Thursday, March 31, 2005

You and Them

Like schizophrenic patients, creative individuals often report odd sensory and perceptual experiences, feelings of restlessness and the inclination towards impulsive outbursts in association with rejection of common social values. -- Antonio Preti and Paola Miotto, Creativity, Evolution and Mental Illnesses

Writers are all a little crazy. Or, at least, that was my impression when I met the first bunch of them six years ago. I made my assumptions based on the behavior of a small insulated group, which was so at odds with my expectations of what other writers would be like that it rocked my little boat. Like that iceberg did the Titanic.

One of my parlor tricks is the way I identify, track and analyze patterns. If numbers didn't bore me to tears, I'd probably be working on Wall Street. But patterns of anything other than numbers -- colors, lines, shapes, sounds, values, actions, etc. -- fascinate me. This is why I have to keep any and all patterns out from my visual field when I'm working, or my attention strays.

That personal quirk was the only thing that kept me from telling Alfred to weld all the access doors shut after meeting my peers. I couldn't see enough of the pattern to make an intelligent analysis. That and eventually meeting another writer who surpassed my expectations, was definitely sane, and whose life experiences were almost identical to mine (because hey, I'm not crazy.) She genuinely screwed up my baseline.

I've learned some things from observing other writers and their group behavior, the most important being the mechanics of self-esteem versus peer ranking. To some degree, all writers want to be regarded as unique, and so they behave as to reinforce their individuality. With apologies to the sensibilities the following statement will outrage, that's a very predictable pattern of behavior among writers. Writers also want to be accepted, admired and/or emulated, thus they gravitate toward groups and competitions which they believe will provide those ego reinforcements. That's another fairly common pattern. Success in publishing largely depends on success with one of these patterns.

Yet with very few exceptions, these two patterns are completely incompatible, which is why I think so many writers are miserable. Have cake or eat it, but not both.

Groups appear powerful. They extend a sense of well-being via tribal acceptance. With it, they offer little opportunity for the majority to achieve success within their structures. You can try, but unless you have the charisma of a natural leader, chances are you'll end up feeling frustrated and rejected. The best you can hope for is acceptance and a few small benefits. It's also good to remember that if you're contemplating joining any group, you won't be rewarded for creativity, only for conformity.

Focusing on your individuality, on the other hand, reinforces the writer's creative foundations. It frees you from the restraints brought on by group expectations and their conformity strait-jacket. Yes, it's lonely, and that's the price you pay, just as the group-joiners sacrifice their individuality in return for the benefits of the group.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Nicely Done

What Waldenbooks does when they get behind your novel. This went out to every reader who subscribes to Waldenbooks's Romance Readers at Home list.

Here is the letter I wrote for their buyer, and there's a $1 off coupon, too. My mother, the World's Greatest Coupon-Clipper, is going to love this.

Both Sides and Neither

Alison has this and another post rolling over at her weblog, based on Shannon Stacey's interesting column about erotica versus inspiration romance award issues. Pointless censorship and second-classing writers in a minority were the reasons I quit RWA, so I'm not surprised to see that it's still happening.

Because I write both inspirational fiction and moderately erotic romance novels, some people have e-mailed and asked me to comment. I am not a member of RWA, nor do I support its awards system, so it's not my fight. I'm a Christian who likes any sort of romance, and the day God tells me which books I can or cannot read is the day I become a Buddhist.

It's funny what offends people, though -- or maybe I'm wired backward. Example: I've been reading more erotica novels lately, because they're the next big thing on the market, and I do regular market research to keep up with what's hot. Collectively the erotica being published is intelligent, fun and more imaginative than I had expected. I haven't found any of the books offensive and I'll definitely be reading more of it.

Keeping that in mind, I recently tried out a Christian chick-lit novel, one that was supposed to be funny and wonderful. It tried to be, but the author's hatred for persons of different beliefs was constantly in my face, killing the fun. Her attitude was basically If you don't believe in Jesus, I can't like you, because you're going to Hell. Now, my faith directs me to accept and love other people whether they're Christians or not, so I found the message in this book deeply offensive. I won't read this author again, and if the rest of Christian chick-lit is like this, I doubt I'll be reading any more.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

FYI

In case anyone wants to trash me on the Bling-Bling post, please remember that I am not a leftist girly-man. I am, among many other things, a writer of science fiction, a heterosexual, a female, a veteran of the United States Air Force, and a hermit pacifist who leans neither to the right or the left. With romance and Christian cooties.

Just keep the credentials straight.

Bling-Bling

I do believe that Tangent editor Dave Truesdale just called today's SF writers a bunch of leftist girly-men. I'd say that solves the mystery of who elected the guy who thinks girls are too stupid to write SF to judge the Nebs.

There are some problems with Dave's theory, though. I wouldn't call Nick carefully coiffed or lacking in imagination. I seriously doubt Tobias's nails are all that manicured or go bling-blinging in the sunlight. Also, if you think that men who write SF with deep feelings are all faggots, you really shouldn't dress it up with moronic euphemisms like metrosexual. Remember, you're a manly man, you can use the eff word when condescending to anyone who threatens the foundation of your masculinity. No matter how thin or shaky that foundation is.

I do understand why Dave feels threatened, though. Norman is getting a little long in the tooth. All those freaking Euro writers just hijacked the Hugo noms away from America this year. And they made McCaffrey a grandmaster. JM&J, next thing you know another romance writer will slip in the back door and have more of that trash shelved next to the Holy Scripture of Heinlein.

Anyway, Dave, perhaps you and all the other hysterical homophobes conservative right SF lovers should make some sort of formal declaration. Say SF -- all SF -- may only be written by real manly men, like this piece of work. Then you and Orson and Beale can go out drinking and beat up a couple of male hairdressers. Sound good?

Monday, March 28, 2005

Consolation Ten

Ten Things for Certain Industry Award Non-Finalists

1. So you're not politically correct enough to sway an anal, uptight, anti-[insert subgenre] judge. Personally? I like you already.

2. You won't have that stupid award-winner sunburst ruining your cover art.

3. You can take the next contest entry fee and instead use it to mail submissions to agents and publishers who will actually get your book into print.

4. You don't have to attend the big awards luncheon, where you know they'll sit you at the table with Born Again Barbie and her posse, The Sisters of the Immaculate Love Scene.

5. You're out fifty bucks, but that wonderful writer organization of yours is $50,000.00 richer now. Think of the countless amazing things they're going to do for you and your career with all that money.

5a. Okay, that was mean. Sorry.

6. Take all your depression/outrage/disappointment over being rejected, channel into your work, and write a bestseller. Don't laugh, that's what I did.

7. You're allowed to eat as much chocolate or other comfort food as you want for the next week. Anyone bitches, send them to me.

