Archive for the 'The Business of Writing' Category
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011 by Sasha White
Over the past year or more we’ve been hearing more and more about self-publishing. Joe Konrath has been a force behind the message that we authors can have so much more control, and income, if we override the conditioning of Big Publishing and take control of our own careers. That’s not to say that traditional publishing is bad. I’m not against it in any way, and will still be pursuing it. But I’m also smart enough to know that options are never a bad thing.
In October I dipped my toes into the whole self-publishing pool with MEANDROS. I’d promised to keep y’all up to date on how it went, but have really posted nothing about it since because it’s been very slow moving.
Meandros is a short story just over 5k long. It’s been previously published, and it was also a free read on my website and scribd for a year or so, so I didn’t really expect a lot of sales. But I thought why not, let’s get it out there. I put out some coin to get it re-edited, and formatted and got a nice new cover. I put it up for 99 cents, because that’s the lowest price Amazon allows.
Here’s the stats of what’s happened with that book so far.
* In the four and a half months it’s been for sale, I’ve only sold 1 copy through Smashwords, and 150 through Amazon.
* Sales went up when readers posted reviews.
* Changing the blurb didn’t help sales. Although this could be because my story is about how the main character deals with the death of the love of her life, and I refused to hide that fact in the blurb. It was suggested to me I take that out, to sell the story, but I didn’t think that was cool. I didn’t want to mislead readers
I’m okay with slow sales on that story. Of course I want it to sell lots. I’m human and I want to keep working as a writer, but that particular story is a very personal one, and I really just wanted it to be available to as many readers as possible.
Author Jordan Summers has also been dipping into the Indie Publishing arena by re-releasing some of her backlist, and talks about it openly on her blog. So far she’s released one novella and one category length book, and states that she made a little under $100 in the first month. A few of the sales are from Smashwords and B&N, but the majority are from Amazon. Jordan’s done no promotion beyond her own blog because she wanted to see what would happen if she just put the books out there. Would people find them on their own?
It seems that many of us are not only seeing this as a way to re-release backlists, or short stories that connect to our books, or even new stuff, but also as way to really see what works with readers. We can see what works promotion wise, too. I know I noticed a bump in sales when readers started posting reviews on Amazon, and Jordan confirmed that she saw the same thing.
With that in mind, I went forward with a project with another author. Charlene Teglia and I decided to do an anthology together. We used the theme of rocks or stones of mystical value (ROCK MY WORLD is my story) and we each wrote a short story that connected to our previous print books. Because Charlene’s was paranormal, I chose to write one connected to my own paranormals that were published by Kensington, and not my Berkley contemporaries.
The idea of it is that our fans will buy the book because it’s connected, and hopefully new readers will enjoy the eBook so much they’ll hunt down the print books they’re connected to.
A Rock & A Hard Place had it’s official release yesterday, and is now on sale for 99 cents through Smashwords, Amazon, Barnes & Noble.
Below are some tips from me to anyone out there wanting to go the Indie Publishing route.
*When it comes to formatting…hire a professional. Save yourself time and stress.
Also, when getting the file ready to send to the formatter…Keep it as simple as possible.
Page breaks are okay. Italics and bold are good, but beyond that, there’s no need to format your file a lot. The person who formats it for publication has to break it down and completely reformat it anyway. However, you can make their job easier and smoother by giving them a clean and simple file to work with.
When asked about how she charges for formatting April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic gave me this list
Long Fiction: $30 for the first file, $10 for each additional format
Anthologies of three or more stories: $50 minimum (more if number of stories or authors exceed 5) for the first file, $10 for each additional format. If the ebook file needs to have Interior Illustrations (including diagrams for non-fiction or covers for excerpt books): additional $5 per image embedded (assuming all images are provided by author(s))
April says, “So far, length hasn’t really made much of a difference in either ebook formatting or for print book design. If anything does make a difference, it’s more likely to be the number of chapters or the number of sections or, say, stories in an anthology. This is because where there’s a hard page break, it’s usually the start of a new file — so the more chapters/sections/stories, the more “files” there are in an ebook and in a print book, and the more “entries” there are that refer to them in a table of contents.”
