Tag Archives: books

Why All It Takes Is 5 Minutes

It may come as a shock, but I’m easily distractible.

It’s not something I’m proud of. Especially knowing how much my work depends on writers showing up and keeping up despite the battering hurricane of demands and requests that fly in through every open window.

It can grow dark quickly underneath the pile of debris atop the little flame of a writer’s voice.

To be seen and heard is always a fight.

Yet maybe being seen and heard doesn’t have to be the goal. Maybe sharing what’s been given you that day in the 5 minutes you have to share it, the flame will shine a little more, and the light will reach out into the dark it’s intended to reach.

Burn, little guy. Burn.
Burn, little guy. Burn.

I know from painful experience how selfish and pointless it can seem to spend much time in a private place that brings you and only you such joy. Especially if so many people depend on you. The responsibility and duty of “real life” can sap the love and light right from you and leave you dark and cold.

But if God’s love for us burns white hot, wouldn’t he want us to forget all else but the true “real life?”

That’s the premise of the novel I’ve been writing over 10 years about a young man who sells his soul for a chance to change his past. It’s been growing in me and growing with me for ages, waiting as I figured out what to do with it and how to write it. It’s grown and shaped me unlike any book ever has, and it’s still not done. But I’m going ahead and opening up about my process now because I can’t wait to share some of the jaw-dropping lessons it’s taught me as I’ve strived to show up between school, raising 2 kids and full-time editing books for publishers.

Jaw-dropping, I tell you!
Jaw-dropping, I tell you!

Some days it’s felt so pointless. But 5 minutes a day adds up. I wouldn’t have thought it possible to write a book this way. And maybe it isn’t–no one said it was good–but for years now, I’ve gotten up and for 5 minutes (which sometimes turned to 10 and 15), I’ve forgotten everything else and reveled in my dream world. It’s changed me, and it’s continuing to as I pull the disparate pieces together and learn to slowly fight back against the crush of too-great demands and urgent life, giving it the best I have, which often isn’t enough, but it doesn’t matter.

God is in it.

Unlike anything else, my book has shown God’s love to me. And I know it’s true because it’s been simple even when it could have and should have been mind-numbingly complex. In the end, I’ve believed the premise, that he wants me to forget everything else but that knowledge of his love. And in 5 minutes a day, I’ve found writing a book can teach you plenty about that.

Every day, I’m hopeful for what it’ll reveal next. If you know what I mean, give me a witness….

For the Higher Purpose,

Mick

Interview with author/editor Brandy Bruce

LooksLikeLove I've been excited for a while to have the chance to interview a friend of mine, Brandy Bruce. Her experience as an up-and-coming YA author is unique (of course) but her decision to self-publish after shopping her novel to publishers makes me extra eager to tell you about her journey. First, the bio.

Brandy Bruce holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Liberty University. She currently works as a developmental book editor for Focus on the Family. When she's not chasing after her two-year-old daughter, she spends much of her time reading, editing, working with authors, and trying to keep up with deadlines. She's the author of the newly released contemporary novel Looks Like Love. Brandy makes her home with her husband and daughter in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Me: Brandy, thanks for being brave and pioneering. I figure, despite my initial reservations with self-publishing (as a long-time publishing establishment guy), your decision is a great example for others who are debating this choice. Tell me about (1) your journey from writer to published.

BRB: I've been writing stories since the sixth grade. Reading and writing have always been my outlets for creative thought. I knew from about the time I was in high school that I really wanted to somehow work with books as my profession. I became a developmental book editor and I still love it. But writing has always remained part of that creative outlet for me.

My journey to publishing isn't exactly traditional. A few years ago I started working on a story about a girl starting over after a bad break-up. I showed my book proposal to an agent (Chip MacGregor–Google him.) who liked it and decided to sign me as one of his authors. Then came the hard part–selling it. We received some positive feedback and came close with a couple of houses, but in the end, we just didn't get a contract. That was disappointing, of course. I'd put so much work into my novel that I didn't want to give up. I started thinking about self-publishing. I talked this over with Chip, and he was really supportive. A turning point for me came when my husband reminded me that in today's world publishing is an attainable dream for anyone. I know that publishing is evolving. I know that anyone can have his or her book in an e-format in minutes. I decided to explore my options for doing it myself, and finally, I decided to self-publish with WestBow Press.

Me: So what kind of marketing are you doing?

BRB: When it comes to marketing self-published books, authors have to be even more pro-active. I talked to other authors who had self-published for creative marketing tips. I created bookmarks to send to friends and family when the book released. WestBow sent out a press release, but I also created a press release to send to bookstores and influencers. I had a friend create a book trailer for me and put it on YouTube. I promoted my book on my blog, twitter account, and facebook and recruited friends and family to also post the link to my book on Amazon.com. And I set up a blog book tour the month after my book released. I arranged some blog interviews and encouraged people to write reviews for my book on amazon.com. People don't realize how beneficial good reviews on Amazon.com are!

Me: So true. One idea I've seen an author use recently is offering signed "book plates" for those who write a review for you. Contests are another good idea–offer a chance at a gift bag for people who post a review. What are you hoping for from this publishing venture? What’s something surprising you’ve learned?

