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Friday, April 18, 2014

A Couple Announcements!

Indiana RWA's IGO Contest for unpublished writers opens May 1! Get detailed feedback on up to 55 pages of your manuscript (opening + up to 10 page synopsis). We have trained first-round judges and TWO second-round editor judges in each category! Ten of the twenty-one 2013 IGO finalists received requests for full manuscripts from our editor judges and four are finalists in the 2014 Golden Heart Contest!

Brenda Novak's Diabetes Auction also opens May 1! I have two items up for bidding this year--one for readers and one for writers. Reader item is a signed print copy of Love Served Hot, a "Kiss the Cook" apron, and a pair of oven mitts. Writer item is a signed print copy of WTW: The Writing Craft Handbook, a first-chapter critique, and meet-up at the RWA National Conference in San Antonio.

Enter and bid!!!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Business & Taxes

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! A writing career consists of much more than writing stories. Be prepared. Be educated. Make well-informed decisions. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book at Amazon or B&N and in print.

Writing is a Business and writers have to pay Taxes, like any other business. The type of business depends on the author’s preference. Several factors can influence which type of business will work best for each individual, including but not limited to amount of income and expenses and use of paid assistants or other employees.

In some cases, writers choose to be self-employed (sole proprietorship)—which means filing a schedule C at tax time and possibly paying quarterly self-employment taxes to avoid penalties for underpayment. Since an employer isn’t contributing half the tax to social security and Medicare like a typical job, the self-employed taxpayer pays the full amount, based on net earnings (profits). All expenses and income are used to figure a profit or loss for the year. This amount is used to calculate the self-employment tax and is also included in the individual’s tax return to help calculate the amount of income tax owed or refund due.

Rather than being a sole proprietorship business, some authors choose to become an LLC—limited liability company. Business and personal finances are separate to add protection from liability, meaning the owners of the company usually aren’t liable for the company’s debts. All states charge an annual fee to maintain an LLC business and many require an annual report or statement of information. Some also have state taxes. LegalZoom.com is a good resource for information on business types.

Another option for authors is incorporation, with either a C or S corporation. Like the LLC, business and personal finances are managed separately, and the owner(s) aren’t usually liable for the company’s debts. Articles of incorporation must be filed with the company’s home state. Even if the corporation has only a single shareholder, it must hold an annual meeting and important corporate decisions should be recorded in meeting minutes. Some states may charge an annual filing fee for corporation status. A “C” corporation is taxed on net earnings and the shareholders are taxed on distributions, meaning the author is taxed twice if she’s a shareholder in the corporation. Income of “S” corporations is taxed at the shareholder level only, making this type the better choice in most cases.

If the business has employees, including the author, an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is required and can be obtained from the IRS. Most states also require tax identification numbers issued by their revenue departments when a business sells goods and/or hires employees.

Since rules vary from state to state, options should be thoroughly researched. The IRS and each state’s department of revenue website contains information on each business type and its filing requirements. A tax professional or business law expert can also help determine the most beneficial choice, based on the individual’s needs. These links also provide easy-to-understand explanations about the business types and their advantages and disadvantages:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2012/05/03/c-or-s-corporation-choice-is-critical-for-small-business/

http://www.woodllp.com/Publications/Articles/pdf/Choice.pdf

http://www.woodllp.com/Publications/Articles/pdf/Tax_and_Liability.pdf

Remember to include consultation, setup, and filing fees in an itemized recordkeeping spreadsheet, along with all other writing-related expenses. Record mileage for writing-related trips, national and local dues for writing organization memberships, travel expenses for research/writing-related meetings/conferences/conventions, meals, office expenses, promotion/advertising expenses, contest entry fees, research/resource books, subscriptions, self-publishing expenses, etc. All expenses related to writing should be recorded for the business, whether the author chooses sole proprietorship, LLC, or incorporation.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Lori King

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! Today's guest is Lori King and her wolf shifters! She's sharing an excerpt form her latest book, Caress of the Wolf, and some insight into her writing process. Leave a comment for a chance to win your choice of one of The Gray Pack series titles!!!

