Friday, January 12, 2018

The Productivity of the Writer

Because I spend most of my writing day working in a capacity that's geared towards marketing, productivity has become nothing more than a buzz word when it comes to my own writing life. It's a concept that is hard to grasp as a person who isn't a writer, because productivity is usually proven with tangible results: you have a story published, your book is coming out, you managed to successfully dress yourself when you finally emerged from your home office--things like that.

Productivity for my professional life has a much wider scope that includes finishing drafts of stories no one else may ever have the pleasure of reading, getting up the nerve to submit to a publication (then actually pressing the button to submit it), begging fifty book bloggers for reviews and getting one back. These are the things no one ever sees. What do people see? They see me staring at the wall, probably moving my lips silently as I figure out the word order and phrasing I want to use in a story I haven't begun to put down on paper--and this is totally a productive activity too, as weird as it may look.

My point to all this rambling talk about productivity (which in itself may be debatable that it was a productive use of my time)? The beginning of 2018 has been a super-productive time for me already. I managed to get my chapbook contest submission in on time and have convinced myself that the entry fee was, in fact, worth it. I just finished editing a short story that I'm ready to send out, although I'm still a little timid about where I want to send it to. I wrote the story months ago and knew once I saw the completed first draft exactly where I wanted to send it. Over the editing process I was constantly battling with my own ego, telling myself, "You must be joking. You can't send it there." And the next day I would tell myself that I was just being my usual anxiety-ridden self. I finally convinced myself that I should just go for it--it won't do me any harm to try. And then Cat Person happened.

For those who haven't heard about this, Cat Person is a short story in The New Yorker that created huge waves all over the internet a few weeks ago. Serious waves. Like the author already has a lucrative book deal kind of waves. I read it and thought what everyone else did--it was so simple, but such a genius piece of work that captures everything about the topic it discusses (I'm being vague because I think you should read it rather than suffer through my synopsis of it). That made me once again reconsider sending out my story because that's exactly where I wanted to send it. But in the name of writerly productivity, I'm sending it there anyway. I don't care if I'm ninety-nine percent sure it's not getting in. This isn't the year to be afraid anymore.

...with my writing. I'm still totally afraid of spiders and small talk.

Friday, January 05, 2018

New Year, New Ideas

My writing life seems to have a predictable pattern. And I'm falling into the second half of that cycle this January. While I'm trying to focus most of my attention on finishing what I started for NaNoWriMo in November, I'm also plagued with a lot of new ideas.

I watch a lot of TV shows, but I don't make as much of a point to watch movies on a regular basis. I wanted to correct that, so I've been watching movies on Saturday nights (I know, I'm a wild child). And of course watching just one movie conjured up a big idea in my head for a movie script. I wrote out an outline and hope I don't lose steam on this one because I'm pretty intrigued to see where it goes.

An essay idea also crept up on me in the last couple of days. I think that came from reading Slouching Towards Bethlehem over the past couple of weeks. I'm also in the middle of Ariel, so who knows what kind of poetry is going to hit the paper over the course of the month. But it's all good--new ideas are always welcome. I know that with them I will never suffer writer's block.

When it comes to finished work, I'm trying to push more of those finished ideas out. That poetry chapbook is still sitting around, waiting to find a new home. I've looked at dozens of chapbook contests, and I think I've finally found one that will give me the best chance to get my work out there. The only problem? Entry fees. I have a hard time justifying spending the money just for a sliver of a chance. However, the particular contest that I'm ninety-nine percent sure I'm entering does provide a year's subscription to the journal for paying the entry fee, so I don't feel like I'm totally getting ripped off when I don't win--if I don't win. The real scary part about winning is that they provide five hundred copies of the chapbook to the author. Five hundred. That's a lot, knowing that most would sit around and collect dust.

In the midst of sorting out all of the new writing ideas and submissions, I've also added another reward tier to my Patreon page. At the $15 patron level you will get all of the great benefits that the other levels get (exclusive excerpts, digital ARCs, cover reveals, and more), plus now you can get digital copies of my entire backlist. Right now that includes one book of poetry, one novel, and three novellas--all for $15 a month. If you're interested, you can always sign up as a patron today.

That's what my January looks like. What are you working on this month? 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Writing Goals for 2018

Resolutions are a funny thing. You want to make them because you want to improve your life, but as we all know, we rarely tend to complete them. That's why I try to stick to only making professional goals for the New Year, rather than personal ones. In most cases personal goals often depend on the thoughts and actions of others, which no one else can control. Professional writing goals, however, are completely in my hands.

This year, the first goal is to start publishing quarterly. I don't know what form that will take, though I doubt it will be four full novels in a year. And it may not all be self-published in the same way as previous works, either. I am still keeping that option at the top of the list, but I'm exploring all types publication options, including Wattpad, Kindle Scout, literary journals, and of course the crown jewel of traditional publishing.  I want to make sure that I'm producing enough work because that's the only way I can achieve any of my other goals.

The next goal is a perpetual one for every writer: building a bigger audience. I've found this goal to be the most difficult to meet because I can get book sales, I can get reviews, but it's not often that I see a pattern to tell me there's a returning reader. I know that's because I tend to write in different genres and not everyone who likes one will like another. The goal here is really to create more than just a few works a year--it's to provide readers with other things that they want. What that is for my specific audience I'm still figuring out. But I know that I have to get the structure, tools, and marketing in place to attract more people to what I write. Easier said than done.

