#navbar-iframe { display: none !important;} The Naked Page: March 2006

The Naked Page

Author Jamie Sobrato's Diary


Next Exit: Insanity 1.5 Miles

Melissa asked on the last thread how an author's career goals change after the first sale. Or something like that. So let me explain the usual psychology/neuroses/insanity that occurs once a writer has made his or her first sale and asks, "Okay, I made it. What's next?"

(And let me say that this is not exactly, like, scientific stuff here. I didn't survey 5000 writers or anything. I'm just talking out my my ass...I hate that phrase, "talking out of my ass," but what other phrase communicates the same sort of I'm-winging-it incompetence?)

Once you've recovered from the elation that comes with selling your first book, realizing you've proven you're not a hack or a fraud, and showing all your friends and family that you are not completely deluded in your pursuit of your dreams, then you start to worry that if you don't sell your second book, you'll prove that you really are a hack and a fraud and that all your friends and family will soon be whispering among themselves about how your one sale was a fluke and that you really should have gone back to school to study accounting after all. And then you worry that you really WILL have to go back to school to study accounting after all, and your first book advance isn't even enough to pay the tuition for one semester.

A year or so passes, and if you are diligent and lucky, you've made your second sale and maybe a few more. You have a small altar to your editor erected in your bedroom, complete with a photo of you standing next to her at a writer's conference, and a hair of hers that you found on your sweater after the photo was taken. For a brief while (like, ten minutes), you are blissful. You have something resembling the start of a writing career.

But then you get your first royalty statement, you do a little math in your head about your future income, and you feel the horror of knowing that if you ever want to live above the poverty line, you should have gone back to school to study accounting. You have an intimate night alone with a bottle of Wild Turkey.

After you recover from your hangover, this is when you really get serious about writing as fast as possible. Partly because you do not want to be an accountant, and partly because you are starting to go insane. You sit down with your calendar and do complicated calculations about how many hours per night you need to sleep, how many pages per hour you can write, how many years of your life you could claim back if you stopped watching TV, and how many pages per year you need to produce to write as fast as Nora Roberts.

You realize that if you shake the reality TV addiction and develop a nighttime coffee habit, you can write 6 books per year just like Nora. For a couple of months--or a couple of years if you are as obsessive as I am--you spin your wheels trying to live by this schedule. You only manage to get three books per year written, because you keep getting pregnant and having babies and moving to different countries and your hair is falling out and stuff.

At the same time, you become obsessed with winning a Rita, and your over-inflated ego expands further when you actually final in the Ritas. You find yourself saying over and over again, "It's an honor just to be nominated." And when you look around at your competition, you realize it's actually true--it IS an honor just to be nominated--but that doesn't make you sound any less cheesy for saying it all the time. When you don't win, you are both disappointed and relieved, and actually happy JUST TO BE NOMINATED, but everyone treats you like an important family member has just died when you tell them you didn't win.

Okay, and this entry is getting way long, so I'm going to stop here. A cliffhanger! You must tune in again to learn the rest of the story. You must come back again to read Part II in this rambling and self-serving essay on my--er, I mean, every writer's--journey from one set of career goals to the next.


The Literary Rat Race

I've been working on new book proposals in recent months, which gets me thinking about how much I want to be writing in any given year. How many books do I want to sell, versus how much of a sane life I want to have. How outwardly successful do I want to be, and does that have any bearing at all on my happiness? From a survival standpoint, selling more is always better than selling less, but from a sanity standpoint, we all need to have a life that doesn't involve sitting in front of a computer 24/7.

If you write outside the romance genre, you probably will not experience the same push to be prolific that romance authors get. It's one of the few genres where writing 3 or more books a year is considered normal, even desirable, and if you're one of those super-prolific authors who can write fast enough and generate enough publisher interest to write 4-6 books per year, you'll probably find yourself with lots of happy fans who can't get enough of your work. Plus you'll be earning a decent living.

I hear my writer friends discussing this issue pretty often, and it seems nearly impossible to strike a balance. Either you write less and accept that your career might not be as stellar as it could be, or you write more and accept that your life might not be as sane as it could be.

What are your goals as a writer? How do you measure your success? In monitary terms, in terms of accolades and professional respect, or by standards you set for yourself?


In the Groove

Do you find that when you do your work for the day, other good stuff follows? Whenever I have a creative day, a productive writing day, I can then get a ton of other stuff done too, but if I have a day where it's just me glaring at the page, creatively constipated, that frustration carries through in everything else too. Nothing happens.

A certain blog member suggested in the last thread that her sex life improves when she's had a good writing day. While I have not personally observed this, I'm thinking if more men hear about this phenomenon, they are going to fall all over themselves trying to give their significant others time to be creative, no?

My theory is, positive energy breeds more positive energy. So when you get that feeling of rightness and accomplishment that comes with getting your creative work done, you feel like you can conquer the world, and you do. Or you get laid.


Low Flow Days

(No, not that kind of low flow day! We're not that naked here at the Naked Page. Ahem.)

Cindy wrote to me yesterday and told me about her problem with writer's block, and she has plenty going on in her life to keep any sane person from writing. But the problem is, like most writers, Cindy is not sane.

