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Writing "to Market" Makes Me Shudder

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    At the urging of a fellow author, I joined a site for writers a month or so back. Though it’s interesting, I don’t feel that it fits my style—not for writing, not for publishing, and not for promoting. The idea is writing books “to market” or “for market,” which means an author writes what will sell, not what she wants to write. Early on in my career I had an agent who tried to get me to do that. Her push was that I should write Amish romances, because they were big at that moment in time. Later, I had a publisher who wanted me to continue the Loser Mysteries, though I felt they'd reached a logical conclusion. At a conference once, I heard an editor for a big publishing company say that anyone who had anything… anything with vampires in it should send it to her. The market. The market. The market. Book industry people look for books that will "sell through," meaning they earn more than it cost to make them. If you’ve read my work, you know I do pretty much the

The Perks of Being a Writer

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 I was at an event yesterday where I saw lots of people I hadn't seen for a long time. The question that often comes up is "Are you still writing?" My answer, of course, is "Yes," but I sense that some wonder why. In twenty years, I haven't become a famous writer, and I probably never will. (FYI, I haven't become rich, either.) Why put in the hours and hours (et cetera, et cetera) it takes to write a book, edit a book, and publish a book? I write for the same reasons anyone does what they love: crafters, bakers, amateur athletes, bird-watchers, whoever. It isn't for money or recognition; it's something they call self-fulfillment--the enjoyment of putting effort into something to get the best result you can manage. There are some side perks to writing for publication, though, and a message I got this morning told me I'm not as crafty as I imagined. A reader who knows me well pointed out that the "bad" characters in one of my books ar

Drat! Another Idea

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  People often ask authors, "Where do your ideas comefrom?" Answers will vary. Ideas come from the present. The past. The news. Local gossip. Ancient stories. Out of nowhere. I hit a kind of hiatus this week. The next Maggie Pill book is done, at least until my eagle-eyed beta readers get their hands on the author copies and make their corrections. The next Peg Herring book, tentatively called Aunt Marge, needs time to rest. I believe that, like a roast just out of the oven, a book requires "sitting time," a period where the author puts it away and thinks about something else. In a month or six weeks or whatever, it will read differently, which will bring about all kinds of tweaks and improvements. At least, that's what I preach and practice. Those two things mean, however, that I have nothing to write at present, and nothing to edit either. I had told myself I'd concentrate on reminding readers about my older books as well as helping "Maggie" pus

Step Three to Writing a Book: Publishing

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 If you decide to self-publish, there are good prospects and bad ones. It's a complicated process, though it's much simpler now than it was a few years ago. It's hard to break it down, and the learning curve is brutal at times. While I've tried to develop a schedule that covers all the necessary steps, I find myself doing what I feel like doing on a given day and neglecting things I should be doing. That's bad, but since I don't consider writing a "job," I give myself a break and do what sounds doable at the time. Here's what I work on in the months and weeks before publication. Cover Manuscript setup Publicity Corrections Ordering Let's start with the cover. The easiest thing to do is hire a cover artist, and ninety percent of experts will tell you to do that. I admit that I don't have the tools, smarts, or experience that a cover artist does, but here's the thing: they don't know the material like I do. I had a really good cover a

Step Two of Writing a Book

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  In the last post, I gave hints on writing your book. Now it's time to make sure your work appears in its best form, whether you plan to self-publish or submit to an agent. However you recorded your story, at this point it has to become a computer file. There are two reasons for that: first, modern publishing requires it, and second, it makes editing a whole lot easier. You'll need to get to know your computer's editing aids, which can be frustrating but will pay off in the end. Things like FIND/REPLACE can save you hours of searching when you realize you changed the spelling of main character's name halfway through the story. When you get stuck, ask the internet. There's always a tutorial or a site where someone asked the same question you need answered. There are different ways of going about the editing process , and individuals arrange them to their liking. I do several self-edits before anyone else sees the book. Sometimes I combine a few of the edits listed

