Tag: publishing

Three Reasons Indie Publishing’s Not for Me and What It Taught Me

Back in January, I admitted this would be a year of “building” for my brand, but I had no idea how much being an indie author would tax my creative soul.  The reality of “indie publishing” measures up differently than the perception. At least for me.

Isn’t that true of many things? Christmas is the “most wonderful time of the year” until you’re over budget for your gifts, over-booked for  events, and over-eating to cope.

Or maybe I’m the only one who struggles with keeping the joy of the season present while juggling all the things.

That’s exactly what this year of indie publishing has been for me: a struggle. Sadly, the joy of writing is gone and although it’s only been a couple of weeks since I released the first of three indie books, I’m not seeing the positive “gains” so many authors claim motivate them to take this path.

That’s the biggest reason this path isn’t for me. The next reason is that I’m NOT a fan of doing it all. I want to focus on what I’m good at, not try to learn how to be the boss of it all. And I HATE missing deadlines!

Doing it All

Some people love to do all the things that producing a book involves. What are these things?

  • Writing the manuscript
  • Hiring editor and proofreader
  • Cover design
  • Marketing Plan
  • Formatting interiors for different versions
  • Uploading files
  • Creating ad campaigns
  • Getting the word out

And there’s more. Obviously, writing is the holy grail of being an author. I haven’t written anything too creative since August. That’s when I finished the first draft of the third book in this indie series.

That’s also about the time I realized I didn’t have a story for book four. I had a couple of scenes. But I’d just spent weeks (and I do mean literal WEEKS) getting the perfect cover designed. I had to write this story. Didn’t I?

After all, I’d negotiated a three-book editing contract with my first-choice editor. I owed her a third manuscript in November. But I didn’t even have the first manuscript ready for my September deadline.

So far, this “doing it all” thing wasn’t working for me.

Missing Deadlines

I am the person who is always early. I never wait to the last minute to do anything. The more a deadline looms over me, the more panic sets in and my ability to create and work flees into deep hiding.

So, I swallowed my pride and asked for an extension.

And my gracious editor granted it. Twice. Yep. She’s amazing. If you need an editor, I can’t recommend her highly enough.

“I’ve had authors wait until the night before their manuscript is due before asking for an extension.” What? That’s just plain rude. Especially since I was nowhere NEAR finished with the story that was due in a few weeks.

Two-month extension? She granted that for book three of the series (and book two of the contract). Then she agreed to substitute a Christian romance from my Sweet Grove Romance series (she edited book one of what has grown to five stories) for the “story that wasn’t.”

Recently, I had to push that date back again because in working through the revisions for the romance, I realized I’d short-changed my hero and needed to rework and rewrite (in a big way) his half of the story.

Facing Disappointment

I was thrilled to have a book with my name alone on the cover, wasn’t I? This was the dream I’d been writing toward for six years.

That’s why I listened to other indie authors and booked a coffee cafe for a book release party. I’d have two new paperbacks to offer for sale (not to mention a box-load of anthologies I’d ordered from my publishers because I KNEW I’d sell them – HA!) and there’d be cute cupcakes.

They were cute and delicious but ONLY one got eaten at the event.

I wrote press releases and sent them to the local papers. The papers ran the stories. I posted announcements in the local post office, at area businesses and all over social media.  But the Google form I created for RSVPs didn’t fill up as I expected.

The best decision I made: not to order 100 books like one author suggested.

No sense rehashing the poor turnout. Maybe I’d picked a bad night. Or maybe the place was off-putting.

It’s my nature to second-guess everything, over-analyze my part in it.

Eventually, I let myself FEEL the loss.

This was not what I pictured for my first book release. And after the pain lessened, the lesson reminded me that I’m not a PR guru, and I WANT a traditional publisher who knows how to handle all this for me.

Learning from it All

Time to move on from that. I still have two more books to release in this series. There won’t be any more public appearances unless someone asks me to come to the library or bookstore. My creative soul prefers to hibernate in my office anyway.

Here are the important lessons I’ve taken away from this project:

  • I don’t want to be an indie author. I need to pursue a traditional publisher for all future projects.
  • Release events are meant to be fan-inspired not author-driven
  • Biblical fiction is not my genre
  • Nonfiction is not my genre
  • A speaking platform is not where my career is headed
  • My joy in writing regular romance is waning
  • I need to create new stories to feel joy
  • Planning is a strong suit but not joy-inducing
  • Too much revision and editing is like a knife in the back to my creative self

As I write this, my passion for a new project of any sort hasn’t returned, although I have written a couple chapters of a new sweet romance for a proposal. I’m still wondering what I’ll write next if this proposal is rejected.

Maybe I need a sabbatical from writing. I never thought such a thing would happen.

What I’ll take is a sabbatical from writing for publication. As soon as I finish these two projects, I’ll write whatever comes. Somewhere, I’ll rediscover the joy and passion that fueled me for the past six years.

