What Would Your Three Wishes Be?

This week I find myself running around, clamoring for more time. Time to sleep, eat, do laundry, market my book, blog, meet up with friends, pay my bills…but who isn’t trying to find more time to do this kind of stuff right?

Every week I think I have a great handle on my day planner as I cruise right into Wednesday with full-steam-ahead productivity. But then somehow, every Friday, I’m left with big circles next to all the stuff I didn’t finish. It makes me wonder - what did I do to fill my week?

Most weeks the loss of hours can be attributed to me forgetting to factor how much time it really takes to shower, vacuum, clean the kitchen, make dinner, eat lunch, exercise, etc.

Sometimes I really enjoy working from home because I can focus and dive in with no issue. Other weeks I let myself get distracted by all that life stuff and work seems like a distant memory.

My how nice it would be to have a fairy godmother. Actually, scratch that. Forget a fairy godmother, I want a genie.

What's the difference anyway?

A fairy godmother plinks her magic wand down on you once then runs around smiling and fluttering and singing to you all night.

She distracts you from the fact that there are restrictions on time to live your dream with pretty lights and falling glitter.

And we all know how I feel about glitter!

But a genie…

A genie makes it clear there’s a straight up business proposition on the table –
1) the genie is under your control
2) you will get a total of three wishes for releasing the genie 3) after those wishes are wished you're done

There’s no confusion about the process; three wishes, end of story.

Lately I’ve been contemplating what my three wishes might be if I happened to stumble across a genie. Money aside, this 3 wish thing is really loaded isn't it?

Because of course I'd want a big pile of expendable income but not just a big pile of money sitting in front of me – boom you’re rich!

My first wish would be that I could turn my novel writing career into a paying one. A really well paying one that supports my family. A sudden snowball of sales would naturally deposit that money in my bank account as I work on my second, third, and so on, plus years' worth of royalty checks.

Wishing to be rich enough to never have to work again? Nope. No thanks. The money sure would be nice of course, but I love my job so even without a genie's influence I fully intend to keep doing it forever.

As for the other two wishes, I'll have to get back to the genie on that one. After wish 1 is fulfilled I'm not sure what else I could ever ask for that could be as awesome!

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*photo found on Book Graphics

Judging a Book by Its Cover

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” could be the oldest cliché in the book (except maybe for that one).  A job, a relationship, a book.  Don’t take any of those things at first glance, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.  The thing is, even though we’re encouraged not to, we all do it.

The job’s cover might be a craigslist ad.  The relationship’s cover is how the other person looks.  A book’s cover, well, is the cover.

For me, when I’m thinking of reading something new, the first thing I I see is what the cover looks like.  And I hate to admit it but I do judge.

After checking out the graphics, color selection and font style on a cover I essentially make a decision about flipping a book over to read the back in approximately 0.4 seconds.  If those three things don't resonate its less likely I'll read the description.

I’ve been amping up my reading lately, especially for authors within my genre of Chick-Lit.  Some of these Authors I’ve heard of and just hadn’t gotten around to reading yet (like Jennifer Weiner which, yes, I know I could be kicked right out of the club for admitting to, but in the spirit of honesty…), while others are indie, self-published authors (like me!).

So I spend a whole lot of time glancing at a whole lot of book covers. And I want mine to have that same look and feel of the ones that grab me right off the bat.

The cover of my first book (out of print) has a bright and sunny yellow background.  There's also a pretty pair of heels and a hockey puck. Here it is:

If you were only into reading, say, murder mysteries, is there a slim chance you’d click that cover up there to see what it’s about?  Probably not.

The thing that makes it difficult to find Indie Authors I can really follow is that the market tends to saturate with whatever trendy theme is hot that day.

Dystopian societies crawling with vampires where no one is over 18, has a job, goes to school or worries about paying their rent on time. Those stories dominated for a long time.

But now, finding Chick-Lit that doesn't place huge emphasis on sex scenes is difficult in these times of openly accepted erotica (which I personally consider to be a different category and wish authors would note the distinction).

What makes it tough for an Indie?

It’s a question of balance – the more saturated any particular genre becomes the less books in that genre are actually read. In the book industry saturation works in reverse and causes a genre to become watered down because ‘everybody’s doing it’.

