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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Guest Post: “Top 5” things that being a principal taught me about being an author by Chris Kennedy

I’ve done a lot of things in my life, from flying aircraft for the Navy to being an elementary school principal, to being an author and small press publisher. I’ve been shot at and had people trying to kill me on a number of occasions (besides book reviewers!) Of all the positions I’ve held, though, nothing prepared me for writing like being a principal; it was there that I learned the skills and principles which would serve me well in the publishing industry. With that in mind, I present my “Top 5” things that being a principal taught me about being an author.

#5. You Must Be Edited

One of the first things I sent home to parents had a glaring typo in the first paragraph. It was embarrassing and didn’t set the impression I wanted (and that I needed to be successful). After that, nothing left the office without at least two people taking a look at it. No matter how well you write, don’t ever send something out for public consumption that hasn’t been edited by someone other than you. Just. Don’t. Do. It. You’ll only set the wrong impression and make yourself unsuccessful.

#4. You’ve Got to Spend Money When Needed

I was the principal of a private elementary school, and one of the key tenets for success was keeping costs down. That’s great, but if it’s your only consideration you will never grow or achieve your vision of success. Just like I had to invest in things like new technology if I wanted to have a competitive advantage versus the other schools in my district, authorpreneurs have to invest in things like book cover design and professional editing if they want to be taken seriously.

#3. The Answer Is Nearby, But Only If You Have Someone to Ask

I took over the position of principal without ever having been a teacher. While leading the school was like leading other organizations I had been a part of, there were some things I just didn’t know. When I found myself faced with the unknown, though, I wasn’t afraid to find and ask the people who did know in order to get the information I needed. The answers to all of your potential questions exist around you, but you have to develop connections ahead of time so that when you have one, you already have contacts you can reach out to for answers. The majority of authors are introverts, but you still have to get out and meet people and develop ties if you want to be successful. Many of the best opportunities I’ve had in writing have been because of my network, not anything I was doing at the time. Go to a convention or conference in your genre—all the cool folks do.

#2. There’s Too Much to Do; You Need a Schedule

At one point, I had to fire my janitor. While necessary, that only left one person to do the work—me. All the teachers and aides already had full-time gigs with the children and were unavailable. I had to learn the job of janitor while still trying to fulfill the duties of principal. Both things had to be done. Self-publishing while keeping a day job is a lot like that. Many times, you will feel like you either aren’t making progress or have too many things you’d like to do that you’ll never get them all done. That much, unfortunately, is true; there will never be enough time to do everything you want to (even if you quit your day job; I know—I did). What’s the answer when you’re faced with more than you have time to do? Set up a schedule so that you take care of the things you must do first, and then accomplish as many of the things that you’d like to do as possible (in the order that works best for you). I know that when I’m overwhelmed, I can’t write because my brain can’t focus. Having a schedule ensures I handle the business that must be done, freeing my mind to do important things like come up with ideas to write about.

#1. Know Your Audience (And Give Them What They Want)
After the first performance review I conducted as a principal, my secretary came in and asked what I had said to the teacher; she had left the office in tears. What did I say? I told her she was doing a good job and to keep it up. Coming from 20 years of military service in a male-dominated profession, I didn’t know that I needed to couch my comments in flowers and platitudes, which is what she’d been expecting. She wasn’t prepared for a frank and honest appraisal of her performance—she’d never had one before. The point here is that you need to know what people are expecting of you. If you set your readers up for something (like military scifi) and then give them something else (like dinosaur porn), they are going to be dissatisfied (and make their unhappiness known through things like poor reviews). Know what your readers what and give it to them, or there will be a wailing and gnashing of teeth…and it will be your own!

Happy writing and publishing!
Chris



About the Author:
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A bestselling Science Fiction/Fantasy author, speaker and publisher, Chris Kennedy is a former naval aviator and elementary school principal. Chris' stories include the "Occupied Seattle" military fiction duology, "The Theogony" and "Codex Regius" science fiction trilogies, and the "War for Dominance" fantasy trilogy. Get his free book, "The Death of Atlantis," at his website, http://chriskennedypublishing.com.

Called "fantastic" and "a great speaker," he has coached hundreds of beginning authors and budding novelists on how to self-publish their stories at a variety of conferences, conventions and writing guild presentations. He is the author of the award-winning #1 bestseller, "Self-Publishing for Profit: How to Get Your Book Out of Your Head and Into the Stores," as well as the leadership training book, "Leadership from the Darkside."

Chris lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with his wife and family. He is currently working with the Navy to help shape Navy training processes for the year 2025. He is the holder of a doctorate in educational leadership and master's degrees in both business and public administration.

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