This article is a reprint of a post from June 22, 2018.
SUCCESS AS AN AUTHOR
Many new writers and authors often wonder what it takes to be considered a successful author. How many books do they need to sell before they are considered successful? How much money do they need to make in royalties before they can say they’ve really made it? How is success measured?
In our society, and for many of us, success is often defined as money, fame, and power. But I think we do ourselves a big disservice when we define it that way, or base it on specific numbers reached, whether it’s book sales or income.
What about an author who has only published a few books, but they are well-written, filled with heart, humor, and gut-wrenching honesty? What about a new author’s book that opens up unique and fascinating worlds to explore? Or an author’s story that shares the overcoming of a huge difficulty in life that can inspire and help others? Or a new author’s book that touches the lives of others in powerful and profound ways? Would you say they are not successful?
I used to think of success in terms of a huge number of books sold, a steady income from royalties, and being on the best-seller list. However, those goals may be fleeting, arbitrary, unrealistic, and self-defeating – using those as criteria for success can discourage or undermine talented writers, stop them from doing their best, or cause them to give up too soon. You can be successful without reaching those typically out-of-reach goals for most writers – so don’t sell yourself short. And don’t give up.
To me, success is measured in the fulfillment of publishing the ideas and stories within me. It is in producing well-written and memorable books, stories, and articles that I can be proud of. It is in touching the lives of others through my words. It is putting my creative thoughts and imagination into a cohesive and powerful story, and getting that on paper in a way that is touching, heart-felt, and powerful.
Success is not a destination – success is a living, breathing, shifting journey of discovery and creativity that you can choose to be part of.
If you have done your best with as much integrity as possible, are proud of your work, and are happy with who you are and where you are, then you are successful. That is the success we should strive for. And that is in your hands, within your grasp.
Success is the expression of and explosion of creativity, heart, and imagination, all coming together in powerful and moving stories. It is exciting and fulfilling and continues to unfold in spectacular new ways and in glorious wonder.
Number of books sold? That doesn’t even come close.
Go for real success – the fulfillment of a dream. And that is something all of us can do.
LYNN MICLEA grew up in New York and moved to California while in her twenties. A certified hypnotherapist and Reiki master practitioner with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she spent many years working in the medical field and in various offices in an administrative capacity.
After retiring, Lynn discovered and developed a passion for writing, and she is now a successful author with many books published and more on the way. Her two memoirs, one of her family’s experience with ALS, and one of her own journey through open-heart surgery, have received numerous five-star reviews.
She also has published ten sweet, exciting, and fun children’s books, which are uplifting, loving, feel-good animal stories, filled with warm humor, and which are about kindness, compassion, helping others, seeing the best in others, and believing in yourself.
She hopes that through her writing, she can help empower others and add more joy and love to the world. She asks everyone to be kind to each other as we all share this journey through life together.
Lynn currently lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband.
Learn more about Lynn at her amazon author page here. And please visit her website at www.lynnmiclea.com for more information on her books.
Michele Sayre offers an insight into the process of writing a short story and the components that vary from writing a longer piece. Please visit Michele on her blog for more great articles and stories. https://michelesayre.com/
The Written Road – Behind the Story: Maybe It Was Memphis
Yesterday I cross-posted a short story I wrote for the Facebook group I am a group administrator for, Writers Unite!. First, I want to thank everyone who read it and shared their kind words about the story. I’m really glad you enjoyed it. Now I want to take you into the writing of the story to try and illustrate a creative process for me that’s something I don’t really think about in words too often.
The story ‘Maybe It Was Memphis’ came from a prompt. A story prompt can be anything, such as a picture, a topic, or anything chosen. In this case, the prompt was a picture of a front porch swing.
Now with prompts there’s usually other requirements to work within, mainly the length of the story. This is to help writers focus their storytelling skills in order to tell a story that doesn’t wander all over the place or doesn’t go nowhere at all. For me, this front porch swing got me thinking about a song I’d heard years ago, “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. The song mentions a front porch swing and is about a young woman meeting a young man sitting on the front porch swing of her mother’s house as the song goes. This first meeting gave me the starting point of the song.
Most of the time, coming up with the beginning of a story isn’t hard for me. Occasionally I have a hard time finding where to start the story but in this case, the opening scene you read came to me pretty quickly and I ran with it. And as you can see, I don’t write out a plot or an outline with my fiction. My writer’s brain does not work from outlines and such because that part of my brain thinks that if I outline a story then I’ve written it and that’s it. So I start from ideas and bits and pieces of scenes and lines of dialogue then go from there.
