Work smart and think

Having finished the latest work in progress, I’m at that phase where my brain is still thinking about the project and the inner me — that very insecure and scared writer — is worrying as I wait to hear back from The Boss about whether or not she likes what I did. Other plots are trying to push forward because they want to be written, but they’re having trouble pushing through the sludge that is my brain right now. The business side of me knows I need to at least consider which one to do, but it’s not easy. After all, do I want to finish the space opera or go back and do the next title in the Nocturnal Lives series or do I go ahead and do the follow-up to the novel I just finished? Or what about any of the other novels that I’ve made notes on or started but put aside to finish something else? Oh the joys of being a writer with a mush brain and not enough coffee.

So, knowing I’m not ready to start on a new project yet, or even pick up the strings of one I put aside in order to write the last two novels, I started searching the interwebs for some inspiration for today’s post. A couple of things popped up and, well, started me thinking. The first was an exchange on Baen’s Bar yesterday. For those of you not familiar with the Bar, it’s an online community where fans can interact with other fans, Baen authors and editors. It was social media before social media existed.

Baen is also one of the few major publishers that still has a slush pile. Authors can submit to Baen through its online slush pile without first querying and without having an agent. Baen has always been upfront that the chances of being selected from the slush pile is very slim. It also takes time, time to make the first cut where a slush reader recommends your manuscript be reviewed by someone up the chain of command and more time if your manuscript gets passed on to one of the editors. It isn’t a quick process but Baen has never said it would be.

So imagine my surprise yesterday to see a post on the Bar from someone accusing Baen of lying about never accepting manuscripts from “new” writers. His proof of this was that there were no “new” authors listed on the schedule for the last year or then next few months. When some responders pointed out that there were new authors on the list, he came back and basically moved the goal posts. He said these authors weren’t “new” because they were known to be writers in other areas: gaming, non-fiction, etc. What he was talking about were authors who had never been published before, ever. He went on to basically say the slush pile was just a ploy by Baen to build brand loyalty.

Now, this poster did admit that he’d tried going through the slush process but had been turned down. He complained about how long it took (but when someone checked the time involved, it was within the time frame Baen tries to stick to). What got me about his comments were that he was there to rant and each time someone responded with proof that his premise was wrong, he basically said, “but that’s not what I meant. This is what I meant.”

But what really got me was this guy’s whole attitude. I wouldn’t blame the powers that be at Baen for never wanting to see anything from him again. You don’t go onto a forum, private or public, and accuse the forum owners of lying and using ploys. At least not if you want to do business with them again. While this might not rate up there with the author who went on a public rant about his editor a few years ago —  a very public and profanity laced rant — this was anything but smart. So the lesson is, always think about what you’ve just said and what the ramifications can be before you hit the enter button. Then, if you do hit enter, don’t keep digging the hole deeper unless you’re into being piled on.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only WTF moment I had yesterday as I went looking for topics for today’s post. Cedar Sanderson — hi, Cedar! — linked to a Facebook page claiming to be the next best thing for helping authors market their work. Now, she’d linked to it with the comment that something about it didn’t feel right to her. I had the exact same reaction — and, no, I’m not going to link to it and give these guys any more publicity than they have already gotten. Why? Because I don’t have a good feeling about them and here’s why:

This is a Facebook page only. I couldn’t find a website for them. One the FB page, they say that if they get to so many likes, they will open up for a beta test. As I said, I couldn’t find a website for this so-called company to check out what they are going to offer, who is behind the company, etc. All I know is that if they reach beta and if you sign up, for a fee of $15/month, you get to reach”thousands” of connections. Again, no idea who the connections are or how they are chosen. There are other red flags, but I think you get the point about why it isn’t something I’m going to run out and sign up for.

