The Babies in the Drawers

Most authors have several manuscripts gathering dust in their drawers. These are our unsold babies, books we wrote along the journey to becoming a published author. Are they really that bad, or were they merely not ready for the right market at the right time?

The Babies in the Drawers

Aside from the corrections that our more skilled eye could now see to make, are these books worth pulling out and making saleable? Would readers who like our series books even want to read a stand-alone?

And yet it’s sad that these early books will never get to see the light of day. The characters are all alone with nobody to appreciate their stories or the time and effort we put into them. They contain the building blocks of our careers.

What do I have hiding in my drawers? I’ll share my secrets with you. In return, let me know if any of these raise your interest. Some of these stories are so old that I don’t have digital copies. The typed manuscript is what you get. We won’t mention the Star Trek novel proposals hidden away, but I have those, too. Let’s check out the rest of them from earliest to latest:

Key of Death – A retired spy living in the Florida Keys encounters an enemy from his past who leads him to the Cuban exile community in Miami.

The Root of Evil – A scientist living abroad comes home and deals with a mystery. I don’t even remember what this one is about but it’s a long book.

Garden of Love – Floral designer Penny Winters is hired to plan a dream wedding for entrepreneur Whip Lanigan but finds herself falling for his charms. How can she compete with his elusive fiancée?

Lethal Designs – When a lovely botanist and a businessman meet over murder in Key West, they become entangled in a web of deceit where the ultimate betrayal is their own.

The Disappearing Diet – Nutritionist Regina Kent takes a job at exclusive Hillcrest Resort, where guests check in but they don’t check out.

Murder on the Menu – When two chefs meet over murder in New Orleans, they become victims of a dangerous conspiracy and a passion as hot as a Creole sauce.

These next ones were attempts at restarting my mystery career after I’d been published and was seeking a new publisher.

Murder at Your Service – When personal assistant Keri Armstrong discovers her favorite client dead in bed, she risks her reputation and her life to find the killer.

Murder at the Yacht Club – Newsletter editor Claire Rollins finds more than she bargained for when death stalks the members of an elite yacht club.

What is the lesson learned?

Persistence pays. Keep writing. “Never give up. Never surrender,” as they say on Galaxy Quest. Each book improves your skills as you learn more about the craft. It may seem as though you are climbing a mountain, but a beautiful vista awaits you on the other side. One final push might get you there, but you won’t make it if you quit. So keep following your dream and the road to publication might be just around the next corner. It takes hard work and dedication, and when you do find a publisher, this doesn’t end because then you have to learn all about marketing.

Excerpt from LETHAL DESIGNS 

The eerie whistling sang through the night like a banshee, ebbing and flowing on the wind. Lani had never heard it before, and she’d been to the Galleon Marina in Key West enough times to recognize the familiar sounds. This one was different, disturbing in its strangeness.

She paused on the dimly lit dock, her sharp gaze scanning the darkness. Row after row of boats faced her in serene solitude, like sentinels of the night. Even the breeze, salty and laden with moisture, seemed to be whispering words of warning. A feeling of foreboding swept through her, chilling her despite the warm summer air.

Tightening her mouth, she strode forward. Her feet were bare, and the wooden boards felt cool and damp as she padded silently toward Don Cambridge’s yacht. Slip number sixty-six lay just around the next corner.

She spotted his boat right away. The bridge light was shining like a beacon which usually meant he expected visitors. Shrugging, she quickened her pace. Even if he already had company, he’d be glad to see her. She’d just gotten back from Miami and couldn’t wait to share her thrilling news. Don knew how much she’d wanted to win that research grant. As her best friend, he’d celebrate her triumph.

Nearing the vessel, she listened to the sounds of the night. The eerie whistling had faded, its melody a faint wailing that floated on the wind. Creaking and clicking noises from boats reverberated all around. Water trickled from through-holes and waves splashed onto rocks. Water, the music of the sea. 

Music. Lani stopped abruptly.

Don’s yacht was ominously silent. She didn’t hear any music coming from his stereo. Don always played it nonstop and loud enough to be heard outside but not too loud to violate the codes. He’d never turn it off unless something was seriously wrong or he was ill. Maybe he’d fallen asleep and had just forgotten to turn out the lights. But that was unlikely. Ten o’clock was like the middle of the day for Don the Night Owl.

