The Book Launch Failure Nobody Knows About…Until Now

Author: Meredith Noble

Author Meredith Noble


In the world of independent publishing, Meredith Noble is defying the odds with her book, How to Write a Grant:Become a Grant Writing Unicorn. Quickly becoming a #1 release on Amazon in its category and garnering a multitude of reviews, here she shares some of the challenges in her journey to success as well as valuable takeaways.

If you bought my book between September 30th and October 16th, you are the lucky owner of a limited edition, never-to-be-published again version! Why are early adopters so lucky you ask? 

Now see if you can’t guess my failure by having a look at the back cover.

Can you spot why? Nobody else seemed to notice either. Zoom in a little. The issue is that in redesigning the cover, we accidentally dropped the last sentence of the book description. 

Ugh. Nooooooo!!!!!

I did not cry right away. I was realistic about figuring out how to fix the problem. 

After figuring out how to correct the issue for Amazon and IngramSpark – the two outlets I use for self-publishing, I went home and cried. Big ugly tears. I cursed myself for making such an embarrassing mistake. 

My book is about grant writing and I emphasize always having an independent review of your work. 

I had failed at my own advice! 

In between tears, I thought, “Is this supposed to be one of those moments where failure is a lesson I am thankful for later on?”

Wrapped in a blanket, I opened Medium and queried the term “failure.” I found nuggets of comfort. Surely nobody would write a post that said, “No you ARE a failure! Nothing to be gained here!”

A stand out quote from Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet’s business partner, said:

“There’s no way that you can live an adequate life without many mistakes. In fact, one trick in life is to get so you can handle mistakes.”

The positive talk on failure certainly helped. 

What helped the most, however, was a dose of perspective. I was in the midst of reading the book, Pieces of Me – Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters by Lizbeth Meredith.

Wow. Now let’s have a conversation about personal resiliency. About mental and physical toughness so beyond what most of us will ever know. It was a deeply moving story and a good reminder that my book cover problems were quite insignificant. 

While insignificant in the big scheme of things, failure is a hard emotion to shake when you feel like you let others down. 

135 people volunteered to be on my book launch team. They contributed 57 reviews on Amazon within two weeks and shared the book broadly among their social and professional networks. 

All provided encouragement. All had great ideas. It became OUR book and OUR launch. I would not have reached #1 Bestseller for Nonprofit Fundraising & Grants if not for this supportive group. 

Around the time I discovered the back cover error, I was losing steam and did not know what more I should do to promote the book. I was working late into the evenings and weekends.  

The trouble with a book launch is that there is not really an end to it. You are always thinking about how to better promote the book. I know for my book to be successful, I need to be in the top three spots on Amazon for the search term “grant writing.” That is not an easy feat. 

I ordered 50 books to have on hand for conferences or workshops I teach on grant writing. The box arrived and I could not bring myself to opening it. I did not want to relive my negativity around the pathetic back cover issue. 

What a waste of printing. I cannot possibly share these copies. Or so I thought…

My partner Lucas and his twin brother Lee urged me to open the box. I did so begrudgingly, and the first thing I noticed was a highlighter mark through the title “How to Write a Grant.” I was insta-furious with Amazon, wondering if everyone’s copies were being delivered with highlighter marks. 

As my eyes scrolled down the back cover, however, I realized that Lee had provided a new ending to the unfinished paragraph. It was hilarious! 

The second book had a new back cover designed by Lucas. Combined, these books made me cry again.

This time, however, it was tears of laughter. 

Failure really does take a little distance to fully appreciate. Here are my big takeaways from the experience: 

Take Full Responsibility. If you ask me what my core values are, I will tell you they are taking responsibility, hard work, and making each move count. I learned all three growing up a ranch kid in Wyoming. Lucas updated the book cover for me and made the design error. Not once did I feel angry or mad at him. It was not his fault. It was my responsibility to check his work before sending it to the printer. I am thankful that perspective is in my hard wiring. 

