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New Year and New Career… Of sorts.

Hello everyone, yes I’m finally writing a new blog post rather than just re-sharing something I wrote for someone else some time ago. All the same I do hope you enjoyed them, especially if you didn’t get to read them where they were originally published.

And so here I am, back to blogging and trying to figure out what to write. So I decided to share what it is I plan on doing this year, as it is a new career of sorts.

As some know, I’ve just spent nearly the last twenty years in ITC Support (Information Technology and Communications)… Yes, I did stuff with computers including dealing with people who had broken them, forgotten how to do something, wanted to buy something for it or had accidentally opened a nude picture in their email and now infected the whole company with a virus. Fun times :-/

There were a few reasons why I’ve given this career up, the biggest one being my chronic sinusitis being so bad these last few years I can no longer work in an air-conditioned environment without getting a sinus infection every few weeks. And how many ITC based jobs are there outside of an air-conditioned environment? No, I couldn’t think of any either. So you can see, I needed a career change.

Another reason for the career change was my children, my demonic hordes. I wanted to be home for them and we could just scrape through financially – most days – with my being a stay at home mum and there to ferry them about to the various things they needed. Orthodontist for the eldest, ophthalmologist for the middle child and a whole damned dictionary of ologists for my youngest due to the myriad of delights he’s been through in his young life. Being diagnosed as a child with High Functioning Autism (Asperger’s in the old lingo) merely the most recent.

Who needs a ‘real job’ when you have the fun of being a Haus Frau/ drudge, baker, horde wrangler, gardener, zoo keeper and so on?

Add to that the magical moment of becoming a Published Author (note the capital letters as it’s such a big thing to me) and, well, I decided on a career change last year as I was determined to be a better Writer.

Sadly this didn’t go to plan as I tried to juggle being a Writer with being the afore mentioned Haus Frau with all the duties that come with it and failed at being a Writer miserably. I feel the jury is still out as to how I went as a Haus Frau too, but let’s not go there. House, children, the fact I make 80% of what we eat from scratch… all of that simply got in the road and every time I was meant to have a ‘writing week’ I got side tracked into doing more Haus Frauing. I was, indeed the supreme Empress of Procrastination as I barely got a literary thing done! Some tell me ‘oh but you got another book published’ but most of that work was done the year before and my work was merely in a holding pattern. As a writer, I did bupkis.

Actually I may be being a little hard on myself as I did learn a few new tricks of the trade when it comes to writing and being an Author. I learnt a lot about how to negotiate a deal and even more about the legal system, copyright infringement and who the best people to talk to about the miss-use of intellectual property were. I learnt about image branding, how to use social media to shake your assets in a better manner and how to register my own domain and start building a website… which I will start flogging to you when I get it up and running a bit better. 🙂

So possibly not a total waste? No, not really as all the things I learnt – mostly through trial and error – last year has helped me come up with what I plan on doing as a career this year. And what is it? I’m going to become a full time Author.

Don’t give me that look! It’s really not as odd as it sounds, while still being a lot different to what I was doing last year. No, it doesn’t mean I’ll be playing a lot more solitaire on my laptop and hanging out at cafes as much as possible… but I’m not going to rule that out either. 😉

What I mean- my interpretation of – being a full time author is to simply focus on my writing, my image, the whole social media deal and especially the website. Although I will still be working from home and still have my hordes needs to contend with, I’m not going to juggle a day on day off Haus Frau and Writer schedule like last year. No, I am going to be an Author. This, to me, is more professional than being a mere Writer. As it means I can be more focussed on getting my name known, my books sold and so on. I will treat it like a full time job and will do my best to ignore the Haus Frauing unless it’s outside of ‘being an Author’ hours.

I do foresee the house getting messier, the garden becoming even more weed riddled and all in all finding my weekends and evenings filled with doing all the Haus Frau things I usual have all week to do. But! I want to be a full time Author. I want to get my name out there through my blogging, through reviewing, through my multi media accounts. And so my family is aware they are now on the backburner as I give this life a go.