With a short story, one big thing that kept me from writing them for many years was the issue of plot. Then I realized in a short story the plot line has to be linear. By linear, I mean the plot has to function as a straight line with no off-shoots, or sub-plots as they’re also known. With this story, my plot line became how do I get these two characters together in the end when one of them is going off to war? Five years pass by in a thousand words or so and I’ve never written anything like that before.
The original mid-section actually got deleted and completely rewritten because in my first draft I had Carolyn’s brother killed in combat and John coming home and he and Carolyn bonding over that. But then I thought that’s been done before and it’s much more complicated to do therefore I deleted it and started over. Then two things brought me to the ending of the story: John realizing he saw no future for himself after the war was over, and Bryce (Carolyn’s brother) talking about a woman who referred to herself and him as ‘The River and the Highway’. Because in a way, John and Carolyn were a river and a highway in that they had their own lives halfway around the world from each other but they felt a connection with each other and Carolyn had promised to wait for John no matter what. So with that, I had the ending in place: that connection even in an uncertain future.
Another thought that came to me with the ending of this story was how soldiers have a tremendous amount of difficulty adjusting to life at home after being away at war for so long. In my story, when it came to the end of war, John just didn’t see a future other than hopefully with Carolyn. Now Carolyn understood that John would need time to adjust and figure out his path in life. Carolyn’s way of thinking is to just take things one day at a time and figure out as you go along, which is how I feel about life in general. That patience and understanding are what bring John and Carolyn together in the end.
To add here: since I didn’t kill off Carolyn’s brother Bryce I will be writing his story for this month’s prompt with my group Writer’s Unite!. It will be how he learns to understand what his lady Christie means when she describes their relationship as the river and the highway. So far all I can tell you is their story is a road-trip with an overnight stay. It’s about two people together with nothing else to do but talk things out. That’s the basic idea anyway. Now all I’ve got to do is just write it and figure out what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it, and work things out.
Check out Michele’s story and other stories written for the May 2022 prompt in the Writers Unite! archives.
Please Note: This article is reprinted from the original post on January 12, 1019,
WRITING INSPIRATION BULLOCKS
I’m sure there is someone out in this world who would love to slap my mouth shut for putting those three words together in today’s blog title. But sometimes, I feel like all I see when it comes to writing is finding the motivation and inspiration to write instead of complete works of writing instead.
So in response to all that glorious writing motivation and inspiration, I say this:
You don’t have to write.
I know you may feel like if you don’t write your brain is going to explode or all your wonderful ideas and stories will just die with you and take a few million years to regroup from the stardust of your demise. But that’s not going to happen because you felt like you had to write, but because you went out and wrote then edited the crap out of what you wrote till it shined like a clean toilet.
I write despite all the bullshit that comes along with it. But I refuse to be all high-and-mighty and lofty and say ‘I have to write’. No, for me it is a conscious choice to park my butt and write the words and edit the crap out of them before I share them with the rest of the world.
For me it’s never been about having the need to write, but wanting to do it. It’s wanting to see the words hit the page, wanting to push myself to sharpen them to the brightest points, and hearing their truth not just inside my head, but with my own ears, too.
I know I don’t have to be in the perfect mood to write. I know my mind can be a mess and most of all, I know it doesn’t have to be set in a certain way. I can write in a flying-hot good mood, or in a dark and cold pisser of a mood. And I can always edit until I get it to where it flows the way I want it to. I don’t have to kill my darlings but instead, keep at them until they make it out of the jungle of my mind.
I don’t need a room of my own, or a lot of time, either. And as for the thoughts that question the worth of my words and whether they’re good enough for others to see, bullocks to them. I know someone out in the world won’t like me and what I write, but I’ve kept on going despite being told that in more variations than I care to admit to. Every day I feel like I’m learning more and more how to kick that crap out of my way even when it keeps coming into my path.
So if you’re looking for any writing inspiration from me I’ll tell you one thing: write because you want to, and never mind the bullocks that come along with it.
You know that moment. The moment you press enter or tap the screen and nothing happens. You reboot, thinking your screen froze. Then the realization hits you… the internet is down.
At that moment, the earth stands still.
I live in a large city and have underground electrical and internet/cable lines. Outages are a rarity, and they usually last only a brief time when they happen. Then the big one comes along. The outage takes down a grid and, worst of all, takes out the modem. An electrical surge, bad signal, something caused it, but the modem is dead.
On top of that, with the increasing use of streaming services and the trend away from cable services, I have YouTube TV. Or in this case, I don’t have YouTube TV, which relies on Wi-Fi to operate.
