible, I used a few resources. One was a workshop I attended led by members of my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The other was this blog post.

As for the other tool I'm using...

2. I made a plot wall.


Yes, look at that. Isn't it a thing of beauty? Basically, one of the easiest ways for me to visualize my story line is to jot down a couple of notes about each scene and organize it chapter by chapter. I've done this on a couple of other books, then I use those notes to create a more thorough working synopsis, which I keep in my Scrivener file and my bible.

(If you'd like some tips on plotting out scenes, here's a great resource from Writers Digest.)

This time (also at the advice of a local RWA member) I used index cards to brainstorm conflict and tension that would keep the story going. I asked why can't she/he love him/her? And I focused on what stands in the way of her/him fulfilling their main goals.


It seemed like such a waste to set those index cards aside, never to be used again. And, now that I have my own office for creating, I figured I'd give them new life by hanging them on the closet doors in my office. They're not completely organized by acts, but that's not a totally incorrect way of looking at it. Mostly, there's the beginning. There's the ending. And then the middle is split into two parts that make sense to me and where the characters are on their development arc.

This serves a couple of good points. For one, I can look up at it from my desk and really visualize where I am in the story and what should--and should not--be revealed as I write. Two, I can see it from my treadmill, so even when I'm burning a few calories, I have my story literally in sight. And three... it's just kind of nice to have. I mean, whenever I pass my office, whenever I enter it, there's no avoiding my current WIP.

Down the road, as I write more and more, I hope I'll also be able to look at this and see how far I've come. At the very least, it doesn't hurt anything, right? I'll keep you posted on how this works out.

What are some tools you use for planning and plotting your stories? How do you stay motivated? Feel free to share any tips you might have in the comments.


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 20, 2017

a brief history on my life as a writer

For the past year, I have served as the honorary author member on the Nebraska Literary Heritage Association’s Board. The NLHA provides support for the Lincoln City Libraries’ Jane Geske Pope Heritage Room of Nebraska Authors, which collects, preserves, and promotes work by and about Nebraska Authors.

As my year on the board comes to an end, I was asked to give a brief presentation on myself and my writing during our meeting yesterday. I’m a Toastmasters drop-out, and public speaking isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but I did my best to put together some remarks on my story as a writer and what I do.

So I thought I’d share it with all of you. Here’s the talk I wrote, and I (mostly) tried to stick to the script. (Though, I'm pretty proud to say I barely looked at my notes, so I probably paraphrased and shook up the word choice.)


Nebraska Literary Heritage Association Presentation

April 19, 2017 at 3:30 p.m.
Bennett Martin Public Library

Growing up here in Nebraska, I always knew I wanted to be a writer. That began with being a reader. At my house, we were always reading. My mom always had a mystery novel from Agatha Christie or a thriller from John Grisham with her as she took us kids to our various music, sports, and art classes. I remember spending Saturday mornings learning about space, history, animals, and fairy tales from the children’s encyclopedias we had. My dad was interested in everything, and those bound volumes helped us keep up with him.

When I graduated to picking out my own book, I raced through the Baby-Sitters Club and Little House series. And as a Nebraskan, I found great inspiration as a reader—and writer—from Bess Streeter Aldrich and Willa Cather.

(As an aside, I geeked out the first time I saw my books on the same shelf as Willa Cather right here in the Heritage Room.)

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a reader or when I didn’t want to be a story-teller. Even in elementary school, every time we did creative writing, I imagined a day when the stories I wrote would be published for others to read. In 8th grade I was even lucky enough to participate in the Writers Write Workshop. And somewhere in the Heritage Room archives, there is a badly written poem about softball thanks to that experience.

Fast forward to college. I earned a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and minored in English and history. Journalism seemed like a practical way to make a living as a writer, but it actually made me a better story-teller. I learned how to ask questions—the right ones—to dig deeper. I learned that subjects that didn’t seem interesting on the surface could be fascinating. And most importantly, I learned that everyone has a story to tell.

