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From Child Prodigy to Self-Publishing Expert: A.G. Billig’s Amazing Literary Journey

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a two-part series on author/entrepreneur A.G. Billig, and how she is bringing her vast media, publishing branding experience to thousands of authors through SelfPublishingMastery.com. Here, she discusses her professional background, writing experiences, and her vision for the world’s most diverse self-publishing online platform.)

She wrote her first short story as a child. At age 13, the Romanian media dubbed her a child prodigy. Three years later, she was writing professionally for a popular national newspaper on teen issues. Then, at 17, she became a radio host — which led to producing a TV show for an independent Romanian network. Finally, when A.G. Billig entered her twenties, she became editor-in-chief for a variety of teen magazines.

Author, self-publishing and branding expert A.G. Billig

How’s that for the start of a writing career? A career seemingly predestined at birth? What happens if you add to that a Master’s Degree in public relations and communication and a sharp, incisive entrepreneurial mind?

Now, this captivating, multi-talented author, and international media and branding expert has established herself in the U.S., imparting her knowledge and insight to benefit thousands of authors. She is the creator of SelfPublishingMastery.com, a multi-channel platform that brings writing and business tips, consulting, books, writing and editing services, resources, online summits, professional referrals, the best writing instructors, a publishing imprint and much more. In 2017, it was named one of the Top 100 self-publishing blogs online. It’s only going to grow.

In an announcement I’m very proud to make, the editorial services wing of my company, Word Journeys, is shifting to SPM in a new partnership agreement.

As a writer, A.G.’s work is extensive in the journalism world, and growing in books. Her two books, Four Doors and Other Stories and I Choose Love, are award-winners. Her deep, thoughtful soul and incisive mind merge in her works to provide delicious prose that informs as it invokes feeling and thought, giving us insight into ourselves. Interestingly, that is what the greatest mentors do: show the way, often without stating it in those terms.

A.G. Billig presenting a workshop on branding and marketing for self-published authors at the Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference. Branding and marketing are central themes _ and features — of  SelfPublishingMastery.com

A.G. is a mentor to authors throughout the world, and has caught the attention of writers conference directors. She has presented at the Greater LA Writers, Genre-LA and Digital Writing & Self Publishing conferences, and recently conducted a Master Workshop on author branding. In this two-part interview, she unveils the full scope of SelfPublishingMastery.com, a huge author asset in a self-publishing market that saw an estimated 900,000 titles published last year.

WORD JOURNEYS: Let’s start at the beginning. What inspired you to begin writing?

A.G.Billig: When I was 8, my parents bought a brand new car. My excitement about the prospect of future summer trips across Romania translated into a short story, the first in a long series. My father, an avid reader and aspiring author, loved my writing and encouraged me to pursue it. By 13, I was winning national literary prizes for short stories. I wrote my first novel, a teenage love story, at 15 —and then took a break from writing fiction until 2012.

WJ: What was one of the biggest takeaways of your early journalism career, when you had years of top professional experience by the time you reached your twenties?

A.G.: It was a beautiful way to meet extraordinary people and share their amazing stories with the rest of the world, stretch my comfort zone, and learn new skills. It felt good whenever someone would stop me on the street to tell me they enjoyed my shows.

WJ:   What books did you read as a teen and young adult? How did they inform and shape the stories and book ideas you wanted to pursue?

A.G. Though Romania was still under Communist rule in my early years, I was fortunate to grow up in a house filled with books. My father was born in Paris. He loved French culture as well as universal literary giants. The moment I learned how to read, I started devouring writers such as Honore de Balzac, Emile Zola, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain, Lev Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Giovanni Boccaccio, Jane Austen, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, to name a few. These authors and readings shaped my literary tastes and taught me how to write. I learned how to use description, write dialogue, and build solid characters from them. I also learned the type of emotional and cognitive experience a book is supposed to create for the reader, that essential element that stands the test of time. Although I never wanted to be like these authors, I always aimed at giving my best in my writing. We can all do that by being authentic and passionate about what we do.

