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You talkin' to ME?

Knowing when to hold 'em.  (09-03-04)

I was recently reminded of an article I wrote about whether or not freebies can help or hurt your writing career. I was reminded of it because, lately, a free Web-based E-mail service I have been using has been a HUGE pain in the derriere. Boy, I thought Hotmail was bad!

And, in case you're wondering, using free e-mail accounts CAN put a crimp on any serious professional writer. Because if you're serious, you work. And if you're professional, you don't want to send out e-mails that automatically have ads inserted at the bottom. There is just NO WAY to avoid them. Trust me, I know. And they just don't look good on your queries.

So, for this reason, I recently bought a more professional upgrade to my Web-based E-mail account. It has an auto responder (something I NEED!), better spam filtering and NO ADS! How nice.

Oh, yeah. It also means I get MORE STORAGE!!! Whoo hoo! Finally. I have had way too many E-mails bouncing for me to send out anymore.

Which brings me to the point of this entry. I have cut back on sending out queries until I get the extra storage. It's driving me CRAZY that it's taking so long to go into effect but I try to focus on my other projects until then. It really is better if I hold onto my queries instead of e-mailing them by the dozen because I'd rather be able to get a reply then have an editor backlist me if their replies bounce.

But bounced e-mails are the least of my worries. It seems that the e-mails I'm sending out aren't getting through, either. One editor recently told me that she never got my article and my publisher failed to receive a couple of e-mails from me, too. Hopefully, that'll stop happening after the upgrade.

I'll probably write more later about what happens after recieving the storage space. But let me say right here and now that any writer out there hoping to thrive in their career and present themselves in a professional manner would do well to use a professional E-mail service. It's not so much the storage space you need to consider with Web-based free E-mail. But the other things, too, like the domain name after your e-mail address. I have heard that some editors think twice before responding to E-mail queries from Yahoo! or AOL because spammers use them all of the time. I know it's unfair, but it's just the way it is. Getting a professional E-mail account with a unique domain name is the better way to go.

And, at least I will have a lot of queries to send out when I get my extra storage space! It'll save me the extra typing, at least.


"The cover that will not load."  (09-10-04)

I recently told a friend in an e-mail that I was having a bad week. But my bad week really didn't have so much to do with personal problems as it did with writing-related problems. Or, should I say, BOOK-related problems. Namely, my MIDNIGHT OIL book.

Allow me to explain.

On Monday I heard from Shannon Swanson, who did the cover for this book. She was having trouble uploading the cover file to the link Angela, of Booklocker.com, Inc., gave to her. This started off a series of e-mails between me, Shannon and Angela. Shannon lives in Florida and she told me in one e-mail, "I hope this hurricane doesn't blow us all to Oz." And I thought the tech problems she was having with uploading the cover had to do with the hurricane. There were instances in which I wouldn't hear from her and then when I did, I'd find out it was because she'd lost power. But I don't know (yet) if that is the reason why.

In some strange way, I envisioned this poor woman sitting at her desk, frantically trying to upload the file on her computer while furniture, people, miscellaneous items and even dogs and cats flew around in the space behind her that once included the top of her house. I even started to wonder, during the times I didn't hear from her, if she and her family HAD been blown away to Oz.

But as one day passed and then two, I really started getting nervous. I had trouble sleeping and this problem was the main thing that I kept thinking about. I would log on to my e-mail account and find no new update about what had so far progressed. I would bite my nails off my fingers thinking, "Shannon?? Angela?? GUYS??!!!" It got to one point where Angela called it "the cover that will not load."  Then I finally get an e-mail from Shannon along the lines of "the eagle has landed." (I can only assume that is her way of saying "Elvis has left the building.") She'd gotten her computer straightened out and was able to upload the file now. HOORAY!! I did a happy dance and moved on, thinking it was over.

Silly me.

