Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Be careful what you wish for!

You’d think after dreaming about The Call for 25 years, I’d have been slightly more prepared. The truth is, I don’t think anything can fully prepare you for life after the call.

The biggest change, obviously, is that you go from creating your own deadlines to performing under other people’s deadlines--which often means you have to stop working on one project to meet the editor’s tight schedule on another.

You also learn (is this news to anyone???) that writing isn’t just about writing. Of course we all know what it’s like to revise and tweak and mull over new titles. But writing is also about ...
  • Schmoozing to increase your name recognition.
  • Attending conferences.
  • Volunteering with your writers group chapter.
  • Maintaining your website, blog (or 2 or 3), and Facebook page.
  • Coming up with clever back-cover copy.
  • Mining your contacts for valuable endorsements.
  • Lining up speaking engagements.
  • Investigating every promo opportunity from the neighborhood flea market to Good Morning America.
Because if your first book doesn’t do as well as the publisher hopes, what are the odds she’ll take a chance on your next one?

Lest Ruthy accuse me of whining and break out her steel-toed kick-in-the-pants boots, let me just say that I’m thrilled to be off the tuna-and-coconut diet on Unpubbed Island (and not just because of Audra’s scary rifle or Sandra’s mandatory 5 a.m. mountain bike rides).

Reason #1: Revising because a bona fide editor with a major stake in my book says it’s necessary is a whole lot more motivating (not to mention fun!) than trying to please a critique group and persnickety contest judges who can’t seem to agree on any aspect of my manuscript.

Reason #2: My CPA is much happier now that I have actual income to report (even though the expense column is still winning the race).

Reason #3: No more boring Christmas letters saying, “Yes, Myra is still writing and hoping to sell a book.”

Reason #4: I never, ever, EVER have to sweat the decision about whether to enter the Golden Heart (and then try to make sense of those wildly divergent scores).

Reason #5: I get to put my cute little book cover graphic in my e-mail signature!

Your turn. If you’re published (or contracted), name your 3 most and least favorite aspects about life as a professional author. If you’re still waiting for The Call, name the 3 things you most look forward to leaving behind once that big day comes.


  1. Darling girl, that wasn't too bad at all! I don't even have to polish the boots! Good job!

    My official capacity in Seekerville is Resident Whiner. Myra likes to hone in on that now and again, but alas, the title is mine and mine alone.

    Unless they call me a Tyrant, but that seems to have passed to Sandra and her whip-'em-into-shape equipment. YAY!

    Myra, let me just reiterate, I love having our cabin to myself. No one snores anymore, or hogs all the coconut oil anti-wrinkle face cream, and my pomegranates and mangoes are mine and mine alone.

    And since fish makes you gassy, it's nice you're on the mainland with a meat-enhanced diet at long last!


    Three things I won't miss...

    1. Lack of monetary compensation for a job well done.

    Paychecks rock!

    2. Dealing with the ever-asked question (delivered in various tones of empathy and/or snark depending on questioner): "So. You published yet???"

    3. Not feeling guilty that writing time cuts into other things that are let go out of necessity. Like cleaning. Painting. Sewing. Repairs. I can't wait until I can release one of my jobs and have time to 'play' around the house again! I love house projects, but there's no time right now.

    But I'd be remiss if I didn't add this: I think that waiting for that call doesn't hurt us. How often do we see people who get the call early and flub? I can cite people who don't deliver their books, or don't get them done in a timely fashion, or aren't mature enough to understand how blessed/lucky they are, or who just plain take things for granted.

    Are ya' kiddin' me?


    We Seekers pledged to kick serious butt if any one of us develops an "I'm-too-cool-for-myself" attitude once published. And we meant it.

    So Myra-kins, I'm proud of you and pleased as punch that our buddy Barb Scott of Abingdon saw the worth in your talent and nabbed you.

    And then Barbour stepped into the mix, too!

    Yay, double Yay!

    About time, sweet-cakes. And speaking of sweet cakes, I've got a ginormous tray of tea cakes here, drizzled with frosting and ganache, and decorated with tiny flowers in every shade of the rainbow. Mid-February in WNY means it's time to embrace a hope of spring.

    Grab some little cakes, pull up a chair, pour some coffee from Sandra's chocolate velvet blend and have a seat in Seekerville.


