Thursday, August 25, 2011

Requested Revisions

Requested revisions is a phrase that sends strong emotions through authors. Some may think a revision request is a rejection...I've heard stories that some simply set the email or letter aside, not realizing exactly what the agent or editor was asking. Others may be offended that anyone would want them to change a word of their precious creation. And others may sigh, knowing a lot more hours of work lie ahead. I see it as an opportunity to make my project stronger, and appreciate having an industry professional willing to take the time and effort to work with me. So when an agent asked me to revise the first 50 pages of one of my manuscripts, I was excited yet slightly unnerved.

She offered a few, very helpful suggestions and guidelines of what she was looking for. Before diving in, I sent the original pages to and discussed her comments with three friends: a two-time New York Times bestseller, a multi-published author, and one who’s as yet unpublished but in the process of writing a book.

Great writing, a great story and characters are in the eyes of the beholder, as is great decorating or fashion. If you tell me an event we’re going to is black tie and I show up in a silver gown, you may find it tacky or tasteful. How much jewelry is too much? Do the pieces go together? We’ve all heard stories of how many times now famous authors were rejected, including Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help …until their project landed on the right desk at the right time.

I pondered for a couple of days. While I understood what she was asking me to do, at first I couldn’t quite see how to apply it to my story while keeping as much as possible of what was already there, which we’d agreed was the goal. I didn’t want to stray down what she thought was the wrong path, so I emailed my plan and quickly got the go ahead. Whew. We were on the same page, so far.

As I reviewed my pages, I wanted to stay in the writing zone and in my character’s head. But it was a challenge not to keep getting pulled out by thinking, “Is this what she meant?” “Is this too much or not enough change?” “Can this scene stay, go, or should it be moved to a different chapter?”

After a final read through, I’ll send the revisions. I'm happy with what remained, what's new, and what had to go. Time will tell if she agrees....

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Putting out fires or growing the forest

Some days I’m fortunate to be so busy I can barely get everything done. Today, for example, included three voiceover auditions, preparation for and a call with an agent that led me to ask two friends for suggestions, some revisions for 2 VO jobs, a call with a client and an improv show. I’m putting out fires and meeting short deadlines.

Other days I have more time to grow the forest…makde headway on longer term projects such as revisions, putting final touches on the non-fiction book, researching and deciding on next steps. But those days seem to be fewer and farther between. Sometimes I feel I get less done, because I'm creating my own agenda and prioritzing tasks that may lead to income, but progress and results may not be as obvious.

Not to mention staying on top of email and social media and keeping up with those in my network, which takes more and more time, especially if I want to follow through on frequent recommendations to build my platform and grow my online community.

I'm getting better at going with the flow...setting aside one thing I was focusing on to deal with another that pops up. I try not to spend too much time on fun distractions, like talking to friends, but there are times when it's easier to catch up and/or make social arrangements during business hours.

Years ago, when I had a 9 to 5 corporate job, though there was always more work to do, when I left for the day I felt done. Fires were out, some forest growing had been acheived. I was free.

Now, though I don't have a boss expecting me to show up on time, not only do I tend to work more hours (I'm often at my desk by 7AM), I spend more of my "free" time thinking about what to do next or analyzing a sticking point. Also, emails from clients or agents can come at any time...evenings and even weekends...and many request (and expect) a response ASAP. There are always new fires to tend and an almost unlimited amount and types of new trees to grow.

The key is to be sure to find enough time and energy to nourish the trees in your forest. If you spend all of your days putting out fires, are always catching up, when can you move forward? When can you grow and expand your business, and thus your income?

Thursday, August 11, 2011


More and more authors in general and those I know (such as Debra Holland,NYT and USA Today bestselling Courtney Milan, Trish Milburn) are doing it every day, whether their books are backlist or new releases.

Why? A variety of reasons. The stigma has decreased. More self-publishing venues are available and e-book sales are on the rise as print stores close. Some literary agents now offer self-publishing assistance.

Now some authors are making a lot of money and others are getting New York publisher or movie deals (like Amanda Hocking). I’ve heard that if you can sell 5,000 copies in a year, agents and publishers are more willing to take a look. Many others languish in the flood of content hitting the market, and struggle to find ways to get the word out.

Can the content of all of these books--many of which aren't vetted by agents or book editors (though many sources recommend hiring a freelance editor)--be high quality?

At the same time, it seems traditional publishers are buying fewer manuscripts, and fewer from new authors. So do I join the s-p band wagon, or keep trying for NY?

Upsides include: higher percentage of royalties, more control over things like the cover. Downsides include: spending money on the s-p packages and a lot of time to do all the things a traditional publisher would do. There’s quite a lot of prep work before you can upload a manuscript. Some authors might be able to lower costs by doing things like cover design themselves.

While traditional publishers expect authors to do more promotion these days, they offer the credibility of their name, distribution, and perhaps marketing assistance. Those who s-p have to do everything on their own, including deciding on the price point. Does 99 cents cheapen your product and all the work you've done, or make readers more willing to give you a try?

The decision is easier for my non-fiction project. Apparently in today’s competitive market, you already have to be famous before a publisher will want your non-fiction book. Almost every publisher our agent (at the time) submitted to heaped praises on the proposal and concept…but said we didn’t have a big enough platform.

We’re using Amazon’s CreateSpace. But the process is going more slowly than we'd hoped as we keep realizing there are more things to do. What fonts do we want? Do we want to pay extra for we really need all of them? Yes, we need to think about what goes on the back cover, too.

I’m still deciding what to do about my fiction projects. Stay tuned…

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Laptop, Netbook, or Tablet?

Like many freelancers, I sometimes work at a coffee shop or with a friend for a change of scene and/or to stay motivated. So I need a reliable, easy to use, portable laptop. The one I’ve had for years (Windows Vista, anyone?) is much heavier and has a much shorter battery life than those on the market today. It's too heavy for me to comfortably carry long distances, and a wheeled bag can be cumbersome on public transportation or if I need to go several places.

The time has come for a new laptop. Nowadays there are also more options than when I bought the last one…from regular laptops of all screen sizes to netbooks to tablets with keyboards. With the complicated model names, it’s hard to tell an ST3N01 from a VPCF22FGX/B. I like the lightness of the Macs and tried using one, but I’m a PC.

After some due diligence, I decided on the Toshiba Portege R835-P56X. The combination of features and fabulous reviews from sites such as CNET, plus its light weight convinced me. I was surprised to find the best price at the time was at OfficeMax (even after Chicago’s high sales tax), not, say, Amazon.

When I went to buy it, I was told not only was it backordered (which was disappointing, because when one decided to purchase something it’s nice to have the immediate gratification), but that I might not even get it. I could pay now, then get a full refund if after 21 business days. Lo and behold, I received it 3 business days later.

Now it sits on my desk, calling to me to check it out, but I need to finish a big voicover job first....