Writing for Love Or Money?

coins-948603_1920“Writing is like prostitution. First you do it for the love of it, then you do it for a few friends, and finally you do it for money.”  —Moliere

Recently, I’ve been struggling with this idea of writing for money. Moliere suggests writers are prostituting themselves if they write for money. But what of doctors or lawyers? Doctors charge patients for treating them, and lawyers do the same for advocating, things they’re trained and skilled to do? I’m sure Moliere had complex reasons for thinking this way about selling one’s writing, many connected to his era, economics, and his philosophy on life.

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My Dance with Book Publicity

announce-3192838_1920I started this blog for readers and writers because I wanted to share my experiences of wading through the publishing morass, hoping others can learn from them. Most of the time, I try not to rant, but today’s post contains a little bluster and perhaps enlightenment for those who are new to promoting their books.

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Writing as an Affliction

home-office-336378_1920 (1)I was pumping hard on the exercise bike at the gym while having a conversation with the fellow riding next to me. We had introduced ourselves and exchanged backgrounds. He had just learned that I’m a published writer and was intrigued by the idea, congratulating me on the recent release of my second published novel Curva Peligrosa. I surprised myself by laughing dryly and calling writing an affliction.

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No, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

Before I committed myself to writing and became part of that world, I had no idea what was involved in constructing a novel. I assumed the narrative flowed easily from the writer’s pen to paper (and in those days, a lot of writing was done with a pen or pencil, though typewriters also were used). The finished product looked so pristine that I couldn’t imagine it ever being anything but perfect. Not only did narratives read as if they had come fully formed from Zeus himself, but they also were error free.

Ha Ha Ha!

Now that I have another novel almost ready to find its place on bookshelves everywhere, I have a more realistic picture of what’s involved, and it’s a great illustration of publishing sleight of hand. What appears easy to a reader is anything but for the writer and her editors.

santa-31665_1280If you are the kind of person who continued believing in Santa Claus after your parents said he didn’t exist, you may not want to read on. I hate to disillusion anyone! But the only thing magical about creating fiction is what takes place between pen and paper—the imagination. Without it, our work would languish. Otherwise, the process is messy and, largely, trial and error.

For Curva Peligrosa, my novel that will be published this summer, I spent many years learning about my characters as they revealed themselves to me and discovering their stories. I’m not the kind of writer who outlines a plot in advance and then proceeds to write. Some can do this successfully, and maybe it’s not as chaotic. I can’t. I like surprises as a reader and as a writer. Planning in advance would eliminate much of the fun for me of inventing the novel’s world.

Once I discovered Curva’s center of gravity, I was able to get close enough to its finished form that I could ask fellow writers to read and comment on its chapters, giving me a sense of what was working and what wasn’t. When I felt I had a complete draft, I asked a trusted published colleague to critique it. Her feedback started me off on numerous rounds of revisions (we’re talking about over 300 double-spaced pages!) that included two professional editors I hired before I submitted the manuscript to Regal House Publishing and the publisher sent me a contract.

But that was only the beginning of several more rounds of content revising and close line editing. I’ve recently gone through yet another proofreading of the text, and I’ll need to go through it again after my publisher has also reviewed the manuscript.

I don’t mean to discourage any beginning writers, but you should have a realistic picture of what’s involved in giving birth to a novel, especially if you have literary ambitions and aren’t just writing pot-boilers. No, Virginia, there isn’t a Santa Claus, but writing a well-constructed novel can be even better.

Writers Versus Artist: Is There a Difference?

I’ve been thinking more about my reaction to some writers. One can be a writer…anyone can be a writer in the sense of putting sentences together that form longer narratives…but not everyone is an artist. That’s the distinction I want to make between the work some people are publishing whether the book is self-published or travels the traditional route via a publisher, small or large.

But why is being an artist different and does it matter? Art should cause us to see others, the world, and ourselves differently. When it’s functioning best, it shakes our usual way of thinking/perceiving and connects us to something deeper. Transcends the everyday. If I’m just writing purely autobiographical material that’s barely disguised as fiction and not inventing as well, I’m not opening the door for something new to enter. Instead, I’m reiterating what I already know and passing it off as art—regurgitating. That isn’t to say that memoir/autobiography can’t be artful. It can. So can novels that have autobiographical elements. But, again, it’s how it’s written—the literary techniques and imagination the writer has at his/her disposal that transforms the raw material into artistic expression.