Journalism also gave me a ticket to see more of the world. In college, I spent a week in England studying international quilting traditions. (That week, incidentally, also helped prepare me for the job I have now working at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.) I spent a summer in Carbondale, Illinois, as a news intern, covering everything from major flooding and the 2008 presidential election to a multimedia depth report on coal and its impact on the region. And I spent the first four years of my professional career traveling to more than 22 states interviewing and photographing people to tell their stories in corporate newsletters and websites.

This was an interesting job, but it came with a lot of challenges. Long days, longer weeks away from home. Uncooperative interviewees. Never having any idea of what to expect, which was tough for a planner like me. It was this chaotic time, though, that inspired me to write my first novel.

I was in a rental car somewhere in central Louisiana, on day four of a six-day trip along the Gulf Coast. I’d already logged more than 1,000 miles behind the wheel and I still had a lot of territory—and work—to cover. I was visiting two different railroad customers, which meant I had two different hard hats, plus the rest of the personal protective equipment I needed like steel-toed boots and a reflective vest. They littered the floor of my car along with road maps, notes, and empty water bottles. I looked at the mess I’d made and thought about the roller coaster I’d already experienced that week and I was struck with a thought. This was my life—hard hats and doormats. It made me laugh, and I thought it might make for a funny book. I spent the rest of the drive imagining how I’d write this as a story. I’d naturally work for a complicated industry I barely understood. I’d have difficult co-workers who added unnecessary drama. Of course, I’d have a love interest. Some handsome colleague I wasn’t allowed to date, because of corporate policy. I’d face a series of problems—some big, some small—but they could all be resolved somewhere between page one and “the end.” And while my life was pretty unhappy and lonely at the time, my story would be a romantic comedy with a happy ever after—or at least a happy for now.

I thought about that story for more than a year before I wrote it. In November 2010, I was hanging out on Facebook when a friend posted about National Novel Writing Month. For thirty days, she planned to work towards a goal of writing 50,000 words. It sounded impossible but perfect all at once. By this point in my life, I’d moved to and from Houston. I’d loved—or rather crushed hard—and lost. I felt like my life was lacking direction and like I had little to show for several years of hard work. I was also dealing with severe anxiety, though I didn’t understand what it was. I needed a lifeline—something to pull me in and hold me stead. NaNoWriMo was that for me. And while I didn’t exactly know what I was doing, I made myself write most days. Some of it was good. A lot of it was bad. But when I hit 50,000 words at 9 p.m. on November 30, none of that mattered. After feeling like I’d fallen short on so many goals I’d set for myself, I had accomplished one of them. One that had me working toward that dream I’d always had of writing.

Since that November, I’ve written and published six novels, two novellas, and two novelettes—with a third currently in editing and due for release this fall. I’ve participated in—and completed—six more NaNoWriMos. I’m now Lincoln’s local coordinator for the organization. I’ve published with small presses and independently. I’ve written stories about reality TV hosts, rock stars, professors, and car salesmen. I’ve experimented with my voice, style, and technique.  I’ve come back to the Writers Write Workshop twice—this time as an author. I’ve had a book become a bestseller (briefly, but it was there). I’ve had days I’ve sold no books. I’ve been interviewed on USA Today. I’ve had my publisher go out of business. So still, a lot of highs and lows, but you get through that roller coaster better when it’s something you love.

My writing and I have changed a lot over time. But there are a few things you can usually expect when you pick up a romantic comedy by Laura Chapman.

1)  There will be laughs. At least I hope people find them funny.
2)  The characters will be people you recognize. Even if they’re a famous football coach, I strive to make them as real and relatable as possible.
3)  Some of the characters will find love. The focus is usually on the romantic, but there’s a lot of love between friends and family, too.
4)  There will be a happy ending. I’ll put my characters through some struggle and pain, but I like to leave them in a good, promising place.

My dad used to ask me why I wrote rom-coms. Given my background in news, he’d ask why I didn’t set out to write the Great American Novel. Being contrary, that would naturally set me off. I’d rant about the subjective definition and systemic biases and overlooked marginalized groups. The best argument I gave was that the Great American novel captures the spirit of a place, people, and time in America. My characters and places are real and reflect their times. They just happen to fall in love and get into silly situations along the way.