Now, what to do? You place a phone call to the internet provider, have a few choice words, and are told, “It’s an outage, back up in twenty-four hours.” Then you find out that the internet tech gurus repaired the outage, but the modem is dead. Another twenty-four hours before the modem arrives by those once efficient delivery services.
(As an aside, I would like to mention that my phone malfunctioned in the midst of this and is not recognizing the servers for Facebook, Messenger, YouTube TV, etc. Such a serendipitous occurrence adds to the fun. I have phone and text, so that could be worse. However, I can’t get this solved until the modem comes in and I have Wi-Fi—but I digress,)
So, what to do as I wait? I remember the days before the internet, even before pagers and fax machines. We used a landline phone to call our family, friends, and whoever else we needed to speak with during the dark ages. Imagine, we were tethered to the wall and had to stay in one spot! We wrote letters and paid bills by mail using an envelope with a stamp, which often required a walk to the mailbox and raising that cute little red flag to get the mail carriers’ attention.
We have become accustomed to instantaneously chatting with the people we love, friends, and acquaintances on the internet. Who has time for a phone call when we can take thirty seconds to say what we need to say? We pay bills, check the news and weather, watch sports, watch space launches (okay—I’m a nerd), all at our fingertips, whether by desktop, laptop, pad, or phone. When that convenience goes away, we begin to realize how much the internet affects our lives.
The loss of internet access can interrupt manufacturing lines, shipping, infrastructure, schools, fire and police services, hospitals—and Uber. There is little that the internet doesn’t touch. While these businesses and services hopefully have backup plans to work manually, it is a considerable inconvenience and can have consequences.
Writers can continue with little interruption. We might not like to use pen and paper, but it works when needed. As long as there is electrical power and Microsoft 365, the writing continues. However, there are some issues.
Back in the olden days, we also did research at the library. We went there, looked up books in the card catalog, and followed the ‘yellow-brick” Dewey Decimal road to the shelf holding our desired tome. We could ask the librarians at the reference desk (the smartest people I knew as a child), use microfiche, or maybe we were fortunate to have a set of encyclopedias at home.
Today’s writer has the world’s knowledge at their fingertips. As a pantser style writer, I rarely do research before I write. I might research an area or a specific timeframe to begin the book. Most of the time, as I write a scene, I might need a drink that tastes bitter enough to hide the flavor of a bitter-tasting poison. Off to the search engine to find the perfect cocktail. There is one, by the way.
Immediate answers are not available to me now, and as I have taken this downtime to write quite a bit, it is frustrating not having that instantaneous information at hand. But I won’t let that stop me. I highlighted the area in a pretty color and will address that when the internet returns.
I talked to a friend about this predicament, and we discussed this was like an EM event. There is always talk of an electromagnetic attack on our infrastructure and the dire consequences that could befall us without the tools we are used to having.
The fact is, we fret about the occasional and often annoying short outages, be it electrical power or internet, but we should never forget that things could be worse. Should we be prepared? Yes. Will we be? I doubt it. The second the service returns, we forget the difficulties when unavailable.
We should remember.
Addendum: If you are reading this, I have internet again.
I came across an article that focused on the reasons not to listen to advice from Stephen King. I wondered, why not? Stephen King is a highly successful author and the author of a popular book on the writing process.
When reading articles such as this one, I always remind myself that there is advice and there is opinion. In our quest to improve, writers should always read both to obtain a broad base of information to utilize in our writing.
The author of this article isolates three of Stephen King’s “rules” and proceeds to show how the opposite of his rule can be appropriate. Of course, writing passive sentences or using an adverb or a “five-dollar word” as the author describes can be effective—in the proper context.
What this author fails to mention is that you should use these rule-breaking exceptions in moderation. A plethora (see what I did there?) of passive sentences will eventually bore your readers, too many adjectives, and you create “purple prose,” writing that is too ornate.
As for those “five-dollar words,” I prefer to call that an extensive vocabulary. In the author’s example, her use of complex, long words was entirely appropriate. When writing an educated character or one from the aristocracy, formal dialogue and those “five-dollar and change” words add realism and depth. The same terms used by a character who is uneducated or from a lower socioeconomic level would not feel authentic to your reader. A book laden with too many complex words becomes a textbook and will be difficult for most readers to follow.
This author ends by saying that writers should write anyway that they feel comfortable and break the rules if they are skilled enough.
It seems as though I have heard that advice/opinion before. That statement is what writing is for all of us. We develop our style based on what we have learned and how we arrange words on the page.
