Archive for the 'The Business of Writing' Category

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 by Charlene Teglia
You can’t have everything

“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” Stephen Wright



As we close up Genreality and begin a new year, it seems like a good time to discuss the myth of having it all. As comedian Stephen Wright points out, you really can’t have everything. But this doesn’t stop us from (self-defeatingly) trying.


Planning for a new year or for a successful project begins with resource management. How much time and energy do you have to work with? What outside resources can you rely on to free up more time and energy for the project at hand? Nobody has infinite resources, and while it’s easy for me to envy writers who have older kids and aren’t trying to juggle a career around diapers, they have plenty of demands on their time, too.


Ways to outsource tasks on your list can be as simple as deciding the yard really only needs to be mowed twice a month instead of four times, or hiring somebody to clean, or getting a family member to babysit on a regular basis. Whittle down to the things you really do have to do and can’t put off or offload.


Another approach is to look at ways to create more energy. It’s true that working out leads to feeling more energetic but to get there you have to fight the tired glued to the couch feeling and begin. Same for eating right; in the long run it’ll lead to more energy. In the short term it means investing in the time to make better nutrition choices and maybe cook more. It’s the same old boring advice, but the best way to get the most out of your time is to get enough rest, eat right, and exercise.


How do you do that? Add walking to your daily routine whenever possible. Park further away from the store when you shop, walk to the day job, or just take a walk a couple of times a week. Lift weights; I’ve been doing the 12 Second Sequence workout on and off for years, and it really does get great results in 2 20 minute workouts a week. In November and December I really was so busy I could only do it once a week, but I stuck to that 20 minute commitment and it paid off.


Which brings me to; it’s always better to do a little consistently than to do nothing or to try to do too much and set yourself back. Do a little exercise. Eat one apple instead of a second slice of pizza. Write one page while your toddler plays with an older sibling. Decide if raked leaves are really worth while, and if so, can somebody else rake them?


Your life is lived one day at a time so getting the life you want in 2013 comes down to planning your days and your weeks to make it happen. You can’t have everything. But you can choose the things that matter most.

My new year is starting off with a new book in stores, The Mammoth Book of Futuristic Romance. I’m glad I chose to write the story, I’m happy to have contributed here with my merry cohorts, and I hope we all enjoy more of what we want and value most in the new year to come. Happy New Year!

Monday, November 5th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
Micromoney as a Much-Needed Pat on the Back

I’m going to talk money for just a minute.  Don’t get excited, it’s not a lot of money.  Strangely, though, it’s the little checks I’ve been getting excited about lately.  Last week, I got $33.45 in royalties for my short story “Il Est Ne,” from the anthology Wolfsbane and Mistletoe.  I also got a check for $11.90, for royalties for “Amaryllis” in Brave New Worlds.  Money like this isn’t going to change my life, certainly.  It’s a couple of week’s worth of groceries, or a tank and a half of gas.  But I’ll tell you what I love about these checks:  they’re for work I did years ago.  Wolfsbane and Mistletoe came out in 2008, and I wrote Amaryllis in 2010.  This has become one of the things I love about writing professionally in general, and short stories in particular.  I put stories out there, and in the best case scenario, they become little money machines.  Mind you, not every story keeps earning money — most, in fact, sink without leaving behind a ripple, never to be spoken of again, never earning more than their initial payment.  But I gotta tell you, the more stories I have out there, the better those stories are, the more likely they are to attract notice and additional income.

I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I’m getting quite a few short story reprint requests, sometimes for stories I originally published years ago.  Science fiction and fantasy are undergoing something of a boom in popularity in reprint anthologies right now, primarily because of the efforts of editors like John Joseph Adams and Paula Guran and others who’ve chosen great themes and made them work.  I could never have guessed I would benefit from this — except that I’ve got about sixty short stories out in the world now and a little bit of name recognition.  I’ve had something of a lightbulb moment over this.  I’ve been building my reputation and my fiction catalogue for over twelve years now.  And if you build it, they will come.  But you have to build it.

That’s why these little checks, though they might not seem like much financially, have all felt like a pat on the back, a “job well done” for all the work my younger self put into this gig, in getting my name out there and trying to be the best writer I can.  Every little check means the investment is paying off.

