Friday, July 21, 2017

Writing: Juggling All The Balls

When a writer completes a book, he/she feels like throwing their hat in the air and shouting, "I've finished." But in actuality, the fun's not over by any means. At this point, depending on whether the book is published by a traditional company or self-published, the author must assist with (or take charge of) making sure others read what they've produced.

I've self-published three novellas, so I already knew what was involved for the author in the continuing process. Not only had I been  responsible for cover design and manuscript editing, but I also had to be in charge of marketing the book. Otherwise, it was sort of like yelling in the forest with no one around to hear.

So, with the publication of my novel, Cardiac Event, I had to get the word out about it. I've arranged a number of appearances on other blogs, and since a chance to win a free book seems to draw people, I'll be giving away a copy of the book with each appearance. I'll try to mention each of these interviews or guest appearances on this blog before they take place. And, if you have already bought the book yet win one from me, I'll send you an Amazon gift card instead. How's that?

Fortunately, I've already had one review by Romantic Times Book Reviews, and I was thrilled at their remarks and their calling the novel a Top Pick. Other reviews will come from readers after the book is released. I hope they like it.

And, of course, during all this I'm working on more writing. I have two novellas and a novel almost ready for release, so stay tuned.

For those who haven't yet taken advantage of the pre-publication price of Cardiac Event, you have one more week to do so before it goes up to the regular price. For those who like to read a physical book, a print version will also be available. (Just click the Cardiac Event cover in the sidebar to order now). Oh, and the Kindle format of Doctor's Dilemma will be marked down to $2.99 until July 28 as well.

So that's where I am--busy, but not (yet) overwhelmed. I'll see you in a few days. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Using Your Head

I haven't practiced medicine for about a decade and a half (that's 15 years for those of you who are numbers-challenged), yet I continue to read the journals and maintain my CME. I don't do this because I plan to go back to work as a physician (although that avenue is always open, I guess), but rather I do it to keep my mind sharp. I enjoy using my head.

I may not know about every bit of the new technology, but I can still do what Sir William Osler said: "Listen to the patient. He's telling you the diagnosis." We have some wonderful tests (and I marvel as each new one is unveiled), but a great deal of any diagnosis depends on an accurate history.

I was reminded of this when I had my own annual physical recently. The doctor asked all the right questions, but I had to think to make sure my answers were truthful, not just pro forma. For my age, I seem to be doing fine, but she knew this before she ever laid a stethoscope on me. Because she listened to what I was saying.

Conversely, if a doctor--or mechanic or CPA plumber or anyone else--gets inaccurate information, their conclusion and subsequent actions are going to be skewed in the wrong direction. When your car is going chug-a, chug-a, chug-a, you don't tell the mechanic what's wrong or what to do. You describe the symptoms as accurately as possible, and depend on the professional to make a diagnosis.

And notice, I said "professional." I wouldn't take my car to a plumber for help with a problem, nor do I think it's appropriate to ask medical questions on Facebook. But that's a sermon for another day.

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Note: My novel, Cardiac Event, will be released by Amazon in ten days. Until then, the Kindle version is available for a pre-publication price of $2.99--that's 60% of the regular price for the e-book.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Writing: Endorsements

A recent communication from a friend and fellow author about possible endorsement made me think it's time for me to talk a bit about those things. We've all seen them on the cover of a book or in conjunction with an advertisement, but did you ever think how they came about?

I've preached steadily about making connections and meeting people at writing conferences--not because they might be useful someday (although the friendship might), but because they're your colleagues. In my case, these are the people I approach first for "blurbs" (i.e., brief endorsements) if they either write in the same genre as me or if they're really big fans (and fortunately I have several of those--people who don't write in my genre but have followings of their own). And I never ask them for a blurb. I ask if they'd be willing to read "in view of an endorsement." Most say "yes," but if the answer is "no"--no matter the reason--that's okay. A few even say to ask them again, and I do. If they don't, I cross them off as potential endorsers, but the friendship remains intact.

What about if you're on the other end? What do I do if someone asks me to endorse a novel? I've formulated these rules from what other authors have suggested, and they've served me well over the years. I'll read in view of an endorsement (I never promise one) if: 1) I know the person or I've been recommended by a mutual friend, 2) the novel is in the genre in which I write, and 3) I either have read some of the individual's writing or I am pretty sure it will be good. After that, the book makes the decision. And, yes, I read the whole thing.

