Category Archives: Fear

Use the Muse to Write Your Business Plan

Are you overwhelmed with the “business” aspect of writing? Do you even have a business plan? I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what I was getting into when I began this journey seven or eight years ago. What I’ve learned since then should have equated to at least a Masters Degree in something! Yet, writing a business plan has remained on my to-do list for years. Why? Because every business plan model I’ve ever seen is filled with language I don’t understand or information that appears to have no bearing on the business of writing. Until NOW!

PJ Sharon here, visiting today with Amy Denim, who writes business books for writers and pens contemporary romances in her spare time. She loves hot heroes (like chefs and cowboys) and curvy intelligent heroines (like chefs and cowgirls.) She’s been a franchise sales coordinator, a lifeguard, a personal shopper, and a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. But now she spends her days reading and writing at her local library or in her book cave.

Amy started out her writer’s life scared out of her wits because she didn’t have a business plan, hadn’t yet created an online platform, wasn’t on twitter, didn’t have a Facebook fan page, and had never even heard of Goodreads. Sound familiar? She just wrote books. So

AmyDenim-for-webshe spent a year becoming a publishing industry information fiend and now does consulting for creatives on how to take control of their writing careers. She started Coffee Break Social Media to help writers and artists learn to use SM (social media) platforms effectively (without the scare tactics) but still have time to create. She believes business plans and social media can be every writer’s friend, sometimes they just need an introduction.

Welcome to the Scribes Amy! I’ve been reading your book, THE COFFEE BREAK BUSINESS PLAN, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I can’t wait to get started on creating one for myself! Can you share with our readers how you’ve found a way to use your muse, activate both sides of your brain, and give us a peak into what they can expect in your book?

I’d be happy to, PJ. Thanks for having me today. I would like to start by asking the question, have you thought about putting together a business plan? “But, oh,” you say. “It’s such a long and complicated process.” Ugh. Why bother, when you could spend your valuable time writing.

But, wait, what’s this? A guide to help authors write a business plan on coffee breaks?

Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans copy

Okay, so I find when things get boring and staid that some humor and creativity makes it all so much more fun. And let’s admit that a traditional business plan is anything but fun. But having one can be an important part of taking control of your writing career.

Never fear, we’ll start with your creative side.

The first part of writing a business is often to put together a mission statement. Doesn’t that sound super, umm, boring? Yeah, I thought so too.

So I transformed this dull, no fun task into something I could relate to. I understand the muse. Well…when she’ll talk to me. Best way to get her feeling chatty is to strait up ask her for help. I asked her to help me write something to keep me inspired about my writing career.

Here’s what she told me.

Write one or two sentences that sum up you and your goals for a successful writing career. Think of this as your mantra, or the logline for your writing career. Your books have loglines, why shouldn’t you?

Whenever you’re stuck, feeling down about writing or getting published, or need a jump start to your day, get this sentence back out and see if it doesn’t get your imagination running again.

Try to give your muse value. That can mean financial value, but can also be personal values — like family or life philosophies. If being able to support your family financially is an important value to you, include that. If you need to write just to stay sane, include that. If it’s important that your friends and family are proud of you, say that. These are your core beliefs as they relate to your writing career. Include them in your muse statement so that it is valuable to you.

The name of the muse game is inspiration. If you think it, you believe it. If you believe it, you are it. If you use the present simple tense, i.e. I am instead of I want, I will be, or I can, then you’re one step closer to believing you are the writer of your dreams. Another part of inspiration is to use those big dream goals. If you want to be a best-selling author, include that in your muse statement. Whatever your true aspirations are, use them here.

Okay, put your thinking cap/top hat/beanie with the helicopter rotor /tiara on. It’s time to think about what you really want from your writing career.

Here’s an example:

I am a financially successful author who shares award-winning stories of love and adventure with readers around the world.

