Feeding Your Writing Addiction

And how to extend your book’s 15-minute shelf life

If you’re currently clutching a half-written manuscript or in possession of the first seven pages of what you’ve deemed the next best-seller, you might have caught yourself daydreaming of that day when your polished novel is presented to the world. And the world rejoices. You kick off your publicity tour with a stop at the Today Show Studio 1A, where Hoda and Jenna can’t get enough of you as you humbly admit that your incredible talent and lovable personality have allowed you to break through the sobering fact that debut novels are rarely commercially successful. While these daydreams are fun, statistics show that debut novels rarely catch fire. Still… can you beat the odds?

The answer is… maybe.  

While a miniscule proportion of talented and well-positioned writers are able to secure a literary agent who eventually leads them to the bliss of publication with one of the traditional publishing giants, the remaining wishful authors often travel down a different path with much heavier traffic. Some may go down the road of self-publication while a growing number of writers are securing publication with the ever-popular hybrid publisher. Working with a hybrid publisher carries the benefit of validation, in that your work is vetted before the company agrees to publish your book. The expenses and sales are then shared between author and publisher. The upside of this collaboration is the book being available online wherever books are sold (Amazon, Barns & Nobel, etc.) and in your local bookstore, just as with books published in the traditional manner. The downside? Lots and lots of money out of your pocket. Let me say it again…

Lots and lots of money.     

The initial investment for the printing of your book is just the start of a well-oiled machine that cranks out invoice after invoice until you’re convinced that you’re never going to make back the money you’ve put into supporting your ridiculous addiction. And you’re probably right. As the publisher of one hybrid publishing company puts it, the path to success for writers is an ongoing process. In other words, the probability of Kim Kardashian being our next President is more likely than you, recouping your money from your first published book.

But that’s not why writers write.

There are several actions you can take to keep your book on the minds of readers and go beyond your allotted 15 minutes of fame before the window shuts on the selling opportunity of your book. Working on these five things will keep your book relevant, and your name top-of-mind with readers…

  1. Don’t blow it all, on the launch of your book – It’s easy to think that you need to come out of the gate screaming, but it’s important to think of your book’s shelf-life in terms of a marathon instead of a sprint. While we all want a successful book launch, there’s a benefit to spacing out your appearances at area libraries and events. By focusing on just a few appearances during the launch period, you allow for the public to warm up to your book, and for you to grow as an author. In fact, by letting a year go by, you will have the luxury of hindsight, allowing the appearances you schedule down the road to bring you real customers, not just the same familiar batch of friends and family.           
  • Understand the difference between publicity and marketing – Knowing what I do now, I would have saved the thousands of dollars spent on publicity that garnered little impact throughout the country. Instead, think about investing in a conservative yet consistent campaign in your niche market on social media. Whether it’s a geographic area (I chose to market myself as a local author, advertising only in the state I live in.), or a particular segment, like travel enthusiasts on the east coast. You may not become a world best-seller (Or you might!), but you can dominate a niche category or geographic area.         
  • Become an expert – By that, I mean, figure out what your schtick is. Librarians and event coordinators are looking for someone who brings something to the table other than, “I wrote a book, and it’s a great story.” While the book I wrote is a novel, it borrows heavily on my childhood with my sisters. By bringing my sisters along for appearances, we have found that we are quite entertaining. It’s quirky and different, and readers love getting to meet the characters in person. 
  • Keep investing in YOU  – Speaking at libraries and other events isn’t just about having books on-hand. It’s also about presenting yourself in the most professional manner and highlighting your attributes. Go a step beyond the basics of bookmarks and signage. Having a mini media-wall not only promotes your presence at events, but it also serves as a wonderful backdrop for fans to take a selfie with their new favorite author. Don’t forget to encourage people to post the photos on social media with your chosen hashtag (#NameOfYourBook).       
  • Above all, keep writing – It’s all about keeping you and your book relevant beyond your allotted 15 minutes. Every article, post, and blog circles back to growing you as an author. Whether you’re penning articles on a favorite topic for online magazines, blogging about current affairs or your journey to publication, or starting your next writing project, the key to successful writing is to keep writing.   

