Burned Out on the Business of Writing? 6 Insights to Rediscover Joy and Passion

From Helping Writers Become Authors:

In the ever-evolving landscape of the writing profession, where deadlines loom large and market trends shift like shadows, it’s not uncommon for writers to find themselves engulfed in the relentless flames of burnout. The business of writing, with its demands for marketability and strategic branding, can sometimes obscure the very essence of what drew us to the craft in the first place: the pure joy and passion for storytelling. If you’re feeling singed by the pressures of the business of writing, fear not. Amidst the ashes lie embers of creativity waiting to be rekindled.

At the end of 2023, as I sat down to consider what “lessons” I wanted to share in my annual New Year’s post, I found I had gleaned so many things from this busy, productive, and rewarding year that I couldn’t thematically contain them all in one post. The “official” New Year’s post I shared last month talked about what my experiences had shown me about living (and writing) Flat Arcs. What I didn’t get to talk about in that post were the many specific lessons I learned last year in rewiring my relationship to the business of writing.

Over the past few years, I’ve talked about the period of significant burnout I experienced beginning in 2016, which included nearly four years of writer’s block. I learned so much in working through these experiences and am happy to report recovery from both the burnout and the writer’s block. Something I haven’t talked much about yet is how this burnout shone a light on dysfunctional aspects of my relationship with the business side of writing.

A few months ago, I wrote about how my relationship to marketing has evolved, and last week I discussed some of the mindsets necessary for writers to succeed at marketing and business. Today, I want to go deeper and share six insights I received in 2023 that are helping me rewire my relationship with the business of writing into an experience that is not only sustainable but deeply rewarding, creative, and generative.

Why It’s So Easy for Writers to Get Burned Out on the Business of Writing

First, a little background. I began my career, rather unwittingly, sixteen years ago. I didn’t really intend writing or teaching about writing to be a career. I was a sheltered homeschooled stay-at-home daughter, and writing books and starting little online businesses was just the sort of thing we did back then. I loved writing stories, and I started a blog to help me sell those stories. That blog and the subsequent writing-craft books I published became a huge adventure all their own, and before I knew it, I was earning enough to call myself a full-time writer.

I never had a real business plan beyond seizing the opportunities and proving to myself that being a self-published author at the inception of the indie boom was legit. I also had no clue what I was getting myself into. I wasn’t aware of what “joyful marketing” coach Simone Grace Seol talks about on her podcast as “The Three Stages of Growth“:

1. Creation (when you’re writing the book, building the business, etc.)

2. Acclimation (when you’re adjusting to the new identity of success)

3. Acceleration (when you’re taking everything you’ve learned and going 2.0)

I was good at creation and acceleration, but I had zero awareness or skill when it came to acclimation. To repeat Seol’s excellent insight:

So many of us think that hitting the goal is going to be the best thing ever, but then we realize that once we do hit the ambitious goal it starts to feel really, really scary and anxious, and we just kind of have a meltdown a lot of the times…. The pain of acclimation … is that now that you’ve created the thing that you wanted to create, now that you achieved the goal, now you have to get used to … being somebody who has that as part of her reality.

By the time 2016—that massive epoch in my life—arrived on the wings of a huge personal crisis, my relationship with my business was already significantly dysfunctional and unsustainable. The work I was doing to earn money was becoming increasingly disconnected from my creativity. I was making choices based on what I thought I “should” do or what would be most lucrative, versus what really excited me or aligned with my own values. As a result, I was suffering major anxiety attacks almost every time I opened my email. I lived in fear of criticism, and I was constantly chasing after some elusive idea of success that would slay my raging imposter syndrome.

Then when personal crisis hit, I very nearly gave up on the business of writing altogether. For several years, I cut back drastically on almost everything I was doing. I spent the next eight years (and counting!) getting real with myself about the patterns and beliefs that had caused me to create such dysfunction in my relationship with my business (among other areas of my life).

6 Insights to Rewire How You Relate to the Business of Writing

Now my experience may be extreme, and many writers will never reach this level of burnout. My situation was also ultimately founded upon and catalyzed by belief systems, relationships, and events that had nothing to do with my writing or my business. However, over the past years as I have discussed various aspects of my experiences and how they have taught me to heal and grow, I have received so many emails from so many of you who are able to relate on one level or another.

From my vantage point, I see how my struggles are ones so many writers also get tangled up in and, ultimately, for the same reason: because we don’t know what we’re getting ourselves into and because we aren’t taught how to create functional operating systems for the business side of writing. I spoke about some of the culprit misconceptions in last week’s post about why marketing is hard for writers. Today, I want to share some of the lessons I have been learning these past years that have changed my life.

I believe these things need to be normalized and talked about more in writing communities. They shouldn’t frighten anyone away from achieving as much success with their writing as is humanly possible. Rather, they should act as cautionary road markers to help us make decisions that arise from our own deepest alignment and health, rather than in response to some external guideline of what we’re “supposed to be doing” or what being a career writer is “supposed to look like.”

So today, let’s explore these six invaluable insights to rediscover the joy and passion that initially set our writerly souls ablaze!

1. Balance Speaking Up and Setting Boundaries Online

Okay… so imagine a long pause between this sentence and the one before it, because I’ve been sitting here for several minutes, trying to find the words to express something that still feels surprisingly vulnerable. And I suppose that’s the whole point of this first insight. Living as a writer means being willing to speak and to write from a deeply vulnerable and authentic place and then to face the potential criticism and judgement of the world.

It is crucial for writers to be able to create protective boundaries. This, however, is easier said than done. You can stop reading reviews on Amazon, but if you intend to continue with a blog or a social media presence, you can’t close your eyes to what followers are saying. Every day there is the opportunity to run across something someone is saying about you that feels triggering.

Ultimately, the boundaries must be created within ourselves. The only things that trigger us are those that already live within us. At its simplest, if someone says “you’re a bad writer” and it stings, it’s because you believe it at some level. More insidious, however, is the adjacent belief that this someone out there in Internet-land—who is probably someone you don’t know, will never hear from again, and whose own expertise is unproven—deserves to tell you how to live your life.

I was struck by how deep this belief had been ingrained in me when I was working through ways to create boundaries that would keep out unwanted criticism. The thought that arose was, But if I’m wrong, I should be criticized! Whoa. That stopped me short. For me, the unconscious belief was that I deserved any and all criticism that any random person with a random agenda wanted to sling at me. The countering belief I had to find was that I deserved to protect myself and I deserved to choose for myself whose advice I listened to based on my own value system.

2. Stay Connected to Your Own Authority

Boundaries are an external protection system. They are walls erected to keep danger out of our homes. But boundaries are not unbreachable. If an external boundary is our only defense, we’re ultimately doomed. It is important to reach down deep inside and find the strength of our own individual authority.

It’s like that old saying:

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.

But this, too, can be externalized. When we project authority onto something else, it is often in the belief that if we just follow that person, system, or thing, we’ll be just fine. We often do this unconsciously, not realizing we are identifying with this thing less because we align it with it and more because we derive a sense of approval and protection from it (even and sometimes especially if opposing groups offer resistance).

What I have learned for myself is that the only way to access true strength is to reach deep inside and find one’s own. There is no substitute. This is not easy. Accessing that strength and that ability to hold authority over one’s self often requires digging through all sorts of layers of unsafety in one’s programming. It also requires a radical claiming of personal responsibility and accountability—because now there is nothing else on which to shade blame.

For me, learning to recognize what is happening energetically when I abandon my authority to someone or something else has been a gamechanger in rewiring my ability to hold my own center when triggered and, just as importantly, to find the strength and self-worth to set boundaries unapologetically. Abandoning my own authority often makes me feel physically sick, including intense pressure in my head and neck. When this happens, I have learned to relax my throat and neck, to bring attention back to my solar plexus, and to focus on the crown of my head. I imagine a straight pole of light aligning my body from above the top of my head to below the bottom of my feet. With practice, holding this inner posture of authority becomes easier and easier. The tendency to feel sick in the presence of someone else’s negative opinion grows less, and the capacity for showing up with more authenticity, truth, and conviction echoes a quote that has been one of my favorites from childhood:

I speak the truth not so much as I would, but as much as I dare; and I dare a little more as I grow older.

–Catherine Drinker Bowen

Link to the rest at Helping Writers Become Authors

PG is certain he’s not the only one who has watched hard-working indie authors burn themselves out by going faster and faster in writing and promoting their work. Each new book brings a bump in revenue, but, in the nature of things, fans can read books much faster than an author can write them.

Since most indie authors are doing everything for their book business, writing and promoting are competing for the author’s time. Deciding which is the best use of the author’s time may solve the author’s dilemma today, but the decision likely needs to be faced again tomorrow. Or next week.

Some authors can wake their muse easily, but, for others, the muse must be regenerated or rediscovered or reconstructed. Getting today’s muse firmly connected with yesterday’s muse can also take some work.

For any who think these challenges are a reason to choose the path of traditional publishing, PG notes that traditional publishing has its own creative and emotional burdens for the author. The author typically doesn’t know what’s going on with her book, whether the people doing whatever they are doing in connection with the book are as committed to the book as the author is or just going through the motions using outmoded practices, watching the clock to decide when they can go home without causing other people in the office to doubt their work ethic and commitment and wondering if they can find a better job somewhere else.

YA Romance Requires Crazy Imagination and Full-Blown Dreams

From Publishers Weekly:

Author Jillian Dodd has proved that perseverance and savoring the process are key to success. To date, she has written 50 books, including seven series and one standalone title. Dodd has amassed a mighty fan base and sold more than 4.5 million books. In addition to her success on the page, Dodd’s That Boy series is currently in development for a television show. She spoke with BookLife about capturing young adult voices in her fiction and taking the reins of her publishing journey.

How did you start writing YA romances?

I’ve always had a crazy imagination and full-blown dreams. I had a series of dreams about three best friends, two guys and a girl. And, because I’ve always been a huge reader, I needed to know the rest of their story, and which guy she ended up with! So I wrote the story for me. It turned out pretty good, and I thought, “I might have something here.” Those dream scenes are in my first book, That Boy, which is in development as a series! YA fits my voice and writing style, probably because I have the inner voice of a 16-year-old.

Why did you choose self-publishing over traditional publishing?

I tried the traditional route—sent queries, sometimes my manuscript, and tried to get an agent. But I’m not really a rule follower; I’m sure my submissions were awful, even though the story was not. My husband came home one day with a Wall Street Journal article about Amazon’s new self-publishing platform and told me that I should do it myself. I loved the idea of owning my business and controlling every aspect of my journey and the rights to all my books. Humble beginnings, though. I sold 36 copies my first three months, but I was thrilled because I hadn’t told anyone I knew—which meant strangers were reading something I had written. I asked myself what would happen if I really tried to sell them. The following month, I sold 300; the next, 900; the next, 1,800. And I was at a $9.99 e-book price point when, unbeknownst to me, most indies were priced at under $2. The business has changed so much over the years, and it’s pushed me to learn more. I always want to be ahead of the curve and keep growing.

How do you research your books?

I love to travel, so almost all of the wonderful places that show up in my books are places I’ve been. I spend months, sometimes years, doing research before I begin a new series. I need my characters to be real in my head. I want them to have full-blown personalities, from the clothes they wear, cars they drive, places they live, family relationships, favorite foods, horoscopes, and what type of kissers they are. I’ve researched everything from nuclear bomb destruction to boarding school class schedules. Research is a huge part of making my characters and stories come to life. Although I tend to write as a pantser, I’m meticulous in my planning.

Your website showcases not only your books but also merchandise related to the books, such as clothing and accessories. What inspired you to market your own branded merchandise? And do you find it profitable?

If you asked me this question when I started publishing 12 years ago, my answer would have been the same. Once I realized I could create books that would sell, my business goal became to write stories with characters that readers would obsess over and have my own branded store. With a retail and design background, I’m able to be creative in lots of different ways and give superfans all the fun swag and apparel they want. I also have to give a shoutout to my daughter, Kenzie, who has been working with me from the beginning. She’s my brand manager and is a force in keeping me on-brand with everything we do. We most definitely find our store to be profitable, but mostly I love that we fully control the readers’ experience. They can’t get that direct access to me anywhere else.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Here’s a link to Jillian Dodd’s books

And here’s a link to some of Jillian Dodd’s Swag and more of Jillian Dodd’s Swag

PG says Ms. Dodd is a truly professional author. He wonders why more indie authors don’t do the same thing with their author websites.

Is Self-Publishing a Good Choice for Authors in 2024?

Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Talk about self-publishing has diminished in the last few years.  Most of the “Kindle Millionaires” that surged onto the scene a decade or so ago have evaporated from indie writing communities.

Some of them are, of course, busy writing their next bestseller. But a lot either got traditional publishing contracts, like Hugh Howey and Amanda Hocking (remember them?), or they moved on to more lucrative careers.

Writing about self-publishing isn’t wildly fashionable these days. Formerly prolific indie advocate Joe Konrath has only updated his blog, The Newbie’s Guide to Publishing, once since 2019. D. D. Scott, of the Writers Guide to E-Publishing dropped the blog long ago

But the hottest phenom in publishing last year, Colleen Hoover, started as an indie author — and she still self-publishes some of her books. You can’t argue with her amazing success.

Why Self-Publishing is No Longer Big News
Here’s the thing: The Self-Publishing “Revolution” of the previous decade was tied directly to the “Ebook Revolution.” Indie publishing was sparked by the advent of the Kindle.

When Amazon launched the Kindle in the late ‘oughties, customers needed ebooks to read on it. And Amazon opened up a marketplace for self-publishing to flourish. Indie authors who sold their ebooks for under $5 became bestsellers when they competed against trad-pubbed ebooks priced at $10 and up.

And wise indie authors still price their books below the Big 5 prices. They can afford to, because there are no agents and publishers to skim off the bulk of the profits.

The fact self-publishing isn’t big news now is exactly because it’s so successful. It’s zooming along with no roadblocks, so there’s no news. Authors who take their indie careers seriously are making a lot of money self-publishing. They’re doing their own marketing and turning out books quickly for their growing fan bases.

They also write in genres that sell to voracious readers who generally buy ebooks, like Romance, mystery, thrillers, and sci-fi/fantasy.

These genres do well in subscription services like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, Kobo Plus, Scribd, etc. Subscription services are growing fast, according to The New Publishing Standard. Kindle Unlimited paid out $575 million to self-publishers last year.

However, children’s, literary, upmarket fiction and “book-club” women’s fiction still tends to sell better in hard copy.

. . . .

I see that a lot of new writers who are planning to self-publish will immediately start talking about book signings and getting books into physical bookshops.

But that’s not where an indie should be putting their energy. Book signings can be fun, and a physical book launch party can be an important celebration for the author. Swag like bookmarks, mugs and T-shirts can be a blast to design and prepare.

But these things are about fun, not making big sales.

That’s because in-person events are not the way most indies sell their books. (With the exception of nonfiction self-help books. If you’re a motivational speaker, you can sell a lot of hard copy books at your speaking engagements.)

. . . .

Self-publishing does mean giving up some fantasies. Self-published authors rarely, if ever, are interviewed on NPR or reviewed in The New Yorker. Chances of being invited to participate in a TV talk show are minimal.  You probably won’t see your book in the window of your local Barnes and Noble, and you won’t be chosen for Reese’s or Oprah’s book clubs.

If these things are essential to your image of being a published author, either let them go, or keep slogging on that query-go-round and get yourself an agent and traditional publishing deal. Not a lot of traditionally published authors get national radio interviews or reviews in prestigious magazines either, but you’ll have a fighting chance.

. . . .

If you’re self-publishing, you’re going to be selling mostly ebooks, you are going to need to do most of your marketing online. Online marketing means establishing a major social media presence, as well as having an enticing website (and preferably, a blog. ) You’ll also want a strong email list of subscribers.

If you’re not interested in online marketing, self-publishing probably isn’t for you. The slow death of X-Twitter has made online marketing more difficult. If your demographic is over 40, Facebook can still help, but for most genres, you need to be on Instagram, and if you write Romance or YA, you definitely need Tiktok.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

The OP was generally right about the facts, but PG wonders if serious indie authors have the sort of “fantasies” the OP describes.

PG has known a great many indie authors, including more than a few who hired him to break out of their traditional publishing contracts with large New York publishers.

(Reminder: PG is retired, so he doesn’t this sort of thing any more. Please don’t ask.)

Typically, the authors who wanted to escape from traditional publishing contracts and the necessary New York literary agency 15% taken off the top wanted to self-publish so they could make more money and run their own shows.

They wanted to make more money because most traditionally published authors don’t make much money from their writing either. “Don’t give up your day job,” is advice a large number of traditionally-published authors hear from their agents.

As with any endeavor, some of PG’s now former clients did very well financially, adding a zero, sometimes two zeroes, to their previous annual writing incomes. Others didn’t have the knack of running their own business and didn’t do so well.

Everybody who escaped from their publishers and agents did share one benefit that was important to them.

They were the boss now.

They ran their own business the way they thought best. They could write what they wanted to write their books in the way they wanted to write them without explaining or justifying their choices to anybody else.

One more simple fact is that traditionally published authors whose last name isn’t Obama or another with similar public awareness also have to do social media marketing. And lots of other chores and homework assigned to most traditionally published authors by somebody at their publisher or their agent.

Business Musings: All Good Things

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I should have seen it coming when I couldn’t figure out how to write the year-end blogs. I found a dozen topics that fit, but none really interested me. They’re all important from different perspectives. The perspectives are so different from each other that they no longer feel like part of the same industry.

For example, traditionally published writers claim they care about craft, but really, they care about old-fashioned readership—which has been declining through the trade channels for the past five years or more. Bestselling books published by traditional publishers sell half of what they sold in 2009, and that was already down by another third from 1999.

Traditional publishers don’t help writers get an audience. Traditional publishers buy up copyright for the term of the copyright so that they can have assets on their accounting books. They take years to publish something, which is often unrecognizable from what the author initially intended.

Still, traditional writers hope for “legitimacy,” whatever that means, and strive to get agents, even though book agents take 15% of the book for the life of the book and do very little work (as well as often practicing law without a license).

Traditional publishing has changed for the worse in the decade plus since I started this blog, and still writers get sucked into trad pub. I was done about five years ago writing for writers who want to go that route, because I hate to see their dreams crushed.

Just this week, I watched a writer whom I respect, who should know better, try to find a new agent because the writer’s partner, also a writer, has a New York Times notable book (which is also a bestseller), and can’t get their book agent to return phone calls.

How discouraging. When someone else (not me) suggested hiring an attorney instead of a book agent, the writer (whom I respect a bit less now) essentially called that someone an ignorant idiot.

That same interchange could have happened in 2015 or 2009. No one learns on that side of the fence, and very few people change. They don’t want to.

On the indie side of the fence, learning is essential. Writers share knowledge and ideas, all while writing the books of their hearts (to use the romance term). Some writers go awry because they get caught up in analytics or trying to write “what sells” but writers have always been like that.

The problem with indie these days is that there are so many good ways to make a living that there’s no longer one path.

Okay…that’s not a problem. That’s a good thing.

I started writing this weekly blog at the advent of the indie movement, mostly to remind myself that this is a viable career path. Now I can’t imagine existing without indie publishing. Going back to traditional wouldn’t be possible for me.

It was barely possible in 2009. The contracts got worse, the editors were a nightmare, and I wasn’t about to give my copyright to some corporation for a mere five figures, when I knew the copyright on a single book could bring in licenses worth tens of thousands of dollars.

I wasn’t that desperate in 2009 and I’m certainly not that desperate now. As I noted in some recent blogs, my books are all in print. The books of my traditional friends? Not in print at all. Or if they are in print, my friends aren’t making a dime off of them.

It’s discouraging, but as I’ve seen over the past few years, people have dug in. It doesn’t matter that traditional writers now have to get a “real” job to make a living. Or that the changes in indie have made it possible for those of us who understand business to make a good living while writing what we love.

We’ve changed.

The world has changed.

And honestly, I’m not that interested in writing about the publishing industry weekly. There is no publishing industry anymore. There are different aspects of book publishing, all of which fascinate me, and none of which make me want to pontificate for a few thousand words every single week.

Then there’s my writing itself. In the spring, I made a list of the books clamoring to get out of my brain. The series that need finishing right now, the standalones I’ve been dying to write, the books I’ve intended to write since the turn of the century if not longer, as well as the short stories that rise to the top of my to-do list because I read an inspiring article or saw an amazing play.

I will have time to write all of that if I double down on my fiction writing. Or triple down. When I write fiction, I write a minimum of 1,000 new words per hour. The blog takes a minimum of 10 hours per week from idea to page, including the audio (which is maybe 20 minutes of that 10 hours). I love the audio. It’s fun.

The blog, not so much.

In fact it had become such a drag that I put it off until the last minute, and then have to give up even more fiction writing time to get it down.

And while the blog makes me more money per month than someone would earn making minimum wage (not counting all the nonfiction books I get out of it or the other perks), I could make more money if I write three novellas a year, whether I sell them to traditional markets or not.

The blog is self-sustaining financially, but it’s actively costing me money. My earnings as a fiction writer have gone up dramatically in the past fourteen years.

The earnings—for those of you who still have a traditional publishing dream—do not come when a book or story is released but slowly over the course of a year. I used to say that indie writers don’t get advances, but with presales and the rise of Kickstarter, indie writers make money before the book comes out. Sometimes that money is more than a typical book advance. Sometimes it’s less.

But it’s always at the beginning—and then the writer goes on to sell copies of the book for years, rather than a few months as it happens in traditional.

