Tag Archives: inner demons

On Choosing Indie…Again: An Epic Journey

How can I possibly break this down to be a single post? The decision is part of a journey, and I can’t figure out how to yank out the reasons and present them out of context. I’m not a bullet-points kinda girl; I’m a novelist, for Heaven’s sake. So I’m hoping that if you’re interested enough to know the whys, the what I’ve been through, the what I’ve learned, that you’ll be willing to sit through the tale, backstory and all. I’ll provide you some headings if you want to skim and maybe someone could write up the bullet points for me later.

Backstory beginnings

About 13 months ago, I released my first novel, Hush Money, independently. It’s a short, YA novel of about 50,000 words, the first in a planned series called the Talent Chronicles. The series is about people with supernatural abilities who are trying to hide what they are amidst governmental abuses of their kind, and yet they keep finding themselves in situations in which they have to embrace and be what they are in order to win the day.

Why Indie The First Time

The negativity on the internet surrounding traditional publishing had become so prevalent and so disheartening, that I had actually given up writing. Every article I read about why your query letter will suck, why you will never make it out of the slush pile, why your chances of being struck by lightning are better than your chances of ever selling your book were personally directed at me, and I took them to heart. That’s  just how I am. I’m working on it. The point is that I became certain that Bill, sitting there on Capitol Hill, should stop his whining, because he had about a million times better chance of becoming a law than I did of becoming a published author.

Long story shorter, I decided that I needed to stop torturing myself and find other avenues for my creativity. I wrote for other purposes, I continued to do critique and editing, but I quit the novel-writing thing. When I started to learn about indie publishing, that’s when I got excited again. At the time I had had a successful run with an Etsy shop, but I got in over my head with a popular design and I was just burnt out. Everything I learned about indie publishing seemed so analogous to everything I loved about my Etsy business, and I became crazy eager to dive back into writing and catch up with my friends who were building audiences of readers.

Releasing the First Book and Living Indie

When I released Hush Money, I had no expectations. I mean, I didn’t know what to expect, so I tried very hard to keep my wishes and dreams in check. By the time the book was six months old it had sold 10,000 copies. People were writing to me to thank me for doing something that I loved. People were commenting on instructive articles I wrote and asking me for advice, like… Well, I don’t know if I’d ever in my life felt like I’d earned anyone’s respect before.

Living within that indie publishing community, I began to identify very strongly with being indie. There was certainly a component at the outset in which I would introduce myself as an “indie author” or “self-published author,” simply as a disclaimer. I’ll be clear up front about what I am so you don’t think I was trying to style myself as “published author” when I’m not publisher-vetted. Or whatever notion. I was happy to be indie, and proud of my accomplishments, of my work, and all I’d learned and done. But my view was still that others would see it as less, even though I, myself, came to a point where I truly didn’t. I was truly, deeply, passionately, devotedly indie.

It wasn’t all perfect. There’s a lot to keep up with. And there’s a lot I was keeping up with that I should have just let go so I could write more books. I got very caught up in being indie, and that was part of what was keeping me from writing. (Lots of stuff was going on that was keeping me from writing, and most all of it was me.) I’m not a multi-tasker. I focus passionately on one thing at a time and my focus was not on writing my book. Anyway, I don’t beat myself up for this. I watch it happen to other people, and I think it’s a phase a lot of us go through.

The Case of the Mysterious Foreign Agent

Also relevant to mention is an incident in which I had a foreign agent contact me about the translation rights to the book. This freaked me the f out, as anything legal does. I didn’t even know how to respond to the email I received, and I found next to nothing on the internet to help me. Which is rare. You know, usually you can find the answer to anything on the internet, and usually when you’re indie you don’t even have to go that far. You can just ask someone. So that was my next thing. I wrote to the two people I knew to be indie, with whom I had had some kind of brief contact in the past, and asked their advice. Both of them were unable to tell me what to do. Their agents handled that stuff. Their advice: get an agent.

But a) I didn’t have time to query an agent, so I just continued to freak out about the foreign thing. I ended up having to find an intellectual property attorney. Which means I had to TALK ON THE PHONE, which you know terrifies me, especially when I don’t know what I’m supposed to say. And then I went in and talked to a VERY nice man who was interested in my story, seemed genuinely excited to learn about my successes, gave me good advice on how to respond and how I might go on if anything came about, and sent me on my way with the suggestion that maybe I should really think about getting an agent.

Well b) as indies we’d been practically beaten over the head by others with the notion that no reputable agent would ever touch us. Kind of amazing how things have changed over the course of one year, but my impression was that most might just be insulted that I wasted their time with a query. I did spend some time researching agents, but I found practically none who stated that they had any interest in representing self-published authors. So I threw up my hands and walked away, very unsettled by the whole incident.

Representation

Jane came to me in the spring. In my inbox was a message with the subject Representation. I could not have been more blase about this. Seriously. Months after the foreign rights incident, after finding no help with that, after having given up on the notion of any agent ever coming to me (Kait Nolan had already accepted representation, as had indies well ahead of me like Amanda Hocking and HP Mallory and who knew who else), I was probably a little bitter and had set this firmly aside.

It didn’t take long for me to get excited about Jane’s offer to talk. And by “get excited” I mean “totally freak out and spin up into a whirl of dramarama,” because that’s what I do. I was in IM with Kait, had told her about the email. I think then I got up to get a drink or make a snack or something and she had to demand I open the email.

When I did, Jane was complimenting me on my Amazon success, mentioning her interest in the possibilities of electronic publishing, inviting me to call her to discuss print publication. She also mentioned that her agency represents Joe Konrath, of whom I may have heard. Um, yeah, just been hanging on his every word for the last year. So already there’s a certain amount of Wow-factor. I go to her website to look at the client list. James Dashner, Richelle Mead, Carrie Ryan…NYT bestseller this, NYT bestseller that…

Holy shit, why is this woman writing to me?

Talking to Jane spun me up to drama-level magenta. I was still working on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, deeply, hopelessly mired in Second Book Syndrome and absolutely consumed by doubt that I could produce a second book that wouldn’t disappoint. I was creatively paralyzed by fear, with a million brain-eating voices in my head, from every review of Hush Money I had ever read, every time I opened my file. Jane was offering to help me make the best book I could make. And when Heroes ‘Til Curfew was the best book I could make, she would take it and Hush Money and try to sell the rights to a traditional publisher.

In a way, Jane was an answer to prayers. I didn’t want to go unrepresented. I didn’t EVER want to go through again what I went through with the foreign rights thing. It might not seem like a big deal to you, but trying to seem like a grown-up professional and handle my own shit when I’m just a clueless kid (inside) who has no fucking idea what she’s doing or how to get the answers she needs to act how she’s supposed to act on the outside was very affecting to me. And as a writer who wants to make a living and help my family, I’d be a special kind of idiot not to jump to say yes to Jane.

Temptations Toward Trad

And yet I hesitated. What Jane was talking about was taking my two books and selling both the print and the ebook rights. While I could do something else on my own, the Talents would belong to someone else. I would no longer be free to do whatever I wanted with them. I might have restrictions on length, content, language, who knows. I might not be free to give stuff away when I wanted to. I would be giving up my carefully chosen cover art that was really working for me. I would be pulling Hush Money off the market and putting the building of my readership on hold for the next 1-3 years, while postponing the release of my already delayed second book for years.

Lots of stuff to consider. And on the other side of the coin: opportunity. Indies have done a lot on our own and will continue to do more. Opportunities will continue to open for us. But they’re not all there yet. One very real thing I had to consider was the possibility of a sizable advance. Konrath talks about not taking a contract unless the advance is “life changing money.” Well, it wouldn’t take a whole lot of money to change my life. That’s my reality. If I thumbed my nose at the opportunity to bring my family security, wouldn’t that just be plain wrong?

