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Redefining Success

In 2013 – wow, four years ago! – my traditional publisher and I parted ways, and the career I thought I was going to have took an unexpected turn. My contract for an Underbelly Chronicles paranormal trilogy was cancelled after two books. My publisher loved my work, but with over a year elapsing between book releases, it was tough to build momentum, and sales didn’t meet expectations. 

Two strikes and I was out – of traditional publishing, at any rate, because I wanted to keep writing this series. With the third book in hand, I dove into indie author-dom, because who doesn’t publish a completed book? Sales and reviews were favorable. The book was nominated for a couple of big awards. 

Awesome, right?

Nope. Sure, publishing that book was a salve to my stinging ego, but in retrospect, it was a short-sighted decision. What I really wanted, long term, was to continue writing the series – and to make that worth my while, I needed to regain the publishing rights for those first two books.

The problem? My traditional contract’s rights reversion clause was sales-based. Once sales dropped below a certain threshold, and stayed under that threshold for two concurrent royalty cycles – one year – rights would revert. Releasing my indie book lengthened that process, because the new work drove sales to my traditionally published backlist. 

It was a paradox.

After much thought, I made a painful decision: to stop publishing, and stop promoting, until rights to the first two books reverted back to me.

Yes, you read that correctly. I benched myself to accelerate this process.

Strange? Yes. Powerful? YES – because once those rights reverted, I’d have complete control of the entire series forevermore. I could publish, price, bundle, and promote as I saw fit. 

To make a long story short…mission accomplished! Rights to the first two Underbelly Chronicles books reverted late last year, and I re-launched the entire series a couple of months ago. (Currently available exclusively at Amazon, and going wide in August.) My time in the introvert cave has been glorious – I’ve spent the last few years writing, doing some freelance editing, learning to format my own books, and teaching – but now it’s time for the author to emerge from hibernation again. In October, I’ll publish my first new book in four years.

This causes me no end of angst, because even on good day, so-called conventional publishing wisdom and I have a glancing acquaintance at best. Publish multiple books per year? Nope, not me. #1k1hr? Puh-leeze, I’ve never written 1000 words in a day, much less in an hour. I don’t write to word count, period. Recommendations about profanity, or getting political on social media? My Twitter feed is a case study in BRANDING: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

I swear a lot. I don’t get “book boyfriends” or the concept of The Muse, and I find most motivational quotes to be entirely too soft and fluffy. I value and appreciate my readers, but as The Most Massive Introvert On the Planet™, I’m probably the last author you’d ever find wearing a tiara or hosting a tea party. 

I edit my own work. 

Yeah, I said it.

Seriously, how many sacred Romancelandia cows can one woman slaughter in two hundred words or less? 

In most areas of my life, I march to the beat of my own drummer, and clearly my writing life is no exception. I’m a misfit. Most days I’m okay with that, but book release time never fails to make me take a look around, assess what the current state of practice seems to be, and think: AUTHORING: YOU’RE DOING THAT WRONG, TOO. 

As I prepare to release my next book, I’ve evaluated conventional publishing wisdom anew, and have come to a strange and powerful conclusion: I don’t publish frequently enough for conventional publishing wisdom to apply.

I will probably never be traditionally, conventionally successful. I find great freedom in this realization, because it means I get to define success for myself.

No matter how solid your confidence, believe me, this is easier said than done – especially when you see your friends and contemporaries not only passing you by, but flat-out lapping you. That’s where your village comes in. Support from your besties, your critique partner(s), your chapter mates, your blogmates, and your (very) patient readers is key. This being 2017, so is advice from complete strangers on the internet. 😉 

To that end, wise online soul Evan Carmichael has created a YouTube series about success and entrepreneurship called “Top 10 Rules for Success,” featuring interviews and clips from people spanning all possible occupational spectra. In Sept. 2016, he posted one featuring my spirit animal, Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl.

Though he’s a musician rather than an author, I think Dave speaks wisely about art, confidence, and finding joy in the doing.     

Dave Grohl’s Top 10 Rules for Success

  1.   You have to be great.
  2.   Figure it out.
  3.   Chase your dreams.
  4.   Don’t lose your personality.
  5.   Experiment.
  6.   Do your own thing.
  7.   Find balance.
  8.   Just do it.
  9.   Cherish your voice.
  10.   Love what you do.

Google up the rest of Evan’s series when you have a chance – it’s inspiring stuff.  (Dave’s “Top 10” content is 20:00 or so, and NSFW due to language. There’s some fun bonus footage at the end of the video.) 

After watching the video, I feel a renewed freedom to work at my own pace, to take an alternate route. To drive 30 m.p.h. on a scenic, winding road instead of taking the interstate. To disregard what everyone else is doing and build my career one day, one page, one book at a time – and feel joy in the doing.  

