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THWT Question for 20 OCT 2020

And the Two Hundred Word Tuesday for today is:

Approximately what percentage of your income comes from writing?

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Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Fifteen

Number Fifteen

Agents Only Care If Your Current Book Sells

Also see Rule Number Fourteen.

Just like publishers, traditional agents only care about your current book. That’s all.

On the other hand, a representative cares about all of your books—past, current, and future—and about you as a professional in order to reach their goals. It just so happens that the representative’s goals usually coincide with those of the author.

The really bad part here is that while a publisher isn’t in the business of taking care of authors, the agent is. For agents, they have a vested interest in making sure the authors they work with do well. (Think about it…agents and representatives both make their living by taking a commission (typically around 15%) from the author’s earnings. The more the author makes, the more the agent or rep makes.) The problem comes in because traditional agents look at their income for the next 6-12 months. After that, they have no concept of time, income, or anything else. This nearsightedness is typical of most businesses and not special to literary agents…I have MBA types in my company that give me the deer in the headlight look when I ask about a ten year plan.

A real representative will look farther down the road…sometimes a decade or more. This means that the representative has an interest in helping the author achieve long-term goals. This is a very different perspective on the entire process.

This also ties back to Rule Number Five. Just to say it again, agents handle one book at a time while real representatives handle all of the books from a particular author.

This means that you need to look carefully at what you want your “agent” to do…

If you want to sell just one book to a publisher, you might save a few dollars by hiring a traditional agent. Maybe.

If, however, you want a long term relationship with someone who will accept and sell and place every single work you throw at them, then you need a representative.

Yeah, it really is just that simple. It’s a shame that more writers don’t understand the difference between agents and representatives.

The difference is usually measured in income by a factor of twenty or more. I know of one writer who was struggling with small-press and self-publication to make ends meet. His annual gross income was in the $50,000 range. He made the switch to a representative and in the first year he broke the $1-million barrier. In case you missed it, he was leaving $950,000 on the table.

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THWT Question for 13 OCT 2020

Here’s the Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for today:

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

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Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Fourteen

Number Fourteen

Publishers Do Not Care If You Succeed

This is a sad fact of the publishing industry. What the publishers care about—and the ONLY thing they care about—is if your latest release succeeds.

There are a few publishers who worry about your backlist sales success (see Rule Number Seven) because backlist sales can make up a third of their income.

None of them care about what a book three years from now will do.

And they certainly don’t care about the author as an individual succeeding.

And they really shouldn’t. The publishers are not in the business of making the authors rich…they are in the business of making themselves rich. In short, as far as the publishers are concerned, you are only as good as your last book.

And in case you’re wondering, agents have the same position. See Rule Number Fifteen. Publishers and agents are only interested in your current work, nothing more than that.

What this means is that the author must look out for themselves.

Or have a representative who will. See Rule Number Five.

No, I am not cracking on publishers here…just pointing out the real world of the publishing business for those who have not seen it yet. Publishers are in business to make money, and they do that by selling books, not by coddling authors. That is not their job.

Authors have to keep their eyes and mind open. This is a must because, like it or not, authors are in business, too. Again, don’t give me that story how you write for the joy of writing or how you want to change the world. When asked how he felt about the fact that his stories changed people’s lives, Hemingway said, “Let the poets, the wordy bastards, change the world. Me, I write for the booze.”

So, keep an eye on the market. It’s one thing to have a sense of loyalty to a publisher, but don’t let that get in the way of your growth…if another publisher offers a better deal, jump ship. I can promise you that if you write more than one bomb in a row, the publisher will drop you like a hot potato.

And remember that something many people see as odd happens on a regular basis in this industry…a book with one publisher will make, say, $200,000 in the first year. Place that same book with a new publisher for year two, and it might make $2,000,000 over the next twelve months. This is not odd…it’s all about demographics.

