And now, the final day of plugging my books as holiday gifts. Today it's Monitor, which you can get (in ebook format only) from:
Whiskey Creek Press
And Monitor also has a Facebook Page for updates.
Finally, unless I put up a new post: have a Happy & Safe Holiday Season! See you in 2011!
Today is the second day of my holiday book plugging effort, featuring The Sagas of Surgard. Here's where you can get it:
Smashwords (ebook only)
Amazon (print & Kindle ebook)
And don't forget the Facebook Page with event info and the occasional giveaway.
Many review websites won’t even consider self-published books; some won’t even bother with small-press books. If you can get a self-published book into a bookstore, inevitably it will be placed in the "local author" section, even if it’s a genre book. There seem to be few ways to get self-published books noticed unless you’re already an author with some sort of a fan base.
What can change this situation?
Some self-published authors take what they’re doing seriously. They make certain their books are edited properly. They pay attention to having an attractive cover and a good interior layout. I believe they should go further and take the concept of self-publishing seriously.
Those authors could take time to review other self-published books. If such authors reviewed a book favorably, the book would stand a better chance of getting noticed. It would also help if those authors would band together to form associations. Such associations, both general and genre-specific, could promote standards for self-published books. They could publicize reviews and hand out awards to quality books. There would also be the mutual support and encouragement such writer’s groups offer.
Those two steps, reviews and associations, would go a long way towards making self-publishing a legitimate option for authors. They would show that a self-published book isn’t necessarily a crappy vanity project. They would promote good reasons for self-publishing, and prove that good works can come out of this process. These would also address the other question about self-publishing: can you make money from it?
There’s something to be said about the artistic freedom that self-publishing offers. It’s also true that some authors are making money putting out their own work. But right now there is the question of whether or not it pays financially to self-publish.
The answer to that question for the moment is, “Not unless you’re already an established author with a decent-sized fan base.” As was stated above, it’s hard for self-published books to get reviewed or placed in bookstores. Advertising is risky; there’s no guarantee that money spent will result in books being sold. It’s a Catch-22: you have to be known to make money, but you can’t make money until you become known.
The two ideas presented earlier to make self-publishing more legitimate would also help to make it more profitable. Lesser-known authors would get a boost in sales from reviews by better-known authors. Associations not only offer mutual support, but there’s the good publicity that can result from awards.
Offering more legitimacy to self-publishing would in turn make it a more viable choice for the author who also wants to make a living from writing. There are things that can be done now to get to that point in the future. I’m not certain if I’m ready to self-publish all of my fiction. I would like to know that, if I come to that point, I’ll be able to find readers and to earn good money. If these ideas are pursued, I might get to that point sooner rather than later.
There’s also the effect the ebook might have on major publishers. The ebook makes it easy to self-publish, and puts small presses on the same level cost-wise as the majors. This could cause the majors to make less revenue, and thus publish fewer print books. Fewer print books published means fewer books on the bookstore shelves. Fewer books on the shelves means less income for the stores.
But this suggests one option the stores could choose to fill their shelves. They could be more open to self-published and small-press books. They could even move those books out of the usual (and sometimes hard-to-find) “local author” section and place them in the genre sections where they ought to be.
There’s another option the stores could try. As mentioned last time, one interesting result of a 2008 survey on the book business suggested that bookstores were becoming as much of a place to socialize as to shop. If stores are places for readers to socialize, then presumably among the topics readers would discuss would be books they’ve read. Right now, such an in-person recommendation means a search of the shelves, or a note to download the book later.
Enter the ebook kiosk. Instead of searching shelves, a customer goes to a kiosk. Ideally, each section would have its own kiosk. The customer enters an author name or book title. The screen shows the best matches. All the customer needs is a valid credit card and an e-reader. Choose the ebook, swipe the card, then connect the e-reader wirelessly to the kiosk (or have a file emailed). Once the transaction clears the ebook is sent.
Question is, will the stores embrace these ideas and ones like them?
