Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Money for nothing and your chicks for free...

I know you've heard this before, but if you want to make writing your career you have to understand that publishing is a business. For the next couple of weeks I want to talk about the business of writing. Let's begin with how businesses work. Businesses work by getting paid for work done. Its a fair exchange of value and services for something of equal value-such as cash.
Yes, dentists, and doctors, and lawyers do pro bono work- they sometimes offer their skills for free. Small businesses will offer samples in hopes of enticing customers into the store to buy. But no one stays in business long if they give away their product for free. So, please, think twice about free reads. Many authors are offering free electronic versions of their books on line. People love this- yay something for free. The problem with this is the reader then devalues your work. Why pay when I can get a different book for free?
Someone said to me, I'm going to self publish my book on-line. I've been reading the free reads and there are some really good books available on line. When I asked, have you bought any books from the authors you've been reading for free the answer was no. Huh. So, how will you get people to buy your book if all they do is read free books? Again, no answer.
There are certain circles of folks who believe that in future all books will be free. As in no one will be paid for services rendered. Great for readers. But not so great for writers. I truly believe if that happens, no one will be able to write for a living... Seriously, will we all write and polish and edit and market-for free? Would you do all this work for no pay? Some of you will say- yes, yes I will. My next question is -how long will you work and perfect your craft if you are not getting paid?
If there is no possibility of payment in future?
Books have value- in entertainment, in education, in magic. Never devalue your muse, your talent or your efforts. If you want to put up examples of your work, put up excerpts, entice readers like setting out small samples. But think twice before setting readers up with the expectation that you will do all the work while they give you nothing in exchange.
The first rule of business is to understand the value of the product and services you provide. (This works both ways- over valuing your work will ruin you as well.)
How do you determine the value of your work?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Nov. Book Review by Ted Kozicki

SEX...............There, I've gotten your attention. After last month's title"HELL", I figured I'd need something great or greater to begin this one!
I did not choose the word at random, however. I want to remind or instruct you that there is sex in literature--books, stories, poems....... However, not the way you may be thinking. ( Well, yes, the way you are thinking, but that's not what I am talking about!) Those of you who write have an idea of who your expected audience is, and you write or should accordingly. What I am talking is the old basic: Masculine, feminine, and neuter ( I am torn between saying either or neither, but I won't). So fitting the work to the audience means you will write for a male or female reader, and believe me there is a big difference in the approach.
This ties in with the book I just finished: The White Queen by Philippa Gregory. It is the first of a series she is doing called the Cousins' War. That is The War of the Roses for you English history buffs. The two factions of the Plantagenet family, the Lancasters and the York are fighting over control of the English crown. The next book, just out is called: The Scarlet Queen. So guess what color the roses are!
I read this with interest and anticipation since I am a history major and find this very interesting. In addition, Philippa has just earned a PHD in history so my expectations were high. I did not take into account sex. This book is written in the feminine. Since it deals with several major battles between the factions, with one or the other side winning or losing and holding the other's king captive, I was expecting long and bloody battlefield descriptions with the usual drinking and wenching along the way. That is a MASCULINE book.
Imagine my disappointment when I found it was more about seduction ( Elizabeth Woodville was a commoner- in a way) and King Edward was a renowned womanizer. She leads her family from being Lancaster supporters to the Yorkish side as she keeps the "Prize" just out of Edward's reach until he secretly marries her. In addition, there is a fantasy side with Elizabeth and her mother being descendants of a mythological half-woman/half-fish named Melusina. ( Which is a German legend ). As a battle is going to take place, they open a window at the Tower of London and breath out creating a massive fog that covers the battlefield and confuses the Lancaster forces who end up attacking each other and Edward wins a major victory. Merlin must be turning over in his grave!
So if you want to take this book as being a work of fiction which uses characters who really existed and interweaves a story with the audience being primarily female, it is a fun read....Yet I don't think most women would tell their family that they did not mind their husband pursuing most of the women in the country because "after all he is the king, and he always comes home to me."
If you are interested in learning more about the War of the Roses, the missing two princes in the Tower, and the last of the Plantagenets.......remember this is fiction, not a history book.
So I'll go looking for a more Masculine book for a review, so you can help understand the difference--I know you do, but it gives me something to write about.
Next month an older book, but it was made into a movie ( long ago- also ), but it is special to me which I'll explain next time.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tips on when to query

