Ho, ho . . . huh? I’m so sorry to tell you that as we enter the holiday season, it seems your main character has tripped over a string of bad luck. Let the dominoes tumble, by creating a Rube Goldberg machine of a series of events that takes your main character down, down, down. And none of it, of course, is her fault. But the way she reverses “the machine” and gets herself back on an even keel, now that’s where she gets to dig in and make something happen.
Try to have a happy season, despite your main character’s difficulties.
Director ofWoodstream Writer
By W. Terry Whalin
In January, I’m traveling to the Florida Writers Association Mid-Winter Conference West and Reading Festival and I look forward to it. I’ve been revising and updating my workshop on book proposal creation, Editors Read Proposals Not Manuscripts. I’ve been sorting through my 20+ years in publishing and preparing which stories to tell during my class.
I love writers’ conferences. It’s a grand idea haven to talk shop and learn from other writers. If you want to succeed in the writing business, I’ve got four keys to enhance your conference experience:
1. The first way is to come prepared to meet others and start new relationships. As a part of your preparation, create some business cards and be prepared to give them out to everyone you meet—but don’t make it a one way exchange. When you give a business card, make sure you receive a business card. Double check your business card to see if it contains your complete information: name, mailing address, phone number and email address. It’s surprising how many participants do not create a simple business card—even if you buy blank cards at an office supply place and print your own. Bring plenty of copies of your business card. It is frustrating to the other person when someone says they only brought a few cards and have given them out. Writing is a solitary occupation and we need each other. You will form new and lasting friendships at the conference if you come prepared for it.
2. The second key for your conference experience is to study the background for the various faculty members and get familiar with their different roles. Publishing is constantly changing. You want to know who you are meeting and their role. For example, I changed roles two years ago and became an acquisitions editor at a New York based publisher. Your familiarity with the different faculty will help you form deeper relationships during the conference. I believe your time in preparation will be rewarded.
3. The final key for your conference experience is to come with the right heart attitude. Many writers come to their first conference expecting to sell their book manuscript or magazine article. Yes, there will be some selling during the conference. A much more central part of every writer’s conference is where individuals learn new aspects of publishing and take great strides of personal growth. Come with expectations and a willingness to learn and grow. With the right heart attitude, I’m convinced that you will not be disappointed but your expectations will actually be exceeded.
Today make time to get prepared for the people you will be meeting during the time we are together. I will be coming with high expectations and anticipations. I’ve not ever been disappointed in the past.
See you soon at the conference!
W. Terry Whalin understands both sides of the editorial desk–as an editor and a writer. He worked as a magazine editor and his magazine work has appeared in more than 50 publications and he’s written more than 60 books for traditional publishers. A book acquisitions editor for several publishers and a former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. Whether you are unsure how to start on the path to publication or want to take your publishing career to the next level, Terry’s newest book, JUMPSTART YOUR PUBLISHING DREAMS, INSIDER SECRETS TO SKYROCKET YOUR SUCCESS is packed with insight. Also Terry is the author of the bestselling book, BOOK PROPOSALS THAT SELL, 21 SECRETS TO SPEED YOUR SUCCESS. Plus he’s launched a 12 lesson online course on proposal creation, Write A Book Proposal.
It’s inevitable. On television shows, the actors have lives that exist outside their characters’. And periodically, some of them become pregnant at points that aren’t handy in the progression of the series. As I’ve been sick this week, I’ve spent a good deal of quality time in bed with Netflix, specifically, watching How I Met Your Mother reruns.
I’m to the point in the show where both lead actresses, Alyson Hannigan and Cobie Smulders, became pregnant. The show dealt with their pregnancy as many others do–the characters carried jackets, bags, or stood behind strategically placed objects, such as globes, guitars, or Neil Patrick Harris.
It got me thinking that I don’t remember reading a book in which one of the main characters became pregnant and dealt with the difficulties of pregnancy. Sure, if you look up pregnancy and babies on the Internet, you see lots of pictures of hands over stomachs (sometimes making the shape of a heart), typically from smiling women (if you see their faces at all).
What you don’t see is the daily bout of nausea, sometimes manifesting itself as a prayer session in front of the porcelain altar. You don’t see someone having to go pee every 12 seconds because of the massive weight pressing down on her bladder all the time. You don’t see the maternity pants that fit well last week being too tight this week, and on the day of a must-attend meeting at work. And you don’t see pictures of women dying with a living space heater inside them while it’s 94 degrees outside every day.