8. In this industry, terrific read and award-winning novel are rarely synonyms.

9. That which hurts us either destroys us, or pisses us off and drives us to write great books. Take your pick.

10. You won't have to collect the plaque. This means you also won't have to have your good suits cleaned, buy matching shoes that don't have scratched heels, have your hair cut, take vacation time from work, board the pets, leave your kids with your weirdest relative, fly across the country sitting next to Bob the Alcoholic Obese Marital Aid Salesman, who thinks you're the spitting image of Air Force Amy. You won't stay in a lousy hotel where you'll spend 99% of your time waiting for an overcrowded elevator, or trying not to throttle the chatty chapter friend/roommate whom you discover drinks like a dock worker, snores like a steam whistle, leaves her skid-marked underwear wherever they drop and is highly allergic to every cosmetic and perfume you own. Additionally, you won't have to eat mystery chicken entrees, limp from blisters inflicted by your new shoes, hate your new hair-from-hell cut, pay $20 for pantyhose from the gift shop because all the ones you brought have mysteriously acquired three-inch runs, and then return home to spend a week in bed with the flu while your kids regale you with tales of setting off firecrackers in Weird Relative's garage next to piles of oil-soaked rags and pyramids of partially-filled gas cans. Nor will your finances drop fifteen hundred dollars deeper in debt while you try to pay for all of the above and therapy for the kids. Work for you?

Friday, March 25, 2005

Off

To paraphrase Michael Kelly*, I'm going to retire to my ivory tower of books, music and objets d'art for the weekend, correct some galleys, finish a revision and make a deadline bite dust.

I'll be back Monday or thereabouts. Have a good weekend.

*I'm pretty sure we're not related

Out There

Originally the release date for If Angels Burn was scheduled for March, then the publisher changed it to April. My editor is presently on maternity leave, but as far as I know, the lay-down date for IAB is still somewhere between April 5th to April 28th.

Friends have advised me B&N.com is shipping pre-orders, as of yesterday, so we're back to March, and it's out. Online, anyway. Isn't this fun?

To prevent folks from paying extra for counterfeits on eBay, I will be signing exactly three copies of the final edition of IAB. I kind of doubt my mom, my best friend or Anne Rice will put them up for bid. And while it's more fun to think I'm too snotty to sign things, a bad flare-up of my arthritis is the reason I can't hold a pen for longer than thirty seconds without pain at present. I'm using Dragon to type most of the time now. I see the bone doc next week to get an idea of where I'm at with the hands.

Health

Although I suffer frequently from Writer's Forehead, my symptoms eased quite a bit while reading Michael Logan's Ten Health Risks Every Writer Should Know About.

On the serious side of writer health issues, here are some links to check out on Carpal Tunnel Syndrome exercises, Desk Exercises, Hand and Wrist exercises, and Shoulder Strengthening exercises (.pdf file).

I also liked reading Power, Compassion and Generosity, An interview with Carolyn Myss, Ph.D. by Ravi Dykema. Dr. Myss and I share a lot of the same opinions, so I'm probably a bit biased on this one.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Breather

Self-employment does have its moments. Like yesterday morning, when I ditched work and instead spent the day with my kids.

We went to the science center and made waves, tornados and electricity. We admired a five-foot boa up close and learned from its handler that scattering crumbled moth balls might convince the wild snakes from the woods behind our house to stay out of the garage and away from the road. We decided ant colony tunnels, replicated in pewter, are the coolest things we've never seen before.

Then there was the cosmic scale, which instantly calculates your weight on other planets. After discovering how much I'd weigh on Jupiter? I'm never leaving Earth.

We bought geode nodules to crack open with a hammer, an insect-eating plant, and complicated math tshirts. We dodged five-year-olds running with ice cream bars, and held doors open for their exasperated grandmothers. We skipped the educational movie and went to stand in the glass corridor walkway to the parking garage so we could watch the rain.

We talked about light refracting through a damp atmosphere, why fire-belly frogs are two-toned and the reasons a tarantula probably wouldn't make a great pet.

We were total geeks. We had a blast.

Everyone works for something. Paying the bills is nice, but hopefully it's more than that. My kids, their future, and days like this one are what keeps me trundling along.

What's your reason for working your ass off today?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

See It

Visualization therapy, aka guided imagery, is a technique in which the power of positive thinking and personal desire combine to promote right-hemisphere brain activity. Which is fancy holistic terminology for what we called daydreaming or wishful thinking when I was a kid.

Writers are natural dream machines -- we couldn't write books if we didn't visualize all these nonexistent people, places and things -- but those visions are generally restricted to the creation of the work. When it comes to career planning and novel marketing -- the icky parts of the job -- the writer's imagination factory seems to instantly shut down.

Given the power of our dream machines? That's idiotic.

If you can figure out how to use non-existent science to colonize an alien-infested Mars, find Colonel Ketchup's killer among the gentry inhabiting a remote Devonshire mansion, marry a restless bachelor with a tragic past to an angsty widow with bill problems, or ride hungry dragons through spell-pulverizing witch storms, you can certainly create a marketing vision. No, it won't be as much fun, but it's only your future.

Speaking of the future, what do you want in it? Here are some of the things other writers have told me that they most desire, in no particular order:

Money
Fame
Critical Acclaim
Awards
Travel to Exotic Locations
Hang out with friends at cons
Lifetime Writing Career
Having movies made from the book
NYT Bestseller List
To write great literature

If you're a writer, you've probably imagined a future in which you had some or all of the above things, just as you've imagined winning the lottery as you bought a lottery ticket. But while winning the lottery is pure chance, a writer's goals are not. You can have some, or possibly all, of the above list.

Today's marketing assignment is to decide what you want. Crank up the dream machine and make two lists: My Short Term Goals for what you want to accomplish with your writing career over the next year, and My Long Term Goals for what you want to accomplish with your writing career over the next ten years. Remember, you're dreaming, so we're not going to hold you to whatever you put on the list. You only have to see it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Sub Op

Natasha Panza at Tor Romance is looking for chick lit submissions. Details can be had from a .pdf file available for download here. (Link via Anna Louise's LJ)

Living Will

Everyone is commenting on the Terry Schiavo case this morning. Rather than join in with my own opinion, I'd like to ask everyone reading this who does not currently have a health care proxy (aka a living will) to get one made out and notarized as soon as possible.

Here are some specific measures of artificial life support that you should decide whether or not you wish to be instituted under such conditions when you are unable to provide express and informed consent:

1. Electrical or mechanical resuscitation of your heart when it has stopped beating and your condition is hopeless.

2. Nasogastric or gastronomy tube feedings, or abdominal gastric feedings when you are paralyzed and no longer able to swallow.

3. Mechanical respiration when your brain can no longer sustain your own breathing.

4. Blood transfusions when termination of life is inevitable.

5. All medications except pain medications.

If you're nervous about making your own health care proxy, the average cost of having an attorney prepare one is around $150.00. An attorney can also file your proxy with the county and advise you on any debatable points.

Ignorance, Harmony and Great Things

Let's pretend for a moment that no marketing at all exists for books. Considering the state of the industry, and the types of marketing which most writers pursue, it's not really a stretch.

Let's also imagine that you're hired to be in charge of the very first book marketing division. You go to a meeting with all the senior executive publishers in New York to present your ideas and secure a budget to market books by all the authors in the world.

What would you recommend as an effective means of marketing? Bookmarks? Postcards? Widgets? Are you going to propose that John Grisham hand out gavel-shaped plastic bookmarks with READ MY LATEST!!! printed in hot pink lettering?

Of course not. Right. So, uh, why are you doing them for your own novel again?

