I thought I’d discuss this today. I love Joanna Penn, and I enjoy her Creative Penn podcast. I don’t get to listen to every episode these days, but she was instrumental in helping me get started with indie publishing back in 2009. She’s also a very lovely person. I’ve had the pleasure of actually meeting her, though it was all online. Someday, I hope to attend a writing event and get to meet her face-to-face.
Joanna’s Lesson #1: Write what you love.
My thoughts: Is it any wonder why I enjoy her as much as I do? If you’ve been on this blog for any length of time, you know I have ditched the write to market mindset and have fully embraced the writing for passion one instead.
When your heart isn’t in something, it is much harder to write it. Even writing from a place of passion has its problems. I can know what comes next in the story and I can be excited about the story, but there are days where the motivation to write isn’t there. I’ll sit down and try for 250 words. Usually, once I get past the 250 mark, the motivation starts to come to me. There are times, however, when it’s like pulling teeth the entire time I’m getting those 250 words out, and when that happens, I do other things for the day. I’m not of the mindset that we must write every single day. I think that’s a faulty mindset because the brain needs to take a break from time to time. Physically, we need sleep. Since we allow our bodies time to rest, we should let our minds have rest, too.
Also, I think writing the kind of books you want to read is the perfect reason to write. When you’re the one in control of the story (or let’s say your characters are in “control”), you will produce something unique that no one else will. This is why even if you were to select 100 authors and give them the same scenario (for example: “a mail order bride steps off the train and finds out the man she came to marry died the other day”), you’ll get 100 different ways of telling that story. There are many ways that specific idea can go. You have tons of variables to work with. The main characters’ personalities, what happens when she finds out the man is dead, secondary characters, and the conflict will all build a unique story.
I started writing romance because I had a specific book in mind to read but couldn’t find it. I’ve enjoyed reading romance since I was in the 8th grade. I mostly read teen romances, but I read some adult ones, too. Through college, I focused on my studies, so I didn’t get as much reading in as I used to, but after I was married and my kids were still all in diapers or pull ups (I had them all back-to-back like stair steps), I had the urge to return to reading romances. After a while, I began to want an author who kept all sex within marriage. I found one, but I realized I wanted certain plots and character types, too. So I broke down and started writing the kind stories I most wanted to read. I never expected anyone else to want to read them. I uploaded them to Amazon because I eventually wanted to buy a Kindle. Well, the rest just snowballed from there. I never imagined that I’d end up where I am. But it all started out with writing what I loved. And it continues because I keep writing what I love. Writing what you love means you will get through the ups and downs of the indie publishing business. Believe me, there is a lot of drama with publishing.
Joanna’s Lesson #2: It’s okay to suck in your first draft. Editing will turn your book into a finished product.
My thoughts: This is one thing I had trouble grasping when I was doing the first draft blog back in the 2010-2012 (I think those were the years). A couple of people didn’t seem to realize the first draft wasn’t supposed to be perfect. Most people did understand that. But there were a couple who made it a point to tell me the flaws in the story. It actually killed my enthusiasm for the blog. I felt like I had people with their red pens out ready to circle all of my errors. These days, I prefer to keep the first draft to myself.
Now, I didn’t stop writing the first draft posts on that blog because of the critics. I actually quit because that was the first time I ran into someone/some people who stole three of my ebooks and published them as their own. It’s much easier to go to a retailer with a takedown notice for copyright infringement if the book has already been published than to prove ownership over a first draft. But I think it was just a matter of time before I would have shut down that blog anyway. No matter how much I told these people I was doing a first draft and that it wasn’t supposed to be perfect, they still insisted on playing critique partner. If I wanted a critique partner, I would have asked for it. If I wanted to write for a critique group, I would write to market. But I want to write for passion, and that being the case, I am not inviting anyone to come in and tell me what to do with my story while I’m writing it. I know that sets a lot of writing-to-market authors on edge, but my reason for writing is not driven by sales. I want sales, of course, but my primary reason for writing is to produce the book I want to read years from now. To do that, it has to be authentic to my vision, and yes, I’m willing to give up on more sales to make that happen.
As a final note: perfection is a myth. No book will ever be perfect. And no book will ever please every single person on this planet. Just do your best and move on.
Joanna’s Lesson #3: We are independent authors. We create and license intellectual property assets.
My thoughts: This is why copyright protection is so important. This is why it matters if a scammer/pirate/thief takes a book and steals it for their own gain. The author is not compensated when these people come in and steal something they did not create.
Now, if someone were to work out a contractual arrangement where money is given in exchange for creative intellectual property, then that is fine. For example, I paid Stephannie Beman for the full creative intellectual rights to the Wyoming Series. We created a contract, signed it, and now the characters, the world, and everything in it, belongs to me. I can do whatever I want with the series. I can make ebooks, paperbacks, audiobooks, foreign versions, and more. That is a legal and moral way to conduct business in a way that protects the author’s copyright. Publishers work in the same way. Authors sign a contract granting publishers a certain amount of rights to their stories. Some publishers only want ebooks, but some want more than that, and this is all spelled out in the contract the authors sign.
Now, if someone decides they want to take a book they find and republish it as their own, create an audiobook with it, create a foreign version of it, TV/movie script, etc without getting the author’s permission, this is theft. It is wrong. I don’t care if the person stealing this book puts it up for free. If the author did not give their permission, this is a violation of copyright law.
That all said, creative intellectual property (like a book) can be broken up in many ways. It can be an ebook, paperback, and audiobook. This can be broken into different languages. This is why you can’t use the same ISBN (for example) for a Kindle (ebook for Amazon), an Epub file (ebook for B&N, Kobo, and Apple) a paperback book, and an audiobook. Each different version needs its own identification number because it is a different version.
For a more information, be sure to listen to Joanna’s video up above at the 19:30 mark.
Joanna gives three more lessons, and this post is already longer than I planned. I’m going to divide this post up into two parts.