Moving from Fear to Courage in Diversity Writing … by Rebecca Hopkins

The very first novel I ever started writing took place in a small town in Texas. The outsider newspaper reporter main character was on her way to solving some town mystery.

It was quite similar to my own life at the time. I worked as a small town Texas newspaper reporter from up north. And I was doing the one thing I knew about novel writing at that point, following the old adage—Write what you know.

But then I moved to Indonesia and I never finished the book.

Rebecca with Yuli's younger sister Erni at a Ramadan feast

I met a young Indonesian Muslim woman named Yuli. Yuli introduced me to her ancient Tidung tribal culture, took me to dance festivals where flicks of the wrist tell stories of war and love. She welcomed me into her family’s home for the end-of-Ramadan feasting, not caring that I’m neither Muslim nor had fasted for a month. And she shared her fears of evil spirits and of practicing her English with me, while I shared my own fears of cobras and of speaking Indonesian with her.

At the beginning, I understood very little of her world. But as I asked more questions, drank more tea with her mom, and then attended Yuli’s funeral after she tragically died from a motorbike accident, I fell in love with her people.

I also feel deeper in love with something I’ve always liked—the joy of not just “always knowing” something, but discovering something new.

I met many more “Yulis” over the years. The Indonesian language has an expression: “The guest is the king.” Even outsiders and strangers are embraced in the most welcoming of ways—abundance of food provided to mere acquaintances even on the most meager of salaries. Friends have invited me into some of their most intimate cultural and family events, opening their hearts about their beliefs, fears, struggles, stories, values. I feel like I get to take a look at their hidden treasure troves—at their urging. And that’s just the start. They insist my children call them “grandma” and have referred to me as their “daughter.” For a foreigner who sometimes still longs for my own family on the other side of the world, this is therapy.

I’m a writer who is passionate about sharing a good story. So of course, I wrote a novel about the things I was learning. (After five years of research.)

Indonesian Woman

I confess, I still can’t sleep on the hot Indonesian nights when the electricity goes out and I can never remember the name of the evil spirit that likes to steal babies out of pregnant women and I sometimes forget to offer tea to my drop-in guests. I’ve learned so much by being here, year after year, raising my three kids in this culture. But let me be clear, the longer I live here (finishing my twelfth year this spring), the more I realize how much I don’t yet understand about the home of most of my adult life. Though very welcome here, I am still a bit of an outsider, peering in, trying to figure out if there’s room for me here.

After I’d rewritten the twentieth draft of my first novel, the Diverse Books and Own Voices movements got under way. I’m cheering for insider voices from marginalized, underrepresented groups in the most personal way. My husband is a relief pilot into some of Borneo’s remote jungle interior villages, providing safe, reliable air transport for med-evacs and supply runs for some of the world’s most isolated and marginalized people groups. I live among these unknown (to westerners) tribes. They’re my neighbors, friends, my kids’ friends. I’d love to see the names of some of my Indonesian writer friends on a book someday in the libraries of American schools. I can’t wait to see what words and expressions and characters they use to tell their own stories in all the nuanced, deeply personal ways that only they can do.

But these well-needed movements left me feeling scared of what I’m doing—writing cross culturally. What right do I have to tell stories based in a culture that isn’t fully my own? What if I get it wrong? Am I stealing their stories?

Between the Army brat childhood in which I moved constantly (and interacted with and tried to fit into different subcultures), and my adulthood in which this Indonesian home of mine has grown and shaped me, I’ve seen many cross cultural interactions that look like crashes and ones that look like embraces. The “crashes” usually are caused by some amount of either arrogance or ignorance, and they leave behind bruises, cuts, scars, bitterness. If there’s a lot of force to it, a cultural crash creates a repulsion that knocks people far away from each other.

Indonesian Woman and Girl

Then there are the cross cultural “embraces.” They come out of the humility to know one’s limitations, the desire to learn, the listening ear, the value of another’s dignity, and of course, the welcoming that comes from the “other” culture. The embraces have a way of somehow recognizing and validating the unique differences between us while blurring those differences as we come close enough to change each other in little, but meaningful ways. We learn to feel at home in our shared humanity.

