Creativity and Business


I always like reading business books and articles to see what else I can learn about business and apply it to my writing.  Sometimes I run across a quote that makes me stop and go, “Wow.”

This one comes from Always In Fashion: From Clerk to CEO — Lessons for Success in Business and in Life: From Clerk to CEO — Lessons for Success in Business and in Life by Mark Weber

Creativity without knowledge and business skills is very limiting.  Learn as much as you can about every aspect of the business and the industry you’re in.

Very appropriate, even for writers. 

And it’s a fascinating book to read.

The Scariness of Going Indie


These last two weeks, I’ve been working on getting a short story ready to publish via indie. The story is called “The Sea Listens,” a contemporary fantasy.

I’ve also spent the last four months saying I was going to go indie and never quite getting going. I know there are people out there who type “The End” on their manuscript and throw the story up immediately, without even proofreading, and expect it to turn into an instant best seller.

Me? I felt like I’m going to screw it up all up.

So I’ve been stuck — procrastinating by writing!

My muse finally rebelled on me over the last month, and put her furry feet down (because she looks like a Golden Retriever). Every story I tried to write, I got stuck.

And I started thinking that I needed to take the first step. Just do one thing, and try to pretend like I wasn’t going to screw the whole thing up.

That first thing became “Pick the first story.” This one was already edited, and it was one of the stories that disappeared when my hard drive crashed.

The cover was simple, but then I’ve done graphics. I just have to be careful not to get lost in looking at all the pretty pictures. The fact that I have a balance of credits helps keep me from going, “Ooh! Shiny!” and downloading all kinds of images. Just the ones I’m going to use.

Woman kneels in water, looking at a glow under the surface

Formatting was a little tricky, and that was just because I worried about getting it right. I know, I know. I can go back and update it if it’s not right.

The blurb was an interesting experience to write (okay, I know I’m weird here). I’ve certainly seen some dreadful examples of them, like where the author just pastes in text from the book or complains about how hard it is. I started with the character, because that’s what readers want to see.

I think it was just hard because I’ve spent most of my life being berated for making mistakes. I’m not detail-oriented, and I can easily miss a typo that jumps out at someone else. Instead of just saying, “Hey, you missed that,” I would get people treating it like I’d committed a mortal sin. I got into the habit of checking things three or four times over, and someone would still find something. It was very frustrating. I even had a boss accuse me of lying because I missed a typo, and I was just going, “Seriously? Why is this worth all this effort?”

It got to the point where I would cringe if I spotted a typo and think, “I should have been more careful. Why didn’t I catch that?” And I would apologize to the person I was doing it for, like I’d done something wrong.

But work’s been helping me shed that. There’s been so much of “make do with less” that I’m finding that a lot of people aren’t checking anything in the effort to push it through. The story’s up, and I’m off to think about what the next one that will go up will be.

Ooh, shiny … I get to look for more covers …

Convention Report: Ravencon 2012


Purple robot is horrifiedLast weekend, I visited my second science fiction convention of the year, Ravencon, which was in North Chesterfield, Virginia.  It was chaos getting out the door and on the road.  I nearly forgot to pack underwear, and I did forget my camera (sorry, no photos.  I promise to be better next time.).

I arrived a day early to explore the area, but didn’t like the location much.  North Chesterfield wasn’t pedestrian or car friendly.  There were lots of restaurants but no easy way to get to them.  No sidewalks!  I visited the Science Museum of Virginia, a hands-on, interactive museum that was a lot of fun.  I hovered in the beach exhibit for a while, and I’m sure people must have wondered why I was scribbling notes, which I could barely read later.

The con started at 3:00 on Friday, and I jumped into three writing workshops: Writing Action Scenes, Building Suspense, and Creating a Timeline.  The organizers were generous with the writers at times — some of the panels had so many writers there wasn’t enough room at the table.  But it was made for a good mix of writers.  We had indie and traditionally published writers, and short story and novel writers, so there was a lot of different perspectives.

In the evening I attended the 2 hour A Different Kind of POV Workshop, which included writing based on a prompt.  That one was a little disappointing — all the writers said omniscient viewpoint isn’t used any more, and then later brought up examples in omniscient.  I dunno — maybe everyone is thinking of the 19th century version of omniscient?

