Tag Archives: authors

Does Writing From Home Affect Your Worth?

The other day, a fellow writer lamented that she’d been brushed aside at a social gathering simply because she was an author, not an employee. Not surprisingly, this sentiment is echoed by many Write at Home Moms.

WrAH Moms are given the hand wave, the shoulder shrug and the scrunched-in-disgust face by women who nine to five it off the homestead. They acutely feel the disdain of the working. As if being there for their kids while writing, editing and marketing a novel equates sitting on the couch watching Family Ties reruns while downing copious amounts of soda. As if their contribution to their families and to society is somehow inferior–less than–the work these other women do.

I suppose it comes from the idea that respect is tied to a paycheck, and that being home is as old-fashioned as June Cleaver’s hair-do.

“You just stay at home,” says the working mother of two with a cleaning lady, a nanny and her summers off.

Yep. Just.

Compounding this feeling of failure is the fickleness and speed (or lack thereof) of the publishing industry. Not every great manuscript gets published. In fact, many never find homes as publishers navigate the technology rush that has changed the face of book marketing. And even when novels earn a contract, it can take up to three years before they hit the bookshelves–cyber or otherwise. To the paycheck mentality who doesn’t understand the nuances of the literary world, this is a whole lot of wasted time and a lot of reruns.

So this post goes to my fellow WaH Moms. I believe in you. I understand what it’s like to be looked down upon for pursuing your passion. I get how hard it is to carve out time to write while balancing the volunteer activities you do, the families you raise, the business mind you must have to market yourself, the part time jobs you keep and the disdain you endure for doing most of it quietly behind the closed doors of your home–all for paychecks that might take years in the making.

Your time is worth something. Your words do matter. You are a viable thread in the tapestry of the world. Without you, picture books could not be shared between parent and child, schools would have no material with which to teach, vacationers would have no beach reads, scholars would have no way to enhance their learning and countless editors, marketers, publishers, illustrators, designers, carpenters, architects, store clerks, librarians, CEOs, janitors, teachers, etc, etc, etc, would be without jobs.

The written word has power. It can be responsible for cultural movements. It graces humanity with possibilities. It is vital to our society’s success. And you are a part of that–sitting on your couch, agonizing over word choices, disseminating fact from fiction, sharing your thoughts in only the way you can.

To hell with the naysayers and dust bunnies. Take pride in your work–and even more so, the process. Writing is some of the hardest work I have ever done.

If you have encountered similar situations, how do you handle them?

Readers Are Like Phone Companies

I recently got a new phone, as my old one wasn’t functioning as well as it should–not to mention, I hated it from the start–but had to stick with it because…well, two-year contract and all.

Anyway, I love my new phone as much as I hated my old one. Sticking with it for the duration of my contract will be a pleasure, whereas my last one was a pain right from the get go.

Kind of reminds me of books…

Back in the day, I read anything and everything–always finishing what I started. Always. I was easily amused and had a lot more down time with which to fill with words.

Alas, my time is shorter now, as is my patience. Books, unlike cell phones, do not have restrictive contracts. If a reader hates the first chapter, first page, first line, he doesn’t have to keep reading. He can discard the old and buy a new one without paying a penalty fee.

As I’ve gotten older and my down time shorter, I have resorted to this method myself. In fact, I recently read–and loved–the first novel in a trilogy that everyone was raving about. Seconds after finishing the first one, I picked up the second. The writing had slipped and the characterization was a mere shell of what it had been in the debut. Yet, the storyline was enough to hold me to the end.

However, by the end, I was so exasperated I wanted to send both books and a crabby note to the author voicing my disappointment that the second book was a bridge book between the first and final in the trilogy–and a poorly done one at that. I didn’t, and I won’t. But, I didn’t purchase the last book.

My time is short, and I certainly didn’t sign a trilogy contract with the publisher. I didn’t have to stick with the story just because I had started it.

And this is what terrifies me about being an author. It’s what should terrify us all. Our readers do not have to stick with our writing. Rather than them having a contract with our book, we have a contract with them. As authors, it is our job to deliver a good story, page after page. It is our duty to fulfill the promise that engaged our readers in the first place.

Our readers are Verizon and T-Mobile and AT&T. They hold the contract. We, the writers, are bound by their expectations for the duration of our books. If we break this contract, the penalty fee we pay is in lost readership.

So, dear readers, what types of things make you break your contract with an author?