I have authored articles on the rules and my opinion of the writing process. However, I want to stress that writers should read everything they can about this art of writing. Take away those ideas, rules, and suggestions that suit your style of writing. This author inferred that if you follow Stephen King’s rules, you will write just like him. No, you won’t. The rules are not his style. How he uses words to convey emotion and create tension is his style.
I offer only one piece of advice here. As I said above, read everything you can about the writing process, read books, and glean from those sources what you need to become the writer you want to be. Always learn the rules first, then you can break them.
In the words of the infamous fashion icon Tim Gunn: Make it work!
Writers Unite!’s mission is to offer a haven for writers to share their work and hone their craft. As the writing process is our focus, author, and WU! admin, Lynn Miclea has created a series of “tips, tools, and tidbits” about writing for our members or anyone interested in writing to help improve their writing. Check the menu bar for any tips you may have missed.
Lie versus Lay
Many people often mix up these words, and it is helpful to learn to use them correctly. Lie and lay are not interchangeable — they have different meanings and should be used properly.
LIE means to rest or recline. It is intransitive, which means it does not take an object.
Examples: I need to lie down. I will lie on the couch. He lies on the floor. She wants to lie down and take a nap. Let the dog lie where he is.
Present tense: lie, lies. He lies down. Past tense: lay. Yesterday, he lay down. Present participle: lying. He is lying down. Past participle: lain. I have lain in bed too long.
LAY means to put or set an object down. It is transitive, which means it takes an object — you lay something down.
Examples: I lay the book down. She lays her pencil on the table. He wants to lay down the law. They can lay the tile in the bathroom. Please lay the papers on the counter.
Present tense: lay, lays. She lays the book down. Past tense: laid. He laid the packages on the table. Present participle: laying. She is laying the pen down. Past participle: laid. I have laid the books on the counter.
Please view the two charts that help explain it further.
Writers lead exciting lives. We can sit in the safety of our homes or cafes or wherever we choose to write and have amazing adventures through our words. As George R. R. Martin wrote in one of his novels,
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies…. The man who never reads lives only one.”
A writer lives those thousand lives as well.
Who are we who call ourselves writers?
We are ethnically diverse, from all socioeconomic backgrounds, but share a passion for writing. We publish. Some of us are highly successful, some not. Many published authors would refer to themselves as professional writers. The question is, are we?
What is a Professional?
Merriam-Webster defines professionalism as the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person.
The attributes of a professional:
These attributes should be self-explanatory. We should, in all circumstances, be neat in appearance, calm and respectful, reliable in completing tasks or arriving for meetings, and all the other skills listed. All are important, but competence requires considerable study and experience in our chosen profession. Whether accountant, nurse, musician, or writer, this behavior should be our norm.
The Pathway to Writing.
Words are an author’s musical notes, brush strokes, or accounting formulas, surgical techniques, grammar rules, or any other skill required to become successful in a profession. If, as writers, we consider ourselves artists, then we need to gain competency in our art and develop the attributes that represent professionalism.
Perhaps as a child, you exhibited An aptitude for playing an instrument, singing, or drawing. While not all children with demonstrated talent will become professional musicians, singers, or artists, the training for those who do invariably begins at an early age.
The path for artists is an arduous one. Countless hours of instruction and practice are required to learn the instrument, steps, or shapes and perform with others. Years of preparation, mentoring, and often formal study at a university are required for a career in music or art. A career in music or the arts does not require higher education, but the additional training only increases expertise. Also, artists often have another hurdle before they can perform. They may be required to audition to join an orchestra or dance company.
But what about writers? In truth, writers also begin training at an early age. Primary and secondary education provides the basics of grammar, vocabulary, and creative writing. Some may continue to college, where they can major in creative writing or journalism.
Those who choose not to pursue an academic path to writing can find a myriad of articles and lessons on the Internet. Enter ‘how to write dialogue’ into a search engine, and the number of articles offered is staggering. The issue becomes which of those articles are credible and which ones are not. With the voluminous amount of material available, sorting through it to find what works for you can be daunting and confusing but necessary.
The Impact of Self-Publishing on Professionalism
With the advent of self-publishing, the number of authors choosing that route has reached an all-time high. An article by Dan Balow from The Steve Laube Agency website states, “Traditional and self-publishing generate over one million new books every year in the U.S. alone, according to RR Bowker. Two-thirds are self-published.”
