Reinventing Yourselfwith bestselling authorJAYNE ANN KRENTZ .
Jayne had to reinvent herself numerous times, from writing futuristics to contemporaries to historicals. She takes her “core story” and puts it into a marketable setting. Names she’s written under are Jayne Ann Krentz, Amanda Quick, and Jayne Castle.
“Sooner or later, you will have to reinvent yourself.” Jayne offered three rules for writers to heed:
1. Identify your core story: conflicts, relationships, archetypes, and themes that appeal to you as a writer. Keep it fresh over time. Writers who want to survive must be able to adapt.
2. Know the market. Be familiar with subgenres and where your core story fits in.
3. Understand the importance of fictional landscape to readers. Each genre requires a particular landscape with conventions and reader expectations. Adjust your core story to fit that landscape.
I went to a couple of workshops on Digital Publishing. With so many Epubs popping up, writers are cautioned to evaluate them before submitting their work. Look at such things as cover art, frequency of releases, cover copy, and genre. Read a few of their books to see how well they’re edited and if you like them. Be wary of too many releases at once because titles can get lost in the crowd and there won’t be any standout successes. The same goes for your own schedule. Readers can get overwhelmed if you release too many titles in succession. Space them out by at least 8 weeks.
Digital pubs may pick up a series started elsewhere and may be interested in putting your backlist into digital format. The benefits of going with a digital pub instead of doing it on your own?
Established Reader Base
ANGELA JAMES gave a spotlight on Carina Press. She spoke on how to submit to this digital first imprint and what they do in terms of online marketing.
Career Planning in a Changing Environment
Issues important to authors were discussed in this seminar with agents KRISTIN NELSON, STEVE AXELROD, and KAREN SOLEM.
Do we want to release simultaneously in print and in ebook? Do ebooks cannabilize other sales?
Make sure you’re covered if your contract is cancelled arbitrarily (i.e. so you don’t have to pay back your advance)
25% of net versus 25% of retail price—the former is harder to track. Ebook royalty rates are still in a flux. Consider renegotiating your current contracts re ebook royalties.
Classic publishing model strengths are turning into weaknesses
Independent bookstores are in trouble and that will jeopardize hardcover sales
Publishers are trying to control all rights that may come down the road someday
New opportunities for authors are out there. In between print books, you could publish novellas or short stories in digital format. You can bring your own out of print books back to life on the digital platform.
The biggest question is still how to get your work noticed.
Authors are forging direct connections with fans through social networking. The challenge here is balancing the time requirements with writing the next book.
If your career isn’t moving forward, it’s time to diversify. Consider writing a bigger book. Do what you always do but in a different way. If you decide to write in more than one genre, ask yourself if you have time, if you are prolific enough, and if publishing in more than one genre will cannibalize your own sales.
Fight Scenes with popular author Angela Knight was a very useful workshop. I’m not going to repeat what she said here except to say I scribbled notes the entire time. She could have used another hour to complete her presentation and have a Q&A session but what she said was helpful. Some of it was common sense like save your biggest fight scene and worst villain for last. She offered some great ideas which hopefully I can deploy.
I also attended Publisher Booksignings and collected lots of free books signed by the authors. These are great for keeping up with what’s current in a genre. The Carina Press open house with cocktails and snacks was also fun.
The RITA and Golden Heart Awards Dinner and Ceremony was Saturday night. Everyone dressed up and excitement was in the air as we prepared to hear who’d won these prestigious awards.
What are those weird purple vegetables on the plate?
The Gathering was Friday night. This was the FF&P (Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal chapter of RWA) Steampunk Ball and Prism Awards with music provided by bestselling science fiction author CATHERINE ASARO. This took place at the Swan Resort, a short walk from the adjacent Dolphin. At the buffet, we had a choice of Roast Beef and Chicken, various salads, poached potatoes, roasted vegetables, and delectable desserts. The room was decorated with style and many of the folks dressed up in period attire. It was fun watching the costume contest and meeting so many new people. This is definitely an event I’d attend again. Kiss of Death chapter also has a chocolate party that’s fun if you belong to that chapter.
