Tag Archives: How to be an Author

Pauline Jones - Being a Grown Up photo

Writing Career | Bluffing You’re Being a Grown Up Until You are one

“Now sit back and wait for the money and adulation to roll in”

You're a writer. You've written your story. You've had it published - either self published or (joy of joys!) by an actual publisher. Now sit back and wait for the money and adulation to roll in. This is what being a grown up writer is all about.

Only it doesn't. Drat!

Your writing career requires that you approach it as a business. Ugh! Pauline Baird Jones explains why you need to do this to succeed as a writer in today's How to be an Author guest post.

Managing your Writing Career by Being a Grownup - Or Bluffing Until You Are One!

by Pauline Baird Jones

Pauline Jones - Being a Grown Up photoDo you ever miss being able to wail when you want something? As a newly minted grandmother of twins, I found myself thinking it would be nice to have even an hour where I could wail for what I wanted and someone would give it me. I would pass on the leg kicking and arm waving, because it’s not a good look for me. But I do have my moments when I would so rather not be the grownup in the room. Even when I’m alone.

Whether it is good news or bad, the fact is, time marches forward and we get older. Whether we become grownups—and stay grownup—is a choice, one we make again and again as life’s challenges whack us upside the head. Hey, it’s not a perfect process. But I have, for the most part, accepted my place in the adult world. I’m the grownup (at least until my brain starts to shut down).

“What I did not expect was how hard it would be to become a grownup writer.”

What I did not expect was how hard it would be to become a grownup writer. Weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth goes with the process. Going public with all that is not a good idea.

Think about it. To write authentically and honestly, you have to dig deep into your own soul. That means tapping into all parts of who you are and were, including your inner child.

Creativity is messy and whine inducing and bleeding onto the page hurts to your toenails some days. It tests us in ways even our children didn’t get around to. It’s raw and humiliating and humbling and amazing.

And Then You Get To The Hard Part

Because if you want to share what you wrote with more than your mom and a few friends, then you will find yourself managing a writing business. Yup, a business. You actually have to be the grownup in the room with yourself. The CEO (you) has to manage the talent (you), while learning how to navigate contracts and publishing options and praise and criticism.

“I just want to write.”

Back in 2008, when Jamie Engle and I wrote Managing Your Book Writing Business, many of our conversations with authors about the business of writing resulted in the same comment: “I just want to write.”

Of course you do. And you can “just write.” But if you also want to publish, then you will have a business, whether you planned to or not. In this brave new world of publishing, you can mismanage your business and still get published. The thing is, writing something isn’t just about you. Oh, it is while you’re writing it, but when you make the effort to share it with others, then you enter into an unwritten contract with each reader.

Your Contract With Your Reader

I hereby agree to give you the best story I’m capable of in exchange for your coin of the realm and I agree to do it without getting in your way anymore than I absolutely have to. This includes not abusing you if you don’t like it.

How you fulfill that contract with the reader is by being a grownup in your business, by managing it to the best of your ability. That means educating yourself about the craft of writing and then learning everything you can about the business of managing your writing. Yes, it is hard. It is confusing. It will make you crazy at times, because the writing business is bat crap crazy. And it’s gotten better. It kind of boggles the mind to realize this is better than it was. But it’s true. There are a lot more options for authors now then when I first started trying to publish. Last century. Hey, it wasn’t that long ago.

“Or you can mix it up, become a hybrid author.”

Look at your options. A writer can try for a legacy contract with a major publisher, find a smaller, boutique type publisher where you have more input into the various elements, or full on self publish. Or you can mix it up, become a hybrid author.

The key is to choose what’s best for your business, not what is easiest for your creative self, or what your best friend did, or what the cool kids think you should do. Because you’re not a kid now. Being the grownup in the room means balancing facts and figures with desires and wants and wishes. It means having a plan for when you don’t get what you want. It means daring to dream and plan big—while keeping it going in the little time.

