Big Bad Blurb

So, I’m asked to write a one-sentence blurb about myself for my almost-favorite editor to end an upcoming Cookery Column piece in The Ozarks Mountaineer Magazine.

Apple pie

Anyone that knows me, knows I hate describing myself.  When asked, I invariably panic and think, ‘I’m just a Mom, and when the kids are grown I have no idea what I’ll be called!’  Then I’m pressed to think about the highlights of my character or career that I can include.  It turns out, the things that are important to me, aren’t all that fascinating to the editor.  He wants a little down-home twist.

A friend suggests,

“The Martha Stewart of the Ozarks – without the prison record”.

English: Martha Stewart at the Vanity Fair par...

I send off my little drabble that I hope will satisfy the savage beast.  Here’s what I got back in revision:

“Karen Nelson is a member of (local writers group)..who weaves and gardens.”

Okay, I weave – a little – but certainly not on the scale of calling myself a practicing weaver.  “Fiber Artist” would more delicately catch all the pies I have my fingers in.

But GARDENS????  Sweet Zebras, if any of my family saw that, I’d be laughed into next week.  My husband plowed over the garden plot and let the ducks have it, just so I wouldn’t kill anything else that depends on photosynthesis to survive.  He still brings up the death of his one and only house plant in the first year of our marriage.  Eighteen years, and “Robert” is still a sore subject.

Granted, I buy my happy little flowers in their pre-potted state, and faithfully water them throughout the season, but I have failed every single year to get even one of them to last through winter.  (And that’s in my toasty house with lots of sunshine, soft music, and sweet nothings whispered in its ear.)

But I digress.  The point here is to have a little commercial about yourself prepared for any moment, because if you don’t, some imaginative editor who clearly missed his calling in the fiction world (you know I love you) will slap some description on you that could seriously damage your reputation.

Oh, Martha.  Help me.

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Looking Back on August

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the month of August.  It the end of summer…the close of so many happy adventures with the family.  But it’s also the hottest month of the year, which makes outdoor adventures a misery.  August always feels like a loose end to me, since many kids are preparing for another school year – but aren’t there yet, gardens are dwindling – but aren’t dead yet, and my wish list for the season has less on it – but isn’t finished yet.

One thing that did get finished was the back deck.  (Hooray!)  It’s been my refuge ever since, although for a few weeks the mid-day hours are just too humid to really enjoy it.

August is also a month of milestones.  My parents have a wedding anniversary, and so do my aunt and uncle, and my husband and me.  This year we continued our family tradition of celebrating our wedding anniversary as a family, with gifts for the children and a day of fun and games.  August 6 saw an appearance by “Wink Blinky” and “Luscious Finwiddie”, as hosts of the Family Biz Quiz Show.

"Wink Blinky" and "Luscious Finwiddie" quiz the kids on their family knowledge

Later in the month we celebrated the dual anniversaries of my parents and aunt and uncle with a japanese hibachi-style meal prepared by my husband (a gourmet chef at heart).  Reconnecting with family around the dinner table is one of my favorite things…

David cooking his famous Japanese hibachi steak, chicken, and shrimp

August was also a month for reconnecting with old friends, making new ones, and stretching my intellectual horizons.  The meetings at the Ozarks Writers League and Springfield Writers Guild were very informative.  We learned all about social networking, thinking outside the box, and snagging that elusive editor/agent.  The Ozarks Writers Conference in Hollister, Missouri was outstanding, and a rare treat for getting away from the humdrum of every day life.

I enjoyed teaching some knitting classes at the local yarn store, and finished up a few projects at home.  The black alpaca is still sitting on my spinning wheel, but it’s calling to me…. it whispers, ‘September’.

All in all, a good month was spent with friends, family, food, and favorite hobbies.  How did YOU spend the last of your summer days?

Navigating the Many Roads of Publishing

Steven Anderson (AKA Steven Law), who has worked in the writing and publishing industry for 15 years spoke at the Ozarks Romance Authors meeting September 3, 2011.

He shared his insights about traditional publishing, author co-op publishing, self-publishing, ebooks, and social media.

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I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear from a professional who truly has his thumb on the pulse of publishing. Although his presentation contained too many aspects to reproduce here, I’ve noted a few thought-provoking points to get you thinking about what direction your next book might take…

  • Industry trends show that mass-market paperbacks are on their way out, to be replaced by electronic methods of distribution.  The printing of books has evolved quickly in the last 100 years.  What began as a limited availability of hardbound books in the early 1900’s, with a cloth or leather cover,  was surpassed by pulp fiction in subsequent decades, and then mass-market paperbacks.  The day has come for the next evolutionary phase.
  • Publishing is a consumer-driven market. (Not a supplier-driven one.)  It must change to adapt to the demands of the consumer, rather than attempt to dictate what the consumer should buy.
  • Printing is the most expensive part of publishing. (And you thought it was all those color posters.)
  • While adult mass-market sales are down 30% in the past year, audiobooks and e-books have seen their biggest increase in sales across the industry.  This seems to echo the projections that the big publishing houses will be gone within 10 years, likely to be replaced by print-on-demand and electronic books.
  • Social media now plays a key role in the sales of a book.  Just look at John Green‘s “The Fault In Our Stars” – it became a No. 1 hit before he even finished it.  And it was all due to what a little bird said (tweet, tweet).

There are other voices that harmonize with what Steven is saying.  I like Bob Mayer‘s perspective: “…It’s about the book, not the publisher’s perception about the book.  I think that’s a key change authors need to understand:  the gatekeeper in publishing now is no longer the publisher—it’s the author and the quality of the book…You can keep switching deckchairs on the Titanic or you can find a ship that’s actually going somewhere.”

There is much to think about in the current publishing climate, but it’s important to keep your balance – not jumping on every new app or forum that arises.  Don’t go sharpening your goose quills and pressing berries for ink, either. You don’t have to reject the new just because it may be unfamiliar territory.  With a little research and a lot of patience, you can find your own avenue on the road to publishing.  Or you could just ask a pro like Steven.

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Steven is an executive officer at Goldminds Publishing, and has written and published four novels. His latest, “Yuma Gold,” is scheduled for release by Penguin Group in New York in November 2011.  Steven is also founder of the ReadWest Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the awareness and diversity of Western literature.

For more information about Steven, visit http://www.stevenlaw.com

Many thanks to Ozarks Romance Authors for providing an opportunity for writers to meet, learn from, and support one another, (and being so welcoming of visitors – 30% of attendees that day were non-members!) as well as the Springfield-Greene County Library for providing a comfortable meeting space.