[Recommended] List Jobs to Help Ex-Borders Employees

With the demise of Borders, there are thousands of people out of work. Colleen Lindsay, who works for the Penguin Group and is also the community manager for Book Country, Tweeted about a site that’ll offer ex-Borders employees opportunities in their area. (You’ll have to forgive me, I’m not certain if she created the site with the other contributor, Chris Kubica, or not.) You can, however, read: It Takes a Village to Support Out-of-Work Booksellers.

Instructions are on the Help Ex-Borders Employees website.

On Bad News

Hey everyone,

Wanted to write you a letter today that allows me to clear a few things up. I’m sure that many of you know that when you’re a creative person, you live your life on a roller coaster. For many people, the employment outlook isn’t great; this is especially true for creative people. Several writers and artists I know, including myself, do not have a full-time job right now. Many businesses are either not hiring or they are taking the opportunity to give their regular workers overtime. The people that I do know that are working are swamped, as businesses are trying to cut costs to stay afloat. Sometimes, this means that creators are required to act like production monkeys, which means that the quality of the work suffers. In many cases, I’m hearing from other writers that they are creating content for the sake of producing content so their other work is suffering, too.

Age also seems to be a factor in today’s market; most people I know either have an older relative or a parent that’s out of work. After several conversations with some state and private agencies around town, applications for positions have tripled and recruiters are seeing that a lot of overqualified applicants are vying for low-paying jobs. As you can imagine, it’s an employer’s — rather than an employee’s — market.

On the publishing front, which is not a full-time, viable financial venture for over ninety percent of the authors out there (including myself) — the news is grim. Many small press publishers are going out of business and the larger publishers are focusing more on their heavy hitters. So authors who write books that sell a steady number of copies, dubbed the “mid-list” authors, are finding that their contracts are drying up. Right now, I’m still a small press author, so the news about the disappearing mid-list is pretty depressing. (For one example, read: Mid-List Authors Find Homes at Indie Presses.) I’ve tabled two half-finished novels and have been focusing on other opportunities because I’m not very optimistic about my chances.

To be clear: I feel I made a mistake when I wrote my “Happy Thanksgiving” post and wound up deleting it, because I mentioned I was thankful for all the bad experiences that I’ve had this year without really explaining why. Sure, I talked about how you can’t have the good without the bad, but I didn’t go into this level of detail. Taken out of context, it sounded a little bitter to me, which is not accurate. The market does suck, but it will get better. It always does.

Fortunately, I am part of a community of writers and artists who either have experienced what I’ve been going through or know someone who has. My support network is very strong and invaluable, but having that support is not a guarantee that things will change. I have to make very careful decisions about how I spend my time, but I also need to be brave and take risks. I have to finish those novels, even though I don’t think I have a chance in hell of getting them published. I also have to forget about how clean our house is and focus on writing another story or submitting another resume.

Right now, I am slowly closing the door on an unfortunate chapter in my career, but I’m plotting out a new one. I hate sharing bad news because things change. What non-creative people don’t realize, is that being creative means that you have a different life path than most people. Sometimes it’s hard to express that in a post without coming across as being bitter or negative, but I’ve always been an opportunist and a pragmatist. Sometimes those opportunities work out, and sometimes they don’t.

This is my story. I hope that by sharing it, I inspire you to get off your butt and focus on your own. I wish you the best of luck and encourage you to reach out to people and explore every option you have. As always, I hope that you lift your head up and realize how valuable you are. Keep writing, keep telling stories and never, ever give up. I know I won’t.

– Monica

The One Thing That Cripples Writers Is…


Over the years, I’ve talked to many people to hear their stories and find out what makes them tick. The people closest to me know that, in many ways, I’m the type of writer that studies human nature. The one thing that most writers have in common is this: fear.