Lessons learned:

1)  Look for opportunities to get paid more than once for your writing.  E-books, audio rights, foreign rights, and so on.  If you write short stories, look for podcast publications that pay for reprints.  For example, Podcastle and Escape Pod are two online podcasters that pay for audio rights for short stories, fantasy and science fiction respectively.  (In fact, I should probably look at what else I can send them.)  Bundling short stories into e-books, reprint anthologies — opportunities are out there.

2)  Copyright and contracts are important:  you can only sell additional rights if you hang on to them in the first place.  Make sure you don’t sign away your right to future income, even for a piece that may not seem like much, like a short story or poem.

The bottom line really is the bottom line:  we’re in one of the few businesses where we can get paid for the same bit of work over and over again.  It behooves us to take advantage of those opportunities whenever we can.  Because those little checks — besides making my day brighter — really do add up.

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 by Charlene Teglia
5 Practical Links for Writers

A writer’s roundup of useful things:

1. Do you have regular offsite backup for your electronic files? DropBox makes it easy to keep a current copy safe in the event of laptop theft or house fire, plus it syncs easily between machines.


2. Writing on the go is easy with EverNote. Put a portable version on your iPad or other device, sync with your desktop. The portable version lacks some of the features of the desktop version, such as word count tally, but it’s still a very practical way to take work with you.


3. Feeling like you could use a creative boost? The Creative Pathfinder Course is free and covers a broad range of topics the working creative professional needs, from the challenge of creating on demand to organization and business.


4. Clarion West has announced a lineup of teaching talent to make your jaw drop. For those serious about taking it to the next level, consider this powerhouse workshop.


5. Crunched for time? Write a book in three days with time-tested fiction building techniques.

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 by Charlene Teglia
Pros and Cons


Continuing Genreality’s theme week discussion of conventions, I’d just like to throw this out there: it is perfectly possible to have a thriving writing career without ever leaving the comfort of your own home, sweatpants and bunny slippers. Being a pro does not mean conference attendance is automatically required. Nobody has ever come to take away my SFWA membership for not attending WorldCon, I didn’t lose my RT award for staying home from the Romantic Times convention, and NINC really didn’t miss me in Florida. Don’t get me started on the way people start talking about their clothes/hair/makeup for RWA’s national conference months in advance. (Didn’t anybody but me get into this writing gig in order to ditch the suits/heels/makeup routine?)


Writing conferences are opportunities to network and gain important face time, sure. They’re opportunities to see friends and people you work with from afar, to interact with and meet fans and booksellers and librarians, and yes, a pitch to an editor or an agent at a conference could lead to a new contract. They’re also very expensive. I’ve yet to price a major writing conference where attendance wasn’t going to cost around $2K between travel, hotel, food, conference fees and misc. Given the average writer’s income, that is a very significant expenditure and it doesn’t hurt to ask if it’s really warranted or if that money is better spent on promotion or a new laptop.


If conference attendance really is important to you, your budget, and your career stage, an alternative to the mass-attended national conference lies in the often more affordable, and due to the small size, more network friendly, regional conference. RWA has these in plenty, and SF regional cons also abound. For mystery writers, check out Sisters in Crime for conference opportunities galore. Pick a genre and there’s bound to be a local or regional conference near you.


But keep in mind that you can network online, you can attend writing classes online, you can order recordings from RWA’s national sessions from the comfort of your own home, sweatpants and bunny slippers. The digital age means that staying connected and current has never been easier; I often learn about publishing and genre-specific news and opportunities on Twitter long before they’re reported in any of my professional publications. It’s also much easier to lurk in an agent or editor’s Tweet stream to find out what kind of person they are than to fork over the price of an airline ticket to get an in-person pitch appointment.

Monday, July 9th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
The Convention-Going Writer

Our theme this week:  What conventions and/or conferences do we attend regularly, and why?

I’m not convinced that attending conventions — genre-related or otherwise — or writing conferences is absolutely necessary for conducting a professional writing career.  It might help, but it’s possible to have a career without leaving your house, and there are writers who do so.  That said. . .

