Quickly

Some good news! That February project has been accepted by Jack’s publisher, Musa Publishing. It will probably be released in either December or January, so not soon. But my writing partner and I are high-fiving and snoopy dancing. Join us!

Reincarnation

I am sorry to report that I have not been writing much of anything since finishing that big push with my writing partner in February. (But we did finish! The project is currently in waiting mode while others make decisions about it. If there is news on that front, I will certainly let you know.)

I caught some horrible winter nastiness in late February and didn’t really recover for about eight weeks, after which…I fell ill again with something else entirely. So it’s been a Netflix heavy spring for me, rather than a writing heavy one. But I have high hopes for the month of May in which I mean to get a lot done on that science fiction project I told you about long, long ago (in a galaxy far, far away? Feels like it!)

I have some old friends who are absolutely certain that my terrible immune system is passed down to me cosmically from a former incarnation in which I was a consumptive suffragette who wrote scathing political op-eds to Boston newspapers from my sick bed, dictated to my devoted romantic friend-slash-secretary.

The older I get, the more plausible this explanation seems.

But I have done a couple of small creative projects. It is my intention to start producing e-book covers for other writers of small budget but high standards. The reason I want to do this is because I made the cover for “Jump” and had so much fun doing it, I wanted to do more. So I solicited a couple of friends in need of covers and have been practicing on them. You can see the results here and here.

I intend to keep practicing on gullible desperate  indulgent friends in need of covers until I have a nice little portfolio of different genres of covers and then I will start charging modestly for the service. If you think I would consider you a pal, and you could use a cover, let me know. I’d like to try some different genres to get a broader range of experience.

Meanwhile, anybody read anything good lately? I’ve mostly been plowing through some nonfiction that would probably only be of interest to me, but what’s new and good in the fiction world these days?

Progress

I’m proud to say that my writing partner and I seem to be right on track with our plan to finish this novella in the month of February. It isn’t easy–we are both typing our fingers off.

For me, it helps that the weather has been terrible even for a Midwestern February. There is little temptation to do anything at night but sit by my fireplace and write. Perhaps we’ll coin a new genre called “blizzard fiction.”

A little housekeeping update: I’ve put “Jump” on Amazon, where it is listed for .99 cents (and comparable prices internationally). Amazon will not allow me to make it free, but I wanted it there for the visibility. If you would like to read it, though, DON’T give Amazon .99 cents. Go instead to Smashwords or B&N.com (also, the iBookstore, soonish, I hope) and download it for free.

I have also started doing e-book cover design. More on that after this novella is in the can and submitted to a publisher!

Last Minute Jitters

Yesterday, I had this horrible feeling that Jack is going to be a big party I throw that no one comes to. All of sudden, it seemed entirely possible that the day after Jack is released will be exactly like the day before it was released and No One will EVER buy it. Or even read it, if I try to give it away for free.

Then, today, I had this encounter in a bookstore where by chance I met a guy who edits the arts section of a newspaper and I was all but sullen with him about my book coming out soon. Then it took me forever to find a business card. Then I got in my car and thought, “I can’t do an interview! My hair looks just awful!” and I decided I needed a classy, stylish cut asap, because I am just too middle-aged and sloppy to be a writer.

Pause for laughter. I know. “Middle-Aged and Sloppy” should pretty much be every writer’s byline.

But sullen…not so good.

I don’t know, y’all. I’ve never been a wiz at selling myself. I can sell other people and other stuff (for other people) but myself? I am counting on the happy whims of a generous universe to take care of it for me. I have a feeling it’s going to require a little more legwork than that, huh?

Advice? Sedatives? Anyone? Please?

The Story Thus Far

I started writing fiction the summer after my 39th birthday. I guess it was midlife crisis time, because I have spent much of my life reading and studying fiction written by others, all the while, secretly wishing I could write some myself, and all the while assuming that of course, I couldn’t.

But 39 hit and I decided I would just write the novel that had been in my head for a decade or more, sell it to an obscure small press somewhere, and let it collect dust on a shelf, a testament to middle-aged lesbian ambition.

But that novel turned out to be the first hit of whatever-drug-supposedly-addicts-people-fatally-at first-hit these days. About two-thirds of the way through it I realized that when I actually trusted myself, I could write halfway decently. Up to that point, I felt like I was playing an actor who was playing a writer. But once I began to take myself seriously, I suddenly wanted more than an obscure and dusty out-of-print paperback. I wanted an embossed hardcover with hand-cut pages and a spot on the new releases table at the front of my favorite bookstore.