So each moment I spend writing fiction brings me more money than I made even five years ago. I used to clock my writing time at $500 per hour, but it’s more like $1000 per hour…and that doesn’t count other licenses like sales of related merchandise or movie options. I haven’t done that math.

Thirty dollars per hour writing a blog post that has little resale value or $1000 per hour writing stories that can sell for decades. It’s really a no brainer.

I never really worried about that when I needed the blog to explain the changes in the publishing industry to myself. I just wanted the blog to pay me for my time. I did turn the posts into many books, some of which sell really well and some of which need massive updating. But I don’t want to update them. I have other things to do.

Yes, you’re beginning to understand where this is going. The weekly blog on my website is going away. I will be using the time to write more stories, finish some book projects, do other book projects and, oddly enough, do a lot more promotion of my existing work.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

PG will miss seeing the thoughts Kris shares on a regular basis and hopes she posts her thoughts and insights from time to time even if they don’t appear as frequently as they have in the past.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Character Type & Trope Thesaurus Entry: Lady of Adventure

From Writers Helping Writers:

DESCRIPTION: This self-sufficient and tenacious woman seeks out adventure and new discoveries, often breaking with the conventions of her time to do so.

FICTIONAL EXAMPLES: Arya Stark (Game of Thrones), Eowyn (the Lord of the Rings trilogy), Mulan (Mulan), Dolores Abernathy (Westworld), Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

COMMON STRENGTHS: Adaptable, Adventurous, Alert, Bold, Confident, Courageous, Curious, Decisive, Efficient, Enthusiastic, Focused, Independent, Industrious, Passionate, Perceptive, Persistent, Resourceful, Spontaneous, Spunky

COMMON WEAKNESSES: Cocky, Impatient, Impulsive, Irresponsible, Obsessive, Pushy, Rebellious, Reckless, Self-Destructive, Self-Indulgent, Stubborn, Uncooperative, Volatile

ASSOCIATED ACTIONS, BEHAVIORS, AND TENDENCIES
Being street smart
Restlessness; needing to be on the move
Lacking patience
Thinking for herself
Rejecting the conventions that don’t suit her
Persistently pursuing her goals; seeing things through
Disregarding people in authority—specifically those who would try to force her into a specific role or keep her from certain activities
Spontaneity
Avoiding long-term commitments (in case a better offer comes along)
Believing that romantic entanglements will slow her down

SITUATIONS THAT WILL CHALLENGE THEM
A romantic partner wanting to settle down
Sustaining an injury that affects her mobility
Getting pregnant
Rules changing that restrict women’s freedoms
Being saddled with additional responsibilities at home or work, making travel and adventure less possible

TWIST THIS TROPE WITH A CHARACTER WHO
Has a stable home life, with children
Is elderly
Has an atypical trait: indecisive, nature-focused, sentimental, verbose, whiny, vain, etc.

Link to the rest at Writers Helping Writers

For more information about various character tropes, check out the Thesaurus Description Database which you can find via the Writers Helping Writers Home Page.

US literary agents question the business model’s viability, but some are missing the bigger picture

From The New Publishing Standard:

Today, publishing is a different planet. There is so much opportunity. So much potential. So much agents can offer authors, traditionally-published or self-published. And it is the younger, newer generation of agents, that are best poised to take full advantage and take their careers to new levels.

As September ended, the biennial report from the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA) was released, painting a bleak picture of American’s literary agents working long hours and struggling to pay the bills, while worrying for their future, and questioning the viability of the commission model.

I logged the report on my To Do List, where of course it was promptly subsumed in the flood of pre-Frankfurt industry news and reports, and only resurfaced thanks to Porter Anderson over at Publishing Perspectives, who summarised the report during Frankfurt week, to shine the spotlight on the Buchmesse LitAg programme. Anderson took time out to remind us literary agents work hard and are not always appreciated for their pivotal role in bringing authors and publishers together, and looking after author interests.

As an industry professional, there were few surprises in the Association of American Literary Agents report. Those of us who have had dealings with literary agents will know it’s not quite the romantic dream job those outside the industry might imagine.

Ready-to-print future bestsellers rarely arrive on the desk, and those that do, unless from existing clients, go through the slush pile process of being filtered and evaluated, with the AALA reporting some agents handling over 100 submissions a week, often without an assistant.

Separating the wheat from the chaff can be dispiriting, when you know the querying author may have spent years of their life working on a manuscript that they truly believe in, but that sadly isn’t readable past the first few paragraphs. I cannot imagine there are any literary agents who relish the next stage – the rejection email saying thanks, but no thanks.

And then there’s the anguish of rejecting a manuscript that shows promise, but just needs too much work, or a well-written submission that simply doesn’t tick the right boxes for the prevailing market conditions.

All this alongside the lurking fear that the agent might have just rejected what will go on to be the next publishing industry legend. Just ask the many agents who told JK Rowling not to give up the day job.

As an author and one-time editor, being a literary agent is probably the last job I would want to choose in this industry. Although sympathy towards the plight of the literary agents’ struggles as reported by the AALA is tempered by, as always, real life.

There are plenty of jobs out there that pay less, have longer hours, zero job satisfaction, and involve exhausting manual labour. So my gut reaction whenever I see reports emerging like this from any sector of the publishing industry, is to sigh and prepare for a pity-fest of victim-of-a-cruel-world gripes.

The latest Authors Guild report, published the same week as the AALA report, is an example, with Jim Milliot reporting for PW that “Writing Books Remains a Tough Way to Make a Living“, explaining that, “A new Authors Guild survey finds that median book and writing-related income for authors in 2022 was below the poverty level.

That’s an op-ed in its own right. The idea that book authors can somehow be equated with people who stack shelves in supermarkets, make bread or cars or widgets, serve coffee or pizza, or do some other weekly-waged job never fails to amuse me. Back in the UK I spent many years sat in coffee bars all day, slaving hard to keep the baristas busy replenishing my lattes for a pittance weekly wage, while I pecked away at the keyboard between blueberry muffins, writing books that in their time sold almost two million copies, and fifteen years on, still bring in a trickle of revenue. The barista, who worked far harder than I ever did, got paid for the day’s work and then had to do it all over again the next day to get paid again. My work, all those years ago still earns me something, and if I can ever find the time away from school and TNPS, there’s probably a lot more mileage to be had from them. Real life? No thank you.

Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard

Of course, there are many ways to be poor. For the large majority of would-be authors who wish to be published by traditional publishers, absent independent means, that path is doomed to failure.

Being poor and young can be a hoot (PG speaks from experience). However, being poor and middle-aged or, worse, poor and old is a different sort of existence altogether (Thankfully, PG doesn’t speak from experience about that sort of life).

PG has helped/tried to help a number of people who have found themselves old or pre-old without enough money to make ends meet. More than a few employers would rather hire young and train than spend more money to get additional experienced employees. While it’s supposed to be illegal, there is more than a little age discrimination that goes on in contemporary US businesses.

Generally, PG advises would-be authors who aren’t able to crash on a friend’s couch each night to not give up their day jobs until they start receiving some actual money in meaningful amounts from their writing.

How Can I Set Aside the Cacophany of Writing Advice and Just Write?

From Jane Friedman:

Question

I attend webinars and online conferences, to learn the craft of writing, though I was a poet in another life back when getting my BA. I was raising a child so hedged my bets by double majoring in developmental psychology and creative writing. Hedging my bets gave me less craft lessons.

Now, an empty nester with a lot of time on my hands, I’ve carefully added authors and writing coaches I follow. I used to follow anyone whom I thought could give me the best answers on writing/memoir. Now, though, my inbox is filled with newsletter advice I can’t possibly find time to read. I want to stick with the two and I know and trust: Lisa Cooper-Ellison and Jane Friedman.

Searching for the one author whose advice is the “key” is fruitless. Yet after a conference I still tend to follow a few speakers and their newsletters. Any advice on how to keep to a couple authors and editors I trust and stop the bouncing around between editor to editor and and settle into a chair and write?

—Elizabeth Undiluted


Dear Elizabeth Undiluted,

The great news here is that you already recognize what you need to do: Sit down and write. So why can’t you?

The answer lies in whatever underlying needs, fears/anxieties, and/or feelings of responsibility have been driving you to bounce around. And I must admit, as a long-time advice giver (who has no shortage of qualms about my position as one), I can be at fault in this predicament, along with my colleagues, at making people feel they need to stick around for my guidance.

Let’s cut to the chase: You can get by fine without it. Nothing bad will happen if you stop. Maybe you’ll take a little longer to figure out specific craft challenges. Or perhaps you won’t be as sharp on some business issues. On the other hand, you’re likely to have dramatically less anxiety that you’re doing things wrong, or that conditions in the market aren’t favorable for your work, or that you’re inadequate to the task of marketing and promoting. (A lot of inadequacy that writers feel is driven, IMHO, by advice givers.)

That’s the short answer, but here’s the longer one that explores specific reasons you might be avoiding the writing chair.

You have fear of missing out.

Speaking personally, I keep logging onto social media platforms I don’t care about and subscribing to countless newsletters because I feel like I’m going to miss out or become uninformed. That said, it’s literally my job to be informed about what everyone’s talking about in the writing and publishing community. But is it your job? Probably not.

It’s highly unlikely you’re going to miss out on a piece of valuable information or knowledge that would dramatically change your writing fortunes, which you seem to realize. It’s more likely, in fact, you’re going to come across harmful information from people who have no business giving you advice. Most important, a lot of the lessons to be learned about writing come from doing it, from the practice, from showing up. So that’s priority number-one. Everything else is secondary to supporting that effort.

That said, I think your strategy to focus on one or two people you trust is excellent. This gives you some reassurance that if there is something you probably ought to know about, one of these people is likely to bring it to your attention. Or you could ask them to point you in the right direction if a specific need or question arises. (I swear I would say this even if you hadn’t mentioned my name as one of your preferred sources! And thank you for that trust.)

The other thing I’d suggest is that the best advice and guidance still tends to come in either book form or class/workshop form, brought to you by experts you know and trust (or that have been recommended by the experts). This is not to discount the many wonderful newsletters, blogs (like this one!), social media accounts, podcasts, and so on that offer advice. But let’s be honest: Most of it is disposable. If it’s not bringing you joy, if it’s not something you actively look forward to (and especially if it’s something that feels anxiety producing or a burden), it’s time to let go of it.

You need more knowledge to tackle your writing challenges.

You mention that hedging your bets gave you less craft lessons, which implies you don’t feel as schooled or as advanced as you would like at this point in your writing life. I would dig deeper into this feeling, if it’s there. Is there something about your current writing project that you’re feeling ill-prepared to tackle? Are you feeling deficient in some area? Is there a weakness you wish you could eliminate?

One of the reasons writers avoid writing is that we don’t know next steps on a writing project. Maybe we’ve written ourselves into a corner or we don’t know where the story is headed and can’t figure out the answer. So when you sit down at your desk, you have no clue where to begin. Or you simply procrastinate to avoid the unpleasant feeling of being stuck.

If you can pinpoint what the writing problem is, then I’d look for books that might help you with a breakthrough. Or, if you have the resources, you could consider hiring a professional editor or coach to help you through the impasse. Alternatively, a class or workshop can help for less cost if you’re surrounded by both a great instructor and sharp students.

There are some writers I meet who simply fear messing up and try to gather as much advice as possible before they even begin. Unfortunately, the writing process is more or less defined by messing up and starting over. Writing is revising. Good writing advice can help you avoid the serious pitfalls, or bring clarity to a confusing process, but creative work of any kind is going to involve countless bad ideas. It’s important to work through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. (And hopefully you’ve gained enough self-awareness to know when you’ve moved past the bad into the good.)

You want to be a good literary citizen—you owe it to these people.

Maybe you’re appreciative of the speakers, teacher, editors, and coaches you’ve learned from. You want to support them, so you subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social and try to engage. It’s a way to be a good literary citizen, to see and be seen—all good things when you’re trying to make your way in the literary community.

But at some point, your writing has to come first. And you’ll outgrow some of the people you used to learn from. A lot of writing advice, by necessity, is for beginners. It tends to get less useful over time as you become more experienced. The people who give advice know this. No one will get offended if you silently drop away. (And if they do, I humbly suggest they have a lot to learn about the business of helping writers!)

Not writing is more enjoyable than writing.

Writing is hard work. I mean, yes, it can be enjoyable, but it’s the joy we take in doing challenging work. It requires mental focus. For memoirists, there’s often the additional challenge of emotional drain.

So it’s natural to look for other things to do instead, especially activities that are writing adjacent, like reading writing advice or gathering with other writers to talk shop or joke around.

We all need a break and we can’t be writing all the time. But if you develop a habit of avoiding the work, especially by reading writing advice or attending conferences and classes, ask yourself why. Then read The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, if you haven’t already, to delve deeply into the psychological challenge of producing art, to recognize how we all pretty much do anything to avoid such work.

You’re trying to prepare now for future problems you don’t have.

Don’t focus on problems that exist downstream. Focus on the problem that you face now. The experts will be there when you need them.

Imagine that you haven’t read a piece of writing advice for five years. You haven’t subscribed to any newsletters. You have no clue what you’ve missed. But you wish you had their insight on some new challenge or the next step in your journey. Go to Google and search for your favorite expert’s name, plus keywords related to the problem you’re facing. Presto.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Business Musings: Platforms

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

At the beginning of August, Patreon had what some termed a payment meltdown. Some creators couldn’t access their payments. Banks notified some Patreon backers that their payments were being flagged as fraudulent.

Patreon claimed that the problems weren’t one problem; they were two problems. For the creators, the problem was a payment partner of Patreon that wouldn’t let them cash out. For subscribers, the problem was a lot more arcane than I want to go into here.

The secondary problem for creators, though, was that the subscriber issue brought the subscription to the attention of the subscriber. The great thing about subscriptions is that once people subscribe, they tend to forget how much they paid for the subscription.

If that subscription in any way loses value in the mind of the subscriber, or if their financial situation has changed, or if they had completely forgotten the subscription existed, having that subscription brought to their attention makes them reevaluate it. When they do that, many cancel. In this latest kerfuffle, one creator claimed they lost 300 subscribers.

A friend on Facebook gleefully reported all of this, and mentioned this was why they avoided all outside platforms, choosing to go through their website and with the systems they had built. (And yes, I see the irony of a friend using a platform to claim that they never use platforms. Don’t go there.)

They did have a point about platforms, though. We’re moving to our own online store for a variety of reasons, but one is that it gives us a cushion should one of the bigger online retail platforms change its way of doing things.

Another friend complained about online store platforms like Shopify, and said that they preferred to design their own. Turns out when I looked at their site, they had defaulted to WooCommerce, which we had tried and didn’t like.

The first friend’s point about outside platforms caught me, though, and got me thinking. My initial gut reaction to both of these folks was that my website has had a lot more problems over the past 25 years than I’ve ever had with the platforms. The idea of depending solely on my website scares the bejeezus out of me.

Having only one point of contact for all of my work is too risky for me, even if I supposedly control that one point. I don’t control the platform on which my website rests. It’s also taken forever to get someone to help me rebuild the website here. Some of that is me stalling, but some of it is finding the right fit.

Still, outside platforms have their own issues. At Christmastime last year, Amazon caused a lot of turmoil by dropping its newspaper and magazine subscription service. Some magazines were invited into the Kindle magazine program, but others were not. As Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld wrote at the time:

Earnings from Amazon subscriptions provide a varying and sometimes significant portion of the revenue that these publications require to stay in business. If you don’t already know, genre magazines are subscription-driven, meaning that subscriptions make up the bulk of their income. Some people think advertising is a major source, but it actually represents a tiny fraction for us….

None of these magazines are entirely reliant on Amazon, but as the largest ebook retailer in the field, the cancelation of this program will hurt and in some cases, hurt badly. Badly enough to shutter a magazine? Maybe. It’s too soon to tell …

Platforms change all the time. They make decisions that have a huge impact on the people they partner with. Amazon’s change was a cost-cutting measure driven by severe layoffs in the fourth quarter of 2022 and into 2023. The Patreon problem had a lot to do with a platform they had hired to help them process payments.

PayPal also changed its fee structure in late 2022, closing a loophole that a lot of businesses used as well as upping some fees. I’m sure online store platforms like Shopify will change how they do things as well over time, and many of those changes will harm some group of their partners.

Sometimes these companies do things seemingly en masse. They’re not. (Well, some of them might, but mostly, no.) Generally, they’re responding to market conditions which were not favorable in the last half of 2022 to anything online.

. . . .

The online boom started roughly fifteen years ago, when I already had an established career. Frankly, it saved my novel career. I couldn’t sign the contracts from the major publishers any longer. I couldn’t take the rights grabs.

I was looking at a short-story-only career. At that point, I thought I could still bring in some money from royalties. That changed as well.

I had assiduously gotten my rights back for almost every book that was an original. I owned the books and could relicense them; I just wasn’t sure how to proceed.

Then the online revolution, from viable ebooks to print on demand to easy-to-produce audio to podcasting to video podcasting to video production—well, you were there. You know.

All of these things go on various platforms. I have too much product to put it all on my website or on websites controlled by me. I would never get to all of it.

Dean and I had to hire people to help us put our books and short stories up on the various platforms, otherwise we would have had to give up writing. That’s why we started WMG Publishing, so that we had people to handle the various platforms.

We have a good staff, but they’re horribly overworked. They can’t control everything, just like Dean and I couldn’t. We’re constantly researching and finding the best way to put our product out into the world. We do a lot of experimenting. That’s why we were on Kickstarter in 2012. It was an experiment—one that worked. We did a variety of experiments that did not work.

. . . .

I decided long ago to use other people’s platforms for a lot of the work that we do. We use Amazon and Barnes & Noble and D2D and Bookfunnel. We use Mailchimp and Kickstarter and Teachable and YouTube. I use Patreon. We now use Shopify. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of platforms that we use. I do know that there are many that we are investigating and some we used to use. There’s a lot we’ve tried and a lot we abandoned and a lot that we have learned to love.

But that doesn’t mean we’re going to use them forever.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

The 3 R’s of a Successful Professional Writing Career

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

You started out with dreams of a professional writing career, didn’t you?

And then you achieved your goals, didn’t you?

But now what?

You thought being a professional, published writer would liberate you from the routine of a day job.

You also thought you’d be able to control your own time — and that you’d be the master of your fate.

And finally — at long last! — you’ve arrived at the place where you’re the boss of you.

Well, haven’t you?

And now what?

Now you find out — surprise! — that being a professional, published author can  feel a lot like being a 9-to-5 wage slave.

With a few scary gotchas for your extra added enjoyment.

Like, for instance —

That the mean, demanding, impossible-to-please boss is the ogre in the mirror.

That the Monday-to-Friday treadmill morphs into a seven-day-a week trudge.

And then there’s the weekend.

Huh?

“Weekend?”

What’s a weekend?

Don’t remember those, do you?

Or that your paycheck might — or might not — arrive on time.

And, even if it does, will it cover the rent, the car payment, the baby sitter?

So what you do now that you have a successful professional writing career? Now that you’re your own boss?

IME the best way to approach the issue is to curse, cry, kvetch go back to basics.

You know, the three R’s.

1.  Routine

You can’t control the weather, the soul-sucking fight you had with your partner or your kid, or who’s gonna be the next president.

You can’t control the reality that some days will fly by, but that others will feel like you’re stuck in a wasteland, tethered to your recalcitrant WiP with Gorilla Glue.

At times you will feel inspired.

Other times you will wonder what on earth ever made you think the great/brilliant idea that would make you rich & famous would maybe turn out not to be so great/brilliant after all.

At least right now at this moment when you’re stuck, can’t figure out what happens next, and hate your $&^%# book/article/blog post. And, if things start to feel really dire, maybe even yourself.

But rather than helplessly letting the wheels come off, remember that what you can control is yourself, your creativity, and how you invest your resources and allocate your energy.

Now is when routine  — often reviled, but always reliable — can be your best friend.

Whether you’re an early morning lark or a late night owl, you already know your own best time time to sit down with your notepad or in front of your computer.

Even when you think you’re at rock bottom and are sure you have no ideas, priming the pump works.

Read something you love for inspiration.

Read something you hate because you know you can do better.

Try writing/typing something/anything until, as NYT writing mentor David Carr said, it turns into writing.

Because IME, DC was right, and it will.

Why and how is for the philosophers/neuroscientists to figure out, but — one way or another — routine almost always will get the job done.

2. Repetition

Stay with it/keep at it— word after word, day after day, week after week.

Even when you’re convinced you’ve written yourself into a box or a blank wall with a bright, blinking No Exit sign.

IME all those false starts, all those discarded drafts, will yield to sheer stubbornness or, to put it more diplomatically, determined persistence.

Sooner — or sometimes later — you will start making sense to yourself. A messy process, but an approach that — eventually — works.

When you start submitting and the rejections roll in — which they will (sorry about that) — keep at it.

Whether you’re angry, depressed, or discouraged, don’t give up. Stay determined.

Remember that it’s not just you but every writer who has ever faced a blank page or a disheartening rejection — which is everyone — has been there, done that.

In a recent interview bestselling writer Dennis Lehane (Gone, Baby, Gone and Mystic River) commented, “All I hear are no’s.”

. . . .

3.  Revision

Your book is finished.

You’ve typed “The End.”

Congratulations!

But wait!

You’re not finished!

There’s more!

Glitches, aaaarghs, and wtf’s.

Plot holes, oopsies, and lapses in logic.

Enhanced by dust bunnies under the bed and dirty dishes in the sink.

It is here that “Susan” you or your editor will find that has mysteriously morphed into “Sullivan” halfway through the manuscript.