I like going to conventions because they’re fun.  Sure, I learn stuff and do lots of networking, and since I started publishing novels I reach a lot of readers at cons.  But really, it’s all about the fun.  My professional reasons for going and what I get out of them have changed.  When I started in the late nineties, I was trying to break into the field, going to panel discussions and gleaning whatever gems of wisdom I could, meeting other young writers in the same place I was, trying to get a feel for the publishing world.  Later, when I’d started selling stories and was about to sell my novels, I went to hang out with my friends (the ones I’d met at the very same conventions) and network with editors, looking for that secret handshake.  Now, some 14 books into my career, I go for promotional reasons, to woo new readers, to meet with my editors and agent.  And to hang out with my friends.

I go to a few different kinds of cons, with different agendas:

Literary Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions

Since I started out in the science fiction and fantasy reading community, most of the conventions I go to are science fiction and fantasy oriented.  This has worked out great for me, because over the last twelve years or so of regularly attending these conventions I’ve been able to build an audience and reach a lot of new readers by appearing on panels and doing readings.  Conventions are also the place where I’ve met lots of other up-and-coming SF&F writers, people who are now some of my best friends.  Secret advice:  these cons are some of the best places to get serious face time with authors.  George R.R. Martin is well known for encouraging fans to come see him at science fiction conventions, where they’re more likely to be able to actually sit down and have a conversation with him, rather than the thirty seconds of interaction they get at a book signing.

The ones I try to hit every year:

MileHi Con, Denver’s local SF&F convention.

Bubonicon, Albuquerque’s local SF&F convention.

The World Science Fiction Convention, aka Worldcon.  The location changes, and I’ll sometimes go to this one just for an excuse to travel.  I’ve made it most years, lately, and always have an exhausting wonderful time.  This is the convention that awards the Hugo.

The World Fantasy Convention.  I don’t get to this one as often as I would like, but if you write science fiction and fantasy this is, absolutely, the best place you can go for networking opportunities.  Geared toward industry professionals, most of the attendees are, in fact, professionals —  editors, authors, artists, agents, everyone — and in this setting they’re approachable.  (Also, your membership fee gets you a goodie bag full of books. WIN.)  Like Worldcon, the location changes every year.

Media/Pop Culture Conventions

Over the last five or six years I’ve attended one or two media/pop culture oriented conventions a year.  Not only are these great big geek-out parties, they tend to attract a different audience that the more literary SF&F conventions.  More potential readers to reach!  These are the conventions that feature lots of costumes and make the news.

StarFest, Denver’s local media-focused SF&F convention.  I attend this almost exclusively for reader outreach and publicity — and it works.  When my first novel came out, my publisher gave the convention 500 copies to hand out as freebies.  I still get people coming to me telling me how they started reading the series because of that freebie.  I come here, do readings and panels, am accessible to fans, have a grand old time — and thereby sell books.

Denver Comic Con.  This just happened a few weeks ago, for the very first time, and since it had double the expected attendance, I’m sure this will become one of the “must go” cons of the regional promotional circuit.

San Diego Comic Con.  The big one.  The granddaddy and crown jewel of them all.  125,000 (more or less) potential readers.  (And it’s happening this week!  And I’m not there!  Boo!)  My publisher also gave away copies of my first book here, in 2005, and again in 2007, when I was actually there to sign them.  I credit this con with giving my career a big boost.  I don’t attend every year — it’s a drain of energy and resources, dealing with a con of this size.  But boy, it’s like geek Mecca.  Everyone with an interest should make the pilgrimage at least once.  My plan moving forward is to attend every two or three years.

Dragon*Con.  More fan driven than the commercially driven San Diego Comic Con, this is another all-encompassing geek fest that has to be seen to be believed.  I’ve only been once — it often falls on the same weekend as Worldcon — but I’m itching to get back, because I reached a huge and enthusiastic group of readers here that I hadn’t seen anywhere else.  Next time I go, I’m definitely bringing costumes.  This is the only convention I’ve ever been to where I felt out of place not wearing a costume.  At least on Saturday night at the bar.

Writers Conferences

I actually just attended my first dedicated writers conference this past April — the Pikes Peak Writers Conference — as an instructor.  I’ve lived in Colorado since 1995, so it’s kind of hilarious that I’d never attended this one at all, even as a newbie writer.  Why not?  I spent a lot of those years living paycheck to paycheck, and the conference fee is a bit steep.  It just never occurred to me to try find a way to attend.  I was making progress, and getting lots of good writing advice from authors at MileHi Con.  Oh, and it’s usually the same weekend as StarFest.  I’m thinking of working out a plan where I attend PPWC one day and StarFest one day.  Because my life isn’t crazy enough already, obviously!