So she keeps trying in spite of the fact that her muse is lying battered and bloody in the gutter, begging for mercy or perhaps a Snickers bar. And my muse is right there with her. Life stress does have a way of getting in the way of our creative efforts. For me, even the slightest change in routine makes it hard for me to write, and significant upheaval can wipe months away from my writing schedule.

So what do we do? There is no cure-all for writer's block. There isn't one fix or even several fixes to recommend. There is just you and the naked page, or maybe the very badly dressed page, staring at each other and making no progress.

The first step is realizing the problem, and the second is just making yourself do something different. If you show up at the page every day, with the same routine, and nothing happens, you have to change things up. Change the place where you write, or if you are writing on the computer get out the paper and pen, or if you are working on Chapter One leave it alone and work on Chapter Fifteen, or do all of those things, or two of them, or something else entirely.

Just don't keep banging your head against the same spot on the wall. Now I'm off to follow my own advice and find a new spot on which to bang. Maybe one with a nice view.


Just As Hot in Spanish

I just noticed on amazon.com that As Hot As It Gets is being released for Harlequin's North American Spanish imprint in May, with the cover art reversed:

Why did they reverse it and zoom in? Here's the original cover:

I think I like the Spanish cover a little better, though it looks like they did something a little weird with the sun rays and her face. While her swimsuit is cute in the original cover, it's so trendy it has the danger of looking "so five minutes ago," and maybe that's partly why they zoomed in, to cut out the swimsuit.

Oh and I just noticed too that zooming in cut out the hero's nipple. Was it too obscene for a Spanish-speaking audience? The mind boggles. It looks like they went to some effort to hide the nipple with the Fuego logo. This seems like a mistake to me. Studies show that a well-formed nipple or two on a well-formed male chest sells books.

Okay, so there is no study, but if there was, I'm sure it would support my assertion. Those Blazes that have nothing but a bare male chest on the cover are top-sellers for a reason.


Have Dildo, Will Travel

And now we return to our regularly titillating programming.

I lived in Germany for 5 years, traveled around quite a bit there, and always found it endlessly amusing that sex shops can be found in pretty much every airport in Europe. I mean, when you think about what you will need on any given trip, isn't a nice big turbo-powered vibrator the first thing that pops into your mind?

Yes? (Sex hound!)

No? (Me either. I mean, imagine the airport security questions... "No, really, it's a back massager!" Not that one should be ashamed of one's need for battery powered stimulation, but still, I'd just rather not have that conversation with a security guy sorting through my undies.)

Better yet, imagine sex toy shops in every American airport. Imagine the fun protests that would slow travel. If we can get riled up as a nation of a nipple revealed for a split second on TV, then imagine what we could do over a XXX Boutique right next to the Cinnabon and the Burger King.

I don't actually have a point here. That's the fun thing about having my own blog. I don't need to make any sense. No one is paying me to write this crap.

Speaking of travel, I am getting ready for a weekend trip and just got out my new iPod Nano and have been trying to load audiobooks on it. Imagine my confusion. The damn thing doesn't have an on-off button. It doesn't have any buttons at all. I think I'm just supposed to stare really hard at it and it will figure out what I want it to do. Well, that hasn't actually worked yet, but neither has cursing and throwing it down.

Here are the audiobooks I have loaded: A Fine Balance (I know, I know, I'm years behind in my reading), The Kite Runner, and Never Let Me Go by, um...that author who wrote Remains of the Day.

But there will be no dildos in my suitcase. Not even a "back massager." Just me, my iPod (which I will try not to throw out the window), and the open road.


My Brain Hurts

Okay you Naked Page people. Tell me what you want to talk about. Life stress has shriveled up my brain and made me unable to come up with new blog topics. Help!


The Latest Girl Talk

Girl Talk has just been updated with a new conversation between me and Cindy about chasing trends in the publishing industry. So if the question has ever loomed in your head--should you write to the latest trends or follow your own path?--hop on over to the Girl Talk page to hear our rambling and possibly useful musings on the subject.


Promo Whore Strikes Again

Promo Whore here, doing a guest blog post so Jamie can take the night off.

It's the moment you've been waiting for--Once Upon a Seduction is officially in stores as of today. And thanks to the astonishingly short shelf lives of Harlequin books, if you blink, it will be gone.

In other words, if you want the book, get your ass over to Borders or Barnes and Noble or Target or wherever, like, right now, and buy the damn thing! Some stores remove them from the shelves two weeks after the release date. And a kindly few places still let them stay on the shelves for a month or until they sell out, whichever comes first.

If you've been hanging out here for long, you've probably heard that explanation before. But I feel compelled to repeat myself over and over again because Jamie get comments like every other week from people saying they went looking for her books at the store and couldn't find them. That's because the release month has passed, people. Get a clue. Harlequin's are released and shelved a lot like magazines--here and gone in a month. Thanks to the internet, you can still buy a lot of Jamie's books on www.amazon.com and other online bookstores, because they keep them stocked until they sell out.

Anyway, because Jamie really hates it when, I, Promo Whore, do a guest blog post, she insists I offer a productive topic of discussion as well. So here is your chance to ask Jamie anything you've ever wondered about how the whole book production thing works. From how she writes the book, to what the process of working with an editor is like, to the various stages of editing, to the cover concept, to seeing the book in stores. Ask away. She'll make her appearance here as soon as she knows I'm gone.