Faith Can Move Mountains... But Dynamite Works Better

Friday, September 28, 2012

From Marketing Chimps To Creative Freedom

It's a busy day in these parts. Today you can find me guest posting at Lyn Fuchs' blog Sacred Ground, where I wrote about the Gatineau Hills here in the Ottawa Valley. As well, my dear friend, partner in crime, and fellow mischief maker Norma Beishir and I are trading blogs. You can find my guest post at one of her three blogs, Beishir Books.  Norma is the author of Alexander's Empire, Chasing The Wind, Angels At Midnight, The Unicorn's Daughter, and more, both in the traditional publishing industry and now as an independent. She's taking the reins here to talk about her experiences in the industry, her transition to indie writer, and the sort of material she wants to write these days. Norma is known for her fondness for Dove chocolate (it seems that she'll take bribes in that) and for the odd movie superheroes (it must be Chris Hemsworth without a shirt)...

Take it away, Norma!

I've been singing the praises of self-publishing for so long, people are probably wishing I'd learn a new song. But I am a wholehearted advocate of authors taking full control of their careers. These days, conventional publishing has little to offer authors who aren't occupying the top spots on their lists. Rarely do they get advances anymore. Or anything resembling promotion. The new or midlist author is left to do their own marketing, publicity and promotion, while getting far less in royalties than their self-published counterparts.

What does the new or midlist author get from conventional publishing? Prestige, to a degree. I'd rather have creative control!

I was a lead title author at Berkley. I got five and six-figure advances. I got advertising in major publications like Redbook and Good Housekeeping...but the Berkley marketing chimps didn't really know what to do with me or my books. Why? My novels don't tend to fit into specific genres. Berkley marketed them as women's fiction. To be honest, I've never really been clear on what "women's fiction" is. Is it romance? Glitz? Chick lit? All of the above?

Marketing chimps have limited vision. Just ask William. Give them a genre-specific project and they'll run with it. But my novels are hybrids. For example: Alexander's Empire (which they published as Dance of the Gods) was a romance...and a mystery...and a family saga. Angels at Midnight--romantic suspense/glitz/adventure; The Unicorn's Daughter (originally published as A Time for Legends)--international intrigue/espionage/thriller/romance.

The marketing chimps were clueless.

Then there were the projects I really wanted to do, the ones Berkley rejected: a romantic adventure set in Kenya...a disaster tale involving seismologists in Asia...projects Berkley rejected because they weren't "glamorous."

Long, ugly story short: with Chasing the Wind, I eventually realized things had not changed. They still didn't know what to do with my books. It's a supernatural thriller. It's also a love story. The male protagonist is a modern prophet...yet the first thing I was told to do was to drop that element from the story. That would have meant a whole new plot. No way!

I finally realized I didn't belong in the world of conventional publishing. It wasn't an easy reality to face. Pride is the deadly sin I have the most trouble with, and I knew how that was going to look to the people I'd known coming up in the business. But then, pride had never gained me anything. It had only cost me in the end.

Now...I wouldn't go back for any amount of money. I write in any genre I choose. I'm re-releasing my backlist with new packaging and in some cases, different titles. I'm marketing them under the genres they best fit.  I'm crossing over characters--those I wrote about twenty years ago are connecting with characters from Chasing the Wind. Secondary characters from An Army of Angels have found their way into a planned series of romantic comedies. And the projects that were rejected for their lack of glamour may yet see the light of day. The marketing chimps would never have allowed me such creative freedom.

Think about that when choosing which publishing route you want to take.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Day In The Life Of A Cat

"If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you cannot learn any other way." ~ Mark Twain

"Cats were put into the world to disprove the dogma that all things were created to serve man." ~ Paul Gray

"A catless writer is almost inconceivable. It's a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys." ~ Barbara Holland

7:10 AM. Awake, unexpectedly. Hearing the sound of distant machinery. This will not do. This will not do at all. I demand my sleep not be disturbed until I'm ready to wake up.

7:12 AM. Have determined source of sound. Spotting machinery out on road. Apparently those lowly humans are engaged in resurfacing the road with those big loud noisy things.

They had better not be doing this all day. Or I will have words with them.

7:15 AM. Sleep is impossible, now that the noise patrol is going on outside. Honestly, what kind of hour is this for anyone to be out and about? Well, if I have to be awake, my staff had better wake up. If she isn't already...