Always Have Independent Review Of Your Work. It was not sufficient to review the back cover myself. I should have sent it to my editor, Elena Hartford. My editor was busy after I fixed the cover, and I was antsy to get the new file uploaded to Amazon. I resisted uploading the new file, however, or I would not have learned my lesson. I waited until Elena could bless the new cover with her magical editing eyes. 

It Is Okay to Feel Sorry for Yourself for Exactly a Half Day. I have no regrets about laying in bed wallowing in my own self-pity. I read an amazing book. I gained perspective. I thought a lot. I recharged my batteries. When you move fast, mistakes are an inevitable reflection of making good progress. Go ahead and feel sorry for yourself from time to time, and then get back in the saddle and make each move count. 

Leverage Humor to Make Light of Learning Opportunities. It was an especially sweet finale to this whole learning experience to receive the edited copies from Lee and Lucas. They are very special copies that I will keep forever. If someone in your life fails, see if you can’t find a way to use humor to laugh at the situation with them. 

If you want a copy of the book with your own custom back cover, send me an email with your mailing address at mnoble@senworks.org.

If you want a copy of the book that has a proper back cover, you can grab a copy on Amazon here. You can learn more about this entire journey teaching people to be grant writers on my website www.learngrantwriting.org


Four Things I Learned from Maria Henson’s “To Have and To Harm” series on domestic violence

As I drove to Lexington, Kentucky yesterday from my temporary station in Louisville, I remembered the first time I’d committed to going.

In 1991, while taking Literature of Appalachian Women in Alaska that rocked my world, we students were given copies of the Lexington Herald-Leader’s editorial series by Maria Henson.

Henson, who was later awarded a Pulitzer Prize for her work addressing domestic violence, did something that was unthinkable at the time: she spotlighted how prevalent violence was in families,  published pictures of victims, their injuries, their stories, and published pictures and personal addresses of judges and officers who’d failed to protect victims.

(To see Ms. Henson speak about her work, click here.)

At the time of the class, I was likely between restraining orders, definitely on welfare, and edging close to a degree in journalism. Yet the closer I got to success, the scarier my estranged husband became.

I couldn’t believe how fearless The Lexington Herald-Leader was to publish the work. How progressive and tenacious Ms. Henson was. I naturally imagined myself one day, visiting Lexington, and maybe setting down roots there.

There were four takeaways from Ms. Henson’s work that transformed my world, nudging me to become a domestic violence advocate, tell my own story, and hold the judicial system accountable.

  • Domestic violence is everyone’s problem.

Rich, poor, white, brown, young, and old. The prevalence was not limited to Lexington Kentucky, remaining an epidemic worldwide today.Intimate partner violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.

  • Domestic violence flourishes in isolation and secrecy.

 When victims are controlled and isolated, they will not believe in their own strengths, know about services and laws to protect them, and are more likely to blame themselves for what is happening, thus remaining stuck and feeling hopeless.

  • Until we believe that every person is equally valued, worthy of respect and protection, regardless of gender or any other factor, the systems response will remain inadequate.

Had the threat come up from a mugger, rapist, or holdup man, the authorities might have seen their duty more clearly. But this is what the law calls a “domestic case.” -Maria Henson in A Death Foretold about Betty Jean Ashby.

  • A stranger can make all the difference in addressing the violence.

By now, decades later, most of us are aware of programs like Green Dot training bystanders on what to do if they witness domestic violence. But look at the power of Ms. Henson’s work. She was in her late twenties when she decided to roll the dice and change her world. It was risky, publishing names and faces of those in her then-small community. She worried that her effort would cause further violence or even death to some of the victims, who’d agreed to go on record in the Lexington Herald. “If I put these women’s names in the paper, will they be in further danger?” she’d asked herself.

But less than two years after her work was published, legislation dramatically changed in how Kentucky managed domestic violence cases.

It had been a while since I thought about those columns. But when I saw the Lexington Herald, it all came flooding back.

I sat in my rental car and sent an email to Ms. Henson. I had to thank her for inspiring a revolution, and changing so many lives.