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THWT Question for 06 OCT 2020

Here is today’s Two Hundred Word Tuesday question:

What writing projects are you working on now?

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Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Thirteen

Number Thirteen

Your Great New Title Is Already Taken

Titles are a problem for all authors. You want a title that will say something about the story and catch the potential buyer’s attention. Sometimes, that’s hard to do and most of us struggle as much with the title as we do with the story itself.

But it seems that when you come up with a great title, someone else has already used it. Usually a fast search on Google will confirm this for you.

But on the other hand, so what?

Titles can’t be copyrighted. You can use any title you want, and no one can legally do anything about it. Obviously, you really don’t want to use something that was used before recently. Having two relatively new books on the shelf with the same title could confuse the readers. By and large, the readers are already confused enough, so I try to avoid that.

But what if I wanted to use the title of, let’s say, The Old Man and the Sea for my new book? Odds are, no matter the bookstore, me and Hemingway are not going to be in the same place in the store. Papa’s books will be in the Classics section. Mine will be in the Romance section…maybe in the Smut section. There is little chance of confusion here.

But the rule is to check out the title. Has it been used before? If so, when? In what genre?

Finding that your first choice is taken might be a blessing in disguise. That forces you to brainstorm on a new title, and you may come up with something even better.

Don’t get discouraged…make it happen!

Often your agent or representative will make title suggestions. This a good thing since they will have a marketing point of view that may help sales.

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THWT Question for 29 SEP 2020

The last Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for September is:

Is there a theme or idea you’d love to work with but haven’t been able to yet?

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Casting Call for Love Excerpt

This is a short excerpt from Casting Call for Love available on my Free Reads page. WARNING: Adult language is used.

Roland swallowed. “Cut.” He remembered the microphone in his lap. He brought it to his lips. “Cut!”

Jim looked down from the camera. He took a deep breath. “You want a print?”

“I have no fucking idea.”

Valerie caught the towel someone tossed her and wiped the stage blood from her face. She offered her hand to Harry and he stood up beside her. The cast and crew applauded as she and Harry took a bow.

Roland swallowed again. “Someone get them some goddamn robes.”

A stage hand gave her a robe as she walked toward him. She wiped a little more of the dripping blood from her hair as she smiled. “Well?”

He couldn’t see her clearly through the red fog filling his vision. “What the fuck was that bit?”

“What bit?”

He waved wildly at the set. “You…you…” He closed his eyes. He couldn’t even think straight, let alone talk. “That bit!”

She laughed. “Improvisation. He forgot his lines, and we needed to get the scene moving.”

“Does the word ‘cut’ mean anything to you? How about ‘take two’?”

She frowned again. “Would you calm down?”

“Fuck!”

Jack and Ralph ran up to her. Jack gushed again. “My, God! That was great! RW, this is the way the scene should have been written!”

“You two get the fuck away from me. Now.”

They both frowned, but had enough sense to leave.

He sat fuming. At first, she didn’t want to do the nude scenes at all. Then she changed this one around to add touching. Now, she took off on her own to add a goddamned blowjob! He looked up at Jim’s position on the camera. “Trash that. We’ll re-shoot the scene next week.” He looked at Valerie. “The way it’s written.”

“No, Jim. Don’t trash that scene.” Roland could feel her gaze burn into him. “Roland, we need to talk. Now.”

Jim looked between them a time or two. “Tell you what. I’ll hang onto the film for now.”

“Thanks.” Her eyes still locked onto his.

Roland fumed. “Oh, we’ll talk all right. Come on. We’ll fucking talk!” They went to the production office. He slammed the door as he closed it.

Valerie took a deep breath. “That’s a good take of a good scene, and you know it.”

“It’s not going in the film.”

She sat down and crossed her legs, but her foot bounced nervously. “I think it should.”

“No.” He swallowed. He didn’t like where this conversation went. He liked it even less than he liked the scene. “And we’re going back to the original script.”