Our ignorance is not so vast as our failure to use what we know. - M.K. Huber

John Grisham can probably afford to have his widgets made from 18K gold, but you can't. But who is buying all the widgets? Here's a hint: Not John.

Just as there is no secret handshake that gets you published, there is no single gimmick, widget, or marketing ploy that will turn your novel into a bestseller. There are very few that will actually do anything at all for your novel.

Before we get into the hardware, let's talk about the finances. Many pros I've met have spent ten thousand dollars a year on marketing for a novel that earned them a three thousand dollar advance. Some have done it for more than one novel. Not one who did ever made it out of the midlist. Some didn't even make the midlist.

$3,000.00 - $10,000.00 = ($7,000.00) Who wants to go to work for this kind of salary annually? I'll hire you to be my secretary. Anyone?

Throwing money at a book does not make it a bestseller. You can't buy your way to the top.

You don't get harmony when everyone sings the same note. - Doug Floyd

As far as marketing methods go, rookie pros generally emulate what established authors do, probably because of the fear factor. That first year spent in "God Don't Let Me Screw This Up" mode makes one prone to doing whatever is suggested.

Established pros are doing what they were taught by their predecessors, as did those who came before them and so on. What surprised me when I got into the game was that no one questioned it.

Here's what I was told to do when I joined one writer's organization: go to as many writer cons as possible, definitely go to the national con, put up a homemade web site, do the bookmark/postcard/widget/booksigning thing, take out an ad in the big industry trade mag and maybe one in the organization's private mag if there's any money left. I was given a handout by one author with all the contact points.

I did what I could afford, which was about 25% of what was on the list. But it didn't take more than six months before I saw that it wasn't going to work for me. From then on I did what I wanted to do, which in most cases was the exact opposite of what every other pro was doing.

The usual industry marketing ploys may be well-suited to you. You may be a very attractive person who can lure people to a signing table with a single glance. You might have a speech so compelling as to send any book buyer within hearing range to rush to the shelves. No one made me the expert on widgets, either; perhaps yours is so wonderful that it will instantly sell ten thousand copies of your novel.

On the other hand, if they're not, why follow the herd stampeding to the Widget-O-Rama?

All great things are done for their own sake. - Robert Frost

After I gave up on the widgets, I focused on my strengths and did what I loved doing: I stayed home and pitched, sold and wrote books. Other than my low-cost web site and no-cost weblog, I left the marketing in the hands of the publishers.

The result was that I sold thirty more novels, and while I have no widgets or con badges to show off, my income has doubled every year since. The next step I had planned required a lot of money, so I methodically set aside part of that income and waited for the right opportunity to come along. It took years, but when it did I had plenty of money saved to do it exactly the way I wanted, and I had a blast doing it.

When you go to formulate your own marketing plan, ask yourself these questions: What are my strengths as a person and a writer? How can I use them to market my novel?

Monday, March 21, 2005

Plan Ten

Marketing, or the means by which we promote, sell and distribute a product or service, is a part of daily life. Love it or hate it, it is the heartbeat of any capitalist endeavor.

Ten Things for Marketing & Planning

1. Steve Baba's How to Write Business Plans

2. Tim Berry's A Standard Business Plan Outline

3. Forest J. Handford's Marketing Plan for Time-Keepers

4. Alan Jacobson's Sink or Swim: It's all in the Marketing

5. Carolyn Jewel's What You Should Do to Sell Your Novel to Readers

6. Judy Justice's The Novelist Goes To Market: Developing Your Marketing Plan

7. Marketing: What it means to your business

8. Monica Poling's The Five Most Common Marketing Mistakes New Authors Make

9. MoreBusiness.com's Sample Marketing Plan

10. SBA's Example Marketing Plan

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Clueless

Someone asked who was the first entry in my Authors Behaving Badly file. As it happens, I am. I created the file to teach myself what not to do along the pro road, and started with my first big mistake, so I would never forget it.

It happened during the first national industry conference I attended. I had been invited to one of those exclusive Big Important Private parties that only the top bestselling authors go to. I personally hadn't been invited -- my first book had barely hit the shelves -- but a BSL author who had an invitation kindly asked me along as a guest.

Before I went, I mentioned the invite to another writer who had been getting friendly with me. The writer congratulated me and told me this was my big opportunity. All I had to do was make sure everyone I was introduced to got the right impression. The writer gave me very specific instructions.

Before I get to the embarrassing part, let me admit that initially I was a bit suspicious. I've worked rooms when I was in the corporate world, and the instructions seemed overly-pushy. Then again, what did I know about how this publishing stuff worked?

I was so clueless that year. I should have been arrested for sheer stupidity.

Unhappily the Publishing Cops never showed up, so I got dressed in my nicest party dress, slapped on as much makeup as I could stand and went to the Big Important Private Party. I was introduced to many famous writers, editors and publishers. I shook hands and smiled. Then I followed those very specific instructions and gave them all bookmarks for my first novel. Although they were only homemade and a little bent from being in my purse, I handed them out like they were Havana cigars.

I can't remember how many I passed out -- Roberta Gellis was one of my victims -- but it was at least twenty before I saw that no one else was doing it and stopped. Too late. Everyone was looking at me like I was from another planet. The Planet of Deplorable Taste. Including Louise Burke, who was at the time top gun at Penguin Putnam. I think I nailed her with a bookmark, too.

The author who invited me as a guest waited until we had left the party and were alone before telling me how tacky my promo-ing had been. Aside from that gentle reproval, no one ever said a word, harsh or otherwise, to me about it, and likely dismissed it as the usual dingbat rookie behavior.

As for the person who set me up? I didn't have a confrontation or try to get even. I took the faith and dignity route, turned the other cheek and pretended like nothing had happened. I wanted to learn from it, though, so when I came home from that conference, I started the ABB file with my own story.

You move on. Recently another writer asked me for advice on how to navigate through the first season in hell. My first impulse was to go all X-Files and say Trust No One but you can't do that. Maybe the best advice is to Trust your instincts. If I'd paid more attention to mine, I'd have saved myself this story and a couple of others.

Market Op

LA Stories written by Latinos -- Author Daniel A. Olivas has a call for submissions on his News page (about halfway down the page). Deadline is September 1, 2005 and electronic submissions are acceptable; see the listing for more details.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

More Fun

Seeing your name on the cover of a book not enough? Amaztype makes your covers into your name. (Link via Edward Willett)

To Plan or Not to Plan

One of the legacies of my time in the service is that I do nothing without a plan. Also, I'm an obsessive-compulsive organizer, so I enjoy planning probably as much as Joely Sue loves to cross-stitch.

Yet before I get into anymore marketing stuff -- and it's in the works -- take a look at what Tam says about the most important marketing tool of all. She's right, too. On every writer's business plan, the #1 item should be story. It's the center of publishing; without it our universe collapses.

As to whether a writer should deal with marketing or not, I think it's up to the individual. It's been my experience that a certain amount of targeted, unique marketing by an author sells a lot of books. It's been my observation that 90% of the marketing which most authors presently engage in actually does little to nothing for their books. Your mileage may vary.

Fun

Let's have some fun today and play with some of the writing generators out there:

Seventh Sanctum's Villanous Plot Generator -- Your wonderful plan: build an invisibility suit, enabling you to manipulate the stock markets, easily allowing you to create an evil temple, which sets the stage to sieze control of a horde of mutant bugs, which will slake your dark need for power!