Curious minds want to know.

Little Dog. Big World.

I love reading. I love writing. I love the idea that Somebody Somewhere reads the words I write. And yet, it’s terrifying.

IMAG0260My stories are small dogs in the giant kennel of life. They are but an infinitesimal dot on the landscape of literature. The period at the end of a single sentence in the vastness of the Library of Congress.

Yet my hope is that Somebody Somewhere will be impacted–in a good way–by the tales I tell. But there’s so much great writing out there already that I worry how my words will hold up against the books on the world’s bookshelf.

Over the last decade, I’ve had short stories, poetry and articles published in various places under various names. This past year alone has been a bit of a rush with six short stories in four anthologies, a major project in the works and a debut novel coming out this fall under my alter ego.

And yet I wonder: how will you find my writing? Physically and emotionally. Will you stumble across it on someone’s coffee table, on an Amazon recommended list, on GoodReads or a blog? Will you hear about it because Someone Somewhere said, “Hey, you have to read this.”? Or, will it languish in the corner like a naughty, half-starved mutt in the kennel? You know the ones. The kind so ugly they hurt your sensibilities with a yappy bark so annoying your ears bleed. Yeah, those dogs.

Confession time: I am terrified that in addition to being a small dog in a big world, my writing is subpar at best.

Although, Someone Somewhere took a chance on me. I’ve had an agent. I’ve had editors. I’ve even got a publisher. What I seem to struggle with is the confidence to just flop down with the big dogs like I belong.

How do you gather the courage to pursue your passions despite the fears that go along with them? Are you as terrified of succeeding as you are of failing? Do you ever feel like a little dog in a big world?

Curious minds want to know.

A to Z: Baseball

This morning Middle Son pulled a crumpled note from his backpack and nonchalantly handed it over. “Here, mom, I got this a couple of days ago.”

This, of course, being the all-important sign up sheet for the summer baseball meeting. Which is, of course, tonight–when both Dear Hubby and I are out of town.

My little boys LOVE baseball. They live it. We live it every weekend between mid-May and mid-August and every week day for practice or games. It literally consumes our family.

Writing, of course, is exactly like baseball.

It’s all-consuming and takes a whole team.

I’ve been working with a few publishing houses over the course of the last few months and it is very clear to me that without every single player having their head and heart in the game, my novels will not make it to the playoffs. They will not become League Champions. Instead, they will sit in the dug out, spitting seeds into the dirt and wondering what they heck happened to their potential.

So, who makes up Team Novel?

  • Coaches- Our critique partners and sounding boards play an integral part in keeping us motivated and on the right track. They can give us the right cues on when to round a base and when to slide.
  • Umps- The editorial department makes the calls. They watch for strikes and balls and make the call on home plate. Without umps, our novels would be riddled with errors–some simple like typos and others glaring like MC’s eating three dinners in a row and never going to sleep.
  • Outfielders- These guys and gals see the big picture. Other than the batter, they are the only ones who have their eyes on the whole field. Graphic designers work hand in hand with marketing to create eye-catching covers that will pull together the most important aspects of a novel for our readers to drool over.
  • The Basemen- These dudes are the brains behind the game. They are like mini chess players calculating the opponents’ next moves and planning out their strategies three plays into the future. Our marketing departments are some of the most important players on the field. As are our street teams. Don’t ignore their power.
  • The Pitcher and the Catcher- This team of two needs to be rock-solid and is the core for which all other activity hinges on. The writer and the agent/editor. Without great writing (pitcher), the editor has nothing to catch and nothing to throw. And yet, the editor reads the batter and gives directives to the pitcher. It’s all give and take between them. Sometimes the pitcher and catcher are one in the same, such as when an author self-pubs. But never fear, the dichotomy is still there, as each of these positions require very different skills from the other. The self-pubber just has to work harder to accomplish what others do with two or more.
  • The Manager- The all-important spouse, significant other, parent, child, co-worker, friend or nanna who has your back. We all have that one person who believes in us more than we believe in ourselves. Without them, we couldn’t manage to write.

Yet baseball is more than one team. It’s the audience we sit next to. It’s the concession stand workers providing us with ball park hot dogs and water to slake our thirst. It’s the opposing team and the grueling game played with them in the heat of summer.

Baseball is an experience, not a single event.

Writing is no different.

