Monday, March 8, 2010

D.B. Grady Blog Tour

On the Business of Books and Bruce Campbell
Welcome to week 2 of the Red'>">Red Planet Noir blog book tour. Mindy was very kind to offer this space today, and suggested I write about the business of writing.

On most days it feels like what I know about the business of writing, "you could fit into a matchbox without taking out the matches first." (To borrow a line from Douglas Adams, who no longer needs it.) I went into the business blind and naive. I did my homework. I read all the right blogs and websites and books, but everything I really learned has been through one mistake or another.

So I wouldn't presume to give advice, and anyway, the publishing business is in turmoil and nobody's really sure what's up and where's down. But here's a good social suggestion: until you're published -- until the contract is signed, anyway -- don't tell anyone you're a writer. Yes, you've written millions of words. Your mom loves them. In your mind, you're having dinner parties with Richard Russo and Philip Roth. But unless somebody's written a check for your words, just say you're a prostitute or drug dealer. It's a lot easier for everyone involved.

There is a perception out there that once you've completed a manuscript, the book is magically published, and Barnes and Noble has immediate plans to erect a turret display. Non-writers don't know about arduous months of queries and rejections. The contracts and copyediting and delays. The sweating over the cover and everything else that comes with typing THE END.

Before Red'>">Red Planet Noir was released -- before I'd even been accepted by a publisher -- the most common questions I heard was:

Who do you want to be in the movie?

After the book came out, the most common question I heard was:

Are they talking about a movie yet?

(Runner-up question: Do you think you'll get on Oprah?)

These are innocent questions, and completely understandable. (God I wish they -- whoever they are -- were talking about making a movie. And Oprah, I've got rollover minutes. Let's chat.) I have no idea how contractors build houses or how cash registers work. Why should readers know how books are made?

Numbers vary depending on the source, but two frequently cited statistics say that forty percent of people read one book a year, and twenty-five percent of people read no books at all. That means if someone's read a book, it was probably written by J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, or John Grisham. In other words, in the universe of the average reader, every book written really does get made into a movie.

Once you've said, "I'm a writer," but no book suddenly appears, people look on you with pity. "He's a writer," they say, but the same way they might say, "He's homeless."

So start with drug dealer. Beat them to the punch.

Here are a few things I've learned though error and inexperience. Your mileage may vary:

1. Get an agent. I don't have one, and a great many of my headaches could have been avoided with someone savvy on my behalf. Stephen King advises not to bother with an agent until you've made enough money worth stealing. He's probably right, but at the same time, agents open doors to publishing houses that my query letter alone never will. If I don't snag an agent with my next manuscript, I'm shelving the project and starting another. It's that important.

2. Set in for the long haul. You might get an immediate yes. My editor at">The Atlantic has never had a piece of writing rejected. (And I believe it -- he's a genius.) I've not been so lucky, and I think my experience is in line with most writers. There's no shame in it. His Holiness Philip K. Dick wallpapered his study with rejection slips so that he'd never forget how lucky he was.

Even once you get that wondrous yes, don't expect things to steamroll along. Red'>">Red Planet Noir was supposed to be released in August 2009. Then November. Then the first week of December. It didn't appear on Amazon until midway through December, and because of a database mistake in Ingram's [the distributor] database, wasn't available for order by bookstores and didn't proliferate across the web until January 2010.

Frustrating? Only until the first glass of Scotch in the morning, and that last drop by mid-afternoon. (Then it became frustrating again.)

Every delay was a comedy of errors -- nobody's fault, really -- just a lot of one-of-those-things. In the end, my publisher produced a fine book that my mom really likes. (My mom is reading this, and I promised I'd tell her hello. So: "Hi Mom! Stay out of the comments!")

3. Build a platform. This is the one thing I largely did right. By the book's release, I had a relatively strong web presence and an active Twitter army eager to help get the word out. I suspect that well over half of my sales are due to the kindness of strangers.

4. Join a local writers group. Through my group, I've met authors, editors, journalists and readers who've supported me in ways I never expected. And this isn't even to mention the tremendous collected wisdom and infectious enthusiasm for the written word they've shared. They're my home field, and I love them for it.

