Friday, February 28, 2014

Promo Friday: How Do We Sell EBooks Without All That Time-Sucking Stuff?

This past week was IndieReCon. Yeah, I know. I should have mentioned it earlier. I think I did on Facebook. Or maybe Twitter. I'm not sure which. And that's sort of what this post on promotion is about.

On Day One Michael Alvear contributed a piece for the conference called How to Sell E-Books without Falling into The No-Value, Time-Sucking Vortex Of Blogging, Tweeting, And FaceBooking.
Alvear's extremely readable premise is that blogging, tweeting, and Facebooking are valueless time sucks for eBook writers. If he's correct, I'd argue that they're also valueless time sucks for any kind of writer. 

Alvear is talking specifically about Kindle eBooks here. He also suggests strategies that writers should concentrate on instead of social media to sell eBooks on Amazon. I wish he'd given more information on how, though.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

That Was Exhausting. And Kind Of Mortifying.

I spent this week revising a chapter that was pretty bogged down with repetitious material. That's three days on a chapter as in one chapter. I eliminated around six pages out of seventeen. It's greatly improved. Unfortunately, I sent that entire manuscript out to a number of publishing professionals last year. Yes, people read that thing. Or tried to.

This is why it's so important to not dwell on the past. That chapter's good now!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: A Productivity List

From an earlier issue of  The Write Joyce: 10 Simple Steps to Exceptional Daily Productivity. This productivity article includes a number of steps we've discussed here in relation to managing time.

1. Every Sunday night, map out your week. Absolutely. Planning can be the constant we can depend on in a life that is always and rapidly changing. Having a written plan not only keeps you on task, it gives you opportunities to see that you are accomplishing things over the course of the week. Quite honestly, I have not been able to get back to the Sunday night planning routine after a couple of months of upheaval.

2. Actively block out task time.  You can do this Sunday night. You can determine how many units you want to commit various projects. You can also determine when you'll put the time in.

6. Obsess over leveraging edge time. I'm not sure what this author means by "edge time." I can't find the term defined on-line. It sounds as if he's talking about something like transitional time. He's talking about really transitioning from one place to another, though. I don't know that I would suggest people make calls in the car. Listening to audiobooks and professional podcasts are an alternative I'd be more likely to try.

Check out the rest of the ten steps.

Monday, February 24, 2014

March Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar

Sat., March 1, Dawn Metcalf, Kent Memorial Library, Suffield  10:30 AM to 11:30 AM Talk for adults and teenagers on writing hooks and query letters

Sat., March 1,  Sheila Murphy Adams, Cat in the Hat Ball, Mitchell College,  New London 10 AM to 2:00 PM

Sat., March 22 Susan Hood, R. J. Julia,  Madison  3:00 PM

Noticed the big decline in Connecticut children's lit appearances the last two months? No? Well, compare March, 2013's calendar to this March's calendar. And the February, 2013 calendar to last month's.

No, it is not just the weather. There are plenty of events scheduled for cookbook, nonfiction, and adult fiction writers. The Big Book Club was held this past weekend at Mohegan Sun. Seventy authors are supposed to have been there. I didn't see any names I recognized as children's or YA writers.

I'm not saying that the lack of children's author activity in Connecticut is some kind of outrage or plot. The question we probably should be asking is why we get as many child/YA authors making appearances as we do? Conventional Wisdom states that parents will take pre-schoolers out to story hour/picture book author appearances, but that after that point, interest drops. Families are much more focused on sports and school events. Bookstores, so I've heard in years past, don't want to bring in a lot of children's writers for appearances because it costs them money to order books and then send the unsold ones back. It costs them money to have their staff setting up for appearances and publicizing them, money they often don't make back in sales. In my own experience, I had a great deal of trouble getting a local indie and a big box store to even talk to me about an appearance for Happy Kid!. I spent a lovely afternoon with a third bookseller in her store. Not only did she not sell one of my books, she didn't sell any books at all while I was there. On a Saturday. After those experiences, I didn't try for appearances for my next two books.

So what's going on in Connecticut right now? Is this year's winter schedule the norm and last year's was the unusual situation? Or is the reverse the case? I'll probably need to keep track of author appearance schedules for another couple of years to be able to answer that question.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

I Really Liked This MFA vs. NYC Thing When I Read It Four Years Ago

Slate is running an article called MFA vs. NYC. It looked familiar to me, and, sure enough, I read it--at Slate--back in 2010. Why is it being rerun? The essay appears in a new book being published next week.