Writing is an addiction that must be fed for it to grow. To ensure your longevity as an author, it’s also helpful to put your earnings from book sales into an account earmarked for marketing your current book and for publishing your next. While you may not make back your initial investment, by feeding your writing addiction, you will not only grow sales, but you will also grow yourself as an author – and the likelihood that your next book will be even more successful is a given. Because there will be a next book!  

Heidi McCrary is a writer and author of Chasing North Star. Keep up with her at https://heidimccrary.net/ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Telling YOUR story. Step one…

“Who here is a writer?” I asked the brave souls attending a local writing workshop. To no surprise, no one raised their hand. Cue the crickets. “Are any of you writing anything at the moment?” I continued from the front of the room. “I don’t care if it’s one page and you believe you may have written complete garbage.” With that refined explanation, several hands timidly raised up into the air. “OK then,” I replied, smiling. “YOU four brave folks are writers.” Which brings me to the first secret step to becoming a writer…    

Step #1 – Say aloud, “I am a writer.” It’s important to have confidence in everything we do, and writers can be particularly introverted and shy about calling attention to their talents. Writing is an intimidating endeavor, and you must step out of your comfort zone to give yourself permission to splash your thoughts and words onto the printed page for all to see, which can feel like the equivalent to running naked down the street. I applaud anyone daring enough to dive in, whether you’re sharing your writing with the world or keeping it to yourself or a select few, the adventure can be daunting and equally rewarding. It all begins with you. Say it with me… “I am a writer.”       

“I felt so bad for you. But it also felt so familiar, like I was reading about my own childhood,” one kind reader shared with me after she finished reading my novel for her book club assignment. While my book is a novel, it borrows heavily from my childhood growing up in a small farming community north of Kalamazoo. “I also had a mentally unstable mother,” she continued, “And our childhood was so messed up.”

As I listened to this delightful group of women sharing their own entertaining adventures of their youth, it became clear to me that I am not alone. In fact, I am convinced that everyone has a story to tell, whether it’s a rollercoaster childhood, finding redemption in an unusual place, or a simple connection between two strangers meeting on a vacation. Keep in mind that your writing is just that…yours. And it is your prerogative on who your readers are. Maybe your focus is writing about your own life or your parents’ lives as an ancestral gift to your child and grandchildren, or you can broaden your scope and write for the pleasure of all of us to read. The secret to step #2 is simple…

Step #2 – Just start writing. A writing friend of mine once put it this way… “I don’t care if your intent is to write historical fiction, and in the second chapter, you have aliens landing on earth. The worst thing you can do at the beginning of the writing process is to question what you’re putting down on paper. First rough drafts are just that, rough drafts. There will be plenty of time for edits and revisions. On that note, don’t ever show anyone your first draft. While you may think you just wrote the next “To Kill a Mockingbird,” trust me…you didn’t. After you’re a few drafts in, you may share your words with someone, but brace yourself for the feedback!      

Writing is an artform, and like artwork hanging in a gallery, it is subjective. If you do decide to share your writing with the world, understand that while there will be those who embrace your creativity, there will be others who will not understand or appreciate your craft. And that’s OK.    

Step #3 – It doesn’t have to be perfect. That’s right. Just as life has its peaks and valleys, so will your writing process. There will be days when your writing will be on fire, and other days, not so much. One edit of mine included removing the back half of a finished manuscript and starting over.

At the end of the day, the secret to writing is no secret at all. The biggest obstacle is you. So, say it with me, “I am a writer.”

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Her novel, Chasing North Star is available at Kazoo Books, This is a Bookstore, and online wherever books are sold. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.netand facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Download Taylor Swift’s new song for FREE!

The following post appeared on my Facebook feed the other day, posted by an author who unabashedly leans left on the political spectrum… “Do you want to read The Room Where it Happened by John Bolton? Here it is in its entirety. Just don’t buy it and help to line Bolton’s pockets.” This post contained a PDF attachment of the digital version of the book in its entirety. In the spirit of enforcing copyright laws, Facebook quickly removed the PDF attachment, leaving anyone who clicked on her post, with a message that the contents had been removed.  