And look at all the stuff I could learn? Haven’t you wondered about all the stuff that goes on between the time a writer finishes the manuscript and the time it comes back as a bound book? Haven’t you ever wanted to be on the inside of that? And the possibilities for mentoring. I will always be a work in progress. I hope that I will always be a work in progress. My writing improved exponentially when I started getting critical feedback from peers at my own level. They pointed out weaknesses for me that I couldn’t see on my own. How much could my writing be improved with feedback from the kinds of professionals I’d be exposed to under contract? I know there have been a lot of negative things said about this, and I get that. But that’s not all of it, and I could choose to see the possibility as exciting.

Then the extras. Yes, it is possible that indies are making movie deals and I don’t know what else. But right now at this moment, cool stuff like that is a lot more likely (though perhaps still quite unlikely), with the backing of a traditional publisher. If those opportunities were possible for the Talents, I did want them to have that chance.

Paperback and Bookstore Relevancy

Finally, and most obviously, distribution. I mean, forget vetted validity. I believe that in the numbers game, that’s practically a non-issue. If a few people on the internet are still saying they won’t read a self-published book, if they’re actually checking for the publisher imprint to make sure they’re not getting indie when it looks like every other good book on the surface, I don’t think those people represent enough “lost readers” to get upset over. Non-issue. Distribution: still an issue. Right now, at this moment, paper books and book stores are still entirely relevant.

Yes, ebooks are becoming more and more popular, as are ereader devices, as has shopping online every day for the last 15 years. Big pluses for us indies, for sure. These are things which make it possible for us to succeed financially on our own.

But what I’m talking about here is another level. Kristen Lamb, social media expert for writers, tells us that writers are often marketing to the wrong crowd. We love fellow writers and other avid readers. Of course we want to sell our books to those people. But the books that break out and become the ones that “everybody’s reading” are the books that…everybody reads. That person who picks up just a few books a year. Each of that person who picks up a certain book because they keep hearing about it over and over again. And where do those people go to buy a book? Often it’s the bookstore. Even if they buy it online, they buy print. And a mass market paperback is probably going to be a more attractive price point than what you can do with POD.

(Note: In spite of the price of POD trade paperbacks, the point is that print is still relevant and it’s not expensive for authors. 1% of my sales are print. But if I’d only ever sold 5 copies, I still believe it would be worth it to have it out there to offer.)

Anyway, there are so many higher levels that seem at lot more likely with publisher backing, and I wanted that opportunity.

Submission

I finished Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of June, got a couple beta reads to make sure it made sense, and then I sent it off to Jane. After the holiday she was able to start reading it. Ironically, she had no editorial suggestions. She and her partner, Miriam, approved the book as written. So score one point for the side that says Susan’s self-doubt may be overblown. After getting in touch with some editors to check on their vacation schedules, the book was submitted to the first round of her picks toward the end of July.

I’ve no idea how Jane goes about deciding whom to contact first. That’s her job and I never asked. I figure it’s some combination of what imprint and what editor she thinks are the best match based on what they’ve put out before, her contacts and personal relationships in the industry, who might be in a position to give us the most both in terms of money but also marketing and distribution and stuff like that.

Waiting and Rejection

The waiting wasn’t difficult for the first maybe two weeks. And then I’ll admit that I started to get antsy. Finally I asked Jane how things were going and she sent me the few rejections she had received.

They were awesome! I really got a charge out of reading them. By now there’s something you understand about me: I’m not full of self-confidence. I will probably always be surprised to find that someone else enjoyed my work. I got responses in which editors at this big label imprints that publish all kinds of really awesome books tell Jane things about me and my work like “engaging and compulsively readable,” “great, commercial writing,” “able to completely suspend disbelief and become immersed.” And these from people who have read everything!

Still, what we kept hearing was that the concept was not quite original enough for them to get behind. There’s that thing we keep reading where we’re told that you can have a swell, well-written book that people might love to read. But you might not be able to sell it, and it may never see the light of day because NY might not find it marketable. That phenomenon? Yeah, I haz it.

Wavering

Signing with Jane was hard. It shouldn’t have been, but it was. Because I had spent the last year of my life so excited about independent publishing, and the last several months embracing it and enjoying my success. It had become part of my identity.

It took a lot of soul-searching to become open to traditional publishing again. But when I made that decision, I embraced that too. All the stuff I said about the opportunities it offers are things I believe, continue to believe. They’re things I wanted and continue to want.

But I missed being indie. I missed having a current book out there. Hush Money sales began to fall at the beginning of the summer. I know that lots of people have experienced a dry summer, but this book’s rank plummeted. Because it was time for that. It had been out for nearly a year with no sequel. I had put out a free short story, but that’s hardly the same as putting out a new novel 2-3 times a year which is what we tend to see when we talk about big number indies. With one book out, it was pretty much a miracle that I saw 20,000 sales for Hush Money before it was a year old.

I felt out place. I felt like I never knew what to say. I continued to have to stall on the question of a release date for the second book because I didn’t know if I’d be releasing that myself or breaking the news that I had sold it and the release would be further postponed. I was carrying a lot of guilt about that, even though some rational part of me knows that my readers are both supportive of me and what I need to do for my family, my career, and the series; as well as people with full lives who are not actually suffering from the delay.

But beyond the guilt, I began to recognize what I was feeling as longing. I longed to share this book. That’s why I wrote it. Friends kept asking, “Well, what do you really want?” And I couldn’t figure it out. It was a big mess of what I want, what I need, what I dream, what I think I can have, what I should want, what I should be doing—aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh!!!!

Why do I write? A hundred thousand reasons, intertwined with stunning complexity. But maybe, at the heart of it, because I have something share. And while I was tied up in submission and it had been over a month and there were still people we hadn’t heard from, and if it got sold and all kinds of stuff had to be done with it by a staff of people before it sat in queue waiting to be released for who knows how long–while all of that goes on, it’s not being shared. And I’m unhappy.

I Want It All, And I Want It Now

I wanted all the opportunities of traditional publication and I wanted the control and immediacy of going indie. And by this time, the dramarama has reached EPIC proportions. I’ve gone to Jane and I’ve dumped all this on her, told her maybe don’t want to go into the next round of submission with another handful of editors. I now get to be in the middle of the

epic guilt deathmatch of DOOM

as I contemplate that I can either

a) stay unhappy with what’s going on and what will probably be the result if I continue this path, ie, delaying the book for the current readers who say they’re waiting for it while we wait for a publisher to buy and then release it, or

b) be equally selfish by pulling the books from submission to release on my own, deny my family the potential for the security of an advance and career opportunities I might have with a publisher, and, AND, take Jane’s opportunity to earn a commission for this such that I have just asked my agent to work for me for free.

Oh awesome. Fuck. Me. Running.

YA novel, Gone, the third book in Lisa McMann’s Wake trilogy, talks about Morton’s Fork: a choice between two equally unpleasant alternatives. Morton’s Fork, I haz it.

OMG, Susan, snap the hell out it. You call that a Morton’s Fork? Did you learn nothing from the reading? You have a choice between two potentials for AWESOME in your life. And YOU’re the one who makes it about guilt. NO ONE puts that on you except you. So get your head on straight and figure it out.

“What do you want?”

I want both.

And somewhere in the muddle of feeling like everything was so absolute, that times are what they are and I’m looking at two mutually exclusive things, I came across this little thread of sanity that I followed to an understanding.

I can have both.

I can’t have both right now.

Nothing is forever. This is not my one and only shot. Part of this was finally accepting that Jane does want to work with me. That she’s not going to up and abandon me because I’m difficult. Because she thinks I have potential. Maybe things will come up, like that foreign rights thing, as the series progresses. And maybe that won’t be anything big enough for her to get excited about, but she’s got a whole staff of people to deal with stuff and a whole bunch of money-making clients and me needing to do this right now is hardly putting her on the food stamp line. (Not all agents will be able to be this understanding.)