7:17 AM. Have found staff in bed, refusing to stir. Staff has pillow curled around her head, as if to block out the noise outside. Understandable, staff, but I require nourishment. Right now.

7:18 AM. Pouncing up on bed. Walking back and forth on top of staff. Wake up, staff. See to my needs, post haste. Then go have a word with that work crew outside. They rudely interrupted my sleep. And yes, I know I'm being two faced by saying they're rude and then waking you up. There is a difference. I'm a cat, and you work for me. Therefore I have every right to wake you up whenever I please.

7:20 AM. Staff grumbles and growls. Oh please. We cats have perfected the arts of grumbling and growling.

7:21 AM. Staff finally sits up, mutters something about wishing it was Saturday. Staff, you have ten minutes to come downstairs and feed me. And it had better not be any of those field rations. You and I both know I don't like field rations.

7:29 AM. Back downstairs waiting in kitchen. Hearing staff upstairs. Time's running out. I was far more generous than I could have been, giving her ten minutes to get downstairs, and nary a trace of her...

7:32 AM. Staff finally emerges into kitchen to feed me. The fact that she's reaching for the field rations does not leave me hopeful. Staff, I thought we had an understanding.

7:34 AM. Staff places bowl of field rations down on floor near me. Glare at her with disdain. Staff, this is going on your performance evaluations, you realize?

7:36 AM. Reluctantly beginning to eat field rations. Far too dry and lacking in taste. I would vastly prefer high grade salmon and caviar.

7:55 AM. Staff on her way out the door. Bids me goodbye for the day. Staff? Wait, what about my right to go in and out as I please all day long? Staff?

Staff has closed the door behind her. I'm stuck.

This is definitely going on her performance evaluations...

7:56 AM. Watching staff pull out of driveway in car. Work crew still out on road making noise. Wondering if I can call the county to complain about the noise.

8:25 AM. Work crew slowly grading road. Instead of gravel, you morons could just pave the road. Wondering if that would make more noise or less. Pacing back and forth on windowsill, wondering when they'll get finished.

8:45 AM. That's enough. Time to call the county and have them shut this operation down. It's going to cut into my nap time.

8:46 AM. Have called county officials to file formal complaints. Stymied by their inability to understand cat. Will not lower myself to speak English.

9:35 AM. Work crew sounds are more distant. Down the road now. Hopefully they won't come back, but that noise thoroughly disrupts my daily routine of naps, naps, and more naps. Must write a letter to the editor.

10:45 AM. Finally the machines are distant enough not to annoy me. Time for naps. It would be ideal if I could be napping whereever would be most inconvenient for the staff, but she's off at that place she calls work.

12:45 PM. Waking up from nap. Needed the rest. Time to stroll about. Perhaps force myself to eat some more of those field rations. Not much of a choice, really. A cat has to eat....

12:57 PM. Finished eating field rations. Even less impressive after a few hours in the bowl than they were this morning. Staff, you and I will have to have a long talk about the quality of my meals, or I will just have to find myself a new staff member.

1:15 PM. Wandering through house. Have stopped by scratching post. Must attack scratching post. Can't help myself. It's in my nature.

1:30 PM. Have finished assaulting scratching post. Still lingering scent of catnip on it. Ah, catnip. There is surely nothing in the world more exquisite. Or more addicting.

1:35 PM. Attacking the scratching post has made me a little sleepy. Nap time.

2:55 PM. Waking up again. Oh, come on, staff, where are you?

3:10 PM. Wandering house. Have found ball of string in upstairs guest room.

Can't resist it... it's calling out to me. I must have it.

3:11 PM. Have given in to urge to attack the ball of string.

4:05 PM. Finally finished unspooling ball of string in epic run around the house. Feeling sleepy. Might take a nap.

5:10 PM. Waking up again. Puzzled by presence of string all over the place.

Oh, right.

I did that.

5:15 PM. Following string along. How did I manage to get it between all of the staircase pillars like that?

5:20 PM. Confused by how the string is now wrapped around the piano. I must have been moving fast. These things happen... I get so obsessed with the string that I don't watch what I'm doing...

5:30 PM. Okay, let me see if I've got this straight... I got the string fed through the telephone casing? How is that possible? Did I violate basic laws of physics?