Back in 2010, my post title questioned whether there were other options to the MFA and NYC publishing routes. I was being back glib at that time. Four years later, I'm thinking that there definitely is a third publishing route now, the entrepreneurial self-publisher. Stop the presses!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Is Promo Day At Original Content. Or At Least It's Thinking About It Day.

If you've been following my Time Management Tuesday posts, you know that I've been trying to confine marketing/promotional work to Fridays so that it doesn't just take over the whole work week. Sometimes this will mean researching opportunities, which I'm devoting some time to today.

On-line marketing research could easily become a full-time activity, because one place refers you to another and then another. And, yes, a lot of info is repetitive. But that move from one place to another is how I found The Writing Desk, author Tony Riches' blog. What I found interesting here:

I also researched a number of blog directory type sites, looking for new places to approach regarding Saving the Planet & Stuff. I haven't done this since before Christmas. I abandoned all the sites I looked at due to lack of usefulness. After visiting hundreds of blogs and contacting maybe 70 to 90 or so (I'd have to hunt up my records--and I do have them), I have to say that I haven't found the marketing through blogs all that helpful. Yes, there are thousands of lit blogs out there. But there are probably very few that will accept any particular book for the following reasons:
  • Large numbers of lit blogs only accept traditionally published books
  • A growing number of lit blogs only accept self-published books
  • Another group of lit blogs only accept self-published books that are being given away
  • Huge numbers of lit blogs are genre specific. They accept only romance or paranormal or paranormal romance or fantasy or urban fantasy or science fiction or dystopian or YA dystopian or Christian
  • Large numbers of lit blogs no longer accept requests for reviews because while there are thousands of of lit blogs, there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of authors contacting them with requests. Many of them are overwhelmed, because most lit bloggers don't make a living off their book work and have some other kind of day job.
That sounds discouraging, but it's more just a matter of fact. And the not very productive research I did today didn't wreck my Friday. I came up with an idea for Saving the Planet today that I wouldn't have thought of if I'd been doing creative work. I also remembered that it's time to start pulling together material for the Connecticut Children's Lit Calendar and sent out a call to the listserv I draw upon for that. Finally, I did a little work on an essay I started recently, which wasn't promotional but useful.

So, it was a good promo day as promo days go.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Have You Seen These Characters?

Cynthia Leitich Smith has written a substantial piece for her blog on the use of minority characters. If you don't have time to read all of Writing, Tonto & The Wise-Cracking Minority Sidekick Who Is the First to Die, try to skim down to Tough Questions, where Leitich Smith addresses a variety of stereotypical ethnic characters.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Objectives Or Systems?

I've written here several times about using goals and objectives for managing time. A goal, remember, is what you plan to do. An objective is what you need to do to meet the goal. One goal can have a number of objectives. I find them helpful in managing time because of the objective part. You know what you need to do and can focus upon it. Additionally, you can check back over a period of time to see how you're doing and to remind yourself of what you should be doing with your time.

I'm into the goal and objective thing, so it made sense when writer friend Melissa Stewart directed me to James Clear's blog post, Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. She said, "I think you'll like it." And I did.

Clear advocates the use of something he calls "systems" instead of goals. What he calls a system, though, sounds very much like what is traditionally referred to as an objective. For instance, Clear gives this as an example of the difference between a goal and a system:"If you’re a writer, your goal is to write a book. Your system is the writing schedule that you follow each week." The book is what you want to do, the writing schedule is what you plan to do in order to write the book. Goal/objective or goal/system. 

What Clear is suggesting is that users of goals and systems/objectives focus on systems/objectives instead of ulimate goals. "If you completely ignored your goals and focused only on your system, would you still get results?" he asks. He believes you would. I think he's probably correct because, remember, the system/objective is the actual work you're going to do. The goal does sort of just sit on the shelf without systems/objectives to provide you with the work/steps to get to it.

And it's knowing what you need or at least want to do that is so helpful in managing your time.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Cheryl Klein, Jill Santopolo Talk Books And Writing

Before my oven gave up the ghost yesterday, I was trying to bring myself back up to speed with baking and listening to podcasts. I had to finish my baking on the top of the wood stove, but yesterday's podcast was a particularly good one at the Narrative Breakdown. This was Episode 35, in which editor Cheryl Klein and author/editor Jill Santopolo chat for around a half an hour about a number of fascinating things.