But the real reason I write rom-coms is because they’re an escape for me. Both as a writer and reader. After years of covering car accidents, railroad incidents, floods, and other disasters, when I write now, I like to write to make myself—and others—laugh and feel hopeful. There’s so much you can’t count on in this world, but I like being able to count on that happy ever after in my stories.


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 18, 2017

my book launch marketing plan and results

Now to talk about something that has become an even bigger part of author life: marketing.

Though I've always been interested in book marketing, I've paid even more attention to it since my previous publisher unexpectedly closed last fall and I became my own publisher. Through my reading and research, I particularly appreciated posts from other authors that offered real talk on what they did and their results. After a lot of consideration, I decided to put this post together looking at my recent book launch. This is not intended to be a pity party and it is definitely not meant to call out anyone. I'm specifically not including names in places, because I do not want this to feel like I am targeting anyone. Especially because this was my experience and it is not necessarily indicative of what others might face. I am sharing this information in case it can offer insight or guidance to other authors out there.

With those disclaimers, let's get into it.

My Book Launch Marketing Plan

For my launch, I decided to use a combination of marketing approaches that included social media, newsletters, advertisements, and blogs. This included:

  • Blog Tour (self-organized using a Google Doc sign-up promoted in my newsletter and shared with bloggers I have worked with previously) featuring a Rafflecopter giveaway with entries for social sharing
  • Release Blast organized by a tour company featuring a Rafflecopter giveaway with entries for social sharing
  • Newsletters (mine as well as ads in a couple of industry newsletters)
  • Facebook Ads
  • Amazon Marketing Services Ads
  • Social Media Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

In addition, I submitted my book for review with a couple of review sites separate from the tour. I also was fortunate to be interviewed on USA TODAY's Happy Ever After blog, which was a nice bonus and fun experience.

Marketing Expenses

  • Facebook Pre-order Ad: $11.19 
  • Facebook Release Week Ad: $28.29 
  • Amazon Marketing Services Sponsored Product Ad: $11.11 
  • Pre-Order, Release Day, and Bonus Day Ad in a Romance-Focused Daily Newsletter: $15
  • Release Day Ad in a Women's Fiction-Focused Newsletter: $5 (Note: This was a somewhat unexpected expense. I didn't actually know this was a go until I saw my book in the newsletter and received an invoice shortly after. But, it was 5 bucks, so not a major hardship.)
  • Release Blast: $100
  • Prizes: $40 (This included two $10 Amazon gift cards and physical prizes. I am not including the expense of audiobooks gifted, because I had a set available at no cost to me.)
  • Shipping: $9 (all sent First-Class)

Target budget: $200
Total spent: $219 (I went a little over, because I impulsively added a few days to my Facebook and AMS ads, and I had the unconfirmed newsletter ad run.)

Comparatively, I imagine this is not a large promotional budget, but it is the biggest one I have had for a book launch. I set this amount as my target, because I felt this is what I could afford to lose if I did not generate major sales.


Blog Tour

I had about 20 bloggers sign-up to participate in a blog tour that I hosted. I spread out the sign-ups over three weeks. The first week ran one week prior to release day and included pre-order links. The second two weeks ran after the book was already out. Posts included a combination of reviews, excerpts, guest posts, and interviews. These were quite time consuming to produce, particularly the interview answers and guest posts. I also struggled some with coming up with unique guest posts when the host did not provide prompts, which most did not.