When You Want to Write a Book

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 If I had a nickel for every time someone said to me, "I'd like to write"...I'd have a lot of nickels. To help those people out a little, I thought I'd do a series of posts on the topic, similar to a presentation I used to do in live settings called WRITE, EDIT, PUBLISH.  WRITING If you want to write a book, you have to find the time, energy, and perseverance to keep at it until the story is done. When you type "The End" (We actually don't do that, but the image is nice), it won't be perfect, but--at least in the world of fiction--a story needs to be finished before you can consider the next steps. Mostly, this means the BITCH principle is in effect: Butt In The Chair, Honey . Your method doesn't matter. I know authors who hand-write their first drafts, some who keyboard, some who dictate, and even one who uses some antique half-computer half-typewriting device she claims works best for her thought process. Whatever, just get your story on pa

A Messy Writing Career

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 I'm usually pretty neat. I like my house in order. I keep a regular schedule. I pick up items dropped on the floor at Kohl's and rehang them so they won't get stepped on. Neat is good. But if you look at my writing career, you might think, "This woman has no sense of order at all!" I started writing historical novels, using my own name.(I used Peg instead of Peggy because there's another author with that name.) I got an agent, she found a publisher, and I was on my way...sort of. I had an idea for a paranormal mystery, and I met a publisher at a conference who liked it, so suddenly Peg Herring writes about Elizabeth I but ALSO about a detective who solves crimes from the afterlife. In the meantime, I wrote a mystery about a homeless woman. My second publishers loved that one, so now I had THREE series going. I also wrote a stand-alone mystery that I called "vintage," meaning it took place in the past but not that far back (the Vietnam era, which is

What a Month!

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I was thrilled with the response to my giveaway in August, so thanks to all who requested a print book. I'm sorry if you didn't get one, but they went fast! I've been receiving emails from readers, some letting me know the book had arrived in the mail, and others letting me know the reader had finished and would be posting a review. One clever girl even put a pic of the book on Facebook, so I got some free advertising. To one and all, thank you! The process was hectic for a while, since I wanted to get the books in the mail ASAP. The people at my little post office were patient and helpful. I combed local dollar stores to get enough bubble mailers of the correct size. There was time spent, and money. Why would I do that? Writers often spend hundreds of dollars on advertising that goes out into a world of people who don't care much about their books. I chose to spend that money to send books to people who'd already noticed me, either here on the blog or by signing

You Gotta Love Suggestions...or Not

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 People love to tell you what you should do. I guess it's part of being human. Many suggestions are horribly wrong, and they can feel almost willfully so. I saw a post on social media recently asking for book recommendations. The poster wanted to read about an era of history, but she specified she wanted a standalone book. She got no less than three recommendations for series that are "really good." As my writing career lurches along, I get lots of advice on what I should be doing. My first books were historical, but then other ideas came along. I wrote contemporary mysteries and what I call 'vintage' mysteries set in the 1960s. As a result, Peg Herring's books are scattered through various mystery sub-genres, and of course there are fans who would like more of this type or that. "You should write more ---" Maybe some authors can churn out endless books of one type. I can't. When I decided to try writing a cozy mystery, I invented a pseudonym, no

How Writing Changes Reading

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 Note to audio fans: Deceiving Elvera is in the works for an audio book. The whole industry seems to be slowed by COVID 19, but I'll let you know as soon as I know.                                                                 How Writing Changes Reading  I have a friend who's a book reviewer, and she and I often talk about how reading changes a person's reading (if that makes sense, you're a reader). When you start as a kid and read for, say, five decades, you bring a lot of background to each new book you pick up. It's hard for an author to surprise you or entrance you, because you've seen it all before. I recall my daughter telling me how wonderful the Harry Potter books were, so I read the first one. My thought was, "Cute, but hasn't anyone read The Once and Future King ? Being an author is likely to make a person even more of a picky reader than a past filled with books. Writers see plot lines developing, because we've done that ourselves.

I Too Lie for a Living

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    Novelists are liars. As one of my contemporaries likes to say, "We make shit up." The bad part of lying is why you do it. For writers, it's about entertaining readers. Fiction in a story is harmless in most cases, though I get frustrated with historical novelists who twist facts to suit their story. They don't care if readers (who aren't generally historical experts) conclude that so-and-so wasn't really the villain the history books portray but was actually kind of a pussycat.  Outside of books, lies take on a more treacherous role. We grew up bombarded daily with commercial advertising, and while some of us learned to think through the hype, others buy products they have no need for because they succumb to the tricks liars play. When I taught high school, I asked students to dissect ads looking for two things: what the specific goal is and how the ad makes its appeal. Often advertisers trigger a person's insecurities so they'll buy a product. (Be