Meanwhile, I’m going to be working to come up with a new idea. Something that’s not the Talents. Something to do on the side. I will get better at this. I will get better at writing and better able to handle the other stuff, and I will be able to do that. And Jane is going to work with me on starting from a marketable concept. But I’ll still have the Talents for my own. I’ll still have control over that to see what I can make of them on my own. Because that’s interesting, and another kind of opportunity. And I’ll have this other thing that Jane can be more involved in, that will allow me to learn more of what she knows, and I can have another shot at this trad thing and learning all the things that those guys know.

And certainly, if anyone wanted to go to Jane with an offer at this point, I’d be willing to hear it. I’m not closing this door because I want it closed. Right now I just really want to share this book so that I move on to other things. Jane just got John Locke a print deal where he keeps his erights. I’m no John Locke but things are changing and maybe something like that will open up for me someday with the Talents.

The Possibility of Failure

The possibility of seeming like an epic failure here is two-fold.

It is no small thing for me to be worried that a lot of people are going to see it as me having failed in NY and crawling back to indie. I don’t see it that way. A) Indie is not something you crawl back to. It’s a choice with its own awesomeness that I’m embracing after a lot of soul-searching. B) Yeah, I got a few rejections, but every one I read said positive things about my books, about the quality of my work. I got no indication that I suck. What I understand is that I do NY quality work, but that the concept is “too familiar” and therefore not marketable enough for any of these editors to take on. And while that’s surprising (I have no proper word for the amount of surprising) to me, it’s okay. I truly believe that Jane would have found a buyer for this, both because I believe in the series and because I believe that Jane is a BAMF of an agent who would not stop until she found the right editor.

The second possibility is that I sold over 20,000 copies of Hush Money merely because it was 99cents, most of those people didn’t read it, a lot of the people who gushed about it are over it now and will not rush to buy the second book. At $2.99 it might not make the charts to get the visibility it needs to really sell. Heroes ‘Til Curfew is a different kind of book from Hush Money. I have no doubt that some readers will embrace what it is, while I also know as a certainty that there will be people who won’t like it. And who will tell their friends and strangers how very much they don’t like it..

I doubt there are many people who don’t experience performance anxiety over a release. I’m trying not to make this too important. I’m trying not to attach to the numbers. I will try not to watch them. And I will try very, very hard not to put even more pressure on myself for things I can’t control in some effort to convince myself that I haven’t just made a horrible decision.

And yes, I’m not even close to being so big a person that I don’t want this book and this series to sell like MAD to prove that it was marketable. As an indie I want to be able to point to it and say “Look, here’s a series that was rejected in NY and look what’s done. So don’t give up.”

But as an author, ever so slightly, politely, complimentarily scorned, I would not mind hearing “I wish I had grabbed the opportunity to buy this when it was offered, would you consider…?”

As I come to the end of this epic post, I realize that this still isn’t everything I’ve learned. How is that possible? If you read all the way through, bless you. I hope you got something out of my long-winded share-a-thon of spew. I, of course, feel better for having written a story and shared it with you.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some publishing to do.

Heroes 'Til Curfew Release Postcard

Advertisements

19 Comments

Filed under writing

My Husband Says I Can’t Spell Discipline or How I Have Been Failure’s Bitch

This is a running joke at our house, and the joke’s on me because I did just reference a tab along the top of my screen to check my spelling as I typed this post’s title. Every time the word discipline comes out of my mouth in his presence, he puts on his best Marine Corps voice and says, “Discipline? You can’t even spell discipline.”

Maybe the problem here is that I’ve learned to laugh at myself in this respect and it’s really not funny. Maybe it’s really fucking up my shit.

So it’s GIT Tuesday and my Goddess in Training stuff has been about changing my thoughts and creating better habits. That’s why Kristen Lamb’s post: Self-Discipline- The Key to Success really got me thinking. If you haven’t read it, you should, and if you do it now then this post will make more sense.

Kristen proves her point about self-discipline being necessary by showing us a list of highly successful authors who went to top schools, were highly successful in other fields– were in freaking Congress. Immediately I feel hopeless. Well crap. Let’s hope you can be moderately successful if you’re just moderately intelligent and far less awesome. That would be one of those thinking habits I need to work on. Kristen says,

“Successful people are willing to get up earlier, stay up later, work harder and never stop. They will outpace their competition every time. Why? Because self-discipline isn’t a once in a while thing, “Oh, I was so good today.” Self-discipline is the foundation of the successful life….not an accessory worn when we feel particularly inspired.”

Know who embodies that? Kait Nolan. And now I get why Kait and Kristen click so well together. So I read on.

The post goes on to give some do’s and don’ts for this, and they’re a lot like the weight loss stuff. Don’t jump into some crazy exercise thing and hurt yourself, start small and build. Don’t set goals that set you up for failure.

And then she talks about failure, about changing your relationship with failure. Man, I am failure’s bitch. I wrote a book last year I actually let other people read. HUGE step. You get that. I’m almost forty years old and I’m just getting to this point in my life where I’m actually finishing things. Because for most of my life I’ve been caught up in this perfectionism where I don’t finish anything. Because once something’s finished, it’s time to put it out there for other people to judge. But if you never finish anything, you never have to face having it rejected.

Tangent: Remember Pitfall for Atari 2600? With twenty minutes on the clock, you’re moving this guy across the screen, trying to pick up treasure. And when you fail to clear an obstacle, it loses you a little bit of time (and points). There were only a few different kinds of screens and obstacles that would keep repeating and every once in a while there’d be a treasure. I thought (and I’ve no idea if it’s true, probly not), that you could have a perfect game where you’d go to the right at full speed, never hit an obstacle, and eventually circle back to the start of the game–come out on the left side of the first screen.

I started playing the game to have a perfect game. And any time I hit an obstacle, I’d reset and start over. I never got very far and I don’t think I got any better at the game. And I started playing other games that way, too. Lose a man too early? Well, I’ll never make high score now. Reset.

Reset. Reset. Reset. How many unfinished games? How many unfinished stories?

Yeah, I was failure’s bitch. I’ve got a degree in Psychology, never looked at grad schools or applied for a job in that field. I’ve got a degree in Fashion Design. Completed my course work for that and went RIGHT BACK to full time at the sweat shop I’d been sewing in. But you know, I think that might be changing. The last few years I’ve forced myself into a willingness to try, to expose myself to the possibility of failure. And a lot of good things have happened.

Some of the habits that worked in conjunction with the perfectionism thing and never finishing anything are things Kristen brings up in her post under the heading: Don’t Let The Feelings Vote. I’m reading:

Guilty…

Guilty…

Guilty…

Okay, so I can see the problem. Now what? Once I started gaining weight, 20 years of resets of the next week I’m going to start this awesome diet and exercise program variety didn’t work for me. I weighed in the other day saw and have been at the same healthy weight for the last few months.

Kristen says not to wait until your feelings change to change your actions. I’m not disagreeing with her at all. I’m just looking at me and I’m thinking maybe the reason this stuff never seems to work for me is just because I need to change my thinking before I can change my actions consistently. When I changed my thoughts about a lot of the eating stuff, I started refusing some of the overeating and bad foods more consistently, and started shedding weight.

So maybe this is why that thing of just saying I’m going to write X words every day (even just 250), or sit down for X amount of time doesn’t seem to work for me. Because discipline? I no haz it.