Concern propelled her forward. Grasping hold of the boarding ladder, she climbed up onto the carpeted aft deck where her glance rose to the empty bridge. He’s not here. That leaves the cabin area below.

To be continued… or not. How many manuscripts are hidden in your drawers?

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Daily Writing Goals

Questions often asked of writers include: What is your writing process? Do you set yourself daily writing goals? Do you plot the book in advance?

For me, I’m a plotter, not a pantser. I write a synopsis ahead of time. The storyline may change as I write the book, but it acts as a roadmap along the way. Once I get started writing and get past the first few pages or beginning chapters, I’ll set a deadline for completion. Then I put myself on a writing schedule of five pages a day. I don’t stop to polish my work or perfect my sentences. It’s important for me to get the story down on paper and then I can go back and revise.

If you want to finish a manuscript, it helps to set daily goals. When you sell to a traditional publisher, you’ll have definitive deadlines for the next book. Small press publishers may require a submission date as well if they offer multibook deals.

I’d started out working for Dorchester and did two books a year for them, meaning I had to complete a book within six months. Strict self-discipline is the only way to get this done. When I wrote for Kensington, they only wanted one book a year. That was easier because it gave me time to plan an extended launch campaign.

Now that I’m indie publishing my work, I set my own deadlines. My writing happens early in the morning before normal office hours. Then I have the rest of the day free for excursions or to work on marketing or other book projects.

When I’m in the revision stage, I also set goals. For a 300-page manuscript, this would be 10 pages a day to get done in a month. And that’s only for the first round of line editing.

Besides the creative goals, I also set business goals. This year, I am bundling my mysteries into box sets. Last year, the goal was to complete reissuing my backlist titles. Next, I’d like to do more audiobooks and perhaps revise some old manuscripts sitting in my drawers. This is in addition to writing book #18 in my series.

Keep in mind that my method might not work for you. Whichever way you can finish a book, go for it. But if you’re floundering and can’t seem to get past the first few chapters, set yourself some achievable goals.

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The Muse is on Vacation

After any life change, you have to access your situation and adjust to the new reality. My writing muse is taking time off. I was afraid that in moving, I’d lose my identity as a writer. Indeed, I’ve had a hard time mustering enthusiasm for my next book and other related projects on my 2021 goal list. Is it because my research involves hours of online searches for bathroom shelves, bookcases, towel racks, and other household necessities? If not items, I’m looking up reviews on local service people. Or maybe it’s the clutter around the house that keeps diverting my attention.

Is it possible to clear the mental fog to focus on writing? Or is it the book itself that’s holding me back? Could it be I haven’t yet found the “spark” to inspire me for this story? I have done the synopsis, which will act as a story guideline. But maybe I’d rather write a new series centered in this location instead of the one we’ve left. I have already written the first book in that regard. It merely needs revision to get in shape.

But I do feel an obligation to fans of my current series. This, if anything, may give me the kick in the pants I need to start writing again. What advice do you have to offer? I know some of my writer friends have dealt with these issues. How do you revive your interest in writing, especially if you’re indie published, after a drastic life change? How did you get back in the groove?

 

Year-End Goal Review

As a writer, it’s important to do a year-end goal review to see what you’ve accomplished and what has yet to be done. This will help you in setting goals for the new year. Aside from moving to a new location, this is what I’ve completed:

Goal Review

CREATIVE GOALS

Publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries – DONE.
Published March 10, 2020

Reissue mystery backlist titles and update earlier covers – DONE.
a) Updated mystery covers and/or interior back matter for 14 books
b) Reissued in ebook and paperback:
Shear Murder – April 14, 2020
Hanging by a Hair – May 23, 2020
Peril by Ponytail – June 14, 2020
Facials can Be Fatal – July 14, 2020
c) Added all Bad Hair Day Mysteries to IngramSpark for new trade paperback editions

Revise and reissue romance backlist titles – DONE.
Reissued the Light-Years Series in September and the Drift Lords Series in November – 6 books total.

Put Writing the Cozy Mystery into audiobook – NOT DONE

BUSINESS GOALS

Bundle books into box sets – NOT DONE.

