Tag Archives | indie publishing

Otherwhere: Phew!

Your DIY writing retreat here?

Your DIY writing retreat here?

What a great weekend.  Debbie and I did our publishing workshop with a terrific group of writers and on Sunday I met with my cousin and his wife to discuss fun projects.  And today, Monday, I’ve heard from my agent that the rewrite I submitted last week is off to the editor and long-lost students are returning, and it feels like things are happening again.

I’ve got some good links for you, too.  Such as:

Write your novel fast.  As discussed at our publishing workshop this weekend, if you write 1,000 words a day (which is not a particularly fast pace), at the end of two months you’ll have 60,000 words, which is a novel in many genres. Another month, and you’ve got 90,000 which is women’s fiction/literary fiction range.  See? You can do it speedily, if you set a steady pace.

Need to check your grammar? Try this.

Indie authors, do you hire help or do it yourself?

Seven things your mystery novel needs.

Literary or commercial?

DIY writer’s retreat.  (Or, if you want a retreat/workshop in France that’s not DIY, try this.)

Writing your first novel.

How to write a short story.

I’m more of an Instagram fan myself, but this article convinced me I need to return to my Pinterest boards.

That’s what I’ve been reading.  How about you?

Photo by mterraza.

10

Guest Post: One Would Think

Please welcome my friend, Kayla Dawn Thomas to the blog today.  She is the author of Swept Up, and the newly released (today!) Narrow Miss.  I love her thoughts on publishing the second time around and I know you will, too!

One Would Think     

by Kayla Dawn Thomas Headshot 6-14

One would think that by the time she publishes her second book, the experience would be old hat. The writer could press publish on Amazon with a confident smile and stroll into the kitchen to pour a celebratory glass of wine. Maybe then she’d take a peaceful, barefoot walk on the beach hand in hand with her lover, the wind blowing gently through her hair.

Ha! I wish! I just released my newest project on Amazon, and I’m still in my pajamas at noon after being up most of last night fretting about it. Never mind that I published a novel last April, and it’s done quite well for a debut. Never mind that I had two delightful book signings this summer. I’m not trying to brag here, just point out that nothing has happened in my first year as a published author to strip me of my confidence as I prepared to launch the Jenna Ray series.

As I was polishing up Narrow Miss, I saw this video of Sandra Brown talking about how after all these years of writing bestsellers she gets more intimidated with each release. Great, that’s just what I needed to hear. But, after some thought and going through the process a second time, I understand.

The first time I published all I could think was, “What if everyone hates my book?” That didn’t happen, so I relaxed after a few weeks.

Now I find myself thinking, “What if this book isn’t as good as the first? What if I disappoint my readers?” That still remains to be seen, so until then I will sit on my yoga mat and breath into a paper bag.

There is an upside with the second book, as least in my limited experience. The process as a whole came easier. I was no longer doubtful about whether or not I could write a book, so the writing came easier. I knew my way around the Amazon publishing ropes, so formatting and uploading my work was simpler. This time around I knew what I wanted and needed from my team (my editor and cover artist), so I could communicate more effectively with them. I pump my fist at these victories.

Reflecting on these little wins pushes me to open a blank document and take a deep breath because it’s time to start again—type the words for the next piece, because I have to. Despite the anxiety and nausea every time (so far) that I release one of my babies into the world, I have to write. It’s the only thing that’s ever felt like my calling. Like Sandra Brown said, “I have a fire in my belly.” There’s something about knowing what you’re supposed to be doing. And if one of my stories gives just one person a release from this hectic world, then every moment was worth it.

Kayla Dawn Thomas is the author of Swept Up and Narrow Miss: A Jenna Ray Story, which releases today!. To learn more about her books and indie author life, please visit her website .

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My Foray Into Indie Publishing

Blue Sky WEBSITE USEI've been writing so much about Amazon and indie publishing lately that I figured I better try it out myself.

And so I have.  As of last Wednesday, my first indie project, a short story, is for sale on Amazon for 99 cents.

Blue Sky: A Nell Malone Story

Here's the blurb (which I will no doubt rewrite a million times): 

Nell Malone's life is changing, big time. Still grieving over the death of her husband two years earlier, she grapples with the empty nest syndrome as her daughter leaves for college. But a visit to Santa Fe yields new insights into herself–and the tantalizing prospect of a relationship with an intriguing artist. A short story about loss and love.