Me: Great to have you visit, Lori! Tell us a little about your writing process. Do you prefer writing single title or series?
Lori: I’m a series girl for sure! I don’t have any single title stories, all of my books are part of series. For me one of the best parts of writing is following a group of characters up the mountains and through the valleys of life, it’s difficult to see the scope of tragedies and triumphs in just one book.

Me: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Lori: In Caress of the Wolf the three main characters are truly drawn together by biology. Each werewolf has a true mate, or in some cases more than one. They know when they’ve found their mate by instinct, all five senses go on high alert and their wolf goes nuts. Unfortunately for these three characters while their biology is pushing them together, their two different worlds are keeping them apart. Cadence and Mateo Diego are from a different pack, and they carry a lot of pain and heartache with them when they travel to the Gray Pack den. Whitney Gray has grown up surrounded by her family. They are the most important thing in her life. So when she finds her mates it’s a huge blow to realize that in order to be with them, they must survive a fight to the death for power, and then she has to move away from everything she knows.

Me: What’s your favorite sub-genre to write? To read?
Lori: Ménage. I know that’s not the kind of sub-genre you meant, but I truly don’t care if it’s Sci-fi, Contemporary, Paranormal, Fantasy or BDSM. I love them all. I just happen to have a particular love of polyamorous lifestyles, and so I find myself writing and reading those most often. If I had to go deeper, I would say Paranormal and Fantasy are my favorites to write, because I can create my own laws of physics and rules of society.

Me: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Lori: The shower is absolutely my favorite thinking spot. I have three kids, so the only quiet time I get is when I’m locked in the bathroom.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
Lori: I have more projects in the works than I should. LOL Right now I have partials on The Gray Pack 6, Apache Crossing II, and two new series: Fetish and Fantasy, and Twisted Ape. I have around 80 books plotted, so I have to keep my nose to the grindstone.
Me: Hmm... Your muse likes to go off in a hundred different directions at once, like mine!

Here's a peek at Lori's latest release, Caress of the Wolf: The Gray Pack Book 5.
Blurb:
In a time of transition, only the strongest will thrive…
Whitney Gray is less than thrilled that her werewolf pack is hosting another packs Alpha battle. She figures the Diego wolves have done enough damage to the Gray wolves to last a lifetime, but when cousins Cadence and Mateo Diego step into her life she finds herself on a new and dangerous path.
Cadence and Mateo are determined to protect their birthright, and secure their place as the leaders of the Diego Pack. They didn’t anticipate finding their mate, and now they are protecting her and her family from a threat that ends up being way to close for comfort.
The newly mated trio begin planning for a life or death battle, and end up on a journey from betrayal to forgiveness, but when you’re battling the past, someone’s bound to get hurt.

Excerpt:
Whitney was in the middle of describing her new contract with a local wildlife magazine when the fragrance hit her straight in the gut. It swamped her senses so fully that she moaned out loud, drawing confused looks from her friends. She couldn’t help it. The sharp scent of sandalwood filled her nostrils, fogging her brain. Her breath was trapped in her lungs, and her heart was racing. She could feel her wolf butting against her, trying desperately to get out, to find the origins of the deliciously enticing aroma. Her skin tingled all over, and even the tiny hairs on her neck stood up as it became stronger.

Twisting her head, she heard the crunch of feet on the grassy front lawn, followed by the rumble of male voices. Her body started trembling with anticipation, and it all clicked in her head in an instant. Her mate.

Mate.

Her heart pounded at the one word growled by her wolf, and she gasped as it bounced in her brain like a ping pong ball. Her mate was headed this way, and her wolf wanted him desperately. No, not wanted, that wasn’t a strong enough word. She needed him. Her body ached with the need. She could feel the points of her canine teeth as they lowered, and her bones screamed out to shift and run toward the scent of her soul’s other half.