Only I do. Yesterday I knew I was going out to dinner and I told Kait I was going to go eat a whole burger. Calorie-wise I was probably within my rights. So I went out and ordered a burger with a side of apples. Burger came and I cut it in half–a great habit which also makes it easier for my little mouth and little hands. Picked up the second half of the burger, actually said, “I’m going to eat the second half of this burger,” and then stopped. Thought, I’m not hungry right now. Why am I doing this? and asked the waiter for a box.

So I do have self-discipline, like Kristen said I do. I am capable of that. I can now do many reps of curls with 1/3lb cheeseburgers without pain. I just have to figure out what works for me for the rest of it. All this stuff that I read, all these “secrets of motivation,” it all seems to skip a step. They all say, “if you want it badly enough.” Well, I don’t know about that. I at least want to want to be better.

I can’t seem to just say to myself, “I’m going to do the dishes every day.” Because myself says, “Fuck you. I’m tired. I’m going to watch TV and see if Andrew’s on IM.” (Even though, please note, I know Andrew does his dishes because he says this on IM and yet I’m not inspired by his example.) I can’t seem to say to myself, “I’m going to work on my outline every day this week,” because myself says, “Eh, I can’t really think of anything that would be good today. I’ll make it up on a day I’m really on. I have a lot of other things I need to do anyway.” And then I’m all, “But we said were gonna–” “Um, fuck you I said not right now, okay?”

Okay, geez. Bite my head off, myself. Damn, she’s bitchy.

So anyway, this can’t be just me. Anyone else have this missing link thing going on? I’m going to cogitate on where my thought process is going wrong while I go wash some dishes.

25 Comments

Filed under GIT

My Second Book Syndrome: Change of Process

So I was trying to think of something to write about today that has to do with the writing life. I should have a ton of stuff. I feel like I learned a ton of stuff as I worked my way through Heroes ‘Til Curfew. There were a lot of times I said to someone, one thing I learned while writing this book is that… And right now I’m having trouble remembering what any of those things actually were.

Okay, here’s one: Be willing to change your “process.”

Once upon a time, I met a fellow amateur writer online and we exchanged work. I immediately saw potential in what I was reading, but I could also see reasons why it wasn’t ready yet. Some feedback I gave her was that there were scenes that didn’t seem to advance the plot. (I don’t think that’s how I put it because I didn’t always know the right terms to explain what I meant back then–still don’t.) Or there were scenes with a bunch of details that didn’t seem to matter. There was an “and then…and then…and then…” quality to these portions of the story that slowed it down and made me wonder why the author was spending my time this way.

My new writer friend took this very well, which, to me, was another flashing neon sign of great writer potential. And after a bit of back and forth she explained to me that this was just “her process.” This sticking with the character, recording her every action as she went along, this was how this writer found her way through the story. (Because, yes, she was a pantster.)

As we moved along, this writer was ever willing to cut things that didn’t seem relevant, but she was spending a lot of time writing things that got cut while complaining that she needed more time to write. Eventually, I started a campaign against her process, in the name of efficiency.

Today you know Kait Nolan as a kick-ass writer of tight, fast-paced, action-packed fiction, as well as a staunch supporter of plotting and, yes, even outlining! But this is not actually a post to tell you how she owes all her success to me (joke!); it’s about how part of being professional is about seeing what’s holding you back and being will to change it.

I wrote the draft of Hush Money in 30 days. Of course I did a lot of prep work. I had a strong structure in place and an outline that gave me most of the basics while allowing me to discover the details in the writing. I was writing a series that had been on my mind for years, characters who had been living in my head for a while. I had months and months of not writing bottled up, words just waiting to spew out, and two close indie friends with actual sales and readers making me excited, envious, and chomping at the bit to get something out there.

No wonder it came out so fast.

In contrast, I think that once the outline was really in place, it must have taken at least nine months to write the draft of Heroes ‘Til Curfew. People, my daughter was seven weeks early. I don’t even put in nine months baking a baby let alone a book! What the hell??

The hell was my damned process. This idea I have that it should always be easy. If it’s not easy, if it’s not freakin’ inspired, it’s just not ready to come out of my head and it’s just not going to be good. Of course I didn’t say these things to myself. I didn’t realize that this was in my head. If I had, hopefully I would have bitch-slapped myself a long time ago. But in retrospect, I’m sure this was part of the problem.

But things were so different setting out to write this book. I now had something established. I had places I wanted to go, and this book had to fit where I’d been as well as where I wanted to take the series. I had readers. Readers who liked the voice, the characters…readers with expectations. Expectations absolutely kicked my ass on this thing. The pressure I put on myself was ridiculous, and the fear of living up to something I built up in my head was a big issue.

Anyway, the point of THIS post was that I was not in the same place for this manuscript as I was with the last one. Of course it wasn’t going to come out the same way. But if it wasn’t just going to come out, then what was I going to do?

I was going to have to change my process. I was going to have to accept that there might be serious rewriting involved. I was going to have to push through and put something on the page, even if there didn’t seem to be any words on my fingertips that day. If there was just a big blank spot in my head where the scene was supposed to be, I was going to have to make it be there–because I couldn’t keep sitting around and waiting for it to appear by magic like it has in the past.

Imagine that.

And the end of the story is that it was still good. I dragged my way through that book knowing that when I got through I’d have this horrific pile of uninspired schlock and have to start all over again.

But I didn’t. Did I make changes? Yeah, I did. I’m still pretty new at this actually finishing work, getting to and getting through the editing phase. This was probably the first manuscript that I made radical changes in, went back and added in whole scenes, or cut most of a scene and rewrote it in a different context.

And when I finally read it, I loved it. In the final product, I’m not sure if you can tell the difference between what parts were inspiration and what were perspiration. Would I say I’ve got it down now? That I’m good at this business of just pushing through and doing the work, inspiration or no? No. No I wouldn’t.

But at the same time, I’ve seen this problem for what it is. In psychology there’s this thing called “reality testing.” When you have an irrational fear of something, like pushing through a story when you’re not inspired, you have to go out and do it anyway. This is in order to prove to yourself that whatever horror you think will befall–like coming out with a nicely formatted file of pure crap–won’t actually happen. So I’ve been through the reality testing phase of treating the syndrome on this manuscript. Now I just have to continue to practice the new behaviors, the new thoughts, the new process.

8 Comments

Filed under writing

Hush Money: 6 Months and 10,000 copies

I’m a real boy!

As I begin this post, a few days before it will go live, days before Hush Money turns six months old, I’m still looking at the number on my spreadsheet. Marveling at it. Recording the numbers from the previous day is usually one of the first things I do in the morning. Seeing how many potential readers I gained overnight is generally a pretty awesome way to start the day.

So let me tell you why I’m posting this, even though I said I wasn’t going to share numbers anymore. Let me tell you why this is a special occasion.

Deciding to self-publish isn’t easy for most people. Even for someone like me who was more or less “it’s indie or nothing” because I didn’t feel like I wanted to get involved in the traditional industry, even for someone who believes in the tremendous potential of independent publishing, etc, etc, it was hard. It was hard to get over that concern of being called a “fake author.”

Now I’m a nice person (right?) and probably,  hopefully, no one’s going to say it to my face. But they’re out there, saying it, saying it about us. And even if it’s not directed at you, you know, you still kind of carry that.

You ask yourself, “Am I going to regret this use of a manuscript that I believe in so much? Am I going to wish I would have at least tried to shop it in a traditional manner?”

So something I did was I picked a number. (You may not agree with my number. You don’t have to. It’s MY number.) They say that many books don’t earn out their advances. I looked around and figured my advance as an unknown would be $6k. I had read that with a standard royalty, authors generally earned about 64cents per copy. So… 10,000 x .64 = more than a $6,000 advance. And that’s how I picked the number of books I wanted sell by the time Hush Money was 12 months old.

That was the number of books that would make me know that I wasn’t a fake author. Because sometimes, the hardest person to convince is yourself.