The third writing goal I have 2018 is directly linked to the second: getting more patrons on Patreon. I know that without some reason for a reader to feel loyal to my work, this isn't likely to happen. That's why building a relationship with an audience is so important. Patreon works for people because people believe in the artists they support. So, personal branding is going to have to be a priority this year, even though I often feel my personal message falls a little flat. That's all right. I can jazz it up.

These are pretty big goals, so I think my list will end here. I know it's going to take a lot of work and some time to see any results, but I'm sure going to try my best to make 2018 my best writing year yet.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Goodreads Leaving a Bad Taste in the Mouths of Indie Authors

I thought I was just going to write a post about my 2018 writing goals this week (don't worry, that's still on the way), but it turns out Goodreads tried to slip some news past all of us during the holidays. Starting in January, Goodreads will introduce a new U.S. Giveaways program. You can read their blog post about it, but once you do, you'll find that comments are closed for this particular post. Hmm, wonder why?

Anyway, here are the highlights:

  • No more listing giveaways for free (which hurts everyone, but particular indie authors with tiny marketing budgets)
  • There are two package options with the cheapest costing over $100
  • Yes, you can give away up to 100 books per giveaway, but if you want to give away less, you still pay the same price

For all of this hassle, the supposed benefits you get include:

  • Forcing anyone who enters your giveaway to put your book on their Want To Read shelf. (I hate this as a reader because if I don't win the book, I don't want a ton of books I'll never go out and buy clogging my virtual bookshelves).
  • Anyone already following you or your books gets a notification of a new giveaway (that's already been happening before this change)
  • Followup emails are sent eight weeks after someone wins a giveaway, reminding (annoying?) them into leaving a review.
  • The premium package ($600? Really?!) lets you pay to be listed ahead of all the other suckers who could only shell out $119 for the privilege of giving something away for free. This is the ONLY benefit above the standard package.

To be clear, there are no specifics on how the print giveaways work. Before, you had to purchase the copies and send them directly to the winners yourself. If this is still the case, you are basically paying $119 for NOTHING. If you are giving an ebook away, however, Amazon will take care of the distribution to winners for you except, you know, you have to have your book listed on Amazon, otherwise its not clear if a giveaway is even an option. This is how the ebook giveaways have been set up since they started offering them, even keeping a similar price.

It kind of makes you feel a little sick to see how Amazon is profiting off of buying Goodreads. I think we all knew this was coming, but it's still jarring to see it in print. I'm not like some of the authors who are considering saying goodbye to Goodreads all together because it is still a useful tool (until they start charging for more things--I wouldn't put it past them at this point). And of course, none of us can boycott Amazon because they've made it impossible to have any chance of a successful career without them pulling most of the strings.

You may even be saying, "But you can run giveaways anywhere!" Sure you can. I've used Rafflecopter to run giveaways for digital copies of my books instead of Goodreads. And you know what? I get anywhere from 0-7 entries with plenty of social media promotion for it. Since one person can enter multiple times, I only average about 2 people entering these giveaways. On Goodreads, I've never seen a giveaway with less than 150 individual entries, even books that look so bad you wouldn't want to waste your time on it. This matters. And yes, Goodreads/Amazon has realized they can profit from this.

The only solution to prove to Goodreads that this is a bad idea is not to use it. And I don't mean authors--if you have the money to waste, go ahead and do it. You'll look silly doing it since we all now know how much your paying to list it. When I say don't use it, I mean the readers. They have the power here. If you stop entering the giveaways, the price for authors and publishers will no longer be worth it. I know it can be fun (and a little addicting) to win Goodreads giveaways, but don't let this good time ruin the careers of some great writers who cannot afford this pay-to-play situation.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

A Strange Dilemma

Last night I ran into quite an interesting circumstance. After my latest rejection, I was looking for another publication to send my poetry to because I think the handful of poems I picked for the last one is still a solid body of work for submissions. So, I dug into my research and found a publication where my work would be a good fit. And as usual, I did one more sweep of the publication's website for any other research information I had missed that would help me tailor the submission.

There it was, staring me down on the About the Editors page: one of the poetry editors at this newly chosen publication happens to have another job--as a poetry editor at the publication I just received the rejection from. What now? This little surprise changes my whole perception of the world of literary publications. Does this happen often? How many times have I unknowingly sent the same submission into the hands of the same editor without knowing it? And seriously, when it is a non-paying publication and these are most likely volunteer positions... how does this person have time to be an editor at two of them??

Now I'm left with a decision that I have to make quickly, if I want to meet the deadline of this new publication. I could go ahead and still submit to this publication, knowing that there's a good chance it will be rejected once again (though I wouldn't send the same poems, like I had originally intended). Both publications work on a blind submission basis, so unless I have a truly distinct literary voice, they wouldn't be able to tell it was me. Both publications also have multiple editors listed for poetry, so there's a small chance that it would never end up in the hands of the overlapping editor. Then again, I don't know if it's a collaborative decision or first come, first reject.

Or, I could just move on and find another publication. It would make it easier for me to think I had a better shot at getting accepted, but it would take more time to find the right one to submit to.

The life of a writer is certainly full of plot twists!