That’s a lot of authors, and the question is how many have taken the time and effort to hone their writing craft. Unfortunately, it appears many have not. The areas of greatest impact on the level of quality for published books according to Barlow are:
Collegial control. A give and take relationship between publisher and author where negotiation is required to produce a satisfactory agreement for both.
Traditional publishing can take as long as eighteen months. Self-publishing can happen soon after “The End” is typed onto the manuscript.
Quality of the manuscript. Editing a manuscript is never completed, but all efforts should be made to create a flawless Often, self-published authors do little editing.
Length of manuscript. There are industry standards based on what readers expect that the self-publishing world often ignores. This alone can create dissatisfied readers.
Book cover. One of the essential components of a novel, the cover, attracts the reader to pick up the book, read the blurb, and be interested enough to purchase. Too many self-published authors do not take proper care with the creation of their cover and shortchange themselves.
These are all crucial issues that all authors need to be cognizant of, even with the assistance of a traditional publishing house. To be a professional when presenting yourself as a writer, these are all issues that you must address as part of the competency attribute.
One aspect of publishing that many authors, traditionally published or not, has to deal with is the most important task they undertake—marketing their book.
We welcome others buying our novels for enjoyment. Marketing is a requirement to accomplish that goal. If we are fortunate enough to have an agent or a traditional publishing house represent us, we might have help in offering our product to our readers.
The cold facts are that total marketing support is rare for today’s authors unless they are already proven revenue generators. Many writers turn to self-publishing or small independent publishers where marketing more than likely falls to the author, and few are qualified to promote their books. How we accomplish that task can define us professionals and establish how the marketplace perceives us as authors.
There are numerous avenues open to marketing books, but interviews are personal and effective. Print media, online media, television, radio, and podcasts provide excellent resources for an author to become known to their fans. Making a strong connection with the journalist or host is imperative.
The hosts of these media platforms offer their services, expertise, and the most important commodity, their time. While some media organizations charge, their services are usually free for authors.
These media services provide a tremendous opportunity to communicate with potential readers, lead to repeat interviews, keep the author in front of the public, and keep their book and future books in the spotlight. An essential tool for any author to utilize.
A common lament among these hosts is that authors do not respond to emails or messages, are not available at the time of the interview, or cancel at the last moment without a valid reason. Some answer the written interviews, returning the questions without bothering to edit. Some do not follow through on promoting the interview across social media. Not only necessary for the author but also for the host who has provided the service.
However, the most disturbing behavior to these hosts was how many authors they interviewed never said thank you.
We discussed the attributes of professionals. Here are how those attributes relate to writers.
Appearance – Dress appropriately for a face-to-face interview or a book signing/reading.
Demeanor – Be respectful, considerate, pleasant, and have a good sense of humor.
Reliability – Be on time, provide materials requested
Competence – Learn your craft.
Ethics – Your reputation is at stake. Always maintain integrity.
Maintaining Poise – Be prepared for uncomfortable questions by hosts or readers. Stay calm.
Phone Etiquette – Interviewing by phone requires you to answer clearly and concisely, then pause, and wait for the host to speak so that you do not talk over them.
Written correspondence – Bios should be as short as possible and written in third person. Interview questions should be answered thoroughly and edited for good sentence structure and grammar.
Organizational Skills – Be prepared, have whatever notes you need with you, and practice answers to questions that could arise about your book, your writing style, etc.
Accountability – You have agreed to submit answers to written questions or be available at a specified time for an interview or book signing and should honor those commitments.
And one last thing: A simple thank you to your host is respectful and will build a bond between you and a person who can be valuable to your future as a writer.
Are Writers Professional? We Can Be.
In this era of self-publishing, anyone can publish a book. Have a laptop, and you, too, can be a published author. You don’t need a college degree, or an editor, or a book cover designer. You can do it all. But if you want to approach your writing as a professional, study your craft through an educational facility or study information available on the internet. Use an editor so your manuscript will be as error-free as possible, focus on a quality book cover, and be prepared to market your work. Most of all, be kind and say thank you to those who are helping to make you a success.
Writing is a solitary endeavor when putting words on paper or a computer screen. However, authors can rarely accomplish the marketing of said writing alone.
The myriad of marketing opportunities can be confusing and, for authors, finding the right platform for promoting a book offers a variety of choices. One thing to remember is that reading is a private experience. The reader and words are all that is necessary. However, communication of a book’s content and its appeal to a reader is essential to getting a book into a reader’s hands.