  • “I’m not good enough to submit my story to a magazine.”
  • “Even though I tell people I’m working on a novel, I’m going to talk about writing or grab all the writing advice that’s out there. Maybe then it’ll put my fears to rest.”
  • “I can’t say what I think because I’m afraid my readers will come after me.”
  • “I will defend my work to a bad reviewer because deep down inside, I’m worried that they’re right.”
  • “I’m going to stop writing until I hear back from this agent.”
  • “I will whine to a proofreader for editing my work because I’m worried they’ll think I’m a crappy writer.”
  • “I’m afraid that people won’t like my work.”
  • “I just submitted a novel and I’m going to wait to hear what people think before I write anything else.”
  • “I can’t write unless I have the right software.”
  • “I won’t edit because I don’t know how and I’m afraid to admit it.”
  • “I’m going to communicate poorly with an editor because I don’t trust them to improve my writing.”
  • “I’m worried that my stories won’t be as good as my favorite author’s.”
  • “I’m going to keep submitting my novel to an agent even though I’ve gotten the same feedback from multiple people because I’ve convinced myself that they’re wrong. I’m scared that they’re right.”
  • “I’m scared that my story won’t be unique enough. So, what’s the point of writing it?”
  • “I feel like if my story gets rejected, it’s an editor’s way of saying that I’m not good enough as a person.”
  • “I have an author that feels like he needs to compete with whatever I’m doing. He’s intimidating me.”
  • “I’m going to keep editing my short story/novel/novella because I’m afraid that even after the twentieth pass, it’s still not good enough.
  • “I’m concerned that if I write a bad story, it means that I’m a terrible writer.”
  • “I’m afraid of being successful and don’t know how to deal with people.”
  • There are hundreds of ways that fear manifests in a writer’s life. Hundreds. Some of us might stop writing altogether. Others might hang out at conventions with authors or get caught up in reviewing books. Being around other writers doesn’t help you write.

    So, what does?

    Well, that’s different for everyone. Me? I have quite a few things that I do to keep me motivated and help me focus on my writing. I use a timer. I set goals. I visualize. I do something bold. I paint. I write poetry. I review old stories and commit them to my morgue.

    The one thing, though, that I never want to do — ever again — is stop writing. I did, because I threw everything into a full-time career and it didn’t pan out. Yes, writing fiction that may or may not pay is something that all writers have to balance with their paying gigs, but really? Really? I know several successful authors that deal with a lot more than I do. Five kids. Cancer. Bankruptcy. Unemployment. Rabid fans. And that’s just to name a few.

    In the end, while our fear may manifest in different ways, the only way to move past it is to get your butt back in that chair and keep writing.

    So stop being a chicken. Seriously. Be bold. Be Brave. Just write. Write, submit, edit and then do it all over again. What? You want to be a writer, don’t you?

    Ask Yourself the Tough Questions

    Years ago, when I first started writing, I was more worried about seeing my name in print than I was about getting paid for my work. So, like many other “new” authors, I threw just about everything against the wall while I fulfilled my real life obligations. Would a part-time job pay my rent while I wrote at night? What about a full-time job as a writer? Or how about a volunteer position where I can write to build up my resume? What shortcuts did I need to take to see my name in print?

    Red Question Mark | Used from Stock.xchngIf you’ve ever been in the “I need to pay rent and I don’t like junk food” place that I’ve been in before, you’ve probably had these same discussions with yourself. Then, when any and all forms of writing assignments start piling in, you get excited because dammit, you’re a writer. Did it matter you just worked for three weeks on an article and didn’t get paid for it? Did it matter you don’t own the rights to what you just wrote? No. What mattered is that you wrote and got published, so you start to let a lot of things slide.

    Then, at some point, you wake up and you smell burnt coffee. You get burned. Badly. Someone republishes your work and scrapes your name off the credits and expects you to shove your angst under the rug. A partner manages to “forget” you signed a contract and drops off the face of the planet, so you never get paid for weeks of effort. The story you handed in is different from the story that got published and you were never notified. An editor lost your manuscript. The pitch you handed in years ago is now a multimillion dollar book and no one believes it was your idea. The list of crimes against writers goes on and on and on.

    Here’s a tough question for you: Would you quit a job if your boss was being an asshole? Then why on earth would you allow yourself or your work to be treated like crap?

    Quite frankly, the cost of making bad decisions is a lot higher than you might think because writers are not paid according to the time and knowledge required for a polished manuscript. Not only is your name and your reputation attached to whatever it is that you’re doing, the time that you spend dealing with crappy projects means that you’re losing money because you’re spending less time on the projects that have a better chance of succeeding. When you’re new to writing, it’s great to experiment so you can find out where your strengths and weaknesses are. But what happens when you’re no longer new? Have you thought about turning down projects you don’t want?

    Now, some of you might think that there should be some sort of database out there to pinpoint who the assholes are. However, that is not a professional thing to do because while you may have had a crappy experience with one publisher, a different writer may have had a great one. Yes, patterns can develop, but every situation is usually different because there are two sides to every story. You may be pissed off that you didn’t get paid, but the company could have been filing for bankruptcy, experienced personnel changes or has a policy against paying for delivered work past the deadline you were supposed to meet. Remember, too, there are cases where bad things happen not because a publisher is an evil bastard, but because you’ve experienced a breakdown in your communication with them. That last bit is part of the reason why I believe good, two-way communication is so essential to any writer’s overall success.

    So what happens when you get burned? Well, first you have to rant about it in private. (Yes, you really do!) While you’re at it, order a very large margarita, go for a run or play a game. Then, at some point you have to learn when to cut your losses and move on.