I was a little freaked out to hear that Santopolo submits a chapter by chapter outline to her editor for approval before starting to write the books in her Sparkle Spa series.  I suspect writing the books is easier for having the outlines. However, it would be an incredible struggle for me to come up with them.

According to Klein and Santopolo, editors may outline a manuscript they're editing to help them work out what happens where, or maybe even keep track of what is happening where. If you ever wonder what editors do for writers, well, there you go.

I'm working on outlining a completed manuscript I'm revising, and trying to outline a new project as I work on it. So you can see how outline talk attracted me while I was cutting out cookies.

Santopolo also talked a bit about some of the requirements as far as workload for students at the MFA program in writing for children and YA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. I felt as if I was getting a little insider info there.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Weekend Writer And The "Children's Writer" Newsletter

I get a mention in the March issue of Children's Writer. Author Chris Eboch wrote an article for the newsletter called What is Voice, and How Do I Get It? She quotes from my Weekend Writer post Hunting For Your Story With Voice.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

I Bookshame Myself

Blogging Buddy Jen Robinson directed my attention to A Little Stone: The Rippling Repercussions of Bookshaming by Priscilla Thomas at Nerdy Book Club. Thomas makes clear that bookshaming is not related to literary discourse. Instead, it is the "dismissive response to another’s opinion." To cross a t, here, we're talking about dismissing another's reading tastes.

Disparaging and humiliating others for any reason is not acceptable. It shouldn't be necessary to discuss it. Thomas makes some logical points apart from that. Bookshaming discourages reading, particularly in young readers or those who are struggling to read. There's nothing to be gained by it.

And yet I do it. To myself.

My comfort book/guilty pleasure reading often involves serial mysteries involving a female detective with a male counterpart with whom she develops a relationship. These series usually start out strong but become more and more about the relationship with all kinds of contrived roadblocks to true love. Usually the last few books are embarrassing. But by that point, I am too invested and have to read them all.

The first time I read one of these things, a vampire was involved. I ended up buying most of them in paperback. (Cannot recall how I stumbled upon them in the first place.) These books definitely had an erotic element, and I was worried that years later my middle-aged children would find these books among my possessions after I'd moved on to the great reading room in the sky and be absolutely horrified. So I handed them to one of my sons while he was a teenager and couldn't be bothered paying attention to anything his mother was interested in and told him to sell them on eBay.

Owning a Kindle has helped get my bookshaming under control. By that I don't mean that I'm reading things that don't cause me shame. I mean that I can do it without others knowing about it. No one sees a cover. I don't even have to buys these things from a live bookseller.

Now I'm  into mysteries set in the nineteenth century. There appear to be a lot of them, and the eBook editions are not just reasonably priced, they often go on sale. So owning a Kindle has not only allowed me to indulge my shameful reading habits in privacy but also at a cost I can afford.

I foresee Kindles and other e-readers one day being inherited by their owners' offspring.  A son can hold his mother's reading life in his hand. Wouldn't that be touching? Not if Mom read stuff she was afraid her kids would bookshame her for.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Trying To Remember What We're Supposed To Be Doing

Last year I did a Time Management Tuesday post on Remembering That We Were Going To Practice Self-discipline. It was an argument that the self-discipline required to manage time required remembering that we have time management/self-discipline plans.

I remembered the memory aspect of time management last week as I tried to move forward in getting back to work after weeks of being off my game due to a nearly month-long cold, a retreat week, and surgery preparation and recovery. How many things I was I doing back before this whole thing started.

I remembered the unit system first, both sprinting and the forty-five minute segments, which was hugely helpful. Then I recalled my plan to limit reactive, noncreative work to Fridays in order to prevent things like marketing from taking over all my work time. This week I remembered that I use some morning transitional time to maintain my office. Unfortunately, it's been a while since I've done that. Planning fell apart at the end of December, and while I do recall it from time to time, I haven't been able to get back to that, either.

Managing time does require remembering a lot.

I had my best workday in weeks yesterday, spending multiple units on one big writing project. And I managed a sprint over the weekend on a new essay I started last week. On Saturday I also dragged Computer Guy into helping me with some reactive work. Remembering the unit system, sprinting on weekends, and keeping reactive work out of the workweek all figured in to what I've been able to do in the last week or so.

