A Poem & an Interview

Awesome 2-hour interview with Chuck Palahnuick. Must watch for all writers. The guy is amazing.

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Nuts & Bolts Indie Author Tools – The Master Book File

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If you are an indie author or self-published author your life is filled with lots of moving parts. You don’t just write books or stories, you sell them, market them, promote them, give them away, publish ebook, print, and audio versions.

You are often a one-woman show that wears all the hats. Your life and walls are littered with post-it notes, notes scribbled on envelopes, desktops, in digital files, physical files. And you are probably constantly saying, “Where did I put (fill in the blank)?”

I know I do.

At some point I had enough. I could never find anything, but less did I have anything at the ready and at my fingertips.

Until…

I created a Master Book File.

Okay, this is not my original idea. I picked it up from one of the writing gurus as I skipped merrily along the path of self-publication. Sorry, can’t remember who. If you’re out there and reading this, feel free to pipe up.

Although, my master file is fashioned after my needs as opposed to whatever the original prescribed method was.

What’s in a Master Book File?

The short answer is: anything you like. However, I will tell you what I keep in mine:

  • A separate folder for each book (I have several). This includes the most recent ebook mss, print book mss and digital files (pdf, epub & mobi); book description, keywords, and categories
  • A separate folder for book promos (for social media, including images, blurbs and buy links)
  • A separate folder for interviews and media
  • A separate folder for author bios and pics
  • A separate master folder for keywords and categories for every book/story
  • A separate folder for current book covers
  • A separate folder for email campaigns
  • A separate folder for research
  • And then several documents on various things, such as notes, future ideas, links for possible promo or marketing opportunities, etc.

I also back up this file regularly to an external hard drive because, you know, redundancy..

From disorganized to having things when I need them, at my fingertips

I’ll admit my Master Book File is not sexy – it’s not even pretty. But it saves me time. It gives me one place to put everything book related and one place to look for things. It helps me to drop a quick promo on social media or elsewhere if the need arises, and gives my brain one less thing to worry about.

If you don’t have something like this, you may want to give it a try. It’s been a lifesaver for me. And even if you aren’t a writer the idea may still be handy for you – it’s certainly basic enough to adapt to other creative/business mediums.

How about you, do you have a system for all your stuff. What is it? Does it work? Want to share it in the comments? Feel free.

Annie

Indie Spotlight on Mystery Writer C. Hope Clark

Beneath an idyllic veneer of Southern country charm, the town of Newberry hides secrets that may have led to murder.

When a local landowner’s body, with pants down, is found near Tarleton’s Tea Table Rock—a notorious rendezvous spot, federal investigator Carolina Slade senses a chance to get back into the field again. Just as she discovers what might be a nasty pattern of fraud and blackmail, her petty boss reassigns her fledgling case to her close friend and least qualified person in their office.

Forced to coach an investigation from the sidelines, Slade struggles with the twin demons of professional jealousy and unplanned pregnancy. Something is rotten in Newberry. Her personal life is spiraling out of control. She can’t protect her co-worker. And Wayne Largo complicates everything when the feds step in after it becomes clear that Slade is right.

One wrong move, and Slade may lose everything. Yet it’s practically out of her hands . . . unless she finds a way to take this case back without getting killed. Available at Amazon and other book outlets.

Finding the Balance as a Writer

I once sat on a panel with two ridiculously well-known authors – one indie and the other traditional – and the subject of commitment came around from the audience.

“What does it take?” someone asked, in other words, meaning, “How can we be like y’all?”

The literary author never really answered it other than saying read a lot, write a lot, it happens if you work hard. He taught creative writing at a university.

The six-figure indie author said she breathed her work 24/7, and from what I know of her, she does. She was incessantly hungry for achievement.

However, I never heard from either of them what made them tick outside of writing.

I have family, raise chickens and garden, adore my dachshunds, and thoroughly love a husband whom I cherish spending time with. And I told that to the room. Yeah, there was applause.