The more globalized our local circles become and the more cultures get close enough for the next crash or embrace, the more all of our stories will need an element of diversity in order to ring true. With this, the standard grows higher to treat these interactions with care and respect. The whole world is watching (and hopefully, reading).

I believe we, as storytellers, were born for this challenge. To some extent, we’re all doing these things as writers. Sometimes we’re researching people from past times. Sometimes we’re creating brand new worlds completely different than ours. And often times, we’re writing from jobs, genders, and other perspectives unlike ours. We have this drive in us to not just write what we’ve always known, but to love the discovery of something new to us, and somehow, timeless.

Unless we’re writing an autobiography (as my first novel was veering toward), we’re already, instinctually, drawn toward little d “diversity” writing. As we write, we are already asking questions for which we don’t yet know the answer, inviting our characters into a journey of figuring them out. We’re recording the unique, little-known elements of life that somehow, when written in touching prose—is so familiar to all of us. We’re creating characters who are entering journeys we’ve never had to enter…and yet somehow end up looking like places we’ve been ourselves.

I must be honest. I still have questions and struggles about the nitty-gritty of representing a story’s truth well, of figuring out which stories I was “made” to tell, and which, perhaps, I shouldn’t. But I’m learning how to welcome that process with courage, humility, understanding and a recognition that while I may not be able to achieve a completely “accent-free” rendition of the world I’m discovering, there is room for my stories—and all the mixes of cultures that continue to grow within me—on the page.

I love the Indonesian Proverb: “I am you, you are me.” It shows, exactly, the hope I find as a writer, a reader, and a resident of Indonesia. Stories of all shapes and mixes have the power to connect us. All of us. Hopefully… in the most warm of embraces.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rebecca Hopkins writes novels about a world of ancient jungle tribes, sea-dwelling gypsies and isolated Balinese hand signing villages. It’s a world she’s trying to make her own—Indonesia. She’s lived in Indonesia with her relief pilot husband and three kids for eleven years.

Read more about her writing and life in Indonesia at www.rebeccahopkins.org. Rebecca can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

Here are some interesting posts about this debate, looking at it from various perspectives.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/oct/01/novelists-cultural-appropriation-literature-lionel-shriver
http://writeoncon.org/2017/02/02/roundtable-writers-on-writing-diversely/
http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/articles/voiceappropriation.html
http://www.irosf.com/q/zine/article/10087
http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2012/09/michael_chabon_s_telegraph_avenue_can_a_white_guy_write_about_black_characters_.html
http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2016/06/20/how-to-write-protagonists-of-colour-when-youre-white/
http://readdiversebooks.com/white-authors-fill-your-stories-with-people-of-color-but-dont-make-them-your-protagonists/

Spring Cleaning: Give Your Writing Space a Makeover

I have several writing spaces, including the couch, the library, and (weather permitting) the patio. But when I really need to focus, I have a designated, distraction-free place I can retreat to. I call it my “cave,” but it’s more like a hobbit hole: cozy, comfortable, and colorful. Here’s how I did itcomplete with photos!and what to consider when creating or reviving your own writing space.

Location

For most people, a writing space needs to be quiet, isolated, and close-able—meaning you can shut the door when needed and not be disturbed by noisy children, spouses, televisions, etc.

I chose a nook in my spare bedroom, partly because it was one of the few unused areas in my 800-square-foot apartment, and partly because it has a window. (I’m not sure why, but I’ve always believed there’s a special creative energy that comes from placing a desk under a window. Or maybe I just like looking up from my writing and being reminded that there is, in fact, a world outside the one on the page.)

Workspace

This is how much flat space your desk or table offers. More is usually better—personally, I like to have room for my laptop, a notebook, and a mug of cocoa at the very least. I would have loved a nice big L-shaped desk, but since space is at a premium in my apartment, I had to settle for something relatively small. I found a cute little desk at a thrift store for $20, then spent a weekend repainting it and replacing the hardware.

