Fri. July 28, 2017: Progress, Prep, and Difficult Weekend Ahead

Friday, July 28, 2017
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

Didn’t get a chance to post yesterday; apologies.

Some good work done on SPIRIT REPOSITORY. I’m reshaping the opening a bit — I want it more atmospheric, and I’m getting rid of some lazy language. That’s delayed sending the final edit of PLAYING THE ANGLES back to my editor and copy editor, since they have to edit and copy edit my back matter, and the first chapters of both SPIRIT REPOSITORY and SAVASANA AT SEA are included. I’m also working on a back matter piece about theatre ghosts, which I think readers will enjoy.

I have plenty to say about the health care issue, but it’s going into an article, not on the blog. Last night’s vote was a relief; I’m spending far too much time trying to sort things out for my mother’s upcoming surgery, and correct errors by both providers and the insurance company. (hint: double-dipping by some providers involved).

Sent off the contracted article Wednesday morning. Also wrote, polished, and sent off an essay for a new-to-me site with whom I’d had a discussion last week. The email kept bouncing back. When I went back to look at the site, turns out they’d gone out of business over the weekend. So why did they say they wanted to hire me? Frustrating.

Fortunately, I can re-slant the piece slightly for another, higher-paying market. That will go out early next week. I have another essay that also needs to go out next week, to another new-to-me market.

We’re reworked and simplified the cover for THE SPIRIT REPOSITORY. Much better now.

The cover reveal for PLAYING THE ANGLES will be August 1.

I finished the media kit for PLAYING THE ANGLES, and I’ve created a Facebook page for the Coventina Circle series. I hope you’ll hop over there and “like” it. I’m going to invite people to the page on the day of the cover reveal, and I’m going try to post interesting tidbits on theatre and healing circles between now and the release date.
I’m going to sit down and figure out the posts and schedule ahead of time, so as things get busy, it doesn’t fall by the wayside.

Had a good meeting in Harwich yesterday; should hear by early next week. It’s a situation that requires close proximity, so the client has to choose the person with whom she feels the most affinity and alignment with what she wants.

Got some good work done on the latest book sent for review. I will finish it today, and the review will be ready to go out on Monday.

This time of year is always a challenge. Tomorrow (the 29th) is the anniversary of my father’s death. Yes, it was a long time ago, but still reverberates. The 30th is the anniversary of my own serious surgery — again, a long time ago, but it’s amazing how the body captures sense memory. Then, we upswing to the 1st of August — a big, positive day on my own personal calendar.

Watching a documentary about some of the great houses in Scotland sparked an idea last night, so I took some notes. This morning, I’m also working on the flash fiction of the butcher and his vegetarian customer. I like these characters; they have a good sense of humor, along with common sense, even though they approach the world from very different places.

I’m going to try to get some rest this weekend. I overworked last weekend, and it set me back during the week, because I was mentally exhausted. I need to rest the mind as well as the body.

Have a great weekend!

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Published in: on July 28, 2017 at 8:58 am  Comments Off on Fri. July 28, 2017: Progress, Prep, and Difficult Weekend Ahead  
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Thurs. July 20, 2017: Reinventing the Marketing Wheel — A Personal Journey

Thursday, July 20, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Neptune Retrograde
Sunny, hot, humid

Yesterday, I promised some thoughts on marketing, so that is what this post focuses on today.

At this point, the bulk of marketing falls on the author. Traditional publishers get books in bookstores and to distributors, which is an enormous part of the equation. Some of the smaller publishers give as much support as their overextended staffs can. But the bulk is up to the author.

I just wrote an article for WOW-Women on Writing on how to track the results of where you put your marketing dollars to get the best return and to decide where to put the money for the next go-round. I was lucky enough to have several generous authors and promoters share their expertise. I will post the link when it goes live; it’s a piece of which I’m proud — there’s good research and work put into it, and I think writers across genre will find it useful.

This post, being on a personal blog, is more personal.

