A “Taxing” Time of Year

32333175028_fc3eda7114

 

It’s tax time.

The first 3 1/2 months of each year.

In January, I sulk and complain at the very thought of it.

In February, I prepare myself mentally.

In March, I gather receipts, statements, invoices… everything I need.

In early April, I get down to business.

The problem is, I always seem to be writing the last chapters of a book, editing, selecting a cover—in the very heart of Tax Season!!!

That makes it an overwhelming time of year for me—year after year!

It takes me roughly one year to write a book, from planning to printing and everything in between. So, February and March are always “crunch time.”

I’ve come to realize that the only way I can separate tax time and launch time is for me to alter my writing schedule.

So, this is the last year I will publish a book in the spring. 

From now on, I am going to work on some other writing projects for a couple of months and begin writing in earnest June 1. That way, I will change publication dates to the middle of the year.

I have a friend who has moved her writing space to the opposite end of the house to avoid family conflicts. Another friend, tired of computer problems, recently bought a new one. She’s busy loading a couple of new writing programs on it. I hope the changes they are making work for them.

Adjustments are a part of life.

The point is, we shouldn’t keep on living with the same circumstances that cause us angst. Only by changing something will we Improve our situation.

Don’t put it off. 

My father always said of change, “It will turn out great. You’ll wonder why you waited so long.”

So, if something is bugging you— keeping things from running smoothly—don’t procrastinate.

Make the necessary adjustments.

You, too, will say, “I wonder why I waited so long?”

Advertisements

How Long Does it Take to Break “Good” Habits?

40924322190_14196e0736

 

Experts tell us that it takes more than 2 months before a new habit becomes automatic.

Sixty-six days is the length of time most experts say that it takes for an old “bad” habit to be replaced by a new “good/better” one.

But, how long does it take for a good habit to be replaced by a “not-so-good” pattern of behavior?

Say a person is in the habit of exercising daily. If they aren’t able to exercise for some reason for a few weeks, (perhaps for those same 66 days) does the good habit break?

I couldn’t find any research on this, but if we use common sense we may conclude that if people stop “practicing” good habits, they will fall by the wayside. Then, in the future, if a person decides they want to start exercising the good habit again, it will most likely need to be reformed. It might not take as long as it did, initially, to form it, or it just may–  because more than likely, a “bad” habit has taken the “good” habit’s place…

So, here is my plug for writing every day:

Writing is a skill that requires practice.

Habits are formed by repetitive practice.

When practice is abandoned, habits break.

When one doesn’t write daily, the writing habit is broken.

When the writing habit is broken, skills just aren’t what they used to be.

And, those writers will find themselves in dire need of skill development in order to write as well as they did before—when they were writing on a daily basis.

It requires effort to form good habits.

And, those good habits can easily be broken by lack of consistent effort.

It’s as simple as that.

 

Read Your Reviews

39310366862_cc1f8df7fb

 

Do you ever feel like quitting?

Quitting writing, that is.

Do you ever say to yourself, “Who am I kidding? My readers wouldn’t miss me.”

Do you ever play the mind game in which you list all the things you could be doing, if you didn’t write?

Sports, movies, television, exercise, shopping, art, camping, travel, crafts, learning a second language, volunteering …

Last week, I had a few moments where I thought about the “what-ifs” in my own life.

That’s when I read my book reviews on Amazon. An hour later, in tears, I thanked God for my readers. What beautiful and encouraging things they had shared about how my books had touched their hearts … changed their lives.

I was overwhelmed as I read their comments, recalling that the very reason I write was summed up in their remarks.

I felt humbled, energized, and encouraged.

I am thankful and grateful for the opportunity to do what I love to do and have such a profound effect on lives.

How could I possibly quit when I have so much more to say? So many more readers to challenge, comfort, offer hope … 

So, when the days of doubt come, give yourself a shot in the arm. 

Jump on Amazon and read your book reviews.

 

Head-hopping

34860546313_b9d5cdc33a

 

I love to get freebies, don’t you?

Over the past few weeks, I have downloaded several free fiction books.

Some were absolute jewels. Others … well …

That’s the way it goes in the world of “free.”

One of the books contained a LOT of head-hopping. Although the story and characters were enjoyable (that’s why I kept reading) the intermingled flow of dialogue, description, and emotion from various characters within the same paragraph made the story difficult to follow.

