Category Archives: Marketing

Being a Creative Writer in 2017

Yesterday, while cleaning out e-mail, I ran across several Funds for Writers newsletters I hadn’t yet gone through. One contained a brief musing from Hope Clark on “How to Make Time for Writing.” What really caught my eye were these 2 sentences: “When someone thinks writing is about squeezing it into an already busy schedule, they’ve already discounted it (the writing). Instead, writing ought to simply be more important than something they are already doing, and they stop doing that other thing because it just makes sense.”  To which I thought, “Clearly, Hope Clark doesn’t need to work to pay the bills like most writers in 2017.” Usually that “something they are already doing” is a fulltime job because writing doesn’t pay the bills.

Clark goes on to say: “Fulltime money means fulltime writing, and even so, fulltime writers struggle making enough income to live on.” I’ve been a fulltime writer. Most years I made $0 income from writing and lived off my retirement savings while I continued to write and seek out paying markets. The reality is that getting paid for writing, especially writing fiction, is a tremendous struggle nowadays, and I suspect it always has been. But you can write for free all you want on the internet of course, and websites will welcome your writing.

If you are a writer with a fulltime job to pay the bills like me, you know what I’m talking about. I’m fortunate if I can get an hour a day for writing, and afternoons on the weekends. That’s for the writing and research for writing. That doesn’t include marketing for Perceval’s Secret or promotion for it, networking for shorter pieces like essays and short stories, or reading.  I’m fortunate to have a commute of about 40 minutes in the mornings and 60 minutes in the evenings, so I’m able to read on the bus. If I didn’t have that commuting time, I’d not be reading either. I’ve thought of writing on the bus, but handwriting is hard because of the stops and starts, and bringing my laptop on the bus when I don’t use it at work ends up being too heavy and too much, and too much of a risk it’ll be damaged or stolen.

So, it’s fine to dream about writing fulltime, make money with your writing, and maybe even having a substantial readership someday. To get there you need not only hard work but time in which to do that hard work. Being a creative writer in 2017 means that you will be expected to do everything yourself: writing, publishing, marketing, promotion, and perhaps even distribution although Amazon has made distribution much easier as well as other online sites. And going into debt to do it all.

If you choose to go the traditional publishing route, you’ll need to secure representation from a literary agent which means research, writing query letters, sending query e-mails, and repeat. You could also research publishers to find out which ones publish your genre and accept unagented manuscripts. If you get an agent, then that agent starts shopping your manuscript around. Chances are, you’ll be asked to do more revision work on it as well. Let’s say your agent lands a publishing deal for you. The publisher’s editor now takes over your manuscript, perhaps will request more revision work. Writers working for the first time with a publisher won’t generally be given any say in the title of the book, the cover, and production decisions like font. You will be expected though by the publisher to market and promote the hell out of your book because the publisher won’t. But you won’t have to set up distribution yourself.

This is the reality of being a creative writer in 2017. And in my humble opinion, it’s perfectly OK to squeeze in writing in my busy schedule whenever I can because I need to write, I need to market my writing, and I need to keep writing. That is not discounting writing at all. I’m saying it’s important and as much a part of my life as the job I have to pay the bills.

Do you squeeze writing into your busy schedules? How do you do it? Do you think that’s discounting your writing?

 

 

 

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How do you choose books to buy?

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”  — Winston Churchill

Sam Shepard

In another word, perseverance.  Success and what it means has been in the back of my mind this week.  Sam Shepard died as the week began, and reading about his life as a playwright, writer, and actor proved provocative to my mind. Shepard told an interviewer once that he felt most comfortable in the theater, writing for the theater. That made me ask myself where do I feel most comfortable in my creative life? How does that feeling relate to production and success? I know I am happiest when I am writing fiction.

This morning, I ran across a short essay by Hope Clark, a mystery writer who has a well-known newsletter called Funds for Writers. In this essay, Clark wrote about what the most important thing is about being a writer.  Is it getting credit for writing and publishing? Or is it giving the world a great story experience?

My next thought was that maybe success could be measured in just how great the story experience was that you’ve created. But how does anyone know that? And could one person’s great story experience be another’s failed story experience? Today, for example, I finished reading a novel that has won rave reviews and that I’d heard friends and acquaintances rave about for a long time.  I didn’t think it was that great at all.

I don’t rely solely on what my friends and acquaintances recommend when I’m looking for a great story. I read reviews, I subscribe to the NY Times Book Review newsletter, as well as reading the review sections of other papers and magazines. I have to admit that I don’t pay much attention to marketing blurbs or any kind of promotional pitches. What I pay attention to are the descriptions of the novel’s story, and then a little to genre. I love books, though, that blend genres or bend them. So I guess it’s important to know your own taste and interests before going off to Amazon or a bricks and mortar store to buy books. I do miss bricks and mortar bookstores where I could wander around and actually see, touch, and smell the books!