I don’t mind paying to promote any of my books. But I have to do it smart and simply signing up for something that says it’s going to be great without seeing anything about how they are going to work, who they are putting my book in front of, etc., isn’t going to get me to pry open my wallet. The problem is, I’m seeing more and more of these types of sites popping up. They promise a lot for a little bit of money so authors sign up. After all, we’re writers, not marketing execs. But we have to be smart with our money. Throwing it out there just because someone says they will get your name out there doesn’t guarantee it. So look for easily identifiable websites for the company wanting your money. Read their contract and see who their contacts are. Find out what role you have to play in all this. If you have to promote someone else’s work in order for your work to be promoted somewhere, ask yourself if it is worth it. This is especially true if the person or persons whose work you have to promote is not familiar to you. Do you have time to look at their book or short story before deciding if you want to recommend it to your readers? In other words, is this wonderful opportunity to promote going to become a time sink that will adversely affect your writing time?

Finally, I have to say something about crowd sourcing your work. What brought this to mind was the announcement that Wattpad is now offering what they call Fan Funding. I’m not against crowd sourcing in general. But I do have reservations. As a writer, I know what a hit my confidence would take if I posted a project and it didn’t get funded. It’s that same hit I take with royalty statements when my sales are down. I know sales are cyclical and there are times of the year when my stuff sells better than others. I also know that the more often I put things up, the better my sales. But that doesn’t ease the hit to my ego when I see the actual figures on paper. So imagine the ego hit I’d take if I posted a project for funding and it didn’t fund. And, let’s face it, that’s not an unusual reaction for most writers. We are an insecure lot, on the whole.

But I have another concern with crowd funding, especially with the Wattpad version. Now, going in here, I’ll admit I’m not familiar with the ins-and-outs of Wattpad. So some of my assumptions may be wrong. But if I read the initial information about the Fan Funding, the book you are trying to crowd source would be available on Wattpad. My questions are if this means everyone who belongs to Wattpad would be able to read it for free. While I have no problem giving away my work for free, I want to be able to choose when and for how long that happens. A new work that I’m trying to get sales for needs to be a for sale title and not one that thousands upon thousands of folks can access for free. I get no money then and I like to eat and my animals like their kibble.

From a consumer point of view, I have another concern with this sort of funding of projects. Most of these crowd funding sites do have a set period of time for a project to meet its funding goal. Thirty days seems to be the standard. Your credit card won’t be charged until the funding goal is met — or a hold is put on your pledged funds and then the hold is released. That’s a good thing. But what happens if the goal is met, your credit card is charged and then the project never comes to fruition? There are a lot of reasons for this to happen but if you’ve pledged money to see a project happen and it never does, or it takes so long to happen that you figure it will never take place, you will think twice before ever funding another suck project and you sure as hell will think twice before ever buying anything else from that author.

I guess the common thread through all of this is that we, as writers, have to think about the ramifications of what we do. Is it worth the time, effort and possible heartache — not to mention money — it will require? In other words, what is the return on investment? If it kills the creative process, even for a day or two, or if it means spending more time promoting someone else’s work instead of your own, it’s probably not worth it.

Write, promote smart and don’t pay for things you don’t have to unless you are sure that doing so will save you money or, better yet, make you money in the long run.

*     *     *

Since I have been talking promotion, here are three of my titles with links to Amazon. They are available elsewhere.

nocturnaloriginscoverfinalsmNocturnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

serenadecoverthumbNocturnal Serenade

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

nocturnal hauntsNocturnal Haunts

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.


  1. When I saw it, it set off red flags. Marketing isn’t easy. I don’t feel like I have a great handle on marketing my writing, because it is different from my other business. But I do know that word of mouth is probably the best way, and it’s slow. It’s not selling your work to other writers, although a loose network helping one another with reviews and shared links is a good way to help ‘feed’ your readers and theirs. But as you point out, you have to know and trust the work of thos cross promotions, or you risk losing the trust your readers have in you, and setting back word-of-mouth marketing. Because it is about trust. This is also why pushy marketing, begging, and even that crowd-funding you mention are not very (if at all) effective. Your readers (customers) don’t want to feel like you only want to milk them. The kick starters I see working are happening with artists (in whatever medium) who have a substantial fan base, and those fans are getting a trusted product they want and eagerly anticipate, in return for their investment. Trying to do this without that foundation of trust is going to fail.

