Category Archives: PublishingTip

How Far You Can Go – A Writer’s Business Plan Step 3 – Orr What Wednesday

Road Runner imageRefresher Course. A Writer’s Business Plan Step 1 – Work Your Butt Off. I told you about a high time I had with a long table full of clients back in my agent days. High in every respect because we were in a revolving restaurant at the top of a fancy hotel. And I got there by working my butt off.

Refresher Continued. A Writer’s Business Plan Step 2 – Do Everything Right. I told you about doing something crucial very wrong – my first lunch with an editor. Thank heaven she was a compassionate soul or I’d have made an even bigger fool of myself than I did. BUT I never let myself play the fool again.

Now we’re at Step 3. Which takes me back to the beginning when I had the wild idea to become a literary agent – my previous profession before becoming a full-time writer. Please forgive me if I digress to tell you where that brainstorm bright light epiphany idea came from.

I’d been enjoying a good run as an in-house book editor. I edited mystery novels – intense and demanding – no loose ends allowed. And Regency Romance novels – fun fun and more fun. So I had a good work balance going. Except for one thing. I was employed as an editor but I had the soul of a writer.

An editor’s job is to serve the interests of the publisher she works for. High – perhaps highest – among those interests is contract negotiation. The editor is supposed to get the writer to sign on the line for the least money and the most punitive terms possible. Sorry if that offends anyone. I don’t edit or write for a publishing house any more so I can be straight-from-the-hip all the way.

My main personal problem as an editor was my gift for contract negotiation. For some reason – probably my genetic gift of gab – I could whittle authors and their agents down down and down some more. But I didn’t like myself for doing it. So I decided to switch teams and use my negotiating skills on behalf of writers instead.

Then somebody told me I needed a Business Plan. “Why do I need a business plan?” I asked. “In case you have to go to the bank for a business loan,” was the answer. I couldn’t imagine wanting to deal with a bank that would trust me with their money at that tenuous point in my agent life. But I worried myself over the plan thing anyway.

I bought books at my favorite indie store – long-since gone. I researched in the library. This was back when we still did that. I checked out the internet too. What I found were basically templates and templates didn’t say much to me about what I wanted to accomplish in my career.

The truth was – at that point – I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to accomplish in my career. That lack of knowledge became the saving and the making of me as a businesswoman. I didn’t lock myself into specifics because I had no idea what they should be.

A single sentence popped into my head. “Let’s see how far I can go.” I wrote it on a sheet of paper and hung it on my office wall. That sentence turned out to be the brainstorm bright light epiphany I needed because it made all of what came afterward an adventure.

Granted I worked my butt off and enjoyed the successes and hotel-top parties that brought me. I also did my best to do everything right and when I fell sort I learned and changed tactics. The same way I changed tactics after my editor lunch debacle. Beyond that I kept the future open and my Velcro grasp at the ready to latch onto every opportunity that came my way.

Plus – I kept on keeping on in the direction of how far I could go at the fastest pace I could manage. Because – like the Road Runner – I know that Wile E. Coyote is back there. And even though he may not be so wily – coyotes have teeth.

I leap into my new adventure as a full-time writer with all of that in mind. If you asked me what you should do I’d advise the same. Let’s all of us simply See How Far We Can Go. My experience tells me we’ll be in for a happy surprise.

RR

My current novel is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – available at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #2 – launches with summer on June 22nd. as my 13th novel.  Let’s see how far it can go. Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com.

 

Do Everything Right – A Writer’s Business Plan Step 2 – Orr What? Wednesday

Excellence imageLast week I talked about A Writer’s Business Plan – Step 1. That step was basically this. You have to work your you-know-what off. I told a story of a top achievement moment for me and how I got there. You guessed it. I worked my you-know-what off. That’s a tough standard to maintain but the writing career route isn’t an easy trip.

Step 2 is equally tough and demanding. In order for you to succeed your Writer’s Business Plan must be built around excellence. To be more specific – you have to do every right. I understand nobody can actually do everything right. But you must make Doing Everything Right your goal and come as close as you can to achieving it.

This is most difficult with the challenges that scare us. When I started out as a literary agent the thing that scared me most was lunches with editors. A lot of my work for my clients was done in Manhattan restaurants at a narrow table with an editor from a New York City publishing house. I’d been one of those editors myself for a while but this was completely different.