This shows that it’s not so much about the number of words when it comes to formatting, but the work involved..books with more work (Sections, or excerpts, or images that need to be embedded) will cost more to format.
Also…be sure to include the legalese in the front, and your bio in the back. It’s not up to the formatter to complete your file, only to format what you send them.
If you have any specific requests, (a table of contents, or embedded links) be sure to mention them at the same time you send the file in.
When you get your file back, be sure to check them over right away. You’ll likely get a chance to ask for tweaks if there’s something off, but only if you do so right away.
Smashwords was fairly simple to upload to. Step by step, instructions. One thing we did by accident was not check off the ePub version because we wanted to upload our book to B&N via PubIt. That was a mistake, as the ePub version is also what they use for the iBook store and Sony. We waited until the file was published, then went back in and redid it. It wasn’t a huge hassle, but it was a step that we could’ve avoided. Plus, having to republish set our book back in the line for the premium catalogue, a delay thats not really wanted when the goal is to get the book out in as many venues as soon as possible.
*Side note* Smashwords has a fabulous step-by-step guide on formatting your file for them. It seems easy. It wasn’t. I formatted MEANDROS for Smashword myself (The guy I hired for that one only gave me Mobi and EPub files, I didn’t know enough to ask for a word doc) I followed the steps. Everyone of them, and MEANDROS is till no even in the line-up to go to the premium catalogue because they keep saying it’s not formated right. So, I highly recommend hiring someone. )
Kindle also had step-by-step instructions that made publishing fairly easy. The thing we screwed up on there has to do with pricing. You see, we uploaded the story to all three places (B&N, Amazon, Smashwords on Thursday, and decided to wait until it was available on three before we announced the Sale and Giveaway we planned. We figure it was a better way to make an event out of the release. With this in mind we set the price at $2.99 when uploaded, figuring we could change it to 99 cents for the sale on our official release day Monday) On Sunday night Charlene went in to change the price so the sale could start. The change on Smashwords was immediate. B&N took an hour or so, Amazon took over 12 hours. So, next time, we’re not going to worry about co-ordinating and surprising with a sale, we’ll just put sale price in initially. LOL
B&N PubIt. Me, I didn’t bother putting Meandros up on there before because at that time it wasn’t worth it for the experiment I was doing. Charlene uploaded our anthology, and she cursed the whole time. She says “The real difficulty I ran into wasn’t the upload process, it was the account creation and verification. Also, the cover art requirements are different from Smashwords and Amazon, so it takes a separate file that fits their requirements exactly.”
I highly recommend these guys.…
ImagineIf Creative Services by Michelle lauren
Editing, (three levels: proofreading, copy edits and substantive editing)
April Martinez of Graphic Fantastic
Fantastic cover design and graphic art as well as formatting for electronic as well as print publishing. *Did the cover for A Rock & A Hard Place* Visit
Anne Cain Graphic Art & Design
*Did my Mavericks Of Space cover not yet released*
And since I’m talking self-publishing, I just have to add that the news of Barry Eisler turning down a two book deal worth $500,000 to self-publish makes me wonder what’s next. While there is no denying this was a revolutionary move, it’s also one that make me wonder what this move means for those like me and Charlene, and Jordan, who aren’t NYT Bestsellers. How will it effect us if more “Big Name” authors follow in his footsteps? Will it effect us?
One thing is for certain, it’ll be along time before things are settled again in this industry.
Monday, February 21st, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
Cargo cults are a kind of sympathetic magic, particularly associated with the South Pacific during and after World War II, when military forces brought massive amounts of equipment and supplies to remote islands. The deliveries stopped when the war ended, and in an effort to bring about a return of the deliveries, local people sometimes built fake landing strips, piers, replica ships and airplanes, and so on. Such structures had brought riches before, why not again? (This Smithsonian Magazine article discusses cargo cults in general and a particular cult that persists.)
