Archive for July, 2015

IS IT TAKING A BREAK OR WRITER’S BLOCK?

July 30, 2015

Recently, I pulled off the writing highway and am taking a rest break. It’s like pulling off for an iced tea and refilling my gas tank.  I don’t have writer’s block and I’m not going to call it that.  Writer’s block indicates that you’ve hit the wall.  You can’t go further and you are so mired down in words that you can’t string them together into a coherent sentence.

You may think I’m fooling myself and I probably am, but I’m not going to think that this state is permanent and can’t be corrected.  I’ve met writers who’ve had writer’s block for ten years or longer. I just reached a point where the story just wasn’t happening.  Yes, I have my version of an outline, that didn’t help either.  So I’ll stick with taking my break and just blog for a while.

Right now I’m involved in other writing projects including three book signings in the month of August. Book signings can be as taxing as writing, in some ways maybe worse because they require speaking to your loyal audience.  This can bring on a case of nerves as every author is concerned that they might say something which will cause a loyal reader to become a ticked off “I’ll never read that author again.” reader.  Just so you know if you’re worried about these things you have an entire profession in the same boat.

If you need to take a few days or a week break, do it and stop feeling guilty.  Even the most dedicated professionals need a vacation sometimes.  Enjoy your iced tea and then get back to work.

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WATCH THAT SPELLING AND GRAMMAR

July 24, 2015

“Spellchecker” is a wondrous function, but it isn’t infallible. I just finished speaking with an author who asked me to read through a few chapters of a novel-in-progress. Said chapters were riddled with misspellings and grammar errors. “I ran it through spellchecker.” The author told me defensively.

Sometimes I reminded the author, “spellchecker” thinks it knows better than you do. If you happened to switch an “I and E” for instance, “spellchecker” decides you need a different word. There are thousands of stories on the Internet of text messaging switches. If you think you are going to write and depend on the intelligence of “spellchecker” you are in trouble. The obvious reason is that “spellchecker” has no intelligence.

Grammar checker isn’t any better. My grammar checker insists on switching things around to make them wrong. I keep overriding the grammar checker until it gives up. Even though it is a machine, I have more determination than it does.

Nothing will ruin your chances with an agent or an editor like poor spelling and grammar.
Because these elements are the easiest to correct (yes, I know what I just said.) Editors and agents won’t forgive these errors. They might tolerate you renaming your character halfway through you novel, but don’t expect them to forgive the basic errors in spelling and grammar.

If you know your spelling and grammar are horrible, take a course, find a good proofreader, contact an editor, or find a friend who was English major to help you. Don’t expect publishers to tolerate your work in poor condition. Maxwell Perkins, that saintly editor, is dead and I doubt there’s been another editor like him in New York or anywhere else since his death.

ADVANCES, ROYALTIES, AND THE MONEY SIDE

July 17, 2015

A few weeks ago, we touched on this part of a book contract, but it is probably a good idea to visit this subject again.  Your book contract will give you a good idea about your royalties and advances.  If you don’t understand any of this aspect of your contract contact a literary attorney—not your family attorney who may do just great when it comes to drawing up a will but doesn’t understand book contracts any better than you do, so find an attorney who specializes in literary, intellectual property matters.

Read the royalties and advances section of your publishing contract carefully.  If you have a trusted friend who’s been published more than once, that person may be able to help you understand the contract.  Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Advances are just that. They are an advance against royalties.  If you receive a small advance-$2,000 or less.  It may not matter.  If you receive a large advance you are going to have to make  back that money.  If you (or your book) doesn’t earn back your advance, you will be required to pay back that money.  So stick that money in the bank, don’t take a cruise. Sometimes you’re much better off to not get an advance.
  2. Royalties are all over the place. They can range from 5% to 15% and it’s doubtful your publisher will increase the amount.  I’d suggest you find another point to argue about. Remember royalties will not be paid on copies you buy or copies given away for reviews, so direct those inquiries for “give-away” copies to the publisher, or a retailer who is carrying the book.  Let’s face it, the general population fails to realize you’re trying to make money on this book.  You’d be amazed at how many relatives “Love” you and want a free copy. I’ve had people who hated me in high school infer that I should give them a book.
  3. As a rule royalties are paid twice a year in June and December although some publishers will change to April and September. You will be paid for the term ending last June in December.  Yes, I know that means they’ve held your money for a year.  The publisher or I guess I should the publisher’s accountants will hold a chunk of money for what is called “reserve against returns”.   It is sort of legit—I know a publisher who received every single copy, all 600 of them, back from a large distributor about a year and a half after the distributor purchased the books.  The publisher had to refund every single dollar/penny of the payment to the distributor.  This publishing business can  be frustrating.