Increasing small-press and self-published books will require bookstore employees to be more savvy about such books. Stores will also have to step up their own efforts to promote books and rely less on publishers. For the chains, it means profiting by selling fewer copies of more books.
For independents, it means being more genre-friendly, something that literary-centric independents have shunned. As for the ebook kiosk, that will decrease the space stores need to have. Can the chains survive with stores that are smaller in size?
This is the problem the stores are facing in this new publishing enviornment. Dealing with these new problems will require some outside-the-box thinking. Will bookstores be willing to find creative solutions and embrace them fast enough to stay open?
What do you think? Post a comment and let me know.
It’s true that in the last couple of years the ebook has boomed after years of broken promises. Amazon’s Kindle has a lot to do with it. Amazon has produced an e-reader that’s attractive and functional. It doesn’t hurt that they did so after becoming the dominant online book retailer. Right now the ebook accounts for just over 5% of all books sold; within a year that number could be 10%.
Sounds like the print book is in real danger, right?
In 2008 Kelly Gallagher of Bowker conducted a survey on book buying. There are a few aspects of that survey that stand out for me on the topic of ebooks. The report stated that the average age of readers was 44; the average age of the buyers that purchase the most books was 50; and that two-thirds of the books bought that year were purchased by those over the age of 42. This says to me that Baby Boomers are still the dominant readers and book buyers.
What does this mean for the ebook? There does appear to be growth in the adoption of ebooks among Boomers. But this is a generation that laughed with comedians who joked about not being able to program VCRs or understand computers. This is also a generation that’s starting to reach retirement age. One of the faculties that diminishes as one ages is eyesight.
This says to me that as long as Boomers are the main book buyers, they’re likely to prefer print to the ebook. Sure, e-readers can increase font sizes. I’m just not certain that a generation that wasn’t raised with technology, and that has been slower to embrace tech than their kids, will drive a boom in ebooks.
That same survey suggests that while Generations X and Y are more tech-savvy, they read a lot less. They also buy fewer books than the Boomers, print or ebook. They have more entertainment options than their parents and grandparents. Reading is one choice, but it’s one that not as many choose as before.
There will be fast growth in ebook sales over the next few years. I suspect that this will slow down in five years, going from a couple of percent increase a year to one percent or less. It’s likely that the next boom in ebooks will come when Boomers begin dying off in large numbers. As that happens print books sales will plummet and ebooks sales will come to dominate the publishing industry.
But there is one odd aspect to that survey that’s worth pondering. It stated that young people preferred physical bookstores while older people preferred online shopping. What does that mean?
I think that means that among those of Generations X and Y who are readers, they view reading as partly a social activity. They go to the bookstore to read, to talk about books, and perhaps to meet authors at signings. If that’s true, how does the ebook fit into this notion?
In a way, it doesn’t. You don’t buy ebooks at physical stores; you buy them alone and online. Buying ebooks isn’t a social but a solitary activity. So if younger readers do view reading as partly socializing, how eager will they be to abandon the print book and the socializing that goes with it?
Perhaps very eager, perhaps not so much. That question does lead to the next consideration in this discussion: how will the stores fare?
In the meantime, I'd love to hear what you think about where the ebook is going, so please post a comment. Stay tuned...
Small press publishers are defined by how many books they put out a year and how many copies of those books they print. Some small presses release only a few books a year; others release a few every month. Small press books generally have print runs of a few thousand copies or less.
One of the traditional advantages small presses have had is that their shorter runs mean they need to print fewer books to make a profit. This has allowed them to fill niches that the majors usually ignore. This is an even bigger advantage today. The majors are more willing to follow trends and more willing to only publish bestsellers than they used to be. This gives small presses wide latitude to publish anything that the majors aren’t accepting. If you want proof, look at what types of genre fiction the majors put out, then compare that with what the small presses are releasing in those same genres.