Wikipedia offers this: “From time to time, the term “cargo cult” is invoked as an English language idiom to mean any group of people who imitate the superficial exterior of a process or system without having any understanding of the underlying substance.” And this: “…the term “cargo cult” also is used in business and science to refer to a particular type of fallacy whereby ill-considered effort and ceremony take place but go unrewarded due to flawed models of causation…”
I think this happens in publishing, especially in self-promotion done by authors. I keep running into authors who do things — make book videos, do blog tours, hand out a million bookmarks, sign stock at every store within a three-state region — because these are the things that you do. All the lists of things you can do to promote your book say to do these things. Everybody does them, in the hopes that they will bring forth riches.
And yet, where’s the evidence — the direct, causal evidence — that any of it works? There isn’t any. Maybe something worked really well for one person, so everyone else goes through the motions in the hopes that it will work for them, too. There’s a lot of hope involved in self promotion.
A specific example of a promotional cargo cult is the blog. Authors like Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi, and Neil Gaiman have generated huge readerships through their online journals. They’ve been blogging for 10+ years, before anyone else was doing it, and have spent a lot of time and experience building communities out of their online presences. People point to them and say, “Look, blogging will bring you readers, you have to blog!” Setting up a blog has become something like building a fake runway in the hopes that a magical cargo plane will swoop in for a landing. However, the simple act of blogging is not going to turn you into the next Neil Gaiman. That ship has sailed, and it’s way too late to spend ten years developing an online audience that you can use to promote your writing career. Move on. Blog if you enjoy it — not because you think it will magically make you a bestseller.
Unfortunately, lots of people buy into the magical thinking, because you have to do something to promote yourself, right? Blogging works for lots of other people, why not you? But if you start blogging without a real understanding of how it’s worked for other authors, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.
Same thing with book trailers, “viral” marketing (which almost by definition can’t be done purposefully), convention appearances, paying for your own publicist, and so on.
I have a test for what promotional strategies are worthwhile: Has it ever worked on me, as a reader? Have I ever heard of the author using that strategy, apart from the fact that they’ve used that strategy? Have I ever actually bought the book advertised on a promotional bookmark? (The answer is yes, once — because I also heard the author speak and I picked up his bookmark to remind me to buy the book.) If an author has paid thousands out of their own pocket to hire a publicist, and I’ve never heard of them apart from the fact that they’ve hired a publicist, I would argue that perhaps the publicist isn’t helping.
Too much self-promotion can be a bad thing if instead of getting people interested in your book, you’re annoying the hell out of people with your incessant e-mailing and Facebooking and Tweeting and so on. It can also be destructive if it keeps you from writing your next book in a timely manner. The best promotion you can do for your book? Write the next book. (YA author Maureen Johnson’s manifesto on the topic of internet promotion is well worth reading.)
True story: I hate, hate, hate going into a store cold to sign stock, which is one of the things you’re supposed to do to promote yourself. I only do it when someone drags me, or I’m with another author who’s doing it. So, I generally don’t do it. I buy books from the local stores all the time and I’ve never told them they’ve got my own books in stock. That kind of interaction really stresses me out, so I avoid it. And I still manage to sell books. Go figure.
A couple of things I know worked because readers came back to me and said they worked: my publisher gave away copies of my first book at several conventions and conferences, and dozens of readers have said that freebee hooked them on the series. The other thing that works: word of mouth. All the readers who’ve said they read the book because someone told them to, or said that they’ve given the book to ten other friends to read. But you can’t buy word of mouth. That’s the frustrating thing. Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do was throw lots and lots of money into publicity or jump through a certain number of specific hoops to guarantee that tens of thousands of people would love our books?
And doesn’t that just sound wrong? I would rather people read my books because they like them, and their friends told them to read them, not because I’ve thrown money at the problem, or spent all my time building fake runways.
Monday, February 7th, 2011 by Carrie Vaughn
I want to talk about how to write a synopsis, but I also want to try an experiment. This is one of those topics that I see discussed far and wide, with a lot of anxiety. Writers will approach their novels with a sense of joy and accomplishment, but when it comes time to write the synopsis, dread sets in. They’ll spend as much time and stress on the three-to-five page summary of their story as they did the four hundred page story. Before I start talking about synopses — what they need to accomplish, and how I approach writing them — I want to ask you all: What is it about the synopsis that scares you, frustrates you, makes you pull your hair out? What kind of advice are you looking for?
