Pros

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What to do, what to do. The book is with my agent and a few beta readers, and in the meantime I’m trying to figure out how or whether to publish it. I’ve been wading through the pros and cons of traditionally publishing versus self-publishing versus reaching out to a small indie press. This is a new genre for me and I’ve never written a series, so it’s hard to know.

If I had a bigger budget, it would be a no-brainer. There are wonderful cover designers and freelance editors available to indie authors now, and you can buy ads and build up mailing lists for marketing. It’s a ton of extra work beyond the actual writing, but all that time and investment would buy me creative control of the story and the covers, which is huge. And I don’t mind the work. I love to learn and try new things. But I’m also unemployed and need to be careful of the family funds.

I’ve thought about doing a silent launch for the first book. I’d invest in a really beautiful cover and put it up free on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited with an inexpensive paperback option. I’ve seen other authors do this. The idea is to get some feedback and reviews on the first book, more on the down-low, then build the series as it goes along. If the first book makes a few bucks on KU, that would help with the publication of the next book, and when the series is finished I could take it wide on IngramSpark or some other platform. Of course the Amazon algorithms would sink that first book almost immediately, but each subsequent novel in the series gives you something new to sell and build upon, so it’s a long-game strategy rather than a quick-release sort of thing.

I did love working with my editor at MIRA, though. And traditional publishing would mean money (though probably not much) coming in rather than going out. The cover expenses and editing are paid for by the publishing house, so there’d be no initial outlay for me beyond whatever I choose to do in the way of marketing. All of that is assuming someone wants to buy it, and even if they do, it would mean a very long wait. The publisher can also drop you mid-series, before the story is complete, which would obviously suck. You can’t release the books as they’re ready, and they can get jammed up in the publishing cogs and never come out at all. So it’s a risk.

Even with a small press you’re giving up control. That’s the hard part for me. I think this story world has potential and would lend itself to spin-offs and short pieces of fiction to use as giveaways, and I have very specific ideas about cover design and the arc of the series. These books are not lit-ra-choor, but they’re fun and I think they fit their genre, and because the characters can travel through infinite alternate realities, there might even be a choose-your-own-adventure aspect to get readers engaged.

It’s hard to know what’s best. Part of me is tired of trying to Do Something and would really just like to tell stories around the campfire to the dozen or so people who want to hear them. So maybe the thing to do is take aspiration out of the equation and write my stories the way I want and stop trying to be so goddamn precious and pseudo-professional about it. It’s okay to do that with other forms of art, so why are writers so squeamish? Are we afraid of being laughed at? Are we afraid other people will say we can’t Do Something better with our work? A musician can simply make music. A painter can paint. No one asks if they’ve sold their work and for how much. They just do their thing.

I think I know what I want. But I don’t know if I know what I want, and that’s the kicker.

What do you want?

Sticky

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I’ve been watching, shall we say, a fair amount of YouTube. You can learn anything there, from post-apocalyptic building techniques to curly hair care to why the face of Venus is so obscure in that painting by Velazquez. You can learn how to keep a plant alive. How to clean your house. If you’re vegan, there are beans and cream-free sauces and waifish young people assuring you that baby steps are cool. You can listen to music and watch short films, and hear all manner of art dissected by people who don’t make art themselves but are pretty sure they can tell you how it’s done.

For my writing, it’s been wonderful. I love hearing how other people work, how they outline and get a draft down, and plan a series and so forth. I’ve always thought of writing as an ugly process, but these young people are kind of beautiful with their sweaty faces and unwashed hair, the hunted, manic look that precedes a deadline. I adore their giant glasses, their planners and kanban boards, their colored pens and highlighters and sticky notes all over the floor. I like to play along with their pomodoro live streams and awkward chats. I’ve even completed a Nano, because why not? I’ve got nowhere else to be.

In spite or because of all this YouTubing I managed to finish a book. The first draft has always been hardest for me, so I started dictating that part, in order not to see what a goddamn mess was turning up on the page. In fact, the mess is the point, because voice-to-text is bound to make one anyway so there’s no use trying to be precious about it. You dictate it, get it on the page, and give yourself something to edit. Thanks be to the gods of modern technology.

However, I’m old and wise enough to know that what unsticks me once might not do the trick next time, so I’ve been loading my pockets with all kinds of new tools: writing sprints, schedules, word counts, index cards, notebooks. The different methods are a comfort. They give me a fallback plan. As I start to work on book two of this series (it’s a sci-fi romance thing), I’ve already deployed the notebook and index cards, and I’m giving heavy thought to the post-its. Plain yellow or multicolored. These are the questions that vex me.

What have you learned lately?