Are endorsements important for you, either as a writer or a reader? Let me know.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What's Your Opinion On Free Stuff?

The statue a left is from Waikiki, and depicts Duke Kahanamoku, virtually a legend in the Islands. Duke was an olympic surfer, as well as  a law enforcement officer, an actor, a beach volleyball player and businessman. I recall Arthur Godfrey (yes, I'm that old) quoting these words from Duke Kahanamoku: "For free, take. For buy, waste time." I

Do you think of this when you hear a voice on the phone or a person at the door telling you they're with such-and-such company, and they already have a crew working in your area? so they'd be happy to give you a free estimate/inspection/etc? Right after a hail-storm in our area, the offers come pouring in from roofing companies, ready to offer their services with a "free estimate." And today's mail just brought a booklet full of coupons offering discounts and deals from a variety of vendors, from restaurants to car repair shops. Do you use these or toss them?

As a participant in the writing world, I note more and more of my colleagues offering their work at discounted prices, some even at no charge, in order to get more sales for their work . Is this a good thing or a bad thing? What's your feeling about free estimates, no-obligation evaluations, and free or low cost e-books? Does all this come under Duke's rule? Or is it something that ends up saving you money and introducing you to a company (or author) you eventually stick with?

That having been said, I'll remind you that I've chosen to offer the ebook version of my next novel, Cardiac Event, for a discounted pre-publication price. I'll await your comments as to what you think of this offer and all the others.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Writing: Announcement

I'd already written the post for today, but had to postpone that until next week to share this with readers of this blog. My novel, Cardiac Event, is now available in Kindle format from Amazon, at a discounted price. The pre-order price is $2.99, which goes up to $4.99 when the book officially releases on July 18. The print version should be out by then or shortly thereafter.

Thanks for your patience. I hope it was worth the wait.

Be sure to post your reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites after you've read it. Enjoy

PS--Almost forgot. Happy birthday to me.



Friday, June 30, 2017

July 4, 2017

I'm departing from my usual practice of publishing "writing stuff" today, in order to post this about the forthcoming holiday.

On July 4  we will celebrate the anniversary of the birth of this nation--a nation, as Lincoln put it, "conceived under God." And when I look around me, I'm saddened by the events of our world, and those taking place in our own country.

We'll fly our flag this weekend, as we do almost every day. We'll stand with our hands over our hearts and join in the singing of our national anthem when it's played. We'll vote and work and pray for our nation. And hope that it's enough.

When I was commissioned an officer in the Air Force, I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend our nation from all enemies, both foreign and domestic. I still try to live up to those words.

I encourage everyone on this Independence Day to pause and reflect on what it has taken for us to be free citizens in this nation. America was founded on the principles of set forth in our pledge of allegiance, a country that is "one nation, under God, indivisible...with liberty and justice for all." Some folks are trying (with some success) to remove the words "under God" from that pledge of allegiance. That makes me sad. 

I'll be back Friday, July 7, at which time I hope to have more information about my forthcoming novel, Cardiac Event. Meanwhile, enjoy the holiday, but don't forget its meaning.

PS--Not only was Medical Judgment named on the list of 2017's best by Christian Retailers, but Critical Condition ebook is 99 cents from now through July, all online retailers. Have a great July 4.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

News Flash

I came home from the golf course to read an email congratulating me on the award won by Medical Judgment--Christian Retailing's Best for 2017 (in the category of Mystery/Suspense). Since this award is voted by members of the bookselling community (among others), I'm doubly proud.

And for those asking about Cardiac Event, I've reviewed the galleys, the cover is done, and the finish line is in sight. Subscribers to my newsletter (tab on the right margin of this post) will hear first.

We now return you to your regular activities.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Sorry About That

For those who've come to depend on my Tuesday posts (all three of you), "Sorry."

I just determined this morning (before leaving to get something done) that I'd forgotten to write this post. But that's okay. Why don't you make a contribution this morning? I can hardly wait to see what comments you've come up with.

See you Friday.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Writing: Quotes About Writing

When I looked over the archives of this blog, I discovered these quotes I posted five years ago. I've added comments in one or two places, in addition to the ones already there. And there's one at the end that I didn't put in the original post. Enjoy.

"I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." (true, sadly it's true)
- Douglas Adams (he was a humorist who wrote Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy)

"Most writers can write books faster than publishers can write checks." (and all the authors in the audience said, "amen.")
- Richard Curtis (Readers can read them faster than we can write 'em, as well.)