Six years without a true “break” from a schedule of projects. I guess it’s time.

What would you like to read from me? What is your favorite genre?

The Real Deal of Indie Publishing

Ever since I started on this “author journey” I’ve considered what I was doing to be more the “indie author” path than the traditional publishing path. But this year taught me the truth.

I wasn’t.

Taking manuscripts from idea to published book BY MYSELF, as I’ve done with the three books in the REFLECTIONS series was indie publishing.
And I didn’t like it.

The Process

These days, people write a story, use a free program to create a “cover” and throw it up on Amazon.

That is NOT publishing. These people might say they’ve published a book, but the process of publishing a “readable” book is lengthy. The indie and small press methods are generally NOT a long as New York publishing, but the good ones follow the same process.

What the Author does:

1. Comes up with a story idea
2. Drafts the story (some do an extensive outline first)
3. Rewrites the story
4. Asks test readers for input
5. Revises the story using the input
6. Edits the story
7. Sends the manuscript to the publisher
8. Signs a contract
9. Gives input into cover design
10. Markets the story using every possible outlet
11. Begins the process again with a new idea


What the Publisher does:

1. Vets manuscripts to find stories that will sell (or at least connect with readers)
2. Assigns an editor to work with authors on content (or developmental) edits
3. Hires a cover artist
4. Writes blurbs and marketing copy
5. Performs line edits once author and editor agree story is ready
6. Purchases ISBNs and applies for copyright
7. Sets up publicity (including Amazon advertising or book signings)
8. Formats the book for digital and print
9. Contracts producer to make audio book
10. Uploads the manuscript and graphics to book distributor websites
11. Sends press releases to appropriate newspapers/magazines
12. Distributes galley copies and does final proofing (netting some reviews)

The exception here is that my current small press does NOT do the developmental or line editing. They expect authors to pay for an independent editor to vet their manuscripts.

If you’re an indie author? Both of those lists become your responsibility.

Why Some People Like It

In a word: control.

For those of you who thought I was a person who liked being in control, I can assure you that in the case of book publishing, I don’t. I want to write the story and send it off for someone else to magically transform into a book.

If an author has a substantial following and can get traction on Amazon, they can earn more money as an indie author. Most small presses offer larger royalty percentages than New York. Without an agent, all the royalties go to the author.

For the author who is both writer and publisher, they get all the proceeds. But they also bear all the costs of hiring and paying contractors to handle everything they can do.

For me that includes cover design, editing and formatting. For the first book in the REFLECTIONS series, I’m into it for close to $1000. That means I have to sell a LOT of copies to even break even.

Why I Don’t Want to Do It

Writing used to light me up.

Notice the past tense here?

This year, I wrote solely in a different genre, and it was hard work. I couldn’t let my characters tell their story. I had an “outline” to follow and it wasn’t flexible.

I knew this. But it’s the Bible, and I felt compelled to tell these stories as a way to invite women to see the Bible in a new way. To see the people in the Bible as “real people” and hopefully gain hope in the process.

I’d like to think all my fiction offers hope to readers. After all, my characters face big problems but find a happy ending (guaranteed).

I don’t like having to find contractors. I don’t like making every decision about my book’s format and cover. Most of the joy and excitement I felt in the past when the publisher sent me my cover to reveal didn’t exist when I was working with the designer on the projects this year.

Every part of it feels like work, and writing the story can be hard enough. By the time I uploaded A Pondering Heart, I didn’t want to think about it or talk about it anymore.

Except then I needed to start marketing and promoting it so it would sell. Because I’m in the hole financially!

Looking Forward

If you’re a reader of my books, maybe you’re wondering what this means for the future.

What it could mean is that you won’t see as many new stories from me published next year (or the year after that). In the midst of having the indie author experience this year, I also have been querying other small presses looking for a home for A VIRTUAL LOVE STORY and AFTER THE APOCALYPSE: UNKNOWN.

In 2020, I’ll be querying Sweet Promise Press about having my own series. I’ll apply to write in one of their existing series, and if the paranormal romance series they introduce isn’t vampires, werewolves or ghosts, I’ll apply to write for it, too.

I plan to attend the American Christian Fiction Writers Conference with some sort of completed manuscript to query. That will be my new thing: querying agents and publishers because that’s how authors get traditionally published.

What sort of stories would you like to read?

Straight Talk from Editor to Author

Editors do important work. In fact, my choice to pursue traditional publishing has as much to do with getting quality editing for my work as it does to the whole avoiding marketing ideal. (Sadly, there is NO way to avoid that irksome task regardless of an author’s path.)

I’ve worked with half a dozen editors. Three of them I chose myself and paid out of my pocket. The others were assigned to me by the publishing house. In my experience, some editors are fantastic and as relentless in their pursuit of a perfect manuscript as I am.

Others? They’re breezing through the manuscript and finding the obvious errors, but they aren’t passionate about polishing the story to the next level.

