Here’s something new that I have realized by stepping back, and it might seem counter-intuitive for others out there hoping to make it as fledgling authors. Before I start, I can’t take total credit for this concept since I heard another author voice this idea first – one who is more prolific and has published more than me and whose identity escapes me. He (I’m fairly certain that I at least have the gender correct) was discussing something else entirely but I realized it applied to my wanting to do all the things, so I stole the idea (as all great writers do) and twisted it to my own to share here. It is one part strategy and one part prioritization.
Here’s some background. I live in Utah, home to the likes of Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Shannon Hales, Larry Correia – all NYT Bestselling Authors that most folks have heard of even outside of Utah. Add to that, a massive amount of mid-level authors who are talented enough to make a living as a writer without the need to have an additional day job that pays the bills. Utah is also home to a multitude of writing conferences and other related events like Salt Lake Comic Con, Life the Universe and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium, StoryMakers, League of Utah Writers, and Teen Author Bootcamp to name some of the big ones. This mecca of writing talent and opportunity means there are a LOT of events happening from single day workshops to free writing classes and author events through the public library system.
This is both good and bad. Let’s break them down for both those who attend and those who appear at these events.
Arguably, there is far more good if you’re a writer who wants to learn or improve your craft.
- Opportunities to learn – every weekend there’s an event where you can learn new skills or improve the ones you already have. This is not an exaggeration. Every. Single. Weekend. Especially in the spring – what others have referred to as “con season” – because there’s a conference or convention locally and regionally back to back for months starting in February and lasting all the way through into Summer.
- Money – face it, there is a downside financially when paying to attend all the things that are available. It’s the only con I could find… initially.
I’m sure most authors will disagree with what I’m about to say so bear with me while I defend my arguments.
- Opportunity to connect with readers. There’s really only one sure-fire way to make it big – write a story that people read and talk about with their friends who then also read it. They tell their friends and then everyone is reading your book. No one would argue with that. With today’s market, it is increasingly hard to get noticed amid all the new books released every day so connecting to readers directly through events and conferences is a great opportunity.
- Opportunity to connect with other authors. Networking which fuels the old adage “It’s not what you know but who you know” is no different in the publishing industry than any other. The more connections you can make to other authors who can introduce you to agents or who are willing to blurb your book, the better your network grows. Conferences every weekend is a great way to meet and solidify relationships.
- Money – unless you’ve hit it big enough to be invited and paid for your appearance at a conference or convention, you’re looking at a lot of time and money to appear at conferences.
- Over-saturation. Here’s where it gets controversial.
Make too many appearances and you become just another face in the crowd of “s/he’s always here” and people stop listening and stop caring. They start taking your presence for granted. What if you haven’t published a new book since the last conference you appeared at (whether it’s last year or last month)? If you aren’t talking about a brand new release in the last couple of months or have something brand new coming out right away, and people see you on panels and giving presentations over and over again… you aren’t going to leave an impression that you’re someone to watch.
What if you’re a mid-list author who has several successful books and name recognition? You want people to seek you out, thus limit your appearances. Why? Because then there is huge buzz about the fact that you’ll be there at the events you choose to attend and people will miss you in your absence at the ones you aren’t attending. Take Brandon Sanderson – he teaches at BYU where LTUE (Life, The Universe, and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium) started over thirty years ago. He also lives in the same city where the event is held. It would be SUPER easy for him to arrange to be there every year but he doesn’t. Instead he is there every few years and it is a special treat when it happens.
I propose that as an aspiring author, it behooves you to limit the appearances you make and be selective of the events you do. I know some will argue that you should say ‘Yes’ to every appearance once you become published and once you have more than one book to sell. But I hold true to the idea that writing a book that others will talk about is the best way to get name recognition and increase sales. So instead of spending so much time (and money!) attending conferences and seeking to make author appearances, spend that time writing the next book. Or polishing the one you just finished so it’s the best it can be before it hits the market. The career you better might just be your own.
