You can also find me here!
Followers

Search
Categories

Monday
May142012

What Is Now Asked of a Writer

Did you guys see this piece in the New York Times this weekend? Jennifer Weiner tweeted it out, and I'm so glad that it caught my eye. (I subscribe to the Times, but I'll be honest in saying that I don't always have time to read it until a few days later!)

Anyway, it's about exactly what we've been discussing here on this blog: how much times have changed in the publishing world, in terms of what is asked of authors. Publishers used to want one book a year. Now they want TWO. And in between that, they want social media, short stories and a variety of other things. It's no wonder a lot of us are tired. (And I'm not slamming the publishers. They're doing what they must, I suppose, to keep reader interest.)

For me personally, I could never write two books a year. I have friends who do, and I applaud them. But I know that my quality would suffer, suffer, suffer, and I also don't think that I'd have anything fresh to write about. And I think it's really detrimental to write a book for the sake of writing a book. But this may just be the brave new world of publishing. Only the strong will survive. :) 

That said, and I completely understand why publishers want to have new material at hand all the time, I do wonder about oversaturation. Yes, in the article, they say that there's no concern about this, but I still wonder. People buy fewer and fewer books these days, and unless you're a household name (say a James Patterson - who doesn't even personally write his books anymore, I believe), I really don't know if readers can keep up. In theory, of course they can, but do they? I can only speak anecdotally to this but certainly, I had/have favorite authors who produce book after book, and it's not that I'm trying to lose track but I do. I may not buy the new one if I still haven't read the last one. Again, I know that the industry peeps refute this idea, but I don't know...I'd be curious to see data (which I will never see, so I'm only asking this hypothetically) of authors who publish this frequently. I bet this amped up cycle helps the big names, but for the mid-list authors? I'm unconvinced. Which, then, of course, raises the whole other issue: if you're doing everything that the industry asks of you and not seeing your sales bump up to the big time, what else are you supposed to do?

I guess that's the question that everyone - including the folks in the article - are asking themselves these days. What do you think? Is more product the answer to the lagging industry?

Saturday
May122012

You Guys Inspired Me - Thank You!

So after our long, wonderful, complicated discussion a few weeks ago on what happens if we want to redefine ourselves and our careers, I started thinking about writing about this issue and how I was wrestling with it.

The end result is this essay that has just been posted (just in time for Mother's Day) on Psychology Today.

I hope you'll take a moment and click over. All of your comments on guilt and work and stress and ambition really resonated with me, so thank you for the help and the inspiration!

Happy Mother's Day to all of you out there who are wrestling with the same questions, and to those who aren't too. :)

Click Here To Read

Wednesday
May022012

Glamour Magazine - Book Pick for June!

I've been a Glamour reader for as long as I can remember, so this is a true thrill. Yay!

Wednesday
Apr252012

I'm Back! And Questions About What's Next

So...that didn't last long, did it?

:)

Okay, so I'm back. But I can't promise much. Here is what I'm thinking. I want to have a place to talk about the writing world and to talk with all of you, but I'm not yet sure how to manage that place. Is there something that you would like to see in this space that you can't find elsewhere? Because there are already so many good blogs out there. I'd like to find a middle ground where we can all still come together to chat, to share, but where I don't have to update three times a week or feel like I haven't fulfilled my duty.

I really realized the value of this space over the past few weeks of the book launch. The truth is that - and I've talked about this over probably the course of the past year - I'm a little burned out. But I've realize these past few weeks that burn out isn't the right term for it. What I think has instead happened is that my priorities have shifted...and the reason I'm raising it here and opening it up for discussion is because this is happening to so many other writers. It is what many of us are talking about behind figurative closed doors: what else is there to do besides write novels?

And it's not because we love to write any less but because the business has shifted to a point where what comes next (after writing a book) is exhausting and (at least for me) not enjoyable. With every book (and this takes nothing away from my amazing publishers and the amazing team behind THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME), authors are asked to tap-dance a little more. And for me (again, just personally speaking), I have started to ask myself: at what price? I have young kids who are at an age when they are really interesting to me...I want to be here, be present as much as I can. I didn't want to go out on tour for this book because I wanted to stay home. I don't want to lose sleep at night over what else I can be doing because I don't want to be crabby for them the next day. I don't want to read to them at bedtime and not even remember what I read because I'm so distracted with the clutter of my day. 

And yet, because this is simply what the industry demands (and this is not me complaining!), in order to really get the book out there, I should probably be doing all of the above. It is getting harder and harder to convince people to buy books. Which means that with every launch, authors have to tap-dance more furiously. All of which is fine. There are a lot of authors who will do that - AND THAT IS TRULY AWESOME. I mean it. For my last few books, I did, and I'm glad that I did. 

