Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A New Writing Project

                                                by Laura Crum

             After giving myself a couple of years of breathing space since turning out twelve mystery novels in my series featuring an equine vet, I’ve finally settled in to my new writing project. I felt pretty sure I was done with writing mysteries. I knew I wanted to write a memoir, but I wasn’t sure what the point would be. I didn’t want to waffle on about my memories, I wanted to target some unique aspect of life that I was fitted to convey. Uhmm, it took awhile to work this out.
            In the meantime I wrote a brief memoir in a series of blog posts here on Equestrian Ink, about my life with horses. This piece of work ties into my mystery series and essentially gives the background from whence the books sprang—forty years of owning, training, competing and just sharing my life with horses. It was lots of fun to write and it will be up on Kindle shortly (as soon as I get the cover worked out) as a 99 cent special.
            Since then, I read a book (The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman) that clarified for me the subjects that I really want to write about now. And that would be life, death, magic, old spirits and God. Not that I have the skill to write about these things. But I have the desire. I am quite sure that my memoir will fall far short of Neil Gaiman’s wonderful book, but that’s OK.
            So I’ve begun, and I am really enjoying writing the book I want to write, constrained by no one’s concepts but my own. To tell the truth, I have grown quite tired of concocting a crime and then a plot that contains just enough excitement…etc. I am interested in writing the truth as I see it, whether or not it pleases anyone else.
            One of my friends asked if I would try to sell this upcoming book. I laughed. Because one of the things I am done with is trying to sell a publisher on my work, and I’m also pretty sure that this book will not appeal to a publisher. It doesn’t fit any popular niche. But…
            Because of Amazon and Kindle, I can put my memoir up myself, and because my backlist has a steadily growing readership, there are probably readers who will buy my new work. So yes, in a sense, I will sell my book.
            I have heard of authors who deplore this new system, and I have to ask: What is it you don’t like? What is bad about getting a 70% royalty on every book sold? What is not to like about getting a check every month that pays for the groceries? I have never been anything other than a mid-list author, and I am still a mid-list author, but for the first time in my writing career, my books are bringing in a steady, useful income. What is bad about that?
           In a past post I've discussed the fact that authors whose work was chosen for publication by traditional publishing, as my books were, tend to feel a bit chagrined when self published authors want to claim the same bragging rights. It is sort of as if you went through the years of vet school and finally hung out your shingle, only to find a self-proclaimed vet next door, one who had never gone to vet school at all. However the discussion that resulted from that post clarified for me the basic fact that yes, anyone can publish a book on Kindle and call themselves an author. But in the end what counts is whether one can sell books on Kindle. Self published or traditionally published isn’t the bottom line. Does anyone want to buy/read your books is the bottom line. In my example of the self proclaimed vet, what really counts in the end is whether or not he/she is a good and effective vet. And if the years show that she is, well then, the traditionally schooled vet, if she isn’t too defensive, will just have to admit that her self-proclaimed comrade in medicine is all right. Which is exactly how I feel about all the self-published authors out there. Hey, if you are good to read, more power to you. And if you are not, well, I think the sales record will make this clear in time.  As for me, I am very grateful that sales of my books on Kindle have steadily continued to bring in useful money, and very happy to have a system that actually rewards authors for their work.
            So yes, my memoir will eventually be for sale on Kindle, and I hope that some of the fans of my mystery series will buy this book. And if many of you wish I would return to writing mysteries, rather than memoirs, well, I understand. I’m glad that you’ve enjoyed my mysteries, and those of you who have reviewed them on Amazon have my deepest gratitude. Because these same fans have rated most of my backlist between four and five stars, and been a big help in increasing my grocery money every month.
So today I’d like to say thank you to every reader who has reviewed my books on Amazon. I really appreciate you. If, just by chance, you have enjoyed my mysteries and haven’t yet posted a review, all I can say is that these reviews on Amazon are terribly important to authors nowadays. Every single positive review is appreciated…and I think that this is true for every author out there. If you can find time in your busy day to post a review (and I know it’s a pesky sort of chore), you have my gratitude.
I know many of you who read this blog are authors yourselves, and I would be interested to hear if any of you, like me, have reached a point where you are determined to write the book you want to write, rather than fitting your writing into a niche. Though I do understand that fitting a niche is, by and large, how you can bring in the grocery money, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Any thoughts?


Kerrin said...

Oh, no, not a self proclaimed veterinarian. Bad example. That's illegal. And unethical. And really wrong. Can't, won't ever accept that. (Unless civilization as we know it ends and then ... ok, whatever.)

What jobs can be done just as well or better by a self trained or informally trained/unlicensed person?

