Thursday, February 4, 2016

Is Your Writing Group Missing Something?

I remember some of the first writing chapters I visited. I really started noticing interesting trends in the groups. There were groups that "had it" and groups that "didn't." There were these amazingly dedicated groups of writers who seemed to be stuck in a rut, On the other hand, there were chapters that seemed to be breeding N Y Times Best selling authors. What was the difference?

The answer is amazingly easy. The chapters doing well were taking advantage of their resources. They were taking advantage of every opportunity to bring in specialists to guide them through the process. Those groups who were struggling were simply trying to do it all on their own. They seemed to think that all it took was a good brain and they could work out the problems on their own.

It isn't going to work that way.

Take some time to look around your writing group. Are they really doing well? Are they making the advancements they said they wanted months or years ago? Are you all writing for the same publisher? This might tell you something!

Bringing in guest speakers is the best way to get that group moving and it doesn't take much! Even if your group want nothing to do with the traditional publishing system, speaking with editors and agents will give you an insight into the process as well as what the entire business looks like.

Now, I get that money always becomes an issue. It doesn't have to be that way. You can do this inexpensively. You just have to think. For example:

  • Invite one person every three months. You don't need a panel of 8-10. Keep it simple. That will also give you a chance to worry about expenses.
  • Invite locally. There are editors and agents all around the nation. Look around. I have always found it interesting that here in the Seattle area, there are big writing groups and yet, they always look to longer distances to getting the speakers (but then complain about expenses). 
  • Online workshops. Using things such as Yahoo groups or even Go-To-Meeting doesn't take much of a set up
  • Guest blogging.
  • SKYPE! I am a big proponent of this one. Not much of a set-up and it doesn't cost you anything. Just get a laptop and a projector. It's that easy.
The point is, get them going to invite those speakers. Make this your 2016 resolution. I don't care if you aren't the President, VP or Conference Coordinator for your group. You can get the ball rolling.

It is easy!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Contract Negotiation Waltz

I thought about that imagery of contract negotiation being a dance this morning. I have been working through some new contracts for my authors and working out "the bugs" can always be a tough thing. It really does take a team effort between the author, the agent and the publisher to get things to work out.

I have heard authors talk about contracts as being a way to "screw" the author. This is not the case from the reputable publishers out there. The contract is simply an agreement between all of the parties, and the word agreement says that everyone is on board. The contract is there to find a way to get the best for everyone in that given situation. It is not just about the money (although, yes, this is a factor). Let's talk about a few.

THE ADVANCE - So let's start with the money. We have to remember the advance is the money up front the author will get. It is a prediction on what that author will be able to sell. This is where it is tough for authors to understand. Being a writer is not a money making profession (with the exception of a few people out there). This is a second job. Although you might want to personally make a ton of money for that 75,000 word single title, we have to consider the sales. Those sales are dependent on a lot of factors:

  • Are the book buyers wanting to put your book on the book shelf?
  • How much promotion are you and the publisher doing?
  • How easy is the book to find online?
  • Etc.
DELIVERY DATES - This is another one the authors often don't see the big picture on. Publishers know the best way to get sales. They know months that do best for certain books. They know how fast books should come out depending on the author (i.e. Back to Back releases and so forth). They will do whatever they can to adjust the dates to get things to work for you, but remember, they also know they want to get those books out there to the public. But here is the other things we often forget. You are not the only author.

Your books need to be put on a calendar for release. Your books need to get to Marketing, to the Art Department, to the Copy Editor, and certainly through your own editor several times to get things done.

OPTIONS AND OTHER STUFF - There are things in those other clauses that we can negotiate and can often get. The sticky one is the options clause. In all honesty, this one is designed to not hurt the publisher and to get the best for you.

First of all, publishers want to keep you. They signed you in the first place which means they must have liked something. They don't want to put in all of that hard work on you and your writing and then find you have gone to another publisher with all of that work. If you want to write another genre, that is fine. We just make sure that the option is in your favor to do that.

But secondly, this option gives the author an immediate inside to further contracts. For new authors, this is really important. You don't want to just be a "one hit wonder." Think of it this way. Let's say you are hired by an employer for a 1 year non-continuing contract. What does that mean? At the end of the year, you are unemployed. End of story. There is not promise or guarantee of you staying, regardless of how well you work. Having an Options clause gives you something more than the thought of unemployment when that contract is over.

