Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring Has Sprung Contest!

Hey everybody!

Spring is here, the snow is melting, the fog is lifting, and even the economy is getting better! And health reform just passed (yay!) so things are certainly shaping up to be a good year!

In celebration of Spring, I'm going to have a contest, which I'm also cross posting on my other blog. I'm offering a gift basket of paperback romance novels (not books I've written, just some paperbacks from my own personal collection that I'm downsizing, along with some other nice goodies) to the winners.

To enter:
Using the "Post a Comment" function on my blog, submit a 1-paragraph long piece written on the topic of Spring and Romance. Those are the only criteria----so run with it. And have fun.

My blogs do not allow anonymous comments, so you'll need to identify yourself (a pen name is OK.) Make sure you include an email address at minimum, so I can get in touch with you in case you win. I'll post the top two winning entries (one from each blog) and both winners will get a nice basket of free books and other goodies.

Looking forward to reading your submissions!


Edited to add: Submit your entry (via blog comment) no later than March 31. And spread the word!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Hubby Tales

I'm married to an uber-practical, super-frugal Chinese immigrant. There's a reason why the Chinese own more than 60% of the US national debt----these people are the most tight-fisted people on Earth. And they have no use for anything that doesn't generate money. A LOT of money.

My husband has been very suspicious of my writing career from the start. In his view, if you aren't making as much money as Stephen King from writing, it's a waste of time. Far better to get into the banking, widget, or restaurant business instead.

And yet, he's tolerated my writing aspirations for over seven years of marriage now. As recently as two months ago, he was telling me to give it up, that it was a waste of time, energy, and talent, that I'd never make a real living at it, etc., etc. But when my lastest book became a big hit (by ebook standards, anyway), he had a change of heart.

"You've got to stick with this," he said. "You've tapped into a niche market. You need to exploit that. You might not make a whole lot of money per book, but you can make it up on volume. So get busy."

Spoken like a true Chinese businessman.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Dear Shadow Readers:

I am well aware that there is a certain contingient of people who read my blog only because they hate my writing, hate my work, hate my literary agent, hate one or more of my publishers, and hate my choice of genre. These same people also have a very unhealthy fascination with me in general that borders on psychotic obsession.

To them I say:

Please go get professional help. You are in serious need of heavy medication. And stop reading my blog.

You know who you are.

That is all.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

Writing and Money

When I was working full-time as a writer/editor in the corporate world, I spent several years in the trenches, working long hours for relatively low pay. But after about a decade or so, I built on that experience, as well as my several years' of doing freelance journalism and creative writing for publication on the side, I was able to pull down impressive salaries (by staff writer standards, anyway). By the time I was pregnant with my first child, I was earning nearly $75,000 a year. Not super-great money when you live in an expensive city like Chicago and also still have huge student loans from the University of Chicago, but still pretty damn good.

Of course, my employer at the time wasn't too keen on working mothers, so I basically got forced out of my position after my son was born. I took a couple years off, just doing some small writing projects, but by the time my son was two, I was back working about 25 hours a week or so as a freelance writer. I did creative writing (novels, mostly) for publication, as well as freelance technical and medical writing for corporate clients. With a huge recession and massive professional-writer unemployment driving sales and wages down, the money was very bad, and the projects few and far between---at first. But now after plugging away at it for about a year and a half, I'm finally seeing some real financial success. My freelance client base is growing, and paying me rather well. And my book sales are up---way up, in fact---and the resulting royalty checks are rising steadily, too.

According to the Authors Guild (of which I am a member; not everyone is qualified to join, mind you), the average professional working published book author and/or freelance journalist in the U.S. earns $10,000 a year. Not exactly a real living. It goes without saying that most authors and freelance journalists have to keep their day jobs. Since my full-time "day job" is raising a two-year-old, I'm a part-timer too, but it looks like this year at least, I'll be well above the Authors Guild national average for writing earnings. And all the writing that has earned me that $$ so far is published, and paid---either as hourly for-hire work or in advances/royalties.So it may not be equivalent to what I earned in the corporate world---yet. But it's a goal I'm definitely working toward.