"Writing is easy; all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." (especially when your brain says, "I got nothing.")
- Gene Fowler (this is also attributed to other writers, including a variant by sportswriter Red Smith, who supposedly said, "Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.")

"Writing is an occupation in which you have to keep proving your talent to those who have none." (obviously written after a particularly bad review).
- Jules Renard (And the more I write, the more I remind myself not to read reviews--but keep writing them, anyway).

"A blank piece of paper is God's way of telling us how hard it is to be God." (and now it's a blank computer screen).
- Sidney Sheldon (Satan is supposed to have told God one day that he could create a world, too. When told to go ahead, Satan scooped up a handful of clay, but God said, "Oh, no. Make your own clay.)

"There are three rules for writing. Unfortunately, no one can agree what they are." (but when we finally agree on them, Jim Bell will write a book about it).
- Somerset Maugham (Jim, you're written so many books--and I have them all on my Kindle--but still waiting for this one).

And I'll add one of my favorites: "Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”  
-Meg Chittenden

What are your favorite quotes on writing? I'd love to hear (and maybe steal) them.

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Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Rotary Four-Way Test

I hadn't thought of these principles for years until I recently re-read one of Ross Thomas's novels. I can't find the one he wrote that includes this, but I'm sure it was one of them. I still remember these precepts from my days as a Rotarian. Maybe we should remember them when we go to post a remark to a story or blog post on social media.

In case you wonder, the questions are:
  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I'm writing this after the terrible shooting that took out several congressmen and aides as they prepared for a charity baseball game. Today I heard a news anchor (the station doesn't matter) say that we should be free to disagree and to express our opinions without fear of repercussions or retaliation. I agree. Whatever happened to that principle? Perhaps a return to the four-way test is a good first step.

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Friday, June 16, 2017

Writing: Book Categories

Regular readers of this blog know that I get a lot from reading what the author Lawrence Block has to say about writing. For years his column on this activity appeared in Writer's Digest, and those columns were eventually collected in several books. I have most of them, but only recently acquired a print copy of this one--Spider, Spin Me A Web. And in it I found this gem about something I recently had to deal with.

In the book, Block refers to the contention by another of my writing heroes, the late Robert B. Parker, that categories of fiction are useful to everyone but the author. In other words, although an author may write the book they feel they must pen (for one reason or another), it is editors, people who work in bookstores, readers (or judges of contests) who then put that book into a category. It's useful to classify books that way, but the author sometimes doesn't think of it that way.

I found my own niche writing medical mysteries. I started out calling them "Medical Suspense With Heart," although after looking carefully at my writing I've changed that to "Medical Mysteries With Heart." The "with heart" refers both to God's love as well as that between characters, but since my work doesn't fully fall into the thriller/mystery/suspense category (certain not enough to compete with those who currently dominate it in either secular or inspirational fiction), I slid into the "romantic suspense" class. But not all of my books fit that category.

This was brought home to me rather forcefully when an editor (rightly) pointed out that the next book after Cardiac Event has co-protagonists who are already married. For some reason, although there are many examples of male-female interaction in this one, it didn't fit their template. So I could either rewrite that book, write another, or move forward with self-publication. I chose the third option.

I'll keep writing "Medical Mysteries With Heart" so long as you, the public, keep underwriting this activity with your encouragement (thanks for every email) and your patronage. And you know what? It seems sort of freeing to take Block's advice and write the book I want to write, rather than writing one to order so it fits into a particular niche.

What do you think? Do you put more stock in a book's category than the past history of the author's work? I'd like to hear from you.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

"The Good Old Days..."

For some reason, when I read the paragraph I'm about to share I thought of Billy Joel's song, Keeping The Faith. In it he says, "The good old days weren't always good. Tomorrow's not as bad as it seems."

As some of you may have noted from my tweets, I'm reading one of Lawrence Block's books on writing, this one entitled Spider Spin Me A Web. I'd read all the other books in this group (taken from his columns in Writer's Digest), but somehow had missed this one.

Toward the end of the book, he quotes from a communication he received from a fellow writer. Realize this is about writing, but it could just as easily apply to any profession. The writer refers to "hard economic times." She says that writers (about whom this is written) who could have been published ten years ago, even five, aren't getting contracts. Things are tough. What struck me was that this letter was in a book that saw the light of day thirty years ago!