I got an e-mail from Angela about how the bleed on the cover is wrong. (ARGH!!!!) She sent it to both of us, including Shannon's e-mail about the bleed specs. I could only read and dumbly nod my head, not understanding what the heck they were talking about. I e-mailed Shannon to ask about any new updates on this but so far, no reply.And now Hurricane Ivan is on the approach, expected to touch down in Florida at 1 a.m. I sent Shannon an e-mail telling her that I hope they don't suffer the worst of Ivan's carnage, but I'm really starting to worry. They've already survived two hurricanes in one month. I can only hope their luck holds out.

And I'm starting to wonder if they offer Internet access in Oz.

The makings of an E-Book.  (09-17-04)
For the record, I'm not a huge fan of E-books. Sure, I read 'em once in a while. And I'm always for downloading free E-Books on subjects of interest. But give me a real print book I can hold in my hands, cuddle up with and carry around to read, and I'm a happy camper. Still, E-Books are great promotional tools for writers. They're a great alternative to the writer struggling to write a book but can't write something long enough to even be a paperback book. And, when offered for free, they're great ways to attract readers to your site/product sales page/whatever. For this reason, I'm not against E-Books.
I even want to write my own.
For the past couple of months, I've been throwing around ideas for an E-Book. I even chatted online with another writer about it, who spent a good part of our chat trying to convince me that I am just as good a candidate to write an E-Book on a particular topic than anyone else. But I just couldn't come up with something I felt was "right" just yet. (I'm the same way with articles and print books!)
Then an article I'd submitted to an E-zine over a year ago got published. This was a surprise because I thought the editor had forgotten all about me and, heck, I had even forgotten about that article. At the time I sent it, I pitched it as a series. When I e-mailed the editor to thank her for publishing my article (and for not forgetting about me, either!), she said she was interested in seeing more articles from me on this topic.
There went the light over my head. I had my E-book.
But I wasn't sure if I'd be able to cull the articles together into an E-Book, because I wasn't clear about what rights I still would have to them. Soo, I did what any freelance writer does: I went to an expert for help. And the expert that immediately came to mind was "The Book Coach," Judy Cullins. I've been reading her articles for years and often visiting her Web site, so naturally I sent Judy an E-mail asking her about this. With her permission, I am going to quote what she said:
"To answer your question about your article rights that you submit to ezines--If they belong to you, are copywrited with the c. 2004 or similar mark and retain your signature file, they are yours. Yes, they may create a great eBook if you organize by theme and give them a new intro and conclusion-- making them new again. An eBook needs a table of contents and each chapter should reflect a particular topic to be explored--and the readers' problems answered within it. To put a chapter together, you may want to check ch. 7 of my book, "Write your eBook or Other Book Fast!" to refresh how a format helps you write a saleable book. "

I am glad that, in this case, I didn't surrender all rights to my article with this E-zine. And my article did not have the copyright symbol, though it did have my bio. But when I read it again as something to put into an E-book, I realized it could use some updating. (The editor prefers the articles be 500 words and, thankfully, I won't have that limit with an E-Book.) And I could definitely find a way to make it "brand new."

Thank you, Judy, for your helpful answer!

For anyone interested, here is Judy's info. I HIGHLY recommend her to everyone. She knows her stuff!!

Judy Cullins: 20-year author, speaker, book coach
Helps entrepreneurs manifest their book and web dreams
eBk: "Write your eBook or Other Book Fast!"
To receive FREE "The Book Coach Says..."
or Business Tip of the Month go to
Orders: 866/200-9743  --  Ph:619/466-0622