Be even more specific, and make your goals attainable and measurable. Now try your hand at writing your own. Your muse statement can go through lots of drafts and incarnations. If you add a new dimension to your business plan, you might need to update your statement.

You can have more than one mission statement, too. If you find creating a mission statement motivational, consider creating them for different parts of your life and career. You can have one for your writing career, your marketing efforts, your financial goals, your family life, spiritual life, your health, or anything else that is important to you.

The following questions are to get you started thinking about your goals, but don’t go crazy and spend hours making lists and/or daydreaming about your success as a writer.

I call this the Coffee Break Business Plan. This is all about basic goals, which you can expand on to create a full-blown business plan, so spend only a few minutes thinking about each of these questions. Write a couple of sentences to answer them, or make yourself a nice bullet-point list. If you’d like a template to print out to help you with this exercise, you can download one at www.coffeebreaksocialmedia.com/Books/Resources.

 Grab a cup of coffee and a pen

Write down the answers to these questions.

  • How many books do you plan to write? In what genre?
  • What’s your projected word count?
  • When will you finish each project? Or, how much time will you need to complete each project? (Don’t forget to build in time for critiques, beta readers, editing, and all those other activities… besides actually writing the book.)
  • How will you publish these books? Traditionally, self-published, a hybrid approach?
  • If you’re self-publishing, what services will you need and how much will you spend on those?
  • Who is your competition? Who else writes books like yours?
  • How will you sell and market your books?
  • How much money will it cost you to publish and market? What services might you pay for to help you do that?
  • How much money do you plan to make, and when will you see that revenue?
  • When do you plan to achieve these goals?

There you go. You just created a basic business plan. For real. Laminate that sucker and put it up big and pretty in front of your computer. Every time you sit down to write, take a look and focus on writing to achieve those goals. If the IRS comes knocking, you can wave it in their faces.

If you’d like help expanding your business plan, I can help with that too. Leave a comment on the blog today, ask questions about business plans, mission statements, or anything else you’d like, and one lucky commenter will win a copy my new book The Coffee Break Guide to Business Plans for Authors: The Step-By-Step Guide to Taking Control of Your Writing Career. But, if you can’t wait to win it, it’s available now on Amazon.

Thanks, Amy! And here’s my review of this little gem:

Amy Denim takes the mystery and fear out of writing a business plan.

As a writer, my right creative brain is clearly dominant, making things like business plans and marketing strategies sound like foreign languages. Amy Denim’s step-by-step guide, which focuses on business plans specifically for writers, is set up to be done in small increments…literally on a coffee break. She makes the process simple and totally do-able. Her clear, concise, and entertaining style makes this a must-read for anyone considering writing as a business. Highly recommend!

Irrational Fears

Hi, Scribelings. Suze here, talking about irrational fears.

We’ve all got them. Things we’re afraid of even though the chances of them happening are remote, maybe even impossible. Today, I will share with you some of mine.

th[7]Vampires. Yes, I am afraid of vampires. I’m pretty sure I know where this fear originated. I saw the movie Dracula starring Frank Langella about eight times at our little village movie theater l when I was a teenager. I blew a lot of babysitting money to see the first hot movie vampire over and over. He was no old, creepy, cartoony Bela Lugosi or weird, scary Christopher Lee. Langella was dark and sexy and irresistible to my young self. My bedroom had a tall window, and my bed was right next to it. Seriously, Dracula could have flapped up to that window and come in any old time he pleased.

Unless it’s insanely hot, I still sleep with the covers pulled up around my neck.

th[4]Rats, Mice and Other Vermin. This also stems from a traumatic childhood movie experience. I saw the movie Willard on television (not sure why my mother allowed this!). I still shudder every time I think about it. Rats swarming everywhere, gnawing and chewing, their obscene naked tails undulating as they kill Willard at the end. Oops, that was a spoiler. Well, if you haven’t seen it, don’t make plans to watch it, or the sequel, Ben. Save yourself.