Recently, I hired Kristen Corrects, Inc for a three-manuscript independent project. She was one of the first editors I interviewed when the first manuscript in this series was an unborn dream. And although I didn’t hire her then, I have experienced her critique skills with a more recent project, MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS.

Welcome, Kristen. You’re an independent editor with a pretty full schedule and a broad range of editing projects, so I know you’ll have insight my fellow authors will want to hear.

What is something authors commonly forget to do before handing over their manuscript to the editor?

KRISTEN: Self-edit their work.

I cannot stress the importance and the difference in quality authors will see if they invest some time in improving their manuscript before sending it off to a professional editor. Unless authors have unlimited money to pay a freelance editor for many, many editing passes (spoiler alert: most don’t!), authors can really improve the quality of their final book simply by self-editing their work.

Me: That’s great advice, but I’m sure some readers are wondering what that entails. What does self-editing mean to you?

KRISTEN: This means recruiting beta readers and implementing their suggestions, and reading your manuscript several times to catch as many errors (continuity, grammar, spelling) as possible. I’ve been a freelance editor since 2012, and one thing I know to be true: the most successful self-publishing authors are those who self-edit their work. Simply handing your raw first draft manuscript to your editor and hoping they’ll make it into gold after one or two editing passes just isn’t realistic.

Me: I can’t even imagine sending my raw first draft to anyone. I even revise and give it a quick edit before I send it to my beta readers.

Let’s face it, there are a TON of editors out there. Not only that, there are several types of editing. How is an author supposed to find a reputable editor?

KRISTEN: Do your homework. Make sure the editor has a contract. Check out their portfolio and look up those books on Amazon (if there are a lot of negative reviews mentioning a story that doesn’t make sense or typos, move on). Read testimonials of the editor’s previous clients.

Most editors will offer a sample edit free of charge, so take advantage of this to see if you like how the edited passage of your book. There are a lot of editors out there, so do your research!

Me: I know that when I first interviewed you, I was hoping to find someone who had experience editing in my genre (historical fiction). In fact (along with price), this is the reason I went with someone else for that first project. Do editors prefer to work in certain genres?

KRISTEN: I’m a fiction book editor, but I haven’t “niched down” yet to a specialty (romance, fantasy, etc.). There’s a robust world in fiction writing, and I enjoy all of it—the variety makes my job so interesting. There’s a big difference between fiction and nonfiction writing, though, which is why I rarely accept the nonfiction project.

Me: At the end of the day, authors don’t have to take your recommendations. Every editor I’ve worked with has reiterated this to me (yes, even the ones with publishing houses). How do you manage issues when the author disagrees with your advice/recommendations?

KRISTEN: The majority of my clients are self-publishing authors, which means after I’m done editing their manuscript, they upload the books to Amazon Kindle or other self-publishing platforms. The book is their baby—it has their name on it, their ideas, and their story. And as such, I always tell my author clients: “You’re the author, so you’re in the driver’s seat!” (It’s kind of become a mantra.)

I’m here as their editor to make the book the best it can be—but if the author disagrees with my recommendations, I’m totally fine with that. That’s the beauty of self-publishing—it’s the author’s story, nobody else’s.

Me: Come back next week and find out if Kristen deals with a client who disagrees with changes she suggested.

For my part, I’ve worked with several editors, and I’ve never had any arguments. There were times I disagreed with my editor and cited the Chicago Manual of Style to them as to WHY I didn’t accept their changes. Amazingly, they thanked me for pointing those errors out to them.

Next week, I’ll open up the comments at the bottom of the post and ask Kristen to check in and answer any questions you have for her. In the meantime, why not check out her blog and see if she answers them there.

Five Things I’ve Learned About Shared Series

Reading a great series, who doesn’t love it? I know I’m the type who might wait for the whole series to be out so I can binge read it, one book after the other.

So why wouldn’t I want to write for a publisher who ONLY publishes shared series?


Well, duh. I would. And I do.

You’ve heard me declare my love for my small publishers before. If you need a refresher, find it here.

But what is a shared series? And do I love writing for it as much as I enjoy reading a series by my favorite author?

A Shared Series

A shares series is a little different. It’s series written by multiple authors around a common theme or location. There might be appearances from previous (and future) main characters, but the “shared” element is generally a place or situation.

 

Five Things I Learned

1. You Need a Series Bible

I didn’t realize how important this would be until I wrote my manuscript, and I wanted to know things about St. Judith, Virginia, where MOMMY LOVES THE BANKER takes place.

Simple things like:

  • Where is this bank in relation to where my shero lives?
  • What are the baseball fields like?
  • What sort of neighborhoods are there?
  • How far is the bank from the baseball fields?
  • Who else lives around here that my people can talk to

And there was nothing. We knew there was a military base nearby, and we collaborated on names for the schools.

Those things were discussed and decided upon in our group, but after that, it was only a sketchy outline of a commercial district and a residential area.