I’m preparing my backlist for re-release, and hoping to build on whatever momentum I create to move forward in my career.  Traditional publishers want something new; most of them are reluctant to take on a backlist, unless you’ve hit major traditional best-seller lists.  Many of my decisions are the result of sitting down with people I trust to discuss and figure out what I want and need from my career moving forward, and what was working and not working FOR ME. “This is what’s done” isn’t working FOR ME, and I need to create campaigns that work on both creative and financial levels. Sticking to someone else’s formula limits me. Therefore, I have to come up with my own.

It’s not that I have the ego to think I’m so brilliant that I can create an entirely new model. But I want to find a way to engage and expand my readership with my backlist that encourages them to continue on the journey with me for new releases, some of which will be released traditionally, and some of which will be released in channels that haven’t been invented yet. I have to find the best marriage for each individual project. I need to balance business and creativity.

If I’m only going to focus on sales, on the business aspect, I might as well work full time for a packager and only do for-hire work. Nothing wrong with for-hire work; it can be great fun and a way to build craft, especially if it pays fairly. But the reason I write is to make sense of the world, and to find a greater understanding of the people in it. That means I need to work on whatever interests/bothers/upsets/intrigues me. Which may not coincide with what is thought to “sell”. And yet, it may be what certain readers are looking for or yearning for.

Agents and publishers don’t know what WILL sell. They know what HAS sold. Every submission is a gamble, and they have to make their best guess.  They want the next big thing, but no one knows what that is until it’s there. They have to be careful where they invest their time and energy. Where are they willing to take chances?

I completely respect that. Some projects I write will resonate with them; some will not. It’s like dating — you’re unlikely to find your soul mate the first time out. You keep going. And there might be a few heartbreaks along the way. That doesn’t mean either party is “bad”; it means they’re not a good match. You learn and move on to a hopefully better one.

Far too much of the business is run on “everyone does this” and “that’s the way it’s done.” Not every channel works for every book and author. Readers want good deals; bookstores and libraries face ever-tightening budgets, and they have to be particular about where they spend their money. Amazon, for all its convenience, seems to be turning to a model to actively prevent authors from earning a fair return on their work, between the bots that manipulate rankings, arbitrary dismissal of legitimate reviews in favor of badly written, poorly spelled reviews by unqualified individuals with an axe to grind, and sabotaging publishers by pushing cheaper second-hand deals.

I have several re-releases I want to put back out into the world, with the hope that they’ll start earning their keep, continue to build an audience, and pave the way for the next books in their series, and help build a solid platform while I continue, with new work, to pursue more traditional outlets. The goal of each book is that the storytelling and craft improves from the previous book, which means every book becomes a better experience. For re-releases, I can apply what I’ve gained in craft to the release, and thereby position the next book even more strongly, because I’ve got a firmer foundation on which to build.

But the books still need to find their audience.

The plan and execution for each re-release is easier, at least on the emotional level. Far too often, working with some of the small publishers, I’ve taken the “partner” aspect seriously, working with them on ideas and campaigns, only to have the publisher not fulfill what was agreed, and simply shrug it all off. ARCS not sent to reviewers as promised, books that were ordered far in advance not showing up for special events, “forgetting” or “misplacing” information sent for multiple-author promotions. The most destructive, in my experience, is refusing to put a solid release date into the contract, refusing to commit to a date, and releasing a book when the publisher “gets around to it.” Even if the author is doing the bulk of promotional work, you can’t build a marketing campaign that will get a return without solid information.

Being responsible for all the aspects of the backlist releases myself takes much of that frustration away. That’s why many of the traditionally-published authors I know have decided to go indie or hybrid. It’s not because they “can’t” get published by a more traditional outlet. It’s because the publisher isn’t giving them the support that will actually give a reasonable return.  Granted, they start out with a major advantage over me — they had the support of the traditional publisher to build their audience in the first place.

I’m also tired of all the marketing campaigns being so similar. Far too often, I’m scrolling past book promotion posts, because it all sounds the same. Covers are too similar. Cover blurbs don’t hook me. If I see a review quote from a site I know charges authors for a review, I dismiss it.

How does one set oneself apart?

