Making Goals

I tend to not be a very self-motivated person sometimes. It goes in phases – for a few months I will be like “DO ALL THE THINGS,” and then I will get frustrated or just lazy and slack off. So being my own boss about pretty much everything right now means I have to be the one who cracks the whip, which is not easy for me. Sometimes when the choice is weed the garden bed or watch TV then TV wins. 
Over the last few months I have been following a daily schedule to make sure I work on everything I need to do at least a little. I have exercise, writing, cleaning, homesteading tasks, personal time, writing business, and even saying a mantra on there.
This month I have set goals for my writing, a well-rounded approach to move me forward an author. It is part about writing more stories and getting better at my chosen profession, as well as connecting with people and selling my work. 
This month’s goals are:
Submit 10 stories to publishers– I have done 3 so far
Sell 5 copies of “Treacherous Nature” – Reached that yesterday, yay!
Write 2 short stories – I have finished one so far
Publish a free short story on Amazon – I have not done this yet
Do two blog posts a week– I have already failed at this one, but I need to try to make it work for the rest of the month.
Make some plans for my novel next month – I have a few ideas, but have not put anything down yet. I have not attempted to write a novel in years. This is a very scary thing for me. It is just this year that I have gotten the confidence to finish short stories, so the idea of writing that much, working that hard, and then maybe walking away is pretty intimidating. The most I have ever written on a novel was about 20k words before I ran away from it. So whatever idea I come up with has to be interesting to me as well as to the future reader, and I need some sort of plan so I don’t get stuck and give up. 
I am going to have goals like this every month and post them here so I can get your input. 
What sort of goals do you set? 
How likely are you to meet them? 
Are there some facets of what you do that are really easy for you to keep doing, but other parts that you get stuck on? For me writing is fun and pretty easy, but if I did not make myself, I would never edit or submit stories. I would just write and write and write. 
How do you stay focused?

Submitting Stories

I don’t think I have the hang of this yet.

So far I write stories to the call. If the editor says “We went Lovecraftian fairy tales” then I think about it and sit down and write one just for that editor and send it off.   I don’t write stories and then look for places to submit them.  Finishing stories just for the sake of finishing them has never been my strong suit, but thinking of them as an ordered product helps.    If I know who the story is going to before I type the first word then I feel committed to it.

Problem is, so far all I have gotten are rejections.  Maybe the stories I write do have a home and it is just not the first place I sent it.  But I am not confident about sending my work to lots of people.  If the people I specifically wrote it for don’t want it, then why would anyone else?  This is why I have a collection already, several of those are stories that other people rejected.

This picture is relevant to the story I just finished.

But now that I am actually thinking about it only two are.  Three of them I wrote just for this collection.  The one many people say is best “Red, in Tooth and Claw” was never submitted anyplace and it is a really good story.

This is on my mind today because I just finished a story yesterday.  And I am going to be sending it to an editor/publisher that has turned me down twice now.   Every call she puts out is perfect.  I read it and I think “This is wonderful, I can do this!”.  Part of me knows it is sort of stupid to keep writing things for her.  But I really like all the stories that she has written and I feel like our work is similar, though different enough.  And hers is of course better, since she has been doing this a lot longer.

I am pretty sure she is going to turn me down again.  And this is new, up until today every story I have sent I felt was going to get accepted.  I think “oh, yeah, I got this one”.   But I don’t have any confidence in this story getting accepted, which is odd, as this story is really good.But should I send it to other places if it is rejected?  Should I send it to other places now?

How many markets do you submit stories to? How do you decide if a market is a good fit for your work?

‘Twas the Night Before Announcing Publication

So you would think that with my first book coming out tomorrow morning that I would be talking it up and telling you it is the best book ever; that it’s going to change your life or something. But in fact what I want to do is preemptively apologize. I bet that makes you want to run out and buy it, right?

I should explain. Something new is always a little scary. This is scary on lots of different levels.

Any time you create something and put it out there to be judged, you run the risk of rejection and ridicule, so I am having the “I made this, please don’t make fun of it” feelings. Sure, some of my friends will buy this and they will tell me it is great. But since this is something I am doing in the hopes of building a career on it, strangers have to buy to. What if they buy it, read it, and hate it? What if no one buys it and my little spirit is crushed?

My work is a little piece of my soul.