Or where the setting has inexplicably changed from heat-ravaged Houston to snow-bound North Dakota.

Or when the Grammar Gods descend from Mount Strunk & White with wrath in their eyes and author assassination in their hearts.

Wha? How did that happen? Who knows? But whatever it is, you’d better find it and fix it or feel the wrath of hundreds of ticked off readers who will not be shy about expressing their displeasure.

Besides, other, frustrating gotchas are most likely lurking in the shadows along with the cooties and cobwebs. Easy to overlook. Difficult to ferret out. Not all that tough to correct — once you find them.

Which is the reason Mother Nature created betas, editors and proofreaders. And obsessed, perfectionistic writers. (Coughs. Raises hand.)

Because I learned early on that editors will reject your manuscript and readers — if you manage to find any — will pounce and “reward” you with an Everest of one-star reviews.

Revision time.

What?

Again?

OMG do I really have to go over that d*mn thing one more time?

Yes, you do, but consider the up side.

Here is your golden opportunity to polish your book to a dazzling, irresistible gleam.

Don’t waste it.

Take advantage, because, once your book is published, your time is up, and you will have no more opportunities to fix, tinker, fluff, or polish.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

What it like to be a Disabled Writer?

From Book Riot:

As a writer who lives with chronic illness, I can confirm first-hand that there are many advantages in writing as a career for disabled writers. Working from home has been a huge help in managing my fibromyalgia — being in front of my laptop in my own environment, instead of commuting to an office, means I’m much less tired and helps me avoid triggers for my chronic pain. Removing the stress of a commute (and the inbuilt possibility of train delays or cancellations, as well as the inevitability of being squashed in the middle of a crowd) means that one of the major triggers for my anxiety is no longer a factor in my daily life. Writing allows you to choose the environment you work in, set your own hours, and take breaks when you need to.

There are a huge number of writing programmes that make writing more accessible, such as speech to text software, or assistive technology for people with dyslexia. Looking at the historical literary landscape, there are many famous disabled writers who have had a huge impact on the world of books. Lord Byron had a limb difference, while Rosemary Sutcliff was a wheelchair user as a result of juvenile-onset arthritis. Dostoevsky lived with epilepsy, Octavia E. Butler was dyslexic, and George Bernard Shaw had ADHD. In the modern day, we have writers like wheelchair users Alice Wong and Frances Ryan, Sara Nović, who is Deaf, and Holly Smale, who is autistic. All of these writers, working in a variety of different genres and eras, have changed the landscape of writing and have done so as disabled writers.

But is being a disabled writer easy? Far from it. Even though writing has the advantage of being more accessible than many other kinds of work for people with mobility issues, and the ability to work from home in one’s own space can be a huge advantage for anyone who doesn’t fit the neurotypical mould, this doesn’t mean that there are fewer barriers for disabled people in writing than there are in other fields. While there are many disabled authors, they are still underrepresented, and the writing world still contains a huge number of barriers that affect accessibility. As noted by Claire Wade, the founder of the Society of Authors’ Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses Network, ‘Being an author can be a lonely and isolating experience. Being an author with a disability or chronic illness is doubly isolating’. Financial barriers also exist — setting up a disability-friendly home office takes cash that many disabled writers may not have, and self-employed writing doesn’t come with the health insurance or job protections that some disabled writers need. However, writing can certainly be a great career path for disabled creatives who want to tell stories, as I learned not only from my own experience, but from talking to several other disabled writers.

….

While some things about writing make it a great career for disabled people, there are many aspects of the publishing world that are just as inaccessible as other fields. In her article ‘The reality of trying to get your book published as a disabled author’, disabled author Rosemary Richings talks about receiving rejections describing her work, which centres disability, as ‘Not compelling enough for mainstream audiences.’ A survey published in Publishers Weekly showed that 89% of publishing professionals are abled, something that is bound to impact the experience of disabled authors. As with other kinds of marginalisation, the presence of disabled authors can only go so far in ensuring that disability is represented accurately and fairly in literature. If very few publishing professionals have comparable experiences, then there can be an impact not only on the accuracy of how disability is portrayed in books, but also in the experience of the authors working with those publishers.

….

There is still more work to be done, and publishing would benefit from listening to suggestions from disabled authors on how to improve accessibility. For example, the anonymous author I spoke to had a simple, easy-to-implement suggestion that would end the literal sidelining of people with mobility issues at events: “Arrange 10 minutes for each of the celebrities, editors, agents and ‘people everyone wants to talk to’ to sit in the corners and let everyone come to them…That way the disabled  contingent get to feel part of the party and not on the periphery.” However, despite the ease of making this kind of change, many publishing events are reluctant to change the setups they’ve always had.

Link to the rest at Book Riot

The Right Publisher for the Right Book

From Publisher’s Weekly:

When my publishing career began in the late 1990s, a period that I refer to as the golden age of New York publishing, it was an enchanting time.

From an outline, my first book, What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should), went into a four-day auction between several editors. (This was during the era when imprints within a parent company could bid against each other.) It might have lasted longer, but my brilliant agent, Richard Curtis, called for “best offers on the table before sundown,” when Yom Kippur began. Each publisher placed significant six-figure bids.

Putnam won the hardcover, paper, and audio rights. Then they went to work, intent on delivering a bestseller, which they did to such effect that 22 years later, the book continues as a successful backlist title.

I have published six books between Penguin/Putnam and HarperCollins. All were either auctioned or preempted with large advances. Every person attached to the projects was marvelous and committed. For each release, I traveled on multiple-city tours with generous expense accounts. Publicists delivered remarkable national media spots, including ones with CNN, Fox, the New York Times, People magazine, and The View. The coverage didn’t stop there; in every city, I received substantial local media attention as well, including reviews and television and radio appearances. Speaking at independent booksellers’ conferences, I met store owners who, kindly, hand-sold my book.

With the guidance of tremendous publishers and editors like Phyllis Grann, Sheila Curry, and Michael Morrison, my career was launched. Successful books led me to form a syndication company to distribute a weekly newspaper column—entertaining stories about the South, its characters, and its unique language. Frequent speaking engagements and occasional television work came, including documentaries with Fox Sports (I wrote a critically acclaimed book about my NASCAR days) and a recent HBO documentary on my stepmother-in-law, Mary Tyler Moore, in which I referred to her as a “feminine feminist,” a phrase I coined in my first book.

. . . .

I self-published two books of columns because I didn’t want to sign away rights to 1,200 columns. With almost a million readers, I have a devoted fan base.

Now comes a new journey. My book, St. Simons Island—A Stella Bankwell Mystery, releases in August from Mercer University Press in Macon, Ga. It is the first in a series of Stella Bankwell mysteries. In every way, publishing this book has been a different experience from working with major publishers. Quite frankly, without a nudge from Mercer’s Allen Wallace and Marc Jolley, I might not have published again. The industry has changed so dramatically, with big publishers today focused much more on books by celebrities, reality stars, and well-established authors.

After an aggressive deadline to finish the book, I slept for three days, then opened an email from Mercer’s marketing department asking when I would deliver copy for the book jacket and online booksellers. I was stunned. I’d never had that responsibility. Fortunately, I am a journalist turned publicist turned author, so it’s in my wheelhouse.

The real game changer—which makes it easier to go to a small press—is social media. I and my husband, a prominent television producer, have celebrity friends and influencers who will join us in posting. But any tour stops, such as the Southern Festival of Books, will be at my expense.

With Mercer’s limited resources, why did I choose to go there? For important reasons. I believe that Mercer is one of today’s best publishers. The catalog is diverse and bold. Mercer takes chances on authors who the big publishers now overlook. They are also my people—Georgians—so it feels like family. Though advances are small, the team there is incredibly passionate. It’s hard not to be drawn in by such devotion and enthusiasm.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

PG suspects he’s not the only person reading the OP who wonders why the author is so upbeat about being published by a small educational publishing house after having what she paints as a good run with Penguin/Putnam and HarperCollins amidst bidding contests with at least six-figure advances during her earlier career.

Does the statement, “Mercer takes chances on authors who the big publishers now overlook” imply that big publishers are now overlooking the author?

PG didn’t have time for more than a passing look at Mercer’s books, but doubts that “The [their] catalog is diverse and bold” is a very good strategy for selling lots of books for an author who would like to receive large royalty checks. Most of the Mercer titles PG quickly glanced at had 7-figure bestseller ranks on Zon.

Perhaps visitors to TPV can help PG understand the story behind the story in the OP.

Book Files and Formats: How to Protect Your Writing Investment

From Jane Friedman:

A writer’s investment in their book is more than time and creativity. Our words, and sometimes visuals, are then turned into electronic files—another investment. Publishers cover the cost of creating publishing files, while indie authors bear the expense of creating the files for their books.

This has long been the case, but when bringing a book to market in today’s shifting publishing landscape, doesn’t it pay to be proactive in terms of file ownership?

A traditionally published author may one day have their publishing rights reverted. For indie authors, the firm or freelancer you hired to prepare files may close or disagreements may develop. Or perhaps you want to publish your next book using a different team.

The costs to republish a book or to make changes to a book—or to take your book to a new designer—depend on whether or not you have the appropriate files. Common file types used in publishing are Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign (an industry-standard software program for typesetting manuscripts), and PDF. The type of file you have determines how easy, and how costly, it will be to make changes to the book.

Here are five real-life author stories about corrections and republishing, and an explanation of why having the files—the right files—is important:

  1. Mark’s publisher reverted the rights to two of his books but wanted to charge him for the PDFs. Mark instead found his old manuscript in Word and had to update it to match the published version. It was time-consuming because he had to cross-check the Word document with the printed book to find last-minute changes made during the publishing process.
  2. All Michael had was a physical book. With no files at all, the only option was to cut the spine off the paperback book, scan the loose pages, and then correct the errors created during the scanning process. This expense was in addition to standard publishing fees incurred for republishing.
  3. Tiffany could no longer use her original book designer and needed to make corrections to her book. She had an InDesign file, but it was missing the image files. The project was abandoned.
  4. Mary Jean chose to republish her three books using her own publishing imprint. One of the books required changes to the cover but all she had was a PDF, not the publishing source files nor the original image file. The cover had to be redesigned.
  5. Grace had an agreement with a hybrid publishing company, but during the proof review phase, she learned that the firm was going out of business. Unfortunately, she had no recourse in getting her publishing files, and she found herself back at square one, with only her Word file.

The difference between source files and publishing files

Publishing source files are files that can be edited or changed—for example, adding a new chapter, correcting a spelling error, or changing a font.

An InDesign file is a publishing source file (and often a group of files, when you include fonts and images). Many authors draft their manuscript in Word, which is imported into InDesign for the design, layout, and formatting process. Once the book is designed, it is output as a PDF, and this PDF file becomes the publishing file.

It’s also worth noting that it is possible to design and format a book using Word (or Google Docs). In this case, Word is a publishing source file. As with InDesign, one then saves their Word document as a PDF for use as the publishing file.

But in all cases, a PDF is never a publishing source file. A PDF is simply a publishing file to be used for printing the book and it cannot be edited the same way one edits a publishing source file.

. . . .

For ultimate protection, negotiate ownership of the source files

As noted above, getting ownership of the source files will allow you to make changes and republish your book, should the need arise. Will getting these files be possible in all situations? Probably not, but the truth is that you won’t know until you ask. It comes down to negotiation.

  • For traditionally published authors, the most common option I’ve seen is to purchase the PDF of their book from their publisher in the event of a rights reversion. Perhaps you can negotiate the price, or even get the source files. The point is to ask.
  • Authors working with a hybrid publisher, freelancer, or publishing services firm should have better luck getting the publishing source files. After all, you are paying for this service, right? A services provider that refuses to provide the source file seems to me to be taking an unreasonable position. The primary source file of the book’s design with your content has no value to anyone but you. It’s certainly worth asking about.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Keep Writing Until They Are Forced to Say Yes

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

I got a late start as a writer. I was an avid reader, sure, but write a book? Never crossed my mind until I was in my 50s and had a story to tell. I’d never so much as taken a writing class, but one frozen February morning in 2019 I just started writing. The words flowed. I lived and breathed to write this story. It was magical. Reminiscent of first love or maybe even an addiction – I was hooked. I woke up before dawn to write.

I’d write during my breaks at work. I was creating people who had lives and families and issues. They felt love and lust and had hard choices. And I was fixing their problems – never mind that I’d created the problems in the first place. I would stay up until the wee hours, get some sleep, and then get up and do it all over again. It was exhausting, but also exciting and exhilarating. 

And finally, after three months of this, I’d written and re-written the story, and Between February and November was finished.

I planned to submit to agents, so I researched the heck out of querying. Jane Friedman’s blog was a constant open tab on my laptop as was Janet Reid’s Query Shark. I had my “hook” and a fair bit of naïve confidence.

I submitted my first manuscript to a handful of agents on May 21, 2019. Around that same time, I also submitted to my first writing contest. I didn’t realize just how naïve I was until I got my first agent rejection the next day. It was from Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary. This was probably the best first rejection I could have received. 

After seeing my word count, it was clear I had no idea what I was doing as a writer, and I needed to learn about publishing. That’s not exactly what she said, but that was the gist of it. She was helpful though and shared some knowledge about word counts and genres. She ended her rejection with: Remember that the long road to publishing includes many bumps. Keep writing and persevering until they are forced to say yes. She likely included that passage in every rejection, but that was all I needed to hear to keep going. 

Another rejection arrived a few days later from Julie Gwinn at the Seymour Agency. In a nutshell, she said my concept was good, but I needed to hone my craft and suggested I attend a writing conference.  

A few requests for pages came, as did requests for fulls, along with more rejections. None had the effect on me those first two did, nor did they have the advice. Though I had researched the heck out of querying, I neglected to research genres, word counts, and how to find my storytelling voice.

I wasn’t in the position to attend a writing conference, so, I read about the craft of writing. From Writing Down the Bones to Stephen King’s On Writing to Save the Cat Writes a Novel. In the midst of all of this, a friend of mine told me about the Writers Workshop Hard Times Essay Contest and encouraged me to enter. It was due in two weeks, and the guidelines were to write about a difficult experience in your life, how you overcame it, and how you were changed. Sounds kind of like any writer’s life, doesn’t it? Like most people, I had a few difficult life experiences to choose from. I finally decided which one I’d focus on and submitted to my first essay contest on June 29, 2019.

In the meantime, I studied, and I wrote, and I edited. I resubmitted my novel to agents and this time to publishers as well. In September of 2019, I received an offer from a small independent publisher. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. A week later, I learned the essay I submitted back in June won first place. 

I felt like a real writer!

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

The OP is an example of a common trope among some authors.

I wrote and was rejected, I went to a conference, I wrote and was rejected, I read a book about writing written by a famous author, I wrote and was rejected, I wrote and was rejected, then finally I got published by an itty-bitty press, then I wrote and did a bunch of stuff to get noticed and was rejected.

Self-publish and you can do all those things while making money and building a group of readers who like your book.

But, of course, that would mean missing all that character-building that occurred during your serial rejection period.

Should You Leave Your Critique Group Once You’re a Published Author?

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

“Leave your critique group” was my editor’s advice after my first full-length novel, Food of Love, came out with his UK publishing house. He said he didn’t want a bunch of wannabes messing with my work.

He had a point, and I understood what he meant. But the members of my group had become close friends, I didn’t want to give them up. And I thought I’d learned enough that I could discard any bad advice they might come up with. So after my first book tour, I went back to my group. There were a number of new people, and I found their reactions to my work were helpful, and the support of my old friends was invaluable.

Twenty years later, I’m still with that group. They’ve now helped me polish 13 more books before they go off to my publisher. Many people have come and gone, but the core membership remains solid.

It wasn’t until a few months ago that I came to question my decision to stay.

Literary agents Jessica Faust and James McGowan of Bookends Ltd. talked about this on their podcast recently. They listed staying in your critique group and expecting things to stay the same once you’re published is one of the 10 worst lies authors tell themselves.

So should you leave your critique group once you’re published, even though the group offers you important emotional support?

Questions to ask Yourself if Pondering Leaving Your Critique Group

1) Has It Become Group Therapy?

Whether you’re published or not, it’s best to leave your critique group if it’s morphing into group therapy. There are huge dangers with amateurs giving mental health advice. Group psychotherapy only works if a mental health professional is present.

You’re not there to psychoanalyze each other. You’re there to improve and polish your writing.

This is especially a problem with memoir writers. If you’re writing about childhood abuse or a nasty divorce, there will be raw personal stuff on the page that often triggers the critiquer’s inner Dr. Phil.

This is even more a problem if writers are bringing personal journaling to the group. I feel personal journaling belongs in a shrink’s office or a 12-step program, not a critique group. If there’s no attempt at creating narrative or shaping raw confessions or interior musings into a story, poem, or other recognizable writing form, a critique group isn’t the right place to share it.

2) Are All the Members on a Path to Publication?

There is something called a “happy amateur” — a writer who creates with words, but has no need to share them with the general public. My hat is off to them.

Critique groups filled with happy amateurs serve a wonderful purpose. Sharing their work with other members of the group is all these writers need. In fact, many, many successful critique groups and writing clubs are basically amateur clubs that don’t aim at publication.

Writing is a fantastic hobby. And it’s way cheaper than golf. 😊

But if you’re a published book author — indie or trad-pubbed — working with a professional editor, this kind of group is not for you. You are no longer an amateur. Either your writing will slide back into amateur mode, or you’ll offend members with advice on how to change their writing for a publishing audience.

3) Is there a Member Who Resents Your Success?

Envy is a dangerous beast.

A new member asked to join our group last summer. She was a beginner who had never published anything, but initially, her critiques were helpful. Her own writing was mainly personal journaling, but it showed promise, so we asked her to join.

We didn’t realize she was a poster child for the Dunning Kruger effect and a wannabe Queen Bee.

Since I host the group and I’m a dreaded professional author, she came after me — with the cruelty of a schoolyard bully.

She talked to me as if I were a developmentally disabled child, sending emails “correcting” my work. She told me I wasn’t funny and should quit writing. Her comments were as clueless as they were nasty, so I stopped opening her emails and ignored her childish attitude.

Because she was pleasant to other members, I took her abuse as long as I could. But after months of bullying, I asked her politely for a little respect. This affront made her quit the group in an unhinged fit of pique.

But she wasn’t done. She started dropping one-star reviews on my books.

When I spoke to Ruth, she said a professional author has no business in an amateur writing group. She was right. I probably should have followed that long-ago editor’s advice to “leave your critique group.”

But I remained, again — partly because the group meets at my house 🙂  — plus I realized, minus Queen Bee, we weren’t an amateur group. Other members are all published in one way or another. Some may be stuck on the query-go-round, but they think like pros.

However, I don’t wish the Queen Bee experience on anyone. If there’s one in your group, get rid of her or run.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Book Origins and the Ongoing Journey

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

New Story, New Power: A Woman’s Guide to Negotiation, took a few years to research and write, but it was a lifetime in the making. I have been working in the area of negotiation for more than 30 years, with its origins in my experience in intercultural communications. I lived and worked in Japan for 13 years, and being an independent, New York woman, meeting this very different culture head on was a rude awakening. Those encounters naturally led to my interest in cross-cultural conflict, partly from my own personal experiences and partly from observing what was around me. I put gender in the classification of being a culture.

Cultures socialize those born into them about how to be in that world. We are socialized to be a certain way, with a particular set of values and beliefs, habits, and ways of thinking and behaving that create the stories by which we live. We have our family stories that we carry and we have our own personal stories that guide us over time. Some of these stories are generative and lead us to where we want to be and others get in the way of us progressing. I was curious to know more about why some women carried stories that helped them at the negotiating table, while others carried stories that inhibited them, caused them stress, and got in the way of being effective negotiators. I wondered about the specific origins of these stories and how they influenced women negotiating?

As a scholar-practitioner, a large part of my world is in the academy and there is an orientation to grounding what I have to say in evidence-based research. I support this in the world of practice, as well: the difference is in how we gather data, what we are looking for, and how we use what we find. I interviewed hundreds of women, to find out more about they bring the stories they carry and by which they live to the negotiation table: women from across industries, with one study being solely focused on women in the STEM professions; women who were junior in their career, with five or less years of experience; mid-career women with 10-15 years of experience; and women who had more than 25 years of experience.

The findings from these studies matched what I was seeing in my coaching sessions with women and in the workshops I conducted on negotiation, leadership, and communication. Some of the findings showed that women carry stories from when they were very young to present times and these stories influenced how they prepared for and conducted themselves during their negotiations. I became curious about why some stories stuck with them more than others and how they manifested in their particular behaviors at the negotiating table, in their everyday interactions, and in their career advancement.

I also wanted to explore beyond the workplace and see how these stories appeared in their families, in their interpersonal dynamics with friends and romantic partners, in their everyday interactions. For me, research and practice inform one another, so that what I discover in research I apply in practice, and what I see showing up in practice I explore through research.

And I am certainly not immune to these same stories! I often say that I was born over confident and I have been managing it ever since. I grew up hearing stories about how I could be anything I wanted to be and I took those stories to heart. However, there were also stories of not being good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, and so on, that dampened the confidence-building stories. Even while writing this book, every now and then I would stop and question myself about whether I had the knowledge, experience, and credentials to be writing it. Then I would take a step back, fascinated that I was experiencing the same things I was writing about. Our narratives are so strong!

