publishing

Public Access

So, I've been watching Amanda Fucking Palmer's glorious TED talk "The Art of Asking" over and over. It's profound and speaks to my hippy dippy crowd-love soul. It's 15 minutes well spent and should be required viewing for all artists,performers, musicians and storytellers across the world. Not because it's The Way or anything, but because there is wisdom there and it raises some fantastic questions that we need to ask ourselves about what we do. Check out the video (linked above) and meet me after the jump for my thoughts.

In her TED talk, Amanda shares stories about her time as a street performer and the human experiences she had with other people. She discusses crowd-sourcing a couch to sleep on while on tour, and her propensity of finding artists and performers to share at her shows. (Fun fact: my last professional poi gig was spinning glow/sock poi for 3 consecutive hours at a Dresden Dolls show in Tempe '08 as part of the call for artists. Hella fun.) In all the stories of personal connection there are lessons about what we as artists/creators do on the person-to-person interaction as well as profound questions about how we move forward in the digital age.

"I maintain that crowd surfing and couch surfing are basically the same thing. You're falling into the audience and trusting each other." - AFP

I've said before that writers need to write from a place of truth if they want a good story. We need to be able to be vulnerable and be unabashedly human and real within our stories to lend them a visceral truth that is recognizable by the reader. We have to fall into our audience and trust that they will accept our gift to them in the spirit in which it was given. And you need to similarly build trust with your reader. They need to trust that you will lead them through the story. That you will answer the questions you ask in the story and make good on your end of the connection. Putting a book out there isn't just a monetary exchange. You are connecting with someone, inviting them into your story to introduce them to a world of your creation. You're opening yourself up to be ripped apart on the Internet for writing drivel. You're allowing yourself to be seen in a very special way when you put it out there. Even if it's just a short story on a blog, you're taking what some see as  a risk. You open yourself up to criticism as well as compliments. (Compliments are just as hard to take sometimes as flame comments. I'll get to that in another post.) At the end of the day, making your writing public is crowdsurfing. You're falling into an audience and trusting each other.

"Celebrity is about a lot of people loving you from a distance...but {being an artist} is about a few people loving you up close and those people being enough." - AFP

There's something else going on here, though. There's an openness that isn't just the vulnerability of telling a story, but also of being accessible to your audience. The past decade has seen a major change in the way artists can react with their fans. I can have a late night Twitter conversation with Steven Brust or get into a giggle fit with Christopher Moore. Thanks to the internet and email I have damn near instant access to not just other fans but a direct connection to the artists, actors, musicians and authors that I admire. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, blogs... all of them help us connect with each other, our audiences and our heroes.

Right now newb authors are being coaxed into diving into the social network pool head first. It's part of building your platform, right? Well, I know it's not for everyone. I was talking with a friend once who is a damn fine storyteller. He said, though, that if he ever wrote those stories down and tried to sell them he would be a recluse. He wouldn't be a social media maven with live Tweet chats or blog tours or any of that. He's too private a person and shuns that kind of exposure. Right now, that approach is a difficult one to make because we as an audience want that kind of access. That connection is a sacred one and I think it's something we've lost, but are finally getting back.

It's a question you need to ask yourself as an artist: how accessible do I want to be to my audience? This will determine the content of your online presence and your interaction with your crowd. The question is largely about trust and the answer has everything to do with your comfort level and your life.

Personally, while I do keep certain parts of my life veiled, I've been an open book here. I prefer it that way. By showing you my stories, you've already seen me naked and bare. I've left myself open to whatever you can throw at me. The more public you go, the wider that scope is and the more risk there seems to be. There's more of an opportunity for rejection and vitriol, more of a chance that someone will shout words that trigger your softest spots. We want people to like us and our words, we don't want to hear our own insecurities made real. It's bad enough that we have those voices blaring in our heads, but to hear those words come from someone else's mouth? There is a risk. But there are rewards. Great ones that hinge on the connection made between author and reader. To be open to those experiences is to be vulnerable and accessible to strangers. It takes trust.

This is why when I see an author/musician/performer behaving badly that I get up in arms. It's a breach of the unspoken contract we build, an abuse of trust.

Anyway, I really don't have a good way to wrap this up today. So, I'll say thank you. Thank you for coming here, sitting by my fire and talking story with me. Thank you for letting me share pieces of me and my writing with you. Thank you for seeing me.

Prepare Yourself

The end is nigh! Or not... Anyway. I've been remiss for a while with updating the blog. I've been sick of late and went on a three day binge of DayQuil, orange juice and episodes of Say Yes To The Dress. Honestly, other than the rise and fall of my temperature there's not much to report here at the moment.

