Category: Books

Other Books

Jan 19

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Seven



Number Twenty-Seven

Have A Clear Understanding Of Success


How do you define your success as a writer?

Is it measured by how many books you release? Maybe by how many books you sell? What about by how many awards you win? Something else, perhaps?

For most authors, but by no means all, success is measured in terms of income. And note that there may not be a connection between income and books sold…if you pocket a dime per book and sell 50,000 copies you may not break-even on expenses. On the other hand, if you get $4.50 per book, you’re pushing a quarter of a million dollars in income.

I want you to take care when comparing your income to that of other authors. Not only can that practice be a road to grief, but it’s damned near impossible to get actual numbers…

Getting sales numbers from publishers is pretty easy (if they are publicly traded), but that covers copies sold and income to the publisher, not what is paid to the authors. Depending on the accounting system used by the publisher, you may see a line-item on the P&L for “Royalty Obligations” (or something similar), but more often the amounts will just be lumped under general liabilities. You also have no way to group pen names together under one real person…in other words, a particular writer may make only $50,000 a year gross per pen name, but he might have two-dozen pen names.

At the same time, writers tend to be secretive about their income. I don’t know of a single full-time, professional author who will give you a straight answer about how much they make. Most writers I know will even lie to researchers about their income just to mess with them. Playing games with amounts made by the author’s various pen names is also common. Frankly, it’s not a damn bit of your (or anyone else’s) business how much I make. (As for me personally, all of my income from writing goes into my privately held corporation. I am not required to release any financial information and I don’t do it at all. There are many things my company does, and my personal financial input is about 2% of the corporation’s total earnings. And I get paid from the corporation by way of both royalties on my writings and salary as the CEO and board chair.)

All of this conspires to make it rough on relatively new writers to figure out where they stand dollar-wise.

But it simply doesn’t matter when it comes to figuring out how you’re doing success-wise.

Here are a couple of questions I’d like you answer…

(1) Are you happy doing what you’re doing? (What you’re doing doesn’t matter…you might be spending 100 hours a week writing, or one hour a month.)

(2) Can you pay your bills doing what you’re doing? (And it also doesn’t matter if your writing income pays 100% of the bills or lets you get a Big Mac meal every quarter when the royalty check comes in.)

If you answered “yes” to both questions, then you are successful. Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not…most especially, do not let yourself tell you that!

If, however, you answered “no” to one or both questions, then you need to figure out how to change your answer(s).

How to do that is usually much easier than most people think, despite the fact that most people want to make it complicated. All you need do is avoid falling into the traps set by people who have allowed themselves to fail and want everyone else to fail as well. As Grandma used to say, “Misery loves company.”

And there are LOTS of them out there. Luckily they are easy to spot, and a little common sense applied to their comments and actions make them glow in the dark. Many times, the comments will focus on how wrong one group or another in the industry are doing things, and they will always be nebulous or subjective in nature. Usually both.

Ignore them and move forward so you can answer both questions in the affirmative.

Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Jan 16

THWT Question for 16 JAN 2018

Here is today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:


If you are not now writing full time now, when do you plan to quit your day job to be a full time author?


Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Jan 12

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Six


Number Twenty-Six

There Are No Limits


I’m talking about limits on what you can write.

There is no essential difference between writing a short story, a novella, a novel, a teleplay, a screenplay, or an audio book. (And yes, you can write something aimed at being an audio book only.) The limits here really come from two places…

First, they are marketed differently. If you, as an example, approach a motion picture production company with a screenplay the same way you would approach a publisher with a novel, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

Second, many writers THINK they are different and say something like, “I can’t do that!” to themselves.

To solve these problems, let’s look at each but in reverse order…

There’s not much I can do to convince you that you can write (let’s say) a screenplay. If you really believe you can’t do it, odds are you can’t. Let me just say that I think you CAN do it.

As for the marketing side, there are a couple of ways to do that…you can have multiple agents to shop your work around in different market segments. You can have one agent do it all, but I have never heard of a traditional agent that does this. Or you can get an actual representative to handle the sales.