That's why in traditional publishing once you've heard of it, agents don't want it anymore.

Kind of like Chick-Lit back in the late 1990’s and early millennium. Now it's been written so many times it makes many Indie Authors second guess if they should be writing it at all.

Then what’s a girl like me, who believes in books with happy endings, internal struggles to overcome, and cocktails at brunch, supposed to do? I'll tell you what - keep writing what I want to write.

Because any good writer knows that you write for yourself, not the market. Writers who specialize in erotica, congratulations! Your day has arrived and many of you will feel the love as your royalties tick up daily.

However, I won't write that type of story because it just isn't me. I want to sell my stuff but I don't write for the market, I write for me. So maybe I won't sell like my book is on fire right now but that's okay, at least it cuts down on my competition when I release a new book.

And in the end I read for me as well. There's little chance I'll pick up a book with a cover that doesn't grab my attention. But with millions of writers out there I have a feeling that even my preferred un-saturated genre will still provide plenty of entertainment and research potential.

So as I add books to my Kindle Reader I just keep thinking of how much fun it is to research for my job, no matter what the cover looks like, because in the end it is what's on the inside that counts the most!

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Assign Your ISBN at the Start

Today I spent a good hour live chatting with a couple different Lulu representatives with regard to garnering a Distribution package for Ripple the Twine.

My project was showing up in the list but for some reason there was no link to the Distribution selection and I was becoming concerned.

On Lulu and other print on demand service publishers there is generally an option readily available that allows the user to have their book submitted to various online markets. Lulu works with B&N as well as Amazon and as any reader or writer knows those are the mecca places for an Author to have their work listed.

So you can understand why it concerned me that I wasn’t showing up there yet.

The project is complete, clearly, as I’ve been promoting like a mad woman (shameless self-promotion, woo hoo!) and have been selling somewhat steadily since it was released on April 20.

But I want to reach more markets and buyers outside my circle so I need it on Amazon, et al.

It was finally discovered that I hadn’t assigned an ISBN to my project.

In order to save you some monster frustration if you go with Lulu for your book project, here are a few things I learned this morning:

- If you create your project without assigning an ISBN (either a Lulu provided or one of your own) when you go back to revise the project all feedback/likes on FB will be erased.

Because Lulu considers this a brand new project even if your settings (pages, cover, etc.) hold. This is crucial as likes and shares are the best word of mouth promotion out there! Which brings up another key point:

- When you assign the ISBN & purchase their GlobalReach Distribution Package you have to buy a proof copy.

What’s the big deal there? Well, I already did that when I approved it for General Distribution back in April. But in order to garner this distro package they force you to buy it.

Now that’s another couple bucks I had to spend and time waiting for its arrival upon which I’ll have to approve the copy. So the 8 weeks for its listing really means more like 10-11. Yikes.

 - Chat is good but be specific and don’t feel rushed to end the session.

The first person I chatted with didn’t answer my questions or walk me through, she just said to Revise and save. And she was quick to kick me out of chat.

Sadly the process of revising & saving wiped my Likes (it would’ve anyway) but it still didn’t allow me to add the ISBN. She wasn’t clear about the process and I was confused.

Frustrated, I chatted again. This time I was direct in my problem and I kept putting info out there until she got what I was saying. And vice versa. Then she was kind enough to walk me through step-by-step so I was comfortable with the process being completed successfully. Which it was.

- Your project must be available to the general public in order to assign your ISBN.

VERY important tip here. If you are playing around with the book, don’t have everything together, haven’t uploaded a cover or description, etc., be sure to get everything in order before you approve.

That way you can choose General Access option and get your ISBN assigned right away. Any other Access option means your book is not available to anyone other than you.  Meaning your ISBN is doing nothing for you and you’ll be in the same boat as I was this morning.

In the end I’m happy with the service I received, not to mention that everything is good to go now.

I hope this helps you to avoid some frustration by not having to deal with the same issue.

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Writing and Selling a Book is not for the Faint of Heart

First things first – sit your butt down and write the book. 

Now, once that’s finished, most people think the business of writing is complete, that once you’ve written it you’re all set.  