Now there will be some people who will come across the post and say, ten thousand copies in six months? Why are you even bothering to mention that? Have you seen the cavalcade of stars Konrath has been parading on his blog?

Yeah, I have. And I admire those authors. I’ve loved reading their stories. They’re selling more in a month than I have in six, and I couldn’t be happier for them. They’ve earned that. Maybe when I’ve earned that, I’ll get there too. But this post, this goal, wasn’t about out-performing anyone else. This is about me, something I hoped to get for myself, and how incredible it is to not only pass that mark, but to do that in half the time I thought it would take. No one else’s success takes away from that.

(Dudes, every time I write else’s–and I do that a lot–spellcheck hates me. Is that not a word?)

So that’s where I am today, feeling like Pinocchio, Version Shrek 2, flying through the air yelling, “I’m a real boy!” and waiting for something to strike and turn me back to wood.

Meanwhile, I owe you a ROW80 update, so here it is:

My goals were to spend at least an hour a day in my world and write at least 3 scenes per week.

I’m still spending lots of time in the Talent Chronicles world. Not a problem. I’ve written a number of scenes and thousands of words.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I wasn’t writing. But I wasn’t terribly worried about that. I said that when I was ready to write, I would write, and the words would come. And that was pretty much true.

Something happened this fall as I worked, or didn’t work, on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, as I let my mind fill up with the personal problems that cropped up, and then tried to squeeze in a brand new full-time career as an indie author in on top of that. I tried too much, pushed too far, and pushed those words right out of my head.

I know that there are a lot of people out there waiting. I value all those readers (I know there should have been a paragraph above thanking all the readers and friends and stuff, but if you guys don’t know by now how grateful I am, then I just don’t know what to with you!), and I’m sorry to have to keep saying that it’s just not ready, and no, I don’t know when it will be. But I do know that since I really owned that, since I made up my mind that it’s okay for me to say that and to work on my own schedule, it has been so much easier.

My ROW80 update for this week is that I’m finally starting to feel like when I’m ready to write, the words will be there.

50 Comments

Filed under goals, ROW80

2010 in review: The story of Hush Money

So I need to do the look back at the year thing. I’ve kind of been waiting to see what the end of the year numbers were. When the month rolled over, it seemed like I lost some PubIt sales. They finally showed up again, and then they found a few more stragglers over the next few days. I mean, I realize the report itself is always 2 days behind and you have to add those separately, but mine kept changing after that. This makes me a little nervous about them…

But that’s neither here nor there. It’s been a really big year for me, so I thought I’d try to talk about where I started and where I ended up. Be warned, this post is incredibly long.

Prologue

Some of you know that, when I started Hush Money, it was after a period of not having seriously written for a lot time. The only thing in my idea file that really interested me was my Talents, but even though I worked some on their stories and new characters showed up all the time, I couldn’t really bring myself to get a real story going. Part of that was a matter of motivation. Even if I finished one book of the Talent Chronicles, the idea of shopping it didn’t appeal to me, for a lot of reasons. I thought about, maybe, just starting to write it myself and putting it up on a website somewhere. You know, for fun. But writing is pretty emotional for me. I love creating this stuff, but most days…it is not fun. That idea wasn’t motivation enough.

Act 1: The world before

But Kait, my writing buddy and best friend going on, what, four years now? kept after me. Because of her, part of my mind was always in the writing world. She’d send me articles, talk about writing and bookish topics, and of course we worked a lot on her various writing projects.

And then, of course, there were books. I’d run of out room for books, had to feel guilty about any new book I brought into the house, but ebooks bought me back to book-buying and collecting big-time. I found myself getting passionately pissed off about availability issues, format incompatibilities, and DRM, and did a lot of reading and research on ebooks. Part of that was reading some of the stuff that Konrath was saying about ebooks vs. paperback; ebooks, DRM, and piracy; and then he was talking about his ventures in self-publishing.

Which was really interesting because Kait’s friend Zoe was also self-publishing. I was one who thought self-publishing was great for niche-markets and how-to books, I’ve got a bunch of self-pubbed how-tos, but I had been less than impressed with some of the fiction I’d read, and my opinion had been pretty negative. However, the more I read about it from the writer’s perspective, the more I started to think about it the same way I thought about crafting.

I’d had a good run selling intricate and pricey items on Etsy, and I was burnt out on that. But for a while there, I’d been having a blast, being creative and having my work sought after and appreciated. (I really thrive on that shit, but who doesn’t?) Etsy took crafting for money to a whole different level. It no longer mattered if there was a market for what I wanted to make in the place I live. I wasn’t going to have to try to make a bunch of inventory to try to sell batches to local shops or try to do shows to reach more customers. I could just do what I wanted, at my own pace, in my own home, and reach that niche of customers around the world who were interested. Freakin’ awesome.

I started to see indie publishing as the exact same thing. And, for the first time in a long time, I started to get excited about the idea of writing a novel.

Kait decided she was going to go ahead and do it. I was totally encouraging because, hey, she’s good at learning all the stuff, and if it went well, I could totally benefit from her knowledge later. Kait published Foraken by Shadow at the end of March. And people bought it. With money! And it was freakin’ awesome.

I really wanted to do it too.

Act 2: Into the story world

I got my outline together. I’d been studying story structure via Larry Brooks’ Storyfix blog, and suddenly, planning a story from beginning to end seemed so much easier! In fact, all the writing books and articles I’d been reading over the last few years seemed to be coming together in my head, like everything was just there waiting for me to get started.

I had a startlingly positive attitude going into Hush Money, that if I would just sit down to do the work, of course the words would come. Words had never been a problem for me, unless it was having too many of them. I was going to start the book, I was going to finish it. I was going to make it good, and then I was going to see what I could do with it.

But I was up against a ticking clock. It was already May, after all, and there weren’t that many more days of school. Soon my daughter would be with me to destroy any hope of concentration or immersion in character and world. I had get moving.

I wrote the first draft of Hush Money in 30 days. That last week or so, school was out, but Vacation Bible School filled the gap. When I might have gotten scared of the end and stuck in a slump, I pushed forward, knowing I only had a few hours a day for one, more, week. I would drop her off at the church, rush home, write like a maniac. Then go pick her up, go to McDonald’s, wolf down a double cheeseburger and write at least another one or two thousand words while she played on the playland with other kids.

After that week, I was almost at the end. I wrote the last several scenes in one day. I asked my mom to have my daughter over to play so that I could work on getting my first draft finished before my upcoming visit to Kait’s house. I wrote thousands of words that day.

I’m still very happy with the way the book ends, but the biggest criticism of the story is that the ending is somewhat abrupt. Maybe I was just exhausted.

Act 3: In which the Wanderer becomes a Warrior

Well, I’m not sure Susan as a protag will ever be considered a warrior, but certainly there was a lot of self-doubt to be overcome. I had to get 11 beta readers with overwhelmingly positive responses on Hush Money, before I started to believe that it was good enough to put a price tag on it.

I was editing a manuscript, something I’d never really done before. I’d finished a few things, but nothing I’d ever loved enough to want to make it better. And I was learning about formatting and all the other stuff that goes into publishing an ebook.

During this time, I’d finally hooked up with Zoe Winters one-on-one instead of going through Kait. It was fun and exciting to talk to her. She was in the crazy period of having released Claimed and Mated and having incredible success with those. Kait was having record sales of Forsaken by Shadow. Evenings would go by, with both of them in separate chat windows, both of them giving me their stats, rankings by the hour, in stereo.

And I was waiting for Hush Money to return from 11 betas and feeling absolutely desperate to join this party. By the time I had to leave my original cover artist and hire a new one at the end of July, I was crazy obsessed with getting my work out there to see how it would do.

