Writing Something Different

After publishing my novel, I went back to writing short stories for a brief time. I’m doing this to help my creativity.

Writing a novel takes most people a long time. During this time, the writer can become immersed in the story, plot, and characters. Also, many writers go on to the next novel that is a sequel to what they just finished. This is all good, but I found it useful to get involved in other creative stuff that is different from what I had been working on.

A long time ago in the pre-self-publishing era, the way to be recognized by an agent was to publish short stories. This built up the author’s resume that supposedly impressed people in the publishing industry. Now, “likes” and followers are more important. Yet, writing short stories has many benefits.

It’s a good exercise that forces the writer to get to the point and make each word count. Much like writing a scene in a novel, except the short story has a beginning, middle, and end.

On the other side, if a writer goes for short stories all the time, there should be a novel in one of them. Also, if a writer writes essays all the time, why not publish a nonfiction book and vice versa? I find another different way to be creative is writing grants.

If your writing seems in a rut, write in a different style, genre, or just anything than what you are writing.

I think creativity needs diversity. The writer needs to write other things than the same thing.

Don’t you agree?

Let’s Have a Grant Writing Party

When I’m writing a grant, I prefer to have as many people in the nonprofit helping as I can. Diversity is a good thing all the time.

Yet, too many times the nonprofit staff and managers provide little input. While I encourage them to be involved in putting the application together, I just receive smiles. As if they are thinking, “thank goodness someone else is doing this grant thing.”

It’s too easy for a grant writer to ask for input, get nothing, and finish the grant themselves. I find myself sometimes doing this and I tell myself, “Self, don’t do that.”* Except, by this time the grant deadline is approaching and I have to do the grant myself, anyway.

Grant writing should not be a solo operation. Yet, getting people involved can be difficult. To make it easier on myself, I give out sections of the grant application to people with the most knowledge of that area. As an example, finances goes to the business manager, volunteer data to the coordinator, and I ask for data from the program director.

I treat my role as the coordinator where I put everything together for consistency. Of course it doesn’t work this easily, but I try. And I keep trying.**

The best grant writing process I’ve read about was when the grant writer got all the input they needed and put everything together. In the end, everyone involved met in a sit-down and talked about the application. This nonprofit had the most success with grants.

As a grant writer, what is your process for getting grants written?

* Yeah, I know. Bad joke.
** Hope dies last. (Studs Terkel)

Self-Published Print Book and Booksellers

Things are simple for self-published ebooks. The author sets the price and the publishing company takes their share. For print, the author must choose what discount to give booksellers (30-55%) and whether to allow returns or not. If allowing returns, the bookseller can send books back for a refund. The author pays the refund.

What the author chooses determines how motivated a bookseller will sell their book.

Allowing the 55% and returns will motivate booksellers to sell the print copy in their store. However, this means the author gets less for each book and there is a risk of paying for returns. However, having a book in a store may generate more sales offsetting the cost and risk.

So, what is an author to do?

I do not allow returns. I have read horror stories of booksellers ordering too many books and the author getting stuck with a large expense. As an alternative, the author can buy their books and provide them to local stores, promising to accept returns. This way the author can limit how many books are in a store and can resupply if needed. More importantly, an author has the opportunity to sell their books in other-than-bookstores. And, readers can still buy a print book through online sites.

While I would like to offer booksellers the 55% discount, that means I must sell my book at a higher price. This could reduce sales. So, I decided on a low book price and the profit I’d like to make (it’s minimal). After these decisions, I adjusted the discount to meet my numbers.

Even with the 55% and allowing returns, as an unknown author I have little chance of a bookseller picking my book. So, I’ll stay local and online to sell my book.

How To Manage Grant Time

Time is an important factor for a grant writer.

First is the figuring when to look for grants. I start with when a nonprofit is normally low on cash. I look over the nonprofit’s bank account over the last three years that shows cash flow and I take out unusual events like a natural disaster. Next, I average out the income and expenses on a monthly basis.

There will be times throughout the year when more cash is coming in and expenses are low and vice versa. For example, soup kitchens feed fewer people in November and December when churches provide food. This is also when donations run higher. During the summer, donations are typically down while there are more people to feed with school being out.

Once I establish a cash flow schedule, I mark out six months before cash is needed and look for grant opportunities. Six months is usually how long a foundation takes from a grant deadline to handing out the check.

Second, I create a schedule when grants open and close. I keep it simple by putting the schedule in an MS Excel spreadsheet (I do this for the cash flow, too). Even MS Word is good. Everyone is familiar with Excel and Word and these documents can be sent to anyone because everyone has the software. (Of note, do not use complicated formulas in the spreadsheet.)

This grant schedule tells me when to collect documents, update data, and write the grant. (I always try to finish a week before the grant deadline.)

A cash flow and grant schedule helps me be organized with grants. More importantly, having an easy to read, easy to upkeep, and easily transferable schedule lets everyone be involved in finding and writing grants.

After all, grant writing should be about sharing and managing time together.