Friday, August 30, 2013
Thursday, August 29, 2013
As many of you know, My Bombay books came out in 2007, published by a traditional New York publisher. They did okay and I did four total.
In 2011, I got the rights back to these books and self-published them to much better success. Enough for me to quit the day job. Still, after two years, sales started to fade a bit and I started getting frustrated with making covers, massaging categories, etc.
The Bombays have just entered into life - hybrid publishing. Gemma Halliday started up a boutique publishing company. She takes care of cover design, copy and major editing, formatting, pricing, category management, etc. And I think I was her first author.
Gemma repackaged the series and re-launched them in June, and gave them a whole new life. She's a wizard - I don't know how she does it but she found new readers! And then we launched SNUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON: & Other Bombay Bedtime Stories in July and it did very well.
With Gemma handling everything, my writing output has tripled. I have another Bombay collection coming out in fall and am hoping to have a new novel by the end of the year. I feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders!
Yes, she's getting a percentage - but it's far more competitive than any of the BIG 5. AND, Gemma understands the system. She totally gets how the algorithms work at BN and Amazon. AND she got me a pre-order button for Amazon.
What I find so interesting about this is that Gemma started out a NY trad pubbed author. She went into self-publishing, and she learned more in one year than NY has learned in 30. I'm impressed by that, and I think there's something to be learned here.
For now, I'm thrilled to be part of Gemma's stable of authors. I don't have to write proposals and she doesn't worry that something won't be 'marketable' enough. She has faith in her authors or she wouldn't have signed us.
And that may be the biggest lesson NY could ever learn. I wonder if they will...
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Five Non-financial Rewards of Publication
by Cindy Jones
It took me seven years to reach the point where my work attracted the attention of an agent, and another seven to get from the agent to the publisher who finally cut the advance check. Spread over fourteen years, the proceeds of my writing career have been sufficient to feed one goldfish once a day. Obviously, I am not in it for the money. The secret, I am convinced, is to write faster. But until I get up to speed, I make a point of enjoying the many non-financial rewards of published life. Instead of getting paid:
1. You get to remark in casual conversation things like, “My editor thinks, or “My publicist says.” Just having a publicist took ten years off my life--in a good way. When she, who actually lives and works in Manhattan, told me my marketing idea was brilliant, I knew the rest of my life would be downhill.
2. You get to play God to an audience. All writers get to make it rain or snow, decide what day of the week it is, and kill people with the click of a mouse. But published writers get to do it in public, commanding the time, attention, and emotions of a global audience. How heady to think that a character conceived during a daydream while driving my son to an orthodontist appointment lives in the hearts and minds of the reading public!
3. Free therapy. The writing process allows a writer deep exploration into the issues they are thinking about. Questions are considered from many angles and years spent exploring those questions will ultimately result in answers. You get all this without a co-pay or pesky office visits.
4. You get validation from an authority. You know you’ve crossed a line when a publishing icon worth billions in assets thinks your work is good enough to be published. Advances will go the way of all funds and sales come and go, but your ISBN number lasts forever.
5. You get 15 minutes of fame. Of course it goes to your head. In my personal life after publication, I expected groceries to be delivered, teeth flossing to be outsourced, and immediate ascension into a social A-list--in my case: the Super Moms of Carpool Line Society. I was sure that after publication I would no longer be the slightly ditzy mom who shows up last minute, breathless, in exercise clothes with mascara smears and an excuse. Finally, I would be appreciated. Imagine my elation when a Super Mom said, “You wrote that book!” I smiled big and admitted that, yes, I did write that book. Super Mom put a hand out to stop someone who wanted her attention, allowing me to speak. But there was nothing else to say, and in the akward gap, my writing attire and mascara smears asserted themselves as the essence of me: a dual citizen of earth and outer space. Induction to the Super Society lost its appeal. Even if they would have me--what would I do there??
As I close in on my second novel I enjoy the free therapy and my ISBN, and no longer dream of a sock folding department or a different me. But most importantly, freedom from the distraction of my expired 15 seconds of fame leaves me far more able to focus on what really matters: speed writing.
When Christa isn't writing about herself in third person and ordering pet supplies, she's looking forward to the publication of A Test of Faith, her fifth novel, and anxiously awaiting the debut of her new website after her hosting company went out of business without letting her know and, thus, losing all she had.
Monday, August 26, 2013
I have this daily quote calendar on my desk, and the saying that popped up a few days ago was this: "Something is only work if you would rather be doing something else."
But, I haven't always had an income from writing (or I had one, technically, but it wasn't large enough to so much as cover the monthly phone bill), so there were jobs I needed to do to help pay for our family's expenses. My plan was to find jobs that would not only bring in an income but would also build my writing skills and understanding of stories. That way, I figured, it wouldn't just be "work," it would be "experience."