1 Comment | tags: business of writing, strategy | posted in Appearances, Writing
My latest contract pays royalties. Pays. Royalties. My first publication had all proceeds being donated so I didn’t have to worry about accounting for money coming in, or all the other intimidating things I’ve been ignoring. Like paying taxes. But now the game has changed again. It’s time to get legitimate beyond a website address and some business cards. A step that felt enormous last year when I took it.
Now I need a business license and a business account. At least I think that’s what I need. In truth, I’m guessing on that. I know I need to figure out how to file taxes as an author before I have income as one next year. It’s amazing the things I didn’t know that I didn’t know until I got here… Time to consult the professionals who can tell me how to navigate through this uncharted territory.
I can’t wait to see what next year brings!
Leave a comment | tags: business of writing, Live the life you love, next steps | posted in Looking Ahead, Publishing, Writing
The arrow of the mouse pointer hovering over the ‘Send’ button. The email meticulously crafted, submission guidelines checked and double-checked. Once sent, it cannot be undone. Will they love it? Will they hate it? Is it good enough? Will anyone else love it like I do? Will anyone besides my husband and my writing group ever read it?
All of these thoughts swirled through my mind as I clicked ‘Send’ tonight on my most recent submission. Now I wait… hoping for quick news about the fate of my latest story. It is par for the course in the life of an author – but also that of any writer who puts themselves and their work out there for consumption. Whether it be the first time or the hundredth time, waiting for acceptance and fearing the rejection–rejection that is statistically more likely–is perhaps the hardest part of this publishing endeavor.
- © Rolffimages | Dreamstime Stock Photos
For the moment, I’m trying not to stress and starting another project. May the universe and the submission editors smile on the latest slice of my soul that I just sent out into the world.
1 Comment | tags: business of writing, fear, Publishing, submission | posted in Publishing, Writing
I’ve gotten good at living in the moment and appreciating every day as if it might be my last, each milestone a cause for pause and celebration no matter how small. I turned another year older in January which marks the third birthday that almost wasn’t. What a year it’s been on so many fronts.
Being published brings a new level of insanity I had no idea awaited me. Promoting a book is more demanding work than creating the story in the first place. The editing process was a whirlwind and consumed most of the holidays. Now we are neck deep in blog tours and article writing and cross promoting and networking and planning the unofficial release party at LTUE next week. I did more writing in January than any January on record but the majority of production was NOT on my current novel. How to keep up with everything and still continue to produce the next book has become the latest thing I need to learn. Regardless, I wouldn’t trade the experience and the thrill for anything. I have an author page on Amazon. Seriously. Amazon. I still wake up sometimes and forget it is real. I’m published.
This year also brought me a new association of authors and thrust me into the non-profit world. It is an amazing group and my closest friends from my writing group are part of it. Bonus! The group happened to put together a lunch on my birthday. But, I have a demanding day job so I couldn’t make a Wednesday lunch work. I was sad, but that’s life and the day job pays for it so what can you do? Unexpectedly, my calendar opened up and I had the afternoon free so I took it off to celebrate my birthday. It was the perfect lunch full of tiaras, signing each others books, group photos, selfies and raucous conversation certain to make fellow diners uncomfortable. “How many does he have?” “Did she leave him?” “I had to kill her off last night.” I’m certain the fifteen of us all talking over one another was like a tornado in an otherwise subdued setting. We hadn’t all been together since before the holidays and it was a loud reunion. It was the perfect start to my birthday. I sat there in the midst of award winning authors, successful editors, non-profit founders, a lawyer and just plain powerful writers all brought together because of our love of writing. I marvel that they had become my people. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
I came home to my new business cards in the mail. I’m official! Everything is moving at the speed of light careening me deeper into this life of my dreams. It still feels surreal. If this birthday had been stolen from me back in 2011, none of this would have happened.
For my birthday I got a sparkly “Birthday Girl” tiara from one of my friends. It started with a mention and snowballed into a new thing we do. Writing fueled by a tiara on your head. All the most bad-ass chick writers I know are doing it. Enough of us we’ve formed a collective. I may or may not have more than one. I’ll never tell! Maybe this is the key to figuring out how to promote and create at the same time. (How did I ever write in solitude before?)