So today, reach out to your Team Novel–no matter what stage you are in your writing journey–and thank them for their support. Let them know you appreciate their efforts. And don’t be afraid to show your good sportsmanship. Congratulate someone on another team for their hard-earned win.

B is for baseball!

 

Where do you hear about the books you buy? Unofficial Study

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of marketing, researched some and still haven’t come to a conclusion about it all.  A post by Sophie Perinot today stirred up some more questions about marketing dollars and social networking time as effective means of selling books.

Words and phrases have tumbled around in my mind as potential posts, but I guess what I really want to know–what every writer really wants to know–is how do you hear about the books you pick for your reading list?

I’ll tell you all about my buying habits and ask that you–whether a reader or a writer–share a bit about how/where you find your newest reads. 

  • Twitter: I’ve never purchased a tweeted about book.  Ever.  Especially when I feel like the purpose of Twitter is to sell books, not engage in meaningful communications with fellow readers and writers.  Call me a snob…
  • Book Trailer: nope.  I don’t You tube, so see very few of them to begin with.  Those I do see are because I’m already on an author’s blog or website.
  • Blog Mention: YES, yes and Yes!  I love hearing what my cyber friends are reading and why.  I also love supporting my fellow writers by purchasing their books–made easier by e-pubbing as I’m far away from even a big chain book store, let alone an indie brick and mortar. 
  • The Author’s Blog: A word of caution.  I don’t like when authors sell their books in their blog posts by mentioning it every single day.  I do like when they have a quiet link on the side and mention only the most intriguing aspects of their writing journeys in their posts.  If blogs become thinly veiled advertisements, I am out of there.
  • Publisher’s Web Page: Nope.  I don’t visit publisher sites unless I’m already specifically looking for an author or a book.  I never browse them to see upcoming books for my reading list–title comps, yes, but not my personal reading list.
  • Brick and Mortars: I do, however, browse physical bookshelves.  I love nothing more than finding a new author and a new title among the spines.
  • Amazon: Absolutely.  I purchase e-books from my Kindle on a regular basis.  But…I already know exactly what I’m looking for before I do.  I’m not an Amazon browser.  Not even when I get the “based on your purchases you might like” suggestions.  I’m a very focused e-book buyer and never browse for my e-books.
  • Word of Mouth: Definitely.  I will almost always (Please don’t spam me with book titles over this admission!) buy books that are recommended by trusted family and friends. 
  • Conferences: Certainly.  Put an author on the podium who wants to help me succeed as a writer and I’m right there with my checkbook.  Conferences are dangerous places for my bank account.
  • Book Clubs: I’ve been a member of several and love them.  I also adore my kids’ book club flyers from school and almost always purchase a book or ten from them.
  • Author Events: School visits or library talks are intriguing to me and I like to support those authors brave enough to show up in public and put themselves out there.  I like when they bring the books so I don’t have to pay then and have them shipped.  Ugh.  Can you say instant gratification?
  • Libraries: Indirectly.  I’m not a big library user (blame my instant gratification issues and addiction to books) even though I’m on the library board and support them financially.  However, I do browse titles, listen to trends from the librarians and then buy books I think I’ll like based on the process.
  • Author Web Sites: Occasionally.  I do check up on my favorite authors now and again and feel like this IS the place to sell your wares.  It isn’t offensive for me to have authors plug their books on their sites.  That’s why I’m there.
  • School Reading Lists: Yes.  I like to read what my kids are reading.  Even academically.  If I like a book or an author, I’ll buy a copy for home.
  • Movies made from books: Sometimes.  If the movie sounds intriguing, I’ll pick up the book and read it first.  I rarely read a book AFTER seeing the movie, however, as I like to be surprised and delighted in my own head, not by a director’s interpretation of a novel.
  • Writing Groups: Without a doubt.  If I’m in your circle of writing buds, I will 100% support your endeavor: morally and financially.  (No, you can’t have a loan.)  I know, I expect a rush of new subscribers over that one and welcome it.  But I’m serious.  If I make a solid connection with you, I’m your friend for life.
  • Grocery Stores: Laugh about it, but yes.  When I’m on vacation and have to run to the store for a few last-minute ingredients, I will usually pick up a beach/fireplace read for those down times.
  • Radio Mention: Yep.  Especially if the author is interviewed and sounds passionate about his writing and particular project.
  • Newspaper/Magazine Ad: Sometimes, though rarely.
  • Television: Nope.  I picked up one Oprah book club book once and hated it so much I figure we have nothing in common as far as literary taste is concerned.  Snobbish and narrow-minded, but I’m me and I get to have some quirks.
  • Random Out and About: Yep.  I’m a snooper.  If I see you sitting on an airplane or a park bench and you are ENGROSSED in a book, you can bet your last penny that I will remember the title and buy it next.  Kind of like word of mouth, but from strangers and with no talking.
  • Goodreads and other booky places: Yes.  I consider this word of mouth, though I’m a bit leery of who I follow because I only want genuine recommendations.
  • Facebook: No.  I don’t really know writers ONLY through Facebook.  Nor do my friends drop titles as readily as they discuss their evenings out on the town. 

