Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hard work and blind luck

by Dietrich Kalteis

Do you strive to earn income on your writing from other than royalties on books sales? If so, what additional income sources do you pursue?

I don’t have a grand plan for earning extra income outside of book royalties, I just try to write a good book, and maybe count on some blind luck. And while money’s a great motivator, I try not to let it be the carrot at the end of the stick. 

Submitting short stories to paying markets, looking for gun-for-hire freelance work, editing and seeking out paying speaking engagements at festivals or writing groups can generate income. There are online directories like Duotrope that offers a searchable database for the short story marketplace, giving all kinds of info and submission details. Also submitting short stories for awards and prizes is another way. Writer’s Digest is another online source for writing markets that’s worth checking out.

When a new release comes out, there’s the book launch, appearances at book festivals and a book tour. Also reading events, writers’ panels, interviews, and speaking engagements. They don’t all pay, but they’re good opportunities to promote both writer and the work.

There are other things that can help gain some exposure: websites, newsletters, blogs, podcasts, ads, although results are hard if not impossible to track. And there’s social media. For me, social media can sometimes seem more of a curse, like when I should be writing instead of tweeting. And there’s Goodreads which is about all things books and allows for reviews and book giveaways. There are publicists for hire, and marketing services that can be found online that offer help for writers wanting to gain exposure.  

I host regular Noir at the Bar events here in Vancouver. Besides selling a few books, its a great reading event and a chance to meet with other writers and some avid readers. This is my fourth year hosting the event, with the next one coming up next Wednesday, and I’m organizing the first one in Seaside CA this October, tying it in with my upcoming book tour for Zero Avenue (there, I plugged both event and book). Noir at the Bar events are popping up all over, and if you haven’t been to one, check it out.  

Annual conferences like Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Crimefest, Thrillerfest, Theakson Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival are a great way to meet readers as well as other writers. These events are a lot of fun, and people who write gruesome shit tend to be the nicest and most supportive people you’ll ever meet. It’s one industry where there’s a lot of support from your piers. And I’ve met some terrific writers just standing at a Bouchercon bar (now that I think of it, that’s where I met some of the writers on this blog). We obviously share a similar approach to promoting our books, with drink in hand. Cheers.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Every Little Bit Helps

By R.J. Harlick

Do you strive to earn income on your writing from other than royalties on books sales? If so, what additional income sources do you pursue?

Many of us when we start out on this writing adventure have dreams of six figure advances, even seven. But after endless rejections from agents and publishers we end up being very happy in just getting a publisher. The fact there is an advance, usually no more than four figures, becomes merely the icing on the cake.

According to the Writers Union of Canada, the average annual income of a writer is less than $13,000. In the USA, it is even lower at $8,000 as reported by the Authors Guild. Unfortunately, these meager amounts are falling as publishers are being increasingly squeezed by the large booksellers, such as Amazon, to offer greater discounts on their products. While most writer’s contracts stipulate that the writer will get a percentage of the book cover price, usually ten percent. In reality the writer only gets a percentage of the net of the discounted price, whatever that amorphous net is. This is particularly the case with ebooks. So, when you as a reader are hunting for the best bargain on a book, keep in mind the ever diminishing amount the writer, who has put a good part of their life into writing that book, will receive. But I am no less guilty. I love a good bargain, too.

So, if we have dreams of living off our writing we have to find other sources of income.

Have you ever wondered why so many of us are closer to pushing up daisies than to planting them?  The answer for most is we felt we couldn’t start following our writing dream until we were assured that we had enough income to support the dream. Usually this translates into sufficient retirement income, be it pensions or investments. A supportive significant other with a good paying job also helps. One of the first things I was told by a prospective agent was “Don’t quit your day job.” I greatly admire those writers who are able to juggle writing a novel with a full-time job. I’m afraid I’m not one of them. 

Fortunately for us in Canada, we have a government which is very supportive of its writers and offers various programs to help augment royalty income.  Foremost is the Public Lending Rights program, which is essentially paying a writer for having their titles in a library. So in addition to the one-time royalty from the initial purchase, a writer also receives annual payments for the title, as long as it remains part of the collection.  For many writers, this can surpass the royalties they receive for the book.

Another program is called Access Copyright, which is intended to address those situations where a reader prefers to be cheap and photocopies a book or portions of it instead of purchasing it outright.  Educational institutions are the biggest abusers of this practice, often copying entire books. A writer receives an annual amount for every title registered from a fund that is in part funded by these heavy copyright abusers. Unfortunately, today these institutions are using recent changes to the copyright legislation to opt out, so the amount of funding available to writers is diminishing.