There’s argument that one shouldn’t. This is what readers are used to; this is what they want. I think that underestimates the reader. Yes, there are readers who read to escape, who want something safe and familiar. They want the category romance where the only thing that changes is the character name and location. They are happy with the ever-more-restrictive formula for certain cozies that is more intolerant, that dumbs down character and motivation, and reaffirms their own narrow view of the world.  They’re free to read whatever they want, and I believe there’s a need for every type of book and every type of reader.  We all have days were we want to escape, and not be forced to think too much, or have our views of the world challenged. If that’s ALL a particular group of readers craves, they’re not the readers for whom I’m writing, so I’m not targeting them.

I’m on the hunt for something different. I have three major releases coming up in the fall and early winter, and several short releases. I have to build the individual campaign for each, and I have to integrate and cross-promote where appropriate. Each campaign has to be unique to the release, while building momentum.

I’m going to experiment. Yes, I’ll use some tried-and-true techniques, but I’m also going to come up with some things that are different. I’ll be sharing them as I figure out what they are and how to use them.

I’m starting with the following questions:

–Who is my target audience?

–What elements have given me the best return in the past, and can I adapt any of them for this particular release?

–As a reader, what catches my attention? Can I adapt any of that?

–As a reader, what turns me off? Can I avoid that?

–What makes my book unique, and what tangible aspects of that uniqueness can I use in promotion?

The answers for most of those questions will be slightly different for each release. Since I write in different genres, the target audience for each of the big releases (paranormal romantic suspense, contemporary mystery, paranormal mystery) will be slightly different. There’s room for some crossover, which I hope to exploit. But there will also be differences.

Elements that have worked for me include good media kits and individual outreach (absolutely no generic email blasts). Radio is also always one of my strongest aspects.

What catches my attention? Hard to pin down, but I have to.

What turns me off? Constant demands that I buy the book; poorly written cover copy or excerpts; covers that I’ve either seen on other books or that are so similar to other books I think I’ve seen them.

Two of the biggest turn-offs tend to happen on Twitter: one is a series of identical promotional posts that are scheduled and keep turning up in my feed. The other is when a new-to-me author follows me, I follow back, and get an immediate direct message demanding I buy the book. For me, that’s an automatic unfollow.

Another thing I don’t do is author photographs. I get a lot of flack for that. I write under multiple names in multiple genres. What I look like has NOTHING to do with my writing. I’m not an actor. I’m a writer. My words are my instrument, my words are what I share with the world. My life (which includes my looks) are separate. Readers don’t need a photograph. I have icons that designate the different pseudonyms. It’s even in my contracts. I’ve lost contracts when I refused to supply a photograph instead of the icon that is recognizable for any specific name. Interestingly enough, the ONLY time that’s happened is when the venue didn’t pay, and they wanted to run a piece of mine for “exposure.” In other words, no loss there. Unfortunately, I lost paid contracts when a newspaper ran a photograph of me that it had agreed not to run (I explained my contract). I should have sued the paper. I didn’t, but I lost a series contract thanks to that, as well as a stand-alone contact.  Because it was specified in my contract that I do not do author photographs; I only agreed to the newspaper interview because they promised NOT to run a personal photograph (I provided professional photos of the topic of the interview, which wasn’t even writing-related).  They lied to me and cost me book contracts, which means income.

I’m sick and tired of fighting with people when I hang out and they want to take pictures to post on Facebook. No. I don’t do photographs. Period. I have personal photographs that are in frames or albums with people in my life who are important to me.  I am not part of the “selfie nation”.  I could go into a whole rant on it, but people would feel I judged THEIR choices, which I don’t.  They can take and post any photo they want — as long as it’s not of me.  I have no interest in posting a selfie of me in front of something. To prove I was there? I don’t need to prove anything. That is my choice. That is my right. People can share whatever THEY chose, and it’s not up to me. But I can also choose what NOT to share.

