Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts with the label writing books

The Final Step That Never Ends

Truth in Advertising: My hair is no longer this color! Over the last few months, I've written about how I came to self-publish and what I do in that process. Once your cover is great, your MS is perfect (we hope), and your formatting is set for whichever sites you plan to present on, there's just promo left to do...always...forever...eternally.  A person trying to make a living by writing has to promote. Those who aren't (like me) do as much as we choose. Writers understand that promoted books, (often books that aren't as good as yours) will sell, while unpromoted books mean that no one even knows you've got a new one out there. We begin promo long before a book is available for sale. We talk about it online. We do cover reveals. We offer samples. We try to get bloggers interested enough to feature the book. We solicit reviews. Add standing on our heads and screaming, "IT'S MY NEW BOOK!" and you have some idea. The biggest problem is that no one kno

Take a Step Back

 It occurs to me that I should have discussed why people choose traditional or self-publishing, so I'm going to take a step back and do that. When I finished my first book, there were two options for publication, traditional publishing or vanity publishing. Vanity publishing requires that an author pay for her work to be presented to the world. It's been around for centuries, and some pretty important writers started out that way, but it was definitely a no-no for "serious" writers. Traditional publishing, getting an agent, waiting for her to shop the book to publishing houses, and hoping for an offer was, at that time, the only way to get any kind of credibility. I did it that way. It took years, but the result was good. The publisher who signed me up got me reviews from prestigious places like the Historical Novel Society and Kirkus Reviews . I was thrilled that my first review in HNS (For Macbeth's Niece ), got a star, meaning the reviewer thought it rose above

People Ask Cool Questions #2

My first release, now in audio: Macbeth's Niece This month I'm answering questions I often get at personal appearances. Today's question is "How long does it take to write a book?" That's a little like "How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" It's part practical, part philosophical, and mostly unanswerable. We all know authors who take years to write a book. Some of them are quite self-righteous about it, copping a "you can't rush genius" attitude. I'm no genius, so I can't say if that's true. I've noticed, however, that the rest of us are writing as fast as we can, and while it used to take two years minimum to get a new book out, most publishers are fine these days with more than one a year. That can lead to some loss of quality, and readers with an editor's eye bemoan the modern tendency to rush to get a book out. Still those same readers go on Facebook or Goodreads and wonder when Author X is

People Ask Cool Questions #1

https://www.amazon.com/Killing-Silence-Loser-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B00A87IAQG I'm on vacation for September, so for the blog I thought I'd address some questions people ask at personal appearances. QUESTION #1 Where do you get the names/inspiration for your characters? Often from real people I know. I need an image in my head to create a character. (Brag here: one site said last week that my characters are people you think about long after you finish the book. YAY!) I start with someone I've known--perhaps a coworker or a former student--and imagine how that person would react to the scenario I'm creating. I always add when I admit this that those people NEVER stay real. As soon as I have a firm picture in mind, the character becomes a whole new person, with his own personality, attitudes, and personal details. For example, Verle in the Loser Mysteries started out as a man who was sort of my second dad, since I practically lived at his house as a kid. Readers

An Author's Bucket List

Panel at Printers' Row 6-16  In the preface to Iberia, James Michener explained that he'd conceived the idea for the book decades before, made a bunch of notes about it, and then put it on a shelf because he had too many other things going. I think many authors have the same experience: too many ideas, not enough time . I always tell people I'll die with ideas for more books in my head. It takes time to make an idea into a book, which is why, though we all might have "a book inside us," we don't all write it down. It's a daunting task, and even if/when you do write it down, it needs editing and reworking, over and over. Even books that seem light, like cozies, require multiple draft s. (I know there are authors who claim to write it down only once. A: I don't believe them and B: if it IS true, I'm guessing they work it over many, many times in their heads before they make that one draft. The rest of us can't keep all that stuff inside

"How Are the Book Sales Going?"

It's a question I get quite often, and sadly, the most correct answer is, "I don't know." With my first book, back in 2008, I really had no idea how well it was selling for almost two years, and even then the numbers I was given didn't mean much because I knew so little. Publishers pay an advance on a book when they offer a contract. The author gets "paid" in that way, except then the publisher holds that much money back from royalties as the book sells. If an author gets $100,000 (don't I wish), the book has to earn that much back for the publisher before she gets more money (It's called "selling through"). Add to that the fact that bookstores stock books with the understanding they can return them if they don't sell within a given time. That means a publisher can't count a sale as a sale until they get the returned books and subtract them from what really sold. (Confused yet? That's the current state of publishing.)

What It's Like in a Writer's Head--Especially on Mondays

Okay, today I have to finish the chapter I started yesterday-- But there's that blogger who wants a guest post by Wednesday-- Oh, and the editor sent a chapter for me to okay. I should get on that soon. But that contest I'm judging has a deadline for me to return my ratings. When was that? I wish I had time to write the book I keep imagining. Seems like fun but can't handle it right now. Christmas is coming. I should do some sort of promotion. And I've got Career Day this Friday at that high school. Need to think about that a little. Setting for DD#4: Interview more people about life in the '50s or do I have enough in there already? Rewrite my will to assign rights to my "intellectual property"? Yeah, when I get time. Two dates in TC coming up. Should I get a room or drive home late at night? December... Beta reader needs a copy of the fourth Dead Detective. Print, since she doesn't Kindle.   Um, when was I g

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

Plain Talk for Writers: Series

3 Current Series: Upper left, Loser Mysteries. Upper right, Simon & Elizabeth Historical Mysteries. Lower left: Dead Detective Mysteries. Somebody Doesn't Like Sarah Leigh is a stand-along mystery. Publishers love series . They invest in an author's work, and series mean they can reap the rewards of that investment more than once. Readers love series . It's nice to know that characters we love are going to come back and visit us again, telling us about their latest scrapes. Writers love series--to a point. It's comfortable to slip into the minds of characters we've already created. We know how they think, what they'll do. (Even if we don't, we can look back at the books that came before and refresh our memories.) The problem with series-writing is keeping it fresh . Writers don't want their characters to "jump the shark," but it's obvious to me from reading some series that authors find it difficult to tell when they've r