But now...is it that I care less? I don't think so. I believe that this is the best book I've ever written. I want it to be read widely and well. But also...I have discovered that I care more about other things too. This is the plight that many working moms experience, to be sure: what matters more? What fills me up more? There are no easy answer, the lines are always blurry. Writing matters so much to me, but - and maybe this is me getting older or maybe it is just me getting tired! - but my ambition doesn't seem nearly as important .And perhaps most on point, that "success" comes in a lot of different measures. I always knew this (of course), and we've talked about it here before. But what happens - for you aspiring writers out there - if you never get published? How will you redefine your idea of success? What happens - for all of us - if we don't write another novel? How do we redefine ourselves? 

I don't have the answer to the above question. I'm trying to figure that out: I've been wrestling with it for a while now (as some of you could probably tell on here!). :) Some of this means that I'm branching out - as I've explored screenwriting for the past year, and some of this has come as I've spent more time with my kids and decided that I wanted to have a firmer definition of who I was outside my writing. I don't yet know what that is. But I do know that a lot of writers are asking themselves these questions too. If you aren't up for the hustle and the highs and the lows of book publishing, how else can you fill yourself up? 

For me, right now, I believe that you have to be proud of what you wrote, put it out into the world, and then go home and move on. I am super-proud of THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, and that is where it begins and ends. That's all I know. As for what's next? I'm not sure, and I know that a lot of my friends aren't either. But maybe we can all talk about it here. What do you think?

Wednesday
Apr112012

A Big Week With Some Big News!

TOMORROW IS THE DAY! THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME hits stores everywhere, and I sincerely hope that you will all go out and grab a copy. (More on that below.) 

In other news, I also have a semi-big announcement: after six years of blogging, I'm going to be taking a break from Ask Allison. I'm not closing down the blog necessarily, but to be honest, I think it's time to put this to rest: I think I've answered every question that can possibly be asked on publishing, and there are so many other amazing blogs out there that now help aspiring writers on their way. When I started this there weren't. I can't tell you how much I've loved connecting with all of you over the years - truly, this is like a nice, little community, and I am so, so, so appreciative of all of your comments and emails. But, well, like any good thing, you'd like to go out on top, and I kind of feel like this is the top for me. And that as I get busier and busier, I'm bound to lose momentum.

SO. That said, I will ask a small favor, something I don't think I've ever done (or perhaps done once) in the course of these six years. And that is to go to a bookstore or to a website, and purchase THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME this week or next, during these early critical days of the release. If you don't want to buy my book, buy someone else's. I mean it. What has become abundantly clear to me over the past few years, as I've learned more and more about the industry, is that all of it, everything, hinges on readers. And as writers and aspiring writers, we have to be the ones who support and sustain this process. One day, every reader on here will hopefully be in a position of asking others to buy your book, and if they do not, or others do not, well, to be blunt, you won't be a published writer for long.

That is the truth of the industry: if you are a writer, it is in some ways almost an obligation to support others. I do. If I know an author, I will buy his or her book. Almost without fail every single time. This means that I buy a lot of books that I never have the chance to read. (And I know I'm in a fortunate position to be able to afford this.) But it also means that I have done my part to help sustain our industry and to help support my friends.

Look, again, this isn't a plea for my personal book sales. (Although, I won't complain if you want to nudge them along!) :) This is about ALL of our careers, and I hope it doesn't come off as opportunistic or guilt-inducing or manipulative. It's none of those things, I promise. It's simply the truth: authors need people to buy their books. So this weekend, buy a book or request one from your library. Any book: there are so many good ones out there. Remember that you're not only boosting that author's sales, but you're boosting the industry - the one you are part of or hope to be part of - too. 

Anyway, this isn't goodbye! I will be back here with some author interviews and news and surely, some other blog posts. (In fact, if you have suggestions, by all means, post them below.) But for now, I'm going to take a breather. The blog will stay up, so you are always welcome to come back and search for tips or advice, no worries about that. And do click on the links in my blogroll - there are some fantastic sites out there for writers.

Thank you so much once again for six years of fabulousness. I hope I've helped steer a few of you on your way. I know that you have certainly helped enrich my own life and writing these past few years too.

Monday
Apr092012

The Difference Between Book One and Book Four

So THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME is offically out on Thursday (more about that later this week), but I'm guessing that a few of you will be able to find copies a few days early. Yay! I finished this book a year and a half ago, and needless to say, I'm excited for it to make its way out into the world. I think, of my four books, I might be the most proud of this one, so I do hope you'll pick up a copy!