PRISM Award Winners:
Dark Paranormal: Immortal Danger by Cynthia Eden
Erotica: Secrets in Stone by Radclyff
Fantasy: The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber
Futuristic: Close Encounters by Katherine Allred
Light Paranormal: Secret Life of a Vampire by Kerrelyn Sparks and Wild Blue Under by Judi Fennell
Novella: Belong the Night by Cynthia Eden
Time Travel: Viking Heat by Sandra Hill
Congratulations to all! It was a great conference. I met many new friends whom I hope to see again at future events.
The morning’s annual RWA meeting was followed by a keynote luncheon featuring NY Times bestselling author Nora Roberts aka J.D. Robb.
NORA ROBERTS Keynote Luncheon
Nora spoke about how technology changed from when she started writing in the days of typewriters. Writers used to go to the library for research, wrote letters by hand, and made phone calls on land line telephones. RWA started in Houston in the early 1980s, and Nora’s friends from those early days stayed with her throughout life. RWA provides networking and education and is a springboard for publishing.
Even though technology has changed, there are more opportunities in romance today. She talked about how we have to stay in the pool and avoid excuses like it’s too cold or we’re too tired or there are too many people crowding the water. Getting published is “supposed to be hard. Hard is what makes it special.” And regarding the value of RWA, “No one should have to face the hard alone.”
Publisher Lou Aronica’s State of the Industry Address at the PAN Retreat
“Slightly down is the new up” in this economy. Only a few bestselling titles sustain the publishing houses, according to veteran publisher Lou Aronica. Sales at the bottom of the list are low, as in dozens of copies sold. It’s very hard to sell a novel today even though many romance programs are fully sustainable. Sales at Amazon are up while Barnes & Noble sales are flat and Borders is having problems. Bookstores are in trouble like the CD music stores. Barnes & Noble realizes their brick-and-mortar stores are in jeopardy because consumers prefer to buy books online. Amazon buyers purchase books they are looking for in particular. The main problem there is that we cannot duplicate the bookstore browsing experience. There’s no place for impulse buyers. Amazon tries with their “if you like this book, then you’ll like…” but they mostly recommend bestsellers. Few readers are discovering new fiction online.
E-books are changing everything. Few people estimate the speed of change. It was predicted there would be 11 million ebook readers by the end of 2011 but we’ve already reached this level. 3 million iPads were sold by the end of last month. Before Kindle hit the market at the end of 2007, a few e-reader devices were available but not many people were interested. Now it’s a different story. But with soaring e-book sales, consumers don’t want to spend more than $12.99 on an e-book. This loss in sales revenue concerns publishers and bookstores. Barnes & Noble is making an effort by allowing consumers to read ebooks for free in their stores and to preview books they see on the shelves that way. Booksellers may promote the store as a social site for people to hang out, but if nobody buys print books from them, what then? CD stores went out of business because listeners wanted to buy online. Readers like the price and convenience of buying e-books online. It eliminates the need for manufacturing, distribution, and returns. This means a publisher could potentially make more money by selling an increased number of books for less. However, marketing is critical because the browsing experience is lost. Far more effort has to be put into marketing, plus ebook prices have to rise to return a profit.
Publishing to date has been a business-to-business industry. It goes from publisher to bookseller to consumer. Now, however, there is a business-to-consumer model, a demand market instead of an impulse market. New books go unsold because readers know what they want when they go online. Many publishers don’t have the staff, training, or interest in consumer marketing. So authors have to take charge of marketing their own work. As a writer, you need to find a community of readers specific to your book and market directly to them, but this requires time and money. Social media is a necessity. Book reviews used to drive sales and so did independent booksellers, but this is not the case anymore. Bloggers fill this void. Authors should reach out to bloggers who have a passion for reading. Again, this can be very time consuming.
If no one is printing or distributing the book, why do we need a publisher? Lou offers these reasons:
More niche publishers are yet to come with expertise in locating readers. Connecting to individual readers will rise in importance. Lou foresees a Renaissance and says it’s “a great age to be a writer.”