In her essay, Clark describes the kind of promotional copy that will turn her off a book, and the kind of promotional copy that will spark her interest. Her ultimate point in the essay, though, is that authors need to remember their responsibility to readers, i.e. to provide them with a great story they’ll be glad they paid good money for and spent their time reading. That whatever they say in their pitches and promotions, they focus on the story.

So, Mr. Churchill, I think I’d define success for a writer in this way: Committed to writing the best you can, knowing what makes your stories great,  giving your readers one great story after another, and attaining the recognition of being a writer who produces great stories, i.e. the kind of stories that people want to buy and read.

What draws you to a book? How do you choose the books you buy? What was the last great story you read? Please respond in the comments section!

What is Classical Music and does it take a PhD to enjoy it?

classicalmusicFor the last few years, I’ve been accumulating ideas from interactions I have with people who claim not to know anything about classical music and who feel inadequate to being able to listen to it with any appreciation or enjoyment. I want to tell these people (and I often do) that classical music is music, just like country music, rock music, and religious hymns. Music is music, no matter what sort of label humans have attached to it. But I also recognize that this explanation does little to assuage their fears and doubts. In American society, we are taught that classical music is for “the elite” and is not for everyone.

To which, I say now, tell that to the five-year-old enraptured by Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf or the lilting dance rhythms in Dvorak’s music. Kids don’t put labels on music. To them, music is music, and they’re open to all of it.  So maybe adults need to learn from the kids and stop thinking of music in terms of labels.

Having said that, let’s look at possible reasons that labels have been slapped on music.

Differentiation

We could differentiate music in different ways. For example, by geography. We have Western music and Eastern music. We have European and American, Russian, French, German, African, Indian, Chinese, etc. music. Systems of how to put sounds together that’s pleasing to the ear have evolved in ways sometimes unique to specific locations. For example, the people of India listen to their “classical” music which is based on a different tonal system than people listening to German music. I would suspect, however, that the listeners in each country don’t think much about the specifics of the tonal systems but rather seek to listen and experience the music on a personal level. I suspect that this is universally true. If the only differentiation is geographic, perhaps everyone would be more open to all music, I don’t know.

Music can be differentiated also by tonal systems (mentioned above) and not refer to geography at all. In the West, we have the major-minor tonal system, but also the 12-tone system, the modal system, and the atonal system whose proponents compose music without any tonal references whatsoever. Eastern music has different tonal systems as well, and I suspect that African music would also, but I have not heard much African music.

None of this differentiation makes a whit of difference to a person’s enjoyment while listening to the music. You can know absolutely nothing about how music can be differentiated and still love listening to it…or not if you don’t like the sounds.

Musikverein Concert Hall in Vienna, Austria

Musikverein Concert Hall in Vienna, Austria

Marketing

As with writing, marketing influences how music is presented and sold to the listening public. Nowadays, people in the business of marketing music wrestle with the challenges of increasing audience, appealing to different demographics, and communicating the value of the experience of listening to music. The marketing and sale of music is something that gained traction over time beginning in the early 19th century. How did marketers know what to call the music?

Music Historians

As music evolved, scholars began to think about how to classify it, much as biologists thought about how to classify all living things back in the day and developed a classification system that helped them give each living thing a unique place in the world. According to that classification system, humans are Homo sapiens sapiens. I’m certain that knowing that really makes no difference whatsoever on how you experience and/or enjoy people. But Homo sapiens sapiens really like to name things, and this fits in with how classification systems developed.

In music, the classification system is based first by time period, and then some of these classifications have sub-groups. Renaissance music, for example, covers the historical period of the Renaissance, just as 20th century music covers the 20th century. But then there’s Baroque music, Classical music, Romantic music, Neo-Romantic music, Avant garde and so on.

Music Score by the blue deviant fox

Music Score by the blue deviant fox

None of this classification makes a whit of difference to a person’s enjoyment while listening to music. You can know absolutely nothing about how music can be classified and still love listening to it…or not, if you don’t like the way it sounds.

When you go to a movie, do you notice the movie’s musical soundtrack? Do you like it? Chances are, you’re listening to what has been broadly classified as classical music and not rock music or jazz or pop. We humans actually love music and have included it everywhere in our lives. If you stop to think about it, that Muzak you hear in an elevator or while you’re on hold on the phone is only one small part of the music you hear all the time in different places.