Schedule Price Promotions – NOT DONE.

Go wide with audiobooks via Findaway Voices – DONE

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In conclusion, I published one original title and finished reissuing all my backlist titles. Now I’m ready to move forward once my home office is reorganized and my life is put back together. A vaccine is on the horizon, which hopefully will allow socializing again and in-person events in the not-so-distant future.

How about you? Are you happy with what you’ve gotten done?

Happy New Year and thanks for sticking with me during these tumultuous times!

Homework for Writers

What is homework for writers? It’s when you need to learn something new, and instead of going the easy route by asking writer friends for answers, you do the research yourself. It’s okay to ask for advice and input but don’t expect to learn everything there is to know.

Homework for Writers

Where Should You Start?
Listserves can be a great source of information. Join your professional writing organizations, set your posts for daily digests, and scan the topics. Any time something pops up that you might use one day, copy and paste the information into a file. Then when the time comes, you’ll have a rich source of data that you can mine.

Blogs, podcasts, and webinars are another great source. So are your group’s newsletters, writing workshops and conference classes. Collect all the data and file it for when you need it. I’ve done this with just about every marketing topic I’ve ever needed to address.

Launching a New Venture
So now you are ready to get started self-publishing or putting your indie book into print or applying for a BookBub deal or trying an Amazon ad. Scour through your information on the topic and eliminate any links or material that’s outdated. See what applies to your situation. Then organize your tasks step-by-step. This gives you control and is more manageable than facing the entire job, which can be overwhelming. Once you’re ready, you need to ignore the fear of failure that might be holding you back and take a leap into the unknown.

Examples
On the loops, I’ve been reading about authors who get wide distribution for their audiobooks via Findaway Voices. I have corresponded with a few of them regarding the switch from exclusive to non-exclusive on ACX. That’s the first step to do if you’ve paid up front. As instructed, I also downloaded the audio chapters for each of my four audiobooks.

Next, I went onto the Findaway site and wrote down their requirements. Figuring my books would work, I requested the change from ACX support and am waiting for this to go through. Then I’ll do the upload to Findaway. At that point, lots of new promotional opportunities will open. I have notes on these also. My goal is to gain new listeners and hopefully get into the library market with my audiobooks. It’s all a big gamble, but then, what isn’t in this business?

I am also approaching my first sale with trepidation. Now that all of my mystery backlist titles are on board, I can start doing price promotions. But the idea seems overwhelming. You have to set a date, book ads around that date, notify the vendors, create memes and ads. It’s a lot to do, not to mention social media blasts to get the word out.

The only way I can approach this adventure is to be supremely organized. Again, I’ve studied my files, reviewed blogs on the topic, asked other authors how they’ve done it, and then wrote a step-by-step guide on what to do. I rechecked links on ad sites that might have gone defunct since I started my files and picked the best places based on what other authors have mentioned.

And that’s how we take the next step forward. We listen. We research a topic. We verify links and search out new ones. And we move forward. There’s no magic bullet for what you want to do. You have to collect the data and organize it to suit your needs. It’s part of the business of being a writer. Do. Your. Homework.

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Share with us one of your goals that will be a new experience or that you’ve managed to accomplish on your own.

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A Writer’s Job is Never Done

Authors have all sorts of administrative tasks, from answering emails, to fielding workshop requests, to creating book ads, to keeping up with social media and writing blogs. These behind-the-scenes duties can keep us busy from morning to night.

A Writers's Job is Never Done

When I’m in a creative phase, the writing comes first. But right now, I am taking a moratorium from writing to get these other jobs done. Yesterday, I spent the morning updating all the buy links on my website. This was necessary since I’ve added my full-length Bad Hair Day mysteries to Ingram. Readers should be able to order the entire set in print at their local indie bookstore. The paperback editions are also available at Barnes and Noble, but they have to be ordered online because they’re coming from another distributor.

Meanwhile, I finished the final proofing for my first futuristic romance trilogy that required substantial editing. I’d written these traditionally published books years ago and needed to bring them up to my current standards. These will need new covers and reformatting. Hiring a cover designer is next on my agenda. If I have to help search for images, that could take hours. At least I already have a concept in mind for each series. I’ve also asked ACX for my audiobooks to go non-exclusive so I can put them “wide” in terms of distribution. Once I get the rights cleared, I’ll kick this project into gear.