Including mine.

It’s Domestic Violence Action Month, a terrific time to make a donation to a local shelter, volunteer, or even share a DV shelter event on your social media.

I’m off to see family now, before going to North Carolina and visiting my esteemed Literature of Appalachian Women professor and dear friend, Dr. Virginia Carney.

Thank you for stopping by.

August Roundup

A quick note to share art and conversations that I think you might enjoy, too.

My recent favorite book is Successful Self-Publishing by Joanna Penn. For anyone considering beginning a writing career, the author gives a step-by-step guide of how to succeed. And in a perfect world, I would love to think that I could become my own publisher one day and have more autonomy over my career as a writer.

Best watch at the theater: The Peanut Butter Falcon, reviewed here by Forbes. Sentimental and kind without being simple, I loved it so well that I saw it twice.

Addictions and recovery have been on my mind. My work, my family, and my community in Alaska are heavily impacted by substance abuse. This interview finally helped me understand how the incredible shame people in recovery face can make their success a near impossibility. I hope I will never look at a newly sober parent of a delinquent minor the same way.

I joined some dynamic authors for a talk about domestic violence. Leslie Morgan Steiner, Dr. Christine Ristaino, and Kerry Schafer and I each hope that you’ll join the conversation, and share it with your loved ones as you see fit. It’s now available on YouTube.

Thank you for the emails and comments. I never feel alone with this community.

Sincerely,

Lizbeth

A Sign of Good things to Come

As I was driving my friend Ruth to lunch the other day in a windstorm, I grumbled in too great of detail about how many (relatively) little things turned to ash the previous week.

Long made plans to raft with my family? Cancelled due to weather. My nifty birthday gift, a book given to me by a friend? The cat barfed on it. And on and on.

Out of nowhere, a huge sign flew into my car. Thwack!

Despite the weight of the sign, and despite the fact that hit the window of my now screaming friend, it didn’t crack a thing.

We could not stop laughing.

It was a terrific re-set. It reminded me of the song, I Saw the Sign by Ace of Base. I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes.

I deal much better with big crises than I do with the accumulation of small things.

There are many good things coming up, some that I haven’t permission to mention yet. But here’s a few delightful things in my author world :

• That day at lunch with Ruth, we gave my new nonfiction work in progress a subtitle. Thriving, Decoded: Calm the Crazy and Control the Crisis. Do you like it?

• I’m teaching a new class online. My online Udemy Course is available online for free if you click here. (I could use a review, please. )How to Help if Someone You Love is Being Abused. It’s my first online course. I have very good intentions, but my video editing is amusing. Sorry in advance. Hopefully, you’ll get good information and a giggle at the same time.

• My youngest daughter just taught me Powerpoint skills for the neatest conference I’ve ever been asked to present at; The International Association of Women’s Police, with more than 3,000 female officers from around the globe in attendance. I’m really jazzed!

And then I’ll get to take a long break to see family in late September and October.

My daughters are both healthy and working, and the weather is very warm for us here in Alaska.

So much for me. How are you? Have a beautiful week.

Simple Expressions of Love

Just a quick note to say Hello to you and goodbye to July.

My oldest daughter had a birthday recently, and we just celebrated together a few hours ago.

This is definitely my more reclusive child. The one who gets upset if photos of her are posted on social media without her permission. The one with a childlike voice and amazing brain bandwidth. The one most impacted by choices I made in my youth.

Needless to say, our relationship is complicated. Sweet. Intense. Fiery in spots.

She texted me on Monday and asked me to find out what was the exact time of her birth. While I scoured the house during the hours following, I found everything but her birth certificate.

Old letters to teachers. A journal to me. Report cards. Missing children’s poster. A birthday card from her youth.

I found the birth certificate. Sent her the answer.Then she reminded me that she wanted spaghetti. My forty-eight hour spaghetti.

