Tag Archives: thoughtspinning

Pro Does Not Require Con

So it seems to be the time of year for discussing the relevance and/or purpose and/or importance of authors attending conventions.

There is this article from Sunny Moraine on the melancholy of non-con attendance. There’s this from Kameron Hurley, which opens with its own kind of sadness but ends with an urging, from the perspective of earned regard, to include those who aren’t already A Part Of in the convention experience. There’s the one from Chuck Wendig, which acknowledges a writer’s career isn’t dependent on cons but also goes on to name big professional reasons you better go anyway. There’s the cost breakdown from Marko Kloos, which makes the entirely relevant and under-discussed point that cons cost actual money that many folks simply don’t have.* And then there’s Harry Connolly’s take on convention attendance, which weighs the potential/implied/presumed social connections against the personal costs of convention attendance.

Also out there are numerous exchanges between newer pros and neo-pros who are, to varying degrees, afraid their inability to attend the same conventions as Big Name Authors and Editors will permanently and irrevocably damage their ability to thrive in traditional publishing because they’re not connecting properly. Alongside those conversations—parallel, rather than intersecting—is discussion of highly successful self-publishing writers who are, after achieving wide reader acceptance and earning solid money, considering attending conventions in order to see if there’s an advantage to it.

So let me tell you my little convention conclusions, from the perspective of someone who once wanted a trad-publishing contract and opted to quit, who came back to novel writing only because self-publishing was an option, and who has watched aspiring writers hunt down and dig up any scrap of helpful information for about twenty years.

Continue reading Pro Does Not Require Con

Once More, Years Later

Originally posted at These Certain Musings, where I tend to put the more personal stuff.  But I think grief and grieving is too little discussed, so I’m doing some extra sharing.

It’s that time of year again, though it seems to have arrived earlier than past years. Usually, by my recollection, I don’t end up feeling quite so sensitive until March, or especially May. Then again, that might be simply my impression.

I’ve been… overly sensitive for the past week or so, even as my writerly self–the one so thrilled and willing with story and character and creation–resurfaced in this new environment of family and encouragement. It’s been like having sunburned feelings: you know the person touching you doesn’t mean to cause pain, but even back-pats of encouragement hurt.

Then yesterday, when my mother was doing nothing more than trying to schedule a birthday dinner for either Sunday or Monday, I just about bit her head off for no reason. Then I tried to do laundry, and ended up stuffing clothes in the washer while tears ran down my face. Then I tried to cook supper, and ended up with the same result. Then I went to apologize to my mother, but what came out of my mouth instead was, “My 40th birthday was when I knew Ron was going to die.”

Until those words spilled out, I really hadn’t aligned past grief with present hurt. But there it is, doncha know, because grief is an unpredictable thing. It isn’t malicious (at least mine isn’t). It is instead almost too polite, apologizing for popping up year after year, and trying to be so subtle it leaves me confused and seemingly unable to identify it for days or weeks.

And the words, while true in an emotional sense, weren’t true in a factual sense. I mean, yes, I spent my fortieth birthday in a VA hospital, helping Ron eat the first meal he’d been permitted in a couple days and arguing with doctors who wanted to put him on blood-thinning medications when he’d almost bled to death internally a few days before. But I didn’t know he was going to die so soon for a few more days. (And I am still bitter and angry that I was the one who, after reading his test results, diagnosed him and told him the diagnosis weeks before a doctor got around to it.)

But the emotions rule, this far removed from the date. And my heart will always link my birthday with losing Ron–even though another four months passed before we lost him.

And I thought I had all that under control after figuring this out last night. Then I read this from Kathryn Cramer, and lost my shit all over again.

At the time Ron was diagnosed, we’d been living separately for almost three years, but we never divorced and we did remain close. There are times I still feel as if he’s simply lost, and I’ll find him if I walk into the next room even though he’s been lost for five years now.

So… I think we’re having a family dinner on Sunday. It’ll probably be okay. I’m giving myself permission to leak emotions all over the place if I feel like it. The feels aren’t going away, and though the feels aren’t pleasant, having them is not a bad thing.

They exist. I exist. One cannot miss what one did not love, and love is not a thing to be left behind.

Wedding 1996

Resolutions for a Balanced New Year

playI will choose and understand my life priorities before I entertain, let alone commit to, “measureable” goals. For example, “My son and I will have conversation today” is a much higher priority than “I will write 1000 words every day.”  What I produce will not be deemed of greater value and importance than who I am and the connections I want to preserve with family and friends.

I will give more weight to my mental and physical health, and the needs of the actual human beings in my life, than I do to word counts, bookings, and schedules. Certainly there are those who will assume I’m speaking from a place of privilege, as someone who must be able to set aside Real Life Responsibilities for some squishy emotional goal. Nope. The past almost-ten years haven’t been a stroll down the primrose path, darlings, and frankly, the journey was made more emotionally difficult by production-focused people at the edges of my life who looked down on my decision to invest time in my son and family rather than a monetary venture.  I wasted time feeling bad about their snubs. I won’t do that again.