Admittedly, there has been a revolution in publishing, and I predict that "traditional" publishers will eventually change. There have also been changes in other industries and professions. I'm currently writing about a surgeon who refuses to adapt to the newer techniques in his field, and I identify very much with this man (even though he's not the hero of the story). Keeping up with these changes is tough, and although I don't know about you, my crystal ball is cloudy.

As Billy Joel sings, "The good old days weren't always good. Tomorrow's not as bad as it seems."

What do you think? Have the advances in every field made them worse or better for the practitioner?

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Friday, June 09, 2017

Writing: The Long Road to Book Publication

Some of you with good memories may recognize this book cover. Facebook has reminded me that it was a year ago that I signed a contract with what I termed "a new publisher with experienced people." My first book due out from them was this one, Cardiac Event. Through a series of circumstances that we need not detail, that publication date was first delayed and then delayed again. Finally it became apparent this wasn't going to work out for that publisher, who very kindly reverted the rights of my book back to me.

Since that time, my agent and I have worked diligently to find a home for this and subsequent books of mine, but nothing seemed to work out. So this week I decided it was time to move full-bore into indie-publication of the two books I have waiting.

Since I've already indie-published three novellas, this wasn't unknown territory for me. And because I've had ten novels released by traditional publishers, I fit the mold of "hybrid" authors. Does this mean all my future novels will be indie-published? Or will I sign with a traditional publisher for future books? There's no way to tell. Stay tuned.

What I can tell you, though, is that Cardiac Event will be out fairly soon. How soon? My guess is another month or two. And, just as was the case with my last novella, Doctor's Dilemma, subscribers to my newsletter will hear about it first, and have the opportunity to get the Kindle version at a pre-release price that will be lower than the ultimate one. If you don't already get my newsletter, go to the right margin of this blog and scroll down until you find that sign-up tab.

Meanwhile, here's my question for you. How far do you go with a book to get it published? At what point would you put it aside and work on another? I'd like to know.

Tweet with a single click. "Watch for the publication of Richard's eleventh medical mystery, Cardiac Event." Click here to tweet.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Unpopular Things

In The Crisis, Thomas Paine wrote about "the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot." That phrase has been running through my mind recently, not because of any single incident or cause, but rather the thought that it's become easy to espouse a cause when it's popular, less so when it becomes difficult.

There's a saying in the area that refers to the Dallas Cowboys football team: "We love you, win or tie." And it was easy for those of us who follow the Texas Rangers to identify with them when they were doing well, but as they sink lower and lower in the standings it's harder to find their fans.

Lest this deteriorate into a political discussion, let me hasten to say that, although I have my own ideas about those elected to govern this great nation, I'm not talking about politics. What I'd like the readers of this blog to do is look into their hearts and determine whether they're "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots," happy to be identified with winners, but not so much losers, especially if the cause is unpopular. What cause(s) do you think you'd stand up for, even under those circumstances?


Friday, June 02, 2017

Writing: Fast, Cheap, Good...Pick Two

One of the questions a writer must consider when deciding between seeking a "conventional" publishing contract with a publisher and "going indie" by taking on the publication of the work is the matter of the time between completion of a book and its release.

Jane Friedman addresses this in her recent blog, "The Pressure To Release More, More, More Titles." In it, she highlights one of the major differences between the traditional publishing world and the indie-publishing route. In her article in Publishers Weekly she says, "When I worked in publishing in the late 1990s, my boss often repeated the business maxim, 'Fast, cheap, and good—pick two.' This is the belief that it’s impossible to produce something of high quality very quickly and at low cost. Companies have to prioritize two of these and sacrifice the third...Traditional publishers are often criticized for not prioritizing fast. "

What about other factors affecting authors and reader? Steve Oates, an executive with Bethany House Publishers, has a lot to say about the changes already taking place in the Christian fiction market, and I suggest you click here to read that post. Truly, the times are changing.

The traditionally published author accepts the fact that a book may take a year or more between acceptance and release. One of the benefits of indie publishing is being able to get a book out, especially the e-book version, in much less time than that--usually a matter of a few months. My friend and colleague, the late Michael Palmer, expected to produce one book a year---that's what he negotiated with his publisher, and his readers were content to wait for that book.  Others (and I could name names, but it's not necessary) have gone the indie route and the books literally pour out from their computers. Which is the best method? It gets down to "whatever works" for the individual author.