Of the bloggers who committed to dates on the tour:

  • Two had to cancel their posts at last-minute because of unexpected life events, which is totally understandable and unavoidable.
  • Two did not post content without explanation or response to prompt emails.
  • I received six four- or five-star reviews on blogs, of which five were cross-posted on Amazon. One person who received an ARC posted a review exclusively on Amazon. This was out of 11 possible reviews signed up for on the Google form I created to enlist participation.
  • Most bloggers shared the new posts on their Twitter and Facebook pages, while a couple did not. Of those who shared, a majority tagged either my Twitter handle or my Facebook page. About half did both.
  • I did not see any pre-order sales from the blog tour spots posted in the week before the book's release.
  • I did not see new sales during the final days of the blog tour, when I did not have other advertising running.
  • I did not see social interaction from these blog posts beyond readers sharing a tweet to enter the tour's Rafflecopter for prizes. 
  • With that same Rafflecopter, I did garner some new subscribers for my monthly newsletter. A number of those who said they signed up for my newsletter unfortunately did not. (I removed those names from the drawing.)

My Takeaway: I will hesitate to do a blog tour that includes guest posts in the future. Creating this content was time consuming (and sometimes challenging), and it did not appear to create significant results in sales or platform-building. I will put more focus on providing ARCs to book bloggers in exchange for honest reviews. In terms of doing prizes, I will also reconsider what I do for entries. Though there were a number of tweets sent throughout the tour, I do not believe many--if any--resulted in sales. Still, book bloggers are wonderful and do a great job. Building a great list of bloggers, and looking for additional ones to join your promotional team, is an important part in helping you build an audience.


Release Blast 

I worked with a tour company used by several authors I admire and respect. The prep work was pretty easy for me. I booked a date, paid my invoice, and filled out a form containing the information I wanted provided all within 48-72 hours of contacting the company's organizer. I provided unproofed ARCs, because I had to book this farther in advance, and agreed to provide a giveaway. Some notes:

  • This took relatively little work on my part with everything pretty well managed by the company.
  • I booked my blast (which would include dozens of promotional stops) for March 22, the day after my release, because March 21 was already booked.
  • My one area of concern was that I am not sure how many review copies of my book were sent out. I know at least six, because that's how many bloggers shared reviews. But I did also receive an Amazon review from someone who did not have a blog, but said she received a copy from the tour organizer. I also heard from a writer friend who said she requested, and received, an ARC of my book, but I did not send one to her. This isn't a huge point, but I wish I better understood how this worked.
  • I received a handful of Amazon reviews (five or six) as a result of this promotion.
  • The day of my blast also coincided with my interview on Happy Ever After and the second day of my ad with a promotional newsletter blast. That makes it a little more challenging to determine the point of origin for sales that day, and those to follow.
  • Sales for the day were 60 percent what they were the day before, which is not wholly unexpected. However, the number of sales that day--and in the days following--did not pay for the cost of this promotion.
  • Most of the participating sites--including the tour company--did not tag my social channels when sharing. This isn't a huge issue, either, but it would have been nice as I tagged them.

My Takeaway: While I appreciated the ease with working with this tour company and the professionalism, I am not sure if I can fiscally justify booking a release blast again at this point in my career. I would have liked to see more reviews and more platform building results. However, if later in my writing career I have more resources and I decide to do another tour company-run blast or tour, I would likely work with this team. I would also consider booking a general blog tour in the future, too.


Newsletters 

In my February and March newsletters, I shared the pre-order links for the book. I use MailChimp, which provides useful analytics for tracking how subscribers interact with your newsletter.

  • In February, 11 percent of newsletter subscribers clicked on the Amazon pre-order link, 6 percent clicked on the Goodreads link, 2 percent clicked on the Kobo pre-order link, 2 percent clicked on the Apple pre-order link, and 2 percent clicked on the Barnes & Noble link.
  • In March, 6 percent of newsletter subscribers click on the Amazon pre-order link, 2 percent clicked on the Barnes & Noble pre-order link, and 2 percent clicked on the generic Books2Read link, which takes readers to all available channels for purchasing the book.

I sent a release day email with the sale links and information about the blog tour, release blast and prizes that would be available.