Social media has done a great deal to expand my work’s reach. At the same time, I’m not willing to stop being who I am for fear of offending readers. I’m politically active — in life and on social media. At this particular juncture in time, my very life and that of my family depends on my so being. I’m not going to stop. That may turn off readers. Chances are, they are readers who wouldn’t like my books anyway, because my characters stand up for social justice and tolerance, and fight against oppression, tyranny, racism, bigotry, misogyny. Readers who don’t believe in those issues aren’t going to like my books anyway. Nor will I let them bully me by threatening not to buy my books if I’m politically active. Then don’t buy my books — you are not my target audience. It is your choice where to put your money. I’m an advocate of conscientious consumerism, and means respecting the choice of those who’d rather put their money elsewhere. We’ll go our separate ways. YOU are not going to change what I write. I write what I write, and I endeavor to get it out to the widest audience possible, who then CHOOSES if it’s what they want or not. It’s fine to be “not”. There are plenty of books and authors that don’t work for me. I wish them well in their careers and move on.  I don’t argue with them or publicly trash them.  I move on.

In fact, an author whose work I used to read fairly regularly (although I feel she’s dumbed down her last few books) complained about authors being politically active and threatened to stop following or supporting any authors who remained active. Although I consider her a midlist author, she is traditionally published, and believes that her platform has strong influence. Fine. That’s her choice. But she’s now dropped from MY list. I wish her well; I hope she’s happy and successful. I didn’t argue with her or try to bully her into changing her views.  But I choose to spend my hard-earned money on other authors, and I choose to spend my time with people who respect my beliefs, even if they don’t always agree with them.

As a dedicated member of PEN, who used to work on behalf of incarcerated authors all over the world when I lived in New York, walking my talk is vital to who I am and what I write. I’m not going to dilute it because it threatens certain readers’ narrow frames of reference.

Again: they are not my target audience.

And the rule of marketing that works, after “write a good book” is “know your audience.”

My goal is to create interesting, engaging campaigns for books in which I believe. I want to expand my audience. I want to write books that interest, entertain, and maybe make readers look at the world a bit differently. I want to create marketing campaigns that are less of “Buy my book, damn you” and more “come play in this sandbox for awhile — you might enjoy yourself.”

I’m still working out the details. I know I’m going to pursue interviews (blogs, print, radio). Once print editions are available, I may start pitching for appearances again. My media kits are vital tools, and the Media Room on my website is the one of pages with the highest traffic.

I also spend time dissecting what is unique about each release. Themes, characters, leitmotifs that turn up in the books. I want to build aspects of each marketing campaign around that, to make the campaigns more unique. I’m not sure what all of those are yet, but I’m working on it.

Will any of this work? I won’t know until probably 2019. I’m going to try different elements. Some will work. Some will not. I’ll adjust.

One of the biggest challenges is handling of all this, keeping on schedule, and maintaining momentum while staying on track with new projects and with the freelance writing that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head, AND dealing with the difficult personal issues that I’m currently dealing with.

But, most important of all, I will keep writing.

I hope you continue on the journey with me. I hope you will learn from my experience. If my mistakes can prevent any of your own, that will be a positive, in my opinion.

Namaste!

Mon. June 19, 2017: Not on Weekends. Not for That Rate

Monday, June 19, 2017
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Cloudy, humid, cool

Challenging weekend. A lot of stresses on the personal front, some annoyances on the professional front.

Saturday morning was difficult and discouraging, and exhausted me beyond expectation.

On the positive side, I managed to pull a metaphorical rabbit out of a hat and solve one pressing stress; but there are still a pile that need dealing with.

Also on the positive side, I finished reading Philip Margolin’s SLEIGHT OF HAND, which I thought was well done. I’d never read one of his books before; will definitely read more.

Also, over the weekend, read Barbara Ross’s first Clambake Mystery, CLAMMED UP. I liked it a lot. It’s not dumbed down, the way so many of these mysteries have become. The protagonist is smart & resourceful, I like the supporting characters, it kept me guessing for the right reasons. It’s set in Maine, in a fictional cover near Boothbay Harbor and Bath, two places in the state of which I’m very fond, and she got the emotional geography right. I’m looking forward to the other books in the series.

AND I read Abbi Waxman’s THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS, which I absolutely loved.

I’m playing with an idea, writing my way into it, to see if it’s viable. I’m wondering if it’s too similar to another idea with which I’ve been toying, although the characters are very different and the premises are, too. But the openings are similar, and I might have to change that. However, a character I planned to be the first body drop won’t comply; I’m trying to figure out how to make him the second body drop instead, but he’s balking. He has every intention of being an continuing character, should this be a series, and not as a ghost.