Print-on-Demand (POD) is the great boon to the small press. With POD these presses have the ability to print as many or as few books as they need when they need them. The prices their books sell at might be higher than the prices mass-market paperbacks are sold at. The good news for the small press is that the majors keep raising the price of paperbacks. Right now a small press novel sells anywhere from $4 more to double what a mass-market paperback does. That margin is likely to decrease as time goes on.
The ebook is another positive development for small presses. The ebook allows a small press to release a book at the exact same cost as a major publisher spends. The ebook gives the small press a reach beyond bookstores. The only problem is there’s no consistency on pricing. I know one small press who sells their ebooks at prices only a few dollars less than what the majors are charging.
The internet is a bit of a mixed blessing for the small press. One important plus is global reach. Before the internet a small press had the problem of how to get word out about their books. Now a truly good website with the right meta tags, perhaps augmented by pages at social network sites like Facebook, can give a small press the same access to the world that the majors have.
The pairing of the ebook with the internet is also a positive. One problem the small press has had to face is how to get books to readers if the press had trouble getting into bookstores. This is especially true of chain stores which sometimes make difficult demands regarding returns and discounts. The internet allows direct access to readers; the ebook gives instant access. Together they offer the small press the opportunity to avoid the chains and their unfriendly policies.
On the other hand, there’s the problem of getting noticed. Small press books, novels in particular, can have a hard time getting access to review sites. Small presses don’t have the money to buy banners or other ads. This leaves book marketing up to the authors themselves, with or without help from their small press publisher.
Authors (published and otherwise) should pay more attention to the small press. While they face some of the same pressures the major publishers do, I think they’re in a better position to survive those pressures. Small presses are often run by one person or a few people. They can decide how profitable they want their press to be. This frees them from the demand to produce bestsellers, and to produce more while spending less than last year.
That’s the real danger the majors are looking at. Their corporate owners want more revenue at less cost. That could mean fewer print books from the majors, as well as overpriced ebooks. The former would result in fewer books on store shelves. However, that provides an opening for the small press, assuming the stores are willing to deal. If the stores have the will to be flexible with the small press, their shelves could be filled with product. That scenario could end up shifting publishing in a very dramatic way.
It’s all speculation right now. But it does suggest that authors ought not assume that their only choice is the majors or self-publishing. They ought to consider their third choice, the small press publishers. They could be just what the author needs.
Trend Trouble: Right now in the SF/F genre "paranormal fantasy," usually featuring female leads, is the hot property. What if that’s not what you write? Unless your work shows promise of big sales, you are plain out of luck. You may find it hard to get an agent, much less get a contract with a big publisher.
This isn’t something new, either. Ten years ago fantasy with female leads would have been a tough sell. Twenty years ago any fantasy would have been the tough sell. Who knows; maybe in a few years paranormal fantasy will fade and steampunk will be the hot property?
This points to another problem with selling to the majors. What happens when the trend you’re a part of falls out of favor?
In the past the answer was "not much unless your sales dip below 10,000 copies." As long as you didn’t get below that number of copies sold you’d still have a contract. We’re in a much different enviornment now. The majors are owned by larger corporations with less of a tolerance for lower profits, much less losing money. What no one knows, until that shift in sub-genre hits, is how high that threshold number has risen. Which leads to...
The Sales Peak: The vast majority of genre novels being published today are parts of series. Since the phenomenon of the "novel series" took off about 30 years ago, it seems that every series hits a peak point. The peak is where interest in the series reaches its height. After that growth in sales is minimal, or sales start to shrink.
Again, in the past sales had to really plummet before an author was shown the door. Now the majors have those new owners. How many books past the peak will the publishers tolerate before cutting an author loose? Will they even wait past the peak? Where does that leave the author, who has invested years in their series, and might still have thousands of fans?
Deadline Drought: One other aspect of the series phenomenon is that bestselling series authors are now expected to come out with a new novel in their series about once a year. This sometimes results in the author producing a novel in the series that just isn’t as good as the ones before. The pressure of meeting the release deadline can lead to some sort of artistic compromise. As it happens, it can sometimes be at this point that the series hits the sales peak.