Here are my current thoughts on the subject:
Stop thinking of it as the dreaded synopsis. You’ll psyche yourself out.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m cheating, because I haven’t written too many of these, and I don’t know how important any of them were to actually selling any of my books. When I get some time I want to see if I can find the one I wrote for Kitty and The Midnight Hour, but it’s on a different computer and backup disk, so it’ll take a little while to dig it up. If folks are interested, I can look for a synopsis I wrote for an actual published book and post it next week.
If the synopsis is for a book that isn’t finished yet — as it usually is when shopping proposals for subsequent books in a series — don’t sweat the details. No one is going to get upset if the final book doesn’t happen exactly the way the synopsis says it does. When pitching subsequent Kitty novels, I usually write a one to two page summary of what I’d like the book to be about, to give the editor an idea of what I’m thinking. In the end, the two don’t always totally resemble each other. And that’s okay.
The synopsis isn’t supposed to be a description of everything that happens in the book. It only needs to get across a few pieces of information: Who’s the protagonist? What’s the conflict? What’s the arc of the story? (The synopsis should include an ending.) What’s the tone of the story? Why should a reader care?
And it’s just like writing the book — show, don’t tell. You don’t need answer those questions explicitly, but an editor should have a good idea what those answers are after reading the synopsis.
The synopsis is a sales tool, and that’s it. It’s not being graded as a piece of art in its own right. It needs to get across a lot of information in a short amount of space, in a way that makes someone want to read the book.
Start with a one-paragraph summary that you might use for your query letter. You get one paragraph to convince an editor or agent to look at your book. How do you do that? Well, how do publishers do it? They put a paragraph on the cover to convince the reader to buy the book. You can do the same thing: here’s your chance to write your own cover blurb. What are the three or four most important things about the story?
Once you’ve got that cover blurb, expand it. Who’s the main character? Who are the most important secondary characters? What’s the primary conflict/mission? What’s the tone and style and purpose of the story? Write in that style. Use that voice.
Write practice synopses of your favorite books and movies, making them as streamlined and punchy as possible. You may be too close to your own novel to be able to do this well, but learning how to do it on someone else’s work may help you gain some objectivity with your own.
Is any of this helpful? What else would you like to talk about? What problems have you had? What have you tried that’s worked? Should I post a synopsis next week?
Tuesday, February 1st, 2011 by Charlene Teglia
“I wish I was special” – Creep, Radiohead
Every word, every story, is special to the person who writes it, generally speaking. But is it really special? Will it stand out in a crowded market to an agent, an editor, a book buyer? Will it compel a reader to pick it up in a market where books compete with TV, video games, movies, and other forms of entertainment?
It can be helpful to put on your reader hat and imagine finding your book in a bookstore, eye caught by the cover, picking it up to read…your one-sentence story hook. It should, as the term implies, hook the reader’s attention. Would it hook yours? You are, presumably, a fan of the genre you’re writing. What books do you love most? What storylines do you find irresistible? What aspects of those stories do you hate or find cliched and overdone? What story would you love to find done with a new angle or twist? Does your one sentence convey that here is something special, worth a reader’s attention?
One good way to test this is to try to come up with a strong one-sentence description, like the kind you find in TV Guide or IMDB describing a series episode or a movie. If you can’t come up with a single gripping sentence, maybe your whole idea is too vague, too weak, too generic.
I analyzed a project of mine this way last week, and I had to conclude; no. It’s not special, there’s nothing new or compelling about it. It’s a tried and true storyline but in a competitive marketplace with more new writers competing for readers’ attention every day, that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough to be competent and to come up with a story a reader has already read a thousand times. Not unless something about it really is special, unique, compelling, the same but different in an irresistible way.