The door pushed open and she heard a sharp male voice snarl, “Move, now.” Devin and Damon came through it first as a growl escaped her throat that was matched by someone on the other side of the door.

Wait…was that two growls? What the hell was happening?

Before she could question it further, she was on her feet, moving toward the front door. Devin and Damon were forcibly pushed out of the doorway, and a pair of the sexiest and scariest looking men she had ever seen filled her vision.

Her pussy wept into her panties, and her nipples stood up hard as diamonds, begging to be touched. Her wolf whined with pleasure at being this close to its mate, but the human side of her brain was struggling and her hands were trembling. Confusion hummed through her as her eyes darted back and forth between the two. They were the epitome of tall, dark, and handsome, but they both carried an aura of bad boy, too. Who was her mate? Shouldn’t she just know?

Instead of moving closer, she took a step backward, away from the unknown. The two men growled simultaneously, and the slightly shorter of the two stalked toward her first, with the taller one right in his shadow.

In that moment, the fear of the unknown was overcome by an animalistic desire to be in her mate’s arms, and she moved forward, meeting the first man in only a couple of steps. He wrapped one arm around her waist and used the other hand to grip the nape of her neck, tilting her head backward. She felt her lips part as he dropped his head down. When their mouths met, she whimpered loudly in her throat, and her body caught fire. It raced through her system, lighting her soul up from the inside out, and she very nearly came in front of everyone.

His mouth was hard and forceful, but his tongue swept leisurely over hers in a sensual dance. Tempting and teasing while demanding and devouring. It was everything she had hoped to feel when she met her mate. She felt their souls touch as he held her, and she wanted to laugh, cry, and eat him alive all at the same time.

A second pair of hands touched her shoulders, and her wolf relaxed even further at this new touch. Her body responded by pressing back against his hardness. It was several moments before she grasped the fact that she was being held by two different men, and her wolf was ecstatic about both of them.

Roughly jerking her mouth free from the stranger’s passionate onslaught, she panted, trying to recover her breath and her brain function. Two men meant two mates. Fuck no, her brain screamed at her, while her wolf rolled around inside of her like a happy puppy.

Buy link: http://bookstrand.com/caress-of-the-wolf
The Gray Pack Reading Order:
Fire of the Wolf
Reflections of the Wolf
Legacy of the Wolf
Dreams of the Wolf
Caress of the Wolf

Author Bio:
As a full-time wife and mother of three boys Lori King rarely has time to just enjoy feminine pursuits, but at heart she is a hopeless romantic. So she spends her days dreaming up Alpha men, and her nights telling their stories. She currently has books available in the following series: The Gray Pack, Apache Crossing, Sunset Point, and The Surrender Trilogy. Find out more about her current projects at http://www.lorikingbooks.wordpress.com/.

Social Media Links:
Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/LoriKingBooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LoriKingBooks
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lorikingauthor/
Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLCe1GPVq6npPKEebL8d9gw
Siren-Bookstrand Page: http://bookstrand.com/lori-king
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/lorikingbooks
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/lori-king

Thanks for stopping by, and remember to comment for a chance to win your choice of one of The Gray Pack books!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Now on Nook!

Writing Tip Wednesday: The Writing Craft Handbook is now available from Barnes & Noble! Still only 99 cents for the ebook!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Recordkeeping

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

Because writers often lean more toward creative thought, the mention of expenses, receipts, and mileage records makes many authors cringe. However, Recordkeeping is a necessary task. Not only does it aid in preparing tax returns, it helps writers budget for conferences, conventions, and other promotional opportunities.

Choosing a method is often the hardest decision. An envelope or a shoebox full of receipts to tally at year’s end? An Excel spreadsheet with weekly or monthly entries and columns for every category of expense? A notebook with a listing of dates and their accompanying expenditures and mileage? And what about recording royalties?

Expenses…

The shoebox/envelope choice doesn’t really lend itself to budgeting, but that’s the method some authors prefer. To aid in tallying for tax time, consider writing a short explanation on each receipt (dinner meeting with editor; toll fees for RT trip; research books). Whether using self or professional preparation for tax returns, expenses should be categorized.

