Tuesday, November 29, 2016

#Writertip Indie Publishing for Beginners

We've all heard the headlines: self-published author becomes overnight gazilionaire. And of course, we want in!

Stop right there, and read beyond the headlines to the true story.

First up, I'm going to de-bunk a few of the myths in that attention-grabbing headline.

Myth #1: Self-published means different things to different people. In this instance, self-published does not mean 'I paid a shitload to a vanity publisher to give me several boxes of printed books I have no idea how to sell'. In this instance, self-published actually means Indie Published. As in: an independent publisher. As in, the author has now become the publisher.

Myth #2: There is no such thing as 'overnight'. The most successful indie authors have been doing this a while. They've learned the craft of writing, learned about the publishing business and book marketing, and they've invested hard cash and even more time in building their successful careers.

Myth # 3: There hasn't been an indie published gazilionaire since Amanda Hocking and EL James sold their souls to traditional publishers back in 2011/12. Sure, there are lots of indie writers making a good living at it, but the golden age is over. Everyone and their mother-in-law is now self-publishing, and because of this complete explosion of content (without a corresponding explosion of readers) it means everyone is getting a little less of the pie than back in those golden years.

But enough with the doom and gloom. As I said, a good living can be made from self-publishing. After all, on the plus side, indie authors have content, marketing and pricing control of their work, so they can adapt quickly to changes in the market and hop on bandwagons before the big traditional publishers have even realised there is a bandwagon. If, like me, you're a control freak, then indie publishing is made for you! And finally, being an indie publisher means you get to keep all the profits. That's a pretty big incentive.

So what do you need to get started as an indie publisher?
There are just 3 things:
  1. Computer savvy. Don't even think about becoming an indie publisher if you can barely navigate your way around a Word document. Most indie publishing is digital. Unless you outsource absolutely everything (at major personal expense) you will need to be able to format your work correctly, upload it to any number of retail websites, create your own online profiles,  create your on teaser graphics, have a presence on social media, send out digital newsletters, preferably manage your own website, and a host of other online activities that require at least a little technical savvy.
  2. Start-up capital. You're no longer just an author. You are now a business. Which means you will need to invest at least a little start-up capital to launch your indie career. At the very least, you will need to hire a professional cover designer and a professional editor. Those are non-negotiable costs. Even if you are a graphic designer in your day job, if you do not also have a good grasp on digital formatting for book covers, book retailers' rules and restrictions, and an awareness of market expectations, you are still not a book cover designer. You may also need to pay fro website design, budget for advertising etc.
  3. This last requirement is the most important. You need to have a head for business. If you cannot balance your own cheque book, and terms like Reader Magnets, Return on Investment, domain names and web hosts, Profit & Loss Statements and Business Plans turn you cold, then maybe you're better off in traditional publishing where other people manage all those kinds of things. When you are your own publisher, you need to be your own business manager, accountant, and marketing guru (without neglecting your job as the business' resident author) - at least until such time as you're earning gazilions and can hire people in to do those jobs.

For me, my indie published books have yet to earn me as much as my traditionally published books. But the huge amount of satisfaction they have brought me is priceless. Along my (continuing) journey as an indie author, I have learned so much, and met some incredible people, and I am incredibly grateful for the experience. I may not have achieved gazilionaire status yet, but every single book that sells feels like a huge accomplishment because I did it.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Elaine Pillay shares...'What I gained from the ROSA Conference'


                              
It was with a heavy heart that I attended the ROSA Conference this year. Not for any other reason but that I felt as though my own book that was published was not seeing the light of day or not being read by the audience it was intended for.

Nevertheless, Romy Sommer had asked me to speak at the conference and so I attended. Boy, was I glad that I did, at the end of it.

I learnt so much from the writers who presented that day. I was in awe of the women who presented. They were so in charge of their dream and their craft. So in sync with what they were doing. At that point I almost wished one could bottle and buy that kind of energy at the conference.

Image credit: Joanne Macgregor.com
Joanne Macgregor (Author of so many books, her latest being “Rebel”) was up first and she had a lot to say. Joanne is eloquent and very matter of fact about her experiences and her job. I am an introvert by nature and as such the thought of marketing my book has always been a daunting task which would explain why my target market had never seen it. I wanted to write a book that would sell itself. That, I learnt, does not happen. Joanne talked about how, if you wanted to sell your book, then you need not take yourself so seriously. “Get over yourself,” she said, “if you want to sell your book.”
She mentioned how if one was ever serious about being a writer, then one had to have a website. That too was something that I didn’t want to do. Not sure why but possibly the introverted thing rearing its ugly head again.

