Tuesday, August 16, 2005

August 16 Part II

Well, things seemed to have been fixed with the Elusive Prayers ebook, and, not only are the cover and copyright page reattached, but it’s downloadable upon purchase from Payloadz. Hopefully, the glitches have been resolved. Especially since they were preventable ones and none of this should have ever been an issue. Hmm, where have we heard this song before? But, let’s hope that “solved” actually means “solved.” I sent new, correct versions of the book to those who’d purchased it.

Hopefully, I can now start a successful marketing campaign.

I’d decided, earlier today, that, since my SO have very little time together before a looooong separation, I wasn’t going to be a mess for it, but enjoy our time together. Not be a martyr or a hero, but put this aside and appreciate our time together. That is the priority for the next few days. I can be miserable all by myself later on, if necessary. Hopefully not.

I also spent my day work call (ironing gives you thinking time) pondering some difficult questions, and some of the answers were less than flattering. But I’m sharing them anyway. You all already know I’m flawed.

Q: Why did you start writing The Widow’s Chamber?

A: I’ve always loved serial fiction; I’ve always loved westerns. When someone sent me the ad for a chance to write serialized fiction and western was one of the genres, it seemed a perfect match, and a chance to stretch. The character of Nora appeared almost immediately, followed by Daniel and Daisy, and it blossomed from there.

Q: Why did you do more than one?

A: Tapestry was knocking around as a novel for awhile. Opening it up into serial format, along with what I’d learned since originally writing it, served it well. Angel Hunt came to me in the shower one day, and the characters demanded their story be told right away. Charlotte percolated for a bit and then also demanded attention. The characters and stories dictated the format. I did not sit down and say, “I want to write four serials.”

Q: Where do these pieces fall in the overall career perspective?

A: I’ve developed a large ensemble of characters in The Widow’s Chamber who mean a great deal to me. I want to explore American History from the 1850’s as far as I can through their various perspectives. However, to do so well, I have to go back and do more detailed research in certain sections. I have a good foundation, and some of the research is very good; but some was done on the fly and barely scratches the surface. Tapestry has the potential to be a book-a-year series, at least for awhile. Nina’s got a lot of potential for growth and I have rough outlines of 5-6 books for her. Angel Hunt could also develop into 3-5 novels of magical realism, but I need to think more about its overall direction. Charlotte could be 3-5 novels covering the 1700s and the formation of the United States. Once they're done, though, I want to take a break before going down that road.

There are many other novels I wish to write that have nothing to do with these characters or events, over the next 40+ years. So I don’t want them to become the be-all and end-all of my work. Right now, just keeping up with the commitment is a struggle – mostly due to aspects that have nothing to do with the actual writing. The more my resentment grows, the more difficult it is to write the contracted work . Trying to solve the cause of the resentment is hit-and-miss at best. When I bring up concerns, I often feel like I’m blown off, yet these problems crop up later, and could have been avoided. That deepens the resentment. What used to be a solid, flowing work rhythm isn’t anymore.

Q: What are the incentives to continue?

A: Finishing the stories. I feel a strong commitment to the characters, my readers, and myself to finish what I started. I find unfinished projects an energy drain. And if I walk away before these projects are finished, they’ll remain unfinished – and a drain – because I will associate them with negativity and won’t want to come back to them. By completing the stories, I have more than fulfilled my commitment to the company (with pieces running for two years), have the material for several books, and a solid foundation for a wide range of work. Plus, I will have lived up to my own internal work ethic.

Q: What are incentives to discontinue?

A: Less stress and less frustration, especially because so much of it could be circumvented. Also, if I focused 8000 words per week on a single project, I could produce a steady stream of marketable work.

Q: Money factors?

A: The financial aspect is seriously out of whack. There is not enough pay in relation to the work. Initially, with an eye towards growth, that was okay, but the overall growth has not happened, although I’ve manage to increase subscriptions steadily. But writing is my business, not my hobby. A gig bringing in 1% of the income cannot take 90% of the time. And that harkens back to the overall frustrations – without a solid and cohesive marketing plan for the company, individual press is not going to get enough momentum going.

Q: Are you using this work as an excuse not to pursue other, more lucrative work?