Most people would claim the hard part is over once you’ve developed and written the story about your characters no matter who those characters are (be it people you’ve created for fiction, or yourself if memoir, etc.).

Most people wouldn’t understand that the old cliché ‘it’s only the tip of the iceberg’ is about as true a statement as anyone has ever uttered. 

Because everything else that must be done to actually produce a book, lives, in massive quantity, underwater.

Once a book has been written there will be round after round of edits.  Many writers do a bit of this themselves. I’m one of those writers. When my first manuscript Ripple the Twine was complete I printed it, put a binder clip on it and shoved it in a drawer. After spending 30 straight days with those people I was, quite frankly, sick of hearing about them. 

So I started researching agents, publishing houses, anything to see where I could sell this pile of crap I had sitting in the darkest corner of my office closet. Then months seemed to pass, I missed my cast and wanted to see them again.

Out came the manuscript and two red Bic ballpoint pens. By the end of the spring the thing was hacked to death, hemorrhaging all over the place and re-written at least twice.

Characters, setting and plot stayed mostly the same.  The words that got us there however, well, you’d cringe to read that first draft!  And a few people almost did, my mom, BFF (who might as well be an editor in her spare time, seriously) and my husband, all read through with their own red pens and gave me commentary and feedback. I used their suggestions and advice and re-wrote for a “final” time. (note the air quotes)

So then it’s done right? Wrong. Away it went for a while longer. About a year in fact. I polished my query writing skills, tracked down agents by the handful and pitched my book to all of them.

The only trouble was that I had no clue how to pitch my book, no clue how to say what needed saying or how to bring the tone of the book to life in a query.  I mean, that’s only one page and my book was hovering around 300 pages.

For thirteen months I blogged about the book, the characters, the story. Meanwhile working my day job and going to school. I tried and tried and gathered rejection after rejection. I wore the rejections like a badge of honor…hey, at least I was finally getting out there.

But you’re not an author until you’re published. And a rejection letter doesn’t get you published.

We moved to Arizona last July and almost as soon as we got here I made the decision to pursue the business of writing as my only job. No more painting, no more screwing around.

So then I went right out and did nothing on my book for the next six months! It was time to party! Lake trips and flights back to Boston and holidays with company and suddenly it was early 2012.

I was holding onto a book I’d started in the fall of 2009. What?

Foot to the floor, pedal down, I knew this would never do. I scrapped all decision to query, all decision to locate an agent and decided to self-publish. I was tired of waiting. Finding an agent to find a publisher to get my book out would mean another eighteen months of waiting.

Oh hell no.

I yanked it back out, opened to page one and started editing.  Again. Then I started doing all the research that comes with self-publishing.

Setting up a House of my own, getting the trade name certificate, talking to everyone about it, networking and socializing, attending writer meetings, joining a critique group, finding the right printing solution for me, finding the right solution for me period (print or eBook)…

And all the while I was out there in the world collecting more information, researching and developing new characters. As I’ve said before, a book must be birthed and raised.

So I settled on a print on demand paperback. Then it was hiring and consulting with a photographer for the front cover, my mom!  hen I had to research and handle copyright registration. Figure out ISBN and barcode. And then the whopper of all motha’s – formatting the pages for upload.

That alone took me half a month.

Meanwhile, I offered a pre-order reduced price and free shipping to anyone who ordered before the release date (which I was pushing to have happen in April). Ah, yes…marketing. Hello odd bedfellow, it’s time for us to become reacquainted.

Selling happens before the book does!

Finally I completed all formatting, my mom rocked the heck out of the cover, everything was in order.  I received and approved my proof copy and got the online site set and ready for buyers. I placed the order for the preorder copies and released Ripple the Twine to the world!

I could finally change my title from writer to author.

And now I market like mad, sell as often as I can, talk about it incessantly. Because, if I’ve learned nothing else in this whole process, authors are notoriously narcissistic out of sheer necessity. If we stop talking about our work for even a millisecond – poof! – next...

Welcome to the business of entertaining. Guess I should get over that fear of public speaking now huh?

But first, I have to finish writing and editing my second manuscript…

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