And here's the inside scoop:  Nell Malone is a character who has been with me practically since I started writing.  She's a newspaper reporter and columnist with an artistic daughter and a husband who died two years earlier.  He was a cop, shot while on the job, and his killer has never been caught. I've got a novel about her all laid out and ready to write when I finish the book I'm working on now. (I'm thinking it will be a great project for Nanowrimo this November. )

But this particular story has been on my computer since my MFA days (and I graduated in 2003). Since Nell seems always to lurk on the edges of my brain, I pulled this story out, drastically gutted it, updated it, and edited it.  Then my writing group read it and commented and made more edits.  And I went back through it again until I was happy with every word.  And then the real fun began.

The Process

Let me just say, there are a few obstacles to the process of publishing a book.  

First of all, you've got to find a cover.  Now, let me be clear: this is a short story, as in short, not a lot of pages, not a novel.  I'm very proud of this story and I love that Amazon gives me a venue to publish it. All that being said, I didn't feel I needed to invest heavily in a cover, because, well, its a short story. And I knew a custom cover would be expensive, or at least more than my budget.

So I did what one always does in such circumstances: I asked the Google.

And I found Melody Simmons.  She does good work for reasonable prices.  I purchased a pre-made cover on her site which happened to suit my story.  It also happened to be on sale, which was a lovely bonus.  Melody has a good selection of pre-made covers on her site, and she also will do custom work. I recommend her.

And then after you get the cover, you need to figure out formatting.  Gee-zus.  It's actually an easy process to submit the file to Amazon.  They check it for spelling errors and send it back to you and then you preview it and realize that everything is wrong: tabs are wonky and things look awful.  So you go back over it again, trying to figure out what you did wrong.  And submit it again.  And it looks worse.  Finally, I got a writing friend with experience to help me with this and that solved the problem. There are also formatters that will do this for you. So that I don't have to rely on friends for help all the time, I'll probably buy this one.)

After you get all the wonkiness out, you submit it, et voila!  Your book is up on Amazon.  You can create your own Amazon author page, which I highly recommend, and feed your blog and Twitter onto it.  You can also create author pages for their UK, German, and French sites. (A tip: keep your English composing page open and you'll be able to figure out what they are saying.)

KDP Select

I opted to participate in the KDP Select program, which means I'm selliing it exclusively on Amazon for 90 days (and probably forever, most likely).  In return I get marketing tools such as the Kindle Countdown, which I haven't quite figured out yet, and the chance to offer my book for free. I'm still studying the best way to handle this promotion–when to offer it for free and so on.  

The Part Where She Asks for Reviews

Anyway, the story is available for purchase, and at the price of 99 cents, who can resist?  If you do buy it, I would SO appreciate a review!  Reviews rule the world, as far as the kings of Amazon are concerned, and I've not been good about asking for them.  (If you've read Emma Jean and feel like leaving a review, that would make me happy, too.)  So if you do decide to buy the story (and bless you if you do), writing a review would be awesome, too.  It's a really easy process!

Previous Posts

Here are some of the other posts I've featured about Amazon:

Amazon for Authors, Part Two: Tools and Thoughts

Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities

Derek

PS

I've got a wee little book on writing about to come out, too.  I keep getting hung up on that one, for reasons to complex to list at the moment, but I'll keep you posted on it, as well.

And now, do tell: are you interested in leaping into the indie publishing process?  

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Amazon for Authors, Part Two: Tools and Thoughts

Book_books_pages_265007_lThe first part of this post, Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities, ran last Monday.  You can read that here, and you probably want to do that before proceeding.

Ever since I wrote part one of this post, I've been obsessed with worry that I'm misrepresenting Amazon.  As in, presenting this rosy view of everything that you can do on the site without also showing the down side.  So, here's an article that does that.  And I want to state again that I fall down somewhere in the middle on the Amazon issue.  I like to think I can see both sides of the issue clearly.  In some ways, the issue is about much more than Amazon.  It's about the collision of the old style legacy publishing and the new digital revolution. But, of course, since Amazon spearheaded the revolution, it is difficult to take them out of the picture.