I added that any writer has to find that balance and choose how they’d love to see themselves a few years from now, on their own terms. Reality is we juggle lots of balls.

Add to that these days we’re deluged by success stories, making us feel negligent that we aren’t achieving more. What is supposed to be motivational instead plants negativity until we sense we aren’t meant to be as successful as others.

The key is to clearly define what matters most and hold up a stop-sign palm to the rest.

Live life on your terms rather than on what celebrities and experts tell us worked for them. Yet we still feel compelled to ask others how they do it. I’m often asked how I do what I do as editor of FundsforWriters, freelancer, daily social media player, blogger, speaker, and novelist. My newest release is Newberry Sin, my eighth mystery, and yes, I’m busy, but I still know how to say no….and when to say yes. The key is to focus on priorities.

Respect deadlines.

I have weekly deadlines with FundsforWriters, a newsletter that reaches 35,000 readers each and every Friday. It’s a hard commitment. In 19 years, I’ve missed two Fridays. That’s over 900 newsletter deadlines. Since FFW is a major cog in my writing machine, that deadline is key, and I make sure family and friends appreciate that. My husband knows to ask if the newsletters are out on Fridays before he makes other plans for us. Of course, if he were in an accident, he’d take priority. Otherwise, the newsletters must go out.

I usually have one or two books under contract with my publisher. Those stepping-stone dates are clearly defined on my calendar. If those deadlines are looming, I refuse all else that isn’t an emergency.

Marry your priorities.

Warren Buffett states that you must marry your priorities, and he limits those to five. He actually suggests you list your top 20 goals, then narrow them down to five . . . and avoid the other fifteen at all costs. Those five top items comprise your devoted focus. It isn’t easy and it isn’t an either/or all the time.

For instance, my five items are: my husband, my health, my family, my writing, and my nature/outdoors. Hardly a day goes by that I don’t fulfill my obligations to all five. Anything else is in my way, or I tend to them once my other obligations are met.

For instance, my house is scrubbed only when someone comes over. I go on vacation if all else is in order. And my friends and family know that my love of writing and the other four items are what make me who I am.

How to keep up with those priorities.

For me, planning takes a weekly desk calendar, a plain notebook, and, a smart phone calendar (to keep the family informed). I’ve turned down speaking engagements, conferences, parties, and weddings if they conflicted with deadlines. After all, you are married to these goals.

At the beginning of each year, and revisited often, I note benchmarks for what I hope to accomplish or items that are non-negotiable. With family, it’s birthdays. With the nature, it’s planting and harvesting time. With hubby, it’s daily dinner, our anniversary, and the hour at the gym. With my writing, it’s the deadlines. I live for deadlines, and create one if someone doesn’t create it for me, because without a date attached to a goal, it’s a vague thought that may never come to fruition.

The writing notebook is a catch-all for thoughts, brainstorming, and daily goals in greater detail than on a calendar. My calendar is a week-at-a-glance, and at the end of the year, it becomes a part of my income taxes to include travel, purchases, and yes, the deadlines.

If you miss a deadline, note it on the calendar. It’s a motivator to not miss it.

You don’t have to become a hermit.

Know what direction you are going instead of waking each day without defined purpose. Of course you have days off. Of course you build in a day of rest. But having missions and goals give more substance to your dreams. And the more organized you are, the more you accomplish, and the more efficient you become at reaching more dreams. The planning makes you seem oh so shrewd and wise.

C. Hope Clark’s latest release is Newberry Sin, the fourth in the Carolina Slade Mysteries. Hope is author of eight mysteries and founder of Funds for Writers, a website chosen by Writer’s Digest for its 101 Best Websites for Writers for 17 years. To learn more about Hope you can visit her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Review: Be the Gateway by Dan Blank

This book changed me

When I first heard about Be the Gateway I was immediately interested. I have always believed that promoting your books or artistic work should be more organic than I had seen others doing. And many of the ‘best practices’ in book promotion turned me off. It seemed too cold and distant to me. And counter intuitive to what we’re all trying to do, which is share our art with the world.

