Last year I set up an Indiegogo campaign to help launch The Purple Door District. Thanks to all of the amazing donations, I was able to print 100 books for publication and use the rest of the money to take care of some marketing elements.Read More
In this crazy world called life, it's often hard to find time to sit down and write. Between work, families, extra-curricular activities, shopping, adulting, etc, when are we supposed to work on our books? Many people say they have stories in their head but no time to put them on paper. I can sympathize, really. I'm usually running around from 8am-8 or 9 pm depending on the day, which leaves only a couple hours to get things done.
So what do you do? How do you steal some time from your busy schedule so you can create your masterpiece?
Meeting: Set aside a half hour or hour on certain nights and treat it like you would a work meeting or an appointment. If friends, or work, try to schedule things at that time, calmly explain you have a meeting that you can't miss. The more you do it, the more comfortable you'll be at adapting to the new schedule. It could be once a week or several times a week. Either way, it gives you time when you know you can work.
Spurts or Sprints: I learned this little trick during NaNoWriMo. You set 10-15 minutes aside, turn off all distractions, and write whatever comes to your mind. Don't worry about editing or going back to research, just write. Friends of mine and I will hold sprints to see who can write the most in that time frame. It's a fun little challenge, and it forces you to get text on paper. Likewise, if you find yourself with 10 minutes to spare, use that time to type on your phone or computer, or write in a journal that you bring along. Even if you don't get a lot out, it may get your mind moving so you'll be ready to work on your book that night.
Record: How many hours do we spend in the car traveling from place to place? How many times have you been in the shower and gotten a great idea but couldn't write it down? Record yourself. I've been on road trips and clicked 'record' on my phone and rattled off scenes and story ideas. Even if they're not directly on paper at that moment, at least I got the idea out of my head and didn't lose it. There are also speech-to-text programs like Dragon Speech that will record you and type what you say. It takes some getting used to, but it works great if you're doing dishes or some other task and want to still get the words out.
Change Sleep Time: Now, I wouldn't recommend this if you have insomnia or sleep trouble, but, if you can safely wake up a half hour early or go to bed a half hour later, you can use that extra time to get work done. One of my friends gets all of her writing done between like 5 and 6 am when she's not being disturbed by anyone. Can you do that too?
Lunch Hour: If you get a lunch break at work, that might be a great time to work on writing. Right now, I'm munching on a sandwich and writing this blog entry because I was too tired to write it last night. I still get a break from work, but I'm also being productive with my own craft. But, if you fear you'll get burnt out, make sure you still take that break.
Competitions/Deadlines: Maybe you want to try to push yourself to write because there's an anthology deadline out there, or a writing contest. I might not write for three months because I know that in November, I'm going to spend 30 days writing for National Novel Writing Month. I pour out 50,000 words, taking more time for my craft that month than usual, because I know it's only going to last a month. If you set goals for yourself, it might encourage you to find time during a busy schedule.
Whatever you decide to do to get writing time in, remember a couple of things:
You don't have to write everyday.
Take care of yourself. If you're burning yourself out writing, you're not going to enjoy it as much.
Make sure you're still getting downtime for yourself.
Do you have ways that you fit in writing? Share them below!
"You're a writer? When are you going to get a real job?"
Far too many writers have heard these scathing questions. Sometimes you can laugh it off and go back to working on your novel or script. Sometimes it comes during a moment of hardship when debt is surmounting, and you're wondering to yourself if you can actually pull off publishing another book. And while, yes, for some folks writing is a hobby that they do in their free time for fun, it's also a job for all those other people trying to get paid for their craft.
I don't think most people understand the amount of work that goes into creating a book and marketing it to the public, but we'll talk about that in a little bit. First, I'd like to bring up an article on Writer's Digest called Is It a Hobby or a Job? by author Brian Klems. In it he discusses how writing is definitely work, but it's not classified as a job until you make money off of it. He also goes on to say that the amount of work that goes into it writing can't just be classified as a hobby either. I'm sure a lot of you are nodding about the latter point.
In this day and age, it's hard to make a living as a writer because of the low pay, but that doesn't make it any less of a job. It just means I have to work that much harder to keep my literary career alive, oh, and also work the other 40-hour job I do during the week at the same time to cover the rest of the cost. Most writers have to still work a 40-hour job, or part time, to make ends meet. Some take the plunge and quit their daytime work to write full time, and I applaud them for taking the initiative.
Unfortunately, that usually elicits the image of someone writing for a couple hours, binge watching Netflix the rest of the day, then complaining they have no money.
Let me kind of give you a view of what it's like to live as a published indie author, and then tell me if you think that writing is still just a hobby. Keep in mind, I've only been doing this for a year, so imagine what an author juggling several books goes through everyday.
I work from 8:30-5pm Monday-Friday (and some weekends for overtime).
I volunteer in the evening for literary organizations.
Starting around 8 or 9 pm until I go to bed, on weekends, or on my "day off," I do at least one of these things:
Research information for my book.
