Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How to Be Your Own Client

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Has this ever happened to you?: You’re writing a piece for a client or editor and that piece is singing to you. Your mind is fizzing with fresh ideas; the words are flowing, smooth as milk. Every time you meet an obstacle, you battle it like a knight and leave its steaming carcass in your wake. You almost hate to let the piece go, you’ve enjoyed working on it so much, but it’s done, finished. You look it over, hit send, and off it goes to the client/editor.

Now it's time for your personal writing projects!

But your creative well has abruptly gone dry. Composing every sentence feels like pulling a live tooth. Each obstacle you meet looms big and scary and it whispers really mean things about ability as a writer and the pointlessness of your task. Your mind starts to wander. You start tweeting random stuff. But then – you remember that there’s another assignment you could be working on! One for a paying client! You quickly abandon your own project and start working on the other assignment. Amazingly, your energy is restored, the words are flowing, and every challenge you face, bested.

If that’s never happened to you – respect. But I’m sure there are more than a few people out there who know what I’m talking about. I had one of those days last week. But as I put away my own stalled project to be fruitful with someone else’s, I sighed: I wish I could be my own client.

Cue the thunderclap, light bulb, choir of angels or whatever imagery you prefer to use when you have a revelation. Suddenly, I realized that there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t offer myself the same attention and creative power than people who pay me. I just had to figure out how. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Don’t just set goals – set a deadline.

Write down every task you need to do for your personal project: research, writing, interviews, etc. and then set a firm deadline for each one. I have never missed a deadline for a client/editor. The very idea makes me feel ill. Meeting deadlines is the bare minimum of professional conduct, right? Why, then, are we so willing to push off personal deadlines? If you want to be your own client, you need to start holding yourself to the same professional standards.

2. Keep the “big picture” in mind as you work.

When you’re working for someone else, it’s easy to keep the “big picture” in mind. The big picture is usually a paycheck. Or exposure. Or building a portfolio and what have you. Once you’ve done the work, you know immediately what you’ve gained. It’s not so easy to see the big picture when you’re working on a personal project. You know what you hope to gain, but you also know that it may be a long while before you reap the fruits of your labor. Find some way of keeping the big picture in front of you as you work. It may be as simple as putting a big Post-It note on your computer screen saying: “Fame & Fortune” if that’s what you seek. Or “Financial Independence.” Or “I’m Quitting My Day Job.” You could also find a picture that embodies whatever it is you aspire to through your personal writing and put that on your desk. Whatever method you choose, make sure it’s something physical and in plain view so it can constantly remind you of your ultimate goal.

3. Obtain feedback on your work.

The nice thing about working for people other than yourself is that you usually receive feedback on your work. Of course, it’s always lovely to get positive feedback, but sometimes even critical feedback is welcome. When working on personal projects, you often get no feedback at all. This can make you feel as if you’re working in total darkness, groping and feeling your way forward. And who wants to work like that? Get some feedback on your work. Form a writer’s group. Join a writer’s forum. Get out there and let another writer you trust to shine some light on your project.

4. Praise yourself when you’ve done a good job.

Of course there will be plenty of times when you know you’ve done a good job without anyone telling you. And when that happens, don’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back or publicly acknowledge the good work you’ve done. After all, you’re the client. And when you’ve made the client happy, you deserve to feel good.

What would you add to this list?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

eBook Publishing or Traditional Publishing: How to Decide Which is Right for You

image by freeditigal

There comes a time in every modern writer’s life when she asks the question: should I write an eBook or go the traditional publishing route? I am now at that crossroads.

I have been working on a book project for the past few – okay, several – years. In all this time, I have never once considered self-publishing the book. I have put so much effort and research and thought into the project, I want the validation that comes with traditional publishing. I gotta see that book on the bookshelf of Barnes & Noble one day.

But recently, I came up with an idea for another non-fiction book that is barking and nipping at my heels all day long. It isn’t going to take years to research and write this book. It’s a good idea. I want to start writing it now, not just labor over a proposal and wait with fingers crossed someone else’s approval. But at the same time, I don’t want to be hasty. It would be a lovely little feather in my cap to have this book published via the traditional route. So what to do?

Here's how I made my decision - might be useful for you, too.

1. Make a good old-fashioned pro/con list. I provide below my thoughts on the general advantages and disadvantages of eBook publishing. It’s not an exhaustive list - you may come up with more items of your own.

Pros for eBook publishing

Cons for eBook publishing

  • Can start writing immediately while creative energy for the project is high

  • Can publish and sell the book immediately when completed

  • Author has total creative control over content, design, title, etc.

  • Shorter publishing process.

  • Production and distribution costs are low

  • Retain all rights

  • Receive a significantly larger share of any profits

  • Potential for residual income
  • Most people don’t buy eBooks
  • Topic may not be suitable for/popular in eBook format.
  • Not as prestigious as print books with traditional publishers.
  • Author responsible for 100% of marketing
  • Can’t put the book on your shelf.

  • No free editorial assistance
  • May not earn a single penny

2. Assign a value to each item on the list. Using a scale of 1-10, I gave each item a numerical value with 10 being “very significant” and 1 being “not at all significant.” I liked this process very much as it gave me an opportunity to really examine my motivations. For this book, I am clearly motivated by having something wholly within my creative control as well as by the prospect of residual income. My final total was in favor of eBook publishing, 55 points to 43 points.

3. Listen to your gut. There’s still a little voice in me that says – go for it! Go for the traditional publisher! And wrapped up in that voice are fantasies of book signings, seeing my book on someone’s bookshelf, talking about the book on the Today Show…..

Whatever. That’s not my gut talking. It’s a few rogue cells in my brain who aren't taking into account my true objectives. When I take a look at that pro/con list with my assigned values, both my reason and my gut assures me that the eBook is the right way to go for this project. Plus, I kinda like the idea of all the new fantasies I can conjour: publishers begging me for the rights to my eBook, promising me vast sums, three-book deals, stays in luxury hotels…..

What have you decided for yourself: eBook or Traditional Publishing? Why?

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