Didn't Harry Potter like kill this guy?

Joel Hefner's The Story Starter -- The deaf reporter threw a feather at the witch house for the lawyer.

If the reporter is gay, Peter Straub already wrote it.

The Lifetime Movie Plot Generator -- Connie Selleca and Ken Olin star in "She Was Forgotten", the true story of a woman who battles her addiction to prescription painkillers. Despite her misdiagnosed illness, with the help of alternative medicine she eventually finds the courage to escape her abusive marriage.

This is why you people watch television. Hokay.

Brian Stokes's Random Log Line Generator -- A ne'er-do-well activist, an anachronistic painter, and a bolemic race car driver plot to kill a manager in a massage parlor.

Only if Ed Harris can play the painter.

Make Your Own Evil Plan -- a bit complicated; yada yada yada for three paragraphs and then "Trust us, it'll all come together in the end."

Oh, sure. That's what they told me in Lamaze, along with "breathing will help with the pain." And they lied. All the breathing helped with was the cursing and screaming.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Pride & Publishing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a publisher in possession of a large house must be in want of a writer.

I'm channeling Jane Austen this morning because the marriage mart story from her novel Pride and Prejudice is an excellent analogy for the people and processes in the publishing industry. Maybe it was all the P's that brought it to mind.

Consider that most writers are the Bennet sisters, with little but our charms to recommend us.

We all know Jane Bennet writers, who are beautiful artists. They're in love with the craft and are incapable of saying a bad word about it. They're inevitably talented and the beauty comes through in their work. We admire the Janes, even if we do sometimes want to shake them until their teeth rattle.

Then there are the Mary Bennet writers. You know, the rule makers, busy dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's, grimly determined to do Right and Proper. So uptight about the craft that they could swallow a lump of coal and pass a diamond.

Kitty Bennet writers suffer for their art: I Agonize Over Everything Therefore I am a Great Artist. They're forever petulant and whining because they think it makes them legit.

The Lydia Bennets are easy to spot because they angle to be the center of attention. They believe being a writer should be nonstop fun, glam, all play, no work. They don't care, don't listen and careen about demanding a good time and throwing tantrums when they don't get one.

If you're not a Jane, and you want to make it in the industry, you could do worse than emulate Lizzie Bennet. Having a sense of humor never hurts. Neither does being realistic. Holding out for the real deal versus settling what you can get is never a bad thing.

If writers are the Bennet sisters, then naturally publishers are the Mr. Collinses, Mr. Bingleys, Mr. Wickhams and Mr. Darcys. Publication is a dance. If you want to waltz with them, you'd better put on your finest and wrangle an invitation to the ball. Looking good might catch their attention, but remember, you only have your charms to recommend you.

Mr. Collins publishers will get you into print, all right, but you may not like what you have to put up with in the process. If you're a Charlotte Lucas, maybe you can deal with it. The Mr. Wickhams will con you, use you and toss you aside the second you don't serve their purpose. The Mr. Bingleys are nice, solid publishers who will give you a comfortable career.

If we're going to be honest, though, we all want a shot at Mr. Darcy.

The Mr. Darcy publishers are as elusive as they are affluent. They generally behave as if you're beneath their notice. They might offend you to the point of vowing never to dance with them. But if you keep showing up at the assemblies and balls, something you do may intrigue the Mr. Darcy publisher. He may start to see your better qualities. He may casually ask you to dance. (Whatever he's done to insult you, this is not the time to tell him to piss off. This is when you politely say I thank you yes.)

Whatever Bennet you are as a writer, in publishing none of us ever get to marry Mr. Darcy and go live at Pemberly. It's a new dance every time you pitch an idea, write a novel and/or see it published. There are a thousand other prospective partners at the dance, hoping and actively trying to catch Mr. Darcy's eye.

Hopefully all of the above doesn't make me sound like Miss Bingley or Mrs. Hearst. I'd much rather be your Aunt Gardner.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Propaganda

The Gods of Cover Art smiled on me today.

This one will be out in December.

Got Book?

First time I went to a major writer convention, I saw piles of free books -- literally hundreds -- in the goodie room. I asked the writer who was showing me around why the books were being given away. Publishers send them to promote the books is what she told me.

It didn't make sense to me then, and it still doesn't. While we writers are great readers, and we appreciate free anything, we're busy trying to sell and promote our own books. You authors, think about it -- out of the dozens of free books (and bookmarks, and pens, and other promo bits) that we've been given at writer conventions, how many of the corresponding authors' books have you bought?

Marketing writers to writers isn't the answer. We need readers. Preferably new readers, or consumers who presently don't buy books on a regular basis. Unfortunately these people aren't coming to where the books are, so maybe it's time we take the books to them.

My first year as a pro, I took signed copies of my book down to the local ER. Not for promo purposes; some of my nurse and doctor friends worked graveyard shift and couldn't make my booksigning. I brought extra copies so no one else working that shift would feel left out. A month later, most of the trauma staff -- about a hundred people -- had either borrowed the book or had gone out to buy it. A bunch of them e-mailed asking me when the next one would be released.

Give away a book, and you may get a reader in return.

What if publishers took the books they usually dump at one major writer convention and instead put them somewhere else? How about a cruise ship? Complimentary free book in every cabin or next to every deck chair. Think about it: a captive audience, a nice little gift for them. Books do go so great with tanning on deck or relaxing in the cabin. Would be a brilliant way to market almost any title.

Next time you're on a plane, would you like a free book instead of that microscopic pack of honey-roasted peanuts? Or on the commuter train, so you don't have to count telephone poles or wonder what that strange-colored smear on the window is.

Too large scale? Think of all the magazines you've read in your dentist's office. I like Field and Stream and Highlights well enough, but I'd much rather read a book, preferably something to take my mind off the imminent drilling. I've always got a novel in my purse, but most people don't think of bringing one.

Yes, there would be some creative research and application involved. Change does requires some effort. As for investment, publishers already give away thousands of freebies every month, so the books are out there. They're just going to the wrong people and places.

Still don't think it would work? It already has. The Gideons did it with the Bible.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

S'okay

Editor called this morning to talk about a manuscript I just sent in. It's our first time working together, so I started pacing the office floor, sweating and waiting for the worst. Imagining the worst as the editor was talking to me went something like this:

Editor really liked the book
Sure you did. Stop being nice to me and yell.
and has two minor questions
Like Why are you a published author and Can you get a day job?
but is sending the manuscript
to another editor so she can get a big laugh
to copy-edit.
and everyone will . . . what?

From this point it becomes a conversation:

"Really, the book is terrific."
"What about this?"
"That's fine."
"And this? Did I drop the ball with this?"
"You didn't drop the ball with that."
"But -- what about the blah? And the hooey?"
"Both were excellent. I couldn't put it down."

I continued to grill the editor for another fifteen minutes, but she wouldn't budge. My heart rate dropped to semi-normal as we wound up the conversation and I made some suggestions for the back pages. Then I hung up the phone and collapsed in a nearby chair.

The man, who was working at home this morning, came over. "What was that all about?"

