Monday, October 31, 2011

The Publishing World is Changing Fast

During the annual conference of Novelists, Inc., Smashwords founder and CEO, Mark Coker, was interviewed by Chris Kenneally of Copyright Clearance Center. THIS interview was done between Mark’s appearance on a panel and his keynote address at the conference.

Mark discussed many aspects, and while none of his observations should come as a surprise, they should definitely be an eye-opener for all writers, authors, and publishers. He noted the change ebooks have brought to authors:

“They can publish to a worldwide audience immediately, they can publish faster, they can publish today, not a year and a half from today. And then they can publish their books – they can price their books at a much lower cost than publishers. To create some perspective here, a self-published author can earn more selling a 99-cent e-book than they can an $8 mass-market paperback.”

He said he has nothing but respect for the big publishers and the publishing industry, but there is tension:

“…big publishing, as an industry, has become so consolidated, so calcified, so hampered and hamstrung by legacy business practices, print business practices, and these high expense structures, that they’re having great difficulty making this transition to this new world. 
“In this new world of publishing, over the next few years, cost and cost containment will be the code words of the day. And they need to get their costs down. Customers demand lower-priced books. Customers don’t want to pay $12, $13, $14 for an e-book.”

Mark also talked about his concerns over a growing power - Amazon - and authors who depend wholly on Amazon:

“I think there’s a concern that among the authors who recognize this, that they could become tenant farmers to Amazon. And so completely dependent upon them that they lose choice and lose freedom. I think it’s in everyone’s best interests – authors, publishers, readers – that we have a vibrant, competitive ecosystem for publishing.”

The whole transcript is available HERE as a downloadable pdf file. I encourage everyone to go read it. 

Nine months ago, it was thought that 80% of the print business would be dead in ten years. Now they are saying it will happen in three to five. Are you ready? Have you put yourself in a position to be ready?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Looking for Guests

The focus of this blog is publishing and promoting tips. Since I teach seminars on those subjects and I'm the author of six books, I've had plenty of material from which to draw.

However, there is only so much I know and so much I can tell you!

Since the blogging world is full of experienced authors and publishers, I'm opening this blog to some fresh ideas!

If you would like to do a guest post and share some of your tricks of the trade, leave a comment and a way for me to reach you. (You can comment even if you're not offering! LOL)

What has worked for you? What publishing path did you chose and why? And social networking tips? Anything wacky you've tried that actually worked?

Bring it on!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Every Writer Does It...

What does every writer do?

No matter how talented, how precise, how good?

Every writer will at some point type a blank space at the end of a paragraph.

Most writers do it multiple times. Some add more than one space, too!

The habit of hitting that space bar after finishing a sentence is so strong, we do it without thinking, even when we're completing a paragraph and don't need to hit it.

And when it comes time to format, we have a million of these:

See that dot before the paragraph mark? That is an extra space! (The line below without one is correct.)

Now that I've been formatting a lot of books for other authors, I realize how common this is among writers. We all do it. (Yes, I do it, too!)

The moral? The next time you are feeling inferior, just remember - when it comes to spaces at the end of a paragraph, every writer does it.

Just please try to catch all of them before sending me a book to format!

Do you sometimes hit the space bar before hitting return? You might want to check...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Visual Inspiration

Thought we'd go for a little visual inspiration today! I haven't done that in a while and I have some new images to share.

Perhaps you'd like to head out to the fair?

Maybe your story needs a hurricane? (Yes, that was the view out our window for Irene.)

Maybe you need some hungry creepy-crawlies?

Maybe you're feeling a little pyro? (Quick story - I started building a multi-layer castle back in Albuquerque, but never got more than two layers of dungeon and the main floor completed. My husband got tired of it in the garage and offered to tape it and put it on YouTube if I'd let him burn it. Video will be up someday, but at least I took pictures of the event! It was strangely satisfying...)

Perhaps a more eerie setting...?

Or maybe you are just inspired by psychotic cats?

Have a great day!