She sighed. “I know you don’t want me to do this. Believe it or not, I’m not crazy about doing it. But, if we’re going to do it, then let’s do it right.”

He needed to either scrap the film or fire her. He couldn’t see any other ways out of this. Roland knew the scene was better. He also knew everyone would think she just gave head on screen.

To someone other than him.

He paced in the small office. “No! That’s all there is to it. I’m the goddamned director, and I say this doesn’t go in the fucking film!”

She took a deep breath. “If it wasn’t me, would you keep the scene?”

He opened his mouth quickly to respond. He closed it even faster. This question had no right answer. If he said yes, she would turn it on him as preferential treatment. If he said no, she would want to know what she did wrong so she could do another take. The last thing he needed to do was even answer the question, but she stared up at him, waiting. Misdirection seemed the order of the day. He placed his hands on the table and leaned across it towards her. “I don’t think you understand how I feel about this.” His voice carried a sharp edge he didn’t want to use with her.

“Fine!” She screamed at him. “Tell me so I have some fucking idea!”

He paused, trying to get his thoughts in order as best he could through the still rising fury in his mind. “Don’t you wonder why I didn’t cut that—” He waved his hands. “Fucking disaster? I couldn’t! I was too busy stopping myself from running up there, yanking you to your feet, and punching Harry’s goddamned lights out!”

“Harry didn’t do anything! If you’re going to be pissed off, at least be pissed off at the right person!”

He screamed at her. He hated that he did, but he couldn’t stop. His anger took total control of him now, and it all whipped from his mind and body at once. “Goddamn it, Valerie! That doesn’t fucking matter! I looked at the other camera, and I saw what you did! I know you faked everything, but from where I sat, it looked like the woman I love—” He stopped dead, his mouth frozen in the middle of his sentence.

She stared at him for several seconds. Valerie’s voice sounded soft, almost weak. “What did you say?”

Ready or not, the chance to turn back already passed. His anger didn’t fade away. It just vanished. “I’ve fallen in love with you.”

She blinked rapidly as she stared at him. “You have?”

He wondered if this would be the last time he would ever see her. She could get her paperwork from Shelia and never even come into his office to pick it up. “Yeah, I have. Maybe that’s wrong, maybe it’s just not a good idea, but it happened, and I’m not sorry about it.” He took a deep breath. He couldn’t see a lot of difference between drowning in six inches or six miles of water. “Valerie, I love you.”

As he watched, her face went through several gyrations. Her face sort of wiggled between frowning, a totally flat expression, and what he thought might be a small smile.

<<<<<>>>>>

Her heart tried to stop when he said he loved her. It did a little better now, but it went to the other extreme and raced out of control in her chest. Roland leaned across the conference table, his palms resting on the surface and his face close to hers. She could feel his breath on her face as he panted. A few drops of sweat fell from his chin to make wet splashes on the table. Sweat ran down the middle of her back as she watched him. The drops of moisture falling from her head to hit her shoulder where the robe slipped down her arm might be sweat, or just the remains of the stage blood. It didn’t matter.

Valerie managed to keep her breathing in check, but she would have to start panting soon. Her heart beat so fast she would run out of oxygen before too long.

Her brain dissociated from her body, and it split into two parts as it left. Her body just sat there like a lump of flesh. It didn’t seem too inclined to help her right now.

One part of her brain went manic. It ran around and screamed in her head. She couldn’t understand too much of what it said to her. She did make out something about kissing him.

The other part of her brain was the only thing working even close to right. It took a cold, analytical spin. It showed her the pro and con list. Well, it showed her a pro list since the cons went away. The analyst tried to show her more things to put on the list.

She tried to look at her feelings, but the analyst would have none of the emotional nonsense.

She decided to conduct a small poll. The analyst loved the idea of a poll, but offered no opinion. It didn’t have enough facts yet.

The maniac running amok in her head only screamed something about kissing Roland.

Her body didn’t even answer the phone.