I HAVE A BOOK SIGNING, NOW WHAT?

July 10, 2015

As I mentioned last blog, sometimes miracles do happen and publishing becomes a reality. Now you can sit back and enjoy the accolades and write another book—Right? Very wrong. Every author will tell you; now the real work begins. I know you think I’m lying and I’m just being an old fuddy-duddy, but I’m not. Most of those pipe dreams are just that. Now you must work to make yourself a success.

Here are the realities:

1. Some publishers, not all, will get a list from you of possible buyers to contact with a postcard about the book. Be sure and get that list to them ASAP. Usually they want this list before the book is released so pre-sales are possible.
2. Some publishers will ask for a list of local bookstores to contact. Get off your duff and personally meet the managers in these bookstores. Introduce yourself and let them know how to contact you if they want you to come in and sign books. They may want to have a book signing later and will need your number. Many bookstores don’t hold a lot of book signings any more because they are extremely work intensive and don’t get great results, so if they don’t, thank them and pray they will call you to come in an autograph the books they purchase. Hint: Usually signed books can’t be returned to the publisher so are a guaranteed sale.
3. DON’T hire a publicist. I’ve done it twice with lousy results both times. Even though I didn’t spend a huge amount of money, I felt it was money poorly spent. So just don’t do it.
4. If by some miracle your publisher assigns you a publicist, thank them profusely and be the best client ever. My latest publisher assigned me a publicist and she’s been working miracles since April. I can’t believe what she has accomplished and I’m thankful every day that she didn’t just work for a month then fade into the vast publishing universe. Be grateful, don’t say no to the possibilities offered, and attend every event they can schedule, and sign, sign, sign those books.
5. Smile and be pleasant. No one wants to contend with a crabby author. I don’t care if you didn’t get enough sleep or your body is racked with pain from the flu. Smile until your upper lip is stuck to your teeth. You may be answering the same question for the fourth or fiftieth time, smile and be pleasant. This is your audience. These folks are paying your salary, give them what they came for. And be grateful everyday that you’ve been published and your career is on track.

P.S. I’m thinking of video blogging my class on writing (for free). If you think you would be interested in several ten to fifteen minute writing videos, please comment on this blog post.

MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN

July 3, 2015

If you are like most writers, you are getting discouraged about now. The dream of getting published is fading to black. Your golden dreams are getting tarnished to that nasty shade of gray (not the one that has 50 Shades.) I’m living proof that miracles do happen and sometimes they happen not once but twice or maybe even three times.

So take heart and sit down for a story. In the early late 1970’s (yes, I am that old.) I wrote a children’s story about a little boy who wanted to fly. It was easy to do; my son was that boy. I shopped the story to several publishers and came up with a big NO. During this time, my family met a cadet at the United States Air Force Academy. The story took a turn. My five-year-old wanted to go to the Academy. I wrote the story, a friend took photos, and I started another round of publishers. Still a round of NO’s and one maybe. Did the Air Force Academy have a tourist pick-up book? No, but they would be interested in one. My first book was born. Along the line I picked up a co-author, not great but tolerable. When the books arrived I nearly did handstands in the freight company parking lot. A lot of bad things happened then which I won’t bore you with, but I ended up buying the book from the publisher and selling every single copy. The United States Air Force Academy asked me to update and rework the book and I sold all of those copies. My author career was on a roll.

I wrote four novels and couldn’t sell any of them until I met a publisher at a National Writers Association Conference and he took a chance on one of them and then took another one. This publisher only wanted to do hardbacks and disappeared as fast as he appeared. Due to my contract and my inability to get in contact with him meant I had to wait seven years before I could find another publisher to print the book in soft cover– that happened last year.

I still have two books to write one started and one in revision. This year a book I was reluctant to write has become one of my biggest success stories and may even result in a book signing at the areas largest bookstore (a miracle in itself.)

This business of writing can be frustrating and discouraging, but if you are patient there’s success at the end of the tunnel and miracles do happen.