So I floundered around trying to get a feeling for this setting. Thankfully, I was able to read a couple other books that preceded mine, but still the town felt vague and unformed to me.

A series Bible names businesses. It gives a general map of the important locations. It also mentions and describes any CHARACTERS who might be available to be shared (which they often aren’t because my characters are copyrighted along with my story.)

All these things were provided for the First Street Church series, so I took them for granted when I applied to right for the MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS series.

2. You Want to Work with Other Professionals

Most of us author-types work in a room by ourselves. When I’m creating, I don’t care if I EVER leave the room. In my office, the characters are real and their story is essential.

But in the larger world, I want—no NEED—to interact with other authors.

I expected to become “friends” with the people in this shared series. I would read their stories. They would read mine. We’d talk about the town of St. Judith and how to weave more reality into our plots.

It would be one big happy family.

Except some people didn’t show up with anything more than the required posts. They didn’t offer input on questions or toss out ideas for naming things.

It’s like they wanted to be on their own.

Flakes aren’t just for breakfast. Sometimes they show up at work, too.


3. Leadership is Key

I’ve taken several personality quizzes and assessments. The one that always stands out for me is one my husband and I did together shortly after our first son was born.

I was a lion. He was a golden retriever. I don’t need to explain how that can create a less-than-favorable dynamic in a home where a wife WANTS to follow the Biblical concept of man-as-head of the marriage.

I demand a LOT from my leader. Mostly, I expect them to be present, prepared and ahead of the game.

But I’m a creative, so I don’t want them meddling with my creative stuff.

The first argument I had with the series leader was over the title of my book. After reading the reviews for my story, there are readers who are JUST as confused as I am about the requirements for having “Mommy” in the title when my story wasn’t about a mommy but a MIMI. Would it really kill anyone to rename it Mimi Loves the Banker?

After all, we were encouraged to use OTHER caregivers in the story so all the matchmaking wouldn’t be between moms and dads. But all the titles had to begin with “Mommy.”

Enough said about that.

4. You Can Ride a Successful Author’s Coattails

Honestly? This is why I wanted to be part of a shared series through Sweet Promise Press.

I know there are authors publishing there with thousands of followers and who make more in ONE HOUR than I made the first YEAR I was published.

My publisher is a marketing genius. She knows exactly how to leverage her reading audience, and that pays off with sales for authors like me who don’t have a huge personal following.

The series lead for MOMMY’S LITTLE MATCHMAKERS had been skyrocketing with another series she was writing. Another author said she had an email list of 12,000 names. Oh-kay. And I was so thrilled when I hit 500 followers (by the way, that swelled to over 800 with a promotion and has since dwindled back to 680, only 400 of which actually open my emails).

People would buy those early books. They would love them, and they’d keep reading the series. Even though it wasn’t by the author they loved, that author would be telling them to try the next book (mine) and that would generate sales.

Once people READ my story, I knew they would enjoy it. Hopefully they would convert into a follower of ME. Maybe someday other authors would want to join a series so they could ride MY coattails.

5. Professionalism of All Authors is Mandatory

In a shared series, each author is getting paid for their own title, sure. That’s different from the anthologies and collections I’ve been part of where there was ONE sale that had to be divided among all the participants.

SPP contracted each of us and guaranteed us our share of royalties from EVERY book we sell.

Contracted authors are surely professionals, right?

Well, they should be. And when members of a shared series drop the ball, they affect everyone else. Whatever tie-in was supposed to exist to keep readers engaged to buy the next book is important.
If there’s no communication from the author you’re intended to follow, how are you supposed to make that connection?

This was a dilemma that I faced. Partly because I draft my stories early. Looming deadlines do NOT improve the clarity of my prose.

Apparently, not all authors work the same way.

If you enter into a shared series, you should expect that you’ll need to stretch out of your writing comfort zone. That you’ll share your story with others writing BEFORE it’s ready for public consumption. Why? For series continuity.

If we’re all professional authors, that shouldn’t be a problem.

But having a book (or many books) published by big-name publishers doesn’t make an author understand this sort of professionalism.

Have you read anything from either of the shared series I’m part of? Do you enjoy reading a shared series as much as a series from a single author?

Amazon: Destroyer of Future Plans

I’ve never been one of those author with scathing commentary about the monopolizing power of Amazon’s book store. Instead I was all-in with several Kindle-only titles.

Then they pulled the plug on Kindle Worlds.

At the moment this was announced, I was begging beta readers to return their comments on the third book for the series published in this universe. That story was planned to release in less than two months.

The day after the announcement, I got my royalty statement from Amazon showing the first month when two titles were available for sale. It was great. The sales had been strong and steady, more than anything else I’ve ever published.

Amazon was jerking the rug out from under my expanding readership.

Worse, I was positive that the introduction to this world and the amazing influencer who conceived it was the future of my writing career. At least for the next couple years.

Thanks, Amazon, for demolishing that business plan I made a week earlier.

But as much as this derailed my career planning, I knew the news was even worse for Melissa Storm.

I messaged her. I wanted to encourage her and let her know that no one was mad at her and we hoped we could still work together.

By the next day, she’d formed her own publishing company.

And why not? She has an incredible platform of followers. She launches all her new releases to the bestseller list.

Those characters I was dropping into Sweet Grove aren’t displaced after all. Their stories will be told.
*Shakes fist at Big Brother Amazon*
In the future, I might even explore some of the other shared series worlds she’s planning to launch along with Sweet Promise Press.

So if you’re an author, you should check it out. There’s a form to fill out if you want to write for her.

Those lines in my business plan that mention Kindle Worlds will have to be lined out. But those titles should still reach you.

In a few weeks, I’ll give you a glance into the next First Street Church novella. When I know the release date, I’ll pass it on.

Make sure you don’t miss any of these updates. Follow my author page on Facebook. Better yet, join my Facebook group.

It’s nice to know that Amazon doesn’t actually have the same destructive power of…Thanos. Indie authors unite with more strength than the Avengers, too.

Do you buy most of your books from Amazon? Is there any way we can curb their market share?

What I’m Writing these Days

If you follow me on Facebook, you get a monthly update of my writing projects. If you don’t, you’re going to get one now.
I’m an author so I write. I wish I could say that I only write things I LOVE and am jazzed to sit behind my laptop day-in and day-out pounding away on my wireless keyboard (which is missing seven letters and throws me off when I look at it to type).
I write blurbs and other marketing copy. When I’m selling or pitching a book to agents and editors, I pen query letters, outlines and synopsis (*cringes typing the word*).
What I write most often: blog posts.
You know, like this one.
Sometimes I even have interesting content or “high concept” ideas. Most of the time I feel like I’m shooting a post into the dark abyss of virtual space…hitting nothing, reaching no one.
So if there’s something you wish I would blog about, please complete the contact form here on the site…or leave a comment on this post.
My love is fiction and especially fantasy. Unfortunately, the market for that is rather soft and in order to “sell” a manuscript now and again, I write romance.

But I’m usually working on multiple projects at one time.

Fiction Projects

Unfortunately, there is no fantasy writing on my horizon. Even though I have an amazing dragon-covered Write Mind planner waiting for the magic of a new world with quests and magicians, I don’t know when I’ll get to write fantasy again.

I need to focus on writing things that sell.

At the moment, I have two projects that I’m guaranteed to sell.
The first is a short story (really more of a novelette) for the ONE SULTRY AFTERNOON anthology my publisher is planning for the summer of 2018.
Here’s a quick summation:

Ivory is in Leavenworth to earn money for her college education by guiding rafts on the river. Her boyfriend graduated and headed to the East coast without a backward glance, so Ivory isn’t looking for romance. Not even a sumer fling.
Prescott survived leukemia as a child only to become touch sensitive as a teenager. When he dropped out of college to pursue his painting, his photographer uncle opened his home in Leavenworth, in exchange for help manning the gallery and gift shop. The rugged beauty of the Alpine village of Washington inspires his creativity.
When they run into each other on a hiking trail, all their plans derail. But love is always a choice, and unless Prescott can overcome his fear of living he’ll never convince Ivory to choose him.

The second project is a novella for a 2018 release in the First Street Church Kindle World of Sweet Grove, Texas. While writing my debut in this world (coming November 15), I stumbled upon a minor character who’s about to run headlong into LOVE’S LITTLE SECRET.
Read on for the brief overview:

Norma Wells works at Sweet Grove High to nurture students, always aware of her own barrenness. She doesn’t understand why God didn’t grant the desires of her heart. At her Silver Anniversary party, she learns the reason her husband had no desire to pursue fertility specialists.
Herman Wells doesn’t deny that the Hispanic boy who crashes the Silver Anniversary party is his son. When he’d been the District Manager, he’d spent half of every month in New Mexico where he’d rescued Osaria and fallen in love with her. Or at least the idea that she needed him while his wife seemed content to build a life without him.
When Herman’s secret rocks their world, Norma has to decide if she can forgive her husband and welcome his now-motherless son. Herman wishes dealing with this fallout was the worst of his problems because when the pink slip comes, everything he build his life around tumbles around his ears.
An unlikely matchmaker seeks to reignite the love that life’s hardships snuffed out. Will Norma’s wish for motherhood come too late? Can Herman discover the most important truth before he loses everything?

Both of these are rough sketches, but hopefully they give you an idea.
I’m also working on edits for:

  • Love’s Late Arrival (due to release on November 15, 2017)
  • Reality Ever After (due to release on January 22, 2018)

My plan is to draft another two novellas in Sweet Grove for National Novel Writing Month OR to write the sequel novel to the women’s fiction novel I need to flesh out before trying to market it again.
What to write? What to write?