Now, as an adult, I don’t like vermin for other reasons, such as sanitation issues and, oh yes, that little thing called the Bubonic Plague. I have never allowed my son to keep a pet mouse or hamster. (Don’t feel too bad for him–he’s got a cat and fish and kept a hermit crab alive for 6 years) I don’t care how cute and furry and soft those pet vermin are. If they got loose in the house, I might have to move out. Although the cat is a pretty good mouser…

Feral Pigs. But Suze, you say. Those things only live down south in Texas and Arkansas, far away from your New England home. Well that’s true now, but according to a documentary I saw, they’re moving north. Pigs are such prolific breeders that it’s almost impossible to keep their population under control in the wild, and they’re expanding their territory. Have you seen the tusks on those vicious things? Their nasty brown hair? Their evil, beady eyes? Watch this but only if you dare. Remember Jody the Pig in Amityville Horror? I rest my case.

150px-Communion_book_cover[1]Alien Abduction. I’ll admit I’m not as afraid of this as I once was, now that I’m physically incapable of gestating an alien baby. And I no longer think that every weird mark on my body is the site of either an implanted tracking device or the extraction of a tissue sample. As a kid I read a lot of UFO material, including the famous Betty and Barney Hill case and the Whitley Streiber accounts, and I still can’t resist the documentaries. Add to that the fact that my junior high social studies teacher claimed that he had been buzzed by a UFO while driving along a lonely stretch of road in his Gremlin and, well, you’ve got a recipe for a lifelong phobia. I still get a little freaked out driving alone at night. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced an episode of missing time–I think.

Confession time! What are your crazy fears? We’re all friends here.

RWA 2013 Wrap Up

I’m back from my first RWA conference and I’m EXHAUSTED! But I’m feeling invigorated too. I’m excited to write again. I’ve been so busy with life that writing began to feel like a chore. But five days in a hotel with 2500 romance writers and I feel like I’m ready to charge ahead and push myself to write the best damn book possible.

Here’s a recap of my week. (WARNING: Some serious name dropping is about to happen.)

I arrive on Tuesday. Not much is going on. Most of the writers are just arriving. The place to hang out is the bar. Alcohol and romance writers. Yes, please. Of course I’m there with my lovely CTRWA chaptermates. Suddenly I look up and see Nora. NORA. Do I even have to give a last name? Nora Roberts. J.D Robb. Holy shit. I’m star struck. I stare at her. STARE. Because I can’t take my eyes off of her. Romance writers are my rock stars. And there Nora was sitting with a group of friends and her publicist that never leaves her side. She looks rich and fabulous and  famous. Like she’s the queen of romance. And to me that’s pretty damn cool.

Wednesday there are no workshops. Many of the writers and still filtering in through out the day. Registering. Getting the big bag of books and goodies that come with registration. There’s a mall connected to the hotel. Of course I go shopping with my chaptermates. We grab a cheap dinner in the food court. There is a Jill Shalvis sighting. I have to stop myself from yelling out to her. “Where’s Higgins?” Or “Do you have any extra cookies?” (You have to follow her on Facebook to understand what I’m talking about.) Later that night there was the HUGE literacy signing. Sixty thousand dollars was raised Wednesday. Our own Katy Lee was signing. I was so proud to see her. I then went to see Brenda Jackson. She just turned in her 100th book. 100 books! I look at her and I’m amazed. I totally embarrass myself. “I want to be you when I grow up,” I gush at her. “I think you are amazing!” Luckily she doesn’t call security on me and lets me take a picture with her. She’s so gracious and lovely. I wish I could be like her, but she has more poise in her little finger than I have in my whole body.