What's been interesting this time around - and a few of you have asked me this, as have some friends (and my parents, who have remarked that I am noticeably MORE SANE with this release) - is how different my approach is to the release. There is a lot to be learned between the publication of book one and book four, and I feel like I'm reaping the benefits of experience right now.

Namely, this is what I've realized: there are very, very few things that are within your control when it comes to a book release. Authors don't like to hear this, and even more so, they don't like to accept it. I wonder if, by nature, authors are control-freaks. I tend to be when it comes to my work. We ruminate over tiny words, tiny changes we'd like to make. We want things to be just so, with our phrasing, our characters, our intonations, our...everything. And thus, it is a very difficult lesson to learn that once the book is out of your hands, in many ways, it's no longer yours. Your cover will be determined by someone else, your marketing will be determined by someone else, your budget (for co-op, ads, etc) will be determined by someone else. And of course, your reviews are entirely out of your control.

Are there things that you can try to do? Well, of course! You can hire publicists, you can (and should) get your agent to advocate for you every step of the way so that said budget (the specifics of which you won't be privy to), said cover, said attention, is best played in your favor. You can send out early copies to all of your book blogger friends, you can ask people to review it as widely as possible. 

HOWEVER.

(And this is the part that authors don't like to hear.)

Despite all of this, there are still many, many bigger factors that come into play once your book is out into the world. Like what other books are released that month. Like what news breaks that shrinks the review space in People magazine. Like whether or not your publisher buys you co-op, and even if they do, whether or not it will be long enough to make a huge impact. Like whether or not the sales rep at Barnes and Noble liked your cover, and even if he or she did, if he placed a big enough order for readers to find the book at most of the stores. Like if bad weather hits and people decide not to go to the bookstore (or perhaps - good fortune - they decide TO go to the bookstore). Who knows? There are a million reasons why books do well and don't do well, and this is what I've learned by book four: I'VE GIVEN UP TRYING TO QUANTIFY ALL OF THESE REASONS.

Honestly, I mean it. I hope to high hell that THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME sells a bajillion copies. (Please, please go get your copy now!) But I can't say what is in the cards for it because too much of it is out of my hands. If it were up to me alone? Well, sure, it's #1 on the Times list. :) But it's not up to me alone. 

This is the lesson I've learned. It's a hard lesson, but most veteran writers eventually learn it too. You go out and you hustle, hustle, hustle. And then, there's nothing else to do but pray. :)

Thursday
Apr052012

Breaking into Screenwriting

Question of the day: You mentioned that you're now working on some screenplays. Like a lot of writers, I'd like to do the same. Can you share how you went about it?

Sure, happy to. I don't want to get into all of the details, as some things are still pending, but to be honest, it's a pretty simple answer: I thought that I could write a good screenplay, so I wrote one. (Whether or not it's good is subjective, of course!) :)

Rewinding a little bit from that: what I actually did was adapt TIME OF MY LIFE when I read the commissioned screenplay and thought that I could do a better job. It was NOT, and I repeat NOT easy. I was humbled in the process and discovered that writing a screenplay is an entirely - ENTIRELY - different muscle than writing a novel. To the point where I wondered whether or not it was worth it, because, I actually know how to write a book, and I wasn't sure if I felt like starting over. Writing a screenplay is a very, very different entity. But I asked my dear friend, Laura Dave, for a lot of advice, and I read a bajillion screenplays, and I must have rewritten the script at least ten times, until then finally, my agent loved it. And then I met with a bunch of producers who also liked it but also had other feedback, so I went back in and revised it to match all of THEIR notes, and it turned out that what I thought was actually good (that last finished draft) was kind of crap. I'm still tweaking the script because I'm still learning on the job, and I want to ensure that it is the best possible representation of what I can do and of the book.

But TIME OF MY LIFE aside, I'm also working on another project that was spawned from one of these initial meetings. Some of the producers I met with asked me to pitch them my vision (or "take," as they say in the industry) on an idea they had, and I swear, I put more work into that over the course of two weeks than I have any other project in my career. Enormous story boards, fleshing out the arcs for multiple storylines before I've even put pen to paper (the opposite of how I write a book), etc. Much like a freshman writer, I had to prove myself all over again. I got the gig, hurrah, but again, the learning curve is enormous, and I think you have to be willing to climb that mountain if you're going to try to do this sort of thing.

So all of this is to say that while I broke in based on my experience as a novelist (there is no doubt that this helped me land meetings, etc), the work I'm putting in is much like anyone else. You have to do your homework, you have to be willing to change your ideas and collaborate with others. And there is no question that my years of getting edited has helped me too.

So that's my story, I'll share more details on both projects when I can. Right now, I feel like I've been invited to the big kids' table, and I'm just grateful to have a seat.

