What writers should do when they are in the 99% (of publishing’s many norms): stay in the game.

Sfarwabook[1]Because of a very fortunate turn of events this year in my writing career, I was asked to speak to other authors who had been my support system in the ups and downs of my 7-year career: the San Francisco chapter of the Romance Writers of America. This group is filled with an even mix of aspiriting and already published successful writers, all of whom have been there for each other with inspiring words, great advice, and a shoulder to cry on.

Yes, it was my turn to give back.

Here's what I told them (in the few moments when I wasn't dithering off-topic, on such things as house renovations from hell, book promotion, instore co-op and other necessary evils of success for the chosen few–

But then caffeine on a belly of oatmeal will do that to you. Next time: fill the ol' belly with pancakes first. Oh yeah: and look at your notes every once in a while…)

_____________________________________

The year 2011 did not start out well for me. I was one of many midlist authors who had a novel under contract  with publishing house, but then it was dropped as part of a loss-saving attempt in light of the Borders bankruptcy.

I made sure that my own private pity party was short and bittersweet, then turned my attention on promoting the novel which was due out in April. I was proud of the buzz I'd already built prior to its release, which turned into a 10-market tour hosted by women who had the same career as Katie, the heroine in my book The Baby Planner.

As far as my editor was concerned, it paid off — enough for her to ask me to lunch. As we nibbled lady-sized salads at the Bergdorf-Goodman Restaurant high over Central Park, she asked, "So what can I see next?"

This is why it's always a smart idea to promote promote promote your books, no matter what your publishing house is (or isn't) doing for it.

Knowing that you need to publish or perish, I was also smart enough to take the great advice of my writer pal, Bella Andre, who has hit it out of the park indie-pub'ing her re-acquired backlist and some new books. She convinced me that a novel which had had four editors salivating for it- (until it got shot down in committee) was the perfect test for me to indie-publish. The first book in that series, The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, is out now.

Thus far I'm loving the sales. The second in the series, The Houswife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing will be out by the end of the month. So yes, authors: Independent publishing is one way to watch your orphans thrive.

Writing novels is not for the faint of heart. I truly believe you need a wonderful agent to match you with the right editor: someone loves your writer's voice and your story, and wants to help make it the best book possible before showing it to the world.

But even a great agent and a superlative editor can't do the one thing that keeps an author writing for a living wage. For that, you need a legion of readers who fall in love with your characters, and wants to see more of them, and of you.

Thanks to my wonderful agent, Holly Root, who saw the potential in my books to translate into different media, my novels were shown to a talent agency which felt that they did indeed have the potential to be adapted into movies or as a TV series.

Secret Lives400Well, they were right. One of Hollywood biggest producers, Jerry Bruckheimer, has optioned one of my books, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, for a television show that will run on ABC.

So yes: this year has been a rollercoaster. But I was one of the lucky ones.

I'm making  a living wage as a writer.

These readers are out there. I know authors who exhaust themselves trying to find them: touring, social networking, responding to comments and emails.

I strongly feel that, with the changes that are occuring in the distribution of books — the surge of online book sales, coupled with the decline in the number of brick-and-mortar bookstores, not to mention the number of books they take on — will also change the role of publishers:

They will have to  get more agressive — and smarter — in how they promote the books they publish.

I have no doubt that they will soon publish less authors. But in order to thrive, they'll have to make the books they do publish as profitable as possible. This means focusing on marketing and promotion as well as distribution. They need to recognize niche markets for specific authors and their books, and court them…

Something that authors do, now, for themselves…if they're smart.

And could to even better if they had the financial resources and personpower of their pub houses.

Every author writing for that imprint is a brand.

Every book is a product under that brand.

This is, simply, Marketing 101.

Which brings me to you, the author:

If you're a writer, be prepared to spend most of your career in the 99 percent.

Everyone in this room writes, because we must write. This need to write comes from the depth of our souls.

Ninety-nine percent of the world doesn't have this desire. (Thank gawd! Aren't there already enough of us, in this very competitive field?)

So, consider yourself in the one percent.

Already, I applaud you.

A reality we all know: ninety-nine percent of aspiring writers will not get published by a New York publishing house. All the more reason I want to applaud the many I see this room who have made it into the one percent who have been traditionally published.

Of all traditionally published writers, how many have been able — or will be able – to make writing a fully-fledged career that pays the bills and puts food on the table? How many will still be published ten or twenty years from now?

