Showing posts with label business of writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label business of writing. Show all posts

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Career Leveling Up: What Jeffe Is Doing


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is "Room for Growth." We're discussing one aspect of our writing or publishing careers - that we can control! - that we'd like to improve this year.

This topic is apropos for me right now because I'm in the midst of a push to boost (wedge, shove, or squeeze) my career to a new level. I should caveat that I know I'm doing relatively well. I'm grateful for the success I've realized in my writing career and I never want to lose sight of the fact that many excellent and deserving authors haven't seen the same success. 

But I've reached a real sticking point.

For those who don't know, my husband has early onset Parkinson's Disease. He's over ten years into diagnosis, so while his progression has thankfully been quite slow, he's reached the point where he really can't hold down a job. That leaves supporting our household up to me and my books. I'm stubbornly resisting getting a day job again, so this year will really be the make or break on whether I can make enough money to pay the bills and have a cushion for the future.

So, what have I been doing?

Since I can't bottle lightning - which, I admit, I've kind of been hoping to do as getting a book or series that takes off into the stratosphere would be super nice - I've been learning to *shudder* market and advertise.

I attended Romance Author Mastermind in December. Something I'd been leery of before for many reasons. My bestie and sister author Grace Draven talked me into it and I'm so glad she did! I learned so much from it! Mostly I came to the realization that it would behoove me to treat my business like an actual business. 

The other thing that happened is I completed my contract with St. Martin's Press (all but for page proofs on book 3) and they passed on my option book, which is one I've mentioned, DARK WIZARD. They passed on it - even though my editor loved it and the house loves me - because they feel like they can't move fantasy romance in the print numbers that they'd like to. (They don't care about ebook sales. They want what they can sell at Walmart, which is Cowboy Romance and sweet contemporaries these days - so a tidbit for those of you who write that!) 

Once I got over the initial sad, because I loved working with St. Martin's, I took this as a Sign. While my writing income had been pretty close to 50/50 between Indie and Trad for the last few years, in 2020 that changed to 65% Indie - and my Trad income was only 75% of what it was in 2019. That's not a good trend. At Romance Author Mastermind there were many former Trad authors who been where I am and said they'd made their money switching to Indie. Yes, I've heard this before, too. These people showed the numbers. 

I decided that, instead of taking DARK WIZARD on submission to other Trad houses on submission, I'd self publish it. So, DARK WIZARD, book one in my new series, Bonds of Magic, will come out on February 25, 2021. (I loved writing this freaking book so much that I'd already written the whole thing!) 

(If you want a sneak peek of the cover of DARK WIZARD and what it's about, it will be in my newsletter going out Monday. Sign up here.)

Then, because I'd already planned a new series, Heirs of Magic (unrelated, I didn't realize the series title echoes until too late, ah well), with book one THE GOLDEN GRYPHON AND THE BEAR PRINCE releasing on January 25, 2021. You can preorder it here, or here are some handy buttons.


That means in 2021, I'll be taking advantage of the fact that I'm a relatively prolific writer - not writing anything for Trad - and releasing two Indie series. My release schedule will look like this. 

The Golden Gryphon and the Bear Prince (Heirs of Magic 1) 1/25/2021
Dark Wizard (Bonds of Magic 1)                                                 2/25/2021
The Sorceress Queen and the Pirate Rogue (Heirs of Magic 2) 4/19/2021
The Promised Queen (Forgotten Empires 3)                                  5/25/2021
Bright Familiar (Bonds of Magic 2)                                         6/26/2021
The Long Night of the Crystalline Moon (Heirs of Magic 0.5) 7/15/2021
The Dragon's Daughter and the Winter Mage (Heirs of Magic 3) 8/25/2021
Bonds of Magic 3 (Bonds of Magic 3)                                     11/1/2021
The Storm Princess and the Raven King (Heirs of Magic 4)         12/31/2021

Of those, three are already written, so it's not as intense as it looks. Also, because I track my productivity so intensely (something I always recommend all writers do, so we know exactly what we can and can't do), this is a doable writing schedule for me. (Hopefully. I'm pretty sure I can do this, but light a candle for me.)