Hey, if “Do your own thing” is good enough for Dave, it’s good enough for me. 😉 

At this point in your writing career, how do you define success? Do any of Dave’s “Top 10 Rules” resonate? 

If you’re feeling brave: which piece(s) of conventional wisdom have YOU told to take a hike?

–Tammy, the Ruby Contrarian

Tamara Hogan is the award-winning author of The Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series. An English major by education and a software developer/process engineer by trade, she recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. Tamara loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her husband and two naughty cats.

Free Advice Small Business: Writing Through The Holidays.

Small Business: Writing Through The Holidays

If you Google writing through the holidays, you’re going to find dozens of articles written on the subject, including a great one dated last December by our own Ruby Sister Addison Fox. Many authors offer the same advice, and I’m going to bring up the same points too later, because they’re good advice. However, today, and for your sanity and mine, I want to approach the subject a little differently.

If you look at my post title, you’ll note the first two words. Got them? Good.  Unless you’re writing to stick your work in a drawer only to be found upon your demise by a nephew or niece who you didn’t hold close to your heart and who will probably either burn your bloodwork or see the wonder in it and use your work to start their own writing career, then you need to think of yourself as a small business owner. And as we all know small business owners have a lot to do during any holiday in order to remain competitive with the ‘Big boys, girls, sellers, box-stores or A’. You pick the noun. So let’s think of our self’s as small businesses during this holiday season and beyond.

The first thing every SB owner does every single day is take care of the foundation their business. You are the foundation of your business. You need to take care of you. You need to eat well, drink plenty of water, exercise (yes running through the mall counts), get the right amount of restful sleep that is good for you and most importantly don’t add stress on yourself. How can do you do that during the most stressful time of the year? Please, read on.images6

I’m going to throw some keywords at you; the first already was tossed, care. The second is flexibility. Writers are creatures of habit. But remember we’re also small business owners. As a business person you need to be flexible every single day. Every single minute of every single day.  The world is ever changing and it affects you and your business constantly. If  you go into this holiday by setting non flexible goals (More on this later) and your kids get sick, or the car breaks down, or your boss at your ‘real job’ demands that you get a new must-have report done by Christmas Eve, you will be adding a ton of stress on yourself.  Setting a non-flex goal in the month of November is one of the reasons I’ve never done Nano.  Stress, leads to guilt, which leads to depression. We don’t want to go there.  Flexible is a key word.

Self-awareness is the next key word. What is your regular writing schedule? Do you write every single day? Do you take time off on the weekends? Do you write when you can? Which of these scenarios is the most flexible? Right. The write when you can. If you can write every day, but now find that during the holiday festivities you can’t, you will feel stressed. Stress is bad.  Be flexible.  Flexible is good.

Don’t try to do a 360° turn with your writing habits in the eleventh hour, trying to accomplish what you haven’t done already. It doesn’t work. Change of habits needs to be done over time, and there is no time of year when our desire to change is greater than right now. Plan your change.

Realization is the next key word. If you had a goal to have a project done by December 31 and you haven’t put the effort into it by now, well, that boat has sailed. Small business owners think months ahead, even years. Because the calendar will flip and your project isn’t done doesn’t mean the world is going to end. It means you will complete it in 2017 with the enthusiasm and the focus that it deserves. Flexible.

Now, I want to prove something to you. During this busy holiday season, you can accomplish a lot of things that benefit your small business by following my advice below.

images1If you write for publication, there is so much that needs to be done, whether you’re an indie author or a traditional pubbed author or a freelance writer. Grab a calendar; one that has the month in blocks. During the day or at the end of every single day, write down what you did relating to your business. I do this every day. It’s my record for the IRS that I am working my business. Here are examples of things I might get done any given day. Email, social media, word count achieved, number of pages edited, articles or blogs written, articles or blogs posted and or commented on, ad copy worked on, design ads, place ads, worked on a plot, talk or meet with critique partners, agent or editor. Trips to office supply store or post office. Time spent researching. Time spent reading craft books or industry blogs (like the Ruby Sisterhood). Write everything down. Now, look at what you have accomplished. How can there be guilt?

If you’re like me, you can’t take days off during a project. Maybe a day or two, but weeks? No.  I need to stay grounded in my project. Does that mean I need to write fresh pages every day? No it does not. Simply writing a page a day, or editing a scene or layering a character will keep your muse alive and you’ll be working toward the end of a polished wip.

Here are the little tidbits of advice I mentioned at the top of this blog. The ones that will help you move forward during the busiest of times.