While I understand the frustrations of this person, who feels that Bolton has no right to profit from his book due to his refusal to share this information during the Presidential Impeachment trial, I am perplexed with a writer championing the idea of giving away the intellectual property of an artist… even a politician.

The issue of the unpaid artist is not a problem only with writers. This conundrum involves musicians, graphic designers, painters, photographers, and anyone providing a service that can easily be shared digitally. How often have we shared a photo that we retrieved from the World Wide Web, with little thought of where the source originated, and with even less regard to how this artist is losing profit from each click of the Download button.

“I can’t afford to pay you, but you will receive so much publicity by donating your (Insert craft here),” is a phrase often echoed by well-meaning people who think they are providing an opportunity, when in fact, they are simply perpetuating the belief that artists should be sharing their craft for free, and that the next person is the one who should be paying for their services.

This challenge for all artists is only getting worse, with the Internet providing so many avenues for the pirating of digital copies of art. While we may justify our actions by telling ourselves that the person we are stealing from is rich and will never miss our lack of contribution for their product, the truth is, it is harder today for the writer/artist/musician to profit from their craft due to the pirating of property that is done without thought or consequences. Why do we think it is OK to download the Taylor Swift song we lifted off of a questionable website? Perhaps, because we can. And is Taylor Swift really going to hurt from the one swipe of a song?

The answer is, Yes. The pirating of property from writers/artists/musicians is theft. It’s time we acknowledge this, and time to step up and pay for their services. As I embark on the publication of my first novel, I hope that literary enthusiasts will not share my property just because they may think that, “It’s just one copy.”          

Here’s a thought… Let’s think twice before hitting the Download button on the Internet when given the opportunity to receive the beauty of art for free. The writer/artist/musician deserves our respect, and just as importantly, our payment for their services.

Heidi McCrary is a writer and a regular contributor to Moxie Magazine. Look for her debut novel, Chasing North Star September 29, 2020. Follow Heidi at heidimccrary.net and facebook.com/HeidiMcCraryAuthor

Little Movies Everywhere

As our New Normal continues, I sat down to watch a miniseries recently added to the online streaming service, Hulu, starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon. Having read the best-selling novel two years ago, I was looking forward to seeing this film adaptation featuring an affluent dysfunctional family. After all, nothing is more entertaining than reading about a rich family falling down a dark rabbit hole.   

The story opens with the torching of the Richardson’s home. (No spoiler alert here, this major event literally happens on the first page of the novel.) Refreshingly, with five of eight episodes now online, the miniseries remains loyal to the novel’s storyline and subplots.

I  have a rule when it comes to watching film adaptations. If I have any plans of reading the novel, it must be done prior to seeing the movie. There are two reasons why the order of this is important…

  • Movies are based on books, not the other way around – I’m sure there has been a successful novel based on a movie, but I can’t think of one. There’s a reason why the book comes first, and I’m not going to mess with the natural order of storytelling.  
  • When reading a book, it is important to draw my own visuals based on the author’s narrative – I don’t want to picture Reese Witherspoon as I sit alongside the main character while she watches her daughter walk into the school, wondering why her daughter isn’t following the metaphorical map she so carefully laid out for her. As I get lost within the pages of a novel, I am able to “see” the mother as she sits in her car, in full makeup even though it’s 6:30 in the morning. I am able to visualize this because of the author’s rich narrative, not because I’m envisioning Witherspoon’s interpretation.

While many movies fail to rekindle the fire of the novels they’re based on (I’m talking to you, “The Glass Castle.”), there is the occasional surprise film that eclipses the written word. “The Bridges of Madison County” film adaptation brought a simple story to life with strong performances by Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood, while being directed by Eastwood. But this is an exception to the rule.

And rules are made to be broken. Many years ago, after being captivated by the raw performances by Barbra Streisand and Nick Nolte in a 1991 drama based on a best-selling novel, I sat down with the book, “The Prince of Tides,” and fell in love with the Pat Conroy story for a second time.

So, how do I feel about the “Little Fires Everywhere” miniseries after five episodes? I am hooked on following the sad lives of those two families from Shaker Heights, Ohio all over again.