Sunday, January 12, 2014

Authors Are Ageless! Never Give Up Your Dream of Being One

Guest post by Joyce Mason

I am honored to have Joyce Mason posting on my blog this week.  It's a long one but worth the time to read it if you have any interest at all in becoming an author.


It took me twenty-four years to publish my first novel. I had written a lot of non-fiction, but I just couldn’t get it together to put myself out there as a novelist until I was 66 years old. For more details, read Why It Took Me Till Social Security to Publish My First Novel … and Why It’s OK. You’ll find a lot there about the psychological factors involved in my long incubation toward what I think is my true life’s work. I suspect I’m not alone in taking a long time. It turned out I had good reasons and good intuition to take it slowly.
We’re All Writers. Nowadays, almost everyone is writing at least “part-time” in some way or another. We have never been more literate, writing emails and social networking and conducting much of life from our keyboards. Some people might not consider that “really” literary, but I think all communications by written word are just that. The tools are now available and affordable for anyone with a strong desire to realize his or her dream of becoming an author. Writing is often part of whatever work we do, creating publications to complement our jobs, even if our job isn’t writing per se.
That Blessed Blogging. Today’s path to paperback and eBook publications often starts with blogging. I am an absolutist about blogging’s role in a writer’s success. When I first started blogging in 2006, I barely knew what it was. I had to ask around, look it up, and figure out what that funny word meant. (Web log—blog—huh?) During the next eight years, I created four of them. (One good one is actually plenty!) Nothing I have ever done has sharpened my writing skills as well and as quickly as blogging. When I say blessed blogging, I mean it’s a blessing—literally. It’s also a free and easy way to find your audience, and if you write on niche topics like I do (astrology and spirituality), you’ll begin gaining readers through your blogs. They are your built-in audience or platform once you have tangible products, like paperbacks and eBooks, to sell.
Baby Boomer Plus, Age Appropriate. It has long been a trend for people in the 55+, even far 55+ age category, to start writing during this phase of life. That’s when people tend to write their memoirs or retire from their long-time careers to do what they really want to do. Since many of us like to write, it’s ideal. The job doesn’t require youth or physical peak. An older person’s premiere asset, life experience, is a huge benefit to your writing. As long as your mind is still sharp and you can type and learn, you’ve got what it takes to become an author. The last push I needed to get over any idea that the opportunity had passed me by because of my age came from a fellow writer I know. She published her first book at 84. It turned out to be an award-winning memoir, and she’s now in her 90s, still writing.
There is no ageism in writing—and sageism really helps.
Drastic Changes in the Publishing Industry. There has never been a better time for you to take charge of your publishing life and just do it. While “self-publishing” once had the stigma of being considered unprofessional and vain, now it’s seen as “independent publishing,” a real option and the sign of a person willing to invest in him- or herself. If you’re not willing to invest in your first book, why should a publisher who does it as big business? One of the reasons some authors with multi-deal book contracts have taken back their rights and are now doing it themselves is because the tools to do it economically are available for the first time ever, allowing them to retain a much larger profit.
If you’re like I was, fear of cost may be holding you back. My direct investment in bringing my book to Amazon and all the usual purchasing outlets was $710. I could have gotten away with less. More on that in a minute. First, a very capsule perspective on publishing history.
The traditional publishing model involved a big gamble on the part of the publisher, especially on someone untried. The publisher paid for the print run—and made educated guess on how many would sell. Further, the publishing house would have to take back any unsold books ordered by bookstores, because these returns have always been a part of the deal between book producers and sellers.
Another limitation of the publication model that’s now shifting was the physical space in brick and mortar bookstores. There is only so much shelf space in stores; therefore, what didn’t sell within a few weeks was returned for other books that would. This meant that if your book didn’t make it in the first month, it didn’t make it at all.
It’s easy to understand why it was so difficult for people to break into the business, given the risks from the publisher’s perspective, which also applied to agents. (Most publishers do not accept manuscripts except through an agent. They screen manuscripts and pitch likely winners to publishers.) Publishers want you to have a great idea with wide appeal, excellent writing skills with the potential for producing follow-up books. They expect you to have a substantial, pre-existing audience, ready to buy your book. They also expect you to be vigorously involved in marketing your book. It was shocking for me to learn how little publishers market for their authors. It’s mostly up to you.
With the new services offering print-on-demand (books printed as they’re ordered) through places like Amazon’s CreateSpace, the initial investment of bringing the book to publication is the author’s. If you hire help to do it, after that, the profit is all yours. There are significantly fewer brick and mortar bookstores. With no competition for shelf space, your book—especially your eBooks—live forever online. They can be purchased anytime, anywhere. It’s a whole new world.
How to Play.  In one article, I’m limited on how much detail I can offer, so I’m going to share some tips on how to get started. You’ll learn more from taking these steps:
1.   Find the best local writers’ groups you can. Join one or more. Be sure they include a variety of authors, both traditionally and self-published. You’ll learn much from both.
2.   Start a blog, if you haven’t already. Write in the same genre
    or on the same topics as your future books.
3.   Find or start a critique group to get feedback on your book
    manuscript. Make a commitment to your group members on
    a book schedule, and ask them to keep you on task to get
    your first draft done.
4.   Once you’ve done Draft 1, send it to your most well-read and
    well-grammared friends for preliminary editing and feedback.
    Repeat this step until you think it’s as perfect as you can get
    it. I strongly recommend professional editing. (More on that
    under Costs.)
5. Go to your other writer friends for referrals on the interior
    design of your book and the cover, as well as people who
    will convert your book to eReader versions for Kindle, Nook,
    etc.  You can do any of these things yourself, but they require
    a lot of time and learning curve. There is a YouTube video and