I'm also doing things like reading books on marketing and advertising! I very much recommend David Gaughran's AMAZON DECODED: A MARKETING GUIDE TO THE KINDLE STORE. It's easy to digest and full of excellent, practical advice, absent the ickier kinds of self-publishing shouting. I bought the Publisher Rocket app and have been taking the online classes on maximizing keywords. 

I'm going all in, people. Wish me luck! (And buy my books :D) 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Indies & Agents

Working with an agent: Would you? Could you? Should you?

As an Indie, I don't work with an agent currently, mostly because there's no need. There's no publisher, studio, or third-party corporation who is trying to buy the rights to my work or to whom I am trying to sell my rights--be it in the US markets or International.

The moment a business of any ilk wants to buy any segment of my rights, that's when I'd look for an agent, or at the very least, an IP lawyer. A business is always out for its best interests, which usually aren't my best interests. I suffer no delusion of being able to outsmart an entire legal department for whom IP contracts are old hat, thus getting an agent who is well experienced (and/or whose agency is) would behoove me.

Would an agent take me on? Possibly, if I already have an offer from a large publisher. Depends on whether there is money to be made--now and in the future--that is worth their time. Would an agent take me on with just the catalog I have and no offers on the table? Oh, gosh no. I have nothing for them to sell.

What if you're that one-in-a-billion unicorn Indie author who is approached by a publisher that wants to buy your already published works to which you still own all rights? Congrats! YES, get an agent before you sign anything. Reputable publishers will not balk at you asking them to hold that thought for two weeks while you secure an agent. When querying agents at that point, be sure to put "Query: Have Offer From [Publisher Name]" in the subject line.





Sunday, September 15, 2019

When To Take the Market into Consideration


Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our most frequent story starter -- idea, milieu, character, theme, what-if, trope, editor request, etc.

It's an interesting question because when people ask me in interviews where I start with a story, I always say a particular character or sometimes a specific image. But in reading this week's suggestion, I realized that I've changed on this somewhat. It's not that the ideas themselves don't start for me with characters in a particular situation or image - that's absolutely true - but I also have a LOT of ideas, all dutifully listed in my notes. So, as far as a story starter is concerned, I've realized that it is largely affected by the "editor request" category.

By that I mean, what editors are looking for, what my agent thinks she can sell, what my non-compete agreements allow, or - for self-publishing - what I think readers are most likely to pay me for!

In short, what "prompts" me to start a story these days is a business decision. For traditional publishing, my agent (Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency) and I discuss what steps might best advance my career. We talk about goals, publishing houses, possible advance money. We also have to navigate agreements with my current publishers not to compete with the books I'm doing with them. I really love that she brings this business perspective to the table, because I am trying to making a living with my art.

This is something I discuss with authors when I'm advising them on making decisions about an agent. (I seem to be doing a lot that lately.) One key criterion in choosing an agent is do you want someone who will advise you on your next project this way, taking market considerations into account, or would you rather write your next story without input and give it to them when it's ready?

Both methods are valid, and different artistic temperaments work better with each, or somewhere in between. And agents fall out on the same spectrum.

Also, with my self-publishing career, I could make a choice based on my heart - what story do I really want to get out there? - and I've done that. But when I have an eye on paying the mortgage for the next year, I have to be practical and think about what I can write that I'll love, but that my readers will love, too.

A very long time ago, when I was an aspiring writer with a few publications but not much more, a pro writer friend advised me to enjoy that time. He said being able to write whatever I wanted without practical considerations was a freedom I wouldn't have once I became established.

It was good advice, because that's largely true. As a newbie author when you're still casting about for your voice and what story will work, there IS a tremendous freedom in that, a kind that's worth savoring.

At this point, however, I find that applying practical considerations isn't at all stifling, the way he implied. Instead it helps me filter out all the many wonderful ideas. AND it helps pay the bills.

Win, all around.

****
Speaking of win!

Our topic at the SFF Seven this week is our most frequent story starter -- idea, milieu, character, theme, what-if, trope, editor request, etc.

It's an interesting question because when people ask me in interviews where I start with a story, I always say a particular character or sometimes a specific image. But in reading this week's suggestion, I realized that I've changed on this somewhat. It's not that the ideas themselves don't start for me with characters in a particular situation or image - that's absolutely true - but I also have a LOT of ideas, all dutifully listed in my notes. So, as far as a story starter is concerned, I've realized that it is largely affected by the "editor request" category.

