I’m a Bad Author Blogger

A very bad author blogger. I’ve written many a post in my head, but none of them have made their way to this blog. Maybe it’s because it’s the busy outdoor time of year, or because I spend my computer time writing posts for my homesteading blog, or because I lost so most of my current writing project when my old hard drive died. Or maybe because there’s no pressure to keep fresh content before my slim Building A Book readership. (Thank you to those who do take the time to read and comment!) I should have at least posted about Prepper’s Livestock Handbook being available!

That’s my biggest news, that Prepper’s Livestock Handbook is now in print! As excited as I am about that, I confess that it was a lot of work, especially as we got close to the deadline. It was a relief to get it done and switch gears for awhile to focus on other things. Those other things have mostly been the garden, the goats, building the new goat barn, and making a rotational grazing plan. Also a little time to pursue the odd hobby or two. Even so, I’m always writing in my head.

Other good news is that fellow homesteading author Anna Hess has asked me to write a sidebar piece for the second edition of her The Naturally Bug-Free Garden. I’m truly honored to be doing so and have always appreciated Anna’s help in the promotion of my own books.

Mental work has begun on my next book. I’d like to do a sequel to 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. Dan and I have learned so much since that book was published. We’ve been steadfast in working toward our self-sufficiency goal, and in ways I never dreamed possible when I first published 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. As one might expect, there have been ups, downs, and learning curves, and I’d like to share them all with others on the journey. I’m just in the outline stage, but hopefully I’ll have that figured out soon so when the garden harvest slacks off in autumn, I’ll be ready to hit the keyboard.

eBooks. New volumes to my Little Series of Homestead How-Tos have pretty much been on hold for the past year as I’ve worked on Prepper’s Livestock Handbook. Then when I had problems with Paypal, I unpublished all of my books on Smashwords, because Paypal was how I was paid my royalties. However, I recently changed that payment option, so they are available there once again. I have ideas for several new additions to this series, so stay tuned for that.

In other eBook news, I have permanently unpublished my Critter Tales Series eBooks but will continue to keep the Critter Tales paperback on the market. Turning it into an eBook series was something of an experiment, but for the interested reader the paperback is the better bargain.

I think that about wraps up my author update. Hopefully I won’t be so long with the next one.

10,000 Words Too Many

I was so relieved to return my manuscript to the publisher with all the corrections they had asked for. I’ve been tied to my computer with this project for months now. And while I love the project and am happy to be part of it, it has taken a lot of time. As a full time homesteader, there isn’t that much time to spare on other things! It isn’t like self-publishing where one can say, ‘there’s always next year.’

So about a week or so after I returned the corrected document, I get it back with a note asking if I could please trim it down by about 10,000 words. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because I knew I was over my word budget. The contract calls for 40,000 to 50,000 words and I had given them 60,000!

I have no complaints about my editor. This was the third go-through and all previous suggestions had been helpful. She had more suggestions this time and also told me that she had a few more ideas for reorganization of the material, but she wanted me to see what I could do first. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. If I can economize on words myself that’s good, but being able to keep it in my own voice is even better. I’ve worked with editors in the past that by the time they were done, it didn’t sound like it was written by me! So I appreciate being given the chance to keep the work “mine” as much as possible.

So I’ll be tied to my computer at least through the middle of next week when I’m supposed to return the manuscript again. Not sure when publication is supposed to take place, but hopefully we’re getting close.

 

Done!

Well, not really, but the introduction through conclusion are done and sent to my editor for the next step. What a huge relief. Still a lot of work to do though. I have the dedication, acknowledgements, appendix, bibliography, and resources to work on, so I’ll be plenty busy until it’s time to make corrections on the main text.

It Helps to Check Your Outline

I’m still working on Chapter 4, “Forage and Feed.” It seems to be taking forever, but on the other hand, it is the longest and most information packed chapter in the book. I was thinking it was almost done, but then I checked my outline. Good thing I did because the outline is a record of notes, ideas, and things I wanted to remember to include. I’m not far off base, but am glad I looked at it. If the details and ideas can help someone else become more self-sufficient, then they need to be there.

Rereading helps too. I’ve found that I’ve been a bit redundant here and there. So a few more paragraphs and a bit of tiding up and I should be able to move on.

 

 

Writing By A Schedule

So having a deadline has been a new experience for this previously Indie author. Anything self-published has always had a vague time frame in the back of my mind, but I never had to take it seriously because I was doing it all for myself. Writing under a contract is different, because I have agreed to a specific deadline and must write to meet it.

In trying to figure out how to do that, I initially looked at words per day. When I calculated how many days it would take under a five day workweek and how many words per day that would be, it was a very reasonable task. But that didn’t take into account the time spent on research.

I’m very comfortable with the topic (prepping for livestock) and feel qualified on the subject. But knowing what I know from my previous research and experience, and putting this down in a somewhat authoritative way creates a need in me to make sure I’ve got the details right. And to make sure that the information is comprehensive enough to cover others’ needs and choices as well. I don’t mean it will be an encyclopedic how-to, but it needs to give readers enough information to know what their options are and be able to ask intelligent questions as they explore their choices further. Hence the research.

Since words per day didn’t seem to be going very well, I decided to try a chapter per week. If I am able to write a first draft of each chapter in one week, I figured that would give me plenty of time to go back and begin polishing the whole thing into an acceptable manuscript to submit. That hasn’t quite gone according to plan either. Admittedly I’m in some of the more information heavy chapters at the moment, but some days the work of the homestead is too demanding and calls too loudly for me to ignore. Planting, harvesting, and food preservation, for example, need to be done when it’s time to do them. Too often I feel caught between a rock and a hard place as I try to divide my time to get everything done. I lament the things that get neglected, but right now that’s just the way things are.