And yet this book is so hard to describe. It’s part philosophy, part advice, part brain-stormer. The basic concept is that when you make connections with individuals, one on one, and one by one (rather than some nebulous generality known as audience) that you will bring people through the gateway of your artistic work. And that generosity, empathy, and real connections trump all.

Frankly, I agree.

Dan has many steps that he suggests you take in achieving this and frankly there were times in reading them, I was completely overwhelmed just wondering how I would do these things. But I kept reading feeling that if I got one or two things that I could do to get my work into the hands of those it was meant for, that it would be worth it.  I’m glad I did.

Something wonderfully strange happened as I kept reading the book. New opportunities just magically appeared. New peers, colleagues, friendships – so many things. Very subtle in some ways and very big in others. It was almost like magic. Then it dawned on me that those opportunities were actually always there – but until I read Dan’s book I didn’t see them. And I realized that I had slowly shifted my view from what it was before to Dan’s gateway view, without even realizing it.

I honestly don’t know if I could possibly do everything that he suggests in the book but I do know that I understand more about myself, my artistic work, and those I want to share it with so much more than I did before the book.

I know there are bagillions of books telling us the best way to promote (and I think I’ve read about a million of them) our work – but I think you would be changed in a good way if you read this book. I highly recommend it, if only to find a deeper connection with yourself and your work.

Annie

 

 

From conquering fear to business models that don’t react – best reads of the week

It’s been a while since I’ve done a link post – and I think I want to get that back in on this blog. The holidays and general craziness is over for now, so time to get back to basics. Following are some super reads that I wanted to share.

Overcoming Fear by Jo Eberhardt. This has to be one of the best things I’ve ever read on overcoming our own doubts about ourselves. I actually cried as I read this heartfelt and often funny story. Do yourself a favor and read it – it will make your day, put a little bounce in your step and lift your head just a little higher.

THE E-PUBLISHING REVOLUTION IS DEFINITELY NOT OVER (Regardless of what you’ve heard)
Literary Agent Laurie McLean, is pretty sure the ePub revolution is not over and that Indies still have some serious say in the world of books.

75 New Year’s Resolutions for Writers. Yup that’s right WiseInk has 75 resolutions from which to choose that you could conquer this year. I have to admit, there were quite a few I think I’m going for.

9 Ways To Make Your Author Resource Box Sizzle by Publicist Joan Stewart. You know she has some great examples of the mini bios that authors can do for various platforms. Some of them really quite good.

Business Musings: The Reactive Business Model by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. It’s a long read and there was a lot of ‘back story’ to get to the point but when she gets there, it’s worth the trip. And I couldn’t agree more with her.

As a little bit of further inspiration, I tossed in this trailer for a movie called, “Joy,” which I just saw this afternoon. If you are someone with a dream, I highly recommend the film. One of the most inspirational stories I’ve seen in a long time.

Have a great week.

Annie

NaNo Report – Week Two

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So, Chuck Wendig did a quick little post, asking everybody who was participatingin NaNo to give him a status update.

Turns out, I liked his questions, so I thought I’d answer them here:

How are you doing?
I’m doing okay. I had a little chat with one of my writing buddies and it was fun because I was able to help her just by being a sounding board. I love that writerly connection.

How has it (NaNo) been for you?
Honestly, it’s different than what I expected. I had visions of hooking up with a bunch of new writer buds and cheering each other on – and then of course talking shop. But really, aside from my chat as mentioned above. Not very much socializing going on.
I did attempt to participate in a virtual write in. But for some reason I had to open a YouTube account in order to participate in the chat, which I didn’t feel like doing. And the live stream was cute – the two young men who were conducting the write in (which as it turns out is just a series of timed prompts, designed I tink, to get your creative juices going) certainly were having fun. But after about 20 minutes I gave up and went back to the book to write.