And don’t forget your desk’s necessary sidekicks: a comfortable chair and good lighting. Seriously. If you’re going to do most of your writing here, you need a place to sit that won’t give you chronic back pain. And if your room doesn’t have an overhead light, you’ll need to add a desk lamp or floor lamp. Otherwise, as my mother would say, you’ll ruin your eyes trying to write in the dark.

Storage

It’s important to have additional storage so your workspace doesn’t disappear under a pile of clutter (trust me, it happens faster than you’d think). Wall shelves, a hutch, desk drawers, and desktop organizers will put everything you need within easy reach while leaving plenty of room to write.

Although my writing desk doesn’t provide as much workspace as I’d like, it makes up for it with four spacious drawers. I’ve put them to good use, storing things like pens, paper, binders, staplers, writing resource books, lip balm, and emergency chocolate bars.

Décor

This is your space; spruce it up in whatever way speaks to you. For me that means bright colors, cute knickknacks, inspirational quotes, photos of my family, and any potted plants I can manage to keep alive. Many of these have some kind of meaning or positive memory attached—the owl statue I rescued from the dumpster, the glass bird my in-laws bought for me in Ireland, the inspirational quotes given to me by my mother. Obviously, you don’t want anything that will trigger negative emotions. Think rainbows and unicorns (or Hufflepuffs and hippogriffs—whatever floats your writerly boat).

Inspiration

Last but not least, my writing space wouldn’t be complete without my Wall of Encouragement. This is where I frame my successes—stories I’ve gotten published in magazines, the cover of an anthology I was featured in, an award I got in a novel contest. Any time I’m reeling from a rejection, struggling to write a tough scene, or just feeling discouraged, looking at this wall boosts my confidence and helps me get back on the horse.

Instead of a wall of encouragement, you could do an inspiration board where you tack up photos, magazine clippings, and quotes that help you visualize your work-in-progress. Or you could have a vanity shelf, filled with the books you’ve published or magazines you’ve appeared in—even if it’s empty, it’ll remind you of where you’re headed. Or you could hang up meaningful things like the first story you wrote as a child, the brochure from your last conference, a photo of you shaking hands with Neil Gaiman…whatever works to boost your writerly mentality.

Now, let’s see how I’ve incorporated these elements into my writing space…

What does your writing space look like?

Is your writing moving along like you hoped for in 2017?

I don’t know about you, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to get my writing life better organized which included writing more often, mucking out my office-cum-storage room, getting a business plan done, and deciding if I was going to go ahead and self-publish the first three completed historical romances in the series I had been working on before I started the Bad Carma mystery series.

So, how am I doing? Well. Umm. You see, it’s like this….

Guess it’s not hard to tell that I haven’t kept that resolution very well. HOWEVER, I do have NovelRama  on my calendar, I am attending Pub-Con  the end of April to find out more about both traditional and self-publishing, and I am almost finished with my WIP, which I have an agent interested in from an earlier version (requested at 2016 Gold - so needless to say, I want to go to Gold in September as well). I also submitted a workshop proposal to Gold as part of my platform building and professional development plan (you, too, can submit through the end of March!), and plan to enter the Colorado Gold writing contest again this year.

I haven’t started on my much-needed business plan even though as a coach at a Business Incubator it’s a major part of my job to help small business owners put their plans together. And I am a small business. I charge money for my writing and I intend to continue to make money from my novel(s). So as a small business owner I need to know my target market(s), my budget (revenue, expense, and cash flows), timelines for completion of work, if I intend to continue to write/sell/publish articles and short stories and to whom, and the different lines of business (books/series) that I intend to complete during the plan’s life. And since a business plan is a living document I also need to make myself go back to it on a regular basis to see how I’m doing and what modifications I might need to make.

We’re a quarter of the way through the year. Are you on track with your plans? Do you HAVE a plan? Remember, Fail to Plan/Plan to Fail.

My recommendation: Get your s**t together and Write On!

Do you have any other recommendations to kick the 2017 writing year into gear?