Countdown.   (9-25-04)
I'm starting to get paranoid. OK, maybe "paranoid" isn't the right word. Maybe the right word is ... "obsessive." Yes, that's about right. I'm starting to get obsessive. But maybe, in this case, my obsessiveness is a good thing, because it has to do with one of my books.
My book, BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL: How We Survive as Writing Parents, will be available for purchase in less than a week. LESS THAN SEVEN DAYS!!! And in between telling everyone all about it and getting my promotion campaign into place, I'm taking time during my off-hours going over every single last detail. Are all of the words on the cover spelled right? Does this match that? Did I catch each and every typo? Is the book officially copyrighted? Will I get sued for this (or not)? Is it okay to include this? Did I include as much necessary information on that as I thought was necessary? Did I mention the private room password enough? Will the links show up okay?
Etc., etc.
I'm not really so worried about what type of criticism this book will get. After all, you can't please EVERYBODY. And the advance praise I got for the book (which I, of course, included in it) has made me confident that I did well. I'm just freaking out that the book is not, well, PERFECT. That every single typo has been corrected, that each line is intact, that the cover won't come out looking blurred and that everything is consistent.
Sure I'm excited about the book's closely approaching release. Sure I'm relieved that I finished THIS book and now I can move on to my NEXT one. But for the most part, I'm biting my nails off that there will be something I missed. We writers can't really control formatting goofs or copyediting mistakes made on the publisher's end; all we CAN do is be extra sure that we've handed over the best darn looking manuscript that we can. And I'm starting to worry that I haven't. I went over the galleys THREE TIMES but something still bugs me about it. Like I've missed something. Like I'll be going over my copy of the book then slapping my forehead when I see "the" spelled as "th" or someone's name with a lowercase letter. This is the thing that's been keeping me awake, tossing and turning in my bed at night, all week. This is the thing that has me thinking every single bully I had to deal with in school will see that mistake and laugh at it, pointing at my name on the book and saying, "What a loser!!"
But I'll get over it. Not every single book can be perfect and I DID do the best I could in making it as perfect as it can be. As it stands now, I'm furiously at work on finishing up a novel (which is why I didn't post on here yesterday) and getting started on my next nonfiction book. And, of course, I've got the freelancing work going on. I'm using all of this to distract myself with. And I'm reading a lot, too. Actually, I've been reading more than I used to.
Still, I am nervous about one other teensy, tiny little thing: Promotion. Namely, promoting THIS BOOK! The publisher told me NOT to promote it until it was released. (Cue the collective gasp among my fellow authors.) We know we're supposed to start promoting our books long before they come out, preferably 4-12 months before they are out. And I was told, "Don't do any promoting." Yup, you read that right. NO PROMOTION. I had to read it three times before it sunk in. I can't send out press releases, display flyers, send out freebie articles or send advance copies to big-name book reviewers. I'm STILL unsure about this strategy. But, the publisher's word is gold, so who am I to argue? I guess this is because it is a POD book. And even though I've already had an E-zine circulating about the book and its premise, I've kept the promotion campaign on hold. What a HUGE relief it will be to get it going soon because I'm ready to scream to the world all about this book.
Very soon.
Must ... control ... urge ... longer!
I am still amazed that this book was finished in the time it was: 4 months. It was written in 4 months!! That is indeed a record for me (one of my novels-in-progress has been in progress for, oh, going on 3 years). But maybe that's because of the huge response I got from so many writing parents around the world. And, thanks to their being so prompt, the book was done in only 4 months. Thanks to each and every one of those 35 writing moms and dads in the book, I was able to write and now get published THE only book on this topic in less than a year! The next publisher for the consecutive volumes (a traditional press) may take longer, but, you know, it is because of their (and, yes, mine, too) efforts and determination that writing parents will now have a book to turn to when they need a shoulder to lean on or some kind of inspirational message to take with them. Some of those messages occasionally pop into my head even still, during the days I am struggling to meet a deadline or write something while the baby is pulling on my arm or my husband is complaining about the dishes in the sink. Messages like "you have to find balance" or "enjoy the journey." This is why I put all 30 of them in there: To serve as reminders to writing parents that, despite the chaos of everyday life, those little pieces of wisdom can help them solve whatever obstacles they face each day in trying to juggle writing and parenting.
I learned so much during the writing of this book and in interviewing all 30 of the writing parents interviewed. This book did more than teach me how to be a successful writing parent; it empowered me. It made me feel confident that this writing parent stuff is NOT impossible to pull off. That I can STILL find success and that, above all else, the rewards in the end make the task all worthwhile.
Those rewards are what every writer with a book coming out can look forward to ... and cherish.    
Check it out here: