Tuesday, April 14, 2015

THRIVE Launch Week 3: The Itch-Scratch Edit-Rewrite Cycle

Anyone who has eczema or suffered through chicken pox or even the seasonal mosquitoes of New Jersey knows...the itch-scratch cycle sucks.

You have to scratch, because you itch. And nothing is worse than itching. So you scratch - applying pain and pleasure in a single act to that itch source. For a little while it's fine. But you didn't satisfy the problem. The itch comes back. So you scratch. Then you itch. So you scratch.

You scratch so much you scrape your skin off....but you still itch.

There's a similar thing in writing - revision.

You can revise until you die.

That is the problem. You can revise and revise and poke and prod, but at some point you have to just accept your little creation for what it is. There will always be a better book somewhere. There will always be a worse one. There will always be a better edit. There will always be a worse one.

At some point, you have to push your baby into the world, and see if it will fly.

I, strangely, have the opposite problem. I'm overly eager to finish. I accept my creation, flawed as it is, much sooner than my other writing friends. How do I know this? Well, because I've recently become acquainted with some writers who have worked on the same individual manuscript for years. Some a decade.

I would go crazy. Actually certifiable.

We both have something to learn from the other: One needs to let go of the piece, and accept perfection is impossible. The other needs to honor the piece, and take care to let it shine for all its worth.

This is the lesson my beloved friend and editor is teaching me. And I am grateful, and humbled, and struggle with every second of this lesson.

For the most part I thought I was done with THRIVE, and in many ways I am. However, if I really want it to show its worth, I need to be willing to cut things out. I need to be willing to remove distracting bits or unpack distracting omissions. This is where editing and proofing are so important. This is what polishing is all about.

So that's what I did today, all day. I polished. And I thought. And I will have more to do tomorrow. It means the other things I wanted to work on will get pushed back, which is frustrating, but necessary. I need THRIVE to shine, so I need to polish.
Here is my progress from last week:
  • 88% done proofing THE BROTHERS
  • 95% done polishing THRIVE
  • Wrote an intro video script
  • Wrote a list of influencer/organization lists for press kits
  • Revised my press kit
  • Finished about half my novel descriptions
  • Finished about three-quarters of my revamped LOVERS & RIVALS cover
  • Did some sketch art based on the Khloe novels
  • Brainstormed some social media campaign tags
  • Uploaded new book descriptions to Smashwords on several novels
  • Changed Smashwords category tags on several novels
  • Confirmed website design
  • Talked over revised press kit with beta readers
  • Wrote blog posts
My goals for week 4 are as follows:
  • Finish proofing THE BROTHERS
  • Proof a shorter piece
  • Finish revising THRIVE
  • Incorporate feedback on THRIVE journal guide
  • Incorporate feedback on press kit
  • Upload sketch art to Patreon for fantastic patrons
  • Write blog posts
  • Upload revamped BROTHERS cover art and book to Smashwords
I think that's it...and I'll keep you posted. Scratch, scratch.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

THRIVE Book Launch: Week 2

Last week I listed my marketing failures and gave an overview of my next marketing attempt, a book launch for my upcoming memoir/self-help book THRIVE.

I discovered several things last week: delegating is necessary and I might not get done all the "little" things.

When I looked at my launch schedule and weekly tasks, I realized it would be a stretch for me to get everything done. So what could I do? First I asked Christian if he would help me. This was a GOOD idea. He wanted to help me launch the book because, of course, my success is our success. It will benefit our entire family. We went through the different tasks and he chose some he would enjoy and used his talents. They also happened to be things that would take a LOT of stress off me because of the amount of time I would take if I did them (Christian's experience and knowledge set made the same tasks take half the time.).

Then I started on the biggest task of my launch plan - editing and proofing. I decided I would revamp my ENTIRE library. I recognized that when I originally published my novels, especially my early works, I climbed a steep learning curve. I made mistakes. I continue climbing that curve. I make more mistakes. I go back. I correct. That is the biggest piece of this whole process - correction.

And of course, it also takes the longest time. I made it about half-way through my editing/proofing of THE BROTHERS last week. This was in part because it had the most corrections necessary (I hope) and also because I had a lot of family obligations as it was Holy Week. Thankfully, Holy Week is only one week of the year and I don't have any other major obligations during my launch plan. I can, from now on, devote every spare minute to my process.

And I will.

So far, I have completed the following:
  • Developed my launch plan
  • Delegated tasks to Christian
  • Brainstormed potential influencers in THRIVE content areas
  • Half my proofing goal of THE BROTHERS
  • 85% my proofing/editing goal of THRIVE
  • 100% my proofing/editng goal of THRIVE JOURNAL GUIDE
  • Website design/content upload
  • Weekly blog posts
  • Weekly Patreon uploads
This week my plan is to work on the following:
  • Finish proofing THE BROTHERS
  • Finish proofing THRIVE
  • Weekly blog post (check!)
  • Weekly Patreon upload
  • Revamp my book descriptions and update on Smashwords
  • Brainstorm author video topics
I'm confident I can get this done, even while managing a 19 month old. As things are completed, like the website, I will update everyone through Patreon, Twitter, G+, and Facebook with links.