  2. Yum. Chocolate velvet coffee and those little -- what are those? Sort of like petits fours? Oh. Tea cakes.

    Lis of things I won't miss sounds a bit derivative. (I hear that's bad in the art world. Like copy-catting.)

    I won't miss lack of pay check.

    Or people asking what I do all day. Since we live on a farm I might hear less of that than some of the sisters.

    I won't miss putting "grill cook/barrista" at the top of my resume.

    I doubt that I quit my day job, though. The people you meet ...

  3. Well, M, you have certainly given us much to look forward to. Thanks for both sides of the coconut...so to speak.

  4. Good morning, Myra, great post!

    List my 3 most and least favorite aspects about life as a professional author? Mmmm ... "Professional author"?? Why don't I feel like that? I guess because of my 3 least favorite aspects, which are:

    1.) Promotion -- the scary thought that I need to get off my sorry butt and promote my book by lining up book signings, interviews, bookstore visits, library calls, set up speaking engagements, etc. when I barely have time to meet my next deadline.

    2.) E-mails -- feeling the need to write a book every time I respond to an e-mail and doing so, thereby eating up most of my morning with e-mails.

    3.) Misfocusing -- the constant pull to look at reviews, Amazon numbers, fan e-mail or just general "mining for attention" as my husband puts it, WHICH takes my eyes off of God all too often. I hate this more than anything.

    My 3 most favorite aspect?

    1.) A sense of pride and accomplishment that I have realized a dream and profound gratitude to God.

    2.) Being able to actually write for a living (mind you, I didn't say provide a living ... :))

    3.) Connecting with readers and making some amazing friendships.


  5. Yes, Annie-banannie, tea cakes is just another name for a petit fours.

    Only tea cakes sounds very British, whereas petit fours sounds French.

    And what am I doing, going with the British intonation? I'm a Celt, for gosh and b'golly!


    Try the chocolate-ganache-dredged variety with the tiny pink roses. Yummy!


  6. Great post, Myra! You've reminded us that anything worth having comes with a price.

    Favorite aspects of publication:

    1. Receiving e-mails from readers.

    2. Endorsing advance checks. :-)

    3. Seeing books on the shelves with my name across the cover. Actually seeing all Seeker covers on the shelves gives me a thrill.

    Least Favorite:

    1. Meeting deadlines.

    2. Filling out Art Fact Sheets

    3. Being asked personal questions about sales.

    All in all the experience is a tremendous blessing! I'm very grateful to have sold three books.

    I'm off to write and meet that deadline.


  7. In the still waiting for the call category, but I have only two:

    1) Looking forward to seeing my name on a book.

    2) Looking forward to buying my wife a "thank you" gift with my first advance.

  8. My least favorite part is public speaking.

    Oh yikes I just remembered a commitment I made, just this second had it flash through my brain like a High Blood Pressure lightning bolt.

    Why, oh why did I say I'd do it???

    Anyway, public speaking. I am such a baby. I hate it. Hate getting ready, hate the worrying, hate the survival of it all while it's going on. Hate the aftermath where I beat myself up for not being worth it, saying something stupid, stupid, stupid.


    I want to sit behind my computer makin' stuff up. Having both sides the the oh, so witty conversation myself.


    But it seems to go hand in hand and I try not to duck 'opportunities'

    p.s. Opportunities-a five syllable word which, when referring to public speaking, means NIGHTMARE

  9. Myra loved your post. We always have these dreams and then reality and hits and bursts the bubble which is a reminder not to put our hopes in worldly things which are only a breath.

    That's what I'll enjoy leaving behind is the constant battle to keep my eyes on the Lord. Ooops. Bet that never goes away whether on unpubbed island or not.

    Thanks for the tea cakes Ruthy I'm having mine with a cup of my favorite-chocolate velvet coffee. I have plenty if its not too late for you Easterners to have a cup.

  10. most favorite part of writing
    1) meeting the Seekers
    2) Seeking the meeters (ha!)
    3) getting yelled at by Ruthy. My world makes sense when Ruthy is yelling at me.

    Scary sense, but still.....

    least favorite
    1) public speaking
    2) the business side, so NOT my thing, I'm an ARTIST darling.
    3) being mean to characters when I just wish we could all get along.

    (okay I'm kidding about that. I LOVE torturing characters.)