Saturday is the big day of any con.  Ravencon had an astounding sixteen hours of workshops, on seven different tracks.  That was over 100 workshops!  I felt like there wasn’t enough time to take everything in!

First up was What Harry Potter Did Right, a fascinating discussion that delved into the themes of the story.   Other workshops I attended included Self-Publishing 101, Professional Self-Publishing, and Rooting for the Bad Guy.  On social media:  Macroblogging in the Microblogging Era and Self-Promotion and Social Anxiety Disorder.  Hated the title of the last one — it sounded like writers had mental problems — but it was an informative discussion with different perspectives.  Leona Wisoker mentioned how hard it was  for her to just to participate on a panel.

Saturday night must have had a lot of late partying because when I came for the Write What You Know Workshop, there were six writers on the panel and audience of one: Me.  Day (from my critique group), moderator for the workshop, sat in the audience, and Bud Sparhawk hopped into the audience as well to at least look like people were there.  About 2-3 more came in late.  Bud commented that anyone dealing with guns in their books should carry a gun around in their pocket for a while and see how dirty it is. (* Furtively writes information down. *)

Con highlights:

A 12-inch Col Jack O’Neill teddy bear.  Full camouflage uniform, and a Stargate SG-1 badge.

A kid in the con suite making popcorn sandwiches.

A waiter who was shocked at my magazine reading choice.  The gun ad on the back gave it away.  But honestly, how could I pass up articles called “Dealing with Multiple Attackers” and “How to Stop a Gunfight Fast” with a gun and magic fight in my book? (If you’re interested, these are in Shooting Illustrated.)

Attending Ravencon was empowering and exhausting, overwhelming and fun.  I’m looking forward to my next convention!

We’re getting into the season of vacation travel.  What are you planning to do — exotic trips, family visits, or just plain fun stuff like a good con?  I’d love to hear about your coming adventures!

The Best #BookMarketing Tool


As the publishing industry changes, we hear a lot about social media being used to market the writer and his/her book.  But it’s not the primary book marketing tool.  There’s one that’s even more important:

The book itself.

Readers have every right to expect a well-written book, no matter what they pay for it.  Even when it’s free, they’re still choosing to invest time in it.  A good book is going to make the reader want to read another book by the same writer.

AA good book also delivers on the promises it makes.  I’m an action reader, so I always look for books in different genres that might have action,   One of my personal pet peeves is an author who states that his book is an action thriller, but when I read the description of the story, it’s obvious it isn’t.  When I look at the opening pages, it’s obvious it isn’t.

What are your expectations of what a book is supposed to have before you will read it?

 

My Writing Goals


I’m taking an online course from Bob Mayer and Jen Talty called Self-Publishing Options to explore and gain knowledge about whether indie publishing is right for me.   One of the things that we’ve had to do for the course is come up with our strategic goals.  When I worked with a cowriter, we both joked about being goal-less people.  I think some of that comes from being right-brained — there’s so many things to try that are fun that it’s hard to pin down one thing.

Anyway, here are the revised goals I came up with:

Overall strategic goal: I want a comfortable income coming in for my writing. I’d like to make enough money to live off of — I hear that a lot from writers — but I’m focusing on a more realistic goal.

To get to the above goal:

By the end of the year:

Finish Miasma.  I keep getting antsy to finish — it feels like it’s taking forever.  But, from the time I started the write-in after finshing Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel, it’s taken 8 months.

By the end of 2012:

Finish two more (shorter) books by the end of 2012.  That’s a very aggressive goal for me, considering my revisions have measured in years.  But I’ve tried to work very hard on learning the right things that will help cut that time down.  Plus, with indie publishing, I can hit 50-60K instead of battling up to 90K.  If I can do that goal, I’ll have not one but three books.

Get to 1,500 followers on Twitter.  I just popped over 300 now.  I’m not sure if 1,500 is too aggressive or not aggressive enough, so I might change that.