Price promotions and box sets are on the horizon also, but these will involve a learning curve. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but had to get all my books uploaded first.

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As you can see, these are full-time tasks. Once they are completed, I can move on to new works. Or maybe by then, this virus will be gone and I’ll want to enjoy life and being a grandma. Who knows? At the moment, we have to take things day-by-day.

Thankfully, as a writer, this doesn’t mean much in the way of adjustment. Our normal routine is to stay home in front of the computer. Since we are in forced isolation, we can get even more done if we focus on our work and not the daily news. So batten down your hatches. Make a list of all these nagging tasks you’ve been meaning to do as a writer. And get to work! Use this time to your advantage. What will be the first item on your list?

Buying and Assigning ISBN Numbers

ISBN stands for International Book Standard Number. It is a globally recognized identification number for your book. As an indie publisher, you need to think about this option before self-publishing your work.

Why should you use your own ISBN numbers?

  • Control over metadata
  • More professional – Your imprint is the publisher
  • Better availability to retailers, booksellers, and librarians
  • You need an ISBN to get a barcode, which may include pricing information.
  • Certain book distributors may require you to have your own.
  • Some writing contests and library promotions require you to have an ISBN.
  • Your book’s information will be stored in the Books In Print
  • Resource: http://www.ingramspark.com/blog/owning-your-own-isbn-in-self-publishing

Legalities – DBA or LLC

If you want your own imprint, create a publisher name and see if the domain is taken. If not, reserve the domain name. Register with your State as a “Fictitious Name” or “Doing Business As” company. You can do this online. Or establish an LLC. Check with your accountant to see which one is right for you. It looks more professional for your book to be published by “XYZ” Press than by the author. Apply for a county business license/tax receipt if required. Finally, open a business bank account so you can receive royalty payments through direct deposit.

This does not necessarily apply if your plan is solely to publish e-books through Amazon. Then you have the option of skipping this whole process and using the distributor-provided ISBN. But know that you are limiting your options for later if you choose to go wider with your books and take advantage of the opportunities listed above.

Where can you buy an ISBN number?

How to Assign Title Data to Your ISBN:

  1. Make sure you have your metadata, book cover, author bio, & pricing info ready.
  2. Sign into https://www.myidentifiers.com/ with your username and password.
  3. Go to the My Account dropdown menu.
  4. Click Manage ISBNs.
  5. Click Assign Title next to the ISBN number you wish to assign.
  6. Complete all fields marked with red asterisks.

Upload Cover Image

Title Information
Book title, subtitle, main description, original publication date, language, copyright year, optional Library of Congress Control Number

 Contributors
Your author name goes here along with your bio.

 Format and Size
Medium, i.e. E-book, Digital, Print, or Audio
Format, i.e. Electronic Book Text

Subjects & Genres
Primary Subject, i.e. Fiction, Mystery and Detective, General

Editions and Volumes
Previous Edition ISBN or New Edition ISBN. This is when you issue a second edition, for example. Then you must manually change the Title Status on the older ISBN to Out of Print.
Series Title Info (name of series) and Series Volume Number
Total Volume Number – number of products in a multi-volume work (i.e. box set)

Sales and Pricing
Where is the title sold? United States
Publisher and Imprint – Put your DBA or LLC company name as the publisher.
Title Status: Active Record
Publication Date: This can be in the future.
Target Audience, i.e. Trade
Price: Currency (US Dollars), Price (3.99) Type (Retail Price) 

Hit the SUBMIT button.

NOTE: Except for the ISBN number assignments, you can change most of this material, including adding a cover image, at a later date.

Use CLONE on the Manage my ISBNs Dashboard when you wish to copy this information to the next available ISBN number. This is helpful when you’re registering e-book and paperback editions for the same title. Review the data on the new form and adjust accordingly.