A reader shouldn’t have to constantly wonder who is speaking and whose thoughts are being revealed. Avoiding head-hopping is essential for writers—and it is so easy to do: 

  1. In each scene, establish your point-of-view character. Although other characters can be in the scene, can show action, and speak dialogue, only the POV character can share their thoughts and perspective. 
  1. Each paragraph should have only one character. When you want to change characters, simply start a new paragraph.
  1. When you want to change POV characters, begin a new scene.

Within the same paragraph (even within the same scene) don’t allow yourself to hop back and forth from one character’s thoughts and perspective to another’s. 

If you confuse your reading audience in this way, even the most interesting characters and enjoyable dialogue may not be enough to keep them reading to THE END.

To Query or Not to Query

9069943805_653e603839

 

What is a Query Letter and why should you send one to an agent?

We’ve all done queries when we type a request for information into the search bar at the top of our computer screen.

A Query Letter is a little bit different, however. Put simply, a query letter is a single page cover letter, introducing you and your book.

It is NOT A RESUME.

It is three concise paragraphs, which include the hook, the mini synopsis, and the writer’s biography.

The Hook, or paragraph one:  A concise, one-sentence tagline for your book meant to snag your reader’s interest and reel them in.

The Mini-synopsis, or paragraph two: This is your novel, reduced to one paragraph. (Yikes! Are you kidding me?)

Writer’s biography, or paragraph three: Keep it short and related only to your writing.

Close your letter by thanking the agent for his/her time and consideration. If your book is nonfiction, include the outline and table of contents.

If your book is fiction, ask the agent to request the full contents, if interested.

The internet has many examples of query letters—both bad and good—available. It will be well worth your time to read some so that you get a good feel for what agents expect.

As my father always said, “It never hurts to ask…”

Traditional Publishing

30398113807_cb49d1867f

 

Forty-five percent of book sales on Amazon last year were written by self-published authors.

That’s getting close to half—and predictions are for that number to keep going up. 

Still, there is an honor attached to being accepted by a traditional publishing house. These authors are viewed by some as being “real” authors—although that viewpoint is rapidly changing.

There are not as many big publishing houses as there used to be, making it even more difficult for a writer to get a book deal from a publisher. If they do, it makes it all the more prestigious. 

So, what is it that a publisher might do for an author that they cannot do for themselves?

Well, first of all there’s the imprint of the publishing house on the book cover that is akin to getting a gold star on a spelling test in elementary school (at least that’s how it was “way back when” at the school I attended).

Then, there is the fact that major publishers pull a lot of weight with the brick and mortar bookstores and are much more likely to get their authors actual shelf space.

Finally, traditional publishers may get some of their most popular authors cash advances in some cases and they often have in-house editors. 

In days-gone-by, traditional publishers did a lot of marketing for their authors, but don’t count on that in today’s world. These writers are finding the greatest responsibility for advertising their books is being placed on their very own shoulders.

So, I ask, again, what is it that a traditional publisher might do for an author that he/she cannot do for themselves?

In my humble opinion, not much.

However, if you are young and have time on your side so you can afford to wait for a traditional book deal and/or the points I’ve mentioned are important to you, then by all means polish up your query letter.

We’ve talked about the query letter before, but for those who haven’t been following this blog for a lengthy period of time, I will touch on the subject next week.

 

It’s Decision Time

43268665132_58f42a6d8e

 

Will you self-publish or seek a traditional publisher?

These are two different roads, to be sure. You may choose to self-publish if you want to retain more control in the process. Along with that is the fact that you will also do most of the work yourself, which includes the cover, interior formatting, obtaining your ISBN’s, marketing, etc. One hundred percent of the financial burden will be yours, also.

The internet is full of self-publishing options, so read everything you can about them. Talk with other authors. Ask what they chose to do—and if they would do the same thing, again. 

Some of the options offer as little or as much guidance as you’d like and vary widely in costs. Your budget, time available to work, and your technological abilities may dictate which is the best course of action for you.

I published my first three fiction books through Author Academy Elite. You can find out everything about Kary Oberbrunner and his team on the internet. Sign up for a free webinar to determine if this—or a similar self-publishing group—is the course of action for you.

My two interactive picture books for Alzheimer’s patients, I Remember the Seasons and I Remember Bible Stories were totally self-published under my own imprint, Connections Press. 

I made both decisions by listing the plusses and minuses of each option. I weighed them until I was sure that one was the best choice for my situation.

Once I made my decision, I moved ahead quickly. I got the job done.

I still go through the same process each time I am ready to publish a new book. Things in the industry change, my skills improve (or at least I’d like to think they do) and finances are always a consideration. I use what I’ve learned to help me make the best decision for each book.

Next week’s blog post: traditional publishers.