Woe is me. EVERYbody and her dog’s veterinarian’s third cousin’s boyfriend wants that. It’s a stiff competition.

But what could I do? I was addicted to fiction.

So I wrote the first novel and queried agents, (whom I’m now embarrassed to have queried with such newbie schlock) and did not get one (no surprise). The good/bad thing, though, depending on how you view it, is that the Very. First. Agent. I. Queried. asked for a full manuscript of my book three days after I emailed her. She was my dream agent. Since then, she has stopped taking new clients because she’s a rock star and doesn’t need anyone anymore. (Again, I am soooo embarrassed that she read the first paragraph—couldn’t have gotten further than that–of that manuscript. It was awful.)

But this gave me a really upside-down, backwards, funhouse mirror notion about what querying was actually like.

It’s never the same after the first time.

I went on and wrote a second book—originally I conceived it as the sequel to the first, but later revised it to stand alone. I queried that one. Three agents asked for full manuscripts. None took me on. But this, while not the same as that first time, was encouraging. The quality of my rejections was slowly improving.

I tabled plans for the third book set in the world of that first novel (I still plan to write that book as a stand alone someday) and changed worlds to write Jack. I was determined that Jack would succeed where the others had not, because in some ways it would be more clearly marketable.

I queried Jack. Again, I got three full manuscript requests from agents. One disappeared, one said no thanks and one asked for some revisions and a resubmission.

Now the quality of my rejections had improved by leaps and bounds. A revise and resubmit request is not even really a rejection! And it came with some feedback about the sort of revision the agent thought would improve the book.

So I revised. I resubmitted. And through no fault of her own, (how could she have known?) the agent sent me a final “I love this but just don’t think we can take it on” email while I was writing my father’s obituary, on the day after his death.

It was hard, to say the least.

The emotional wibbly-wobbliness of this all made me decide—almost hastily—to submit Jack, unagented to a handful of small presses. I felt like if I had come this close to an agent, I could perhaps make it with a small press.

And I really like—have always really liked—small presses. So I submitted Jack to four of them.

I got three acceptances. Boy did I wish I had an agent. But since I didn’t, I did a lot of homework (starting where every writer should start–at Writer Beware) to learn what a good book contract should look like. The best of the three I was offered came from Musa Publishing. (To be clear—Musa’s offer was the best by leaps and bounds. They are a very writer-friendly publisher.)

As a small, e-only press, Musa has a quicker release schedule for contracted writers than most presses, so once I signed the contract, I learned I would only be waiting about nine months for the release. (If you don’t know, it is often a year or even 18 months after a book is contracted before it comes out with a publisher.)

At present, I’m in the throes of edits (with my editor—I love to say that: my editor) and things are going swimmingly.

And here’s a nifty thing.  Jack is due to be released in September of this year. Looking back through my calendar, I see that it was September of 2009 when I first emailed that first query in the hopes of snaring that pie-in-the-sky agent with my dreadful first novel. That’s about four years exactly from first pitch to publication. (It’s also three completed books, though. Sometimes, you just need to put away the novel you’ve been pitching and write something else.)

Jack isn’t going to have an embossed hardcover with hand-cut pages, and though you can buy it through my favorite bookstore’s Kobo site, it won’t be on their new release table. But while my original goal is still one of my goals, I’ve also learned, in the past four years, that it’s helpful to have more than one goal when it comes to writing and publishing.

My plan now, after four years of writing and querying—and watching the publishing industry change faster than I could have imagined when I started—is to publish in a variety of formats in a variety of genres, with a variety of publishers.

Everyone has different reasons for wanting what they want. My reason for wanting to publish in this way (in these ways) is that I need to make enough money for my writing to allow me to write as much as I like. My goal isn’t to get rich—or even to “make a living” but to make enough of a supplemental income for my family that the hours I spend writing are worthwhile in a concrete, material way.

I know that plenty of people write for their own enjoyment. I do that, but in order to justify the time it takes from my family, it needs to be compensated.

So I hope that in four more years, I will have that large, traditionally published and released book, but I also hope to have a strong presence in the world of e-books. I may even do a little self-publishing (something I swore I would never do, four years ago).

That’s my story thus far…what’s yours? When did you start down the path you’re on? Where are you on the journey? Why did you choose that path? Where do you want to go next?

27 Thoughts on Book Piracy

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This is my daughter, Selina. She is not really a pirate (yet).

Here are 1-25.