How is the book?
The book is actually going much better than I expected. I have somehow managed to overlook the ugly prose, sketchy descriptions and conflicting plot points, in order to surge forward. Knowing that I will tend to all those things on the next run-through.
I did hit a snag for a couple of days where it seemed that every word was an absolute effort. But then I just decided to let the characters go where they wanted and I ended up with a plot twist I totally did not see coming and really like a lot.

Also, character relationships are developing in unexpected ways, which I am pleasantly surprised about as well.

How and what is your process?
My process is essentially to do my best to get at least 2,000 words a day. Not always easy if the plot is sluggish or I have freelance work to do. But I have managed to average that or more every day so far. I’m a pantster who outlines vaguely. Meaning I know the broad strokes of the story and how it will resolve as well as the subplot resolutions. But I don’t plan out how the characters will get there. In fact in Book One, my MC (Lottie Stark) suddenly has her dad visiting. A character I never dreamed of until he just appeared. I try to write first thing in the morning if possible. But also have high energy in the mid-afternoon and try to get in time then as well. If things get sticky. I take a break, do something else, read, work on a freelance gig, fool around on social media, then go back to it. Or I do research germane to the story. I found a cool book on Police Procedure, which I’ve been reading and it’s been quite helpful and oddly has shown me that I knew more about police procedure than I thought I knew – which was zero. But mostly, my process is just to write and to trust myself and my characters. Not sexy but it does the job.

If this is your first time doing NaNoWriMo, how do you find it?
This is not my first time doing NaNo. However, my previous attempt at NaNo lasted perhaps 3 or 4 days. So maybe in essence I am a newbie at this. I am finding it helpful. I do get a little thrill when I update my word count. Even though nobody else notices. It still makes me proud of my accomplishment. And they have this cool little dashboard where you can see your stats and how far you have to go. So, it’s a fun nerdy writerly thing.

Today I hit the 40K mark. According to NaNo I am 80% done. But to complete a full first draft I’m more like 50-60% done. Still, I think I might actually finish the full draft by the end of the month.

Parting thought: It is funny that if you just decide that you’re going to do something. That you just are. That you can. And that is probably the coolest thing about NaNo for me. I just decided I was doing it – no matter what – and I’ll be damned – I am. Yay for discipline.

Hope you’re all having a great week.

Annie

Authors earning below poverty line – truth or an attempt to knock out the competition?

 

Will write for food

I saw this article posted by another writer in my Facebook feed yesterday. The title was compelling enough for me to click through to read the article. The article is short and you can read it for the specifics but the long and short of it is that writers are earning below the poverty level. Based on their survey. Which was conducted within their own membership and consisted of only 1400 participants.

Personally, I don’t put much stock in the results of this survey because:

  • Given how many authors exist in this country alone 1400 participants is a very low sample
  • They only surveyed their group members (it would be more accurate to say that within their own group, authors are earning below the poverty line, but that doesn’t make the news, does it?)
  • We have to blindly accept that the data given by participants was true (not everybody tells the truth and particularly about finance).
  • It seems to reinforce their position that Amazon (or some other villain) is causing writers to earn poorly.
  • We do not have the raw data. Who did they ask? What career stage are the participants in? Beginning, end, middle? What were the questions? How were the questions couched? All of these things are important factors to consider
  • How many indie authors participated? (there are thousands and I’m sure many of them would have been happy to add their data to the mix.)

Ironically, the Author’s Guild is involved in attempting to sue Amazon for anti-trust, claiming that their business practices are somehow oppressing writers or their ability to earn income. Since Amazon created the Kindle and the digital book revolution by offering writers of all stripes a level playing field the suit seems laughable. What other company has enabled so many writers to make a viable living? I’m not aware of any, but if you know, please advise.

This page from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the U.S. government paints a very different picture. Something tells me the U.S. government probably has access to much more data, and a wider cross section of writers, than one writers group.