So I went back to the drawing board, and I found an approach that really is compelling, a different take on a classic kind of romance. That story will get written and published eventually. My not so special idea? On the scrap heap. If it’s not something I can honestly say I’d want badly enough to devote my small percentage of free time to as a reader, it’s not worth my time as a writer. I’m going to have to spend far more time in that story world than any consumer will as the creator of it. It had better grab me by the throat and not let go, and it needs to do it in a single sentence. Because with all the competition for attention in the entertainment world, people need a reason to read any further than that.
Unless your name is Stephen King, “Because I wrote it” is not going to be reason enough. Remember that regardless of the size of your backlist, any story of yours a reader picks up may be the first time they’ve heard of you or read you, and if you don’t knock their socks off, it might also be the last.
We’re not selling self-help or instructional work, where being an expert might be enough to carry you and compel a reader to buy. We’re selling entertainment, escape, fantasy. So we have to capture our audience’s imagination and we have to do it right up front, right now.
Take your current project and put it to the one sentence test. Can you condense your idea into a single compelling sentence that you would find irresistible as a reader? Would it hook your attention and engage your imagination and get you to read further? If the honest answer is no, don’t be afraid to scrap it and start over or to re-envision and re-imagine your core idea until the answer is a resounding, “YES!”
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Writing the Breakout Novel/Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass
Monday, November 29th, 2010 by Carrie Vaughn
We’ve all seen author blurbs: those one or two line testimonials by a well known author telling us how great and wonderful this brand-new book by a brand-new author is and why we ought to read it.
This is one of the tools a publisher uses to get attention, especially for new authors. A great testimonial by someone like Stephen King or Neil Gaiman can really push a new book to the top of the pile, separating it from the hundreds of other new books coming out that month. Blurbs can give readers a clue about what kind of book it is, based on the kind of authors who’ve read it.
Usually, the publisher (in the person of the editor or a publicist) will solicit established authors for blurbs. They’ll choose authors whose work is similar to the book in question, who are well known to the audiences they’re trying to target. (Having military SF author David Weber read a chick lit novel for a potential blurb would be kind of senseless, for example.) The publisher sends the authors a galley or a manuscript ahead of time so that, assuming they like the book, they can offer their glowing review in time for it to appear on the cover of the finished novel.
I started getting asked to read novels for potential blurbs within about six months of my own first novel coming out. This was a little shocking to me — another thing about being a working writer I didn’t really expect. This is also when I realized that my glacially slow reading habits were getting me in trouble. I wish I could read every single book I get asked to read. I just can’t. At least, I can’t and still get my own work done. Often, I just say no up front. When I say yes, I make it very clear: the odds are pretty good I won’t be able to read the book in time. I hate this, because I see reading books for blurbs as paying it forward. My first novel received very nice blurbs from the likes of Charlaine Harris and Gene Wolfe. If a publisher thinks a quote by me will help a book out, then I want to help.
The horrible truth of the matter is that because I’m a slow reader and because I don’t have a lot of time, I’m much more likely to take a look at a book if I know the author. I’m even more likely if the author is a good friend. It’s still not a guarantee, but they do jump to the front of the queue, right or wrong. I try not to feel too guilty about it. I’m not sure how other authors work this out. (The other horrible truth is I don’t necessarily like a lot of what I read, and I won’t give a quote to a book I don’t like. The less said about that the better. . .)
Now, onto some etiquette. You’ve sold your first novel — one of the first things your editor will ask you is if you know of any authors who you’d like to ask to possibly blurb the book. Be ambitious — put Neil Gaiman or Stephenie Meyer or whoever on the list. You never know.
Ideally, your editor or publicist will do all the asking. It’s part of their job, and they have the authority and contact information readily at hand. This is how it worked with Kitty and The Midnight Hour. Even with the authors I knew personally, my editor did the asking. This removes you from any awkwardness if the author in question says no, or ends up not liking the book. (This happens. It’s okay. It’s subjective, and doesn’t say anything about the book. It’s like any other review.) The only time I ever asked another author directly for a blurb was for Discord’s Apple, and the authors in question were friends who knew that the book was coming out and probably would have read it anyway. Once my books started coming out, the publisher started drawing on published reviews for pull quotes and blurbs, which was a little easier on everyone.
