Friday, January 19, 2018

Deadlines

In December I found myself thinking about my goals for 2018. Instead of worrying about the likelihood of accomplishing the staggering number of items on the list I just kept adding. This time I had a plan. Once I made my list (well over two full pages), I began breaking down the goals into small, monthly bite sized chunks. This made them seem far more attainable as I began the trek toward  fulfillment. I wrote out the monthly lists for January through April figuring I would assess again in April and make the next four at that time.

These first few months were then neatly tucked away in my computer bag so they would always be with me. They have indeed been with me, still where I placed them nearly two months ago. I have already broken from the original setup to try and move up the publication of my book Never Give UP from April to next month. This requires me to make a significant amount of editing progress almost everyday. I am failing.

I gave myself the deadline hoping it would spur me on but instead it feels like I added weight to an already questionable load. I announced the release of the book in order to make sure I would stick with the plan but that still has done nothing to push me forward on my progress. I began thinking the pressure might have been too much.

However it has been said that I thrive under the pressure. I compete in Nanowrimo every year simply for the deadline and its ability to force me to push past my doubts and concerns. Last year I even put together a multi-author book signing complete with venue, charity to benefit, attending authors, raffle prizes and entertainment within a short six week time period. Deadlines in some respects are my driving force. The biggest question at the moment is can I keep the same success rate with self imposed deadlines?

I know part of the ability to complete these tasks is willpower. The dedication to concentrate on the task at hand while forgoing things that may sound more desirable at the moment, holding out for the bigger reward in the end. I have always been better with the now than sticking it out for more later. This growth is part of looking at my writing as more than a hobby. It is about turning it into a potential career. Now if I can just get the next few chapters edited before I head back to the day job.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Not Losing Focus

When I first started writing seriously I was beyond excited to finish my first book. I toiled over the word choices. I wrote and rewrote sentences until I thought they were exactly the way they should be. I read through the manuscript so many times I could have recited it verbatim. I was positive I had a great book ready for the masses and all I needed to do was submit and I would be on my way to publishing dreams come true.

My beta reader went through the story, letting me know about things she liked and didn't. I edited it yet again and began submitting to agents. I sent off queries, chapters and intro pages to over three dozen agents and publishers. Slowly but surely in the months that followed I began receiving my responses. No. It was as simple as that. No one was interested. I got some good feedback from one of the publishers about word count being too short for them and not enough of their style in the storyline but otherwise it was just a simple no thank you. I was devastated. I was not defeated.

I began searching through writing groups for advice and I saw a post about a "publishing company" looking for authors. It was two girls that partnered up to call themselves a publisher but all they did was self-publish for you. I was weary to say the least but I was also desperate to see my book in print. I signed their contract and went through the process of having them edit, design a cover, and publish the book for me. It was official. I was a published author.

Then came all of the release day events, posting the links over and over on social media and trying to build a platform for my book. All the while there was something I should have paid more attention to, the book itself. Two people who constantly self-publish but don't have great sales, no plan for marketing, and are barely above amateur themselves will not make the best advisors to someone just starting out. A good friend, and wonderful author, later read my book and chatted privately with me saying she loved the story but there was a tremendous amount of editing and formatting issues that needed to be addressed.

Last year I pulled the book from Amazon in order to remove to from the control of the girl who published it in the first place. I am not under contract with her and I have seen the quality of her work in more depth. I have also seen the type of person she is and understand how bad of an idea it is to be associated with her in any professional capacity. I am not editing and will later be redesigning the cover of the book. It is terrifying to see the amount of mistakes missed and the lack of in depth editing that was done before.

I thought about heading to a coffee shop to work on this book but I am starting to believe a bar would be more appropriate. This book was my first impression for many in the publishing world. No wonder I wasn't snatched right up. I still believe in the story but I may need a few shots to get through this phase of the work. Wish me luck...send chocolate, coffee, and maybe some liquor.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Kitten's Corner - Jumping In

Hi everybody. My name is Oreo. I know the orange cat Pumpkin usually gets to talk to you but I wanted to say hello. I am new to the family. At only four months old I guess I am still kind of a baby. Mom keeps saying she feels like she was a baby when she wrote the book she is working on fixing up. I don't know what that means but she has gone through two of those red pens already.

When her and dad first adopted me I was a little nervous. I was brought to a shelter when I was only a few weeks old and spent my whole time in one cage or another. When we got here I was scared but they sat with me and played and soon I was ready to explore. It didn't take me long to find out how fun it is to try new things. I am learning all the time.