When my wife was pregnant, she had gestational diabetes, which meant she had to carry insulin with her if we went almost anywhere, in a little blue Rubbermaid container with some ice. (That’s become easier since she was carrying my daughter.)
It seems that pregnancy is a chance to introduce some wonderful complications into a story, and strike a tone of reality for those who’ve been there (if you get the details right). Because not everyone plans a baby, and not every unplanned pregnancy is a blessing in disguise. And even the planned pregnancies are different than you thought.
And those kinds of struggles are like gold to your story.
By Cheyenne Knopf
As a kid I loved to play with my Jack-In-The-Box. Turning and turning the handle until the little clown popped out. I want you to be the little clown when looking at marketing options, always look outside of the box.
While a bookstore is a great option for selling your book, you’re competing with tons of authors. Instead of a bookstore look at a hospital gift shop. There are normally minimal titles at a gift shop and hospitals always have family members and patients who appreciate a new option for passing time.
If you have a book that is easy to gift, maybe something inspirational or a joke book, you could look to have a few put into a florist shop. This would be a surprising addition to the recipient’s bouquet.
When thinking outside of the box, don’t forget all the wonderful festivals we have in Florida. You can always find general shows(an arts festival) and niche shows(like the Southern Women’s Show).
Marketing is a numbers game. You always want to look at the best opportunity for sales (high traffic), with the least amount of cost. This will provide you the highest profit margin.
Good luck with your marketing ventures!
Hope to see each of you in January at the Mid Winter Conference West.
About the Author:
Cheyenne Knopf is the Marketing Manager at OnLineBinding. Prior to helping authors achieve their dream of having their book completed, she worked for 8 years as a corporate banker specializing in Treasury Management. Her banking career gives her a unique edge in helping authors understand the business side of writing.
Seth Godin is a heavy-duty blogger. His blogs are short, to the point, and a lot of times what he writes there isn’t particularly earth-shaking. But some of it is, and some of it goes well beyond earth-shaking. His book Tribes is a must-read if you want to understand not just social media–because after all, that’s just a tool–but the underlying factors that make that tool particularly powerful these days.
In a recent blog entry, he asks why some things have credibility and some don’t. Why, for instance, should Wikileaks not be prosecuted only because they worked with the New York Times? Why do appearances on low-rated cable television shows count more than appearances on YouTube videos that go viral and are seen by millions? Why does a brilliant out-of-town play count less than a crappy play on Broadway?
(I would add the question of why sports writers–some of whom no longer cover baseball–get to vote for the Hall of Fame while bloggers and broadcasters–including Vin Scully, who’s been calling Dodgers games since Truman was president–are shut out?)
And why, when Amazon is getting ready to have more self-published books than traditionally published books, do the traditionally published books count more?
What this means to you, or why these things are true and what will change them: Let’s use the Hall of Fame question as a reference point, because it’s pretty simple. When the Baseball Hall of Fame admitted its first class in 1939, baseball was the king of sports and newspapers were the king of all media. It made sense for the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) to decide who got into the Hall of Fame because their members covered more baseball games than everyone else. Radio was still in its infancy, and owners wouldn’t truly embrace it for another decade. TV barely existed.
And since then, the BBWAA hasn’t been forced by anything to give up its role as arbiter. They have the power to determine what counts and there are no market forces to change that.
In all other cases, the market forces are there. Cable used to be the place old shows went for reruns. Over time, cable networks started producing television shows. And some of those shows became the best shows on television. The awards and popular awareness is starting to reflect that. Mad Men, Walking Dead, and a host of other shows are the cool shows everyone talks about. Outside a few reality shows, The Big Bang Theory, and NCIS, broadcast shows don’t have the market penetration because people aren’t watching them. But individuals on YouTube aren’t making the same dent–yet–because they don’t have the capacity to produce and market their work. Eventually, though, it’s not ridiculous to think that someone will produce something amazing on YouTube that will find its way to a TV network.
Which brings us to books, where that’s already happened. Say what you will about 50 Shades of Grey, it started as one of the simplest forms of self-published work–fan fiction. Then a lot of people read it and it got published by a small press. Then a lot more people read it and it got published by a major press. The literary equivalent of going from YouTube to CBS.
