Tag Archives: release dates

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

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#ROW80 update, upcoming release, and some recommended reading

Heroes 'Til Curfew postcard with release information

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So whew, it’s good to have this all settled and to say, “Thanks for asking, it’s coming out around September 2nd!”

Really good.

I’m still wrapped up in this book and not so much active in the next one. I continue to lack true multitask finesse. Once this week is behind me and the book is out, my new ROW80 goal will be to try really hard to leave it be. To not babysit my stats, to not read reviews, etc. To move on to the next thing and let this thing do what it’s going to because once it’s out, it’s no longer in my control anyway.

Been extremely busy this week, so my reading has been limited to my subscriptions. There was some good stuff, though.

Recommended Reading

Big News (Look! My agent!)
Yeah, ’cause it’s all about me, right? LOL. If you’re an indie and you missed this, what have you been doing this week, writing a book? When I read Konrath’s piece on John Locke’s deal with Simon & Schuster in which they’re going to print his books but he’s keeping his erights, I thought Wow, that’s something. And then, Jane, what a BAMF you are. Good job! I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say the end is necessarily nigh. It’s hard not to agree with Jane’s assertion that publishing is full of brilliant people who will find a way to turn things around for themselves. And I figure if she can do HER job every day and still think that, there must be something to it. (via subscription)

Konrath goes #MyWANA?
That’s what I thought when I read this post in which Konrath and Crouch have a back and forth about the future and who has the power in publishing. Where it gets particularly interesting is where they start talking about author to reader direct sales. I sell PDF sewing patterns and have some knowledge of how to set up to sell digital goods directly. I could do it tomorrow, in theory. Notice how I don’t. Because, as a small fish (without a 10K member mailing list), developing web traffic is a marketing issue I don’t want to deal with. And the idea of carrying other authors’ books, having to keep track of THEIR royalties and pay them out…accounting nightmare for me. Not to mention the fact that building a high quality brand means having to tell some people “no” and that’s just awkward. I need to write more books, not manage a store. Never say never, though. And I did like the idea that this post sort of represents a convergence of Konrath and Kristen, two smart people I always want to listen to. (via subscription)

I’m a sexist pig
Okay, not actually a pig, maybe, although I did participate in an objectification of Tom Welling on Twitter the other night. Again. My double standard about men should be men but women can be anything, is something I know about myself and am working on. Andrew highlighted that in his Girly Man post this week. He picks up a discussion about how the issue of fewer young male readers maybe shouldn’t be about the lack of “boy” books, and moves it into his take on life as an open-minded guy who doesn’t need gender bias to make his choices for him. Which is, undoubtedly, part of his charm. (via subscription)

#UnicornLoverz Unite
Beverage warning applies to this brilliant bit of hand-drawn comic goodness from Claire. Claire reveals what it’s like for an author and her unicorn when the author gets in “the zone” and the world is blotted out by her own awesomeness. A must read. (via subscription)

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FINALLY, a release date for Heroes ‘Til Curfew

Last night I wrote this really long, wordy post. Well, it was last night and into this morning. Now I’m thinking maybe I need to go a little simpler.

Heroes 'Til Curfew releases 9/2/11

Click to download this postcard

Those of you who know how the indie stuff works know there’s no planning an exact release date. You never know how long it will take a book to go live and be buyable once you upload it. But I’m hoping that Heroes ‘Til Curfew will be available in ebook on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords a week from today, Friday, September 2nd. It’s also possible that the print version could be available that soon, but more than likely it will take a little more time for that.

Back cover of Heroes 'Til Curfew with blurb

Back Cover of the print version

It’s been a busy month for me. The book was in submission to the first round of editors in New York and the waiting was driving me mad. Last week I finally got on the phone, talked it all over with my agent, Jane Dystel (yes, the awesome Jane), and finally made the decision that putting this out on my own, right now, is really what I want most. Plan to see a post about my experience with the submission process, and about choosing indie, on Monday.