My family and I are watching Avatar: The Last Airbender together in the evenings. Love it muchly. If you've not seen it, check it out on Netflix.

Um...yeah. I've got nothing. OH! Right! So, in the next few weeks we'll (and by we, I mean me, the voices in my head and a monkey in a fez) be rolling out a brand new website for yours truly. An honest to Loki website with my own domain and everything. So yeah, watch this space for details on that.

I need chai.

 

Aarr! Aye! And Other Vowels As Well!

There have been a lot of posts lately about piracy and theft of intellectual property. The whole Glee vs JoCo fiasco that raised the internet and our proverbial pitchforks... Chuck Wendig and other authors posting about what book piracy means for them specifically. Piracy is a thing. It happens with music, movies and now--with the advent of ereaders--books. And in light of my recent good news, this directly affects little old me.

So let's talk about this.

I come from a generation of mix-tapes and bootlegs, so there are some things that I feel are morally grey. You wouldn't have heard of Metallica or Dave Matthews Band without bootlegs getting passed from person to person. However, we don't live in the 80s where you had to wind tapes with pencils and wait with your hand on the record button for the radio to play the song to finish your masterpiece. (And then the DJ talked over half of it. Dick.) Anyway, I don't feel like downloading a song from a friend's hard drive makes me a criminal. At the same time, I borrow books (the kind printed on dead trees) from friends. I don't see either of these things as theft. Why? It's probably intent. If I like that book, I intend to go buy everything that author has written so that I don't have to borrow shit anymore. If I dig that track, I'm more inclined to buy more from that person.

That being said, there is a line. It's got more shades of grey around it than that one book, but the line is there. For me that line with books specifically is pretty clear. If I borrow (from a friend or a library) a print copy of a book and love it, I will buy the fuck out of that author's work. I will pimp them, loan out copies so that other friends can do the same. At some point in the food chain, money exchanges hands and goes to the author. Yay.

Ebooks aren't like that necessarily. Ebooks are easily pirated and that food chain cannot be guaranteed. I will not borrow ebooks. I pay for them. Be it Amazon or Kobo or the author's site, I buy the book.

And here's why I ask you to do the same for me.

Look, I'm a debut author. That means that Entangled/Covet is putting a bet on me that you and many many other people will buy my book and prove they made the right decision to sign me. If you pirate my book, yes, you take money from me and the publisher, but that's not my biggest beef. If you pirate my book, I might not get to write more. Piracy skews sales numbers and for a debut like me, that is the pudding in which my proof is divined. (Or something.) If my sales numbers are low, my publisher can look at me and say, "This has been fun, but you didn't do as well as we'd hoped. See ya!" Then those sales numbers follow me around for any future contracts I try to acquire. And so on and so on. If you want to see me write all these books I've been talking about...if you want them to have a shot, please. Please. Do not pirate my book.

Thank you.

Something Wicked...

.... wicked AWESOME that is.

You have no idea how long I've been wanting to write this blog post. I've kept it under wraps and now that ink is on paper and things are legal and binding I can finally--FINALLY--say some amazing magic words.

My debut novel has been picked up by a publisher.

That's right, guys, I've finally mastered that strange alchemy of turning words into an actual factual contractual deal with a purveyor of books.

Meet me below the jump for the details! (Cause I've been dying to tell you all about it!!!)

So, for those who don't know, my book TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES** (Book 1 in my Etudes in C# series) has been on submission to publishers since mid-June. This means that my agent--the fabulously stellar Jennie Goloboy--sends an email &our big ass proposal document to editors at various publishing houses. If they like the sound of my book from the proposal, they will ask to read the manuscript.

As I said, the book had been out to several different houses over the course of about 4 months with various degrees of success and failure (depending on how you measure both). Tuesday, November 27 I got word from Jennie that an editor was taking the book to the acquisitions board at her publisher. (As I'm sure you can guess from the title, an acquisitions board is in charge of acquiring new books. In other words: someone was interested in buying MY book.)

