My writing productivity has left something to be desired in 2014. Between packing, getting the Houston house ready to go on the market, and dealing with some family issues over the last year, I think I've officially burnt out the creative part of my brain through stress.
While I can't make all the stressors go away, I'm following Colleen Thompson's advice and refilling the well. I'm reading a little more and writing a little less. I'm watching the movies I missed at the theater over the last two summers, and re-watching my favorite sitcoms.
And I'm jumping ship on my book schedule and working on a couple of projects I hadn't planned, just to shake things up in my brain a little.
Hopefully, this will jump start the creative process again.
(P.S. That book the stormtrooper is checking out? Excellent!)
You know who you are. You scour the internet for tidbits of anything to make that one book a success. How do I know this? You're hitting this blog from Yahoo or Google under search criteria such as "indie writer income" or "how to make money writing erotica".
Want to know the secret?
There isn't one.
Right now, a lot of you are grumbling under your breath.
"She won't tell us."
"The bitch is hiding the truth."
"She's just trying to keep us out like all the other successful writers."
Okay, maybe I did lie. Why? To quote Jack Nicholson's character from A Few Good Men, "You can't handle the truth."
So here's the truth. Two simple steps to being successful.
Write a lot. Publish what you write. Rinse. Repeat.
I hate to tell you, but you probably aren't going to make it with one book. There's going to be more blood moons this year than people who can repeat Margaret Mitchell's or Harper Lee's one-book wonder type of success.
"But writing is hard," you whine.
So what? Either you want to write or you don't. I can't make you. Your mommy can't make you. Only you can make you. It's up to you.
2) Be nice.
Call it the Golden Rule, the Threefold Law, Karma, or whatever the hell you want. Personally I prefer Wheaton's Law, aka "Don't be a dick."
Treat everyone with respect, even if they want something from you. Why? Because you don't know when or how it'll come back to you.
For example, Newbie asked Alter Ego for some self-publishing advice a little over a year ago. I gave her some pointers and blogs to check out.
Fast forward to a couple of months ago. Newbie's doing pretty well for herself. She hired a personal assistant and mentioned AE as one of her inspirations. PA checks out AE's books and tells her friend, who happens to run a book review blog. Book Review Gal contacts AE and asks for a review copy of the book Newbie originally referred to PA. BRG loves book and gives a glowing review. Established Erotica Writer sees review, checks out book, then contacts AE about submitting a story for an erotic anthology bundle.
It's pretty simple. Write. Be nice. You have to work pretty hard to fuck that up.
Considering what we call "traditional publishing" has been around for roughly seventy-five years, you would think they would know what they bring to the business table. If folks in the publishing houses do know, they are having a very difficult time articulating those points.
I'll give Barry credit that he does do some editing, but the amount?
Excuse me? The night before I saw Barry's piece, I had edited a fifteen-page short story that I'm about to submit and twenty pages of novel prior to posting the sample online. All of this was done the forty minutes while I ordered and ate dinner at a local Mexican restaurant because I needed to get out of the house and away from Alter Ego's current wip.
Many more trad authors are coming out of the woodwork and talking about no editing, or even worse, abusive editors. In the same link to Kris Rusch's blog above, she talks about an editor who was downright psychotic and gives good advice for dealing with difficult people in the industry.
So what about cover art?
This is the notorious cover for Barry Eisler's book, Fault Line, issued by the French trad publisher. All cultural differences aside, does this look like an international, jet-setting thriller?
And if the writer gets a bad cover, can they do anything about it? Generally, no. The publisher complains about the cost (if the writer is lucky), or simply ignores you.
Not too many writers can turn a bad cover into a plus, but Christina Dodd did. Go ahead. Count how many hands the lady on the cover has. Dodd used the screw-up as a marketing gimmick. But a bad trad cover can't always be changed into gold so easily.
One of fabulous pluses as an indie is the ability to change your cover on a moment's notice. Like when several retailers decide out of the blue that your erotica covers are too risque. *wink*
Another factor is that the writer is blamed for the editing and the cover art, not the publisher, because it's the writer's name on the book.
The publisher doesn't care. There's a million writers banging on their doors, so they'll chuck the one that complains and grab another serf writer at the gates.
So what about promotion, publicity, and marketing by the publishing company? These should be the publishers' biggest strengths, right?
Fuhgeddaboudit! Seriously. Nearly every mid-list writer I personally know who signed a contract within the last ten years spent their entire trad pub advance on getting word out about their books. And with advances getting smaller and smaller and costs rising, that means more money out of a writers pocket.
And heaven forbid if you ask the trade publisher to put specific marketing efforts in the contract!
These are the three big things that trad publishers could bring to the table for writers, but they refuse to do so. Here's the thing--it really wouldn't cost them a lot to do even one of these three. Do it cheap. Do it right.
Because indie writers are doing it every freakin' day!
There's a myth going around writer circles, egged on by trad editors and agents, that a writer HAS to do every, single type of social media available, and if you don't, then your writing career will fail miserably!
(Say that sentence all in one breath. I'll have an oxygen tank waiting for you.)
No, you don't have to do every single one. (Hold the mask to face and inhale.)
There's no measurable, predictable way to know which social media will work for you specifically. None. What worked for Amanda Hocking or J.A. Konrath or Bella Andre may or may not work you.
Why do I say this?
Because Suzan Harden DID everything and couldn't sell shit for her first year. Alter Ego did NOTHING, she had no plans to do so either, and sales took off in the second month.
Why did Alter Ego's sales take off with no social media? I published her first novella the month before everyone and their grandmother went apeshit for Fifty Shades of Grey. And that first novella happened to be a BDSM romance. So all those ladies needed a fix until Book 2 in the FSoG series came out. It all came to down to luck and timing.
As for the Suzan Harden books? Well, frankly, I burned myself out trying to do a zillion marketing things everyone insisted HAD to be DONE in order to be successful. And they didn't do jackshit for me.
So how do I decide what social media to engage in? I go where I am having fun.
1) Alter Ego has a blog, but it acts as a surrogate website with announcements of releases, a mailing list sign-up, catalog of available books, and buy links. She doesn't anything more than that.
2) Suzan has two blogs. One is publishing business and other things she finds cool (i.e. the one you're reading right now). The other is for readers, where she posts short stories and samples from current wips. She also comments on the blogs of other folks actively involved in indie publishing.
1) Alter Ego has a very active FB account. She loves talking to readers and other writers!
2) Suzan thinks FB sucks. Her husband insisted on creating a fan page. She tries to post something funny once a day, but often forgets. Even then she gets nasty messages from people she doesn't know (and sometimes from people she does know) who think she sucks. She'd chuck it all if a handful of fans hadn't started visiting the page this year.
1) Alter Ego gets on Twitter once in a while, but for the most part has her FB posts going to her Twitter account.
2) Suzan has given up on Twitter because the only folks who follow her are other writers hawking their books and third party vendors trying to sell her their overpriced services for indie writers.
Yep, that's it. That's all I do. This isn't a slam against other social media you might enjoy.
Well, wait. That's not true. I won't do LinkedIn because they have a very bad habit of harvesting e-mails from your address book. (Or they did. I'll retract that last statement if someone can prove to me they've stopped.) I also won't do Pinterest because they made a blatant rights grab in their original terms of service. If that's changed, send me the link. But I refuse to go back to their website because they seriously pissed me off the first time.
The big thing you need to remember to BICHOK, aka Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard. (If you don't use a computer, then change the fucking acronym!) The best publicity/marketing is putting out a new story. All the promotion in the world won't help you if you do gain fans, and there's nothing else for them to buy.
In six days, tax filing must be done. Yesterday, DH and I got our returns back from our CPA, Ed.
What a difference from three years ago when I took my first tentative step into publishing. Not only did I make a profit for 2013, I had to pay self-employment tax!