    In my mind, I don’t believe enough writers ask themselves why they are working on projects that they’ve committed themselves to. To those of you who haven’t gotten paid for your work yet, I understand what you’re going through. You’re hungry to get their name out there. I get that. I really, really do. If you are happy blogging or writing fan fiction and now you’ve got a ton of readers then that’s great! Are you happy writing for free or do you want your readers to pay you? Have you ever asked yourself how much you want to get paid? Are you being realistic with those expectations? Do you know what writing you can get paid for versus what writing you can’t?

    The quick response to these types of questions is to say something like, “Well, so-and-so author ended up making millions by bucking the traditional system this way…” While that is true, those experiences are not typical for most writers. What I’m trying to convey in this post, are the questions the rest of us need to ask ourselves. Lightning can strike, but I wouldn’t bank my career on it. Would you?

    Tips on How to Be a Pro | Part 3 of 3

    Thanks for your feedback on this series about “How to be a Pro.” Even though I could go on forever about the importance of being a professional, I’d like to wrap up this topic by offering more tips from other pros and ten more nuggets to consider.

    First, here are the links to the first and second part:

    To finish with a bang, let’s here from some other pros first. This first tip is from Cam Banks, author and managing editor at Margaret Weiss Productions.

    Don’t edit your book while you write. It will only take a hundred times longer to finish.–Cam Banks, Author of the Dragonlance novel, The Sellsword.

    Many of you are either working on your next novel or are trying to work on/sell your first one. I’m pleased to offer you a few tips from Gary, the co-founder of Bubblecow. Bubblecow is a business that specializes in helping writers to get their book into print by offering editorial feedback, one-on-one mentoring, and publishing advice. Gary was kind enough to offer these tips on how to get published:

    cow_lickingThree Tips For Getting Published from BubbleCow

      1. Don’t be rubbish – Books get rejected from publishers for many reasons but by far the most common is that the writing is not of a publishable quality. It is true that all publishers are prepared to work with a writer to improve their book but this can only go so far. A book must arrive at the publishers being good enough to go into print as it is, if they feel a book needs too much work it will simply be rejected. It is the responsibility of a writer to deliver a manuscript for proposal that it the best it can possibly be. Writers often get just one shot and you don’t want to be rejected simply because you have spelling mistakes on the first page.
      2. Spend time on your submission package – A submission package is typically a query letter, synopsis and fifty page, double spaced, extract. I have come across many amazing writers that simply go weak at the knees at the idea of writing a query and synopsis. In many cases writers have spent years preparing their novel and then want to knock off a submission in a few hours. It is essential that a writer invests as much time and effort as is needed to write a fantastic proposal. There are loads of great resources on the internet (e.g. How To Write A Book Proposal on BubbleCow) and I suggest a writer reads as many as possible before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). The trick is to see the submission package as a sales document. The publisher will view your book as a product, so you must also. It is essential that you convince a publisher why your book will be the perfect match for them, who will buy your book and why they will part with their hard earned cash.
      3. Be appropriate – Publishing, like any other business, is all about making money and publishers all have their own particular niches. It is the job of a writer to find the most appropriate publisher (or agent) for their book. A writer can save a lot of wasted submissions and depressing rejection letters by making sure they are getting their book in front of the correct pair of eyes. A writer needs to research the market and find out which publishers are publishing books similar to their novel. It is no good pitching a Science Fiction novel to a publisher who specialises in romantic fiction.

    Special thanks to everyone who supplied tips for this series, your thoughts are appreciated! Now, to finish up I’d like to take the floor and provide you with ten more things to consider.