Does it matter? Personally, I think there's something to be said for both approaches, but what do you think? Let me know.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day: 2017

Today has been designated as Memorial Day, a time to honor those who have given their lives in the service of our country. When I was growing up, we were proud of the fact that our country had never begun a war, nor had we ever lost one. I'm not sure we can say that anymore. But whatever your views about the various police actions, interventions, and battles of the past half century, there can be no debate about one thing: courageous men and women have put themselves in harm's way to make our world and our nation safe from the incursion of forces attempting to take away the freedom we hold so dear. And for this, we can never fully thank them

I'm proud to have served my country. I salute my fellow comrades and honor those who gave the "last full measure of devotion" in that service. God bless America.

This will substitute for my usual Tuesday post. Come back on Friday, when we talk more about the writing life and "Fast, Cheap, Good--pick two.".

Friday, May 26, 2017

Writing: Royalties and Advances

Generally, those of us who write in the Christian genre don't do it for the money. If we did, there'd be a lot fewer of us. But royalties and "earning out" an advance are parts of our conversations among ourselves. And, as the picture to the left indicates, except for a minority of writers, the amount of money that comes to us isn't huge.

A contract (or its precursor, the "deal offer") includes an "advance against royalties." The first thing to realize is that this is exactly what the words imply--an advance. There's a specific royalty structure for every book, and in order to get more money the writer's book has to sell sufficient copies to "earn out"--that is, after applying the royalties for those copies to the advance, there is an overage. Only when that happens does the writer actually get a check from the publisher. Oh, and that statement comes at a particular interval (the contract spells it out), and payment usually runs behind. That's just the way it is.

How often do writers' work "earn out?" One agent says that only 25% of writers do this. Another agent says it's all a guess. Actually, no one knows.

Oh, and what about the writer who independently publishes his/her book? They have to put in money to have the book edited and a cover design made, so you can look on this as sort of a reverse advance. Once this amount has been returned via royalties, their book can be considered to have "earned out."

Does it matter to you, as a reader, how much the author makes on each book? When you see a chance to get a book you've wanted for a discounted price, do you take the offer? (I do--but then again, I'm a reader as well as a writer).

Tweet with a single click: When does a writer begin to get royalties from a book? Click here to tweet.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Where Would You Go?

Summer's upon us, and many of you are thinking of vacations. I've found that, the older I get, the less I look forward to travel. And since we have no idea where the next terrorist strike might be, some of us feel a bit uncertain about the place we choose.

As a physician, I was privileged to speak in many countries around the globe, as well as in North America. I've thought about returning to England, Germany, the Middle East--but would it be safe to go there?

With my second profession, that of an author, my speaking and teaching has thus far been confined to the US, but even that is narrowing.

A typical question used to be, "Where in the world would you go for a vacation?" Now most people ask the question, "Where would you feel safe going for relaxation?" What do you think? I'll be interested in reading your comments.

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Friday, May 19, 2017

Writing: Profession or Hobby?

One of my favorite "writing" books is Lawrence Block's Telling Lies For Fun And Profit. It was one of the first such books I read from cover to cover, and I still go back to it from time to time. Block has written a number of such books, most of them based on his columns in Writers Digest, and they influenced my growth as a writer. In one of them, he talks about the "Sunday writer," and I long ago decided that's where I fit in. I didn't think I'd ever make a living at this writing game, and I was quite comfortable where I was. But that's changed over the years.

Block wrote and published a number of books, and I've read and re-read most of them. He also wrote (sometimes using various pseudonyms) some magazine articles and books that varied from the noir variety to what I would call "erotica." But the main thing is that he wrote a lot. And because of that, he was able to support himself through his writing.

I've noticed, especially since many writers are turning to self-publication (the "indie" publishing route), that writers are finding what Block (and some of his colleagues) said was true--the more books that are out there, the higher your income is likely to be. I say "likely" because readers are learning that not everything that's self-published is worth paying even a low amount for the e-book version. But for those who spend the time and money to have professional editing and memorable book covers done for their work, there's indeed a significant market out there.

What of the "Sunday writer?" I'm not certain that class exists anymore. Writers seem to be like cyclists going down a hill, needing to do more and more (while making less and less), until eventually they crash or slow down.