  1. Set the goal of I will work my business every day. Notice I didn’t say write every day. Be flexible.
  2. Write first (get up early), write last (after everyone else has gone to bed), or in between with a notebook if need be.
  3. Set a timer for twenty minutes and write nonstop.
  4. I sit my laptop on my kitchen counter while cooking dinner and I try to get an extra page written or edited before the meal is ready to plate. In fact, I write, standing more and more. I find walking around helps me think in between lines.
  5. Join an on-line group and sprint. On Twitter, I think, you can always find someone to sprint with by using a specific hashtag. I think it’s #1k1hr. If anyone knows for sure, please place in comments. (And remember the Rubies Winter Writing Fest Begins mid-January. Very productive and tons of fun!)
  6. Not working on story at the moment? Just be creative. Write a blog, article, poem, or short story. Hey, those writings can come in handy later for to use as promo when you’re on deadline.
  7. If it’s hard to write at home, get away. Pack a Go-bag now (pen, pencils, notebook, snacks, bottled water, and a little cash) and store the bag in your car. Anytime you slip out the door to run an errand take a few minutes to yourself while gone and write. Heck you could say you’re going to the garage to clean out the car and just sit in your car and write.
  8. Take a walk and dictate a scene. (Just get out of your comfort zone and use a different method to producing words)
  9. Too noisy with all the kids at home, invest in earplugs. Listening to an audiobook is also work.
  10. Set up a mini-writing retreat with some writer friends for an afternoon, but be prepared to give your spouse some alone time too.
  11. Journal. The end of the year is all about change. People watch. Note changes in people and how they interact with others as the month ends.
  12. This is the season that your senses can go on overload. There are so many sights, sounds, and scents to take in. And the food and drinks. And the feel of the weather, the gifts and the hugs. Ruby Anne Marie brought up in her recent blog how hugs can be different. Made me think.  Take note for future works.  

 

By not letting our passion take a second chair to non-essential chores, we’ll feel less anxious, more balanced, and much happier. Start 2017 positive by taking care of you and your small business now. imagesecau2ujh

 

If you have words of advice on writing through the holidays, please share. What works for you might work for someone else.

 

 

 

Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. She is the author of seven published novels, including a fun, contemporary holiday romance titled Perfect. perfect-cover-snowflake-2-77x100

The holidays are never perfect. However, what happens during the holidays can inspire a perfect love. Christmas romance at its best! Amazon Reviewers http://bit.ly/Perfect-AutumnJordon

 

 

 

What you see….what they see….

mosiac chairOnce upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a kindergarten room mom.

Yes.

That.

And as the room mother, when the annual silent auction came around, I was in charge of gathering up donations. Oh, and making a class art project to sell at the auction. Yeah, making an art object with the children in the class. Making an art object with children in the class that was something mosaic. MOSIAC!

Feel free to feel horrified.

I was.

So as I pondered what in God’s creation I could actually do for the class mosaic project, my glance happened upon an iron chair beside the pool that had come with my house (the owner had left it). It had lovely form and if I spray painted it and ripped the ruined cowhide upholstery from the seat, I could paint it and made a new seat…a new mosaic seat. It was brilliant. Truly brilliant. So I took myself off to the local craft store, bought outdoor spray paint in a lovely ivory and a mosaic kit. After lots of cursing and breaking of stones and glass, I hauled it all down to the kiddo’s classroom and the class “helped” me glue on the stones and glass. The kids loved placing the little bright bits of color. It was a true class effort. Sorta. After the making of the mosaic was complete, I sprayed the chair, set the grout and VIOLA! Precious mosaic class art piece for the auction. And, y’all, it was so pretty. I seriously wanted it for myself, but as instructed, I hauled the now heavy chair down to the auction and proudly placed it in the spot for our class.

Two nights later, dressed in my best business casual, swilling from a goblet of wine, I prepared myself for the comments that would come my way. “Oh, my gosh, I LOVE the chair! How did you do it?” or maybe “You have the best auction item. It’s going to fetch a small fortune!” I mean how could it miss? It was adorable and the kids had made it and it was creative and out of the box and….

…no one bid on it.

Yeah.

My precious was a clunker.

I was slightly crushed and somewhat insulted. How could no one bid on my cute chair? Well, here’s the point of this whole post (I know you were wondering) – the chair had to fit a certain person. Not everyone goes to an auction looking for a garden chair for their sunroom, right? A cute handprint painting with little silver beads glued on can go on a desk or a wall.  A wind chime made with mosaic tile can clink outside on any porch (and grandmothers LOVE wind chimes). But a chair? Has to have a spot. And match. Not an easy sale. In my creative lala land, I thought I had something different and thus I assumed it would be well-received. And I was wrong.