This is self-published, so I don’t have any validation from an expert. If this was traditionally published, someone whose career is knowing which books will make money would be telling me my book has a chance. I have lots of cheerleaders, and a few of them have even worked in the publishing world. But I don’t have someone who is willing to risk their reputation or money on my work.

I know a great story when I read one. I have read some amazing stories over the years. A few that come to mind are “The Fiddler of Bayou Teche” by Delia Sherman, “Snow,Glass and Apples” by Neil Gaiman, “Braiding the Ghost” by C. S. E. Cooney, and “Article of Faith” by Mike Resnick. None of the stories in my collection are great stories; they are entertaining and might make you think, but they are not the work of the masters. Don’t misunderstand – I think my stories are good, or I would not waste my time trying to sell them at all.

I want to be able to sit down with each person who buys “Treacherous Nature” and before they read it say, “OK, so if my career goes the way I hope, this will be the worst thing I ever publish. Someday people might look back at this, and chuckle at my embarrassing first collection of stories, and that is OK. Kitty of September Future is doing well and she looks back at these and laughs too. However for Kitty of September Present, these are the best stories she can write. These are months of hard work, stress, and tears. To Kitty of September Past, this is the fulfillment of several dreams. She dreamed of the day when she would have the motivation to finish stories; she longed for the day when she would have the self-confidence to put her work into the world. So please, for the sake of Kitty of September Past and Kitty of September Present, save all your negative comments for Kitty of September Future”.

But I can’t do that. People will buy or not buy; people will like it or hate it. Once I post the links, this collection has to stand or fall on its own.

Almost done

Technology is amazing.

I just put what I hope is the final version of my book on the kindle, which by itself is amazing.  But there is a link in “About the author” to this blog.  And if you click it, my blog shows up!   And Jamie’s art work shows up if you click a link in the acknowledgements.  (My husband figured out the link thing not me, but I figured out all the rest of the stuff).

I just can’t get over that.  It is like magic.

This book looks so professional.  And I did this.  I had all the ideas, I wrote all the words, I edited (this I had help with), I put in all the art work (except Jamie’s cover), I formatted it, and I converted it.

I feel like a superhero tonight.

I hope the upload to Amazon and the release tomorrow go well.

If it does there will be a link here tomorrow so you can go buy it!!!  Yay!!!

Left the Nest

I just sent “Treacherous Nature” to the very nice people who have offered to beta read it.  It was ready to go last night, but my internet went out.   I am a little nervous that other people are about to read my work but not nearly as excited as I thought I would be.  I think a little self doubt is trying to sneak in.

Today I start finding markets to send new stories to.  My plan is I will write and self publish one thing,  then I will spend a month or so sending out new stuff to other markets, then I will self publish again.  This way I am both getting my stuff out there to read and trying to get recognized the traditional way.  I hope this helps keep the rejections from getting me down too.

As long as the beta readers don’t hate anything too much this should be for sell soon.  I will post the detail when that happens.

Self-Publishing Thoughts and Progress

I have been researching and learning the skills involved with self-publishing over the last few weeks.    There have been days when it felt like a big exciting adventure, and other days when learning HTML made me cry.  Sometimes I feel like this is a great way to break into making some sort of income as a writer, and sometimes I feel like I am doing this because I am not good enough for anyone else to publish.   I have been motivated to write new stories and pull old ones back out of the vault.

Like doing anything new there are dreams and fears.  I worry that maybe I will write a great story that would have been publishable in a magazine or anthology, but because I publish it myself it will be lost in cyberspace.  I hope that people read my stories, like me and want more.   So many contrary thoughts are trying to share space in my little head.   Am I self publishing because I want control of my work, or because I fear rejection?  Will people take me seriously?  Will anyone buy and read my stories?

When I decided to look into self-publishing I was thinking write a story, slap in on Amazon, sell a few, and maybe make $20.   This seemed like a good plan to get some people to read my stories, to get some feedback, and to make me feel like I am actually doing something.

But there is so much more to it.  The book I am reading says that professional editing and cover design are a must.  That if you put up a story with a bad cover no one will buy it, and if you don’t pay for a professional editor then people will hate your forever once they read your error-laden story.