    And now I’ll step off the soapbox – where did that come from, anyway?

    1. I’m absolutely positive that – for indie – word of mouth (and related stuff like blogging) is the only way to market successfully. That other recent article* about indie authors certainly had some issues about tone, but it was right about the problem of filtering Indie. For most people the easiest and best way to filter is to get a recommendation from someoen they know.

      Mind you much the same criteria applies to trad pub too these days. With a few exceptions I don’t buy trad pub books from any publisher other than Baen without some kind of strong recommendation from someone I know.


        1. You’re being kind about that article 😉

          If you can wade through the tone of it, there are some decent points, but they also apply to traditional publishing, especially considering how the trad publishers — not Baen — have started pushing editing and marketing off to the authors and their agents.

          1. Oh, that. Yes, I love how every “how to really write as a real professional in umpteen easy steps” post I see from a tradpubbed writer includes the notion of revision, and polishing, and revision, and polishing, and after you get that agent you NEEEEEED, doing the revisions they suggest(demand?) before you can get an editor who REALLY makes it shine. I’m sorry, how many extra hours of work is that for how much more reward? Yeah, I’m using that time to write the sequel, thanks.

        2. As noted, there are some valid points about craft and work buried in there. But it’s lost in the vitriol. And it just takes me back to all the elitist criticism we wade through regarding any human endeavor that gets stuck under ‘art.’

          There are few truly objective metrics for evaluating artistic expression, and even those are subject to rule-breaking. Unlike, say, engineering. Rule breaking in engineering is likely to have an objectively observable rate of failure. Yet, time and again a moment in a cultural gestalt is frozen and declared to be the standard for ‘art.’ And so it sits until the weight of another gestalt shifts the prevailing attitude. Pick your medium and we can go back through history and count the shifts.

          In a large, heterogeneous, interconnected society there are going to be multiple, amorphous gestalts present at any given moment. Many of them are going to be contradictory. Most of them are going to violate the accepted wisdom of artistic standard in some form. 314 million people (US) do not share a homogeneous taste in detail about anything.

          From this, there is a larger market for niche artistic expression than can be supported by available artists. That the badly crafted/derivative/fanfic indie works the linked poster derides sell demonstrates people’s desire for that type of expression. Period. The market defined by demand.

          It’s perfectly reasonable to note that niche pieces won’t support X business model. A given overhead requires a given volume to be profitable. Following that, it’s perfectly reasonable to note that devoting time to the skill and craft increases an artist’s (author’s) viability. I have no problem with the fact that trad pub houses define what they will sell, based on the likelihood they will meet their volume requirements. Smart business, that. (Whether or not their interior criteria are actually smart is another point.)

          But, when we move from ‘smart practice for a given business model’ to the idea that ‘only what fits this business model is legitimate art’…I feel my blood pressure spike.

          I’ve read some indie stuff that desperately needed another pass for grammar and clarity, much less the professional services of an editor. But I looked past the problems because the author was telling me such a unique story about interesting people doing interesting things and I didn’t care. Their market viability would improve with craft-work and editing, but I’d be poorer if they had been blocked from the market by art snobs such as the poster.

          If trad pub could stop reflexively stomping on the independents maybe they could fulfill the roll that makes the business model effective: aggregating professionally prepared/reviewed manuscripts that meet a given expectation. Until then, their temper tantrums and self-referential standards will continue to lose readers.

          (Apologies for a long {tangential} debut comment on an older post, but the linked article really poked me in the eye!)

            1. Well, assuming it passes the inspection tomorrow, I’ve already sold it. I will say that I have no hesitation in recommending an older Honda CRV to anyone. Solid reliable cars, plenty of space, adequate gas mileage.