The writing gurus (there are many) encourage authors to write pithy cover blurbs and create an attractive cover design to attract readers. The problem is that there are only a finite number of customers in brick-and-mortar bookstores or pursuing online booksellers, at any one given time. How does a writer expand the potential audience for their books? While there are several outlets, one of the most effective remains the radio interview.
In this day of digital media, how popular is radio? Radio.co states, “Across all demographics, Nielsen demonstrates that radio is still the most popular form of media in America. Radio reaches 90% of adults aged 18-34, 94% aged 35-49 and 91% aged 50 and older.” The article also states that ‘Nielsen’s data shows that 69% of weekly radio consumption is done outside of the home, primarily in cars and at work. The statistics suggest that radio remains a viable outlet for promotion and one an author should pursue.
Now that you, the author, have decided to do a radio interview, how do you go about finding a radio program to interview you?
First, look at your local radio stations and their local interest or talk show programs. An email to the station, or the show host or producer, can open the door for you. Numerous shows on terrestrial radio across the United States offer author interviews with some shows dedicated to authors. There are also lists that you can subscribe to that are available to radio stations when searching for interview subjects.
Digital radio (a.k.a. internet radio) is the fastest-growing arena that offers authors excellent opportunities to reach a broader audience. With internet access available on smartphones and in most cars, internet radio is accessible to listeners on the go. For internet radio stations, search engines can provide lists of stations and their content focus, and many may have a variety of programs that can accommodate your marketing needs.
A word of caution when selecting a program to contact regarding an interview, the majority of radio programs offer podcasts of their shows, and you should listen to interviews from any host/program that you are interested in appearing on to promote your book. You are a professional, an author, and should present yourself as such. Look for a professional radio station and host as the host’s skill is imperative to how well your book and you, the author, are presented.
There are several things to look for when selecting a host/interviewer to contact.
• Preparation—does the host seem familiar with the author’s work?
• Does the host ask interesting and diverse questions?
• Is the host respectful, providing the guest time to answer and not talk over the guest?
• Does the interview sound conversational and not merely a series of canned questions?
• Is adequate time given to cover what you would want to say about your book?
These are critical issues. As a listener, I have heard many interviews with ill-prepared hosts/interviewers. Seasoned authors, some best-selling authors, have come across as unprofessional when in the hands of an unskilled interviewer. Your reputation as a writer is at stake. Do not put yourself in the hands of an interviewer who does not treat the interview professionally.
Once you have selected the programs which you wish to appear on, the next step is to contact them. While writing a press release is nice, it is not always necessary, as an email will suffice. Many stations will include contact forms or instructions on how to contact them for an interview. Allow adequate time for the station representative to reply.
If you contact a station via email, you should provide your full name, preferred contact information, and a short synopsis of your book, including the publication date. Also, indicate why you feel your book would be compelling as a subject for the show. You may be a first-time author or a best-selling author, but always include links to your online presence. Do your due diligence regarding the station and listen to the host’s interviews. Tell the host why you are impressed with the interviews and why you would like to appear on their show.
When you receive a response and the host has invited you to appear, you must follow the directions given. You are a commodity. You are offering your book to the station’s listeners, hoping they will be interested enough to purchase your book. The station/host/ interviewer is providing you the conduit to accomplish that goal. You have a responsibility to the station to do as they request.
Before the interview:
• Confirm that you have received their instructions and that you understand them.
• If they request that you use a landline and you do not have one, make sure they know you will be using a mobile phone. If service is not stellar in your location, travel to an area where service is good.
• Provide all materials that the station requests. It is not always necessary to send a copy of your book. Hosts may not have time to read all books submitted but provide the links, author bio, or other information requested.
• Please do not ask your host for a list of questions they expect to ask you. In addition to being rude, what could a host possibly ask you about your book that you can’t answer? If you are concerned about the questions, listen to interviews, or search online for lists of authors’ questions in interviews.
• Be prepared. One of the first questions a host might ask is, “What is your book about?” Can you answer that succinctly? If not, look up how to write an elevator pitch and work on it.
• Promote your appearance! You are marketing your book, so market it. Talk about being on the station and provide links on all of your social media sites. Why would you interview if you are not going to promote it? The host and station expect you to advertise your interview in exchange for providing you with the platform to sell your book. If you do not promote it, the likelihood of returning for a second interview on that station is slim.
• Should you have to cancel and, remember, you have an obligation to be available at the agreed-upon time, please provide adequate time for the station to replace you and have a valid reason. The interview will likely take less than an hour. There are only a few reasons that you should not be able to meet your obligation. If you have a serious family or medical emergency, please contact the host as soon as you can to inform them.