      21. Format Your Manuscript Appropriately – Many publishers have different guidelines for formatting your manuscript. Yes, technology has changed since the industry standards first began, but remember — publishing is a collaborative process. Often, your manuscript will need to be type set, which is just one reason why those guidelines are there in the first place. Programs like Microsoft Word often have auto-formatting features which can make your life hell (trust me on this one, curly quotes are my mortal enemy), so I recommend writing in plain text. Currently, I have a serious crush on New Courier.
      22. Learn How To Self-Evaluate – Sometimes, you have to sit yourself down and ask the tough questions. Am I really a writer? Is this story something other people will want to read? Should I give up on this story and move on to something else? In order to be honest with yourself, you need to learn how to self-evaluate your work. Other people’s opinions — especially those of your friends and family — won’t help you learn how to critique your own work. Of all the things you need to learn how to do, this is (by far) the hardest one.
      23. Remember, One Editor’s Rejection Is Another Editor’s Approval – Just because one editor doesn’t like your short story does not mean it sucks. Seriously. At the same time, just because an editor loves, loves, loves what you wrote doesn’t guarantee your book will sell. Writing, like artwork, is subject to people’s opinions. No, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t care whether or not you write a crappy story, because there are (or were, rather) barriers to getting a book or short story published. Now that anyone can do it through self-publishing, there’s a lot of noise out there for readers to wade through. Quality is becoming increasingly important in this saturated market.
      In the end, this goes back to that whole “know how to self-evaluate” point I offered earlier. You have to know how to balance editorial feedback with the voice of your own muse inside your head. It’s definitely challenging to achieve that balance, but once you do you can make better judgments on when to revise and when to sell.
      24. The Size Of The Publisher Means Different Things To Different People – A small press publisher produces books. A big publisher also produces books. While they are both structured differently, they both offer different benefits and drawbacks that are currently in flux, due to the state of the industry. Just because an author publishes through a small press doesn’t mean their book “wasn’t good enough” to get printed through the big guys. Every author makes different business decisions based on what they want to do with their career and who they know. (Of course, I’d also like to point out that big publishers aren’t evil overlords, too.) The bottom line is that the size of any business simply means they have a different structure and modus operandi.
      25. Keep In Mind You May Have To Self-Promote – In a word: marketing. The days of writing for a year in a gorgeous woodsy cabin on an ancient typewriter are over. Just “how much” self-promoting you’ll end up doing will depend upon the size of the publisher, but don’t be surprised if you’re required to put in a little extra legwork. Based on everything I’m hearing, many writers are now expected to be entrepreneurs.
      26. Don’t “Over” Self-Promote – Yeah…so I needed to put this follow-up tip here because there is such a thing as “too much” self-promotion. Here’s a reality check: When you engage in conversation, how much of the focus is on you? If your answer is: “Well, mostly me…” then listen up. Part of being a professional means understanding that everyone else is trying to be a successful writer, too. Seriously. Just talking about what you’re doing not only shows a lack of respect for other professionals, it also sows the seeds of mistrust in your work. If someone wants to check out you or your book — then open the door but don’t shove them through it. Several members in your audience are either a) working on a book b) have their own book to sell or c) are trying to pitch a finished book. It’s definitely something to keep in mind when you’re beating your readers to death with your sales pitch. Even in sales, people should come first.
      27. Practice Getting In Front Of People – I’m terribly shy, especially when meeting people I don’t know. Often, my friends will say: “You would never know!” There’s a reason for that. I have a background in performing. When I started getting stage fright again, I worked with a great community theatre group and got my bum back on stage. I cannot stress enough the importance of learning how to be social and speak in front of other people. Yes, it is wholly counter intuitive to being a writer, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and overcome your issues.
      28. Experiment, Experiment, Experiment – Hate romance? Read some, then try to write some. Loathe tie-in fiction? Pick your favorite character and try to write a story about it. Often, to get better at what I’m good at, I remove myself out of my element and write something that I’m not familiar with. (Usually its terrible poetry.) No, most of this stuff will never see the light of day, but it’s a way for me to help myself become a better writer. Also, playing with other genres or subject matters may also help you figure out what you want to write, too.
      29. Master The Format, Not Just The Story – Every piece of writing has a structure or a format. Screenplays. Technical manuals. Flash fiction. Novels. That structure is often dissected, discussed, analyzed and experimented with, but there is still a structure to the writing. This goes back a little to my post about writing reviews, too. By “discovering” the structure of a work, you can not only speed up your writing process, but you’ll also help yourself understand the “product” better, too.

    And last but not least, I’d like to offer this bit of advice:

      30. Only You Can Tell Yourself If You’re Successful Or Not – In my experiences, I have had professionals tell me I’m not really a writer because I hadn’t sold a novel yet. A few have said that my publishing credits don’t really count because many of them are in the hobby games industry. On the flip side, I’ve had others tell me they wish they could be as “successful” as I am, too. Am I successful? To me, that’s a trick question because I look at my career as a process where I celebrate milestones. I’ve had a few milestones that have meant something to me, but I’m also looking forward to a few upcoming projects, too.
      The moral of my tale, is that only you can determine whether or not you’re successful. Some authors are happy publishing the “one book.” Others enjoy self-publishing and are fine with that. Several aspiring writers will only submit to what are considered “pro”-markets, because to them a “pro” credit means they’ll be successful. Of course, you do have to know what other people regard as “professional” in order to help you figure out your goals, but deciding what you want to do is different from being happy with what you’ve already written.
      No matter what anyone says, remember your success — like the quality of your work — is in the eye of the beholder.

    Good Luck

    Next Posts

    Monica Valentinelli >

    Looking for Monica’s books and games that are still in print? Visit Monica Valentinelli on Amazon’s Author Central or a bookstore near you.


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