I’ve already mentioned how this might affect the author-publisher relationship. There’s also a creative dimension to this that authors often don’t consider. Can you stand being under pressure to write a new novel every year without fail for five, six, eight, ten years or more? Do you understand the sacrifices you might have to make to fufill your contract? Can you create on a deadline? Can you keep at it for years?
Everyone talks about getting the big book contract, the advance, and the ability to be a bestselling author. No one mentions any downsides, but they do exist. Consider them before looking for an agent or a major publisher. Several books in is no time to find out that you can't cope with them.
Ebooks: the ebook is gaining momentum thanks to the Kindle. Ebooks are already over 5% of the market share; they could reach 10% in six months to a year. On the other hand, there’s still resistance to the concept, especially from older readers. Then there’s the iPad, an e-reader that actually lets you do more than read. Will the e-reader of the future be more like the Kindle or the iPad? The answer will have some bearing on the future of the ebook.
Self-publishing: Print-on-Demand (POD) and the ebook now make it possible for everyone to be a published author. Even better, they allow the author access to national and international markets thanks to Amazon and Lulu.com. But in spite of the best efforts of writers like Konrath, self-publishing still has a huge stigma attached to it. Unless you’re a known author, it’s still difficult to persuade readers you don’t know to buy your self-published novel.
The Major Publishers: you still have to go to them if you want to be a best-selling author. They have the money to dominate store shelves, and their authors have an advantage in obtaining reviews. However, the majors aren’t exactly racing to put out as many books as they used to. They aren’t pricing ebooks competitively. Will they continue to dominate the publishing industry? Everyone has an answer to that, and no one seems to agree.
The Small Press: they often get left out of these discussions on the future of publishing. POD and the ebook make their task of putting out product much cheaper and easier than it used to be. There are many niches that small presses can fill, especially with the majors giving up on marginal genres and sub-genres. But small presses also have the problem of getting their names out and, in the case of fiction, getting their authors reviewed.
Over the next several weeks I'm going to voice more detailed opinions about the publishing business. I hope you'll leave some comments so we can pursue a dialog about this subject. As a writer it's obviously very important; I hope it's the same for you.
Here’s the premise of the show: the dying CEO of the “Trans-Allied Corporation” is asked by the “Federal Department of Transportation” to improve America’s passenger rail service. So what does the CEO come up with? An atomic-powered luxury passenger train running on rails three times wider than standard gauge that would run from New York to Los Angeles in 36 hours.
Right here I have to pause. According to information at various websites, the two-hour pilot doesn’t make it at all clear what “Trans-Allied” actually does or makes. Since one of the corporate board detractors claimed the CEO has a “psychotic fascination with trains,” I guess we can assume that the company isn’t in the transportation business. Which begs the question, why would anyone in the Federal government ask them to improve passenger rail service?
Then there’s the notion of a train with a nuclear power plant racing across the country. It sounds insane, but you have to understand a few important facts. Supertrain started production in the fall of 1978, with a planned premiere in the 1979-1980 season. It was rushed on the air as a mid-season replacement on February 7, 1979. The movie The China Syndrome was released about six weeks later on March 16; just under two weeks after that was the Three Mile Island accident. When the show went on the air, only fringe environmentalists worried about nuclear power; come April everyone was worried.
Anyway. During the opening of the pilot the CEO reveals that he’s probably going to die before the project even gets started. Yet somehow his company is going to be obliged to build and complete it after he’s gone. Either this man is blessed with the wimpiest board of directors in corporate history, or there are some seriously dark contracts floating around Trans-Allied.
Flash forward several years, and the Supertrain is on its way. The concept of this series appears to have been this: it’s like The Love Boat, only it’s on land, and it’s a drama instead of a romantic comedy. At the time it went on the air, a two-hour pilot movie and nine episodes had been completed. There weren’t any stars in the starting cast but some familiar faces: Robert Alda, Edward Andrews, and Harrison Page. You’d recognize them if you saw them.