Monday, February 10, 2014

A Couple Of Opportunities For People In Connecticut

From Creative Process to Curriculum Connections: Children's Books in the Classroom is not just for Connecticut residents. It's one of the NESCBWI sponsored events at the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts. And though it is described as "A Program for Teachers, Librarians, & Other Educators," it's also open to authors, illustrators, and "others."

In news specifically for Connecticut librarians, Kelly Jensen of Stacked has announced that she will be speaking at the Connecticut Library Association Conference in April.  Kelly will be speaking on April 28th, and the conference continues on the 29th.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

The Logic Behind Author Newsletters

Author newsletters have always seemed to me like SPAM. Couldn't imagine why anyone would want to receive one.

However Chris Barton makes an excellent case for them in a guest post at Cynsations. What made me take notice was his point about Facebook updates and blog posts being too much for some readers. I think it's very possible that readers are overwhelmed by them, deadened by all the words. So, yeah, maybe a good, professional, occasional newsletter would be more of more benefit to everyone.

Friday, February 07, 2014

My Maxine Kumin Story

I heard on Twitter this afternoon that poet Maxine Kumin has died.

I only dabble in the reading of poetry, so I can't claim any big knowledge of Kumin as a poet. (Though I will stick out my neck and say that that is one damn fine cover on her book, Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief.) I feel a very tenuous connection with Kumin, though, in a ships-passing-in-the-night sort of way.

I have probably told a variation of this story here before, and I definitely have at The Millions. When I was in college, I worked summers at the Bread Loaf School of English and Writers' Conference. One year, Anne Sexton dropped by during the writers' conference to visit her friend Maxine Kumin who was there. I, though an English major, didn't know who either of these women were. So during Sexton's reading, I went swimming with friends. It wasn't until she died soon thereafter that I realized her significance.

This is the story of my life, folks. I often don't quite get with the program. Just miss the boat. Probably wouldn't have run for the gangplank if I'd realized it was about to leave without me.

Maxine Kumin was also an essayist, and I have stumbled upon a couple of her pieces in New England publications. Right now I'm feeling that I'd like to sample some more of those.

And guess what? Kumin was 88 years old and has a new book of poetry, And Short the Season, coming out in April. Yes!

Retreat Reading: Self-publishing

Some interesting bits relating to self-publishing that I gathered while on retreat with no snow a few weeks back.

Ten Things I've Learned From Evaluating Self-Published Books for a Year  at Writer Unboxed  Notice that 2, 3, 6, and 8 involve very basic issues.

Companies book profits from self-publishing Who is making money from self-publishing?

Five Mistakes KILLING Self-Published Authors  Pay particular attention to Number 5.

E-book Sales Are Leveling Off. Here's Why.  This writer contends that the death of the paper book was announced way too soon, and that eBooks and traditional books will co-exist. Why is this of particular interest to self-published writers? Because eBook self-publication is cheaper and easier than paper self-publishing and has been seen as the way to go for many self-publishers.

The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has established the Spark Award for self-published children's books. Applicants must be a member of the SCBWI.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Time Management Tuesday: Gail Are You Grieving Over Time Spent Healing?

Yesterday I learned that the surgery I had a little over a week and a half ago revealed that I do not have anything life threatening. Quite honestly, indicators that all was going to turn out well started turning up two weeks ago, so I don't want to make too much of this. Nonetheless, yesterday was a turning point, and I am grateful that I'm not going to be fighting for my life any time soon. At least, not over this particular issue.

Last week, though, after returning from my weekend in the hospital, which I rather enjoyed because  I had my own room and nurses in yakking with me every few hours and telling me how wonderful I was, I found myself mourning over what I had hoped to do with my December and January. I lost a big chunk of the time between Christmas and our personal retreat week to a lingering cold and harsh cough that afflicted a big chunk of the population in the northeast. Then I went right into pre-op testing and mind prep. Dealing with health angst and post-surgical fatigue and soreness were not among my goals and objectives for the early part of this year.

I did find giving a unit of time a day to the manuscript I've been revising since the November writers' retreat hugely diverting back in December. It was a great release from health worry. And I came up with an additional revision idea for that same manuscript while in the hospital as a result of a Yoga Journal article I read while I was there. I did manage a few sprints and some correspondence last week after I got home. But, you know what? It turns out that I am not one of those artists who can sweat and create while achey and tired. None of this creating art under any circumstances for me. Yeah, that's a disappointment. Last week I was very disappointed.