"Revisions." I covered my face with my hands. "She didn't want any."

"S'okay." He patted my shoulder. "Just pitch her something else, honey."

Eeeeee Ten

Ten Things We Really Don't Want to Know About You:

1. The temperature of the tip of your penis.

Lord. Put on some pants.

2. Explicit details on how you have sex with [insert choice of partner, device or appendage].

Does your mother read this weblog?

3. That you have consumed anything still alive and wriggling when it went in your mouth.

Sorry, gross, and you're making us worry about your pet hamster.

4. Body functions that you feel are unique and absorbing.

Guess what? They're not.

5. The extremely dangerous stunt you pulled with your helpless three-year-old in tow.

Next time, get a babysitter, then go try to maim yourself.

6. Your indepth analysis of why major publishers are collectively souless, brainless assembly lines that have no integrity and are therefore unworthy of your novel.

Yeah, that ought to shame them into making an offer.

7. The time you played proctologist for your pet, including pics.

All right, that does it. Back away from the hamster. Right now.

8. The horrible time you had at the con, with lots of details on the disgusting virus you picked up there.

And yet, you're going to twelve more this year. How stoic of you.

9. Your explanation as to why the Book of Your Heart should not have been rejected seventy-three times.

Uh-huh. Write something else already.

10. How much you enjoyed the time(s)your hubby beat the crap out of you.

Funny, but you all never mentioned it when I used to transport you to the emergency room.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Contagious

While doing some research on marketing and promotion, I ran into a phrase I'd never heard before: viral marketing. Sounds like something your Norton should quarantine, but it's actually the fancy marketing way of saying word of mouth.

I did a little more digging, and turned up this article about viral marketing by Chris Yeh, a marketing consultant who has a great sense of humor and obviously knows what he's talking about. His three principals of viral marketing can easily be adapted to the publishing industry, as follows:

Was the book good for you?

If you want people to promote a novel by word of mouth, you have to give them a book worthy of their effort. We don't talk about safe, competent, nice, adequate books. We talk about the books that move us and shake us. Will your book do that?

You can't make a bestseller out of a bomb.

If a book hasn't got power, it's going to fizzle. The author might be able to con a few industry pals into giving great quotes, glowing reviews, and noms for important awards, but that only gets you so far. We've all seen uber-hyped books that died on the shelf because the author didn't deliver the goods. There are authors who get plenty of publisher support that their work doesn't merit -- show me an industry where that doesn't happen, and I'll go work there -- but in the end, story is what decides who makes the millions.

Do Unto Others' Books, etc.

Writers are at the base of the Great Publishing Pyramid. We're the ones who make it possible, so in a way it's built on our backs. You know what lightens the burden? Helping another writer deal with their book. I don't mean reciprocal linkage or swapping bookmarks at yet another con. Help for someone you don't know. If you find a book out there and you love the work, whether you know the author or not, help promote it. If you find some writing wisdom or marketing strategy that works for you, share the info freely on your weblog. Not everyone will help you back -- in fact, most probably won't -- but it's not about what you get out of it. It's about what you give.

Chris Yeh has a whole archive of articles online here if you want to check out more of his work.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Logical

Katherine Derbyshire has a thought-provoking post over on her weblog about turning print losses into e-book profits.

I just bought an e-book last week, and I do buy them regularly, although I print them out on paper because I have way too much screen time already with work. If e-book readers could be made to be as easy on the eyes as print books; that's really my only issue with them.

Show Me Ten

I learned how to write books via the Library Card method: I went to the library, selected twenty or thirty novels at random, took them home and read them. Still do. I don't know how many books I've read so far, but figure one trip per week X thirty years = 31,200 - 46,800 novels read.

Learning by example allows you to choose what works for you and discard what doesn't, something you can't do with more traditional educational methods. It also requires you to hunt down the examples and analyze them, but most writers are intensely interested in every aspect of the craft, so not like it's a hardship.

Ten Things for Learn-By-Example Writers

1. Meredith Bond's How to Write a Character-Based Synopsis -- Meredith breaks down her own synopsis in the article.

2. Kathy Carmichael's Articles page -- Kathy's Synopsis workshop has examples from her work and others; also the very first pitch generator I've ever seen anywhere.

3. Charlotte Dillon's Resources for Romance Writers -- Charlotte has samples of her work all over the place here.

4. Lisa Gardner's Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis

5. Lee Goldberg's Sample Scripts -- Lee shows you actual scripts he's written for the screen

6. Kristi Holl's Mystery Writing Lessons

7. Alex Keegan's Writing a Query Letter that Sells

8. Chapter 1 of Nancy Kress's Dynamic Characters

9. Holly Lisle's site has tons of examples to follow, but my personal favorite is Revising Vincalis.

10. PBW -- Practicing what I preach, today I uploaded three synopses of books I have in print (note: These were the initial pitches that sold, so the final products are all a little different.) Click here for an inspirational fiction synopsis, here for a romantic suspense synopsis, and here for a SF synopsis.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

PCM

When I first met another person who wrote books for money (circa 1998) he introduced himself as an author. First thing out of his mouth, too: "Hi, I'm author John Smith."

A week later, I had to introduce myself to a critique group I'd joined through an ad at the library (not something I recommend, btw) so I said I was an author. After learning my first book had yet to be released, a lady in the group gently corrected me: "You're not an author, dear, until you actually have a book in print. Refer to yourself as a writer."

That was my first run-in with the Word Police. Interesting side note: they actually kicked me out of the group when they discovered that I wrote SF. Official Reason: none of them wrote it, read it, or understood it. Nothing to do with the fact that I was the only writer in the group who had sold anything, of course.

I thought it was like a rule or something, and referred to myself a writer until my first writer conference, at which I was introduced as an author. Which confused me, and I tried to correct, but I was again corrected -- by a moderator at a panel who was also a member of the Word Police -- and was told I was an author because I was published.

That time I was an author for about an hour, until I made a joke about it to another author on the panel. "Don't call yourself an author," this person said. "It's pretentious and it makes the writers who aren't published feel bad. You're a novelist."

Anyone with five books in print had to be right, right? And very high up in the ranks of the Word Police, I assumed. From that day I went around calling myself a novelist.

No one said anything for a few years, until an editor I pitched commented on my business cards, on which I had my name, pseudonyms and the job title novelist. "Calling yourself a novelist sounds so rookie," said this vocabulary cop. "You've got a bunch of books in print; put author on the cards." When I mentioned the advice about giving those not yet published a complex, the editor chuckled. "Who cares what the wannabes think?"

Don't get out your voodoo dolls; that editor no longer works in publishing. Does the Word Police have an Internal Affairs Division? I've always wondered . . .

Anyway, I went back to using author, very reluctantly, and switched occasionally to writer when no one was looking. I'd slip now and then and say novelist, too. One interviewer referred to me as a freelancer, evidently because I wrote in so many different genres. Then I started working writer-for-hire jobs, which threw hyphens into the mix.

I was so confused.

Hate mail didn't help. "Your writing sucks and so do all your novels," one staunch genre guardian informed me. "You're nothing but a hack." There were other words the SWAT Branch of the Word Police threw at me, but nothing I could put on my business cards (I still really like nemesis, though, G. Has kind of an elegant ring to it.)