By that I mean, what editors are looking for, what my agent thinks she can sell, what my non-compete agreements allow, or - for self-publishing - what I think readers are most likely to pay me for!

In short, what "prompts" me to start a story these days is a business decision. For traditional publishing, my agent (Sarah Younger at Nancy Yost Literary Agency) and I discuss what steps might best advance my career. We talk about goals, publishing houses, possible advance money. We also have to navigate agreements with my current publishers not to compete with the books I'm doing with them. I really love that she brings this business perspective to the table, because I am trying to making a living with my art.

This is something I discuss with authors when I'm advising them on making decisions about an agent. (I seem to be doing a lot that lately.) One key criterion in choosing an agent is do you want someone who will advise you on your next project this way, taking market considerations into account, or would you rather write your next story without input and give it to them when it's ready?

Both methods are valid, and different artistic temperaments work better with each, or somewhere in between. And agents fall out on the same spectrum.

Also, with my self-publishing career, I could make a choice based on my heart - what story do I really want to get out there? - and I've done that. But when I have an eye on paying the mortgage for the next year, I have to be practical and think about what I can write that I'll love, but that my readers will love, too.

A very long time ago, when I was an aspiring writer with a few publications but not much more, a pro writer friend advised me to enjoy that time. He said being able to write whatever I wanted without practical considerations was a freedom I wouldn't have once I became established.

It was good advice, because that's largely true. As a newbie author when you're still casting about for your voice and what story will work, there IS a tremendous freedom in that, a kind that's worth savoring.

At this point, however, I find that applying practical considerations isn't at all stifling, the way he implied. Instead it helps me filter out all the many wonderful ideas. AND it helps pay the bills.

Win, all around.

* * *

Speaking of win!

I'm participating in the Romance for RAICES fundraiser! You can win a critique from me and genre analysis - which means I'll help you figure out the right agent for you, if that's what you're looking for. Such a great cause!

 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Since I suck at prognosticating, here's my wish list instead.

Predicting trends in the writing biz? Me? Oh dear, I’m afraid I’m the last person you’ll want to consult for prognostications. I kind of fail at them.

Back in the querying stage, I did a crudton of research on the market: what was selling, who was selling it, who was writing it, how they were selling it, what the covers looked like, what movies or television shows were sort of like the stuff that was selling. Even that crudton was barely a crumb on the surface of this gigantic, seaming pile of…er, research you can do. And people were there all along the way, advising me to research more, know more, learn more. Ack!

In the end, I learned that I was basically Jon Snow. I knew nothing.

I signed with an agent three years ago, and holy hell has the book business changed since then. No one predicted the convulsion our industry has endured, and I honestly don’t believe anyone has a clear handle on where it’s headed from here. We think trends are toward more optimistic, fluffy stuff. But tomorrow’s news story stands a good chance of yanking the stuffing right out of us. Alternately, if we go dark and current events go darker, I can’t imagine readers are going to follow us down into the pit of despair. And bless them for not.

So since I’m failing so completely to predict, how about I wish instead? That's what futuristic fictioneers do, after all: we build a world to our own spec. And if I were building the near future of the publishing biz, here are a few trends I would like to see:

  • More characters of color. Not just because representation matters (though it definitely does), but also because that's the way the world looks. Humans are a wonderfully, wildly diverse lot.
  • A resurgence of cyberpunk or more specifically, post-cyberpunk (e.g., Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash). Technology is eating us alive right now in the real world, so fiction where we pwn that stuff would be empowering.
  • Gay characters who exist in stories that aren’t about gayness. You know, where they’re just people, peopling. 
  • A retreat from trope-stuffing. One or two are fine, but commercial fiction has become overloaded with tropes, and the stories suffer from this bloat. At least we writer types should seek to invert or turn a few tropes sideways. 
  • Less mocking. Mockery isn’t funny, and I’m tired of reading books where “comedy” occurs at the expense of someone else. 
  • Consent. So much consent. Consent on every page. Heck, a whole cast of characters who are oh-yeah, all-in enthusiastic about the sexytimes. 
  • On a related note, I would like the word “mine” in a romantic context to become archaic usage. People don’t belong to each other and are not objects to be won. 
  • Actually, instead of stories about horrible characters doing horrible things to each other, how about some books about good people doing awesome things for each other? 
  • I mean, if you need stakes and stuff, they can always save the world. I’m so over being told that I as a reader like to see characters making poor life decisions. I don’t. 
  • Oh! And this: a gory, blood-spattered, 'bout-time end to cliffhangers.
Yeah. I feel better now. Probably haven't predicted anything at all, but I definitely feel better. How about you? You got anything specific you'd like to show up on your to-be-read pile? 