Plumber? check.
Electrician? no
Doctor? no
Writer/author? check.
Horse trainer? check.
Small business owner? check.
Gardener, organic farmer, manager, car salesman, business executive, negotiator, CEO, mother, father, truck mechanic, bartender, movie producer, musician, personal trainer, entrepreneur, actor, athlete, banker, trained on the job? check.

Doctor, surgeon, nurse, dentist, chiropractor, electrician, general contractor, truck driver, physical therapist, psychologist, , veterinarian, requiring formal education and/or licensure? Yes! I mean NO!

I think you know what I mean.

Gayle Carline said...

Well, Laura, the good news about being a self-published author is that you can write anything you want. The bad news is that you can write anything you want.

As you know, I write mysteries and humor (and sometimes together). When I wanted to write and publish Snoopy's memoir, I wondered if I was diluting my brand. I know that Michele Scott writes under her name for her mystery and YA, but uses a pen name for her thrillers. I considered a pen name, then decided that my ultimate brand is that I'm an author who wants to lift your spirits. No matter which book you pick up of mine, you know it will have a happy ending.

Linda Benson said...

Laura - I'm so glad to hear that you are writing something different. It must be really freeing for you to write outside of the box, or style, or genre that you've been known for. I totally get that. All my books (so far) have been animal related, mostly with happy endings. But my work in progress is a darker, realistic YA manuscript, sans animals. It's wonderful to expand ourselves through our writing. Good for you, and it will so interesting to see what you produce next!

Laura Crum said...

Kerrin--Well, I was kind of kidding about the vet. But you get my point.

Gayle--That's a great way of putting it!

Linda--Thanks. It does feel freeing. I had got to the point where I just concoct another murder...if you know what I mean.

Laura Crum said...

"just couldn't concoct another murder" In too much of a hurry--am about to get some new chickens--yay!

AareneX said...

How about self-proclaimed librarians? In my field, almost everyone who works in a library building is perceived by the public to be a "librarian" but a vanishing minority actually attended library school and got the degree--and sometimes it shows. And that's all I'm gonna say about THAT.

RE: indie-published v. trad published, I've said here before that I'm *sooooo* much happier with the book I published independently (and I'm working on another, which will also be indie). It's a ton more work. It probably will net more money *eventually* but the overhead is higher since I hire a really good editor and she's not cheap. It will take a few years to actually "make money" from that book, although money does come in regularly.

The trad publisher is very...traditional. They don't think out of the box. They don't want to think out of the box. They like the box. The box is good to them. The box is not bad to me, but it's not as good as being out of it. Also, thus far I haven't been paid a penny for that one--the book was released in July. Sigh.

For whatever THAT is worth.

Laura Crum said...

Aarene--The money thing with books is very frustrating. Did you not get an advance from your traditional publisher fir your book? That's the way it usually goes.

My traditionally published books all paid me something useful up front, but if you valued my time by the hour, my hourly wage was maybe minimum wage at best. I got very little income from the royalties.

What I have put up on Kindle so far is my out of print backlist--the rights have reverted to me. Thus I am being paid, every copy sold, for work I have already done. This is really a wonderful thing for me--and I think there will always be horse people who haven't yet read my stories, and might enjoy them. That's my hope, anyway. But I hear you about the fact that if you hire a good editor and then put your "indie" book up on Kindle, it may take a long time to start actually making a profit from the book--even if sales go well.

horsegenes said...

Laura you know that I enjoyed all your books and I was sad to hear that you were done with the series. In your posts on EI and in our private correspondense I feel like you enjoy "thought provoking" writing. A writing style that makes people question things and helps them grow as individiuals. That style of writing may not make you a billionaire in terms of money but it has to bring you some satisfaction. It sounds to me like you are feeling renewed and excited about the next "chapter" in your career. So write and ride on! :)

Laura Crum said...

Thank you horsegenes! I really do like "thought provoking" writing, as you put it. I enjoyed writing the mysteries for many years--and I always enjoyed some elements, but near the end of the series I got really tired of coming up with the crime and the conventional murder mystery plot that was required. It felt too much like being in a box. So yeah, I'm really enjoying experimenting with a new form--which is almost certainly not going to make me rich. But that's OK.

lytha said...

I had a high school teacher who said I'd be a writer someday. But since I've never had a creative thought in my life, I knew that wouldn't work out. I can't create ideas, but I can write directions and tell things that happen. Therefore, I'm a Technical Writer. And in 2001 when I discovered blogging, it was enough.

I applaud people who can actually create stories out of nothing.

Laura Crum said...

lytha--I really enjoy blogging, too. It is so much easier for me than creating a novel. So I hear you. Maybe that's why I'm moving toward memoirs. At least there is something to start with--you don't have to make the whole thing up(!)