To me, this type of article serves only one purpose – to discourage authors. The message is, “you won’t make money so don’t bother.” And perhaps that would be good for a group who might want to knock out some of the competition. In fact, lately it seems I’ve seen several authors forward this type of information, which seems counter intuitive to me. If they agree with this then why are they bothering to write books and trying to sell/market them?

Perhaps I am naive or too optimistic but I believe that in large part you create your own destiny and outcome. Even if the above survey results were/are true it doesn’t mean that you can’t succeed, nor does it mean you should stop trying to succeed. And I think as writers/authors we should be encouraging one another not trying to discourage each other. Hey, I know that writing is a tough gig but so what? Does that mean I should just pack up my laptop and go sell shoes? I don’t think so.

What do you think? Does this type of article affect you? Does it discourage you or make you want to work harder? As authors, do you think we should focus more on encouraging each other? Feel free to tell us your views in the comments.

What to expect when you self publish

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Self publishing is a new thing to me. Very new. But I have to say even in a few days I’ve learned a lot. I humbly pass what I’ve learned onto you:

Things will go wrong. For example when I sent the check to the formatters to have my files converted to digital files, little did I know that Florida would have a week of heavy rain, flooding and delayed mail delivery. It set my schedule back nearly a week.

You’ll learn what sleep deprivation really means. I haven’t slept in two weeks. My dog is afraid of my cat hides and me whenever she sees me coming. Although the hallucinations are interesting and might make for some good inspiration for a horror story somewhere down the line.

You’ll have energy you don’t know what to do with. All the hype all the anticipation all the worry, excitement, and jitters do not go away after you press publish. Actually, it is set free and you’ll find yourself wandering around thinking you have something to do when you don’t. Everything you attempt to do will go unfinished and your attention span will have reduced to that of a gnat.

Your expectations won’t be met. You’ve told yourself you won’t expect anything. You’ll publish and see what happens. But you do expect things. No matter how hard you try to act casual, you won’t be feeling it. You’ll wonder why your aunt Myrna didn’t buy a copy of the book. Why everyone you ever met hasn’t called or sent you a congrats email, why everybody else is going about their business as though nothing has happened.

You’ll have yet another thing to obsess about. Yup, just what you need. A new obsession. That shiny object is known as the Amazon author dashboard. In real time, you can watch your sales and page reads change. Or not. Or not fast enough. You’ll tell yourself that you’ll only check it twice a day – first thing in the morning and last thing at night. But you’ll check it every hour. Every half hour. Every five minutes. It’s too cool not to be obsessed by it. It’s the magic of technology.

You’ll want to cry – if you’re a guy, you may want to punch something. You won’t necessarily know why you want to cry. And you’ll resist it. You’ll try to reason with yourself. Convince yourself there is nothing to cry about. That everything is going fine. But it won’t matter because all that stress, worry, anticipation will have you hopping around like a Mexican jumping bean. Let yourself. Cry. Cry it all out. Or punch something – not a human of course, but walls can be repaired, punching bags are made for such things. You’ll feel a bit better afterward. Really, you will.

You’ll feel like you should be doing something but you won’t know what it is. Leading up to publishing you’ve had a list and you proudly checked off each item as you accomplished it. Now, you don’t know what to do. Should you keep tweeting and face booking your carefully constructed promos banner one more time? Should you do the laundry that has been piling up for a month? Should you try to get your cat out from under the bed. Chances are you’ll just check your sales dashboard again and alternate that with playing online solitaire or mahjong..

You’ll think of details you should’ve added to the books, or edited out or changed. You may even be tempted to take the book down and do another round of edits before re-publishing. Your mind is a cesspool of shoulda, woulda, coulda.

How to get some perspective

Okay so this completely new world of self-publishing is exciting but now that you’ve done it, clearly you’ve got a case of the crazies. And if you don’t get hold of yourself, you may end up

It’s understandable. You’ve spent months maybe even years preparing for this and now that’s it has happened you don’t know what to do with yourself. The following may help:

Tear yourself away from all of it. Yup. Go to the beach, go hiking, check into a motel in the mountains for a couple of days. Unplug. Leave your devices at home, or at least locked in your trunk – and forget about all of it for a little while. You may go through a little withdrawal, but after a few hours, you’ll feel better.

