Of Mice and Indies

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons – Dan Foy

by Ron Estrada

When Gina started this blog way back in the days of wired
mouses, our journey was different. There was one path: Write a book, get an
agent, sign with a publisher.

All this took about seventeen years in writer time.
And then something funny, scary, and wonderful happened.
Some enterprising soul, who will, no doubt, have a bronze statue of him or her
erected on the Avenue of the Americas, grasping a Kindle in one fist high above
the combustion engine exhaust, pointed to said e-reader and shouted, “What
the…”
Translated: we are now masters of our own destiny (destiny,
which here means lofty success or disastrous failure).
Like many of you, I’ve devoured books, blogs, and tweets
from the self-publishing gurus of our day. Allow me to write a long summary of
my findings:
Write. Write some more. Do all this very, very fast.
See you next week.
Okay, I’d better add to that if I want to get paid…wait…WHAT?!?
Moving right along. As I write this, I have a Production
Schedule in front of me. It is cleverly titled Ron’s Production Schedule. I treat it with the same respect as I
would an assignment from my boss.
The schedule is grueling. It says I’ll finish a draft every
two months for the rest of my life. I have three columns titled PLOT, WRITE,
EDIT. Every two months, the book titles under these headings shift. This means
I’m working three books at a time. Yes, I’ll have help with editing and
plotting can be done throughout the day, when I’m supposed to be doing some
engineering stuff or whatever. But it’s still a finger-numbing schedule.
Back in the day of the wired mices and one-sheets, we were
told this is not realistic. This is art. Art cannot be rushed. Art takes time.
Well, if Art wants to eat tonight he’d better get off his
lazy (insert edgy noun for secular blog) and start bustin’ some keys. Because
Art is now in the business of sales. This is nothing new. The reason most
entrepreneurs and writers fail is because they pause and bask in the glow of
that first success. When a gazelle pauses it gets eaten. ‘Nuff said.
We are artists. But there’s no reason to be of the starving
sort. The well-fed artist will learn terms like “sales funnel” and
“calls-to-action.” The fat ‘n happy artist will get the (edgy adjective here)
book written on schedule. Not perfect? Never will be. Pack it and ship it. 
As I’m writing this, a Borders bookmark popped out of my
Strunk and White. I love symbolism. I used to love Borders. But it’s gone. My
nearest bookstore is a massive place of wonder called Second and Charles. They
sell mostly used things. My wife and I love flipping through their thousands of
record albums (yes, albums). They have old posters, movies, and…books. With
real covers and paper and the names of publishing houses on the spline.
Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons – Ruthanne Reid

Know where Second & Charles is located? In the old
Borders building. Did I say I love symbolism?
Yes, I still dream of my name on those Borders shelves. I
fantasize about award ceremonies where I get lavish praise from my publisher
and Stephen King hands me my little plaque with AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY
emblazoned over a little image of a Royal typewriter. We’ll clink glasses of
Dom Perignon and Steve-o (I call him Steve-o) will whisper an inside joke about
our time on the French coast when I wrote an entire scene on the leg of…oops,
save it for the secular blog, Ronboy (he calls me Ronboy).
But you get the drift. We’ve come full circle. The artist
must produce his or her art. Then do it again. And again. We are masters of our
own fate. Yeah, you can still write a book, get it trad published, and stare at
it on your shelf (I’d have book-staring parties). I understand there are some
trad published authors still out there making a living at it. I suspect,
though, that, one by one, the veteran and the rookie, will utter “What the…”
and realize he or she is being left behind. With Borders. With Royal typewriters.
With wired-meeses.
Will the big publishers adapt and lure us back in? I really
hope so. Somewhere there’s a part of me that wants that constant in my life.
But I’m an artist and a
businessman.  Art must eat, first and
foremost.
What about you? Are you going to stay the Traditional route
or have you decided to set out on your own? Really, I’m looking for anyone to
talk sense into me. Now’s your chance.

Ron Estrada is a YA and Middle Grade Novelist and has a regular column in Women2Women Michigan entitled “Don’t Tell My Wife I Wrote This.” His self-publishing journey begins…right about now. Follow his progress (and lessons learned) at www.RonEstradaBooks.com

Highlights

The buzz of the audience made it clear that much was
expected. Excitement hummed through us all as the evening’s coordinator took
the stage to introduce the main speaker. I had read some of his books – some I
liked, some not so much – so I was unsure what to expect from him as the
plenary speaker at Write! Canada, the country’s largest writers’ conference,
held June 11-14 in Guelph Ontario. 

