Friday, February 28, 2020

Writing: Weighing Pros and Cons

I had a phone conversation with my agent the other day. Yes, "indie" authors have agents, too. We talked about my career, and the twists and turns it has taken--from contracted author (two different publishers) to indie (actually, agent-assisted) author, making me what is now popularly called a "hybrid" author.  The big decision, of course, was what to do next. This was generated by a possibility of getting a contract with a publisher, but was I really ready to go back that way? So we talked. (For another viewpoint, although quite similar, check out this post).

Here's what I concluded from our half-hour exploration. The field of publishing has narrowed in a way (harder to get a contract from a traditional publisher) and changed (more small publishers). It's still important to have a good cover (for which I'm responsible in my current indie mode), and even the experienced authors can benefit from the work of a good editor (for which the author also pays as an indie).  These are things a publisher provides, but unless you've been fortunate (as I have...mostly) what they come up with may not be to your taste.

The indie author need not supply a synopsis (you have no idea what a pain writing these can be) or bend to the will of a publisher (and believe me, some of them will ask you to virtually rewrite your book). It behooves me to set up my own publicity, which I'm happy to do anyway--always have. I do a better job than a publicist or marketing manager sometimes. Of course, I have to buy the books I give away or even the proof copies I send out to my influencers. But when the check comes in, most of it is mine.

When a question arises, the decision-maker is me. It's up to me to get all those things done, which leaves me still deciding "Is it worth it?"

Bottom line (and I don't care for that term, but there you are), I'll probably continue as I have been. Do you have any suggestions you'd like to pass along? Have I mentioned anything you hadn't thought about regarding publishing and publishers? Let me know in the comments.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The Internet--Blessing Or Curse?

I enjoy looking at Facebook and Twitter periodically, keeping up with the postings of my friends, acquaintances, and people who fit into neither categories but who like my writing or are otherwise my "friends." But when I look at the comments that follow various posts, especially those with political overtones, I flinch and usually navigate away. It seems that "trolls" are becoming more and more a problem.

What is a computer troll? Here's one definition, from an excellent article: "An Internet troll is a member of an online social community who deliberately tries to disrupt, attack, offend or generally cause trouble within the community by posting certain comments, photos, videos, GIFs or some other form of online content." They may be represented by a single person voicing their opinion, by a group that sets out to disrupt or negate an honest difference of opinion, and probably other types as well. And they're ruining what the social networks were originally planned to be--an opportunity to communicate, to voice your feelings, the equivalent of back-fence conversation in the old days. Apparently, all that has gone by the boards.

I control what social media I see and who my FB friends are (and I've had to block some folks, I'm sorry to say), but occasionally I still see comments to other people's posts or blogs that generate feelings that vary from disagreement to downright anger. How about you? Am I alone in seeing things which border on trolling? Do you have similar feelings? Let me know.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Writing: Can You Tell A Book By Its Cover?

Just got word that my book, Critical Decision, will be available on March 3--two weeks earlier than planned. Enjoy.

On a writers' loop recently, a bookstore manager emphasized the need for a good cover, especially in a book published independently. At the left is the cover designed for Critical Decision by Dineen Miller, who's designed covers for all my indie-published books. I think she did a good job.

I wondered about covers, and discovered a post I published five years ago--it's still valid.

We have a Post Office box, and when life gets busy (as it often is) I may only collect mail from it two or three times a week. That was the case recently, and there was quite an accumulation. After I do something like that, I spend a good bit of time at my desk, discarding unwanted catalogs and shredding a lot of the correspondence. This time, after I'd discarded five or six catalogs and saved a couple,  I started wondering about the process that affected my decision. None of the ones we received, whether they went into the recycle bin or were saved for later perusal, were from companies that generally got our business. Why did I save some catalogs and toss others?

Obviously, some got my attention, while others were met with a figurative turning up of the nose. The ones that survived merited a second look and--at least temporarily--salvage (even though they might eventually end up in the recycle bin anyway).

Now that I'm writing, I've come to realize how important a book cover is. The things that "sell" a book buyer are the name and reputation of the writer, as well as the back cover blurb and the first few pages of the book, but what catches their eye in the first place is the book cover. And the same can be said of direct mail advertising, whether a catalog or correspondence.

What influences you to save or discard an unsolicited piece of mail, especially a catalog? Do you know what gets your attention? I'd like to know.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Presidents' Day

I'm old enough to remember when we celebrated Lincoln's birthday on February 12 and Washington's on February 22. But the Uniform Federal Holidays Act of 1971 designated one day--the third Monday in February--as Presidents' Day, honoring all who have served as President of the US. Some might have had it as a holiday, some had to work.

Since I'm retired--ie, I don't have to leave the house for work--most days are about the same for me. How about you? What did you do yesterday? Let me know.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Writing: What's The Endgame

We all know that railroad tracks can keep running, parallel to each other, for as long as the rails are laid. In actuality, they never meet, despite what our eyes see. There's an end of the line, but our vision shows them continuing until they meet at infinity. Sometimes a writer's life is like that. Depending on our location, we can see the next several rails, perhaps even a mile down the track, but we can't see the true end. To our finite eyes, the path keeps going to infinity, but our brain tells us there's an end of the line.

