Tag Archives: Elizabeth H. Cottrell

So my book is published…now what?

by Elizabeth H. Cottrell


During the first year of the COVID pandemic, I wrote a book that had been in my head and heart for over ten years. During the second year of the pandemic—thanks in great part to Karen’s encouragement, support, and beta reading—I researched my options for getting the book published and did the arduous task of manuscript preparation for my publisher. HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire launched this past July 2022 by Koehler Books in Virginia Beach. Since many of Karen’s readers are also writers and authors, I thought I might share a bit of the journey with you.

There are lots of valid reasons for writing a book and trying to get it published. There may be stories—fiction or memoir—that you feel compelled to write. You may have a message or ministry you feel called to share (my own primary motivation). You may have a consulting or speaking business, and a book gives you credibility and a product to sell. You may have a yearning to be a published author. Any of these is reason enough, but don’t harbor the illusion that a single book—especially your first book—is likely to make you rich and famous. You’ll be lucky if you break even.


The publishing industry, like so many, is experiencing a significant consolidation, and as the few remaining companies get larger it’s harder and harder for a new author to get noticed. Getting a literary agent is equally challenging—they only make money if your book makes money, so convincing them that this will happen is a tough sell. Self-publishing is becoming a much more appealing option, but there is a steep learning curve and you must take responsibility for every aspect of the journey from writing and editing to formatting and design. And then, of course, there’s printing and marketing. 

It can be daunting. 


You always have the option of paying a vanity press to do everything for you, but that is quite expensive—upwards of $10-15,000 or more. There are lots of small publishers, varying in quality and integrity, who will take your money and get a book in your hands, but they do very little, if anything, to help you sell or promote it. 

I chose a “hybrid publisher,” which is a new breed that has emerged from all these industry changes. I purchased a “package” for about $5,000 that included acquiring ISBN numbers, editing, interior layout design, cover design, and getting my book listed with Ingram book distribution service and all the major online booksellers (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.). Koehler provided lots of guidance and training for marketing, but much of this is still my responsibility. I signed a contract to give them publishing rights for three years, but I maintain the copyright and can do whatever I want with it after that three-year period. At no extra charge, they are also helping me explore the opportunity to create an audiobook. 

I worked hard to “build the buzz” for several months before my book launch. I made a spreadsheet with quotable excerpts from the book and used Canva to create graphics (sized appropriately for each social media platform) to post several times a week on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest. I wrote to lots of other authors and influencers to request testimonials to include in the book and use on social media.


Now that the book is out, it’s tempting to want to coast, but since the number of books sold is largely dependent on my efforts, I know that’s not the wise choice. Fortunately, my topic is “evergreen” and won’t become dated anytime soon. I still want to push hard this fall in hopes of increasing holiday gift sales. Here are the highlights of my marketing plan for the next few months:

  • Contact as many people as possible who were quoted or cited in the book and let them know – hopefully they’ll consider sharing information about the book with their audience.
  • Be on the lookout for focus or interest groups or trade associations related to card and note writing (stationery, paper, pens, inks, etc.). 
  • Make myself available for speaking engagements. 
  • Make myself available (via Zoom) to join book clubs who choose to read my book. 
  • Continue to post (less often) about the book and share tips and advice from the book on social media. 
  • Try to identify major magazines that have Holiday Gift Guides and try to get listed in them. 
  • Look for guest opportunities on blogs (like this one—thank you, Karen!) and podcasts.
  • Ask my followers to ask their own local bookstores if they will carry my book. 

Long-term projects that support the book’s message:

  • Consider developing one or more mini-courses for those who want to learn more about writing notes.
  • Create digital e-books of sample notes (sympathy, thank you, etc.)
  • Offer seasonal tips and support. 
  • Look for good values in quality stationery and writing accessories to share with my social media followers and those on my email list.
  • Some have suggested I open an Etsy store to sell digital products, but this requires another round of research to identify pros and cons.

I’m surprised how often I’m being asked, “What are your plans for your next book?” I know many of my writer friends, especially those who write fiction, are teeming with ideas and stories they want to explore. My own writing aspirations are more along the lines of sharing the things I read and reflect on to strengthen the connections of our most Heartspoken life, and that is most easily accomplished through my blog, Heartspoken.com and my Compass Points newsletter. 

I find it tricky not to let myself get overwhelmed with all the things I could be doing, but I want to focus on doing what I can and enjoy the process. It’s enormously gratifying to now be a “published author,” but I’ve learned that getting the book published is actually just the beginning of a whole new journey—one I plan to enjoy as much as possible.

I’d welcome tips or suggestions from any of you who are more experienced in this journey. I’m no longer young, but I’m still trainable.



Elizabeth’s circuitous career has taken her from published leprosy researcher to stay-at-home mother, to community activist and leader serving on nonprofit and corporate boards, to ham radio operator, to freelance writer/editor and blogger at Heartspoken.com. Above all, she is a connector and encourager whose expertise and passion for note writing is coming at just the right time to a world made keenly aware by pandemic that we humans are hardwired for connection. 