What do I plan on achieving this year? Well, I don’t expect to become a sudden and instant success where the money will be rolling in and I can stop hiding the bills under the couch cushion until I have the courage to look at them. No, we’re still going to be poor and struggling… but I’m going to be writing!

I have one manuscript There’s no place like Hell to finish and send off to my publisher to see if it makes the grade. It’s not going to be published this year as I missed the deadline, but I’m still hoping it will be published next year.

Add to that I plan on writing two more full manuscripts (of 100,000 words or more) to prove I’m serious about writing. One will be my first book in a cosy crime series I plan on setting here in the Adelaide Hills. The second manuscript I want to complete… well, it might be another in the crime series, it might be another in the Other World series… but it could even be one of the many other stories in my head that is yelling at me to write it down. I won’t know until I make enough room in there to think by getting these other two manuscripts out on paper.

Besides writing, I plan on reading. A lot. As I personally feel one of the best ways to improve your writing skills is to read the works of others and see how they do it. You might see where you’re going wrong; you might see where they could have done with a better editor. But reading opens the mind and often helps my own ideas flow and come out on paper easier than they would if I simply focussed on them alone.

One of the ways I plan on reading ‘a lot’ is by becoming a reviewer. Yes I know, this is signing my own death warrant as there are a lot of authors who don’t take well to constructive criticism and try and do all sorts of nasty things to ruin your name, reputation and so on when you give them a bad review. But seriously, those sorts of people should go back to writing for pleasure, not for public examination. Because I can assure them now that if I don’t like something, I’m sure there are others who won’t either. You need to put your big girl panties on when it comes to being an Author and take the bad reviews with the good. Try and learn from them, find the positive and put it to work in your further books. Only low grade authors (note the lack of capital A) resort to hate mail, spambots on twitter and the usual immature meanness I’ve seen pop up when friends, who are reviewers, ruffle the wrong feathers. Being a bully makes you into an ugly person, not matter what you do. Just saying. 😉

So I’m going to be hitting NetGalley pretty heavily this year and checking out books in different genres that take my fancy. I will do my best to read these books, review them with an honest opinion and, hopefully, even learn from them. I will also be using Goodreads a lot to display my reviews as well as adding them to this blog… until I get the review section of my website up and running.

And speaking of my website… Yes, being a full time Author also means I will be working hard on establishing myself on my own website through blogs, reviews, comments and so on. For now I will be using my existing blogs (I have three) but I will slowly be moving them over to the website. This is part of the whole image branding I’ll be working on. As, I hate to break it to you, but if you want to be an Author, you need to have an image and you need to get it out there and noticed. If people like your brand, they’re going to take an interest in your work. If they take an interest in your work… that could mean a sale. And as a sale could mean another salted caramel hot chocolate for me… Image branding is very important to me.

Now I mentioned three blogs didn’t I? Am I glutton for punishment? No, I don’t think so. You see, there are really three parts to my life right now and that is ‘Being a Writer’, ‘Being a Foodie’ and ‘Being a Haus Frau/Mum’. And so they are currently separated into three different blogs. This blog is my Author blog. I have a Foodie blog where I wax lyrically about my weird food tastes and the fun things I get up to with nut flour. My third blog is actually my oldest blog. It’s my Dairy of a Haus Frau and is where I go on about being a parent, the antics of my hordes, home and garden. Yes, I do blog about my life… possibly in the vain hope I can make it sound less boring than it really is… who knows for sure. 😀

Add to the gluttony for punishment and I’m starting to do commissioned blog posts for others. I don’t charge peanuts though. No, I’m asking for cashews as I prefer them a lot more. I’m also looking into some freelance writing for other people’s websites and blogs and all in all it is just more writing to add to my schedule. We won’t go into the possible archivist role I’ve volunteered for. What can I say, I’m insane.

Another part of my image branding is getting known and noticed on social media. And, hopefully, for saying nice things and not by having another vent about society, politicians and bad drivers. I tweet, I’m on Facebook, I do loads of food porn on Instagram, I even pin the occasional thing at Pinterest. I’m out there trying to be seen, trying to look interesting enough to entice people to look at my books and buy them.