I realize I’m creating a hierarchy here, but I do think the best writers are priests/priestesses in their own way, offering Slide1through the word, through their words, through our universal language, a vision of something else. For me it’s equivalent to viewing our surroundings from a ground floor window versus climbing to the highest level and seeing how much more there is to know about. A writer who isn’t an artist seems to be stuck with that ground floor view. A writer who is an artist has much more scope in his/her work. He/she is able to transform his/her material, and that’s where the artistry comes in. Transformation is at the basis of many religions, and I think it’s also the basis of art: transmuting base metal into gold as the alchemists attempted to do. Taking the letters that make up our words and giving them magical powers to shape our thinking and seeing.

Calling All Writers!

Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book by Nina Amir – Mini Review Tour & Giveaway Contest!47FD9726-306D-4C44-88BC-5212961DAD20

Writers rarely are able to support themselves on their book sales alone. Therefore, they need to find other sources of support. Nina Amir, who wrote Authorpreneur, believes that writers need to become skilled recyclers of their published material, whether fiction or non-fiction, so they can supplement their earnings doing something they love: writing.

Most writers are already familiar with on-line marketing and technology. They have had to become acquainted with these tools in order to sell their books. But their skills don’t need to end there. Nor does their income need to depend only on book publishing.

As Amir says, “If you want to support yourself as an author, write a book for the purpose of making money from related products and services. Write a book because you want to build a business around your book. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, consider how to turn your book into a business.” This requires thinking like an entrepreneur.

If you want to discover how to extend the reach of your published books, read Authorpreneur. In it, Amir outlines the many ways to exploit one’s knowledge through a variety of activities.

Another one of Nina’s ebooks, The Nonfiction Book Proposal Demystified, will be on a mini tour during the month of March. Don’t miss the launch on the Muffin on March 4.

Click on this link to win a copy of Authorpreneur:

<a class=”rcptr” href=”http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4221b3a8123/” rel=”nofollow” data-raflid=”4221b3a8123″ data-theme=”classic” data-template=”” id=”rcwidget_8wjabh79″>a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ebook: 85 pages

Publisher: Pure Spirit Creations (October 22, 2014)
ASIN: B00OT67PPO
Twitter hashtag: #NinaAmir

Authorpreneur: How to Build a Business Around Your Book  is available as an ebook at Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Authorpreneur-Build-Business-around-Your-ebook/dp/B00OT67PPO) and Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/487071)

About the author:

F1C166D2-F5F0-418D-BE78-71C292D63CF7

Nina Amir, author of How to Blog a Book, The Author Training Manual, and 10 Days and 10 Ways to Return to Your Best Self, transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs as an Inspiration to Creation Coach. She moves her clients from ideas to finished books as well as to careers as authors by helping them combine their passion and purpose so they create products that positively and meaningfully impact the world. She writes four blogs, self-published 12 books and founded National Nonfiction Writing Month, aka the Write Nonfiction in November Challenge.

Amir holds a BA in magazine journalism with a concentration in psychology, has edited or written for more than 45 publications producing hundreds of articles, and has had her work published in five anthologies. She has self-published nine short books, including the popular workbook How to Evaluate Your Book for Success and 10 Days and 10 Ways to Return to Your Best Self. She is the former writing and publishing expert on the popular radio show, Dresser After Dark, hosted by Michael Ray Dresser, which has approximately 80,000 listeners per month. Amir also speaks and writes about self-empowerment, human potential, and practical spirituality.

 

 

 

 

 

Go for the Gold and Hire a Publicist!

Since my novel Fling will be published in July of this year, I’ve been feverishly (and I DO mean feverishly) learning how to market the book. Its success will determine whether my other novels (three more) will also find their readers.

I have read from cover to cover, pen in hand to mark every important idea, David Cole’s The Complete Guide to Book Marketing, Kristen Lamb’s Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, and Patricia Fry’s Promote Your Book: Over 250 Proven, Low-cost Tips and Techniques for the Enterprising Author. I’ve searched the Internet from one end to the other, collecting other author’s stories on how they did it, my files bursting with information that I’ve had to cull through and categorize. By the time I finished, I was reeling.