Two years ago I gave up trying to please the Word Police about the same time I stopped caring about a lot of stuff. So depending on my mood, I can be a writer, author, novelist, hack, hired gun, or whatever else you want to call a person who writes books for money. True, the terms likely all offend someone, but until you people get together and decide on one word, I'm going with whatever pops into my head.

I might even get creative with it. Plot Crisis Manager, now there's a job title for you . . .

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Motivation

The early a.m. writer's reward

Resonance

Acoustic resonance is defined as the intensification and prolongation of sound, especially of a musical tone, produced by sympathetic vibration.* Remember this, it will be on your final.

People talk about stories that resonate but aside from audiobooks and author readings, novels are silent. We writers may have our characters shout their brains out on the page, but our product is as soundless as if we shoved the reader into outer space. Novelists definitely have to go for something other than the ears.

The reader absorbs a story visually and processes it internally. In order to create resonance, you have to get inside your reader's head. Only we're not mind-readers, so we have to guess what's going on in there. Not just one reader; to be successful you have to figure out what's going on in a lot of heads. Whoever first gave out the advice write the kind of book you want to read should really have said write the kind of book you and a million other people want to read.

Doesn't matter what genre it is, either. Three examples: Stephen King knows what his readers fear. Nora Roberts knows what her readers love. J.K. Rowling knows what her readers wish. All three probably hit the initial reader vibe by accident. How they became blockbusters was by recognizing that first twang and building on what they did that resonated so strongly with the readers.

The reason publishing is having such a hard time at present isn't because people don't read anymore. It's because no one knows what people want to read anymore and the guesses publishing has been making are mostly off the mark. Trying to write or sell the readers what they "should" be reading doesn't work; there is no answering vibe. You can't shame people into buying books; people in the general population are no longer judged by how well-read they are.

Looking for the reader vibe won't win you friends among the literati. Case in point: Random House recently came under fire for their slow shift from publishing what people "should" be reading to what people actually want to read. But it's a sound business decision, and if publishing wants to stay alive, it's going to have to hit more vibes.

Same goes for writers.

*The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Counterpoints

Tamara Siler Jones writes about looking at her future in the industry, and the difficulties an organic writer has with planning and pitching. There are no quick fix-its to the problems Tam faces in the years to come. I think she's right in protecting the work; the work must always come first.

Tam also underscores the fact that every writer is different, and so are their methods. We all have our unique vision of the work, and we have to develop an individual approach to creating it. I have yet to meet two writers who do everything the exact same way; even the husband-and-wife author teams I've met aren't writer-clones of each other.

What I write here is who I am and what I do. If my methods help you, great; I've done my bit for the craft. If they don't, then you'll have to find another way, either on your own or by learning another writer's methods. Mine obviously work, but they are not the only way to write books, nor should they be.

I write exactly what I think, and as you've guessed by now I am not inclined to tiptoe when I do. I don't censor myself in order to collect cronies and fans. If I can, I'm going to rock your boat, get you to think, and challenge your views. That's more important to me than being your idol or your pal. Publishing is many things, but it is not us all sitting together around a fire toasting marshmallows and singing Kumbaya.

Save Your Praise, Lady

Shades of bilirubin come to mind as I add Meg Wolitzer to the Authors Behaving Badly file. (via M.J. Rose, whose elegant smackdown of Wolitzer is simple and priceless.)

Showoffs

Imagine you have five minutes to show the world what you can do. What would you do? What can you do in five minutes?

Visual effects artists Bruce Branit and Jeremy Hunt take only three to give you a taste of their talents with 405, a hilarious spoof on LA driving.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Novel IV: Pitch

When you write a novel for publication, you're creating a product (not you, the novel.) To successfully sell that product, you need a major book publisher to manufacture and distribute your book. To interest a publisher in buying the rights to do so, you must submit a novel proposal, aka the pitch.

Very little practical information is written about how to pitch a novel by those who actually do it for a living. I know, I've looked. Those authors who are good at it evidently hoard their techniques, kind of like that stressed-out leprechaun in the Lucky Charms commercials: Can't let the kids get me magical marshmallows.

Those who aren't adept at pitching like to whine endlessly about it. "I'm an artist," a SF writer told to me once, "not a salesman." Makes sense, of course. Why should you learn how to effectively do something as common and grubby as selling the novel you, uh, want to sell?

Anyway. Until the heavens simply open up and bathe novelists in Divine Publication Light, or editors and publishers develop much better psychic powers, writers must pitch their novels.

It's not all that much different from baseball. Well, you don't have to chew tobacco or wear that black stuff under your eyes. But the theory is the same: Pitching is only as effective as your throw and who's at bat. You can blindly toss whatever you have out there and hope for the best. Or you can assess the market, choose very carefully to whom you pitch, and get it in shape to make it across the plate.

Here are my magical marshmallows (sorry, no curve balls):

1. Know Thy Novel: Before I pitch anything, I make sure I know it inside and out. I nail down all the vital details about genre, characters, plot, theme, setting and the story structure. I write a timeline chronicles the novel's events. I create keyword lists to organize my knowledge and make a foundation for the pitch. I trim away the unnecessary schlock and concentrate on concept words that relay story specifics. Compare these keyword lists:

rich, blond, smart, scarred, scared, lonely woman

Doesn't tell you much about how or why she's scarred, scared, lonely, etc., right? Now try:

former Creole socialite, recovering burn victim, agoraphobic

Same woman, only now you know a lot more about her.

2. Rough it Out: Using my keyword lists, I write a rough draft synopsis (ten to twenty pages, depending on genre), a one-page treatment (like a synopsis, only much shorter and more condensed) and my phone notes. Phone notes are shorthand for the key elements of a novel that I want to relay to my editor or agent, so they can get the gist of the novel in under a minute.

This is not all non-stop keywords or a place for voice, either; I write plainly and keep out as much of my personal writing style as is possible. The three big to-do's of writing a synopsis to me are: a) Do write it in present tense; b) Do give away all of the secrets and plot twists; and c) Do keep it as simple as possible -- just the facts, no frills.

3. Chapters: I write three chapters of the novel. If you can't spontaneously write three chapters of any novel you want to pitch, go back to step #1 and do it over until you're able to sit down and write the chapters. You have to know your book before you can write your book, and they're going to want to see a sample.

4. Break: I put it all aside for at least 24 hours if I can, or 4 hours if I can't, to get a break. I don't obsess, worry, hate, or otherwise think about the pitch.

5. Buff & Polish:I go back fresh and analyze the pitch. Have I covered all the bases? Does the idea sound exciting, interesting, attention-catching? Is the presentation professional, no errors, no logic problems, no clumsiness or stumbling in the synopsis? Are the first three chapters tight? Anything I missed?

6. Bounce it: This is an optional step. If I have any doubts, I call my agent and pitch her using my phone notes. If she throws up a red light, we discuss and I either discard the idea or fix it. You can do this with a writer friend or critique partner.

7. Mail it: If the agent gives me a green light, I print out the proposal and send it off (if you're subbing to a publisher, follow their guidelines to the letter.) I don't use anything special, just plain white paper, Courier New 12 pt. font, half-page cover letter, plain colored file folder.