According to accounts, the pilot movie did decently in the ratings. As the show went on the numbers sank. Around the second week of March the show was yanked for emergency retooling. The show was moved from Wednesday night to Saturday night on April 7, and the show remained on the air until the first week of May. Episodes two through nine were re-aired through June and July. By then the series was already doomed; early in May NBC had announced it’s fall lineup, and Supertrain wasn’t on it.
“What’s the big deal?” you might be asking. Well, it turns out that Supertrain was about as expensive to make at the time as was the original Battlestar Galactica. The show was about as model-heavy as the old Galactica, and required entirely new interiors. There was a regular cast, the train crew, but each episode needed lots of guest stars to carry the story. Poking around the internet, about the only figure I found suggested that Supertrain cost about $1 million an episode.
That’s in 1979 dollars.
That’s not the only problem with the show. As I said, the premise was: It’s Love Boat, but on land, and it’s a drama instead of a romantic comedy. I suppose a premise like that might work if it was thought out properly. Clearly it wasn’t; the idea of the Supertrain was silly. I would like to have been at the pitch meeting. I get the sense that the room smelled of fear, desperation, flop sweat, and occasionally echoed with nervous laughter.
This leads to the other reason why Supertrain was such a disaster: it was on NBC. The late 1970s was a dark time for the Peacock Network. ABC had all the huge hits: Happy Days, Mork & Mindy, Laverne & Shirley, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Fantasy Island, and so on. Heck, ABC could take a chance with the expensive Galactica, have it be a disappointment, and shrug it off. CBS was in second: it’s Norman Lear comedies were in decline, but it still had MASH and The Waltons.
NBC was a distant third. It had only three programs in the 1978-79 season that were true hits: Little House on the Prairie, ChiPS, and Diff’rent Strokes. Quincy and The Rockford Files did well enough but weren’t quite hits. Almost every other show on NBC during the late 1970s barely made it one season. One of the few that did that premiered in mid-season along with Supertrain was BJ and the Bear, a series about a trucker and his pet chimp. No, I am not making that up.
Supertrain has over the years come to exemplify the sorry shape NBC was in at the time. It was a high-concept idea that the network couldn’t pull off. Crazy amounts of time and money were spent in building models and sets, and little effort was put into stories. Even worse was this: when it went on the air, Supertrain had only a pilot and eight episodes finished. Starting during the first week of February, the show needed between 12 and 18 episodes to air continuously to May sweeps. It doesn’t seem to me that the show had any chance at all, even if it didn’t suck.
Now, here’s the personal kick to the shins.
At the time I was into model trains. I’d fall out of the hobby during most of the 1980s, but I’d be back starting in the 1990s. I liked trains as much then as I do now. I’d also gotten into sci-fi with Star Wars in 1977. I tried to watch every SF show that came on, no matter how mediocre it was.
So, here was Supertrain, a series about a futuristic train. This ought to be something I’d leap on, right? Well, I don’t think I watched so much as a few minutes of this series! If even me, the young ideal viewer, couldn’t bother to tune in, what chance did Supertrain really have?
Which is why I’m glad I had to look up stuff to write this piece. Over the years I’d remember a picture from Starlog or Model Railroader that showed the Supertrain model, and I’d wonder if I had missed something. I guess all I missed was a whole lot of 1970s TV crap.
I feel so much better now.
The first problem with the rejection was that I found out the periodical in question had a word limit; this was not at their website when I found them and submitted the story. Next was the rejection itself. It wasn't from the editor, but from a "team" of editors. One thought there was too much backstory; another was confused about the setting. These are contradictory comments. Either you can figure out the setting and don't need backstory, or you don't and need the information. Even stranger, a comment presumably from the editor who wanted less backstory suggested that this same editor wanted to know more backstory on the main character.
(BTW, there was a third editor who thought the story was boring and didn't finish it. Just to add one more opinion to the mix.)
