dinsdag 21 januari 2014

Going Places

“Going places, aren’t you?” one of my friends wrote on my facebook wall. As I’m one who tends to downplay things, I first wanted to say something along the lines of ‘not sure yet’, and then I stopped myself, and said “Thank you” instead.

Sometimes I forget that I’ve only been playing the publishing game for 18 months or so. And that’s just for short stories in anthologies and magazines, not even just publishing my own work. I’ve only had my solo work out there for about six months, and that’s when my life started to change.

People now see ‘me’. It’s scary, but also a good thing. And so far I’ve been very lucky… or maybe it’s just the hard work I’ve been doing. Like I said, I find it hard not to downplay things.

Coyote came out late July, and she’s already won an award for best Western of 2013. When I first heard it I thought “That’s cute”, and didn’t think much of it. Then we got an invitation to the award ceremony in Florida, and I heard that the organization who gave me the prize had a magazine and a lot of followers in different places. I was a little stunned that I got chosen as a newbie.

Yesterday I found out that my horror collection (which came out on Halloween last years) got onto the preliminary ballot for the Bram Stoker awards.

I told myself not to get too excited. After all, it’s not a nomination yet, so it ‘doesn’t really count’. But this morning I thought: “Damnit, I *am* excited about this. Even if it’s just the preliminary ballot, there were people who thought my work worthy to vote for.”

And being a part of this already worked in my favor. People went out of their way to tell me they liked my work, and some even read my other novel ‘Coyote’ because of it. I met other very talented writers and made some great friendships. Suddenly I feel less ‘invisible’, and again my work is well received.

Deeply Twisted has been getting some love from bloggers too, which I adore. There is nothing like reading the reviews of total strangers who love your work (especially if you find out those strangers are critical)
I’d say I’m not doing too shabby for a new writer, and I would like to think I’m ‘up and coming’. 

And of course my first book got into an actual bookshop, and quite a respected one at that. In fact the bookshop that's meant a lot to me since my teen years. It was a proud moment to see my own book on the shelves. 

So maybe it’s time to stop downplaying what I’ve achieved, and just enjoy it without feeling shame, or arrogant?

donderdag 16 januari 2014

Pen Names

Recently I’ve had a discussion with two very clever men (don’t let this get to your head, Boys) about pen names. They made a good point that genre hopping  (which I do) is not very good for one’s career. It’s best to take a pen name for each genre you write.

Let me start off by saying… they’re right. No argument, they just are.

So, why am I still doubting to take on different pen names?

Is it because of my ego? (I’m looking at you Graeme! *insert stink eye here*)

No… because if it was, I could simply take on names like: Chantal Peeters (which is my maiden name) and Chanti N. (which is my nickname and last initial). So, no… it’s not an ego thing.

I actually have a slightly different version off my name (C. Noordeloos) for when I write things that are erotically charged. I decided that was best.

Why not just do it then? I hear you ask.

The point is… with each pen name comes a lot of work. Being a writer is not just about writing. I wish it was, and most writers do too. You need to be out there, build a name, engage readers, talk about your work and yourself. You need to have a facebook page, or a website or whatever. Preferably a Twitter account too.

If I would take on different pennames this would mean I would have to ‘be’ all these different people. Yes they are all still me, but I find it hard enough to keep up with what’s going on now.

This will take up even more time, and I would have to keep up everything I do now for the name Chantal Noordeloos… and do that for ALL the names (and I would need at least 2 more)

Now I don’t do this for C. Noordeloos. Why? Because I don’t care about a career as an erotica writer (yet… maybe I’ll change my mind in the future) I just like to write it from time to time. But my other genres: Steampunk, horror, YA… I like those and plan to work more in them.

Writing advice will give you such conflicting messages: “Write for yourself, do what you love…” But at the same time: “You can lose readers if you step out of the boundries.”

Some writers get away with it. Look at Neil Gaiman. No, relax, I’m not comparing myself to Neil Gaiman. I’ve read a few writers who do, who have been NOTHING like him, and that annoys me too. But I do compare my passions to his. I like writing different things with my voice. He managed to get a following pure on his visions and his storytelling abilities. There is only a small chance that I can do that too.

So… what do I do? Do I risk it? Will I just stay close to myself and do what I love to do? Or will I be wise and take pen names. Or better yet… stick to one genre.

Honestly?? I haven’t decided yet.

zondag 5 januari 2014

A blog about a blog

I don’t often post links to stranger’s blogs on my own blog, but I would like to take the opportunity to share with you the following link.

Please read this if you are an Indie author or Indie publisher: http://jmgregoirebooks.com/2014/01/03/open-letter-to-indie-authors/

This woman is very eloquent in pointing out the black cloud in Indie publishing. I’ve spoken about this here before, and I thought it only fitting to show you another blog about this. I would like to say that what I’m about to write in this blog, is what I’ve experienced myself in the writing world, this is how I came to these conclusions. Not because I want to be snarky, but because I want to be honest about my path as a writer. If you want to walk a different path, be my guest -I respect different opinions- and assume that you are a sane adult who knows what they are doing.

After my last post someone told me I should inspire new writers, rather than critique. I would like to say the following.

“If you are not serious about writing, I see no need to inspire you. If you can’t take criticism, the writing world is not the place you want to be. Trust me, it's filled with critique.”

I don’t want to discourage people to write. In fact, I want to encourage people. Writing is the most wonderful thing in the world. And there is no shame in only wanting to write as a hobby, and have your friends and family read your work. I won’t look down on you, and most other writers won’t either. It’s all good and a bag of chips, as I like to say.

Should you choose that you want be a professional writer, that changes things, and you’ll need to have a professional attitude.

Many of my points have already been made by J.M. Gregoire, so I’ll try not to be too repetitive.