Monday, October 17, 2011


I’m not sure when nicknames became popular, but it’s a rare person who doesn’t have one.

Goodness, our cats have so many, it’s no wonder they don’t answer to anything!

Nicknames can be a variation of a person’s actual name or something entirely new. When I was younger, the title ‘Lady Di’ was bestowed upon me. (Although I am NOT a Diana.) I also gained the nickname of ‘Spunky,’ which eventually led to my speaker name, ‘Spunk on a Stick.’ For the most part, only people I meet in real life call me Spunky though.

Sometimes nicknames become like pet names. My husband knows if he hears ‘Baby…’ it will be followed by a request for something. (I know, I’m terrible!)

Sometimes nicknames go the cutesy route. Although too much and it sounds childish and gay. (Marvin Wilson is the only one allowed to call me the Spunkster)

Regardless of how we feel about nicknames, people use them. And depending on the setting of your novel, a couple of your characters might use them, too.

Consider the friendships in your manuscript and the resulting nicknames. (Which could sound insulting even though spoken out of friendship.) Think about the couples in your story. They might have affectionate, even secret pet names for one another.

Do your characters have nicknames? Do you have a nickname?

And if I see anything other than Diane or Spunky in the comments, you’re in trouble!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Pay it Forward Blogfest

Alex and Matthew are hosting the Pay it Forward blogfest today. Visit either of their blogs for a list of participants.

The idea is to pay it forward - list three blogs that you would recommend to your followers. I’d like to introduce you to these three ladies:

Wavy Lines
Laura Marcella is a sweetheart. She blogs three days a week - Monday is quote day, Wednesday is writing workout day, and Friday is open. She bubbles with enthusiasm and I always enjoy visiting Laura’s site.

Mystery Writing is Murder
Elizabeth Spann Craig is the most consistent blogger I know. She posts in the same style every day and relates life to writing in a way that really causes you to think. Elizabeth’s relaxed, friendly nature is refreshing - and I look forward to finally meeting her in person at Book ‘Em NC next year.

LD Masterson’s site is just fun! And she is so loyal to those who visit her. I can always count on her stopping by even when I’ve been a busy Spunky and not visited her.

Who do you recommend?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Structuring Our Writing World

Today, everyone is busy. Technological advancements, meant to make our life easier, tend to take away precious hours. Job and family commitments can multiply and eat us alive. Often there is precious little time remaining for our writing careers. To find a suitable balance, we must create structure in our lives.
Balance does not imply that every aspect receives and equal slice of the proverbial pie but rather adequate attention. Meeting one need may require ten minutes while another demands three hours. Before we begin slicing and doling out our time, we must first determine what components are truly important.

The best way to accomplish this task is to form a list. What do we value? What goals must be achieved? Consider the very basics first. Sleep and work (if we are employed) will take the greatest chunk of our day. Add family commitments to the list. If married, this includes our spouse! Don’t forget household chores or omit physical activities or relaxation. Finally, list all aspects of writing, from creating to promoting.

Before we divide our valuable time, what can we eliminate? Do we need to curtail certain activities? Are there duties that can be passed along to someone else? Once our list has been reduced to manageable levels, we can divvy the hours, remembering that we only have twenty-four at our disposal. 

Now that we understand what we’ll do with our day, we need to determine when we’ll accomplish each item on the list. While certain tasks remain unmovable, we should design our schedule to showcase our best side. Avoid regulating family to a time when we are exhausted or exercise to a slot we’ll only ignore. Our writing time is no different, and whether it’s the middle of the night or right after lunch, we should schedule it during our peak performance hours.

Ironically, there will be days when we are unable to follow our schedule. The life of an author can be quite chaotic at times! However, we need a base on which to build. It’s easier to alter an existing schedule that to create a new one each day from scratch!

A calendar is an author necessity! It is the only means by which to keep track of commitments, both in the real and virtual world. Miss one or two appearances and we’ll soon discover no one wants to book an irresponsible author! Setting two appointments for the same time slot is another disaster we want to avoid. A calendar will keep us on track and ensure we don’t miss family or work commitments either.

