Monthly Archives: December 2012

Happy New Year to you all!

Mooie-happy-new-year-achtergronden-gelukkig-nieuwjaar-wallpapers-afbeelding-3

Thank you for such a great inaugural year for Words on the Page! May 2013 bring you and yours blessings, prosperity, happiness, joy and may at least one dream come true in the year to come.

With Thanks,

Jennings

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

How do you like to work?

As I speak, two men are stomping around on my roof. They’ve spent the afternoon tearing off the old (OLD) shingles, doing something with a compressor right outside my window, and sending vast quantities of stuff flying through the air to land with a crash. Now, most people would probably find this annoying, especially when trying to work. But I have a serious noise intolerance.

I grew up an only child, living several miles outside of my small town, on the Indian River in Florida. It was quiet. We didn’t have a tv in the living room, just a tiny old black and white in my room and a slightly larger color tv in my parents’ room. I rarely listened to music. Mostly I read and played all kinds of imaginary games outside. And went sailing – a very quiet sport except in a race.

My husband, one of 5 boys, always thought it was funny that I considered our kids loud. To me, having 3 kids running around was loud! Two of those are auditory learners, so as homeschoolers, we applied a lot of music, movies, books on tape, etc. Noise. I enjoy a movie or book on tape, but then I want quiet for awhile.

About seven years ago, we had to go to a convention in Las Vegas because several clients said, “We’ll talk at ICSC” to my husband. We’d avoided it for years, but had to go. By the time we left, I thought the plane was the epitome of silence, after days of non-stop, 24/7 noise. (If we ever have to go back, which I pray won’t happen, we’ll stay at the Four Seasons which has no casino, or on the “quiet side” of the Wynn!”) I was so stressed out that I actually got sick when we got back.

So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I work in the quiet. No music. No tv. No white noise. A bird chirps from time to time, and if it’s raining the sound on the skylights and from the creek are pretty loud, but that’s about it. Blissful, peaceful, nonstressful quiet. My husband, on the other hand, has a white noise machine in his office that is always on, and he will have the tv (usually on the Military Channel) or the radio on as well. Sometimes both, although he swears he doesn’t have the sound on both at the same time. He finds total quiet to be “deafening.”

As I have been sitting here for the last hour, jumping at every bang, and gritting my teeth in anticipation of darkness (for once I’m thanking God for how early it gets dark in the winter!), I was wondering about all of you. Do you like quiet? Soft music? Do you even hear the noises around you? Do you live in a city with constant noise, or the suburbs with the occasional car? Or the country with just nature and the wind…

Pray for me — now that the roof’s off, the shingles have to get put on. Fortunately (I think) we have a rainy day in the forecast tomorrow. On Sunday, I’ll have to head to Starbucks or Panera, I’m afraid. Constant hammering might be worse than this!

4 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

Merry Christmas! 2013 is right around the corner…

christmas_wallpaper_3

My family returned from a week vacation on Sunday night at 9pm. Yesterday, panic ensued as we had to buy groceries, gifts, and other things that we’d neglected to do before the trip or couldn’t do ahead of time. Our big family meal is Christmas Eve, so I was “in the zone” all day, cooking and cleaning and setting the table. But then, after dinner, we all played Texas hold-em for a few hours and laughed and had a blast. (Okay, yes… I won! Beginner’s luck.) Today we do brunch and that’s all, so I expect profound laziness. Relaxation. Candy canes. No more poker though; I’m going out a winner.

But then, on Wednesday, life begins again, and it’s less than a week until the New Year. I’m not huge on resolutions, but I do like to set goals for the next year. Not crazy, unattainable goals that won’t last past January. Real ones, that move me forward in the areas that I’m already working on. So here are mine. Do you have any big goals for 2013? I’d love to hear them!

  • Start a publishing company.
  • Publish 8 of my own books (maybe 9; my husband and I may collaborate on one).
  • Write 6 books (maybe 7, see above) – 2 (or 3) nonfiction and 4 fiction.
  • Get my migraines under control so I can get back to my regular exercise routine.
  • Move. We’re going to be moving out of the city we have lived in for 20 years (my husband is from here), although we’re not sure yet where we’re headed. So that’s an adventure! This goal entails getting the house ready for sale – not my favorite thing.

In addition, we have 2 graduations (high school and college) and a wedding in May and June, I’m going to Uganda for 2 1/2 weeks in Feb/March, and my grandmother (God willing) is turning 100 on December 1.

So my year looks pretty nuts, and my over-arching goal is to organize my days so that everything gets done and I’m not working nights and weekends. We’ll see how that goes – we creative types aren’t known for our organization!

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thanks for your support of this blog in 2012. I’m blessed!

