Tag Archives: Business of writing

Tips for New Year’s Resolutions to Get Organized

Welcome back!

So, to pay it forward to those who helped me out over the years, I decided to do two blog posts about two common New Year’s goals: 1) Losing weight, and 2) Getting organized.

Last week we covered the weight loss tips that I found actually worked–i.e. I can vouch for the tips since I lost and kept off 25 lbs. (per doctor’s orders) over the last 18 months by using them. No diets. No extreme workouts.

Also, like I wrote last week, I’m not a professional expert on weight loss or organizing.  I encourage anyone with questions to talk to an expert. There are professionals out there who can be of great help.

Goal 2 – Getting Organized

  1. Every object we own has a yearly cost in time, space, and money. Pay attention to what those costs are. It’s crucial to become aware of these costs–if one gathers stuff long enough, one ends up running out of room in one’s residence. It’s a lot cheaper to get rid of stuff than to pay to move to a bigger place or pay the monthly rent on a storage unit.
  2. Shopaholic and/or hoarding symptoms are warning signs that the help of an expert is needed. Don’t go it alone if you or someone you care about shows signs of either. An experienced therapist is needed to help tackle the underlying problems.
  3. Organization is a learned habit. Learn how to do it. Read a great book on organization, such as Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I stumbled across her book in an airport bookstore while on my journey back from Tel Aviv, and read it on the plane. She does an excellent job of summarizing the key techniques needed to get organized.
  4. Keep what you love, get rid of the rest.  Marie Kondo’s book does a terrific job describing the sorting & discarding process in detail, and the emotions involved.
  5. File folders are your friend. Whether it’s file folders for an actual filing cabinet, or on your computer, create a filing system and use it. I have saved countless hours searching for tax records and other documents by doing so.
  6. Organize and store medical records in a portable binder … or scan them into pdf files that you can store in a specific folder on a portable device such as an iPad. This is especially critical if someone has a serious medical condition. Bring that binder or iPad to every meeting with a new health professional. It can speed up the diagnosis and treatment journey when you’re able to swiftly provide copies of laboratory and medical reports. **I’m writing from personal experience on this–getting the medical records organized and easily accessible can literally save someone’s life. Do it ASAP.**
  7. Once the place you live in is cleared out and organized, there’s a high chance a relative, neighbor, or friend will ask to store some of their stuff there. It’s important to be emotionally prepared for this, or stuff will accumulate again … only this time, it’ll be other people’s stuff. Figure out what to say when it happens–will you say “No”; set a specific time limit; or charge them money for the storage?
  8. Celebrate that you’re making room in your life for The New.

Good luck to everyone with their resolutions for the New Year and I wish everyone much success in accomplishing them.

Cheers, Lynn

Barbara Freethy hits 1 million mark in self-published ebook sales for 2011

In case anyone missed it, here’s Barbara Freethy’s announcement about hitting the 1 million mark in self-published ebooks sold in 2011.  Here’s a brief quote from the PR release:

Unlike independently published authors who publish at the $0.99 price point to fuel sales, Freethy’s books are primarily priced between $2.99 and $5.99. Her self-published books come from her extensive backlist, whose rights were reverted after the books went out of print. Freethy repackaged the books and put them on sale again, finding gold in books that had been taking up space in her closet”

The full PR announcement is at:
http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/author-barbara-freethy-sells-over-one-million-self-published-e-books-in-2011-132522313.html

I notice she’s selling not only through Kindle, but also made sure to have her ebooks on the Nook, Kobo, Sony, and Smashwords. Also has a deal with Overdrive.

Just for fun, let’s calculate what that is in cold hard cash. If we take a 70% cut of $2.99 for a self-published ebook, that’s about $2.09 per book. Sell 1 million ebooks at $2.99, and that’s $2,090,000.

Nice! This is fascinating times we live in.

Thanks to Passive Guy and David Gaughran for getting the word out.

Every Renown Writer Starts Out a Beginner

Every renown writer you love to read started out as a beginner.

This is so obvious, and yet it gets forgotten so easily since it’s the masterpieces that get remembered when we talk about our favorite dead writers…not the unpublished works and the weak stuff published early on (unless you’re an English major doing research or an obsessive fan).

Very often, people who are not artists or just starting out have this mental gap in their heads about the journey that an artist takes from beginner to master:

beginner———– > luck  ————> master

Mastery and success are attributed to luck.

Well, there’s a middle phase that gets left out:

beginner ——-> apprentice ——> journeyman —> (95% hard work, 5% luck) ——-> master

The apprentice phase for writers is equivalent to the law school phase for someone who wants to be a lawyer. This is the phase where a writer often has to get on a plane to study with a particular writing teacher or to attend a national-level writing workshop. In old novels or movies, this was the point where the young artist packed up to move to an international hub for artists like Paris or New York City or London.

And then there’s the journeyman phase, where the writer has started to sell his or her stories, but there’s still so much to learn. This phase lasts for years to decades, or even a lifetime if the writer decides to stop learning and coast.

As for mastery, it doesn’t spontaneously happen. Don’t ask me why, but people  seem to have a natural tendency to ignore the middle phase when they talk about a particular famous dead writer or fantasize aloud about how easy it would be to write a bestselling novel if they just had the time.