I'll close with a favorite quote from one of my favorite authors:
"If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented." ----Stephen King, in his memoir On Writing


Monday, March 15, 2010

Writers, Agents, Arrogance, and Entitlement

My literary agent (full disclosure: for my Ravenous Romance titles, she acts as my editor, not my agent) Lori Perkins runs a well-trafficked blog called Agent In The Middle. She is also the author of the bestselling how-to book THE INSIDER'S GUIDE TO GETTING AN AGENT (Writers Digest Books, 1999; still in print), which gives aspiring authors an industry insider's view on how literary agents work, and what they want in potential clients. I've read it, it's a great book. And it was one of the reasons I originally queried Ms. Perkins when I was seeking new literary representation.

Last week, my agent posted an entry called "Writers Behaving Badly" on her blog, in which she gave an example of a writer bugging the crap out of one of her junior agents by sending a long string of emails asking where his submission was in the agency review queue. That author went so far as to go over the junior agent's head and go to her boss (Lori Perkins) with a complaint that the junior agent was taking too long to review his submission. (Oh, so not cool).

My agent and her subordinates receive in excess of 30,000 queries from potential clients every year. So you can imagine it might take a while for them to respond to anyone. (If you got 30,000 pieces of unsolicited junk mail on top of all the other more urgent business and mail you have to deal with in daily life, I trust you would feel the same way.) It is also considered extremely bad professional form to bug the crap out of an agent who isn't even representing you yet. Without revealing the author's identity, my agent reposted some of the offending emails with thoughtful explanations as to why it is totally inappropriate behavior for a writer seeking an agent to engage in.

Most working writers I know (many of whom are unagented) would find this kind of information helpful. But on Ms. Perkins' own blog and on some message boards, hoards of aspiring authors (mostly unpublished and unagented, natch) are shrieking that Ms. Perkins somehow acted unprofessionally by making an example of one anonymous author's cringe-inducingly bad behavior. People are attacking Ms. Perkins on her blog and elsewhere, calling her "unprofessional," "rude," and all manner of other adjectives. Some are even questioning the legitimacy of her agency (this despite the fact that she's been in business for 22 years and has numerous New York Times bestsellers on her sales roster)

At this, I just have to throw up my hands in disbelief. I've been a professional working writer for almost 20 years now (I first started writing for pay while still in college), and in all that time, one thing I've learned---besides the fact that the publishing biz is cutthroat, harsh, and often as competitive as the Olympics----is that any time a top-level publishing professional with decades of experience gives advice, you should LISTEN. Not scream and moan and complain and call them all sorts of bad names. Not to mention whine and moan about why nobody wants to read your manuscript, or is taking too long to read your unsolicited agent query, yadayadayada.

Aspiring writers of all stripes, I have news for you. The world does not owe you something just because you wrote a manuscript. The world does not owe you shit. These days, anybody can sit down at a computer and bang out a manuscript. It doesn't mean that manuscript is publishable. (and 99.5% of the time, it isn't.) You are not entitled to attention, or money, or butt-kissing just because you've written something. Top agents and editors are bombarded by hundreds, if not thousands of unsolicited queries every week. You have LOTS of competition. Acting like an asshole isn't going to help you. Remember that, and plan your career accordingly.

Another thing that has been bugging me for the past year or so is the appalling lack of respect many authors (even published ones) have for their peers, especially in the romance genre. Many romance writers complain that despite the fact that the romance genre makes up almost 55% of all new book sales in English, romance authors get no respect from the public or the industry. And yet, I have witnessed (indeed, have been a victim of) terrible behavior among romance authors, including harrassment, petty backbiting, intimidation, and name-calling of new romance authors and some newer romance publishers, especially erotic romance. Not to mention flame wars on numerous romance blogs that have sometimes degenerated into threats of physical violence. (I'm serious; I've even received death threats) The kind of childish, petty behavior I've seen in the professional romance community is something I thought that most people outgrew by the time they were twelve years old. It was even enough for me to permanently withdraw my membership from the Romance Writers of America (where I was a member of their Published Authors Network).

Romance authors---if you want respect from the public and the publishing industry at large, first you must learn to respect one another. Acting like a bunch of drunken sorority sisters during Rush Week isn't helping the genre or its image.

That is all. Stepping down from my soapbox now.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

THE SHUNNED is here!

My "cousin" Jay Hughes' first novel is here----THE SHUNNED.

It's essentially a gay version of WITNESS, only with a happy ending.

Gay. Amish. Romance.

Buy your copy today at http://www.ravenousromance.com/