Me and Ms. Jackson

Katy Lee

Thursday was a big day for me. I went to some interesting workshops. My first was on avoiding cliche and then I went to Beverly Jenkins and Brenda Jackson’s workshop on writing family saga’s. Me and sister scribe Viv really enjoyed the talk. and Beverly Jenkins is probably one of the most funny writers I have ever seen. “Keep your shit together,” is what I took away from that workshop. I needed to hear that from Ms. Jenkins. As writers we all need to hear that. I met with my editor Holly for the first time. I started working with her over a year ago and we have worked on three books so far, so it was great to see her in person and just chat. Later that day was the Keynote luncheon where Cathy Maxwell gave one hell of a rousing speech. She simultaneously made two thousand of us want to pick up our pens and jump back into our writing. Later that day I’m in the elevator with a couple of ladies, one of them was wearing an orange first timer ribbon like I was. The other woman, a sweet looking petite redhead, asked us how we were enjoying our conference. We had a nice chat on the way down to the lobby. Even after the elevator stopped the redhead and I kept talking as we walked out. And then she introduced herself. “I’m Jayne Krentz,” she says. Jayne Krentz. Jayne Ann Krentz. Also known as Sabrina Quick, author of so many amazing novels. I have read a half dozen of her New York Times bestselling novels. I stupidly say, “You’re Jayne Ann Krentz?” She kind of makes a vague gesture towards herself, as if to say, “Yeah, dummy. I’m just a normal person.”  She is a normal person and a very nice person. Later I go to her signing and she signed at book to me, “Thanks for the elevator ride that I’ll never forget.” I LOVE her.

Jamie and Viv

Friday was an amazing day. Kristan Higgins gave the awards luncheon speech. I don’t know how to put into words how freaking fantastic she was. I laughed and cried and got goose bumps. If you ever get the chance to listen to it please do. She showed us a side of herself that we don’t normally see. She spoke about bullying and loss and poverty and grief. And how reading romance helped her through the tough times in life. As a member of her chapter I was so proud to see her up there. And for the rest of the conference I was proudly telling the world that I was in The Kristan Higgins chapter. I also met with my Harlequin editor, Tara, that day. What I write for Harlequin is vastly different from what I write for St. Martins Press and we talked a little about how I was going market and build a new brand. Later that night I met up with Amelia Grey and Mary Jo Putney to head to SMP cocktail party. Amelia is a historical romance writer who wrote one of my favs, A Duke to Die For. And Mary Jo Putney… When I met her she was just introduced to me as Mary Jo. I didn’t realize she was the Mary Jo Putney. She’s a legend and she was the recipient of the 2013 lifetime achievement award for RWA. She’s also super quirky and funny. If you don’t know her, read her books. We walked the six or so blocks to the party together. I was wearing stupid high, strappy shoes that were not made for walking. By the time I got to the party my feet were hurting so bad I could barely stand. So I left that party early, went back to my room, put on flat shoes and headed out to the Harlequin party. They throw an awesome event and I was honored to be apart of it. Romance writers and the best dancers. And those inspirational romance writers really know how to party. It was great seeing everybody have so much fun.

Best Speech Ever

Saturday the exhaustion starts to kick in. I’m too tired to make it downstairs for any workshops. But I do manage to get my act together enough to mail the dozen or so books home that WILL NOT fit in my suitcase. Later that day I have my first on camera interview with Fresh Fiction TV. I was nervous as hell, but the people at Fresh Fiction are so nice they put me at ease and when I spoke about my book, DANGEROUS CURVES AHEAD, I was actually coherent. After that I went to my very first book signing. St. Martins Press was kind enough to order fifty ARCs for me to sign. I didn’t think anybody was going to come to my line. I’m such a newbie and Cherry Adair was there! But all my books went and they went quickly and strangers were asking to take their picture with me. It was surreal and awesome and so much fun to meet and talk to all those people. I finally felt like an author. After countless rejections and years crippling doubt I finally felt like I had made it. It was a great feeling. And I want to thank all the CTRWAers who came out to the signing to encourage me! Your presence there really helped put a girl at ease.

author

Saturday night was the RITAs, the Oscars of the romance writing world. The event was fun we had great seats and I got to see some of my favorite authors take home that beautiful golden statue. It was a great way to end the conference. Being there that night gave me new goals. To win a RITA. I don’t care how long it takes. I’m going to keep writing the best damn possible books that I can until I get there. And my other goal is to publish 100 books whether it be through  the traditional model or self publishing. Buy the end of 2014 I’ll have 5 books and one novella in print. I’m on my way. And I’m going to keep writing until I can’t do it anymore.