A: Yes and no. Because each day at my desk, the work on these projects generally comes first and takes longer than expected, the aggressive marketing of aspects of the writing, such as the business writing, have suffered. Finishing several WIPs – which I hope and believe are saleable – has suffered. And query letters on finished projects have suffered. That is no one’s fault but mine. I can worry about time management all I want, but the truth is that there are X hours per day, and out of that, only a certain percentage are good for solid, creative work. Afterwards, one just fries.

On the other hand, the ability to create at this pace with such discipline over a long period of time has opened doors. I’ve made it open doors. Editors are impressed that I can come up with both quantity and quality, meet deadlines, and need (mostly) a minimum of editing. For a good part of the year, it was in balance. Recently, however, it’s not.

Q: If you continue, how can you re-prioritize in order to be less frustrated, more productive, and more financially savvy?

A: That is the big question that needs answering, as I look towards creating the Goals, Dreams and Resolutions for 2006. Yes, I’m doing it again, taking what I learned from this year, and hopefully, applying it. 2006 will be the second year of my projected three-year career transition and I’ll have to be ruthless in certain areas where I haven’t been this year. I’ve plateau’d and it’s time to step up. Queen of Swords in the tarot – learn from past mistakes. The short answer is: less time on the serials. But whether that means only allowing myself to write one episode per day -- which is counterproductive when it flows well – or pushing hard now to finish as quickly as possible – I don’t know. I already blew my financial projections this year due to spending too much time on these projects in relation to other paying work – maybe I should just push through to finish and start fresh next year.

Q: You always talk about researching the market before pitching. What could you have done differently here?

A: I honestly don’t know. Other than refusing to participate in a start-up, I don’t think I could have done anything differently. It chugged along beautifully for over a year. The ‘zines themselves have a crisp, clean, simple look. I expected, from previous experience and the design on the site, the same for the ebooks. In spite of some other ventures that haven’t worked on the site, ebooks are pretty straightforward and could be a good tool. The problems seem to be resolved, as of tonight, but only time will tell. If they’re not, I’m going to lose a chunk of my audience I may never get back. So, do I risk a strong marketing campaign and have it falter on someone else’s end and lose an audience? Or do I not promote heavily? Either way, I’m the one who gets hurt.

I am adamant about not wanting my novel-length material in ebook format at this time. It works for some authors, but is counter to my overall vision for my career at this time. However, novellas – a form I adore – chapbooks, experimental work – I think the ebook format is a wonderful place for that sort of work to blossom. Because the market is so competitive, though easier to enter than traditional publishing, the design and presentation require even more of a fine eye to detail. I’ve downloaded some exquisite work online – simple, but beautifully designed, with excellent content. In order for these ebooks to succeed, they need to meet high standards.

Q: Why are you taking this personally? It’s business.

A: How can one not take creative work personally? Isn’t that the point? To connect? That the work is personal? Especially after a two year investment. It’s one thing to get a rejection letter from a faceless publishing assistant you’ve never met; it’s another when you feel, over time, your work is valued less and less when you’ve proven your capability and commitment.

Q: So why is this a hard decision?

A: From a business standpoint, it seems like it shouldn’t be. The balance sheet doesn’t add up? Boom! Done! Yet, it’s also good business to fulfill one’s commitment. On a creative level, as I mentioned before, I feel a strong need to see these pieces through to the end. I have to figure out how to do it in a balanced and rational way, without letting it hinder other paying work, and without falling short of my commitment.

Q: Do you feel other projects you’ve started are a reaction to this?

A: Absolutely. I feel like I’m not getting enough play time. The joy has gone out of some of the work – though when I put aside the frustrations and dive headfirst into each of the four worlds, much of it comes back. But I often feel I’m not flexing my creative muscles enough. So the other projects are to balance the work with a sense of play. Some of them will never see the light of day – they are personal play time. Others – especially those that involve other people – I believe I set a solid enough foundation and did my homework prior to the launch to see them through and keep them positive for everyone involved.

Q: What now?

A: Balance head, heart and gut reactions. And, hopefully, I’ve learned something to serve me well into the future, even if it’s not yet clear.



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