Spreadsheets and notebooks with timely entries both offer better opportunities to budget for future expenses. Expenses are recorded as they occur, leaving little chance of forgetting the reason for each receipt. Receipts can be scanned and stored in a recordkeeping folder in case the originals are misplaced or destroyed. Expense categories can be broad (Advertising & Promotion) or specific (Booksignings; Blog Giveaways; Website Expense; BookBub Ads). Adjustments can be made to the recordkeeping system as needed by adding additional categories/columns. Meals should be totaled separately from other expenses since they have a different rate at which they’re tax deductible. Auto expenses and mileage should also be recorded in their own categories for the same reason.

Detailed records can often mean the difference between a quick, uneventful audit and a long, painful one. Inadequate records may result in some expenses being disallowed, changing the end result of a tax return. Choose a method and start now!

Income…

Royalty statements record income from the sale of books. All publishers, including KDP, Nook Press, and other self-publishing platforms, should issue royalty statements with payments or make them available to download. How often—monthly, quarterly, biannually, annually—depends on the company and the contract. While the statements may contain a breakdown of which books sold how many copies, they may or may not list the sources of those sales. For example, one publisher’s quarterly royalty statements might itemize the number of copies sold and royalty amounts for each retail outlet (the publisher website, Amazon, B&N, etc.). Other publishers may only list book titles and each title’s total royalty amounts from all outlets. Some monthly statements list each country where the book is available for sale, the number sold and returned, royalty amounts, and conversion to the author’s chosen currency. Information included on royalty statements is by no means universal.

Authors may elect to hand sell their books as well. These sales should also be recorded and reported, depending on the source of the books. The royalties from hand-sold books equals the amount the author paid for the book plus any shipping/handling fees minus the selling price. If the author purchased ten copies of her self-published print book from Createspace at $3.00 each and paid an additional $8.00 for shipping, her total cost would be $38.00. Her cost per book is $3.80. If she hand sells those copies for $5.00, her profit (royalty amount) is $1.20 per book or $12.00 for all ten books. Some publishers offer their authors discounted copies on which no royalties are paid. If the author hand sells the books at cover price, her royalties are figured the same as above—[(total book cost plus shipping) divided by number of books purchased] equals cost per book—and should be reported as such. When an author buys copies to sell from a retailer without an author discount, royalties have already been paid to the author on the book, so reselling under these circumstances doesn’t require recording and reporting of additional royalties. Free ARCs from the publisher that are sold by the author should usually include the full sale price as royalties since royalties often haven’t been paid on those books and the books were provided at no cost to the author. Books purchased by the author and given away are considered a promotional expense.

To aid in recordkeeping of hand sales, I created a receipt record to email to purchasers, in addition to recording hand sales on a spreadsheet. Many authors claim book purchases as business expenses, so this method allows for a printable or email-able receipt for buyers’ tax returns—a must in case of an audit. For emailed receipts, Microsoft Word has several receipt templates that can be customized to meet the needs of authors hand-selling books. To provide a paper receipt, check with local office supply stores for two-part receipt books—one copy for the buyer and one copy for the seller. The purchase of receipts books is an expense!

Keep a record of all writing-related expenses and their paper or online receipts. Check with a tax professional when unsure if an expense is allowable. Keep a record of all sales, whether from royalty statements or hand sales. Whether an author completes her own tax return or hires a professional tax preparer, good records are a must.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Author Spotlight + Giveaway--Rhea Regale

Welcome to Author Spotlights on Mondays! Rhea Regale is my guest this week. Check out her interview and an excerpt from her latest cowboy erotic romance! She's also giving away an e-book copy of Brianna's Sinful Cowboys to one lucky commenter!!!