WJ:   When did you start considering working with self-published authors? What need did you perceive?

A.G.: In 2015, at the London Book Fair. It seems like this event changes my life every three years — I wonder what’s going to happen in 2018! I attended as a journalist (I was a contributor to the Romanian edition of Playboy). I was already following podcasts on self-publishing and wanted to know more about it. The free talks and panels proved to be of great help. The success stories of self-published authors such as Mark Dawson and C.J. Lyons, making six-figure incomes on their books, gave me an A-HA! moment. I realized that the publishing game was changing and self-publishing opened a global market for authors, provided they had the necessary skills. Since I have an entrepreneurial mind, I seized the opportunity, not only for myself, but also for my fellow authors. I realized that they needed support with branding and marketing their books. They would needed resources, information, and education. “Why not use my passion for journalism to serve these people?” I asked myself.

Early in 2016, just about the same time I self-published I Choose Love, Self-Publishing Mastery was born.

WJ:   Let’s go back to your creative love – writing books. First, tell us about I Choose Love – certainly a timely read in this day and age.

A.G.: I never thought I would write a non-fiction book, but a lot went on in 2015 — terror attacks, natural disasters. The world was (and still is) governed by fear. The only way out was choosing love, again and again, every second of our life. At that point, I Choose Love came to me as what some would call a “download”. It took about a month to complete. It was easy for me, because it stemmed from my heart. I also had a clear structure from the beginning, and a thorough knowledge of the topic based on seven years of spiritual practice and personal experiences. It offers practical tools for overcoming fear and attracting love into one’s life.

WJ: Can’t think of a subject more purposeful! You also mentioned you shelved your teenage love of fiction writing until 2012. Typically, when we leave our story writing youth, we rarely find that thread again, but you did. Tell us about Four Doors and Other Stories.

A.G.: This book shows what can happen when we are in the flow. It marked my return to writing fiction, and it brought me a contract with a U.K. publisher.

I created this short stories collection about love, because love represents the foundation of who I am and everything I do, including helping other authors become successful. My vision was to portray love as our true essence, which can be expressed in so many different ways. Once I had this concept clear in my mind, I just allowed the inspiration to flow in.

WJ: What is your vision with SelfPublishingMastery.com? What are the features? How do you, and the platform, assist writers in their journeys?

A.G. My original concept for Self Publishing Mastery was to be the Billboard magazine for the global self-publishing industry. My vision was to support and empower indie authors from around the world to self-publish, and help them master the publishing process.

We began by (and are still) covering book marketing, the writing craft, the right mindset for success, writers’ conferences, success stories, writers Facebook groups, podcasts, and book blogs. After the past year of getting a chance to talk to authors, we decided to add an educational component. Now we will also have workshops, online courses, books, and an online academy. We’ve just further expanded the range of our services for authors through the full-service portfolio, twenty years’ standing, that Word Journeys is bringing in. We have evergreen content, constantly refreshing. We’ve also got some goodies for those who subscribe to our newsletter such as “The top 20 Amazon book reviewers list” and “The successful book launch checklist.” Authors can and will find all that they need for successful self-publishing on our site. Please stop by!

(NEXT: A.G. Billig breaks down SelfPublishingMastery.com, and the particular challenge self-published authors face with branding, distribution, and lifting their work above the growing mass of titles and voices — and how to reach their world of awaiting readers in the process.)

 

 

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On the Creative Process, Jimmy Page, Champion’s Way & Music

A Midsummer’s interlude between writing, editing, coaching and counting down the hours until the Summer Olympics begin …

The other day, while watching It Might Get Loud, a tremendous 2008 documentary on the process of making music, starring Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White, I was struck by a comment Page made concerning the creative process. “Whether you’re writing written word or music,” the legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist said, “the creative process is a very spontaneous thing. It’s the whole reason for being here, really.”