    And I dont' have a lot of least favorite parts. I love being published. I do worry night and day though that it's all a big mix-up and the only reason my books are selling is because my relatively well-to-do mother-in-law who is an ANGEL, is secretly buying enough copies single-handledly to keep my career afloat.

    But I suppose, as long as she keeps it up, I can keep writing.

  11. Mary, can I borrow your mother-in-law???

    Oh, and thanks for putting out the refreshments this morning, Ruthy. I should have added that one thing I miss about the Island is your maaah-velous buffet table! Thank goodness I can visit it often when we all get together in Downtown Seekerville.

    Oh, man, Julie! Promotion!!! I'm taking an online course on the subject this month, and I am completely overwhelmed!

  12. Myra? We've turned your hut into a spa, so don't even think about coming back to the Island! You do whatever those nice folks in publishing want ask you to do to promote your wonderful book!

  13. A spa? A SPA????? Aawwww, man! Well, I guess you need a good long soak in the hot tub after Sandra's mountain bike torture.

  14. One of my CPs yelled at me to feed the family cat, so now I have an eye twitch which makes it difficutl to ntype without misspellings.

    Alas, I'm going to enjoy the food and the beach, leaving the comments for the rest of you non-eye-twitching folks.

  15. Wonderful post Myra. I kind of like looking forward to revisions, to knowing that I'm headed in the right direction, or at least the one the editor wants.
    So can I write off contest expenses even if I'm not published? Interesting. *big grin*

  16. I love these concise posts--I actually have to time to read through them from start to finish.

    As for me, I think the whole concept of publishing is still too scary to think about.

    Congratulations on this new chapter in your life, Myra!

  17. I'm glad to know what a petit four is...thanks Ruthy.

    Did y'all see that Mary managed to sneak the word "baby" in her post? Sheesh!

    What do I look forward to? (Uh, was that one of the questions? lol)

    1) Seeing my book on the shelves
    2) Advance and royalty checks
    3) Being able to say "I did it!"

  18. Jessica, I'm no CPA, but I've been claiming contest entry fees as a legitimate business expense for as long as I've been writing. If you're making a valid attempt to conduct your writing as a business--keeping accurate records and at least intending to make a profit--then anything you do that might increase your chances of getting published (and thereby paid!) should be deductible.

  19. Man, I'm so new to this, it's hard to know which way to jump.

    Favorite things:

    1. Getting to buy books for research on Amazon.com and using them for tax deductions. :) How cool is that?

    2. Feeling like, at last, someone pulled aside that curtain in the corner and you get to peek into the world that heretofore was a mystery...though once the curtain is pulled aside, people assume you really do know what's going on back there...the learning curve can be pretty steep.

    3. Knowing that getting the call is just the beginning. You've scaled one hill only to find mountains of opportunities to grow and learn ahead of you. I love learning and trying to make my work better, so this is an exciting challenge for me.

    Least favorite:

    1. It feels so awkward to 'schmooze' about having a book coming out. While I'm ridiculously excited about it, I find it difficult to pass the word along. It seems like bragging, or something. Even calling it networking doesn't take that uncomfortable feeling away.

    2. The nagging doubt that you might be a 'one hit wonder'. Will my second book cut the mustard? What if no one likes book one? If it tanks, can I kiss my career goodbye?

    3. The juggling. I'm a homeschool mom, company bookkeeper for the family business, part-time caregiver for my cancer-stricken MIL, Bible Study teacher, etc. And I'm trying to write novels. My main problem is not disappearing into my fictional world in order to escape my real life sometimes!

    Awesome post today, Myra, and Woohoo! You are sure on your way!

  20. Ladies, I'll have you know that I've gained four pounds since I started reading your posts so I guess the fish and fruit of unpubbed island will do me good. Wouldn't want to get the 'call' before I'm whipped into shape for the publicity shots.

    What do I look forward to the most about the call?

    1)Praying for forgiveness when I find inifinite pleasure in attending family reunions and bragging to that snarky cousin that my book is coming out next month, next year, next century.

    2)Giving the finished copy of my book (with the receipt in hand) to my husband with a reminder that he promised to read my novel once I got it published.

    3)Knowing that I followed the PLAN, ups and downs, good times and bad, that my Heavenly Daddy had laid out especially for me.

    Now excuse me while I go chow down on a banana.