No matter how you do it, there is a ton of money on the table here. For the last eight years or so, I’ve been writing scripts for “unscripted reality shows”. No, you didn’t read it wrong. In a nutshell, there are about 20-30 episodes per year for a typical show. I get well into five figures per episode. I can write an entire season in a couple of weeks. In other words, I can count on about $1-million a year per series. That junk is a no-brainer and easy money. As the old conman said, “There are pigeons to be plucked.”

And also remember the other less obvious markets like video games, other RPG venues, and similar things. They all need special approaches by the writer, but they are fairly easy to do and represent a pile of money waiting for a taker.

Then there’s the cosplay segment…you get a royalty every time someone puts on the costume, though there may be good reason to take a pass on the royalty and not make a dime on the cosplay deal. It’s called publicity.

I can go on and on about the upside to being diverse, but I’ll bet you’re more interested in the downside, and there is one…


Most authors are control freaks. We see our books as our children and don’t want any changes. We want total creative control. Well, folks, when you branch out into screen and teleplays in particular, you may need to give up that control, at least at first.

As an example, you might spend ten pages in a novel setting the scene, painting the picture for the reader. In a screenplay, you will say something like, “Fred enters Mary’s office.” It is the job of the director and actors to create the setting for the viewer. You, as the writer, are out of the loop in most cases, though I have worked with a fair number of directors who want me sitting next to them as much as possible while shooting…they want to make sure the scene fits my image.

Some writers can’t deal with that, and it’s a shame.

They lose a lot of money and a huge audience.

Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Jan 09

THWT Question for 09 JAN 2018



Today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:


How did you come up with the title for your latest book?


Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Jan 05

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Five



Number Twenty-Five

Take Care When Revising Your Story…You May Break It


Every writer does it. Professional authors are not an exception either. Just because we’ve been in the business for a few years, that doesn’t mean we aren’t just a little stupid sometimes.

Besides, the temptation is simply too great…you’re working along at your normal writing speed of 5,000 words per hour and write a line. That line makes you think of a passage someplace earlier in the book, so you go back and make some changes there. As you do that, you remember that this change impacts some other place in the book, so you go to fix that. And it turns into a big domino-effect of never-ending changes.

Like I said, we’ve all done this.

And as the vaudevillian physician once said…

Don’t do that!

Rest assured that if you fall into this trap, the odds are very good you will irreparably break your story.

When it comes to the point of view of the author and in the time before the story is in the actual publishing process, there are two phases to writing a story…

First of all, we have what I like to call “Writing The Story.” OK, it ain’t all that great of a name, but it works. This is when you are actually creating the story, characters and all. As the creative juices are flowing, your mind is in just exactly the wrong mode to deal with details. You should just write when in this phase. Don’t worry about details like spelling, punctuation, grammar, and all the rest. In fact, don’t get too hung up on internal consistency, either. Just write. Get the big picture down on paper, and do it without interruption as much as possible. And when it comes to breaks for eating and sleeping, remember that you’ve wanted to lose a few pounds anyway and you can sleep when you’re dead.

Next we enter the phase I call “Revising The Story”. I know…still not a great name, but it tells you what you need to know. This is when you sweat the details, particularly internal consistency and characters. Do settings used in the story always look the same? (That is, was the light switch on the left side of the door EVERY time the character turned on the lights?) How about the characters themselves? Is their hair the same color all the time? Do things make sense within the context of the story? Your brain is in a very different mode now, and you can focus on the details.

If you try to revise when you should be creating, things will get hopelessly tied in knots. The odds are you will end up just deleting the entire work and starting over.

Don’t do that!

Take things in order…write the book, and then revise the book.

And remember what Hemingway said: “Write drunk. Edit sober.”

But, there is something else here I need to say, especially to the budding writers out there…

At some point, you are done writing, revising, and editing. I can’t tell you when that is, but there will come a time when you just need to stop. The story and the mechanics are as good as you can make them, and it’s then time to submit the work to the publishers.

I bring this up because I know dozens of wannabe authors who have been working on the same book for more than a decade. I would bet they will still be working on it ten years from now. Just start shopping the thing around, for crying out loud!

Note that I am not talking about the projects that most authors have that have been pushed so far onto the back burner that it fell down behind the stove. That’s something else we all do, but it’s different. These things are being left to sit and not worked much, if at all, because of other concerns. Like deadlines.