When he took the microphone and admitted that he
hadn’t really prepared a speech for that night, I groaned inwardly. I’d heard
speakers say that before and had to endure a rambling talk that had little
focus and not much depth. But this speaker, on this night, would prove
different.
Later it would be referred to as “The Ted Talk,” and
it was the highlight of the conference for many of us because the speaker, best-selling
author Ted Dekker, spoke directly from his heart about his life as a young missionary
kid, his life as he became obsessed with writing and his life as success
brought him to his knees and led him to surrender completely to God. 
These are some of the things I jotted down that
night. I trust they will stir your hearts to ponder :
*Writing itself is a process to peace.
*Your fear will keep you chained – move forward on
the beautiful path of surrender.
*You are a writer for your own transformation, not
for your success.
*Let go of the need to be better than you are and
discover your true beauty right now through your writing.
*Your objective is to live life, not publish books
so focus on your writing as a means to knowing God.
*Writing becomes “magical” when you find the light
in your own darkness.
*If you are not being transformed the story will not
be about transformation.
*We are just kids playing at making sand castles
that will be swept away. But we are left with what has happened in us and what
we find within us – God himself.
*Find the greatest conflict in yourself right now
and write it. Bleed on the page.
Ted’s talk was recorded by Swordfish Digital (email
conferences@swordfishdigital.com ) and will be available on The Word Guild’sWebsite in the near future. I highly recommend it to all writers of faith.
****

Marcia accepting The Word Award for her short story, An Unexpected Glory at Write! Canada 2014                              
Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta
Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She
was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel,
One Smooth Stone. Her second novel, A Tumbled Stone was also short listed
in the contemporary fiction category of The Word Awards in 2013. 
Marcia’s work was short-listed in three categories at Write! Canada’s Gala Award Ceremony held June 11th, 2014, in Guelph Ontario, Canada. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer,
Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. 
Abundant Rain, an ebook
devotional for writers can be downloaded here
Visit Marcia’s  Website  to learn more about her writing and speaking ministry

 

Is it Really Possible to Market Yourself Effectively as a Novelist?

Chip MaGregor

Chip MacGregor is the president of MacGregor Literary, a full-service literary agency on the Oregon Coast. A former publisher with Time Warner, he has worked with authors as a literary agent for more than a dozen years, and was previously a senior editor at two publishing houses. An Oregon native, Chip lives in a small town on the Oregon coast. Chip is also the author of a couple dozen books and a popular teacher on the craft of writing and marketing.

A woman I met at a conference wrote and asked, “Is it really possible to market
yourself as a novelist?”
A novelist has to begin seeing herself not just as
an artist, but also as a brand name or
commodity that deserves marketing.
I definitely think it’s possible for a novelist to market
himself or herself. Over the past couple years, I’ve tried to share some
thoughts on how novelists can market themselves, so you may find it helpful to
meander back through my posts in order to look for ideas. But here’s the big
picture: In my opinion, a novelist has to
begin seeing herself not just as an artist (which you, as a writer, most
certainly are), but also as a brand name or commodity that deserves marketing.

And that means creating a well-thought-out plan for marketing yourself and your
work. (Okay, I’ll admit that part of me hates writing that. I don’t like
talking about words as “commodities,” and treating the writing arts
as though they were cans of corn. But let’s face facts — I’m talking with
writers who want to make a living writing, and that translates to selling
books.)
Non-fiction writers find it easier to do some basic
marketing, since they have a topic or hot-button issue that is clearly
discernable. If you were to write a book on losing weight or making money or
raising kids, the potential audience for such a topic is easy to recognize. You
can go onto radio programs and talk about the problem and the solutions you’re
offering, or write articles for magazines and e-zines that explore your
particular approach to the issue. With fiction, it’s tougher. Good stories are
not about one topic, but explore numerous threads. And no radio or TV program
wants to invite you on to re-tell your novel. So instead of focusing on the
story, most fiction writers find they have to focus on the author or the genre.
In other words, you and your voice becomes the focus of your marketing. This is
why it’s essential that a novelist has a clear style.
The focus of marketing is on the issues or
 topics raised in the novel
Or, sometimes, the focus of marketing is on the issues or
topics raised in the novel. Think of the marketing of successful novelists —
it’s not always the story that is the focus, but the fact that there is another
great book from John Grisham or Elizabeth George or Janet Evanovich. Or it’s
about the fact that someone has written a novel that deals with identify or
spirituality or suicide or… whatever. Sometimes the focus is a bit more on the
genre — the publisher wants readers to know this is an Amish story, or a
techno-thriller, or a cross-cultural adventure story. But that’s much less
frequent than focusing on the author or issues. Again, great literature springs
from a story that explores the great questions of life. Those questions reflect
our own lives, and the characters make choices about them. We, as the readers,
may like or hate the choices, but at least we get to see what someone else
would do with those choices. So in many ways, a novel offers us a vicarious
exploration of the great questions of life. We learn, we are moved, we grow.
The greatest novels I’ve read have changed me.
Looking at today’s market, what’s the lesson for novelists? Discover your voice. Write a great novel.
Market yourself hard.

