Whenever anyone talks about the indie-publishing movement, the words “discoverability” and “platform” come up over and over again. These words are different ways of saying “getting yourself known enough that people buy your books”.
Basically what everyone calls marketing.
When I had my professional organizing business, then later my online coaching project, I hated marketing. In fact, I gave up both not because I didn’t like what I was doing, but because I hated having to find clients. For someone who leans towards being introverted, marketing is a nightmare wrapped up in torture and sprinkled with constant fear of humiliation.
I know authors who talk about their books all the time, who promote themselves with deals, with segments from their novels, with whatever “trick” might get more people to look at their works and buy them.
Many established writers say that the best marketing is your next book, that the only thing a career writer needs to worry about is getting more out there, and that at some point the tipping point will be reached and all their books will begin to sell.
However, I’m not a career writer. I’m a hobby writer. If I’m lucky I get one book done a year. Stick that one book in incredible volume of books that are published every day, let alone every year, and that one book will disappear without anyone ever knowing that it’s available.
So, what can an introverted writer who hates marketing do?
In my the answer was: come up with something that builds my name in the writing field without actually having to sell myself.
And from that idea, SpeckLit Magazine was born – it’s an online magazine that features drabble-length fiction, published more or less every other day. In December 2014, SpeckLit will celebrate its first year anniversary and it’s gaining in popularity, slowly – ever so slowly, but I get between 300 and 400 stories submitted for each quarter’s 45 slots.
It’s not a cheap endeavor and I know that I’m going to have to continue this project for years before I see any effect, but it sure beats the pants off of having to “sell” myself and my books.
I also have plans for the magazine. Originally, I thought I’d include movie and book reviews, but I don’t have time to maintain those parts. These things constantly evolve. It’s time for a revamp of the website, getting rid of the reviews. Instead, the magazine is going to start doing highlights on each author, providing the writers for SpeckLit with a place to send others to find all their publications in one spot. I also have a few other ideas swimming around in my head that can increase SpeckLit’s platform, which in the long term will increase my own platform.
My favorite books growing up were Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, but as much as I enjoyed the first, the second I adored. However, there was always something about it that never felt right. I know the game isn’t a normal game and although the moves are all legal, the objective of Alice was to become Queen, and capture the King. It was more of a chess problem than a real game.
But I like endings – I like loose ends tied up. As Queen, Alice could have “finished” the game easily, capturing the Red King. Instead, she got angry and went home, leaving the game in limbo.
Also, what about the pawn she replaced? The infant daughter of the White King and Queen. With the game unfinished, Princess Lily could never take her place as a real pawn.
And from that, Undoing Alice was born. It’s a quest-story, a sequel to Through the Looking Glass in which the now sixteen-year-old Lily decides that enough’s enough. It’s time to restart the game. Despite the apparent opposition to her plan, she travels through the Looking Glass world, meeting the other chess players and drawing them all back into the game.
Of all my projects, this one is the one I love most.
And it’s all ready for publication. It’s been professionally proofed, has a cover illustration and all that’s left to do is format it, insert the illustration into the cover template and come up with the back of the book blurb.
Yet, I haven’t done it. There’s no reason why. I’ve already spent all the money I need to for publication and to not publish wastes that money. I think the “why” has to do with the lack of sales of previous publications. With discoverability the main issue, why should I go through the effort of publishing something that no one is going to buy?
Of course the answer to that is quite simple – there is no expiry date on books and the more I publish, the more people have to buy. It’s a long game, a very long game, counted in decades, not months or years.
I started this standalone YA fantasy three years ago just after my father had a swimming accident that left him paralyzed. I needed a place to express my frustrations, my sense of helplessness and my feelings that happy endings don’t always occur.
Also, I had always wanted to explore world-changing events from the point of view of someone who knows nothing about them. We always get rebellions and revolutions told by the people who are in the middle of the changes. What about those who are minor characters? Those who are affected but don’t know why or for what purpose?
Emily is the result of all this. Emily is bitter, fights against a life she doesn’t want, whines, complains and holds herself apart. She also pays no attention to the hints and warnings she gets from those who are “in the know.” She’s too wrapped up in her own frustration to realize she’s putting a lot of other lives in jeopardy.
Despite all that negativity, the book hasn’t turned out to be a huge depression-fest. Without quite knowing how, I managed to create a relatively upbeat tone, despite the lack of happy ending.
It’s also the only project I don’t feel blocked on. My first-reader has just finished her second pass through it and now I get to go through it once more to add in what’s missing. As I said in an earlier post, I need to add about 10% overall — most authors I read always complain about overwriting and having to cut. I have no idea what that must feel like. I’m a sparse writer and always need to add more. It used to drain me, but with such an amazing first reader who points out clearly and with precision the spots that are either repetitive or lacking information, adding in more no longer is such a chore.
This is the third post in a series describing the various projects I have on the go, summarizing where I’m at with each, what the challenges I face are, and what I need/want to do so that I can get each project back on track.
The Citadel is a series I started about four years ago. It rose out of my disgust for Young Adult stories where the protagonist (usually a girl) waited for others to act and spent her time whining.
The Citadel is based in a world where everyone is born with telekenesis, but for various reasons the nobility of one country decided that this magic was for peasants and that they would never use it. Children are “trained” out of using their magic through constant physical discouragement.
This same family is obsessed with assassinations, to the point that their main objectives in life is to produce as many children as possible so that the male children have others to kill off in the competition for the throne.
