Clock versus Pen

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898...

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have set a December date for the first draft of The Book of Sharon, and over the next couple of weeks, making it happen will be a priority. My focus has wandered between several projects, and now, it is down to clock versus pen. I am goal oriented and I dislike missing a generous timeframe. It happens, and sometimes our focus splits in many directions. One little trap that I have identify as far as my working habits is learning to battle the generous flow of ideas that one story may generate at a particular point when writing. That is, one scene, character, or something about research may trigger ideas that spark the creation of future novels. It is easy to become sidetracked by these ideas, and become an octopus of multiple future projects, and by default, a turtle on the projects at hand. I have been guilty of it, many times hindering the progress of the story at hand. So far, I have three future books lined up, and unless I deal with the one at hand, in the now, none of them will become reality. This is an easy trap to fall into, and one not so easy to get out of, that is, unless you realize it. Why is that?

The answer is simple – because you as a writer, are working on what you are supposed to do – write and research, and that in itself gives you the illusion – that you are working hard “in the now” (and you are), when in reality, you have crossed the time/space of your current project wandering into a dimension of future projects, and unless you return to the “now” to work on the story at hand, it will consume your productivity, making it harder to make progress, to advance your project. Without productivity in the now, there are no results, no future stories, despite the many lined-up stories. You might argue that research on future novels/projects is healthy, and it is; however, it is when that research is hindering progress of a current project (taking its allotted time) that it becomes a productivity/time management issue.  What happens to inspiration or the “mood for writing?” I believe that there is a time to be inspired and act on it, but also a time (more so) to work hard when inspiration is not present. In other words, if you wait for inspiration to start writing, you will never finish a story. This is why time management for writers is so important. Setting priorities, a balance between work and personal priorities is essential. This post addresses writing priorities. Other than work that has a deadline, my priority (writing) should be my current novel, and anything that falls under it – editing, cover work, early promotion … although these are secondary to it, but an important part that must be done. When doing research, I must stick to the necessary research for the novel, needed to advance the writing of it.

I used to believe that multitasking was good; I was wrong. Multitasking is opposite to productivity – it is the opposite to “being in the now,” and being in the now promotes the flow of productivity, the healthy flow of the project at hand. There are circumstances when multitasking will save the day (ask a busy Mom), however, when multitasking becomes a modus operandi, it hinders the healthy flow of life, of work, and if you are a writer, eventually of inspiration – the Muse itself. As far as my work is concerned, I have learned to name the thieves of productivity, the future ghosts of now, by anchoring foot and returning to the task at hand when I begin to wander, to sabotage myself.

 

 

 

Selling Your Soul

Balance

Balance (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been very active researching and learning about the Indie movement, and always keep my eye out for new trends and developments. A development that I have noticed in the past few years is capitalizing on trends. I view it as selling your soul, but that is just my opinion. The traditional publishing industry has played this game for some time now, and it is only one of the reasons why the independent publishing movement started. Indie writers who wanted to become published authors but were rejected by the traditional model because their books were not “what we are looking for now” took matters into their own hands and thanks to companies like Amazon, were able to share their works with readers. This is part of the story, but what puzzles me is the conversion by Indie authors to the traditional model, that is, in the sense of publishing independently but trying to capitalize on the current genre trends, despite if what they are writing is not the book in their heart and soul. I have heard advice about going with the wind current and writing what sells. Isn’t that mirroring the traditional model? It has become a frenzy, a free for all that I am hoping will not hurt the movement in the long run due to careless and irresponsible self-publishing that aims to make a quick buck with disregard to the movement or to readers. This is where the fine line becomes strong, separating indies from self-publishers-a-million, and hopefully, strengthens the movement by separating the grain from the husk, and therefore, not risking the publishing balance; because let’s face it, if the indie movement is viewed as a portal for disgraced publishing, eventually the balance of power will flip back to the traditional model. Again, my opinion, not necessarily an omen.

If we care about what we do, as writers and indies, let’s honor the story by presenting it to readers in the best light, and with the best intentions. That is where true independence in publishing exists.

The Indie Trap – Avoid This

English: Mouse trap - "Promax" brand...

English: Mouse trap – “Promax” brand Español: Ratonera de ratones (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Before deciding to become an indie author, I learned as much about it as I could, and continue to learn, knowing that it is an ongoing effort. Indie publishing is evolving fast, and furiously. Honestly, I am not so sure how it will continue to develop and how this movement will be seen in the future. What I have noticed is a frenzy about publishing volume, many times with disregard of quality, by new authors, and even more seasoned ones. What caused this? I am not sure either. It is as if everyone is in a panic, a mania, as if independent publishing will cease to exist so, “I better write a lot of books and publish them before it is too late” or it could be ” too many people publishing, too many books out, soon, it will be impossible for my work to get noticed; it is saturated already.”  That is the impression I get when I read or hear other authors recommending to write many books fast, have them out there soon enough, or publishing many short stories, and novellas just to grab readers. It is indie mania out there!