For more information about her book, including options for ordering it, reading sample pages, and testimonials, go to Heartspoken book. If you order from Amazon, while you’re there, be sure to click the FOLLOW button to her Amazon profile.

Connect with Elizabeth: 

5 Comments

Filed under Branding & Platform, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Publishing, Special Events

The Making of a Serial Note Writer

by Elizabeth H. Cottrell

I am so grateful to Karen for inviting me to be a guest on her blog. She is friend, encourager, editor, brainstormer, and occasional rear-end kicker, and my life is richer for her being in it.

I confess I have a morbid curiosity for what makes serial killers tick. What were they like as children? When did the seeds of their obsession begin? Who is responsible for it? 

When someone asks me, “Your book is called WHAT?” I can sense a similar curiosity for how on earth I chose this, of all things, to write about: HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire. 

So, I began to wonder myself how far back those seeds of passion for note writing began, and here’s the behind-the-scenes story:

I’m sure it began with my love for getting letters in the mail when I was a girl living in rural isolation on our family’s cattle farm in Virginia in the 1950s. The combination of distance and my mother’s time spent caring for my four younger siblings made it challenging to get friends over very often, and the three younger brothers next to me in age didn’t quite fill my definition of appropriate playmates. Thankfully, my grandparents were letter writers, and to this day, decades later, I still have a stash of their letters carefully stored in my desk. One of my favorite jobs was to walk—or ride my bike—to the end of our long driveway each day and check the mailbox in hopes of finding mail.

The next signs of this peculiar passion showed up in the crook of a Mimosa tree (which we called “the powder puff tree”) in the side yard of our country home when I was probably between eight and ten years old. The next best thing to a treehouse was the large side limb of that tree which angled up at about 30 degrees and then branched again to form a natural seat where I could perch with my feet dangling. I loved climbing up and fancied I was invisible there, hiding in a secret place. When I was able to have friends over, we rigged up a basket on a rope to haul secret messages up and down from that seat. At some point, I decided I wanted to put stamps on the messages like real mail. I created perforated squares by laying a piece of paper over an old window screen and used a pencil to draw the edges of stamp-sized squares and rectangles.  We used tape or white glue to attach them to our top-secret missives.

Fast forward five decades, and this is how I tell the “conversion story” in my book:

A letter from a stranger was the lightning bolt that changed my appreciation for the potential of personal notes forever; from that day on, I saw them as a force for good in the world.

I’ve always written notes, because that’s what we were taught to do when I was growing up in the 1950s. I learned the skill from my mother and both my grandmothers. They all wrote beautiful notes. It was expected. It was good manners.

But the day I received that letter, I suddenly realized it was so much more.

The letter was from a woman devastated by the loss of her son:

“I truly appreciated the encouraging letter you sent my son’s fiancée after my son took his own life. She shared it with me, and it came during one of the most difficult and testing times of my life. I know I have read your note over 25 times; it was a lifeline which kept my spirits up.”

What on earth had I written that could have meant so much to this woman? Her son’s fiancé was a neighbor of mine and only a casual acquaintance. I only remember, upon hearing the news of this man’s tragic death, that I wanted desperately to reach out to her and let her know she was not alone. To this day, I have no idea what I wrote, but I know it came from my heart and carried a genuine desire to comfort her.

On reading the mother’s anguished missive, I remember experiencing a moment of instant clarity: a note crafted with thoughtfulness and compassion can have impact and create a ripple effect. I’ve been a believer in the power of note writing ever since. 

I never aspired to write an etiquette book or a simple “how-to” book. My book’s goal is to help you find your own voice that I know already exists nestled in your heart. Once you learn to tap into it, you will never again worry about what to say or fear you will say the wrong thing. You will realize you have a free, powerful connection tool that can be used to nourish the most important relationships in your life, both personal and professional.

“Consider the flipping of a light switch. You can’t see the electricity. You may not understand how it works. But when power starts flowing through the open wire, it is nothing short of miraculous. I want to show you how to find and flip that switch in your own note writing. Once you learn how to make your notes heartspoken, they are no longer an obligation—they’re a privilege and a joy.”

So now you know how it all started. 

If you’re at all curious, or you just want to get some of the free tips, tricks, and downloads I send to those on my email list, add your first name and email here: Heartspoken book. There’s no obligation to buy the book and you may unsubscribe at any time.

___________________________

Elizabeth’s circuitous career has taken her from published leprosy researcher to stay-at-home mother, to community activist and leader serving on nonprofit and corporate boards, to ham radio operator, to freelance writer/editor and blogger at Heartspoken.com. Above all, she is a connector and encourager whose expertise and passion for note writing is coming at just the right time to a world made keenly aware by pandemic that we humans are hardwired for connection. Click the FOLLOW button on her amazon profile: Amazon author profile.