And, so we can draw the same parallel with our writing. We often complain that editors and publishing houses (and readers) want something different but not too different. How many times have we heard this? A dozen? Ten dozen? I’m pretty sure all my rejections letters arriving in SASEs (remember those?) said something pretty much like that. And every editor on every panel I ever attended wanted something fresh, not overdone, original….but then said it was too hard to market, they didn’t know how to shelve it, and could I add a secret baby? The book of your heart may stay the book of your heart (fresh and original though it is) if you can’t market it. Which means you have to know the market, you have to know what’s selling, you have to know your buyer, er, reader, and you have to think like a business woman and not a creative genius stuck in lala land wrapped up in the false knowledge your precious is going to sell, sell, sell and break the record for best auction item in the history of class auction items.

That does not mean you won’t find your reader….after all, my cute little chair found a home with the school secretary. She was the only bidder and got a steal of a deal for $30. But she loved that chair. Told me several times over the years how cute it looked in her sunroom next to her houseplants. But I learned my lesson. I had to know my market if I wanted to have my art project go for $350.00 (what the other class made with their cheap wall hanger….seriously!). It doesn’t matter how cool your project is. If there isn’t a market, you’ll be left to wonder why someone didn’t recognize your genius.

Hey, you really do learn all you need to know in kindergarten!

By the way, I have a new precious out. Just released yesterday. It’s my first single title with a new publisher and I’m hoping like mad it’s not a mosaic chair of a book, but rather a pretty little sparkly gem that will look good on everyone’s bookshelf. Here’s the link so you can check it out on Amazon. You’re feeling pretty sorry for me and my chair right now. Hey, I know how to soften a buyer up. LOL.

http://bit.ly/CharminglyYours

 

Brainstorming Unusual Character

 

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Oops. The Ruby calendar had a few holes, so I thought we’d talk weather today. Not what it’s like in your area (however, you certainly can share), but how weather is used in our novels to trigger change in our characters’ lives. We know the well-worn cliché of the hero and heroine trapped in a cabin during a snow storm, but we don’t want to do cliché. We want to write fresh ideas

Did you see THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE? How about THE GRAPES OF WRATH? Those are two off the top of my head movies/books where weather was the catalyst for change in many lives.

I’m about to begin a new story for my PERFECT LOVE line and I’ve been brainstorming, thinking about my characters and how I can use weather to change their lives, and/or to up the conflict and anxiety. I’m thinking a flash flood wipes away the wedding set-up, thus putting everything on hold. Enter in a contractor who steals the maid of honor’s heart from the groom’s brother.

Here are a few others examples:

A high heat index causes a blackout situation, sending the tenants of an apartment building to the cool basement.

Lightening brings down a tree limb causing a car accident.

A hail storm causes a delay in a flight.

A sunny day on the beach causes a severe sunburn and sends the victim to the ER—step onto the page Doctor do-me- good.

Hot day melts all the icing on the cupcakes, or the wedding cake, the heroine has made.

While camping, a calm night has the heroine hearing every twig snapping, causing her to build big a really big fire which gets out of control.

A sand storm causes a woman to lose her way on the back roads of Arizona.

Okay, this is an interactive blog, so come on, think out of the box, and share your ideas for ways weather can affect your story, or share an example of something you’ve read.Golden Sun

 

 

Lessons from the Giants

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 9.19.24 PMI started writing when my son was eleven months old. He graduates from Junior High this coming May. I wrote my first book in under a year, at least I count it as my first book, because the other two before it weren’t fit to be coasters for the coffee table. So I wrote this book, met with a popular rock band for the research and secured an agent within three months of sending it out.

I got a call from her one day telling me that a publisher in England had heard about this book through the grapevine and called my agent asking for it. They called her. This was unheard of I was told. A month later a producer asked to see it. He wanted to make a it into a movie of the week.

Through this experience, I learned that there are two types of people in the writing industry.

I belong to an online writing loop where pubbed and unpubbed work side by side answering each others questions. There was one women who was indeed, just one of us. She had participated in our discussions and been there just like the rest of us.

And then she sold her first book. A few months later I wrote her and asked her a question just like I had done with her a dozen times before, and she with me. This time the curt reply came with an ending sentence telling me that there were other people on the loop I could have gone to without bothering her. I never bought her book. Neither did anyone else in our critique group.

So what happened to my career? I mailed off the revisions my agent had asked for in January. When I hadn’t heard back by June, I finally called.

I was told that my agent had died that previous February and nobody had thought to notify me. To this day, I still do not know the specifics. My book was returned with a no thank you. I was released from the contract. No one ever knew what happened to the English publisher and the movie producer disappeared without a trace.

In one phone call I went from the cutting edge, being told that my book was so damn unusual that it would create a new sub-genre, back to square one. That was seven years ago.

And that is where the lessons began.

Not how to put a sentence together or how to submit in proper format. All that was in books. What I learned came from people.