That meta-awareness amused me and helped me recalibrate. I reviewed the sources of the information I gathered from hundreds of women, many research studies, my own observations, and reassured myself I could and should continue. I was sharing with others what a collective of women find useful. Sharing this information and having otters learn, practice, and make it their own is the value. It builds confidence, while developing negotiation skills.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

The word negotiation is derived from two Latin terms, negare otium; they translate literally as “to deny leisure.” In French and Spanish, “deny leisure” becomes “business.” Yet, while the word is Latin-derived, the behavior predates that culture by roughly 200,000 years, dating back to ever since Homo sapiens developed as a species.

Going Forward to the Past: A Brief History of Negotiation

PG first became interested in negotiation as a field of study about 7-8 years into his legal career. He stumbled across a publication from something called The Harvard Negotiation Project, which included both the law school and the business school. He read severa; papers the Project had published and was very intrigued.

Many lawyers and business people felt negotiation was a talent which an individual did or didn’t possess. Among those who possessed a talent for negotiation, some were better than others.

The Harvard Project (now a well-established department, primarily in the Law and Business Schools, but stretching into other domains as well) was one of the earlier attempts to study the way that individuals negotiated with each other.

Some accepted techniques included putting forward a proposal for an agreement and sticking to it regardless of how the other party to the negotiation responded. This was often accompanied by a tough-guy persona that basically communicated, “My way or no way.”

While elements of this approach could be useful, the negotiation researchers found that this approach lead to quite a number of failed negotiations with neither party agreeind. In legal terms, this approach was likely to end with, “Let the judge decide.”

Other approaches involved being so anxious to reach an agreement that one side of a negotiation conceded a lot more than would have been necessary to come to an agreement – paying more money than necessary, accepting less money than the other side was willing to offer, etc., etc.

Some styles of negotiation involved hiding what concessions one party was willing to make vs. making concessions so quickly that the other side thought that there would be many more concessions available if they just kept saying no.

One of the lessons from the studies was that planning ahead for a negotiation tended to make a negotiations more successful for both parties. Another lesson was that preparing for not being able to come to an agreement and what alternative paths might be available.

The acronym was BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.

If a party had a good idea for a path that would allow it to meet at least some of its important goals if the contract negotiation didn’t work out because the other side wanted more than the party was willing to give.

In the author/publisher world, an example of BATNA for an author is to self-publish her/his book instead of agreeing to a traditional publishing agreement which involved paying a literary agent 15% of all money the publisher paid in royalties.

 Living In The Past

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Three things happened in quick succession recently, that forced me to write this blog now, not, say, months from now.

First, a writer friend astonished me by saying they have finally gone indie, after being urged to do so for more than a decade. They’ve been unable to sell a book traditionally for that entire decade, but they’ve kept writing.

Only…they’re not really ready to go indie, because they want to pay someone to design the book’s interior for both ebook and for paper. They want to pay someone else to design their cover, and they want to pay yet a third person for marketing.

I’m afraid my hair was on fire as I answered them…as gently as I could…informing them that they could do most if not all of these things on their own. They were looking at a cash outlay per book of a minimum of $5,000—and they wanted to publish a book per month.

I have no idea if this friend is wealthy. I do know that as a start-up, with zero track record outside of nonfiction and short fiction, this person would not earn back the full $60,000 they spend on this plan for years and years. I warned them about scammers, I gave my writer friend links, and I know that I overwhelmed them. But Good-freakin’-God, this person and I had the same conversation in 2012, when doing everything they discussed was a lot harder.

Then I sent them to a service…that went out of business, like every other service. (Except this service did not steal the writer’s IP in the process, like so many others had.)

I know other writer friends are trying to triage with this poor person, but I’m thinking, just let this writer spend the money. They’re actively refusing to learn modern publishing and have actively avoided it for 12 years. It’s not going to matter how much most of us yell; that person will not take the leap into indie.

Then, at lunch, I mentioned an older writer friend of ours, a writer in his eighties who declared fifteen years ago that he was retiring from writing because he was about to hit seventy. He crept into indie publishing with some unpublished backlist titles, then published all of his out-of-print titles and finally, about eight years ago, published a brand-new newly written book.

Yeah, this writer has help, because he’d run a business in the past, so he built a new business (after he retired) that resembles WMG. Someone else handles most of the publishing details, and he has social media folks because he can afford them. (He is wealthy, having had movies made from his work and because he’s a good money manager.)

Lo and behold, this guy, who fifteen years ago said that the words have dried up, has published at least 10 newly written books since that first one eight years ago.

I got a newsletter from him on the same day as I had gotten that other email about the writer who wants to be taken care of. Dean got the same newsletter and we discussed it at lunch.

I mentioned how this eighty-something writer had secretly unretired, and Dean said, “If he had stayed in traditional publishing, he wouldn’t be writing anymore. It’s indie that brought him back to life.”

Completely true. Not only has indie brought his fiction back to life, but he’s doing all kinds of creative marketing things, like limited editions and special editions and fan-favorite editions. He’s participating in bundles and is talking about a Kickstarter, but worries that he lacks the time, because he doesn’t want to take time from his latest novel.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Yes, I Know How Hard It Is

From Writer Unboxed:

When I said I was majoring in Creative Writing, it began.

“Do you know how hard it is to make a living as a writer?”

Then, when I said I was applying to graduate school programs, they said, “Do you know how hard it is to get into an MFA program?”

When I said I was trying to publish short stories, they said, “Do you know how hard it is to get published?”

When I said that I was working on a novel, they said, “Do you know how hard it is to write a novel?”

When I was pregnant and starting to have kids, they said, “Do you know how hard it is to write and have kids?”

This was all part of Phase I, though I didn’t yet know this beast even had phases.

When I had two kids and said I was publishing a novelokay, here they were outright baffled. We moved into what I’ve come to call Phase II – which is: You seem to be saying you’ve experienced legitimate success and I’m confused.

“A novel that you’re publishing yourself?” they said.

“No, it’s coming out with Simon and Schuster.”

“But how did that happen?”

“I have a literary agent.”

This appeased them. Okay, someone else made this happen for me.

“Is it a children’s book?” they asked.

“No, it’s an adult literary novel.”

Then they circled back to Phase I and said, “Do you know how hard it is to get good reviews and have a bestseller these days?”

Let me be clear. These were accountants, teachers, lawyers, doctors, stay-at-home parents, chemists… People who did hard things to make a career and who knew absolutely nothing about publishing and yet, still felt free to—maybe even compelled to—explain things to me.

And, of course, when I mentioned that I was pitching ideas in LA for film and TV, they said, “Do you know how hard it is to get something picked up in LA?”

This incredibly consistent cultural effort to keep my hopes down—and therefore keep me in my place—continued on for a few decades. I published over twenty books, had four kids—my career kept going.

Fast-forward, I was recently at a small dinner party with friends and mentioned I had a new book coming out, a collection of mostly high-concept, literary short stories, intimately told, written with an eye primarily for film and television.

The man hosting the party seemed very interested. I explained what I enjoy—making a film or the beginning of a television show appear in someone’s mind as they read—and also explained my business model, that the stories go out to producers.

“And have you had any luck selling them?”

“Yes, we’ve sold many of them.” At this point, my spouse, Dave, and I were thinking about setting up a production company do you know how hard it is?”—which we now have done.

“And who have you sold these stories to?” the man asked.

I understood we’d moved into Phase II, and I needed to help him make sense of this.

“We have over twenty projects in development with some at places like Netflix, Paramount TV and feature…”

The conversation went on as he ate, saying very little. His spouse asked some questions, and I tried to explain how the stories worked as intellectual property…. And then, as he was trying to make sense of it all in his head, something clicked for him.

And he said this new line–one I’d never heard before.

Friends, get this.

He said, “So, I guess it must be easy to sell things in Hollywood these days because there are so many streamers.”

This was Phase III. I didn’t know there was a Phase III. I felt like I witnessed innovation. To rationalize my success—as a woman because it always seemed gendered to me—he had to completely recalibrate his entire view of the entertainment industry, a complete overhaul.

It had to be the only rational reason why I could succeed at this level.

It couldn’t be that I was actually good enough to succeed at this level.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

PG suggests that the author of the OP hangs around with the wrong types of people.

Ghostwriting 101

From Publisher’s Weekly:

I once published an article under my byline that a ghostwriting client read. “I really liked it,” she said, “but it didn’t sound like you at all.” No, I thought. It didn’t sound like you at all!

Because I have collaborated on a dozen books, I carry a lot of voices in my head. Many people believe ghostwriting is stenography. The “author” talks, the ghostwriter types, and voila! A book is born.

. . . .

That’s not how it works. In the best collaborations, the client opens up about failure and answers the most personal and mundane questions, like, “What office equipment did you use in 1973?” They inherently understand that it might take being asked something multiple times to get to the nub.

But a good ghostwriter has to be ready for the unpredictable. Taking on a book project is like buying a house without an inspection: you know you’ll later discover a faulty wire, a leaky pipe, or a damp patch in the basement—you just don’t know which it will be, or at what point.

When I signed on to my most recent ghosting gig, Up Close and All In: Life Lessons from a Wall Street Warrior, a memoir with former Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack, I braced myself for him to be, well, scary. The nickname he earned during 40-plus years on Wall Street was Mack the Knife, and I was the fourth ghostwriter he had hired for this project.

The unexpected element surfaced on the day we began. I suggested a plan of action, and his response caught me off guard. “You’re the expert,” he said in his North Carolina twang that reminds me of a banjo. “I’m in your hands.”

The man who hung up on the U.S. Treasury secretary, the Federal Reserve chief, and the president of the New York Federal Reserve during the 2008 financial crisis clearly knew what he knew—and knew what he didn’t know. Banking was his bailiwick. Writing was mine.

For me, interviewing clients is just the start. I internalize their voice, how they talk, and the words they use. I immersed myself in John’s world to put readers on the trading floor, in board meetings, and at conference tables with powerful clients around the globe. I don’t have a background in finance, and because Up Close and All In was aimed at a general readership, not just at Wall Street veterans, this gave me an edge. I described the financial realm with fascinated eyes. My daily reading became the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Bloomberg, and I acquired a library of business tomes.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

What’s Autofiction? Should You Fictionalize The Story of Your Life?

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

A trendy word in publishing recently is “autofiction,” short for “autobiographical fiction.” The term isn’t new. It was first invented in 1977 by author Serge Doubrovsky when talking about his memoir-sh novel, Fils.

And what about those Creative Nonfiction essays that fill literary magazines? (A goldmine for memoir writers.) Can you call them autofiction?

Unfortunately, “autofiction” is not an official category in the publishing world, according to Publishers Weekly.

That means authors still have to decide if what they’ve written is fiction or nonfiction before they publish it, so bookstores will know whether to put it on the fiction or nonfiction shelf.

Guidelines say if there are real people in it and all the incidents really happened, you can call it nonfiction, even if you’ve changed the names of the real people. But if some events or characters are made up, you’re better off calling it fiction.

Readers Often Expect Fiction to be Autofiction.

Authors have a more complex issue than the the shelving dilemmas of bookstore clerks. (Although I relate. I worked in many bookstores over the years.)

The problem is a lot of readers think all fiction is based on the author’s life. Especially if it’s written in the first person.

Even more readers expect authors to be like their protagonists. I’m amazed at how many readers expect me to be an ultra-polite New York fashionista like my series heroine, Camilla. (People who actually know me are laughing hysterically here.) I even once had a beta reader make condescending comments that were obviously aimed at a ditzy debutante, not a 30-year veteran of the publishing industry, educated at Bryn Mawr and Harvard.

I’m not alone. Canadian humor novelist Melodie Campbell has written about meeting fans of her satiric “Rowena” fantasy series. They were sadly disappointed because they expected her to be just like her hot and horny heroine, Rowena, whose bodice is literally ripped in every hilarious book.

There is Plenty of Thinly-Disguised Autofiction Lurking in Popular Fiction.

Readers can be forgiven their delusions. Some novels are indeed thinly disguised autobiography — including classics. Look at David Copperfield, Look Homeward Angel, On the Road, and The Things They Carried.

Scandals can erupt when people recognize themselves in autobiographical fiction. There was major drama around the story Cat Person, by Kristen Roupenian, that ran in the New Yorker in 2017. People found it “eerily accurate” in its description of contemporary dating. Many thought it was a work of autofiction, or a disguised personal essay. Ohers treated it like nonfiction.

In 2021, a writer named Alexis Nowicki wrote an article for Slate claiming Cat Person was inspired by stories from her own life that she had confided in the author.

That’s the kind of situation where authors can run into trouble. We’re exposed to stories every day — in the news, on the Internet, overheard in cafés, etc. Those stories nestle in our subconscious minds. Long after we’ve forgotten their origins, they creep into our fiction. That doesn’t mean we’re “stealing” them on purpose.

There has been ongoing saga concerning a character in Donna Tartt’s famous academic mystery, The Secret History. The character is Judy Poovey, the wild California girl with the red Corvette. Apparently people have even started social media accounts in her name on TikTok and other sites.

Last year, Lily Anolik wrote an article in Vanity Fair that documented the search for the “real” Judy Poovey. Everyone was sure she was a thinly disguised real person. Anolik claims that Donna Tartt’s characters, like Mary McCarthy’s in The Group have “feet of clef.” (You have to use the French pronunciation to get the joke.)

But guess what? Nobody has found the “real” Judy Poovey. And that’s probably because Donna Tartt is a talented fiction writer who can make stuff up.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Retiring to Write or Writing to Retire

From Writers in the Storm:

Can authors ever really, truly Put-Down-the-Pen? While many dream of spending endless mornings writing the next Great Novel, others eyeball-deep in edits and deadlines count down the days until they can just sleep in.

Whether you are starting out in writing or embarking on your fiftieth publication, it is uncommon for writers to officially retire. At some point authors find an equilibrium with their craft, energy, and ambitions levels, the question is when these tip towards losing their creative passion, should they stop writing?

Is your writing career just ahead of you? Waiting for you begin once life allows you the time, energy, and better focus? When is it a good time to begin a career as an author? Regardless of your writing status, we can look at common considerations people have when making a big career change.

Writing is a career open to anyone with a pen and a desire to continuously improve their craft. When to start is a personal decision.

3 Considerations to begin or end a writing career

Here are 3 considerations when contemplating an entry or exit from the work of being an author.

Age

The muse can strike at any age. Started at late age can make a difference on the longevity of a writer’s career, but it doesn’t have to impact the amount of total writing or influence those words have.  Many writers have started writing later in life and have become very prolific. 

One example is of an older man, who after ending a failed career, wrote one of the world’s most notable books.  Arguably the worlds first published modern novel, a satirical response to the decades of picaresque stories of knights saving damsels in distress flooding the bookshelves his time, this Spanish author wrote a masterpiece from his prison cell while serving time for his incompetence as a military leader.

Miguel de Cervantes published The Man of La Mancha in 1605, when he was 58-years-old.  In the middle ages, a person’s life expectancy was near 35 years. According to the World Atlas, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha, is the world’s most best-selling individual novel ever with around 500 million copies sold. In modern terms, the Harry Potter series is the only set of novels to come close, with the group of books selling near the 500 million mark.

Cervantes didn’t retire when he found success, he continued writing. His second novel in the series was published in 1615. And in 1620 in English. Cervantes wrote in many genres and had his works published in several languages over the next 10 years. In a dedication he bade farewell to the world, and with grace and competence said he was “with a foot already in the stirrup” only 3 days before dying. He passed away with a clear mind in April of 1615, with many posthumous works published after his death.

Some writers wait until they have retired from another line of work, holding off on their dreams of publication and waiting to have time to focus solely on the story that burns within them. They benefit from having a story build over time, working it over in their mind subconsciously, and ideally, making it easier to write down. But what about writers who begin at an earlier age?  Those who started in a different line of work or are considering a change mid-career?

Occupation

Some writers begin their author journeys slowly in piecemeal bites. They may chunk off a writing career between breast feedings and/or budget meetings. They may find their first job a misfit for their creative ambitions, one they need that may simply pay-the-bills.  Or they may have found jobs requiring skills that revolve around words only to yearn for time to craft their own novels. Writers who heed the call of the muse concurrently with another line of work can also find success.

See these famous examples:

  • Amy Tan “made-up” astrology for a hotline service, later wrote ad copy, and became a technical writer before becoming a published author. She was 37-years-old when Joy Luck Club was published.
  • David Baldacci worked a couple of years as a lawyer even after getting a big contract. He wasn’t sure his career as a writer would pan out.
  • JK Rollings was a single mom and financially broke when her career broke loose. After college, she worked at various jobs including working as a bilingual secretary and teaching English in Portugal.  She reportedly wrote her ideas for the iconic novel on scraps of paper while commuting to work via train.

We can all dream of the success these household name branded authors have become, but they all worked in other venues before becoming fully invested in their writing. Deciding to move on to writing is a complex decision that can only be made on a personal basis.  Factors like dependent family members, access to important benefits like health care, lifestyle changes that occur with what is likely to be less income, stability of future retirement options, and current job satisfaction all play a role in deciding whether becoming an author full time is for you.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

The Business Skill I Wish I Could Grant to All Writers

From Jane Friedman:

Is it querying? No.

Networking? No.

Marketing? No.

Of course such skills are terrific assets, but if I could wave a magic wand, I’d grant all writers the skill of negotiation. By and large, writers don’t even consider trying to negotiate; they just accept the terms/contract/pay that is initially offered.

This is partly a quirk of an industry where writers regularly get stepped on and asked to work for free in exchange for exposure. Writers might see themselves as without power or agency, which is not unfounded, but it can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. You can’t wait for permission or the “right time” to negotiate a better deal for yourself. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Here are common barriers when you’re negotiating for yourself.

Fear that you’ll lose the opportunity

You’ve spent years trying to secure an agent or publisher, then the contract arrives from the other party. You may be tempted to quickly accept and sign. Because if you make a “fuss,” you’ll look ungrateful, right? If you ask questions, you’ll be a nuisance, a problem person. Maybe the other party will be offended if you ask for a better arrangement, or even retract the offer.

If you’re dealing with someone who works in the business, such as an agent or publisher, they will not be offended by questions or an attempt to negotiate. Just about every arrangement is negotiable on some level (with exceptions for blanket terms of service agreements from tech companies, among others). But few writing contracts or agreements are “take it or leave it”; those that are deserve to be questioned. Many “take it or leave it” situations arise, in fact, from either inexperience or fear. “My lawyer told me not to change the contract” is a familiar line from small publishers operated by people who may not understand the contract they’re sending you.

So what happens if you do encounter someone angry or offended by your attempt to negotiate? First, examine your approach. Is it respectful and in good faith? If you negotiate by saying, “How dare you insult me with this offer! Are you a second-rate operation? Don’t you know who I am!” then you might find the other side less cooperative. But if your approach isn’t combative, and the other side is resistant to answering questions or having a conversation, you have to ask yourself if that’s a business partner you want to move forward with. Your difficulties are likely to compound after signing with a partner that’s non-communicative.

When I negotiated contracts at a mid-size traditional publisher, most authors did not attempt to change the boilerplate contract. Nor did they ask any questions about it. Usually, when they did push, it was for a bigger advance. But they could’ve asked for something much more valuable in the long run: better royalty rates and escalators (increased royalties when certain sales thresholds are met).

But more surprising? Not even the majority of agents negotiated the contract as well as they should have, because they were so advance focused. I wish I could say that your agent will definitely negotiate all the finer deal points, but that’s not the case in my experience. So even if you do have an agent, you should be asking them questions, too.

You don’t know what’s negotiable or what’s reasonable to ask for

One of the big problems in publishing is the lack of transparency around earnings and what other people are getting paid. While there have been community efforts to dismantle this cloak of secrecy, there’s an additional challenge: so many scenarios and terms are unique to each publisher, agent, author, and book. And this is why agents can be so invaluable: they have experience that helps them know where and when to push on behalf of their clients (despite what I mentioned above). So what can you do when working on your own?

Aside from educating yourself by reading model contracts from the Authors Guild, Writer Beware, and other advocacy groups (as well as asking around privately), research your potential business partners to the best of your ability and ask a lot of questions about the agreement or terms, like “Is this typically what you offer?” or “Where is there flexibility in this deal?” You’ll be surprised at how willingly people offer up this information.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

As PG mentioned in the ancient past, negotiation is an acquired skill. It comes more easily to some people than it does to others, but everyone can improve their ability to negotiate.

A great many business schools, at least in the United States, have classes devoted to helping students improve their negotiation skills. Some have departments of Negotiation Science or something similar.

PG’s first exposure to negotiation studies many years ago was from an individual who headed a Negotiation Studies Project at Harvard Business School. A Project was something less prestigious than a department and PG recalls that the Project staff consisted of this individual and a couple of graduate students.

The individual made a presentation at an American Bar Association meeting that PG attended. After the presentation, PG cornered the negotiation expert for an extended conversation and ended up writing a story about Negotiation Studies for The ABA Journal.

Things have changed a lot since then. If you conduct a Google search for “Negotiation Studies”, you will find a plethora of different results, including the following from Harvard, which PG has included with links should you desire to dig deeper:

What are the Types of Negotiation?

In business, there are different types of negotiation, each needing distinct approaches for success.

When preparing to negotiate, business professionals often wonder what types of negotiation are available to them. Some of the most common are distributive negotiation, integrative negotiation, team negotiation, and multiparty negotiation. 

In distributive negotiation, parties compete over the distribution of a fixed pool of value. Here, any gain by one party represents a loss to the other. You may also hear this referred to as a zero-sum negotiation or win-lose negotiation.

Integrative negotiation gives us one of the biggest chances of a win-win. In these types of negotiation situations, there is more than one issue to be negotiated, and negotiators have the potential to make tradeoffs across issues and create value. In many cases, distributive negotiations can become integrative if we take the time to search for additional issues to include. 

