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Internalized self-pub-o-phobia

30 Oct

I have noticed an unsettling trend with myself lately. I’ve been doing a lot of eBook searches, looking for reading material. What I’ve noticed is, if I get the impression that a book is self-published, I have a tendency to think, “The writing is probably crap,” and pass it by.

And I myself have a self-published novel.

I think we’re past the point where one can assume that books that have not been accepted by a publisher are a sign of a weak writer. And yet, that lingering assumption remains in my head.

You’d think, for $2.99, or 0.99, I could take a chance on a book. I’d want a reader to do the same for me.

Thinking on it, though, I believe my reaction does not arise from the simple fact that a particular book is self-published. I never actually check for a publishing house on say, an Amazon book page. What I do look at is the description of the book: how it’s written, if the author inserts him/herself into it somehow (the use of “me/I/mine” in regards to a book is a dead give-away); the cover illustration’s professionalism; and the price.

If I’m not immediately aware that, “Oh, this is self-published” and the description sounds interesting, I’ll download a sample, or read reviews. Then, it’s a matter of how well edited the book is, and if the layout appears professional.

I think for lazy book browsers like myself, if a self-published book gives the appearance of professionalism in its format, editing, and writing style, I’ll assume it’s published, and won’t have the impulse to reject it out of hand.

140 characters of character

13 Jul

compgeek

I’ve figured out my writer’s platform “Twitter strategy”: follow who’s interesting, regardless of who they are and what they tweet about, and have fun. One thing I won’t be doing: tweeting every hour on the hour with Yet Another Promo of My Book. That is a one-way ticket to being boring and unfollowed. It seems a lot of writers on Twitter only follow you so you’ll follow them, and then it’s promo, promo, promo. Like a hall of mirrors, writers tweet “Read my book” at each other, instead of talking to people (some who, hey, you never know, might be readers) about things that make life (and themselves) interesting.

Talk about the writing process. Talk about cool space probes. Talk about a rock star that just died. Talk about your kids, your favorite TV shows, something funny you saw on the way to work, respond to what other people are talking about and make it All About Them.

But a steady beat of alternating one-liner book promos? Is internet navel-gazing.

https://twitter.com/masqthephlsphr, in case anyone’s interested.

Are blogs the new journals?

30 Apr

I saw this article recently in my writing blogs:

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/guide-to-literary-agents/are-blogs-the-new-journals

It’s been ten years since I kept a “proper” journal. You know, the kind you write long-hand into a private (note)book? Actually, I was in a journaling slump even the early ’00s, so it’s been more like twelve. I’ve kept a journal since I was fifteen (even earlier than that, but in a fit of teenaged angst, I threw that earlier one away). So I believe with conviction that blogs are not the new “journals.” A contemporary form of ongoing letter-writing correspondence, perhaps, but not a contemporary form of the journal.

If any blogging platform comes close to journaling, it’s Dreamwidth/Live Journal, which in my experience is more intimate than your average blog. People talk more about their personal lives, their highs and lows. But blogs and “online journals” are social media. They allow you to interact and form communities. I remember when I first heard about Live Journal from some ATPo friends ten years ago. I was flabbergasted. They keep their journals ON LINE? It seemed the height of exhibitionism to me.

Because at the time, journals were, for me, a private space where you wrote your innermost thoughts, didn’t censor, poured out emotions you wouldn’t reveal any other place, engaged in self-indulgent naval gazing, and kept the metaphorical pressed flowers of your daily life preserved for later nostalgia or mortification. Assuming you could even pick up that volume 20 years later without wanting to kick your younger self in the shins.

Journaling isn’t better or worse than blogging, it’s just different. You blog for attention and validation, in part, and you risk criticism and rejection. It’s the school yard, the neighborhood coffee clache, the backyard barbecue. A journal, on the other hand, is just You, and sometimes Your God (my mom, forex, thinks of her jouraling as a form of prayer. Self-indulgent whining at God kind of prayer, but cathartic for that very reason).