Increasingly, I seem to be hearing directly from authors for requests to read their manuscripts. Now, some authors will refuse all requests that come directly from authors, because it’s just too awkward. It’s much easier to say no to a third party than to the person whose baby you’re rejecting. I haven’t gotten to that point yet, mostly because the authors I hear from are very polite, often people I know personally, and seem to understand when I say I just don’t have time.
I once heard a story of some authors who were told that having a blurb in advance would help sell the book. As in, they needed to solicit blurbs before the publisher would even buy the manuscript. This was years ago, and I haven’t heard about this happening recently, so I’m going to chalk it up to a tale in the mists of time.
If you do find yourself approaching an author for a blurb, be professional, as you would in any other aspect of this business. Remember that you’re asking a huge favor, and the author doesn’t owe you anything. Don’t panic. If the author says no, it’s like any other time you hear no: you move on.
Do blurbs work? Personally, I don’t pay attention to them. I read reviews and get recommendations from friends. But I have heard from readers who said they picked up my book because of a blurb from a favorite author. I look at it as another one of many marketing tools. It may help some, but in most cases it’s not going to make or break a book. A blurb may bring attention to a book, but the book still has to stand on its own.
Thursday, October 7th, 2010 by Candace Havens
Hey Gang, Please welcome the lovely Kristen Lamb. She’s teaching a free workshop about building author brands on my workshop loop and I love her so much I thought I’d have her post this week’s blog.
The Power of Positive Tweeting
By Kristen Lamb
As we careen headlong into the Information Age, the publishing paradigm is going through some major changes in an effort to catch up. A few years ago, social media was the “past-time hobby of teenagers.” Today? Facebook alone has over 500 million active users. Social media isn’t a fad; it represents a fundamental shift in how humans communicate. Social media is literally creating a global village where people can talk and gather and share information all over the world, and in the blink of an eye. But, with great power comes great responsibility.
Social media is a tremendous blessing for authors. For the first time in history we exercise some control over our future success. Our words and reputation can zoom all over the world in minutes and skyrocket to the stars….or come crashing down like a meteor.
Many of us grew up in a world with privacy. We didn’t have Caller ID, e-mail, cell phones, cell phone cameras and video recorders. The first time we got drunk, threw up on our shoes and fell asleep in the garden spooning a gnome, it was between us, Mom, and our high school friends. We didn’t have to worry that 35,000 people across the globe would see a picture of the debacle before we’d even sobered up. We had a blessed freedom to be kids, be stupid, lose our temper, lose our head, and then move on. Now?
Words, today, have more power than ever before, so we need to make sure ours are always positive and edifying. When surfing on-line in the comfort of our home, it is easy to get lulled into this false sense of security. This is why we must be ever vigilant about what we post, especially those of us who are using social media to build a platform to support our writing careers.
I teach, specifically, social media for writers. Our social media presence is different than a business or even a casual user. We straddle both worlds, and often we feel as if we are in social limbo. We have to make sure to be friendly and personable and interact, but we also must remember that we are a business and have an image to build and a reputation to protect.
In my book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media content is my primary focus. For me, walking a reader through signing up for a Twitter profile wasn’t nearly as important as what that person did once she began to “tweet.” What should she say?
For all social media, I recommend my Law of Three—1/3 information, 1/3 conversation, 1/3 reciprocation. This keeps a healthy balance of interaction and self-promotion, while always being mindful to promote others.
Most of all? Be positive! Stick to constructive and peaceful topics. We all have a political view or religious opinion, but that has its place. Ranting and on-line arguments are unproductive, unhealthy and will force followers to take sides. If we truly feel the need to bluster, gripe, moan, groan or complain, then we need to call our therapist, pastor, priest, lawyer or any person whom we could sue in a court of law for repeating a word of what we said.
For everything else, I recommend that we always T.H.I.N.K. before we post.
T-Is is true?
H-Is it helpful?
I-Is it informative?
N-Is it necessary?
K-Is it kind?
T.H.I.N.K.ing ahead of time can help us always put our best foot forward. Even if someone attacks us or posts something that makes our blood boil, before we type that reply, we need to T.H.I.N.K.