Another government body is the Canada Council for the Arts. It will provide a writer with grant money to help support them during the writing of the book. Unfortunately, this program tends to favour those writers who write literary fiction and not genre fiction, like crime writing. There is also funding available to help a writer in the research of the book. Because of the lead time involved in applying for these funds, I’ve never been organized enough to take advantage of this.

But there is another Canada Council program that I have used several times. Through a partner organization, usually a writing association like The Writers Union of Canada, members can be paid an honorarium for a reading at a library or similar locale and re-imbursed for related travel costs. Thanks to the Quebec Writers Federation’s program, I was able to do a book tour to Vancouver, when Silver Totem of Shame came out.

Participating as a guest author in literary events, like festivals and conferences, can be another source of income.  Usually the source of funding is from the revenue generated by the event, but it can also come from the Canada Council. Unfortunately in Canada, because many of these festivals focus on literary fiction, the opportunities for genre writers aren’t plentiful.

Some writers become educators, offering creative writing courses at libraries, colleges and other educational institutions. Some offer freelance editorial services to augment their income. Paid mentoring programs offered by writers associations or colleges can be another source.

I’ve found selling my books directly at community events is another good source for additional income. I try to participate in at least three or four a year, usually around Christmas time, when every community in Ottawa seems to put on an Arts & Craft fair. Basically, the percentage of the book’s price that goes to the bookseller goes into my own pocketbook. It can add up. I remember hearing a story about Michael Connelly in his early days as a writer, driving around with boxes of his books in the trunk of his car and selling them to whomever would buy. He sure doesn’t have to do that now, does he?

Of course, one of the best sources for supplemental income is from optioning film rights and having the book or series actually made into a movie or TV program. But the author has little control over this. Besides it usually happens to best selling authors who are already collecting their six or even seven figures in advances and royalties.


I am sure there are other sources of income for a writer, but I think the bottom line is, most of us aren’t going to make millions. Nor are most of us doing it for the money. We are doing it because of the pure joy we get in writing.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Money, Money, MONEY


Terry Shames answering: Do you strive to earn income on your writing from other than royalties on books sales? If so, what additional income sources do you pursue?"



Recently I met a publisher who said, “Congratulations. You’re really doing well.” I thanked him and we moved on in the conversation, but later I wondered exactly what he meant. Because if he meant, “You must be making money hand over fist,” he had the wrong person. In fact, I think he had the wrong profession.

I have been pleased and gratified by the reception my books have had. I have great fans and am very happy with my publisher, but if I was expected to live on what I earn as a writer, I’d be living in a trailer park outside the small Texas town I write about and working at the Dairy Queen on the side.

My dream was always to have my name on the cover of a book, and that the book would be read and people would enjoy it. But I knew unless I was lucky enough to sign with one of the big publishers, I would not making big bucks as a writer. It does happen. I’ve been surprised to hear that some of the writers I know have received nice, fat advances. And some of them have even made enough money to get royalties over and above their advances. But unless everyone is kidding me, that’s a tiny percentage of published writers.

I’m lucky to have a husband who is willing to support my writing habit. I don’t have to worry about making money, and the advances and royalties I get are icing on the cake. I’m also past retirement age, so if I had to make extra money I’m not sure what I would tackle. At one time I was a computer programmer/analyst, but those skills are waaaaay out of date. I could consider trying to put my writing skills to use by writing articles, but these days that’s a very competitive endeavor. I could consider looking for a ghost-writing job, but I suspect that takes a particular type of writer to satisfy a very specific market. And although I like editing, I have no professional skills.


I’ve always been interested in cutting edge technology, and I like to think that if I really needed to make money, I’d get serious about what’s new and how to take advantage of it in some way. I frequently read about people who have decided to get out of their corporate jobs and take up some innovative idea to make a living. But the fact is that I’d have to work really hard at that and I suspect that I’m not wired for it.

My guess is that if I really had to make money, I’d have to up my production and write more books. I would also probably try to publish some of my own work. Would that increase the amount of money I make? Who knows? I do have a solid fan base, but I know that if you publish yourself, you have to not only write just as good a book, but you have to put a lot of effort into making sure you get good editing and production values. There are no guarantees. For now, I’m happy to be in my niche—and of course there is always that blockbuster I’m planning to write for buckets of money!




Friday, April 21, 2017

Connie di Marco: In a Stew About Promotion ;-)

Paul here. Today I’d like to welcome Connie di Marco, author, actress and super souper. As Connie di Marco she writes the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink, featuring San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti. Writing as Connie Archer, she’s also the author of the national bestselling Soup Lover’s Mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime. Her excerpts and recipes are featured in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. She has appeared in numerous television and film roles under her professional name and lives in Los Angeles with her family and a constantly talking cat. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime. You can visit her at www.ConniediMarco.com or www.ConnieArcherMysteries.com.

