Prizes, Publication, and Prestige

This seems to be the time of year for authors to enter writing contests. And, while it might be exciting to receive recognition and/or monetary compensation for exceptional writing, is the cost and/or the time involved worth the effort?

The Positives:

1- Money: cash prizes can be lucrative.

2- Prestige: Winning a contest may help you get noticed by literary agents.

3- Publication: Whether in a magazine, anthology, or website, publication may be an important benefit.

4– Deadlines may actually help you finish a story more quickly.

The Negatives:

1) You may lose the price of your entry fee. (Note: Be sure the contest doesn’t keep you from entering other contests at the same time.)

2) Entering may eat up your writing time.  Don’t write on a specific topic that you might not be able to use in another contest in the future. 

4) If the contest you enter isn’t well known, then even a small monetary prize won’t be worth it. For the most part, only enter contests that get a lot of publicity and can further your writing career.

5) Enter contests that offer feedback. After all, one of the main reasons for entering contests is to get your writing reviewed by others who can help you improve.

A word of advice: Don’t enter every contest you find. You will find yourself writing dozens of junk submissions.  Focus on writing a few quality pieces and only entering a few contests. 

Advertisement

Did You Miss Me?

I didn’t write a blog last week because my father passed away. My writing was of a different nature—a eulogy for a man beloved by all who knew him.

So, this week, I thought I would share what I learned about writing a eulogy in case you might find yourself in a similar situation some day.

A eulogy provides an opportunity to reflect upon the life of a person and tell others in attendance why it is important to remember that person… perhaps how they have been inspirational in one’s life.

A eulogy is usually 5-10 minutes long and from 750-1500 words. It can include accomplishments, relationships with family/friends, favorite memories, amusing stories, quotes, poems.

Write a draft and edit it as you would any of your writing. Be sure to remove information that is repetitive. Practice it so that you know it well enough that you don’t have to say it word for word.

Print a copy in a large, easy-to-read font.

A picture or collection of pictures also makes a nice display.

The Winds of Change

Tablets and smartphones are becoming the preferred method of reading around the world. This means that in the future, authors need to produce text that looks good on the small screens of smartphones and tablets.

Space between lines of type.

Lots of white space.

Short sentences and phrases.

Large type face.

Writing styles that are easily and quickly understood.

Authors, how can our books compete with videos, games, and news blurbs?  I thinks we will need to incorporate color, illustrations, even animation. How about interactive books???

E-books sell twice as often on Amazon. Don’t think this is because of the lower price point. It is actually about the popularity of this technology. 

So, welcome to the future, fiction writers—a fast-paced, illustrated, shorter, and plot driven future.

I’m No Stephen King, But–

“No, I don’t consciously set goals for each year,” my friend said. “I wouldn’t meet them and just end up feeling dejected and a failure.”

“But, how can you know you’ve reached a goal, if you don’t set one?”

Goals for weight loss/gain.

Goals for learning a new skill.

Goals for travel/education.

Goals for writing.

Here are my writing goals for last year, which may not seem quite so lofty. However, remembering that I needed to set aside time to be with my father in Memory Care, do my volunteering with Hospice, spend time in Bible Study, help my husband with renovation of a condo, and spend time with grandchildren, these are pretty realistic goals:

  1. Write and publish one more book.
  2. Attend one writing conference.
  3. Attend monthly Christian Writers of the West meetings.
  4. Take part in monthly critique groups (2).

Did I meet my goals? Absolutely.

And the only thing better than that is when one surpasses the goals they set.

In my case, I found that during the year, there was also time to take advantage of opportunities to write and publish a novella and five short stories, as well as take one online course.

These goals worked for me. 

No, I’m no Stephen King or Isaac Asimov. And certainly not a Mary Faulkner, who is known as the most prolific novelist at having written 904 books under six pen names.

But I am doing the best I can, meeting goals one-at-a-time. And learning to love life outside of writing, too!

I’m trying not to compare myself to my author-friend who wrote seven fiction books and battled Covid, herself, in 2020. She also helped home-school her grandchildren!

For sure, making goals helps one be productive and feel accomplished.

And that, after all, is the goal.

Rising Costs for Authors

I have never been one to enjoy grocery shopping.

Lately, I have disliked the task even more.