And when you get what you want, you have to not poop all over it by letting your creative side engage in public meltdowns or attacking reviewers who didn’t get your story. It means biting your tongue and keeping your fingers off the keys until you’ve eaten enough chocolate to be able to deal with not being universally loved.

All Roads Lead to being a Grown Up

All roads lead back to being a grownup. I am sorry, because there are days it gets old. And there’s more. I’ve discovered it means being more than true to who you are. It means being true to your better self, to the person you hope you are, or are trying to be. We all make mistakes, but if we are consistently striving to stay above the pettiness, the jealousies, the envy and knee-jerk reactions that can stink up our online interactions, and sometimes your real world ones, then the people who matter will forgive us. They’ll know we’re better than that, too. And the people, the readers who don’t get us won’t matter quite so much.

“We owe it to all ourselves, our characters, our stories and our readers.”

This business can beat you up, but if you stay centered on why you wanted to do it—sharing your passion for storytelling with readers—then you suck it up, be a grown up (or bluff until you are) and keep going. We owe it to all ourselves, our characters, our stories and our readers.

Are you a grown up? I fear I am not so much - I do get upset if someone gives me a bad review - my baby! You were mean to my baby!

Share your thoughts in the comments below - if you have a blog, we'll give you a link to your latest posts when you do!

M Peters book characters author photo

Book Characters: Compelling Characterization Through Research

Compelling book characters - believable, breathing characters - are a constant challenge to a writer. Touching the reader's heart, drawing them into identifying with book characters and leaving a lingering trace of them in readers' lives, all this is often a matter of research, as Morgann Peters describes in today's How to be an Author guest post.

The Writer's Inner Journey to Compelling Book Characters

by M Peters

M Peters book characters author photoAs a writer, I'm not sure I spend enough time talking about myself, or the process I use to sink into my book characters' heads, but while I was picking up dinner last night and listening to the local NPR station, I heard someone interviewing an author named Bill Cheng and asking him how he managed to create scenes based around something he himself had never, ever experienced, and the answer struck a chord with me.

“enrich his writing”

His subject was surrounding that of the effects of the devastating 1927 Mississippi flood and the story he created around the survival of one orphaned boy. His connection to the story - and what inspired him to write it - was the blues music which gained its foothold around that time. He goes on to say, after being asked in the interview, how someone from New York City, who's never been anywhere near a swamp, could create such wonderful, memorable characters, that while he realises that the hours and hours of research he was involved in while writing the book didn't all translate into his work, it did enrich his writing because it gave him a confidence he needed to write compelling scenes. It seasoned him as a writer, to be able to learn all sorts of things about the time period and the people about whom he was writing, and enabled him to create compelling stories based around these tidbits of research.

And I think that's a huge part of the writer's inner journey - that we need to become comfortable with the people and places about whom we're writing. Even if we're creating an entirely alternate, fantasy universe, there are still details which need to be placed in there to give our narrative voices the confidence to fool our readers into thinking that we know what we're talking about.

“I had traveled along the same roads with them even as I created their joys and sorrows”

Personally, I love learning about the time in which I write. My first novel, Undisclosed Desire, took me nearly a year to write because I felt I wasn't crawling quite far enough into the characters' time - some vague place in the mid sixteenth century - to give myself a grasp on what they were seeing. So I hopped on to the research train and spent some time with Google and various historical sites, getting to know what my characters wore and saw and ate ... and suddenly, I felt much more in control. I had traveled along the same roads with them even as I created their joys and sorrows, just by discovering that their nightdresses were made of silk or that the apples they ate were called 'custard apples' because of their sweet taste.