The kind of person who glances down at your names tag at a conference, sees that there is no marking designating your masterpiece and their eyes wonder the second before they excuse themselves to go sit at the agent/editor table. I attended a conference with an someone I knew. We weren’t best friends, but we had spent some time together. When I hadn’t seen her the whole three days and finally ran into her, I asked her about it. “I don’t come here to socialize,” I was told. “I’m here to meet the people that will get my book on the shelf and that’s it.” I wasn’t one of the important people, not worth the time. At least not to her.

I met a particular multi-published author who shall remain nameless who was so important to herself she dismissed me with the wave of her hand while I was standing at her signing table.

And then I met the real people. The true giants.

I met Sue Grafton at a book signing. When I mentioned I was a newbie writer, she stopped the line for two minutes, crossed her arms over her chest with the most sincere smile and asked me how it was going.

Dean Koontz. When I didn’t feel as if I could go on with all the rejection letters, he sent me a personal note telling me ”For fifteen years most of my friends and virtually all of my relatives thought I was a bum … hang in there.” He even spelt my name right.

And Clive Cussler? I had been reading him since I was fifteen years old. He was the reason I got into writing in the first place. It’s why I write action romance. So what did he tell me when I finally, after eighteen years, met him at a book signing? “Send me a copy of your manuscript. I would like to take a look at it.”

These are my teachers.

These are the people that are not so impressed with themselves or their work that they will turn their backs on the person with the plain badge. They care. They remember.

I had a drink with an editor from a publishing house recently and we were talking about how hard it is break in to the business. When I recounted my history, she smiled sadly and said she was sorry.

And that’s when it hit me.

I’m not.

I almost had the instant success. I was almost one of the rare that sold their first book.

And if that had happened, where would my ego had ended up? What table would I have been sitting at and with whom would I talk to at the conference?

My lack of success in the writing industry, at least by some standards, put in the right places at the right time and showed me the people I want to mimic. The real giants. Not because they have sold more books or make more money or put their books in the top ten of the New York Best Seller List. They are giants because they cared enough to look back and see where they used to be.

It appears that my big break is a hair breath away. I have people who want to read my work. People with the clout to make the difference. We’ll see. I’ve been close before and have learned not to get too excited.

yingyangWhat goes around comes around. Karma. Ying and Yang. Two sides to every coin. With every action there is an opposite action. It doesn’t matter how you say it, it all means the same thing.

What we put out in the world will be what we get back. In my writing, as well as in my life, I want my second side to reflect my first. And it’s not going to be determined by how many books I have on the shelf or who I sat next to at that luncheon. It’s going to come from how I treated the person who has just finished her first draft of her first book and the person who just opened his forty-seventh rejection.

So whether or not my book sells and the deals start pouring in, don’t look for me at that front table by the podium. Look for me in the back with the real people, the people with the plain badges who realize the struggle and the reward go hand in hand.

ABOUT JACQUI JACOBY:

Award-winning author, Jacqui Jacoby lives and writes in the beauty of Northern Arizona. Currently adjusting to being an empty nester with her first grandchild to draw her pictures, Jacqui is a self-defense hobbyist. Having studied martial arts for numerous years she retired in 2006 from the sport, yet still brings strength she learned from the discipline to her heroines. She is a working writer, whose career includes writing books, teaching online and live workshops and penning short nonfiction.

Follow her at www.jacquijaxjacoby.com

http://jaxsmovielist.blogspot.com/

Twitter: JaxJacoby

Facebook: Jacqui Jax Jacoby

© 2015 Jacqui Jacoby, Body Count Productions, Inc.

Trouble with the (Learning) Curve

I’m thrilled to be hosting today’s guest blog by debut author Arlene Hittle. Not only is she a long time commenter on the Ruby blog, but she’s a good friend and great company when we’re out writing at the local coffee shop. She’s also an amazing example of perseverance and dedication…

***

Arlene HittleThe last time I guest blogged with the Rubies, I’d just been named a 2011 Golden Heart® finalist, and we chatted about the Power of the Average Joe. I still believe in the appeal of Joe Schmoe, so it’s rather funny that the hero of my debut novel, DIVA IN THE DUGOUT, is a jock.

But I’m not here to pimp my book (much, anyway).  😉 We’re all writers here, so we dish about writing techniques and the road to publication.

DIVA’s road to publication began the day I got the coveted Golden phone call—or shortly thereafter. When BEAUTY AND THE BALLPLAYER finaled, it was one of two stories I’d entered. Being the practical sort who went into journalism to make money writing while I tried to break into fiction, I decided that if it was going to be the successful story, I’d darn well better have another two or three baseball books to go with it.

Backlist is everything, right?

So DIVA was born—and titled by Ruby Anne Marie Becker at one of our RWA® chapter’s brainstorming meetings, if I remember correctly.

