traceysinclairconsulting

Writing, editing and legal directories advice

Tag Archives: fiction

Dealing with downtime – and more adventures in print

While there are many upsides to being a freelancer – I am writing this in my living room, with the sunshine pouring through open balcony doors, so I don’t expect anyone to be crying salty tears on my behalf – the downside is that, when you’re not busy, it’s easy to give into The Fear that you will never be busy again, that this lull in your schedule is only the first in many, and you will soon find yourself struggling to pay bills. It’s particularly pernicious at this time of year, when you know that you could, if you wanted, treat any downtime as a holiday – after all, it’s summer! Everyone deserves a holiday! But then the Fear reminds you that when you are being bombarded with images of your friends gallivanting off to glamorous locations, they are still getting paid while they do so.

My own business – tied as it is to the deadlines of the legal directories – is particularly susceptible to the summer lull. Last year I barely noticed, since I was full in the throes of my Year From Hell, and my attention was tied up with sorting out my mother’s estate and the endless red tape that involved, and finding somewhere to stay from one week to the next while I was house hunting. Since the one upside of having nowhere to live is you don’t pay any rent, I was able to survive on whatever work I could squeeze in around these two exhausting responsibilities, and even managed to use my time creatively, resulting in my last book, the novella / long short story A Vampire in Edinburgh.

This year, when I actually do have to pay rent and can’t just rely on the other people’s larders for my food, the summer slump seems a far more terrifying prospect, but it’s also one I am determined to utilise properly. I’ve built up my repertoire over the past year, and expanded my client base, so am planning to use the summer to see if I can build on both my range of products and expand my international client base, so that I can balance my schedule more throughout the year. I am continuing my project of getting my books into print (A Vampire in Edinburgh and Other Stories is now available in paperback), I have another novel coming out over the summer and I have a Dark Dates sequel in the works. But I’m also trying to accept that my chosen career will always have fallow seasons, and I need to work with that, not rail against it. I’ve always been terrible at taking holidays – even when I worked in an office, I found it impossible to switch off my BlackBerry. Now, though, I have realised that while that most elusive of things, ‘work-life balance’ is impossible to achieve on a day-to-day basis in my life (when I am busy, I am 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week busy), I can balance out that hectic period with a calmer, more restful season, when instead of fretting about what isn’t happening, I should be taking advantage of the slower pace to tend to all those things that necessarily get pushed aside when work is at full tilt.

Last year, I spent months trying to get my home by the sea – and now I have one, maybe this is the summer I learn to enjoy it.

You can buy A Vampire In Edinburgh and Other Stories here.

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Raising money for charity without running a marathon (or growing a moustache)

I’ll keep this post short as I’ve already covered the material on my Dark Dates blog, but since I am by nature (thankfully) ill-equipped to grow a moustache for Movember, and, less fortunately, ill-equipped to run a marathon (well, by ill-equipped, I mean I get out of breath running for the bus) I’ve decided to use my main marketable talent – writing – to try and raise some money for a cause I care about this Christmas.

Therefore I’ll be donating all royalties from my digital-only short story A Vampire Christmas to three homeless charities this year – to read more and to find out why homelessness is a very personal cause for me this year, click here. (UK Amazon link here)

Do help if you can – it’s less than £1 for the book, and every little helps!

Kinde cover

New Dark Dates story out – is this good or bad timing?

One of the fun things about being a freelancer is the variety of the work – one minute I am doing a legal directories presentation to an international law firm, the next I am writing an article on the lack of female superhero movies for a pop culture website – and so it seems fitting that just as I plunge into the UK directories season and my busiest time of the year, I choose to put out another book. So, I’m thinking, possibly my timing could be better… but really, am I wrong to do this now?

