As a writer, an independent writer, you’re not just writing books for the sport of it … you’re running a business. You’re producing a product in your bed or office or at the kitchen table. It’s a product that will be bought and sold for years to come and it should, in a perfect world, rise up to meet your expectations of it. And, chances are, you’ll end up outsourcing some of the tasks involved in the production of that product. It’s the loss of control that’s extremely hard …
For me, this was equal parts of exhausting and rewarding. When you hand over your vision as well as your money, you are taking a chance — no one knows that better than a virgin-writer with no real connections and zero experience. There are no lily-pads in your pond to hop from. As I prepare to get the second book really moving, and align myself for the best success possible in terms of time management and output, I think taking a hard look at what to expect when you’re expecting is a pretty important thing.
I’m pretty much a pacifist. I’m easy going, I try my hardest to be nice to everyone I meet and I’m fairly level headed in terms of my expectations. I might go so far as to say I have a perfectionist streak in my ideals … but I’m not impossible please. Many, many of my business dealings were amazing, having the resources at my finger tips to ask the important questions and establish a bell-curve of expectations was priceless … but it wasn’t flawless. I was new, green and fumbling as I like to say, and I had to learn a lot of things … hard things … but with any education, there is growth and … believe it or not … I’m actually sort of thankful for the moments that had me pulling my hair out, because they taught me more for the next endeavor.
1. The people you hire actually do work for you!
I can remember one instance where I was working with someone … going back and forth, “yesing” and “noing” a certain thing over and over and over again … it started to feel like a tennis match of sorts, with this certain thing bouncing between us with no points being scored. The fun of it was lost in the inability to match up our minds and communicate effectively. In the end, the person I was working with just e-mailed a few options and pretty much threw her hands up in the air. That was discouraging.
When you’re paying someone to do a job, what you get in return for your money should be what you were expecting and nothing less than that. If you’re sensing a mental break-down, either from you or your contractor, take a break. Shoot off an e-mail and be nice about it, explain that you’re going to take 12 or 24 or 48 hours to think it over. In the grand scheme of things, the cooling off period won’t make a difference in the timeline … but it may make all the difference in the end result.
Don’t be afraid to say “that’s not quite right” … it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. When you’re working over e-mail, things can get lost in the communication process, and that’s not really anyones fault. If you can disguise a criticism as a kudos … even better. Pick one thing you love and start with that. Remember to say thank you … that’s important!
Let your contractor know, upfront, what your expectations are. Don’t roll in during the 11th hour with X,Y&Z … be concise upfront and hopefully, in return, you’ll get the same.
2. Be kind … but firm …
This is sort of piggybacking off of point number one. But remember, the people you’re working with have lives too. Be aware that people get sick … that accidents and emergencies arise. If something like this happens, because it does happen, be nice about it … but let them know that you’re still expecting the work done by such-and-such a date.
3. Work out a contract … and don’t be afraid to ask for a signature!
As a writer, you’ll be asked to sign contracts all the time. Have one to offer back in return. It’s an extra step, I know, but when you’re working online with someone you don’t know and you’re sending them your money and freely discussing a novel that isn’t copyrighted, it’s smart to safe guard yourself. There are tons of online resources that will help you flesh one out … but use it, and keep them filed away by book (if you have more than one).
The primary thing to remember on this front is that until you have some safe guard, you’re wide open. If you don’t mind that, don’t worry. For me, however, I worry and so I mind. I didn’t have contracts on the first go around, I signed some, but never had one in return. I’ll be a better business woman the next time around.
Key components to remember if you’re going to draw up a contract are:
1. All business dealings should be kept quiet. The world is a small place. One disgruntled contractor could sour your good name. People do this all the time in the name of privacy … you should too.
2. What does the purchasing said work entitle you too? For a cover … that’s easy. You want access to use the cover for any and all book related events and swag. Don’t be blindsided by limitations.
3. Speaking of covers … companies like Createspace has minimum DPI’s you need have for printing … the magic number is 300. Make sure your artist is aware of that can can create a cover using that as a launch pad.
4. Confirm the price up front. Whatever the service, make sure that you have a base line fee that won’t be changed last minute … those sort of surprises are awful, even when it’s not that much money.
5. Have an opt out! This is an uncomfortable thing to approach … but the truth is, people do misrepresent themselves. If you have the feeling you’re getting run-around or the excuses are piling on, have a built-in escape hatch. Spell that out. A settlement fee a portion of the cost is fair … but don’t feel trapped by someone else … ever!
6. Anything else that creates worry or stress for you.
4. Establish a timeline
My first time looked a lot like a hot mess. I was a mess. No directionality at all. This time around, my timeline tentatively looks like the below:
-Write (MS finished and self-editted by April)
-In Appointment with Editor NOW — as in January.
-Converse With My Cover Artist Mid-Feb for image for cover
-Book Goes To Editor In April
-Book Returns In May/Make Corrections
-Apply For Copyright
-Book Goes To Formatter In June/Cover Artist Does Spine and Back
-Book Is Published in July
Will those dates change? OF COURSE THEY WILL. But, it holds me accountable to a time table. I obviously don’t have a publisher breathing down my neck for my next book … and to keep it sort of organized, I set the goals and reward myself if I finish on time or better yet, ahead of time. Expect set backs but learn to be your own boss, hold yourself accountable.
5. Be calm in the face of crisis
When I was writing THE MILESTONE TAPES I realized that I had totally and completely plagiarized an entire chunk of the book. Sucks to be me. That was what I consider a crisis. But, I did the old … keep calm and carry on … thing. It worked out fine … but just know, shit will happen … be okay with that, be prepared for that.
So … writers … be excited when you’re expecting … but be smart about expecting as well!
P.S: Don’t forget to enter THE MILESTONE TAPES GIVEAWAY!!