Ho.Lee.Shitballs.
I spent that evening freaking out and full of anxiety and researching this publisher and talking myself out of it and basically turning myself into a ball of self-defeating tension. The next day I emailed Jennie with some of my concerns and we talked on the phone for a bit. (This is the part of agenting that I think requires the patience of a saint: putting up with my insecure ass when I'm hopped up on anxiety and caffeine.) She laid things out clearly, explaining some things that I hadn't quite understood from the email. Then she said, "By the way, she's calling me tomorrow to let me know if we have an offer."
We have just lost cabin pressure.
An offer? Soon? Like tomorrow? Oh sweet dear god! So, as you can imagine, I didn't sleep much on Wednesday (the 28th for those keeping score). I was up all night (again) with my brain doing backflips and inverting on itself and and and oh sweet lords of chai kill me for all the shit going through my brain! I woke up Thursday vibrating and messaged Jennie to tell her so. (She then told me to breathe and not have too much chai. How well she knows me.) She told me that she'd be calling later with the results of her conversation with the editor in question.
So, I went to the gym. And I puttered around the house. And I waited... and I checked my email. And I waited. And I looked at my phone... And innocent pixels died. Then it was time for me to go pick up my daughter from school."Alright," I said to my phone. "I'm leaving now. I'll be back in about 10 minutes. You know, in case anyone wanted to call. You could just...wait til I get back."
Wouldn't you know... the phone rang about a minute after I pulled out of the drive way.It was Jennie. She'd talked with the editor. We had an official offer.
We talked out all the details. I took notes. We both had a bit of a freakout because it was made of win. She had let all the other editors still reading the book know we had an offer and had given them a deadline as to when we needed decisions. Monday (December 3). By Monday we'd either move forward on this offer or have to possibly entertain others...but either way, Monday was going to be a big and decisive day.

Not much to do... other than celebrate!

I was all...

and
and
I was so freakin' happy and pumped full of mood altering hormones that I felt like I was going to vomit sparkling rainbows. So, I immediately hugged my husband. I sent a text message to my Attack Fish (my devoted Beta Readers who are epic amounts of amazing). I called my mother (yes, I do that). I called my father, but, he chose that particular week to be out of the freaking country bobbing around in an ocean, so this was the response I got from his voicemail:
I'm on a boat.
That night we had dinner plans with friends, so I took along a bottle of champagne to their house. When one of said friends saw the bottle she just looked at me and said, "Really?" I nodded because being a writer I like to show and not tell. There was rejoicing. And my friends were all like...
and...
I got to spend the weekend waiting and pinching myself. "Yup, offer of a book deal is still real." FINALLY got to tell my father and some other friends. Spent Sunday burying myself in football and housework to avoid the fact that the clock was moving too slowly. Started practically vibrating again....And then Monday rolled around.... by the end of the day I had an email from Jennie telling me that Cat and Marius have found their home. Long story short (too late), we officially accepted the offer from Entangled Publishing. And I was all...

And I couldn't wait to tell the whole freakin' planet. I wanted to grab that guy at the gym and shake him like an 8 ball telling him, "DUDE! They're going to publish my book!!!" I wanted to buy everyone daisies and write it in the sky. I wanted to post far and wide my joyous squees... but I couldn't. Things weren't legal. Ink wasn't dry. Contracts still had to be negotiated and all that fun stuff.
Honestly, it took a while to sink in. A week later, when the vibrating stopped (or at least slowed down), I just sat down and the depth of it hit me. This is really happening. This is the real deal. Oh my fuck.It's taken some time, and I've developed tremendous restraint not to just blab this all over the Intertubez, but now... NOW!... I can finally squee out loud and fill you all in. Now I can tell you that my debut novel TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES** will be available as an ebook from Entangled Publishing.
We totally did it, guys. We got this far. We got to the part where the book gets published and you all can finally--FINALLY--read it!!! For real!I'm very excited to work with Entangled. They're enjoying a lot of successes right now and more good things are on the horizon for them. I'm very proud to be counted among their authors.So, as things get closer, we'll be pimping it and having all sorts of fun gearing up for the release. Until then, I've got some work to do, kittens.

HOLY SHIT!! :-D*bouncy happy squee*
**EDITED 16 September, 2013: This book has a new name! Henceforth it shall be called WILD CARD.

Warning For The Future

So, it's 2013 and there are several people in this world who have made the resolution to finally write that novel, to get published or other variations on this theme. For those people I have a word of warning: QUIT NOW! Get out while you can. Just walk away. Really. This industry is so chock full of mind-boggling dichotomy and confusion, arcane rules and bylaws that no one talks about. Save yourself the trouble, the heartache and the endless boxes of Kleenex (you know, for wiping your tears of despair and anguish). Just quit. Now.

No? You won't be deterred? Fine, let me warn you about a few things that are frustrating as shit about this business. Meet me after the jump, if you will...

I've been actively pursuing traditional publication (ie, not self-publishing, although I have looked into it enough to know it's not my path) for the better part of 5 years now. Since mid 2008 it has been my job to learn the ins and outs of this business, to hone my craft, make connections and friendships and tear out my hair because Publishing is annoying as fuck. You hear all sorts of advice around the Intertubez and some of it is not worth the ethernet its saved to. Some of it is gold. In the end you have to decide which is which. While we joke that you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake, little writer, your career IS. No two are exactly alike, no two people necessarily have the same goals or paths to get there. Gah! That's what I'm talking about. Both are true. You aren't special and yet you are. What the hell? Annoying isn't it?