Were I the person in charge of this publication, and I saw a rejection with such contradictions, I might wonder about my processes for dealing with submissions. If my "team" rejected a story for the same or similar reasons, fine. If the reasons contradict each other, or appear to contradict, I would hope that I'd wonder about the story. Two conflicting opinions can't both be right.
I'd also wonder what the writer would gain from such a messy rejection. Which opinion should the writer heed and which to disregard? The only thing I could conclude from the comments was that, which the story might need some cutting, it needed material added to make the setting more clear.
There was one other conclusion I drew from the rejection: this wasn't a place where I wanted to send any more of my work.
It's this very sort of issue that makes me nervous about critique groups. Feedback is nice, but what do you do if the opinions differ? How do you sort out which advice to take and which to ignore? And what happens if you follow one person's advice, and thus rejection someone else's suggestions?
If I'm going to be rejected, I'd rather it be from a single editor. That way I have no problem figuring out whether the rejection means something about the story, or if it just means the editor and I aren't on the same wavelength. Getting published is complicated enough as it is. Must more complications be added to the process?
Today is something special at the blog. Below is an interview with Todd Hunter, author of two "Aston West" sci-fi novels and several short stories. Todd asked me questions at his blog; find 'em here.
RC: What is your latest novel?
TH: My latest published novel is Friends in Deed, a playful little romp through the universe of space pirate Aston West, where he discovers sometimes friends aren’t always all they’re cracked up to be.
RC: What else have you published featuring Aston West?
TH: My first novel Heroes Die Young came out in September 2008. In addition, I’ve had several short stories featuring Aston published in online magazines such as Ray Gun Revival, Residential Aliens and Golden Visions Magazine.
RC: How did the character come about?
TH: Aston actually came from the remnants of a novel I started many years prior. In that book, the main character discovered his cargo was a container full of slaves, and he made it his mission to save them. The novel never really panned out, but in retrospect, it probably served as the basis for one of my more popular short stories, “Redemption” (seen in Residential Aliens, November 2009). When I had the dream that started me down the path of creating Heroes Die Young, I just knew that character would fit.
RC: What are your plans for Aston?
TH: Aston’s the primary focus of most of my writing. Within the in-work queue, I have several short stories, a little novella featuring a mind-reading psychic, as well as the third novel in the Aston West series. The last two short stories I had on contract were just published through Ray Gun Revival and Residential Aliens, so I plan to get more out there soon. The only other item I have on the way is a ten-story collection which Residential Aliens will be publishing soon, entitled Dead or Alive. There’s plenty of material left to write with Aston, so I don’t see an end in sight.
RC: Have you thought about writing outside of Aston and his universe?
TH: I’m actually editing a novel entitled The Cure which is not related to Aston (yet). Fans of the series will likely see some similarities in the world it’s set in, but other than that, it’s a completely separate story. Not to say I won’t use this novel to generate a plot line for a future Aston novel...
RC: What inspires you to write?
TH: I love to tell stories, because some just beg to be told
RC: When and where do you write?
I generally write anywhere I can, before I go to work in the morning and between the time I get home and bedtime (so in other words, every waking moment I can). Things have been much improved since I was convinced to get a netbook which I can take almost everywhere. Before that, I used to handwrite material and then transcribe it into the computer. As you can imagine, that was a very time-consuming process. Honestly, the netbook has truly been the best writing purchase I’ve ever made.
Thanks for having me, Robert! And if anyone is interested in learning more about my novels or short stories, stop on by Aston West.com.
One last thing: if you post a comment, you'll have a chance to win a copy of one of Todd's novels! I'll choose a post at random, and you pick which novel.
Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I strained my left wrist on the drive back from the Pittsburg train show some weeks back. It's been slow to heal.
This past week, my third novel, Monitor, was "Book of the Week" over at Book Town. This was a surprise because I wasn't doing much to plug the novel there. I had only just given them information about my second novel, Lisa's Way. I hope the honor led to some sales.