I love writing and I have always believed that all one did was write in a tiny room with a beautiful view. That’s the picture I’ve always had in my head. Me writing in a small room with the view of a lake and there’s a steaming mug of coffee next to me. Quiet moments. Silent reveries. Not the website and the hustling at conferences and standing with the mic. Those things terrify me.

But now here was Joanne with her business like attitude about books and writing telling me everything I didn’t want to hear about writing. Speak. Turn up at writer events. Hustle, hustle, hustle. At the end of the talk I watched her pack up, toss her hair and walk out of the venue to have a cup of coffee.

Lord, let me be like her, I said silently.

Next up was Rae Rivers, Harper Impulse Author of “The Keepers” series. Rae is quieter but by no means less of a powerhouse. Rae woke me up in a different way. Due to my not knowing how the sales of my book were going, I refused to write. Not refused out loud but in my manner toward writing. I hadn’t written in over a year. I had many excuses why not, ‘tired’ featured most prominently, together with, ‘I need to re-decorate the study’. I avoided the study at all costs and just went in to usher the dogs out whenever they managed to wander in.



Rae spoke of the fear of writing. At first I thought good gracious me, whoever would suffer from that? But as she spoke in her quiet, convincing way, I thought of how that was applicable to me. I was afraid to write because in my mind, writing a book and getting it published wasn’t everything I had dreamed it to be. In fact, up until then, it had turned out to be the biggest waste of time. An indulgence. But Rae made a lot of sense. She related her experiences to the topic and suddenly it all made sense.

There are very few people in the world insane enough to have the illusive dream of being a writer, there are an even smaller number of us who dare to believe that we can make a living of it. And because we are so far and few very rarely do we meet to discuss the psyche of writing and therefore many times we suffer the “evils” of writing in solitary confinement.

Attending the conference was fruitful for me because two things happened: Unbeknownst to both of them, Rae diagnosed my writing illness and Joanne kicked me into action.

I took what Joanne said to heart, not because of what she said but because of how she said it. Joanne has an incredible vibe. When she speaks, she is books. She is her business and somehow, she made me believe that I was my business too.

After returning from the conference, I started up my website. As difficult as it was to do, I realised that if I hid, then my book was hidden too. I had to come out in public and show who I was and what I do. I also realised that I was the only person who could sell my book. I knew what I wrote and why I wrote it. Joanne Macgregor made me see that if I wanted to be taken seriously, then I had to be serious about what I did.

Thanks to Rae Rivers, I also started writing again. Not in front of a lake or in a newly decorated study.  Rae’s talk unblocked the sludge of excuses. Rae quietly smacked that sludge off me. My self-worth as a writer wasn’t based on the royalties I received or the accolades I got for the book. It was based on what I believed my purpose was. On what I decided my life would be about. It is and always has been that writing is who I am. It is what I was born to do.

So, should you attend the conference next year?
My question is, how can you afford not to be in a room with dynamic people who understand the insanity of your dream?

Elaine Pillay


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Carlyle Labuschagne on Branding for the Brave

Image credit: Marie Dry
At ROSACon2016, successful local YA author Carlyle Labuschagne presented a talk on Branding for the Brave.

She opened the session with an exercise, getting us all to think about our own brands: what is the end result we desire from our branding? What are our core values? Who are our role models, and why?
Only once we have a grip on who we are, and what we stand for, can we establish our author brand.

Carlyle shared some excellent advice for author branding:

  • offer value to your readers
  • Put out a clear, simple message
  • Be consistent across all media and platforms

She also shared concrete, specific tips on how to run giveaways and contests, use graphics and teasers, and how to use social media features such as Teaser Tuesday. She recommended collaborations between authors and bloggers as a great way to spread awareness of our brands.

But perhaps the most valuable piece of advice she shared was that authors must show passion for their own brands. If you are not enthusiastic and excited about your own work, and your own brand, how can you expect anyone else to be?