  • Outside of the two Rafflecopter giveaways, I had three prize packages up for grabs with this release. All three did not require purchasing and would give one entry for a chance to win. 
  • The first prize was exclusively for newsletter subscribers. To enter, subscribers just had to email me. I asked them to send me a note of good cheer or to tell me about one room they would like to renovate in their home. I had about 20 entries. 
  • For the second, I asked readers to share my Facebook post. I had 28 shares on this post. Of those, I believe eight came directly from the newsletter based on analytics.
  • On the third, I asked people to review the book on their blog or Amazon by March 31. This had the fewest entries with perhaps a handful.
  • As far as sales links, release day clicks consisted of 21 percent on Amazon and 3 percent on Books2Read

As mentioned earlier, I also had ads in two romance/women's fiction industry newsletters. One cost $15 and included prominent placement on the organizer's main website on March 21 and 22 as well as a participation in a pre-order event, which (on the day it launched) yielded a handful of pre-orders, but also during its run increased my Facebook page likes and Twitter followers. I also received a mention in their daily newsletters on March 21 and 22. 

The second ad, which was a surprise but inexpensive at $5, appeared in a brief newsletter message along with a couple of other new releases. 

My Takeaway: Everything I read says newsletters are the way of the future. At present, it is free for me to operate and takes me relatively little time to assemble (I do these for a living and have for almost nine years, five in a marketing capacity), so I will continue to do them. I might as well.

As for the two newsletters I purchased ads with . . . It's hard to tell what sales either of these directly generated, but I did notice an increase in purchases on both days after the first newsletter hit inboxes (or at least mine). The number of books sold at these times made back the money spent. The first newsletter scored bonus points with me, because it provided prompt response--and invoicing--when I inquired about placing an ad. The organizer also sent me an email with links and suggestions on how I could share the information myself on Facebook, Twitter and in newsletter, even providing copy I could use. That level of organization--without being over the top--scored major points with me. I've worked with this company before on sales announcements that also led to successful sales figures. Because of their professionalism, organization, and the good results, I will definitely work with them again in the future.



Facebook Ads/Amazon Marketing Services Ads

I'm lumping these together, because they kind of work in similar ways. You set dates and parameters as well as a budget of how much you are willing to spend on clicks. Some things of note:

  • After seeing no pre-orders come in with the first week of my blog tour, it was gratifying to have what amounted to about 1/3 of my pre-orders come in after the Facebook and Amazon ads went live the weekend before release day.
  • On Facebook, I spent $11.19 for 21 clicks (53.3 cents per click) during the pre-order promo, and $28.29 for 48 clicks (58.9 cents per click) during the release week. On the pre-orders, I was intrigued to find that 57 percent of the pre-order clicks and 47.9 percent of the release week clicks came from the 55-64 and 65+ age groups. These are often ignored in ad targeting, and I am glad I included them.
  • Through AMS, I spent $11.11 on 76 clicks (15 cents per click) and generated an estimated $24.95 sales from those ads.


My Takeaway: I was particularly impressed with the results on Amazon. While these weren't huge, making back the money--and then more than twice what I spent--convinced me that this is a worthwhile venture. I'm not quite as sold on the Facebook ads. While you can see the number of clicks, I am not sure whether or not these resulted in sales. The Facebook ads were also quite a bit more money than the Amazon ads, without being able to provide me with quite as much information. I'll definitely use Amazon ads again in the future and will likely increase my budget there. I will continue to tinker with Facebook ads to see if they end up being worth my while.


Social Media Posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

On my launch sign-up, I invited people to participate in the launch via social media. The majority of the people who clicked on this box also wanted to participate in the blog tour. I did have a couple of additional people sign-up just to share these posts. So, at the time I created my blogger media kit and interviews/guest posts, I also created a small social sharing kit. This included two posts that could run on Facebook or Instagram and a few tweets that could be scheduled. I sent these out about a month before the launch.

Interestingly, none of the individuals who signed up exclusively to participate in the social media blast on my form used the content I sent them. They did share a post from my Facebook page, which was appreciated. I did also have a few author friends contact me to see if they could receive information to share on their pages.

My Takeaway: While these weren't too hard to put together, I'm not sure it is worth the time and effort put into creating this content for anyone not signed up for the blog tour. In the future, if I do promotional sign-ups, this will probably not be an option. While I may provide a couple of suggested tweets or posts to bloggers, this will not be a focus.