Team negotiations are those types of negotiation situations where the negotiating parties are made up of more than one person. These might include union contract negotiations or major business negotiations.

Lastly, mulitparty negotiations include, as you might imagine, multiple parties. These types of negotiation situations might include municipal projects or international negotiations. Multiparty negotiations do require more complex negotiating skills, but there is also more opportunity to find tradeoffs and create value. 

One of the final types of negotiation that you may encounter is the “one-shot” negotiation where parties have no intention of continuing to work together. One-shot negotiations often carry a risk of unethical behavior and hard bargaining if parties believe they have no need to build a trusting relationship.

Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.

The following items are tagged types of negotiation:

Why Negotiations Fail

POSTED JANUARY 10TH, 2023 BY KATIE SHONK & FILED UNDER NEGOTIATION SKILLS.

When we think of failed business negotiations, most of us picture negotiators walking away from the table in disappointment. But that’s only one type of disappointing negotiation. Failed business negotiations also include those that parties come to regret over time and those that fall apart during implementation. The following three types of negotiation failures are … READ WHY NEGOTIATIONS FAIL 

Women and Negotiation: Narrowing the Gender Gap in Negotiation

POSTED DECEMBER 20TH, 2022 BY KATIE SHONK & FILED UNDER BUSINESS NEGOTIATIONS.

Men tend to achieve better economic results in negotiation than women, negotiation research studies have found overall. Such gender differences are generally small, but evidence from the business world suggests that they can add up over time. … READ MORE 

How to Set Negotiation Goals as a Manager

POSTED DECEMBER 6TH, 2022 BY PON STAFF & FILED UNDER BUSINESS NEGOTIATIONS.

To encourage the negotiators they supervise to do their best, managers routinely rely on performance benchmarks, the promise of bonuses, and other types of goals. … READ HOW TO SET NEGOTIATION GOALS AS A MANAGER 

When Negotiation Mistakes Compound over Time

POSTED NOVEMBER 15TH, 2021 BY PON STAFF & FILED UNDER BUSINESS NEGOTIATIONS.

When we think of our worst negotiation mistakes, they tend to be recent blunders. But what about negotiation mistakes whose repercussions accumulate over years, even decades? A failed negotiation case study from 1976 shows how carelessly negotiated deals can lead to long-term headaches and losses. A Short Season In 1974, brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna, Latvian immigrant … READ WHEN NEGOTIATION MISTAKES COMPOUND OVER TIME 

Right of First Refusal: A Tool to Negotiate with Care

POSTED JULY 12TH, 2021 BY PON STAFF & FILED UNDER NEGOTIATION SKILLS.

Among many useful negotiation skills and strategies, a right of first refusal can often benefit negotiators. In a right of first refusal, the right holder is typically given the power to buy an asset on the same terms that the grantor would receive from any other legitimate, prospective bidder, according to Harvard Business School and … READ MORE 

Business Musings: It Begins

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I have a lot of big plans for 2023. I have to revamp the business side of my writing career. That requires a lot of work from me.

I’m making this blog a process blog because it’s taking me longer than I want to get the pieces in place. But, I’m finding, that’s the way of things for me. I can imagine it, so of course, I figure I can finish it quickly.

It seems like nothing in my life is quick right now—at least that kind of quick. When I look at what I actually do, such as the latest novel I finished (Diving, not a Boss book), I realize I wrote 150,000 words in three months (about 30,000 of which I have set aside, because they don’t fit into the book. That’s 50,000 words per month or roughly 12,500 words per week during the holidays, while I was sick, while I was in school, and while I wrote this weekly blog, a month other things.

In other words, by most measures, 150,000 words in three months is fast. But it’s not as fast as I wanted it to be.

. . . .

I had spent my “free” time this weekend figuring out one new aspect of my social media and the rest looking at new themes for this website.

Why? Because my first order of business is to revamp my advertising.

Now, before I go too far here, let me clear up something. I do own a publishing company. WMG Publishing publishes all of my work. (Eventually, anyway. I do publish some things in anthologies and other venues, sometimes first.) The team there does a huge amount of advertising, usually on a budget, and always effectively. They’re refocusing their efforts because we have a new Shopify store. They’re slowly getting our 1,000 titles on the site.

Once they have a preponderance of the titles up, WMG will be taking advantage of the various tools Shopify offers to promote things.

They also do things like Book Bub ads, Facebook ads, and other in-house projects, such as their newsletter, “Every Day is A Holiday,” which offers great weekly promotions. To be frank, I’m not sure of everything they do, because they do so much.

But they need me to promote as well, and I’ve gotten lazy about it. I mean, really lazy. My newsletters are not regular. I forget to promote a new book or a new project. I haven’t changed the widgets on this site in a long time.

Some of my laziness is a habit. I was great at promotion until I wasn’t. That started in 2016 or so, as I got sicker and sicker up in Lincoln City. My ability to do anything became less and less, and so I gave up a lot of things.

What I couldn’t give up, I did by rote. That included most of my Twitter feed, and what I post here. I would try to get a newsletter out, but that only happened when I had the time to give up a writing session or two.

. . . .

I had spent my “free” time this weekend figuring out one new aspect of my social media and the rest looking at new themes for this website.

Why? Because my first order of business is to revamp my advertising.

Now, before I go too far here, let me clear up something. I do own a publishing company. WMG Publishing publishes all of my work. (Eventually, anyway. I do publish some things in anthologies and other venues, sometimes first.) The team there does a huge amount of advertising, usually on a budget, and always effectively. They’re refocusing their efforts because we have a new Shopify store. They’re slowly getting our 1,000 titles on the site.

Once they have a preponderance of the titles up, WMG will be taking advantage of the various tools Shopify offers to promote things.

They also do things like Book Bub ads, Facebook ads, and other in-house projects, such as their newsletter, “Every Day is A Holiday,” which offers great weekly promotions. To be frank, I’m not sure of everything they do, because they do so much.

But they need me to promote as well, and I’ve gotten lazy about it. I mean, really lazy. My newsletters are not regular. I forget to promote a new book or a new project. I haven’t changed the widgets on this site in a long time.

Some of my laziness is a habit. I was great at promotion until I wasn’t. That started in 2016 or so, as I got sicker and sicker up in Lincoln City. My ability to do anything became less and less, and so I gave up a lot of things.

What I couldn’t give up, I did by rote. That included most of my Twitter feed, and what I post here. I would try to get a newsletter out, but that only happened when I had the time to give up a writing session or two.

. . . .

I wasn’t the only one doing things by rote. Most marketers were and are. I read The Hollywood Reporter somewhat religiously, and several other media trade journals less religiously, but every single one of them had spent 2022 trying to figure out how to make advertising work in a changing world.

None of us knew or know what the next best thing is. I’m beginning to believe that it’s what I’ve always preached—building your own community, somewhat slowly. Not that our culture does anything slow anymore.

In fact, the idea that I’m doing the same thing I did six years ago makes me feel like I’ve been doing the same thing since…oh…1950 or something. Really, what I have been doing is that out of date.

To use one of terms I used in my year-end blog, my marketing had become stale

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Rachel Toalson–Tackling the Hard Stuff, and Highlighting the Good Stuff

From Writer Unboxed:

Rachel Toalson is an especially prolific poet, essayist, and award-winning author of picture books and of middle grade and young adult fiction. Lest you think writing books for young humans means toning down reality, Rachel has mastered the art of hard topics — how to convey them, how to guide a young mind through them — in a way that helps to instill hope and to set young people on a path of functional thinking.

“Toalson handles difficult, complex subjects with nuance and care, never losing sight of who her readers are, and striking the delicate balance between honesty and hope.”

—Jordan Leigh Zwick, The Book Seller (Grass Valley, CA)

Her next work of middle grade fiction, The First Magnificent Summer, is the story of an awakening–of sexism, as a twelve-year-old girl realizes her own estranged father may be treating her as Other because of her gender. It releases on May 30th.

If you need some inspiration, please settle in; you won’t be disappointed. Many thanks to Rachel for sharing her journey and her many profound insights about the writing life.

GW: Thanks for agreeing to share your writing and publishing experiences with the Writer Unboxed community. I like to start by asking writers about their author origin story; it’s kind of like a superhero origin story but with a pen. What’s yours?

RT: The sole purpose of my first dabbles in story was getting me out of trouble. I was an imaginative, precocious middle child with an older brother and a younger sister. We lived out in the middle of nowhere, which meant trouble was right at our fingertips. After a Pecan Battle (we were supposed to be gathering pecans so my grandmother could make her delicious pecan pie), my sister ran into the house wailing. I’d launched the fated pecan that hit her brow, but I made up an elaborate story that blamed my grandmother’s boyfriend for the wound that required ice and a Band-Aid. There was a giant hole in my story: My grandmother’s boyfriend hadn’t been outside all morning.

But I was good at telling stories. I told them for entertainment. To everyone—my siblings, my mother, the kids at school. I documented things that happened on the playground. I retold important events with a little flair and exaggeration. And in the margins, I worked on my Great American Novel at the age of seven. It sounded a lot like Little House on the Prairie, which my mother was reading to us at the time.

My mother saw a spark (and probably a way to get me to stop talking so much). She made sure I always had sharpened pencils and a stack of stapled computer paper. I told everyone I knew I’d be a writer someday.

In high school some amazing English teachers affirmed my writing gift. In college my love for it exploded under the direction of some magnificent professors. And I found my people, which is important in any origin story. Who are we without our people?

I’ve been through some trauma in my life. Writing helps me process the narrative and reframe it. That’s probably the simplest answer to why I keep picking up a pen.

GW: I don’t think it would be an understatement to say you’re a prolific author. Tell us a bit about your journey to publication; how did you land your agent? Your first book deal? And, how have you managed to be as prolific as you are with six children at home?!

RT: I spent the first decade of my career as a journalist and an editor for some Texas newspapers. But after the birth of my sixth child, I faced a job lay-off. After catastrophizing, as I’m wont to do, my husband said, “Why don’t you go for your dream?” And I thought, Yeah. Why not?

All those years I’d been writing books, of course. I’d written two adult novels that went nowhere—no agent even asked for a full manuscript (Today Me recognizes they weren’t any good). But I had another novel—one written for kids—that I thought might be something special.

It was. I queried twelve agents I found through Twitter’s #MSWL and Writer’s Digest listings. Ten requested the full manuscript. I got two offers and signed with my agent in 2016. We went out on sub with my first book, a novel in verse called The Colors of the Rain, in early 2017 and had an offer by May. It published in September 2018.

However. Traditional publishing is a slow process. I’m a very productive writer. So I also self-publish fiction under a pen name and write poetry and essay collections under my full name.

As to how I stay productive with so many kids, I send them to public school so I can write. Half-joking aside, I protect my writing time. Writing centers me and helps me process emotions and heals old wounds. My family gets a better version of me, and I get to live my passion and dream. Everybody wins when I get to write.

One more note: Early in our marriage, my husband and I decided that his career was not more important than my career, just because he’s a man. We do what we can to support each other and raise our kids jointly.

GW: How has publishing been different than you’d anticipated? Is there something you didn’t know back then you wish someone in the business had told you?

RT: I was only marginally aware of how much patience traditional publishing would require. In theory, I knew it could take a year or more to sell a book, then a year or more to see it published. But in practice, I found myself unpleasantly surprised—maybe because I’m a very productive, task-oriented person, and I write quickly.

Waiting is hard for me. And I’ve actually been pretty fortunate in how long I’ve had to wait for books to sell and to see them publish.

Because I’m such a productive writer, I have a huge bottleneck; I have nine middle grade, five young adult, two chapter book, and three poetry manuscripts ready to go to my agent. But it’s not the right time yet. So I have to wait. It’s torturous.

To help manage the bottleneck, I also self-publish books, under a pen name. It helps me maintain a modicum of control and care for myself mentally and emotionally. Writing is therapeutic for me. So is publishing.

Also: We, the writers, are in charge. I know it doesn’t feel that way when we’re in the querying trenches or out on submission; those are vulnerable places to be. But the truth is, we don’t have to take the first offer that comes our way. If an agent or an editor is asking for an edit to your book that doesn’t feel “right,” you don’t have to take the deal. It’s your book. Agents don’t have a job without writers. Editors don’t have books without writers. It’s not about finding an agent or editor; it’s about finding the right one. I know I’m in a privileged place to say that, being an agented writer with multiple books published. But it’s something I wish someone had told me in the beginning.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Just the Facts? Not In Historical Fiction.

From Publisher’s Weekly:

When I pitched One Woman’s War: A Novel of the Real Miss Moneypenny in October 2020, I had no idea that Operation Mincemeat, a movie about the same subject matter, would be released in early 2022, just a few months before One Woman’s War was due out.

Both fictional works are based on a real British Naval Intelligence operation of World War II, where a corpse dressed as a royal marine was left in waters off the coast of Spain. The deceased marine carried papers suggesting that the European invasion would take place via Greece, rather than the true landing point of Sicily. Spoiler: German spies got hold of the documents and Hitler fell for the ruse, diverting troops from Sicily to Greece. Many thousands of Allied lives were saved as a result.

There have since been several retellings of this eccentric operation. The truth has all of the trappings of a good, old-fashioned spy story, perhaps because the mastermind behind it was destined to become one of the best-known thriller writers of all time: James Bond author Ian Fleming. When real events unfold like fiction, it becomes the task of the fiction writer to make those real events seem plausible. But do authors of historical fiction have a greater duty to readers not to stray too far from the truth than filmmakers have to their audiences?

Avid readers of historical fiction seem to demand historical accuracy in every particular—or at least in the particulars in which those readers, themselves, happen to be experts. Yet even the keenest historical pedant has low expectations of anything out of Hollywood. These movies exist to entertain not teach.

However, people do expect greater adherence to the facts in novels. They want to experience history. Readers of historical fiction want to see events unfold through the protagonist’s eyes and feel the characters’ emotions. Whether they are conscious of it or not, historical novel readers crave a narrative that has conflict, meaning, and some sort of dramatic arc, even though real life might have a lot of the first and none at all of the second and third.

In the case of Operation Mincemeat, fortunately for screenwriters and authors alike, the bare facts of the strategic effort provide a strong plot. Still, a little creative intervention was needed at certain points to turn those facts into a novel.

A common problem I see in war novels occurs when a significant part of the action takes place in theaters in which none of the main characters are present. This is particularly difficult when writing from a first-person or close-third-person point of view.

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

Not Writing? Have You Ego-Trapped Yourself?

From Writer Unboxed:

If you’re in a non-writing phase and frustrated, several recent Writer Unboxed posts might speak to your lack of production. They address the seasonal nature of writing careers, the need to respect creative limitations, and how to cope when life gets in the way.

This is all well and good. I support this advice one hundred percent.

But what if, as per Kelsey Allagood’s recent post, some part of you knows fatigue and overwhelm aren’t your issue? What if somehow, despite a calendar that could be cleared and an express desire to write, your efforts can best be described as lackluster? What if encouragement doesn’t help but only deepens your shame and guilt?

Part of you knows you’ve been pulled into a self-destructive and self-sabotaging loop, yet you can’t figure out how to stop.

I’ve been here. It was a nasty experience I wouldn’t wish on anyone. Thankfully, I worked myself out of it and learned some Jedi mind tricks that have thus far prevented a recurrence. Knock wood.

But recently I stumbled across an evolutionary psychology podcast that might have spared me a good amount of suffering. It explained:

  1. the psychological dynamic at work, dubbed the Ego Trap by Dr. Doug Lisle
  2. why certain circumstances turn self-sabotage into a very sensible strategy, and
  3. potential methods to escape it, or avoid entrapment altogether.

Today, I’d like to paraphrase Dr. Lisle’s theory, then describe how I see it applying to the writing world.

So This Hunter Walks Onto a Plain…

Let’s begin with a story set back in the Stone Age, when evolution shaped humanity’s current brain structure.

Imagine you are an able-bodied male and you’ve just reached the age of sexual maturity. You’re familiar with hunting implements and tactics, and you’ve participated in endless hunting parties with the other men of the village. Until now, between your size and talents, you have served in a supportive role.

Then one day, your spear flies true. You bring down the biggest, baddest beastie of them all.

Tradition demands that your contribution be honored. During tonight’s feast, you are served first, even before the village potentate. And your portion is enormous. Easily the biggest of your life.

Further, your social situation has improved. When you look around the fire, meat juices dribbling down your chin, men eye you with hitherto unfamiliar respect. And a whole cadre of previously inaccessible females are suddenly willing to flirt.

Why the change? Well, from an evolutionary perspective, today’s success signifies you might carry valuable genes their offspring can inherit, and that you’ll be a capable provider to your family and your community.

The Hijacked Brain

Evolutionary psychology says that your brain is an unsentimental cost-benefit calculator. In any given situation at any given time, it looks at available options and chooses the path which optimizes for survival and reproduction. (NOT for happiness, you’ll note, though sometimes happiness and evolutionary priorities can coexist.)

Q: So when the next hunting opportunity arises, how should you react?

A: That depends.

If you are confident in your hunting abilities, you’ll likely be eager to replicate your impressive performance. You’ll do this despite the risks of being trampled or gored because the extended mating and trading opportunities are too substantial to pass up.

If you’re less confident, you’ll be slower to pick up your spear—and perhaps more cautious in its use—but you’ll probably still abide by social norms and participate in the hunt.

But what if part of you thinks your success wasn’t earned? What if you tripped as your spear left your hand, or past athletic efforts indicate that you aren’t that coordinated or talented? Some part of you attributes your success to sheer dumb luck, and you hold little hope of a spontaneous recurrence.

What’s the smart response then?

From a happiness perspective, we should probably go on the hunt while acknowledging our limitations, and help out as we’re able. Then we can work on our self-actualization elsewhere, perhaps in an arena that proves useful to the village, like inventing a more effective spear.

From the evolutionary perspective, however, the only calculus that makes sense is to hang onto your unearned status for as long as possible, using that “stolen” time to gain extra survival resources or impregnate another high-quality female.

That’s why we carry genetic programing that will quietly suggest a delaying strategy. Be exposed for your mediocrity another day, it will urge you. Funnily enough, circumstances will often conspire to assist. (Important: It’s not necessary for this to be a conscious decision. In fact, it often isn’t.)

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Assessing the Profession(s): How Much Do UK Writers Earn?

From Publishing Perspectives:

A ‘Devaluing of Creative Labor’

As we near our start of publication for 2023 (on January 3), you’ll note that Richard Charkin’s year-ending column mentions the recent report commissioned by the United Kingdom’s Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS). The researchers who wrote the report did so under the auspices of the “CREATe” Centre at the University of Glasgow. (The name is an acronym for Creativity, Regulation, Enterprise, and Technology, and the program was established in 2012. More information on it is here.)

The new report, released this month, is titled UK Authors’ Earnings and Contracts 2022: A Survey of 60,000 Writers. Our Publishing Perspectives readers will recall that we and other various news media did a good deal of reporting in 2018, when an earlier report in this series found that in the United Kingdom, a “median annual income of a professional author [was] £10,500 (now US$12,699), well below the minimum wage,” reminding readers that “the equivalent figure in 2013 was £11,000 (now US$13,304) and in 2005 it was £12,500 (now US$15,118).”

The top-line figure in the new 2022 report paints an even less felicitous picture at the end of 2022, putting median earnings from self-employed writing in the UK at £7,000 (US$8,466), obviously a substantial drop.

. . . .

“We chart a decline in median (typical) earnings from self-employed writing among primary-occupation authors of 38.2 percent (in real terms),” write Thomas, Battisti, and Kretschmer, “since the last survey in 2018 (i.e., from £11,329 to £7,000).

“Even more dramatically, we see a sustained downward trend over the past two decades that seems to be associated with changes to creative labor markets in the digital environment.”

Here’s a simple graphic representation of that downward trend in figures that come from reports released:

  • In 2006: Authors’ Earnings From Copyright and Non-Copyright Sources: A Survey of 25,000 British and German Writers
  • In 2014: The Business of Being an Author: A Survey of Authors’ Earnings and Contracts)
  • In 2018: UK Authors’ Earnings and Contracts 2018: A Survey of 50,000 Writers

There are three key classifications of writers and/or authors in play here.

  • The “full-income author” is defined as a writer who receives all of her or his individual income from “the profession of writing.”
  • The “primary-occupation author” is one who spent at least 50 percent of his or her working time writing.
  • The “main-income author” is defined as someone who earns 50 percent or more of her or his total individual income from writing.

Across all these classifications, the demographic profile drawn from this 2,759-person sample comprises a divide of 51 percent of respondents identifying as men and 45 percent identifying as women. However, “For primary-occupation authors,” the researchers write, “we see that the gender difference is reversed, with 50 percent identifying as women and 46 percent as men.”

At 86 pages, the report acknowledges the contextual impact of “two hugely disruptive events for UK authors: the COVID-19 pandemic (the first UK lockdown started on March 23, 2020), and Brexit (the transition period ended on January 1, 2021). We find that, despite being sometimes heralded as great equalizers, these events had significant
and disproportionate effects on certain groups of authors.”

The work is also “situated,” they write, “amid an arguably global trend toward the devaluing of creative labor.”

The range of writing endeavors represented here is broad, with 65 percent of the respondents’ income reported to come from the book business.

Image: ‘UK Authors’ Earnings and Contracts 2022: A Survey of 60,000 Writers’

And yet, despite the lead in books as income in the previous question, in terms of what sectors those responding may see as the sources of most of their income, academic writing is at the fore. These classifications are referred to as “genres” in the study, but of course, “genres” form a different index in the standard usage of the term in book publishing, where this list might be more readily recognized as sectors.