The books that end up in infinite revisions are usually an aspiring author’s first book. They fear the rejection, and I can assure you that a lot of that will be forthcoming. They also fear that the editing process will change their book…actually, they see the book as their baby.

It happens to all of us. Get over it, grow a pair, and move on.

All stories need revision. And I am being absolute here…there has never been a story that didn’t need revision. Ever.

Just be careful that your mind is in the right mode before you start your revisions. Make sure that you don’t break the story because you are making changes as opposed to revisions.

Revisions make things consistent and logical while changes create a new story.

Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Jan 02

THWT Question for 02 JAN 2018



The first Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for 2018 is:


How do you celebrate the release of a new book or story?


Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Dec 29

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Four



Number Twenty-Four

Beware Of Publishers Bearing Gifts


OK…this is an exceedingly rare problem, but I learned this Rule the hard way.

A few of you reading this may be old enough to remember the payola scandals of the 1950’s. Many more may be familiar with the events through research or just general interest. In short, the term “payola” refers to the practice of paying someone for a favorable placement of some product.

In the 1950’s, a number of radio stations and on-air personalities were accused of—and in some cases prosecuted for—accepting money and other “gifts” for playing certain songs more often than others in order to make the song more popular. You can read more about the payola scandal on Wikipedia here:

At some of the less-than-reputable publishers—particularly in the e-publishing arena—the practice is still alive and well…

There are publishers who will pay for reviews. In some cases, the payment amount is tied to the number of stars (or whatever) that the reviewer gives the book. In most cases, the writer never even knows this is happening…the publisher sends the book out to a number of reviewers, and it all just sort of happens.


A new author with their first few books will always think that their book is the best ever written by anyone. After you have a number of books under your belt, you will know when you write a really good story and when you write crap. Also, you will sometimes see a bunch of reviews with two or three stars, and then out of the blue comes a five-star review. None of the issues addressed in the two-star reviews are mentioned by the five-star reviewer, and it seems they think your story is the best thing since War and Peace. And there will be patterns where all of the reviews done by a particular person or review group will be good, no matter what the story.

All of these are red flags…it’s not hard to see why you should be suspicious of this, but the real question is, “So what?”

In a nutshell, should someone in the Department of Justice (or similar agency in another country) decide to get pushy and look into this, you—the author—could be in deep shit.

Think about this…

Can you PROVE—in a court of law—that you had no idea this was going on and that you did not have a hand in the deal? That whole idea of being innocent until proven guilty is a crock…in most countries there is no such legal protection, and in many that do have it, it is a farce. You must PROVE that you are innocent against government charges.

If convicted, the penalties range wildly from one country to another. In most cases, we’re talking about a fine at the worst. In others, you might do jail time.

The best defense is to stay alert.

Stick with reputable, well known publishers. Odds are that they don’t do this in the first place, and they would never risk their reputation.

Look for the red flags. Don’t get hung up on reviews, but pay attention to the big picture and look for patterns. If you see things, ask the publisher point blank about this, and do it in writing (email is OK) so you have a record of it. Just in case. Also keep in mind that many reviewers of e-books are just readers. They have no standards in place for objectively reviewing books, so it is all 100% personal opinion and nothing more. It is possible that a particular reader will love your book while pretty much everyone else thinks it sucks.

If you have an agent, you can mention your suspicions to them. They won’t do anything, but you can ask.

If you have a real representative, definitely ask them. Odds are they have vetted the publisher and won’t touch the bad ones with a ten-foot pole, but things change. They will look into the matter.

And then we have the other side of the coin…

The number of publishers who do this kind of thing is exceedingly small. Just as a rough estimate, I would say that 0.01% of all publishers is too big a number. The odds of you hooking up with one of this tiny fraction are pretty slim.

And the odds are very much against someone actually deciding to look into the practice and taking legal action over it. Frankly, governments have better things to do than get in the middle of a few reviewers and publishers…like fixing their failing economies.

If you only self-publish, this shouldn’t be an issue at all. Well, unless you actually ARE paying for a good review.

More common in the self-published world is the so-called “review trade”. It often goes by other similar names, but the idea is that two writers review each other’s books. The (usually) unspoken rule is “I’ll give you five stars if you give me five stars”. I would avoid this practice. While not illegal, the ethics are very questionable. Any decent prosecutor will hang your butt out to dry.