Act 4: The exciting climax sequence

Finally, at the beginning of August, I was finally ready to get this thing out there! I uploaded on August 2nd, and the book started to go live all that week. First on Smashwords on the 3rd, then I think the Amazon listing started show up on 4th, with a buy button by the 5th.

And then commenced the crazy. I had to start doing that which I had dreaded. Marketing. I had to go back to blogging. I had to active on Twitter. I had to try to learn Facebook. And it was hard to find the time for all that because I had to check my stats EVERY. FREAKIN’. HOUR.

The week after Hush Money was released, I went to Disney World. While I was there, Kait sent me a text to let me know I’d made my first Amazon bestseller chart.

I had to check out Goodreads. I did the ebook giveaway event there, got great response, and had people reading my book.

In August, I “sold” a total of 113 copies.

36 of those I gave away.

I was also very busy researching print-on-demand and trying to figure out the best method for doing that for my non-existent budget and attention span. I chose Createspace. The print version of Hush Money was released on September 24th.

Hush Money was finally finished, I was getting started on Heroes ‘Til Curfew, and by the time the second month was over, I’d sold four times what I’d sold in the first month.

Epilogue

Five months later, I still struggle with making this sequel happen. Just like I’d never liked anything enough to do serious edits (though at least I’d edited for others!), I’d also never tried to write a sequel.

Hush Money continues to do incredibly well. I went into this with no idea what to expect, hoping, perhaps, to reach 1000 copies by this time. I’m astounded to be able to tell you that I was able to reach well over 6000 copies by the end of this year.

I can’t begin to tell you the joy that sharing this story has brought me. I’ve met so many incredible people this year, made so many wonderful friends. At least a few times a week I experience the wonder of finding that someone has taken the time to contact me, by email, or by leaving a comment on my About Me or Talent Chronicles pages, or somewhere else, just to tell me how much they enjoyed Hush Money. I get fan mail! Internationally!! I have been thanked countless times for doing something that I loved doing. And I’ve been damned, numerous times, for the sins of keeping someone up past their bedtime or making them remember how it feels to be a teen.

This will probably be the last time I talk about numbers for a while. Certainly, for me, the subject will always inspire excitement and a measure of awe. In the beginning, I really did believe that sharing these numbers was helpful for those who might be considering indie publishing and might want some ideas what to expect. But sometimes more is just more, and I don’t want to invite negativity into my life by having anyone take my sharing of this information in a different spirit than it’s intended.

What I hope I have managed to express, in this post and in this year, is the profound sense of gratitude I feel for everyone who’s helped me. Toward everyone who has (in no particular order) reviewed the book at a retail site, left a review on Goodreads, talked about it in a forum, voted for it in a poll, tweeted about it, blogged about it, told a friend, written to me, asked me a question about it, longed for the sequel, encouraged me during the many times I get nervous and feel like I’m losing my mind, bought it for someone else, sent me interview questions, and, hey, bought it and read the freakin’ thing.

Thank you all for making 2010 an absolutely amazing year for me.

14 Comments

Filed under Hush Money, Talent Chronicles

My bad news confession: buried in here somewhere

There was a Konrath post in my inbox this morning. This always makes me happy as it’s a pretty sure bet my morning will be infused with some level of awesome.

So today I got to read the annual Resolutions for Writers post. I’m not going to go over it because there’s a whole lot there and you should just go read it. But I’m going to clip the little bit that really gave me a lift this morning:

DO NOT take any deal that’s less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you’re selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.

In a way, that might seem a bit irrelevant to me. I’m not in the position of being courted by a NY publisher, and don’t believe I’m in any danger of catching their attention at this time. But it’s the other part, the 1000 ebooks a month part. This harkens back to his recent post on ebook sales in which he implied 1000 ebooks a month was a good measure of a successful, up-and-coming indie.

And I’m doing that. I’ve passed 1K for this month, I more than doubled it last month, and I almost reached it the previous month. And this is my fifth month out.

I needed this today. I needed to feel like I’m good at this, and I needed to read that from someone I respect, and know that it’s not about friendship and petting me to make me feel better. And it’s so not because Mr. Konrath hasn’t even noticed me…yet.

I’ve been putting off telling you all that things continue to not go well. And it’s not so much with the book, but with me, personally. With me, personally, there are Serious Things that are making it hard for me to put my head and my heart into the work and give it what it needs.

As kind as everyone has been to me these last months, I’ve felt an awful lot of expectation. Not only to put out a book that’s on at least the same level with the first one, which I intend to do, but also to present myself as a professional. And I’ve worried that having to tell you that I’m going to miss my own projected release date is going to disappoint you and make you see me as less than professional for letting my life get in the way of my work.

But, you know, it just is what it is, and fretting about what people are going to think of me isn’t doing me any favors. And in his post today, Konrath says this:

I Will Stop Worrying. Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It’s also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn’t the way to get ahead.
You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.

Oh snap, I been told!

And you know what else?

But most of all, being a professional means you won’t inflict your shitty writing on the public.

Um, yeah. That I’m not going to do. And no amount of stressing myself about a release date, or worrying about angering the people who are awaiting the next book, or disappointing fellow indies with my inability to write on a schedule… It’s not going to help. Contrariwise.

And a huge irony here is that part of the reason I’ve embraced self-publishing over trying to go the traditional route is because I was concerned about my inability to write to an imposed schedule at this time in my life, with the things I’ve got going on.

And then I did it to myself. Which really shouldn’t surprise me or the people who know me well. I am my own worst enemy. (WP tells me, after that line, Word count: 666. The Universe is talking to me about my beastly qualities.)

So…this sort of segues awkwardly into last night’s radio show, which I also have to mention today, and on which I had to publicly acknowledge that the next book would probably not be out in January. No, not probably. It just won’t. OMFG, just admit it already. (This has to be harder for me than it is for you.)

A few quick lines about the show, while we’re here. I was really terrified to do it, and it was not so bad. I don’t have plans to listen to it, but I don’t think I performed so badly that I would actually have made anyone put me on their do not buy list. But I don’t think I did myself any favors or inspired anyone in the other direction either. I think it was probably a wash.

As you all know, being concise is not my strong suit. The ability to craft answers that really deliver all the relevant information, or might really direct or inspire someone toward my goal (read the book!) on the fly and at the pace of a short interview–this involves a skillset that I just don’t have and I knew that going into it. I’m a writer. If I’m going to talk about DRM, I’m going to want to set up that discussion making sure the people I’m talking to understand what we’re talking about before I get into my opinion. If I’m going to talk about marketing, it helps me to talk about that from a core goal/idea (visibility and credibility, for me) and then talk about the range of controllable factors and how they all affect each other and tie into that goal. That’s what I see of value in my understanding, and just trying to throw out some things that are important–that’s just the same information we hear over and over. In a brief interview, where the there’s a smattering of topics and no time to develop those thoughts, I don’t have the skill to express what I’d like to express.

I want to thank Andrew Mocete, though, for giving me the opportunity and making it as painless as possible. I try to challenge myself on some of my phobias, but still, there aren’t a whole lot of people who would have gotten a yes from me on a request for a live interview. Promo, schmomo. One thing that’s special about Andrew is that he’s one of those people who seems to have internalized, in a very genuine way, that notion of giving to others and trusting that’s going to come back to around somehow, someday. What Kristen Lamb (among others) refers to as having the heart of a servant. I could trust that Andrew wasn’t just out to fill a slot in his calendar, that he is genuinely concerned with my interests as well as his, and that he would do his best to help me.

There’s part of this post I’ve been putting off and fretting about writing for weeks now. I started out talking about Konrath’s measure of success and ended with some  bromance tale about Andrew. Buried in there somewhere is the confession I didn’t want to talk about. You see what I’m saying? You just can’t do that shit live. That’s what I love about writing.