We need to take time to ask ourselves if what we are about to post is true, helpful, informative, necessary and kind. If what we want to say doesn’t pass all five qualifiers, we then need to go for a walk, punch a pillow, or sing along to Cows with Guns on You Tube. Anything we post, we cannot take back and it can spiral out of control in a heartbeat. A social media platform is a tremendous advantage that can take our careers to new heights, but we must guard our reputation. What can take years to build can come crashing down with one tweet unless we are always mindful.
In the end, people love positive people. This doesn’t change in cyberspace. People have enough bad news and grouchy people. They cannot get enough of those who are encouragers, who go out of their way to help and support and offer kind words. Be a light on social media, and people will be attracted. The power of positive tweeting can change your life and the lives of others, and that is super cool any day of the week.
Kristen Lamb is the author of the best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Kristen worked in international sales before transitioning into a career as an author, freelance editor and speaker. She takes her years of experience in sales & promotion and merges it with almost a decade as a writer to create a program designed to help authors construct a platform in the new paradigm of publishing. Kristen has guided writers of all levels, from unpublished green peas to NY Times best-selling big fish, how to use social media to create a solid platform and brand. Most importantly, Kristen helps authors of all levels connect to their READERS and then maintain a relationship that grows into a long-term fan base.
Thursday, September 2nd, 2010 by Candace Havens
I sometimes wonder if I didn’t get into the world of fiction because of curiosity. I mean, I know the story of how all this craziness began. I tripped at a party and embarrassed the hell out of myself. Ran to a corner where friend stood to hide and we started talking about books. At some point in the conversation she said, “You should write a romance novel.” I don’t even remember in what context that was, but that germ of an idea stuck in my head.
When I came home I was curious to see if I could do it. I’d written the biography “Joss Whedon: The Genius Behind Buffy.” Actually, I’d written the guts, my publisher Glenn Yeffeth made it real book. I’d been curious to see if I could pull that off too. I honestly didn’t know when I began these projects if I could do them.
But I’m the kind of person who likes to accept almost any opportunity that comes her way, especially when it comes to books. Back to that first story… I came home and for the next two weeks I spent every hour I wasn’t working on the day job or taking care of two young boys, working on that book.
I remember the moment when I realized I’d found my “real” dream job. I’d written a scene where the lead wasn’t sure what to do about the man in her life. She cared for him, but didn’t think he would ever really understand what she was. My eyes teared and I typed and a lump formed in my throat. Everything in that scene felt so real. That’s when I knew I wanted to write fiction.
If I hadn’t let my curiosity take over, I might never have discovered this love for writing fiction. Sure, some days I might wish I hadn’t, especially the ones where I get 20 hours of sleep over a five-day period. But for the most part I love what I do. Taking that leap of faith is one of best things I’ve ever done for myself.
The same sort of thing happened with moving to Harlequin. I’d been friends with editor Kathryn Lye for years. She is just one of those people I adore. During RWA (The big convention for romance writers) we usually try to get together. Sometimes we’d watch new pilots so she could see trends. Other times we’d talk about everything from books to life as we know it.
A few summers ago we were in San Francisco and had breakfast. Once again we were talking about everything and nothing. I’m not sure how the subject came up, but she asked me what I was working on next. I told her I was in the mood to do something different. I wanted to do a spy version of “Women’s Murder Club.” It was an idea that had been mulling around in my head for a long time.
She said that would be the perfect sort of thing for Blaze and that I should consider writing for them. I was shocked. I’d never even thought about it, but I would have give anything to work with her. (She’s a phenomenal editor and I’ve already learned so much from her.) Several months later I was writing “Take Me if You Dare” for Harlequin. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
There were challenges again. I’d never written third person. I’d never been in a guy’s head for POV. I’d never written a book without magic of some kind. I was CURIOUS to see if I could even do it.
As a writer it’s important to challenge yourself and dive into new things. It’s good to be curious and to accept opportunities when they come your way. I have this saying, “Throw yourself out there and see what happens. You never know what’s going to work.”
I’m curious if there was ever a time when you took a leap of faith and it worked out? Tell me about it, I really want to know.