If a fill-in-the-blank guru tells me I must perform X tasks in order to reach Y goal, or I’m not really ever going to get Y goal, I will merely assume the guru is telling the truth and move on. It’s very, very easy to get caught up in the Secret of Success Rhetoric. The industry is just as savvy as the diet industry when it comes to guilting people into handing over the lives (and money) in order to prove themselves Not A Loser. Many gurus thrive on enforcing methods that in reality force a person to neglect health, friendships, family, and life experiences for the sake of meeting goals, and will insinuate you’re a lazy, unworthy person if you’re not willing to make those sacrifices. There is no success I could achieve that would be worth such neglect.  I will not be shamed into acting otherwise.

I will more loudly rejoice when I do well. I will share my successes rather than humbly swallow them. Screw that Tall Poppy madness. I invite everyone else to do the same.

And above all, I wish everyone a 2016 that has more laughter than fear, more moments worth remembering than days worth forgetting, more tears shared in the company of others than wept alone, more encouragement in times of doubt than doubt in times of difficulty, and more time with people you love than longings for those beyond reach.

#SFWApro

Revisiting the Wherefore

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About three years ago, my first novel came out.

No, wait.  That’s not right.  Let’s try…

About three years ago, I released my first novel.

Each sentence is nine words long.  The end result — readers can buy my story — is the same.  But the implied process was very different.

Back then, I told a writerly friend I expected it’d take five or so years for the trade-versus-indie bluster to fade.  If one knows the industry solely from popular online discussions, that estimate sounds wildly optimistic.  If one talks to writers who’ve taken the time to understand their evolving options, it’s not so far off.  As mentioned here, the “versus” is a sickly beast many have already left behind.

With that in mind, and in light of the reprised conversation on Fantasy Faction, I thought I’d revisit a post from 2012 explaining why I chose to return to SF writing as an indie author rather than resume riding the query-go-round, and see how well my reasoning held up.

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What’s “Real” About the Cost of Self-Publishing

Another day, another piece of writing on self-publishing that makes me want to *headdesk.*  So I’m going to put this post here and, in the future, simply point to it when yet another one of those articles pops up.

Truth: There is no “real cost” to self-publishing, just as there is no “real cost” to trade publishing.  Anyone who tells you there is intends to sell you something, validate their own choices, or is simply unaware a range of options exist.

What is the “real cost” of feeding a family of four for a week?  What is the “real cost” of a college education?  What is the “real cost” of owning a home, taking a vacation, adopting a pet, raising a child, buying a car, having someone do your taxes, finding the perfect gown for an event?

The answer to all those is, “It depends.”

And too often, someone comes along to assert “It depends” must be followed by “the quality of work you want.”

That someone is wrong.

Writers new to self-publishing often take a Google-tour of sites claiming to give them “real” information.  And some writers, thinking they’re being helpful while defending their choice to not self-publish, have written compelling pieces that place the cost of putting out a single novel somewhere between ten and sixty thousand dollars.

Those are not helpful articles.  New writers who stumble onto them and believe them are likely to either give up entirely or become an easy target for scammers.  Heck, after reading an author dropped thirty thousand dollars to self-publish “properly,” who wouldn’t believe an Author Solutions package of ten grand sounds like a fantastic deal?

(And if you’re not familiar with Author Solutions and the support it receives from major publishers and imprints, start here and here.)

In most cases, cost is assumed to be the same as quality when one of two factors come into play.  In the first instance, cost matters if money is considered to be a measure of personal worth (see “Protestant Ethic”).  In the second, cost is used as a proxy for quality when one isn’t accustomed to or comfortable with cost comparisons and negotiations.

I once paid nearly $2000 for a gown.  People at the reception in Washington D.C. complimented it.  I once paid $65 for a gown.  Never in my life had I received so many compliments, and this from a Beverly Hills crowd.

So if you’re a new writer, here’s the deal:  You do not need to pay what large trade publishers pay to get professional results because—and this doesn’t get mentioned often, for some odd reason—you are not paying to retain employees, warehouse product, or maintain expensive office space.  And frankly, you’re not paying for exclusivity.  You are paying a contractor to provide you a professional service.*  You are paying for that service one timePeriod.

How do you find professionals who deliver great results at the price point you’re looking to pay?  Use the same method that used to be touted to writers in search of a compatible agent: check the books you like.  Well-produced indie titles will list their publication team—cover artist, designer, copyeditor, etc.—in the front matter and/or the acknowledgements.  Best of all, ebooks usually contain a live link to the professional’s website.  In very little time, you can create a targeted list of professionals whose work you like alongside the approximate cost of their services.  Easy-peasy.

If you’re an established trade writer thinking you should say something about self-publishing, here’s the deal: Read up on successful self-publishing members within your own professional organization.  SFWA recently opened its membership to self-published writers who meet the same income standards as trade-published writers, and many long-standing SFWA members fully embraced self-publishing long before.  Just a small bit of reading and discussion will reveal that the professional experience and focus of those who primarily self-publish differs from those who might self-publish a small project or two on the side.  They can give you actual numbers, based on multiple projects.  And if you have a question about self-publishing, it’s easy to ask.