Okay so you are zooming along on your NaNoWriMo book. You finish. You revise/polish and are ready to query. Check you calender, if it's December or January-wait. The truth is that there are windows of better opportunity to query. For example: after Nov. 1st, editors and publisher are in hours long meetings looking at the titles they have for the new year. They are talking marketing. They are discussing delivery date. They are figuring budgets. They are taking vacation for the holidays. December everything slows down to a crawl. It's desk clearing time and they look at the work that has been left hanging all year. The books that they wanted to buy but there is no shelf space or budget left. The books that were maybes need to be decided upon. Then there are holiday parties and vacations. The last thing they want is new queries. Okay, so you wait until the first week of January. Everything is fresh and new and you send it in--Along with thousands of others who have made new year resolutions or have been waiting through the holidays. Editors and agents are inundated. Quick decisions are made to reduce the slush pile. Yes, sometimes they throw the baby out with the bathwater.
But there are prime times to query- February and March are good. Skip April again holidays and Spring Break. May and June are good. Skip July and August-there are conferences and vacations. September is good, but beware that October is also prime conference months. The problem with conference months is that editors and agents are again inundated with queries from people they saw at conferences. The key is to guestimate when the agent/editors desk will have the least amount of slush. When they will be looking to fill slots.
Once you send out your query/partial be patient. Trust the editor/agent to do their job. That said, things do get lost in the mail so after 8 to 9 months you can send a quick e-mail-don't call- and see if they got your partial. Then wait some more.
What do you do while you wait? Go and live your life. Write another book. Have fun. Read a new craft book. Try again. Because as Kevin Spacey said in a video interview going around, "There is no prize, only the journey."

As a side note, the kind and lovely Linda Kage gave this blog the Cherry on Top Blog award. Thanks, Linda. :D

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

On being an Artist

I spoke to a friend of mine last night. We talked about her niece who has many teachers telling her she should be a writer. "She's really good."
But my practical friend keeps telling her there is no money in it. My question is can you, should you be something other than what you are? Hmmm.
This week I found myself revisiting "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. Part of the title reads- "A Course in Discovering and Recovering Your Creative Self."
When I thumbed through I discovered some of the things I'd highlighted when reading the book still held true for me today. So, I'm going to post a few here. On the off chance they touch a cord with you as well.

"Over any extended period of time, being an artist requires enthusiasm more than discipline. Enthusiasm is not an emotional state. It is a spiritual commitment, a loving surrender to our creative process, a loving reception to all the creativity around us."
"Remember art is a process and that process is supposed to be fun..."
"(Sometimes our writing circles)...can produce the "How am I doing?" syndrome. This question is not "Is the work going well?" This question is "How does it look to them?" The point of the work is the work... instead of writing being about writing, it becomes about being recognized..." This is the worst mistake a writer can make in my opinion.

"As artists we can't afford to think about who is getting ahead of us and how they don't deserve it. The desire to be better than can choke off the simple desire to be."
"As artists, we are asked to repeat ourselves and expand on the market we have built. Sometimes this is possible for us. Other times its not."
"I need to create what wants to be created...I write whether I think it's any good or not."

Finally-please know this quote is the honest truth:
"Good work will sometimes not sell...The market may be rotten even when the work is great. (You) cannot control these factors."

What you can control is how you feel about these things. So, yes, we may all have or be looking for a job that will support us, but we can't deny the talent of creativity inside us.

Food for thought. Cheers~

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

I know that many writers wait all year for National Novel Writing Month- NaNoWrMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. One writer friend of mine asked, why November? I mean with the advent of the holiday season, wouldn't it be better to do this in January right after we make our New Year's Resolutions?
So I went to the official NaNo web site and clicked on History. It seems the first event was held in July 1999 and was merely a group of 20-somethings gathered together to see if they could do it. They were surprised by what they learned. Then decided it was actually fun?! So they developed a website and announced a second year. This time they moved it "to November to more fully take advantage of the miserable weather." And were shocked and surprised by the number of writers who signed up. It's sort of taken on a life of it's own since. (If you get a chance, do read the history of this thing. It is quite funny. Especially when it gets to the part about people asking what the rules were. "Rules? Didn't these people know that the 'rules' had just been a loose aggregate of contradictory statements that I'd hurriedly pulled from my butt the previous year?") Doesn't that sound like a writer? The point being they were gathering to write-not to follow rules. So, whether you are nose to the grindstone working on NaNo or simply plodding along on the work you do day in and day out, I say have fun. After all if writing isn't fun, it's not worth much else. So, best of luck and let me know if you are attempting the big 50 or merely playing along with friends. Cheers~