Contests and Competitions

Tis the Season

NEW YORK - APRIL 29: Atmosphere at the 2010 Edgar Awards banquet at Grand Hyatt Hotel on April 29, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Matthew Peyton/Getty Images)

Now is a unique time for writers. In the mystery world, early in the year is the time when judging is beginning, nominations are being requested for a number of prize awards or Awards are being announced. Probably because the awards are for books published in the previous year. That said, RMFW's call for judges got me thinking—what is it about awards that make them so important? Who nominates your books for awards? Should you submit your own book? How does it all work?

Unpublished

Clearly there's a difference. The competitions for the unpublished are geared toward evaluating manuscripts and proposals for submission to editors and agents. The plus for entering is, in nearly all the contests held today, your work has a chance of getting into the hands of an editor and/or agent—once it passes the hurdle of the published writers who are judging most of these competitions.

Traditionally vs. Independently Published

For anyone published, honors are awarded based on any number of criteria, and they're usually readers' choice or judges' choice (including librarians, readers, writers, reviewers, etc.). Sometimes they are for best overall, sometimes they are for best in a genre, they can be given by any number of writers' groups and organizations, and who is eligible to enter varies.

I know the mystery genre, so I'll speak to that. For the Edgar Awards (the Oscar for Mystery Awards), up until now, entries must be traditionally published. Even so, judges receive hundreds of books in a number of categories. I have judged the Edgars twice in the Best Novel category, and both times we had over 500 submissions. There are also awards given at many of the conferences: The Anthony Awards at Bouchercon, The Lefty Awards at Left Coast Crime, the Agatha Awards at Malice Domestic. Writers' organizations also offer award opportunities. The Private Eye Writers of America have the Shamus Awards. There are the Barry Awards, the Macavity Awards, etc., etc. Many states have individual book awards, like the Colorado Book Awards, and then there are also a number of national awards, such as the National Book Award, the Pulitzer Prize Award, etc. Just know, as long as you meet the criteria, all of these are available for you to enter.

Note : Independently published authors are sometimes barred from entering some of the organizational awards, but they have their own list of opportunities. Some indie-pub only awards include: ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year Award, the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Natilus Book Awards, and here at home the Colorado Independent Publishers Association Evvy Awards.

So why enter?

For the unpublished, the most important thing is feedback. I am constantly amazed at how many people don't request critiques on their work. The fee for a critique when entering these contests is so nominal. Don't pass up the chance to learn what works and what doesn't work in your manuscript, something crucial to your ultimate success as a writer. Plus, I'm blown away by how quick we are to discount criticism of our work. As unpleasant as the message can sometimes be, we should be grateful that someone (almost always a volunteer) cares enough to tell us what works and what doesn't work for them—for them being the key words. You're bound to get some bad or conflicting advice, or advice that just doesn't resonate with you. However, never forget, the intent of the judge is to help you in your quest for publication. This isn't about them showing off their own skills, or about anyone trying to change your work or your vision. They just want to offer assistance to you in reaching your goals. In my opinion, it should be welcomed.

For the traditionally and independently published, awards are all about increasing exposure for your work. Nearly every award receives some media attention, which results in additional book signings, which means more sales, and that's what it's all about—at least for most publishers. Winning an award (even being nominated) is also a sign that others love your work, and that's invaluable to the author who writes alone and wonders what type of reception their work will receive. Last, awards can open doors!

Which award contests are worth entering?

This is where you have to do your research. You need to be cautious. All of the awards are run differently, and certain awards are more prestigious than others. It depends on your interest what will serve you best. There are hundreds of literary awards given yearly in the United States.

Be sure and weigh the costs. Many charge a fee for entry. In Colorado, the Colorado Book Award's entry fee is $53. They accept ALL published works. Plus, some competitions pay prizes. The National Book Awards has an entry fee of $125, but the winner in each category receives $10,000.

If you win, milk it!

Get as much mileage out of being nominated and/or winning as you can. Get the word out early. Tell your publisher, your agent, your family and friends. Shout it out through social media, on your website. Attend any and all scheduled signings in relation to the awards.

Many organizations will give you stickers for your books. Use them.

Make bookmarks, stickers, flyers.

