Tough All Over: Thinking Outside the Box in Rough Economic Times


I don’t need to tell you that times are tough all over. The economy is slow; stock prices and home values are down; and companies are laying people off or going out of business. Everyone is afraid of what the future will bring. Money is tight for businesses and individuals. Big corporations, small independent businesses and Joe and Jane Consumer are all tightening their belts. Book sales are down. Publishers are even more cautious about the number of titles they are publishing. Calls for anthologies are lower than normal. It’s harder than ever to get published.

One author shopping her second novel told me the publisher said that last year he would have purchased her book, but this year he can only buy six titles. Her book was number seven in the lineup. Being number seven out of over 2000 manuscripts isn’t bad at all; unless, of course, it means your manuscript is the best one not getting purchased.

So what do we, authors, do during this economic low point? What can we do to increase our marketability? Ensure we get some exposure─so fans and publishers don’t forget us. How will we continue to build our fan base and résumé in this time of low economic growth? And what about making a few extra bucks to help pay the bills? Not to mention, our spirits. How do we keep up our motivation during a slow-sales period? How do we use this time to our advantage to grow as writers and be ready for the boom that normally follows the bust?

Here are a few ideas to help you work through this hard time emotionally and financially:

Use the web.
Launch a website. They are relatively cheap to purchases and maintain if you keep it simple. It doesn’t need to be extravagant. A simple photo of yourself, a list of publishing credits, a small sample of your work, and an events listing are all you really need. You can also link to other writers and, of course, your favorite writing website.

Blog. Add a blog to your website, if you are so inclined.

Free author listings. There are a number of websites that offer published author’s free listings. They are normally organized around genre or some other common element. Search the web for them and make sure you are listed on them.

Get your business in order.
Create a résumé. Many published authors do not have a writing résumé. If you don’t have one, create one. Keep it simple and clean. Include your contact information; a separate reverse chronological listing of (1) your publishing credits, (2) appearances and readings, and (3) any workshops or classes you have taught. Add new items as they happen so it will always be up to date.

Business cards. Update or create business cards for yourself. These can be purchased or printed at home (kits are available at office supply stores). Again keep them simple and clean. Include your contact information and perhaps a simple statement such as “erotic writer” or “author and workshop provider”.

Rolodex update. Update your contacts in your rolodex. Update your elist if you have one. Make sure everything is ready for future promotional needs.

Excel charts. Set up excel charts for your submissions. This makes sending your work out easier. This is explained in detail in a past column.

Set up a 5 year plan. Focus on your long term goals and make an action list you can work from to achieve your goals. This is explained in detail in a past column.

Use this time to do research. Research journals, magazines, and online journals for potential new publication venues. Research potential publishers for your novel or short stories. Research agents, if you need one. Research grants and other free money like fellowships to writing conferences. Do research for your book, if applicable.

Write outside your genre.
Articles, columns and interviews. Explore other areas of writing to help build your publishing credits and get you some exposure while potentially earning you a few extra bucks. Sure you may be an erotic writer working on a novel, but you can also write short columns or articles on a variety of topics. If you think about your other interests (besides lesbian erotica), you can mine them for article ideas. Do you play softball? Are you an avid WWF fan? Do you do felting? What things do you know that you can turn into short articles to sell to magazines? I find it helpful to look through magazines to see what they are publishing. For example, every woman’s magazine I pick up lately is full of ways to save money (cleaning, shopping, cooking, etc…) and to do everything Green. Also, check out the open calls on the magazines’ website for what types of articles and how to submit them. If you sell a few articles to one magazine they may start to assign you topics. Don’t forget online publications. Interviews of semi-famous and “normal” people doing extraordinary things are also potential sellers.

Free work.You may want to consider writing for local newsletters or small websites for free. This is especially good for emerging authors. Many nonprofit organizations and clubs have newsletters and they are often more than happy to get free content for them. Check out a copy of the newsletter before pitching your idea.

Set up a free reading.
Coffee shops, local bookstores, and bars, as well as local organizations are all looking for ways to bring potential customers in or to keep their program dockets full without spending any money. Contact them and see if they would allow you to set up a free reading. Keep in mind you will need to make this easy for the venue, do all the PR yourself, and find a few other local authors to participate. Ask for an off-peak time. It is possible if you bring in people that the business will allow you to make it a weekly or monthly event. Also, be mindful that the local coffee shop at 6:00 pm on a Tuesday might not be the best venue to read the sex scene from your novel. Select material that works for the venue. Suggest a sex-positive erotica reading to the local HIV/AIDS organization or women’s health organization. These free events will give your work exposure and allow you to network with local authors, potential new fans, businesses and organizations.

I cannot stress this enough. Network with writers more advanced, on par, and below you. The benefits of this are too great to list. Work in the form of request for stories, reading gigs, panel slots, co-editing, referrals etc… come from these networking experiences. Not to mention, knowing other writers is fun and emotionally supportive especially in tough times.

Giving something back always makes you feel good. You might be surprised at how much you learn when you are teaching someone else. Take an emerging writer under your wing. Volunteer to tutor writing at a local school. Offer to teach a free class on writing at one of the local organizations (for older folks, younger folks, women’s shelter, people living with HIV, etc…) in your areas.

Show me the Money.
Enter a contest. Be careful not to enter contest that charge high fees or that “everyone” wins. Use common sense in selecting contest. That said, there are a bunch of great contests for short stories and novels with cash and publication prizes. Try to find contest that fit your work as opposed to making your work fit the contest.

Apply for a grant. Many of the grant options have dried up with the economy, but there are still a few out there. A Room of Her Own Foundations offers a wonderful grant for women’ writers. Do some research on what is available and apply to the ones that are a good fit for your work.

Develop your craft skills.
A Great Time for Craft. This is a great time to work on craft. Focus on the skills that you may feel are your weakest and explore different avenues of your craft that perhaps you felt you didn’t have time to do when you were rushing to produce for anthology calls that seemed endless. Do an assessment of your craft skills and make a list of what you want to work on. Read up on those items and practice. Tackle a new genre or style. Expand your skills.

Take a class. Classes and workshops always cost money. The great thing is the money you spend goes to support another writer and you get a chance to improve your craft skills, and network. Pick a class that you feel will benefit your weak points and treat yourself.

Pitch an anthology idea.
If you are an experienced published author, try pitching an anthology idea to a publisher. They may like the idea and you will not only have a new exciting experience as an editor and get paid, but you will also create publication opportunities for 15 to 20 other authors. And please don’t forget to email the call to me.

Keep writing.
The most important thing to do in this tough time is to keep writing. Don’t give into the temptation to stop or avoid the work, because you think you cannot sell it. Don’t lose this year even though times are hard.

Create a collection. If you write short erotic stories, create a collection.

Finish your novel. If you have always wanted to write a novel, do so now.

Explore new genres. As someone once said: The world is your oyster, savor all it has to offer.

Tough times call for innovative thinking and flexibility. Be open to ideas and offers you wouldn’t have looked twice at a year ago. Mine your knowledge base and resources to create new opportunities to make the best of the moment and prepare you for the future. I hope this list inspires you to focus and plan creatively.

If there is an issue you would like me to address in Two Girls Kissing, please email it to me, Amie M. Evans, with ‘Two Girls Kissing’ as the subject line. To be added to my confidential monthly email list, please email me with ‘subscribe’ as the subject line.

NEXT TIME: Writing Your Erotic Memoir

Amie M. Evans
April 2009

“Two Girls Kissing: Writing Lesbian Literary Erotica” © 2009 Amie M. Evans. All rights reserved.

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