Month: February 2019
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It’s not unusual to hear of actors who gain weight to play a larger character. Or for them to intensely research a role. Or that they won’t break character, even when not filming. More than just playing that part, they want to be that character. In that case, they’re not acting. They live the role. This is called ‘method acting’. Method actors believe this methodology makes their portrayal authentic.
Some writers do the same. If they write about a particular place, they go to that place. If they write about a topic, they throw themselves into research. Or they try to experience things firsthand. Author Tara Moss had herself choked out to unconsciousness to experience what it felt like. She’s also had herself set on fire (wearing a flame-resistant suit), shot firearms, spent time in morgues and courtrooms, and more.
We use our writing to reinterpret and make sense of our experiences, as well as the world around us. Even if the setting is fantastical, characters may go through similar things to ourselves. Like the method actor, it makes sense that, as writers, we try to broaden our range of experiences.
We don’t all have the luxury of best-selling authors, though. While we could all just go sit in a courtroom for a day, we don’t all have avenues to have ourselves set on fire in a safe, controlled environment. Best-selling author Sidney Sheldon used to fly to and eat in restaurants so he could write about them genuinely. It’s not something we can all afford.
But we can push ourselves out of our comfort zones by living life, which is the best way to develop our qualifications to write. And, as we live, we should observe. While we may be absorbing information through osmosis, we might not necessarily be examining what’s going on. We should break it down, examine it further, break it down more, examine it more, etc., to gain a deeper understanding of life, and the world around us.
We can also empathise. Most writers are already deeply empathetic – this is how we’re able to put ourselves in the heads of so many different characters and represent them genuinely. But a worthwhile exercise is watching/reading the news and, without judgement, putting ourselves in the heads of others. How would we feel in the same situation? Here, we need go beyond our instincts and programmed responses. It’s not about what we would do in the same situation; it’s about imagining and feeling how the other person feels.
And, finally, we can employ simple tricks to help put us in the right frame of mind when we write. Writing something sad? Listen to sad music. Watch a sad movie. Have a glass of wine and grow melancholy. Need our writing to pump with energy? Put on some upbeat music. Dance. Writing something angry? Dredge up memories of arguments. Hit a punching bag. Shout. There are lots of little tricks we can use to shift our focus into the mindset – and thus mood – of what we’re writing.
As writers, we can improve the technical side of our craft. But, remember, there’s also an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual side to improve also.
February 14, 2019
Today’s technology is making book production simple and inexpensive. Anybody can publish a book. But does that qualify them to do so?
Some of these people begin publishing companies, joining the ranks of self-publishers and partnership publishers out there who claim they’re about helping authors get their books out into the world. But are they? Do they have an author’s best interests at heart?
Here are some facts …
There is no guaranteed BIG return
At Busybird, we never try to secure an author by selling them the lie that they’ll have a bestseller.
It is a lie.
You can manipulate certain databases into classifying your book is a bestseller, but that doesn’t mean it is. It may just mean your book has sold the most in a pair of categories no other book occupies. It’s a label that can be won by selling as little as one book – a gimmick
But if getting an actual bestseller – a book that’s sold thousands of copies – was so manageable, big multinational publishers with vast resources would nail bestseller after bestseller after bestseller. But they don’t. Nobody does.
Publishing is capricious. You can do everything right, but it doesn’t mean it will translate into riches.
Now bestsellers do happen, but we try to ground authors to be realistic with their expectations.
Anybody who tells you differently is trying to sell you something.
Lots of Authors Become Publishers
There is a difference between being an author and being a publisher. Yes, they work in the same field – they work with writing.
But an author produces the writing.
The publisher produces the book.
There is a whole side of production that authors never encounter – cover design; layout of internals; registration of an ISBN; finding a printer and determining the best paper stock; lodging the book with the national library for archiving, etc. It’s too big a list to cover in a single paragraph.
This is not to say every author who runs a publisher has no idea what they’re doing. Some do. Just don’t assume they must know just because they write.
Some Publishers are Glorified Salespeople
I saw a certain publisher endorsed on Facebook. I know this publisher. They’re an idiot. They’re a fantastic salesperson. They could sell anything. But I know they know nothing about writing; know nothing about English, grammar, punctuation, and spelling; know nothing about structure; have no idea about copyright and permissions … well, look, outside of selling they don’t know anything.
Now that might be fine if they’ve delegated and retained professionals who know their stuff, but often they’re outsourcing to uninvested freelancers, and wouldn’t know how to address queries that do come up.
There are lots of these people out there. Retain them, and there’s a good chance they aren’t going to give your book the care it deserves.
Some of These Publishers Have No Standards
All they’re interested in is the dollar. It doesn’t matter what the book is, it’s about getting the author to sign and pay. Well, that helps one person in that deal.
Writing a book isn’t about regurgitating what’s already out there. It’s about reaching into yourself, and producing a message – be it a novel, a memoir, a book of nonfiction, poetry, or whatever the case is – that only YOU can produce.
You’re unique. But some publishers don’t care. Hand in gibberish, and they’ll tell you that it’s brilliant, that it’s the sort of book the market needs, and that to get it out there you just need to hand over your money now.
Some Publishers Claim Rights and Royalties
If you’re self-publishing, whoever you’ve retained should have no claim on your rights, and definitely none on your royalties.
If you’ve partnership published – this is where the publisher claims they share the costs (in all likelihood, they don’t put in a cent and they’re just telling you this to win you over) – they still don’t deserve any share of your rights or royalties.
Once you’re paying to be published, you should retain your rights and royalties.
Publishing is daunting for inexperienced authors. Unfortunately, there are predators who prey on an author’s naivety and will try and capitalize on whatever money you make.
This isn’t intended to say that every publisher out there sucks in one way and/or another, and that we’re the best in the world. But we’ve now published over three hundred books. We’ve had authors come to us with horror stories. We’ve dealt with some of these places firsthand. We’ve learned a thing or two.
Be wary of the landscape. There are good people out there. You’re eager to get your book out. But do your diligence and avoid the heartbreak.