Leverage solo appearances at bookstores that may not normally welcome you to sign and get in touch with your local library. Consumers like to read books that have hit the bestsellers list and/or won awards. It signals that the book is worth their time to read it.

Send out press releases.

Remember the rule of three. It takes at least three times of someone hearing about your book or reading about your book before it sticks in their memory. Make sure to use every avenue you have to get the word out multiple times in multiple ways.

So, how do you create a winning book or proposal?

The correct answer is: write a great book. But even with a great book, you may need to generate some buzz to make it successful. Buzz garners attention. Buzz drives book sales. Awards help create buzz.

Green … by Rainey Hall

In kindergarten, my teacher read the class Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham. She then treated all of us to—you got it—ham, scrambled green eggs, fried green potatoes, green milk and green biscuits. Ah, those were the days.

That night after regurgitating green stuff, I swore off eating, touching and smelling anything that resembled mold. Ten years later, hunger summoned the courage to ingest green beans, lettuce and fresh peas.

Can you believe green-colored food and drink showed up again during my teen years? Do you know some people actually drink green beer? No. No, I don’t touch the stuff, green or otherwise. I’ve come to the conclusion people ingesting said color of beer must have had the same kindergarten teacher as me.

Here’s another thing about green: summer meadows with rainbows. I was actually at the end of a rainbow. No gold. No leprechauns. My big brothers finally noticed my disappointment and eagerly encouraged me to investigate the opposite end of the bow because, “You’re at the wrong end.” Bums! Foiled again by siblings, I learned two ends do not a pot of gold make.

Maybe that’s when I began writing as a form of therapy? But I digress.

Anyway, I was lucky enough to have been pinched only once when I accidentally-on purpose forgot to wear green to school on a bleak March 17th. Sort of an experiment gone haywire. Who made up that little gem of a game? With that one and only pinch and accompanying bruises, I promised myself, all my stuffed animals, and the family dog, Zipper, to wear green every day of the year. Since that day, I have never utilized pliers or wire cutters, or eaten crab and lobster. Of course being within close proximity of a Doberman is out of the question too. I can guess the capabilities of those K-9s.

Was Saint Patrick even Irish? Did he ever wear green clothing?

Corned beef and cabbage? At the risk of sounding like a spoiled American, are you kidding? I’ll stick with grass fed beef and carrots—both dishes lacking green. Speaking of cabbage, my grandmother used to make sauerkraut in the basement, (around the same time I was pinched, discovered the truth about rainbows and learned how the Grinch stole Christmas.) Amazing I can smell anything now, let alone eat Brussels sprouts.

Okay, here’s the point: how about a new March holiday like “Don’t Fly a Kite Because the Wind Will Rip It to Shreds Day”, or “Take Time to Smell the Celestial Blooms of Spring Hyacinths Day”, or “Irish Soldiers in the Civil War Day”, or “Irish Soda Bread—even though it may not have originated in Ireland—Day”, or “The Best Irish Authors of the 20th Century Day”. I’ve got a million suggestions.

Here’s to just a few (20th century) Irish authors—get it out of your mind—I have never been green with envy over, but have admired and enjoyed the wonderfully varied talents of:

Oscar Wilde

Bram Stoker

CS Lewis

Anne Enright

Jonathan Swift

If you have the opportunity, please visit irishtimes.com and check out an article written in ‘The Guardian’ by Justine Jordan on Irish authors.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A Colorado native, Rainey, (writing as L. Treloar), has been a RMFW member since 2012 (or so), and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo Historical Fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and The Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math.

*The Frozen Moose, a short story is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

Distractions: Writing, Wait, Cleaning. No! Writing! New Computer! No! Writing. Promotion…

I should be preparing for a trip I'm leaving for later this morning, but I'm running late on the blog, and, let's face it, will I want to finish it up in California? No.

Wait . . . the airport. I could do it on the plane or at the airport (I intend to arrive two hours early, as usual). I could do it then. Face it, ramblings about the writing life, which I usually do here on the blog, are not research intensive, and are, in fact internals, which is the easiest writing for me. Well, in addition to having an intelligent Familiar Companion animal saunter, stroll, or zoom onto the page. Those scenes tend to write themselves, too.