BRB: Before I ever self-published I really examined the why behind moving forward with it. For me, having a book of my own was something I'd wanted for a long time. I never felt the deep desire to be a famous author or the need to sell scores of books. I will say that now that my book is out, every time I receive good feedback, I'm just so thrilled to hear that someone read my story and loved it. That's enough for me. Publishing my book was a goal in my life that I wanted to fulfill. I'm proud of every book I edit and I find a lot of fulfillment in helping others create books that made a difference. I know people self-publish for lots of different reasons. But for myself, I just had a story that I loved and wanted to see in print. I've been lucky with how supportive people have been. I had authors I greatly respect come alongside me and offer endorsements. I had fellow editors help polish my novel before I sent it to press. And I've had my wonderful family and friends help get the word out about Looks Like Love. 

Me: So one last question: What played into your decision most? Did feedback from publishers play a role? Did your insider publishing knowledge convince you you could do it better than your average writer just starting out? If you could, help people differentiate the real pros and cons about this really complex decision.  

BRB: Publishers' feedback did play a role in my decision to self-publish this one. I was in touch with other editor friends so I knew when places like Bethany and Kregel and Cook took the book to pub board. I had editors give me positive feedback (Tyndale for example, I met with the editor who reviewed my proposal while we were at a conference). Chip sent me a response from another editor who said the book wouldn't work for them but she loved my voice and would like to see something else. If I'd been hearing mostly negative responses from editors I respect, I doubt I would have felt it was worth it to publish it. I assume Chip probably shielded me from negative feedback anyway, but I told him I wanted to hear what editors had to say about it. And like I said, most was pretty encouraging. And I took what I heard seriously. When an editor made recommendations, I definitely listened and made changes.

And of course, my being an editor helped me feel a little more confident as I moved forward. Also the fact that I'm a consistent reader. I read so much Christian fiction that I felt I knew my genre well. I'm comfortable checking proofs; I know what to look for. Writing back cover copy is something I do all the time. I knew that getting endorsements could really help me. Anyone can self-publish, of course. There are people there to guide you every step of the way. But my personal experience made me more comfortable throughout the process.  

Also, I'm not planning for this to be a series. I am hoping to shop the YA fantasy series once it's ready. I'd love for that to get picked up since it's meant to be a 4-book series.

Me: Is that what you're working on next? What's keeping you busy (besides marketing and publicity on this)?

BRB: Well, I've got a toddler running around, and I'm editing two books so that keeps me pretty busy. I haven't stopped writing though. My sister and I are working together on a fantasy YA series that I'm super excited about.

 

The Book: Looks Like Love by Brandy Bruce

The awesome book trailer.

The author.

How Publishing Is Changing

Author Tim Ferriss on debuting at #1 on the NYT list:

"We’re at the dawn of the creators’ age, when you don’t have to dumb down your material to have a bestseller; you don’t have to kow-tow to big media that wants to dilute your message so that it offends no one and interests no one.  The publisher — you — can decide the fate of your ideas.  That’s should be exciting to every writer and would-be writer out there.  The timing couldn’t be better." (Thanks to GalleyCat)

The All-Time Top Reasons to Pursue Big Publishing, Part 3

The question was raised by an author who's recently been offered a contract, would it make sense to push for hardcover, the thinking being this raises credibility and importance in the eyes of buyers. Sure, if it's a good size run as well, but it'll be more expense for buyers too, so it's a gamble. And hardcover alone doesn't get you the respect you're hoping for. 

And as I've been realizing and saying in my last posts, the bigger point we're talking about here is perceptions and assumptions. Manipulating them and creating them and respecting them. If we don't understand them, we won't get anywhere. But if we just accept them and adopt them, we'll stay just as stuck. 

It'd be really cool to break down a number of publishing assumptions and dissect the resulting perceptions, or vice versa, but that sounds cumbersome and cerebral. And I'm tired and I want to get moving on the forward motion part of this journey. I'm not impatient, I just want to get going and we can talk about all this on the way. 

But above all, I want to be authentic. The troubles we have with perceptions and assumptions are largely about people not being authentic and careful in how they represent things whether it's their own work (in the case of self-promoting authors), their published books (in the case of publishers and agents), or whatever. Duplicity and selfishness tend to rule the day so there's a lot of garbage piled up in the way of trust and the real insights possible when that trust is there. I want to be trustworthy. 

I'm not going to say things to improve my "business" and I don't care if people don't agree with me. I listen, most the time but not always, to learn and make sure I'm thinking through all the angles. But ultimately, I answer to a higher purpose. I won't sit here and tell you not to pursue big publishing just so you'll come here and join the tirade against big publishing. That's not my goal and I love the people in big publishing. All I'm saying is that some authors have made it their goal to be published with big publishers and that's dangerous because big publishing is a business and businesses are soulless, so you need to take a few steps back before you get hurt. I'm asking people to let go of getting published and start with the necessary steps first.

This doesn't mean those who have taken the necessary steps of researching, writing, editing, branding, building a network, researching online marketing and building a platform aren't ready or shouldn't pursue big publishing. But they need to divorce their hearts from the process and know that it will likely mean changing a bit to fit into that hole, niche, slot, channel, whatever at the publisher. And believe me, if you're not sure what your slot is on the shelf, it means that's probably not you yet. Figure this out before you go and you'll save yourself a lot of headache. 

My "agenda" is largely to be without an agenda here. But as a guiding principle, I will promote the idea that there's a proper time and place for everything–for the writing to sing, you can't be editing and thinking about how you'll market it. Same principle when I see people at conferences taking classes on marketing and branding and such who haven't even finished their manuscript. This should be forbidden and when I'm king, I'll pass the law. But I'm just asking us to think and strategize together, break the steps down, and take them in their due course. Thing is, even if you've had some experience in all the steps, with each book, you have to do them all again, and in the right order, so it'll help to get this clear in your brain no matter where you're at. 

At the recent writers conference in Santa Barbara, I met some great people who were right on with this and I could see many of them doing very well in some of the emerging alternative publishing options. But before we go there, we need to ensure everything is where it needs to be with the book and the message, and then with the platform and presentation, so we can ensure nothing is left to chance or changed by big publishing if and when that becomes a possibility. 

And the exciting thing is, I'm hearing a lot of people agreeing. So while I keep working on this bigger site, let's keep talking about where we're at in our processes. I'd love to hear some stories, build some community. Also, pretty soon, I'll have a few polls and things to look at on the beta site so you can sound off and tell me what's helpful and what's not. It's all underway, but in the meantime, feel free to chime in and introduce yourself, your project and experience, and maybe an insight or two if you're so inclined. 

Oh, and for the record, I told my friend that the risk and the reward of hardcover is that you're betting that more expense will better convey it's value, but other things also work against this perception with buyers, such as the size of the house, the size of the print run, the visibility of the author, and previous publishing history. So while such proof of a publishers' positive belief would be conveyed more strongly with HC, the higher risk the seller is then forced to take mitigates some of that. And if the print run isn't very large, hardcover could undermine it's chances rather than help.

Are You a PERFECT 3 Author?

This is part 2 in a 6-part series on writing your best
book now. With apologies to Thomas Nelson and Joel Osteen.

You’ve noticed the perfect 3. It’s holding together your
beginning, your complication, and your resolution. It’s in liquid, ice, and
steam. It’s the animal, the mineral, and the vegetable. It makes up the
trinity, the cord of 3 strands, the what was, what is, and is to come.

The perfect 3 defines our lives in a number of deeply
profound ways, a number which is probably even divisible by 3. Our veteran
editorial veep at WaterBrook Multnomah likes to say the best books need 3 legs
to be stable: platform, subject, and writing. Someone recently improved upon
the metaphor by suggesting a tricycle.

Three wheels. Very stable. You can stand on it, if you want.
A bicycle can also get you where you’re going, though less safely. But a
unicycle is always inadvisable. For a number of reasons (again divisible by 3).
Doesn’t mean people don’t use unicycles and succeed at staying aloft. Just
involves more training. More time.

And often laughing crowds.

Now it’s a sad little publishing truism that you do not need
great writing or an excellent subject from a platform author, but that book will
still sell. At least for a while. But eventually it’ll fall down and the other
books will laugh at it. There are also excellently written books from no-name
authors who wouldn’t know a proper subject if they spent all day searching
their cabinets and sock drawers.

Yet what I see most often in the writers I meet at
conferences is some great people with great subjects…and very little writing
ability or platform. I’ve seen people at it so long they despise the words “craft” and “platform.” Without those other legs,
they’re going to remain imbalanced.

But here’s where The Perfect 3 can help. Many things go into
those other two legs besides time.

Research.

Analyzation.

Prayer.

Focus.

Self-awareness.

Acuity. 

Sacrifice.

Support.

A strong will.

Good bladder
control.

An eye for opportunity. Great personality. Tooth whitening.
Sense of humor. Confidence. Basically, all the unmentioned things that go into
making a wonderful, attractive, well-rounded person.

Are you weak in any of those things? Me too! (Let's hear it for bladder
control!)

So, author, what do you want to do about the rest of those?

Most people don’t have the strength, discipline, and humility to
accept where they’re weak and decide to fix it. Many of those areas will require
assistance that’s too painful. Of course, that's not you, is it?

And despite what my mom used to say about my uncanny ability to
get out of traffic tickets, no one is
born charmed.

The 3 essential qualities that build The Perfect 3 author are:

            1) the determination to continually push yourself to acquire new skills,

2) the tenacity to get up again and again after failure, and

3) the humility to learn the essential lessons from it each
time.

Do this.

Don’t skip corners.

Don’t even look for a shortcut. You
are not a cheater.

Show up every time, do it until you’re done, and do it again
tomorrow with all 3 of those legs (or wheels) of your project:

·              
Researching your subject (& is it a good and needed
one?),

·              
Writing (and the rewriting, revising, & macro and
micro editing),

·              
Platform building (and the resulting back-breaking
publicity)

In the end, your creativity, craftsmanship, and care shows
your audience you’re the perfectly-balanced author you’ve worked to become.