So Many Excuses…

It took me over two months to write my newest manuscript (it’s now waiting to be edited.) But, truthfully, it didn’t take that long to write. It took that long to get written. Why? Because I had a lot of excuses. I had book covers to do. I had family crisis to deal with. I had a house to clean. I had dishes to do. I had a dog that had to go out constantly. I had a thousand million things to do for other people… and of course all of that was more important.

But here is an interesting thought. Let’s say that instead of being an independent writer, I worked at a job outside the home. Unless I took days off, that family crisis and those book covers and all the rest of it would have had to wait until I got home. All the dishes, all the laundry, all the phone calls, all the fetching and taking care of and all of the emergency emails I got from people would have had to just sit. But, because I’m home all day that makes my writing a hobby, not work.


Says who? Writing is work. Just because we don’t punch a time card or drive to another building doesn’t make it any less. We know this, so why do we let other people or other things distract us from it? If we want our writing to be treated like it’s a job, then we have to  act that way, too. That may mean that someone has to wait for us to do something. That might mean that someone has to cook their own dinner, or do their own laundry. It could even mean that older children or spouses have to help around the house, or even babysit the younger children for a couple of hours a day.  After all, if you were working outside the home those things would have to happen, so why shouldn’t they happen now? I’m not talking about real emergencies, or disasters, like hospitalizations, but the day to day things that we “have to do” because “no one else can”. Truthfully, is it really going to hurt Johnny Jr. to give up an hour of his TV or video game time and do some of the dishes? Or for our spouse to have to make dinner sometimes?

No. It isn’t.

If we want other people to take our writing as a serious job and not just a hobby, we have to take – and treat –  it serious. It isn’t necessarily life that needs to change, but perhaps how we react to it and how we order our priorities. In the end, we get what we put in. If all we ever make are excuses, then excuses are all we’re going to have, and those don’t sell very well.

What keeps you from writing? Are they really things that you have to deal with, or are they just excuses?

The Mystifying Press Release

When you publish a new book, do you “bother with” a press release? I looked into it for my last book, via links from Smashwords, but even after reading the one example post, I didn’t know what to write, so I kept putting it off until it was no longer relevant.

Has that happened to you? Or have you tried your hand at a press release only to have no one show any interest?  If either of those apply to you, you may find this article by Alexis Grant helpful:

How to Write a Press Release for Your Book

Just wanted to share!



Q&A: The Stalker Reader

Question: Help!  Someone please make a post for me and for other writers who might be dealing with this situation because I am too close to the problem to be objective about it.

If you’ve been receiving emails every day for about two weeks from the same person who isn’t necessarily being rude but is obviously wanting to keep you answering them with questions like “What kind of house do you live in?” or “What is it like in the U.S.?” or “What are the color of your cat’s eyes?”  I mean, these emails have nothing to do with your books, but you suspect the person is lonely and probably wants to reach out and communicate with someone but you don’t have that kind of time to email this person every single day, then what do you do?

I don’t want to be rude.  But do I have a choice?  Is there a form letter I can send out? 

Answer: I wanted to have your question answered as soon as I could and later I’ll make a post on Author Etiquette. Most people on here might not know what Ruth means by form letter. This isn’t some cold letter that you copy and send out. In the last year that we have been conversing, we have made a dozen or more form letters. What they are, are letters written to answer emails that would otherwise make you send a heated email cussing the rude reader off for whatever reader reason. Our letters aren’t a publisher’s rejection letters.

First, they are written when you’re not upset. Second, they can be modified to answer specific points in the readers email, which you should do if it doesn’t invade your privacy. And third, it provides a credible, professional image.  

I’ll use Ruth’s questions for an example.

Dear (Reader’s name);

Thank you for your emails, however, I am uncomfortable with your line of questioning (or as Dave suggested, due to work / family commitments / time restraints, etc. I am only able to speak  you on the writing/reader basis.) If you have a reading or writing related question please let me know (at your email or you can place a blog address here). I also have an author blog at (address), feel free to visit and comment.