In my own case, I was fortunate enough to have a couple of publishers behind me for the publication of the first ten of my novels. And I was even more fortunate to have built up a following, people who read and enjoyed my work. When it became apparent that my "run" with traditional publishers was coming to an end, I took advantage of agent-assisted self-publication to put out two more (soon to be three) full-length novels plus five novellas. Every time I go through the publication process, I'm reminded of how much a traditional publisher does for an author. Of course, every time I see a royalty check, I'm reminded of how much a self-published author does.

My next novel, Critical Decision, is now available for pre-order in Kindle form on Amazon. The print version will be available before the March 17 "publication" date. And I'm making arrangements for an audio version of the book. Twenty novels and novellas of "medical mystery with heart." Twenty opportunities--not just now but as long as those books are out there--to reach people with these stories. It's more than I even hoped for, and I'm grateful.

I have another book already started on my computer--Medical Mystery features an unmarried nurse, a widowed doctor, a woman with a blood pressure issue, and a cast of characters that promises plenty of opportunities for me to see where they're going. I don't know if the rails will keep running for a while, or if the train will stop. I guess we'll just have to hang on and see where the journey goes.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

How Do You Keep Up?

My wife keeps a "to-do" list. I don't. Then again, according to her she has a thousand things to do, and I don't. Besides that, if I kept a list, I'd forget where I put it.

We also keep a calendar on the refrigerator (doesn't everyone?). Of course, occasionally things don't get written down, which makes for some surprises when they turn up. So it's only as good as my wife and I make it.

No matter how you keep up with your schedule--via a list, notes on a calendar, a spreadsheet on your computer, however--it's probably immaterial the method, as much as the execution. And there's always the niggling feeling in the back of your mind that you're forgetting something.

Right now, I'm tying up the loose ends for publication of my next book. I've sent out the proof copies, made arrangements for several blog interviews and giveaways, settled on a release date, and a few more things. And that brings me to my announcement.

My novel, Critical Decision, will be released on March 17. For those of you who prefer to read on a Kindle (or have the app available free from Amazon that allows you to read Kindle books on your computer or phone), you can pre-order the novel at a savings. Click here for details and to order.

Enough marketing. We're half-way through February, and I have a number of things to do this month. How about you? And how will you make sure you get them all done? I want to know.

Friday, February 07, 2020

Writing: Like A Sparkler

Remember when you were a kid and fireworks were going off all around you. You wanted to participate, but were told that shooting off bottle rockets and lighting firecrackers were too dangerous. Some adults, and even teen-agers, held Roman candles, and that sounded like fun, but you weren't allowed. Too dangerous. But, before the firework "show" wound down, you were allowed to hold a sparkler--maybe two. You were big stuff. You were shooting off fireworks--sort of. It was fun while it lasted, but after it had run its course, there wasn't anything left but a wire with a bit of burned material on it.

I won't say that writing a novel is totally like shooting off fireworks, but one similarity struck me. You labor for months--sometimes a year or more--getting the content just right. Launch day is sort of like a fireworks display (although the rockets and firecrackers get muted later on in some cases), but when it's all over you can find yourself holding a burned out sparkler and thinking "is that all?"

An author has to start hyping his/her book weeks before it is released--sometimes months. It's necessary to keep reviews coming in. And there's the time-tested giveaway (which sort of fizzles if participation is weak). But eventually, the fireworks are over if you let them. If you've been writing that next book, the quiet period doesn't last too long. If you put it off, though, you may find yourself holding a burned-out sparkler, looking around and wondering where those fireworks you see are coming from. They're coming from someone else who's launching the book they've been working on. And so on, and so on, and so on.

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

What Is Our Legacy?

Author Mary Higgins Clark died last week. As I thought about that, I wondered what my own legacy would be. I enjoyed her novels, as did thousands of those who read them. But although she will be remembered mainly for her more than 50 books, she was a person, not just an author.

As a physician, I was privileged to treat thousands of patients.
As a professor at a medical school and an authority on certain subjects, I had the opportunity to do a great deal of teaching--both in person throughout the world and via articles and book chapters--that had a hand in the education of many professionals.

As an author (who came late to this "second profession") I've been privileged to write things that will live on after I have gone to my reward. And, as a teacher, I've passed on the principles to others of what I've learned in this short time in that profession.

I have been blessed with the love of two wonderful women--at least twice what many men have received. I have wonderful children and grandchildren, of whom I'm inordinately proud. I enjoy watching sporting events (events in some of which I used to be a participant), and still play golf (sort of).

I have been fortunate in my ability to leave behind a legacy that will outlive me--and I hope it is a positive one. No, I don't have a fatal disease. I've just been thinking about legacies. And that brings me to a question I always asked prospective residents for our program during their interviews at the med school where I spent my last decade in practice: What would you like to be remembered for? It's something all of us should think about. If you don't know the answer, now is the time to work on it.