Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Necessary Evil

As you read this, we should be closing on our house and heading off to Shreveport for the Writing in the Stars Conference. I'm happy to turn over Terry's Place to my guest, Carol A. Strickland, not to be confused with Carol Strickland without the A. who's an art historian and doesn't use a middle initial but writes a lot. My guest is also an expert on Wonder Woman, but today she's talking about dealing with the business aspect of her life. Welcome, Carol A.

I’m the only person I know who can come back from a week’s vacation three times as stressed as before I left. That’s because I make long “to do” lists for my working vacations.

This is the only way I can set aside large blocks of time to get a handle on my two fledgling home businesses: art and writing. It’s not the actual art and writing that’s holding me up; it’s the business of art and writing.

What’s that you say? Writing doesn’t require business after you get that book published? All you have to do is wait for those royalty checks to come rolling in (while working on that next book, of course).

Keep Reading...

Listen closely to best-selling authors as they talk about their workdays. You’ll find that they write in the mornings and conduct business in the afternoon. Or vice versa. Many hire assistants to handle the more painful business-y stuff. Many people say the ratio is no more than 60% creative and 40% business. Some say the opposite.

So the life of a creator is not all bon bons. There’s an index card on my bulletin board that says, “If God wanted me to handle the business of writing, She would have made me an accountant.” (No offense to the accountants out there. Um, how much do you charge per hour for new clients?)

Unless you have a major publisher promoting your book like it was the Second Coming, you’re going to have to work to promote it as well as yourself. You’ll have to catch the attention of reviewers, who are inundated with books every month. (Heaven help you if you’re self-published!) You’ll have to consider the pros and cons of advertising. (Hint: It’s mostly con.) You’ll blog and Facebook, tweet and try your hand at a book video for YouTube. (Who the heck came up with the idea of book videos? Do people other than friends actually watch the things?)

You’ll conduct workshops and start collecting (e-)addresses for a mailing list. You might shell out a few bucks for bookmarks, business cards, and magnets with your book’s cover emblazoned upon them. You’ll pay hard-earned money to buy your own books in order to prime the pump, as it were, by giving them to reviewers, contest winners, libraries, etc. (Hint: Let Cousin Mary buy her own!)

And of course you’ve got a website, as modern and smart-looking as you can possibly imagine. It may be designed by a profe$$ional or by the high s¢hool student who lives down the block.

Ca-ching! But add tick-tick-tick to this as well. Last week I handed a business card with my new domain name to someone and waved her on her merry way only to realize, “My new website isn’t up yet!”

I’d planned to have it redesigned by then, but it lies half-unfinished in my hard drive and not on the Web.

So in addition to these extra business duties we have added the Dreaded Deadline Doom. Multiple ones. Pass the aspirin!

What to do? Write down all those business things needed for your book to get noticed. If some of the things are particularly awful, break them down into tiny, non-terrorizing steps. Then assign the letters A, B or C to them.

A’s are the absolute must-do’s, the stuff that has to be done toot sweet or the sky will fall in. C’s are the can-put-this-off items. B’s are between the two.

Do the A’s first. The C’s will look to you like a big chunk of chocolate and the A’s will be dry spinach, but you must be diligent in this. A’s first and no cheating!

And when you get each and every A done you reward yourself. It doesn’t have to be a night on the town with Hubby, but it could be fifteen minutes with that new Julia Quinn book, a walk through the park with aforementioned Hubby, etc.

The large reward will come at the end, once you’ve gotten your business organized to the point where it’s no longer Godzilla's foot about to descend upon your office. Not only will things be a lot less hectic (or so I hear), but you just might find a juicy royalty check sitting in your mailbox, a direct result of all your hard work!

Carol A. Strickland hopes her redesigned website will be up by the time you read this. It’s at www.CarolAStrickland.com , so please check it out and yell at her if it’s not. The threat of public ridicule makes great motivation. You’ll find an exciting contest! Carol’s superhero romance, Touch of Danger, is available from Cerridwen Press, and the historical romance, Burgundy and Lies, is available from www.Lulu.com


Terry said...

I can feel Godzilla's foot crushing me. But thanks so much for the tips. This is the part I dread, the business end and promotion. (other Terry)

Carol A. Strickland said...

Some day we'll both be so famous our publishers will do all our promotion for us and our agents will handle any leftovers!

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great ideas, Carol! I'm an "As first" kind of girl, too. Get the stuff we hate out of the way as fast as we can!

Mystery Writing is Murder

Carol A. Strickland said...

It's really not the stuff we hate that has to be done first; it's the stuff that HAS to be done. The reason we're dragging our feet on it and have to make up these crazy lists is that that particular stuff might be rather icky or boring. Or both. A's first!

(I remember once having a FABULOUS A stuck near the end of my list. I was so surprised! I actually felt guilty about doing it, but giggled the entire time like I was getting away with something naughty.)