    2. Cedar, you’re right. Very right. And it is a lesson a lot of indie authors don’t get. They don’t understand that constant tweets about their books or fb posts won’t gain them additional readers but may actually cost them. Promote but don’t spam. That should be rule number one.

      1. This. I want to hear about your book, indie authors. BUT! Like the tradpub authors I follow, I want to hear about MORE than your books. Let me know what your daily metrics are, what’s going on in your life. Link me cute pictures of kittehs and bunnehs. Social media is about connecting (though that connection often feels like face-punchings). When all I hear from you is the same set of rave comments about your books, I’m going somewhere else. That’s advertisement, not connection.

        1. kilteDave, you have summed it up nicely. I’ll add one caveat, however. Because there are people out there who do believe that they are your bestest friend because you have posted those cute kitteh pictures and talked about your daughter’s dance recital and your son’s soccer game, you have to be careful not to give too much information. Writers do get stalkers and that can be annoying and scary. So give the info and updates without giving too much info.

          1. Oh, yes. I have friends who use pseudonyms for their children. Laird and Lady are too well known (both writers themselves) but they keep the wee things out of the spotlight. There’s a reason I refer to my wife as “Mrs. Dave.” Several reasons, a couple of which aren’t fit for public discourse. I find normal people’s tendency to put anything and everything up on the internet to be the height of gibbering madness.

            1. Yeah. I love seeing photos of my friends’ kids and activities. But I’ve never understood the need to share the most minute detail of your life with folks online. Maybe I’m the strange one. Shrug.

              1. And now, per a report I saw the other day, we find that phones add things like GPS information to the metadata attached to photos, unless you disable it, and people can find where you took a picture by freely available software.

                1. Yep. And add in the locator services your tablets and computers have and the websites that track that information — including FB — and it is getting harder and harder to stay off the grid even nominally.

              2. Not at all. Most people have insufficiently developed paranoia. I treat pretty much everything online as if somebody nasty could find it and use it against me. Of course, I’m also confident in my ability to defend myself and others against the common thug. It’s going to be interesting learning to balance that when I get a solid readership.

  2. About that “individual” on Baen’s Bar, while listening to the discussion (both about him and with him), I thought of Christopher Nuttall.

    For a few years now, Chris has been posting his stories in the Baen’s Bar Slush Pile.

    For those not familiar with the Bar, this conference isn’t associated with the Baen Books Slush Pile but is a place for people to post their stories to get feed-back from readers.

    I also know that he was submitted his stories to Baen Books.

    While to my knowledge Chris hasn’t been accepted by Baen (you would hear his shouts if he had), a few of his books have been accepted by small presses and he has joined the indie movement (on

    IMO Chris has been a professional about his work.

    He’s accepted feedback about his work (especially when others find problems).

    The only “complaints” I’ve heard from Chris is when people aren’t commenting on his stories but that is good natured on his part.

    IMO Chris is an author (even before he was published), that “individual” isn’t.

    1. I agree with you about Chris. He’s put in the time and he’s been gracious about it. This other guy, well, he’s the sort that may mean well but who doesn’t think about the ramifications of what he says. His attitude not only colors the impression people may have of him but also of other indie authors or authors trying to break into the business and that’s not a good thing.

  3. While I’m not a member of Baen’s Bar, so I didn’t see the rant you are referring to, it sounds like the type of ploy that is resorted to more and more these days, of accusing someone (or some organization) of lying or being biased, or whatever, in order to get the target to do something that they would not otherwise do, just to avoid negative feelings from others. Clearly he chose the wrong target and the wrong venue for it to work, but I never claimed people were smart.

    1. Wayne, you may be right and your comment reminds me of something I heard on the news this morning. The news reader reported on how the court had thrown out part of the law suit against Paula Deen, basically the part alleging racial discrimination. What got me, however, was the PR expert who spoke about it later, saying that Deen screwed up by not settling the law suit whether she was guilty of the allegations against her or not.

