Monday, July 1, 2013

Juggling Brands: Or, “Help, I’m Having a Mid-Brand Crisis!”

So, here’s the thing: I really like writing about zombies. Hear me, zombies?!!? I really, really do. But… but… I also like writing about vampires, and werewolves, and ghosts and… regular kids. You know? With no special powers. Just normal young adults with normal problems.

And the holidays. You may have noticed I like writing about the holidays. I have, like, half-a-dozen holiday books. Non-zombie, non-vampire, non-living dead holiday books. Kids holiday books. Middle grade holiday books. Holiday romance novels.

And I’m tired of keeping them all in the air, starting up blogs for the adult contemporary holiday romance audience only to lose interest and time and passion because I’m busy posting a ton of new YA zombie stuff on Smashwords. Tired of trying to run parallel young adult “brands” with the paranormal YA stuff and the contemporary YA stuff.

Tired of juggling brands, period, I suppose.

So I’m kind of in limbo, right now, trying to figure out what’s going on with me, my writing, my worlds, my genres, my zombies, my holiday stuff… my “brand,” so to speak. Gggrrr, it’s a real mess. I’ve got blogs all over the place, and half-a-dozen Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest screen names and I know it’s all going cross purpose to itself because it’s so scattered and chaotic. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve written… on this very blog, actually… about how NOT to diffuse your brand, mix it up or spread it around too thin. And here I am, doing exactly what I told myself NOT to do, on my own blog!!!

Is anybody else in this spot? Am I alone? I can’t be alone in this. I know I can’t, because I know so many great authors out there and I see them doing so many great things in so many different genres and they’re all super creative and super together and well-branded.

And I’ve worked so hard at building up Zombies Don’t Blog and my other zombie pages, and I love them all. But it’s hard to, say, post a new YA contemporary short story under my “zombie” identity, or post a new adult contemporary Christmas story on my regular YA blog and… gggrrrr!

Anyway, this isn’t a blog post like I typically do with five steps or six secrets or bullet points or a numbered list because, honestly, I don’t have a solution! To my own problem! I suppose I’m just venting, which is a byproduct of having a mid-brand identity crisis!

So excuse the rant, and go on about your day. But if you’re juggling brands yourself, the comment section is always open for you to vent right along with me!

Yours in YA,

Rusty

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dealing with Publisher Deadlines: 4 Steps for Putting Business Before Art

As you may or may not know, I don't *just* write zombie books for a living. Instead, I am a full-time freelance writer, specializing in ghostwriting full-length business, health, and other fiction and nonfiction books. But I often learn lessons in my "day" job that lend themselves to my "zombie" job, and this is one of them:

Recently I had not one, not two but three VERY demanding publisher deadlines. One publisher was gracious and gave my ghostwriting client three months to write a complete book. Two more gave us only two months to complete our respective books.

Now, keep in mind, a traditional book for a traditional publisher (in this case two of the books were business and one was self-help) typically weighs in at between 45,000- and 60,000-words. Some are even higher. In our case the word counts for all three books were typically around the 50,000-word mark.

Now, this post is not to look for pity or have you marvel at my speed writing skills, but merely to say that when your dream of writing for a traditional publisher finally comes true, be prepared for some hard realities about the business of writing for a living.

One of those realities, it seems, is that publishers often give you firm deadlines that are less than generous. I know; I know – you treat writing as an art. Hey, so do I! But occasionally compromises must be made and when a publisher is paying you to create that work of art one of those compromises is often that art comes with a deadline!

Here are four simple steps for dealing with deadlines:

 
1.) Focus: The worst thing you can do in the face of a deadline – even a stiff one – is to panic. You must remain focused and have a clear goal in mind. For instance, typically by the time I’ve been given a publisher’s deadline I have written at least a sample chapter or two (from the book proposal) that the publisher has approved. This is my starting point; these one or two chapters let me know what, exactly, the publisher likes about the project and how they want it written. It also gives me a starting word count. So let’s say the publisher wants a complete, thorough 50,000-word manuscript in the next 60 days. Wow, okay, after taking a couple of breaths I do a quick word count on my two sample chapters and realize, hey, I’ve already written 8,000-words. Now the words I have to write has gone down from 50,000-words to “only” 42,000-words!

2.) Prioritize: Most writers DON’T write for a living; I get that. Most of us have day jobs, families, schedules to keep, bills to pay and only so many hours in a day. Still, this is what you dreamed of, this is what you wanted and you can’t give up on that now simply because 42,000-words seems extremely intimidating. Instead you must prioritize your schedule to make the time you need to write the book you want. How do you do that? First you need to figure out a schedule:

3.) Schedule: So, let’s be clear – you have 42,000-words to write in 60 days. What? How? When? Why? First, don’t panic. Now you need to prioritize what needs to be written first and how long it might take. Do some quick math. The book is nine chapters long but you’ve already written two of them; that leaves seven. Dividing 42,000-words by seven chapters leaves you 6,000-words a chapter. Okay, now at least you know what needs to go into each chapter. How long will it take you? If you were to do a chapter a week it would take you 7 weeks to get done. Great! That leaves you one week to not do any writing but simply to read the book from start to finish and make sure it’s clear, coherent and up to your – and the publisher’s – standards.

4.) Clarify: Finally, your book must be clear. One of the biggest challenges with writing a big book fast is that you can work so quickly, for so long that you lose track of what the book is about in the first place. You have to avoid that trap and bring clarity to the process. Build re-reading time into your writing time. For instance, if you’re doing 6,000-words a week, don’t just slack off all week and do all 6,000-words on Sunday! Instead, shoot for writing 1,000-words a day and give yourself Sunday to read over what you’ve written and clean it up so each page, of each chapter and each chapter of the entire book is clear, focused and stays true to the pitch you made the publisher – and the promise you made to your reader – way back in the book’s Introduction.

 
Meeting deadlines is tough, but when you follow these four steps you can safely turn in a good, well-written, clearly polished book on time while still wearing your artist’s hat.

Yours in publishing,

Rusty