Jennings

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Writing

Do you know how to run your writing business?

Many of us don’t realize that, once we start to sell something, we’re a business. Do you make and sell pies or cupcakes? You’re a business. Do you knit sweaters or hats? You’re a business. Watercolors? Pottery? Calligraphy? Business.

calvin-on-counterfeiting-money

So if you’ve published a book and are selling it — even if you haven’t broken even on your initial investment — you are a business. And that’s good news for you! Now, I’m not a CPA, so please don’t take my advice on the finances as gospel. But I’ve been in charge of our business’s finances for 20 years, and my non-profit’s for 4, so I do know something about it.

Here’s what you need to consider:

You don’t have to be an S-corp, an LLC, or incorporated to be a business and get the benefits thereof. As an independent contractor, a sole proprietor or a DBA (ie if you publish under a different name), you’re still a business. What that means is that you can write off your expenses and apply them against your income, if you file anything other than a 1040EZ tax form.

What are your expenses? Here’s a non-comprehensive list –

  • Postage when you have a giveaway, send ARC copies out, or otherwise give away books for review/advertising (ie to generate word of mouth).
  • The cost of producing your book (ie cover art, editor, proofreader, formatter, copyright filing, paper you used to print it).
  • The cost of marketing your book (any paid advertising, even a $5 guaranteed listing for your free book promo). This includes services like MailChimp, your website hosting costs, purchasing a domain name, etc.
  • The cost of paperback copies of your book (ie for giveaways, ARCs, etc).
  • The cost of any signage you have produced for a book signing or book fair.
  • The cost of entering a book fair.
  • The cost to join professional organizations (ie I belong to the Alliance of Independent Authors, the North Carolina Writers Network, and several others that had membership dues to join).
  • The cost of advertising materials like bookmarks and postcards and things you give out to people to advertise your book.
  • Any legal or accounting expenses you incur.
  • Mileage on your vehicle if you are driving to a book-selling-specific event (ie a signing). You can find the current mileage allowance on the government’s website. Last I checked it was about 54 cents a mile, but it could be more (or less). Keep a log and be very specific, with dates, locations and names.
  • Any travel required for your promotion beyond driving (ie airfare to a signing). In this case your hotel and meals are expenses also, and any wining and dining of agents or publishers, bookstores, etc. Your child or spouse’s expenses don’t count!

In general, you can’t write off a home office anymore, unless absolutely NOTHING, and I mean nothing, happens in that office except writing. And even then, I wouldn’t do it. It’s a red flag for an audit. Same with cell phone (unless you have a dedicated line just for your writing) and other utility-like costs associated. If you do rent an office outside your home, that IS a business expense.

You don’t have to use a program like Quickbooks to keep track of all this. Excel has perfectly serviceable templates, at least until you get a half dozen books and find yourself doing a lot of book related things. Open a new spreadsheet and click Gallery, then Budgets. I use the Expenses sheet, and have added a Memo field where I specify exactly which book I was spending money on and what it was for (ie. Solomon’s Throne bookmarks). Any spreadsheet that lets you itemize an Account for your entry is fine, at least until you get into hundreds of entries. You want to specify your expenses into General Accounting Chart of Accounts, such as Advertising, Postage, Services (this is the production of your book, etc), Mileage, etc. Excel has a good starting list in that template, although you will need to add your own. You can find a standard Chart of Accounts easily online.

Since we’re coming to the end of the year, it’s time for you to put all your expenses in one place, and have them organized. You’ll need your income, too, although you should get tax forms from all your online retailers to submit with your taxes. You’re entitled to these deductions on your taxes, and Lord knows we all need all the help we can get! Take the time to learn what it means to you financially, now that you’re officially Joe Smith, Writer. It could save you some money!

2 Comments

Filed under Publishing, Self publishing, Writing

The Business of Writing

I’m stepping back from the process of writing and the stress of promotion to talk about business. Just business, in general, and how it pertains to writing. I’m doing this because I read this great post by Kristine Kathryn Rusch today, and it reminded me of some things I’ve posted as comments on various blogs and group threads. And that’s basically that writing and being a published writer is a BUSINESS, and we should be treating it as such – and understanding how the fact that it’s a business should effect our view of various vendors and contractors that we use (like Amazon, which is much maligned among many indies who nonetheless use their services).

Let me give you a little background, so you see where I’m coming from. For twenty-plus years my husband and I have owned a shopping center maintenance company, which we started with one, $180/mo account an hour out of town. We had plenty of early days where we did all the work, including one memorable Christmas Eve when no sweeping truck drivers showed up for work and we had to do it ourselves, all night long.