(Your name)

Of course modify this for your writing style. I’m more formal in my letter writing then, Ruth. And I open this Q&A for anyone else that might have a better solution. Anyone?

Yes, Authors DO Feel….

As writers we tend not to discuss our feelings, but rather to analyze them like a third-party and then hand them off to a character to feel for us; or at least a good portion of us do. To that end, we tend to be in denial,  at least publicly, about many of the emotional ups and downs of publishing, including those terrible book release jitters.

Whether it’s your first book or your third, when you put a book out it’s the same as taking a little piece of yourself and holding it out to the world for approval because, no matter what you write, some part of yourself is embedded in the words.  And what if “the world” doesn’t like it? What if they reject it, or sneer at it, or call it “trite”, “cheesy” or even “terrible”?

Though we smile and say, “oh, it doesn’t matter. I don’t care if no one likes this; I’m writing for me.” We do care.  Just like everyone else, we want to be accepted and loved, and that extends to our words because our words are part of us, and a rejection of those words is a rejection of ourselves, and who wants that?

Even worse, what if we have fans who liked the other book(s) but hate this one and suddenly turn their back and forsake us forever?  What if we lose what fan base we’ve established? What if? What if? What if?

The what-if’s make it the worst. When there are too many possibilities, the imagination can shift into over drive and make up all sorts of terrible scenarios.  After all, that overactive imagination is what prompted us to write that book in the first place, so why shouldn’t it be running full tilt now?  How do you stop it?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t “stop” it, only distract it. I can try to “logic it away” by pointing out that the world won’t end, that it’s unlikely my five fans will hate it so much that they’ll walk away, and if they do, then I can surely go find five more somewhere else. And, just because they don’t like the book doesn’t really mean they don’t like me. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of an author whose every single book I’ve love, love, loved.

But logic can only go so far, and in the end the best way to work through it is to just work through it. Talk about it, write about it, blog about it. Break the “rules” and admit that you’re not an unruffle-able being with a stone heart and skin so thick that every sling and arrow bounces off it. Sure, we might think we’re supposed to be, we might be following the examples of industry leaders who sail on with their perfect persona’s in place, but I’d be willing to bet that even the calmest and coolest of the cool has lain awake at night, staring at the ceiling and wondering “what if?”

After all, as a writer words, and feelings, are our craft, so why are we all trying to hide from them?

Sage Advice (More on Author Platforms)

The great thing about Independent Publishing (or self publishing, if you prefer) is that we can do things our way. That means we can spend hours and hours researching tips, tricks, and ideas, and then we can toss our heads figuratively, and completely ignore it. Come on, we’re being honest here, and we’ve all ignored some big chunk of, generally, very sage advice and later been left going, “Oh. Well. Hmmm.”

One such piece of advice that gets ignored is the Author Platform. Ruth Ann recently did a couple of excellent posts on this, and if you missed them I recommend backtracking. They give suggestions for building your platform, and tell you about all of the benefits of having one. But, being a person who loves both sides of the coin, and who happens to have experience at this, I felt the need to tell you what happens when you don’t have one.

I can best explain an Author Platform by saying it’s the top “things” that come to mind when someone thinks of your body of work. For instance, when I think of Steven King I come up with: 1.Horror or Paranormal. 2. Realistically detailed (aka all those bathroom scenes and such) and 3. Long.  That could be considered Steven King’s Author Platform. If you’re familiar with this and you pick up one of his books, you know it’s going to be either Horror or Paranormal, you know that injuries, bodily functions and meandering thoughts will be painstakingly described, and you know it will be long. None of these things come as a surprise.

Of course, platforms extend to every body of work in existence. For example if you go to see a Tim Burton movie you know it will be 1.Weird/creepy. 2. Have people with black rings around their eyes and 3.Be just a little skewed.  If you buy an album from HIM you know there will be 1.Synthesizers. 2. The word “grave” and 3. A lot of songs about love.

