Thursday, September 24, 2015

Top 5 reasons not to write a screenplay

Since I'm an on-camera talent in addition to being a novelist, I often get asked if I'm going to write screenplays for my books.

For me, that answer is no, though sometimes I get a nagging feeling I should try. Here's why I haven't:

1) It's hard enough to learn about and market to the romance novel industry while self-publishing more and writing new books. Learning about and taking the time to write and then sell screenplays is, honestly, a bit daunting. I doubt I could do both at once in addition to acting and freelance writing, which help pay the bills.

2) My current releases are set in medieval England, so production costs would be sky high. I need castles, horses, armor and swords. One book has an important battle scene. Shows like Reign clearly have the budget for the settings and gorgeous costumes (whether historically accurate or not). Yes, these days there's crowdfunding, but running a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign for that much money would be difficult and yet another thing to learn about and fit into my day.

3) Many more famous author friends and those I follow in the community haven't had movies made of their bestselling novels. I know of a few that were optioned, which is great, but never heard that the films were made. One friend's book will be turned into a movie for the Hallmark Channel. And she did write the screenplay...but she's had multiple bestselling novels. I haven't. Yet?

4) Some may think screenplays are easier because they're much shorter than most novels and don't require all of the description and internal monologue. I think they're harder, because most of the story, emotion and conflict must be conveyed through dialogue alone.

5) I've seen many scripts I think could be the story and/or the actual writing. I've even edited several, and the authors were quite pleased with my suggestions and comments. Yet I've never been motivated to try my hand at one.

Will I change my mind? Time will tell.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Customer service can make (or break) your day

Yesterday on my way to a callback in the far western suburbs, I was following a small white truck on the highway. I couldn't see past or over it, so I maintained what I thought was a safe distance. All of a sudden, a huge section of a truck tire appeared before me. No time to change lanes. I ran over it. It hit the bottom of my car with a jarring force. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the car behind me run over it, too. Fortunately, we all kept driving without apparent incident. 

My heart was racing, of course, but my car seemed on I drove. Until I exited the highway and pulled up to a stoplight. I heard a scraping sound that continued as I made my way down the street. I pulled into a bank parking lot to see some black plastic dangling and rubbing the tire. I pushed it out of the way, made it to my destination. At the callback, I asked if there was a car repair nearby because I didn't want to make the long drive back to the city without having the undercarriage looked at. On the other, I had a lot to accomplish that afternoon, and didn't want to spend hours waiting for the verdict. Lucky for me, there was a Car-X nearby (actually, the helpful person said Carmax...but then another helpful person cleared it up after I couldn't find a Carmax near me. I wonder how often the two get confused.)  

I drove less than three minutes to the Car-X in Aurora. Within minutes, they had my car lifted up. Something had come loose, but they were able to repair it very quickly. And refused to charge me anything or even take a tip. This kind gesture brought tears to my eyes after the frazzlement (my word, but I think it fits) I'd experienced that day. With all of the bad customer service these days, finding a place that was so pleasant, helpful, efficient and nice was quite rewarding. I'm going to give them a great Yelp review, too.

That experience made my day. But when you're not getting great or even good customer service, how do you tamp down frustration? I do my best to take deep breaths, make sure to keep my voice calm and tell myself it's a first world problem.

Friday, September 04, 2015

What is a "published author?" I am. Finally.

Not that many years ago, "published" was easy to define. You went to a bookstore, saw all of the full shelves, and knew those books were published. You might have even looked at the spine or copyright page, and recognized the publishing house. You knew that someone, perhaps several or many someones, had loved, approved of and paid for the rights to make that manuscript a book.

Now, anyone can write and make a book available to the world, basically for free via Amazon if they don't hire an editor(s) or cover designer. That project could be considered published, without any vetting whatsoever. It may be great, or, it may perpetuate the view that self-published books aren't as good as those that are traditionally published.

I've pursued traditional publishing since 1995. Despite many close calls and more than a dozen revision letters on various projects, never got "the call" that an editor wanted to buy my book(s). So after a lot of hemming and hawing, as you may know I finally self-published in 2015. I've released two books so far, with a third and fourth on the way. Both books have been reviewed by Publishers Weekly and have earned assorted praise and 5 star reviews. My first is in an Amazon bestselling boxed set. I didn't feel published, however, until yesterday, when my PAN membership was approved by RWA. I've wanted to join PAN for 20 years. What does that mean? Read on.

Some authors' organizations use member requirements to define published. For example:
Romance Writers of America, with more than 10,000 members, has a Published Authors Network, or PAN. The membership requirement effective 9/1/15 states, "Any RWA General or Honorary member in good standing who has earned at least $1,000 on a single published Eligible Novel* or Eligible Novella** shall be eligible for membership in PAN, provided however that works offered through Predatory Publishing companies shall not qualify." You must provide proof of earnings. 

I believe sales and earnings are part of the definition of published. For me, it's not enough to just see my book online or hold one in my hand. So $1,000 on a single book with no requirements to keep publishing and earning isn't that high. Others may disagree.

Novelists. Inc., which has around 800 members, has these options on their membership application:
"I have published at least two novels over 50,000 words with a traditional, royalty-paying publisher, with an advance of at least $2000 each, or with royalty earnings over $2000 each in a 12-month period."

"I have independently published at least two novels over 50,000 words, with earnings of at least $5000 each in a 12-month period (proof of earnings will be requested)."

Note that self-published authors are held to a much higher standard. Hmm. 

What do you think "published" means?