My Books, Publish, Reflections, Social Media, Writing

My salad days, when I was green in judgment . . .

Research the origin of the phrase “salad days” and you’ll discover, especially in the U.S., it’s currently used to mean being at the peak of one’s abilities. That’s not how I’m using it. I use it as did William Shakespeare when he coined it in 1606. “My salad days, When I was green in judgment …” is from Anthony and Cleopatra: Act I, Scene 5 and Cleopatra speaks of her youthful naivete.

salad_mI’m a long way from my youth in life, but not in novel writing. In the fall of 2008, I was in the midst of writing the first draft of my novel The Brevity of Roses. Concerning the publishing business, I was not only hopeful that I’d be a success, I was confident. Ah, yes. I was “green in judgment.” I was naive. But I felt alive.

When I finished writing that novel, I queried it to the big name agents, none of whom broke the sound barrier in their haste to send me a contract. I revised my query letter and sent it to other agents. I received some, but not a lot of response. My confidence took a big hit. My hope waned.

Then, a major change in my life circumstances made the idea of self-publishing attractive. In hindsight, I see how “green in judgment” I remained. I am not naturally suited to indie publishing by personality. But I was even less suited to it after  the agent querying process eroded my confidence. Since publication, some lovely positive reviews have helped restore a bit of that, but I fear I’ll never regain it completely.

I know I can’t fully return to those salad days. It’s unrealistic to think I can retain naivete and gain experience at the same time. But my Muse, jaded by reality, misses the exuberance of her “youth.” I’m having a devil of a time shutting off that publishing/marketing voice that questions every aspect of what I’m trying to write now.

To say I’m stressed is putting it mildly—and stress, for me, always takes a physical toll. Before I published my first novel, I was a few pounds overweight, but otherwise mostly healthy. Now, I’m more pounds overweight than I can bear to say, and I’m beaten down with health problems. In some sense, I have to find a way back to those “salad days” of writing.

I really don’t want to make the decision not to publish anything more, but I do want to write without distraction from publishing/marketing concerns. I need to recapture some of the innocence that made my fingers fly over the keyboard, thrilled at the story unfolding before me. I need to throw off these chains of stress and depression by believing once again that the story I’m writing is wonderful and the words flowing from my imagination will speak to readers in the way I’ve always dreamed.

So, I rescind my statement in a previous post that I hoped to have two books ready for publishing by the end of 2014. I don’t know if I’ll have even one ready. Right now, publishing is off my radar. I want to write. Further marketing of what I’ve already written is not something I can deal with, either. I want to interact in social media simply for the fun of it, like I did in my salad days … but maybe with a little less greeness.

It’s time to quit frowning and start smiling again. It’s time to feel alive again.

Linda

Books, Opinion, Publish, Writing

Truths About Self-Publishing

I’ve been honest on this blog, sometimes embarrassingly so, and yet I feel I’ve also deceived. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to share and what to keep to myself, but I’m going to be straight with you today because someone might benefit by hearing some truths I’ve learned from two years of self-publishing. Whichever side you’re on, please read to the end before you nock your arrows.

La Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth)
La Bocca della Verità
(The Mouth of Truth)

In short, I’ve learned that I am not a successful indie author. Let me clarify that. I’ve succeeded at writing two novels, and I succeeded at doing the work necessary to self-publish them, but I’ve failed at giving them a real chance of being read.

Self-publishing is a fantastic opportunity—for some writers. It might be a no-brainer if you write certain types of non-fiction. And it’s almost that good a choice for certain genre fiction writers. Self-publishing works well even for non-genre fiction writers—with the right qualifications.

But I write upscale women’s fiction and I do not have the right qualifications to self-publish that.  What do I lack?

  1. Money: This is a biggie! I have a fixed, very limited, income. Right now, I can’t even afford professional editing or cover design, so I definitely don’t have the funds for professional blog tours, ad space, reviews, or elaborate giveaways to increase my books’ exposure.
  2. Influence: I’m not a member of any organizations (social, religious, political, etc.) virtual or real. I don’t even work outside the home. My few thousand followers on WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and the like amount to a tiny blip in the grand scheme of social media. I, and consequently my books, are invisible online and off. And visibility is everything.
  3. Confidence: I have the time, energy, and focus, but at this point, I just don’t have the necessary confidence to sell my writing—or myself. I need my work vetted by industry professionals. There, I said the forbidden word.

Did I know all this about myself before I published The Brevity of Roses?  Most of it, yes, I did. And yet I stepped in line behind the self-publishing pipers, the ones raking in the money, the ones who didn’t really talk about the qualifications I lacked.

They made self-publishing success sound like it was just hanging on the tree, ripe for picking. “Just write good books,” they implied, “and the readers will flock to them.” And that may be true for them, in part because their fan bases were already established from their traditionally published books, or a high-traffic blog, or international news coverage for some other career. It has not proven true for me.

So, what does all this mean for my future? I still plan to self-publish. I have a start on a novella, some short stories I’d like to compile, and maybe a novel that doesn’t fit under the WF umbrella. Those will be published by me. But my next novel needs to be one I can query to agents. I need a publisher who has the experience, influence, and money that I don’t have because if my book has the editing and financial backing of professionals, I’ll have the confidence to promote that book.

Every day I read how the stigma of self-publishing is fading. That may be true if your self-published books are on the NYTimes best-seller list—or even in the Top 100 Paid list on Amazon.  Mine aren’t.

Every day I read how authors are stupid to give part of their royalties to an agent and publisher. That may be true if your self-published books rack up 100 or more sales a day—or month. Mine don’t.

In my confusing post last week I talked about having a dream to keep me going. Well, my dream is to see my next novel basking in a ray of limelight. And I just don’t see that happening if I publish it myself.

Your mileage probably varies. This is about me, not you. Maybe you have all three qualifications I lack and a solid plan for your self-publishing future that will get you to the top. Yay! I’ll support you in every way I can. Or maybe you are perfectly satisfied with the scope of the current readership of your self-published books. Yay! I’ll raise a toast to your reaching a personal goal.

I’m thankful for every person who’s read The Brevity of Roses and An Illusion of Trust. And I’m thrilled the majority of them enjoyed the read. But I can’t help wondering how many other readers would enjoy those books just as much—if they knew they existed!

Is my dissatisfaction really just about money? Considering point #1, I can’t say I’d be unhappy with some of that, but no. It’s more about needing the satisfaction of knowing that something I created, something I love, is appreciated by others—many others. It’s about wanting to know to what level professional guidance could lift my writing. And it’s about needing respect from writing professionals—and also from myself.

Every day, I spend several hours working on some aspect of writing. It’s my full-time job. I’m devoting too much of my life to this effort to not give the result a real chance to succeed. I have to try. I have a dream.

signature5

Doubt, Publish, Writing

Trudging Down That Dark Path of Despair

I said in my last post I needed to find some answers before I could move forward. At the time I wrote that post, I was in dialogue with a writer friend who is well-acquainted with the angst I expressed. A few hours after I published my post, she sent me a link to a brilliant one by Robin LaFevers on Writer Unboxed. Though I subscribe to that blog, I missed reading that post. Maybe it just wasn’t time yet.

darkpathThe title of that fantastic article is “The Seven Stages of Publishing Grief (or Hello Darkness, My Old Friend).” I felt as if it were written directly to me. Obviously it wasn’t  so there’s comfort in knowing that what I’ve been going through is common to all writers at some point in their career. As LaFevers writes:

So this seemed like a good time to talk about writers and disappointment. For while writing is one of the most rewarding pursuits in the world, publishing can be a long, slow, painful slog toward the pit of despair, and you can quickly find yourself in the soul sucking land of Major Disappointment. And guess what? This disappointment applies equally to pre-published, traditionally published, and indie published authors alike, so I guess that’s the upside: egalitarianism!

Yes, I’ve been “slogging toward the pit of despair” for a while now. But I’m overjoyed to know that’s normal—and survivable. I’ve read through those seven stages several times. I’ve been working through the Reflection stage, and now I’m about to move into Reconstruction. And I’m looking forward to Resurrection.  LaFevers says:

It’s essential that you don’t get stuck in one of the first four stages for the rest of your life. It is vitally important to your creative soul that you keep moving through them all the way to the Resurrection Stage, for without that, you’re simply stuck in a really ugly place for a very long time.

If you’re a publishing writer, or hope to be, do yourself a favor and go read that post. If you don’t need it now, save it because some day you’re going to find yourself trudging down that dark path.

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Doubt, Publish, Writing

My Month of No Writing

My self-imposed hiatus from writing is over. I needed to take a break because I’d just published another novel and wanted to get caught up on things I’d neglected while working on that book. I stepped away from the keyboard, did some housework, and started reading again. So did I cheat by writing?

Well, I succeeded in not writing any new fiction, but I did revise two short pieces. One I needed to submit to my critique group and the other I’m considering submitting to an online journal. But it was easy not to start on a new novel project—too easy.

lazy

I have a serious case of the writing blahs. It’s not because I don’t have an idea for another novel. In fact, I have four ideas, in various stages of pre-writing. But I have no enthusiasm for working on any of them because I’m questioning everything to do with writing.

Actually, that’s not true. I don’t question why I write. I always have and will continue to make up stories, some to write down and others to keep in my head, because that entertains and challenges me. So I guess what I’m really questioning is publication—what to publish, how to publish, whether to publish at all.

I’m a little angry at myself about all this indecision. I thought I’d settled this long ago. I’ve been published for two years now, and I’ve stated that my true aim for publishing was only to share my writing. Now I’ve done that and even had the thrill of total strangers telling me how much they loved my stories. So am I whiney and shallow to be dissatisfied?

That’s only one of the many questions draining my energy. Every time I think I’ve weighed the pros and cons of something I’m questioning, the whole thing slips and slides and flips on me. I talk myself into something and then talk myself out of it. Clearly I don’t have any solid answers yet. But I think I’m going to have to find some before I regain the motivation to start writing another novel because, right now, my Muse is just lying there, inert with the blahs.

Can you relate?

Publish, Writing

Authors, don’t be blinded by the name!

If you’re an author, or know one, please read David Gaughran’s post titled: “Simon & Schuster Joins Forces With Author Solutions To Rip Off Writers”.

With the rise in popularity of self-publishing, it’s no surprise that the Big 6 publishers are trying to find ways to get in on the action, but for Penquin, who purchased Author Solutions in July, and now Simon & Schuster to go into business with them is disturbing if not despicable.

Please read David’s article about the Simon & Schuster deal with Author Solutions (one of many warning articles on this deal published this week) to educate yourself, so you can warn other hopeful writers against being blinded by the big publisher name.

Simon & Schuster Joins Forces With Author Solutions To Rip Off Writers.