Eventually, someone self-publishing on Amazon is going to write something at just the right time and it’ll go through the roof, the way 50 Shades did. And that will start the change the way self-published books are perceived. Then some more people will write excellent books–eventually, someone’s going to write a book so beautiful it hurts, so to speak, and it’ll be self-published. And then people will start to say “Why are we not rewarding these books?” (Kind of the way the Emmys didn’t used to recognize AMC.)
When those things start to happen, the market will overcome the old thought processes and changes will be required to happen. Reality often lags perception. When it catches up, those things, including self-published books, will count.
If you aren’t familiar with Buzzfeed, it’s a news aggregator of sorts, if the news you care about consists of the Russian government’s stand on LGBT rights leading up to the Olympics, who’s lampooning Miley Cyrus’s music video where she rides naked on a wrecking ball, and the 25 most adorable things you’ll ever see. It’s no CNN.com, but it is an entertaining and highly popular website.
And now it’s doing book reviews. A guy named Issac Fitzgerald will be heading up it’s book section. And while that section currently has a mix of news (Three unpublished JD Salinger novels leaked online) and other types of stories you’d expect from Buzzfeed (9 books that will change your sex life), it will start publishing book reviews.
But there will be a twist to the book reviews–they will all be positive. In a recent interview with Poynter.org, Fitzgerald is quoted as saying, “Why waste breath talking smack about something? You see it in so many old media-type places, the scathing takedown rip.”
And he may have a point. Sometimes book reviews can come across like Frasier and Niles Crane paying a visit to the local pizza joint. (Budweiser? If we had to suffer through beer, we could at least be served Stella.) Never mind that it’s a pizza joint and that Frasier spent the better part of a decade sitting next to Cliff Clavin serving whatever Woody happened to draw from the tap.
But if all the books are good, what do you do with a bad book? Ignore it? That would work if Buzzfeed planned to review all the good books in the world. But it can’t do that. And there are some true stinkers out there. When you ask for abuse, it’s impolite not to accept it.
Maybe the Internet is a little over critical. Maybe this blog–at least my content–contributes to that a little every now and again. But if you write a crappy book, what’s the point of not calling it out? I’ve some less-than-stellar books by some well-regarded authors. And, truth be told, I’ve read a couple awful books from authors that sell well. Hugger Mugger by Robert B. Parker, for instance, is a massive disappointment. If you’re going out to drop $25 or more on a new title, it’s not snark for its own sake to warn people that they might not want to spend the money.
How’d you do?
Did you make your 50K in 30 days? You did?!? Awesome!
You didn’t? Kudos for trying.
Now it’s December and the month is over and it’s time to think about what comes next. Here are some questions to help in that regard:
1. Did you fall short of 50,000 words?
No problem, but there are some questions you need to ask. Is novel writing for you? There are lots of way to write outside novels. Nonfiction, poetry, short stories, technical writing, screen plays, grant proposals…the list is almost endless.
And if novel writing is for you, are you willing to put other things aside so you can work on your craft.
2. Did you make the 50,000 words?
Good for you, you have a first draft of a short novel. That’s an awesome accomplishment. And, I don’t want to discourage you, but you don’t have something you can start selling yet. This blog has recently featured Ernest Hemingway’s quote on first drafts. To put it gently, the first draft of anything can help your garden grow. Especially if this is your first first draft, it’s probably disjointed with all kinds of character and plot issues, not to mention problems with spelling, usage, and punctuation. And that’s to be expected.
You have a start, but there’s a lot of work in front of you. And while racking up the big numbers is big fun, you have to go back now and craft what you started.
3. Did you like what you did?
This is a big one. If you want to be a writer, you have to plant your butt in a seat for long periods of time and produce a lot of words. If you hated the process, maybe it’s not for you.
4. What are you going to do to get better?
While it’s true that writing is an solitary activity, no one does it alone. The path to getting better involves others. Beta readers, critique groups, workshops, and (yes) conferences. It involves books and magazines and websites. So if you’re in Florida, check out the Florida Writers Association website and see if there’s a chapter near you. If not, Google is your friend. Find some other writers and talk about the craft.
5. When is your butt’s next appointment with that chair?
Writers write. It’s what makes us writers. So do it!