Tuesday
Apr032012

Writing and Loneliness

Question of the day: Do you ever get struck by loneliness working from home? Do you miss the daily interaction with colleagues? From your blog, you seem to be quite a social creature and part of me wonders if the social isolation is one of the biggest drawbacks to being a freelancer. 

This is a great question, and I'm sure that it varies from person to person. For me, personally, no, I actually don't get lonely, but then I'm also someone who craves alone time. You're right in that I am social and pretty outgoing, but a big part of me NEEDS to be left alone. A lot. So freelancing and working from home is perfect for me. But, as an example, my husband was working from home for a while while getting a new venture off the ground, and he didn't get it at all. Like, he was in and out of my office eight times a day, hanging out, chatting, turning on the TV, wanting to get lunch, and...it drove me craaaaaazy. He quickly realized that this solitary sort of thing wasn't for him (or me), and got office space with his partners.

I think one thing that really helps these days is the community that can be found online. There is a lot of support (and entertainment) out there from fellow writers - reach out on social networks, and it's easy to find. Play Scrabble on Facebook, engage in a conversation on Twitter. Those are our water coolers, and honestly, again, at least for me, I find a lot of friendship and companionship on social networks. Sure, you're sitting by yourself at home, but you really don't feel lonely. At least I don't. 

I also make a BIG point to get out of my house/office every day. Not just when I drop the kids off at school in the morning, but for lunch, for errands, for walking the dog. There is something to be said for going out, taking a walk, ordering a sandwich and engaging with people, even when it might be more practical (or easier) to stay home and open a can of soup. This might sound silly, I know. But honestly, getting out of the house for 30 minutes and engaging with people, even if it's the cashier at the drugstore, is helpful for me. (I don't mean that I have long conversations with the cashier, only that it's a bit of human interaction.)

So that's me. I don't find it isolating, but again, I also enjoy a bit of isolation. I crave time to myself. So it's a good match. For others, it probably wouldn't be. What about you guys? Do you find freelancing/working from home lonely? If so (or if not), how do you ward off those feelings?

Friday
Mar302012

Interview with a Fiction Great: Emily Giffin!

I'm so excited to share this interview that Emily Giffin was kind enough to do with me! I read SOMETHING BORROWED years ago, and Emily has always been someone whose professionalism I've admired greatly, and as I've gotten to know her personally, whose generosity has proven equally admirable. Truly. Emily is such a phenomenon in our industry that she doesn't have to take the time to offer a helping hand to others, and yet, she always does. 

Click here to read our chat. We cover writing inspiration, bucket lists, motherhood, and of course, Felicity. (Because let's be honest, it all comes back to Team Ben vs. Team Noel!) :)

Thursday
Mar292012

What Can You Expect From Your Publisher

Question of the day: When you talk about book promotion, can you share a bit about how much your publisher does for you?

This is a difficult question to answer because the answer will be different for every author and for every book. Thus, the answer is anything from pretty much nothing to taking out ads in People magazine. 

That said, there are general barometers which can give you a sense of what to expect, and generally, these barometers are set into place by how much the publisher has paid for the book. If your advance was fairly small (when I first started, that meant less than 50k, but I'm guessing that this number has shifted as advances have grown smaller), then the publisher doesn't have a huge incentive to drop bucketloads of money. And then, of course, the reverse is also true: the more they paid for it, the more in the hole they'll find themselves in the book tanks. So naturally, they'll put more resources into promoting it. 

I think that bookseller response also probably plays a factor, as do trade reviews. The more heat that a book has (say, if the sales team has gotten tremendous feedback from their accounts), the more jazzed the internal team will be, and the more effort they'll put in. I can't say whether or not this means that the budget will get a boost, but I'd think it only natural - psychologically - for them to feed off early strong buzz.

So what does this mean they'll do for you? Well, the biggie is co-op, that space up front at stores which publishers buy. To me, co-op is pretty much the end all, be all. Even if they do nothing else for you, if they can put you up front at a store, your sales will be stronger. After that, it can be everything from buying ad placement on book sites or relevant pop culture sites to sending you out on tour (though these days, you're much more likely to go on a virtual blog tour) to really giving the book a big, big push with reviewers. Also, your book may get assigned to a more senior publicist/marketing coordinator (not because newer publicists can't be great, but just because they'll put the more seasoned folks on the BIG titles). 

Does every book get the above attention? No. Absolutely not. Which is why authors are so busy hustling themselves these days. I've been really, really fortunate with SONG REMAINS THE SAME - I have an amazing team of people who are supporting this book in ways that go way beyond my expectations. WAY. But certainly, I've been in the opposite situation before too. I think the only thing an author can do is to do everything in his or her power to make the book a success. That way, you know you've done what you could. A lot of the rest is out of your control.