Writing in Multiple Subgenres: the Pros and Cons of Branching Out
Panel with authors ANN AGUIRRE, CYNTHIA EDEN, BETH KERY, ELISABETH NAUGHTON, JULIANA STONE, and BETH WILLIAMSON
I sat next to author LAURA BRADFORD who writes romance and mystery. It was nice to meet her. Panelist ANN AGUIRRE said she keeps her work fresh by writing in multiple genres. She takes a week off between books. She wanted to write a science fiction book women could enjoy and that inspired her popular Jax series. She would not want to settle down writing just one genre. CYNTHIA EDEN said she writes very fast and can do a draft in six weeks. The advantage of writing in multiple genres is you can produce as many books as you want although you may need a pseudonym. You can meet reader expectations in a new genre by writing with the same voice. “Don’t be afraid” to try a new genre. The cons of writing multiple genres are:
Fans may not cross over if they’re dedicated genre readers.
Multiple websites and promo may be necessary for pen names and this can get costly.
Fans want you to stay in the genre they like.
It can dilute your brand. You should be clear with your labeling on your website and other sites.
Your publishers may expect you to write two or more books a year.
One author suggests doing double-sided promo items to separate the genres which can save you money. Connecting websites can be a way to attract crossover readers. But heed this caveat: “The only thing worse than not selling is overselling.” In other words, don’t overbook yourself when setting deadlines. Allow time for vacations, edits, page proofs, blog tours, etc. And just because Author X writes 10 pages a day doesn’t mean you have to produce the same. Everyone is different. Do what suits your lifestyle.
Panel with authors KELLEY ARMSTRONG, JEANIENE FROST, TERRI GAREY, COLLEEN GLEASON, JULIANA STONE, and CHERYL WILSON
The panelists discussed the differences between paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Paranormal romance has the happy ever after ending expected in the romance genre along with spin-off sequels, while urban fantasy employs first-person viewpoint and will have the same character recurrent in a series. However, these lines are blurring as some PNRs may have recurring heroines and some UFs may be less gritty. One author defined fantasy as more Tolkien in scope, while PNR involved “things that go bump in the night.” Whatever the subgenre, world building rules must be consistent. We may be seeing more stories based on mythology because this is still a “rich area to mine.”
The panelists spoke about their world building process. One author first defines her forces of conflict, i.e., good versus evil. Then she goes from the macro level down to the micro level starting with government and ending with daily life. What is unique about your world must be essential to your story. What does the culture value the most and what will they do to protect it?
Our last workshop on Thursday finished at 5:30. We headed off for drinks at the bar with our FRW pals: President KRISTIN WALLACE, KATHLEEN PICKERING, ONA BUSTOS, MICHAEL MEESKE, MONA RISK, CAROL STEPHENSON, DEBBIE ANDREWS, and more. Publicist JOAN SCHULHAFER stopped by to say hello. So did CFRW members DARA EDMONSON aka WYNTER DANIELS and CFRW prez LORENA STREETER. Then we all split to find dinner.
More workshop writeups coming over the weekend. Hit the Subscribe button if you want to stay informed about new posts.
Disclaimer: These workshop reports are based on my notes and are subject to my interpretation.
Prize drawing from August commenters at all my blogging sites for a free signed book from my personal backlist collection, your choice of paranormal/futuristic romance or Bad Hair Day mystery.
Are there times when you feel brain dead or too tired to think straight? Never fear, you can still accomplish something by doing a mindless task. Here’s a list of boring jobs to do when you want to be productive without much mental effort.
Organize your Internet Bookmarks or Favorites
Verify that the links are still valid on your Favorites list
Verify that the links are still valid on your website
Update mailing lists and remove bounces and unsubscribes
Transfer files from floppies (if you still have them) onto your hard drive
Back up your files to other media
Clean out and sort files on computer and in office drawers
Erase old messages you don’t need to retain in Email folders
File papers in your To Be Filed stack
Do research for your next scene
Convert your old version word processing files into latest version on your computer
Search for and eliminate duplicate photos and files
Writers who are plotters know what is supposed to happen going into a scene. At least, we know what we want to happen to our characters when they move from Point A to Point B. How they traverse that distance often comes as a surprise and may require a leap of faith.
