Tuesday, June 26, 2012

When is Enough?

Now that Release Day for "The Lunch Club" is only two days away I am wondering how much more excitement my friends and family can take. I have Tweeted the news, put it on Facebook and e-mailed everyone on my list. I even had number one son create a book trailer for me and told everyone I knew about it. I can imagine them saying, "Enough already with the book! So you wrote a book--what else is new?"

I know you have to be your own publicist and blow your own horn and all that. But how much is enough?

With my first book, "Angels Unaware," I went all out: ordered business cards and mugs, gave books away to clubs and libraries, and generally did anything I could think of to draw attention to the novel. Although I sold very well locally, I actually barely broke even.

Rookie mistake.

There is a line between acting as your own publicist and becoming an annoying pest that people begin to avoid. I am reminded of the New Yorker cartoon where two men are talking at a cocktail party. One says to the other, "But enough about me. Let me tell you about my book."

I am hoping that the readers who liked "Angels" will be willing to take a chance on its successor without my having to plead with them to buy it. But I do have to let them know it's available.

So--when is enough? Do any of you having trouble walking this fine line? How much horn-blowing can you do before people start covering their ears? 


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Tanya Michaels' Thoughts on the Writing Life

Last week I talked about the three pathways to publication as presented by Trish Milburn at the June meeting of Carolina Romance Writers.

This week I will share what I learned from Tanya Michaels , whose presentation, "Military School for the Unruly Muse," followed Trish's morning workshop and a delicious lunch at Red Rocks Cafe.

Okay, that's enough links, but I hope you will check out each of them.

Tanya juggles a prolific writing career with running a home and caring for her family. She has two young children, so how in the world, we ask, does she find time to write all those award-winning books?

Her advice is to structure your life and follow a schedule. We all know that if you have children, sometimes schedules get thrown out the window. What then?  Well, said Tanya, if you have been reliable in submitting your work to your publisher in the past, they won't quail when you have a genuine excuse for being late. Your reputation will allow you that little bit of slack when times get tough.

You also (and I know we've heard this before, but it bears repeating) need to treat your writing as your job. Let friends and family know you will be at work between certain hours, and then don't pick up the phone or answer your e-mail during that time. If you worked at a bank or taught school, they wouldn't call to chat during working hours, would they?

A writer needs a little nurturing, too. Get away from your desk periodically to read a book, take in a movie or concert and feed your imagination. Take time for on-going classes and workshops to enhance your skills and further your career. Nurture your self-confidence so that "not every snarky contest judge or random Amazon review sends your muse hiding under the bed."

Even if you are a "pantser*" you need to write an outline or synopsis so you know where you are going. This can be one typed page to an Excel spreadsheet to a storyboard filled with photos, quotes and maps. It doesn't matter how elaborate it is, the purpose to to keep you on course so you don't waste time on dead-end plot twists, no matter how enticing.

Tanya recommends honing your senses and using them while writing to bring the reader into your story as they smell, see, hear, feel and taste along with your characters.

Last, Tanya urged us soldier on, no matter how impossible it seems. Instead of throwing up your hands and saying, "I can't," be persistent in writing something and one day you will finish your manuscript. And then you can sit back and say, "I can."

*A pantser is a reference to those brave early pilots who flew without controls, or "by the seat of their pants." This is opposed to a plotter, who has every scene plotted out before she sits down to write the first line of the first  chapter.

Check out the July workshop at CRW. We welcome guests!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Three Paths to Publication

Our power provider sent a crew over this morning to trim the trees in our back yard. While doing this, they asked if we wanted them to remove some dead branches that have been hanging menacingly since the last big storm. We said yes, because who wants to walk around the back yard with the threat of a huge limb falling on your head? 

I could segue this observation into a metaphor on trimming dead wood from your manuscript in order to save it, but I had other plans.

I attended a wonderful workshop at the Carolinas Romance Writers in Charlotte last Saturday. Trish Milburn talked about not putting all your literary eggs in one basket. No, she didn't mean you should write novels, poetry and op ed pieces in the local newspaper in order to increase your chances of publication. Nor did she tell us we needed to write in several different genres, although that has worked well for others.

Trish was comparing the three tracks of publishing: large (read New York) publishers, small independent publishers and self-publishing.

With a large publisher, an author gets the prestige, professional editing, cover art and promotion with distribution to book stores, book clubs and all the perks one could want. There's also an advance, and who doesn't like money up front? The catch is, it's very difficult to get on with a big publisher if you are an unknown or are writing something that doesn't blend in with the current trends.

I read an article lately describing how an author deliberately submitted a best selling novel to the big houses and was rejected every time--even by the house that had originally published the book. He was told that his writing had certain resemblances to the authentic author, but wasn't something they could take a chance on.

That's how hard it is.

It isn't easy to get accepted by a small publishing house, but it is doable if you believe in yourself enough to be persistent and keep sending out that query letter. With a smaller house, you have more imput in cover design and they will put more effort in promoting a niche book than the big houses will. It also doesn't take as long from acceptance to holding the book in your hand.

But--you are less likely to see your book in a bookstore window display. This is a drawback, because authors are still being discovered by people browsing the shelves and thumbing through books with a cover that screams, "Open me!" 

In self-publishing, you do have complete control of your book--and all the responsibility. Trish recommended spending the money for a professional editor and professional cover design. Your book should be comparable in quality to a book released by Random House or Simon and Schuster. Because, guess what? If a reader buys a sloppily plotted and edited book, she will never buy a book written by that author again.

I've been delighted with my small, independent publisher, Draumr Publishing. They published "Angels Unaware" in the summer of 2010, and "The Lunch Club" will be released June 30 of this year.

If that isn't a definition of a dream come true, I don't know what is.