    Patty Smith Hall

  21. Hello Jessica & All:

    I’m not a CPA but I have asked similar questions of my CPA over the years. At one time I wanted to write off my photographic equipment and my flying lessons claiming I intended to become a commercial pilot and a professional photographer (which I did, in a way, as I did make small profits as a freelance photographer for a number of years).

    The CPA said having a business intention and good records was not enough. The IRS has strong ‘anti- hobby’ rules. I was even told that my business had to make a profit in ‘x’ number of years out of five years. There is always the danger that if you don’t make a profit, the IRS will call your activity a hobby and disallow your deductions.

    I would be very leery of writing off Contest Fees (even as a learning experience) as you cannot even write off the tuition you pay to qualify to enter a profession. Real Estate school tuition is not tax deductable even though you enter the real estate business. Even Broker’s school tuition is not tax deductable as the IRS has ruled that being a Broker is a different profession than being a sales associate! The IRS fought this in court and won! The IRS is very protective of their anti-hobby rules.

    BTW, being unpublished in long fiction myself, I feel a little like Queen Gertrude in ‘Hamlet’ when she said, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

    To paraphrase the bard: “The Call’s the thing”! ;)



  22. Vince, you make some valid points. However, my understanding is that the writing business requires a slightly different approach. Let me refer readers to Totally Honest Tax Tips for Writers.

    The key is to keep good records, especially copies of cover letters to and responses from editors and agents. I also keep a daily log of writing hours and writing-related activities to prove I am treating this like a business.

    Bottom line: Get good tax advice, but make sure your tax adviser is familiar with the writing business.

  23. It is a little different with writing. Obsessed people like me--obsessed with getting published, that is--are allowed to claim expenses year after year. One day, should we become the next Julie Garwood or Stephen King, the IRS will get all that money and then some.

  24. Also, tax wise, if you DON'T deduct writing expenses before you're published, then on that golden day when you DO get published you can go back three years and claim those expenses. So if you're scared to deduct now, still keep track.

    Myra you have made money over the years writing, even if not book length fiction. Does that make a difference. I've heard that make money 2 out of 5
    3 out of 5 years, too.

  25. I'm sure it helps to have SOMETHING in the income box on your Schedule C, but some years were pretty lean. When I taught for ICL, of course, I always showed a profit. I just didn't think it would take several years after "retirement" for me to get a book contract.

  26. I couldn’t agree more with getting tax advice from someone who has lots of experience with your particular tax situation.

    Come to think of it, I read that income averaging was done with writers in mind who took several years to write one book which in turn made a lot of money. Writers should have special laws.

    I also thought that maybe you can call ‘Writing Contest’ fees gambling and then you could write off the cost against your casino winnings. Given how I’ve read here about some judges loving an entry and others judges not liking the same entry, one wonders if winning does involve lady luck.

    BTW, have you ever had a Guest Blogger who was a CPA? I would think a lot of CPAs would love to guest blog and get the publicity. Especially ones who have written a book.


  27. Myra,
    Great post! My list. . .
    What bothers me?
    1. Book signings in my hometown. It's much easier to market to folks I don't know.
    2. Looming deadlines!
    3. Updating my website (why? I don't know.)
    What I love?
    1. Meeting readers
    2. Working on a new story outline and seeing everything come together
    3. Hearing someone liked my book (My book? Really? You liked it? Wow!)

  28. My favorite part is: tackling revisions and getting editorial feedback and making those changes because a book ends up so much better off in the end with more than my narrow mind looking at it.

    My least favorite part is the beginning of the revising...because it's downright PAINFUL to cut some of the stuff I love. BUT...as I stated before...I trust my editors and know their suggestions really do make the book stronger/sell better.

    I love working with a team of people who know their readership so well.

    I LOVE writing romance! Love getting reader feedback and interacting with readers who've been touched by the words or characters.

    I love coming up with new ideas.

    I love creating characters.

    I hate plotting. Hate coming up with good external conflict.

    I hate synopsis writing.

    I love filling out my Art Fact Sheet.

    Great post, Myra!


  29. And I hate doing those discussion questions at the end because I'm SO bad at it.

    However..I love doing the Reader Letter.

    Don't really like marketing but I do it.

    I like blogging. That works well. I'm huge on digital marketing.

    Okay...I'm off.