Well, I kinda wish someone had warned me back when I was dewy-eyed and fresh to this world that Publishing is rife with these kinds of both-truths. Here are a few of the more frustrating that I've collected. Take them with a full rim of salt and an extra squeeze of lime.

1. It's Not Who You Know...

We hear this chestnut in several industries insisting that you don't need a special friend, fuckbuddy or other such contact within to get access to the clubhouse. You can make it on your own merit and you should make every attempt to do so. Besides, you don't look at people in terms of where they fit in your Rolodex.  Right?

And yet...

You must network. Your sanity will (at some point) depend on forging friendships with other writers (see #2) and you can only learn about this industry from people more experienced. Talking to writers, agents, editors, critics, slush readers... it all helps you learn more and grow. Trust me, there are people in every category I've just listed who have helped me over hurdles, made suggestions or upped my chances of success just because they were willing to give me the time of day.

It's odd, at least it was for me. We're not supposed to look at people in terms of what they can do for us. We're supposed to build friendships and connections based on commonalities and what's inside the person. And yet, here we are building networks with at least some level of "how will this relationship help me in the future?" I don't like knowing that that voice is there that calculates the 6 degrees of the Big 6 or something, but it *is* there. Learn to deal with it. Make friendships. Help each other. Be there for others. Pay it forward. That kinda thing.

  by Zaratops (deviantart)2. The First Rule Network! Make connections and friends! Have a social media platform! Put yourself out there and be part of the community. Share your journey.

And yet...

A lot of writing is solitary. Trying to get published is a slog of misery that loves company. So we use Twitter and Query Tracker and Book Country and any number of message boards as our water cooler. We talk about everything! We blog about query letters, query rejections, revisions, getting the call. But once you get to a certain point you are expected to tighten the lips and let the publishing happen behind the curtain. Submission, for example. I've been told by many people that it's best to just not discuss your submission period with your blog/Twitter audience. Editors like to think they are your first choice, or it's not professional to complain (I agree).... really, this is where those writer friends are helpful. Set up a Google hangout, open a bottle of something at least 15% and kvetch, moan and otherwise pour out your soul about how agonizing the wait of submissions are.

But this is one of those times where it would be so nice to be able to do what you did with querying agents... read other people's stories to know you're not alone. Sorry, dude, we don't post that kind of thing. You have to learn that one on your own and suffer. You just don't talk about being on submission.

3. Don't Judge A Book Don't judge a book by it's cover. Right?

And yet...

We totally judge books by their covers.

4. Don't Take It Personally When an agent or editor rejects your book, you're told to not take it personally. It's true. It's not a judgment of you, Joe Schmoe. It's not even necessarily a critique on your work. Sometimes rejections come even when an agent or editor likes you and thinks you're quite talented. You want someone who is ablaze for you, so it's okay. Keep working and putting yourself out there. It's not personal...

And yet...

You're expected to write from a place of truth, to bleed on the page. Your writing has to be not just personal but visceral! When you put yourself into your novel so much it is difficult to see how a rejection could be anything other than personal. I get it. But really, it's not about you. Unless it is.

5. The Next Big Thing

Have your own voice. Write like YOU.

And yet....

"Publishers want the next George R. R. Martin/Hunger Games/50 Shades"... So write like you, but be like them.

6. Things Take Time

Above all things (not craft-related) a writer must learn patience. The whole process is a sticky, sluggish waiting game that will drive you to lunacy if you don't have proper coping mechanisms. (Believe me, my agent knows how impatient I can be... and that's after I've been working on being more patient for years!)

And yet...

you can get a query rejection in less time than it takes to make a cup of chai. Seriously. My first ever rejection to a novel came less than 10 minutes after I sent the query. And when things get moving in a positive direction, things happen REALLY FAST. This agent loves you and wants to talk, but you have to call this person, and this one emailed on the same day requesting a full and holy shit avalanche of awesomesauce. But then you have to wait. People need time to read. Phone calls have to be scheduled. Contracts have to be drawn up and sent across the country via snail mail. And that's when a blizzard hits, wouldn't you know it?  Even when you think the roller coaster is about to speed up, it's not, kids. Just be prepared to hurry up and wait.

There are infinite frustrations along the road of traditional publishing. You have to ask yourself if the end goal you've set for yourself is worth all that trouble. It might not be. Then again, it might be just the forge you need to help you become Excalibur.

What about you? What are your gripes? This is a safe place to bitch so let it fly.