And that is how I plan on being a full time author this year. Loads of writing, loads of asset shaking, a bit of IT dabbling and plenty of excuses to read other people’s work.

Wish me luck; I’m going to need it. I mean, I have a good feeling about it all and feel I’m freed up more to do it now all my hordes are at full time school… but this is only my third day in the job so maybe the glamour hasn’t worn off yet. Watch this space and let’s see what happens.

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2015 in Writing

 

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How did I become published? Really? You really want to know?

Now, I know for a fact that this is a subject I researched a lot when trying to become an Author. I read blogs, FAQ, publishing sites and googled my little fingers off trying to glean just that little bit of extra magical info out as to how to make it happen.

And since becoming an Author I’ve had people asking me to pass on the sage advice I obviously found in my research. Unfortunately all this does is cause a hunted look to appear on my face and for me to think (occasionally, possibly even say aloud): “Oh God! They’re actually asking me as if I know! What do I say? If I say the wrong thing it’ll all be my fault!” and similar panicked thoughts along that line.

Yes I am a published Author, but no I don’t know if I have any good advice to give you. But I will give it a go and allow you to make of it what you will… as long as what you make of it isn’t to steal it as your own work and put it up elsewhere. Yes, I’ve had it happen. Aint being an online Writer grand?

The basic advice I would give is research the subject for yourself (heaven help you if reading my blog is part of your research 😉 ) and never be afraid to ask questions. I will also add that if you really want to become an author, don’t take the rejections personally and just keep trying. Then again I’m a terrible example as, despite being ignored by all the major publishing houses and all literary agents I approached, I got offered my first publishing contract within four months of starting to pitch my first book. And I got my second offer within four days of pitching my second book. Seasoned, clever and well known authors I sometimes chat with tell me this is a sign I’m a good Writer. I, personally, see it as a sign of being very bloody lucky! 😉

I fear I am maybe glossing over this all a bit too much, I tend to when I really don’t feel I should be seen as an expert. So will try and break it down to the following:

 

  • Look at your work
  • Consider your audience
  • Research – other people’s work, publisher’s and/or literary agents, the lot
  • Use common sense
  • Never be afraid to ask or try
  • Realise only the very lucky make it big with their first book

What do I mean? Here’s the waffle version of these points:

Look at your work

Now I don’t mean painstakingly read and edit it every single time you work on it. I honestly feel if you do that you’ll never get it finished and the most important thing to know, when seeking to be published, is to approach publishers with a finished manuscript! This isn’t a ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ moment. This is a ‘look at me, here is my complete work, love me’ moment. Keep the overall formatting simple (most places seem to like double spaced Times New Roman in twelve point font size – but do check their preference first). Don’t go for super duper fonts hardly anyone has heard of, intricately curved chapter headings or over the top page layouts. From my time as a technical document writer I can tell you that it doesn’t matter if it is a one hundred thousand word masterpiece or a one page instruction on how to change a password – keep the formatting simple! And finish your work before running over the words with a fine tooth comb.

That’s right, once the manuscript is finished, that is the moment you take to edit and proof it. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes as well as consistency and flow. If you’re using something like Word all those red, green and blue squiggly lines under your work can be annoying, but they have a function too. I will always investigate why Word seems to feel the need to add squiggles. Sometimes they are incorrect as it just isn’t used to you using it to write a story… but I’ve found eighty percent of the squiggles were saving me from looking an idiot. Oh for that last twenty percent! *sigh*

If you can, find a friend who is an avid reader and ask them to critique your work. This catches a lot of issues the squiggles didn’t. And please don’t be a diva to their feedback. Constructive criticism is your friend and there to help you become a better Writer.

Consider your audience

When you go to pitch your work, you really need to consider who it actually is you’re writing for. Is it a Young Adult audience? If so, are you sure the work is at a level suitable for them? Do you really know what Young Adult is or do you just have a vague idea? If you pitch your work but aim it at the wrong audience, you will fail as the publishers do actually know what that audience is and what they would like. Just like with feedback from your friend, don’t let your ego get in the road here.

