Thursday, July 31, 2014

A Mid-List Author's Inbox

Zestful Blog Post # 64

I've been so occupied preparing for my stint as the Genre Fiction Whisperer (my self-bestowed title) for the Lambda Emerging Voices retreat next week that I almost forgot about this blog today. Am realizing that even a whole week with my Fellows won't be enough to impart everything I want them to absorb. But we'll try!

Beyond discussing writing technique and the particular requirements of genre fiction, studying some great fiction, and doing writing assignments, I want to give them an idea of what it's like to be a professional author running your own factory, including the obligations and responsibilities that come with it.

I'm what you'd call a mid-list author, which is publisher-speak for 'not one of the big shots who make us most of our money'. Between signing my first publishing contract and the time the book came out, I joked to friends that I was 'cherishing the last of my precious anonymity'.

It's funny, though, how that anonymity gradually evaporates even if you don't skyrocket to household-namehood. I do have a somewhat unusual situation in that I have a dual career—novelist and writing authority—which seems to have magnified things.

A common occurrence for an author is to get a message from a reader, which is almost always a fabulous thing. (Think I'll deal with the 'almost' part of that in a future post.) Reader messages are fun and easy to respond to, until they hit the unmanageable threshold, which they do for the rock stars. Then there's everything else. A sample daily email in-box for the likes of me:

·         Request to speak for free at a conference.
·         Proofs of my latest article for Writer's Digest, requiring 48-hour turnaround.
·         Note from a grateful reader of You've Got a Book in You.
·         Note from an (understandably) impatient reader of my novels: "When? When?"
·         Request for a jacket blurb from another author.
·         Request for a summary of the conference session I blithely agreed to do for free six months ago.
·         An agreement to be filled out, signed, and returned to the conference regarding on-site book sales.
·         Request for a bio and head shot for the conference program.
·         Request for a one-page handout for attendees to my conference session.
·         Request from an aspiring writer to read their work and give feedback for free.
·         Request from an aspiring writer who is willing to pay for my help.
·         3 junk mails from Writer's Digest, which list I have to stay on so I don't miss mentions of myself that I ought to boost.
·         Amazon remittance notices. (yay)
·         Correspondence with the graphic artist I've hired to make my self-pubbed covers look better.
·         Request for news for the newsletter of one of the literary societies I maintain membership in.
·         Notice that someone new has signed up for my blog.
·         Notice that someone has tweeted something about a book of mine.
·         Notice of the automatic charge for maintaining my domain name.
·         Exploratory email from someone interested in somehow getting my books translated to TV.
·         Email from publisher asking when I can write another book…

Besides, of course, the photos and messages from friendsnfamily, blogs I've signed up for, and other personal and professional business.

What does all this take, even if 'no' is often the answer? You got it: time. I envy the headliners not for their writing skills, but for their ability to hire assistants.

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[power plant photo by ES]


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