As you must have figured out from the above, distractions are, for me, a terrible thing. Even cleaning can be a distraction, even (whispering), washing silverware (which I always leave for last).

The moment I got my first computer, I took the games off it, the solitaire, whatever. (We won't go into online gaming right now). This was to keep myself focused on writing.

Naturally, I had a day job, so I wrote in the evenings. I lost years of popular television shows, because, like most traditionally published people, it took between 8-9 years for my first manuscript to sell. Those bad old days.

I had to focus, or I wouldn't work on my writing after my regular eight hours of work, and that was the most disciplined time in my life (except the 3 jobs in grad school).

But now that I'm a professional writer. . . my focus is usually fragmented at best, even when I'm at retreats where all I'm supposed to do is write. "I can make my wordcount in two hours today, I'll do it later." I tell myself almost every day. This is a blatant lie. I can make a minimum wordcount in two hours with the great blessing of steady inspiration from the muse. I believe my lie anyway.

Laundry is important. Cleaning is important. Definitely loading up a new computer for my travels with all the right software is important.

Exercise, for me right now, is hugely important.

Most important is promotion of my novella, especially that which is self-published. I can really get side-railed by that, because it, too, can bring money in.

But writing should be the number one priority. It is the way I support myself and my two cats (they do not lift a PAW).

Still, distractions abide. So, I turn to the tried and true to help me through:

1) War room. I belong to a chat room where writers meet and do writing sprints. Sometimes it's too chatty, sometimes I'm the only one there. At those times, I have to shore up my own focus.

2) Timer. This is good. Butt in chair for 30 minutes, set the timer, write. Do NOT go back and re-read that previous scene for the 20th time. JUST. WRITE. This can get me (you?) through the "thinking" time.

3) Setting Goals With Other Writers. I belong to such a group, we post goals and results every week.

But, most of all, is just RECOGNIZING MY PROBLEM WITH DISTRACTIONS, AND PUTTING MY BUT IN THE CHAIR AND WRITING.

Easy to understand, easy to say, but hard to execute. But I WILL do that. Because that's what professionals do.

Wait, doesn't the fireplace need brushing out? (Just joking, I don't have a working fireplace).

May the muse be with you and your writing and your worlds push all distractions from your minds.

Robin

How to Obtain a Reversion of Publishing Rights (At Least, How to Try)

While wearing my publishing lawyer hat, authors often ask me about how to terminate an old (or unprofitable) publishing contract and obtain a reversion of their rights to the relevant works.

Obtaining a reversion of rights can be tricky, and is always dependent on the terms of the contract (and/or the author's relationship with the publisher). 

Normally, the contract states the terms--if any--under which an author can terminate or obtain a reversion of publishing rights, and if the conditions in the contract are not met, the author cannot terminate unless the publisher is willing to release the rights.

However, the fact that a work is under contract isn't always the end of the story.

Here are the recommended steps for authors hoping to terminate a contract or obtain a reversion of publishing rights from a traditional publishing house:*

1. Review the Contact.

In almost all cases, the contract will state exactly when and how (and by whom) it can be terminated.

If the contract allows you to terminate under the current circumstances, follow the procedures in the contract to request a termination and reversion of your rights. (Note: if you only want to revert certain rights--for example, foreign translations--follow the procedures for requesting those rights only.)

If you have questions, or don’t understand the contract, get help from a publishing lawyer or a literary agent.

2. Ask the Publisher (Nicely) to Terminate the Contract and/or Revert the Rights.

By law, the parties to a contract can always modify or terminate their agreement by mutual consent, even if the contract doesn’t say so.

If the contract doesn’t grant you the right to terminate, you can still ask the publisher to terminate the contract and revert your rights voluntarily. Some publishers will agree to termination, or reversion of certain rights, when sales have dropped so low that keeping a work in print creates more obligations than benefits. Make sure your request is polite and professional—regardless of your relationship with (or opinion of) the publisher.

As my grandmother used to say, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.