There is a bit of a ‘vague’ description about Indies, so I would like to give you my definition of the word. To me it’s not just self-published authors. Indies are all the people who publish independently from big publishing houses. That includes a lot of small presses.

Now, first off, I want to take some of the stigma off the word ‘Indies’, because some people have made it a ‘dirty word’, and I don’t think it should be. I really applaud independent presses and self publishers who take their job serious. Who have a plan, who hire a good editor and do all the work. It is  a LOT of work and it costs quite a bit of money to get your business started. They don’t deserve this bad name.

But there are a lot of publishers, writers, editors, proof readers etc out there who may mean well, but don’t quite know what they are doing. There is more to publishing than just putting words on a page and putting them on Amazon.

A lot of people don’t think there is. And they can get quite indignant about this, and there will be the argument “Who decides what quality is?”. I’ve heard it all before. Trust me, you can tell the difference. Having a lot of style / spelling/ grammar mistakes in your novel is not quality. There is a reason why I’m addicted to my editor *smirk*

I’ve heard people say that if you are a good writer, you shouldn’t need an editor. Remarks like that always make me want to sigh, or even ‘facepalm’. It’s like saying the CEO shouldn’t need other people working for him, because he has to know how to do his job right.

There are a lot of starry-eyed ideas about writing. And to be honest, when I first started, I was pretty starry-eyed too. I thought I would just have to write a good manuscript and send it to an agent, and the world would be a wonderful place.

It isn’t

Sorry, hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s not how it works. There’s maybe that one lucky person who got there that way. Everyone thinks they can be the next Stephanie Meyer, but in fact, most writers have to work very hard and very long and many years before they get any recognition. Even those who are traditionally published. Indie publishers have to work three times as hard. Where the traditionally published author has an expert team to back them up, the indie publisher has to create their own team, who will need to learn ‘the ropes’. And everything costs money too, from your cover, to your editor… there are dollars attached to it all. And a big chunk of the money you earn from sales will go to Amazon or other places. Don’t expect to make more than a few dollars (if that) from each book you sell. Some people don’t even make that. So it will often take more than a thousand books to earn back the money you spent. There are a lot of people out there that will take several years to sell a thousand books.

Am I crushing your dream? I’m sorry, I really don’t mean to. But it’s good to know reality. I didn’t, and to be honest, it’s caused me to struggle a bit in the beginning. I wondered what I got myself into.

Another point is to really check the publisher you go with. In the beginning we all just want to get our work out there, but not all publishers have a bigger plan. Some might not do your work justice, and though it’s nice to be published, it won’t help you to get noticed by the right people if your work is featured in the wrong places. A fair amount of publishers are no different from self publishing, only you either need to give up a cut of your money, or not get any money at all. Some publishers are really good at getting your name out there, so do some research, maybe talk to other authors that worked with them before. Don’t be afraid to ask sharp questions, this is your work after all!

But there is a bright side to this too… you get to do what you love. And it is the best job in the world, living in your own fantasy *grin*.

So now you know all this, and you still want to be a writer (yay you) and you have this work of yours ready that is a diamond in the rough… I’m going to tell you: “Have others look at it.” Not just friends. Your friends will love your work. My friends did, my first manuscript (terrible, terrible thing) went down quite well with my friends. I tried to send it to agents and they weren’t interested. I wondered why, until a year and a half later, when I learned a lot about writing and saw all the mistakes that were in my work.

My mission for 2014 /2015 is to find an agent, as some of you may know. This will probably take me quite some time, I’m trying to prepare myself for that. I now know that I can’t just send any unedited manuscript to agents anymore. That’s a lesson I learned the hard way. It’s nice that I have some talent, but I need hard work to make my work come together.

If you’re going to self publish, make sure your work is very clean. Not every reader will pick up on it, but a lot of them will. And a manuscript that isn’t polished will often feel ‘wrong’ to readers, even if they can’t put their finger on it. Put too much work out there that isn’t good, and you will get a bad reputation. You don’t want that. I’ve seen it happen to writers, and it’s depressing. Of course you can always recover again with using a penname, but would you really want to go through all that?

Besides the writing you need to have a plan. I was completely unprepared for the marketing element of writing, but that is very much a part of the process now. Even if you do go ‘traditional’, you will still need to know a bit about marketing. You need to put yourself out there. The days where you can sit in your room and just write books all day while your publisher makes sure that you are a bestseller, are over. You need to prove yourself. Even established authors like Neil Gaiman are on social media to keep a connection with their fans.

Don’t get discouraged (see, I can be encouraging) when you don’t have an instant fan base. Those take long to build. It doesn’t help that there are thousands and thousands of writers out there, all trying to get a fan base. What also doesn’t help that there are people who give Indie writers a bad name. Because there are so many spelling/ grammar mistakes in a lot of books, readers tend to shy away from Indies, and stick to the authors or publishers they do know. It makes it harder for the Indie publishers who are taking it serious to get discovered. This can be quite frustrating at times.

But if you did everything right… that following will come. It will be slow at first, and maybe in the beginning (like me) you have no idea that you actually have a following. They’re there, believe me *grin*

Be that writer that impresses the reader. Create beautiful worlds and even more beautiful stories. And like the author of the blog I posted said: Don’t put your work out there until it’s finished. It won’t do you any good. Get people with a good (dare I say professional) eye to look at your work and tell you that it’s ready to go out in the world.

When you do, it’ll be a blast!

If I sounded preachy… I’m sorry. Remember I'm just recounting my own observations and experiences in this business. I'm still learning (I don't think I'll ever stop in this business) and why not take advantage of the things I've learned so far? 
I wish everyone a lot of luck in this world, and I hope that you will feel confident enough to produce great work.