Research – other people’s work, publishers and/or literary agents, the lot

This is a little like considering your audience. You really need to set out at being an author with your eyes open and research what it is to become one. Look out for the pit traps such as ‘vanity press’ sites. These are places that pretend to be a publishing house and will eagerly look at your work, accept it and then list the thousands of dollars you must pay them to make it happen. I believe vanity press sites are slowly fading out as self-publishing grows… but sadly some are just changing their spots to now appear to be a friendly eager group happy to help you self-publish… and then list the thousands of dollars this will cost you.

So, thinking along the ‘buyer beware’ line of things – Writer’s beware! If it looks too good to be true, as with pretty much everything on the internet – it is!

Other things to research are other already published Writers. See how they write, how they lay out the story, how it is formatted and so on. No, not saying attempt to write just like them, hell no! Be yourself at all times is my biggest motto. But do look at how it is done in published books to ensure your writing style is true to the saleable format. Because when it all comes down to it, becoming an author means becoming a seller of your wares. The best part about this line of research is all you really need to do is read. How good is that? And, yes, if you don’t already know this… the best way to be a good Writer is to be an avid Reader.

Why do you need to research all this? So you know how to sell yourself and your work… which is what being an Author is all about. You don’t want to sell, stick to being a Writer. Want to be an Author? Time to sell, sell sell! And to do this you need to know what publishers are looking for, what types of things they publish, how they want your work submitted to them, and so on. Some publishers only accept pitches on certain days of the week or month, you need to know when this is to ensure your pitch is at least seen and not rejected as you obviously didn’t research their prerequisites.

The thing to remember is that publishers, like literary agents, have to be very strict with what they ask for. This is because there are millions of us Writers out there, we outnumber the publishers – just like we do the literary agents – and they are there to make money… not help us achieve our dreams. Sometimes they do help us, but that’s only when we’ve learnt to sell ourselves juuuust right and they can make money from us too.

Use common sense

Yes I know the saying common sense is not so common anymore, but do your best. Using common sense is basically required to sift through all the information you’ve gathered via the other points I’ve made. Research it all, look over it all and use common sense as to what you will then do with this information. I mean, if you’re like me, you will have read a lot of conflicting information… Sort through it and take from it what best suits your needs. Remember – there are millions of people out there trying to get published and seeking advice on how to make it happen. Therefore, in typical human nature, there are nearly just as many out there who will try and make money from those wanting to get published.  Common sense is, if you have to pay for advice… is it really worth it? I wouldn’t pay to learn how to write or get published unless I was interested in one of those university degrees, or what not, in creative writing… I’m not, I am self-taught instead. And I’ve gotten a lot of good free advice from Writers and Authors alike, so just think before you do anything. Find what fits you as you’re the person who knows you best of all.

Never be afraid to ask or try

I know a lot of people don’t like my cynical attitude when I say ‘How will I know I’ve failed if I don’t at least try’ but it’s the truth. If you don’t try, and aren’t prepared for the possible rejection, you will never know and never learn how to do it better the next time. They’re not wrong when they say we learn from our mistakes.

This goes for competitions, pitches to publishers, enquiries to literary agents – try your best, and don’t take their rejection as the end of it all.

A perfect example of this is when I first started pitching my first book. After all my studious research I decided to pitch to a literary agent before I went to the publishers. First person I sent an enquiry to replied to me within a day. Asked for a bio, synopsis and sample of my work.

Now, I thought I had studied it all and you know what? I had no clue as to what a synopsis should look like. How green was I? In a mad panic I googled and got conflicting answers. As I had to get this information back to the literary agent ASAP I turned to twitter for help. And a twitter friend (who I had just discovered was also a Writer) Ann Cleeves stepped up to the plate and coached me through it all. With her prompting I gathered more information from the agent as to the length and detail of the synopsis. Ann also talked me through the dos and don’ts of synopsis and away I went…

I was rejected at the second hurdle by the literary agent as, despite my skill at writing, my work was not in a tone that they felt they wanted to represent. Their words, not mine.