3. Consult a Publishing Attorney or Literary Agent.

If the contract doesn’t grant you termination rights and the publisher refuses your polite request for termination (or reversion of certain rights), seek the advice of a publishing attorney or agent. Sometimes a third party can help negotiate solutions that authors cannot obtain on their own behalf.

However, be aware that in most cases your right to terminate a contract and obtain a reversion of publishing rights is limited by the terms of the agreement. Unless the publisher breaches the contract, you may have no choice but to wait the contract out.

Which brings us to one final, forward-looking step:

4. Ensure all Future Contracts Give You Unilateral Termination Rights and Out of Print Clauses Tied to Royalty-Bearing Sales.

Admittedly, this doesn't help you with the old agreement, but it will ensure you don’t end up in the same situation again.

Tying out of print status to royalty-bearing sales, and giving the author the unilateral right to terminate if the work goes out of print, helps ensure that authors can retrieve their rights if a book stops selling (and stops a publisher from keeping works perpetually “in print” simply by listing ebooks on Amazon).

When it comes to publishing contracts, the best defense is a good offense—negotiating  unilateral termination rights and reversion clauses into the agreement before you sign.

*Note: These tips apply only to traditional publishers, and in situations where the publisher is NOT in breach of contract. If the publisher IS in breach of contract, consult a lawyer or literary agent immediately.

Note also: Author-publishers should always be able to terminate any contracts or publishing arrangements at will, subject to payment of fees owed and other pre-existing legal arrangements. If you self-publish, make sure your contracts give you all the power when it comes to termination.

Rocky Mountain Writer #76

Anita Mumm, Freelance Editor

Freelance editor Anita Mumm recently made the switch from working at a Denver-based literary agency to establishing her own editing and critique services firm. She also made the move from the big city to a small town in the mountains.

On the podcast, Anita gives a rundown on the services she offers through her well-named business, Mumm’s the Word.

She also talks about what she learned from sorting through hundreds (many thousands) of query letters at the Nelson Literary Agency and she talks about the unusual thing she does with her spare time, a globe-trotting effort that helps her keep things in perspective.

If you’re thinking about hiring a professional editor in the near future, this chat might be helpful in understanding precisely what you need. By the way, Anita will be one of three featured guests at the upcoming RMFW writing retreat in Colorado Springs (long since sold-out).

More: Mumm's the Word

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

5 Tips for Successful Audiobooks … by Richard Rieman

You wonder if an audio version of your book is a good idea. Maybe you listen to audiobooks – perhaps a Harry Potter book with Jim Dale doing over 150 different voices – and you think, it’s probably much too complicated and expensive.

Here are some common audiobook misconceptions:

1. Underestimating Audiobook Popularity

At a time when eBook popularity is waning, audiobook listening on Audible grew 38% last year. Audiobook sales growth is up 35% worldwide after 20% increases 2 years in a row. Listening on smartphones is the fastest growing way people are enjoying audiobooks. Automakers such as Honda and GM are now including audiobook apps from Audible and iTunes in their new cars.

Audiobooks also have their own fan base, so it’s a way to sell more books!

2. Overestimating What Creating an Audiobook Costs

As recently as 10 years ago, audiobooks could cost $30,000 or more to produce. Getting a recording studio, voice actors, audio editors, music rights and more meant that a major publisher would be needed.

Now, thanks to the growth of self and independent publishing in the audiobook world, and the explosion in the number of narrators with home studios and editing skill, high quality audiobooks can be produced for less than $3,000. If you are willing to share your sale royalties with a narrator/producer, the upfront cost can be reduced to several hundred dollars or less. Amazon created ACX, the Audiobook Creation Exchange, to make it easy for you to find narrators for both fiction and non-fiction titles at relatively low cost.

3. Settling for a Good Voice Instead of an Actor

When choosing a narrator, you can easily be seduced by a beautiful voice. But what you need to look for is a voice ACTOR, who can distinguish characters by subtly using different vocal tones and inflections and glide easily into the changing emotions of your story. For nonfiction, a skilled narrator can hold your interest for hours by talking to you, not by reading to you out loud. Get a great storyteller, not just a great voice.