Stop stalking your friends and relatives with helpful suggestions on how they can buy your book. Chances are, most of them probably will – eventually. But people resist being told what to do. If you leave them to their own devices, they’ll come around. And some of them won’t. And you have to be okay with that. Though this is a milestone in your life, it’s just one more detail that buzzes by them in a blur.

Come up with a plan. After you’ve gotten some sleep, some space and some decent food, sit down and come up with a rational plan on how you will promote your book (if you haven’t already). Even if you had a plan before publishing, now that you’ve had a taste of the reality, you may need to tweak it. If you simply don’t know what to do spend some time on blogs of those who have blazed the trail already: Anne R. Allen, Hugh Howey, Chuck Wendig and Joe Konrath all have great blogs filled with useful advice for self publishers.

Start your next book. This may sound crazy. You’ve just spent months, maybe years writing the book you just published and I’m suggesting you start your next one? Yup. That’s right. If you are in this for the long haul, the next book should be foremost on your mind. When readers discover you and like your work, they’ll want more. Be ready for them. It’ll also give you something to focus on and pour all that crazy random energy into and likely be a calming influence in your life.

Keep notes. After you publish, keep a log of all the promo actions you do – large and small. Because I guarantee if you see a spike in sales, you’ll want to know what caused it. If you have a record of the actions you’ve taken, you’ll be much more able to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Above all else, don’t become discouraged. Nothing happens overnight. Even though it may appear to be that way. It just isn’t true. There may always be the exception to the rule, but chances are you won’t be that exception. Chances are you are going to have to work hard, go through a lot of trial and error, fail and succeed continually to get to that sweet spot. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t good, that your books aren’t good, that people don’t want to read them. It just means there is a learning and experience curve. Slow and steady wins the race, or something like that.

Be proud of yourself. You did it. You had the courage and persistence to write that book, polish that book and publish that book. Of the millions of people who ‘want’ to write a book, you are one of the few who did. Be proud. That is an accomplishment. Now go write the next one.

Annie

Chuck Wendig Wants to Know Why I Write

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(Rather than his typical fiction challenge, Chuck has asked us to write an essay on why we write)

Why do I write?

I don’t think anyone truly knows why they write. They may know the catalyst – the event that started them on the path to writing. Or perhaps the teacher, parent or friend who inspired and encouraged them. But the honest to God why?

Whenever that question has been posed to me my answer is simple: “Because I must.” Why must I? Got me. Is it to relieve the pressure of all the voices, characters and ideas in my head? Is it just the simple joy of words and finding ways of putting them together in just the right way? Or is it that I simply can’t keep my mouth shut – can I just not say what’s rumbling around up there between my ears? Could be. Or perhaps it’s genetic. Scientists keep finding that many things people do are actually genetic – so perhaps writing is something that my DNA code is predisposed toward and I am simply compelled to write through no self determined thought of my own.

Why I love to write

It would be easier to tell you why I love to write. I love to venture into my own mind where the only boundaries are the ones that I enforce. Where the rules are mine and no one else’s. Where I can create any kind of alter ego and adventure I want without risk of bodily harm. Because words create a kind of music in my head, a tune I can’t stop humming and truth be told I don’t want to stop humming. Because it makes me feel alive. It makes me feel like me, who I am, who I really am. Because everything is a story of sorts and I find stories infinitely interesting and intriguing and challenging. And too because I like to please people. I like to make them laugh. I like to make them think and feel and experience things that they wouldn’t otherwise feel in the real world. And stories are the things that connect us all.

So…why do I write? For no reason and for every reason.

What about you? Do you write? Do you know why? What does writing do for you? What do you want your writing to do for others? Entertain, intrigue, interest, think, something else? Feel free to give your reasons in the comments.

WC