The 18 Things I Learned, Failing at Self Publishing

In 2011 I made the decision to self publish my novel to a resounding failure. What went wrong, what could I have done better, and what did I learn along the way?
  1. Self-doubt is real- In the immediate aftermath of failing at any dream, your mind will reel with self-doubt. A lot of negative thoughts will hit you at once and you’ll find yourself wanting to give up. Don’t do it.
  2. Ignore the Comments- Not everyone is going to like your work and the reasons why are often personal– in the words of RuPaul, what other people think of me is none of my business… use this to your advantage.
  3. Perfectionism is a fool’s errand- Perfectionism is this shiny little notion that you can create something universally beloved, yet even things that are loved by tons of people, have haters. Nothing is universal. There are things I have disliked or (won’t even try to read/watch) simply because EVERYONE is obsessed with it and I just get sick of hearing about it. It’s not personal, people just have different tastes.
  4. Marketing is imperative (readers won’t just find you)- Just because you wrote an amazing book, doesn’t mean readers will just magically flock to it. Word of mouth is a great promotional tool, but you can’t depend solely on your friends telling other friends and hoping everything will just fall into place. Sometimes you have to be willing to put yourself out there more. There are plenty of writing blogs that feature other authors, magazines to publish essays or excerpts, Facebook groups, and forums to show off your work. Use these tools to grow your brand and get people to find you.
  5. Utilize your social media –  I have a confession, I kind of hate social media most of the time. But I use it because it’s the way in which you get your message to a wider audience. Hashtags are your friend; a lot of writers aren’t the biggest fans of social media, but if you’ve managed to cultivate some type of platform, it might be a good idea to keep that going and use it to your advantage- if you’re not sure how to do to something do your research (but more on that later).
  6. If you don’t like it, why should anyone else? – I didn’t really like the version of the novel that I actually self published. But I was so sick of editing and re-writing that I just thought, screw it, and went with it anyway. Sure there were some who loved it, but my not loving it made me weary to even try to promote it and ultimately it just died in limbo because of it.
  7. RESEARCH RESEARCH RESEARCH- There is admittedly, a learning curve to publishing yourself, from marketing, to what your process should be, where to go and what editor/designer you should contact to help you. Research is 100% necessary. The great thing about the internet is anything can be found at any time and about any subject. If you have questions, chances are you’re not alone. Google is your friend; if someone you trust talks about someone they went to for an editing service maybe look into it.
  8. Conflicting Advice- The negative to the above approach is of course, that not everyone will agree on what is and isn’t the right way to go when it comes to self publishing– so you may need to try and find a consensus or check the pros and cons for yourself. Not everyone’s journey will apply to you and that’s okay.
  9. If you look at it as a last resort, that’s not the best attitude to approach it with– One big mistake I made, was looking at self publishing as sort of a… well everything else failed, what have I got to lose? mentality. Going into self publishing with a defeated attitude almost guarantees it’s not going to go well. Why would it? It goes back to point 6. If I don’t like it, why should anyone else?
  10. Success is how you define it and it takes time- Patience is a virtue that I don’t often have. Especially when it comes to my work. I’ve worked hard for over a decade to get to where I am today, but my successes thus far don’t look quite how I’d imagined them in my youth. But that’s okay. That doesn’t minimize my success. It’s important to be able to recognize that it takes time and ultimately it’s okay to re-evaluate what you consider to be success.
  11. Don’t compare yourself to others, their road is not your road- Around the time of my self publishing journey, a good friend I’d met through blogging was also self publishing her novel. She had randomly decided to write it out of boredom and self published it to a considerable amount of success roughly six months to a year later. I was happy for her, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit jealous at the time. I had been working for years, how could she just swoop in and be great? The problem is, her path isn’t my path, and my path isn’t hers. She put in the work. She joined a writing group, made friends with bookstores, and actively campaigned to get her book into spaces where I just sort of hummed about it. She was successful because even though I had been working longer, she worked smarter. Success isn’t about how long you do something it’s about doing it well, and putting in the effort and not being afraid to take chances.
  12. The worst someone can say is no- There’s a good chance you’ll hear this a lot if you’ve been in writing for any length of time. I’ve been rejected by multiple agents, multiple times, and though it can be difficult to hear, it’s good practice for other avenues where you may hear no a lot. It’s okay. If a bookstore doesn’t want to put your book up that’s okay. If someone doesn’t want to host a signing or write a review, that’s not the end of the world. It never hurts to ask.
  13. Leverage your contacts- I happen to be friends with an amazing artist, so when I decided to self publish I decided to ask her for her help in creating the cover art. I was also friends with a brilliant editor who was able to edit my book too. Ask around, and leverage whatever contacts you find… self publishing can be pricey and if you have a friend who is willing to help you for a more modest fee or even for a returned favor, it’s a good idea to utilize this.
  14. Don’t let one failed book stop you- It’s easy to be intimidated by the failure. There’s a part of you that feels like this is a sign, maybe I’m not cut out for this/meant to do this, but don’t let one failure stop you from your dreams. As J.K.Rowling pointed out, failure is inevitable. 
  15. Invest in yourself and in your work- If you’re lucky enough to have any kind of financial success put no less than 50% back into your work, into marketing, blog ads, Facebook ads, Instagram whatever you can afford. The more you market the book the better your success, your earnings should go to your work more than you.
  16. You can’t know everything- Even if you do everything right, or think you did, failure still is apart of life. It’s better to have failed than not to have ever tried.
  17. LEARN- You may not succeed the way you think you ought to. Learn from it. What went wrong? How can you do better? Every mistake, every misstep is a possibility for learning and success in the future.
  18. Bonus: Two things… you can submit your book to Publishers Weekly for review before it comes out– also through KDP and CreateSpace you can create a pre-order for your book up to 3 weeks before launch, and create buzz for your project.
At the time, I thought I was doing everything right. I thought I was making the right decisions, and following the path to success, but in hindsight I can see that there was a lot I got wrong, and a lot I’ve learned since. Failure is still always a possibility, but only if you don’t learn from your mistakes.

