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Authors in Strange Situations

Nobody tells you that promoting the books you write requires you to be adaptable and have a sense of humor. We picture authors jetting all over the country, sipping champagne and telling adoring fans about their latest novel, but that's not reality for the vast majority of us. I loved the story one author told about arriving at a bookstore where he had an audience of one. The fan told him he'd really liked the book, though he admitted he might not have chosen to read it except, "It was the only one they had in solitary confinement." I haven't met any ex-cons who are fans (that I know of), but I have ended up in strange situations. I want to state here for the record that I am EXTREMELY grateful to libraries and bookstores who allow me to come for a Sit & Sign or, even better, a talk. However, it doesn't always go the way one might imagine. *** There was the library where they'd booked two events at the same time in the same room. The othe

Plain Talk for Writers: It Takes Longer than You Think

What takes longer, you ask? Everything. It takes longer to sell a book than you'd like. It takes longer to produce a book than you estimate. It takes longer to become a familiar name to readers than you expected. It takes longer to to keep up with promotion than you ever imagined. Let's look at those one by one. Sell the book . Five years is the estimated average time it takes a writer to find a publisher. If you're hoping for a big publisher, it could be even more. Yes, I know you read about an author who hit it big with her first book. Hooray for her, but most of us don't have that experience. We just don't talk about it because the average reader thinks if a book is "good enough," it's going to get published. Yeah, right. Produce the book . Once your book is accepted by a publisher, you're on their timeline. You can tell all your friends about it, but they're likely to have to wait more than a year to see the book in print. My

Plain Talk for Writers: It's Work

Some things you need to accept: 1. You're not as good as you think you are. Other people have ideas as good as yours. In fact, it's hard to be truly creative with all the stories that are out there. Others write as well as you do too. Admit it, and you'll be easier to be around. 2. You're going to work harder than you expect to be successful. There is no Book Fairy who sprinkles shiny stuff on your work and gets everyone to notice it. There's no way to get readers to pay attention if they don't want to. There are things you can do that actually turn readers off, like constantly telling what a great book you've written. 3. Nobody knows what works. If there were a formula--well, there isn't. Badly written books get to be Best Sellers and really good books get rejected by publishers or lie languishing if they do get published. 4. Writing well isn't easy. Note the qualifier. A monkey can sit down at a computer and produce something. An author kn

Feet on the Ground, or Butt in the Chair?

One of the crazy things about being an author is the wide disparity in what's expected of you. The writing part requires long hours of--well, writing. Composing, revising, re-writing, and editing take time and concentration. On the other side of the coin, you're expected to promote your work in order for publishers to have anything to do with you. That means public appearances where you smile a lot and try to stir up interest among readers. I don't mind the public stuff, but it often feels like time I might have spent writing. Let's say I sign up to visit a bookstore on Friday (This Friday it's Purple Tree Books in Cheboygan, MI.) There's no way to tell if there will be people in the bookstore. If the sun is shining or if it's raining really hard, probably not. There's no way to tell if they'll be mystery readers, either. So two or three hours plus travel time gets me no guarantees that I'll even meet a prospective buyer, much less convince him