Rising prices is the main reason. 

All the foods I enjoy cost much more than they did six months ago. I find myself feeling angry, sad, disheartened.

What about authors? 

The cost of paper, publishing, editing fees, and cover design are bound to go up, too.

So should we think about raising retail prices on our books? Should we consider changing advertising strategies? Perhaps refrain from participating in so many giveaways? 

Until I started writing this blog today, I hadn’t really thought about how our current economy might impact authors’ incomes.

Should we just “ride it out” or do we need to make some changes?

If you are an author, would you please share your thoughts? 

Vanity Presses

A vanity press is a publishing company that offers publishing services for a fee. They are often associated with publishing scams because of the exorbitant fees they charge to do everything an author could potentially do for themselves. 

A vanity press will accept any and all works—even those who would not be commercially successful.

The most eye-opening difference between commercial publishers and vanity publishers is this:

Commercial publishers focus on the general public as their intended market.

But, vanity publishers focus is on the author, because they pay high fees and buy copies of their books themselves.

With a vanity press (which will print anything for money), the books don’t go through approval or editorial processes.

But, hey, some famous authors self-published some—or all—of their works. Recognize these names?  Zane Grey, Edgar Allan Poe, Carl Sandberg, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman.

Not all were financially successful. Mark Twain’s publishing business went bankrupt!

Make Your Imprint

You may not be familiar with the publishing term Imprint

Simply put, it is the trade (brand) name owned by a larger publishing house which often publishes books targeting specific niches and reading demographics.

Imprints are essentially branches of the same company.

They all tend to have their own resources like editorial and marketing staff, but share production, design, and sales teams with their larger publisher.

Imprints have the advantage of the larger parent company’s ability to get books into stores/retailers, such as Barnes and Noble.

If the book cover is intriguing and targeted toward the right audience, the average reader usually doesn’t care about reading from certain presses or specific imprints. 

So, you may consider publishing with one of these familiar ones next time around: Penguin Random House, Howard, and Avid Readers Press (just to mention a few).

Is Hybrid Publishing Best?

Hybrid Publishing combines elements of both traditional and self-publishing. The difference being that in hybrid publishing, authors pay or subsidize most or all of the costs of publishing and are NOT given an ADVANCE on royalties. The publisher takes care of the editorial, design, and marketing of the book. 

Hybrid publishing works well for authors who just want to write, write, write, without having to spend time in those others areas. Appealing. Yes?

Remember: Although with traditional publishers, authors may get less in the way of royalties, self-publishing lets you keep the most, with hybrid falling somewhere in between.

Unfortunately, some hybrid publishers are little more than vanity publishers, which try to scam authors and spend very little of YOUR marketing dollars toward marketing. 

Self-publishing, along with hiring a marketing person (or firm) seems to be the best way to go for the author who doesn’t want to spend their time doing their own marketing.

Spending Too Much Time Writing?

I absolutely love to write, but too much writing isn’t good for my shoulders or my mind. I don’t write well when I’m tired. My eyes burn from too much looking at the computer screen. I miss out on time with my family.

This is not a good place to be. I realize that.

So, I’ve had to schedule my writing time and enlist my family’s help in holding me to my “office hours.”

It’s been hard to let go of a passion and replace it with the most important things in my life: family, faith, and friends.

I’ve had to devote time and effort to prove—and enjoy—that truth. I have to believe my writing won’t suffer if I don’t give it one hundred percent of my time.

But, when I am writing, I give one hundred percent of my ability and skills.

And that I can do.

Don’t Chuck It!

Writing last week, I felt the need to say the same thing I had in an earlier chapter, but in a different way so as not to sound repetitive. I decided to check my “Too Good To Toss” list.

If you don’t have one of these lists, you need to start one. Inevitably you will write something that you just love, but your editor or critique group will say it doesn’t work in your current writing.

Instead of being heartbroken that the world will not get it to read your carefully-crafted sentences, simply copy them into a file you can easily access for future use.

So, I resurrected a short paragraph I had written for a prior publication (but didn’t use) and slipped it into my current document where it worked perfectly.

So don’t trash phrases, sentences, or even paragraphs that you just hate to let go of; instead repurpose something from your Don’t Toss list!

(I also have lists of story ideas, book titles, etc. You never know when they may be useful.)