5. Attend conferences. Don't bust the budget on this, though. (Warning: that might be bad advice. Maybe it would be worth the plane ticket and hotel room to fly to San Francisco or wherever.) Don't overlook the locals:

Louisiana has three major writing conferences that I'm aware of. I'm pretty sure every state does. You never know who you're going to meet. And I've never failed to learn something, get inspired, or make a new friend or great connection.

6. Have your book contract reviewed by publishing contract lawyers. Obviously, a good agent can handle this, but it's also a free service for members of the Authors Guild. I wasn't a member when I signed a contract for Red Planet Noir, but I am now. (Check out their site for membership eligibility. These men and women are fighting the good fight on our behalf.)

7. Don't expect to get rich. If you want to make more money than a writer, get a job at Burger King.

8. Don't settle.

These are just a few things I've learned the hard way. I've stepped on quite a few other land mines (so far), but I've got to save something for cocktail parties when I'm fabulously successful. Or something for the bartender when I'm an abysmal failure.

And just for the record, Mike Sheppard, the protagonist of Red'>">Red Planet Noir, can only be played by Bruce Campbell.

If only they'd call.

Tomorrow I'll be at">Ody Granados's blog explaining, "how an I.T. guy ends up in Afghanistan and how a soldier writes this awesome book, now available at" (His words, not mine, though he's clearly a man of good taste in literature.)

Thanks, Mindy, for inviting me to write today! I hope to see everyone tomorrow.
D.B. Grady is the author of Red'>">Red Planet Noir. He can be found on the web at

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

To Health Insure or Not To Health Insure

I'm taking my blog to a whole other level today.

Yes, you read that right, Mindy is serious! Seriously tired of money and health issues.

Money and health insurance are issues we all deal with, and as they are in the forefront of my ever-tired mind, courtesy of the new sexy black walking boot I'm forced to wear, which is paid for solely by my wonderful self, I feel the need to spread the knowledge your way.

Hopefully my trials can shed some light into the lives of anyone struggling with these issues and hey if you know something I don't (which I'm sure just about everyone does as I avoid the realities of life) then send some knowledge my way, my friend.

I'm currently battling previous choices and an economic crisis after crisis that has resulted in my current situation, making half of what I used to make, with lower health insurance that covers absolutely nothing.

When you are cutting expenditures left and right, battling for every dollar spent on your monthly budget, how do you decide what to keep and what to cut?

My previous health insurance spoiled me. I know what happens when you have health issues which you ignore and eventually things are worse than they ever had the potential of being. So I go to the doctor whenever I notice something amiss.

A young, 30 year old single female, suffering from a health problem list a mile long, what's a girl to do?

I purchased COBRA for 2 months after leaving my last job at a whopping $500 a month. The research for insurance options out there was quite eye-opening. High monthly premiums, copays and deductibles filled my google pages. My options were averaging about $250 a month.

My research brought me to a choice which I thought was reasonable. I learned about short term medical plans. For about $80 a month I received short term medical insurance coverage for a 6 month period. This plan allows for 2 short term periods of coverage (12 months total) but anything happening before each "term" takes affect is considered pre-existing and is not covered.

There goes my bi-weekly allergy shots. So basically I'm paying some money each month and all doctor visits are applying toward my current deductible. I will almost reach the deductible amount and it will be time for my new "term" to take affect if I choose. So I will be starting my deductible from scratch. What a mess!

So the research of viable insurance plans continues. I'm reading on mini-med plans and gap plans, with barely any options in sight. My prescription medication has become optional and all bet fallen off of my monthly budget. My doctor about fell out of his chair when I explained to him that I stopped taking the medicine, cold turkey. So those were withdrawals I have been experiencing in the past few months, who knew. (That really explains so much!)

With a struggling job market, employers choosing to leave employees part time to avoid additional costs and preventing them from acquiring healthcare, it seems that dropping insurance and "taking my chances" may be the only option available in my future.

I have two more months before it hits the fan and I have to make a decision on what to do next. Hopefully, the tides turn in a direction that is more affordable so that my "health" doesn't become optional, too.

Are you taking care of your health lately? Researching other options available? You may wish to research whether the alternatives to regular healthcare (short term, mini-med, and gap) would benefit you in any way.