“more likely to come back for seconds and thirds of the author's work”

There are, of course, two sides to something like this. If we bog our readers down with details, then we lose the flow of the story. Which is why I think it's important that the research the author does infuses the author more than ends up in the writing itself. A little bit of research goes a long, long way, after all, and it infuses the author's writing with flavour and authenticity that readers like myself find intriguing. Perhaps I can't speak for every reader, but I enjoy being drawn into the world of the characters about whom I'm reading, and if the author can show me that he or she has taken the time to craft the world, and love it so well that they have endeavored to learn about the people and places they are creating, then I'm certainly more likely to come back for seconds and thirds of the author's work. Do any of you feel that way? Tell me in the comments below! And, most of all, thank you for coming along on this journey with me - I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

How do you research your work? Do you just write? Or do you, like Mo Peters, research carefully to give yourself the background to "enrich your writing"?

Share your thoughts below - and start a conversation with your friends, using the share buttons

Jeremy Shory Creative Imagination

Creative Imagination: The Writer’s Creative Process

The writer's creative imagination and process can be a wild ride, as Jeremy Shory indicates in his How to be an Author guest post. The smallest thing can set off the imagination into a roller coaster of creativity, adrenalin and furious writing. Which is why you see so many of us scribbling in notebooks or muttering into our phones, recording the ideas before they're chased away by the next butterfly thought.

As always, your reactions are very welcome in the comments below.

Creative Imagination: It Truly is a Beautiful Mind…Sorta

by Jeremy Shory

Jeremy Shory creative imagination blog post photoI can’t do it. I just can’t. It’s like asking me to jump in front of a speeding train and try to stop it. There’s no way. It’s completely out of my control.

Oh, this may be a good time to tell you what I’m so vehemently stating is completely out of the realm of possibility. Otherwise this whole thing may get a little awkward…for the both of us.

I’m Jeremy Shory, author of The Orion Chronicles: The Journal of Forgotten Secrets and soon to be released The Orion Chronicles: Curse of the Phantom Brotherhood. (Shameless book plugs – Jam! "Shameless" is absolutely right, Jeremy dear!) These are fantasy-based works of fiction with countless contraptions, spells, and potions that I’ve crafted in my own little mind.

(Speaking of little mind, did you know even though the Brontosaurus was a whopping 75 feet tall, 22.86 meters for you using the metric system out there, it had a brain smaller than a human’s? That’s just plain ca-razy! Sorry for the pointless tangents. I tend to do that with my blogs.)

Anyways, back to the point I was trying to make about the works of fiction. As I write, and even during the planning stages where I jot down notes for my books (which interestingly enough takes place either on my way to work, or when I’m in the restroom—I like to call this my Tinker-Stinker time. TMI?) I find that my mind is always working, always creating new ideas or concepts for items I want to work into the story. And I’m not just talking plot points here. I mean like actually creating tangible things that I want to use. And that’s why I believe the fantasy-based genre pairs so well with my writing abilities.

Scratch 'n' Sniff Candy

An example would be the Seamus’ Scratch-N-Sniff Candy I thought of one night and worked into Curse of the Phantom Brotherhood. I mean who’s ever heard of such a thing? It’s just plain poppycock! But in all actuality, it turned out to be a pretty neat little additive to my story.

Oh, you want to know what Seamus’ Scratch-N-Sniff Candy is? Alright, I’ll tell ya…but it’s gonna cost ya $2.99 US…in the form of buying my book on Amazon is kinda what I’m getting at here. (Insert winky face here…not really because that’s just plain silly.)

Scratch-N-Sniff Candy is basically a sack of colorless, odorless candy that comes with a card containing several different “flavor” dots. You can scratch the dot to smell the flavor and if that’s what you’d like your candy to taste like, you simply press it until it turns white. All the candy in the sack will magically change to reflect the selected flavor. Pretty neat right? Yep! All thought up in mine own noggin. It’d be pretty cool if that ever really existed, but now you’re starting to see why I write in the genre I do. By the way, now may the time to tell ya…that’s copyrighted. Just sayin’.