During the interview:
• If you are interviewing at the station’s studio, be early or be available to answer the phone when the host or show producer calls or call into the station at the assigned time if instructed. You MUST be on time. Time is valuable on a live radio broadcast.
• Depending on whether you are in-studio or on the phone, watching or listening for cues is essential. The host/producer will instruct you on how the interview will proceed and how much time you have. If live, the time allotted is finite. There is some leeway in a recorded interview but, remember, time is important, and your host’s time is as valuable as yours. That you are prepared and attentive is necessary.
• That said, try not to talk over the host. Dead air is not acceptable on the radio. Pause when you have finished your thought, and the host will likely jump in to ask another question, follow-up, or offer their thoughts. While editing can happen with recorded interviews, excessive editing because you have created issues is not professional.
After the interview:
• Thank your host. It seems simple enough, but it is also an expression of manners lacking in our current society. The host and station have given you free publicity for your book. Even if you paid a nominal fee (and some stations do charge for interviews), you likely paid far less for the exposure you received. It takes less than sixty seconds to send an email, a text, or an IM. Be polite; thank your host.
• If your recorded interview airs at a later date if at all possible, listen to the station when it does. Radio is about listeners. Why should they interview you if you don’t bother to listen to them?
• Marketing doesn’t end with the airing of your interview. Almost all radio stations, terrestrial or internet, produce podcasts of the show or your interview segment; that is gold for an author. Post that podcast on your social media, website, and newsletter, wherever you can add a link.
On a personal note, I have appeared on the radio many times. I can attest to the effectiveness of appearing on programs and talking about an upcoming civic event or a business. Most recently, as an Administrator for a writing group on the Internet, I have appeared on an Internet radio station, Impact Radio USA, and their flagship show, Dr. Paul’s Family Talk. At the time of my first appearance on the show, the writing group had 6600 members. Today, four years and several interviews later, we have 77,700 members and can track our growth to those appearances. Radio works.
Ever since I started writing, I’ve seen the term ‘writer’s block’ argued in one of two ways: either it’s real, or it’s not.
For me, it’s real. I know what it’s like to sit down and not be able to write a single word. I know what it’s like to have a million thoughts and feelings running through my mind and not be able to grab a hold of a single one of them. I know what it’s like to have the words in my head and not be able to write them down. And I know what an enormous struggle it can be to get a few words down in a desperate attempt to write only to delete those words altogether.
The reasons and causes of writer’s block have been debated forever but for me I’ve been blocked by either intense emotional struggles, or my mind is just overloaded with a raging storm of thoughts, feelings, and words. Either way is very hard to work through and though I understand both scenarios better than I ever have, I still remember what it’s like to go through them, and I know either one can happen to me again.
I have always wanted to be one of those writers who could write through anything but sadly my writing, unlike my sleeping ability, doesn’t work that way (there’s an old joke from my family that I can sleep through anything- insane heat and humidity, riots, and possibly nuclear war though I have doubts about that last one). But during times of huge and intense emotional struggle and upheaval, writing has been the last thing I’ve even thought about doing. Well, I thought about it but in reality I was either too exhausted to sit down and try to find my words, or worse, I felt intense guilt and fear for even wanting to make that little bit of effort.
As a woman, I have always felt there were more demands on my time than for a man. For example, my father could be loud and pushy about his writing time but I feel like if I had done that I would have been landed on so hard I would have to have been peeled up off the floor. Later on, I knew there were people who felt my pursuit of writing was foolish, selfish, and a complete waste of time simply because the meager amount of time I did take to write made me unavailable to them whenever they wanted me to be. I know now that I had every right to time of my own but that’s in hindsight. Back then, that overwhelming guilt and fear of pissing people off kept me blocked more times than I ever want to admit to.
In the years since those difficult times, I’ve struggled to write because of an avalanche of thoughts, feelings, and words that have raged like a category-five hurricane inside my mind. I know now this was just fallout and the silence after a raging battle that was like a huge echo of noise, but this raging storm took every ounce of energy I had to work through it. But I know I needed to work through those personal storms to get to where I’m at today.
So for any writer reading this who’s been blocked, who has sat down to write day in and day out and gotten nothing written, it’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. It means your human and you’re not perfect. Don’t let anyone try to take you on a guilt-trip you don’t need to take for this. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about yourself for going through writing times like this. Because in my thirty-six years of writing I can tell you from my personal experience ‘writer’s block’ is real. And most of all, you have to find a way to work through it no matter how long it takes.