Am I still a "Sunday writer?" I guess I left that class when I was first published. Of course, since I'm retired I don't depend on a day job to meet expenses, but I'm hearing from fellow writers (and experiencing this myself) that it's becoming harder to generate a dependable income via writing.

Do you see changes in the publishing industry? Good or bad? Any suggestions? I look forward to reading them.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Country Boy In The Big City

This post appeared quite a while ago, but I thought it was worth bringing out of mothballs. The top picture is of the Waggoner mansion outside my home town.

The other day, I saw a commercial that had a city limit sign showing a population that was almost exactly the same as that of that town when I left there: 2578. And that started me thinking.

When I finished high school (BTW, we only had one of them, plus  one other for the lower grades) and left to enroll in college for my pre-med classes, I jumped to a city that was ten times as large. That wasn't too big an increase in size for a small-town boy, and I adapted. Then I went to Dallas for medical school, and the jump in the population of the city in which I lived represented a logarithmic increase from what I'd become accustomed to. But, again, I adapted.

Over the years, I've been fortunate enough to visit (either as a visiting professor or via a leisure trip) places like New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and lots of other US cities. I've travelled and delivered medical talks in Canada, Mexico, and Central America. I've even been in places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Germany, Great Britain, Denmark, The Netherlands, and several others. Quite a step up for a small town boy.

I guess it's possible to adapt to one's environment, no matter how large or small the city in which you live may be. But sometimes I wish I were back in that small town in North Texas where I knew everyone, could find my way around blindfolded, and we never locked our door. Then again, those days may be gone forever, even if I tried to go back. As Thomas Wolfe said, "You can't go home again." And, if you do, you'll find it's changed...and so have you.

Do you sometimes find yourself wishing you could go back home? If you did, would things be the same? I'd like to know.

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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day 2017


My mother has been gone for many years now. But I can think back and see how she instilled in me some of the characteristics I hope I passed on to my own children.

Whatever woman to whom you owe a debt of gratitude, whether they gave you life or helped shape your life and made it what it is now, thank them today.

And to all the mothers out there--Happy Mothers Day.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Writing: How Do Authors Get Paid?

If you're like me, you receive a number of emails each day offering discounted or free e-books. I confess that I often take advantage of these, and sometimes (not as often as I'd wish) I find a new author so I end up buying more of their books. Of course, that's the whole idea behind these "loss leaders." It's the same reason grocery stores have sales and put a discounted item on an end-cap or other prominent place. They want customers to think, "For that price, I'll try it." And often (they hope) the customer comes back for more, even at full price.

Authors do this for the same reason. But I'm afraid our culture has reached the point of agreeing with Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku: "For free, take. For buy, waste time." On one of the author's loops of which I'm a member, an author recently said she was told, "I really like your books. When the new one's free, I'm going to get it."

The average author spends six months to a year writing each book. If they have a contract with a traditional publisher, they receive an advance against royalties, but not a cent more until the book(s) in question "earn out." Since many books never earn out their advances, the author doesn't get any more money. The publisher runs specials and puts them on sale at a discounted price, but it rarely lines the author's pocket.

If an author is one of the new breed of self-publishers, they've paid out to have cover art developed and the manuscript edited (if they want the book to be something that will bring readers back for more). Their royalty structure is better, but there's a certain amount of up-front cost to them.

What do you think? What's a fair return for the writer's efforts? Or should books be available for free, much like air for our tires at a 7-11 store? Oh, wait. Those compressors require payment now. What's next?

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Thursday, May 11, 2017

Almost Forgot--Chatting Today on CAN Blog

Does your life ever get so busy you almost forget an important event? Well, mine does. I almost forgot that I was doing a chat on the Christian Authors Network blog today. I hope you'll click on over and read it. You can learn why author Kevin Thompson and I feel the way we do about the comparison between a cup of coffee at your favorite Starbucks and a novel written by an author.

And come back here Friday for my blog on how (and why) authors get paid for their efforts.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Does The Internet Make Us Cowards?

In a previous post, I talked about the "masks" we hide behind that allow some of us to say or do things we wouldn't if our identities were obvious. You might consider this an extension of that post.

This week I've started reading a book about entitlement. As I've said in a recent Facebook post, I started reading the book thinking like a parent and grandparent, but soon realized it also applied to me. And there was one chapter that really hit home.