4. Narrating It Yourself When You Shouldn't

There are a few good reasons to narrate your own book:

• It’s your book and your words, so you can tell your story best. You know your characters, your story or subject, and the thinking behind your words better than anyone else.
• You keep more money. If you pay a narrator, you will either share royalties or pay them upfront to produce your audiobook. When you narrate your own book, your audiobook royalty payments go to you (after your publisher or Amazon take a big chunk of it.)
• You can be your own narrator if you have acting or radio/TV experience or have done lots of public speaking.

None of the above? Then get a professional to do it. It's a lot harder than it looks, and do you really want the bad reviews that come from a poor narrating performance when listeners judge you against the professionals?

5. Not Promoting Your Audiobook

It’s great to produce an audiobook, but if it falls in the forest, does it make a sound? Your audiobook needs to be shouted out to your fans and new listeners.

• Include an audiobook sample in all promotions. The “retail sample” required by ACX is ideal for this. Your book cover and audio clip can be used in all social media and your website.
• Request listener reviews from all your contacts and use a review service like Audiobook Boom.
• Create a promotional video like this one for Denver author Catherine Spader’s dark fantasy “Feast of the Raven.” You can engage a book trailer expert or use a resource like Animoto for less than $100.
• With future books, try to time your audiobook release with the print and e-book versions, so all your efforts can simultaneously share your promotion efforts.

Audiobook production, just like producing a paperback or eBook, is not easy. But it is worth it, especially when you are creating both a new fan base and new revenue stream for your already existing work.

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RMFW member Richard Rieman of AudiobookRevolution.com is an audiobook self-publishing consultant, a top Audible narrator, and an in-studio producer of authors narrating their own titles. Richard is author of “The Author’s Guide to Audiobook Creation,” Gold Medal Winner of the 2016 Global eBook Award in Writing/Publishing.

You can learn more about Richard and his projects at his website Audiobook Revolution Productions. He can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and You Tube.

This is part three of a four-part series on audiobooks by Richard Rieman. Part one: Bringing a “Mostly Dead” Book Back to Life in Audio. Part two: Voices in Your Head: How Audiobooks Can Improve Your Writing.

Tom Sawyering Your Writer Friends into Helping Revise Your Book

Boy am I enjoying revising this book…it’s so much fun!

Take that passive verb!

K-pow! Adverb say whatly?

What am I doing, you ask? Well, I’m not so sure I should say. It’s just…I’m having such a great time…and I don’t want to make you jealous…

Is it working? Are you wanting to help me revise this dumpster fire of a novel?

I knew you liked me. I just knew it!

Okay, so I’m going to outline how I revise and would love for you to jump in, giving tips, tricks, tools, and general help for anyone stuck in revising hell, which is the first level for those keeping track.

 This is my process, and mine alone. It’s probably not ‘best practice’, but it works for me (sometimes):

After typing THE END (which oddly, I don’t ever type at the end, but bear with me), I start back at page one, copy and developmental editing as I go. For those who might not know, a copy edit is placing the right period, fixing a run-on, and/or adjusting a passive verb. Developmental is the bigger picture stuff, keeping eye and hair color consistent, and/or tying up hanging loose ends.

Once I run through it once, I do the same thing again, looking for deeper POV/Showing options. And that means, if I come across this: He was cold. I would likely go into a deeper POV, and change it to: The air chilled his flesh, raising goosebumps along the hair follicles.

And that’s usually it until the editorial letter hits my email.

Sometimes I might have an added step of critique from trusted sources, if available. This is up for much debate, but I prefer one or two readers I trust rather than wide critiques. Too much of a good thing for me. I try to please everyone and end up with a bigger mess.

So how do you revise?

What sort of software helps? A time ago I used Rainbow Editing, which helped before I started to use active verbs in my first draft. I sometimes use those word count programs--ones that find my overused words or adverbs.

Tips or tricks you find helpful?

How much do you put into a revision? Meaning, you have to eventually let the book go. How many times do you go back to revision before sending it on its way?

Really any advice on revision is helpful. Maybe we can, as a collective, help each other become better at the awesome, super fun art of revision.