World build or develop elements for my book
Write or edit my novel.
Discuss with my editors and proofreaders what needs to be changed and apply those edits.
Talk with my sensitivity readers about changes that need to be made.
Design banners, contests, graphics to post in all these locations about my book.
Reach out to bloggers to review my book or do a blog train.
Update my website with new author information and author interviews.
Build connections with fellow writers, editors, marketers, etc.
Set up signing events.
Attend signing events in different cities and states.
Post chapters on Patreon to help pay for my website.
Commission art of characters for stickers/swag.
Commission cover art.
Create other swag (bookmarks, necklaces, etc)
Run an Indiegogo campaign to help cover costs.
Participate in online "takeover" events.
Query my books.
Participate in online book contests to either 1. get an award for my book. 2. find an agent/publisher for my other books.
Format my book through Scrivener and Adobe Acrobat.
Set up and publish my book through Ingramspark then order copies.
Contact libraries and bookstores to carry my book.
Set up ISBNs, sales tax permit, BIN.
Check inventory and order more supplies on books and all marketing materials.
Prepare a book launch with local venues.
Attend writing conventions to make connections and learn the latest marketing techniques.
Participate in author summits both as a listener as an author.
...and the list goes on.
Being an author is a multi-faceted job, and most of the time you have to do everything yourself. Even if you're a traditionally published author, publishing houses are doing less to market the book and encouraging authors to do more of the work. Many of my author friends spend days at conventions and marketing to sell their books and pay for the table, gas, hotel, meals, and other bills.
But you may ask, "Erin, you charge $15 for your paper book. How do you not make money off of it?"
Because by the time you factor in the editing, proofreading, printing, marketing, and sales tax permit, I don't see much profit. Every dollar helps and puts me closer to making a better income off of writing. But I have to market to make that happen. I've heard it takes until book 2 or 3 to actually see a return in money, which is why initially it may look like authors are so broke, even if they receive advances from publishing companies.
That doesn't mean writing isn't a job.
Honestly, for me, it would be my dream job to write full time and survive off of my books. While that might be a long time in coming, I'll do what I can to keep working towards it. In the meantime, I hope this gives people a better understanding of how much work goes into being an author and that it's more of a job than most realize.
Whether you're a poet, short story writer, a novelist, etc, I'm sure most of you have submitted your work to a writing contest at some point in your life. Contests can come in many shapes and forms. They might be for large anthologies to help you get your name out there. Some may pay royalties to their authors. Others have big cash prizes. And some pay nothing, but at least you get the bragging rights. The things I hear most writers say is that they don't know where to submit their work or where to start looking, or how to prepare their piece.
First off, here are few of the common places I visit to find writing contests/opportunities:
Submittable: This is a submission engine as well as a place where sites compile contests that are available. More and more sites are using submittable as a way for authors to send in their work. Once you enter your information once, it's usually there for you to use again. What's great is you can track what pieces you've sent in, where they are in the process, and which pieces have been accepted or rejected. There's a messaging system too so you can contact the contest site if you have questions. Once you sign up and indicate your genre interests, it you can also look up available contests through the system.
Poets & Writers: This site is great because not only does it provide helpful writing tips, it also frequently updates contests or submission opportunities. You can filter it depending on entry fee, genre, deadline, etc. So if you're only interested in poetry, you can just select the poetry category. Or if you don't want to pay for an entry, you can filter out all of the contests that cost money.
Writer's Digest: Writer's Digest hosts a lot of writing contests each year. They also list other contests/events that are going around, so keep checking in for the newest and greatest stuff. Like Poets & Writers, Writer's Digest provides helpful literary tips as you're prepping to submit your material.
Jerry Jenkins: Jerry Jenkins lists contests that are going on throughout the year and it gets updated every year. What I like the most about it is that it'll provide a link directly to the contest so you don't have to go looking for it.
The Write Life: I like this website a lot. They provide 31 free writing contests that have cash prizes. So if you're looking to make some money for your writing, this may be the route to go.
These are just a few sites to get you started. If you're looking for a particular genre, you might have to dig a little deeper into the internet to find the right contest for you.
As you prep your piece for submission, there are a few things to keep in mind.
Read the Guidelines: Whatever contest you enter, it is vital you read their guidelines. They might have very particular ways that they want you to submit your piece (font, size, single vs double-spaced, etc). If you don't do as they request, they may disqualify you without even reading your piece. Get it in on time, and if any of the directions are confusing, be sure to e-mail them and ask for clarification.
Stay on Topic: If you enter a contest that has a particular theme, make sure you're submitting a piece that works. If the theme is "Aliens in Space," don't give them a contemporary romance or paranormal entry. Stay as close to the topic as possible.
Word Count: When contests give max and min word counts, you need to stick to them. Even if your entry is 5001 words and the max is 5000, that one word can still get you disqualified. Again, stick to the guidelines.