Overall Results

Based on the amount of money spent on advertising and royalties generated, this book launch was not fiscally successful. During the time frame I ran the marketing, my sales equaled 75.6 percent of what I spent. Of course, I could still see results from these labors in the future. That said, based on how quickly sales dropped after the newsletter, Facebook, and Amazon ads concluded, I am not sure how fast I will recoup those expenses, as well as the direct costs of production (editing, cover design, etc.).

Though I was somewhat disappointed by this figure, I did see my best release week sales to date with these combined efforts.

This experience taught me quite a few lessons. The biggest was that strategic ad placement with Amazon, Facebook, and the right industry newsletters seems to be the best way to go. I also learned that, unfortunately, blog tours do not seem to carry the weight they once did in resulting sales. (Though, I still say book bloggers are amazing and their reviews are helpful, particularly on Amazon and Goodreads.)

Probably the biggest result I saw: Amazon remains king. Playing House is available on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. In eBook sales, Amazon Kindle sales accounted for 12.5 percent of pre-orders and 9.6 percent of sales after release (March 21-31). During that same time period, all of my print sales were from Amazon.


Final Thoughts

What does all this mean? In short: I don't know. I am naturally disappointed to see that the time and money invested did not pay off as I'd hoped. I also recognize that my book has only been out a month, and the groundwork laid out before could lead to better results in the future. And--in full disclosure--I'll admit looking at the figures and my bank account makes me a little sick to my stomach. Fortunately, I have a good full-time job that helps me pay the bills--and, right now, finances my publishing venture. That means I don't have to make any hard and fast decisions at present.

Here's my advice to you, which you are free to take or leave, appreciate or scoff at, however you like:
  • Set and follow a budget.
  • Track your results to find what does and does not work best for your platform.
  • Spend only what you can afford. You may recover your costs instantly, or you may not ever recover them, or it may take some time. Regardless, you do not want to put yourself in debt.
  • Provide ARCs to book reviewers one month in advance. I know of some people who are able to get reviews with fast turn-around (like one or two weeks), but in general, it is a kindness to the blogger to give as much time as possible. 
  • Create professional and attention-grabbing content that is easy for others to use.
  • Have a newsletter.
  • Be gracious and grateful. Your results may not be what you hope they will be, but that doesn't mean you should let disappointment taint the way you treat others. But . . .
  • Keep track of people who fulfill their commitments to you and those who don't. It will help you in the future when determining who you should reach out to for reviews and features.

That will pretty much do it for me. I hope this has been helpful or interesting. If you have any of your own results, suggestions, or tips that you would like to share, please feel free to leave a comment. If you are an author and would like specific recommendations on tour companies and promoters, please feel free to send me a private message on Facebook, and I would be glad to offer any testimonials I can.


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 6, 2017

a diy guide to your ultimate disney staycation

On Tuesday, I wrote about the Disney Staycation I had for myself a week ago. There's something so perfect about escaping into worlds that you've known forever. It's not whimsical, but comforting, like disappearing into a second home you know almost as well as your own.

My senior year of high school, I went to a screening of the remake of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There's no polite way to say that, so I'll come out with it: I hate horror movies. I only went because my friends and boyfriend were going, and I didn't want to be a party pooper. I was so freaked out by the movie, when I came the only way I could keep myself from having nightmares was to pop in our old VHS copy of The Little Mermaid. I kept up that tradition when I was in college. I'd get home from a night out the bar--maybe with a little case of the spins--and I'd pop in Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast while I fell asleep.

Nothing like a little Disney Therapy to do the trick. And even though I'm much more grown-up (and avoiding both horror movies and the spins alike), Disney still works for me. And my Disney Staycation was heaven.

I had so much fun indulging in that fun, I wanted to share some of my tips in case you'd like to have your own.

Made on Canva.

So those were my (hopefully) helpful tips for planning and holding your own Disney Staycation. What do you think? Does this sound like something you'd like to try? What would you include in your itinerary?