I usually have Sunday as my “day of disconnect”, where I don’t go online or use social media. Unfortunately, I had to check my email on Sunday morning. What I wanted wasn’t there, but a demand from the new editor for revisions was, and he wanted them by 9 AM Monday morning.

I said no.

First of all, he’s had three weeks to give me notes for revisions. That’s right. I turned in my assignment three weeks before deadline. So don’t email me revisions ON A WEEKEND and demand them first thing Monday morning. Not only are you not frigging paying me enough, I’m taking my mom to a medical appointment in the morning, so you’ll get them when you damn well get them. Also, the two month lag time between the deadline and payment isn’t sitting well with me. I resent it, and it’s making me drag my feet on the next assignment. I responded that I would have the revisions back at some point on Monday (and I am SO tempted to charge a rush fee), but it wouldn’t be by 9 AM. When I return the revisions, I will also point out that if he sends me revisions on Sunday, he WILL NOT receive them on Monday morning, because I won’t know about them until Monday morning. If you want them Monday morning, you get them to me before noon on Friday.

I did the revisions (the actual notes made sense; I resented the timing and lack of consideration of my time). I will finish up the current assignment and accept one more; if these frustrations continue, I will resign. They’re not paying enough for all this kerflamma, and not paying fast enough, which is even more important.

My anger was out of proportion to the situation, in some ways; perhaps it’s because I know I’m in the wrong situation. I need to let it go, resolve it, and move on.

Worked on another article that I want to get out in the next couple of days. This week is also my follow-up on queries where I haven’t yet received a response.

Worked on a short story that will go out the door later today, and will turn my attention to the longer short story that I want to get out this week. These are initially aimed at two publications where, should I open a positive relationship with them, there is the potential for paying work that is both steady and creative.

Took my mom to her medical appointment, and she had a biopsy. Fingers crossed nothing is serious.

Thurs. May 2, 2013: Car Massage

Thursday, May 2, 2013
Waning Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Sunny and gorgeous

Yesterday was certainly a day of challenges. Someone flaked on me — someone with whom the “no flake discussion” had been held. The writing on the novel went badly.
I sent in the proofreading test and got an auto response that I failed and didn’t make it to the next round — um, there’s no way an auto response can indicate the test was actually looked at. Since I had the manual they claimed to use open on my lap when taking the test (which was allowed) — I know I got things right, per the manual. I checked the website, which said all positions were filled. Now, if you tell people they have 3 days to take the test, don’t tell them they “failed”, when, in reality, you filled the position and didn’t have the courtesy to tell the rest of us. Red flags all over that one, so it’s probably a good thing I didn’t get in!

Put stuff together for the Beltane festivities, drove out to Brewster — and the car died. Ignition locked. I was at the site, fortunately, not somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. The celebration itself was great, a lovely bunch of people.

Tried the car again after — no deal. Lost it and was sobbing in the kitchen. Nothing like having a nervous breakdown in one’s first meeting with a bunch of strangers. But everyone was very kind. Called the VW Roadside Assistance program — I have too many miles on the car, so now they charge. They arranged for a tow truck. I calmed down with a cup of tea and went out to wait. I played with the car, massaged it, basically Reiki’d it — and it started. I drove it around the neighborhood, stopping and starting a few times to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t.

I cancelled the tow truck, got to hang out with some of the other celebrants, and then drove home. No problems, except I was exhausted and wrung out. Called Roadside Assistance and told them to return the money they’d charged me, since I fixed the damn problem myself.

Two years ago, the ignition coil was replaced when the same thing happened in Shaw’s parking lot in Hyannis. An ignition coil should damn well last more than two years, so this better not be an indicator this will be an on-going problem!

Fell into bed, exhausted. Woke up late this morning, but got to yoga on time. Good class. Stopped at Covell Beach on the way back — gorgeous.

Finished painting the plant rack. Forgot to mention that, last weekend, I oiled all the porch furniture – those of you that have teak furniture and teak oil know what I’m talking about! It’s time-consuming, but well worth it.

Now, I have to dig in and get everything done today that didn’t get done yesterday. All I really want is a nap, but I have to catch up on the book and a few other things.

