Monday, November 18, 2013

The Myth of the Writing Muse

"You're going to be unemployed if you really think you just have to sit around and wait for the muse to land on your shoulder."  Nora Roberts

I was asked recently to help settle a debate among three aspiring authors in the throes of trying to produce a jointly written book about their lives—a memoir as I understand it.  One of the authors finished the first draft of his portion a year or so ago, while the two co-authors are in various states of production (one is about 75% done, while the other has maybe completed 20-25%). 
The debate sprang up over the development of two prologues (two of the authors had each written one) and I was asked to choose which I thought was the better prologue. I declined to do so for a variety of reasons, one of which being that it was clear from the content and tone that they were each describing two entirely different books.  My advice was to put the (recently written) prologues aside until they came to true consensus about what the book was actually about.  The author of one of the prologues (who hasn't written their portion of the book) felt that putting the prologue aside would hinder his ability to write his portion of the book, because it was the only way to know what to write. 

Well, here's the thing; you can't write unless you write.
Granted, writing non-fiction is a different animal than writing fiction, but I think the overarching principles are the same; in order to write the book, you have to write the book.  As Nora Roberts says, if you sit around waiting for the muse to strike, the book will never get written.    

Of Bart and Lisa, who do you think is more likely to finish writing a book? (image from awn.com)
 
I can hear the fierce outliners out there calling for my head, so let me clarify a bit.  Clearly, everyone has their own writing process; some folks are dedicated outliners and can't start a book until they know exactly where they're going and how they're going to get there (plotters).  Others are more "situational," building their plots around certain circumstances the characters find themselves in, tending to write by instinct or by the "seat of their pants" (pantsers).  If you're writing non-fiction, my guess is you need a fairly solid outline, along with deep research (depending on the topic) to get the wheels cranking.
Still, unless you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, as it were) all the outlines and research in the world won't write your book. 

I tend to be a "plotser."  I write narrative outlines, but don't live and die by them.  If a character or situation that I hadn't planned on shows up while I'm writing, I run with it.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.  Either way, it's fun to give it a whirl.  
No matter what your personal writing process is, until you write, you won't have a book.  If it means writing from 5 a.m. – 7 a.m. every day, 500 words a day, five pages a day, two chapters a day, from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day, then so be it.  You have to just WRITE.   

One of my favorite episodes of "The Simpsons" is "The Book Job."  Bart the Slacker and Lisa the Overachiever each decide to write a book.  Bart and his team crank out their pages while Lisa waits for the muse and all conditions to be right.  Guess who finishes their book?
On that note, back to writing.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Yes, You Need Paperback Versions of your eBooks

I was asked recently if I prefer to read a paperback, hardcover or Ebook.  My answer is "all of the above."  I use my Kindle to read during El (subway) rides or when I travel (which is frequently).  It's a lot easier to throw my Kindle in my purse than lug around a paperback or hardcover.  I always have a hardcover or paperback on my nightstand, so in other words, I'm typically reading two books at a time (and somehow, my To-Be-Read pile never gets smaller.)

In spite of my affection for the printed page, when I decided to go Indie, I had zero plans to publish paperback versions of my books.  Print was dying, everyone was jumping on the eBook wagon (the new wisdom).  And, I have to admit, I was still laboring under the notion that publishing your own paperback books meant you had to order 500+ books at a time (the old wisdom), which wasn't feasible for me from an economic or storage standpoint.  Not to mention that typically, the quality was notoriously poor.   In my mind, it was eBooks or bust.

However, I discovered that some reviewers/book bloggers will only accept paperback copies for review.  There were promotional opportunities I wasn't able to participate in because I only had an eBook.  Concurrently, I started to get requests from readers for a paperback version of Live and Let Die.  Even if you are an eBook devotee, there really is something about having a signed copy of a book you like.

So, I began to soften my stance.

As I started to investigate my options, I realized the "new" way to get paperback versions of your books into the hands of readers was to "Print on Demand" or POD.  This was a revelation.  I didn't have to pay for 1,000+ books all at once, all so they could be used as paper weights and door stops or take up space that I didn't have.  I could order in batches.  In other words, much like with eBooks, I had control over the process.

Welcome to publishing in the 21st century.

After a lot of research, I decided to go with CreateSpace (www.createspace.com) for the development of my paperbacks.  I heard positive things about the ease of production and quality of the finished product.  I was fortunate in that I already had a fabulous artist on my team to design the cover and a fantastic formatter to get my manuscript POD-ready, which were the only true out-of-pocket costs, aside from the shipping for my bulk orders.  As per my usual, I looked to my own bookshelf for guidance on how the package should "look." I carefully examined the design and format of those books, everything from how the cover was laid out, to the title page and placement of editorial reviews. 

Once I started the process with CreateSpace, it was incredibly easy.  I went with a 6 x 9 size with a cream interior (again, similar to how traditionally published books look).  I had some nice editorial reviews which I was able to use on my front and back cover as well as on a "Praise For" page on the inside.
When my hard copy proof arrived (I highly recommend not skipping this step, tempting though it may be to "get on with already"), I have to admit I got a little emotional.  It was an incredibly surreal moment to be holding a book in my hand that had my name and photo on it.  And yes, I got a little teary.  No shame in my game.
The really crazy moment came when my first bulk order of ten books arrived.  I squealed when the UPS man handed me the box. Opening that box and seeing copies of MY book inside was like Christmas.

 
My first batch has already been put to good use.  I've sent some to reviewers and a few other folks – and just last week, I launched my first GoodReads giveaway (GoodReads only allows paperback giveaways – see the link below).  I'm finishing up the POD version of Sweet Little Lies as we speak and my brain is already churning away with ideas for future promotions specifically geared towards the paperback versions of my books.
I'll probably only ever break even on the paperback versions of my books, but that's okay, (then again, who knows what will happen).  As my rallying cry continues to be, everything you can do to increase your visibility and by extension, get your books into the hands of readers in order to build your readership, is a good thing.  Paperback versions of your eBooks are a great investment in your overall brand, so if you've been on the fence or even adamantly against it as I was, don't be so quick to shut that door.  Investigate your options and ask fellow authors for advice.  Like I said, you never know what can happen.

As always, back to writing.


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Live and Let Die by Bianca Sloane

Live and Let Die

by Bianca Sloane

Giveaway ends November 30, 2013.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win