In walks my stepdaughter Eva Zimmerman, Publicity Manager at Seal Press. I present her with 25 pages of notes summarizing my research, and she quickly puts it all into perspective. Instead of slogging through a quagmire of information and getting stuck every few minutes with questions of “how do I do this?,” I now have a manageable plan to follow that isn’t overwhelming. Yes, there still is a lot of work to do, but as Eva pointed out, I shouldn’t put my energy into areas that I hate or that won’t be fruitful. Go for the gold!

Not everyone has a stepdaughter who specializes in publicity, but if you don’t, you can hire one (a publicist, that is). And I highly recommend it. Professional publicists know things that non-professionals don’t. You wouldn’t go to a general practitioner to have kidney surgery. Nor would you expect a proofreader to give you the feedback that a developmental editor can. The same is true with marketing. Experts have access to lists and individuals that we mortals don’t.

So while all of my research did give me insight into what it takes to successfully sell books these days, I’m grateful that Eva is guiding the process and opening doors that I couldn’t have done by myself.

And, yes, she does do freelance work.

 

 

Timing and Perseverance: the Keys To Success as a Writer

I’m thinking today of timing—how important it is to success. Timing and perseverance: the two go together. If I hadn’t persisted as a writer, writing daily and sending out queries to potential publishers for my various novels and poetry collections, I would not have a poetry collection in print (All This) or be anticipating the publication of Fling, one of my novels in July 2015.

I’m also noticing the seasonal aspect of creativity, how cyclic it is. That too is hard to grasp. I want it all the time. I’m afraid if it isn’t there, it won’t return. But I need to remember that if I pursue my creative impulses, and if they’re in accordance with my abilities, then there will be success. Maybe not financially, though that would be nice. But I’ll experience the satisfaction of achieving what I’m capable of.

I must keep in mind that the cup will empty, fullness will recede, as happens each night with the waxing and waning energies of the moon. I can’t help but hear “moo” when I write moon, those old nursery rhymes of the cow jumping over the moon still playing in my imagination. Of course, cows are very much moon creatures, with their emptying and filling, the various stomachs they have for digesting food that turns into nourishing milk. They’re a wonderful symbol for the creative person.

But perseverance is the key word. I need to keep this in mind to combat the bombardment of negative things I’m reading about being a writer. Not only is publishing like finding a needle in a haystack—especially publishing fiction—but also only five percent of novelists support themselves on their writing.

 

 

 

Blogging into Visibility

One of the first things my publisher told me to do before my novel Fling is published in 2015 is create a fan base. I don’t think he was referring to the kind of fan I’m used to, a mechanical object with rotating blades that whirl around and stir the air. In a way, though, I suppose the kind of fan my publisher was referring to can stir things up and call attention to our work.

Yet for someone of my disposition (I don’t love big parties or crowds; I prefer quiet intimate dinners with close friends and enjoy spending time alone), making the kind of outreach that marketing a book requires is hard. Not only is it all consuming, taking time away from the precious little I do have for writing itself, but I also must enter a world totally different from the one I’m accustomed to.

I’ve had to learn the language of twitter (I still haven’t a clue how to make that networking approach work); tumblr (not sure exactly what this does); and Facebook (I’m a neophyte, but I’m learning how to add “friends,” many of whom I don’t know, and I’m very good at liking things that stand out); triberr (can’t figure this one out); and Pinterest (not sure how to employ this tool). I’ve signed up for blog rolls and blog hops. I’m investigating virtual book tours since real ones don’t do much for unknown authors. At the moment, I have a 15-page marketing plan, and I’ve only scratched the surface! It will be a book itself by the time I’m finished.

This sounds like sour grapes when I should be grateful that my novel will be published (and I am!), but how will all of these activities make people like my writing or become a “fan”? This marketing madness is an aspect of writing I hadn’t anticipated. While I was familiar with the demands of researching publishers and publications for long and short work, both poetry and prose, the business side of what we writers do, this other aspect of publishing has totally changed my life.