I was disappointed because last year I felt that I was making progress rebuilding my career after half a decade of loss because of the economy's impact on the publishing industry and our family's struggles with elder care issues, which are hugely time and energy consuming. At the very least, I was creating a writing lifestyle that I could enjoy no matter what said lifestyle produced in the way of publishable work. I couldn't maintain that lifestyle this past month. I couldn't push ahead on my plans. All was lost.

Pull Yourself Together, Gail

Some of what I've been experiencing may be a normal response to surgical trauma. I will spare you the details of what that guy did to me, but if we'd been in a back alley instead of a robotic surgical unit, the law would be looking for him. Some of what I've been experiencing may be due to the effort I'm accustomed to giving to managing my time. My time has not been my own at all recently, and I'm not liking that.

This week I've progressed to the point of pulling myself up off the mat and doing something about this situation. What am I going to do?

Keep in Mind the Lessons of Zen

I am struggling with desire here, desire for things to be different than they are. Desire for things to be the way I expected them to be. I am also not doing a good job of living mindfully. Instead of living in this moment, I'm regretting the past and that I couldn't deal better with what happened then. I need to focus on what I can be doing this week or even this day. That is how Zen applies to time management.

The Unit System to the Rescue

What success I've had over the last few weeks was definitely due to working with the unit system. Planning to work in short units of time is perfect for someone on pain medication. You can do a forty-five minute unit or a twenty-minute sprint when the meds have you at your best. With surgical recovery (and I'm speaking from experience here--I had a lot of surgery back in the day), you get better every day, so work units can be added as you improve.

I have that manuscript revision to work on, and an idea that involves beginning to revise for something new before I finish the revision I've been working on. (Thank you trip to the hospital so I read that Yoga Journal.) I started my statics and dynamics for writers essay Monday. I have some things I want to do to my information at the NESCBWI website and to my Twitter feed. Maybe I will sign up for a day at the NESCWI conference in May.

Oh, yeah, and I've got an idea for a time management post relating to the Gerald Manley Hopkins' poem I referred to in my blog post title.

I am on my way back.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Can The Property Brothers Teach Me Anything About Book Awards?

The ALA children's book awards were announced last Monday. In my lit world, which exists pretty much on-line, this is a big deal. In the real world I really live in, this is a very definite nonevent. If I hadn't gone on to Facebook Monday afternoon, I wouldn't have known it happened.

You don't see me writing much here at Original Content about the various ALA awards because as a general rule they involve titles that I'm not particularly attracted to. Often times, if I have read the winners, I didn't care for them much. For instance, this year there is an honor book that I couldn't finish. As a result, I don't have a very good understanding of what's going on with the awards.

This year's announcement day had a little more significance for me than usual because last Monday I happened to come home from the hospital after having had surgery on Friday. Clearly I was doing pretty well, since I was able to whip out my laptop, go onto Facebook, and see that Kate DiCamillo had won the Newbery Medal. But I did end up spending a big part of this past week lying on the couch napping, reading mysteries on my Kindle, and watching HGTV.

One of the two shows I focused on was Property Brothers, which involves two really good looking brothers (twins! twins!!!) who "help couples find, buy and transform extreme fixer-uppers into the ultimate dream home." You can see why this program works for viewers. There is a real narrative here. Something happens to somebody. A person buys an ugly house hoping it will become beautiful for a finite amount of money and in a finite amount of time. If everything works (and, of course, it always does), a transformation/change will take place. Something happening to somebody...transformation...that is a story.

So last week HGTV ran Property Brothers all afternoon several times. Brother Jonathan turned out beautiful rooms over and over again. I watched probably another three episodes yesterday afternoon. And with the very last episode, once again he provided the homeowners with a beautiful black and white kitchen opening into a dining area. It was lovely, just as the kitchen he'd designed the episode before had been lovely. And the episode before that. And the episodes on other days.

Suddenly, all this beautiful stuff seemed kind of the same. And it being book award week, I couldn't help but wonder if there isn't a sameness with book award winners, too. Those award-winning titles that don't attract me meet some kind of award criteria. It makes some sense that the books that meet award criteria would be similar just as the rooms that meet a standard for beauty would be similar.

Well, I've been splitting my time between sacking out on the couch with the TV remote and trying to get in a few units of work. That's probably what led to my profound Property Brothers thoughts. I have to keep transitioning back to work. But first I'm going to go lie down for a while.