So we had to give the editors who had it a week to give an answer one way or the other, a deadline which expired yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, I got to work, frantically proofreading, formatting, all that good stuff. So much has changed! There’s always more stuff to learn. I COMPLETELY resemble Clarie Legrand’s post today, which you absolutely MUST READ. The components of the paperback version are already uploaded and in review. I’m finishing up lose ends on the ebook formats and intend to start uploading those early next week.

What do you call this way that I am? Mercurial? Yeah, we’ll go with that. Owing to my mercurial nature and the last-minuteness of this decision, I am WOEFULLY unprepared to launch this book. Read: FULL OF WOE, not full of preparedness.

I’m going to need some serious help here.

A release date graphic suitable for a sidebar

Click to download image

I feel like there are thousands of people I need to invite to this party and I only have access to a handful of them. But the reason so many people tried Hush Money is because you guys checked it out and told other people about it. I would be so grateful if you’d mention that this is finally happening. <– Look, I made you this nifty graphic for your sidebar. The postcard at the top of the page would fit well at the bottom of a blog post, in an email to a friend, on Facebook, or shared in a tweet. And you can always use the sharing buttons located beneath the post.

No pressure. I hope I don’t even need to say that. But if you’re excited this is coming out and want to help spread the word, I want to make it easy. If anyone has any ideas about what I can do to get the word out, I’m happy to hear them.

I also hope it goes without saying, and yet I want to say it anyway: I am deeply grateful for everyone’s patience and sustained enthusiasm. Your support means everything to me. It’s the reason I finished the book, and ultimately it was the reason I chose this path. I wrote this book for us and I can hardly wait to share it with you.

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#ROW80 Susan, what the hell are you doing?

Hell, I don’t know.

I think maybe I’m a recovering stats junkie. I used to right on top of all my stuff. Checking my sales everywhere and recording that in a spreadsheet used to be the first thing I did every morning. It used to be a bit of hobby for me to watch changes in rank and to get a sense of about how many sales per day meant about what rank and how that changed with the changes in the market as a whole. (For example, at one point getting into the top 100 might have meant selling at least 100 books in 24 hours. And then at another point 100 books in 24 hours might have gotten you into the top 700 as more books and customers entered the marketplace.)

But anyway, I pretty much walked away from all that. I learned a lot. I think I needed to learn stuff, and I don’t feel like it was totally time wasted, but… I can’t control things like rank and sales. When you see those things taking even a natural downturn, even when everyone around you is reporting decreased sales, still, just looking at something makes you want to affect it. And you can’t. Not really. Not directly, I guess.

So anyway, had to stop obsessing over that stuff, and I think that’s been good for me. I just realized that Hush Money is a year old. Like, today. A year ago today it went up on Smashwords. In a few days it will be a whole year it’s been up on Amazon. I’ve sold over 20,000 copies. I’ve gotten so much love and support from readers and other writers. It’s been awesome.

You know the question I get asked most? When are we going to get Heroes ‘Til Curfew? You have no idea how I’ve struggled with this question. Because the simple answer is: I don’t know. And the rest of the answer is complicated.

Books one and two of the Talent Chronicles are currently being shopped by my agent. We’re looking for a contract for both of them. To take this step, to even seriously consider selling the rights to these to someone else and put this much control of my world into someone else hands…it’s huge.

I often wonder what the hell I’m doing.

Every other week we hear about another known author self-publishing. This week it was Holly Lisle. People I respect and admire turning away from what I’m approaching and moving toward where I’ve been.

As though I’m moving backward.

But maybe it’s not linear. Maybe there is no backward. (Maybe there is no spoon.) I understand my own reasons for seeking this out. I know what I want out of it.

But the waiting is nerve-wracking. There’s wondering. There’s dreams I’m afraid of dreaming. There’s worrying. There’s this feeling of life on hold.

And if I would just give up this whole idea I could go back to what I know. To where I’ve been successful before and hope I can do half as well with Heroes ‘Til Curfew as I did with Hush Money. And then when people asked me when book 2 is coming out I have a better answer for them!