You can probably tell by this long and rambling post that my brain is fried, but it’s a good kind of fried. How was your week? And what goals do you have for yourself.

The Making of a Book Cover by Katy Lee

I received a sneak peek of my book cover for my October release, WARNING SIGNS, a few weeks ago. I tried to share the link, but it stopped working, so please forgive me and allow me another chance to show you my new cover.

Here it is!

Warning Signs Cover

It was so neat to see the end result after working with Harlequin’s art department back in December, especially since I had to repeat the process because I failed to do it correctly the first time. Oops! Now that I know what they want, my next books will hopefully be easier.

I write for their Love Inspired Suspense line, and if you’ve ever taken notice of this line, you will see the ominous, nail-biting mood each title expresses. They really are all about the suspense, which is what I messed up on in my first run-through.

I was making it all about the romance, and not about the intrigue.

The key to making the art department happy was to provide three scenes that set the tone and the premise of the book. I had to provide one scene that included my characters, but the other two scenes couldn’t have any people in them. But that does not mean there wasn’t a “character” in the picture.

For you writers out there, I’m sure you understand what I mean when I say that your setting is a character of your story. Well, that setting comes through on your book cover.

The scenes I provided depicted a small New England Island and fishing community where danger seeps in, lurking, and ultimately rocks the town upside down.

Do you think the cover captures this?

Warning Signs Cover

The mood on the cover needs to reach out to a prospective buyer perusing the shelves for their next book. It needs to say, “Something’s not quite right in this picture. What is it?” and it needs to make them pick it up to find out what this book is about.

Now, when they pick up WARNING SIGNS, they will read the back cover. And this is what it says:

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

When a drug-smuggling ring rocks a small coastal town, the DEA sends Agent Owen Matthews to shut it down. A single father with a deaf son, Owen senses that the town’s number one suspect—the high school’s new principal—doesn’t fit the profile.

Miriam Hunter hoped to shrug off the stigma of her hearing impairment when she returned to Stepping Stones, Maine. But her recurring nightmares dredge up old memories that could prove her innocence—and uncover the truth behind a decades-old murder. Yet Owen’s help may not be enough when someone decides to keep Miriam silenced—permanently.

The Unlocked Secret: Even the though WARNING SIGNS won’t be released until October, it is up for preorder on Amazon and Barnes and Noble and ChristianBook.com now at discounted rates! If you plan on purchasing it, and you like a deal, take advantage of the lower preorder prices now!

And let me know what you think, and if you’re a writer, please share your pointers on making an eye-catching book cover with us!

M. Leighton Pulls Her Book From the Shelves

Hello, Scribes Fans. Sugar here. I’m sure some of you may know that indie author M. Leighton pulled her book UNTIL I BREAK from the shelves today.

Why? That’s a very good question.

If you want a synopsis of the book click HERE. I learned about this after seeing a conversation on Twitter about it. For me 97% of Twitter is white noise but this topic grabbed my interest and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. An author pulling her own book? Not because of low sales, not because it was poorly edited or badly written but because it was too dark, too ugly for some readers tastes.

Here’s what Leighton had to say about it.

When I wrote Until I Break, I could’ve watered down the story, made it more palatable, easier to accept.  But as an artist, I didn’t want to cheat Sam and Alec out of their story.  As I’ve said before, life isn’t always pretty, but I had hoped that the majority of people would be able to see beyond the ugly to the wonderful story of love and acceptance and healing that was embedded in Until I Break.  Sadly, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.