5:35 PM. I'm starting to think the staff won't be impressed by what I did to the ball of string. It's everywhere.

5:48 PM. Practise patented innocent look. The one that says, That was like that when I woke up. Don't ask me who did this...

5:55 PM. On the other hand, the argument could be made that it's the fault of the staff. She left a ball of string out in the open, knowing what I might do. Yes, it's her fault.

6:05 PM. Hearing the sound of a car door outside. Scrambling up onto windowsill. Ah, there's the staff. Coming up the walk to the front door.

Let's see, Patented Innocent look, or Blame It On Her? Which should I use?

6:06 PM. Staff opens front door and sees first of the string wound around the doorknob and into the living room. I casually saunter into the hall.

Oh, come on, you're the one who left the string upstairs, and me all by my lonesome for hours on end....

6:07 PM. Staff mutters about wondering why she didn't just get a dog. Staff, we've been through this before. Dogs are silly and foolish creatures. You require a cat. I keep you in your rightful place. Namely under my paw.

6:08 PM. Staff begins long process of dealing with string I've run all over the house. Yes, well, if you left the door open so I could go in and out at my leisure as I please all day, we wouldn't have this problem, would we?

I'd have wound the string around the picnic table and the barbecue.  

7:15 PM. Staff finally finished dealing with the string. She looks at me with a shake of the head and a roll of her eyes. I respond by rubbing my head against her legs and purring.

She melts. Works every single time.

7:25 PM. Staff begins preparing dinner. Staff, I'm assuming better cuisine is in store for me tonight?

7:30 PM. Staff puts down standard field rations and the generic canned meat. Staff, this is not what I meant by better cuisine.

7:45 PM. Have reluctantly finished off evening meal. Will watch staff closely as she prepares her own meal. I smell something distinctly of chicken origins. With those seasonings she uses.

8:10 PM. Staff has finished making her meal. Must sit nearby in kitchen and stare. And then stare some more.

8:15 PM. Staff relents and sets out an additional plate, then puts meat on it, and puts it down on the floor. Taking a sniff. Chicken Parmigiana. Now this is more like it!

8:20 PM. Happily satisfied by extra meal of delicious chicken parmigiana. Staff, this will reflect very well in your performance evaluations.

8:35 PM. Staff finishing up with dishes. Heading into living room. Time to watch a bit of television.

8:40 PM. Political debates. No thank you. They don't talk about what's truly important in the world.

The price of catnip.

8:45 PM. No, not a reality show. No one cares about a sleazy bachelor anyway. Where are the shows that feature attacks on squirrels by cats? That would be Must See TV.

8:50 PM. Staff comes in and takes the remote without asking. Staff, that's not nice.

Staff settles in for a Matthew McConaughey movie. Oh, come on, staff. We've discussed this before. The man looks like he's been hit by too many baseballs. That goofy grin of his is the sort of thing you'd see on a dog.

9:10 PM. Staff persists in watching Matthew McConaughey flirt with hapless Kate Hudson. Why do they make so many movies together? Isn't that cruel and unusual punishment? Where's a Siberian Tiger wandering into the middle of the story for no reason when you really need one?

9:20 PM. Oh, well, at least this movie doesn't feature the Aniston Demon. I have no idea why that woman is famous... I really don't.

9:45 PM. Of course. The misunderstanding between Matthew and Kate that will inevitably lead them to a happy ending regardless. It happens in all of these movies. Makes you want to smack the screenwriter.

I still say he grins like a dog.

And that's not a compliment.

10:15 PM. Credits rolling. Staff bawling. She always gets this way watching those movies. Come on, staff, these films don't rate as tearjerkers.

Humans. Can't figure them out. Never will....

10:20 PM. Staff shuts off television for the night. Staff remarks that she loves those films. Staff, we're going to have to get you a better quality of film to watch. Try The Ghost And The Darkness. I always root for the lions, even though I know the end of the movie.

10:45 PM. Staff gives me a late evening bowl of milk. Very good, staff, there's hope for you yet.

10:55 PM. Staff picks me up for cuddles. Will put up with it. I figure I should let her, what with the whole ball of string all over the house thing I did today....

11:35 PM. Staff brings me up to bed for the night. I purr away. For some reason cuddles do that to me.

Don't tell anyone I said that. I have a reputation to maintain.