So yes I was disappointed as I had such a quick flurry of interest… only to be turned down as quickly as I was picked up. This has happened to me several times now by publishers, newspapers, Writing groups, the lot. To me, it’s all part of the dance. And I have learnt so much from these experiences simply because I wasn’t afraid to ask or try.

Heck, another example is with my second book. From what I had learnt pitching my first, I sought out independent publishers more than the major publishers and what an ego boost it was to not only get two offers, but one within four days of starting my pitch. If you don’t know, you’re lucky if you even get a rejection within a month of pitching, let alone being accepted so quickly. I tried; I succeeded and actually didn’t go with that publisher after all. Not because there was anything wrong with them, but because I decided to go with the offer from Hague Publishing as I was already signed to them with my first book. But I wouldn’t have had this good experience if I’d been too afraid to try after all the bad moments.

Realise only the very lucky make it big with their first book

Although I never expected to make a lot of money out of my first book, I was arrogant enough to think it should have been snapped up by one of the major publishing houses for being so good. Yes, I do cringe over that now as yes it’s a good story… but come on! It got the attention it deserved and earns me the brownie money I crave. I do wish it would sell more often as I do believe it’s a great story… but I’m happy with the attention I’m getting from it so far. It’s a first book, it’s an eBook of commercial fiction and I’m a no name who’s a Writer and not a Salesperson. Realise this could pretty much be me summing you up when you get published.

I’m not saying don’t be afraid to dream and aim high – I still pitched to the major publishers. But don’t go all diva and angry when you get rejected. And never turn down considering a legitimate offer from a smaller publisher. A break is a break! Don’t pout  when your work makes a pittance. You just need to try harder, work harder on your next book and keep at it.

One thing to remember if you’re becoming an e-published author is this: You’re earning more from your royalties than paper authors do on their first book. Seriously, author friends of mine (mostly via twitter) like Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe and Michael Jecks all became authors in the age of only paper. An era where an author got between three and five percent of the sale of a book as their royalties. Me, as an e-published author, I currently get about forty five percent. No, that doesn’t make me a gazillionaire as my book is only sold for five dollars or under and I’ve maybe sold forty of them… do the maths. Per quarter I have been able to just scrape together enough for my brownie and hot chocolate but now all my friends and family own several copies I’m sure that amount is going to drop. 🙂

Becoming an Author isn’t instant fame and fortune for the majority of us. Some very, very lucky writers win the literary lottery and make it big first time… but that is a minority. The rest of us just get the privilege of being able to call ourselves an Author and then get on with our normal lives.

But don’t be disheartened by this, oh no… A very sage Writer (yes one I’ve mentioned a few times in this post) sat with me over coffee one day and said it’s better when you start small, keep at it, keep adding the books to your name and slowly get there. You learn the ins and outs of being an Author, of publishers, the lot. We absorb it over time and grow and get better. Those who do get lucky and get the major book deals for their first books start at the top end of the scale and then must work their bums off to stay there. The rest of us just keep plugging away at it to climb to the same rank.

And what happens to these Author starlets who make it rich, spend all their royalties and advancements on houses and cars and things but then fail to make their next book do so well? They are dropped like hot cakes and next to no one in the publishing world wants to meet their eye from that point on. They plummet well below where we struggling brownie seeking Authors are and then need to relearn everything and start all over again while carrying the weight of their instant success and sudden failure around with them.

This is why I am happy just aiming for brownie. 😉

Okay, so there it is! All my wise and sage advice on how it was I became an Author. Someone with a published book, who still struggles to pay the bills, is rarely ever recognised in the street and has only ever been asked for my autograph by a well-meaning friend. Hey, as long as those who read my book (soon to be books plural!) and enjoy them as much as I want them to… and I get my brownie money – I am honestly happy. I did it, I achieved my dream, I learnt it is an awesome thing to be… While really not making me any different than how I was before. I highly recommend anyone who wants to be an Author to become an Author. And I do hope my advice helps… even if it is once more the type of advice to take and do the total opposite of for success. 😀

Until next time,

Janis. XXOO

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Writing

 

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