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Picking the Good Ideas for a Novel - How Do You Know?

I just got back from the RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta. Here's Sonali Dev and Grace Draven, after accepting their awards for best Contemporary Romance and Best Fantasy Romance, respectively. Two of my favorite people, among so many wonderful people at that convention. I had a wonderful time!

“Where do you get your ideas?”

This is a question authors get all the time. And we have a pretty stock answer for it, which is absolutely true, that getting ideas isn’t the hard part. Most authors have tons of ideas stockpiled. While writing one book, we get ideas for something totally different. Sometimes lots of other ideas. The hard part, we say, is in the execution, in actually preserving to write the entire book and do it well.

That’s all true.

But there is another level to it.

What author has not read a book and thought, “Damn, I wish I’d thought of that!” We often look at books our friends and heroes write and wish we’d had that idea. For myself, I have five or six series that I sincerely wish I’d written. A lot of that is in the execution, but they’re also ideas that never occurred to me.

The other piece is that, when we go to those long lists of ideas – on spreadsheets for me, naturally! – it’s not always easy to choose the GOOD ideas.

Ideas are everywhere. GOOD ideas? Maybe not so much.

That’s our topic this week: how do we know which are the GOOD ideas.

Recently I gave my new agent Sarah a long list of possible projects. I think about a dozen, in various stages – most just twinkles in my eyes – of ideas for books and series I could work on. She went through and ranked them in terms of which she thought were the best for me to work on.

That’s part of her job. In this case, “GOOD idea” meant what she thought would be most likely to sell right now. She also filtered in terms of genre, bookshelf placement, future directions of publishing and reading, and her own intuition.

What she ranked #1 was not my personal favorite.

In fact, my personal favorite idea didn’t make her top five.

Does that mean it’s not a GOOD idea? Not necessarily, but it does mean something. When I finding myself wishing that I wish I’d thought of Hunger Games (and what author hasn’t??), I also know that I never would have. It’s not my thing. But, among the stuff that IS my thing, I’m aware that my favorite ideas aren’t always ready for the world. Don’t worry – I keep them! But I put them pretty far back on the shelf in the larder to ferment a little longer.

Every author, no matter where in their career, has to choose among their many ideas. When I was a newbie, aspiring author, this often came down to gut. Sometimes it still does. Nothing wrong with choosing that way. But as we progress in our careers, other factors come into play. I have a couple of series concepts that I might not yet have the chops to pull off. Also, working as a career writer, recognizing what will sell becomes much more important. Things like groceries and electricity need to be paid for.

So, through this lens, a GOOD idea has many parameters. How we recognize those is a combination of intuition, experience, and professional expertise – both our own and from the people we work with.

There’s also that magic something, that just knowing. I’ve had it a few times. Suzanne Collins says she knew about Hunger Games.


I’m looking forward to hearing my fellow authors in the SFF Seven weigh in on how they recognize the GOOD ideas. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

When Writing Is Work: Finding the Fun Again

Yesterday I got to take my stand-up paddle board out for a jaunt on Lake Sumner in New Mexico. It was a gorgeous day - warm and still, the water cool but not freezing. To my delighted surprise, I hadn't lost my skill with it since last fall. Rather, I'd improved! My balance and strength are much better. I even discovered what should have been a no-brainer, that the way I distribute my weight on the board contributes to the direction I turn as much as the paddling. There's a joy in both doing the work and in discovering I've improved, as much as in the simpler aspects of the sun, peace, and water.

Our topic this week is along those lines. The Business of Writing: How Do You Separate out the Work of Writing from the Pleasure of Writing?