*** Let's keep in touch! You can find out what's going on in my world between blog posts by following my daily adventures on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. You can subscribe to my monthly newsletter here. You can also find out more about my books by visiting my website, www.laurachapmanbooks.com. Whew. ***

April 4, 2017

not the most magical place in the world, but close enough

The day after releasing Playing House, I realized I needed a vacation. Releasing a book takes a lot out of you. There's the writing, the editing, more editing, and then some more editing. Then you have to figure out your publishing plan--writing the blurb, creating the cover, formatting, figuring out how you're going to market it, then marketing the whole thing. You put a lot of time into it, but more, there's a lot of your heart and spirit.

Add in everyday challenges like working a full-time job, trying to eat healthy, be a responsible adult, and maintain relationships with family and friends, and it can be taxing. At least that's how I find it. As much as I love doing this, as much as this is my dream, my bucket always feels a little empty by the time it's said and done.

I've discussed this before, but I have anxiety issues. If I stress too much and let it pile up, I have panic attacks and can go through bouts of depression. During the past few years, I've done some counseling and learned how to detect the warning signs and ways to prevent anxiety from taking over and causing more serious issues. Sometimes, I'm better at managing than others, but I'm doing a lot better.

A few days before the book release, I could see the signs. I'd burst into tears listening to a song. I'd wake up countless times in the night, grinding my teeth and stressing about imagined problems. I'd feel an overwhelming urge to eat a bag of potato chips or candy bars--and not because I'm maintaining a fairly healthy diet. I'd sit down to write, but the words wouldn't come.

With a lot going on with my day job and my writing career, I knew I couldn't afford to have a total meltdown.

I thought about some of my happiest moments in recent memory--times when I felt truly relaxed and happy. The one that came through loudest and most vividly was my trip to Los Angeles as an early celebration for my 30th birthday last summer. One of my best friends had invited me for a long weekend that would culminate in us going to see The Little Mermaid concert at the Hollywood Bowl on the evening Jodie Benson performed with the crew. If that wasn't exciting enough, then when I arrived at the airport, I learned that my friends were surprising me with a day at one of the most magical places in the world: Disneyland. I'd never been before, and I couldn't come up with anything more profound than "I can't believe it" as we made our way to the park.

About to walk into the park to begin a magical and memorable day.

The day was spectacular. I might have been about to turn 30, but I might as well have been 13 or 3. The whole experience was magical.

As I thought about that lovely day I was struck with another idea. The only thing better than getting to spend a day at Disney would be getting to spend one inside one of my favorite Disney movies. With as much chaos going on in my little kingdom and our world at large, the idea of escaping under the sea or into a castle sounds all too appealing.

Unfortunately, an impromptu trip to Disneyland or World is out of the question right now. It's not in my budget, and I don't have the time in my schedule. And, unless science has found a way, I won't be swapping spots with Ariel or Belle any time soon. That's when I had the idea. Why not have a Disney Staycation?

Now, you might be asking, what exactly does one do on a Disney Staycation? Have no fear, I documented the whole thing.


To start off my Disney Staycation on the right foot, I made sure to have the appropriate wardrobe. That meant my The Little Mermaid T-Shirt and bracelet, my Beauty and the Beast socks, a sparkly headband (to feel like a princess), my Minnie Mouse ears, and a pair of animal-print leggings.


This attire would allow me to be functional for what I had planned for my day while also getting in the spirit of the whole thing. I did end up ditching the Minnie Mouse ears shortly after breakfast, but not before I shared them with a furry friend.

Bingley must love me a lot to put up with my nonsense.

Isn't he the cutest thing in the ever?


My number one rule for the day was to not check my emails (or my sales records or rankings) for the whole day. Rule number two was to stay off of social media for the most part. Rule number three: have fun.

With that guide, after creating a movie watch list (I'll come back to this later) I decided to pad out the day with other activities. This included coloring Disney princess pictures while I watched the movies.

Which I promptly snapped photos of and texted to my mom for approval,
because isn't that what you're supposed to do when you color a pretty picture?

