Monday, August 29, 2011

Bad day? Keep writing, keep pushing

In self-publishing, there are some days when you feel like you've got it going on. Your sales are up. You scored a good review. You wrote another chapter in that new novel. You're doing great.

This was not one of those days.

This was one of those days when you're reminded of Sisyphus, the hapless king in Greek mythology who was doomed to spend each day pushing a heavy boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down to the bottom at the beginning of the next.

It's one of those days when everything goes wrong - your links are broken, your computer is frozen and you don't have time to fix anything because after all, this isn't what you do for a living. And you sigh and wonder what it would be like to have an agent and a publicist and a therapist and manicurist and whatever the hell big-name authors get.

And then you tell yourself to shut up because no one likes a whiner. You fix what you can and get help for what you can't. You write, late at night if you have to, and keep writing until that chapter is finished.

You wake up the next day ready to start over because you're not a quitter, you're a writer. An author, even. And you smile at the other authors and you think once again that there ought to be a secret handshake because that's about the coolest thing you can be.

And you feel lucky.

Monday, August 22, 2011

When the business of writing intrudes on art

I was way the heck out in Amish country, and I couldn't relax.

I was in a tiny cabin with no phone, no kids and no WiFi and yet, I couldn't stop fidgeting. I was supposed to be working on my latest fiction project. But the words wouldn't come. Instead, my mind was racing. I wanted to check my book sales. I wanted to see if an anticipated review had been posted. I wanted to check just one more thing off my list ...

I wanted, I realized with a sinking heart, to be a businessperson more than a writer.

My emphasis on marketing had worked too well. The business side of self-publishing was now intruding on the creative side. I had a story inside me I couldn't get out because I was too busy selling a different one.

Before I published my book, I would sit down and write just to write. I never thought about selling or strategizing. I wrote because I loved to write - not because I was selling anything. So what was wrong with me now?

The scales had tipped too far to one side, I realized. I needed balance. And it took me awhile - some quiet time, some thinking, and a few hard-won pages - to get things back to normal.

But I'll be more watchful from now on. Because when business overtakes art, it shows.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Authors helping authors: Just plain nice

I can't say I've ever relied on the kindness of strangers, but I do appreciate it. As I feel my way through the maze of self-publishing, I'm constantly amazed by how nice so many of these other authors are.

Nice - now that's a word you hardly hear these days. But sometimes, it just fits.

Consider this: Angel Haze, a Canadian author who writes mysteries and thrillers, has her own website, of course. But she recently started a related blog where every Monday she promotes another indie author - like me. On her original site, she has a section where she offers resources - tips and books for self-publishing newbies - who can use all the help they can get.

That's just nice.

Or this: R.J. McDonnell is a Pennsylvania-based musician and author who writes a lighthearted rock & roll mystery series. We started following each other on Twitter, and he took the time to tell me that the blog link I have up on my profile there is broken. (Ugh - I'd mistyped it). It was just a stupid mistake on my part, and it could have stayed that way for months. But he took the time to tell me.

That's just nice.

I've met plenty more, too - folks who took the time to send me e-mails or funny quips that took me by surprise and brightened an otherwise humdrum day. Writing is solitary, yes, but these fellow authors remind that there are times it doesn't have to be.

Monday, August 1, 2011

It takes a village to raise a (happy) writer

So next on my list of challenges is making Death on Deadline into an audio book. And as usual, I have no idea what I'm doing.

So I'm taking it step by step. I realized right away I would need help with the technical stuff (of course). And I knew I'd need a voice for my protagonist, America Miles.

What I didn't know is she could be sitting nine floors up from me. Yep. In the middle of corporate-land, I work with an extremely talented actress. And all I had to do was ask for her help.

You know, it's amazing. Being an indie author, I pretty much thought I'd be using crayons to draw my book covers and burning holes into my eyes editing my own copy. I wondered if anyone would ever see my work ... I imagined my poor book buried in some Amazon pile of e-rejects.

But it really hasn't been that way. And the key, I think, is networking. I can't say it enough. Look around. Need something? Ask. Your friends and co-workers may be far more talented than you know. I'm extremely lucky - my former career in journalism brought me in touch with a wide variety of talented artists, editors and designers.

But I've met other talented people along the way, as well. Videographers, actors, marketers, other authors ... we help each other out whenever we can.

It really does take a village to raise a writer. And my village is growing. Yours can, too.