Connect with Elizabeth: 

9 Comments

Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Special Events

Our favorite things… best friends, perfect gifts

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 5.23.32 PM

Elizabeth’s Journal, covers

Elizabeth’s “Favorite Things” Journal

Elizabeth and I met years ago, via LinkedIn. We exchanged greetings, shared some feelings, shared our love of family, writing and blogging, nature. And the friendship grew.

For years, we corresponded via emails and Facebook, we partnered on a little blog sharing, etc. We enjoyed numerous phone calls. And the friendship grew.

We encouraged each other, nagged each other occasionally, counseled each other. We celebrated our accomplishments, lamented our troubles.

Years and years of correspondence, about a thousand emails, dozens of telephone conversations…

Sharkies Conference in Delaware

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 5.24.29 PM

Sharkies Conference

We progressed to the point that in 2016, we met for a writers’ conference at my brother and sis-in-law’s house in Newark, Delaware. This was the first time Elizabeth and I met each other face to face, and we were immediately comfortable.

When I decided to create my poetry collection, Elizabeth worked with me to make this collection beautiful and ready for publication. Without her, my No Boundaries poetry collection would not have made it to fruition.

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 5.25.40 PM.png

Porch at Shrine Mont

Shrine Mont

Later, Elizabeth invited me to her writers’ conference at Shrine Mont in Virginia. And I knew I HAD to go.

This conference was a re-affirming of our friendship, and it touched me deeply. A culminating event was walking the labyrinth at Shrine Mont with Elizabeth and other new friends, met at the conference.

A special gift

I met Alyssa and Dan Sharbono (Couple of Artists) at an event at Minot State University in North Dakota. They make custom, recycled-material journals, and I knew that this is what I needed to get for Elizabeth. She’s a journal-writing junkie, and I could customize a journal with the help of Alyssa and Dan. What a perfect partnership!

While talking to Alyssa about what this journal meant to me and what it would mean to Elizabeth, I teared up a few times. Alyssa understood how special this gift would be. I selected several of my own personal photos and screen shots, and with Alyssa’s help, created a most beautiful journal for my special friend.

In the journal, I included…

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 5.24.05 PM

Labyrinth at Shrine Mont

  • A pic of a few of us at the Sharkies conference in Delaware (with my goofy brother photo-bombing)
  • The Shrine Mont labyrinth from our retreat weekend
  • A vintage photo of a country doctor (a nod to Elizabeth’s country-doctor husband John)
  • A photo of me at a covered bridge that Elizabeth took on the way home from Shrine Mont
  • Elizabeth’s Heartspoken blog banner (shamelessly copied from her site)

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 5.25.10 PM.png

Me at the covered bridge

 

Screen Shot 2018-02-06 at 5.24.49 PM

Elizabeth’s Heartspoken banner

The front cover of our custom journal is a photo of Elizabeth and John’s house – I had to ask Elizabeth for that photo with instructions to “just send it, it’s for a special surprise.”

The back cover is a vintage map of Elizabeth’s beloved Shenandoah Valley.

When I sent the journal, I enclosed a few thoughts…

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 5.26.21 PM.png

——————————–

Please take a moment to read Elizabeth’s companion piece

about this special journal at Heartspoken.com.

Do you need an awesome diary or journal?

Do you need a special journal for a special someone? Click on these links for Couple of Artists –

https://www.etsy.com/shop/coupleofartists

https://www.instagram.com/coupleofartists/

Facebook page for their gallery/studio space, 62 Doors Gallery and Studios –

https://www.facebook.com/62Doors/

Quoted from Elizabeth’s partner blog –

Share your favorite gift or favorite things 

A gift can be special for a million different reasons, and your list of favorite things is likely to be entirely different from mine. But I’d love to hear about any memorable gifts you’ve received and why they’ve touched your heart. And I’d also love to hear about your favorite things on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Just use the hashtag #FavoriteThings and #Heartspoken.

See this link also – Gretchen Rubin Happier Podcast

***** ***** *****

What’s the most special, most memorable gift you ever received?

15 Comments

Filed under Blogging, Personal Articles

I’m published!

noboundariescover-frontonly

 

Here’s a holiday selection

From my collection

(changed slightly to accommodate Thanksgiving)
**** 

Holiday Dinner

Chicken runs round the farm yard,

Wishes he was the duck.

Duck runs round the barn yard,

Wishes he was the pig.

Pig runs round the pig sty,

Wishes he was the horse.

Horse smiles, relaxes in stall.

Thanksgiving Eve, he’ll mourn them all.

****

My collection includes Family and Friends, God Bless Our Military, Limericks, Beautiful Earth, Art, Imagination, & Miscellany, Haiku, and My Funny Bone.

To order, go to “No Boundaries” at Amazon.

 

 

27 Comments

Filed under Book Cover Design, E-books & E-publishing, Personal Articles, Prose & Poetry, Publishing