Suddenly (or not so)

Obviously, you all know a few famous people have died in the past few days and others not so well known have passed too. This morning, another was added from Sunday, it just seems the list is unusually long for some reason.

Some passed suddenly. No one was prepared to say good-bye right now. Others knew their time was short and their families did too. Their families still grieve and it certainly isn't easy, but they do not have to deal with the same "what ifs" and "why now?" Much of that was able to be dealt with already and no one was left to wonder.

Generally speaking, I'm not effected by celebrity deaths. It is sad for the families, but I feel no personal connection the way some people do. Michael Jackson was different. I am a child of the 80's and much of his music was a soundtrack to my life even though I own few tapes and albums. Those memories stand out more than the insanity of his recent years. Either way, he's not supposed to be gone yet. He was older than me but still young, still had stuff to do. Just like me, my friends and my family. I have no idea why I feel this way really. As I said, I didn't hang on his every move.

However, for whatever reason, the feeling is there. I can't help but wonder, what do I want to do before that time comes whether it's, tonight, tomorrow or forty years from now? Am I doing what I think God put me here to do? In some ways, I can answer yes and I'm happy about that. But there's also still lots to do, probably plenty I don't even know about yet, and I hope to have the chance to do it.

Few of us like to talk about death, even if we are Christians and confident in what happens next. However, a few moments of reflection is good now and then. It reminds us that we may not get time to "get to it someday". Someday, may need to be today.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


How Do Readers Choose Books and Where Do They Buy Them?

That's the million dollar question isn't it? If authors, publishers and booksellers knew the answer to that, there would be no such thing as lackluster sales or returns. As in all sales, sometimes you get the best information just by asking, which is what agent Nathan Bransford did at his blog today. He asks how people heard about the current book they're reading and where they acquired it. At last check, there were over 300 responses.

No it's not a scientific poll, but I think you can definitely see trends and just about anyone who's trying to sell books can glean useful info from it. Check things out here at his blog, and then feel free to post your answer here if you wish, or any other thoughts about the list. Agree, disagree, see patterns? The more we can share only helps everyone involved.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Dislike Change? Don't Get into Publishing

There are authors and publishers (readers and agents too) who love to hang on to what has always been in the publishing industry. Things like: all real books are dead tree books, POD is the scourge of the industry and nothing good is ever produced that way, that your book must be proclaimed worthy to be published, and if it isn't, it'll never amount to anything.

You can't blame them too much really. Most of us aren't fond of change-just ask my husband how much yours truly likes it (though I think I'm getting better). Unfortunately, few things in life stay the same forever whether we like it or not. The same goes for publishing. It's taken quite a while, but some are finally not only realizing it, they're not afraid to tell others in the inner circle that they see what's coming and they're fine with it.

What are some of the changes that are coming for the publishing industry? Agent Chip MacGregor talks about a handful of them here. They aren't the only ones by any means, but if they don't appeal to you, as the title of this post indicates, I suggest you choose something else besides writing books and trying to get them published to fill your time. If on the other hand, you're willing to see where the road will take you, secure your safety belt as they say, it could be one heck of a ride!

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


The Inside Scoop on Approaching Indie Bookstores

Here's a great blog post about approaching indie bookstores if you are an independent or pay to publish author. There are lots of helpful tips, but I love that there's also the "why" behind those tips. Another interesting note is the general feeling of encouragement, rather than the old "we don't take those kinds of books attitude that used to be much more prevalent in this part of the industry.

One other thing, make sure you read the comments, a couple of which just blew me away. The blogger, Josie Leavitt, just spent her precious time giving a list of clear guidelines as to how to approach her (and others), yet you'll notice a couple of posts that are completely clueless. Even giving those people the benefit of the doubt that they misunderstood something (though I'm not sure how Josie could have been clearer) also adds the lesson that even if you think you understand the guidelines, read them again and make sure before you contact someone. The adage you only get one chance to make a first impression certainly applies here.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Growing Out of Control or Ready for Pruning?

Apparently, the theme for life this week is pruning. First, the message at church on Sunday talked about how God often prunes us, clips out the stuff that's getting in the way of our healthy growth. We know that most plants need to be cleaned up and trimmed to grow properly but we forget that we do too. Sometimes God uses the little trimmers and sometimes He chooses to hack out some big stuff with the power tools. As the Master Gardner, He sees the big picture and knows what we can become when we begin to grow again.

I thought about that in regard to how my life and my writing has changed over the past few years. I'm now going in a completely new direction with my current project, and so maybe what I was doing had to be pruned because it was in the way/I was off course.

Then this morning, I saw this post on a blog I subscribe to "Overgrowth & Pruning Shears". This time the writer talks about pruning from a different perspective, one that allows some out of control overgrowth so there's enough plant to shape into a wonderfully sculptured form. She also talks about how this concept applies to our writing lives too.

So where are you in life, as a writer, both? Is someone getting the pruning shears ready or are you sculpted and ready for a full bloom?