The Catch: I refuse, on principle, to buy a book from an author whose only form of communication is to pitch her writing.  I hate being the target of someone’s campaign.  Rather, I get warm fuzzies when I care about the people who wrote the book and don’t need you to sell me your product.  In fact, the minute you morph from cool writer into crazy marketer, I’m gone.

How about you?  What awakens the desire for you to drop your hard-earned cash on someone else’s words?  How do you initially hear about the books you someday read?  Do you pass along great authors and titles to the peeps in your life?  If so, how?

Readers and writers alike, share this post, comment on your buying trends and help us unofficially get a handle on how we can become better marketers of our work.

Curious minds want to know!

Writing Across Age Groups: friend or foe?

“What do you write?”

The question is asked often and a confusing one to answer depending on the individual receiving the info. 

The short answer is that I write for kids.  The long answer is that I write for all ages of kids.  I have manuscripts floating around in my brain–and on paper–for cute board books, quiet picture books, whimsical chapter books, mysterious middle grades and dark young adult novels.   

The general feeling in writing circles is that what you first pub in is where you’ll continue pubbing.  This advice is fine for writers of adult fiction who write by genre.  “Love what you first pub, because that’s the genre you’ll stay in for a good long time.  An entire career, maybe.”

By professional standards, it typically takes about ten years to grow a writer.  While some writers blow the covers off this theory, the timeline holds true for the majority of authors.  Like all things, it takes time to build a brand–something that is hard to do if one genre-hops before being truly well-established.

My DH and I go through this every time we shop for bathroom supplies.  He grew up with one kind of toothpaste, I grew up with another.  We’re both loyal to our brands.  Yet I’m sure Crest didn’t come on the scene in one day and become the Chosen One.  Nor did Colgate. 

Even now, these nationally recognized brands vie for market share by adding new elements.  It’s the same brand, just in cinnamon or lemon.  It’s the same refreshing goodness, but this time with baking soda and whitener. 

Which leads me to my dilemma.  I don’t write Original Crest Paste.  I write all their off-shoots.  Combined, I’m a brand.  Just parceled out a bit to smaller pockets of users. 

Is this a good thing or bad thing?

I’m not sure.  In some ways, I think it’s awesome.  I get the freedom to write what strikes my fancy.  I get the freedom to explore all avenues of lit that I grew up loving.  But it can make branding a little more difficult. 

For instance, it will be a good fifteen years before my board book audience is ready to read my dark YA.  The loyalty will not carry over unless they literally go from cutting teeth on my first books to learning to read with my chapter books to hitting puberty with my older reads.  And this can happen.   Truth be told, I want it to.    

Yet, it also poses another question: should my middle grade audience (wherefore art thou, audience?) have access to my vastly different YA material? 

I’ll just go ahead and admit.  As a mom I would be mortified if my fourth-grader brought home a steamy YA.  But it can happen if authors build their brands right and kids want to read everything ever written by Author Awesome. 

I see this happening already as traditionally adult-pubbed authors cross over to the juvenile lit arena.  My Middle Son is enthralled by Patterson’s The Dangerous Days of Daniel X series.  When he reads through all of Patterson’s kid books, he’ll want to read some of his older material–stuff that’s totally inappropriate for a ten-year-old.  Wildly inappropriate. 

So, dear readers and parents of readers, what do you think about this?  How do you feel about authors who span age groups?  Are there certain lines that can be crossed, while other lines should be firmly drawn in the sand?

And writers, do you feel boxed in by the “pick a genre” adage or does it help you focus your creative energy?  Are you a genre/age group hopper?  If so, do you fear that this will limit your natural inclination and over-all success? 

Share your experiences, as curious minds want to know.