On top of all these, I’ll go to one or two regional conventions as a one-off, because I’m in the area or I’ve been invited as a guest of the con.  There’s also the World Horror Convention, which I’ve been to a couple of times but not recently, New York Comic Con, and a whole slew of mystery and romance focused conventions that are on my radar that I could conceivably attend.  Not to mention the huge publishing industry conferences like BEA and ALA.  But I’m trying to cut back, travel less, so I can stay home and write more.  But these are all just so much fun, it’s hard to say no.

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 by Sasha White
What do you think?

I have some self-published stories available. They’re short novellas that are connected to my Hunter stories from Aphrodisia. They’re not selling well, and I’m pretty disappointed about it. Of course I want to make some money, because I’d like to keep writing, but also because  I really love the stories. Still Sexy was super fun to write because not only are Gina and Caleb super hot, but because they’re the couple that started off the whole Hunter Protectionseries in SEXY DEVIL. HIGHLAND HEAT came about after readers met Dougal in that story and wanted to know more about him.

When they weren’t selling well I asked some friends, who are doing very well with self publishing, what I could do to boost those sales. One thing they said was I needed to repackage them. Even though the stories were connected, there was nothing visually to connect them to each other, not the cover, not the titles, nothing except a mention in the blurb.  Good point, right? Especially when readers seem to love connected stories.
Here are the orignal covers, so you can see what I’ve done.

Now, as much as I love both covers, what my friends was very true. They don’t look like connected stories, and they’re a bit dark. Plus, I was informed that the title ROCK MY WORLD made some readers think the story might be about a rock star of some sort. Which it really doesn’t. To me it was Rock My World as in, “Wow, that dude rocked my world!” But, again, it made sense.

So, new cover and new title for that that would really help connect it to SEXY DEVIL since that’s the book where the H/h first met.  STILL SEXY seemed perfect. With Highland Heat I redid the cover, keeping the original image, but lightening it up, and taking away the Alluring Tales connection and adding the small note  a Hunter Protection Group story on both covers, giving them more f a visual connection.

So, the new covers…


What do you think? You like?

Monday, May 28th, 2012 by Carrie Vaughn
A Question on Queries

Taking a page from the Ken Scholes book, I went to Facebook to get requests for what I should talk about, and Jill Corddry asked about query letters.  “Is it more important to try to please an agent with a query letter tailored to them or to express who you are/the book is? Because it seems a lot of agents are very particular about what they want! (and any other tips about querying you want to share with hopeful authors!)”

Having spent time at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference last month, I know this is a topic of great agony for upcoming writers.  So let’s see what I can do to help.  A warning:  my advice on this is getting to be about ten years old, and as quickly as the field is changing, this may not be the best advice out there.  But here goes:

When directing a query letter to a specific agent, you should really only pay attention to two things:  the kinds of books that agent represents, and what sort of writing sample they’ve requested and how they want it sent — chapters, full manuscript, synopsis, snail mail, e-mail as an attachment, etc.  If they haven’t specified, just start with the query letter.   These are both check mark type things, and once you’ve fulfilled the two requirements of A) sending queries to agents who actually represent the kind of book you’ve written, and B) making sure you’ve sent what the agent has asked for and how they asked for it, don’t worry about any tailoring beyond that.

Focus on the book.  Not yourself, unless you’re a former veterinarian who is now writing veterinarian romance.  Just the book.  The hardest part of the query letter is selling your book in one paragraph.  I like to think of it as writing your own back cover blurb.  Strip it down to essentials — and not just essentials, but the essentials that will hook a reader, and make your book stand out while simultaneously making it sound marketable.  (I posted my Kitty and The Midnight Hour query letter a while back, just to give you an example of a query letter that worked at least once.)

My advice beyond that is:  don’t sweat it.  Really, don’t.  At the conference I met writers who’d spent weeks and months preparing their log lines and pitches and what not.  I just kept thinking — shouldn’t you be writing?  Seriously, don’t take too much time away from your writing to work on this stuff.  Spend a few hours on it, run it by a couple of people for feedback, then just go.  Listen to the Avengers.