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


It Says What?

A couple of posts ago, I talked about the importance of making sure your intended book title is unique online and if people search for just part of it, no nasty surprises come up.

Another consideration along this same line is how does your prospective title read when it's all smashed together as a url? Here's an example: Northwest Ink Slingers: Murder, Mystery and Ugly Tattoos. (Note- I just made this up, didn't check, I have no idea if it exists in any way shape or form).

If you set up a domain to point to a book page or wanted to build a site around the book, a logical shortened form for the url might be nwestinkslingers.com Notice any other words that you didn't intend to be there?

In my opinion, either the book title needs to be reworked or, at minimum, there should be another try at a domain name. In addition, I believe this kind of analysis is particularly important if you write for kids or even young adults. If a four letter or unacceptable word can be found within a url, they're probably going to find it and I doubt that's what you'll want them to focus on.

It has been said that any publicity is good publicity, but I don't think you'd want that publicity to come from people passing around your link just to make fun of it. Take the time to do this extra step and you'll have one less thing to worry about.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


For Love, Romance or Money? An Author's Life

Last week, I wrote about an interview with author James Patterson (Inside the Mind of a Writer). Reader Jaxpop commented that he'd read about that interview on other blogs which I completely expected. However, what I didn't expect was his comment that on those other blogs authors expressed disapproval and dismay over Patterson's work style. Simply put, he collaborates with others; he does not churn out his sought after pages on his own.

Apparently, some of those other authors were upset because Patterson's method didn't fit their vision of how a "real" author is supposed to work. I'll be right up front and say I agree with the rest of Jaxpop's comments, those basically being "and the problem is where?" As I thought about that, I was struck by how the idea of what an author's life is supposed to be has changed...or has it?

Based on the idea that some writers are upset with Patterson's model and some are not, there are clearly at least two visions of the "author life" alive and well in 2009. First, those who are upset still obviously hold to the romance of it all. They dream of writers gazing at nature as they wrote, or those that poured out the angst of life alone with their thoughts for hours on end. While the rest of the world labored on farms and in factories with barely more than an elementary level education, authors were held in high esteem because their higher learning and ability to mold language into works most people believed they could never achieve. To write a book was a unique accomplishment and uncrowded bookshelves were proof. Some authors made a living, others didn't but they wrote anyway for the love of the art.

Now fast forward 100+ years and author's life version 2. Most people graduate from high school and a large percentage of those go on to college and beyond. A huge part of the population now has the educational skills to write a book if they so choose. If they don't write a book, they can still write columns, essays, short stories, papers and reports. If they do go the book route and get one out, it will join the 200,000 or more that are now published each year. If they want to make a living, they need to be business people, marketers and writers, often all in the same day. They need to understand much more than how to weave words even if they're lucky enough to have an agent or publisher. Writing a book is still a respected accomplishment, but it's no where near as unique a feat as it once was. To actually make a stable living as an author now is to write, at least partially, for your publisher, for your market, for the money.

So where does put us as authors? Is one vision better, right, wrong? I truly hope not. This is just another example of how as authors we need to stick together and support each other's choices (as long as they aren't harming anyone). Want to be romantic and have deep literary discussions over tea? Go ahead. Want to crunch numbers, budget your time and sublet your muse? That's fine too. It has to be, otherwise no one has a dream.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


5 Keys to Effective Communication - A Must Read

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I enjoy sharing resources with you. Yesterday's post happened to fit in that category as well.

I've labeled today's link/resource a "must read" because it is such a succinct formula for how to reach an audience, teach them something and hopefully make it sink in: information, motivation, application, inspiration, reiteration. It comes to you courtesy of Michael Hyatt sharing the wisdom of Andy Stanley on his blog.

If you speak/give presentations as part of your marketing, you'll definitely find it useful. If you don't currently do that, it's also a great tool to help you get started without being overwhelming.

Even if you don't plan to give speeches any time soon, it's still a must read because it also applies to writing a book. No matter what kind of book you write, if you utilize this model (potentially for every chapter or section) you'll have greater clarity within the book as a whole, and/or within individual chapters. Even if you write fiction, you need to communicate effectively, especially again when it comes to promotion. In addition, if you plan to query agents or publishers you can use these points to help formulate your letters or proposal because each of those are about getting the facts across clearly succinctly too.

Can you see how you can apply these tips to your speeches or your books? Have you used them or some variation with success? If so, I hope you'll share.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett


Inside the Mind of a Writer

I'm sure you, like me, often wonder how other writers work. Especially the ones that are so prolific if you are not so. I recently came across this cool interview where James Patterson gives us a peak into his writing life.

One surprising revelation to me is that he doesn't write alone. The reasons he outlines make sense, I just never gave it a thought that that kind of author would collaborate. Take a look and see what you can apply to your own publishing aspirations.

Good Writing & God Bless,
Cheryl Pickett