Thursday, November 10, 2016

#ROSACon2016: Inspiration to be an authorpreneur



Romance Writers of South Africa

Walking into a room of women with impressive writing CVs can be both intimidating and inspirational. This was my experience when I attended the second day of the ROSA Conference 2016.
From my very first moment I was astounded with the amazing sisterhood, but business-minded attitude that existed between these writers. 
Though I was there because I’m an aspiring writer, it felt like hanging out with your tribe – while still learning by being in the company of Romy Sommer, Joss Wood, Joanne MacGregor, Rae Rivers and Rebecca Crowley.
Joss Wood’s workshop gave me ideas and inspiration for all the books I haven’t written. (I mean, just being in her presence makes you create heroines for you books: Both sassy, fun, strong and kind – Joss is the heroine we aspire to write and be). Romy’s showed me where to looked for research for your book and how small details make your story seem more believable. It was also during Romy’s session that I realized how research and using all research tools makes your characters more real to yourself and how it can translate to the page.
Joanne MacGregor intimidated the living daylights out of me, but boeta, the woman inspired me to become an authorpreneur.
To be a writer is viewed as a creative process. You are an artist who creates a world out of twenty six letters. But the writers at the ROSACon 2016 showed me they are also business women.
In the words of Joanne MacGregor: “If you want to be a traditional torture writer selling no copies, then write in that dark corner. But if you want to be selling author, you have to hustle!”
And hustle I shall!
This rang true to me because writers of romance have to juggle a lot of different roles, while receiving a huge amount of disrespect from the literary community. Yes, these writers create a great product, but they are also the marketers, their own CEO’s and their own financial managers. All the while working other jobs - and the proof is in the sales, because romance sells!   
Rae Rivers’s talk about fear, was especially touching and it’s a workshop every writer should attend, because the fear of failure is universal. To control your fear is a great accomplishment and Rae gave easy, useful guidelines on how to turn your fear-enemy into a trusted ally.  
I walked out of ROSACon 2016 wishing it was a week long and feeling inspired, but more than that my whole perception of writing changed.

Cliffordene was also the winner of the Three's Company writing conference contest this year.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Rae Rivers talks about Facing the Fear


 
Image credit: wikipedia

Rae Rivers signed a contract with Harper Collins, a 4 book deal to be carried out over a 3 year period – a formidable task for any writer.  She suffered severe anxiety and fear of failing, of letting herself down and failing her editor and her readers.  The intense anxiety led her to suffer from the dread disease of writer’s block which served to intensify an already negative situation.

She asked the question:  “How do we combat fear?”  And promptly answered it by stating that we should never INVALIDATE or DISMISS our fears.  Rather EMBRACE them and NAME them.  Rather than fall into self pity and despise herself, she started to define her fears.  In this way she came to create a character called Gru, an old grey man with a sad and lugubrious expression on his face, wearing an old- fashioned grey large-checked suit.  He was the embodiment of her fears – a kind of comic character she showed in her video presentation, shaped like an inverted triangle with broad shoulders narrowing down to the tip of ‘V’ of his small shoes.     


Image credit: raerivers.com

Gru represented her fears but also helped and advised her how to come to terms with them.  She could discuss her problems with him without pretence since he knew her weaknesses.  He became a kind a sounding board for all fears and anxieties in her life, not only those relating to her writing and she could discuss these with him as he accompanied her in the car where she knew they were safe with safety belts and air bags (as she pointed out to Gru).

As a ‘hands on’ student of Jung psychology, I could identify with the character of Gru who was really a creation of “Active Imagination”, namely a spontaneous image of Rae’s fears which she created to help her in a dialogue of discussion and resolution.  Significantly he was male, an embodiment of Jung’s concept of the animus as the masculine element in feminine psychology, just as the anima is the feminine aspect of the male psyche and leads him to creativity.

Rae Rivers

 ACCEPT, IDENTIFY and ACKNOWLEDGE!   Those were the keynote words of Rae’s address with regard to “Facing the Fear”.
Feel free to take a look at Susan Dennard’s website www.susandennard.com


Words by Dr Pamela Heller-Stern who attended ROSACon16


                      


                   




Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reflecting the world we live in — Diversity in romance writing







Thoughts by Anthony Ehlers...

At RosaCon16, we wrapped up the weekend with a panel discussion on Diversity in Romance, with panelists Fiona Khan, Elaine Pillay, and myself, Anthony Ehlers. The session, moderated by Rebecca Crowley, was to be a brutally honest analysis of this often overlooked issue in the romance genre.

In the US, for example, we see a growing market and readership, one that reflects a multicultural demographic. Gay marriage and equality has also brought a new focus on same-sex relationships.  In India, we see a massively growing readership, and Fiona gave the popular Shiva Trilogy by Amish Tripathi as just one example.


Here in South Africa, our democracy has brought about an exciting melting pot of race, culture, and is seen by many as a cosmopolitan and international setting by many. We have an opportunity as South Africans, and those that have made South Africa their home, to write our unique and fascinating love stories – whether they’re historical, contemporary, or futuristic.

So where are the stories – and authors – that showcase this diversity?

There are barriers to crossing the diversity divide, from a lack of empowering writers and fostering new talent to not enough platforms for emerging writers. Often cost is a barrier to entry – as emerging or new markets don’t have the same income as established demographics.

However, editors, agents, and publishers are waking up to the need for a more diverse romance genre. It has become a commercial imperative to change the way they look at love stories in a rapidly changing world – otherwise their books won’t keep pace with their readership. Readers want to see themselves reflected in the stories they read – whether it’s a reflection of race, sexuality, culture or even just a setting they know as home.
As writers who are passionate about writing love stories, we must look beyond the entrenched archetypes of the past and find ways to show the world we live in right now – and reflect the diversity we see in our communities, our families, the workplace, and our friends.  Be aware and open to the possibilities of characters and stories that shake up the status quo and rattle our complacency. Write about what excites us, yes, but also what challenges us.

Here are some useful links to other sites on diversity



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

#WriterTip Crafting and Creating Conflict in your Romance Novel





Romance Writers Organisation of SA



Erica Taylor, one of our ROSA members who attended #ROSACon16 and a session by Joss Wood on Conflict, has kindly shared her thoughts on the talk and what she learned.

What struck me most about Joss’ lecture on conflict was how much it made sense. It is probably something that we all do subconsciously without even realizing it, or having a literary definition attached to it, but having it defined made me more aware that it was another tool I had in my storytelling arsenal.  Joss tells us the way to tell a good story is make your characters go through crap—people don’t want smooth sailing and enduring love from the get-go. Readers want to be tortured with the characters, to hang on to the belief that love will conquer all, and to ride the happily-ever-after high into the tediousness of real life.

Using excerpts from one of her own novels, The Honeymoon Arrangement, Joss toured the lecture through the process of setting up conflict and using it as a tool to move the story along. 


Characters should have a “misguided external goal based on an internal goal,” or what the character thinks they want (point A) versus what that actually need (point B. Throughout the story, your characters will work through the conflicts you put in their path, getting them from point A to point B. 

Characters start off as silly little things thinking they know everything in their perfect little worlds and they have everything figured out. Ha! Little did they know the author of their story is about to shake up their world and they will be better for it, and their author will torture them until they come to realize, the author was right all along.

Joss explained there are two types of conflict: External conflict is the stuff happening around your characters. Internal conflict is the stuff happening inside the characters mind, their thoughts and worries and whatnot. And each character is different—whatever he/she wants must be specific to him or her.


“If your hero is a firefighter, your heroine better be an arsonist.” - Joss Wood

Three types of External Conflict:
  • Character vs. character (When opposite personalities attract—and clash)
  • Character vs. nature (When a hero faces an earthquake)
  • Character vs. Society (When a Lord falls in love with a maid)

Ways to up the conflict:
  • Use the characters fears again them.
  • Concoct the worst thing that could happen to them, then torture them with it.
  • Dig deep. Look back to their childhood—an author is part storyteller, part psychiatrist.
  • Find that thing that sends them off the deep end, and use it!

An example from Joss’ novel The Honeymoon Arrangement:
Internal: What are their deepest wounds and what scares them the most?
The heroine has deep rooted issues with her estranged mother.
External: Make that thing happen>>>>Mom calls her on the phone and sends the heroine spiraling into self-destruct mode.

What was most interesting about what Joss’ lecture, was how natural it seemed. Even in our everyday lives things pop-up that question our internal resolve. Challenges arise, things happen and the external conflicts we deal with each day have shaped who we are and dictate our internal conflicts. Readers read romance as a means of escape, searching for a trace of hope that no matter what happens in our lives, there is someone who will love us for who we are. As writers, we achieve the same escapism when we create this insurmountable problems for our characters and find a way to achieve their happily-ever-afters. 

We need to believe in the power of love just as much as the reader. We need to believe that no matter what life throws at us, everything will be okay. Writing conflict into your story not only moves the narrative along in a tangible, believable way, it adds a sense of realism to the story. Readers will relate to a flawed character, one who harbors secrets and refrains from letting their crazy hang out for the world to see, and when there is someone who can overlook their flaws, we want to hang on to that person even tighter. We root for someone to overcome the mundane conflicts in their life, because we all need to believe we can do it too.