32 Comments

Filed under Heroes 'Til Curfew, Talent Chronicles

Why the Talents Have Potty Mouths

Now, obviously, the simplest answer to that is: because I do. As you know, I’m back from a weekend up home, having seen some peeps I went to school with, and have been talking to people who use “f**kin’…” the way other people use “uh…”. This is the way we talked, from middle school on, much more gratuitously foul than the language that went into Hush Money.

Now, this isn’t confined to the place or people of my childhood. When I was a military wife, it was the same thing–only taller. And you’ll notice that while the girl Talents also cuss, it’s more often a matter of emphasis, while the boys tend to be more conversational about it.

Now, this post comes out of some of the reviews I’ve had that give me a bit of a wrist-slap and a 1-star demerit for the language. I want to say, up front, that these demerits are COMPLETELY VALID. One of these days, maybe I’ll write a post about reviews and the disconnect between writers and readers in that regard, but the short version is that writers (as I’ve read them around the ‘net) tend to think readers should be evaluating their book on some kind of objective criteria, while readers tend to rate a book based on how it affected them personally. So if my cussing kids diminished your enjoyment of the story, and assuming that a rating reflects a reader’s enjoyment of the story, then what do I expect them to do, lie? No. That would be dumb. So there you are.

Anyway, on with the behind-the-scenes stuff.

When I started to write Hush Money, I really put myself back in that time.  When I felt my way into these characters, the language just came out. Right away it gave me pause. I hadn’t really set out to write YA. When I started the book, I actually didn’t know that writing about teens would automatically make the book YA. I found this out soon after beginning the book, and I was very concerned. I’ve read YA that I consider far worse than mine in terms of adult content, but not a lot of it. Kait told me, “Don’t worry about it. Just get through the first draft and edit later.”

And, of course, that’s always excellent advice.

So why didn’t I tone down the language in the edit? I’m fairly good with words. I probably could have taken all those problem elements and re-worked them into something that still carried some strong emotion, without the actual cuss-words, right? It’s not like censoring a movie for TV and having Johnny say, “No, flip you, Dad!”

I kept the language because it’s not just words or emotion. For kids, forbidden language is part of posturing. And, as some of you may recall, posturing is very important in the wild. For those of you who went to schools where the threat of violence seemed pretty constant, maybe you’ve had that feeling that you needed to have a facade that was a little harsher and a little less vulnerable than who you really were. And maybe that’s not something all readers relate to. But I do.

The Talents live in that kind of fear state, under a constant threat, and they build walls. When I went to do the edits, I couldn’t see reworking the language as anything but removing bricks from those walls and weakening my characterization overall.

I’m not defending it like I want to change anyone’s mind. If a reader doesn’t see that, it’s probably because they either don’t relate to those feelings, or because they have personal values which override them. No book can be all things to all people, and while some people enjoyed the style of the book and have said the characters seemed very real to them, in part because of the language, others didn’t like that. I totally get that.

The point of this post was more just that it’s a thing I’ve struggled with, and I thought maybe you’d be interested in a little insight into my world.

I’m not defending it like I want to change your mind or anything. It’s more that you had mentioned being able to talk to authors about the books, and I thought you might be interested in how that particular element developed for me and why it remains.

29 Comments

Filed under author blog, characters, Hush Money, ideas, insecurities, Talent Chronicles, writing

Rantus Interruptus Continuous: In which the Universe has a lesson for me

Arg, I am an idiot.

I do things I know I shouldn’t do, because I know I’m just going to frustrated and pissed off, and that’s just going to make my whiny and depressed. And I have no right to be whiny and depressed.

But then, as I was writing this post about how I wasn’t going to rant about this, the world shifted again. And people, when the Universe gives you a sign, you need to work through what it means. Which is what I’ll be doing, should you choose to continue reading this.

And now that we’ve had THE most confusing beginning to a blog post EVAR, I’m going to go back to the beginning.

Last night, in my email, a Twitter notification of a new follow by @JamiGold. So because Twitter can’t just give me everything I need in the email, I have to actually go to Twitter to read her bio and follow her back. And what’s her latest tweet?

I know, I know! I should never have clicked that. What was I thinking? I was thinking that I should not be clicking that. But I’m just going to peek.

And then it’s scroll scroll scroll through a lot of opinions that are making ZERO sense to me, and I am taking it WAAAAAY too personally. And it wasn’t a mean, nasty angry thing AT ALL. It was just…insensible.

I mean, what I kept reading, over and over, is that because the books aren’t vetted, self-published books aren’t a good risk for these readers. They acknowledge that there might be great indie reads out there, but trad-pubbed books, while not a sure thing, are a safer bet. Ok, yeah, that’s totally logical, if you’re looking at a new trad book vs. a new indie book, all things being equal and no buzz, no reviews, etc. But here we have people saying I wouldn’t buy a book by an indie unless I met them first.

So you can see how this would make me sad. I just don’t get out much.

And the problem is that when I read this stuff I take it whack-job personally. In my head, I’m whining at these people going, what the hell? Compare my sales rank, compare my cover, compare my reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, check out the page of links to blog reviews I have on my website, READ a few pages to see if I’m literate. Judge my book on the things that matter in a book. And then decide if you want to sink the whole 99cents and a few more hours of your time into it.

Maybe it just comes down to this: no one likes to be dismissed. And I think that part of the way these comments touch me is because that feeling of dismissal, that what I can do (write an entertaining book) doesn’t matter because of what I am (an indie author), feels so much like the frustration of being a powerless child.

Here’s what I came to when I decided I wasn’t going to harp on this– and I’m sorry to cuss because that makes me sound angry, but I’m trying to have a personal power moment over here, so indulge me: This shit does not apply to me. Not in some way of I put the awesome IN the mutha-fuckin’ sauce! and this shit don’t apply to me, but more in the way of this is not my readership right now, and their opinions are not relevant in my world right now.

I’m not going to win these readers over by arguing with them. (Oh don’t worry, I didn’t get involved.) There are so, so many literate people in the world today, you guys. Do you know what’s been the most surprising thing to me since publishing? How many non-writing readers are out there embracing indies, supporting indies they love, and how many more just aren’t aware that we’re even out here, that there’s really a difference. If a book looks crappy, they avoid it. If it looks good, they try it. So many readers out there judging books on the book stuff. I think you’ll find, overwhelmingly, that the people who are most negative about indie books are other writers, for whatever their reasons, which are not my business.

Part 2

So yeah, all set to just let this all go and write you this quickie post about how I wasn’t going to rant about what I was going to rant about. And then the Universe stepped in.

Last night, after reading a lot of those disheartening comments I got whiny and tweeted (is there a word for a whiny tweet, like twined?)

A few friends showed up to say cheering things to me, and remind me that I had nothing to be depressed about and I did feel better. And while I was worrying about this crap that I can’t fix, I sold my 3,000th copy of Hush Money and totally missed it. I mean, how far up your ass does you head have to be before you notice you’re being an asshat?

Nevertheless, this morning, I found myself still ticked off enough to be composing a ranty post in my head. Then I got hold of myself, decided to post the Rantus Interruptus instead, and move on with my life. And then, as I was writing this post, @JamiGold shows up. And she says,

And I’m like…Really? Seriously, I was rendered kind of panicked and speechless. Which, if you’re an introvert or social phobic, you might understand. Or if you can imagine Joss’s reaction to, Well heck, Joss, everyone knows who you are. [cue garbled choking sounds]

And also a little…Really? Like, I’m doing this right, this marketing/platform stuff that I was so sure I fail at and would be the ultimate reason for my bookfail?

Oh yeah, dude, it’s totally all dramarama like this in my brain all the time. You do not want to live here.