I just feel like Hush Money and I have done so well on our own, but does that mean we should just sit back and be satisfied with that or should we see if there’s more than can be done? Now that I’ve already had thousands of readers, what might happen if I had a publisher behind me who could get me wider distribution? Where I’m, like, a new author, but not quite brand new. Maybe it could be awesomer.

Look, I may never get a TV series or a comic or a video game. Okay, yeah, I probably won’t. I get that. But I think that even if a lot of readers no longer need a publishers’ stamp on book for them to give it a try, I think the world might still be at a point where that would make it slightly less impossible to be considered for the next level. The Talent Chronicles graphic novel level.

Do you get this sense that I’m deeply conflicted? I want this. I want to try this. I want to have these opportunities if I can. I want to learn shit. New shit. And I don’t want to wait. I feel so friggin’ guilty about the waiting to release this book that it’s eating me up. And I’m so worried about not having new material to release and having readers forget about me. And I’m so worried about not releasing and thence not having an income and thence not having a Christmas.

Do you know what I’ve done in this year since I released Hush Money? I’ve traded my size 14 pants for size 4. Sometimes I think it’s all from worrying.

This should be a happy birthday post. It should be chock full of awesome, and I’m sorry that it’s not. This is why I’m not around a lot. I’m just in this holding pattern that makes me crazy and crazy-angsty, and I feel like I don’t know what to say because I don’t KNOW anything anymore.

So, I don’t know what you think of that from a ROW80 standpoint. I guess it means that I’m still trying to get myself settled back in and back on track.

What the hell is up with Susan? To be continued…

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Filed under ROW80, writing

Running At An Artificial Pace

At the top of the email it reads, “To: Susan”

These emails I get from Holly Lisle, I so often wish that I could find them and link you to them, because they’re so often very wise. And, of course they are. Holly’s been putting out great books and teaching writers for how long now?

Since I can’t show it to you and I can’t copy/paste it for you, I’ll give you the gist. Once upon a time, Holly decided, based on some extrapolation of daily page count and faulty thinking, that she would be able to write 12 books a year. An agent whom she queried with this plan shot her down, explaining that he wouldn’t rep anyone who wrote twelve books a year, because they would all be crap.

Now it is true that everyone writes a different pace, and I think that a lot of people can write more than the one or two books a year that NY will publish for you. Some people can write twelve good books a year, witness Amanda Hocking with 6 out of 12 in the Kindle top 100, last I checked.

And you know, that’s what I wanted to talk about. They’ve been talking a bunch around the indie blogs lately about what some are even calling the “Amanda Hocking Effect.” (Poor thing, I wonder what she thinks of all this.) I first heard this theory from Kait, and then the term itself a few days later from Zoe. The basic idea is that one of the ways to climb quickly and build a very excited, involved fan base is to keep feeding those fans new work. Amanda hasn’t let two months go by without a new release. She doesn’t have to worry about her fans forgetting about her, and when she comes out with something, it goes to the top of the list for those fans because they’re still reeling from the last Hocking book they loved.

So in addition to having a backlist available, feeding your readers new work without too much time lag between releases now goes into our theory about how things work.

Since that came up, a bunch of indies I know are talking about ways to do that. More short stories and novellas, the possibility of serialization. I don’t like serials. Cue Queen: I want it all, and I want it now. I don’t read many short stories. I like novels, I understand the…physics of novels, and that’s how my brain works. And yet this recent talk has made even me think about these things. I don’t know if that’s me being open-minded, or just plain wacky.

But this was all still stewing in my head when I read Holly’s email because I’m just trying to remind myself that it has to be good. I know everyone who’s thinking about doing shorts knows that. We all know that. But I needed to remind myself that it might be better to play to my strengths. There was the idea that maybe I could dash off some shorts and that would take some of the pressure off, make it easier to ask people to wait for the next novel.

And then the Gin Blossoms came in and said, Susan,

How you gonna ever find your place, runnin’ at an artificial pace?

I know, it seems odd, but people be showin’ up to tell me all kinds of stuff all the time. It’s part of why nothing gets done.

Do you know what occurred to me the other day as I read my piece on Hush Money at 6 months?

