Tag Archives: Jenny Crusie

And now for something completely different

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-publishing. That’s hardly surprising. Everyone even slightly involved with publishing has been thinking about self-publishing. Some have been thinking more pleasant thoughts than others, but we all are thinking about it.

Where I keep getting bogged down is when I hear people talk about how hard it is. Because the next person goes on and on about how easy it is. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable consensus here. And when you’re a writer who is considering all her options, it’s extremely frustrating to have conflicting information. It’s impossible to decide what you want — and can we please stipulate that every writer wants slightly different things? — when you have no idea what’s involved with getting what you want.

This all came to a head last weekend when I finally made time to read the lengthy conversations between Jenny Crusie and Barbara Samuel that were posted on Argh Ink, waaaay back in early May. What? I’ve been busy.

Jenny Crusie is one of the smartest people I know and one point she made in the second post was how excited she is about the prospect of self-publishing non-traditional projects, things a publisher wouldn’t want. Not novels, other stuff. And then she said,

“But all of a sudden there’s a place for whatever weirdness I want to do.”

And I thought, Hmmm. I wish I could say I spent a great deal of time thinking about this, but sometimes when an idea clicks it just seems right and you don’t really need to agonize over it.

So I have decided to conduct an experiment. I’ve got a good deal of weirdness right here on this blog. Not Crusie-quality weirdness, but still. There are more than 200 posts written over a period of five years. The majority of them are unremarkable. Some of them are about writing and not appropriate for what I have in mind. Some of them are plain awful. But several of them are really not that bad. Several of them were well-received and evoked a favourable response from readers.

Obviously, a 30,000-word ebook of short essays already published on the internet by a completely unknown writer is not the sort of thing any publisher would be interested in acquiring. Unless, you know, it turns out to be a big hit. Then maybe.

But I don’t see any reason not to publish it myself. If it’s a huge flop and doesn’t sell more than 50 copies to friends and relatives, oh well. There will be one more thing out there with my name on it to make a small dent in obscurity. Who knows, maybe I’ll connect with a few new readers who like my writing and want more. But at least I’ll know exactly how easy or difficult this process is. Not for someone else, but for me.

I’ll choose the content and do the formatting and find a cover artist and write the blurb/product description and set the price and do the marketing myself. I hope I’ll have a wee bit of help with promotion, but I’m not counting on it. I’m even trying to figure out how to include pictures, because a couple posts really need the visuals and I’d hate to omit them, and everything I’ve read says you can include them. I’m just not sure how, exactly. Yet.

I’ve pretty much decided which posts to use, but I’m in the process of tracking down my former editor (a man I respect and for whom I wrote dozens of op/ed type newspaper columns, years ago) to solicit his editorial advice. It feels dishonest to edit or re-write the posts, so I won’t do that. Plus, I think they’re pretty clean. But there are other editorial things to consider.

I’ve studied the guidelines over at Amazon and have so far read most of Mark Coker’s excellent book Smashwords Style Guide. And I’ve watched the tutorials for Scrivener — I’ll tell you right now, they make this process sound ridiculously easy. I’m skeptically hopeful.

I have an idea for a title but it needs a subtitle (really, long titles are common for books like this) and I might need help with that. I want to call it: HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? (which was the title of my first blog post, when I accidentally ended up with a blog). For a subtitle, I thought maybe: Talking to Imaginary Friends about kids and pets and BEARS! Any feedback would be very much welcomed. Suggestions, anyone?

I have a very rough idea of what I want for a cover, but we all know I’m not an artist. And now that I know what a glyph is, I want one. Bad. So I’ll research that.

So that’s what I’ve been up to the past week or so. I’m surprised by how excited I am about this project. Also extremely nervous, but mostly excited.

Does this have implications for what I might do with my first* novel once I finish it? Well, yes, of course it does. How could it not? But a book of essays is not a novel. I’m looking at this as a learning experience. A necessary part of being a smart businessperson and gathering the tools I need to make informed decisions about my career. What I do with that knowledge will depend on what I learn. The entire process might turn out to be a complete pain in the ass, never to be repeated. Or it might not. But at least then I’ll know.

*Okay, I should clarify. Technically, this is not my first novel. It’s maybe the fourth. But it IS the first one to make it to the completed first draft stage and the first one that I think is good enough to be published.

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Agents and Publishers Do Not Require My Permission

I spent several hours today, yes HOURS, reading through blogs and blog comments about the recent Twitter-prompted discussions regarding agent pay and advances to writers. Links to most of it are conveniently collected over at agent Colleen Lindsay’s blog, which was nice of her. When I was done, I had a massive headache. Literally. Which made me angry.

Why angry? First of all, I didn’t really learn anything new. No one was talking about how to bake new and bigger pies, just arguing about finding new ways to slice the same old pie. The economy sucks and everyone wants to get paid more money for all the long hours spent doing tough work.

And I get that. Hey, I’d love to get a raise at the day job too. And yeah, cut out the mundane and tedious tasks while we’re at it. I work damn hard and I deserve higher pay. But it’s not going to happen until the corporation I work for starts baking more pies, er, making more profit. That happens by increasing income or cutting expenses. Usually both. That’s pretty basic. It’s also pretty tough to accomplish in a prolonged recession.

The other reason I felt angry, apart from the truly nasty headache, was the slow realization after reading all this same-old angst that I do not need to know this. Really. Nothing in this discussion matters to me personally. Might it eventually change the manner and amount of compensation I receive for writing? Sure. But letting all this divisive discourse into my brain will not change anything. Other than, you know, my consumption of Advil.

I’m a writer. I have no say in these decisions. None whatsoever. It’s not up to me.

It’s a business decision. Publishers will pay their suppliers (writers) what they think they can afford or get away with. Agents will do the same with the percentage they charge. Those decisions are based on profit and loss. Too much of one or not enough of the other, businesses are going to make changes. Apparently there’s an excessive supply (of writers) right now and not as much demand. That influences business decisions too.

And for some odd reason I don’t claim to understand, but which people seem to insist on calling industry standards rather than monopolistic control of the market, publishers and agents will pretty much hold hands with their respective colleagues and all decide to do the same thing at the same time. Yes, it’s a quirky industry, but we love it anyway. Suppliers (writers) will either accept that change or find something else to do with their product. Doorstops, maybe. I don’t know.

Nothing in that decision-making process makes me angry. When I’m ready to sell my product, I’ll enter the market as it exists at that time. Or stay out of the market until it improves. Or find another market. Those are my choices.

But I was angry with myself for allowing all this irrelevant-to-me discussion muck up my brain. And then I remembered an excellent essay Jenny Crusie wrote a while back about protecting the work. So I tracked it down and dragged the link over here. Go read it. It’s a great essay with an important message, even if you’re not a writer:

Taking Out the Garbage: How to Protect Your Work and Get Your Life

As a writer, the only thing I control is my writing. Whether that’s the novel or query or synopsis or blog posts or comments on other blogs or stuff on Twitter. It’s all writing. I control all of that. Really, I do. Might not always seem like it, but I do.

Everything else is controlled by others. Everything. And sure, it’s a good idea for writers to have some idea of what’s happening in the industry. So they know what to expect from others once the writing part is done. But it was not necessary for me to wade through hours of discussion about something over which I have no control. It was a huge waste of my time and energy and I blame myself for allowing it. I should know better.

So this is my reminder to any writers who might be over here reading yet another blog post about these issues. Stop it. You do not need the headache.

Focus on what is important. Your priority as a writer is to put your effort and creativity into the one thing you can control, that thing only you can produce. The writing. Everything else is a distraction.

Protect the work.

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Filed under deep thoughts, publishing, writing