Yesterday, Chuck Wendig wrote a lengthy post at his blog on book piracy and his complicated feelings about it. He summed these feelings up by generally being against it, while expounding on the many ways in which even being generally against it are nuanced in his mind.

Then, he unofficially declared today to be the day of talking about our feelings about book piracy, so here I am.

I liked Chuck’s list and agreed with it on a theoretical level. Theoretical, because I don’t really have any books for sale yet, therefore, while I think I would or will feel a certain way about having my own work pirated, I can’t be sure until it happens. With that caveat, I think I might feel a little less offended than Chuck does, because in some ways, getting my book out there and having it enjoyed is an end in and of itself, as well as a probable boon to my career. Chuck has a good strong fan base right now, so he needs that exposure less than a newbie like me, and perhaps I’ll feel differently someday.

(I reflect here on how my feelings about writing nonfiction for free have changed over the years. For a long while I didn’t mind writing for “exposure.” Now when someone tells me I’ll be paid in “exposure” I sort of want to kick them. My writing is labor and it deserves pay. But I don’t so much need the exposure of nonfiction blogging or other short e-formats these days. may that happen to my fiction someday too!)

Anyway, I wanted to add a couple of things that Wendig did not include on his almost exhaustive list, that I also feel about piracy.

26. IT’S A GENERATIONAL THING.

Wendig mentions (I think it’s point #24) that piracy is a cultural thing and to fight it, we must fight the culture of piracy, rather than individual cases of it. In my experience, he’s right, but I also have a thought on whose culture it is.

I have a handful of 20-something friends (it happens when you have kids who need babysitters) and all of them happen to be artists–musicians, writers, comic-makers–and most of them (all of them?) are very nonchalant about their torrents. They shrug and say “stuff ought to be free.”

I tell then that if “stuff” were all free, people who like to make “stuff” wouldn’t be able to afford to make it anymore. They shrug some more (they shrug a lot) and insist that they make stuff–even though they also have meaningless day jobs–perhaps, indeed because their day jobs are so meaningless–and insist that the true Artiste (but they don’t really say “Artiste” they just imply it in their attitudes) will be driven to creation by a fire in the soul and will keep making stuff even for no money at all.

Well. That may be true of 20-somethings with meaningless day jobs, but for lesbian housewives like me, with exactly one hour of brain life between the kids’ bedtime and collapsing in exhaustion, myself, the stuff-making time is precious. It is not something I can afford to just give away based on the fire in my soul alone. The fact is, I have responsibilities to many others and if I am going to spend a valuable, much-tugged-at hour on my soul, well, I better have something to show my family for it.

(My family doesn’t insist on this. But I do. It’s called multitasking. Unless I can make some grocery cash at the same time, I can’t be following my bliss for no reason–certainly not for a whole hour every day or the occasional several weekend hours in a row. It’s also why so many people in my demographic do stuff like knitting or sewing or baking–those are creative pursuits with added value to the rest of the family.)*

People in my generation need to be able to make some money to justify the time we spend making stuff.

27. IT’S A CLASS THING.

One of my 20-something friends (well, most of them, really, but one especially) is poorer than a small poor animal who lives in a poor place. He is also smarter than a six-pack of some of the most privileged college students I’ve ever taught. And he loves to read. He will read a book a day if he has ’em and he will read anything. So he pirates. He pirates enormous libraries called “200 e-books” with no other information, then asks me which ones I think he ought to read first. Many of these giant, anonymous e-book packages turn out to be in the public domain anyway. These are books that people who aren’t literature professors often call “classics” and that I call “old books”–Henry James, George Eliot, HG Wells, Charlotte Bronte–that kind of thing.

But not all of them are. Some are more recent and might have cost him $5-15 if he paid for them either in e- or paper form. But even if only one of the books he reads per week is one he might have (ought to have?) paid for, and even if it was at the bottom end of that price scale, that’s still $250+ a year he doesn’t have to spend on books.

And seeing as I am (or more accurately, have been) a literature professor, I just can’t bring myself to begrudge him those pirated books.

Before e-books, he used the library. He still uses the library. But he reads, as I said, a lot of books. Maybe when libraries really figure out the e-book thing (or is it e-books that need to figure out the library thing? I don’t know…) this little conundrum will be solved. But until then, I have to say if a reader like him was pirating my books, I think (theoretically) I’d be okay with that.

* Which makes me wonder if I might be able to excavate this enough to add: 28. IT’S A GENDERED THING to this list, eh?