In conclusion, no, you don’t need to have a PhD in order to enjoy classical music, or any kind of music, for that matter.  All you need is a pair of ears, an open heart, and the willingness to take the time to open your ears and listen.

What music do you choose to listen to the most often?  Have you noticed all the different ways music is in our lives daily? Have you gone to a concert to hear the music you like to listen to?

Updates:

Image from Pixelstalk.net

Image from Pixelstalk.net

The last day of 2016. The prevailing feeling online is “good riddance” to this year. No doubt about it, 2016 has been a challenging year in many ways. Right now, I’m in a strange place because of the election. Back in June, I wrote about the election in terms of my work on the future world in the Perceval series. Now the election results have brought America maybe one step closer to the America I envisioned for 2048. Let’s hope not. It’s challenging me as a writer, thinking about protesting against the actions of the Trump administration through my writing, and realizing that I probably will not be alone in this. A friend recently asked me if I were prepared to be arrested. Wow. I never thought anyone would ask me that in America because I’m a writer.

My last writing update was in June of 2016. Time for another:

CCY_PercevalsSecretCvr_FNL-960x1280.131107

Perceval Novels:
No new reviews at Amazon for Perceval’s Secret since June. I continue to search out book reviewers.  Sales continue to be slow at Amazon, and none at Barnes & Noble or Kobo.  If you have not yet bought your copy (only $2.99!), please do, and give it a read.  The reviews continue to be good to excellent!  I’d love to hear from readers through reviews at Amazon and B&N, or at Goodreads.

As for the other novels in the series, last spring I pulled out all my files for Perceval’s Shadow, the second novel in the series. My plan was to revise it during the summer, then move on to finish the first draft of Perceval in Love, the third book (I have half the first draft done already).  I did not accomplish this goal because I became caught up in the part-time job and a job search for a fulltime job, and I didn’t sit down and figure out when I’d be working on the novels. I hope to do better in 2017. I know that I feel much better physically and psychologically when I’m putting words on paper.

Marketing:

I continue to work as hard as time allows on marketing and promo for Perceval’s Secret.  I continue also to research free marketing and promo, especially online.  I need to talk more about the novel and hand out the postcards for it far more than I do.  Still need to utilize the marketing/advertising tools at GoodReads, LinkedIn and Publishers Marketplace.  Time has not been kind to me.  I continue to promote the novel on Twitter and Facebook.  I’ve been writing more posts at the Perceval Novels Facebook page, too.  Please go and like it, and visit often for updates on the novels.

A-hand-writing-with-a-pen-006

New Novel Project:

As a result of reading a couple of gothic romance novels this year, I’ve hatched an idea to transform a screenplay I’ve written, Over the Rainbow, into a novel. I love the story, the main character, and the potential of it, so I’ll be doing some foundation work on it in 2017.

Indiegogo Project now GoFundMe Project:

The one change I made in this area was the website I’d use for this project. I’ve had experience with GoFundMe, and I like the option to have ongoing fundraising rather than a deadline. All the rest is the same: I continue to pay off the credit card debt I’d been carrying from production, publication, and marketing expenses that I incurred to publish Perceval’s Secret as an e-book.  I’m now paying off the principal rather than having the interest eat into my payments, and I continue to pay more than the minimum each month.  I hate asking for financial help through crowd-source funding, but I don’t have the resources to deal with this all by myself.

Short Stories:

I completed a short story, Into the Woods, taken from some of my early work on Perceval’s Secret, and submitted it to a contest. I continue work on the science fiction short story, Light the Way.  For 2017, I plan to work more on short stories to get more of my writing out there for people to read. Short stories do not take quite as much time as novels to write.

Essays:
I continue to write posts at the Eyes on Life blog (as Gina Hunter) and here at Anatomy of Perceval.  My focus at the Gina Hunter blog has become a bit fluid: I continue to write “The Successful Patient” posts, but in addition I’m writing about the experience of being one of the Working Poor, so it’ll be about economics, money, working, etc. I think., and more about politics and how it affects the Working Poor. I hadn’t planned on getting into politics, but it looks like I’ll need the outlet for my outrage.

Paid Gigs:
I’ve written essays about my personal experiences with classical music for ClassicalMPR.org this year and I continue to pitch ideas to them. I’m presently working on an interview with a young composer for them.  I continue to search for other places that will pay me to write about subjects that interest me (or that will pay for fiction).