The reason, of course, is slightly more complex than just bad timing. A hectic, displaced summer has meant that I had to put plans for the sequel to Wolf Night on hold, and now the directories season is in full swing, I simply don’t have time to focus on that side of my writing. But I did want to capitalise on the great reviews my last book has had – in a crowded market, people forget you fast, and it’s good to pop up on readers’ radars. A short story is the perfect compromise: it allows readers to keep up with the world I’ve created and get a fix of the characters that, they tell me, they have come to love, and the digital-only format means such a book is cheap and easy to produce. Writers like Lee Child and Tess Gerritsen use this formula well, regularly putting out digital-only shorts between novels, so I figure if it works for people at the top of their profession, it can’t be a bad idea for writers like me, either. Admittedly this means that the amount of time I can promote the book is limited, since I’m constrained by other commitments, but on balance I am happy to have it out there, getting notice (and earning money!) while I focus on other things, rather than sitting in a folder waiting for the ‘right’ time to put it out.

So if you have a project sitting gathering dust because you’re waiting for the perfect time to finish it, maybe it’s worth looking at it again. Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge, and hope for the best – or risk doing nothing at all.

You can buy the new book on Amazon or Kobo.

Digital promotion – feeding the machine

One of the criticisms of the digital book market is that it puts pressure on authors to constantly churn out new material: that on top of the ‘book a year’ demands of mainstream publishers, authors are now expected to put out digital-only short stories to keep their profile high and, of course, bring in extra income. (Although these are generally priced very low, for writers as popular as Tess Gerritsen and Lee Child – both of whom have successfully embraced this model – a lot of 99p sales soon add up). Short stories are now often used as ‘promos’ for new novels, either priced low or given away free in the weeks before a novel is published.

My reaction to this trend – both as a fan and a writer – is a positive one, and I must admit my sympathy for those professional writers complaining about this is, well, zero. For a start, it’s not exactly new: most novelists will regularly produce content for magazines and anthologies (just look at the recent Terry Pratchett book, A Blink of the Screen, a collection of his writings that brings together pieces from a surprisingly diverse range of sources). While some writers eventually have enough of this material to be compiled into standalone publications (Kelley Armstrong and Jim Butcher being good examples of this), often this isn’t the case, and fans either have to shell out for the anthologies or simply miss out.

Digital has changed all that. Now stories can be released as standalone pieces, or old stories that would have been buried in the archives of long-defunct magazines and publishers are now getting new life as digital-only releases. I was recently delighted when I discovered that the Lawrence Block’s ‘Burglar’ series – which the author stopped writing years ago – had a whole series of related short stories, now all available for less than a quid.

So I decided to embrace this trend myself. The sequel to my novel Dark Dates won’t be out till spring, but  I wanted to get something out before Christmas, and when I had an idea for a short story (and, if I say so myself, an enormously fun idea), I decided this was the perfect chance to try this model and see if it worked. While it’s far too early to know if this will boost sales in any way, initial reaction has been great, and it’s also an excuse to reconnect with bloggers with whom I have slowly started to build relationships over the past year. Plus I get another book with my name on it on Amazon. What’s not to like?

You can buy my new short story, A Vampire Walks Into A Bar, here.

New Dark Dates short story. Cover by Caroline Goldsmith of Red Button Publishing

Adventures in self-publishing

One of the things I enjoy most about being a freelancer is having what is now commonly referred to as a ‘portfolio’ career: my legal directories work, blogging (personally, and for business), web content work, as well as writing fiction. Having had two books published by a small press, when I wrote a more mainstream, urban fantasy novel this year, I decided to experiment with the self-publishing route. So much of my work is in the digital sphere that I thought it would be a useful – and hopefully fun and rewarding – experience, and the immediacy and control of e-publishing appeals to me. While I am enjoying it, it has been a learning curve, so if you’re thinking about e-publishing, whether fiction or non-fiction, the following might be helpful in knowing what to do, and what pitfalls to avoid.

Tips on self-publishing: I spoke to Suzy Greaves at The Big Leap about publishing my book, and wrote some tips on how to get the best out of self-publishing. You can access them here.

Getting the perfect cover: my cover designer – and publishing expert – Caroline Goldsmith wrote an interesting post on designing for digital here.

Below is the final version, available on Amazon here.

Of course, if you are writing a book and require editorial support, do feel free to contact me at traceysinclair23@gmail.com

Dark Dates - a new urban fantasy book by Tracey Sinclair

Dark Dates - my new novel