Author Bio:
Growing up, I was always the quiet girl who knew everyone but never quite fit in. I kept busy with dance, cheerleading, and numerous other activities. I was an overachiever, a hard worker, and very dedicated to anything I pursued. When I decided that I loved writing enough to follow along the writer’s career path, nothing deterred me from reaching my goals. I didn’t go to college straight out of high school, but rather focused all my free time and energy into my stories. Negativity could not steer me off the path of my dreams. It only made me more determined to succeed as a writer. Now, with a loving family, I continue to do what I love most: write from my heart and share my stories with the world.

Links:
Website: www.rhearegale.com
Siren Author Page: www.bookstrand.com/rhea-regale
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rhea.regale
Twitter: www.twitter.com/RheaRegale

Me: Do you prefer to write single title or series? Why?
Rhea: I love series. I love the idea of incorporating characters from earlier stories and future stories into each book. The break-up at the end of a book isn’t so bad when you know you’ll be seeing those characters again.

Me: I love a good conflict. What draws your main characters to each other and keeps them apart?
Rhea: Conflict. Oh my. Conflict can be anything with my characters, from something external, such as my heroine trying to hide from a murderous ex, to something buried deep inside that a character struggles to overcome or at least deal with, like Carter suffering from PTSD or Rylan suffering the loss of his girlfriend in a car wreck. There is always combination of internal and external conflict in my stories, but I tend to focus more heavily on one over the other. Brianna’s Sinful Cowboys is a good example of how I focus on Rylan's internal conflict, the driving force through this book, and his journey to a happily ever after with Brianna and Jackson. Of course, I have to throw a little bit of external danger into the mix. I do enjoy a good external conflict to turn up the suspense :)

Me: What’s your favorite sub-genre (contemporary, sci-fi, etc.) to write? To read?
Rhea: My favorite sub-genre to write has always been paranormal/fantasy, but I have developed a deep enjoyment of writing contemporary with my Casanova Cowboys series. Believe it or not, next to reading paranormal/fantasy, my favorite sub-genre is historical.

Me: I usually get plot ideas in the shower and while driving. When/where does inspiration strike you?
Rhea: Inspiration is a wonderful, and spontaneous, thing. I honestly get ideas from everywhere, whether it’s a verse in a song that is matched perfectly to the tune (this happens quite often), to driving down the road and an idea sparks out of nowhere. I developed a story idea after admiring a ruby in a necklace. My latest run-in with inspiration happened a few days ago while I was trying to sleep. I pictured an encounter between two characters, heard them speaking these strange names, and a book idea flourished. After a few minutes of fighting the idea, I finally resorted to curling up in my closet and jotting down notes for the next hour while the family slept! My emotions tend to be a driving force for inspiration too.

Me: What new stories are you working on?
Rhea: Ah, currently I am working on a new contemporary series that will hopefully be coming out by the middle of this year. I have the last two books in the Casanova Cowboys series in progress. In addition, I’ve been plagued with the insistent idea of that book that drove me to my closet a few nights ago. I have a feeling it’s headed down the Urban Fantasy road, but it’ll have a ton of romance in it :-D. I do have a couple other series ideas, but right now, they’re hanging out on back burners.

Blurb:
Brianna Cabot has one goal coming to Ryder, Kansas, with coworker and boyfriend, Jackson Morrell. Contract land for their boss’s new luxury resort to lock in a golden promotion. A brutal car accident puts a dent in her plans. So does Ryder’s handsome sheriff and partial owner of the prime property, Rylan Ryder.
Nine months ago, Rylan lost his girlfriend to Crosslane. Rescuing Brianna draws on painful memories of having been helpless to save the woman he had loved, but stirs awake long forgotten desires. Their ongoing feud over her boss’s proposal fuels the escalating attraction between them. Unfortunately, the woman is his closest pal’s girlfriend, and therefore off-limits. Little does he know, Jackson has a plan of his own to lure Rylan into their relationship and share a woman neither man can do without.
Even the most carefully laid plans are threatened when someone from Brianna’s past arrives, who has no intention of leaving without his prize.

Excerpt:
“Rylan, I’m not askin’ you, or your family, to abandon your town,” Brianna started.