It’s also one of the reasons I am writing this blog (as so many other writers are doing), trying to make my presence as a writer known beyond my immediate friends (who must hate receiving all these posts!). At times I wonder if I’m just preaching to the choir since most writers have the same goals: We’re enrolled in Goodreads and Librarything. If we’re women, we try to keep connected with Shewrites. We’re all trying to sell books, but are we actually reaching those readers who aren’t writers themselves, the ones we want to attract?

I would like to hear from other writers who are also going through this process and have advice on how to survive it. Meanwhile, here I am, stirring up a little air on the Internet in my search for fans.

 

 

 

On Not Publishing a Book

On Not Publishing a Book

I’ve been telling myself for some time now that I should be satisfied with the act of writing and not be concerned about publication. I’ve absorbed all the advice, usually from writers who already have books out there, not to be concerned about selling. I’ve also convinced myself at times—and it’s true—that writing is a necessity for me, as important as food.  It’s how I nourish myself on all levels.

This approach can somewhat quiet any nagging feelings of anger and regret. It’s called sublimation or suppression, denying the real feelings that are churning underneath.  I’m not sure it’s healthy, but for many of us, it’s the only way to survive.

The truth is, not to publish after spending years working on novels is equivalent to carrying around a stillborn child.  It’s unhealthy, maybe deadly, for the mother, and the work never has an opportunity to reach its audience. I realize that some works might not be of publishable quality and may not have an audience.  But I’m speaking here of books that a few years ago would have been easily published but now aren’t.

Consequently, writers are forced to sublimate their hopes and dreams and find some other way to motivate themselves.  Hope has been the thin thread for many of us, hope that one day a publisher will recognize our talent and open the floodgates of publishing heaven.

On Getting an Agent

Okay, so you’ve accomplished the impossible. An agent has expressed interest in your work and you’ve signed a contract.  All those months (maybe years) of sending out your novel have paid off.  Not only do you have an agent, but she’s in New York, on Park Avenue.  A respectable established firm.

Now what?

You wait.

First, give up the notion that the agent will want to see everything you’ve ever written.  Maybe she’ll politely glance at some of your things, but she has to keep building her list.  Taking time to read your backlog of writing keeps her from reading promising manuscripts from other writers.

Forget the idea that she’ll want to discuss your career with you. After you’ve sold something, she may want to work out a plan for future projects, encourage you to try out certain directions.  But first you have to be financially viable and make money.

I know, you’ve thought agents shared your idealized opinions about art’s supremacy—that we’re all in it for the sake of art, that art comes first, money second.

Not on your life. This is strictly business.

Look at it from her point of view.   Articles don’t make her money.  Anything that has a regional audience won’t make her money. Most small presses won’t make her money. Agents are only interested in what can make them money.  This is their livelihood.

Also don’t expect her to send out your manuscript indefinitely. She’s losing money if she does—and time. And don’t assume she’ll stay on top of submissions without an occasional reminder from you, showing you’re interested in knowing what publishers have received the book and where it’s going next.

You’ll find it’s a fine line.  You don’t want to bug her every week or so, but you also don’t want your novel to grow cobwebs when it could be out working for you.  A call or email every couple of months sounds about right.

Trust is a nice word and an honorable one.  However, people usually have to earn our trust. Agents are no different. Assume the worst but expect the best—demand the best.  After all, it’s your future; you’re the one who has put uncountable hours into this project

So initially, at least, put away your great expectations.  The publishing world is raw, rough, and unpredictable.  If you’re used to being the only child or in sharing your parents with only one or two siblings, you’re in for a shock. The agent will have many clients, all of them like you, hungry for attention, for feedback, for a sale.  You’ll have to be happy with the crumbs that come your way.

There are some payoffs.  While an editor might not buy your book, she may say you’re a very talented writer.  Those three words can give you much-needed inspiration to keep writing.

And maybe one day, one of your books will sell.  Maybe it will even hit the best seller list and you’ll graduate to your agent’s inner circle, become one of the writers whose career the agent does want to direct.  But until then, don’t waste your energy wishing for what can’t be.

At least now you can tell people you have an agent.  It’s almost as good as selling a book.

(My thanks to whoever wrote this blurb about agents, origins unknown.)