She sat watching him as he leaned over the table at her. She must look like an idiot just sitting there, but she couldn’t do anything else. His face looked patient, like he could wait until doomsday for her to speak. It might take that long to get her two brains and body back together into a cohesive unit.

Suddenly, the little pink princess phone in her head rang. Her body called and said only one thing:

‘Think how good it feels when he holds you.’

Her two brains slammed together with a sound like a bank vault closing. They jumped together back into her body and took control again.

She smiled up at him. “I love you, too.”

His face went slack for a split second, and then a smile broke across his lips. He grabbed her around the neck and almost fell face first onto the table. “This isn’t going to work.” He released her and ran around the table to where she stood to meet him. His arms moved around her waist, and he hugged her to his chest. His lips pressed against hers, and it seemed somehow different.

The electric tingles his lips moving on hers created were still there. Maybe they were a little stronger, but that didn’t seem to make up the difference.

The flavor of his lips seemed somehow a little sweeter, but not too much. At least not enough to account for the flood of new feelings ranging through her now.

The scent of his cologne seemed the same. Maybe a few new spices are in the mix, and perhaps a little more sugar, but it didn’t seem too different.

She realized through the tide of emotions that Roland, not his cologne, smelled different.

His touch, his taste, his cologne, and all of the other things seemed about the same, but he smelled different now. Different from even earlier today when they made love before leaving for work. She would be hard pressed to say exactly how he smelled different, though. Maybe, she thought, he smelled stronger. She didn’t know what strong smelled like, so she couldn’t grab onto that. Maybe there’s a new scent of an ambrosial quality, like nutmeg, in the blend. She just didn’t know.

As his tongue moved in her mouth and teased her desires for him, the fact hit her. While she didn’t know how he smelled different, she knew precisely why.

He belonged to her.

Melodee’s Rules for Authors — Number Twelve

Number Twelve

As Soon As A Book Is Released, You Will Find 100+ Editing Errors

Murphy’s Law: If anything can go wrong, it will.

O’Toole’s Corollary: Murphy was an optimist.

Yes, Murphy is alive and well. He works in the publishing business.

Just a couple of my own experiences in this area…

I once released a (very) hard science fiction novel through one of the major print houses. It had been through not only the normal editing process that all authors are familiar with, but also through extensive editing and peer review by real professional scientists due to the extreme technical content. This included physicists, mathematicians, biologists, chemists, and other more esoteric disciplines of science as well as the peer review team at a well known physics journal. Finally, release day came. That was on Monday. By Wednesday afternoon, I had more than 1,000 emails from readers that one of the planets in the story was in an impossible orbit. Guess what? The readers were right. Me and all of the scientists had simply missed the fact that there was an error in the math, and that let the planet have an impossible orbit. Oops. We fixed that in the second edition.

I wrote a semi-historical novel once that was set in the 1490s, and I used a word that wasn’t in common usage until the late 1880s. Yeah, the editors and I both missed that one, but the readers didn’t. Oh…we never fixed that one, just added a disclaimer to the second edition in the forward that the story was not a strict historical work.

And this ignores the normal spelling and grammatical errors that have fallen through the cracks. At a guess, I would suspect the number is somewhere in excess of a million over the last 30 years.

This kind of stuff happens. Don’t worry about it. Readers do—by and large—understand that we and the editors are human. They will laugh it up for a while, maybe poke some fun at you, and then finish the book anyway.

There are two genres where you can really piss off the readers when you make mistakes, though…real, serious historical and hard science fiction. The readers in these genres are absolute fanatics about attention to detail. And they will shred you if you mess it up.

For the most part, this is all petty stuff.

And remember, don’t sweat the petty stuff.

Oh, and don’t pet the sweaty stuff.

Keep Loving!

THWT Question for 22 SEP 2020

The Two Hundred Word Tuesday question for today is:

What are the most important elements of good writing?

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