And now I have to worry that she’ll get even with me (see her post below) and slip a Mickey into my soup. So before that can happen, take it away, Connie:



With thousands of new titles being published every day, what do you do to try to raise your new book above the fray and catch the eye of readers?  

Oh, why do you have to ask this question??? I wish I could answer and offer some brilliant ideas! I have my friend Paul Marks to blame thank for inviting me over today, and for that I’ll get even with him. I will. 

See, I never even thought about being a writer, much less a marketer. I was busy doing all kinds of other things in life, but after years of being a devotée of mysteries and thrillers, and out of sheer creative frustration, I decided I would try to write a mystery and hopefully be traditionally published . . . someday . . . maybe. It wasn’t a burning obsession. Not really. 

Little did I realize that actually getting published would be like falling into the front seat of a roller coaster just as it was about to take off. I had barely enough time to get a website up and running when my agent called and said, “Well, you know you’ll have to blog and do giveaways and maybe write some magazine articles . . .” I freaked. 

I thought, I wrote a book! What else could I possibly have to say? 

Luckily for me, my very first book, A Spoonful of Murder, was a blessed little thing and when a senior editor at my publishing house two months after its release said, “Your book is in its third printing!” wine glass in hand, I was smart enough to shut my mouth for once and just nod. I was about to ask, “Is that good?” (I guess it was. That editor seemed impressed.) That’s how little I knew about the business of selling books. 

At the same time, everyone was warning me about the dreaded “sophomore effect,” so as time went on I figured I better get off my lazy (computer chair) and do something to keep sales up. That’s when I discovered I wasn’t too bad at running off at the mouth, er, blogging. So I did all the things that writers do – blog tours, interviews, library panels, book events, conferences, giveaways, you name it. But did I have a clue as to what was actually working, i.e., getting attention, selling books? Nope. And I still don’t know. 

At least with my first series, the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, I had a brand – soup! On blog tours I gifted crockpots and soup bowls to lucky winners. I gave out bookmarks at polling tables on voting days, and . . . I thought this was truly inspired (maybe a little embarrassing), I went to Costco and Target and Walgreens, any place that sold books, and inserted my bookmarks into every mystery, cozy, thriller and cookbook I could find. I thought, Why not? I’m not stealing anything. It’s a gift. Right? 

I haven’t as yet come up with any really unique ideas for my new series, the Zodiac Mysteries. Not
yet, but I hope inspiration will strike. I could offer a giveaway of an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco where my astrologer protagonist solves city crimes, but it’s a wee bit out of my marketing budget. Maybe I could limit it to people who live between Oakland and Yountville? 

The deeper question here is how do we catch and harness that lightning bolt of . . . What? Success? Fame? Where publishers are beating on our front door and offering more and more bucks? 

When Anne Cleeves’ publisher released her first Vera book, pre-internet, it was overlooked and not even listed in the publisher’s catalogue. The series went nowhere. She kept writing. Fifteen years later, a producer in the UK found a Vera book in a charity shop and fell in love with Cleeves’ creation. 

Harrison Ford was once asked how he had achieved success in his career. He replied that he must have had ‘cultural utility.’ That answer gave me pause for thought. Is it that simple? Is there a face, a book, an idea whose time has finally arrived? Something that sparks notice or notoriety? As writers, how do we catch that pipeline wave (I’m mixing metaphors here) or even recognize that it’s on its way? Or more importantly, do we even want to be concerned with such things? Because then we’re writing for the marketplace, not from our hearts. 

We work in isolation, often oblivious to current trends. And everyone, even publishers are taken by surprise when a zeitgeist appears. Should we worry about that? Try to catch that wave? Or just write the best book we can and pour our heart and soul into it?

Five years later, I still ruminate over all those questions. But to be perfectly honest, after eight books, I’m a little tuckered out. I’m sick of marketing. I realize I hate Facebook. I don’t even know how to find the ‘pokes.’ 

Help Leslie Scaggs and Joy Meier celebrate their birthdays.
I don’t know them! Go away!!! 

And Twitter. 

Do you know Harriet Walker, Ellen Gillis and LynDee Stephens? 
Hell, no!

Yes, I do tweet. Or as Stephen Colbert once famously said, “I have twotted.” 

I hate LinkedIn even more, it nags you mercilessly.

Connie, people are looking at your LinkedIn profile.
Tell them to f&*$% . . . 

So – do I have any bright ideas? Something that will sell tons of books? Nope. I wish I did because if there were some magic bullet, believe me I would use it. I’m back to square one. I guess the best and only thing we can all do is write the next book, and continue to Tweet, blog, post on FB, get to conferences, be interviewed and dust off our psyches and just keep on keepin’ on. 

But the most important thing is to write the next book and make sure it’s a really good one! And who knows? Maybe that next one will get zapped by the lightning bolt of great success. 

***

Thanks, Connie and good luck!

***

And now for the usual BSP:

My story Twelve Angry Days is coming out in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magaine, on sale at newsstands starting April 25th. Or click here to buy online starting 4/25.


***

Anthony Nominations close in about 2 weeks. Which is 2 weeks in which you can still read my story “Ghosts of Bunker Hill,” from the 12/16 Ellery Queen. And which was voted #1 in Ellery Queen’s Readers Poll for 2016. It’s available FREE on my website along with “Nature of the Beast,” published on David Cranmer’s Beat to a Pulp, and “Deserted Cities of the Heart,” published in Akashic’s St. Louis Noir. All from 2016 and all eligible. Click here to read them for free.




Thursday, April 20, 2017

A Scot in Trouble Up a Tree.

“With thousands of new titles being published every day, what do you do to try to raise your new book above the fray and catch the eye of readers?”  by Catriona

Yesterday Cathy looked at the all-important jacket image - the first thing a potential reader sees. Today I'm going to move on to the next step we take when we try to decide whether or not buy a book . . . the words.

Not, you understand, the words the writer works on, hones, edits and polishes for months and years but the words on the outside: the title, slugline, blurb, puff, and flap copy.
And slug, blurb, puff, flap is how it feels sometimes. The couple of hundred words that go on the cover are some of my least favourite writing.

I've got three books coming out in the next year or so:

One title gave me no bother at all. I needed something that said "Macbeth" and my mother-in-law, simply by throwing herself to the ground, breaking her ankle and spending a few boring days stuck in hospital with nothing better to do, came up with it.  Thank you, Nan.  

But there's a lot more than just the title on the jacket:
You'll have to zoom in on this!
And every word has been batted back and forth on email about a dozen times.  Oy.

Another book was called HANG MY HAT! all the time I was writing it but it's SCOT FREE now. Is that better? You tell me. It's got an extra identifier "A Last Ditch Mystery" (My heroine lives in the fragrantly named Last Ditch Motel) and a slugline too "The lighter side of the dark underbelly of the California Dream".  

This cover hasn't been revealed to the world yet, unfortunately. It's a belter. With different textures. First book I've ever had with different textures.  The teaser synopsis? Different editor, Same number of emails.

Book 3's got a slugline too "Draw me a house, a tree and a person and I'll tell you who are inside". Or "deep inside" or "deep down inside" or just "who you are". And it's got an identifier: "a novel of suspense".  (It's also got a different title in the UK: THE WEIGHT OF ANGELS. )


But both books have the same teaser. And even more emails to get it up and running.

So here they are - the three hard-won paragraphs of copy that will, fingers crossed, get readers salivating. And never mind the thousands of books others published, I'm just happy that at least these three don't all sound the same.  I hope. 

"The body found in a muddy grave across the street is just the latest horror threatening to tear apart Aly McGovern’s life seam by seam. She knows Angelo, her brooding teenage son, is keeping secrets. She fears he's in danger too. But her new job at the psychiatric hospital, the job her husband pushed her into, is using up everything she's got every day.  She can try to ignore the sounds that surely can't really be there. And she can try to trust the doctors who can't be as dark as they seem. But can Aly hold herself, her life and her family together without getting blood on her hands?"

"Lexy Campbell fell in love and left her native Scotland for a golden life in California – hitched to a hunk, building her marriage counseling practice, living the dream. Six months later she’s divorced, broke and headed home. There’s just one last thing. Lexy’s only client – sweet little old Mrs Bombarro – is in jail for murdering her husband and Lexy knows the cops have got it wrong. All she needs is a few days to prove it and somewhere cheap to sleep at night. But checking into the Last Ditch Motel brings a whole world of trouble along with its huge slice of life."

"Fair is foul and foul is fair when aristocratic private detective Dandy Gilver arrives at Castle Bewer, at midsummer 1934, to solve the tangled mystery of a missing man, a lost ruby and a family curse. The Bewer family's latest wheeze to keep the wolf from the door is turning the castle keep into a theatre. While a motley band of players rehearse Macbeth, the Bewers themselves prepare lectures, their faithful servants set up a tearoom, and the guest wings fill with rich American ladies seeking culture. Meanwhile, Dandy and her sidekick Alec Osborne begin to unravel the many secrets of the Bewers and find that, despite the witches, murders and ghosts onstage, it's behind the scenes where the darkest deeds are done."