Review Other Published Pieces: Some sites will have previous anthologies available for your to peruse. If you have the opportunity, read through some of their pieces to see if your work seems to fit in. If the magazine/anthology is completely different from your realm of work, you might consider submitting somewhere else.
Make Sure the Contest is Legitimate: There are many contests out there that will gladly take an author's money and not do anything with the contest or will scam the writer. Make sure they've published other pieces before, they have a history, and the information on their site is spelled correctly. I know that last one might sound odd, but a lot of scam sites will have misspellings, which would seem odd if they're running a writing contest.
Don't Harass the Judges: When you submit a piece, don't e-mail the judges or the site owners repeatedly to find out the status of your piece (unless it's to notify them that your work was published somewhere else). The more you pester, the more likely it is your piece will be dropped. It takes time to review the work, choose the right pieces, and prep them for publication on paper or on site. Be patient. Generally "no news" is good news because it means you haven't been rejected yet.
I hope this helps you as you look for places to submit your work. If you have other tips or sites people should check out, feel free to post them below!
On Saturday, July 20th, I entered a world of dragons and magic. Between hunting for dragon eggs, dining on Indian cuisine, and watching a young warrior find a dragon, I felt transported to another realm.
Author S.P. Jayaraj hosted a phenomenal launch party for his book The Secret of the Zipacna Dragons. He held the launch at Groundswell in Cedar Rapids, IA, a cafe that follows the mission of providing a place where everyone has access to fresh, healthy food, regardless of their ability to pay. From the first moment you walked through the door, you were greeted with origami dragons, riddles, prizes, and the smell of butter chicken.
Three wooden walls positioned in a triangle in the center of the room bore riddles created by S.P. Each was a clue to finding one of the hand-made dragon eggs hidden throughout the room. Egg finders not only got to keep the eggs, they also received additional prizes.
The room exploded with people rushing around (both inside and out) trying to decipher the clues and be the first to find the eggs. It didn't matter if you were an adult or a child, everyone got in on the action, myself included. And while I didn't find one of the eggs, it was so much fun teaming up with people to try to figure out the riddles. You'd think all my time reading Redwall riddles would have prepared me!
Some eggs were hidden in tables or high above us in the crevice of a wall. And one special egg teased us in the branches of a tree just outside of the building. When it was down to the last egg which challenged the hunters to find the "Winter Elf," we were given one last clue. "She's in this room." I think every woman was approached and asked, "Are you the winter Elf?"
In the end, all of the eggs were recovered by these smiling faces.
Now, you would expect there to be a reading at a book launch. What I didn't expect was there to be two readers, a play, and scenery as well! Author Mindy Mejia, keeping to the theme, read from her book The Dragon Keeper. Behind her, a canvas wall painted to look like a story helped us get lost in her world.
And then it was S.P.'s turn to read an excerpt from his book, only, he did it in script style. Local actors picked up wooden weapons and battled in front of a castle scene then escaped into the woods where the main character, Gradni, was confronted by a roaring dragon. I think about half of the people in the room jumped when the actress unleashed her mighty cry.
It was delightful to watch the story come to life through the play. It definitely made me want to watch/read more.
You can check out the entire readings and play here.
As if writing a book, making dragon eggs, and putting on a play and party weren't enough, S.P. also cooked authentic Indian cuisine for everyone. We feasted on a mix of Dhal (yellow lentils), rice (basmati), potato curry, butter chicken, and Indian ice cream, and they were absolutely delicious! People went up multiple times to get additional servings and chatted with others, both familiar and new. There was such a great sense of camaraderie, and how can there not be when you're sharing the love of books?
Overall, it was a fantastic night, and not even the storm outside attempting to break through the blistering heat put a dampener on the evening. It certainly gave me ideas for future launches, and made me excited for whatever S.P. Jayaraj has in store for his next book.
So if you're looking for an epic fantasy to read all about elves, dragons, and more, check out The Secret of the Zipacna Dragons.
About The Secret of the Zipacna Dragons
The young Gradni has always known that dragons were evil, a belief widely held by the four people of Adijari - his own elves who can summon the energy in the atmosphere, the devs who are empowered by light, the amesha who have a kinship with the earth, and the qui-lahk who share a bond with animals. When his father dies fighting the dragons of Zipacna, Gradni’s only goal is to follow in his footsteps and help destroy the dragons once and for all. But after being recruited by the manipulative Mogurn, Gradni must compete against Erdun, an amesha who has been imbued with the power of the Fire Spirit Ta’ar, and trained by the dev cult that has already eradicated one of the eight dragon species. In addition to being a pawn in a political game of conquest, Gradni starts to doubt if the dragons really are the villains he always thought they were. Alone and without guidance he wonders which side deserves his loyalty, his own people who are offering him everything he thought he wanted, or the misunderstood dragons whom he has hated his entire life.
Photography: All photography and video was done by Wayne Anderson at email@example.com.