Unbelievable Creative Imagination

Now where was I? Ah yes…my brain working and all that jumbly-bumbly. One of the things a lot of writers struggle with is the fabrication of things from their own mind. I mean they can certainly come up with a story and characters and get the ball rolling, but I’m constantly told that I have an “unbelievable imagination.” (I quoted that from one of my reviews on Amazon.) And don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way discrediting what any author does for their writing. I know how hard it is. Believe me on that. The point I’m simply trying to make is that there are a lot of stories out there that are all based on actual events, or real people, or places, etc.  And they’re all great. But my mind goes in a different direction…one where I can just make crap up on a whim to throw in my stories. I mean I created my own magical world for Pete’s Sake…full of contraptions and spells that are so enchanting that they can only exist in one’s own imagination. I think you get my gist here.

I usually get the follow-up question on whether or not it’s easy to dream up these ideas. Some were. Some weren’t.

I know I probably sound like the ultimate politician, right? Truth is that in a piece of fiction where more than half of the items located amidst the pages are simply made-up items, I can usually find inspiration from just about anything. Several of the magical contraptions located throughout the series are based on real things, but with an added flair to make them work how I would want them to work. An example of this would be the Multi-Plane Observation Optics (MPO2s) which are basically a pair of magical binoculars that allow you to see the world through another person’s point of view. This was one of the easier devices I created because it somewhat exists.

Distinct and Unique Characterization

On the other hand, something I find I really work at are the different magical races in each of my stories. Of course I have your typical magical beings like Werewolves (known as Razorbacks in the Orion Chronicles), Vampires (Fangtooths), and Ghosts (Paranormals). But once I got through the easy ones, I really had to focus on making each of the other races unique with their own distinct appearances and abilities. StoneHides are a sterling example here; short people with crass attitudes, who are made from stone, and utilize a Scottish accent.  Of course there’s more to ‘em than that, but it took me a lot of work to design a distinct and unique set of characters for this series. This sort of depicts the kind of creativity I try to put into every aspect of my stories.

All in all, there’s a lot of work that goes into any writing, fiction or non. The beauty of fiction is that it’s not real. You can write anything you want.

So if you ask me to try and shut my imagination off, stop the creative process and fabrication of completely bizarre things, I’ll simply shoot you a smile and reply, “I can’t do it. I just can’t.”

The writer's creative imagination can be something of a mixed blessing - a great joy, but also a great distraction!

Please share your reactions to this post in the comments below - and with your friends by using the many share buttons liberally sprinkled around this site!

Jeb Harrison marketing and publishing photo

Marketing and Publishing Your Book the Modern Way – Free of Literary Agents and Publishers

Today's guest post in the series How to be an Author is a highly amusing and engaging take on the experience of marketing and publishing a book, tracking down a literary agent - only to find that the book was picked up by a publisher who specifically didn't want to deal with one!

Enjoy this post - and share it with your friends, using the many buttons scattered around at the side and end of the article.

What a Difference a Decade Makes in Marketing and Publishing!

by Jeb Harrison

Jeb Harrison marketing and publishing photoI first started shopping around for a literary agent in about 2001 which, given the lightspeed changes in publishing since then, could have been a century ago. I did what Writer's Market and Publisher's Marketplace told me to do, and though I have killed an entire forest by printing and mailing a thousand query letters, (almost every agent at the time claimed to represent literary fiction), the first ten pages of the manuscript, the first three chapters, the synopsis, five chapters, the first 50 pages, the first and last chapter, the bio and manuscripts for two novels over the past thirteen years, and now have an entire office wallpapered in rejection letters, I did finally get published. (As the wise and wizened in our profession tell us, it only takes one "yes".) The irony of my story is that, in the end, my publisher picked up Hack (novel #1) partially because I did not have an agent perched on my shoulder like a turkey buzzard sharpening it's beak for the industry-standard 15% of the advance. And that's just one of the differences between 2001 and 2010.