Finally, don’t get all wrapped up around the axle on this. There is an old saying where I come from in the Ozarks…

Don’t sweat the petty things…and don’t pet the sweaty things.

Keep Loving!


Permanent link to this article:

Dec 26

THWT Question for 26 DEC 2017

Here’s the Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for your post-Christmas recovery…


When–if ever–do you hope to retire?


Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Dec 22

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twenty-Three



Number Twenty-Three

Listen To Your Readers, Not The “Experts”


Of all the rules, this could very well be the hardest one to learn and—more to the point—follow.

We all want the approval of someone we consider to be an expert of some sort or another. That expert might be a teacher, a respected or admired peer, a critic, or even a particular publisher. It might even be someone else in an entirely unrelated field, but it will always be someone that we see as important to us.

Most people see successful writers as arrogant. I don’t get that confusion. We ARE arrogant. I really don’t care if I hurt someone’s feelings, though I will never deliberately hurt someone. If the truth hurts their feelings, that is not my concern. The fact is that the truth can hurt. I’m about as politically incorrect as you can get. I think that 99% of the people in the world take life far too seriously and are looking for ways to assert their right to have everything sugar coated for them. As Sergeant Hulka said, “Lighten up, Francis.” In short, the only person I need to impress is me.

And yet even I sometimes catch myself wondering how someone will react to one of my actions.

The simple fact is that we all, as authors, must do what the little voices in our heads tell us to do and shut out those who would force us to compromise our individuality.

This in no way contradicts Rule Number Twenty-Two…I am not talking so much about what we write as opposed to how we write. In a word, voice.

One very common definition is:

“The author’s voice is the style in which a story is presented, including, among other things, the syntax, diction, person, and dialogue.”

Each writer has their own voice. Mine is different from yours. Yours is different from, say, Stephen King’s. Stephen’s is different from Niven’s. You get the idea. No two writers will have the same voice.

Generally speaking, your voice is made up of a staggeringly large number of things…your past, your present, your education, your experiences, your dreams, your nightmares, people you know, people you admire, the time and place in which you live, books you have read, books you have written, and a myriad of other things all go in to the forming of your voice. Looking at this, it’s clear why no two writers will have the same voice…after all, no two people have all of these things in common.

We are all individuals.

And it is your voice that all of the experts—no matter why they are in that category—will want you to change.

And it is this change that you must resist.

In a nutshell, an expert will want you to change so your voice is more like theirs. Think about it…we all believe our voice is the best one out there, and the experts are no exception to this rule. So, since they have the best voice, you would be better off to make your voice more like theirs.


Your voice is the best for you. Your voice is the only thing that sets you apart from all of the other writers out there. It is your voice that the readers like and plop down their hard-earned cash for.

People, ignore the experts…there are but a few of them and they aren’t buying your books anyway.

Listen to your readers…there are literally billions of them and they ARE buying your books.

Read the letters (paper and email) from your readers. Take to heart the things they say, especially if you get more than two letters saying essentially the same thing.

Watch the many mailing lists on the Internet for what your readers are saying there.

Watch blogs where readers post and pay attention to how they react to things, especially about your books.

When you do a signing or other personal appearance, talk to the readers. Besides, taking the extra time to talk to the readers will piss off your agent/representative…you know: Time is Money.

In other words, stay in touch with your readers. Be active…or more correctly, be proactive.

I wish I could give you some concrete examples, but I can’t because the number of variables and variations are far too great. I’ll just say that you will know when the readers like something and when they don’t like something.

Trust me…you’ll know.

And never forget to ignore the experts. Never read reviews…all that will do is piss you off. Never ask another writer how to word something…that will blend your voice with theirs. Never ask an English major how to word something…you’ll end up sounding like a text book. Automatically reject any re-writes by an editor…they have no clue how to write and even less idea of what your voice is.

(Let me clarify that last bit…if a good editor finds a problem, they will never offer a rewrite. They will simply say that the section needs to be rewritten and leave that up to you. If the editor does offer a rewrite, trash it and rewrite the section yourself, in your voice.)

Always remember that it is the readers who are paying you, and listen to your boss.

Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article:

Dec 19

THWT Question for 19 DEC 2017


Today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question is:


How did you know you were really in love?


Keep Loving!



Permanent link to this article: