A Year in the Life

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We talk a lot on MW about what habits you need to make as a writer, what goals you need to set, how there are give-and-takes all the way through a writing career. I’ve been considering a year-long themed set of postings that are simply A Year In The Life: trying to get some of the nitty-gritty of the work down in part so our readers here can get an on-going sense of what it’s like to do this as a career. I’ve got some other things to talk about today, too, but: would that be of interest?

The Other Things I have to talk about today tie into that, mind you, because as of today Faith Hunter and I have officially plunged into the fascinating new waters of self publishing. “Easy Pickings”, the crossover novella we wrote featuring both our main characters, Jane Yellowrock and Joanne Walker, has gone live on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

If you’ve been around MW for a while, you might remember me going off on a tear more than once about self-publishing. I would have advised you (possibly violently) to Not Go There.

Here I am today, eating crow.

I think the market’s changed hugely in the past few years. Self-publication and epub-only is a much different creature than it was. The growing popularity of e-readers has seen to that, as have the greater ease of publication through Amazon, B&N, Smashwords and other sites. From where Faith and I are sitting, with 25+ novels to our (collective) names, running an e-pub novella up the flagpole actually seems like a pretty good idea. It’s testing new waters, and it’s an opportunity for an oddly-lengthed piece of fiction to be put on the market. I’m tremendously excited about it.

Five years ago I absolutely would not have done this. I still wouldn’t advise a new writer to do it. Not unless you have a truly amazing amount of time to self-promote, and also have the knack of doing so without making yourself obnoxious. Faith and I are in a lucky position here: we already have a reader base in place. We’re not starting out fresh; we’re just trying to catch and perhaps combine the readers we already have. The downside to the ease of publishing through Amazon is, well, it’s easy: an awful lot of people are doing it every day, and unless you have some compelling reason that will bring people to you (like an established name, or a rare, fascinating topic upon which you are an expert), I think there’s far too much chance your signal will get lost in the noise.

Frankly, I don’t know that *our* signal won’t get lost in the noise. I’m certainly looking forward to finding out, though.

So–to bring it back around a little–this has been a big part of the Year In The Life for 2012 for me so far, getting this set up and ready to go. And let me remind you: this may be work, but it’s not writing. It may pay off, but it’s not writing. I’ve *also* been writing–working on short stories & comic scripts–but there’s a great deal of Day In The Life stuff that ends up not being putting words on a page. I suppose that’s some of what I want to highlight over the coming months, if people are interested, but also of course there’ll be the in-the-moment writing projects as well. So what do you think?

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15 comments to A Year in the Life

  • Catie, I am definitely interested in a “Year In The Life” series.

    The longer I go and the more I hear about it, the more tempting it is to cave to the idea of self-publishing. But I have to remind myself that IMHO at least, based on where *I* am in life, it still feels like doing so would be giving up. I don’t think I could handle the pressure of all of that self-promotion. As it is, I unfollow folks on Twitter whose every other tweet is “buy my book!”. I can’t cave to the temptation of instant gratification that self-publishing would serve me. I’m not trying to be negative here, just realistic about where I’m at in this whole process. And I promised myself that this time, I wouldn’t give up after just one or two rejections. :)

  • Catie – count me as another person interested in the “Year in the Life” posts!

    As for self-pub, I could just write “ditto.” I, too, vehemently steered people away from it. I, too, have ventured into it (with the seven novels where rights have reverted to me.) I, too, am changing my song.

    I’ve been *astonished* by the success I’m seeing with the self-pub of those reverted books. Part of it is wonderful vindication – the publisher promised, at various times, to release them as mass market paperbacks, as YA trade paper, etc., but they never did. I *knew* there was an audience out there, and I’m fortunate enough to be finding it now.

    But would I suggest this for everyone? Absolutely not. Most of the traditionally published authors I know, and all of the not-yet-traditionally-published authors I know have been disappointed with their sales. (Obviously, there are jillions of people I don’t know, and some of them are outselling me by orders of magnitude, so take my words with a grain of salt!) I cannot yet identify what I’m doing that is making things work. And until I understand that, I will continue to push for traditional publication of my work, wherever I can make those traditional contracts work.

  • Catie,
    really interested to hear how your self-pub experiment goes. If you and Faith wouldn’t mind discussing this candidly as it progresses, I’d be very interested.

  • I have no problem at all discussing it candidly. I’ll check with Faith to make sure she’s okay with it too, but I’m totally happy to do so myself.