I remember walking to my first editor lunch date as an agent. I was so frightened I didn’t know how I’d be able to eat because my stomach was in my throat crowded flat up against my heart. I kept telling myself one thing over and over again. “Don’t order anything that will fall off your fork.” No peas. No pasta that requires twirling. Nothing with lots of parts and sloppy sauce.

As it turned out I needed more preparation than that. I made it through the lunch hour mostly because the editor was a gracious soul. She recognized I was floundering and helped me along. “Tell me about some of the writers you represent,” she said. She’d kindly introduced the subject I should have introduced myself. I’m still grateful to her for that.

I never went unprepared to a professional lunch again. I made an advance plan for each one. I researched the editor and what she published. I made a list of specific clients and projects that would interest her. I memorized that list and how I’d pitch each project. I arrived at the restaurant early then kept my list out of sight and put on my brightest smile.

I didn’t bring up business until the after-the-meal coffee was being served. I didn’t take notes but I listened carefully. After our goodbyes I dashed to the nearest coffee shop and wrote down everything she’d said. Back at my office I accessed the client project most perfect for that editor and emailed it to her. Next day I messengered a backup hard copy as well.

I’d discovered the three stages of doing everything right. Stage 1 – Do your research. Come up with an action plan and a specific strategy for executing that plan. Stage 2 – When your boots are on the ground and the job has to be done follow your plan. But be flexible enough to detour when surprise opportunities arise. Stage 3 – Follow up. Follow up. Follow up.

A Writer’s Business Plan stages read like this. Stage 1 – Research your story. Plan your story. Pantsters will do less of this. Stage 2 – Put your you-know-what in a chair and work it off writing every day. Stage 3 – Get your story out there. Submit to traditional agents and editors. Or to your own hired editor who will make your story the best it can be before you indie publish it.

Fill out your own individual details for each of these stages. By the way – no negative thinking is allowed. You absolutely can do this. You’re already on your way to doing everything as right as you possibly can. And when you go to lunch with an editor let me offer a word of advice. If you’re doing everything right you won’t have time to eat.

RR

My current novel is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – available at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. Next is A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #2 – launching with summer on June 22nd. These are my 12th and 13th novels and I’m trying to do everything right with both of them.  Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com

 

Writer’s Business Plan Step #1 – Orr What? Wednesdays

Hard Working Woman imageWhen I started the literary agency that was my last profession before becoming a full-time writer – somebody told me I had to have a Business Plan.

I wrestled with that for a long time. I read books on business plans. I did internet research. The suggestions I found all felt too dry and bloodless for what I was embarking upon. I was beginning an adventure.

So I settled on a single sentence. “Let’s see how far I can go.” I still stand by that sentence. But my experience of running a successful agency taught me this. There’s more to getting where you want to go than that one thing.

Now I’ve leapt into a new professional adventure and I need a new Business Plan. I look back on my former experience and ask myself this question. “What was my finest moment and what made that moment happen?”

The moment memory comes easily. A scene at a national writers’ conference. I’m hosting a client dinner at the top of the conference hotel. Solid windows all around and a revolving floor. The wait staff know it’s to be an evening of endless champagne. We’re celebrating 24 clients nominated for national awards.

I look around at everybody laughing and chatting and ask myself this question. “How can it possibly get better than this?” That was an apex of accomplishment for me. What made it happen? One answer to that shouts out loud and clear. I worked my you-know-what off.

This answer transfers seamlessly to my current adventure as not only a full-time writer but a full-time independently published author too. This is possibly the fullest plate I’ve faced in all of my working life. I’m an entrepreneur again.

How did I manage that so well in my agent days? To some degree I made it up as I went along the same way I make up stories now. Some up-front planning. Then I stay flexible and take advantage of inspiration and opportunities when they come my way.

I also studied everything I could find about the publishing business. Now I study book marketing. I feel close to overwhelmed sometimes by how much there is to learn. But I keep on studying anyway. Plus I try new things and use my ingenuity.

I succeed sometimes. Other times I fall short.  A Japanese proverb tells us to Fall down seven times – Get up eight. I’m far past those numbers now but I keep on falling down and getting up again. I pray I can continue to do that.

All of which amounts to Step #1 of the Writer’s Business Plan. We work our you-know-whats off.

RR

My current novel is A WRONG WAY HOME – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #1 – available at amazon.com/author/aliceorr. Next is A YEAR OF SUMMER SHADOWS – Riverton Road Romantic Suspense Series Book #2 – launching with summer on June 22nd. These are my 12th and 13th novels and I worked my you-know-what off on both of them. Alice Orr – www.aliceorrbooks.com