Preparing it gave me a lot of time to think about her life. All of the hopes and the heartaches. The adventures and the aggravations. The expectations that have needed readjusting so many times over the years. I teared up as I chopped the onions.

I worried that the spaghetti wouldn’t turn out. Was there enough cayenne? Garlic? Too few whole tomatoes?

There is something beautiful and basic about creating a favorite meal. My daughter sent me the bitmoji via text below after she went home.

And all was right in the world.

I hope you’re loving summer as I am.

Thanks for checking in.

Author Interview with Lisa Braver Moss/Shrug

I love a good book, and was honored to provide an author endorsement for this one. Shrug is available to order now!

I’m so pleased to have Lisa Braver Moss as my guest.

Author http://lisabravermoss.com Lisa Braver Moss

What inspired you to write Shrug?

My experience growing up was similar to that of Shrug’s main character, Martha, so that was my inspiration. I wanted to create a coming-of-age story about childhood domestic violence and other trauma. I also thought the wild vitality of Berkeley of the 1960s made a great backdrop for the story. I was interested in the interplay between Martha’s household chaos and that of the world of Berkeley at the time.

https://www.amazon.com/Shrug-Novel-Lisa-Braver-Moss/dp/1631526383/

How did it influence your writing to be a survivor of childhood domestic violence?

I witnessed domestic violence against my mother, and was a target of it myself, while growing up. I felt chronically outraged by what was going on, and could be quite confrontational (which my father did not find amusing). My appetite for speaking the truth eventually morphed into a sense of urgency about writing Shrug.

Many stories of teenagers show rebels. What made you create a character who’s anything but a rebel?

I would argue that Martha is quite a rebel. Sure, she’s a bit of a goody two-shoes; she wants nothing more than to do well in school and find meaning in her life. And yet, just her being an achiever is radical in the context of her family. She’s contradicting all that’s unconventional at home: negative messages about school, unpredictability, lack of structure, impossible emotional demands, and explosive physical violence. The challenge was to show Martha as a complex, sympathetic character whose rebellion paradoxically takes the form of conventionality.


The family dynamics in Shrug are complicated. In essence, Martha’s father is abusive, but likely the better parent to her. Her mother is a victim, but flees the entire family. What do you hope the reader takes from these imperfect parents? 


Yes, the battering father, Jules, turns out to be the better parent than the victimized, histrionic mother, Willa. You see clues of this along the way. I wanted to show what it’s like to have the story’s “bad guy” be more capable of love than the “victim,” Willa. I felt this added depth and complexity to the story.

Your book cover is stunning. Tell us about the process of selecting it.

Thank you! It was one of those situations where there were four choices and it was completely obvious which one was the one. That was also obvious to the publisher, so it was nice that we were on the same page (so to speak…!).

I had expressed to the publisher that I envisioned a kind of wistful look for Martha. I provided a black-and-white photograph that I felt captured that look, and they did a fantastic job of creating the same mood without using that particular photo. I love the design and colors they came up with, too.

Of the three siblings, Martha, Hildy, and Drew, Martha, the middle child, seems to be the mother’s favorite. How does this family role affect her?

Martha is indeed in the unfortunate position of being Willa’s favorite of the three children. I say unfortunate because often in dysfunctional families, “favorite” means “able to be manipulated.” Couched as extra love, favoritism is generally more a matter of extra demands than of actual support. It’s no bargain.

Also, Martha carries such a burden of guilt about being favored that she’s slow to see that she, too is being mistreated by Willa. She’s too preoccupied with Jules’s mistreatment of all of them, too busy propping Willa up, and too busy worrying about her siblings. She also experiences her own suffering at Jules’s hands as secondary to Willa’s suffering. I think many children who see themselves as rescuers (rather than victims) have these same reactions.

This book of fiction brings up very real topics of domestic violence and resilience following trauma. How can storytelling bring attention to social issues and create change?

Whereas nonfiction can offer suggestions, how-to’s, research data, psychological insights and so on, I think fiction is deadly if it’s didactic that way. The subject matter of a novel may include social issues, but the primary purpose of a novel isn’t to create social change. It’s to engage, entertain, and maybe inspire thought.