I wrote the story, polished it, pitched it at RWA Nationals in 2012 and it started making the rounds. Rejections trickled in, but mainly the good kind. You know the ones: “We love your voice, love the writing, but …”

At the same time, the popularity of indie publishing was exploding. I believed in my stories enough to start making preparations to go that route myself. I opted to sit out RWA Nationals 2013 in Atlanta to devote the cash I’d have spent to going indie. I hired a web designer to redo my website, signed up for an indie publishing class through Author EMS and began working with cover artist Rogenna Brewer.

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s when Turquoise Morning Press offered me the contract for DIVA. I got the call (really an email) the Tuesday of Nationals week.

What’s that saying? Success happens when you stop chasing it?

Since DIVA wasn’t on my indie-pub radar yet, I was okay with that. More than okay. I was—and still am—ecstatic.

Of course, now I’m on parallel paths, working with TMP on DIVA and going it alone for HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, the holiday novella I plan to put out in November. But busy is good.

Here’s where that trouble comes in.

As pre-published authors, we’re told to hone our craft, tell great stories and, above all else, just keep writing. Excellent advice. The promise of publication, of getting our stories out there in the wild, fuels us through disheartening rejections and encouraging rejections, and through the craziness that is life.

Publication is the all-consuming goal. We want it, and we’re willing to sacrifice free time to get it.

What I didn’t realize—although I probably should have—is that once you reach that goal, you just get a new set of concerns.

It’s a whole new ballgame, so to speak. 😉

Problems with writing GMC, pacing correctly and creating sympathetic characters  may still plague your work, but you get all new things to obsess over, too.

On editing: Did the editor get my email? What if she hates EVERYTHING about my story? OMG, what if I have to rewrite the ending? How fast can I turn around the revisions?

Then there’s promo: How often do I tweet about my book? How many guest blog posts should I set up? They say you should go where the readers are (and it may not be where other authors are), but where on earth do I find the readers?

And, of course, the big question: How do you keep writing the next book when you’re neck deep in trying to sell this one to the masses?

What am I getting at? Writing books and selling them are two very different skill sets.

That, too, shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Life is great at throwing us curves. Success depends on our ability to take the pitches as they come. Adapt. Learn. Grow.

 

Let me ask you, dear Rubies and friends, what is the one thing you wish you’d known before the sale?

 

****

Diva in the DugoutIn case you’re curious, here’s the blurb for DIVA IN THE DUGOUT:

Arizona Condors shortstop Dave Reynolds faces the toughest test yet: fatherhood.

After a successful stint in drug rehab, Dave is still trying to outrun his bad boy reputation. When the team’s new owners tell him to shape up or be fired at season’s end, he vows to change. He doesn’t count on fatherhood playing a part in his transformation.

Melinda Cline makes a rash decision: take solace in the arms of a sexy-as-sin ballplayer whose name she insists she doesn’t want to know. Big mistake. Now a single mom to a four-year-old, Mel strives to live as quietly and cleanly as possible. But fate intervenes and she comes face to face with the man who insists on being included in their daughter’s life. The attraction between them is still strong, but it may not survive Dave’s reputation or his attempts to do the right thing.

Can the Condors’ bad boy step up to the plate and knock out a home run for fatherhood? And if he does, will his daughter’s mamma be ready?

Find DIVA IN THE DUGOUT at Turquoise Morning Press, Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, Amazon. Smashwords will begin distributing to BN, Kobo, iTunes and other e-tailers within the week, I’m told.

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Arlene Hittle is a Midwestern transplant who now makes her home in northern Arizona. She suffers from the well-documented Hittle family curse of being a Cubs fan but will root for the Diamondbacks until they run up against the Cubs. Longtime friends are amazed she writes books with sports in them, since she’s about as coordinated as a newborn giraffe and used to say marching band required more exertion than golf. Find her at arlenehittle.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (Special guest: Jennifer Williston)

Today I’m taking a break from being the resident “Lawyer Ruby.” Okay, fine, that’s still my role, but our special guest is going to talk shop today instead.

Please welcome my good friend Jennifer Williston. When she’s not being forced by my two-year-old daughter to do sticker art with her, Jenn is an intellectual property attorney in the Washington, DC area. In addition, she’s the Chair of the Literary Committee for Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts.  

Jenn and I taught a popular workshop together on basic copyright and trademark law at the 2009 RWA Conference. (It was moderated by Nora Roberts!) Since then, we’ve co-authored an article for the RWR. But today she’s flying solo, talking about her pro bono work in the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts movement. Take it away, Jenn!