As in baseball, you only get better at pitching if you practice. Sometimes I've written practice pitches on books I had no intention of writing just to refine my pitching ability. I do know that the more you write, the easier it gets. Keep at it.

Some tools and articles on pitching by authors who are good and don't hoard:

Timeline Maker -- I haven't tried downloading the demo, but this might help organize your novel timeline

Synopsis examples by Deborah M. Hale

Finding Your Themes by Holly Lisle

Make the Perfect Pitch: The Novel Query by Kelly James-Enger

Proper Manuscript Format

Making Your Proposal Persuasive by Cindy Bunch

How to Pitch Tipsheets from Mediabistro.com

Risky Business

Eleven years ago I wrote to a literary agent who advertised for clients in the back of a trade mag. You're wincing already, aren't you? Well, you should. It was a dumb thing to do. But I couldn't get much response from querying editors, and I'd read an article in the same mag that said a literary agent could help.

The agent responded (quickly and warmly) and asked me to send my full manuscript to him (which I did) and then about a week later informed me that I should be (cautiously) excited as I had written a fine novel. All I needed was a little professional help and I'd be in print in no time. He referred me to a "book doctor" agency.

Encouraged, I sent my manuscript on to the agency, and the head book doctor himself responded immediately. Congratulations, I had a good novel, very promising, sure to make it into print, and he was just the man to help me. He'd even pay to call me long distance from New York, so when could we have a teleconference?

I had him call during nap time and we talked. He praised me, my talent, and my novel, which was really good but rough around the edges and desperately needed editing to make it "professional quality." He also told me an industry inside secret: all pros hired book doctors to polish their manuscripts, they just didn't talk about it. And, since I was an unemployed stay-at-home Mom, he would definitely give me a price break. $1300 and he would get my novel ready to be published.

The guy was good. By the time I got off the phone, I was almost convinced. Only one tiny problem: I couldn't pay $1300 to get published because that broke my great big rule of being a pro writer, which is "I don't pay them, they pay me."

I talked it over with the husband, and although we were on a tight budget at the time, he was willing to write the check. But my mantra kept ringing in my head, and while I knew nothing about publishing, I knew I had to be the one who got paid, not the other way around.

It killed me to turn down the book doctor, especially when he called a second time and offered to let me pay in installments. He warned me (gently) that I was making a huge mistake, and that I might not ever get another offer like this one. He almost had me again a few times, too, but my great big fat rule kept smacking me in the head, and finally he accepted the no-thanks and wished me luck.

The book doctor whose wonderful if expensive offer I turned down? Was Bill Appel of Edit Ink.

The book Bill said desperately needed editing? Didn't get any, and still sold to a major publisher a few years later. Five years after publication that book is still in print, with a 91% sell-through on fifty thousand copies to date. In fact, you folks bought another two thousand copies of it over the last six months.

As for making a huge mistake, well, yesterday some royalty statements came in and beefed up my career running total nicely. I now have over one million books in print.

Aspiring writers, make it your mantra: you don't pay them, they pay you.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Lit

A novel lay-down date is when your book is supposed to hit the store shelves. This doesn't always happen according to schedule, especially if it collides with a gift-giving holiday, but it generally works out. It used to be a ritual, first couple of years I was published, to Go See My Book Land. Now my release and writing schedules are so nuts that it's more like oh shit, I have a book out two or three weeks after the fact.

My latest one was my debut in a new genre, though, so I marked the calendar and made the pilgrimage over the weekend. I went first to the teeny tiny historical fiction section where it should have been shelved. No book. Then I wandered over to the humongous inspirational section and started looking. Still no book. I double checked the Christian fiction and Biblical reference subsections, just to be sure. Zip. I even went over to romance and SF. Nada.

I figured it didn't arrive due to a late shipment, sighed, and went up to the info desk to check when the order was due.

"We have copies," BAM clerk told me. "In Fiction/Literature."

I was horrified. "What? Why?"

"Uh, because it's a literary novel."

"It is not a literary novel," I told her. I was going to get into why, only I remembered that the book is a writer-for-hire gig, which I can't discuss. I had to settle for telling her "That author doesn't write literary novels. You couldn't pay her enough to write literary novels."

She gave me the sure-lady smile. "Would you like me to get a copy of it for you, ma'am?"

So now I'm a literary author. You know what this means. I'll have to stop smiling, immediately, and cultivate that haunted, knowing pout. No more wearing X-Files tshirts and bunny slippers; only cords and turtlenecks in suitable colors like charcoal and algae and burnt parchment. I'll have to have my hair chopped off into an intellectual wedge and wear a fanny pack. For fun -- not that I'm really supposed to have any -- I'll have to sneak out at 1 am on a Thursday, sit in a cafe by a condemned building, drink anisette-flavored latte and sulk while some guy with an uneven goatee and stained khaki dockers reads from Fitzgerald and ad-libs where F. Scott got it wrong.

God, I'm so depressed. See? It's starting already.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Better than Sitcom

In case you were wondering, women can't write hard SF because we're too stupid.

My theory is that a misogynist's logic is directly related to the diminutive size of his penis, but who'd want to do the research?

Don't Ten

Ten Things Authors Do that I Don't

1. Do readings and/or booksignings.

We've covered this before, right? Not me.

2. Watch broadcast/cable television for pop culture shows.

I'm generally writing or reading books. Multiply that times seventeen years.

3. Go to writer conferences.

It's really that PC entree at the Guest Speaker luncheon that freaks me out. What the hell kind of chicken dish is purple, I ask you?

4. Go back to school and earn a pedigree degree.

Alas, I'm still attending the University of Real Life.

5. Take exotic vacations.

I send the family on vacation, stay home and write. That's my idea of an exotic vacation.

6. Speak/teach at writer seminars/workshops/retreats for pay.

I make enough money from book sales. Pass.

7. Socialize with other writers.

Tried. We didn't bond.

8. Give interviews.

I've done five in six years. I've run out of things to say.

9. Do anthologies with other authors.

Let's not go there and say we did.

10. Go to New York and meet my publishers.

Never have, not really interested. They're starting to get a little nervous now. What if the rumors are true about the consequences of the dreadful accident I had in my
laboratory . . . ?
(evil laugh as I limp back into my subterranean lair.)

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Deadline Diet

I used to get sick after a deadline week. The minute I turned in a book, I'd get hit with a cold, sinus infection, stomach virus, or something equally guaranteed to make my return to relative normality miserable. I couldn't figure out why, either. Before I started writing pro I hardly ever caught any bugs, even from the kids.

I figured it out one day after I turned in a book and went to catch up on my household chores. The dishwasher actually gave it away; it was filled with dirty tea cups and spoons, waiting to be washed (don't ask any of the bipeds in this house to push that button and turn on the dishwasher, evidently it is a highly technical activity that only Mom can handle.) I was also out of my favorite black tea.

Deadline weeks are always a blur of 18 days and endless reading and writing. I don't eat, I have no appetite, no time to cook properly and I can't deal with takeout food. I cook for the family, toss the food on the table and go back to work. Now and then when my stomach protests I'll join them, but I pretty much live on tea and crackers for five to seven days. Which is why I'm generally five to seven pounds lighter after I turn in a book. I also look like hell warmed over; pale enough to interest a mortician, dark blue Samsonite under both eyes, etc.