For some, custom artwork provided by a Certain Name is critical to seeing their final product as “professional.”  Those folks will pay a premium for it.  For others, it’s essential to pay Certain Name for a developmental edit to shape their story for reasons of craft and/or confidence.  Those folks, too, will pay a premium.  But premium is a choice, and should not be presented as a necessity.  Telling new writers—and established writers uncertain if they should step into self-publishing—that they must spend a pile of money to be professional and spend every moment on insurmountable tasks associated with publishing is a swift and efficient way to put a lid on the number of writers who’d otherwise be able to engage with enthusiastic readers.

In fact, it’s kinda mean.

It isn’t realistic.  It isn’t “harsh truth.”  It is a narrow band of experience, based on a different business model, that’s erroneously touted as universal.

I’d much rather see us reach out with accurate and up-to-date information on the range of costs associated with self-publishing.  That’s the way to realistically and immediately support diversity, to give fellow writers the knowledge needed to take advantage of options and avoid scammers, and to expand the readership for everyone.

So at the end of the day, the truth is pretty straightforward.

The real cost of self-publishing is what you pay, after researching your options, to get the results you want.

Period.

(Next week I’ll put together a post in response to the “You can’t become a better writer unless editors reject you repeatedly” post I can point to whenever that meme pops up.)

*I’ve heard the argument that paying below Big 5 rates for artistic and editorial services harms professionals accustomed to making their living at their trade.  While not unsympathetic to that viewpoint, I do find it a tad offensive when directed at the one professional in the publishing business who has forever been told they shouldn’t expect to make a living in the biz.

Musing That Might Or Might Not Apply To Current Conversations

My admiration for a professional acquaintance grew during the Indiana RFRA upheaval (which I introduce here as an EXAMPLE, not something I really want to debate right now*). She is a life-long Republican activist. And I do mean activist. She organizes and attends political rallies, works in campaign offices, and is always ready to intelligently discuss policy. My beliefs and hers overlap in very few places, but I’ve always enjoyed our conversations whether we’re agreeing or disagreeing.

She held strong beliefs against RFRA–beliefs she determined were more in line with her vein of conservatism than that of RFRA’s supporters. Knowing she’d forever damage her standing among segments of her party, she became one of the loudest and most reasoned voices speaking for its amendment or repeal. Many of the photos you’ve seen of local rallies include her. She was even asked to speak at the largest rally. And she spoke to her fellow conservatives at every opportunity.

Coolest of all? She consistently delivered moderate messages regardless of her audience. Since the message was both inclusive and diverse (it touched on social, economic, personal, national, political, and generational responsibilities), people on both sides listened.

Even so, folks on one side bad-mouthed her as a fake supporter and criticized her mention of economic motivations as cold-hearted and selfish. Folks on the other side bad-mouthed her as a fake Republican intent on attacking religion.

But in the end, she and others supported and achieved a middle ground: Indiana has an RFRA that is more in line with the original intent of the Federal RFRA, and the folks whom the original Indiana RFRA drafters targeted were extended protection, and the discussion continues.

Oh, and Indiana state government has allocated millions of dollars to marketing and public relations intended to repair the damage done to Indiana’s convention and tourism business.

***

There is a charming innocence in believing life is like a box of chocolates. I rather hope that isn’t true because that would mean some chocolates are rotten, or filled with venomous spiders, or imbued with the ability to randomly kill those I love. I’d prefer my chocolates to be like chocolates, thank you very much.

Life is really a plane filled with passengers who ought to be prepared to slip into The Langoliers without warning. The view is fantastic and the destination just might be wonderful, but at any moment something will go terribly, irrevocably wrong and your survival will depend upon not only your own preparations but the attitudes and preparedness of those sharing your plane.

Continue reading Musing That Might Or Might Not Apply To Current Conversations

When Motherhood Matters Far More

100_2195Motherhood and writing: a topic buried beneath mounds of advice columns, cries of frustration, and hurtful moral judgments on all sides.  Most of what I hear are concerns a child will stall/delay/derail a career, coupled with ways to work around the child.

But this is a different sort of article.  This is about the other side of motherhood and writing, the decision that opens the door for all those advice-guides and judgments, and the truth some writers fear to some degree or another.

It’s about accepting—choosing—slower career growth in exchange for raising children and caring for family.

It’s about putting motherhood first.

More mothers do this than talk about it.  You won’t hear much about choosing to gaze into a baby’s eyes as she breastfeeds, but you’ll hear lots about one-handed typing to create a first draft while the baby eats.  You won’t read many tales about how much more satisfying it is to help your child master riding a bike than it is to complete a solid first draft.  And rarely will you see a writer claim that putting avid pursuit of a writing career on hold was the best damned decision of her life.  You’ll most often hear the frustrations instead.

Why?

Continue reading When Motherhood Matters Far More