There is a gray middle ground, of course. I sometimes write private entries in my Live Journal that are more like my old journal than a blog entry. But I do censor myself in those entries a bit in the paranoid fear some security bug will sweep through LJ and make them public ever so briefly. But I don’t often just journal with a notebook and a pen like the old days anymore. The only time I still feel compelled to write in a notebook that is totally disconnected from online blogging and emails is when I’m hiking and feeling kinda spiritual. Computers and the woods don’t mix for a lot of reasons.

Holy Yikes! Self-publishing and Tax Law

7 Feb

I published a book last year. I made some dough on it. Not a lot, but enough to generate two 1099-MISC forms from Amazon and Smashwords.

This week, I went to the TurboTax website to do my taxes. 1099-MISC with an amount in box 2, it told me, is either property rental income or business income. Plz to be proceeding to fill out a Schedule C.

I have a business?

So I start in on the schedule C. Business name, business address, business type code. This all seems rather silly. I write fiction from a chair in my living room. Some day, God willing, I might be a self-employed writer, but not right now. I have the proverbial day-job, a full-time job in an urelated field that brings in the majority of my personal income. Now onto the deductions. Oh, yes, I paid some money to get a personal website put up to promote my writing and book. Enter the expenses on that.

Suddenly, my refund, which was not itty-bitty due to mortgage interest, doubled. What. This can’t be correct.

Now, ask some people, this is all perfectly legit–especially if Turbotax lets you do it leads you down the garden path right through it. But I’m not keen on the idea of being audited. So I spent an hour plus today waiting in the queue for TurboTax’s free CPA chat. Schedule C is correct, says my Free CPA. “But it’s not a business,” type I. Free CPA disappears for a moment, then gives me this useful info dump:

“There is quite a bit of law on the distinction between a hobby and a business; but basically you have to record hobby income and you are allowed to deduct the expenses to that hobby, as long as they do not exceed the income. Some of the factors the IRS and the Court looks at as to in the distinction are:

(1) The amount of time you spend at this hobby or business can be a determining factor. If you have other trades or businesses, or if you have employment with someone else, it may be obvious that the activity in question is a hobby because you may not have sufficient available time to devote to the concept of making this activity a business. An example of this was a case in which an attorney was found to be in the business of gambling because he concentrated on his betting activity more than his law practice and his intent was to make a profit.

(2) Your intent in this particular activity also weighs heavily in whether or not the activity is a hobby or a business. intent is usually determined by considering other factors. Do you keep records as though this were a bona fide business? Do you spend sufficient time to show intent to make a profit? Do you advertise? Do you do other things that are characteristic of a person who’s trying to make a living at this activity?

It’s not a cut and dried decision, but if your activity is a business, your best defense of its business nature is to treat it like a business.”

Yeah, legally a hobby, for now.

So I return to Turbotax, enter an expenses write-off equivalent to my sales, and wipe my hands clean.

Resolutions

30 Dec

A lot of people don’t like doing New Years resolutions, and I don’t blame them. Each year of our lives has a particular flow, and the flow we are in in one year is different than the one we veer into in the next, and therefore the expectations we develop from one may not apply to the other at all. We can’t always control the way our lives flow.

But I think those of us privileged enough to have some semblance of control over at least part of our time ought to at least visualize how we’d like to spend that time, even if other stuff comes along to divert us from those visions. 2012 was a case-in-point year for that.

Resolutions

The Plan

3 Nov

I am in the throes of NaNo-Envy, but I am still happy not to be doing NaNo. Yes, a contradiction, but I love the social energy this month brings in what is often such a solitary activity. OTOH, I am feeling under the weather, and I finished the first draft of my novel last Sunday, so… not great timing for me this year.

