Jun 27

Skirmishes in the Money Wars

I got three offers, two of them with figures attached. Of both, I asked for more money, pointing out my well-known reliability, track record and 30 years of experience. Asking for more felt very risky -- remember, I'm a writer and am supposed to be grateful for anything at all. But I know budgets are always more flexible than managers say, that an initial offer is always a lowball, and that it's a game. I have often meditated on this motto I saw framed in a real-estate office:

"In business, you don't get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate."

Result: One offer withdrawn; they just didn't have more money. One offer on hold.

The third offer, a contract job. I was asked to make an estimate. I did -- noting the source and therefore asking for 25 percent less than the market price. And I asked for a percentage of the money up front, like a normal contractor. Never heard from them again.

In fighting for us writers to get paid what we are worth, I ain't winning but neither am I caving and kissin' people's feet. Now hear this, everybody: Pay the writer.
Jun 27

Plain Talk About Agents

For serious dirt on Why You Need to Have an Agent, please see this link to a blog by Editorial Ass (a recovering Editorial Assistant). It's probably all true. Repeat: Publishing is a business. If you don't do business, you won't get your books published by major houses.
Jun 21

I Could Vacation on This Money, Or I Could Print a Book

I signed the contract, wrote the check, and mailed it at the P.O. today. Asked the clerk for a pretty stamp. For good luck. I'm in high-risk territory here. If I do this wrong, if I'm deceiving myself. . . But if I do this right . . .

This is a self-publishing project: an illustrated little inspirational book for women. The fantastic drawings by Sheila Kennedy will make the book of work of art. This project has long roots. At a printery I'd seen adorable little books, like children's books, except they were for adults; loved the shape and size. Then in my files I found the list, 31 lines, that would become the text. I'd written it to restore myself after a rough patch. Re-reading it I was surprised it was still "alive." I thought, this could help somebody else. My Inner Critic had a field day:

*who will read this? *you, writing inspirational stuff? *you want to kill your reputation this will do it! *you really want to embarrass yourself! *it will cost seeerious money! *where will you find an illustrator? *what qualifies you to try to inspire people? *why isn't it a book of poems? *you are crazy!

But I shut up my Critic (he looks and sounds like Christopher Hitchens). It wasn't easy. It was like the Puritans in old Plimoth: If somebody in town went nuts or on a bender, they dragged him to his house, tossed him in and then nailed the door shut, to let him cool off. Just in the last two weeks I first spoke of the idea to other writers. I explained the concept or brought them the text, nervously asking, am I crazy?

Finding the illustrator was easy; I was led to her. I didn't seek design and printing estimates; knowing its likely price and what I wanted, I asked for it and signed. My publishing experience, all of it, came in very handy. (I'm the kind who'll park the car in the first empty space and walk, rather than keep circling to find one closer to the entrance.) And, gritting my teeth, sent the check today.

Several streams had run together: the business course that said manifesting "crazy" ideas was the sanest thing to do. My editing of faith-based book manuscripts, which I found strangely moving although I am not religious. Karmic issues I won't go into. The "now or never" bit. The "leap and the net will appear"/"walk by faith, not by sight" bit. (Did it before, risking much more than I am now.) The "better to regret what you did do than what you didn't do." The "dare you dare you, double-dog dare you." The "I could vacation on this money or I could make this book. I'll make the book."

Jan 15

Before It's Perfect

Wednesday night, Bob Baker, author of Guerilla Music Marketing and a self-published, self-supporting full-time writer, listed for his audience the 12 most important lessons he has learned along the way. Inspired, I acted on two of them:

  • “Take some small action now.”
  • “Don’t let imperfection stop you. ‘Out there’ and imperfect is better than ‘perfect’ and ‘not out yet’.”

Right after his talk someone requested my BookEval business card and I was chagrined to have none. Taking action, last night I tried designing the perfect business card and repeatedly failed, using up half the night. “What I will have to do, come Monday,” I wearily thought, “is find some printer who makes really nice business cards, maybe by calling some people who will recommend one, and then put the logo on a disk, and make a drawing of what I want, and then go there and choose card stock, ask how much it will cost and pay it. This will freakin’ take weeks, I can’t do business for weeks. . .” Went to bed at 1:00. Did not sleep until 3:40. That’s because I’d taken a good idea and turned it into a real crazy-maker.

This morning I made a freakin’ imperfect business card and sent it to be printed in an edition of 250 to use until I can get the “perfect” card. I think I chose well. (People are starving and I am concerned about a ‘perfect’ bizcard?!?!?)