Also, if you, dear readers, are interested in helping me to launch my book, let me know! I will be soliciting social media ambassadors as we get closer to launch (June 1 will be the beginning of the social media campaign). If you want to post to your networks on my behalf with pre-fabbed posts courtesy of moi, LET ME KNOW! Keep it in mind....and I'll keep you posted.

Here's to launch inertia building!

Monday, March 30, 2015

My Book Launch Extravaganza

Is this the last door I have to walk through?
Thus far I haven't had much success in marketing my books. I have tried many things and none of them have really made a difference in sales. Let's take a look...
  1. Blog tours - after contacting multiple websites (like almost 100) I got one site interested...if I had my book in paper form.
  2. Soliciting honest reviews - no one followed through.
  3. Book giveaways - this only generated moderate interest...
  4. Asking people to talk about the book (friends etc) - no one did, except maybe my dad...and a couple true believers (who I really love for their devotion)
  5. Publishing multiple books in one calendar year - not as much profit generation as you might think.
  6. Guest posts on other blogs - only got one or two to happen.
  7. Goodreads - cut off self-published entries and is not hooked up to any social media so...why?
  8. Connecting with other writers - just a lot of stress from people who are fumbling around just as much as I was
  9. Wattpad - still not sure how to connect with readers here...
  10. Twitter - not really my market for my books so just led to a bunch of mutual following without many sales.
  11. Facebook groups - asking for help...few responses if ANY
  12. Facebook pages - minor interest/reach with few sales if any
  13. Signing up for mentors - none
  14. Asking for mentors in entrepreneur organizations - uh....NONE
  15. Having scheduled blog posts - I have no idea how this influences sales...or doesn't. My following and favorites on Twitter has increased because of this and definitely my Facebook engagement increased. But sales? Hmm.
  16. Getting published in literary magazines or websites - I wouldn't know because even with extensive research on the zines/sites, I still haven't gotten published here. I think this is in part because my stories are too...political and generally dark. No one wants to read about dystopian reproductive rights...says the average genre journal...
  17. Sending book launch press kits to media outlets - zip...and no coverage (This is after I modeled my press kit after those available on line and had people who submit these REGULARLY check them out for viability.)
So you see, I've tried A LOT of stuff. I have. But I never tried a serious launch.

Which is what I'm doing now.

My goal is to have THRIVE, my upcoming memoir/self-help book available for pre-order on Smashwords by May 15 (goal remember...) and outright purchase June 15. Along with this, I plan to have a journal guide/daily meditation book available along the same lines as the book (to be used during or after reading, although it could be stand alone) available one the same dates.

I am being really aggressive. In preparation for the launch, I am designing/building an author website (finally!), revamping my current library (Read: double extra special proofing of text as well as redoing/sprucing cover art AND revamping book descriptions etc). I have a social media campaign strategy which I will be asking for help on (and participants will receive huge thanks in video and the website). I will be developing a press kit and will send this out to all the media outlets I know, and possibly organizations with interests related to the topics in THRIVE.

This is a big deal. I am very passionate about this book because I am doing something with it that I have never done - I am revealing myself. More than anything I've produced, this is important to me and it must do well. It must because through the vulnerability of my revelation, I can help people. Yes, the success would be nice for me, but the purpose of this isn't me. It is about helping people, changing perspectives, and making an impact for the better. I am committed to this, burned bridges behind me, burned the boats...however you want to think about it. Because once this book is published, there are no take backs. It cannot be undone.

And that is scary. And exciting. And thus...I will do something else I have never done - a real book launch.

In the time leading up to May 15 and June 15, I will periodically blog about the process and the book (hopefully will get some guest posts going at a few other sites). I will let everyone know when the website is up (hopefully by May 15). And of course, I will probably have a few videos (hopefully) about the book and available on the website and my YouTube channel (which I've largely ignored to this point).

It's a big deal. It's a big plan with an aggressive timeline and multi-prong approach. It's big. And it's kinda my last shot. It's kinda all of the eggs.

I'm pretty sure it will work. I'm crossing my fingers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Don't Be a Writer

Note: This was written to advise those thinking about pursuing, or contemplating a more professional trajectory into writing. Because, you need to know, if you didn't already, what it is really like.

The early days of a starving artist...
My dear aspiring writer, don't. Don't be a writer. This is not a job you should choose. If there is anything else you would enjoy doing, do that. This is especially true if you have remotely thin skin because you will have to defend your choice at every turn. You will have to defend your craft and your creation. This is because from the very earliest part of a writing career, you are constantly attacked.