In the last few weeks I've posted book trailers for both novels at Book Town, at Face Book, and on You Tube. If you haven't checked them out yet, please do and let me know what you think of them. Creating book trailers is a new thing for me. I hope I'm doing it right. I'm considering doing one for The Sagas of Surgard short story collection as well.
Monitor is available as an ebook from Whiskey Creek Press. It's a bit darker than what you might think I'd write. It might be a while before it gets into print book form; do consider buying it as an ebook now. That could get it into print faster.
In the coming weeks I'll be doing some promotion for all my novels around the internet. I'll let you know when and where as soon as I can. Also, the Andover Library will have a "Trains, Planes & Autos Day" on August 7. There will be speakers, train layouts, a car show, and a couple of aircraft on display. I won't be speaking, but I will be there with my books.
Tuesday, March 2, 8-9 PM
Mead's Corner, 430 E. Douglas:
Tuesday, March 9, 8-9 PM
Now, I'm not a huge fan of winter. I really don't like the cold or driving in snow. I also don't like being able to get out and sell books; the holidays mess up December, and winter weather makes January and February dicey travel months. But it's not as though winter has nothing to argue for it. It's a great time for hobbies, for catching up with friends, and for staying in and writing.
Yet how many upbeat winter tunes are there? "Let It Snow" is about it. In fact, the other two winter tunes that are coming to me off the top of my head aren't exactly cheery. "Winter Song," the duet featuring Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, seems wistful to my ears. Then there's "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas & the Papas; I mean, check the title!
Contrast that with the sheer volume of songs praising summer. Summer has its faults: heat & humidity; dry heat; sweat; and everyone's on vacation so it's hard to get ahold of people or have events. But none of those stops just about everyone from singing about how wonderful the season is, how it last forever, or how sad they are that it's over.
Can't someone find something nice to say about winter? It would make the season more bearable.
I suppose if you're a person who collects clippings, you could amass quite few folders' worth. As I writer I have to do this; clippings can mean story ideas. Writing nonfiction, clippings are even more important because that's your research material. The more you write, the more clippings you end up with. That's why I cleared away what I did. I needed to get rid of the stuff I wasn't using for the stuff that I had to keep.
Which, it turns out, isn't such a bad philosophy for life.
I used to have lots of CDs. I'm down to about three dozen, and I may get that pared down to less than 20. I wanted to have DVDs of most of the movies and TV shows I had on videotape. Now I'm happy to have the most meaningful things on DVD, and the rest can be files on a drive. (A larger hard drive that what I have, but still.) I'm not sure I can pare down my library all that much, but that's in part 'cause I did so a couple years ago.
I don't know about you, but as I get older, I want less junk cluttering up my life.
Of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to choose between writing fiction and nonfiction. That sort of mess I can live with.
Okay, so now that's done, you're probably wondering what I intend to blog about. Well, there will be some shameless self-promotion here. I'll blog about my books, my events, and my shorter works, all in the hope that you'll want to spend your hard-earned money on them. There will even be times when, while I blog about something else, I'll drop references to my works.
I will try to blog about other things. Writing, for instance; I've written many columns about writing. I could devote space to Kansas history. I might do what other bloggers do and ramble off the top of my head. Heck, I might blog about something worthwhile.
As to when I'll blog, it will depend on how busy I am. Don't expect entries while I'm on the road. When I do post, it will probably be in the latter part of the day, as I write in the mornings.
To wrap this up, here's something substantial; my basic advice to aspiring writers:
1. Write at least five days a week. Six would be better. All you need is an hour each day. But you have to write, otherwise you're not a writer.
2. Don't work seven days a week. Don't work all day. Creativity, even in nonfiction, can't be forced. Give yourself time to live your life, so you'll have something you can draw from when you write.
3. Finish what you start.
4. Write what makes you happy, but remember that if you take the time to write, you ought to submit your work to publishers.
5. Unless you only have one book or short piece in you, think about the next project. Having something else to work on is especially useful if you're blocked on the current project.
There you have it. Stay tuned for more useful and useless posts.
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