For example, in my latest paranormal WIP, I entered a scene knowing what information my characters had to obtain. It seemed too easy. Were they just going to stroll into the lion’s den, get their scoop, and leave without opposition? Something bad had to happen. Haven’t we been taught to toss our characters into situations that test their mettle? So what could happen to them to throw them offguard?
Jennifer and Paz split up inside a fictional theme park in Hong Kong. Theme Parks are a key element in my paranormal series. What could be creepier than a happy place where everyone seems to be having a good time but something evil ferments below the surface? Both Paz and Jen each have an objective to accomplish. Starting with the heroine, she obtains the information she needs with relative ease. But just as she figures she’s got the goods and can leave, a ride attendant stops her. What ensues developed from the plot and my notes, but I hadn’t seen it coming. It introduces information important to the next books in the series and adds a new layer to the story. This twist was in my head all along. I just needed faith that the scene would carry forth the logic I’d built until now.
Ditto for the hero, who risks going deeper into bad guy territory to get what he needs. As I entered his viewpoint, I wondered how to complicate matters for him. Was Paz just going to jump in, collect his data, and leave so readily? Of course not! Yet I had not foreseen what would happen to him either. Just as it does with Jen, this twist ties in with later events.
I’ve blogged on Story Magic before, but these are perfect examples of how the blank page gets filled in via unexpected ways. It’s the writer’s subconscious at work, mulling over plot details, and these new twists pop up when we’re least expecting them. I thought of the heroine’s situation while driving in the car with my husband at the wheel (See Blog below about The Writer’s Mind). This is the glorious creative time when the story almost writes itself. Compare the plot outline or story synopsis to a skeleton. The creative process fills in the flesh on the bones.
Now if only I can figure out how Paz and Jen will free the dragon trapped in a cave.
As a mystery writer, I’m often asked where I get my ideas. Well, here’s one for you: how about the local newspaper? Consider this story: Celebrity actress found dead at home; no signs of foul play; pneumonia following flu-like symptoms suspected as cause of death. Within months, husband dies from possible heart attack. Strange coincidence or not?
My mystery mind goes into high gear. If I were writing this story, how would it play out? Naturally, the celebrity (and it doesn’t have to be a movie actress. It can be anybody like a famous chef or athlete or stage star) leaves a substantial estate. If someone knocks the husband out of the way, who stands to inherit? I’m not familiar with all the hangers-on of the rich and famous, so I’ll have to make up my own list of fictional suspects. Disclaimer: This is totally fiction and made up from my own devious creative mind:
The Crooked Manager, who wants to cover up that he’s been pilfering from the celebrity’s funds.
The Greedy Relative, who inherits the estate because the celebrity couple is childless.
The Jealous Best Friend, who discovered the celebrity was having an affair with her husband.
The Financial Advisor, who’s in cahoots with the manager, and who needs money to feed his gambling habit or to pay for his insurmountable medical bills for the illness he’s been hiding.
The Makeup Artist, whom no one would suspect but who was always around the couple. She hates the celebrity and is getting revenge for a past wrong.
You get the idea? Who would you add to the list and why?
We have the Motives. Now we need Means and Opportunity. How would someone kill these two to make it look like natural deaths? Poison comes to mind. It would have to be something not detectable in toxicology texts, perhaps a substance that dissipates in the body. It cannot be injected so has to be absorbed either through ingestion or the skin or even eyedrops.
I like this! If my new mystery series gets picked up, you’re looking at book number four.
SLEUTHFEST is one of the best mystery writer conferences around. I had a great time schmoozing with old friends and meeting new people. On Friday, I participated in a panel called “The Power of Publicity”. Rod Pennington narrated, and I had the pleasure of listening to my fellow panelists discuss their tips for promotion: Sandra Balzo, James Grippando, Charles Todd, Pearl Wolf, and Dirk Wyle. Sandra suggested targeting bookmarks and other printed material to booksellers, librarians, and book clubs. I gave the pointers that were in my last blog regarding free Internet promotion since many of us authors wish we had bestsellers like James or Charles. Pearl offered her pearls of wisdom, and Dirk chimed in advising us on niche promotion like he does with his science background.