There’s an interesting section on Page 67 of the report, in fact, on audio-visual authors, including a look at the flux generated during the still-ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In that section, the researchers write that they see “changes to the points in payments to audio-visual authors becoming more stratified, rather than representing long-term or steady earning potential.”

What’s more, they write, “Audio-visual authors also increasingly discuss their relationship with large streaming platforms [that] influence the nature of the operation of contracts in this industry.” They write of a trend put forward by respondents in these industries “to opt for complete buy-outs in audio-visual writings, rather than long-term earnings through repeat fees.”

Image: ‘UK Authors’ Earnings and Contracts 2022: A Survey of 60,000 Writers’

Publishing Perspectives’ primary readership, of course, is in the international book publishing executive and rights-director/agent/scout sector. Our readers thus follow analysis of this kind as part of their assessment of the conditions creative workers in the field of book publishing are encoutering. Assessing those conditions is important for industry players if they’re to have an understanding of the evolving economic milieu in which the writers’ corps is working.

‘The Writing Profession[s] and Sustainability’

One feature of the difficult task set for these researchers is managing the broad range of occupational (or too often aspirational) areas of endeavors under the uber-heading of “writing.” An interesting graphic illustrates how the researchers say they “accounted for differences for earnings of authors across different occupations as certain sub-sectors or genres may produce higher or lower incomes.” You’ll notice that one “sub-sector” is classified as “Academic/Teacher.”

Image: ‘UK Authors’ Earnings and Contracts 2022: A Survey of 60,000 Writers’

Our publishing-industry readership will recognize a parallel here. An Aldus-Up program led by Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez’s Luis González is working to bring coherence to publishing industry statistical research from market to market in Europe. Until now, myriad apples-to-oranges comparison problems have kept sectors of the international book publshing industry from effectively appraising its shared challenges and progress.

Similarly, the sheer breadth of career formulations and roles that fall under the umbrella term “writer” are daunting, as are the range of contractual models. This makes it difficult to assess fully what can be learned from the best-intentioned and executed survey work. As the researchers, themselves, write, “Due to the lack of a stable definition of an ‘author,’ we did not apply any statistical weights to make the survey more representative for the total writing population.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

A Case for the Midlist

From Publisher’s Weekly:

The common wisdom tells us that time is money, but for a writer, money is time. Writing is not the same as typing—it takes much more time: time to gaze out the window awhile thinking, reflecting and dreaming your way onto the page for instance, to pause, reconsider, order your thoughts, conduct research, to write, of course, but also to read what you have written, consider it, change it, polish it. This is what grants and advances against royalties are for.

I was in my early 30s when I received my first advance. I can’t remember the exact figure. Something like $14,000, and, of course, I only got half of that on signing. While this does not seem like very much now, in 1974, cobbled together with renting rooms in my house, workshop fees, and lectures, it allowed me to focus on writing my book. Since, as it turned out, Woman and Nature took me four years to write, the advance did not last long enough. But with a bit of luck and lots of nerve, I managed. A grant from the National Endowment for the Arts during one of those years made a big difference.

Over time, as I gained readers, the advances increased. I received a relatively larger advance for 1981’s Pornography and Silence, and that one took me far less time to write. During the period it took me to write that book, I felt relatively flush. But soon after it was in print, I was close to being broke again.

If writing as a profession is often less than profitable, it’s also wildly unpredictable with regard to finances. For my next book I had several ideas, none of which I was able to sell. I did not develop any of these proposals. Finally, during what was understood as a crisis caused by a nuclear arms race, I decided to write about the intersection between gender and weapons of mass destruction. I knew I had the right subject when I realized that whether I found a publisher or not, I was going to do it. I did receive an advance for that book eventually, though the money disappeared long before I completed A Chorus of Stones, which came out in 1992. That book took me 10 years to write, during which it often seemed I was living off the fumes from my passion for the subject.

The research alone took me at least three years. It was a perilous time, during which more than once either my health or my spirits faltered. Yet I never regretted my decision. The greatest reward writers receive is not monetary. Like farmers who love their work, most writers are less motivated by profit than by love of the work itself.

Though A Chorus of Stones was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is taught in many classes throughout the country, it was not a bestseller. It was what is called a midlist book. I was turned down for more than one grant, most probably because—as its subtitle, The Private Life of War, indicates—weaving public and private histories together, the book fell outside familiar categories.

Over the last two decades, as the publishing industry faltered in the wake of the internet, most large publishers stopped giving midlist writers advances large enough to last more than a few months. Even though, in the first year after they are published, midlist books do not sell as many copies as bestsellers do, they often stay in print for many more years, catching up in sales over time.

But there is another, more compelling reason to support the midlist. Though some bestsellers break boundaries and explore new ideas, many tend to align with what is already popular, what we already know and want to hear more about. By contrast, as they venture into the unknown, midlist books often take greater risks, inventing new forms, revealing unique ways of seeing. Isn’t this what we need now as we find ourselves sinking under the weight of a history of unfortunate decisions our culture has made in the past?

Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly

Or, you could self-publish, release your books when you decide they’re ready, not pigeonhole yourself in the midlist, charge less so more people could buy and read your books and still earn more money than you do on the midlist dusk of traditional publishing, to say nothing of living with a sense that your work is not treated as particularly important by your publisher, upon which you are totally reliant for your ability to continue writing.

[The previous paragraph qualifies as PG’s longest run-on sentence of the day. He hopes no English teachers were harmed.)

PG suggests that, if you want to make a career writing books, you will complete and publish more books via the self-publishing path and end up earning a significantly higher lifetime income from your writing, than you will by being one of the also-rans in a traditional publisher’s stable of authors.

(Another run-on, but nothing to brag about.)

If you’re Barack and Michelle, by all means, go to a traditional publisher who will pay you a $65 million book advance which will never earn out, but you’ve already got the money in your pocket, so you don’t really care.

(PG has runonitis today.)

Thinking Big

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Writers are curious creatures. We’re a mix of insecurity and ego. The ego is there whether we admit it or not. Why else would we write stories and put them out into the world? Deep down, we believe that other people want to read these stories. For some of us (all of us?), we believe that our stories will be read by millions of people and that we will become the most famous author of our generation.

That ego keeps us going through the rough early years. It keeps us writing even through the discouragement that we all receive, sometimes from well-meaning folks and sometimes from malicious “friends.”

But…the insecurity is there as well. Are we good enough? Are we delusional? Are we trying for something that hardly anyone ever achieves? Are we crazy? Are we wasting our time?

The longer we strive, the more the insecurity grows. We have failures and setbacks. Once we publish, professional critics chime in with their professional negativity. Those words get stuck in our heads, and we haul them out when we’re feeling down.

Sometimes we even heed the negative, taking it all in. Some writers stop writing because of that. The rest of us soldier on, sometimes changing our behavior to silence the critics (never works) and sometimes letting anger fuel us to help us move forward.

The ego remains, but it’s been tempered by years of negativity. Or by social conditioning. When a writer—an artist—heck, anybody with a dream—talks about that dream, other people feel that it is their duty to warn.

Most writers never achieve that.

Make sure you guard your heart so that you don’t get hurt.

Maybe your expectations are too high. Maybe you should temper them back a little.

And on. And on.

What makes this worse is that writers, in particular, never hear the praise. When I teach craft workshops, I admonish writers to write down everything someone says about their work, the good and the bad. Most writers still pause over their notes as I say something like, This story is marvelous. I loved reading it. They don’t write that down. They think those comments are irrelevant, and yet the positive comments are the truly important ones.

Because they’re the ones that show us the pathway to success. Not to make us write another work exactly like the one we just finished, but to show us that yes, indeed, there are people who love what we do.

No one will love everything that we do. It’s just not in the human DNA. If we were alike, then we wouldn’t have variety. Some of us like sf and some of us hate it. Some of us like to windsurf and some of us are afraid to try. Some of us love cities and some of us would rather live in a remote place.

. . . .

You’d think that someone with a large enough ego to start writing in the first place would have planned for great financial and/or critical acclaim.

But writers never do.

Sometimes it’s superstition: If I plan for it, it will never happen.

Sometimes it’s embarrassment: I’ll look stupid if I constantly say I’m going to be a Big Name Writer.

And sometimes it’s just that old insecurity, winning again.

But you as a writer can prepare for success without dealing with the insecurity at all. It’s easier now than it ever was, because writers can publish their own work and keep it in print for decades.

How do you plan for success?

Mostly you leave the door open. Every possible door, in fact. You look at every contract, every terms of service, every deal, every possibility with an eye to the future.

You ask: How would I feel if the best possible thing happens? Would this contract enable me to profit from that thing? Or even participate in it?

There were two great examples of this. The Kate Bush example, as I mentioned above. She kept the door open by handling her own songs for the past thirty some years when most musicians sell damn near everything. That means she gets to profit from the success, not some major corporation.

Sure, she still would have had the ego boost of a song that was central to a TV show that was also a cultural phenomenon, but you can’t eat ego boost. Still, you can capitalize on it.

Imagine for a moment that she had sold most of the rights to that song decades ago. Her name was still in the news and there was a revival of her work. If the worst had happened and she didn’t make a dime off the song, she still could have made future money on selling new songs or performing live or leveraging the momentary fame into something else.

Most writers/artists never do that either. Sadly.

Instead they whine about how unfair it all is.

Which is exactly what happened with the second example which was in the news at roughly the same time.

In an article titled “Marvel’s Movie Math: Comic Creators Claim It’s ‘Bait and Switch’ on Payments,” The Hollywood Reporter showed how little most of the creators of the most famous comic book characters in the Marvel universe made, particularly those who developed some of the newer characters.

Seems those writers signed something called a Special Character Agreement which purported to give the writers money when a character they originated was used in media other than the comic book itself. Buried deep in the contractual language, though, was this: Marvel had the right to dramatically lower any promised payment based (it seems) on its own discretion.

And then there’s this paragraph, which is the kicker, I think:

Some who spoke to THR say it is more beneficial for a creator to avoid signing any paperwork with Marvel, noting Special Character Agreements give the company wiggle room to pay essentially whatever they want and include an NDA clause that muzzles creators from speaking out. One source, who reps the creators behind several A-list Marvel characters, notes one client who never signed paperwork is better off than those who did. “He has a lawyer that doesn’t listen to Marvel,” says the source.

He has a lawyer. Who probably read and understood the document and explained it to the client, who then planned for the future.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to K. for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

How Writers Fail (Part 9): They Quit

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

The title of this post seems obvious. How do writers fail? They quit. Yes, they do.

But it’s about more than quitting, really. This post is about when they quit.

Let me start with a quote from John Mellencamp that slapped me about the face and neck when I was casually reading the AARP Magazine. To celebrate his seventieth year, Mellencamp was interviewed about his seven tips were for living his best life. All seven are really interesting, including one about being productive. But here’s the related—and more important—one to being productive.

He said, “Usually I have to write about a hundred songs to get one good one. Painting is the same way. You’ve got to keep slugging. The problem with most people is that they quit too early.”

Because this is a short little article, filled with pithy tips, there’s something missing from the first part of the quote. Mellencamp doesn’t define (here) what he means by “a good one” in reference to songs and paintings.

So I get to define it.

The good one is decided by the viewers or the listeners. They buy the singles or download the songs or sing along. They enjoy the art. They love the stories.

In Mellencamp’s case, he wrote some “good” songs, some forgettable songs (to me), and more than one that almost every modern rocker has referenced, either in their own songs or in tribute. I’m sure you’ve all heard “Jack and Diane” and if you haven’t, you’ve heard someone mention that a couple was a true “Jack and Diane.”

Yep, every now and then, writers get lucky enough to actually have an impact on the culture. Mellencamp did it with “Jack and Diane,” which I’m sure he sings at every concert he performs.

But I’m sure he does not perform several of his good songs or many, many others. That puts me in mind of Paul McCartney. When Dean and I were lucky enough to attend one of his concerts in 2019, Sir Paul informed the audience right from the start that he would probably not be playing “your favorite song.”

McCartney has been writing and performing songs longer than I’ve been alive. He knows that some fans love, love, love the obscure song that was on only one not-very-successful album from forty years ago. He might never play that song in concert. Or he might have stopped playing a “good” song decades ago for personal reasons.

I learned that lesson too as an artist. When I started posting my Free Fiction Monday stories, I was stunned to realize that stories I thought were mediocre or stories that some editors told me were bad or stories that didn’t hit the idea I’d started with as fully as I would have liked were adored by some readers. Not by all of them, of course. But some of them.

I learned even before that not to bad-mouth anything I’ve written because someone might like it. I watched Marion Zimmer Bradley reduce a fan to tears by telling her that the book she wanted Bradley to sign was “a piece of dog****.”

Never do that to someone who loves your work. Don’t even tell them that you’re surprised by their love for that work. Be gracious, and understand that we’re all different, and stories, songs, paintings—anything creative will have a different impact on each person who experiences it.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Why It’s Better to Write About Money, Not for Money

From Jane Friedman:

My neighbor and I were slouched on my couch, watching The Holiday and eating under-baked brownies from the pan, when the email came that changed my life.

For seven years, on and off, I’d been pitching national publications, hoping they would accept my essays and journalism. Local publications gave me no trouble. I enjoyed great relationships with my small city’s newspapers, websites and magazines, but I never could get the far-flung big guys to take a pitch. Instead, the fancy editors always ignored my emails. I couldn’t even get rejected.

Understanding the problem did not help. There’s an ancient catch-22 that says: You can’t write for large, popular, national publications until you’ve written for large, popular, national publications. It’s like when you’re applying for your first job. You need the job to get experience, but can’t get the job without experience.

I could see no way out of the bind, so I just kept on pitching into the void, growing more disappointed and bitter by the week. If only I’d gone to an Ivy League school, or had the cash to move to New York after college! If only I’d had well-connected alcoholic socialites for parents! I was sure my writing life would be different. Easier. Cooler. The opposite of desperate and doomed.

And then, in 2015, seven years into my pitching efforts, I dashed off an essay for a tiny personal-finance website about, of all things, my mortgage payment. My husband and I had recently bought a modest house in our hometown, and the monthly payments were low, running to just $624, or 58 percent less than what was then the median U.S. mortgage payment of $1,477.

My essay’s title was simple, classic clickbait: “Tradeoff: The True Story of My $624 Mortgage Payment.”

The day it came out, Yahoo! picked up and ran the story, too, which I learned when coworkers began forwarding me the link. And that night, while my neighbor and I were complaining about Kate Winslet getting stuck with Jack Black, my inbox pinged. A senior editor at New York Magazine had emailed me. She’d seen the mortgage piece.

“Pitch me,” she said.

Wordlessly, I handed over my phone so my friend could read the email, and the next moment, we were flying off the couch, stomping and whooping like football players doing an endzone dance.

The next morning, I shot the editor a pitch—for another internet-friendly essay about money because, by this point, I’d gotten religion. She accepted the idea, and about a month later, I got my first big byline. Then I used that byline to get my next byline, to get my next byline, until I had enough bylines that I was able to sell my first book to a Big Five publisher. And to think it all started with an essay about my mortgage. Oh, the glamour of it all.

The internet has changed since 2015, but the great human interests have not.

What allures people, what do they want to read about? Money, sex and death, but especially money. So when you write about money, you put the odds of a breakout on your side. It was true centuries ago and it’s still true now.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Publishing Contracts 101: Beware Internal Contradictions

From Writer Beware:

It should probably go without saying that you don’t want your publishing contract to include clauses that contradict one another.

Beyond any potential legal implications, internal contradictions suggest a publisher that either doesn’t understand its own contract language well enough to spot the problem–or a publisher that simply doesn’t care. Neither is a good sign for what lies ahead.

Contradictions can be tricky to spot, especially for first-time authors who aren’t experienced in contract legalese. Here’s an example that came across my desk recently: an anthology contract from Dark Lake Publishing that provides for rights reversion 12 months after publication:

(Side note: this is a crap reversion clause, since it not only allows the publisher to keep publishing indefinitely, but doesn’t say anything about paying for that privilege. That’s not the issue I’m highlighting in this post, however.)

The wording of the clause seems pretty clear, right? All rights other than publishing rights–and this is an all-rights contract, with the publisher laying claim to “all Intellectual Property Rights subsisting, either in present or in the future, in the Book in all formats”–return to the author 12 months after the contract’s effective date, which is the date of publication. But just a few clauses down, there’s this:

But…but…if all rights other than publishing rights revert after 12 months, how can the publisher lay claim to dramatic rights for two more years? It’s a clear internal contradiction.

In practical terms, there’s probably no impact: this particular publisher has about as much ability to exploit dramatic rights as I do of space touristing to Mars. But what does it say about a publisher that it either hasn’t spotted the cognitive dissonance, or is perfectly fine with it?

Another example I’ve seen recently involves royalties. This contract from Fractured Mirror Publishing appears to be planning to pay both twice a year and once a year:

Here’s more confusing royalties language from Beacon Publishing Group, which first promises to pay based on Net Receipts, but then cites percentages of retail price (guess which one will appear in your royalty check):

Another example: serial reading/writing app Popink, whose contract appears to extend for a limited term, but includes a Power of Attorney clause at the end of the contract that claims rights for the duration of copyright (you can read more about Popink’s awful contract here).

But the internal contradiction that I see most often, and most consistently, involves copyright: contracts where the grant of rights explicitly transfers copyright to the publisher, while further clauses acknowledge copyright retention by the author.

Here’s what I’m talking about. These clauses are from the contract of Histria Books.

The key wording here is “exclusively grants, assigns, and otherwise transfers to the Publisher…all right, title, and interest in and to the Work…including but not limited to all copyrights therein”. Whenever you see language like this, it means that you are agreeing to give up ownership of your copyright.

Histria’s contract includes language allowing for termination by the author under certain circumstances, so the copyright transfer is temporary rather than permanent (which doesn’t necessarily make it a better deal). However, when you transfer your copyright to someone else–even temporarily–that someone becomes the owner of all your intellectual property rights, without exception, for as long as the transfer is in force, and can do anything it wants with them, from licensing rights to third parties to creating sequels, spinoffs, and derivative works.

So you have to wonder why Histria’s copyright transfer language is followed by this:

In a contract with a conventional grant of rights–one that does not include a copyright transfer–you want to see such a clause, to make clear that the publisher can’t claim any rights that haven’t been specifically mentioned. But Histria’s contract does include a copyright transfer, which means that there are no rights remaining that can be reserved to the author. If not outright contradictory, this clause is certainly inconsistent. But then there’s this:

But wait–didn’t the Grant of Rights make Histria the owner of the copyright? So why would it register in the author’s name? To do so would be to acknowledge the author as the copyright holder, since copyright registration is made in the name of the copyright owner.

(Side note: what the hell is meant by “material contributed by the author to the Work”? Wouldn’t that be, hmmm, the work itself, given that the author wrote it? Even if nothing else in this contract were problematic, this bizarre wording would demand an explanation.)

Finally, there’s this–a pretty unambiguous acknowledgment of the author’s copyright ownership:

Bottom line: multiple clauses in Histria’s contract are inconsistent with or directly contradict the copyright transfer in Clause 1.

I have no idea what the legal ramifications are here. If there’s a dispute, whose ownership would prevail: Histria’s, per Clause 1, or the author’s, for which registration in their name provides prima facie evidence? Regardless, such inconsistencies really should not exist in a publishing contract, and their presence raises the questions posed above: does the publisher not understand its own contract? (Not a good sign of professionalism or expertise.) Does it just not care? (Ditto, and you have to wonder what else it doesn’t care about). Worth noting: I’ve heard from authors who contacted Histria about the copyright contradictions, and were brushed off.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

The author of the OP is Victoria Strauss. Her bio doesn’t mention anything about law school, but PG’s assessment is that she’s smarter about contracts than quite a few of the attorneys he has dealt with over the years.

While a single blog post could not cover all of the dishonest/stupid/evil/clumsy provisions that have appeared/currently appear/will appear in publishing contracts, all authors should read the entire post by Ms. Strauss, save a copy of it for future reference, and review the contents of the post if they receive a publishing contract, solicited or unsolicited. No single post could possibly contain all the gotcha’s that appear in the universe of business contracts, the post demonstrates some good techniques for examining a contract.

Although PG doesn’t review contracts any more (except for Mrs. PG), during his centuries-long legal career, he examined contracts from the largest tech companies, the largest banks and the largest publishers from various parts of the globe. Ditto for medium-sized and small techs, banks and publishers. Plus contracts from a whole bunch of other business organizations and a few non-profits.

Publishing (and a few literary agency) contracts stand out for their audacious mistreatment of the counterparties (authors). In PG’s experience, the only industry that approaches the nastiness of publishing contracts is the movie/TV/music business.

PG notes that traditional publishing and the entertainment industry share some common traits, including the practice of the talent employing agents, only a few of which have any legal training or experience at all.

Both publishing and entertainment feature:

  • quite a few insecure individuals among the talent
  • a business in which most of the would-be talent does not find success
  • a talent pool which is full of people who hold down some sort of job to support themselves and pursue their artistic dreams on the side
  • a few superstars that haven’t learned much about managing their finances
  • a good chance of a boom-and-bust career path, e.g.one-hit wonders

How Writers Fail (Part 2)

From Kristine Kathryn Rus ch:

Because of last summer’s move, we reorganized our books. We are in a smaller space than we were in Oregon, so we got rid of a lot of our books—the ones we didn’t need for research or the ones we liked, but didn’t love.