Mom talks to dad about learning too. She says every time she writes a book she learns something. She is also busy getting ready for some event that is filling the house with lots of red stuff and stacks of books. She said they are for something called a book drive. She seems to like her writing even though it means she stays in her office for a long time and drinks a lot of that hot brown stuff she calls coffee. As long as we get to have our play time I think I can let her do her work.

I am still a little skittish around people, even mom and dad when they move too fast. I play all the time and love to get the other cat's tails. I wale ays win at that game. Mom said it she is impressed that I was able to join the family so quickly. It was just a matter of jumping in. She says that is what she is doing with all of her writing stuff too. Pushing the fear aside and going for it. Maybe I will have to be a little more brave and stop hiding when people are loud or reach for me. But for now I better get going. I think I hear Pumpkin coming this way.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Less Is More

When the term editing is used around a writer we suddenly have images of giant red pens stalking us over the pages of our manuscripts. We cower at the thought of our babies being shredded by the heartless objectivity and hold our words protectively in hopes of maintaining the vision we set out to create. Yes, in the end listening to an editor who has gone through your work to find the errors you were to close to see can help elevate it but it is still a difficult ask to complete.

When I talk about editing though, I have a few different meanings. That red pen does come to mind for me as it would with almost any other author, but I am thinking more along the lines of other aspects of our careers. Some might wonder, being an author what more is there when it comes to a career? It is all about the writing isn't it? The honest answer is, sort of. Everything starts with the books but there is so much more to a full career even if in the end everything you do comes right back to that book.

Once the book is written and has gone through the dreaded original version of editing we discussed there is the preparation for publication. Here I am looking at the synopsis and cover design. The synopsis should be short and punchy. It should get you interested without giving away too much information. The cover is the same thing. I have seen covers where the author designed it to tell the entire story in one picture. First there is now no reason to read that book, you already know what happens. Second, it was so busy I swear it gave me a headache. Something simple and evocative is the much better route to go.

Marketing follows and should flow in the same vein by keeping things simple and understood. Social media promos should all have a similar theme to make sure people know it is about the same book. Images should be clear and allow the reader to understand what you are trying to promote. This goes for websites as well. Since a major part of our marketing efforts come back to our websites they should also contain that same, solid message. Everything tying together while not overdoing it with unneeded decoration or frivolous words.

After reading up on the current minimization movement and being a number of people trying so hard in the marketing efforts that the message itself got lost I realized I was doing the same thing. I am now working to simplify my message and cement my brand so all of my marketing efforts will be presented in a united front.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Merchandising

When I go to book shows I have noticed a lot of authors have things beside just their books on the table. Some have a giveaway item ranging from a free copy of another one of their books all the way up to high end purses or bottles of wine. It is something used to draw people in and reward them for supporting you and your work. There are also people who have sign up sheets for their newsletter so readers can keep up with what is happening and where the author will be appearing next. Some authors even have merchandise.

I have seen authors that sell tote bags with their logo printed on the side, specialty bookmarks, jewelry that ties in with the theme of the book, and of course, t-shirts related to the author and their brand. I have a shirt that was created for an event I threw honor victims and survivors of domestic abuse. I do not sell it but I wear it with pride. it was created for me by a friend and event volunteer.

I have long thought about creating something to accompany my books and have been looking into a merchandise line as a way to help promote my books, my personal brand, and of course the additional income couldn't hurt. There are so many different ways to go about it though that it becomes a hassle sorting though the options. Should there be an online store connected to my website? Which one is the best? What do I charge for my items so I make some sort of profit? I am not great at graphic design so should I go with a stock image or hire someone to make things more custom? So many questions.

Once all of those decisions are made there is the issue of start-up capital. I think I am somewhere deep in the red on that aspect. What I have decided to do it create a business plan, complete with financing and repayment prospects and attempt to get a business loan. I know my credit may not be great but I also know I am determined to make this work so if I can just get approved I will be able to create my merchandise and set up a plan for selling it at shows and potentially online as well. Now I just need to finish the research needed to know what I am doing. Good thing I stopped by the library today. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Self Sabotage

Whether I am training for a physical challenge, trying to pay off debt, sticking to a diet for weight management, or reaching the next level with my writing one of my biggest issues is following the plan I create. I have recently been looking at my plans for this year and with it only being the end of week two I have found struggles in several areas for reaching my goals. It isn't that I have too many things to do. Some may think that but it is really just about time management. I am capable of accomplishing everything on my list of goals.

It isn't about feeling overwhelmed at the moment. That is why I took my tremendous list of goals and broke them down month by month so I could make it easier to complete. My biggest issue is willpower and the undeniable ability to sabotage myself when I am working to make things happen.