Not surprisingly, although this was all very enjoyable work, it wasn't much more lucrative than fiction writing, which had netted me exactly $500 when I won first place in short-story contest. (And, let me tell you, that was a BIG deal for me then!) My pre-motherhood profession would have required me to be away from home too much, so I thought about what I could do within the realm of literature that might pay a bit more and still be as interesting to me as writing. I was fortunate to find a part-time position at a library, and I worked there for 3 1/2 years -- learning about how librarians chose the women's fiction and romance books in their collection and which popular novels really got patrons excited and talking. When I finally got my first book contract, I couldn't believe my debut novel would be one of the ones on their shelves. I still get a thrill when I see my set of women's fiction books in the stacks or spot the electronic reference pages that they have for my ebooks. There's no price that can be put on that feeling.
Facebook, Twitter and blogs like this one than I ever would have imagined. It's helped to make the writing experience one of both love and (at least some) money...
**BTW, for readers interested in money-saving deal -- my three-book romantic comedy boxed set, The Sweet Temptations Collection, is on SUPER SALE for just a few days this week!! The digital collection is only $0.99 (reg. price $8.99) on both B&N and Amazon right now to celebrate the end of summer. Please pick up a copy and spread the word!!**
Friday, August 23, 2013
Caveat: only a fraction of that income comes from writing books.
Caveat 2: I live in Oklahoma where cost of living is low, so Yay!
I write ad copy, marketing materials, and brand strategy. Coming up with creative ideas for companies can be lucrative. While some literary purists might think writing advertising is "selling out" I saw early on that could be a way I could use my writing skills *and* give myself time to work on my "great American novel."
While I worked in radio, TV and corporations in my 20s, I started a branding firm with a business partner when I was 28 so I could have flexible hours, be a good (sane) mama to my kids. My agent did eventually sell that first novel for a modest advance. Then she sold my second novel for a better, yet still modest, advance. Then...nothing. Which is kind of crazy since I knew my writing was getting better with each book. Go fig.
My agent finally said I should self-publish a title we both loved. That was Fixer Upper which went on Amazon and Smashwords in 2010. Sales...trickled. I was bummed. But I kept writing. I started Buzz Books USA in February 2011 to publish other people's work, too, because I figured I could combine my passion for marketing and stories all in one. I knew it would take about three years to "grow it up." I pubbed "Life's a Beach" that summer. It sold better than my first, and it was a novella, so it took less time to write. With a catchy title and cover and premise "Law of Attraction and karma meet on the beach" sales started picking up and for two years it was my best-selling digital title. (Now it's Fixer Upper.)
I got my rights back on that first novel, The Stork Reality, and after a year, sales are picking up on it. I wrote a follow-up to Life's a Beach that included characters from all my novels to answer my readers who wanted to know...whatever happened to... in The Last Resort. I include links to my books in the back of each novel. Some people must click on them! And algorithms are a very real thing which I don't understand that much, but love when it works in my favor.
This much I do know: one book does sell another. If they liked one, they will likely buy another. If they didn't like one, they still might give another book a chance. (Readers are awesome that way.)
Because I never stopped writing - even when I doubted myself! - I had a nice backlog of stories including a young adult novel, which became Twin Falls, and two more women's fiction novels, Something New and my latest, Family Charms. My readers are saying with each release they are stronger, which give me the momentum to keep going. Books are cross-selling each other and I love promoting the authors at Buzz.
What's the lesson here? The "takeaway"? Never. Stop. Writing. Build your community, engage with readers and keep believing. Does it take some luck? Yep. I pulled the two Smashwords titles and put them on nook myself two weeks ago and guess what? Fixer Upper was plucked from their database and mentioned in their daily newsletter and sales skyrocketed for a few days and I started seeing a slight uptick in other titles. Then, the wave receded. That's what awareness is. It comes, then it goes away, but over time, people remember.
Another key to mentally surviving this "side career" - stop comparing yourself to other writers, whether they are tradtionally-pubbed or self-pubbed. I personally know three indie-pubbed authors who quit their day jobs and make buckets of money off their many ebooks. That's a tiny percentage of the authors sphere, but still, don't compare! You'll drive yourself nuts and that could keep you from writing your best work.
Keep going. And good luck. If you believe in it and work hard, you can make some money from writing. How much is up to you and that whole "preparation meeting opportunity" thing.
When Malena isn't writing, she's marketing and mothering. She's a Cub Scout mom, dance mom and mom of a new driver. She blogs about zen, creativity and mojo at malenalott.com.