Now, we’re left with the ones that are actual favorites. It’s rather interesting to both of us to note how our tastes change over time. Dean got rid of works by a writer whom he once loved, but who became a factory, writing with others whom Dean didn’t like as well, and that colored his entire attitude toward that writer.

I got rid of over 100 romance novels because I either couldn’t remember them or they no longer spoke to me. That still left me with a rather large collection. Every time I look at them, I feel inspired, which is why they’re still in my life.

The hardest thing, though, the saddest thing, to me anyway, are the writers whose work just stops. Not because Dean or I got tired of reading them or the writer veered into territory we weren’t interested in. But because something got in the way of the writing.

We discussed one writer recently who was badly—and I mean badly—treated by Bantam Books. That highly acclaimed writer hasn’t written anything that I know of in the past five years or more. They could still sell books traditionally to a smaller company than before. They also have a wide open short story market. But I’m pretty sure that what happened at Bantam, which isn’t something I’m able to discuss, literally broke their spirit.

And, as an older writer, they didn’t feel like they could pivot into a world of publishing that is strange to all of us.

That conversation with Dean, combined with sorting and refiling all the books, and a line in an article I read some time ago about Liz Phair combined into this post.

First, the little passing remark from a reviewer about the musician Liz Phair.

I was reading the July 2021 issue Entertainment Weekly. I turned to an article on Liz Phair’s newest album and realized I hadn’t thought of her for years. She’s not a personal favorite, so I was aware of her work, but not following it.

My sense of Liz Phair, really? was an accurate one, though, because, it turns out the new album, Soberish, is her first in eleven years. She hasn’t been idle. She wrote a book, wrote for television, and did a variety of other things.

But she hadn’t produced an album in quite a while.

In the middle of the article, there’s this analysis:

Phair recorded the new album with Brad Wood, the engineer and producer who helped bring her ’90s albums to life. Their pairing is even more ideal three decades out; they’re not afraid to take chances, like starting a big comeback album on an uncertain note, as Soberish does when Phair asks “Is something wrong?”

The part that struck me is this: they’re not afraid to take chances. And, the reviewer, Maura Johnston, seems to believe this is because they’re not afraid because they’ve been in the business for a long time.

That might be true. It might not.

Because what I see from writers who’ve been in the business for a very, very long time is a lot of fear. 

. . . .

When you get burned the way that the Bantam writer above got burned, the natural human response is to try to prevent that from ever happening again. Some writers prevent that by refusing to work with that company or editor, or these days, by publishing indie.

Others stop writing altogether to prevent that kind of problem.

And then there are the writers who are on the flip side of the badly burned problem. Sure, they’ve had serious and frightening setbacks, but they’ve also had so much success that they’re afraid to mess with it.

The phrase we use in our house is that they’re “protecting their lead.” I learned it from Dean, and he initially used it to talk about tournament golf (which he used to play). A lot of players end up in the lead after 3 days of play because they were playing loose or freely. And then, they wake up on the final morning and become cautious.

They’re protecting their lead, and it often leads to failure, because golf courses, like life sometimes, require a certain style of play. If you change your style of play midstream, you’ll probably tamper with your success.

The writers who protect their lead write the same thing over and over and over again. They read their reviews, know what’s expected of them, and try to deliver it. I just read a book like that from a writer whose work I used to love.

Lately, his work has shown the tendency to write what he’s known for, which is (in some circles) twists and plot surprises. Those things only work when you’re not expecting them, and he’s been putting them into his stories like tinsel on a badly decorated Christmas tree. I hope he gets past it, I do, but I suspect he’s afraid of losing his success, so he’s trying to replicate it, rather than let the stories flow the way they want to.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Wanna Be a Paperback Writer? The Scoop on Writing Series Books

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris:

Why am I writing a series? It’s dead simple. Because my agent wants me to.

Why does she want me to?  Here goes:

WHY WRITE SERIES BOOKS?

First and foremost:  Money.  Publishers love to market a good series because (hopefully) there is an audience built in from the first book.  The branding is established.  People who bought the first book will buy the second (assuming they liked the first.)  And in years to come, people who buy the new release at a festival or launch will hopefully go back and pick up the backlist. (I made a lot of my income from readers picking up my backlist.)

Readers get attached to the characters and want to be with them again for another adventure.  And writers?  Well, I adore revisiting the characters I came to love in the first book.  Sometimes, it’s like they’ve become my friends, welcoming me back to their worlds with open arms.  At times, I can’t believe they aren’t real. 

. . . .

You’ve heard writers declare that characters will sometimes take over a book and tell their own story.  True, some characters are the bane of my existence, ungrateful whiny creatures who permeate my brain and insist that I tell their stories rather than move on to new projects.  So before you decide to write series, make sure you like your characters enough to live another twelve round with them.

BUT SOMETIMES YOU CAN’T

Let me put it this way.  Some genres lend themselves to series better than others.  Literary does not tend to be a genre for series books, for instance.  (Note my point on character arc below.) Where we do tend to find series books is in Mystery, Romance and Fantasy/Sci-fi.

Let’s look at those genres specifically.

SERIES BOOKS IN MYSTERY AND ROMANCE

Series in Mystery and Romance are different from series in Fantasy Sci-fi, because of the rules of the genres.

In Romance, there must be a HEA (happy ever after.)  The book must end with the story of the couple getting together romantically.  However, you can write a story about their friends…secondary characters who come forward to have their own stories.  (This is common in Paranormal Romance.  A vampire series may feature a clan of vampires, each of whom finds their own love in successive books.)

In Mystery, the crime must be wrapped up at the end of the book.  BUT, you can have the amateur detective or PI or same group of cops go on to solve more crimes in future books.

Example: Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.  Sherlock Holmes.

Big plus in Mystery:  Series books lend themselves to television series! (Especially in Britain, the lucky ducks.) And you don’t need me to tell you that’s where the money is.

That takes care of Mystery.  But what about Thrillers?

For that, we need to go back to the differences between Mysteries and Thrillers.  Here’s a definition commonly used:

Mystery fiction is a puzzle story

It starts with a murder (or crime) and emphasizes the solving of the crime. The protagonist’s job is to discover who committed the crime and why.  The reader and the detective both receive the same information at the same time (anything else is not playing fair.)

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog… with Ruth Harris

Focus Again

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The other challenge I gave myself in 2021 was to work on the Fey. I had blamed traditional publishing for the fact that the next series didn’t exist and while that was true, it’s not the whole story.

I have a lot of baggage on that series. A lot. All the bad things that can happen in traditional publishing happened to me on those books.

. . . .

An editor rewrote me horribly, and did some of the work without my permission to make chapters shorter. So the rereads were traumatizing. I did them by hand, so I had to put in the corrections and restore what I could (because some of the original files were lost). I stalled out.

But I kept writing on the Fey project. Since I write out of order, it took me most of the year to realize I was writing outlines for the next several books. I’d write maybe 100 pages of the book and then outline. I’m good at writing something that seems like fiction, but really isn’t.

That’s what I was doing.

I finally sorted out that mess, but the story just wasn’t flowing. I blamed the pandemic. Then I found the novella at the heart of everything, figuring that would solve the problem. Nope.

. . . .

Until one morning, I woke up and realized I needed to schedule my writing year. I hadn’t over-scheduled my writing year in maybe ten years. First, I was so sick that I didn’t dare. (I underscheduled then.) Then, I stopped trying to schedule at all. (Nearly died, so was focused on just finishing words.) Then we moved (always disruptive). I got better…and the damn pandemic hit and ate my brain.

So figuring out the schedule made Dean happy. (“You’re back!” he said. Yeah, maybe he’s right.)

But it also made my subconscious happy.

What does figuring out the schedule mean? It means I had to figure out what I was writing when. Then I had to figure out a realistic word count for the week/day. Then I had to do math to figure out when I would finish Project #1 and so on and so forth.

I know myself well enough to know that I can’t write the same subgenre for each and every project. So I had to switch off.

I outlined it all…and I not only mentally relaxed, the stories started flowing. I was able to get lost in them. I would wake up and there, in my brain, was the solution to some problem I hadn’t even realized I had in the book(s).

I’m excited about writing again.

I think this is because I believe I have a future. Or we have a future. Or as much of a future as the human race always has, subject to the whims of crazy leaders and stupid viruses and personal emergencies (note the word personal, not a worldwide emergency like we’ve been living in).

It’s not normal. As some grumpy pundit said about the whole returning to normal movement: there was no normal before the pandemic. There was just what we were used to.

My brain has transitioned into a world filled with Covid and other problems. I feel less of a need to be hypervigilant about the world around me, and I’m able to escape into a world I invent.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

What If You Gave Up?

From Writer Unboxed:

NOT writing as a whole. Neither of us would be here if we wanted to give up writing. But what if you gave up an idea that is holding you back? Might it free you, your writing, your creativity?

I have to finish this manuscript before I can write the next story.

What if you didn’t? What if you moved on to another story? Just tested it out. You can still come back to the old manuscript. But what if the self-imposed idea that you have to finish something before you start the next thing is preventing you from working both on the old story and on the new story? Maybe you don’t like the old thing anymore, or the story isn’t quite working and you can’t figure out how to fix it, or it reminds you of a bad time in your life, or any other reason. If you gave yourself permission to put it aside would that be so wrong?

Would that make you a quitter? Or would that make you an adult who has looked at the options and decided to go another way? Laying aside a writing project that isn’t working / that you aren’t working on might be energizing. It might even help you make your way back to that project and finish it.

This is what I’m telling myself about the trilogy I’ve been working on for several years. I indie published the first book, fully drafted the second, and mostly drafted the third. And I’m just not working on them. But I won’t let myself move on, either, because I have to finish them. It was on a walk a few days ago that I asked that scary question: What if I gave up the idea that I had to complete the trilogy before I wrote anything else?

I’m close to giving myself permission to put them aside, at least for now, so I can start the next story idea. It might take until the end of this post, but I’m working on giving up this idea.

I have to find The Best System for Writing.

It can ease the anxiety of writing to put all your trust in an expert who has a system they say always works. But when that system doesn’t work for you, or it stops working for you, or some new expert comes with a Shiny New System that throws your system into question, or the novel you wrote using The Best System is rejected, that increases your anxiety. And you think it’s your fault–either for not following The Best System well enough or because it must not be The Best System and now you have to find the real Best System.

Writing is an anxiety-producing endeavor. No system and no writing advice will help you avoid it completely. And no system or writing advice can guarantee commercial success. Not even our own beloved Don Maass’. When I was in the Writer Unboxed Breakout Novel Dissection Group, every book we read violated at least one of his characteristics of a breakout novel.

Giving up the idea that there is a Best System can set you free to pick up and run with the writing advice that gives you energy and makes your imagination churn with ideas, and set aside writing advice that stymies you. Many multi-published writers who sell well experience self-doubt and anxiety at some point in the process of every novel. Remind yourself of this when you’re tempted to put all your trust in The Best System.

My only option is to be traditionally published.

This one was mine for many years. I was seeking the approval of a publisher and trying to avoid the insecurity and steep learning curve of indie publishing. Repeated rejection wasn’t fun, but I expected it, and didn’t let it stop me from keeping on trying.

But then a friend told me a story about raccoons: they love shiny things so much that they’ll stick their paw in a jar to get a shiny thing out, not be able to get their closed fist out of the jar, but they won’t free themselves because it would mean letting go. They’ll wind up in near starvation and all they need to do is drop the shiny thing.

Traditional publishing was my shiny thing. Letting it go meant a lot of work, and learning, and decision making. But I’m glad I chose myself. I might still try to get traditionally published in the future, but for now, I’ve written four projects that are out in the world, and I’m proud of that.

What if you gave up that idea that it’s traditional publishing or bust?

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

The Final Brandon Sanderson Post

From Kristine Kathryn Ruch:

Well, Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter is one for the record books. It became the highest grossing Kickstarter about a month before his Kickstarter closed. And then it continued to make money, finally ending at $41.7 million.

Brandon himself estimates that when this is all said and done, and every one of 185,341 backers have received their books and swag, he will get roughly a high-end novel advance for each book. That’s disingenuous, though, because these orders on Kickstarter are pre-orders.

I have no idea how many of his readers didn’t want to spend money on Kickstarter or lived under a rock somewhere and somehow didn’t hear about the Kickstarter. Those folks will buy the books in a bookstore, either online or brick-and-mortar. Libraries haven’t picked up their copies yet, and to my knowledge, no foreign sales have been made yet either.

The earnings potential for these books has just started, and they technically aren’t published yet. (I dealt with that in my first post, oh so long ago, on this Kickstarter.) One more thing about the way that Brandon will earn money on these books: the publicity for this Kickstarter alone is the kind that money can’t buy. He’s been all over TV and the financial media, talking about the Kickstarter.

Of course, this has sparked a heck of a backlash, particularly from those who work or have worked in traditional publishing. Some regular readers of this blog made me laugh out loud with their private letters, telling me that Brandon won’t know what hit him at tax time and that this is actually bad news for writers because it gets their hopes up.

I dealt with a lot of the jealousy and the willful blindness in this post, but let me simply say this: Brandon knows business, and I’m sure he’s aware of the tax consequences. I’m also certain that he has advisers who will help him through the financial maze ahead of him, especially considering he’s done this before (albeit on a much smaller scale).

The jealousy, the back-biting, and the fear from traditional publishing folks was to be expected, I suppose. A lot of people don’t want to see success.

And as I predicted at the beginning of March, the bulk of the argument against (against!) this Kickstarter is that Brandon is a unicorn.

But he’s not. Any writer who wants to spend the time cultivating their fanbase can grow a huge Kickstarter. Brandon put a lot of time and effort into his. He does things that I know I could do, and over the years I have actively chosen not to. Not because I disapprove, but because I know who I am and how I work best.

That’s what writers do.

But let’s move past the pettiness and the stupidity to something much more important.

The fact that, no matter what the trad pub folk want to believe, this is a game-changer.

I’m writing this in early April. A few days ago, I read a thread on Facebook filled with my trad pub pals—some writers, some former editors, at least one publisher, and to a person they agreed that no other writer will ever have success at Kickstarter. Ever, ever, ever. It’s sad too, because (these folks said) now writers will become even more disillusioned than before.

Here’s the thing: as is often the case with traditional publishing, these folks were going with their gut and not looking at the facts.

Because as they were pontificating, writers were making more than their usual novel advances on Kickstarter.

Kevin J. Anderson made $46,000 for the next book in his Dan Shamble series. The series, which he is now doing indie, originally started in a New York house. He never made that much as an advance on any of the Dan Shamble books. Kevin was doing it for the love. And as with Brandon, the earnings have just started.

Christina F. York set a modest goal for her Christy Fifield mystery novel and as of this writing it looks like she will triple it. She was dipping a toe into Kickstarter with an already finished (but unpublished) book, and has been surprised and pleased at the response.

Over two Kickstarters, which we conduct through WMG Publishing, we’ve made $54,000 so far in 2022—at least according to the front-facing data. We made so much more, through other means that the Kickstarter (um) kickstarted.

. . . .

A quick search of the publishing category on Kickstarter, sorted for active campaigns, showed me book projects that have funded and brought in (so far) anywhere from $50,000 to $500. The bulk of these are in the $10,000 category per novel…which is, roughly, what any new writer can expect from traditional publishing these days.

Of course, if the writer goes traditional, their advance will be split into (at minimum) three payments. I also have to assume that anyone who is going traditional also has a book agent, and they’re paying that person 15%. So, instead of getting the money up front, these traditionally published writers are getting 85% split into payments scattered over a year or more.

. . . .

What it means is that he is teaching his backers to look through Kickstarter as another way to discover books.

That’s 185,000 people who now know that they can find good books on Kickstarter. Often, those people can get the books early or at a discount or both.

Not all of those 185,000 people will ever back a Kickstarter again. Some of them will only back Brandon’s Kickstarters. But there’s a goodly percentage who will now browse Kickstarter as a way to discover new books.

The fun thing about Kickstarter is that it’s a great way to gauge reader interest in a project. We did so with Fiction River ten years ago. I was sorta kinda doing it with the Fey. I was wondering if readers even remembered the books, since they had been published so long ago.

We got a great response.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Changing Genres

From Writer Unboxed:

You may know me as Greer Macallister, bestselling author of historical fiction, but lately, I’ve taken on another identity. I have a new book out (you may have heard of it) and as the author of Scorpica, my identity has shifted in two key respects: my name on the book jacket is G.R. Macallister, and it’s not historical fiction, but epic fantasy.

All in all, the genre shift has been a pleasure. I wrote something ambitious, complex, and satisfying, proving to myself I was capable of something entirely new. As to the less-pleasant aspects, I went in with my eyes open. I knew that putting out a new book in a new genre, different from the one in which I’ve established myself, would require flexibility and patience. Of course that’s what’s needed as an author in general, but the genre switch put extra pressure on both of those character traits, to say the least.

Do I regret changing genres after four books (while reserving the right to switch back at any time)? Not at all. But do I have advice for those thinking about making the switch? You bet.

If you’re an author with an established readership in one genre looking to publish in another, here are three things to watch out for:

Don’t underestimate the time that it takes. Maybe if you’re shifting between subgenres this might not be an issue, but in my case, making the move from writing historical fiction to writing epic fantasy wasn’t just about writing a different book. It was about learning to write a different kind of book, almost from the ground up. Reading up on current fantasy was a fun task to assign myself, but it was a task nonetheless — hours and hours of reading, to fit in among all the other reading I do for work and for fun. So that’s a bunch of time up front. Plus there’s…

You might need to shake up your team, which takes even more time. The agent who has sold all of my historical novels is fabulous and wonderful, but she doesn’t represent epic fantasy, and the publisher who published those books doesn’t really do adult fantasy either. Which meant it wasn’t just the writing itself that was different, but every other aspect of managing and selling this new book. My incredibly kind agent gave me the go-ahead to connect with a separate agent just for my fantasy work, and my agreements with both were written to accommodate the other, and it’s been a dream so far. But making that dream happen through querying and negotiation took an extra half-year on top of the writing work, and without extraordinary luck it could have been much worse. Other friends shifting genres have had to leave old agents and find new ones, or strike out on their own with self-publishing ventures, and both of those are even more time-consuming. And on top of that…

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Do What You Love

From David Farland:

When you choose to do what you love, you have the greatest job in the world. If you love writing, it’s worth doing.

Years ago, I had a reporter call and ask, “If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?” The only answer I had was, “I’d just keep on being a writer.” Since it was Career Day, the reporter wrote an article in which he posed that question to dozens of people. As one person chose a career, he would call someone with that job and ask what they wanted to be. So a teacher wanted to be a doctor, a doctor wanted to be an astronaut, an astronaut wanted to be a senator, and the senator wanted to be? Me.

I’ve always loved that. As an author, I’ve got the greatest job in the world.

First of all, I can write in my pajamas. I don’t have to get up in the morning and shave.

In fact, I can keep my laptop by the side of the bed and write from bed, if I want.

On my average day, I don’t have to spend an hour getting up to dress properly, nor do I have to worry about my commute.

I rarely have to concern myself with office politics, so my stress levels are low.

I get to schedule my own work hours and my own vacations. Guess what? Because I love what I do, I get up at 4:00 A.M. to start the day, and I will work as long as I like without my boss whining about how I put in too much overtime.

I can work anywhere in the world. In the past, I’ve gone to Cabo San Lucas to focus on a project. My favorite place is to write on the beach, just as the sun is coming up on a perfectly still morning. But I’ve also had good writing days in mountain cabins, in busy airports, and even while relaxing in a coffee shop.

And I make good money as a writer. When my daughter was twelve, she came home from school one day and asked tearfully, “Are you a drug dealer?” I told her no. She knew I was a writer. But she said, “Well, that’s what everyone says.” Apparently, my new neighbors felt that I had no visible means of support, that I spent too much time sun-bathing in the middle of the day (usually by 2:00 P.M. I’m ready for a break), and that I wasn’t smart enough to be a hedge-fund manager.

To be honest, I often feel bad for those poor folks who aren’t writers, folks stuck in dead-end jobs. I was on Facebook earlier and saw that one friend had been “made redundant” at his school in England, another had found himself in the same crappy job for 14 years and had never been able to get ahead, since his managers felt that his health issues kept him from being the kind of person that they could trust to be at work every day.

Several friends that I’ve known for more than thirty years wanted to be writers but took nice safe jobs with major corporations. Over the years, many of them lost those nice jobs time and time again.

So I’m feeling very grateful to be a writer today. Even when the going sometimes gets tough, I just keep doing what I love.

Link to the rest at David Farland

Here’s a link to Dave Farland’s books

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part III

From Writers in the Storm

The advice you can find about the “rules” of writing and publishing goes from one extreme to another. Some say there are no rules. Others give you a list of rules. 

Traditional Publishing

When you consider traditional publishing, remember that these big publishers are corporations and they have both public and more private rules. They call their public rules “submission guidelines.” Often those guidelines are about how to format your manuscript. 

The harder to find or see rules are those common to corporations. Certain departments handle certain things. One publisher may tolerate stories that include guns or sex scenes. The next one won’t. Often these corporations do not share internal policies such as risk tolerance or political leanings or their alignment with causes you care about. 

Even the editors you submit to have rules. They don’t call them rules, yet they have certain expectations. They expect stories to be entertaining, to progress from beginning to middle to the end. Each editor has genre expectations and life events that influence their interpretation of your story. Some editors are flexible and open to having their expectations exploded by a skillful author. Others will not be.

What can you do? Know what’s important to you. Research the publishers and editor you’d like to publish your work. Ask questions of authors, agents, editors, and librarians. Can’t do it in person? Try social media.