What fiction can do is make people feel less alone. Those who grew up with domestic violence and the kind of trauma Martha experiences tend to feel isolated and ashamed at some level. But while the circumstances vary, feelings of isolation and shame about childhood difficulties are universal. And those feelings can lift somewhat when one immerses oneself in a world of fiction that addresses that terrain. If readers identify with Martha, they can feel less alone. That in itself does create a shift in the reader, and I think we can call that change.

You can connect with Lisa Braver Moss at lisabravermoss.com or on Facebook. Her book is available for ordering wherever books are sold.

June Listens, Watches, and Reads

How are you?

Welcome!

It’s June with a vengeance. With warmer temps and thicker wildfire smoke than I can remember in Alaska’s history, it’s one for the books. And movies. And podcasts.

Due to the long and lovely summer days, I still have 6 hours of bright sunlight to enjoy after I get off work at 5:30PM.

Here are a few of the books, podcasts, and movies I’ve filled those hours with. And I’d love to hear what art you’ve been enjoying.

Podcasts

Alaska, Unsolved A new podcaster digs up the cold case of Erin Marie Gilbert who went missing from a crowded festival here without a trace in 1995.

The Creative Penn Podcast So filled with energy and ideas for writers.

Movies

Poms-Though the reviews were terrible, and the start was weak, this was a sweet film about friendship and aging.

Late Night– Another terrific film that addresses aging and being marginalized.

Yesterday– Such an original story, and a terrific escape.

Books

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy my Audible subscription since giving up cable TV? It’s terrific to be read to again.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani Shapiro. A gracious memoir about family and love.

(pictured to the right of the image by Pieces of Me in 2/19 for the glorious days mine was a bestseller)

A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (paperback). Gorgeous storytelling. I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

What have you been enjoying?

Thank you for joining me today.

Scenes From My Balcony on Summer Solstice

During summer solstice, a sacred time here in Alaska when it’s light almost all night long, I sat on the balcony most of the day and night, reading and writing.

I’d squished all of my socializing in the day before. Coffee with one friend, a long walk with another, thrift-store shopping with my oldest daughter, and an evening hike up some good-sized hills with the youngest. A leisurely hair color and cut with my friend and stylist.

So on solstice, I did the thing I’ve always meant to do, which was nothing much. With the phone muted and no radio or television on in the house, I listened to the birds sing and Rottweiler on the next-door balcony snarl. I heard the wind rustle in the trees, and watched planes ascend. I read an entire book, and worked on two of my own. I watched in awe my new Polynesian neighbors arrived home from church, opening the door to their minivan so that a long procession of ornately dressed children could emerge. I counted six.

I thought about all of the scenes I’ve watched from this balcony over the past twenty-four years. Like my daughter at fifteen, learning to change the oil in a car with the help of my next-door neighbor (with the snarly Rottweiler). A mother moose with two babies, enjoying a nibble of our newly planted tree. Like my oldest, driving away, her belongings stuffed into her sedan, driving away one final time to move in to an apartment with a roommate. Two blocks away. Only to return home  a few months later.

And I thought about how this year is already half over, and reviewed my good intentions in the way of New Years Resolutions.

Spanish lessons? That didn’t go so well. But clearing my home of clutter and readying for the next great thing? Pretty on target. I’ve trimmed expenses and have continued with my weight training, albeit somewhat half-heartedly, so there’s that. And I stopped watching television.

But now, just taking a day to appreciate the stillness and the chaos from my balcony was a feat in itself. Typically, I need to be recovering from illness to do so little. I savored every bit of it.

How is your summer shaping up?  And are there things you’re working toward worth checking in on?

I hope you too can have one day to simply recharge your batteries.

Thanks for stopping by.

May Musings

I’ve been listening to audiobook WHAT COMES NEXT AND HOW TO LIKE IT by Abigail Thomas, a terrific memoir that nudges me to savor the large and small happenings of life in the moment.