Take my physical challenges for a start. I am training to finish five different events this year. Three of them are obstacle courses, one is a twenty-five mile bike ride (this one I have completed more than once and I am just doing again for fun, not training), and the last one is a half marathon. I am not a runner nor do I possess much upper body strength. Because of that I decided to begin walking / running a collective fifteen miles per week and take two to three classes at the gym in order to improve both my strength and cardio. Last week I finished seventeen miles and two classes. This week I am done nothing. I am dealing with a sinus infection and have successfully turned that into no workouts at all.

As for my diet, I know myself. I cannot simply give up things I shouldn't eat all together. Instead I made a deal with myself that every week I am good during the week and complete the training part I can reward myself with a guilt free dessert or treat on Sundays. The fact that I just ate a pint of ice cream for breakfast is a glaring representation of how I am doing this week.

Working two jobs to pay off my debt isn't going much better. I took a second job to give me a paycheck I can fully dedicate to removing bills such as credit cards and be more comfortable financially. However, in a one two punch to my plan, I have spent more time sick and out from my first job because of it than I have working my second job. I also ended up using a good part of that money to make the holidays better and buying things my normal budget wouldn't have allowed for. So while I have made progress, it isn't nearly as far along as it should be.

Then we come to my writing. My passion. My reason for getting up and being excited about my day. I love to write and have completed the first draft of half a dozen full length novels but now as I need to buckle down and begin editing I find ways to distract myself at every turn. I have watched television shows I use as inspiration for a series I am working on. I have dabbled in my creative baking arts. I have had meeting upon meeting for the upcoming charity event. Now as I sit here with a printed copy of the book I desperately need to edit I find my brain unable to concentrate and I just want to lay in bed and read.

Yes I thrive under pressure but I have reached the point of pressure because I need to complete the edits, rewrite and rerelease by the end of next month so I am under the gun already. To add in the time I dedicate to my training, two jobs, and spending some quality time with family in order to maintain my sanity there are those that might argue I don't truly want to be a successful writer. This is not true. I am simply a master of self sabotage and it is a battle I continue to fight. Today I am struggling but tomorrow may be a victory. I will never give in or declare surrender, even to myself.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Going Hybrid

Ever since I began writing I have held onto the dream of being a traditionally published author. I used to imagine the moment when I would receive first my acceptance letter from my new agent followed shortly by the contract from the major company eager to publish my book. I could close my eyes and see the launch party and book signings that would follow. The idea was a dream come true. Well part of that is still true, it is a dream. It also isn't the way things work anymore.

It is possible, of course, to get that acceptance letter. It is just as likely to receive a contract for publishing my book. The idea of of the launch party and book tour though are just a whisper of a dream at this point. Those things still happen but they are reserved for people like Stephen King, Jonathan Maberry, James Patterson, or JK Rowlings. These are people who can sell books simply because their name appears on the cover. I may be there someday but right now I am still unknown. It is also very difficult to reach that level and become a household name.

Many authors don't want to deal with the drama of submitting agents or negotiating contracts. They choose instead to go the independent path, also known as self-publishing. Along with not having to find an agent and hold their breath until they get an offer from a publisher there are other benefits. The two most often brought up when I speak to other authors are keeping all of their royalties and having full control. Traditionally published authors must wait a year or more to see their work released while Indie authors choose when to publish their books. They create their own covers, set up their formatting, and run their own marketing campaigns.

Because of the control though, there is no team helping design a cover with the experience to know what sells. There is no distribution channel already established for marketing and you have to know formatting before self-publishing companies will approve your book. You need to make a cover that will catch the eye of potential readers, write a synopsis to capture the attention of those readers, and find a price to give them value while making you those royalties. When it comes to marketing you have to take full advantage of every connection you have while always reaching out to make new ones.

One of the biggest concerns of readers I've found is the quality of the work. A great cover can't mask poor editing. A good story idea can't be understood if the writing style is choppy. Because anyone can self-publish there is a stigma as soon as you tell someone that is what you did. On the other hand there is a certain level of credibility when a book is traditionally published. Whether earned or not, people tend to trust something put out by a member of the big five publishing companies. There is an entire team working to put out the book when you go through a publishing company but remember, that whole team has to get paid.

After examining the pros and cons I think my best option is to actually walk both paths. By choosing certain books to submit while maintaining control an my own personal touch with others I will be a hybrid author. I will have the credibility of having a traditional publisher behind me while still having the design and elements of the books I created. I have three different names I write under and am hoping that I can keep one of those names as my own while the other two will be under the traditional publishers. It's time to start walking my dual journeys and see where it takes me.