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The other day at lunch the friend of a co-worker approached me with a legal question.  As you can imagine, this situation is not an unusual experience for me. Once someone finds out I’m an attorney, the legal problems and hypothetical questions come from every possible direction. I’ve been asked to help with parking tickets, income tax, wills, landlord tenant disputes — the list goes on and on.  My typical approach in these situations is to listen to the question and then politely decline to provide an answer, usually referring the person to an attorney I’m familiar with who is knowledgeable in the field or to the local bar association.

 Today’s question was different, “Can I name the restaurant I’m developing after the title of a popular novel?” I’m sure all the writers who are reading this blog want to shout out “absolutely not” and “under no circumstance.”  Intrigued with the idea, instead of my usual deferral modus operandi, I answered, “Well, it depends, because in most circumstances a writer has no legal basis to protect the title of his or her work.” 

I’ll spare you the details of my hypothetical-filled conversation with the budding restaurateur. I decided to share this anecdote with you because it stresses the need for writers to determine what their rights are and, more importantly, how to protect them.  Many budding and unpublished authors are so consumed with their manuscripts that they do not take the time to protect their rights or, with limited income, do not believe they have the resources to pay for legal representation.  I want to stress to you that understanding your legal rights is just as important, if not more, than the quality of words you write each day.  While this task may seem daunting, it’s not. 

There are many non-profit legal organizations a writer can turn to for assistance, with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organizations at the top of the list.  The organization I’m a member of, Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts (covering artists in the DC-metro area) provides access to education, advocacy and legal services through workshops and seminars, legal clinics and pro-bono referral services for creatives.  Known in the community as WALA, the organization provides members in need of legal representation with referrals to pro bono attorneys who will answer your legal questions and take legal action on your behalf. If you do not meet the minimum income guidelines, WALA will refer you to specialized attorneys who may negotiate a discounted rate to assist with your legal needs. 

The organization also offers many educational programs throughout the year, for example, we’re just wrapping up our Creative Entrepreneur Series.   A six-part seminar on common issues creatives face in their professional career, the Creative Entrepreneur Series features topics such as copyright and trademark protection, contracts and licenses, and negotiation skills.  Last year, WALA represented approximately 150 artists in legal matters and has already served over 375 members of the creative community through educational programming this year. 

Most states or large cities have a volunteer lawyers for the arts program that provides artists and creatives with similar legal services for a small membership fee, or in some instances, no fee at all.  I strongly encourage you to get involved with WALA or your local VLA and protect your legal rights.  Then, if someone tries to copy your work, asks you to agree to an atypical publishing agreement, or wants to open a restaurant that uses the same name as the title of one of your books, you’ll understand your rights and be ready to take action.  

For more information about WALA, visit http://waladc.org.  For information about a VLA in your region check out this list compiled by the New York Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.

Need Help with Plot? Try a Retreat!

Oh, those writing blues! They can strike from any direction and can come in many forms. Sometimes it’s the over-editing strike, the my-brain-is-dead-strike and other times it’s the dead-as-a-doornail-middle-of-the-book strike. Often for me it’s the I’m-too-tired-of-this-book strike. At some point in your writing career (no matter where you are) you’re gonna get plain ol’ tired of putting your fingers on that keyboard and making magic…or crap. Whichever.

So what do you do when the creative well runs dry? There are plenty of options and some involve tequila which could get you in a whole lot of trouble…or pregnant. Whichever.

But I have a solution.

It sounds like work…and it is…but it fills the well and keeps you from buying maternity clothes (yeah, some of the Rubies needed this nine months ago)

It’s a plotting retreat.

San Francisco eBooks for Everyone Else Conference Recap

Yesterday’s eBooks for Everyone Else conference was an amazing one-day event about all aspects of digital publishing, from formatting and uploading to pricing and marketing. The event, run by Publishers Launch, brought together approximately 100 publishers, agents, authors, and vendors for a quick and dirty slog through a very ambitious list of topics.

I could probably write a novella about this conference, but I’ll highlight a few of my key takeaways for you. If you want my raw notes, you can read my Twitter feed from yesterday (http://twitter.com/#!/Sara_Ramsey) since I wrote 100+ tweets about what I was hearing throughout the day.

One additional note: some of this is more focused, at least on the surface, around epublishing. However, I think that savvy authors should keep track of what’s happening in channels other than their own and implement approaches that work — whether that’s epubs borrowing from what traditional publishers do, or vice versa.

And finally, any errors in quotes/attribution are my own, and I’ll fix anything that is pointed out to me. Now that I’ve caveated this post to death, let’s move on!

1) Discoverability

Discoverability is all about how readers find your book. In the good old days, a reader might stumble across your book in a bookstore, love the cover, and pick it up. But people who shop for books online are less likely to impulse buy; one stat quoted was that impulse buying drops by 9% when people shop online. And if a reader doesn’t know they’re looking for you, how can they find you when search terms are usually so specific and targeted?