What I see is that each side often knows little about the other and it is my job on this blog to tackle the big picture–tackling all aspects of the writing life.  So I do my best to share what I learn.  And what I learned at AWP was that Amazon, love it or hate it, offers quite a range of tools and programs for writers.

Tools

Amazon Author Central.  Once you have a book or two published, you can create your own page for them.   The cool thing is that you can put whatever you want to on it, such as links to your site or sign-ups for your mailing list, an author bio, a rant about politics–anything.   You can also link to your blog so that posts automatically update, and your Twitter feed.  For an example, you can see my page here.   You essentially get your own web page for free.

Metadata on your book listing page.  I'm essentially clueless about this, but as I understand it, you can list keywords (and lots of 'em) of your own choosing in order to drive Amazon's search engines to your listing.  Read more about this here.

Amazon Programs

Create Space.  This is Amazon's service for creating hard copies of your book through print-on-demand technology.

Kindle Direct Publishing.  And this would be the Ebook arm of the indie publishing services.  Many authors start here and branch out to other formats.

ACX.  You can now also create audio versions of your book.  This website is essentially an exchange where you can find actors to read your book, and audition them.  You can then pay them upfront or with a cut of your royalties. Cool, huh?

Their own publishing imprints. Amazon also has their own publishing imprints, covering mystery, romance, women's fiction, science fiction, fantasy and horror, literary fiction, young adult, self help, non-fiction, memoirs and short stories.  In other words, just about everything.  Note, however, that their submissions page says they are not accepting unsolicited manuscripts at this time.  My idea is that they look for indie publishers who are doing well and offer them contracts.

Kindle Worlds.  Fan fiction now has a legitimate outlet that you can actually make money on.  I don't get it–either why you want to write in a world that someone else invented or how exactly this works.  But if you're interested, click the link and find out more.

Amazon Associates.  You can earn money just by putting links to Amazon to your page.  I used to do this years ago but it never amounted to much and didn't seem worth the time.  But I probably ought to revisit it.

Goodreads is a book-lover's site, and yes it is now owned by Amazon.  There was a big stink when they bought it last year.  People say Goodreads is great for authors, but I myself have never gained traction on it, which probably says more about me than them.

Kindle Singles.  The tag line for this is compelling ideas expressed at their natural length.  Ebooks have renewed enthusiasm for short stories and novellas and this program takes advantage of that.  And the good news is that you can submit to them manuscripts from 5,000 to 30,000 words.

No doubt, by the time this post is published, there will be even more programs and services for authors offered by Amazon.  You can see why people believe they are out to conquer the world.

And bear in mind…that many other publishing platforms exist, such as Barnes and Noble, Lulu, and Smashwords, to name only a few.  As far as I know, however, none of them offer quite the extensive range of services for authors that Amazon does.  If I'm wrong, please let me know.

My take.

Okay, that's it. That's all I know.  Over the next few months, I plan to experiment with Amazon publishing myself.  My novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, was published by a small press that took advantage of Amazon's CreateSpace and Kindle Publishing.   I think the book looks good (I'm not biased or anything).  But the marketing part has been hard.  And I'm hearing over and over again that the best way to market is to make sure there's more work up for people to buy, so…I have a few short stories that I'm going to publish myself to bolster my presence on the site, so we'll see what happens. And I have a few ideas for genre pieces, as well. I'll keep you all apprised on my progress!  I'd be crazy not to give it a whirl.

I also have a new novel I'm working on that I would love to see published by a legacy publisher.  Unless something drastic happens to change my mind, when I finish the book by the end of the year, I'll be going the traditional route and looking for an agent.  So I'm a believer that we need to be open to all the opportunities we have available to us as writers.

What's your take on Amazon?  On indie publishing?

Image by white_duck.

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Amazon for Authors, Part One: Opportunities

In my previous blog post on my time at AWP, I promised an article on how you, as an author, can utilize some of the many services Amazon offers.  So here it is.

First, let's get clear on a couple of things:

1. I am by no means an expert on this topic.   Many others, who have actual publishing experience with Amazon, are far better versed on the subject than I. Over the last couple of months I've been educating myself, however, and I've accumulated a bit of knowledge.  I also attended two panels at AWP last week and gleaned more information to share.