Nonfiction Projects

In my original business plan, my goal was to write two Bible study books each year. Unfortunately, that has never happened.
At the moment, I have four or five scattered ideas for studies but nothing concrete enough to begin working on. So it looks like there won’t be a new study in 2017.
The other nonfiction project I’m working on is the Christian living book about struggling through the aftermath of grief. I’ve been writing vignettes and Bible expository segments since 2015.


After meeting with a memoirist and getting feedback from two agents, I’ve got fresh ideas for how to approach this book. Now to be in the right state of mind to work on it.
What do I mean?
This project is an emotional vampire. I can never write more than one section on a given day. And it might drain me so I can’t touch the project again for a week.
But it’s the project I know God wants me to write, so I will do it. But it isn’t a project I can force myself to work on, so I have to pray and trust that He will guide me through it.
Eventually, I’ll market this book to Christian agents and publishers, but I’ll give myself a deadline for acceptance. If I don’t get it, then I’ll indie publish it.
But that is a LONG way off. Probably somewhere in my three-year plan.

A Three-Year Plan

In the coaching session of the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference, Susan May Warren challenged her students to do the math and figure out how many novels, novellas, short stories, whatever they could write in a year.
When I’m on a roll, writing 1,000 words an hour is pretty common. Which means I can crank out 5,000 words in my five-hour writing day.
When we’re talking about the short fiction I’m writing for my publisher’s summer anthology, that means I can draft the story in a week. Those novellas I’m writing for the Kindle World? It will take five or six days to pen those first drafts.
You do the math. How many novellas could I write in a year at this rate?
Except for drafting them is the easy part.
According to Warren, I need to plan an equal amount of time for rewriting, revising, editing and polishing. (So the 25,000 word novella will take 10 to 12 days to be ready for beta readers.)
Still, if I focused on writing only short fiction, I could realistically churn a novella out each month (as long as my editor and cover designer could match my pace).
Whew!
If people purchased these, and I was an indie author earning 70 percent of the sale price, I could make some money. Maybe even support myself solely by writing.
Of course, that’s a big IF.

And rather than dream about this possible paycheck, I’d better get back to writing.

What would you like me to blog about? What genre would you like me to write in? What advice or encouragement do you have for this bumbling author?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

How Conferences Make you more Professional

Professionals attend conferences. One thing all conferences have in common is the availability of workshops so attendees can customize their experience.
Writing workshops will help you improve your craft , making your writing more publishable. Conference workshops can also enlighten you on the use and availability of helpful tools of the trade.
One of the things about the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference that appealed to me were the number and quality of the writing workshops (which were included in the tuition). For several years, I’ve wanted to attend these smaller, interactive classes, but the additional fee for them at other conferences (or the stand-alone tuition) made it an either/or proposition.
I can either attend the workshop for a day (or a few hours) OR I can attend several days of sessions at the conference.

The variety of the conference sessions always won.

But at OCW Conference, I didn’t have to choose. An eight-hour workshop came with the regular tuition for the event. The only thing I had to choose was WHICH one of the workshops would benefit me most at this time in my career.

The Choices

OCW Conference organizers called these “coaching classes.” The instructor becomes a coach. Check out the popularity of coaches in every area—life coach, fitness coach, writing coach, nutrition coach—and you’ll understand the high appeal of this concept.
These were the nine coaching classes available at this year’s conference:

  • Weaving Spiritual Themes into Fiction
  • Children’s/Young Adult Critique (yes, you brought pages which were shared with the class and coach and picked apart)
  • Writing Historical Fiction for Contemporary Readers
  • Destined for Glory: Crafting Your Protagonist and His/Her Inner Journey
  • Get Published Fast: The Art to Writing Great Articles
  • Imaginative Fiction Critique Class (yes, more sharing your manuscript and getting feedback)
  • Telling Your Story with Authenticity and Empathy
  • A Novel Career: for both indie and traditional authors at every stage in the writing journey

With such an incredible selection, you can imagine my struggle in choosing only ONE.

I considered the critique classes but decided I have enough published authors reading my manuscripts in the beta stage that my time would be better spent on something else.


Since I chose to pursue the nonfiction path with all the one hour sessions, I decided against taking the coaching class. Although, after meeting with that coach in my mentor session, I know it would have been profitable for me.

My Workshop

In the end, I asked myself: “Why am I going to this conference this year?”

The answer was three-fold:

  • To pitch my Christian projects
  • To learn more about writing and selling nonfiction
  • To further my writing career through networking and accrued knowledge

Susan May Warren is the author of more than 50 fiction novels. She was the coach for the “A Novel Career” workshop, and because I respected her writing and knew she had a career writing novels, I decided to let her impart some of that knowledge on to me.

It was the right choice.