Since each new day presents a different set of tasks, maintain a to-do list. This will prevent that unique item from slipping through the cracks and into oblivion. Compile the to-do list the night before and don’t be afraid to write down future tasks for the days ahead. If we tackle the most important items first, then we know they will be completed. Interspersing a few five-minute projects throughout the list will speed our progress and buoy our sense of accomplishment in the process.

By now it’s obvious that we need to establish a framework in all areas of our life. With structure, a schedule, and a to-do list, we are better prepared to complete our writer and author duties. We are more likely to write for two hours if we’ve designated a time and placed it on our list than if we simply intend to make the effort at some point. Through repetition, many tasks will become part of our daily routine. Once we’ve established a pattern, accomplishing our goals will be much easier!

Our greatest enemies at this point are distractions and time stealers. Situations will arise when a diversion momentarily derails our progress. Unless it’s an emergency or has the potential to change our life forever, we shouldn’t focus on distractions. Time stealers are much more subtle. Ten minutes on a social site turns into thirty; an email sends us on a frantic goose chase for an hour; a phone call eats up our entire afternoon. We must be on the lookout for distractions and mindless time stealers or they will consume all of our carefully laid plans.

Authors and writers exist in a unique world, one that can be quite chaotic at times. However, we are happier and more productive when there is balance and structure in our life. Designing a schedule that can be easily followed sets us up for greater success!

What are you doing to organize your life?

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Insecure Writer's Support Group

I am posting today for Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

This wasn’t a major insecurity for me, but I know it scares some people - once you become a published author, your life changes.

I remember talking to a woman at one of the Book ‘Em events a few years ago. She had just signed a contract with a major publisher and was scared that it would change her life. When her book came out, her publisher sent her on a big tour. She had a website, a blog, and many other social sites. Less than a year later, she posted on her blog that she couldn’t handle it anymore and was shutting everything down, including her email. The pressure became too much.

It doesn’t have to end like that though. You just have to be prepared for the changes.

If you’re introverted, you’ll have to learn to be more outgoing. You will have less time with family and friends. Some activities will go by the wayside. You’ll be on the phone more, You’ll be online a lot more! You may travel. There may be interviews. But your life will change.

My advice - prepare for the change and embrace it. Learn what you can and can’t do - early! If something is draining, pull back. Find balance, and that doesn’t mean everything gets an equal slice of the pie, it means everything gets an adequate slice. (Sometimes just enough to get by.)

I think back to my first year. I traveled almost every weekend doing signings and was constantly calling stores, doing interviews, and mailing bookmarks. It was total chaos. (Now add five years of professional speaking on top of that!)

But that chaos became the balance. I made it work. And today, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Can you handle the changes? Yes you can!

Monday, October 03, 2011

Muse Conference, Book 'Em, and Overbooking

Today kicks off the start of The Muse Online Writers Conference!

I was careful to keep my schedule open this week. Seems I always have something else going on during the conference, but not this year. I am hosting one of the weekly forums - Developing Contacts to Promote Your Book. I did this one last year and it received the third highest comments of any forum. I hope this year’s group gets just as involved in the topics.

I also received the talks schedule for Book ‘Em NC next year. Trish had mentioned how many authors wanted to talk and I’d offered to give up my spot to accommodate others. She wouldn’t hear of it though. I am on a panel discussion with Susan Sloat and the wonderful Elizabeth Spann Craig!

Next week I’m sitting down with Trish to go over some of the details about the author school visits and the school writing contest. We still have so much to put into place. But, it will be worth it.

And I just realized I set a seminar in the northern half of the state on Thursday night. Which means I’ll get home after 11 pm, finish packing, and get up before 5 am to drive down to Lumberton for school talks, stay SOMEWHERE overnight, and then do Book ‘Em events all day Saturday.

Sleep sounds really good on Sunday.