Literary Agents

My first agent, the certified paranoid schizophrenic of many wigs with a different name for each, one of which is Melanie Mills, is a novel in and of herself. I should have known that a literary agency in the city with most mini putt-putt courses on the planet, Myrtle Beach, would lead to trouble. And it did, but that's another story - bizarre enough to be published by the Huffington Post which you can read here. My second agent ran me through two years of revisions, submitted the manuscript in 2004 to six mid-sized imprints, got rejected and promptly left the publishing business to go run the family funeral home in Maine.

My dream of finding my literary equivalent of my guardian angel having fizzled, I hung up the search for a couple of years and wrote a couple more novels. When I took up the fight again, I found that what was already a pretty risk-averse bunch had already started ignoring anything that didn't look and smell like something that was already on the top-ten bestseller list. Just when I was getting ready to sign with another agent, a small, independent publisher came along and said "we'll publish it if you want". They actually felt that I could get a much better deal - an advance against royalties, marketing support etc. given the accessibility and appeal of the story, but facing the choice between rolling the dice with another agent and actually getting the novel into print both real and virtual, I jumped on the latter without so much as a second thought.

The little indie, Harper Davis, didn't pay advances, and one of the company executives handles all of the other agent-type jobs like negotiating movie deals and international rights etc. No agent needed or wanted. The product- paperback, hardback, Kindle, Nook etc. - looks as professional as anything from Simon and Schuster or any of the biggies. I only wish they would spring for an audiobook, as I believe that many boomers and pre-boomers do a lot of their reading in the car these days, and Hack would lend itself very well to an audio rendition.

Marketing and Publishing

Since I started shopping my work twelve or thirteen years ago, it appears the role of the traditional literary agent has become an anachronism. (Note that I speak for the literary fiction market only. I honestly can't say what's happening in the genre fiction space, or memoir and non-fiction.) That's not to say traditional agents don't exist. But instead of shopping a manuscript, they're shopping the author's published work; their second novel, or perhaps their third.

The Role of Social Media

Because the obstacle to publishing have virtually disappeared, the days of agents shopping manuscripts in hopes of 15% of an advance are all but gone. If an agent feels they have a hot prospect to sell to a publisher that is still paying advances, (which are fewer and fewer) the onus of proving the author's saleability is on them: How many copies did the self-published work sell? How were the reviews? How many "likes" do thay have on their Facebook page? How many followers on Twitter? In other words the agent may not be as concerned with the quality of the product as much as they are with the author having greased the skids to some degree already by the sweat of their own brow. In fact I have come across indie publishers, never mind the agents, who rate the author's willingness and ability to market their own work as important if not more important than the work itself.

Where does that leave the vast middle-earth of literary agents who are not lunching in Manhattan with publishing bluebloods? Since they are functionally salespeople who formerly made their bread from taking the piece of a publishing, movie, or international rights deal, they have had to become savvy in a much broader range of disciplines. Much of their success is dependent on their own ability to roll their sleeves up and market their authors, and in so doing come up with creative approaches to compensation. I imagine that these agents are looking for the breakthrough author who has the cross-media product, the looks, the platform, the connections, the "likes" and the legs to make a go of it.

The last thing any author wants is to get hit over the head with the continued pontifications of industry pundits pointing out, once again, that we aren't in Kansas anymore. And neither are the literary agents. In this exciting, new, and somewhat scary business environment, the idea of "writing a book" almost automatically includes marketing and publishing it too, just to get an agent interested. For the business-minded author and entrepreneur: Hey! What fun, right? For the bespectaled author who delights in nothing more than a good story well told, at least we can share our work via e-books, and, if we want to pony up a few bucks, a nice paperback as well. If that's satisfaction enough, we can consider ourselves lucky that the publishing industry ain't what it used to be!

How did you find Jeb's take on marketing and publishing your books? I admit to having seen an increasing number of blogs created for the express purpose of generating a readership for a not-yet-published book.

As always - share this blog with your friends and let us have your thoughts in the comments below.

Robert Zinnecker Writing with Faith post shot

The Christian Author: The Journey to Faith as Story

Writing as a Christian author, leading readers rather than appearing to coerce them, provides a challenge to any writer. How to approach the subject without immediately putting off the non Christian reader?