It’s only been 6 months. It seems like so much longer to me, but it’s only been 6 months. Jesus H. Washington Christ, what I have I been flogging myself for for the last few months? I’m totally new at this. I set myself an unreasonable deadline. I made a mistake. Criminy, how long am I going to make myself pay for that?

I’d guess that most trad authors get at least a year to write book 2, and probably longer than that to get it all polished up and ready to go. I dunno. It just seems like Holly was giving me a wake up call. Wake up and listen to what you friends have been trying to tell me.

The top of the email reads, “To: Susan,” and it’s like she wrote it just for me.

If you’re a writer and do not get Holly’s newsletter, please consider doing yourself that favor.

That segues pretty well into this week’s

Recommended Reading

Why I’m a Fandrew
Actually, I’m not just any fan of Andrew Mocete, I’m Fandrew #1. And if you want to see an example of why, check this out. Andrew’s writing a Love Series on his blog, about loves that have shaped him as a writer. Who gets the first spot? His wife. In a charming and heart-felt post, Andrew talks about the importance of support, how rare it is, along with some good ideas about why it’s so hard to find in My Wife: Love Series Part 1. (found because you know Fandrew #1 subscribes)

I’m a speshul snowflake too!
Ok, this is a bit of ramble, but stick with it, because it’s full of sincerity, and drizzled with beauty. It may inspire you a bit, and open up your brain a bit, as Larry Brooks so often does for me. Writers, Give the Gift of “Getting off the dime” is Larry’s answer to that every-person who casually says “Yeah, I’d like to write a book someday.” (found via subscription to the Storyfix blog)

I don’t wanna sully my art by doing what I love in any way that’s less than…
If you’re on the fence about going indie because of the stigma factor, here’s a post to think about. Another from Larry Brook’s Storyfix blog, this is a guest post by Carol Tice. (via subscription)

ROW80

I’m a bit backwards this week, and I’ll admit that ROW80 hasn’t been much on my mind. I wrote a lot on the short piece this week. In both the stories I’m working I’m now at a point where I will have to break down and write an action scene on something. Damn.

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Filed under Recs and Links, ROW80

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.

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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.

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Filed under Heroes 'Til Curfew, Talent Chronicles

Heroes ‘Til Curfew: Cover Art and Latest Info on the Sequel to Hush Money

Ok, that was the longest title ever.

I’m sure that there are some of you out there who fondly remember a time when I had planned this book to be a fall release, with yet another book out before the end of the year. Let’s all get that laugh over with. Life just happened all over me this fall, and I’m still trying to recover.

Work on Heroes is back on in earnest now, in a way that makes me feel like I’ve got a bit of my mojo back. At least enough to go to Robin and say: these are some things I know happen, these are some themes in story, etc. (Incidentally, I think the fact that I discuss themes with Robin, as well as characters, events, and set-pieces, might be why she’s able to come up with things that work so well. Or it could be just because she’s awesomesauce.)

So I have a cover. Here it is:

Heroes 'Til Curfew Cover Art

Cover Art by Robin Ludwig

I’ll give you a moment.

Do you love it?

Ok, so when can we expect the rest of it? Right now I’m saying January 2011. I hope you’ll all run right out and start up some best of 2011 lists as soon as you read it. ETA Release info: Since this post gets a bunch of hits from people searching for release info, I wanted to say that Heroes ‘Til Curfew still isn’t finished (*cringe* sorry!), and I don’t have a release date right now. I’ve added a line at the top of the sidebar with it’s status for your quick reference, and recommend signing up for the newsletter. I so much want to thank everyone for your patience and support.

I know that’s a while yet, although, trust me, it doesn’t seem like so very long from my perspective. I do, however, have a beginning. Imogen Rose was kind enough to include the first scene of Heroes ‘Til Curfew at the end of her latest release, Quantum. That “sneak peek” excerpt is just under two thousand words.

One thing I’ll tell you about the new story: it does not pick up right after Hush Money. A little bit of time passes between the two stories. For those of you who may now be going–

But wait! What happened when Joss got home? What did her dad say?