“Listen to me, Miss Cabot—”

“Brianna, please.”

Rylan held her gaze steady for a long, heart-pounding moment. Time might’ve slowed, she couldn’t be sure, but her thoughts came to a halt. Rylan became the only being of her focused attention, as did his encouraging words in those moments she thought she was dying. Jackson opened a door last night, one she was scared to death to cross. He read her as clear as crystal, knew she held something for the sheriff, and offered them a chance to invite Rylan into their relationship.

“You okay?”

Brianna blinked the haze from her eyes. Rylan’s arm stretched toward her, and when she looked down, he was holding her coffee cup upright. Occasional ripples swept along the top of the drink, a giveaway to her trembling fingers.
“Brianna.”

Oh. My. God.

Her name rolled off his tongue smooth, silky, filled with a raw edge of command. This man had a voice that raked down her body like the teasing scrape of teeth and nails in the throes of foreplay. Each letter of her name spoken in his deep, sexual husk flicked along her pussy, a phantom tongue playing across her clit.

Miss Cabot. Call me Miss Cabot again.

Brianna carefully placed her cup on an empty section of his desk and loosened the scarf around her neck. She worked up a forced smile, cleared her throat, and nodded.

“I’m fine. Probably just some aftereffects of medication and the surgery and whatnot.” She flicked her hand in a nonchalant fashion and unbuttoned her coat. She laughed, shrugging out of the insulating item. “As we were sayin’.”
Rylan’s penetrating gaze didn’t lighten up, even as he eased back into his chair, perched his elbows on the arms, and folded his hands below his chin. His index fingers tapped together, a subtle furrow creasing his left brow. No matter what, this man knew how to wear every expression in the sexiest way.

“You’re still pressin’ the topic, are you? As I was about to say, there will be no further discussion. Colt and I own that property jointly. If I am not willin’ to sell, it won’t be sold. And I’ll tell you this much. You think I’m bein’ stubborn, wait ’til you confront Colt. This is a dead end for you. I’m sorry about your promotion, but your motivations do not align with mine. Ryder is a town rooted in our ancestry. We’re country folk. Farmers, ranchers, rodeo competitors, cattle herders. We have absolutely no interest in promoting a five-star resort and spa in conjunction with the ranch. That is not what this town represents.”

Balling up her courage, she placed together her business ego and took to a dangerous tactic. “I understand Colt might be facin’ civil charges in the murder—”

“I’m sorry, I’m not discussin’ that with you.” Hot to cold, like a damn switch. Rylan rolled his chair to her with a single, strong kick against the floor. One fluid twist, he had his legs on either side of hers, hands wrapped tightly around the metal arms of her chair, and he leaned closer to her. Brianna kept her shoulders straight, but her blood was threatening to melt through her veins and leak into her body. Nothing about Rylan offered comfort or kindness as he hovered close. Everything about him was wild, raw, a predator with his eyes on his prey. The fine line of threat and passion blended.

Jackson said he was a passionate man. If this is what he brings to bed, god help me.

“You have no business castin’ assumptions about my cousin’s predicament when you can’t even get the facts about your promotion-promisin’ deal right. You toss another sucker punch like that, Miss Cabot, and I will chase you out of this town faster than a bull in an arena ever could. Do I make myself clear?”

Oh he did, except for the slip of his gaze lowering to her mouth that turned up the heat between them to an explosive degree. She fought to keep each breath steady and even, praying he didn’t notice the frantic thumping of her heart that filled her own ears and hit her chest wall so viciously she thought her sweater was thumping in time. She held her ground, challenging him as he held tight to the chair. Slowly, she leaned into him, bringing her face dangerously close to his. Her knees fell open, resting against the insides of his powerful thighs. She watched his pupils expand, swallowing the amber-brown of his eyes. His nostrils flared and his breath hitched.

Brianna folded her hands around the arms of her chair, her fingers reinforcing Rylan’s grip. “You’re threatenin’ me, Sheriff. I don’t take lightly to bein’ threatened.” She gave his fingers a gentle squeeze. “Would this be considered a form of restraint? I thought restrainin’ a person without probable cause was illegal.”