But I am in earnest planning mode on the second draft and the general outline for the trilogy of novels that is going to emerge from my first draft. I’ve actually been thinking of turning the novel into a series for a while now, because I see a lot of possibilities and stories in the world I am building (still building. I think my story-world was a bit thin in the first draft).

Back in July, I came across an online writing school, the bill-paying day-job of author Holly Lisle, http://novelwritingschool.com/. Other than a one-on-one writing coach and writer’s workshops, I have not taken any “writing classes” in the sense of instruction since I was a teenager/twenty-something. At that age, I was obsessed with learning “how to write fiction” and so never did any actual writing. Experience is the best teacher, IMO. I learned more from writing my first novel, Dis/inhibition, and The Destroyer series than I could have learned in a hundred writing classes. But I figured Lisle’s “How To Write A Series” course might have a few pointers.

I got through the first two of four lessons in July, then RL got in the way. The lesson videos and exercises guide you through the process of identifying what kind of series you will write, planning how it will unfold, etc (although I must say the video transcripts included are FULL of typos….)

So finishing that course is one goal I have set for my post-novel time. I also plan to work through The Plot Whisperer Workbook. Both of these are merely tools to help me focus on plotting and locating strong and weak story elements for the purpose of revision and expansion.

I reviewed the first two lessons of Lisle’s course this week, and realized quickly that a lot of the course exercises could benefit from me gathering together all the “future draft” notes I tucked away while working on the first draft–changes to plot points and characters I envisioned, ideas for expansion. So that is what I am working on now. I’ve got some good ideas brewing, and a LOT of research work ahead of me in physics, mythology, and random bits.

NoNoWriMo

29 Sep

National Novel Writing Month, AKA NaNoWriMo, gets a bad rap. I certainly used to knock it. What could you possibly accomplish in the attempt to pound out 50,000 words of new original fiction in one 30-day span, other than incoherent drivel?

I still sort of think if I attempted the above exactly as stated, that’s what I’d get. Of course, I’m a pantser, not given to overly pre-planning new writing before I start it, because the act of writing itself always transforms whatever I thought to write into what I really wanted to write. Your mileage may vary.

NaNoWriMo is still considered by many the playground of enthusiastic amateurs. Still, I’ve come to like it and look forward to it. It’s like an annual party for the novelist crowd.

I was tempted into “NaNo,” as my friends call it, watching the social energy they harnessed at that time of year–how one person’s effort made it a little easier for someone else to put the effort in themselves. My friends aren’t the type to actually gather in rooms together on November evenings with laptops and paper pads like some participants (not my preference either–I find the presence of others distracting when I’m writing). They mostly blogged about their progress and process, but the result was much the same.

I have now “NaNoed” three times in the last six years. And every year I’ve participated, I picked a project I was already working on. One time it was a few episodes of a fan fiction WIP. Another time, a fleshing-out of an original story I’d been working on for about a year. Some days, I’d let words I wrote before November slip into my word count. This year, I had fully planned to set a goal of writing only 250 words a day instead of the recommended 1,667 that gets you to 50,000 after thirty days.

In other words, I’ve learned to find NaNo useful by never following the rules. Not exactly, anyway. And the folks who bring you NaNoWriMo, the Office of Letters and Light, have embraced the people who do that. They have a forum board just for the “NaNo Rebels” to hang out in together.

Alas, this year, it doesn’t look like I’ll be in a position to do NaNoWriMo. I am scrambling to finish the next-to-last chapter of the first draft of my novel before the end of the month, and I don’t see the final chapter going any faster. I think October will get eaten up by it. I had planned to use October to plan out the second draft. My suspicion is this first draft is going to end up being expanded into three separate novels, which will require actual outlining and plotting and Time to figure out. I won’t be ready to start writing the second draft of book one by November lst.

I’m kind of bummed about this. The social energy of NaNo has got to be, like quadrupled interstellar on Twitter, which I’ve only just started using this year. Maybe I will try to blog more about the Planning and Plotting process as it is going on, and post snippets in later months when I have them.