I'm guessing that number is closer to one percent than 99 percent.

And of those who are lucky enough to make writing their vocation as well as their avocation, I'm guessing that 99 percent of them will never have the joy of learning that their book has been optioned and produced in an entertainment medium, such as film or television.

But here's the thing: If you ever want to be in THE 1 PERCENT (of the 1 percent who write; of the 1 percent who get an agent; of the one percent who get a publishing contract; of the 1 percent who can make a living writing; of the one percent who may enjoy watching their characters come alive in the small screen or the silver screen) you have to stay in the game.

You have to write.

Afterward, you have to edit, and re-edit, and edit again, until your manuscript is a page-turner.

Then you have to query a large, well-researched list of agents with your manuscript.

Once you get that agent, you have to to listen to him or her as to what else has to be done to it so that s/he will be enthusiastic when it is sent out to editors (remember: agents work on a commission, so they don't get paid until your book sells; they are putting sweat equity in you as well).

And once your book is published, you have to promote it.

And you have to write more books.

So, yeah: writing is the easy part.

Staying in the game is the hard part.

Last. Author. Standing.

 – Josie

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

The top photo is the book cover for Writing Romance: The Ultimate Guide on Craft, Creation and Industry Connections, which is published by the San Francisco Chapter of the Romance Writers of America

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Judging a Book by Its Cover: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

PosterSee that messy desk?

Ooops! Let me start again…

See that colorful poster over the messy desk? The one of the eye-catching book cover?

That book cover is mine.

It belongs to the novel you'll soon see in bookstores–June 1, 2010, to be exact–all over the country.

It will also be inside Target, which makes me very proud, because I feel that the story–about a marriage disintegrating, and what others who are close to it project their own fears into it–would relate to many of us who shop there.

This cover was blown up to a size that is close to 2 feet by 3 feet. Since a book's cover is the first consideration for a book lover's impulse buy, unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you, since, hopefully, you'll be lugging it to the beach with you I hope I hope) it won't be that big when see it in the store.

When you see it, will you pick it up?

My publishing house, Simon & Schuster, is betting that you will. And since they're the horse that I"m riding in on, here's hoping they're right. They created a cover that implies people in a very public neighborhood setting, in close proximity–husbands, wives, lovers and other strangers–and yet they are aloof. As Woody Allen would say, "friendly, but not familiar."

And that's the crux of the story: does, as the adage goes, familiarity breed contempt? Does it kill passion?

Do we fall out of love when we reach the point that we know too much? If our partner's actions are mundane, are we boring, too, for putting up with it?

In this book, the divorce of a community's "perfect couple" sets off a rash of soul-searching for those who are on the outside looking in. These neighbors reason: if it can happen to them, how about me?

The only one who doesn't want to consider this is my heroine, Lyssa. She gets close enough to witness the destruction, and feels immune to the arrows of outrageous partners behaving badly–

Maybe because it hits too close to her own marriage.

Which brings me back to my cover. On the bench (which wraps around the whole book) are these four people. The middle two are in each others' arms, but what are they thinking about? Are the other two who share the bench with them strangers, or acquaintances?

The cover lends itself to the darker side of the story, although there is a lot of humor as well. (That's just the way I write.) Divorce is not murder or mass destruction, but it is still the death of trust and love; it is the destruction of a union that held hope.

What does it say to you? I'd love to hear your comments. 

At first I didn't like it. I wanted something softer. In time, though, I
grew to appreciate its edginess. And in person, the colors are rich,
which make it eye-popping as well. 

A note: for those of you who presume that authors get to choose their book covers, think again. Maybe if your first name is Dan, or your last name is Grisham you do, but for the rest of us, when it comes to a book contract, you may get "consideration" — in other words, they may take your opinion as to what you'd like to see on the cover — but the publisher has final say. His/Her decision takes into account the reaction from the sales team, which is out in the field pitching it to their accounts (who, by the way, swing a big stick, too, when it comes to covers).

From concept to cover,

—Josie

http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA




Secret-Lives400w
 
Josie's
Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it
TODAY
!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in
the
bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money
and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled
observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly
entertaining reading."

Jackie
Collins
, bestselling author of Hollywood Wives and Poor Little Bitch Girl

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Pre-order
today
:

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your
Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

From
Target

Mother’s Day: What It Really Means to the Rest of Us

MomDancer Two years ago on Mother's Day weekend, I buried my own mom.