Exhausted, but relieved that the car is okay.

Back to the page.

Devon

Published in: on May 2, 2013 at 10:12 am  Comments (1)  
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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Saturday, May 14, 2011
Waxing Moon
Saturn Retrograde
Pluto Retrograde
Sunny and pleasant

I was on the road by about 7:30 yesterday morning. It was a pretty decent drive down. Providence was a pain, but it usually is. For the most part, though, it was painless — although as I hit the bridge, I got hit with a migraine, and I hate driving with a migraine.

Stopped in Stamford at the Border’s to get a book I need that I haven’t been able to find at the seven other bookstores I’ve visited in the last month. That Borders will close on Sunday — even though it wasn’t on the original list. So that means there are NO Borders anywhere in my regular routes anymore, and they’ve NEVER gotten an internet order right in six years, so I don’t even bother. I’m sorry, I’m not driving several hundred miles out of my way to find one of their stores. The price of gas negates any discounts they might offer. There are plenty of independent stores near me that actually carry what I want, most of the time (except for this damn book). You know what? They deserve to go out of business. Their utter contempt for their customers is appalling.

Anyway, most titles were 75-80% off, and I wound up getting 11 books for $21. Not the book I needed, but oh, well. I had to order that on Amazon for two day delivery, because I have to have it next week. Now, this book is a best-seller. It should be on all the shelves.

The work at the site threw a monkey wrench in what I hoped to get done in the afternoon, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. When I finally got online in the evening, I got an email from my editor at Confidential Job #1 that he’s leaving and this was his last day! I was stunned. He got a better job, and I’m happy for him, but still . . .When I first started with this company, I worked with two editors. When the company downsized (and cut our rates), they fired the primary editor I worked with, and this one took over everything. I agreed, at the time, at his pleading, not to leave while he was still working there. In the interim, the company was sold. Now, he’s leaving. And there’s no replacement. The paperwork goes to one person; the invoices to another. So who assigns? Or will we not get new assignments until this is settled? But at least I don’t have to feel guilty if I decide to leave. I can’t help feeling slightly abandoned, although that’s not a logical response. But whoever said emotions were logical?

Saturn Retrograde is challenging me to rethink some of my long-term clients. In freelancing, the top earners warn the rest of us that your client bases changes pretty drastically about every six months. I tend to stick with clients for years — sometimes out of misplaced loyalty. I’m already feeling a lot of frustration with a portion of my clients — not because they’re doing anything unprofessional or skeezy, but because my focus, needs, and vision for my career are changing. I’m building a new life in a new location. I can’t pop down for a 500-mile (or, in some cases, more) roundtrip whenever it’s convenient for them for a couple of days– I have jobs and responsibilities in my new location. It’s not just about money, but about the logistics of the travel and the time lost during travel that really needs to be spent on other things. Also, now that I live in a place I love, some of the jobs I originally took on as “escapes” feel more like burdens. I have to really be firm about the parameters, so I’m not taking on something that doesn’t work for me, and then resenting it because I didn’t ask for the right things. In two of the new jobs which are in proposal/negotiation status, yes, the money is considerably higher, and yes, there is travel involved – one would have me roaming around MA, and the other would have me in Boston sometimes and DC at other times. They would both be challenging (I’m trying to land them both), and both push me in new directions more in alignment with the vision of where I want to go in the next few years. I’m at a crossroads, and I have to figure out how to gracefully, professionally, and kindly work towards my goals without leaving anyone in the lurch. Although, as a good friend reminds me, “You’re not HR. It’s not your job to find a replacement — it’s theirs.”

Crap. And here I thought I could ride out this Saturn Retrograde because I’d left NY! 😉

The thought of all the work that needs to get done this weekend just depresses me, but there it is. I have a lot of figuring out to do — in some ways, I’m in the same boat as several of my friends going through job changes. And I really want to make positive choices, or the next time Saturn goes retrograde, I will get my ass kicked (as a friend of mine does regularly, because she refuses to make changes, staying with the devil she knows, and then wondering why everything keeps getting worse).

Deep breath. Keep moving forward. And keep figuring it out. All we can do, right?

Devon