The Response from the Universe Part II

It’s not always overt when the Universe responds. Rarely is the message a blinding neon sign in the sky that says: Go this way. Or follow this path. Instead, the message is subtle. So subtle in fact that it’s easy to mistake it for a coincidence. But when you see something at just the right time you need to see it, or something/someone comes into your life at just the time you need it one can’t help but wonder, is this a mere coincidence, or something more?

Yesterday’s existential crisis had me heading towards emotional, but as I look through my usual email newsletter feed, I noticed an article from Writer Unboxed that seemed to pertain to my thought processes that had led up to this existential crisis.

Wants vs Shoulds:

The article’s crux was essentially that a lot of us have this idea of how we should be doing something, or how far we should be on a project and this creates a spiral of guilt that in many cases make our work output even less frequent.

Part of my existential dread is that because I am not currently working on a project that this somehow means I cannot reasonably call myself a writer much longer. After all, if one doesn’t write every day are you even a writer?

My boyfriend made a similar point to the article, but the main takeaway I got from all of this is that ultimately not writing, or even not blogging with any kind of frequency, doesn’t make me a bad person. It doesn’t make me less of a writer. But if I’m only keeping up any kind of blog schedule because I should then I’m going about it all wrong. Why is it, I’ve published 3 blog posts in 2 days? Because I want to. I have a lot I want to talk/write about, and so here we are. Outside of my normal “timeline”. Because saying I’m going to blog these days and these days is tricky.

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Is remaining a blogger more about vanity, than the desire to blog?

Cissa's Side Blog

As YouTube takes up more and more of my life, and my blog seems to take up less and less, I can’t help but wonder, is remaining a blogger more about vanity, rather than the desire to blog?