Hmmmm - or do they?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Promises, promises...Cathy Ace



“With thousands of new titles being published every day, what do you do to try to raise your new book above the fray and catch the eye of readers?”

To catch the eye of a reader, you have to know your reader! Just as when fishing you have to have the right bait for the fish you’re trying to catch, I’ve always thought of the cover of a book as being that bait. Unlike when fishing, you don’t want to hook the reader with the promise of a great meal then drag them out of the water and batter them to death – no, really, you don’t! – what you want to do is to get them interested enough in the overall proposition of your book then actually give them what you’ve promised them.

The photo we use on our Facebook page
So, for me, the book cover – which includes the visuals, the typesetting, the title of the book and the jacket notes – is where it all begins (and, sometimes, if it’s wrong, it can be where it all ends). I understand that, these days, the way in which a potential reader is first exposed to this might not be on a bookshelf but in the virtual world of online communication and that’s where an author has a role to play in making their book “visible”. Thus, standing out from the crowd begins with the offer encapsulated in the exterior of the book, and how an author can get that seen by potential readers.
Artwork, typesetting, the title and the back-cover blurb will all appeal, or turn off, a reader almost at first glance. I know it does with me – there are certain types of cover design I "expect" to conceal a book that’s of a type that won’t appeal to me, which is why I think this is such a critical aspect of beginning the appeal to the reader. 

I write two series of books and each series has a “Title framework”: all the Cait Morgan Mysteries are “The Corpse with the…..” and then follows something valuable and a body part – eg: The Corpse with the Silver Tongue, Golden Nose, Emerald Thumb etc; all my WISE Enquiries Agency mysteries are “The Case of the…..” two words that are alliterative, the second describing a person – eg: The Case of the Dotty Dowager, Missing Morris Dancer, Curious Cook. Without going into too much detail, suffice to say it’s taken quite a bit of work on my part to get this to be accepted by publishers, and to then get it to “stick”. To me (with a marketing communications background) it seems obvious that offering a promise that is easily recognizable is critical in such a busy marketplace. And it starts with a title – which might be all that a potential reader sees in a headline, or on a list of forthcoming publications, for example.

Beyond this, there’s then the style and content of the cover art. For my Cait Morgan Mysteries – each of which is set in a different country – my publisher agreed to feature a “landmark” or a “defining image” of the country in question on each cover…I wanted the books to look like retro travel posters because, although the setting for the books is contemporary, they are very much in the traditional “Golden Age” vein in terms of structure. The designer was able to select a typeface that hints at the 1930s without being a pastiche, added a “ageing” effect, and we were off! 
Each book like a vintage travel poster - inviting readers to take a trip and meet a corpse!

For my WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries, which are centered upon a Welsh stately home, it was decided that such a building would always feature on the cover, because it is a defining aspect of each story and would appeal to those looking for a link with “all things Downton” – again, these are contemporary tales, but there’s an inevitable recognition of the “Upstairs, Downstairs” life within the home of a titled family, and that’s what this visual recognizes, and promises.

Yes - you'll visit a stately home in these books and you'll help solve a puzzling, probably quite cozy case

 I am delighted that the covers of both of my series offer what I believe they deliver. 

Then – how to bring these images and promises to the point where they are, in fact, in front of the eyes of readers and potential readers? Well, that’s where the job of planning and implementing a strategic promotional plan comes into play. I use Facebook, Twitter, I write blogs on a regular basis (like this one) and also write guest blog posts on other sites. I’ll run competitions, I have my own bi-monthly newsletter (you can sign up for it at my website) and I have my website. It’s all about getting the word out, getting the visual promise onto the screens people are looking at…and hopefully, thereby, onto their “Consider To Buy/Borrow” list, then their “To Be Read” pile, then – one day, I hope – onto their “Can’t Wait For The Next One” list.  

The overall promise connected with my name

Cathy Ace is the Bony Blithe Award-winning author of The Cait Morgan Mysteries (#8 The Corpse with the Ruby Lips was released on November 1st) and The WISE Enquiries Agency Mysteries (#3, The Case of the Curious Cook, was released in hardcover in the UK on November 30th and in the USA & Canada on March 1st).  You can find out more about Cathy, her work and her characters at her website, where you can also sign up for her newsletter with news, updates and special offers: http://cathyace.com/