My take on it is this, if you are planning on writing for a lifetime, of being an author for the long run, avoid the temptation. Write at your own pace, write the best book you can present to readers (you owe this to your readers), and publish it when you are one hundred percent plus sure that you have given it your best effort. Forget about what everyone else is rushing about and doing, and focus on your goals and vision as a long-term author. Write your best story, and present it as a humble sacrifice to your readers. When I say sacrifice I am referring to an offering, your best work.

It is hard to foresee what is going to happen to independent publishing, but you will certainly regret it if you put out work that you are not proud of being your best, that you can certainly foresee, so don’t fall in this trap. Don’t let algorithms, ranking, number of books a year … get in the way of your best work. However the industry develops, let it be; you will continue to be an indie author, if that is your vision.

Developing a Brand Statement

I should have written about this topic sometime ago, but it is something that you do not think about unless you are making a conscious effort to create, evaluate, or develop/expand your brand. Whether you are an author, artist, entrepreneur … or are starting to create a brand, eventually, you will have to develop a statement. In this case, I will refer to your statement as a branded author.

What is a brand statement? To make it easy, compare it to your novel’s elevator pitch. I have read in several sources about many variations of expressing it, but it can be easily explained as the sum of what you/your product is, plus the type of customer/reader that is your target, plus what you/your product offers/does for them (your intention). Once you put that into words, in a short sentence, you have developed your brand statement. For example, my brand statement is: “Inspirational fiction author Maria Antonia Diaz delights readers of fiction and non-fiction by offering works that combine adventure with the supernatural and the divine.”

If you look at that statement it tells who I am/my product as an author, it mentions my target market, and what the product (books) offers the readers. The reason that I include the non-fiction sector, is because my novels have an inspirational tone to them, which might be of interest to that sector. If you think about it in those simple terms, you can develop a simple brand statement that you can sum up in a sentence.  It is an easy way to keep the focus of your brand in front of you, and make it clear to others. Think about who you are as an author and who your readers are, and what you want to do for them through your work. That should lead you to express your brand statement.

Why Self-published Authors Succumb to Contracts

Français : FICHE GÉNÉRIQUE Modus operandi, ins...

Français : FICHE GÉNÉRIQUE Modus operandi, installation vidéo-interactive, 2003 Conception et réalisation : Jean-Louis Boissier. Production : laboratoire Esthétique de l’interactivité, Université Paris 8, Association Transports. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is a new world and a new game at the publishing industry. It has opened doors to independent and self-published authors who are enjoying the best time to make their works known without the demands and constraints of the traditional publishing industry model. However, what makes a successful independent or self-published author succumb to a traditional contract? It would be a good idea to differentiate between the terms indie and self-published (this assessment is my view, in general).

I view independent authors (indie) as entrepreneurs who enjoy the freedom and flexibility of maintaining their status as indies, and who have established for themselves  a “modus operandi” that they love and prefer. I view self-published authors as writers who love the craft and have embraced the opportunity with the changes in the industry but whose goal is to one day, become published the traditional way. They might have received rejection notes or not, but their main goal is to obtain publication via the traditional model of publishing, and at the same time, making a name for themselves.

Despite the rules of the traditional publishing model, publishers are turning to Amazon to discover future contracts by following who sells the most/ranking. This works well for self-publishers, who have not been able to reach the system via an agent. For a successful self-publishing author this might eliminate one layer of the traditional method – finding an agent, but agents might be looking for these self-published successes as well, knowing that the sales have been proven, and most likely, will turn into profitable contracts.

Successful Indie authors are smart about all this, and although they love their freedom and flexibility, they would consider the right contract, as long as it proves to be more profitable than what they are already experiencing by their own efforts. For other indie authors, the issue is more about flexibility and the need to control the creative process, and their working style. Indies might or might not want to obtain a contract, depending on their goals.

Successful indie authors who value an entrepreneur model of publishing seem to retain more control over what they want than self-publishers whose goal is to get a contract to validate their status as authors or to make a name in the industry. It seems that it comes down to “what’s in it for me,” and how it falls under “my goals as an author.” Both sides have genuine interests, and there is no right or wrong way to do things, as long as it follows the author’s true values/goals.

The Comfort Cup of Coffee

I love sci-fi and monster movies, not so much people killing people, but more the fantastic kind – werewolves, mummies, aliens, vampires …. One thing these movies have in common is the cup of coffee that the desperate people who have run for their lives decide to have once they have found shelter, a safe place for a brief time, until the ordeal starts again. It never fails, whether in an abandoned building, a hut, the middle of the forest, or a cave, they manage to make that cup of coffee that seems to bring comfort, somehow. This is one of my favorite moments in a movie, so much, that sometimes, I run to the kitchen and make a cup of coffee for myself, as if I too, am being comforted, and inside the movie. Besides, I happen to love coffee so much, that any excuse is good enough to have that extra cup. Why am I writing about coffee? Well, because we all need that moment, or what I call “the comfort cup of coffee.”

