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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Great Post on Writers and Their Finances

Check it out at

I have to say I hear a lot of writers who are shocked at the costs associated with the job. I guess most people dream of having a book published, and a part of that fantasy is a windfall like Stephenie Meyer or J. K. Rawling enjoy. Frankly, you're more likely to get hit by lightning than to hit the jackpot as they did.

Instead, it's much more realistic to view writing as a sort of entrepreneurship. We are small business owners. The start up costs include bookmarks, conferences, association memberships, setting up websites and travel expenses--just for starters. And the money takes a while to find its way to our doors because royalty statements come after publication and publishers subtract returned books.

So if you want to make this your career, be a smart cookie. Do your due diligence. Know what the costs are and how you'll be paid.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Links to Murder and Mayhem in Muskego

Murder and Mayhem in Muskego - Beyond Her Book - Blog on ...The afternoon began with a non-stop comedic affair with Joanna Slan Campbell, Denise Swanson, Shirley Dammsgaard, Julie Hyzy and Deb Baker as they discussed who they like to kill, where and how. Kudos to Tom Schreck for facillitating ...Publishers Weekly - Beyond Her Book -

Jen's Book Thoughts: Murder and Mayhem in Muskego VBy Jen Forbus And Tom's humor matched up with the wits of Joanna Slan Campbell, Denise Swanson, Shirley Dammsgard, Julie Hyzy and Deb Baker, literally stole the day. The audience was constantly laughing. It was a hit. I have to say that I especially ...Jen's Book Thoughts -

And of course, all of you, my dear readers, know my name is Joanna Campbell Slan. I was a Campbell for years before I became a Slan!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Mayhem and Murder in Muskego!

Here I am (below) with "my posse." These lovely ladies are my fans! I have to say, there's no better feeling than being at a large conference and knowing there's a group of people who came just to see YOU. In fact, one lady drove eight hours. I think these women are pretty special. And on those days when I think, "Okay, time to revise...AGAIN," I'll pull up my image of their shining faces and remind myself, "These wonderful people are my readers. I need to give them my best!"

Below is the photo we had taken of our panel. We roped Tom Schreck of the Duffy Dumbrowski series into being a moderator. (If you haven't read him, you'll fall in love with Duffy and his basset hound.) Tom was such a great sport. We really had the audience laughing. From left, Julie Hyzy, me, Tom, Deb Baker, my pal Shirley Damsgaard, and Denise Swanson.

I stayed at the Ironhorse Inn. Now, I've been in hotels around the world. A lot of five-star joints, but this is my favorite place so far. I'm serious. I loved the decor. It took full advantage of the remodeled warehouse. But most of all I loved the view.

What Does a Publicist Do?

I was reading my emails the other day. The writer suggested that I tell my publicist to do more publicity on the other side of the pond.

That was incredibly thoughtful...and lovely.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Beautiful Thought About Books...

I don't think people should burn books, ban books or throw books away but I do think they are meant to be used in a way that best suits the reader. I have books from university, graduate school especially, which are filled with my notes, thoughts, on related and even unrelated topics that come to mind.

My Norton Anthologies, Oxford and Penguin Complete Works, Histories of Art all have my scribbles in the margins along with arrows, highlights, underlines and circles, all precious memories.

There are the Dr. Seuss books from childhood filled with scribbles and an added face to the ones in the crowd and years later, my children added their own handiwork.

There is my Jane Austen with the bright orange fingertips across the back cover from the day Emma engrossed me much to my three-year-old' s irritation, I dated it a wrote his name underneath.

Some of my grad school books even have the forever outline of a tiny apple juice or squash covered hand, right across part of a picture of a Degas ballerina or a Caravaggio painting.

My Penguin anthology is stained green and red from a fresh rose I pressed between the covers one day, the rose long ago crumbled but I'll never forget it was once there. In my favorite history of art anthology, I have notes in the margins not only from the lectures but also from thoughts about being 20, married and an undergraduate, then about being 22, pregnant for the first time and a graduate student. The books are precious, the memories are precious and every stain, every dog-eared page, every crease, every written word added to a once pristine page tells a story from my life, and I like them that way. I like a lived in feel even in my books.

The books I won't keep I keep pristine because they aren't for me to imprint, they aren't for me to add a piece of my life but the books lining my shelves are well-loved and sometimes well loved things lose and eye or gain a stain but they are still perfect in their seeming imperfection.

(Alison is one of the many members of Cozy First Mysteries. Isn't this great?)