Attendees had a choice of four tracks of workshops: Craft for the Beginning Writer, Career development for Advanced Novel Writing, Hollywood tips and tricks on the Stage and Screenwriting track, and Forensics. I skipped the bomb squad visit because I’d heard a similar topic at one of our regular meetings. I also avoided the CSI stuff since my books deal more with relationships than crime scenes. Instead, I stuck to the career track options.
EDITORS ROUNDTABLE with editors from G.P. Putnam, Poisoned Pen Press, and Berkley The Berkley editor said their cozy program is very successful and some titles have even become bestsellers. Thrillers work well for them also, and they do true crime and historical mysteries. The Poisoned Pen Press editor prefers stories with no graphic sex or violence. They’d like to see strong historicals and classic mysteries with detection, not so much thrillers. They are open to new, unpublished authors. This editor in particular is tired of bed & breakfast settings and quilting cozies. She’d like to see a medieval historical mystery. Email submissions are accepted and an agent isn’t necessary. Putnam wants work that is fresh and polished with something extra. They’re interested in building a career, not just one book.
NEGOTIATING A KILLER CONTRACT with an editor and two agents discussed deal points, boiler plate contracts, and e-rights, a hot and touchy topic. They said e-books are appealing to younger and older readers and are cutting into large print sales.
HOOKS, LINES, AND STINKERS found agents and editors dissecting what makes a good query letter. One of them said she appreciates thank you notes even for rejections where she’s taken the time to comment on a work.
Lunch followed with guest speaker Stephen J. Cannell from Hollywood, who gave an inspirational talk about his rise to fame. Auctioneer and author Cynthia Thomason conducted our annual author auction where bidders could win critiques from our chapter’s experienced scribes.
Finally, I attended Randy Rawls’s BOOK BROADS, a humorous look at the writing life presented by authors KrisMontee (aka P.J. Parrish), Deborah Sharp, and Christine Kling, and bookseller Joanne Sinchuk.
The cocktail party followed with food and drink for all, and then it was home and back to reality. What I enjoyed most was chatting with everyone and seeing people I hadn’t greeted in a while. Making friends is the best part of any conference, although the four tracks of workshops offered something for everyone. Kudos to the conference organizers and volunteers!
Come to Sleuthfest in warm and sunny Ft Lauderdale February 25 – 28, 2010!
Sleuthfest is the largest conference for mystery writing in the US. This year’s theme is Lights, Camera, Write! with a focus on screenplay and script writing. If you haven’t registered yet, here is a very good reason to attend :
Guest of Honor Stephen J. Cannell
Stephen J. Cannell sold his first script to the TV show “It Takes a Thief” in 1968. His first steady job in television was as a story editor on “Adam-12” (1968). He created a character named Jim Rockford for a script he wrote for the series “Toma” (1973), a show he was producing at the time. That script was rejected by ABC, so it was rewritten and eventually became the pilot for the classic NBC series, “The Rockford Files” (1974). From there it becomes nearly impossible to list all of his work. He has either written or co-written over 300 television scripts, and created or co-created over two dozen television series. He has won an Emmy, two Writer’s Guild Awards, two Edgar Award nominations, and has a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame. Despite his many accolades, his first love continues to be writing.
At Sleuthfest, Stephen J. Cannell will be the keynote speaker at lunch on Saturday February 27. At 2:30 on Saturday, he will be participating in a session “Hollywood War Stories: Tales From the Trenches” with Paul Levine, writer of the TV series JAG, and other shows. Then on Sunday at Brunch, he and Neil Nyren, Senior VP, Publisher, and Editor in Chief of G.P. Putnam’s Sons will be interviewed by Oline Cogdil, Mystery Book Reviewer.
If you haven’t registered yet, it’s not too late to get the early registration discount. Tracks on the craft of writing and business aspects of writing are also being offered.