“This is nothin’, Brianna.”

Link: www.bookstrand.com/briannas-sinful-cowboys

I sense some conflict and just a bit of sexual tension. How about you??? :D Remember to comment before midnight (EDT) on Wednesday, April 9, for a chance to win an ebook copy of this hot cowboy ménage!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Writing Tip Wednesday--Professional Behavior

Welcome to Writing Tip Wednesday! I’ll be discussing career topics for the next several months. For writing craft topics, see the Labels list in the left sidebar as you scroll down the page or check out my handbook in e-book or print.

The topics of edits, author branding, websites, social media, marketing and promotion, and blogging all lead to one very important aspect of being an author—Professional Behavior. Any and all missteps can have significant consequences.

The worst possible indiscretion is plagiarism. Three words… DON’T DO IT. Copying an author’s work does not make a person a writer. It makes her a thief. It’s illegal and on the same level with piracy. In the age of the internet, plagiarism is very easy to detect and could land the accused in a lawsuit.

The next author-behaving-badly misdeed involves reviews. Authors should never, ever, ever rate or review a book poorly with the intent to increase her own sales or rankings. Yes, writers are readers and they have opinions about the books they read. However, trashing someone’s book without reading it or with the sole purpose of making it less appealing to buyers will likely cause a backlash from the author’s loyal readers and writer friends. If an author reads a book and is compelled to write an unfavorable review, she should include constructive comments and accurate examples of the book’s problems. Think twice about leaving a less-than-glowing review under a pen name. Whether honest or not, the review reflects on the reviewer-author. If an author is on the receiving end of a poor review, her best course of action is to ignore it. Refrain from engaging or responding to the reviewer, even if the review makes mistakes about plot problems, character names, etc. Some people live for putting down others. Don’t sink to that level.

Everyone has his/her own political, religious, economic, etc. views, but arguing about them on Facebook and Twitter—where editors, agents, readers, and fellow authors may see—probably isn’t a wise choice. Don’t bait others into commenting and don’t succumb to baiting unless you’re willing to deal with the fallout. Loss of readers, loss of book sales, etc. First impressions are difficult to change.

Although unauthorized use of images got several mentions in previous topic posts, it bears mentioning again. Purchase or use free images from reputable stock image sites or get permission from the photographer or artist for original artwork. Piracy is stealing, whether the commodity is books or art. Respect the artist and her right to make a living from her hard work.

Facebook etiquette can’t be repeated enough. Do not friend people and immediately spam them with private messages or posts on their walls about your books, blogs, websites, publishing services. More often than not, that kind of behavior earns an “unfriending” and a block. Social media is social first. Marketing and promotion posts belong on the author’s own timeline. “Be sure to like my author page to see all my updates!” with a link in a status post provides an opportunity for others to like the page if they wish to—without being spammed.

Return edits on time. Part of being a published author is behaving like a professional one and that includes prompt attention to time-sensitive responses, like edits, cover art questionnaires, and contracts.

Blog posts should refrain from insulting authors, readers, publishers, editors, agents, etc. Informational and educational articles can make others aware of unethical practices, but the advice must be based on actual evidence, not hearsay. He told her and she told me his second cousin twice removed heard that No-name Publishing is underpaying royalties could easily turn into slander. A warning can be issued without finger-pointing when carefully worded. Bad-mouthing others can result in retaliation.

An author can brand herself a diva by her treatment—or mistreatment—of fans or other authors. Without readers, an author has no audience. Treat them with respect and appreciation. Author A may have hit the New York Times Bestseller List, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she’s a better writer than Author B. It simply means she sold more books. A lot more than writing ability influences the publishing industry and sales. Keep the ego in check.

Today’s publishing world is small. Word of an author’s behavior can quickly spread between publishers, editors, agents, authors, and readers. Writing is a job/career like any other. Do your best to create and maintain a professional reputation.

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!