For a short story, an editor would be between $60 and $100.  A cover would run at least $100, likely much more.   So at the very least, in order to break even I would need to make $160, and that is not counting the cost of my own time.  Let’s say I spend 5 hours writing, re-reading, editing and formatting my story, and pay me minimum wage; $40 sounds fair.   So I need to make $200 for it to be worth my time.

If I am selling a story at $.99, then I will make about $.35 for each copy.  I have to sell 572 copies.   That is so many.  I think I am a good writer (not great), and I think my subject matter is interesting, but not 572 copies worth.   It can’t be done.    I don’t think I am selling myself short here; I really think there is no way an unknown writer doing a short story could sell that many.

I know that lots and lots of people are on Amazon.  So lots of people have the opportunity to buy my story, and some of them will.  I buy stories for $.99 because I like the title, or just on a whim.  But since I have had my Kindle (last year’s birthday), I have bought maybe fifteen stories/books from authors unknown to me just for the hell of it.  One of them I liked so much I bought four books by her.   A few stories I did not even finish because they were not very good.  Most fall in between these extremes.

If I sell a collection of stories instead of one, I can raise the price to $2.99, on which Amazon gives a 70% commission.  More stories would mean more editing.  So now about $400 for editing, and the same price for a cover, and add in my time ($200), so $700 total.  That means I need to sell 335 copies at that price to break even.  At a higher price there would be less impulse buys.  I am not writing a novel about a two dimensional lovesick girl and the vampire who passive -aggressively tortures her.    I am writing fantasy, horror and sci-fi short stories that have almost nothing to do with love and are lacking vampires.  I can throw in a few later for appeal if need be, vampires are the chocolate sprinkles of today’s literature.

The conclusion –  if I do this by the book, I am going to lose money.   If I am writing and publishing my own stuff at a loss, you know what that is called?  Vanity publishing.   I would be that man who used to come to my coffee shop every day when I was in college.  He thought of himself as a serious writer.  He put in the time every day, drinking mochas and studiously writing.  His work ethic was way better than mine ever will be.   About once a year he would give us all a book. I might still have one someplace.  We always took them, thanked him, and later told him it was great.

The truth was these sentimental memoirs were not good reading.  His life was not interesting  nor were his wife or children’s lives.   About 100 pages of such stories as the first time his daughter said “dada”, or the pain a parent faces when a daughter breaks curfew.   All of these stories culminating in the triumph of a white, upper middle-class daughter of a minister graduating high school.  It was touching sometimes and sweet.  But when he approached our book side to carry them they told him no.

He lost money and gave all the books away for free.  But he was having fun, and he had these little books to give to his friends and kids.  I scrapbook, so I understand why he did this and what he got out of the hobby.   But I don’t want to write as a hobby. I want this to be my job someday. By the same token I don’t want to scrapbook as a career, because while it is fun I am not super good at it and odds are I never will be.   I don’t want to start vanity publishing and never get past that.   So I have some decisions to make.

I come from a family of dreamers and schemers.   There have been several times when I have thrown down large amounts of money on the perfect opportunity for me, just to fail or give up. Like $2000 to start a novelty toy party business, to find that people would just book me for the naughtiness of the subject matter, but were too shy or cheap to buy anything.   $500 just last year on starting my own makeup company, to mostly give up when I realized finding customers was really hard and that people don’t take a fat strange-looking person’s advice on cosmetics.   The biggest one was thousands of dollars on an accounting degree to have the market tank a year into my career, and to have trouble finding new work in a field which I am actually not very well suited for.

Do I spend $500 to make a story professional?  Or do I just try my best on this first one and save the money to make the next one better?  I could set up a special account and put all my profits into that and my next collection could be edited or have a nice cover.  Unless the book I am reading is correct and doing such a thing could sully my name forever.

I just don’t know.

On the plus side, I spent most of last week editing and formatting one of my stories.  I used the info in this great guide to formatting for e-books.

If you are new to HTML (which I was), don’t expect this to be easy.  It was hard and frustrating.  I had to read and reread these steps before I finally got it. Everything he said was confusing to me.

Now I have one of my stories on my Kindle and it looks snazzy.  I can do simple images, put in a table of contents and make it so the font size is easy to change on any device.   I want to tell you about the stories I have decided to put in the collection, what I have learned from editing old stories and when this collection will be for sell, but that is going to have to wait until next time.