Yager Editing Services:
After dealing with the scammers last spring, I decreased my marketing and promo activity for this small online business. As a result of my Publishers Marketplace page, however, I received an inquiry for editing a novel last month. This put me face-to-face with something I hadn’t thought about before: the need to be 100% in support of the book in order to spend so much time editing it and in order to be fair and objective. The inquiry involved a book I could not be 100% behind, so I declined to work on it. I need to write something at this website that will clarify my position on what interests me and my need to be 100% behind the book in order to be an effective editor of it.

The Successful Patient:
Nothing has changed on this project — still on the back burner.

Part-time Job:
I continued to work part-time at the customer service job and the receptionist position. A raise in July was most welcome but wasn’t enough to offset my expenses. A good friend stepped up and offered a no-interest loan to pay my rent so I wouldn’t get evicted, and I accepted. I began looking for a fulltime front desk receptionist position and have had several interviews but still haven’t clinched the job for me. Since my financial situation is so precarious, I’ll be working harder at selling my possessions as well as promoting my writing, and my editing services.

Reading:
I met my 2016 Reading Challenge at GoodReads! Not yet certain if I’ll sign up for another in 2017. It has been helpful in giving me incentive to read more than I was. But I want my primary focus in 2017 to be writing fiction. I’ll continue to read, but perhaps not as much as I return to journal writing, for example, and work on fiction in the evenings.

Health Update:
Autoimmune fatigue continues to challenge my schedule every day.  My very slow taper off prednisone continues, and the lower the dose, the more I experience joint pain with occasional tiny flares of my other autoimmune issues. So far, I’ve been able to control it all. I’m also working on getting off some other medications. Dealing with my medical insurance company takes more time than I’d like, and I have to say that they definitely do not make it easy for their customers. I’ve begun my favorite stair exercise (to music) and plan to move my body more through walking, yoga, and Falun gong practice in 2017. Since writing is such a sedentary activity, it’s important to get up and move on a regular basis.

How do you find your next read?

Books everywhereGood question. A co-worker saw me reading during my lunch break last week and asked what the book was. He was looking for something to read. Then I saw this Roz Morris post at Nail Your Novel, and I’m thinking this is something in the air this week.

Yes, book marketers want to know! Book authors want to know also! What catches your attention and interest? The cover? The author? How do you find interesting and fulfilling reads?

To be honest, I don’t think about searching out books as much as they pop into my life. I read a review in The New York Times or I find a book because I’ve read something about an author. I sometimes will print out the review (or cut it out of a magazine or newspaper) and put it on my to-do pile. Or I’ll immediately go to my library’s website and put the book on my to-read list. I haven’t been buying many books lately because I don’t have the money to spend, sadly. One of my favorite things is to peruse a real bookstore or add books to my wish list at Amazon. I can easily spend way too much money doing that.

A while ago, I signed up for BookBub and have been receiving the bargain e-mails from it. I don’t always look through the e-mails, but when I have, I’ve been surprised to find titles that look interesting to me. If they are free, I will go to Amazon or B&N and download a copy. If not, I’ll sometimes go to my library’s website and put the title on my to-read list.

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Photo: Marina Shemesh

Meeting authors is another way I become aware of a title. I meet authors through my two blogs and through GoodReads. I’ve also been approached through LinkedIn which I found kind of amusing. But I’ve read books by people I’ve met in these ways. Sometimes the books are good, sometimes not. I had one bad experience with an author who had asked me to read and review his book. I agreed if he’d read and review mine. I fulfilled my side of the bargain. He never fulfilled his.  Now, I’m very wary of such requests.

I don’t read much nonfiction, but when I do, it’s usually about a subject that has grabbed me or a biography. I’ve also bought and read memoirs in order to get an idea of writing memoir. The last nonfiction book I read was about a film editor who’d edited a lot of films I’d seen written by a literary author whose books I’ve enjoyed quite a lot.

Friends often suggest titles or give me books to read. A friend sent me a novel several years ago that had been written by an author who’d grown up near where I grew up. After reading that book, I wanted to read all that author’s books. I’m a member of a science fiction group — we are passionate about science fiction of all kinds and regularly talk about books, films, TV shows, and exchange ideas about the different aspects of the genre. I get a LOT of book ideas from them.

My interests dictate what catches my eye. Recently, I’ve gotten interested in Gothic fiction, i.e. not Gothic horror but Gothic romantic suspense or Gothic romantic thriller. This interest developed as a result of reading an article in The Writer about transforming a screenplay into a novel. That article got me thinking about a screenplay I’d written about 10 years ago that I really like.  Then I re-read The Moon-Spinners by Mary Stewart, and suddenly it occurred to me that maybe the screenplay could be transformed into a Gothic thriller novel like Stewart’s novel.

So how do you find your next read? Check this out:

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.

Designed by Christopher Bohnet, xt4, inc.