      From a business standpoint, he was right. The damages asked for in the suit were far less than the fall-out has probably cost Deen. But we have become a country where suing at the drop of a hat is commonplace and people and businesses settle instead of going through the time and expense to defend themselves, even if they have done anything wrong. That sort of thinking has simply reinforced the nuisance lawsuit mentality of so many people. I could go on for quite awhile about it but, simply put, if we’d stop caving because we are afraid of the bad PR and instead stand up for ourselves when we’ve done nothing wrong AND if the courts (and legislatures through appropriate laws making nuisance law suits not only unattractive but onerous financially) would assess penalties for frivolous law suits, we might see less of this sort of behavior.

      As for this guy, his rant makes it seem as if he is like too many others who think that just because they didn’t get what they want, reality should change to suit him.

      1. “I could go on for quite awhile about it but,”

        Perhaps in another post, Miss Green. It takes a certain moral fortitude to stand up and fight when you know the odds are stacked against you. Used to be that sort of thing was idealized, despite the fact that sorrow and pain were the most likely result. The knowledge that you didn’t cave in when things got tough is a great boost to character, too. Nowadays weakness seems to be rewarded more often (Snap, I think they are calling it- food stamp program).

        Ach, I’d better quit before *I* get started. Dan sez, always keep your word and fight wickedness where you can. It may make it harder to deal with the rest of the world, but you get to live with yourself and who you are a lot easier.

        1. I know it takes a lot to do — and yes, it is something for another post — but part of that is the current attitude so many people have that if someone alleges something in a law suit (especially if the allegation is something that goes against the current politically correct attitudes), then the allegation must be true. Part of the reason for this is that we, as a society, have gotten lazy. It is easier not to fight something if we can pay the other side off and get them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The problem is, most non-disclosure agreements aren’t worth the paper they are written on.

          BTW, I like what “Dan sez”. We should all try to follow that rule.

  4. Sweet mother of manuscripts! Just read a bit of the thread in question on the Bar. I was going to avoid it, really I was. But reading the source material before forming an opinion is fair way to do things, and so I did. Much to my chagrin, I shall not have those moments back.

    If “unpublished author” means nothing, nowhere, ever in print, in tangible form, at all, then *I* would not qualify as a “New Author.” Despite the fact that I don’t consider myself one at all, I’ve been published a couple of times in short fiction, once in a poetry collection, and technically speaking, a scholarly work (college. required.) just that I recall. None of it was of great quality, but I was paid for it. I think I might have gotten $25 all told.

    How does one become a truly good author that has broad appeal? Practice, of course! So we find that many of the authors of books I want to read have been published before. Good for them! I expect that this is *how* they became so skilled in the craft. Reminds me of that HWA nonsense a week ago. It is exceedingly rare to find someone with such natural talent for storytelling in print that they have the kind of polish that readers and editors look for immediately. Truly “unpublished” authors are most often beginners, with all that being such entails.

    As for the other, don’t you find it illuminating that for a project aimed at marketing your book (and others), they’ve singularly failed to market *themselves* very well? And furthermore, companies have to be smart about their money, too. Taking blind submissions is a good way to rake in funds, but a better way to run a marketing company would be to have some success to point to, I think. That would involve being rather more selective about what you are marketing. After all, you want your sales be like ‘X’ book, which sold in Amazon’s top ten in-genre for ten weeks after Acme Marketing picked them up. I’ve no experience to back this up, but an opinion and $5 will get you a haircut around here. *grin*

    1. Agreed, with regard to both what you said about the thread on the Bar and on the marketing project. Especially with regard to the marketing project. That was one of the first things that had me wondering. If you are marketing yourself as a company, or even as a service, I’d expect a website to show exactly what you are offering and how it will be implemented. This really did have a cart before the horse feel to me.

  5. FWIW, I’d vote for more Mackenzie stories. Which, I understand, is not much. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Mark. I will probably do the next one of them after a short break to do something that doesn’t involved shapeshifters.