These poignant words concern the art of moving forward, of putting pen or brush to paper or canvas and letting it happen. I find this to be both the most appealing part of writing and also the hardest to initiate. One thing is certain: once we enter the realm of a new story, song, poem or painting, we enter an entirely new world.  For some, this prospect can be so scary that they never proceed to write the story, novel, memoir or song burning to be expressed.

To me, the creative process is almost as important as breathing. I think that, if we embrace it in our daily lives, and teach our children and grandchildren to do the same, we will find vast and rapid improvements in society, education, sense of self-esteem, concentration and attentiveness, and business. Creativity, innovation and vision have never been more important to embrace, because the “tried and true” way is crumbling around us – in business, finance, education, the environment, the weather, entertainment and most other aspects of our society and culture.

I feel a lot of this backwards slide comes down to one thing: Beginning in schools, extending through television and film and continuing through the way business is conducted, we have lost what it means to be creative, spontaneous, and daring. Even the saying “outside the box” is tired and, well, inside this box of limitation into which learning and growth have been placed. This is dangerous, because creativity is nothing less than the outward expression of our hearts, souls and imaginations – the very aspects that animate life, give it meaning and purpose.

It’s time to break out. Create something new today. Just go for it. Let it happen, and follow it along, as though someone is leading you by the hand on a new journey. Chances are, that’s what you will experience: a new journey, a new adventure. Ignite your creative passion, and see in what ways it expands and fulfills your life, and presents new possibilities. It’s the whole reason for being here, really.

• • •

It’s been an interesting summer, working at different stages of two books on which I’ve spent years. Next week, the book I co-wrote with former US Ski Team conditioning coach Dr. Steve Victorson, The Champion’s Way, releases nationally – just in time to accompany the London Summer Olympics. Which is appropriate, because Steve interviewed dozens of Olympic and World Cup gold medalists for the book. I added thirty years of comments and experiences from the many champions, in sports and other pursuits, I have been privileged to interview or work with. Some of those featured include ski legends Franz Klammer, Phil and Steve Mahre, Rosi Mittermaier and Ingemar Stenmark, 11-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater, late PGA Tour champion Payne Stewart, two-time Olympic 400 meter hurdle gold medalist Edwin Moses, marathon legend Bill Rodgers, and former American Idol winner and country music superstar Carrie Underwood.

At the same time, I’ve been polishing up Voice Lessons, the novel I first wrote in draft in 2004 and have since revised – and shelved – several times. In many ways, this is my personal, 110,000-word tribute to the music of my lifetime, wrapped around a touching, lively and often intense father-daughter-daughter story line.  The polishing act is one of my favorite parts of writing, whether I’m polishing my own books or those of clients. I think of polishing from a sculptor’s perspective: if the process of writing the story is akin to drawing the desired from from raw material, then polishing is like applying the final touches to draw out a sculpture’s finest features.

For this book, which includes a concert tour, fifty original songs and a panoramic view of the building blocks of one of my generation’s great contributions to entertainment — rock music — the polishing act has been a wonderful exercise in refining what it means to be creative, to write a song, to feel how performance impacts those in the audience.  It also distills the experiences of the 40-plus years I have spent listening to music, hundreds of concerts attended, dozens of musicians I’ve met and known, and the specific types of music that originate from all corners of the country. If you like music and a good story …

What has struck me throughout this phase, interestingly enough, is that the process of perfecting a novel is the same as perfecting a sports, business or life skill that we covered in The Champion’s Way: Every word and sentence need to resonate with the energy of one’s very best effort. That’s what it takes. When that happens, readers put their busy lives on hold, sail away on the opening pages, and immerse on a journey that will entertain, enthrall, enlighten and/or change them in some way.

Voice Lessons will be published in 2013. Soon, we will activate its official website, which will be a vast multimedia experience of its own.

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