I confess that I read things on Facebook--not everything, but probably more than I should--and I've found my blood pressure rising when I see some of the political posts. I can remember situations when, if we didn't get our way in an election, we might be steamed for a while--we tried to be what in Great Britain is sometimes called the "loyal opposition" But the posts and comments nowadays are sometimes more than I can take.

As a writer, I'm encouraged to maintain a social media presence. For a long time I accepted essentially all Facebook friend requests, except those that are from people obviously trolling for friends. But now when I see a comment that raises my hackles, I click on the name, and if I see that I've "friended" them I use the tab that "unfollows" (and sometimes "unfriends") them. And that brings me to what this book said. There are things that we'd hesitate to say face-to-face, but we feel free to say them via electronic media. The Internet has made cowards of many of us.

Do you agree? Are some of these people who think nothing of spewing their vitriol going to eventually regret it? Is there anything one can do besides "unfollowing" or "unfriending" them? What do you think?

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Friday, May 05, 2017

Writing: A New Type of Multi-Author Book, with Angela Hunt

Although I don’t usually read stories with a supernatural element, I’ve recently finished Invitation, designated as “cycle one” of the Harbingers collection. I have to admit that the way it was put together fascinated me. In it, four authors—Bill Meyers, Frank Peretti, Angela Hunt, and Alton Gansky—each have written stories in the voice of a different character. The stories are freestanding, but tied together by a common theme. (book cover pic)

I was told that one of the authors, Bill Meyers, had the idea for this one, and invited other authors to join him. It seems reasonable to put together a project such as this, since I have held for some time that in our TV and computer dominated society the attention span of the reader is getting shorter. But is this new type of book a fad, or one of which we’d see more? I decided to ask one of the authors of the work, Angela Hunt, for her comments.

What did you think when you were invited to participate in this project?

I was delighted. I don’t usually write supernatural suspense, but I’ve always said that a writer ought to be able to write anything, so I was tickled to have the opportunity. Plus, my schedule is usually full, but I knew I could easily squeeze in a 20,000-word novella. And the other writers are good friends—how can you turn down that kind of fun?

The idea of several authors writing stories that could be drawn together into a coherent book would seem to be an impossible task. How did you all handle this?

We created a series “bible,” in which we were supposed to note things that had happened in each installment, but then nobody wrote in it, so that idea fell by the wayside. We did, however, hold occasional Skype conferences where we talked about the overall story arc, and how we wanted our characters to act and react along the way. We also suggested adjustments when we thought “our” character wasn’t reacting in a way true to his/her personality—and I noticed that we all grew quite possessive of our assigned characters. As if they were real . . .

Do you foresee more books in this cycle?

I couldn’t have answered that a few months ago, but now I can. There will be five cycles, twenty novellas. We are about to release the final book, and Alton Gansky is hard at work on it as I’m typing.

What do you think about the current state of publishing? Do things need to change? And is this type of book one of the changes we’ll see in the future?

I think the state of publishing has adjusted to the ebook revolution and the recovering economy well. Prior to the economic crash of 2008, publishers were publishing so much there was almost a glut, and the lean times pared down the list. I know that’s not comforting news to new writers, but it means writers have to be more skilled and more persistent than ever before.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share with the readers of this blog?

Just this: for the writer, reading is more important than writing. And living is the most important of all. How else will you have anything to write about?

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Angela Hunt has published more than 130 books in fiction and nonfiction, for children and adults. You can visit her website at www.angelahuntbooks.com. 



Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Professional Burnout

Although I've been retired from medicine for more than a decade, I still read the literature of my specialty, including some very interesting thoughts published recently by a valued colleague writing on burn-out among physicians in training. It's interesting that this phenomenon is observed in medical students and practitioners alike. How often? Up to 50% across all stages of education and practice.

I still remember sitting at my desk in the medical school fraternity house at 2 AM, studying my gross anatomy book, trying (not very successfully) to commit some of the material to memory. Cat-a-corner from me, through the windows I saw Jerry doing the same thing. Soon I heard his book slam shut, his footsteps thump down the stairs, and the front door close (not very quietly). He was gone for two days, and when he came back he wore a Navy uniform. What he did is one example of what I and others in medical school faced and how some of them react.

What does this have to do with writing? I'm a member of several writers-only Facebook groups, and recently I read a post by a mid-list writer of Christian fiction who essentially said, "I give up." I have no idea of all that was in play here. He said the joy was gone, there was no impetus to write. Perhaps it was difficulties getting a publishing contract (eight or nine publishers have shut down their Christian fiction lines in the past year), perhaps the time and effort a writer has to spend on marketing and building their "platform," maybe other factors. Of course, the door is always open for a writer to "indie" publish their work, but this is unknown territory and many of us don't like to venture there.