Hey, no one wanted to know that more than I did. I’m currently working on a short story which will serve as a sort of epilogue to Hush Money. Right now, what I have is being told from Dylan’s perspective. And all I can say is, “Poor Dylan.” Heroes ‘Til Curfew is my number one priority, but I hope to get back to the epilogue while Heroes makes the rounds with the beta and proof readers. I think it would be lovely if I could have that out for you around Christmastime.

As of right now, I intend for that story to be a freebie, a gift to readers who enjoyed Hush Money enough to sign up for a newsletter that will alert them to new releases and events in the Talent Chronicles series. Anyone who signs up for the newsletter now will receive information on how to download the new story as soon as it becomes available. (And anyone who doesn’t want to receive emails about new releases will be free to unsubscribe at any time.)

Did you know that Hush Money has now sold over 2500 copies, here in its fourth month of release? This blows my mind. That’s thanks to a lot of people who have written reviews, tweeted, and even hand-sold copies of the book to their friends, for which I am so grateful. And that’s a lot of people who will need to know about that sequel! If you’d like to offer help or ideas, please feel free.

Meanwhile, I gotta go write the damn thing.

ETA for PS: If any of you wants to borrow this cover image for the purpose of generating interest in the series and otherwise having something to blog about, please feel free.

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Filed under books, goals, Heroes 'Til Curfew, Hush Money, love, me me me, progress update, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing

Now Appearing Live!

I have book! Finally.

Not on Amazon yet. If you’re waiting for Amazon, that’s still going to be a few days (I’m hoping for Thursday night or Friday). [ETA: The page has started and it’s buyable now! Check out the link in the sidebar.) But you can download the Kindle-compatible sample from Smashwords and get started on that.

This self-publishing stuff isn’t so hard, but it can be very tedious and frustrating. Fortunately, I had no formatting issues with the Meatgrinder at Smashwords–at least none that I’ve seen so far. When I submitted my file last night, it was to find out that I was #663 in the queue to be formatted. After a day of fixing little things, adding a few excerpts and shout-outs to the back matter of the book, etc., I was just too bleary-eyed and spent to stay up and wait for it.

When I woke up this morning, it was all set to go. But no sooner did I start to page through the HTML file to make sure it was ok, then Smashwords went down and stayed down for hours.

Now it’s back up and you can go get your very own copy of Hush Money. It’s available in several formats that should please just about everyone. You can also find it in PDF on Scribd. If you need some format you don’t see, please contact me and let me know.

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Filed under books, Hush Money, Laws of the Universe, links, me me me, progress update, self-publishing, Signs, Talent Chronicles, Violations, writing

Holding Pattern

The good news: I’m publishing today.

The not as good news: I’m not totally sure about being live today, and won’t be until I have it all buyable right in front of me.

I’m very anxious/hyper/nervous/excited today, so please bear with me.

Kait, who actually said the other day “I love Adobe Acrobat!”, offered to do the PDF and whatever headers and stuff I need to file for copyright. (Actually, she’s ranting today about how formatting is not hard. Check it out.) But she had real work to do this morning so I must wait until after lunch for her awesomeness to finish doing my work for me.

After that, it’s upload city, baby, and I get to see if it’s really as no hard as she says. So far, everything I’ve done is really…not that hard. I just have to wait to see if it all blows up before I can actually talk about it.

While we’re waiting, if you would consider liking my new Facebook author page, that would really help me look less losery, thanks so much.

I should be doing more productive stuff. I have a list, but I haven’t opened it today. I’ve been thinking about printing with Createspace, doing some reading on that, asking for some experiences and opinions and stuff. My biggest obstacle really is that I have to go back to Robin for the rest of the cover since I only bought a front. Her price for that is really reasonable, I just don’t have a lot of money right now. I wonder if she’d accept this slightly used puppy who ripped through two skeins of pricey yarn this morning… Likely not, and I couldn’t blame her.

Anyway, see, this is the thing with the hyper. I get really rambly. I’ve got to go do something while I wait. I’ll get those links out to you soon!

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Filed under books, Hush Money, knitting, links, me me me, progress update, rant, romance, self-publishing, Talent Chronicles, writing