2.  I am not an apologist for Amazon, nor am I a hater.  I do not subscribe to the view that Jeff Bezos is the devil and his website the Evil Empire.  I think we have to admit that Bezos has changed publishing forever and that Amazon offers fantastic opportunities for writers.  On the other hand, I also lament the ongoing demise of bookstores, especially independent ones, that his reign has hastened.  In other words, I get both sides of the debate.  And I believe one of the reasons it is so heated is that we are standing smack-dab in the middle of a revolution in publishing.  Revolutions are always hard, because one side triumphs and the other slinks away.  But I take the view that there's room for both the old and the new.

So all that being said, let's look at what I've learned.  At one of the panels I attended, the moderator put up a slide with a quote from Jeff Bezos that encapsulates his goal: "Any book ever written in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds."

Yeah.  That tells you something right there.  Bezos wants to get every book ever written anywhere on his site.  This means he's probably going to some day rule the world.  Kidding.  Sort of.  But it also means:

Opportunities for writers on Amazon are incredible.

Not only does Amazon widen the reach of legacy published books, it offers the chance to others who are tired of knocking on the doors of New York houses to publish their own work.  (I'll write more about the actual programs to do this in part two of this post.)

Self publishing, now more often called indie publishing, is no longer quite so frowned upon, especially with the success of authors such as Amanda Hocking, J. A. Konrath, and Hugh Howey. Some stats I picked up from one of the panels: 

  • In 2013, 1/4 of the top 100 on Amazon were indie-published titles.  In 2014, the company expects that figure to go higher.
  • In Germany, the number of indie published books in the top 100 was more like 50%.  In the United Kingdom, 30%.  In India (where Amazon has only been established a couple of years) it was 20%.

Those figures astound me.  As some have said, it's the wild west for authors these days.  (I'm also not good at looking beyond the obvious with statistics.  I'm a writer, not a mathematician.  Though I did manage to raise one.  Anyway, if you see a way we should dig deeper into those figures, let me know.)

And I'm about to divulge some stats that will make you run for your nearest computer to upload your work.  The afore-mentioned Hugh Howey, a writer of science fiction, sold 40,000 Ebooks of his title Wool in May of 2012, to the tune of $150,00 income.  In one month.

Hugh Howey is the current poster boy for Amazon success.  He did so well with his Ebooks that when legacy publishing came knocking at his door, he decided to sell them only his print rights and hang onto the rest himself.  (That a writer was able to negotiate such a contract with the big boys and girls is somewhat of a revolution in and of itself.)

Hugh sat on one of the panels I attended and he's a lovely man, gracious and willing to share his ideas about his success.  He writes an informative blog about his writing and publishing and his books are pretty damn good–I'm currently reading Wool.

By the way, Howey recently created waves a tsunami across the internet, with his report on genre indie author earning.  Read it here.  You can also read a story about it here.

And, all those wonderful, mind-blowing figures aside, there's this:

Discoverability is still a crap shoot.

Discoverability is the new buzz word in indie publishing circles.  It refers, as you have no doubt inferred, to the process of getting your books found among the noise.  I consulted the Google for advice on how many books are published on Amazon and other sites each year, and wasn't able to come up with a definitive answer (though I did read some fascinating articles when I should have been writing).  But we all know that there are a lot of books out there, some excellent, some mediocre, some awful.

The question is how to make yours findable in the midst of the field.   The answer to that deserves a post of its own, one I will no doubt write soon.  But Howey said on the panel that spending time writing good work is the most important thing.  He had put up multiple titles before he actually spent much time marketing his work (and then he used mostly social media).  Many genre indie publishers are finding success with old-fashioned serials, releasing their novels one segment at a time, as Howey did with Wool.  Others augment their novels with shorter works set in the same world.  And most all of them write in series and write a lot.

Amazon says it is working on the discoverability issue.  And one thing I came away from the AWP panels feeling was that they really do have the interests of authors at heart, especially when said authors are making them lots of money. (Because, at the end of the day, Amazon is, after all a corporation, and corporations exist to make money.)

Okay, that's it for part one.  Look for part two in the next few days.  In that post, I'll talk about the various programs that Amazon offers.  And by the way, I'm certainly not against the other indie publishing platfroms out there, including Kobo, Lulu, Smashwords and a gazillion others.  It's just that I've learned more about Amazon, and let's face it, our buddies in Seattle dominate the market.