Cut, Crop & Die Approved by Tigger the Cat

This wonderful email came the other day:
"Hi Joanna,
I have read both your books and love them. Keep them coming. I am an avid scrapbooker. I just wanted to share a photo of my cat with you. Her name is Tigger and she fully endorses your book and even reads it by osmosis.
Cheryl Nakayama"
So it's official! Tigger approves. +

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Does Pre-Ordering a Book Matter?

Great question popped up on one of the lists. The person asked, "Does pre-ordering a book help the author? Is pre-ordering more important than buying a book within the first 3 weeks it comes out?"

Here's my answer:

As I understand it, pre-ordering helps a lot. The publisher looks to pre-orders to determine print run--and early indications of popularity. The higher the print run, the more a publisher has invested in a book, and therefore, the more a publisher might "get behind" a book. That's incredibly important. Publishers allocate scarce resources based on which books they think will do well. So...if there are plenty of pre-orders, the publisher MIGHT instruct publicity to send out more ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) or to buy an ad somewhere or any number of activities that will help. And the publisher benefits when they publish more because each additional book costs less. The higher the print run, the more the cost of producing a book is spread out. (Cost of publishing includes advance to author, if any, as well as editing, pagination, cover design, and so on.)

Here's another way pre-orders help: I've known other authors who had contracts for Books #2, #3, whatever--and the publisher cancelled publication because sales were low. So, if the publisher looked to pre-orders, he/she might re-think cancelling a series. One friend got a cancellation notice, and then when her agent prompted the publisher for numbers, the publisher took a second look and said, "Whew, um, that book's doing better than we thought. Rescind that cancellation."

Any book purchase helps.

Every book purchase helps.

Especially for those of us launching a career. Lorraine Bartlett says that the first 3 weeks are critical for making the NYT list, and that's a whole 'nother story as I understand it. There was a recent article in RWR, the house publication for Romance Writers of America, about this. There's a lot involved in "the lists," and they're not exactly representative the way most consumers think. If Lorraine says 3 weeks, I'd believe her. She's a really smart cookie.

I ended my response with this--and it comes from the heart:

Thank you a zillion times over for considering my book, for reading my book, and for sharing it. I appreciate your faith im me and I'll continue to work hard to earn it.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dealing with Depression

I thought I was handling my mom's death pretty well, until the other day. My sister sent me a photo of my mom's gravestone. I had asked her to, but somehow, seeing that stone with Mom's name and date of death, sort of sent me over the edge.

Of course, this came at a bad time. A lot of my professional life is up in the air. I'm living in a rental house, and it doesn't always work for me. My husband is working a lot of hours. None of my family or friends are nearby.

There's this general feeling of emptiness that invades every cell. It's so hard to fill all those losses up.

I'm trying to stay positive, really I am. So I thought I'd do something positive: I'll write about how to help a friend or loved one with depression. Here goes a few caveats:

This is not intended to replace professional treatment or help. No way! In fact, here's step 1 and 2:

1. Of course, if they aren't on medication or they haven't had their medication checked, do so immediately.

2. Take any suicidal comments seriously. Never, ever dismiss a suggestion that the person wants to hurt him/herself, and do encourage them to share these thoughts with you.

Okay, let's assume you have all this in place. Now what can you do?

1. Monitor the person's medication. Depression saps energy and distorts thinking. Check to see that the person is taking his/her medication and taking it properly.

2. Discourage or help them avoid natural depressants such as alcohol, marijuana, and other drugs. I find that antihistamines make my depression worse.

3. Help them get a good 8 hours sleep. This can really make a difference, so adjust your sleeping schedule if possible.

4. Make sure they are eating healthy food at regular hours. Help them avoid sugar. It makes the highs higher and the lows lower.

5. Don't run away from them. Oh, yeah, I know. You are thinking, "I can't do anything." So you disappear or go off and do your own thing. Wrong, wrong, wrong. You can. And when you disappear the message you send is, "I like you when you are healthy but not when you are sad." That's really destructive.

Here's what's most important about all of this: A depressed person can NOT do for himself/herself the way they usually would. Depression deprives you of energy. You don't think clearly. You don't have the resources to care for yourself, and your natural inclinations (like grabbing a candy bar or not eating) may actually make your depression worse. So having a loving person spend a little of his/her energy looking after you means the world.

This is a great video--one that brought me to tears because of her honesty--

PS If that darned guy who is trimming our bushes doesn't stop soon, no one will have to worry about my depression. I'll be in jail for murder. ARgh.