Ok, so now my brain is totally melted. There are people on Twitter I want to attempt light banter with, but everything’s scrolling by while my mouth is doing floppy fish thing. And @JamiGold says,

(There was one in between where she said she hasn’t read mine yet due to the scary TBR pile from Hell with which we are all familiar.) Wow, Jami, condense all my effort into 140 characters of pure validation. :sucker punch:

No, this is not hyperbole. I’m very emotional. Quit rolling your eyes and embrace this special moment we’re having together, dammit.

Because this is why I decided to tell you the whole story of my stupidity in reading that comment thread. Because we don’t ignore the things the Universe tries to tell us. Especially when the Universe talks via Twitter, because then you really know it means business. Maybe. Whatever. Fine. Have we learned anything?

1. I must not read comment threads about prejudices against self-pubbed books/authors. Evar.

2. Those are not my people. You are my people. Later on, some of those people will hear about my books, be intrigued. They’re NOT the unreasonable people I thought I saw last night. That’s silly. They’re people who love books. They’ll look at my books, at the fabulous cover art, at the reviews, and they’ll judge us on the book stuff. Someday.

3. Until they do that, I’ve got a lot of other things I need to put my energy into. Like getting you guys Heroes ‘Til Curfew. And, to that end, I’m leaving you with a link while I go work on finishing the shit that I started.

The above link is mandatory for all writers, although adult language and beverage warnings do apply.

27 Comments

Filed under book blogs, books, goals, insecurities, Laws of the Universe, me me me, rant, self-publishing, Signs, what not to do, writing

Status Update, Coming Attractions, Secret Identities

Let’s just get this out of the way. I don’t think Stacey Wallace Benefiel (authoress of Glimpse, Glimmer, Day of Sacrifice) ever initiates a conversation two times in a row using the same messenger. One day it’s email, then Goodreads PM, then Facebook message, then a DM on Twitter… Is Stacey a secret agent, trying to cover her tracks? Are there coded messages I’m too blonde to see? While posing as a home-renovating mother-of-two, is she really about to drop from a helicopter onto a moving train and wondering why I haven’t rushed her plea for extraction to the agent they have planted at the local Waffle House?

These are things I ponder.

Hush Money hit a new milestone yesterday: 2000 sales. The end of October/beginning of November was freaking awesome on both Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

This will probably not be the last time that I mention that there’s nothing like a shiny new paperback under the tree, should you wish to consider Joss and her friends to fulfill your gift-giving needs this holiday season.

Can you believe she’s starting up with that crap already, and it’s not even freakin’ Thanksgiving yet? Damn. I know!

Ok, what else. Oooh! Right. So Quantum! Who’s a fan of the Portal Chronicles, raise your hand? (If your hand is not raised, it’s because you haven’t read yet, so go, buy Portal, start getting caught up now, ’cause…) The third book, Quantum, releases on Tuesday, November 16th. The main character, Arizona, is due to drop by here and drop off some kind of message for you on Tuesday. So make sure you’ve done the homework.

Also of possible interest, she said innocently, the cover of Heroes ‘Til Curfew, the follow-up to Hush Money, will be revealed on Wednesday, Nov. 17th. It was not at all what I expected, and really took my breath away when I saw the initial concept. Robin is awesomesauce, and I hope you’ll all like it as much as I do.

Yes, the new book is coming along better, thank you for asking. Yesterday I finally pushed through a scene that was giving me all kinds of problems. When I was finished, I just wanted to sit and write more. Dammit. Self-washing dishes, where are you?? As I was driving to Girl Scouts, I was totally seeing the inside of the record store instead of the road, Joss was yelling, stuff was flying–it was all pretty distracting. Now imagine me, having this realization: Wow, I could totally have a really bad wreck right now! and grinning from ear to ear because I’m finally getting somewhere.

Watch out you Nano peeps. Don’t count me out yet!

Did you guys know I have another identity? No, I don’t use a pen name. In the dark and dangerous manuscript critiquing underworld, I am known, by those who can find me, as Pink Hammer. My supercharged weapon of choice? The Pink Hammer of Doom, of course. Now this is all totally wrecked by Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because now even I am asking myself if the hammer is really my penis, and it pretty much makes me the laughingstock of the underworld. Thank you very much. Nevertheless, I persevere, and will be taking out these frustrations on Devil’s Eye by Kait Nolan. So if Kait seems a little jumpy this week, if you see her stocking up on adult diapers because she’s pissing herself in fear, be kind.

Haha, no, really. It’s not like that.

Is it?

Ok, I think I’ve babbled at you guys long enough for one morning. Anyone have news? I haven’t been getting out much; feel free to tell me what’s up.

14 Comments

Filed under books, characters, Guests, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, Kettle chat, me me me, NaNoWriMo, progress update, PubIt, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Blueprint Series part 13: Battling Threads

Now that we’ve learned how to plot from beginning to end, I’m going to talk about what to do with the subplots and other threads you might have hanging around in your story. (For Part 1 in this series, click here.)

I’m calling these threads because sometimes “subplot” feels like too much word for these. So we might be talking about subplots in the way you think of them, or we might be talking about themes, or just things you want to develop and remember to follow.

A friend recently had a specular, freak-out meltdown over her WIP because she went to look at her outline, and there were points there that didn’t make sense, things that seemed left out or left hanging, and the outline itself was no longer a treasure map but sort of an encyclopedia of Huh?

There were a number of reasons why this happened, but essentially it all came down to her not having spent the time to understand her threads, work them through, and tie them into the plot. Consequently, when she had thrown an idea onto the outline that made sense when she thought of it, she later had no idea how to relate it to the story. And this story was an intrigue that really grew in terms of having a lot of different threads to follow. Complexity is great, scary fields of tangled threads and seeming randomness are not.

It took hours of talk therapy to get all the information out of her. It was all there, and it was mostly all good, it just took a long time to straighten it all out, tie it all together, and show her what she really had. On the bright side, it taught me stuff about the process.

But after all this work, and getting to The End, I don’t think you’re going to like it…

Step 13: Battling Threads

  1. List different the different threads/subplots in the story.
  2. For each thread, list its major plot points, and/or how it relates to the plot point moments in the central plot as described above.

Things you might list as threads:

subplots

themes

the constant battle against the inner demon

your romantic relationship

another relationship the character has, like a friendship

a mystery

something a secondary character is doing that will affect your main plot later in an important way

something going on in the background, like events in the town that enhance the setting

Like some of the things we talked about with regard to characters and setting apply here. Namely relevancy and connections. While you’re working through these threads, trying to build them as plotlines, look for ways to tie them back in to the main story. When the main plot points in your main storyline take place, how are these threads affected? How can you use what you already have to build on these ideas? If you need a distraction for your main characters or a red herring to distract the reader, choose from threads you’re already using rather than making up an unrelated incident.

Not all threads will have all their major plots–or at least, if they do, those won’t necessarily happen on the page. It’s probably not true for all stories that plotlines should interweave. I’m sure there are some that keep seemingly independent storylines going without tying them together until some shocking reveal at the end. If that’s how you roll, more power to ya.

I’d guess the important thing is just to be aware of your plans. Keep good notes for yourself, so that you don’t lose any of those great ideas, and you’re not letting threads slip and lie half developed and forgotten as you work.

After this, the only thing left to do is to actually outline. I continue to do this in Word, just making a list of scenes with brief descriptions or bullets of what needs to be shown and why. I then work through the writing of each of the four parts, stopping in between to make notes on changes or new things that developed during the writing.

After all this, I think I need a bit of a break to finish up my own outline for my current project. If you’ve followed the series, I want to say a special thank you. I hope you’ve found it useful. Please feel free to come back and comment (any ol’ where) and tell me how it’s going.

4 Comments

Filed under Blueprint, story structure, tips, tools, writing