Friday, October 31, 2008

My Road to Becoming a Writer - Without a GPS System

It certainly is funny, the twists and turns of life; the paths you choose and the ones you don’t. Sometimes, life puts a road block on the path you chose and then you have to navigate a different road…without the help of a GPS system.

Growing up I was always drawn to writing and drawing, but upon graduating high school never thought of it as a career. Instead, I choose bookkeeping. At the time, the early 1970s, a lot of seventeen and eighteen-year-old girls didn’t even think of college. The Leave It to Beaver era still had a hold on our society; girls got married and raised a family. Without a second thought, this was the next path I chose. This path had its ups and downs until the mid-eighties. The divorce rate was up and so was my marriage. This was my first road block.

With two very young children, I did housecleaning and care giving until my youngest child started kindergarten. Out of necessity, this was my third path chosen. Then, I was fortunate to find a bookkeeping job with flexible hours; I was able to bring my children to school and pick them up. It was at this job that I first thought of going to college to become an accountant. My boss, who was younger than I was, put the idea in my head. He urged and even encouraged me to go for it. I regret to this day that I never really thanked him for his support. It took ten years, but I finally received my bachelor degree and I became assistant controller for a manufacturing company.

I had every intention of continuing my education toward an MBA, but life with its twists and turns had other ideas. I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and had to stop working. This was my second major road block. The first few years I wasn’t able to even contemplate doing something else. But, then, by the grace of God, I found the most extraordinary acupuncturist and herbalist. Now, while I still have many limitations, I am able to devote time to writing.

Life is so amazing. If I didn’t have to support myself and my children I am sure I would never have gone to college. There are so many roads, some you take willing and others are forced upon you, one road leading to another and some roads leading nowhere. I am so grateful I found a road leading here. I seem to have come full circle.

Karen

Friday, October 24, 2008

Writing and Time Management - Where'd the day go?

I’m new to the business of writing. I’ve been writing since I was a child and that was quite a long time ago, but there’s no need to go into just how long ago. It’s been a life long hobby, until a little over two years ago. I started to think more and more about organizing my writing and even started to get a couple of my works copyrighted, but I was in what I call, slow mode. I worked on my stories with the intent to eventually… hopefully get published. However, I was in no rush; writing came after everything else I had to do, including television watching.

This changed about a year ago. I decided to make writing my second career, being a former accountant. Suddenly, I was writing and illustrating a book my family decided I should self-publish. That meant researching companies that offered print-on-demand service along with working on the book itself. While in the process of doing this, I was writing other works and submitting them, along with the book I was going to self-publish, to publishers and agents. As with most of us, I received rejection after rejection. I joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and joined a critique group. Then finally, I came across Susanne Lieurance’s website for Children’s Writer’s Coaching Club (CWCC). This is when my writing took on more depth and I entered the business of writing.

When I joined CWCC, my book was in the process of going to the printing stage of publishing. So, I had to include learning about marketing and publicity on a very low budget. I also became a member in several children’s writer’s groups online. Juggling all these things has been a true challenge, one that I don’t always live up to. I have been trying to participate in every teleseminar and teleconference I come across as well as research writing and marketing. In addition to this, I became a co-moderator in a very active critique group, I created a website, I created a blog, and have taken up the Lieurance – King Article Challenge for Fall 2008. And, most recently, I created a Yahoo group called Virtual Book Tours. Yes, I at times feel very overwhelmed.

What I finally realized, out of necessity, is that I have to enforce a time management schedule. This came to a boiling point when I received a letter from an agent requesting 3 chapters of my short story along with a 3-5 page synopsis. I was so overwhelmed at the time, I didn’t respond immediately. Okay, it was also because I didn’t have a 3 page synopsis ready. I was so frazzled at the time I sent the agent the chapters she requested, but didn’t send the synopsis. I told her if she still wanted my synopsis after reading the chapters I would love to send it. As I’m typing this I’m smiling at my stupidity (it’s better than crying).

After this long, long lead in, my advice is: don’t wait until you become so frazzled by an overwhelming workload and lack of organization that you become your own stumbling block to success. If you’re reading this now, and don’t have a time management schedule in place, MAKE ONE NOW and try your best to stick to it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Self-Publishing -- One Writer's Experience

Self-publishing still has a stigma attached to it, especially in the world of traditional publishing companies and literary agents. But, in the world of writers it is slowly becoming a means to an end. The amount of manuscripts editors and agents are bombarded with seems to be increasing every year. This, in turn, gives authors less of a fighting chance to grab that golden publishing ring.

For various reasons, I took the less traveled path and chose to venture into the world of self-publishing. You see, I wrote a lullaby over 30 years ago for my children when they were babies. They were difficult to get to sleep and then would wake during the night. I sang this lullaby over and over and over. Now, we sing it to my grandson. My daughter thought I should turn it into a children’s bedtime story. Since it was a family project I felt a print-on-demand company would be best.

I researched several companies including Mayfair, RoseDog, Xlibris, AuthorHouse and BookSurge, Morris Publishing and Bookstand Publishing. I even created a spreadsheet comparing each company and the services they offered along with the prices. This is easy enough to do and it gives you a quick view of who offers what. What was very interesting, to me anyway, is that the companies who quote ala carte prices list the service of copyright for $170.00. You can easily do this yourself at
copyright.gov and it is only around $45.00. So, it is important to research what services you can do yourself. Also, when looking these companies over, don’t forget to ask if you retain the rights to your book and if you have control over setting the retail price of the book. One of the companies I researched created the retail price and it would have been around $20. There is no way a bedtime story from an unknown author would sell for that amount.

Finally, make sure the sales rep and management are on the same page. The first company I chose was AuthorHouse. The sale rep quoted me a price, I signed a contract and then he came back to me and told me management wouldn’t agree to that price. He offered me higher price for the same package which I accepted and signed another contract only to be told by the agent that management wouldn’t back that price either. He came up with a third offer, but it was all just too unprofessional for me. It’s possible that this situation was an isolated case, but always check and re-check. I was an assistant controller of a manufacturing company and if management didn’t back their sales reps we’d have been run out of business.