It will take me months to work through all the information she covered attempted to cover during our eight hours together. Thankfully, she emailed all her slides to class members, so I’ll be able to look back at her presentation rather than trying to make sense of my notes.
Along with talking us through finding our brand and forming a writing plan, she stopped to answer any questions we had. On the first day, she filled a white board with all the things we told her we wanted to learn about in the class.
She covered all those subjects, too. If not thoroughly, she included the information in the mailer to us.
It would have been worth $550 just to take her class. Although I’m a frugal-minded author since my writing paychecks have yet to cover my writing expenses, so I doubt I would have understood that in advance. So I would have passed.
This single coaching class made the time and money invested in the conference an epic win for me.
I pray my writing career bears witness to that claim in this next year.
Do you think networking or knowledge is more essential in business? What’s the best class you’ve ever taken?

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery, a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.

Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

A Different Way of Pitching

One of the biggest reasons to attend a writing conference is to pitch your writing projects to prospective agents, editors or publishers. Pitching face-to-face makes even the most experienced author feel queasy.
Check out my posts on crafting a winning pitch and my actual pitching experiences.
One thing that I liked about OCW Conference was the opportunity to pitch three projects (or one project to three different people) in advance. Three pitches were included in the price of the conference (rather than being an add-on as at every other conference I attended).


This advance pitching was nothing more than querying these agents or editors.

And what writer doesn’t need more practice creating a query that sells?

As soon as I registered for the conference, I scoped out the conference website for details on agents, editors and publishers who would be accepting pitches. Most of the time, this included clicking through to individual websites to discover all the necessary information.
This conference had a page for agents and one for editors that were accepting advance queriers. Which one sounded like a fit for my memoir project? Did any of them seem right for the women’s fiction novel I also wanted to shop at the conference?
In the end, I chose two agents to query about the memoir and an editor who might be interested in my fiction project.
The process looked the same for all of them:

  • Craft a query letter (specific requirements listed on the conference page)
  • Write a compelling single-page synopsis (so simple to boil a 75,000-word novel into one page)
  • Include ten pages of the manuscript.
  • Put each query in a manila envelope addressed to the chosen individual
  • Mail all of them in a larger envelope with a check for a $5 per submission handling fee

And then the waiting began. I sent the pages off nine weeks prior to the conference. Within a week, I had a confirmation email from the manuscript coordinator. A few days later, I received another email informing me that TWO of the people I’d queried wanted electronic submissions.

Image from www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

So I had to convert my files to PDFs and send them along.

And the waiting continued.

On the first full conference day, I will be able to pick these queries up. I can expect some notes from the agent/editor on the letters or manuscript pages.

If they’re interested, there will be an appointment card included with my manuscripts. (Really praying for THREE appointments.) At those meetings, we’ll discuss the project during the pitching sessions.

If they aren’t interested, I shouldn’t try to sell them the same project during the conference. But I can approach other buyers about the projects, if I want.

In the world of querying, nine weeks is an average waiting period for a response to a query. Many agencies won’t even respond if they aren’t interested (which feels rude to me), but most ask for 90 days to decide.
Generally, the more quickly a response is received, the more likely it is a “no thank you,” or “not for us” and “good luck with this.” In short: generic form rejections.

So with less than a week until I find out the fate of my queries, I’m perfecting my in-person pitches for these projects. I’m printing out copies of the sales sheet on Through the Valley of Shadows.

And I’m trying not to think about what these three individuals have to say about my project. Also, I’m imagining a scenario that would include one of these publishing professionals to show up at a meeting with a contract in hand.

After all, I’m a writer. I imagine outlandish things on a daily basis. Why not dream big for my writing career?

Two Paths to Publishing: Which is Right for You?

This blog has often featured articles that writers might find helpful. Not because I’m an expert on this whole “writing gig” but because I’ve done some digging. I want your road to publishing to be smoother than mine has been.

One of the big questions I still find myself debating is about HOW to get published. Should I take the traditional path? Or should I self publish?

Recently, one of the writing teachers I follow wrote a long blog post on the subject. The teacher is Tim Grahl and you can read his post here.

Not that I’m trying to convince you not to click over to Tim’s site, but the post is LONG. And I can sum it up in two sentences.

If you want someone else to do the work of publishing your book, you want to go traditional. If you want to control all of the ins and outs, and don’t mind spending time as an entrepreneur, self-publishing is probably the road for you.

Too simple? Yeah, that’s what I thought too.

Traditional

This used to be the path of “authentic” authors. But it’s a LONG and arduous path with a lot more querying and pitching than actual writing.

Here it is:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research agents and publishers
  4. Craft a killer query and synopsis
  5. Start emailing your query to the members of your list
  6. Attend conferences to pitch agents and editors in person

Don’t sit around and wait, my friend. You’ll grow old and might ruin your computer from repeatedly clicking the refresh button on your mail inbox.

Once you send the queries out, it’s time to begin writing something new. Authors from either path agree on this.

Self-Publishing

This used to mean your manuscript couldn’t get past the gatekeepers. Let’s be honest, we’ve read some books that weren’t publish-worthy by snagging up free reads on Amazon.

But there are plenty of books that debuted as self-published and made their way into a movie deal or a television series. I’m thinking of The Martian not 50 Shades.

