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  • T. V. Pinkard

Review: Strategic Series Author

Updated: Jan 17, 2021

I have a weird confession: I used to hate hiking. If you live in a big city or a tremendously flat landscape lacking in natural wonders, you might be shrugging your shoulders. But I was born and raised in Colorado with the choicest hiking just outside my doorstep, so it feels a little sacrilegious. For a while, I didn't even know why I resisted it so much. The climb was so much damn effort and on my petulant, out-of-shape, I'd-rather-be-inside preteen physique, I suppose you could imagine why every step up and forward was its own world of misery.

I'm older now and, as these things often go, I wish I spent more time away from work and screens in favor of those outdoor escapes. But I wonder if preteen Tana did not dread the hike as much as the idea of it. The end goal was miles away, and the climb was going to be long and strenuous, and how was I supposed to know if it was even worth all that effort? (Spoiler: it always was.) I was afraid of that journey because I didn't know where it was taking me.

I've found writing, specifically with the intent to publish, can be that way. I love the work, the creation, the process. I love being lost in the trees that I invent. But what comes after, all of those looming, amorphous next steps that I hope will take me to the peak, that's where I get that same freeze response. I can't see the path ahead, can't imagine how many miles it spans or the kind of treacherous territory I'll have to cross. I don't even know if I'll need to bring a jacket. Few things tie me in such sleepless knots better than not knowing. Which is why I seek and cherish books like this one.

I have a love-hate relationship with "writing books." (That is, books about writing, not writing books, though I sometimes have a love-hate relationship there, too.) They mostly spark love

and a wealth of inspiration; the only hate stems from the tiny self-loathing weed that makes me angry for not somehow being born with this inherent knowledge. (See: a can of mental-health-worms for another day.)

But the strength of Crystal Hunt's Strategic Series Author lies in its ability to take the hairy daunting details of the industry monster, pull back the curtain and reveal that...well it's still pretty tangled and terrifying, but it is possible and it is manageable. Hunt does a brilliant job outlining the tools you need and the countless options you have, be you an established author or a brand new baby series writer, from the moment you get your first idea, to writing the damn thing, all the way through publishing and marketing strategies. She addresses very practical issues that surround a writer's life (such as burnout and sustainability). I would call it dense based on the sheer amount of information packed into its pages, but Hunt has made it very readable and includes enough humor that it doesn't feel dry. Every chapter comes with a list of resources and a "your turn" section where you can apply the information in a way that is helpful and relevant to the individual writer.

I valued her candor. The writing industry is not one to be sugar coated (nor any industry for that matter), yet it doesn't have to be the number-crunching, spreadsheet-retching monster of every creative type's nightmares. Fundamentally, when you are an artist (in the sense of 'one who makes art of any kind') looking to do what you love for a living* you must treat yourself as a business. I began that journey years ago as a songwriter and a composer, and while the music biz and the film world are their own beasts, they are all creative industries. And unfortunately, every creative industry has been set up with a great many traps for the starry-eyed, big dreaming beginner. It is important to have ambitions, even to let yourself fantasize over the fabled "are you sitting down?" phone call from an agent, or the six-figure sales, but not at the cost of glossing over the very real mountain range you have to climb first.

* this includes a range of people who may simply want to get their art "out there" and share it with the world, to those who wish to see some sort of financial return on their art. Both are completely valid and it is important to know which one you are. Hunt does a great job unpacking this too.

Whatever guidance you need, Hunt paves the way. Whether you are looking to traditionally or indie publish, she offers options for both paths and illuminates the pros and cons of each. There is no agenda, no judgment or discrimination between genre or individual goals, for series come in all shapes and sizes, and no one-size-fits-all options exist. She offers a myriad of tools that you can tailor to your specific needs. While I am never a proponent of putting all your book-writing-advice-eggs into a single basket, Hunt lends an informed and worthy point of view. No matter where you are in the process, you will almost certainly get something out of this book.

The path to getting your story in reader's eager hands truly is a mountain range of effort (not just a mountain). Sometimes you hike for hours and days (months, years), and feel no closer to the "top," because often that top keeps rising as we adjust our goals. But take it from a Coloradan: there can be a whole lot of joy in that climb. And I'm right there climbing along with you.

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