And yet it’s the hard work in journeyman phase that will make or break a writer in becoming a master of the craft.

I think one of the most valuable lessons a writer can do once past the beginner stage is to choose a couple of favorite writers (both living and dead) and read their early works.

So, for example, if you were a huge fan of Charlotte Bronte as a writer, you’d dig up a research book that had her unpublished first writings and probably also a copy of her first novel, The Professor.

Or how about William Shakespeare? Go read his earliest plays (researchers still fight about which play he wrote first, so I’d advise reading several). Then think about how we’d see him now if he’d stopped after those early plays and had never written anything more.

But make sure to also include some favorite recent writers who wrote over a long time frame, twenty years or more.  For example, I went out and bought collections of the early published short stories of three recent writers whose later works I loved to read:  John D. MacDonald’s More Good Stuff, Stephen King’s Night Shift, and James Lee Burke’s The Convict & Other Stories.

This turned out to be an eye-opening exercise for me as I read the unpublished  early works of old greats (such as Jane Austen) and early short stories of favorite present day NYT bestsellers.

Their early works weren’t as well-written as their later works were. They’d gotten better at their craft over time. Big shocker, right?

Of course not.

But I’ve noticed a lot of my fellow Americans like to see their artists as the equivalent of Athena jumping fully formed out of the skull of Zeus. The arts are supposed to be “easy.” You have either “got it” as an artist or you don’t. No hard work, no sweat, no tears, no frustration, no years of dedicated study–as if somehow the arts are different from every other human endeavor.

So reading the early works of these various writers impressed upon me, at a deep gut level, how craft gets better over time as one works at it. Hmm, let me put it bluntly. A few of the early works “sucked.” A few seemed like they showed “no talent.” And yet these writers persevered and became masters of their craft. It would have been a terrible thing if any of these writers had quit during the early days due to a mistaken idea that it was impossible to improve in writing skill.

Every writer starts out a beginner. Where we go from there is up to us.

Writing the Unmarketable Novel

Almost two years ago I finished a YA novel, Soul Cages, that I knew in my heart of hearts was going to be a nightmare for an editor to get past the sales & marketing department of a traditional publisher.

That’s because in my gut I knew it was going to be difficult to get any readers to even want to pick it up. I knew the book was in trouble sales-wise as soon as my usual first reader burst into tears while reading the synopsis, and then refused to read the manuscript. I had to get other readers to take over for that book. Most ended up loving the story, but I never forgot the response of that first reader.

Seeing your first reader cry in sorrow really sucks.

Let’s face it. Most of the time, readers are coming to a story to mentally relax for a while. They’re coming for entertainment. I’d written a story that was a weird horror/romance/special issues tribute to Judy Blume, C. S. Lewis, and Stephen King in one go. It dealt with ugly nasty stuff like family abuse, the way kids with Asperger’s sometimes get treated badly, the abuse of Scripture in the Bible to justify cruelty, and anti-Semitism…among other things.

None of that stuff is appealing for entertainment. Ugh, who wants to read all  that after a bad day?

The novel went through several rounds of editing, but there comes a point when you realize as a writer that you can only make a weird “Frankenstein” novel  marketable by censoring your protagonist and mutilating the story by chopping it up. Chop out the romance, or chop out the horror, or chop out the Asperger’s.

In the end I decided to leave the main character alone. It was her story, not mine, and I decided to let her story stand as she’d told it to me, and I went on to write new stories.

And it was the best decision I ever made. I’ve written another novel and many  short stories since I put Soul Cages to rest, and a lot of exciting things have been happening behind the scenes these last six months. Things that would not have happened if I had attempted to keep rewriting Soul Cages to death.

Soul Cages itself has been released in e-book form, and it is still under consideration with a certain midsize traditional publishing house (though I suspect in the end the editor will fail in getting it past marketing).

I’ve done no email blasts, no blog tours, no ads, no book launch party, no “push” of any sort. And I don’t intend to. My limited work time is better spent writing new stories to improve my craft, and some of those new stories will prove to be more marketable–i.e. more appealing to readers–than Soul Cages is.

But am I sorry that I wrote Soul Cages? Do I feel I wasted my time by working on an unmarketable novel?

No.

I think it’s good for an artist to write at least one story where it feels like you’re spitting in the eye of the market. Writing that unmarketable novel made me a better writer by making me a gutsier writer, and I think I’ll be reaping the benefits for decades to come.

A Blog Post to Give Comfort in Rough Times, and a Few More Links

Kristine Kathryn Rusch has gone and written a blog post for all writers who are suffering through rough times right now due to the upheavals in publishing, “You Are Not Alone.” If you know a writer friend who is thinking of quitting writing or suffering from severe depression due to publishing industry changes, this essay is a must.

I also found out about a website that has various posts by pro writers (such as David Morrell) about the publishing industry.  It’s called Backspace – The Writer’s Place.

Another great resource is the NINC blog. Members of NINC have to be multi-published in order to join, so I find the information and blogs professional in tone and attitude.

Also, there’s Bob Mayer’s blog. He has 20 years of experience as a fiction writer in traditional publishing, and 2 years of experience doing indie publishing, so I find his posts have a lot of depth to them.