We need to have that moment of peace, of feeling safe, of stopping all the running we do and coming to a halt – to meditate, ponder, and reassess our direction. We need that cup of coffee (whatever that may be for you) to help us reenergize and keep going. One thing I have understood is to take that moment when I seem to need it – it makes a difference in what follows next. Whether your cup of coffee is time alone for yourself, a much-needed vacation, a weekend or day off, a sabbatical, a walk in the woods or the beach, or time well spent with people you love and have not seen for a while … it doesn’t matter what it is, because it is personal, and the result is always “feeling better,” “re-energized,” and “strong.” Timing is also different for everyone; you will know when it is time for that comfort cup of coffee.

Food for thought – What represents that cup of coffee in your life? Have you ignored the need for it? Why? What happened as the result of not having it?

On Writers and Money

Question book

Question book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This may seem an odd topic, but it is one of the most annoying questions I get asked, directly or indirectly by people I know, and by strangers. It is asked as soon as the topic of my writing or books comes up. Besides annoying, I find it intrusive, and a lack of good manners. It comes in many forms, but the root of the question is the same. And the person’s goal is to know if I make money as a writer and how much. Here are some examples of the same question.

  • Are you making a living at it?
  • How much money you make?
  • Is it easy; do you sell a lot of books?
  • How are you doing with it?
  • I see a lot of people publishing books; how easy is that, is there money in it?
  • How long does it take to make it?
  • What else you do to pay the bills?
  • One can’t survive on that, right?
  • I hear the book business is not doing to well; all those book stores closing, right?
  • Oh, do you make good money?

I can go on an on giving you examples of the same question worded directly or indirectly.  When I think about it, the people who ask this question do not understand what writing entails, and most likely, they have a paycheck mentality.  I bet that for most writers who are serious and take their craft to heart, money is the last thing in their minds when they are writing.  Yes, we all want to make a living at doing the thing we love most; this is how it should be. We should all make a living this way, doing the things we love and are passionate about, but most people don’t. Most people don’t understand when someone’s passion goes beyond monetary compensation, or even fame/recognition. I bet that the majority of dedicated writers don’t care about money or fame; it is a byproduct of their love and effort while writing.  However, to be fair to all sides, there are those who write with the hopes of becoming e-book millionaires or gain fame and recognition in the field. Besides, there is nothing wrong about making lots of money and being blessed doing what you love and serving people. To me, writing goes beyond monetary compensation and fame (as a primary goal), and while I hope to one day do exponentially marvelous, that does not mean that I would love the craft more for it, or less if I don’t.

So by now, you are probably thinking what my answer is when I am asked. It usually goes along these lines –

  • I am very happy doing what I do, how about you?
  • I am lucky and blessed to work doing what I love.
  • I don’t price my passions; do you?
  • The day money becomes my story, that day I will stop writing.
  • I let the faeries worry about that part, while my Muse works on the most important one.
  • I am well.

And so along those lines it goes, usually the probing stops there.  So feel free to use those lines if like me, you get annoyed by the question. If you paint, are an artist, or live your passion, most likely, you will be asked the question many times. Some people don’t mind it, some people do, and it has nothing to do with how much money you make. Feel free to comment on the topic, how do you feel about the subject of money and writing?

Retail Giving

The title of this post may seem a contradiction, but it is not. If you deal with customers or clients, you are probably very excited/happy every time you make a sale. It is the natural reaction; however, do you go the extra mile to deliver the same happiness and excitement to your customer/client? I hope you do. Once it is time to deliver the goods, do you take care of the presentation? Do you give something extra to the customer/client or do you deliver just what he/she paid for when the order was placed?

Going the extra mile for a client/customer is important to your business/brand whether you sell products, services, or entertainment. It is what the client perceives at the other end when he/she receives the goods that will determine repeat sales, and “word of mouth.” One of my retail customers emailed with this comment – “Love it! Just opening the package was a fun experience. Thank you!”  I don’t have to tell you that this made my day, because having that praise from a customer meant that my efforts to show that I care, were perceived.  It was perceived in the delivery of the goods, the product, and even in the package presentation.

What things can you do to wow your customers/clients?  There are a few that I practice all the time.

  • Answer emails promptly.
  • Ship/deliver the goods as soon as possible.
  • Never overcharge a client (including the shipping charges).
  • If shipping happens to be a bit less than quoted, refund the difference.
  • Present your brand in a consistent manner.
  • Wrap the item in an attractive and safe way.
  • Presentation of the goods should be beautiful and neat.
  • Include a little extra as a thank you gift or a coupon for next purchase or both.
  • Always thank the customer, whether with a thank you note or a quick email.  I prefer a pretty thank you note.
  • Let the customer know that you have shipped the goods and provide a tracking number or any other pertinent information.
  • Follow up with the customer/client when he/she emails you back.

These things are simple to do and tell the customer/client that he/she is appreciated and in good hands in the future.  They should become second nature to you as you keep practicing them.  There are many other ways in which you can give to your clients.  It is a matter of using your imagination and enjoying the process.

I hope this post was of help whether you sell goods, services, or words.