Now, when I said it is a waltz, it really is. The more everyone can "play nice" and being working for the same goal, the dance is gorgeous. But think of those businesses and corporations around you that really struggle with contract negotiations. If is often because one or both sides is not wanting to make it a waltz, but a solo performance. Feelings get hurt. Contracts don't get processed, and often, there are big losers.

We don't want that to happen with you!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Tightening Your Writing - Eliminating The Fluff

I was working with one of my clients this last weekend and one of her current projects. She got some feedback from an editor wanting to get the hero and heroine together a bit sooner. Now, while it is really not necessary all of the time to get the hero and heroine meeting on the first couple of pages, I could see what the editor was struggling with. For this author, it was about tightening the writing.

The scenes the author had were well written scenes. Each of the scenes had information that was certainly useful for understanding who the characters were and where they were coming from. These were not so much back story dumps, but really useful information. So, where do you cut?

In this case, we didn't just simply trim, we hacked. While those scenes were useful, we had to ask if we needed all of the information told in the format she was using. Instead of showing us the entire scene the characters were living, we simply cut it and shifted it to a paragraph of material where the author summarized (for lack of a better word) what had gotten her to this place.

What this author did was what a lot of authors do. This author needed to see how the characters got to this location. She needed to play it all out in her head. But when it came to the story, the readers really didn't need this information, or at least not all of it and not at that moment.

Did she throw that information away? Nope! That information is now in another document sitting there in case she needs little lines, dialogue or a passage. She may not use any of it? Who knows.

When you are tightening up your writing, it is simply a matter of asking if that information is really necessary. Is there a way to say the same thing and get the reader moving a bit more. There are certainly times when lingering over a topic is fine. But in other cases, to get that plot moving. feel free to hack away!

And sometimes it is just plain cathartic!

Friday, January 29, 2016

How To Decide On A Conference

I think all industries and businesses have conferences. I have been to a lot in my days but I honestly have to say that writing conferences are the best. This is place and time when people who are truly passionate about their craft get a chance to talk and work to improve their work! But, with all of the conferences available, it can sometimes be difficult to decide which one to attend. I would also say that far too many authors use only price as their criteria for attending or not, and this, in my humble opinion, is not the way to go. 

Yes, attending conferences will cost money, so I am not going to 100% ignore the financial factory. But this is really an issue of a cost-benefit analysis. Today, I want to look at the things you need to consider before plunking down that money.

Who is speaking or attending - This is a big one. If there is a presenter who is leading a pretty extensive workshop that you would normally pay a lot of money to go and see, then I would say to go. Sure, you might be able to work with this person at another conference, but the other workshops and networking that you would get with this one would give this conference an added bonus.

Are their agents and editors there? - This is one only for those authors who are really ready to make that jump to professional writing. Being able to meet with these professionals face-to-face can sometimes make a world of difference. BUT, I am adding a condition to this. If the agents or editors you want to submit to are not there, but other random ones, you cannot factor this into your decision making. Pitching to people who would most likely turn down your work is not worth the effort. 

Networking If you are already published, this is now the time to start thinking about promotion and moving to another level. Will this conference be a chance to meet with people who can better your career. Is there a book signing? Again, here are some conditions to this one and let me start with the book signing one. If there are not outside people coming to the conference for the book signing, then it is NOT worth it. I attended a conference where all of the authors who were there were at the book signing. The funny part is they all sat at their tables waiting for people to come. Those potential buyers were also selling books. There were simply no outsiders to buy the books. 

The networking also involves simply talking to people. Is your editor or agent attending (I should also add that if your writing chapter is having a conference, you should invite your editor or agent). Are their new booksellers attending that might be new doors for you to get your books into their stores. This is especially important for those of you who are doing this on your own. 

Size matters There are really a lot of pros and cons here. I love small conferences because I have the chance to meet with a lot of authors and talk one-on-one. But with the smaller conferences, there can also be a limited amount of workshops and networking opportunities. With the larger conferences, these can be lacking in that personal connection but there are more business opportunities.

Workshops and classes This sort of connects with the first one. Look at the workshops on their schedule. Is there anything there that fits with what you are looking for? I know I attended one conference (I was invited) but new after they finally got the schedule out, that there would end up being little I could offer the writers. This conference had the theme of self-publishing that year. No, it was not a written theme, but it was very clear the coordinators were thinking that way. 

Look, conferences are great and, as a writer, you have to attend these. It is here where you will make your connections. It is here where people will know your name. But, make a wise decision before attending!