Okay, I know most people aren't (or shouldn't be) excited about paying taxes, but for me, it means Angry Sheep is a real business. Not that it wasn't before, but this is my type of validation. Not getting a traditional deal, but having to cough up money to Uncle Sam.
Your mileage may vary.
As for what's happening in 2014?
The ramifications of the Kernel Pornocalypse are still being felt in Alter Ego's sales. On the other hand, word-of-mouth is starting to spread about her books. I'm getting requests for ARCs from book bloggers.
The fantasies under Suzan Harden got a nice little plug thanks to Jonathan Moeller's interview and the release of Sword and Sorceress 28 last fall, but the surge was short-lived. All I can do is keep plugging away at the writing for the small cadre of readers who like those books and keep my fingers crossed.
In the meantime, there's been shuffling and weirdness in the e-book retail world. Sony sold its business to Kobo, and Diesel shut down completely. I'm not holding my breath about getting paid for the last sales from those companies.
While total sales are down across the board, my Apple sales have been outstripping my Amazon US sales this year. In March, Amazon UK sales beat Amazon US.
What does this mean? I think it shows how wide open the world markets are. Most writers are only look at a little slice of America, and then only looking at Amazon. I.thought that was short-sighted three years ago, and so far, my opinion hasn't changed.
Barnes & Noble continues its death spiral. I've been lucky to sell one book a day when two years ago, I could sell 200 a day. As I've said repeatedly, I hate seeing B&N throw away its advantages, but they seem intent of commercial suicide.
As for Smashwords, I haven't made a sale there yet this year. I've heard a couple of different rumors regarding Mark Coker's intentions with the company, but nothing I can verify through independent sources. And these are the types of things that even if I asked Mark, he would have to lie because the truth would majorly fuck over both him and the writers distributing through Smashwords. So we'll see on that front.
Is the e-book market becoming saturated? Yes and no. There are thousands more books out there than there were three years ago. But like the other entertainment industries, a consumer is more likely to find enough material in her favorite niche to keep her happy. In four words--I am not worried in that regard.
My biggest problem is that my productivity for the last twelve months is down considerably due to the move from Texas to Ohio. Things aren't over yet. We still need to sell the house in Texas. So right now, I'm doing more general contracting than I care to and battling a colony of bees that are setting up shop in my siding.
Between a retailer upheaval and slow production, there's a reason for my drop in sales. I can't fix one, but I can fix the other.
After I deal with this stupid house and a possible killer bee invasion.
1) I think in my secret heart-of-hearts I hoped Marvel Studios would tap the Winter Soldier storyline. Sebastian Stan did a delicious job as James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes in the first Captain America movie. In this case, making Bucky the same age as Cap instead of his junior sidekick, as well as having the two of them being childhood friends, twisted the knife even more cruelly when Steve discovers what has been done to Bucky.
2) Two sidekicks in one movie! Just as Bucky had been Cap's sidekick in the '40's comics, Falcon filled that role in the '70's, aka my childhood. I'm thankful that the writers turned Sam Wilson back to his social services roots (as a returning veterans counselor in the movie) as opposed to the pimp/drug dealer an asshole comic writer retconned Sam into when I was a kid. (The retcon in the book seriously pissed me off even as a kid. Heaven forbid a black man be a respectable citizen!)
3) Black Widow kicking ass. 'Nuff said.
4) Yeesh! The effects this movie will have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s storyline! I'm a little upset about Sitwell, and I'll be even more upset if May follows in his footsteps, which seems to be where the storyline is going. But the rest of the season should be very interesting!
5) Chris Evans has finally found his happy place as Cap. Over Christmas, I re-watched Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. I'm more aware of how stiff Chris was in the first movie. I'm not sure how much was the directing and how much was him, but I think that's what contributing to my dissatisfaction with the first movie. In The Avengers, I think working with RDJ made Chris step up his game. In this one, he obviously feels a lot more comfortable donning the star-spangled suit.
6) The "ripped from the headlines" story was a pleasant surprise. The writers did an incredible job of adapting the Snowden incident to the Marvel world with the correspondingly devastating ramifications.