Don’t be so eager to be published that you sign your first contract without knowing what it means to your book and to your values. Decide which issues are a no-deal for you in advance.

Rules in Independent Publishing

You may get the impression that there are no rules in independent publishing. You’d be wrong. There are tons of rules. Amazon has a set of rules. So do Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Draft to Digital, and Ingram Spark. There are cover sizes and images they will and will not tolerate on covers. Genres they will and will not allow on their sites. Advertisers have rules, too. Those are a tiny part of the rules associated with independent publishing.

While independently published authors don’t have to contend with corporate editors, we have to please the readers of our genre. Readers have expectations and those are their “rules.” 

There are also the expectations or rules we impose upon ourselves. Sometimes, independent author-publishers impose harsh, unrealistic, unsustainable rules on themselves. 

What I Wish I Knew About the Rules Before I Published

The anonymous “they” say that you need to know the rules before you break them. I wish I’d understood the unsaid part of that advice. If you break the rules, there are consequences. Sometimes, the consequences are that the editors and readers love what you did. But if you break too many rules and expectations, you may alienate some editors and readers. Your book may not sell.

As an independent publisher, it’s up to you to understand the rules and what consequences may result if you decide to break a few.

Things I Wish I Knew About the Writer’s Life

No matter the publishing path you follow, you are a writer. A writer’s life is not as advertised. Hollywood films set up expectations that writers solve crimes or have exciting adventures. Magazines and other media hold up the rags to riches stories of fabulously successful and wealthy authors as something all writers can become. 

Hollywood vs. Real Life

While it depends on what you call adventures, few writers get much in the way of real-life adventure. Many of us do some traveling associated with our writing, but it’s rare that a writer is a successful detective or devious murderer or a terrified kidnap victim.

Most of the time, we sit at our writing device of choice and write. If we aren’t careful, we develop physical limitations because of too much sitting. Most of us self-isolate. It’s nearly impossible to get into the creative zone and socialize at the same time. 

It used to be very unlikely for a writer to earn a living. Thanks to independent publishing it is less rare today, but for every Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, there are thousands who do not earn enough to break even.  

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

Brandon’s Kickstarter

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The conversation started about 10 hours after Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter went live. That’s when the press noticed that a writer made millions in the space of a few hours—without the help of any major publishing house.

Brandon’s own fans are doing this. I’m writing this post about 3 days after the Kickstarter went live. Sometime in the last 24 hours, this Kickstarter campaign became the largest campaign ever held on Kickstarter.

It only took two days to see the panic in the company town newspaper (The New York Times):

But self-publishing on the scale Sanderson is proposing is an enormously complicated proposition. Fundamentally, most authors want to write books, not run a publishing house.

Books require editors, designers and lawyers. Someone has to register the ISBN number and file for copyright. Someone else has to proofread the manuscript, then proofread it again. Printing thousands of copies of physical books, then storing and distributing them, is expensive and onerous.

It’s as if the past 12 years hadn’t happened at all. As if there weren’t hundreds of freelance copy editors and designers. As if registering for an ISBN is hard. As if hiring a lawyer is even harder. (And really, who wants a lawyer who works for the tiny salaries paid by a publishing company? That lawyer is clearly not ambitious or maybe even a great lawyer.)

But, you see, Brandon has a company (how lucky for him!) and that’ll enable him to do this. Sigh.

Two days.

It’s long enough for the press to pick up the story, but not long enough for them to understand it. Most of them never will, just like they haven’t understood publishing for decades. (If ever.)

It’s also long enough for the stupid to have started. On Twitter, Brandon had an entire thread and it was filled with stupid.

I was going to have a Kickstarter this week, but he sucked all the air out of the room.

What? It would be a great time to run a publishing Kickstarter campaign. Readers are crawling all over Kickstarter right now.

He’s only getting this money because he’s a privileged white guy.

Um, anyone can do a Kickstarter. And while there is a great argument to be made about white privilege and traditional publishing (y’know, that thing promoted by that company paper, The New York Times), platforms like Kickstarter and the various ebook companies don’t care what anyone looks like. BIPOC have the same access that Brandon does.

Why is he so successful here?

Because Brandon has tended his fannish garden. In other words, he cultivated his fans. He has a lot of them. He has worked with them, promoting items to them and giving them free stuff for more than a decade.

Much more important than that, though, is this: his readers love his work.

You might not love Brandon’s work but think about it this way:

Take Brandon’s name off this and insert the name of your very favorite writer, the one whose books you buy no questions asked.

Then imagine that writer just told you that he’s written four books that you can get in special editions or early or in totally cool ways and not through the usual publishing channels.

You’d run, not walk, to plunk down your $40  and get four novels in 2023. Be honest. You would. (Or your teenage self would, if you’re too cool to have a favorite these days.)

Brandon has that kind of fanbase. But here’s what the press and the jealous people on Twitter are missing.

Brandon beat the record on Kickstarter in three days. (He has most of a month left to go, as I write this.) Within three days, his Kickstarter was $21.8 million. At that point, only 90,020 people had backed the Kickstarter.

Yes, I said “only.”

Because his novels have sold 20 million copies, according to that company paper, The New York Times. Of course, the Times isn’t telling us how many copies each individual novel has sold, but let’s say that Brandon has a million readers who never miss a book.

That means that only 9% of his regular readers have ponied up the money on Kickstarter.

Only 9% in three days.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Published: Part II

From Writers in the Storm:

I love being an independent author-publisher. Being in control of my business gives me a great deal of satisfaction. It also gives me a lot of responsibilities and a heck of a lot of things to know. In part one of this series, I discussed some of the big picture things I wish I knew before I published. Part II continues with big picture things.

Know Your Motivation

You are a writer. You already know how much self-discipline it takes to write a book from first idea to polished product. Applying the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair may not be a problem for you when you’re writing. That kind of motivation is a big picture motivation. But what about the other stuff that a successful author must do?

Motivation for the Traditionally Published

A traditional publishing company will create deadlines relayed to you by your editor. Revisions are due on this date, approval of copywriting is due on a different date. Motivation to complete those tasks cannot be the money or the hope of publishing fame. It takes a distinct set of self-discipline skills to finish creative tasks in a certain time frame. Your publisher may dictate other things as well. Your contract may dictate where and when you make appearances. It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel like it. It’s part of your contract. 

These situations and time-frames do not have to be negative. Many authors have very pleasant and lucrative relationships with traditional publishing. Educate yourself on what to expect. Ask authors published by that company what their experience has been like. Know what your contract obligations are. Understand yourself, your self-discipline, and your expectations. Be prepared and you won’t lack motivation.

Motivation for the Independent Author-Publisher

When you’re self-employed, no one will yell at you if you’re late to work or even skip a day. You have no boss to remind you of your deadlines. You must be self-motivated enough to glue your butt to the chair to get the work done. 

Winging it isn’t the path to success. Have a plan. Have tools ready to help you stay on track. You also will need tools to get back on track when you’re depressed or after a hurtful review or an illness. When you are self-employed, you have to be worker bee, cheerleader, and taskmaster, sometimes all at once.

What I Wish I Knew About Motivation

I do not lack motivation to write. I love the entire process, from idea creation to rough draft to editing and polishing. What I wish I knew from the beginning was that I needed a system to ensure all the other tasks get done. I also wish I’d found the motivation to learn self-promotion techniques earlier.

Link to the rest at Writers in the Storm

The Top Eight Publishing Trends For 2022

From Written Word Media:

What publishing trends will 2022 reveal? What will change for indie authors in the coming new year?

Every year at Written Word Media we analyze our own data and talk to industry experts to get an idea of what’s going on in the world of publishing, and what publishing trends authors and publishers can expect in the upcoming year. Here are our top eight publishing trends for 2022.

. . . .

Direct Sales for Authors Continue to Grow

More authors saw success with direct sales from their own websites in 2021, and we see this continuing in 2022. Bryan Cohen of the Sell More Books Show says that authors with a following could see the largest gains here.

“Many higher-end authors who are looking to expand their brand will consider the wild world of direct sales on their own website,” said Cohen. “The learning curve there is steep, but these authors will embrace the value of growing their team to help them pull off the seemingly impossible.”

Mark Leslie Lefebvre of Draft2Digital also sees direct sales growing in 2022.

“As tools and platform availability make it easier, such as plug-ins for WordPress or other sites, and as savvy authors continue to build upon their author newsletter strategies, they can drive more people to get their books direct,” said Lefebvre. As more tools, like Shopify and BookFunnel proliferate, direct sales become a more viable channel for authors.

. . . .

Book Prices Will Increase

At Written Word Media we’re big believers in discount promos or free first-in-series books, but we also see some authors increasing their set prices in 2022. An increase in price can make a discount promo even more appealing, especially a Kindle Countdown Deal where readers can see how much they are saving, and it can signal quality to readers.

Craig Martelle, best-selling author and 20 Books Vegas host says that changes in the entertainment and social landscape in 2022 will contribute to price changes. “Prices will go up. We’ve already seen that with paperbacks since paper and shipping have both increased in cost, but we’ll see it with ebooks, too,” said Martelle. “Entertainment value for discretionary income leads us back to quality over quantity. Good books will always be able to find an audience.”

In 2022 we see more authors increasing the prices of backlist titles to increase revenue and experiment with better margins.

. . . .

Bonus Trend

More authors will consider writing and publishing serializations via reading apps
This trend comes to us via Jane Friedman who thinks that more authors will experiment with new formats in 2022.

“If you have kids who read any fiction at all, they likely have read something at Webtoon, Tapas, or Wattpad,” said Friedman. “While many see online literature and webcomics as separate from the traditional publishing market, that thinking is likely to change. Webcomics companies are adapting popular novels into their format, and popular online stories are moving into print.”

While Amazon’s Kindle Vella hasn’t had the readership many authors hoped for, a slow start doesn’t mean serialization, or Kindle Vella, are dead. In fact, Friedman says that serialized storytelling is poised for continued growth and sees signals coming from international markets.

“Webtoon, Tapas, Radish, and other online reading apps have seen dramatic growth during the pandemic and operate profitably. While online and serialized literature continues to be more popular with writers in Asian markets, they also attract US authors, especially genre fiction authors, who can earn extra money from serializations and adaptations into mobile storytelling formats. Royal Road is now seen by digital-first publishers as rich territory for mining talent (like Wattpad before it), and Inkitt received millions in funding for its serialized storytelling app, Galatea,” said Friedman.

Link to the rest at Written Word Media

Art and Commerce Need Not Be at Odds

From Jane Friedman:

The apparent conflict between art and commerce is probably as old as commerce itself. Many writers tense up, glaze over, or even freak out when they think about “the business of writing.” Creative writing is, after all, creative. But here we are in a capitalist soup, love it or hate it, and you have to find your place herein. I choose to be an empowered creative, envisioning innovative ways to work within and transform the system.

So what does creativity have to do with business? A lot, it turns out. It’s just a different kind of creativity than you engage with when you write. Imagining dynamic characters, creating distant or exotic landscapes, and devising whimsical or harrowing scenarios uses another part of the brain than conjuring up a business idea or planning for your new product or service. But you are still imagining, still wondering, still dreaming.

I’ve had to remind myself of this as someone who started out as a poet. Poetry is the writing form probably most seen as antithetical to business. But as I’ve gotten older, the distinctions between creativity and business have started to soften and melt away. I am not only a poet but also, as a person who runs a private online writing school, very much a business person engaging in commerce.

. . . .

Thinking about audience gets me thinking about purpose. I ask myself, “Why am I writing this, really?” Connecting to your purpose as a writer offers another bridge between creativity and commerce. I want my writing to have impact—preferably to inspire. I want to stimulate my readers to think differently about themselves and the world. I want my words to remind them of their inherent creative genius, their innate imaginative power to manifest real change. Why are you writing? To inform, instruct, engage, encourage, motivate? Whatever your intention, if you can touch repeatedly into the heart of your desire around writing and hunker down in that love of process (yes, even when it sucks) I think you’ve struck gold, and audience blooms forth as a natural extension.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

PG asks, “Do you want people other than your parents to read what you write?”

If the answer is yes and you think there’s something unseemly about commerce, post your writing online all over the place, announcing that it’s in the public domain and you claim no rights to it and people will read it.

If that’s not what you had in mind and you want to see your writing in your cozy little local bookstore, then you’re interested to a greater or lesser extent in commerce. PG will assure you that every single author of the books you see in your cozy little bookstore is interested in commerce.

Tolstoy, Dickens, Twain, Faulkner, Hemingway and Fitzgerald were each interested in commerce. Are you a better writer than each of them?

Shakespeare was very interested in commerce and this interest rewarded him richly. One of his principal reasons for writing writing plays was to get paying customers to show up at the Globe theater. Shakespeare was part-owner of the Globe.

The Globe was a large commercial enterprise. Attendees paid one penny for standing room, two pennies for entry into a part of the theater where they could sit down on a hard bench and three pennies for a balcony with cushions to sit on and a decent view of the stage.

Additionally, The Globe had a separate entrance for the more refined members of the audience who sat in yet another balcony. Entry to this part of the Globe cost one shilling – twelve pence.

If a new play was premiering, the standard prices were doubled. Additional money was earned by the sale of food and drink by vendors walking through the crowd.

It’s estimated that Shakespeare earned 40 pounds per year from his ownership interest in the Globe. This was enough to support a gentleman’s lifestyle in London.

In addition to money he received from the Globe’s entrance fees, Shakespeare earned a fee as the author of his plays, likely 8 to 10 pounds per play.

In one more addition, Shakespeare and other authors received all of the Globe’s receipts from the second night of a new or rewritten play. Records show that the second night of Othello earned 9 pounds and sixteen shillings. A printed collection of all of Shakespeare’s plays appeared in 1623 and sold for a pound.

Shakespeare was also a professional actor and was paid additional money for his performances at the Globe, whether in his own plays or plays written by others.

In addition to performances at the Globe, Shakespeare’s plays were also performed at the royal court for a fee. Queen Elizabeth typically paid ten pounds for each performance.

Putting all of this together, Shakespeare’s annual income is estimated to to have totaled about 100 pounds per year. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of money earned by an internationally best-selling popular author in the world today. As you’ll see below, 100 pounds would buy you a very large house.

In 1597, Shakespeare repurchased his original family home in Stratford-upon-Avon (which his father had lost due to poor investments), known as New Place, for about £120 in 1597.

New Place was the largest house in the borough, and the only one with a courtyard – a significant purchase for the 33-year-old Shakespeare in 1597. There were ten hearths, which means it had between 20 and 30 rooms, plenty of space for the whole of Shakespeare’s family. Towards the back of the courtyard stood a large, late-medieval Hall, the main gathering point of the Shakespeare’s’ family life.

See much more about how Shakespeare earned his money here.

See more about Shakespeare’s house here.

Here’s a drawing of New Place:

Image from The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, which appears to include active commercial enterprises of its own.

Navigating Self Doubt

From Writer Unboxed:

Some of us run into it right from the beginning, when we first begin to put words to paper. Others are luckier and don’t encounter it until later on their journey. But either way, if you’re a writer, at some time or another you are bound to run into Self Doubt.

Self doubt hits all of us differently. It can be an uncomfortable itch between our shoulders or a paralyzing force that prevents us from getting any words down on the page. Whatever form it takes it can be, if not conquered, at least managed.

There are three distinct branches of the self-doubt tree.

Competence is about craft and skill. Do I have the writing chops to pull this story off?
Permission is about judgment and authenticity. Who do I think I am trying to tell THIS story?
Worthiness is about self worth, agency, and voice. Who do I think I am trying to tell ANY story?

Competence

Of all the causes of self doubt, competence is the most easily fixed. It’s about rolling up our sleeves, digging in, and committing the time and energy necessary to get better.

But of course, if merely proving our competency were all that was involved, no published writer would ever have self doubts and I am here to assure you that is most definitely NOT the case. Many published writers find their doubts grow stronger the further they move into their career. Their initial doubts are compounded by a sense of expectations they must meet, or new milestones or metrics they must achieve. Which brings us to head games and hard truths, essential tools in any writers’ backpack.

We’ll start with the hard truths first.

Our story will never be as sparkling and fabulous on the page as the idea of it in our heads. In the act of trying to capture it, in choosing specific actions and details, it loses some of the glorious sense of infinite potential, which is always a part of a new idea’s magic.

Knowing and accepting that helps us adjust our expectations. We won’t be writing a perfect book, but we very well might be writing a terrific book, and that’s good enough.

Another hard truth: Your journey to publication will likely take longer than you think. The industry average is 10 years. Knowing and accepting that helps us give ourselves the time and permission to improve our writing skills. With patience and persistence, all of us can improve and draw closer to mastery.

Now for the promised head game regarding competence:

When your goal is paralyzing you and filling you with debilitating self-doubt, change the goal.

Mind blowing, right? But the trick is to find a goal that feels like a challenge but doesn’t suffocate us. Instead of finishing a manuscript to find an agent or land a contract, shift the goal to finishing a manuscript. Or, finishing a manuscript that has an actual plot. Or middle. Or distinct internal and external character arcs.

Focus on nailing one or two things in this manuscript rather than having the entire forward trajectory of your career hinging on it. Try on different goals until you feel that tight knot of doubt inside you begin to ease up.

It is okay to attempt a story you can’t pull off. If you only ever train for a 5k, you will never be able to compete in a marathon. Most writers have practice manuscripts! But the thing about practice stories is, you can often do another revision. Or start over from scratch. Also? Practice stories CAN turn into break through or even break out books. (That is what happened with GRAVE MERCY.)

Be willing to produce a lot of material that won’t make the final cut. Writers don’t have so much as a block of marble or lump of clay or even paints with which to create. So recognize that your early drafts and story journaling are essentially creating the material, rather than writing the story you will be telling.

Revising is not polishing. Revising is taking the whole thing apart and putting it back together again in an entirely different way. Or starting all over again, from scratch. Be willing to do that if necessary. Over and over again.

Most of us have one or two areas that we seem to know instinctively and do well from the get go. Then there are a number of other elements that we must work at. And usually most of us have a couple of areas we are going to really struggle with. The goal is to see if you can identify which are which. But here’s an important tip—it is a better investment of your time to identify your strengths, shore those up, and play into them than it is to try and become achieve expertise in your areas of weakness.

I want to repeat that for emphasis: It is a better investment of your time to identify your strengths and play to them than it is to try and achieve mastery in every area of weakness.

If you’re an amazing plotter–lean in to that. If your characters breathe on the page, delve even deeper into them. If your use of language is so lyrical or clever or quirky that people would read your grocery list, play to that strength.

The goal should be to become competent enough in your weaknesses that they don’t detract from the overall reading experience. It is your strengths that will make your work stand out.

Link to the rest at Writer Unboxed

Research And Learning And Blogging

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I spent the morning researching things like BookTok and NFTs for writers and Substack. I was going to write about each, but you know what? I don’t want to.

Here’s the thing: I’ve been blogging now on the publishing industry—the indie publishing industry in particular (which some folks still insist on calling self-publishing)—for 12 years now. Which makes me a relic.

When I started blogging, it was something that everyone did because that was the way to attract readers to your fiction. You could make a living by writing a blog.

The rule of thumb for writer-bloggers was never write a blog longer than 500 words. Yeah, you see how that worked for me. I never write a blog that short.

But folks were making a small fortune blogging about topics not being covered by the mainstream media. Eventually, though, that niche went away or it disappeared behind a paywall like Patreon. Now that paywall includes Substack, which I am truly interested in.

Honestly, though, if I blog about it, it really isn’t fair to you all. My knowledge of Substack is an inch deep, which is an inch deeper than my knowledge of NFTs, and two inches deeper than my knowledge of BookTok. I haven’t even been to TikTok, although I’ve seen some great vids designed for TikTok.

I had planned—weeks ago—to learn all of this in depth, so that I actually could cite articles and experts and do a good analysis of the changes happening in the digital sphere.

I didn’t do any of it, I thought for lack of time. But I managed to research some other things which are important to my career and I also managed to learn some new skills that I will continue delve into. So really, lack of time isn’t the issue.

Lack of priority is.

And I realized, that’s where the blog is, as well as the end of this particular series of posts.

When I started blogging in 2009, the indie world was small and contained. I wrote about that in the previous blog. In indie publishing, rather like traditional publishing, we were all doing the exact same things, because there wasn’t much more to do.

New things came on the scene, and we all analyzed them. Sometimes we made group decisions about them (you have to try BookBub!) and sometimes we did our own thing, after a lot of analysis. But we were talking about the same programs or opportunities.

As new things proliferated by 2014 or so, those of us in the blogosphere tried to keep up. The problem was that many of those new things would disappear shortly after we researched them. I got paid $4000 by an app developer around that time so that he would design an app based on my Fey books. And then he literally disappeared. He paid me, said he started, and poof! gone as if he had never existed. (And he paid me by check, so he wasn’t trying to get my bank account information.)

Stuff like that happened all the time. And eventually, I started to tune out some of the new. It was either keep up or get my writing done. For some reason, I preferred writing.

A friend of mine who makes part of their living off online work advising people what to do with their indie publishing opted to do something different. They just interviewed everyone about every bit of new tech. My friend did not investigate the tech or even use most of it. The upshot of it was that my friend knew about the newest latest thing, but rarely used it themselves.

That put them in almost reportorial mode even though they had started off only interviewing things they recommended. And, let me say as a former journalist, the problem with reportorial mode is the one that I mentioned above. Journalists are, by definition, generalists. Their knowledge of damn near everything is only an inch deep.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.