    other instructions online for anything discussed in this article.
    CreateSpace, for example, has lots of how-to documents and
    you can hire help from them, as well. A professional cover is
    essential. The thumbnail of the cover sells your book
    everywhere. Unless you’re a graphic designer, hire one.
    I’ve heard of beautiful covers costing as little as $50.
6. Get a professional looking website. You’ll need it as your
    “meeting place” for information on all your books, blog(s),
    book signing appearances, etc. You can do it yourself to
    minimize costs or hire help. I did my own and later
    upgraded with professional help. Get quotes and advice
    from friends. Find sites you like and ask about the designer.
More on Costs. To give you an example of the investment you’d be looking at to publish independently, I’ll share what it cost me to bring my 216-page mystery to paperback and eBook formats. The size of the project, book dimensions and paper chosen will all have an effect on costs. CreateSpace has some great calculators for estimating them with no subsequent surprises.
I was willing to spend more on what was essential to me, especially for my first novel. I wanted to work with people I could communicate with well, who had an excellent reputation (no issues of delivery and on time) and who offered a high-quality product. I was also “interviewing” via this project for long-term relationships. I have other books to come. I figured the sooner I could assemble a permanent production team, the better. After waiting 24 years to publish my first novel, I wanted it to look spectacular and no different from a book by a major publisher. I created my own imprint, New Inkarnation Media, and there was an additional $233 for my business license, fictitious name filing and the required advertising for “doing business as.”
My cover cost $150 and exceeded my expectations. My working relationship with my cover artist is a dream. She made my vision a reality and added her own ideas that, together, formed a synergy that wowed me. I hope we work together for years to come.
The interior design was $370, done by a professional whose work and knowledge in the field I much admire. Without my even asking, he carried aspects of the cover design inside the book. It looks beautiful and seamlessly coordinated. Comparing notes with others, I could have possibly paid less, but for what this individual gave me in moral support, expertise, patience and unwavering reliability, I got a bargain. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.
My eBook conversion was $150. For our area (Sacramento, CA), this was a bit high, but my designer was excellent, and there was no question that she’d turn out a timely and perfect product. I’ve heard of conversions costing as little as $25 and also in the $85-100 range locally.  It’s important to get bids from several professionals and consult with other writers for referrals.
Two proofs from CreateSpace for the paperback with speedy delivery cost approximately $40. Seeing a real-book proof is essential to be sure everything is aligned right, and we needed some changes on the cover. There is a virtual tool to review everything online, but it doesn’t completely replace seeing how the physical product looks and feels.
About copy editing. It’s expensive. I’ve heard it’s typically $1000-1500 for the kind of mystery novel I write. (This may vary by where you live and what you write.) If there’s any way I can afford it, I’ll do it next time. In the end, it saves time and money, because editing the endless changes almost made me tear my hair out, even though I have a good eye for editing and even like it, up to a point. You’d be surprised how many things your “friend editors” and you miss, even after reading it the 10th time. I was sure gremlins came in at night and entered new mistakes into my manuscript. If you’re working on them concurrently for a coordinated launch, every mistake has to be fixed on both versions, paperback and eBook, till you finally say “uncle” to editing. (Editing is endless. Only you can declare The End.)
In summary, my book cost me $710 to produce, not counting business license and fictitious name statement fees. (Creating your own imprint is optional.) There are no fees at CreateSpace to upload and make your book available for print-on-demand or in their Kindle Store or at and other similar outlets like Barnes and Noble. CreateSpace will distribute your book worldwide. They used to charge a fee for this extended distribution, which they recently discontinued. (I got a refund.) I invite you to read how it works on their site.
There’s Never Been a Better Time.  Publishing is now truly democratic and open to everyone. If you’ve got more time than money, you can learn to do your own interior design for both paperback and eBooks. Anyone can publish all the way to the finish line of their lives. As you make money on the first book you publish, can reinvest the revenue into your next project. Publishing The Crystal Ball was #1 on my Bucket List. Making our dreams come true keeps us young.
About My Book. “Cool sages,” one of my favorite terms for baby boomers and beyond, are likely to enjoy my novel, because The Crystal Ball is about living a long, healthy and productive life. Astrologer Micki Michaels and her ex-FBI-agent boyfriend put their hot chemistry to good use as a crime-busting Odd Couple at a longevity association’s futuristic costume ball.  Someone is threatening to steal the “secret” of longevity. Will he succeed? The costumes are outrageous, the read fast-paced. The costume theme is “come as you’ll be in the future.” One of my favorite things about Micki and the members of the “right to long lifers” is that she’s 50 but looks 30. Now there’s a secret I might want to steal myself.
For more information on where to purchase my book, to view the video trailer or to download the first two chapters, visit The Crystal Ball link on my website.
Marketing: Publication Is Just the Beginning. Before I sign off, I have to share a reality check. There are nearly 500,000 books published each year just in the major English-speaking countries alone (over 470K in the US, UK, Canada and Australia). This explosion, no doubt, has much to do with print-on-demand, the new publication democracy and the easily accessible tools that allow anyone to become an author. That means getting your book noticed is going to be a big job. Learn everything you can about marketing. Social network. Be realistic about why you write and what you can expect to get out of it. I may not get rich, but I’m already happier for fulfilling a lifelong commitment to myself. The positive feedback on my book has been priceless.
I comment on many of these topics ongoing in my newest blog on writing and creativity, Joyce Mason’s NewInkarnations. One of the reasons I write is to share what I learn. There’s more to learn on New Ink. Come on by! I’d love to continue the conversation.
JOYCE MASON is an astrologer, prolific non-fiction writer and a new novelist. Her trademark of delivering deep insights with humor crosses genres. Mystery is the connecting thread of her writing, including the mysteries of life. Learn more at