Don’t give up on your writing when this happens because after a storm there is always calm and eventually, the echoes of those storms will fade and you’ll be able to breathe, think, and feel again. And yes, the words will come to you. And if anyone doesn’t understand that, walk away from them and do your dead-level best to banish their words from your mind. Those words are like a poison you need to get out of your mind and guard yourself against. When it comes to writing, focus on yourself and tell yourself you’re not selfish for pursuing it when you have the time and the energy to do so.
Writer’s block is real like a storm is real, like your thoughts and feelings are real. But like all storms, eventually, it will come to an end. You’ll learn from each storm and grow stronger every time because of that. And most of all, believe in yourself and you’ll find your words again, and they’ll be better than before.
A Thousand Words (give or take) – Writing From Different Places
By Michele Sayre
First, I’ve retitled my blog yet again because the title I had before was a bit limiting. But it wasn’t just the title I was having trouble with.
For the last three and a half years I’ve been wanting to write book-length non-fiction and also shorter non-fiction pieces like blog entries and essays. Yet I couldn’t stay with that type of writing and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I knew I was coming to non-fiction from a very personal and emotional perspective but I wasn’t quite aware that I write from a completely difference place inside of me unlike how I write fiction and poetry.
Here’s how I figured out I write from two different places inside me.
With fiction, I write from a place of excitement born from my imagination and inspiration. When I get an idea for a fiction story, I get really excited. My heart pounds and my nerves hum and all I want to do is write the story. I don’t plan our plot out my stories and yes, I get bogged down and even driven nuts by that. But it’s still a place of excitement even when the story is emotionally gut-wrenching.
With non-fiction, I don’t feel that excitement at all. I don’t feel my heart pounding and my nerves humming in anticipation. I write non-fiction sometimes starting out with a weigh on my chest that almost makes it hard for me to breathe. I write it sometimes on the edge of bawling my eyes out. I write it thinking so hard my brain almost hurts and my eyes cross and burn.
With fiction I feel great joy in telling a story. Sometimes I feel like a kid sitting down to hear a story read to me, or opening a book for the very first time, or sitting in a darkened movie theater. It’s a need and an intense desire to be a part of that rich storytelling tradition.
With non-fiction, it’s about getting my emotional baggage out of my head and a ton of difficult thoughts in order. It’s a need to share, but not from a place of joy like fiction. And this has been a hard realization for me, but a much-needed and very welcome one for me, too. This realization has lifted a big weight off my shoulders I’ve been trying to lift for a long time. Knowing I write non-fiction from a different place inside me and that it’s not a joyful one helps me understand it’s okay to feel like I do about it. It also tells me I’m okay in not working on the non-fiction all the time because if I did I’d probably go clear around the bend to crazy-town. I thought it was because they were big projects with a lot of moving parts but it’s what I have to think and feel in order to write them.
Writing is like falling down a rabbit-hole into Wonderland sometimes with all its’ assorted pitfalls and weird shit to deal with. For me, understanding why I write what I want to has been a big part of my life over the four years. I say I have a complicated relationship with writing and not just because I’ve been doing it for so long, and not just because of how I started, but because of what it’s led me to.
I’ve written a lot of stuff over the last four years that’s been very intense and emotional as hell for me. I’ve shared some of it but most of it has been trashed as I’ve deemed it too raw and unfocused. I see it was now just me venting off excess thoughts and emotions because I know as a writer I can’t just rant-and-rave on the page and edit the crap out of it to get something meaningful. For me, there has to be focus in what I put out there. I’m very good with fiction now in terms of staying on track so now I’ve just got to figure out how to do that with my non-fiction work.
And another thing that’s interesting is how I write poetry. That’s a bit of mix between that humming energy of fiction with the weight of non-fiction. My poetry comes out pretty fast and then I edit it down from there. It flows pretty quickly out of me but it’s almost like I’m desperate to get it out of me.
I think a lot of writers would refer to my difficulties in writing as ‘writer’s block’, and I think that’s a valid term here. I’ve never dismissed the term ‘writer’s block’ as I know that there are times when a writer can’t write and they have to figure out why. Stepping away from the keyboard and going inside your head, especially into the storage unit as I call it, isn’t easy. But like I’ve said before, it’s more than worth it.
I feel better now having written this out. I feel a weight coming off me and a clarity that is sharper than before. I’ve had a lot of these moments of clarity as I call them over the last four years or so and though this one doesn’t have me jumping for joy, I’m grateful for it.
About Michele Sayre:
Writer of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Native Texan, Uber-driver, taco lover, mom to chonky cat and diva dog.