Aside from just “telling you what to expect”, a platform also helps fans find, and enjoy things they like. If someone bought a King novel, or a HIM album, or a Tim Burton movie and it didn’t have these things, they’d likely be disappointed and turned off because, chances are, that’s what they wanted.

A common misconception is that so long as you’re blogging and putting out books, it’s impossible not to have some sort of author platform, even without trying. Technically, that’s correct, but your platform might then be something like 1. Has good descriptions 2. Writes in coherent sentences and 3. Knows how to sprinkle some humor in.  If you’re looking for a certain kind of book, an author with that kind of platform probably isn’t going to draw your attention, is it? Not that these are bad things, but with a platform like that, the author might be writing anything from vampires to sci-fi to stories about infidelity or crushed butterflies. Their stories might have happy endings, or sad endings. There might be romance, there might not. It’s like a giant pot luck dinner of surprises. That means you’re probably not reading the author for what they write, but how they write. And that means you’re wading through stuff that doesn’t interest you, or skipping it all together, which is great so long as it’s all free, but as soon as it starts to cost money, well, people have a habit of not taking a chance on a surprise when they have to pay for it. Not to mention, it makes it hard to recommend an author like that to your friends. “Hey, you should really read so and so! She writes some excellent… well, stuff.”

There’s another side to this lack of platform; the author’s side. Wouldn’t it be nice when someone from your blog circles messages you with the words “I’m starting your book!”, to be reasonably sure they’re going to like it, because you know it’s the kind of thing they’d enjoy? I bet it would be. I bet it’s a lot better than the horrifying, nail biting moments when I answer, “Oh, yeah. I hope you like it.”  All the while thinking “Yep, they’re going to hate it.” Not because it’s a bad book, but because the material presented on my blog, the material that they’ve come to like me for, isn’t at all what’s stashed between the covers of the book.  Sure it’s all got 1.good description 2.coherent sentences and 3.some humor sprinkled throughout, but so do Douglas Adams, J.R.R Tolkien and JK Rowling, and whereas I enjoy all three, there’s a chance that most people aren’t going to. Not to mention, the books I have out there aren’t even close to any of those authors.

Of course, there are a very small collection of people in the world who enjoy not knowing what to expect, but their numbers are much smaller than the number of people who want the same kind of thing every time. I know. My blog on MySpace has been an experiment in the department and, though I chug along with a steady, loyal stream few readers, I’m never going to be one of the top bloggers, simply because I refuse to pick a single topic and stick to it.

At this point I’m sure you’re thinking, “If you know all this, then why don’t you just create an author platform?” Yes, that would be the sensible thing to do, but I created a problem for myself because, quite frankly, I can’t think of a single topic, or even genre, that I’m willing to devote 90% of my time to. I don’t want to write just vampires all the time. Heck, my vampire books can’t even decide if they’re romance novels or thrillers (I get an equal mix of male and female readers, who have differing opinions). Besides, if I switched my blog to nothing but vampires or paranormal, I’d lose most of my readership (again, a sign of a weak author platform!).

My advice to someone else in this position would be to make a new blog somewhere else and devote it, heart and soul, to your platform, even though this would mean heavy advertising and promotion to get readers to flock to the new blog. Your success should be worth investing the time in and I know, and you know, that it’s the logical thing to do.  But, in all honesty, at this point I’m probably not going to do that. Will my “success” suffer? Yes, I’m sure it will. Do I recommend other people flaunt the platform idea? No, I don’t, it created myriads of hassles and only hurts you in the end. But, being an independent author, I have the right to toss my head figuratively and ignore the very sage advice, even if it’s my own.

(Joleene Naylor’s random blogs can be viewed on MySpace or Blogspot, if you want to see what she’s talking about.)