Annually:

Attend 4 science fiction conventions.  I used to go as a fan of TV shows, but stopped because the fans got kind of nutty.  But now I would go as a writer.  There are five in my area during the year, including Marscon (Williamsburg), Mysticon (Roanoke, lllooonnngg drive), Ravencon (Richmond), Shore Leave (Maryland), and  Balticon (guess where that is).

Take 2 writing/promotion classes a year.  It’s always important to keep learning new things.  I have a friend who has been acting for more than fifty years (semi-retired now), who was still taking acting classes.  I’m already ahead on that goal for this year, with 4 classes:

This one is largely based on availability of useful courses within a reasonable price.  I’m considering taking one coming available early next year, but I’m also wary of taking any that just promotes “You must outline” and doesn’t provide something for me.

Do you have any goals?  What are they?

I hope you’ll also drop in on my article “Organizing a Novel When You’re Right-Brained,” in Vision: A Resource for Writers.  I made a lot of discoveries about my organizational processes that turned out to be quite important.

Considering Indie Publishing


Ever since Holly Lisle announced that she was leaving traditional publishing and going indie, I’ve been looking at the possibility of it for me.  Like when I decided to go with omniscient viewpoint, I weighed in on the pros and cons of what might be best for me.

Promotion

A huge con is that one aspect of the promotion would be completely gone.  The publishers have better resources for this, just with things like catalogs to bookstores, ARCs to reviewers, and libraries buying copies (though if it’s my library and a book is in paperback, they aren’t buying it).  However, many publishers are also looking for the writer to do publicity.  Some agents are asking for platform from novelists.

From the indie side, I’d have to do all the publicity and marketing and find a way that would draw people to the book.  A lot of the writers don’t sell anything at all.  But a lot of the writers don’t know how to market either. I’ve been following some writers who are good examples of how not to do it:

  1. Buy My Book:  Honestly, receiving multiple tweets every single day advertising a book is just plain annoying.
  2. Hit and Runs:  This was something I noticed when I did some maintenance on my Twitter account.  I ran a check on who was following me and discovered that about 30 writers were no longer following me.  Several of them had unfollowed me almost immediately after I followed them.  Evidently, they were only subscribing to get followers so they could do #1 but really weren’t interested.

It’s obviously difficult to figure out how to draw people in and be interested in what you’re writing.   I have been doing some experimentation with Miasma, though I’ll admit I’m still figuring out what works for me.  Others have talked about their characters tweeting, but that’s not for me, so I’m trying something different.  I’m using the hashtag #MiasmaNovel — would have liked #Miasma, but that was being used for a video game.

Word Count and Deadlines

A number of years ago, the publishing industry went to longer books to justify a cost increase.  The result is the a book today pretty much has to be in the 90K range.  I always run significantly short, and it’s very hard for me to get the word count to 90K.  It’s one thing to add 5K to a story, but to add 30K, it’s take the book apart and do a major revision and even then, it still may run too short.  If I’m trying to meet a deadline, and I’m too short — well, you get the problem.  On the other hand, indie books don’t have word count requirements.  I might actually be able to produce a lot more books if I didn’t have to spend so much time revising upwards for word count.

On the timelines, publishers are now requiring writers produce a book a year.  As a reader, I’ve seen the problems with this.  I have a number of authors that I used to like to read, but as the pressure to produce annually built up, the stories started not being worth the money I was paying for them.  On the indie side, I’d need to set a deadline for producing a book so I get it done.  My personal deadline is in December for Miasma — no matter what direction I go.

Safety and Risk

Publishers, frankly, don’t like to take risks.  They want a book to stand out and be different, but not something too different.  They want a little risk but not too much — they want to safe.  I’m not a safe writer.  I’d be the one the marketing department would reject because they wouldn’t be able to figure out how to market it.  How do I know this?  From several rounds with the agents and occasional personal comments.  From a market who freaked out because I was taking too much risk — and I didn’t think I was taking all that much risk.  But when the dollar controls what gets selected, the field starts narrowing a lot.  It’s likely we’ll see more of this narrowing in the publishing industry in the future.  It’s already happened with TV, with shows being cancelled after two episodes because the ratings aren’t there.

A change is being forced on the industry.  The question is what will be the outcome?