The traditional path generally takes long and probably won’t net you as much of a return on a “per book sold” basis, but check out all the steps for self-publishing:

  1. Write a book
  2. Revise, edit and polish the manuscript
  3. Research editors
  4. Hire an editor
  5. Research cover designers
  6. Hire a designer
  7. Fix manuscript according to editors suggestions
  8. Hire a proofreader
  9. Deal with changes to the cover
  10. Upload the final products to your publishing platform of choice
  11. Figure out how to market the book

Yes, I could have added a step for researching and hiring a formatter because it isn’t as easy as one might think to get the book ready for publishing. But it can be done with a minimum of hair pulling and several review phases with CreateSpace.

I’ve been guilty of including my small indie publisher in it’s own realm because it doesn’t require the wait times (nor have the distribution) of the big publishing houses.

There is a third path. It’s the one I’ve been traveling for the past three years.

Hybrid

I have manuscripts I’m actively trying to sell to agents or publishers. This is me on the traditional path

I’ve contracted many stories and novellas with a small publisher, so this is probably me on the traditional path, too.

I also have a novella and two Bible study books that I published myself using CreateSpace.

Some authors have books on Amazon they’ve published, and then they sign with a big house and contract for other books that will soon be on Amazon under that publisher’s control.

Either way, that’s the hybrid path. You aren’t sold on getting published ONE way.

Although Grahl suggests giving yourself a year on a path before deserting it, I think you can walk the middle line as a hybrid author. You’re likely to discover which trail appeals to you and you’ll see your name in print rather than waiting for an acceptance letter from an agent or publisher.

Maybe it really is as easy as deciding if you want to spend your time writing (and marketing because you do that on either road) or if you want to embrace the business side of publishing while you’re writing.

What experience do you have with publishing paths? Do you have other advice that will help muddy clear up this issue?

Now available

Like reading this? You’re a click away from getting Hero Delivery,  a bulletin with deals and new releases from Sharon Hughson.
Maybe you like romance or see my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.
Already read one or more of my books? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. A review is the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

The Author and the Creative Writing Class

It’s rewarding to walk into a classroom and have a student say, “You’re the published author.” For someone whose dream is to write for the young adult audience, it’s especially thrilling.
I would know. I do. And it happened to me.
The next words from this thrilled student’s mouth? Care to guess?
“What did you write again.”
Yep. The face was memorable but the book title was not.
Although, several students recognized the cover of the book I had discussed with them in November, months before.


And then there was the creative writing class.
What I Expected
When the middle school English teacher gave me “freedom” to teach whatever I wanted to her creative writing class, I smiled. Maybe I sent the clouds scurrying from the radiant beams of joy.
“We’re finishing up a unit on mystery and suspense,” she wrote. “They have stories to read to the class.”
Long stories. I was impressed.
The fact many of the stories read more like horror? Not as impressive to my anti-scare self.
Based on the reaction from the regular English students (noted above), I expected the writers to fall all over me.
Not even a smile when I mentioned I was a published author. Oh-kay.
I did get a positive reaction when I told them we wouldn’t be moving on to the poetry writing unit. Cheers all around.
When I offered to comment on their rough drafts to see if they might want to make changes before they turned the story in two days later? Not a single taker.
My published status meant nothing to these young writers.
“I would have flipped if a published author offered to read my stories,” a little voice inside me whined.
Reality Bites
The forum the teacher used for sharing the stories invited only positive comments once the author finished their reading.
“I liked the description.”
“Loved how real the characters were.”
“You did a great job building tension.”
Sometimes what they said was even true.
I itched to mark up these stories. Several of them had great premises. Others were a mashup of every police show and horror movie the student had seen.
My lips were sealed.
And I didn’t get to comment on even one story of the nine that were read over the first two days I worked in the room.
Happily Ever After
None of these stories had a happy ending. Apparently, suspense stories involve the narrator dying (in two cases), lots of minor characters’ deaths (in over half the stories) and fathers who were really mass murderers (in three instances).
Yikes! Should I report this to the authorities? Perhaps these stories had a hint of auto-biography in them.
I offered the class two choices for our Friday writing activity. As I expected, they chose the “finish the story” write around.
I selected nine young adult genres (not mystery or suspense), and wrote down a first line. Most of these I took from published books of that genre. A couple leapt from my imagination reservoir.
And they wrote.
But the suspense unit was still too fresh in their minds. With the exception of a few stories, the variety of authors chose to steer the contemporary diary toward suicide and murder. In fact, the actual horror story was less horrifying than some of the others.
On this occassion, however, a few of the students asked me to “finish” the stories that didn’t find resolution.
There were three. Two of them didn’t involve murderous parents or homicide in any form.
It was great fun pulling all their threads together. My favorite? The fantasy, of course. Although the steampunk story had a more interesting plot line.
An author teaching creative writing might not be the smooth fit you’d imagine. Even if imagining is what you do for a living.

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.