Here, in today's how to be an author guest post, Robert Zinnecker rises to the challenge with gentleness and aplomb.

The Christian Author: How to Write With Faith

by Robert Zinnecker

Robert Zinnecker writing as a christian author post shotAs a teenager, I aspired to be a newspaper reporter and took all the journalism, typing and English courses that I could. When that career didn’t happen, I studied accounting and went into the business world. I took a management position in the telecommunications industry and spent my career as a “turn around man”, leading failing or under-performing organizations to success. I never lost my desire to write and satisfied it by writing devotionals and articles for religious and business magazines and trade journals. Along the way, I tried very hard to prioritize my life around my faith, my family and the company that I worked for.

What's Really Important in Life?

In both of my novels, “Acquisition” which was published in 2011 and its sequel, “Sell Out”, published in March of this year, I seek to answer questions associated with acquiring what is really lasting and important in life and with how an individual should live out the commitments that he or she makes to their faith, their family and their career.

The stories are set against the background of the telecommunications industry where I spent over fifty years managing diverse operations in multiple states. The location of the stories is in a small town in Michigan’s “Thumb” area similar to the one where I spent my youth on a one hundred acre farm. The characters are based on people from my home town and from my working life.

Throughout my career I saw many talented people seeking to acquire power, position and wealth at the expense of their faith, their families and their companies. Acquisition tells the story of an executive who has done just that and now is driven to his knees in search of life’s greatest acquisition, a personal relationship with God.

In Sell out, that same executive finds himself struggling with priorities and keeping commitments as the country slips into the recession of 2008 and he watches the effects of this economic collapse on his friends and business associates. He must cope with the question of what it really means to sell out to his faith, his company and a very special woman who comes to stand beside him.

Sell Out

We often use the term “sell out” to describe the betrayal of one person by another. I think a more positive meaning of the term would be that a person is willing to give all of themselves to a cause another person, their faith or their profession. In other words, they are “sold out” to trying to build deeper more meaningful relationships . People struggle with making a commitment to their faith, their spouse, their family or their job because they are not willing to try hard enough to make the relationships work. They don’t “sell out” to what they say is important to them. It is in the trying that real progress is achieved. When we try with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind to love God, our families and our work, we usually achieve deeper and longer lasting relationships.

About the time that Acquisition was published, I taught a class based on John Wesley’s “Plain Account of Christian Perfection”. This caused me to begin to ask myself what it meant to love God with all my heart soul, mind and strength as the Bible directs in both the Old and New Testaments. Just as the characters in Sell Out do, I began think about this and develop a new-found commitment to my faith. Through study, meditation and prayer, I, like the characters in the book grew closer to God. A significant medical problem, followed by major surgery and a lengthy recovery period gave me both the opportunity to test the strength of this greater faith in God and to complete the manuscript for the sequel.

Self Publishing

I chose the self-publishing route when it became clear that an unknown author such as myself, regardless of his or her life experience, would have a difficult time securing representation by an agent and a relationship with a publisher. My primary goal was to tell stories that would have a positive impact on people’s lives and not to make money. By controlling the price of my books and participating in the self-publishing process, which was a new and exciting experience for a man in his 70’s, I was able to direct both the production of the books and their distribution process.

Outskirts Press has done an excellent job of meeting my objectives for the books and I am very happy with the results of our relationship. Their people were both professional and responsive to what I wanted to accomplish. Their cover designs and scribing created an attractive presentation for both of my books. Readers have told me that the books have had a positive impact on their lives and that is what I set out to do.

The Christian author who wants to write in a way that opens a space for the journey to faith to inform his story is writing a tale with a quest at the centre of it - not unusual in the fantasy genre. You can find his book, Sell Out, at Amazon.

What do you think about faith as quest? Give us your thoughts below in the comments - and share this post with your friends using the very handy buttons on the left of the screen!