  6. Crowd funding/kickstarters and so forth may work for some people who _need_ a solid externally applied deadline. Me? I’d druther write it at my own speed and sell it later. Of course, I don’t have a fan base, and wouldn’t get funded. But that’s not sour grapes. I know myself well enough to know that I’m better off left alone, to wobble all over and then surprise myself when I finish something. Which happens several times a year, so really, I’m not _that_ unorganized.

    1. Pam, are you sure we’re not related? Because that is exactly how I feel. Plus, the added pressure of knowing all those folks had funded the project and I needed to not disappoint them would probably send me over the edge and I’d never get anything written.

  7. Re: Wattpad, the materials are free. The general thinking is that these users (often mobile or YA) are not really candidates for purchase, but that if they like the first book of a series, either posted all at once or dribbled out a chapter/week, they are capable of spreading the word and maybe even ponying up for the next series books.

    I’ll let you know. I just put up book 1 of my first series, and it will be a “featured” work in late October, which is supposed to drive visibility. We’ll see…

    1. Thanks, Karen. I haven’t wandered over there to try it out for the simple reason that I haven’t figured out where to find the time. Do let me know how it works out for you.

  8. Not having read the troll in question, here’s the impression I got. He’s a failure, but won’t admit it to himself. So he has to blame anything but himself for that failure. But furthermore, he must buttress that mental house of cards by making sure that no-one else succeeds where he failed by pouring all his energy into defaming the thing and especially discouraging anyone else from trying.

    1. Either that or he was trying his own version of reverse psychology. Maybe he thought by railing against the system, Toni would decide she needed to step in and look at his book, rejected though it was, and that she would see that it was wonderful and offer him a contract. Okay, I’m pre-coffee so that probably wasn’t what he was doing. I think what really got me was the way he so effectively shot himself in the foot with his rant. He made sure the powers-that-be will remember him and not in a good way.

  9. Even if he had no chance at all with Baen because they lied (and why would they, really, they’ve always had plenty of brand loyalty) he should be thankful they were even pretending to look at a slush pile– nobody else does.

    And I just thought I’d add that I was the person who came up with the idea for the current slush system that Baen uses. I suggested it on the board (this was before one of the major crashes) then went away for a year or something, and when I came back they were using it. You’d think they’d have shown some gratitude and accepted my novel (or two)… there must be a conspiracy…

    1. Scott, I deeply appreciate the fact that Baen does have the slush pile for those who don’t have an agent or a line to Toni or one of the other editors at Baen. I also understand that Baen has only so many slots a month where it can publish new titles. Because of that and because Baen does have to make a profit to keep publishing the books I want to read, it can’t risk slot after slot on untried authors. That’s something the poster in question didn’t — or wouldn’t — understand.

      There are possible ways around the slot limitation, but even that is dependent on existing contracts Baen has with its distributor. Those ways also probably wouldn’t have satisfied the poster because it wouldn’t include a hard cover first printing. I’d love to see Baen create a new line where it introduces new writers, or new to Baen, via e-books only. I know there have been folks propose it on the Bar. But, as I said, I don’t know what the contractual limitations are on Baen, so I won’t try to second guess why something like that hasn’t been done.

      1. I haven’t read the thread (not sure if I can even remember my Baen log-on its been that long– but it sounds as if nothing (short of a NY Times best seller) would have satisfied the poster. Obviously he is completely new to writing and submitting– either that or he has never read one of the millions of articles/blogs/whatevers about how unlikely it is that anyone will ever publish a first novel. He’s been sitting in his dark room typing away for the last six months and now the world owes him for his genius…

        1. Having read the thread and seen his lack of understanding of the process, of the constraints Baen operates under (which are kind of known when it comes to distribution) as well as him not knowing about the authors who have been picked out of the slush pile or through the self-publishing route, I believe you are right. He made a good case for doing your homework before submitting anywhere, much less before going on a tirade.

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