We’ve gone through several iterations of our business structure, driven by market forces, an embezzlement, and, in the latest, our shifting interests. We got up to 78 employees, 40 vehicles, and 5 states. We decided we didn’t want to deal with employees anymore, and restructured, helped our managers start their own businesses, transferred the employees to them, so we now have none. In short, we’ve been in business at all stages. We built it, we ran it, we adapted it, and we made it into a pretty big small business. I get it.

So when I say to other writers that being a published writer must be seen in the light of owning a small business, that’s literally what I mean. If your only goal is to get one novel up there for all your friends to read, that’s fine. There’s not a better time in history for that kind of publishing. But if, like pretty much all the writers I know and talk to, you want to make money on your endeavors, then you’re a small business, whether you like it or not. It will affect your taxes. It will require your time. You’ll have to learn new skills, like accounting and marketing. If you don’t, the odds are against you succeeding, just like the odds are against most of the people out there who start any kind of business. Just for comparison, did you know:

9 out of 10 businesses fail in the first 2 years, and half that succeed fail in the next 5.

Why?

Well, there are things that are common across industries. A bad idea. Inadequate funding. High debt. Not enough or too much or improperly trained staff. Inability by the owner to delegate responsibility. Inadequate knowledge about business in general (this is very common with the artisan business, ie the person who is a great home baker and decides to open a bakery).

So what about writing. The first thing you should be doing as a writer is writing.  Write good books. Objectively good. They don’t have to be great, they don’t have to be the next great piece of literature, but the story needs to be interesting, the characters compelling, and the writing good or better.

The importance of a backlist of books to direct your readers to can’t be understated. The reason I published 3 books in 4 months was that I wanted other books that readers could buy if they liked Solomon’s Throne. For my action adventure novels, this has worked just as planned. And only having one in the Christian romance genre has probably kept that from doing all it can.

Delegating. We are told we have to spend a ton of time on marketing. That we can format ourselves. That we can produce our own book trailer or audiobook. Well, yes, you probably can do all that, with some training. But that’s really not the question. The question is, should you? There are people out there who do those things, and do them well. Sure, there are a bunch of people jumping in to the indie world and offering editing and cover design and formatting and all the other things for either ridiculously high prices, or with reasonable prices but doing bad work. The great thing about the indie community, though, is that indie authors are so generous at sharing their good and bad experiences; find a book you like and ask the author for their contractors. I have shared mine repeatedly in this blog and on Twitter, and would be happy to again.

Do what you’re good at, and let the rest go. I know you may not have a ton of money, but if you spent a year or ten writing a book, isn’t it worth giving up soda and coffee for a month to hire a great cover artist? As your book makes a little money, take it and invest in your next one.

There are a ton of great places to learn about marketing and promotion, and there’s an almost endless array of things you can do. Social media. Paid advertising. Free advertising. Blogging. Guest blogging. Giveaways. Everything from free to bookoo bucks. Some of it you will like, and some you will hate. Here’s my advice – do what you like and forget the rest. You can’t possibly do it all, anyway, so why do what you don’t enjoy? If you don’t like Twitter or Facebook or Goodreads, don’t do it. Sure, everyone will say to do it… But millions of books have been sold by people who’ve never put a status update on a website. If you hate blogging, don’t blog. If you don’t have money, use free sites or use ones that are very cheap. I’ve used one that’s $7.50 a week for a banner ad. Hard to beat that!

Even if you enjoy marketing, unless you’re writing books on marketing, limit your time. You need to write. You need to get your name out there, on things people read, so people will want to find more of your writing to read. Blogs are great for that, but you could do articles or short stories. But mostly, write more wonderful novels. Produce them well. Get them out there.

Amazon isn’t your enemy. It’s very in right now to bash Amazon. But Amazon is a business, just like any other. And trust me, they’re too big to be picking on you personally. Have they made some over-corrections in response to some review scandals? Sure. I, for one, would hate to be trying to write their programs. But it is best to keep in mind all the amazing things they’ve done for you as an indie author, and have a healthy respect for this new world they pretty much single-handedly created. There are others out there, and the reason people aren’t bashing them is because they’re not (yet) big enough to make people mad. My advice? Choose to love Amazon and be grateful, and work with their system. You’ll be a lot happier (especially since you won’t change a single thing about them by complaining online).

In short, keep your eye on your product. That’s your books and, to some extent, you. Put the majority of your time there. Don’t go on social media and thump people over the head with your books – be a real person that they want to know and find out more about. 80% real stuff with 20% talking about your products is about the right percentage. If something totally stresses you out, don’t do it. Play to your strengths and backfill your weaknesses with others who are better at those things than you (it doesn’t have to be paid help – it could be a child, sibling, spouse or friend who’s really good at something and is happy to help). Most importantly, WRITE. Because, after all, you’re a WRITER, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing