Two weeks ago, I finished writing my fourth novel. I set an ambitious pace for myself–2,000 words a day, or a whole book in 40 days. For the most part, I stuck to my goal, and finished in 43 days. But the road to get there wasn’t easy. Getting myself to sit down and write that much every day without fail felt like a Herculean effort.
My husband and I have had this certain disagreement multiple times–he refers to writing as my hobby, and I get prickly about it. On the one hand, I can see his point–it’s something I choose to do in my free time because I enjoy it. That seems hobby-esque, it fits the bill. But on the other hand, writing is work. Really hard work. Work that requires serious brainpower, requires serious willpower to drag myself out of bed at 5:30 am, or off the couch on a lazy Sunday afternoon, to put my butt in that chair and write. Somehow, it doesn’t feel like my other hobbies. It’s not relaxing or rejuvenating in the same way. It is draining, agonizing, fulfilling, inspiring, all at the same time. I couldn’t help but wonder if this is normal. Why is it so hard to get myself to spend time doing this thing I supposedly love?
Any time you choose to fight against the path of least resistance, it will be a challenge. But I don’t think I really understood why creative endeavors felt especially tough until I recently read The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield. This book is so aptly named. It helped me realize that how I’m feeling is normal. Common. It is all about the war you fight when battling to create. He identifies the enemy, and its name is Resistance. It is a part of ourselves, but somehow other as well. It helped me to name it, to personify it. Somehow it feels easier to do battle.
Resistance is everything that comes between you and your writing. It’s fear, it’s doubt, it’s comparison, it’s laziness, it’s procrastination. It’s wondering if this is all for nothing, it’s ten more minutes on Facebook. It wears many faces and has many names. Pressfield explains that “Resistance will tell you anything to keep you from doing your work. It will perjure, fabricate, falsify; seduce, bully, cajole. . . . If you take Resistance at its word, you deserve everything you get. Resistance is always lying and always full of shit.” What a perfectly frank definition. If you let Resistance overcome you, you’ll deserve what you get, which will be a big bag of nothing.
So how do you overcome Resistance? You show up. Day after day. Even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard. “[W]hen we sit down day after day and keep grinding, something mysterious starts to happen. A process is set into motion by which, inevitably and infallibly, heaven comes to our aid. Unforeseen forces enlist to our cause; serendipity reinforces our purpose. This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”
But it’s not enough to just sit down and wait for lightning to strike. You have to become better at your craft, to constantly learn and constantly strive to be better. This makes the difference between being an amateur and “going pro,” as Pressfield calls it. “A professional dedicates himself to mastering technique not because he believes technique is a substitute for inspiration but because he wants to be in possession of the full arsenal of skills when inspiration does come.”
This little book was exactly the kick in the butt I needed to see me through the end of my fourth novel, and on to start my fifth. Now, when I feel Resistance creep up on me, I call it what it is, and drag myself to my chair to start writing. Because as Richard Bach said: ” a professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
I recently made the decision to terminate my contract with my indie publisher and re-self-publish my first novel, Moonburner. This post is to explain why!
As many of you know, I published Moonburner last June with Soul Fire Press, a division of Christopher Matthews Publishing. Overall, I’ve had a really positive experience with Soul Fire and CMP. I was pleased with my cover design and the quality of the book that was produced–I felt like it was a product I could be proud of. So certainly, I don’t regret my initial decision to publish with Soul Fire. At that point in my indie author career I knew next to nothing about launching a book, I had 200 people on my mailing list (most of whom were my friends and family), and I didn’t know a lot of other authors. My reach was pretty small. I tried to educate myself about how to do all the right things for my launch, but ultimately I was not happy with how the book sold. Everyone who read the book (when I could get someone to read it!) has really loved it, (even strangers, not just friends/family who got review copies), so I felt that I had a good product, but there was something going on that was keeping people from buying the book.
Flexibility and Control
Over the past year, I’ve been educating myself a lot about the publishing industry as well as connecting and networking with a lot of other indie authors, especially through the Alliance of Young Adult Authors, started by Derek Murphy (I am hugely grateful to be a part of that group because I have learned so much). Through my research and networking, I’ve learned out that if your book isn’t selling it’s going to be a result of one or more of a few things: Your cover, your blurb (book description), your pricing, or keywords/categories on Amazon. As an author through a publishing company, I didn’t really have a lot of control over any of those things. I could change the blurb and I could ask my publisher to change some of my keywords/categories, but I wouldn’t have real-time feedback on these changes (because I only get royalties twice per year), so it would be really tough for me to know if those types of changes were having an impact. Also, I didn’t have control over pricing, which I felt was an issue for my book. The eBook is $5.99, while comparable eBooks are $2.99 or even $.99. The print book is $16.95, which I feel is too high for a paperback. So there were a number of things I wanted to change.
The other option I would have as a self-published authors that I didn’t have when published through a smell press was to enroll in KDP Select. KDP Select is a program in which your eBook is only available on Amazon. This was not something I initially wanted to do, because I like the idea of having my book available “wide” (on all platforms-B&N, Kobo, iTunes). I have a Nook, I don’t have a Kindle, so I figured if I couldn’t even get my own book, it probably wasn’t the best solution for me. But the more I learned about KDP Select, the more appealing it was. Being in KDP Select means your book is in Kindle Unlimited–where there are thousands of Amazon readers who can borrow your book for free. Even though they don’t pay to borrow it, Amazon does pay you for borrows and page reads. That is a low-cost entry point for readers who may not normally take a chance on buying a book from a new or unknown author. Also, publishing through Amazon, you can take advantage of Amazon advertising. A lot of authors I know are having a lot of success with Amazon advertising, and I wanted to explore that. The other benefit of KDP Select is that you get to have 5 free days every 90 days, which is another low-cost entry point for new readers. For me, at this point, it’s not about making money, it’s about getting my book into the hands of more readers, and beginning to build a following. So I really liked the idea of exploring all of those things, and I could not do that without being a self-published author.
Pricing Promotions and Data
The other promotional tactic that a lot of indie authors are having success with is price-drop promotions. Traditional publishers are getting clued into this, and I could do this through my indie publisher. I did two $.99 promotions on the Kindle eBook, and it worked all right. I had to email my publisher, and he had to contact Amazon, so it just required additional coordination to make sure it was getting done. We weren’t able to do the price drop promotion on the other platforms like B&N, for some reason which is still unclear to me. But again, it was really hard to see in real time the success of these promotions, or the promotional sites I was paying to promote my “deal” on, because I didn’t have access to real time sales data. As a self-published author, I could time my promotions over several days, and then see exactly how many books sold on what days, and identify which promo sites were successful for my book. It was just one more thing that I thought–if I was doing this myself, I could do this more effectively.
Publishing the sequel
The other big factor is that I’m publishing the sequel, Sunburner, this summer. My publishing contract for Moonburner is for 3 years, and I knew at the end of the 3 years, I would want to get my rights back and try self-publishing for all of these reasons. So, even if I wasn’t going to terminate early, I was going to get my rights back eventually. At that point, my publisher would retain the cover and interior design, and I would need to re-do Moonburner. I realized that if I self-published Sunburner this summer, designing it to match Moonburner as it is now, I’d have to redo both books when I got my Moonburnber rights in 18 months. That’s not inexpensive, and a lot of work for me as well, so I realized it was preferable to pull the trigger and re-self-publish Moonburner now, so I only have to redo one book.
So, those were the factors that played into my decision to leave Soul Fire and self-publish. There are some downsides to being self-published–like you get a little additional street cred from being with an indie publisher versus being self-published. It’s potentially easier to get into libraries and bookstores, and some review sites or bloggers will not accept self-published books. But really, I found (and this is another thing I couldn’t have known before I indie published) that I’m not getting into bookstores and libraries anyway, and I’m not getting any traction with bloggers or review sites where I don’t have a pre-established relationship, so I don’t see a downside for me personally. I don’t feel that I’m losing anything.
Everyone’s path is different, of course, and there was a lot of value for me in having my book published for me the first time. It would have been pretty overwhelming to learn how to produce a book and learn to market all at the same time. But now that I do have additional knowledge and education, I think it’s time for me to strike it out on my own!
Hopefully you will all check out the newly refurbished and relaunched Moonburner in August, and Sunburner in September! Stay tuned for the amazing new covers, plus lots of fun extras I have up my sleeve, like a book trailer, map of Kita and Miina, and character sketches of Kai and Hiro!
Strange the Dreamer is the first book in a new duology by one of my favorite authors, Laini Taylor! This book was everything I loved about Taylor’s writing and former trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. The book follows Lazlo Strange, who is a librarian, who has been obsessed since childhood with a mythical city called Weep. He believes that Weep is real and is fascinated by its history and downfall. Those around him are convinced it’s just a legend. His adventure starts when mythical warriors from Weep come to the Great Library seeking scholars to help them solve a problem. Lazlo jumps at the chance to go along, and when he gets to the magical city of Weep, he discovers the true nature of the problem. For hundreds of years, Weep was enslaved by cruel gods with blue skin who lived in a giant palace in the sky. Ten years ago, there was a battle between the gods and the people of Weep and the people overthrew their overlords, killing them. But, it left the palace in the sky blocking all the sunlight.
Unbeknownst to the people of Weep, five young god-children survived the massacre, and have been growing into teenagers in the floating palace. One is our other main character, Sarai, who has the magical ability to enter people’s dreams; she has been terrorizing the city of Weep with nightmares for the last ten years. But, over the years, she has gotten to know Weep’s fears, and seen her parent’s cruelty, and her sympathies for the people of Weep have grown. When Lazlo arrives, she realizes that not only does he have the most vivid dreams, but he can see her in his dreams, something no one has ever been able to do before.
At its core, this is a romance. Lazlo and Sarai fall in love, all within Lazlo’s dreams, and their courtship is as magical and fantastical as you can imagine! This book is also about the deep-seated hatred between two people who have hated and hurt each other for generations, and what it will take to overcome that. There are no real villains in the book, everyone has been damaged by this war and so the story is very deftly created, as you are sympathetic to all the characters and see where they are all coming from. You are rooting for them to overcome their differences and find a way to live together when you know that this will likely be impossible, and a return to war is inevitable.
As with Daughter of Smoke and Bone, one of the most remarkable parts of this book is the fantastical world she creates. Taylor’s worlds are so lush and unique–you know she has such a vivid imagination! It’s also the writing, Taylor has such a beautiful way with words (and metaphor and imagery), and this book was truly a joy to read. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves fantasy.
Full disclosure, this book does end with a serious cliffhanger. It’s one of two, and pretty much just cuts off in the middle. So if you really hate cliffhangers, you might want to wait until closer to when the second book comes out to read this. But definitely read it at some point!