So here’s what’s happening right now; my cats are chasing one another around the house, my youngest daughter is texting me videos of a mother black bear and her two cubs, and my oldest is just home from a job she adores, working with animals.

I love May in Alaska. The daylight, the wildlife, my increasing levels of energy remind me that there are many good things ahead. When June comes, the days fly by so quickly, but right now, summer is something wonderful to look forward to, just around the corner.

If you’re in Alaska this summer, please check out the Downtown Saturday market or Muldoon Farmers Market. Say hello if you see me there! I may be selling signed copies of my book.

Supplemental Mothers

My girls, mom, and me.

Our mothers are our first homes, and that’s why we always trying to return to them. By Michele Filgate in What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.

I emailed a friend in recently to bid her Happy Mother’s Day. Normally sunny, her response caught me off guard when she mentioned how sad this holiday made her. I’d grown accustomed to being the maudlin one about moms and Mother’s Day.

But when I checked my Facebook feed, there were numerous tributes to moms lost due to death or alienation. A few brave moms of deceased children posted their grief. Others were caring for their elderly mothers who now no longer remembered them.

The day evokes a lot of emotion for so many of us.

I’d been thinking about my own mother that week, and about some of the good things she instilled. My mother fostered a love of reading, which sparked my interest in stories and in writing. If I asked for a book, I nearly always got it. (I was lucky to have older siblings who read to me and taught me to be an early reader, too.)

My mom promoted a love of animals to us kids which is a huge part of my life to this day. She didn’t easily sustain relationships with pets, or with people, for that matter, but it was a nice start. And she was a believer in volunteer work, which I have subsequently embraced.

True, I’ve written about my mom’s tendency to dislike the mother role enough to seemingly dispense of her kids, leaving us later in life to scout one another out as if on at Easter egg hunt.

Clearly, not every woman is cut out to be a mom.

It doesn’t help that we expect so much from them. I can think of no other role so important, or so scrutinized. The impact of the mothering we receive during our early years lingers throughout our entire lives, and far into the future if we have kids, and if they do, too.

Mothers are idealized as protectors: a person who is caring and giving and who builds a person up rather than knocking them down. But very few of us can say our mothers check all of these boxes. In many ways, a mother is set up to fail.-Lynn Steger Strong in What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.

 I’ve been fortunate to have so many different women in my life who’ve given me guidance and motherly love. I’ve appreciated that there were limitations to it, and conscious not to overstay my emotional welcome since these women had their own children and their own lives. From grade schoolteachers and a college professor to a former roommate and friends’ moms, and later in life, my newfound aunts, I have benefitted from random gifts of maternal love.

 As for me, I’ve made lots of mistakes with my kids. They relied on their own supplemental moms at times to fill in my gaps. And after watching me struggle as a single mom, neither of my kids were moved to become parents themselves, though they’ve provided me with numerous grand-pets.

A few days ago, a crisis call from one of my daughter’s friends, whose mother passed away, brought it full circle. She needed someone to just listen, and I got to be the stand-in mom figure, even for just a little while.

How wonderful it is to know that we can help fill in parenting or mentoring gaps for others. And equally fabulous to think about spending time with little kids one day who may not have a grandparent in close proximity. I like the idea of being a supplemental mom and grandmom.

Expanding the definition of family can be a beautiful thing. It can reduce pressure and feelings of isolation. I felt insecure when my own kids relied on other moms, but I came to understand the great benefits to all involved down the line.

Moms (and dads) are the original influencers, but we can all choose to have or to be supplements to help along the way. It can ease the pressure we put on our parents or ourselves.

A humble thank you to dear Fay for the incredibly generous and unexpected gift to my oldest daughter after reading my last post. My daughter is now the proud owner of a reliable and safe vehicle again.

Thank you for stopping by.

In case you missed it, here’s the lovely and in depth conversation between mom writers I’ve come to adore and admire. Thankful to be a part. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d2ZUE9InsLM