Friday, July 27, 2012

Squirrel Syndrome

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

Or as one might call it "Ooo shiny object! Must go play!"

So here's the deal. The first middle grade book I wrote is off in search of cover art. I know that in the world of self-publishing (or even publishing in general), a key to success is having another book ready to go. So that's what I should be doing, BUT...

An idea for another romance is tugging at my mind and heart. That's where my writerly attention has been and I'm just getting into a good groove, laying down 1,500-2,000 words per day. BUT...

I just got feedback on the story I submitted to the Music City Romance Writers "Minuet of Love" contest last June (no, I didn't make the finals). And some of it is really good. Some I would have caught if I'd done (yet another) read through things I've learned and become aware of in the intervening time. So I want to go and fix it.

See where this is going?

I know I'm not the only writer who feels the distractions of the "shiny new object." But really, I know if I succumb to that feeling, I will never get anything done. And I have to get things done. I mean really now. I can't always rely on someone else's deadline to keep me on task.

So I make a resolution. I am going to finish the "crappy first draft" of my current work. Then I will write the "crappy first draft" of the next middle grade book. After that, we'll see what I do.

Why not make a "to do" list of six things? Well, life is unpredictable. Swim season is coming to a close, which means my kids will be around a lot more. And with school approaching, there's going to be shopping that needs to be done. With so much probably distraction, planning my next five things is most likely an exercise in futility. I learned as a project manager it is ususally a bad idea to have concrete plans more than a month or two in advance. Because stuff happens. Count on it.

So I have my goals. Finish this draft in the next two weeks (I'd say week, but I'm going on vacation next week and I know there will be lots of distractions there). Then finish the next draft and choose my next goal. This will work.

But -- ooo, shiny!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Updates on My Doings

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

So, it's been a busy week.

I received feedback on the ebook I sent out a couple weeks ago - the one I continue to call Young Adult fantasy because I think that's the most accurate genre (what else would you call a book targeted to the 8-10 age range about a girl who gets transported into a video game? Okay, maybe children's fantasay.). The publisher was very positive and is looking for cover art. Look for updates here soon.

I'm still slowly importing my novel into Scrivener scene by scene, which is giving me a great opportunity to examine the story in a new light. I just completed a "How to Make a Scene" workshop, so the work is very topical.

I've also had an unexpected non-fiction opportunity. On a whim I sent in my resume for a blogger position for The Motley Fool - and they accepted me! I put up my first post today. So if you've got an interest in investment/finance news, check it out. I will probably post weekly or bi-weekly, depending on if I've got a good blog post idea.

And I'm chugging away on a new romance story. By the way, did you see the news about how educated women read romance? I've discovered that it is an unexpected pleasure for me. Perhaps what was lacking all those years ago was an actual story and not just sex on the page.

Finally, I'm trying to work out this newsletter thing. If you read this blog, would you subscribe to a newsletter?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Being Exclusive

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

There's a lot of pressure these days for authors to be on social media. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, blogs - it can be overwhelming. A lot of people ask you to "like" their author pages, follow them, whatever. But I read something very interesting today (ironically via Twitter): 7 Neworking Tips for Authors.

I especially like #2 - Be Exclusive.

That's right - be exclusive on social media. Don't like everyone, don't follow everyone. Get with a few key people, the ones who can help you grow your career and your platform. As your circle expands, add a few more people. But be selective.

So I am. Starting right now. I'm paring back to what and who I think is really important. The people I've connected with, who know me, the ones in front of whom I don't have to pretend to be someone/something else and obsessively watch my p's and q's. That's not to say I'll be rude to people, but I don't have to dance around on eggshells, you know?

It feels - liberating.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Confusing the Wrapper with the Product

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

There was a peculiar confluence of events in my life today. First was the weekly Mysteristas chat, which I missed because I was working. But today's topic was "how do you find books," and the topic of being drawn to a cover came up.

Then, I saw this video on book design by Chip Kidd.

He says that he appreciates eBooks, but ends by holding up the book and saying, "To me, the story looks like this."

Now, is he talking about the cover art or the physical book? Maybe it's a combination of both. Some describe reading as a sensory experience. I agree, because a well-written book makes you see, smell, hear and feel the story.

But here's the thing: Never once was the primary sensation one of paper in my hand.

Before you get up in arms, let me tell you: I'm a book person. I've got three sets of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in my den, filled with books. I've got four more full bookshelves in my living room, and two giant plastic storage containers full of paperbacks in my basement. I love seeing a row of leather-bound tomes, feeling the imprints of the covers.

But that's not the story. That's the wrapping.
I'll draw an analogy to chocolate. I love good chocolate: the smell, the way it melts in my mouth, the silky taste. I might be drawn to a bar of chocolate in the store by a cute wrapper. I might even buy it. But the product is not the wrapper. It's the chocolate inside. I'd buy a box of Lindor truffles if they were in shiny blue wrappers or plain paper. Why? Because it's damn good chocolate.

For me, it's the same with books. I wouldn't buy a copy of Moby Dick if it had the most beautiful cover in the world - because I don't like the story and no cover is going to convince me that it's a great book. But I'd buy a copy of Pride and Prejudice if it were wrapped in brown paper.

And yes, I'll admit it - if looking for a book I might pick up a book because of the cover. But I don't need the physical book. Authors tweet and share their cover art all the time. I bought a book because the author tweeted the cover art. I liked the art, so I learned more about the book and bought it.

There are challenges to cover art in a digital age, no doubt. The covers need to shrink to that small thumbnail picture. But it can be done. Digital is a way to reinvent the purpose of a cover, to define how a cover works for the author and reader in a digital age.

But don't ever confuse a beautiful cover with a beautiful story. There's a saying in technical writing that "content is king." You have to have good content first to have good documentation.

Fiction is no different. The story is king. The cover is just the guy with the big stick who introduces you to the room.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Your eReader is Watching You - Is That Bad?

by Mary Sutton / @mary_sutton73

I've been seeing some tweets about how e-Readers are "reading" us and how that is another sign that they are evil. The logic, as it goes, is this. An e-Reader can tell what you buy. It can tell what you buy next, and whether you purchase the next book in a series. It can tell if you stop reading after two chapters and delete it. And this all informs the publishing industry so that the only successful books will ever be published, therefore forcing authors to only write in popular genres.

Um, yeah.

What people don't seem to realize is that everybody is collecting data on you and every retailer in the world uses that data for marketing.

Do you have a grocery rewards card? Every time you swipe it, data on what you bought is sent to the retailer. Those coupons that are generated at check-out are based on things you've purchased (I'm still trying to recover from my brief love affair with Lean Cuisine).

Have a Barnes & Noble membership card? Yep, they use that to track your purchases. Amazon has your purchase history back to the first thing you ever bought with them. And when you view a product, or put it in your shopping cart, Amazon uses that to recommend other products - "people who bought X also bought Y."

And who can forget that infamous story of how Target knew a girl was pregnant, based on her buying history, before her parents even knew?

It's a digital age folks. Unless you want to become a hermit, never purchase anything from a major retailer, never use a rewards card, and never use a credit card - heck, never mind this whole Internet thing - you're activities are being tracked. That data is being used to market to you. It's being used to let stores know what products to stock and let manufacturers know what products should continue to be made.

The sooner we make our peace with that fact the better.