First, everyone will tell you it is impossible. They will say it a thousand times. They will say only the superstars make it. No one, however, knows what makes a superstar, and when you ask these people how superstars become superstars, they will name someone who already made it in another field with a ghostwritten book about said field. The other true writing stars? They paid whatever dues all writers must pay and that process remains a mystery to everyone, even the stars.

Everyone will say no one knows what makes a successful book. In fact, this is one thing everyone agrees on. Family and friends don't know how writing can be successful. Agents and writers don't know what books will be successful. No one in publishing understands people's tastes. Shitty writers can make millions of sales while pure genius prose can be used as drink coasters for Big Gulps. So if you can't handle that level of unknown, just don't bother writing.

If you're impatient, you really shouldn't write. The submission process involves a painful amount of waiting. You have to submit to a thousand agents to get a read through if you are anything like the other millions of people doing the same thing. And these agents will send you letters, time and again, saying it isn't quite right. They aren't interested in repping a book they aren't totally passionate about, and your book just doesn't do it for them. They send these notes anywhere from a week after receiving your query, to never. You might never get a response at all and will have to infer that your writing just wasn't good enough for them to be your advocate.

Some people will say you should get a few stories published and that will help your chances. Maybe having a few published pieces will convince agents it is worth taking a chance on you. But you have to find the right home for your stories. You might read a bunch of magazines and think you found the right one, but your opinion doesn't matter. It's the editor's opinion that matters. And so you get rejected. Again.

Others will say, write some articles! And the process repeats with the addition of some head banging against either a table top, a wall, or both.

Finally someone will say, why don't you self-publish? But of course, self-publishing is looked down upon by pretty much everyone. You can't be writing good work if you self-publish, even though a lot of “superstars” go on to self-publish, and a lot of self-published authors go on to be picked up by traditional publishers (only after they have sold thousands upon thousands of copies under their own steam). And so many other people have self-published and have nothing to show for it. Your chances are slim, even if you follow every book marketing guru's instructions for success. After all, they have no idea what makes for a successful book.

Determined, you read more writing blogs. You read about the successes and failures of your superstars. You try to fit into the molds of different agents and publishing houses. You try to fit into the molds of the market. You make a thousand mistakes. You try again. You make more mistakes. You try again. You open a bottle of whiskey and chug half of it. You write. You lay awake at night with terrible heartburn wishing you knew what to do, that someone would mentor you to success. You rewrite. You think if you could just figure out the magical formula that mixes lead and snake oil you could get gold.

You write every day for months on end. You blog. You comment on other writers' work. You read. You drink the other half of the whiskey bottle mixed with Ethiopian coffee brewed in your French press, because this is what you have in your kitchen to eat. You have become the epitome of the starving artist. It happened some time between the first set of agent queries and one of the rounds of rejections from literary zines. You lose weight. You wear thrift shop clothes that make Macklemore proud. You only buy generic food from the grocery store, and at some point you will finally break down and go to the food pantry when your last bit of pride is stripped away.

But then, you get an email back. It is unexpected. It is a single website where you thought your work would fit in perfectly. They want to print it. SUCCESS! You got an article posted on a website besides your free blog! You're going somewhere! You're a real writer!

That iota of affirmation is all you needed to get through another series of grueling rejections of another piece of your creative soul.

The dream isn't dead. It just got a fresh shock back to life. But never fear, you'll feel this again. And again. Always just on the brink of death, you'll get jolted, pulled back in by that horrible temptress hope.

So don't be a writer. It promises a lifetime of psychological masochism. Be an accountant, or a paralegal. Be a mid-level manager in a large corporation. You'll have a regular salary and so much less psychic pain.

But if there is nothing else that you can do – if it is impossible for you to stop writing – then you must write. You can never be happy doing anything else. You will never be fulfilled. You will never have solace. You will carry the burden of creation within you and without the pen and paper, the keys and screen, you will explode. Or worse, you will rot, the stories inside their womb, dead, festering, spreading their necrosis across your spirit. It will affect every relationship. It will affect every interaction. It will mark every second of your life – with that horrible longing ache that comes when words must be written, when ideas crave expression.

No one will think worse of you publicly for becoming a writer. They will praise your courage and bravery – your commitment to the craft. They will tell you time and again how they always wanted to write a book but never had the time, the energy, or a single coherent idea. If you have completed manuscripts they will fawn over you. If you have published anything, even independently, they will gush over you, amazed they met someone, anyone, with enough discipline and courage to not only finish, but share their vulnerable creation with the world. They will marvel at you, that despite all the reasons not to be a writer, you chose it, and continue to, not because you are a masochist, but the very opposite; because you hate pain.

Because if you are a writer by birth, and do not write, your existence is sheer agony. In this case, it is much better to write, much better to subject yourself to that Promethean submission process. Then at least, there is some chance of relief. This is the curse of the writer, the burden you must bear if you are a writer. If there is no choice.

But, if you can choose, by all means, choose something else. This vocation is not for the weak of heart.