  • I am totally good with this and I love the idea of the series! In fac t, to start it out with a bang, I’ll add to it by doing my post next week on the Easy Pickings PDF versions that we sold on our websites for a few weeks before the e-version came out. It was very much a *testing the waters* experiment and it was successful. Not screaming-memmines successful, but quite sucessful.

    As to the E-book part, yesterday the Amazon Kindle number was around a thousand, and the subcategorues were (if I remember right) 25 and 35. Right now, it’s this:

    Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,847 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #58 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Contemporary
    #63 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Contemporary

    So we are doing well.

    While we shared fairly equally in the writing part, we contributed different things to the production part of the project, with different skill levels and with different *people we knew who could help*. Including, for example, Mike Pruette, the cover guy. Mike is my web / art guy, and he can do everything. And he did. For this cover he found and hired the model, arranged costumes, found weapons, handled the photography, chose backdrop, did graphics … a turn-key job. (And he had to do lot of work to satisfy Catie. LOL.) Because Mike does a lot of my work anyway, he was quite reasonable. I’ll ask him to drop by the site later on, so if you have questions about covers, he can answer.

  • Obviously my opinion on this is going to be a little different, since I come to the traditional world from the self-pub world, but I’m glad to see you and Faith coming over to the dark side (we have cookies!). There are lots of projects that benefit from the traditional publishing method, but there are some other projects that will never get picked up by a major publisher. Those books will live better in the small press or self-pub world.

    It’s not for everyone. It’s also not for carnival barkers – that turns everyone off. But I think you’ll see more and more folks start out self-pubbed and transition at least partially to trad-pub as time goes on. Folks like me, Michael Sullivan and others are getting discovered, while folks like Courtney Milan, Bob Mayer and others are releasing their backlist themselves. Keeping one foot in both worlds may be the way we all make our best business decisions in the changing world that we’re now living in.

    The important thing for all of us to keep in mind is that nothing is set in stone anymore, that the publishing world is changing, and that there are more options. All these options have their pros and cons, and it’s up to each of us to decide what will work best not just for our personal careers, but for each project or property. At least in my never-humble opinion :).

  • >>Keeping one foot in both worlds may be the way we all make our best business decisions in the changing world that we’re now living in.

    John, that’s it in a nutshell.

  • Catie, the “Year in the Life” posts sound like a terrific idea. Go for it.

    And I wish you and Faith great success with the crossover project. Faith and I have in mind a collaboration, so maybe at some point we all three could try something together!

  • Mikaela

    I am torn when it comes to self publishing. I have some stories that will be hard to find a publisher for, both due to length and topic. On the other hand, I tend to write between 30-40 k, so traditional publishing haven’t been an option for a long time. But e-publishers on the other hand is much more likely.

    Oh, and I purchased Easy Pickings with the fan discount price, and I want to read the story when Jane comes to Seattle…

  • Faith asked me to drop by a say hello and say a little something about cover art. I recently got the chance to work with Catie and Faith on the cover of Easy Pickings. It was great for me as a designer because they had lots of feedback on what they wanted to see on the cover. Among the other things that I do, I run a high volume bookstore. As a result I see a lot of BAD cover art on books. Covers are very important because it’s the first thing people see when they look at your book. What they see will determine whether they pick it up to read what’s on the back. Especially if they don’t know who you are or what your book is about. This holds true for online purchases as well. If someone is surfing through titles of ebooks looking for something new, a good cover stands a much better chance of causing the viewer to take a closer look. I know there are a lot of other variables that go into getting them to check your book out when shopping online, but don’t underestimate the power a good cover can do for you and your book. Catie and Faith were very particular about what they wanted, which is great for them and me as a designer.

  • Love the idea of ‘A Year In The Life,’ Catie. And I’m also interested in continued updates on how Easy Pickings fares as an e-book (from both you, and Faith).

  • Vyton

    Catie, I’m very interested in the *year in the life of* series. It sounds like it will be a load of fun, educational, and inspirational as well.

  • sagablessed

    I think ‘A year…” would be facinating. I would definitely follow that. Also, good luck on your self-pub endevours! Do keep us posted.
    I thought about it myself, but think I shall stick with trad-pub for now.
    I was wondering if you or Faith or David would do a post about agents and so on. I think I saw one a while ago, but my brain is not functioning right now.
    Good luck, Ladies!!

  • I too think that “A year in the life…” would be fascinating.

    Following the process of e-pub and self-pub would be great and very informative. I think that it is important for me to have a concept of that. While I’m shooting for trad-pub I would still love to have the information to help me understand the entire process.