Into this totally messed up culture arrives sixteen-year-old Julian, whose mother fled the country years ago, but who then turned around and sent Julian back at the request of his maternal grandmother. Julian scandalizes the family by insisting on doing magic, on not trying to kill his cousins, and by refusing to marry anyone.
The other main characters include Hannah, a self-labeled rebel who dreams of getting out some day and who sees Julian as her exit strategy. If she can get herself married to Julian, she might be able to find a way back to his country of birth and away from the killing. Other than Julian’s lack of interest in her, her major obstacle is her loveless and sexless marriage to William, the golden boy of assassinations.
For William’s part, he see Julian as a danger, not just to the stability of life within the Citadel, but also to himself because the longer Julian stays in the Citadel, the more William finds himself attracted to him, something totally unheard of in the child-obsessed family.
Add in convoluted power games by the Matriarchs and attempts by the civil government of infiltrating the Citadel to find out what secrets the Matriarchs hide, and you get a complicated plot that twists and turns in the most annoying fashion.
I’ve already revised and rewritten the first book at least twice as well as getting started on the second one three times, but it refuses to come together. My first reader has (quite rightly) commented that while the idea of the story is solid, the scenes themselves are a bit of a mess and there is too much waiting around while characters whine, which is the exact opposite of what I wanted to achieve.
At times I wonder if it would be better to shelve this project as failed experiment, but I like the characters too much to do so. What I think I need to save this one is a big whiteboard, several colored markers and a in-person sounding board to point out inconsistences and moments of whining as I restructure the whole thing.
Over the next few posts, I will be discussing all the different projects I have underway. I’m doing this to help me figure out where I am in each one, what’s blocking me from moving on, and what I can do to move forward.
Today’s project came out of someone mentioning in Twitter that large cast, epic-level portal fantasies don’t get written anymore and that got the muse going. The main character of this projected triology is the world itself, a pocket universe populated by people from Madrid who originally begged the Basque mother goddess to rescue them from the Spanish Civil War. Later immigrants are other Madrileños who have nothing to lose – families living on the edge of ruin, young adults with no hope of any sort of future, generational-long poor. For every ten years that pass in the pocket universe, a portal opens for one month in an inner Madrid neighborhood. However, it’s not sequential. One decade, the month might connect with December 1956, then the next time it opens it’s May 1988.
Santa Clara is a scary project. It goes straight at every writing weakness I have. More than a writing project, it’s an experiment, and a self-imposed lesson. If it comes out as a coherent story then I will win doubly.
I tend to write small stories, tales whose stakes only really affect the main character. Will they grow up? Will they change in the way they need to so that they can find a place in the world? The stakes in Santa Clara are enormous – the actions of the characters could result in the end of the world. Some characters are immortal, or nearly so while immigrants who do the hardest work of carving out new land from the void surrounding the pocket universe have a rather short life expectancy. After several centuries as the world gets large enough to be difficult to control from the center, cracks appear in society and that’s where the triology starts from. Will the world destroy itself as it moves into the next phase of growth?
I also tend to be heavily plot-driven. If something doesn’t directly move the plot forward, I tend not to include it. Given, however, that Santa Clara is the main character, I need to spend a good chunk of time making readers live
Over the next few posts, I will explore the various projects I mentioned last time in an attempt to figure out where I am with each one and which one interests me most to pursue at the moment.
The first project is a series of short stories called The Donosti Fae. Donosti is a variation on the Basque name for San Sebastián (the city where I live in Spain near the French border).
The series focuses around Daniel, a 20something half-Brit, half-Basque guy who moves to the city from northern Englad, falls in love with the place and gets mixed up with Basque, Spanish and British fairies.
It’s a fun series to write because Basque fairies aren’t well known in English fantasy, so it gives me something novel to write about. Also I love the self-absorption of Daniel whose main interests are perfecting his body and getting laid.
Forcing someone like that to realize bit by bit that other people exist and have feelings provides a lot of potential conflict to build stories around. It’s also fun to make stereotypically capricious fairies seem more responsible and civic-minded than the human they deal with.
I am writing Daniel’s tale as a series of short stories in a “monster of the week” style, moving the larger plot along bit by bit.
As I said in the last post, I’ve written five stories, have translated several of them into Spanish and have one up for sale in English and Spanish versions.
When I went to start on the sixth story, I had no idea where to go, so started an online course offered by Holly Lisle called How To Write A Series. She has recently expanded it to focus on short serial-fiction, so it was a perfect opportunity to explore what I wanted to do with Daniel.
At first the course went well. I came up with six or seven “seasons” each with an overall plot but that would also allow the episodic feel that I wanted.
Plan in hand, I started to write the sixth story… and promptly lost all interest in the whole series. You see, I primarily write to tell myself stories; getting out to others comes a far second. Having decided what was going to happen over the next eighty episodes, I no longer needed to write them. Plus the secondary character, a Basque friend of Daniel’s, isn’t at all like I pictured her. And to top it all off, The rest of the characters were acting like marionettes being pushed around by the awkward and clunky plot.
In other words, a total mess.
What will I do to break the block and move forward? Throw out the long-term plan, holding onto the awesome themes that I came up with. I will also allow the friend, Leire, to show me who she is without trying to force her into a predetermined box. I am even toying with the idea of telling the sixth story entirely from her point of view, as she knows things that Daniel can’t know without ruining the flow of the series, but that at this point the reader should start learning about.
I’ll let you know how it goes.
(By the way, if you are interested in knowing more about the Donosti Fae series, check out the Catalogue link at the top of the page.)