There are a couple of solutions for this. One is more the publisher’s responsibility (or the indie writer’s responsibility, if managing their own uploads): creating excellent “metadata” for the book. That covers everything from descriptions of the book with keywords relevant to that genre, to spelling the title and author name correctly. This information is vital to whether your book can be found — for example, if I accidentally enter my name as “Sarah Ramsey” someplace instead of “Sara Ramsey”, that book wouldn’t be found by anyone searching for me directly. So, get your data straight, and make sure you understand metadata before taking the DIY approach.

Another solution is not on the author side, but on the distributor side. I personally don’t browse much on Amazon, B&N, etc., but Book Country did a really cool presentation on how one can browse through content there. Because they’re targeting genre fiction, they’re working on making genre books more discoverable — including using a cool visualization of books, almost like a periodic table, to show you what books are clustered around a book that you already love.

Bottom line: if no one can find your book, you’re toast. Getting discoverability right is perhaps the single most important thing you can do (after you write a fabulous book, of course!).

2) Marketing

Ah, marketing. The very word gives a lot of authors hives. I suppose the good news is that no one has the perfect marketing formula, so no one can tell you you’ve screwed up 🙂

Seriously, though, there are viable options in both traditional/digital marketing and in social media, if you’re willing to take the plunge. On the more traditional, direct to customer marketing side, Michael Tamblyn of Kobo pointed to Ruth Ann Nordin as an example of someone who does almost no social media, but has built a robust email newsletter mailing list and does most of her marketing direct to her established reader base. Bob Mayer has also had success running Google and Facebook ads in an effort to build brand awareness — he gets very few clicks, but by targeting his ads at the right places, he can get readers used to seeing his name and prime them to buy his book later.

On the social media side, it isn’t as simple as going on Facebook and playing Farmville all day. It’s important to remember that you are what you tweet. Iris Blasi said that “you are advertising the best version of yourself” — in other words, be yourself, but make sure ‘yourself’ is filtered through the awareness that you’re engaging with your audience, not your mom or your best friend.

Also, you need to know where your audience is. If you’re writing historical fiction, where do the history buffs hang out online? Is your story set during the Civil War and likely to attract older men? Or is it a Jane Austen or Tudor-era story that might appeal to women? Are you writing for teenagers? You need to identify your audience, then find them online and interact with them where they already are.

Surprisingly, one market research tidbit that came out was that teenagers may spend the most time on Facebook, but they don’t engage with marketing there. They buy primarily based on reviews from their peers, not on marketing-driven interaction. Even more surprisingly (to me), women in the 40+ age bracket were more likely to buy based on Facebook interaction and discussion, even if they spend less time there than teens. This doesn’t mean you have to be on Facebook (just because someone is likely to buy on Facebook doesn’t mean your audience is there — averages don’t necessarily apply to the specifics of your niche), but it’s worth considering where your audience can be reached. The market research came from Bowker, who is doing a ton of work on genre-specific audience identification.

Bottom line: know your audience and interact with them when and where you can.

3) The future of agents

I won’t spend a lot of time on this, but it’s no surprise that agents are being forced to rethink their business models. The agent panel at the end of the day included some powerhouses (Scott Waxman, Deidre Knight, Ted Weinstein, and Laura Rennert), and they’re all working in a variety of ways to provide new ebook services to their clients while attempting to build sustainable long-term businesses.

Ted Weinstein laid it out very clearly: he thinks that agents will either become a) Hollywood style agents who only work with the biggest, splashiest clients on the most surefire projects; b) small publishers themselves; or c) more like a CEO/career manager who works with a much smaller subset of clients but manages all aspects of their career (such as building a speaking career for an author who is already a successful nonfiction expert). Every agent will choose a different path that suits them, but eventually most agents will have to make hard choices about what their business will look like.

Bottom line: Agencies are in flux, but any agent worth his/her salt is thinking hard about what the future looks like for them. My own personal opinion (not endorsed by anyone) is that it’s still worth signing with an agent depending on your goals, and I would sign with mine all over again in a heartbeat. But if the agent isn’t willing to have a conversation with you about the agency’s future (or predicts something that feels totally crazy), that would be a major red flag for me.

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That’s the bulk of the recap. There was a lot more detail about technological solutions, pricing, conversions, more on metadata, etc., but this post is too long as it is. I’ll check in throughout the day on the comments here and answer any questions, or feel free to tweet or email me (dearsara AT sararamsey DOT com) directly!

Year-End Tax Tips for Writers

‘Tis the Season for Year-End Tax Tips

 Timing can be everything, especially when it comes to taxes.  Here are some year-end tips to help you reduce your 2009 federal income taxes:

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