I'm sure burn-out occurs in other professions and situations as well as the two I've noted. Perhaps it has to do with the reasons one has chosen a career path to begin with. Maybe things have changed since the person has started down that road. How would you suggest putting an end to the "drop-out due to burn-out" situation? I'd really like to hear what you have to say.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Writing: Collections, with Deborah Raney

I recently became aware of a collection of three novellas, written by Deborah Raney, Melissa Tagg, and Courtney Walsh, and published under the title, Right Where We Belong. The idea was interesting, so I decided to ask Deborah Raney about this trend…if, indeed, it is a trend.

Deb, who had the idea to publish these three novellas in one volume?

Courtney and Melissa came up with the idea of a collection of small-town fiction and invited me to play along. I was thrilled with the invitation and had a blast working with these two dynamos!

What do you think about freestanding novellas versus the grouping of several into one volume?

There are three best things about grouping the books into one volume:
1. You introduce each other to each others’ readers! Already, as the tweets and posts have been flying to promote our new book this month, I’ve seen several of each of our readers say that they haven’t read the other authors, but they’ll buy it because they are loyal to one or the other of us. That’s win/win!
2. By grouping our novellas together, we have enough pages to create a print book that, at 400+ pages feels like a full-length novel and can be sold for the price of one. Even though our strongest sales by far are e-book, we each love print and wanted to be sure we had the option to have print copies available for our local bookstores, family, and friends.
Usually when one novella makes it to print, it is as a gift book in hardcover. You don’t too often see a novella standalone in print, at least not in trade size.
3. Writing novellas (as individuals too) is a way to get a story out into the market quicker than you could get a full-length novel published. Because novellas tend to be a bit simpler, with fewer plot threads, every aspect of writing a novella is quicker. That’s not to say it’s easier. I actually find it almost more challenging to create characters and a setting that readers will care about with so few pages to accomplish that!
If you’re a slow writer like I am, it might take a full year to complete a full-length novel. Writing a novella while I wait for edits or in between books is a way to keep my name in front of readers while they wait for the next full-length book.
Another reason I know some authors are writing novellas is because their readers have fallen in love with the characters from a series or novel, and they are begging for more stories from that fictional family or setting. In the case of Right Where We Belong, all three of us used either a setting or characters from a previous series of full-length novels we’d written.
After working with Courtney and Melissa on this project, I’d add a fourth strong reason for doing a collection: it’s just flat-out fun! Not only did we exchange critiques and editing, but we really sparked each others’ creativity just talking about our stories and the themes that tie them together. It was truly iron sharpening iron. And in my case, it was wonderful to have some younger women to make sure my young characters didn’t speak like grandmas. ;)

And what about packaging several novels together as a bundle, the so-called “boxed set”? Is this giving way to more novellas and collections of stories?

I think you’re going to see more and more of these. For one thing, it’s a way to give readers more for their money. A lot of times, the books included in a boxed set are ones that have already had a good publishing run. The author has gotten rights back to the story and is willing to put it out there for a lower price than the original in order for faithful readers to be able to still have access to an out-of-print book. In the case of 99-cent books and free books, an author might gain thousands of new readers by offering a risk-free opportunity for readers to try his or her books.
As an author, I’m kind of reluctant to give my books away, lest that make books seem to have less value. But I can’t deny that every time I’ve done a free promotion, I find sales of my other books rising, new reviews popping up on Amazon, and reviewers noting that “this is the first book I’ve read by this author, but it won’t be the last.” Those are the best words an author could hope for!

Any comments you’d like to leave with readers?

Thanks so much for inviting me into the conversation! As an extrovert, I couldn’t do this gig if I didn’t get to talk shop around the virtual water cooler!

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DEBORAH RANEY's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after twenty happy years as a stay-at-home mom. She has since written over 30 books, including novels for imprints of Random House, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Harlequin. Deb is on the board of the 2600-member American Christian Fiction Writers, and teaches at writers conferences around the country. Deb and husband, Ken Raney, traded small-town life in Kansas––the setting of many of Deb's novels––for life in the friendly city of Wichita. They love traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away. Visit Deb on the Web at www.deborahraney.com.