The Journey of a Two-Continent Writer

by Edie Melson

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet debut author Heather Marshall at a local writers group. Her writing journey intrigued me from her introduction. She’s originally from Scotland, but lives in South Carolina, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge mountains. We convinced her to share a reading from her new novel, The Thorn Tree, and I was totally captivated. I went home and purchased the book on my Kindle and finished it the next day. I knew she was a writer I wanted to introduce on Novel Rocket. She agreed to this interview and I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have.

Heather G. Marshall
Originally from Kilmarnock, Scotland, Heather G. Marshall is
a writer and teacher now living in Greenville, South Carolina with her
children, dogs, cat, Royal Enfield motorbike and a set of great highland
bagpipes. In her writing, she likes to explore the connection between—or
disconnection from—the characters and the natural environment. When she isn’t
writing, you can find her tromping or riding over the hills here or, when she
can get away with it, on the other side of the Atlantic.

Give us a little
background on your writing journey. I know you’ve won several awards for short
fiction. When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was a child. I have loved books as
far back as I can remember. One of my grandfathers had a shelf in his bookcase
reserved for books for me. I could go and pick one, bring it to him and count
on him stopping whatever he was doing to read to me. Writing seemed like a
natural extension of that. A friend and I wrote a children’s picture book when
we were eight or nine. I kept writing, majored in English in college and have
worked as a writer for newspapers and magazines as well as doing technical
writing and grant writing. Even with all of that, I didn’t really take creative
writing seriously until I began in the MFA program at Queens University of
Charlotte. I loved writing fiction, creative nonfiction and the occasional
poem, but it was something I did on the side until Queens, even though I’d won
a couple of awards. Part of what I got from the MFA program was my own full
commitment to my work. 
I hear a lot of
writers say that the first book they’ve written isn’t the first book published.
Has that been the case for you or was The Thorn Tree your first novel?
The Thorn Tree is
my second novel. (I’m not counting the science fiction novel I wrote in high
school)! My goal with the first novel was just to get from beginning to end. I
had started a few longer pieces and not seen them through. I finished, polished
and submitted to a few agents. I got some nibbles here and there but ultimately
decided to put it away and work on something else. I do not intend to go back
to it. I’m glad I did it. And glad I moved on.
I know that you’re
from Scotland, how has that played into your choice of publisher?
I’m
delighted to have found MP Publishing, and, obviously, that they like my work
enough to publish it. I grew up in Scotland and still have lots of family and
friends there. Over the past few years, I’ve won a couple of awards and had
several stories published there. There are lots of wonderful writing
communities there. In addition, The Thorn
Tree
is set on both sides of the Atlantic—more in Scotland than in the US—so
I am thrilled to have a publisher that has a presence on both sides of the
Atlantic as well.
Everyone has an
opinion about how to launch a book these days. What are you and your publisher
doing?
We are launching the book here in South Carolina and in
Scotland. I’ll be over in the Isle of Skye for the Scottish launch in July. I
think there are great connections in both places. In addition, partly because
the book is set in Scotland and partly because I play that bagpipes in a band and
am involved in that community, I’m hoping to make connections for the book
there, through vendors at highland games and Scottish festivals across the US.
Can you give us a
peek at your writing schedule and how you stay motivated?
My alarm goes off a 04:30 five or six days a week. I hit
snooze a couple of times, usually, and then get up and get on with it. Most
days, I love it. I love exploring new characters. I love researching places and
elements in each story. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that the days
where everything feels like a struggle are just part of the deal.
What do you have
planned next?
I just finished the last story for a collection of short
stories, so I’ll be looking to get that to publication soon. I’m picking back
up with a novel-in-stories that is loosely based on my own adoption and
reunion. Some of the stories are fiction and some are creative nonfiction, and,
although they are all connected to the adoption and reunion, what’s at the core
of all of them is an exploration of the creation or disintegration of identity.
Any advice for new
writers?
Write. Every day. (At least five days a week). Get involved
in a writers’ group. If you aren’t aware of one, start one. At first, it
doesn’t matter what everyone’s skill level is; it’s more about developing a
community and having some accountability. Yes, it is also important to read;
however, if you find yourself reading and reading and reading and not writing
then you are a reader (thank you—we need readers). Get writing. Trust your own
voice. Commit.
Final question, if
you could travel back in time, what would you share with your earlier self to
encourage her on the writing journey?
See above! In particular, I would tell myself to trust my
own voice.  I would give myself permission
to fully commit to writing many years before I actually did.

You can also connect with Heather on her website .

Edie Melson is
the author of four books, as well as a freelance editor with years of
experience in the publishing industry. Connect with her on her blog – The WriteConversation, Twitter or Facebook.