I asked my doctor if lousy diet was the culprit, and he gave me the well, duh look. Then he suggested that besides eating better, I might try taking a multivitamin. I hate pills, so during the next deadline week I switched from drinking black tea to a rosehip herbal tea. I also forced myself eat a piece of raw fruit (bananas are best) and drink a glass of orange juice every morning. I could probably do it all in a smoothie but I can't be trusted with a blender at 4:30 a.m.

I performed this regime more or less faithfully during the next deadline week, and the difference was immediate and incredible. I wasn't as tired, I only looked like hell half warmed-over, and I didn't get sick. I didn't even get a headache from all the screen reading. To make it a truly (cough) scientific experiment, on the deadline week following that one, I went back to my old habits, and promptly got an upper respiratory infection like the second the book was out of here.

I've been on the herbal tea-fruit-juice deadline week diet ever since, and have not been hit with the post-deadline grunge once. Last week Kath came home with the flu, which I have not had yet (we didn't get flu shots this year as the supply was scarce and we figured the babies and elderly needed what was available more.) She's been breathing, coughing and sneezing on me all through deadline week but I haven't caught it yet, so maybe this builds up your immune system, too.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Standby

Wait for it. . . any second now . . .

The book is DONE.


(Well, in writer time, it was a few seconds. I can't help it if you people insist on existing in reality.)

That's #3 for the year, or the third book I've written in the past sixty-four days. Yes, I am bragging. It's all I have the energy left for.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Sold

Reprint rights for my GCI novels (me writing as Rebecca Kelly) to be released in retail editions. No word yet on the publisher or the type of edition. I hope it's Thorndike Press; they did a nice job with Home for the Holidays.

This would probably be a good time to spring my other news. My last GCI novel, Life is a Three-Ring Circus, will be my final book in the series, as I've refused the publisher's latest offer and have stepped down from writing the series. We had a good run together, put out seven great books, and I learned a great deal about the inspirational fiction market. I don't think there are any regrets on either side; certainly not on mine.

It's hard to walk away from work, but sometimes, for whatever reason, the answer has to be no. No, I will not sign that contract is the hardest sentence a writer ever has to say. Well, other than Hello, Dell, why is there smoke pouring out of my drive tower?

I will never be so successful that I will ever like saying no, but I'm also practical. At a certain level, you simply can't take every offer that comes in; you have to become selective. Evidently that's where I'm at.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Hello

One of Holly's editors at Tor is looking for erotica submissions, and I'll quote:

Or, rather, "romantica" - the sort of erotica that has a vague semblance of a plot, and also a happy ending.

Paranormal and non-paranormal, contemporary, historical, futuristic, totally kinky or more vanilla, threesomes are okay, blah blah blah. If you're not sure, just submit it and I'll read it; the worst I can say is no.

70,000 - 90,000 words. Post submissions only - three chapters, a 2 page synopsis, and a cover letter.


Anna Louise Genoese (and please confirm that spelling, that's off the top of my head) is an editor at Tor whose guidelines are here, if you're interested in pitching her.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Space

I can't stand clutter, so I've been reducing my worldly possessions over the last five years, aiming to hone the non-essentials to the bare minimum. I'm only about halfway there; I've got my wardrobe and library where I want them, now I have to start working on the quilt collection and other stuff.

Other stuff, or what other people have given to me over the years, is about 85% of my headache. I estimate I have at least 2,000 lbs. of things I have been hauling around for ten years or better because someone was thoughtful and remembered me on my birthday/anniversary/pick your holiday.

It's not that I hate gifts. I love the idea of gifts. I hate lugging an entire lifetime of gifts through my life. I hate packing and repacking a ton of collectibles I never wanted to collect it in carboard boxes because I don't have nineteen curio cabinets.

Out of self-defense, two years ago I started insisting family members give me only candles or food as gifts, or simply send a card. I can toss a card, burn candles and eat the food without offending anyone. This request has pissed off more people than I can count, though, too: Why don't you want the three-foot tall plaster statue of Pan Doing Aphrodite that we picked out especially for you from Discount Garden Statuary?

Eventually I'll get my living space to where I want it; probably when the kids go off to college. My ideal environment has great lighting, comfortable furniture, nothing on the surfaces, a full working library and office, a green house off the kitchen, two porches with east-west exposure, and a walk-in linen closet with climate control, and is located just outside a town with a population of 10,000 or less. I've got about 75% of that right now, too.

I like seeing other writers and artist's home enviroments. Artist/illustrator James Hale has a terrific garden, and in the April '05 print issue of Country Living there is an utterly fascinating look at the work and decor of artist Annie McClure, whose dimensional still lifes remind me of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Bake Selling

A book is not a brownie. We all know this, right? So why are we authors approaching novel marketing like it's our turn at the card table outside Mrs. Smith's 4th grade class after school?

If you're not a veteran of the elementary school bake sale, you won't get this analogy. So let me explain: if you want to raise money for a worthy project and you're the mother of a child under the age of twelve, you call all the other mothers of kids in whatever grade, ask them to make some baked goodies and parcel them in small/hand decorated bags, which you then hand-sell to mothers and kids after school. Viola, bake sale.

Bake sales are not by nature designed to raise a huge amount of money. The one we just did at my kids' school brought in about $500, enough for our goal (paying to bring a traveling fun-science show to the school). The problem is, we mothers likely spent at least $500 in supplies and labor while making the goodies, packaging them, transporting them, etc.

A bake sale is not a cost-efficient endeavor, and it's not meant to be. It's a Mommy thing. You do it so you can bake things with your kids, and show support for the PTA, and demonstrate your solidarity. It's also an opportunity to once again marvel over how many women use packaged cookie dough, or the mystery ingredients used to make Mrs. Jones's disgusting green and black Easter Rice Krispy treats, which somehow always tragically fall out of their ziplock bags into loose dirt before they make it to the sale table.

How does this correlate with the marketing authors do for their books? If you've ever been to an RWA National Conference, you will immediately get this. Note the resemblance of the goodie room to the bake sale table: Bookmarks, postcards, magnets, cutie little advertising things, all cleverly packaged to catch the eye. Completely useless as marketing tools, but oh, so pretty.

Many homemade web sites -- we're all guilty of them, so don't anyone turn up your nose -- are tragic. They should fall into the dirt somewhere, but they don't. And their authors are determined to save that hundred bucks by working out of that Websites for Dummies book. You militant do-it-yourselfers, don't yell at me and say you can't afford a professional web designer. Not when you spend a thousand bucks to go to a conference so you can, yes, sit at a card table and sign five copies of your novel.

Homegrown marketing: aka the guy who will do [fill in promo service] for your book for a hundred or five hundred or even a thousand bucks. He will always have a great web site. He talks professional. He's at all the conferences. He makes it sound so wonderful. He actually makes no promises, but he doesn't have to. He has your vanity and paranoia upon which to make his buck.

There has to be a better way to market our books, but until we find it, don't bake sell yourself. Think before you order three thousand heart shaped plastic bookmarks emblazoned with the name of your debut romance. Don't follow the herd to the next conference. Fold up your card tables and put away your ziplock bags. We can do better than this for our novels and our careers.