This is one of those aspects of being a writer that tends to plague established authors more than aspiring ones. Don't get me wrong! The whole query-hell aspect of being an aspiring author, or the initial steps of self-publishing and trying to acquire an audience, those are their own special circles of torment. They're kind of like middle school and high school - full of angst and drama. None of us would go back to it for anything. I had dinner the other night with a lovely writer friend who's self-published some work and is in her fourth year of query hell with other work. It's hard. You just have to get through it.

So, yes, getting to be an established writer is better than being an aspiring one, in the way that being an adult is better than being a teenager - much more self-sufficiency, less drama, your own space where you can watch bad movies, drink wine, and eat junk food all night if you want to.

Not that I ever do that.

But, to extend the analogy, it's also more pressure than being a teenager. There are bills to pay. No one stands between you and the consequences of bad decisions. There's no more summers off or writing whatever takes your fancy, taking as long as you like to do it. You have to adult and treat writing like a, well, A JOB.

Because it is one.

And the thing about jobs is you have to do them even when you don't feel like it. When your art pays the bills, it becomes a business. That doesn't mean it CAN'T be a pleasure, but the two don't necessarily go hand in hand.

There's all those inspirational sayings like this one:

Which, in case you were confused, is not something Confucius said. I also found it attributed to Mark Twain. Also, no. I think it's one of those insipid things thought up by success coaches. I say insipid because it implies that if you love what you do it will never feel like work. This won't be news to any of you smart people, but *everything* feels like work sometimes. Anything worth doing takes effort. I love my stand-up paddle board, but sometimes it's a hell of a lot of work, especially paddling into the wind. I love my husband, but sometimes a relationship is work. There's nothing wrong with that.

Let me set that out on its own: THERE IS NOTHING WRONG with work.

There's nothing wrong with business. It's not drinking margaritas by the pool, but neither is writing. In fact, where most arts are concerned, this motivational poster has it spot on.

I know, I know. But really I don't mean that in a depressing way. Think of this: if we all wrote only the fun bits, we'd have 57,000 scraps of fabulous plot-bunnies and one-liners and zero novels or completed stories. Because at some point we have to do the parts we don't love. Sometimes we have to paddle into the wind.

Recently I've been working up a new series for my new agent. (Yes! Totally burying that quasi-secret lead. I'll be able to announce all the details on March 29, because reasons. Anyway, I'm working up a new idea for her. She wanted ~20,000 words of the first book, and I can write 5,000 words/day when I'm cruising, so I figured I could do this in a week.

HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Turns out not so much. All that *WORLD-BUILDING* doncha know. So there I was, flailing away, with only 3K when I'd hoped to have 10K, beating myself up about it. And it occurred to me that I spent an entire year on the first draft of THE MARK OF THE TALA. I went and looked it up. An entire year on 80K. Which works out to a little over 200 words/day, for those of you who prefer not to think about math. Sure, I was working full time then, and traveling for the day job A LOT,

But I also had that day job income. I had no agent, no publisher, no contract. I played with that book for a year because I could. That was still high school for me. Maybe Freshman year of college, when I could still take whatever courses looked interesting because I didn't have to think seriously about my future yet.

Yes, it was fun.

The thing is, writing this new book can be fun, too. IF I can keep from flogging myself with unrealistic timelines and schedules. And if I can keep from fretting about paying the bills. And from worrying about what that scathing review said, or what the market is looking for, or... or... or!

All of this means that, as with all things adulting, it's up to us to find the fun in what we do. It can be a lot like reaching back to our carefree youth and rediscovering those aspects that felt like PLAY instead of work. When I wrote THE MARK OF THE TALA, I called it The Middle Princess and I just followed the story wherever it led, indulging myself in *my* favorite stuff.

You know what? There is absolutely no reason I can't do that with this book, too. Yes, this is my job, but it's a job I chose out of love. It's hard work at times, sure. It's also a joy.

Finding the fun in effort is a conscious choice.

Instead of thinking about the wind I'm paddling into, I need to focus on the joy of balance, of cool water splashing my feet and the sun warm on my skin. And of the pleasure in finding that I've improved, of discovering a cool new trick.

It's all fun, if we let it be.