Is it worth it? I contemplate that sometimes. The one thing I am glad of, is that when we worked through the specifics of the contract I asked to add a couple of months to the deadline. I understand the publishing schedule and definitely don’t want to drag this out, so mentally I keep the original deadline in mind and aim for that, thankful that I have some leeway just in case.

Am I dissatisfied with my progress? No, not really. It just weighs on me a bit, but I use that to keep me motivated, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

 

Deadlines and Word Counts

Being an Indie author pretty much means that there are no deadlines, except the ones I create for myself. I have no schedule to follow so when I’m done, I’m done! Writing under a contract, however, means others set the deadlines and not meeting them could result in a voided contract (and giving back my advance.)

I don’t think that’s a bad thing, however, just different for me. I can’t procrastinate nor let too many things crowd my time; things like the mounds of figs and tomatoes which need to be frozen or canned. I have to make sure that I set aside the time to write.

Word count is a new thought in my head as well. Again, not a bad thing, because it sets parameters for the book. with my “when I’m done, I’m done” mindset, however, I never gave them a thought. Now I’m curious as to how easy it will be to hit the mark. Once I finish my first draft, will I be trying to figure out what to cut? Or will I be looking for examples to add? We’ll see!

August is a busy month on the homestead, with the garden peaking and a number of fruits needing to be picked and processed. Once I get most of that behind me I’ll have a little breathing room. The words are flowing well, however, and I’m highly motivated. Both good things for any writer.

Finding the Time

Traditionally, winter has been my writing season. The days are cold and rainy, with not so much to do outdoors. This winter has been different! After a blazingly hot and dry summer, winter has been what I wish summer was – mild days with just the right amount of rainfall for things to grow. It’s meant feeling the need to be outside working, however. Getting caught up on everything I couldn’t do in summer because conditions didn’t cooperate. Trouble is, I’m getting nothing done book-wise. And when I let my writing sit unattended for days or weeks, I’ve lose my train of thought. When I get back to it again I almost feel like I’m starting over. No good. I need to carve out some time every day and stick to it.

Outlining and Organizing

I am having one heck of a time getting my ideas organized and written down in a logical flow of thought. I think it’s because I have too many of them. I have dozens of bits of papers with scribbles on them of things I want to remember. I thought I knew where they belonged when I wrote them, but when I try to sit down and organize them, their fit together becomes more illusive.

Seems like word flow for me comes best in the morning (after I get that first cup of coffee in me) and continues on after my alloted computer/writing time. How many times do I have to run back to the house to type or write something down in the middle of feeding the chickens, before I’ll think to take pad and pen with me.

Husband says I need to carry a mini-tape recorder around. Sounds like a good idea but I can’t see myself doing that. If my written words get scattered about, what will happen with words that float around in the air?

What Am I Worth?

I went to check my Kindle sales yesterday at Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. The numbers nearly took my breath away: 134 copies, 157, 142. Then I took a closer look and realized these were not sales, these were copies lent via Kindle’s lending program. This is where authors can allow those who purchase copies of their eBooks to lend them to others for free. Compare that with actual sales for those same days: 3, 2, and 2. Well, how would you feel if you were me?

The selling point for authors to join this program is that it lets others become familiar with your work in hopes that they might choose to buy it. But even after all those copies were borrowed, sales never went up. Sales remained consistent at 0 to 3 copies sold per day. So how am I, as an author, benefiting from this? I’m not.

I had a similar experience last summer. I was contacted by a major magazine publisher who publishes several popular homesteading related magazines plus maintains a blog on their website. They wanted me to become a regular contributor to their blog, with the caveat that they could only offer exposure, not pay. As most hungry artists will tell you, exposure carries with it the hope of being “discovered” and hence finally “making it,” i.e. being able to make a living at it. I’m not immune to this thinking, even though 5 Acres & A Dream The Book has been very successful for an indie publication. One successful book, however, does not a successful author make.

Initially I was responsive to their offer. The red flag went up when they wanted me to sign a contract. If I’m working for free, then why would I need a contract? Since I was busy with Critter Tales at the time, I was told I’d only need to contribute one or two blog posts per week to start. To start? That didn’t sit well with me so I checked out their website. I found lots of articles by a few well-known authors, but what caught my attention was that none of these blog articles had any comments. That begged the question, was anyone reading them?

So who really benefits from things like this? Amazon and the magazines, of course. They build a reputation and following for offering extensive free resources, but at no cost to themselves. They invest neither money nor time into those resources, yet they profit from them.

But why should I be surprised? This is the work ethic of our time – to make money off of other peoples’ labors, not one’s own. Doesn’t it seem ironic that those who do the actual labor in this world get paid the least, while those who do the least work get paid the most? That’s true no matter what the business.

In “2016 Book Publishing Industry Predictions: Myriad Opportunities amid a Slow Growth Environment,” Smashword’s Mark Coker points out that a consequence of Amazon’s lending program and free books for Amazon Prime subscribers is that these are training consumers to expect eBooks for free, to the point where they complain about having to pay even a small fee for them. It’s true that there are no print costs for eBooks, but an eBook requires just as much of an author’s time to research and write as a print book. Why doesn’t that count for something? I daresay that the complainers would never dream of working for free, and likely consider themselves underpaid no matter how they earn their living.

I have no illusions that my own complaints will change a thing. If anything, the trend will not only continue, but get worse. I can only decide what to do for myself and my own work. Even if no one else thinks so, my time is valuable to me. My free work is on my blog, where I willingly share the ups, downs, lessons and how-tos of homesteading. For my books, well, if I ever hope to be a professional writer, then I’d better start acting like one now. If that aspiration fails, then at least I will have not cheapened myself and my work. I will have given it my best shot.