I did a 30-minute cardio workout on my treadmill while listening to my Disney playlist. This actually ended up being a lot of fun, because I could lip-synch along while I sweated it out. (No real singing, though, because I didn't have the breath.) I added the workout to the schedule for a couple of reasons. 1) I'm in the midst of a lifestyle change (again) and trying to eat well and be more active. 2) When you visit a Disney park, you spend a lot of time walking around. Treadmill time--followed by a light Pilates routine--was my way of paying homage. As a note to myself: I need to work on a better playlist exclusively for working out. Some of the songs were just way too slow when I needed pep and motivation.

I scheduled a nap for myself, which was delightful, if the pool of drool I left on my pillow was any indication. I also booked myself a spa appointment in my bathroom. That included taking a nice hot bath, full body scrub with this cocoa bean product I have, giving myself a manicure and pedicure, and doing this weird seaweed face mask that looked super weird.


I kind of felt like that guy in the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Ick. But my skin did feel pampered when it was all said and done.


As I mentioned, I'm back on the wagon of trying to be healthier, which means following a balanced meal plan and regular exercise. I wanted to maintain that, but I also wanted to treat myself a little, because this was my Disney Staycation, after all.

I created a menu that would fulfill my health goals while also feeling like a treat. That included having a full breakfast of an egg white and cheese omelet with veggie tots (these are seriously my new favorite food), and Morningstar sausage links (these are lower in calories, and they also fit the Pescetarian diet I follow).

My morning snack was an impulse--but a perfect one. Upon discovering that I had enough frozen pineapple and almond milk on hand--plus the calories to play with after my workout--I made the most Disney treat I could: homemade Dole Whip.

Heaven is a place on Earth, or rather in this cup.

If you aren't familiar, Dole Whip is quite possibly the most magical thing about Disney. I sampled it for the first time during my birthday trip, and it is now my favorite dessert. Made entirely out of 1/2 cup of frozen pineapple and 1/2 cup of Almond milk (plus a little squeeze of lemon when I made it), this treat is a little high on natural sugars, but much lower in calories and fat than ice cream.

This felt like a decadent treat and was a big highlight of my day.

For lunch, I had Trader Joe's guilt-free Mac and Cheese, a Boca spicy chicken patty, and some broccoli. This isn't so much a Disney-themed meal as it was a spin on one of my childhood favorites. For afternoon snack I had dark chocolate-covered blueberries from Brookside and a grapefruit shandy (hey, I was on vacation). And for my final movie of the evening, I ate some Skinny Pop.

But the real excitement came when it was time for dinner. While shopping at Trader Joe's, I stumbled upon Cod Provencale with Ratatouille & Rice in the frozen foods section. It seemed like the most perfect meal I could ever pair with my watching of Beauty and the Beast.

I re-plated dinner instead of eating it out of the frozen container,
and I was pleasantly surprised to see how pretty it turned out.

I was right. Though a little skeptical about how it would taste, this dish was delicious and one I'll definitely grab again. Plus, it was pretty fun to feel like I was dining on French cuisine while watching "Be Our Guest." Speaking of movie watching . . .


You can really make your Disney Staycation whatever you want it to be, but I don't think you can go wrong with having a marathon of some of your favorites. I already owned Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid (obvi), and I had The Emperor's New Groove waiting for me on Netflix. But as a "Happy Release Day" present to myself, I ordered a few of my other favorites to round out the collection.


I also have several others on my Amazon Wish List, now, which means I'll have to do one of these days again.

Both kittens fully endorsed spending part of the day
curled up on the couch watching movies.

And because I was way too excited and way too into this whole idea, I created this handy dandy little itinerary for the day in Canva:


I am pleased to say that I accomplished everything on my list. I also finished the day feeling more relaxed and happy than I had been in a long while. Maybe it was just disconnecting from my email (and mostly from my social media). Maybe it was focusing on something other than work. Then again, it could have been the magic of Disney.

Be sure to check back on Thursday for my how-to guide on how to hold your own Disney Staycation.


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