So what about you?  Are you planning to indie publish?  Or are you dedicated to going the legacy publishing route?  Do you have experience with either?  I'd love to hear in the comments.

PS.  I'm experimenting with the font size on posts.  It suddenly occurred to me the default font size was a bit smallish.  But this font looks big to me. Weigh in, please–which do you prefer?

20

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Publishing

Okay, it's not exactly everything, but it's a lot about what I learned in the process of getting Emma Jean out into the world.  And it is–you guessed it–another interview.  This one is over at Patrick Ross's blog, the Artist's Road.

I feel a bit smug about Patrick because I was one of the first to discover his blog, right after he returned from a cross-country road trip to interview creatives of all stripes.  He's shot right to the top with his blog, being chosen last year as a Top 10 Writer's Blog.  And it was all because of me discovering him.  Actually, we all know that is not in any way true.  It's because he writes an awesome blog, which always features thoughtful posts.

So head on over there today and read my thoughts on all aspects of the current publishing world, including the big New York houses, indie presses, and self-publishing.

And by the way, I just found out that I'm having trouble with comments going into a spam file.  I kept wondering why I wasn't getting any comments and then I found a ton of them stashed there.  So if you've commented in the last couple weeks and haven't seen it post, that's why.  I now know to look in the spam file while Typepad works to fix this problem, so please, please, please feel free to comment again!

 

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Freelance Writing, A New Publishing Model, and Haiku (Or, What I Learned in Nashville)

VanderbiltYesterday I wrote a post about my adventures in Nashville.  Today, I'm writing about what you really want to know more on, some of the writing activities I partook of.  Wait, that's a poorly constructed sentence, with that dangling participle.  Today, I'm writing about the writing activities about which you want to learn more.  Technically correct, but a bit high-faluting.  Well, let's just get to it.

The Writer's Loft

To refresh your memory, I travel to Nashville twice a year, in September and January, to participate in the certificate writing program sponsored by Middle Tennessee State University, the Writer's Loft.  It's a program modeled on the brief-residency MFAs that are so popular now, and in the words of the Loft's founder, Roy Burkhead, it's "MFA lite." (By the way, Roy's editing a cool literary magazine that I contribute to called 2nd and Church–check it out.)The program offers weekend orientations during which students hear lectures and workshops on all aspects of writing, and meet with their mentors after which, students go forth and do what they should be doing–write.

This year, I presented a lecture at the Loft on Scene and Structure, a variation on one of the sessions of my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  It was an information dense hour and a half, let me just say, so much so that I feared my student's heads might explode.  They graciously refrained from allowing this to happen, however.  I also sat in on a variety of other presentations, two in particular that I want to highlight here.

Freelance Writing

Writer Jennifer Chesak spoke on freelance writing and got me all inspired about it again.  She went through the basics of getting started, establishing relationships with editors, and so on.  Jennifer recommends starting with querying on small articles that would go in the news sections at the front of magazines and working your way up.  When I graduated from journalism school a gazillion years ago, I got married and had babies right away and so working at a newspaper was something that never happened for me.  But I did begin free-lancing and did it off and on for years, until I went back to school for my MFA and began doing more teaching and coaching.  But listening to Jennifer made me want to have another go at it, so I'm now on the lookout for ideas. 

A New Publishing Model

VPWebsiteBannerClassic-600x230Jennifer has also begun an innovative publishing company that intrigues me. It's called Wandering in the Words Press and here's how it works: it's submission-based, so you submit your work and go through a vetting process.  When Jennifer selects your novel or memoir for publication, you pay her for the editing process, either upfront, or through your royalties.  She not only edits, but creates you a website, and assists with marketing.  And the royalties are good–50%.  This is a very similar arrangement to my publisher, Vagabondage, though I didn't pay any fees to them for editing or anything else.  What I like about it is that you get all the benefits of indie publishing but there's still some quality control, which is often lacking in self publishing.  It's worth checking out.

Haiku

Another one of the workshops which captured my attention was Aaron Shapiro's on writing Haiku.  He went through the rules of writing Haiku, gave us some visual prompts and let us have at it.  Okay, okay, if you insist, I'll share my brilliance with you:

Past his given time
Absolutwade_model_wasp_255102_l

Fading days of a short life

A bee in winter.