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Library of Congress Control Number

After you have an ISBN, you can apply for an optional Library of Congress number. This allows librarians to catalog books before they’re published and to add the digital record into their search program. If you have an imprint that buys ISBNs in bulk from Bowker, you can set up an account with the LOC. You have to buy at least 10 ISBNs and list a U.S. city as the place of publication. Get started at https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/ about two to four weeks before you do the final formatting. LOC will ask for the book title and ISBN. They will email you the LOC number and tell you how to add it to the copyright page. Check for ineligible works here: https://www.loc.gov/publish/pcn/about/scope.html

Now that you have assigned an ISBN number to your title and filled in the basic metadata, you are ready to put your book into production. Add the ISBN number to the copyright page and move on to final formatting. Next we’ll be discussing publication choices.

If you missed the previous posts on this topic, see the following:

Adding Front and Back Material to Your Indie Published Book

Preparing Your Book for Self-Publishing

Why Self-Publish Your Book? 

 

 

Website Updates

It’s not often that we have to update our entire website, but that’s what my designer has been doing for me. She’s switched my hosting system to Managed WordPress, changed my blog from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, and updated my ancient webmail to the Office 365 Email program. We’re still ironing out the kinks, but we’re getting there. I highly recommend Laideebug Digital if you’re looking to update your site.

This post is a test to see if you receive it. Let me know if you have any problems. Please re-subscribe to my blog if you got dropped in the transfer. Once I am assured this post got received as intended, I can go ahead and resume my regular blogs. So let me hear from you. Did you get this in your email inbox or by coming over to my site?

Revisiting Earlier Books

I’m revising my very first published novel, Circle of Light. This title won the 1995 HOLT Medallion Award and blends my love of science fiction with romance. When I was a fledgling writer, it gave me great joy to let my imagination go wild and create this soaring fantasy. This story began a trilogy and was one of four books I did with Dorchester writing as Nancy Cane.
coverCL
The story follows the hero’s journey in that first we see attorney Sarina Bretton in her natural habitat. She is kidnapped from Earth by Captain Teir Reylock of the Coalition Defense League. His mission is to deliver her to the alliance for her marriage to Lord Cam’brii, a stiff politician. Through this union, Sarina will become the Great Healer and save the galaxy from a devastating plague. Sarina, unhappy about being forced from her home, refuses to cooperate. But after an encounter with one of Teir’s enemies, she crosses the threshold and accepts the challenge. Along the way, she falls in love with Teir instead of the councilman she’s destined to wed.
Oh, what fun I had creating this tale! It brings me great pleasure to reread this story and make it even better. It’s amazing how much a writer’s skill advances over the years. Revising may be a tedious job, but it’s necessary to polish a book to perfection. I might be writing mysteries now, but these stories were my first love. They’ll be available to you again with new covers and bonus materials in my revised Author’s Editions.
Tropes: abduction by a hot alien, space travel, starship captain, political intrigue, betrayal, psychic ability, strong female lead, royalty, star-crossed romance, legends & prophecy, secret identity.
What are your favorite elements in the books you read?
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Writing Goals for 2019

Setting goals is critical if you want to get things done. For a writer, making a list of what you want to accomplish each year will put you on the right path. In an earlier blog post, I reviewed my goals for 2018. We discussed what got done and what didn’t. Authors can break down their goals into creative and business oriented tasks.
goals2
So now let’s take a look at 2019. This might seem less ambitious than last year, but revising and reissuing my backlist titles is my main goal. That project could take the entire year, because I go through each book to tighten the writing and then do a full read-through once for any further changes and again to check for conversion errors after formatting. It takes time, because I want each book to be the best possible version. So I am not going to set myself too many tasks beyond this one.
CREATIVE GOALS
Reissue remaining backlist titles (6 romances + 4 mysteries)
Write and publish Easter Hair Hunt, #16 in the Bad Hair Day Mysteries
Write and publish a Bad Hair Day recipe book
BUSINESS GOALS
Enter latest releases in writing contests
Carry on with newsletter, blogs and social media
Update website in terms of hosting and other behind-the-scenes decisions
Bundle books into box sets
Consider wider distribution for audiobooks
LEARNING GOALS
Learn how to use various book production tools as new opportunities arise
Learn how to plan and promote book sales after all my backlist titles are under my control
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Five years ago, I wrote a list of long-term, five-year goals. I am pleased to say that I am on target with most of these items. Once this year’s goals are met, it will be time for a career reassessment. Only by resetting our overall goals periodically can we gain clarity on the best path to take next.
What is the main item you want to get done this year?
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