The best and most freeing part of this birthday that almost never was is owning the new number proudly. I am forty-three. Something about being faced with the real possibility of never seeing the number get bigger than thirty-nine makes it much more of a celebration to see forty-three. It is liberating not giving a shit what the number is. So many people cringe at the thought of disclosing their true age. I say own it – the alternative to that number getting bigger as we get older is far, far worse. I know FORTY THREE never felt better. I’m loving every minute of this stolen year I am grateful to be celebrating. Here’s to many more to come!
Leave a comment | tags: appreciating life, birthdays, business of writing, friends, goals, Publishing, tiaras, writing | posted in Events, Everyday Life, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing
There are only so many hours in every day, no matter how effective you are at using them wisely. I’m not sure whether it was a funk I was in over the holidays while I grieved celebrating without my mom, or a mild case of burnout. More than likely a tad bit of both. I spent the last week making a conscious effort to get myself refocused. For the first time, I wrote down writing goals for the year. Measurable ones with dates and everything. Which someone said makes them far more concrete. I’m not really a written goal kind of girl but yearly goals are part of my corporate job which shapes my efforts over the course of the year. It was not surprising to find myself in the same kind of mind-set thinking about my writing. I have taken my hobby to a professional level and it just flowed naturally to set yearly targets for productivity.
I have some lofty goals for 2015: two novels and several short stories by the end of the year.
The reality is, if I want to achieve these goals I am going to have to step things up even further this year. I’m going to have to start saying ‘No’ to things… I’ve been involved in creating a new non-profit organization the past few months and it took a lot of time. Time I could have been writing. (No surprise that I’m also on the pro tempore Board of same, right?) But it was because of my involvement with that group that my first story will be published so I have to believe it was worth it. I’ve been trying to juggle so many things that some of the balls I’ve got in the air are bound to fall on the ground, try as I might to catch them. Gone are the days where I could say yes to everything that I spontaneously thought sounded fun and then find a way to work out all the details. Now, it’s called prioritizing and I have to do it before the fact. Instead of lamenting, I’m thinking how great it is to have these business-related problems. It means I’m a professional which will help in getting to the next level. A level I can’t fathom at this point but which I welcome nonetheless.
I’m working on a new ITIL certification at my corporate job called Service Strategy (it’s an IT thing, it’s okay if you don’t know the reference, google will). One of the principles I thought fitting for my current situation is: ‘Strategy is deciding what not to do’. Basically putting what your business plans to do in perspective of what you have time, money and resources for, and what you don’t. I never thought I’d be using my corporate job skills in my writing career but here I am, doing exactly that. Hours of time to allot for writing is the most precious of commodities right now for me. I can either use them for writing or networking or marketing or creating new and exciting ventures that benefit the community and advocate literacy. But I won’t have the time to devote to each of them that I want. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and I won’t need the corporate job anymore. I find myself day dreaming about how much I could get done at work if my only job was my writing. But I can’t dwell on things as unlikely as wining the lottery.
As a result of my introspection, you won’t see me at FanX, probably not at ComicCon either. Plus, I’m being selective on which writing conferences I attend this year. Because that gives me three more weekends to devote to marathon writing sessions where I practice the craft that helps me excel in my business. Truth is: without my craft, there is no business. If I’m not writing and producing products intended for consumers, all the rest of my networking and marketing efforts will be fruitless in the end.
Now, more than ever, if you need me I’ll be writing. I’ll sure miss watching football, since I’ve already given up the rest of television. Perhaps I should buy stock in a coffee supplier just for safe measure? I will certainly need my share of caffeine in the coming months while I watch 2015 unfold. Stick around, there’s always hindsight when we can’t have a crystal ball!
Leave a comment | tags: business of writing, goals, writing | posted in Everyday Life, Goals, Looking Ahead, Overachiever, Writing, Writing Conferences