This was my ode to the bee that appeared in my Portland bathroom at 4 AM as I was getting ready to catch my plane to Nashville.  What I liked about the Haiku writing was the idea that you could play around with it as a warm-up to writing.  Or when you're blocked, or don't know what to write but want to write something.

So that was what I learned in Nashville.  But I also want to give a shout-out to the Living Writer's Collective, this amazing group of writers in Spring Hill, about a half-hour away from Nashville (in which direction, I'm still not entirely certain).  I had the great good fortune to speak to them on Thursday night before the Loft orientation began and I loved it.  What a great group of writers–not a wanna-be in the bunch.  All of them, as far as I could tell, were actually engaged in the work of putting words on the page.  They were a friendly and welcoming group, also, and if you live in the area, check them out.  Thanks, guys, for having me!

And I think that is quite enough from me for the moment.  What have you learned of heard or read about writing lately?  Comment, please.

Images:

The top image is one I took on the Vanderbilt campus, which is serving as a stand-in for MTSU.  They are two very different beasts, but oh well.

I snitched the Vagabondage Press image for the website.

The bee is by Mordac.

17

5 Tips To Getting Published

 

EJBook

The advanced proof of my novel!

So, as most of you know, my novel, Emma Jean's Bad Behavior, debuts on February 12th.

 

The road to getting published was long.  Veeeeerrrrry long.  And I learned a few things along the way, like what it takes to get a book out into the world.  So today I look at 5 tips that allowed me to finally succeed at that. 

Here's the deal: you all know the basics of how to get published, right?  You research agents and publishing houses that might be a good fit for your book, write a stellar query letter, and then you send it out.  And send it out again.  And again.  That process hasn't changed, even with the advent of indie publishing (which is a whole different process), and it's not likely to any time soon. 

But what you might not know is what lies beneath the above process, the mindset that you need to develop in order to find success in the publishing marketplace. And that, my friends, is what this article is about.  This mindset is in some ways as important if not more important than anything else, because developing a strong underpinning to what you do as a writer will carry you through your career.

So, here's to a publishing mindset, which takes:

1.  Willingness.  You need to be willing to do the things you think you don't need to do–like establish an author's platform while you are writing the book.  You need to be willing to master social media, start a blog, begin connecting with your future audience.  Long gone are the days when all writers had to do was sit back, write and let their publishers do all the marketing.  You'll be expected to participate, and it's going to be a lot easier if you get a head start.  Agents and editors look at things like your blog, and your social media presence these days.

2.  Consistency.  There's nothing sadder than coming across a blog whose last post was six months ago.  Or a year ago.  Start your blog and be consistent with it.  Get on Twitter, and keep tweeting.  Polish your query, and keep sending it out, even after you've been rejected a gazillion times.  Work on your WIP regularly, as often as you possibly can. It's the writers who keep at it who eventually get the win.  I know, I'm one of them.

3.  Determination.  Are you going to quit the first time it gets hard to accomplish your daily quota of pages or word count?  Are you going to stop the second you get a rejection?  Are you going to give up when you can't figure out how to format your novel to indie publish it?  You better not, because both of those things will happen a lot.  To be a successful writer takes determination and perserverance in spades. If you don't force yourself to do whatever it takes to send the work out, your words will remain stashed in a drawer.

4. Creativity.  You can be the most lyrical writer in the world, but if you don't
find ways to plant yourself in front of the computer, the words won't
get written.  It all begins and ends with the writing and if you put the writing first, everything else will take care of itself.  Master techniques to get your butt planted in that chair.

5.  Craziness.  To commit yourself to a writing-centered life and vow to get published takes a bit of craziness.  It just does.  It's ever so much easier to be content at a 9-to-5 job, come home, eat dinner and turn on the TV.  Not you, because you come home, eat dinner, and turn on the computer to write, with no guarantee that anyone will ever see those words.  That's crazy, isn't it?  So be it.  I happen to believe it's also the most important thing you can do, crazy or not.

How about it?  What do you think is the most important mindset a writer needs to have?

**If you're interested in learning more about publishing, I'll cover what I've learned in the bonus session of my Get Your Novel Written Now class.  Registration is now open, with early-bird pricing in effect until the end of the month.  Register now.

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