It was a bittersweet occasion. She'd been ill for the last two years of her life: with a myelodysplasia, a disease that hinders the longevity of your red blood cells.

The downhill process was not pretty. She was not ready for the abyss of the great beyond, and fought to live until her dying breath.

I'm guessing I'll do the same.

It would be wonderful to say that she had been one of those moms who made every one of her children feel as if they were her favorites, but that wasn't the case. While growing up, winning her approval was a constant endeavor. Even as adults, her three kids tiptoed around any issue that might throw her into a tizzy, or have her worrying to the point that she'd call the other two siblings to espouse her views on the problem child du jour's issue at hand.

Eventually we trained ourselves not to do her bidding: that is, to reiterate her advice to the odd-kid-out—something that we knew she'd already expressed in her very direct manner.

I know her worries on our behalf was her way of staying close to her farflung children. And I have no doubt that it also gave her something to focus on, other than her own problems: specifically her bouts of depression.

Her mood swings were notorious. If one of us had the misfortune to be caught in the black maelstrom of one, all we could do was resign ourselves to wait it out.

Or to disappear from her life, sometimes for months at a time. 

Eventually, each of us came to the decision to live our lives without worrying "What would Mom think?" about the careers we chose, our spouses, and most importantly of all, the way in which we raised our own children.

Our kids also had their learning curves with their grandma. Their attitudes toward her ran the gamut: one lived for her approval. Another realized quickly that there was no pleasing her, and tuned her out completely. The third saw that her love was unconditional no matter what, and learned to laugh through any discomfort her suggestions and declaration caused.

I'd wished we'd all been that smart at that young age.

I don't wish to leave you with an image of a woman who didn't love her children. On the contrary, she loved us all very much: unconditionally in fact, despite her actions that, at the time, had us doubting this. It is why she worked all her life at jobs that didn't give her professional satisfaction, but put food on the table, clothed us, and allowed us to be raised in tidy houses within safe neighborhoods. It's why we all appreciate the need for a good education, even if she couldn't pay for it for us.

It's why we've always felt as if we were "special": a cut above everyone else, despite having no financial legacy, or renowned surname, or obvious talents.

We are special because she told us so, from the very beginning.

And at the end, she realized that we all loved her unconditionally, too.

So yes, everything I am—driven beyond reason, loving every moment of life, prideful of my children, and able to recognize the true love of my husband, Martin—I owe to my mother, Maria, God rest her soul. 

It is a parent's goal to teach their children the lessons they feel are important. What I don't think parents realize is that sometimes the most important things they teach us are what we've witnessed from their mistakes. 

For the most part, parenting is often trial by error.

In that regard, my mother taught me a lot: that in truth, none of us are the embodiment of perfection. Rather, we endeavor to rise above our faults and fears in the hope of making ourselves the very best we can be.

[My mom, at nineteen]

—Josie

http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA




Secret-Lives400w  
Josie's
Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it
TODAY
!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in
the
bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money
and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled
observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly
entertaining reading."

Jackie
Collins
, bestselling author of Hollywood Wives and Poor Little Bitch Girl


Learning Curves…

____________________________________________________________________

Ccinhollywood(Posted 4:42 PM PST, June 4, 2006)
 

Be it your passion, your profession or your art, never leave
anything to chance. Instead, take the bull by the horns and DO
SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

I say that in all honesty.

Because of my own writing schedule, it had been a while since I had
taken any kind of course that could inspire me to think out of the
box–not only about what I write and how I write, but how to take
advantage of what I've already written.

With that in mind, I signed up for a three-hour workshop offered by the great folks at mediabistro.com ( a must-use resource for anyone who does any kind of writing, be it commercial or literary writing).

This particular workshop, on how to write for television, was taught by the illustrious Laurie Scheer,a
revered Hollywood insider whose been everthing from a savvy d-girl, to
producer, to network VP of development, and lived to tell about
it–and, I'm guessing, still gets beaucoup lunch invitations at the
Grill, despite having penned a really great book about life there on
Planet Hollywood. It's a must-read for every player:  CREATIVE CAREERS IN HOLLYWOOD.

Then go take one of her courses. Because it (your success) ain't gonna happen by osmosis.

Live and learn,
Josie

You can email me at: JosieBrownAuthor@yahoo.com

Hey, and read my blog on Amazon.com.

And definitely check out my website, and read about my books: http://www.josiebrown.com