So, rather than risking people misunderstanding Sam and Alec and, therefore, me as a person and author, I’m pulling the book from publication. It will no longer be available in any format from any source after tomorrow.  Yes, I could leave it out there to earn money, but every cent would be bitter, knowing that there are some who not only don’t “get” the story, but who are misunderstanding it in a disheartening way.

Every book is not for every reader. We all know that. And no matter what we write we always know that there are going to be readers out there who don’t like or misunderstand our work. I think that’s all apart of being a writer.

And as another writer that makes me so dissapointed in Ms. Leighton. If you want to read her entire post click HERE. We’re writers here so we know what it’s like to pour ourselves into something and I can tell that from Leighton’s words that she loved these characters and their story. I’m sad that she pulled it down. I sad that she cared enough about what a few people thought that she had to hide it from the world. I’m sad that she didn’t say F YOU and stand by it. 

Part of me gets it. Our books are like our babies and we want to protect them, but sometimes being a good mother is letting your baby go out there into the world and letting it fly. I wished she would have let it fly. Especially since it seems that more people loved the book than hated it, more people thought it was insightful and thought provoking and compelling. 

Part of me thinks that Leighton is pulling some big trick on us, that by announcing that she was pulling her book she drove people into a frantic rush to buy it and see what was so dark about it. Last night her book was number 6 on the Amazon list. Even I was sucked in and Until I Break is so not my kind of book. And if it is a trick it’s damn near brilliant. I hope she is laughing all the way to the bank.

So what is your take on this? Would you pull a book that you loved even though some people didn’t understand it?

Katy Lee’s Writing Stage

Hello all, Katy Lee here. Yesterday, Vivienne Lynge shared the “Stages of a Writer Career.” Click here if you missed it and want to see what stage you are in, and what you have to look forward to. But today I thought I would share the stage that I am in—and how I have to keep pinching myself because of it.

According to Viv’s list, I am in my 40’s…now I’m really not in my 40’s, age wise, but for this list, I’ll go with it and be happy about it.

This is where Viv put me:

“Ahhh, the 40′s – the decade when you finally feel like you’ve arrived.  You’ve got a contract and a couple/few books out there.  You’re a midlist author!  Wahooooo!  You are speaking at conferences, offering your experiences to newb’s in their 20′s, just starting out.  Maybe you are starting to feel some love from your publisher.  You might be getting recognition from some of the big contests, the Edgar, the Rita, a Newberry award.”

Viv would make a great carpenter, because she knows how to hit her nails dead-on. Reading through the stage, I could see how each part fit into this season of my writing career and it made me pretty happy to see where I had come from and where I still might go.

But one part in this stage scared me. In fact, it was something I was thinking about earlier this week when I received a message from my local RWA group asking for published authors to become a mentor. This is the part where I’m being asked to share my experiences with the newb’s, as Viv put it.

Yes, I have book contracts. Yes, I have spoken at conferences on a certain topic. Yes, I have been recognized in contests, but, after all this, I still don’t feel adequate to be offering advice to newcomers on their work. I still feel like I’ll wake up someday and all this will have been a dream, or worse, it will have been real and people will realize I have no talent, after all.

Am I the only one in this stage, or in any of Viv’s stages who feels this way? At what stage does it go away? Or does it ever?

The thing is I REALLY want to be a mentor. I REALLY want to help other up-and-coming authors, and I know I can’t wait until this feeling of insignificance goes away, because chances are, it will never go away…and maybe I shouldn’t want it to?

The Unlocked Secret…and my Ah-Ha Moment: Humility is a virtue I want to always have. Nothing should be taken for granted, and I should always take every success as a blessing. And as with any blessing I receive, I know I am given it so that I can then BE a blessing to someone else. I need not fear about failing someone else. I will offer whatever I can, and I’d be willing to bet my mentee will help me become a better writer in the long run because of it, hence pushing me up in Viv’s list to the 50’s. Wahoo!

Question: So what stage are you in? Did anything scare you?