I’ve been blogging since 2006, though it wasn’t until 2012 that I really started blogging with any kind of frequency and really started to gain a following. At the time, I was in my early twenties, and daily blogging had become a way for me to really ramp up the production of my blog posts, into something more akin to a job, and I loved it. Until I didn’t. Towards the end of the year, it was more often than not a struggle, but I managed to keep it going. Then, I blogged sporadically for another year, by which I mean, one or two posts throughout 2013, and then slightly more throughout…

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What Happens When You Don’t Trust Your Insticts

It was somewhere in the middle of my Design With Me style podcast, that I had the thought, I hope this is a good idea. I had just made the seemingly innocuous decision to end my relationship with Wix, the company that had previously been hosting my website for the better part of the last year, in favor of going back to WordPress. I had already ended the plan and even gone so far as to contact WordPress to ensure my website was in proper order when the realization, mid-way through this decision hit me:

I had purchased an email through Wix, the same email that was currently hosting my YouTube account.
I was sure I was losing everything, frantically I called my boyfriend, nearly in tears. I emailed Wix and Google, in an effort to straighten everything out, and for the next few days I tried desperately not to have a near constant panic attack as the thought of losing my YouTube channel loomed over me.
There’s that feeling you get, that back of your mind thought that says, maybe you shouldn’t do this. Or perhaps more accurately, is this a good idea? There have been moments, over the course of my twenty-five-year existence in which trusting my instincts has served me well, and not trusting my instincts has been pretty catastrophic. Or at least, felt catastrophic.
There was a moment, in which I was making this change where I literally said aloud (and you can hear it on my podcast coming Saturday) I hope this is a good idea. That was my gut. A subtle note to self that probably, I was making a mistake, or at least I hadn’t thought things all the way through. There’s a lesson to be learned in all of this of course, not the least of which is one I already knew… really listen to those thoughts that say, are you sure about this?  If you have a doubt it might be worth it to look at why and consider what the consequences might be. It’s not that I think I still wouldn’t have found a way to justify it to myself, but at least I would have noted that thought and said, hmmm. Maybe I should really think about what I’m doing and consider the negatives.
Fortunately, Wix was able to transfer the email over to Google and I can pay Google directly, but this was a stressful circumstance all the same.

So how do you avoid a similar fate?

If there’s ever a voice that says, “Maybe I shouldn’t do this,” or “Maybe I should do this other thing,” listen. Pay attention, even if you don’t follow it (because sometimes we make mistakes and don’t listen to that nagging instinct telling us we might be making a mistake) learn from it. It’s easy to blame the Universe and feel why me? But I know that I put myself here, and now I know, what not to do next time, or at least, to think twice before I do next time.
Have you ever done the same? Comment down below and help me feel a little less alone in my mistake of ignoring my instinct telling me what to do.
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Reading, Writing, &; Creating

For as long as I’ve been a writer, I have had some trouble with reading on any kind of regular basis. My reasoning has always been, I’m writing, as if somehow this precludes me from needing to read in order to help fill that creative well. It isn’t that I’m not reading anything. I read tons of articles in a given week, but none of these are novels. None of these are necessarily long form stories. They’re just general articles, sometimes about writing but more often than not about things totally unrelated to writing.
Lately however, as I notice myself struggling more and more to actually write anything that isn’t either a script note for a vlog/podcast or a blog post, I can’t help but suspect my lack of consistent reading is partly to blame for this. So that’s why I’m going to be setting a reading goal for the rest of the year. Thus far I’ve read 2 books (that come to mind).
  1. Carry On
  2. And We’re Off
I’d like to get that up somewhere to like 15 or 20 (more) by December 31st which gives me four months. Periodically I’ll update this blog post with my track record.
Next Up: 
3. The Possessions: 
In the meantime: What are you reading currently and do you struggle with reading?  
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And We’re Off | GRWM + Book Review

I’ve been a bad reader for the last few years, and I’ve used the excuse that I am both a picky reader and constantly busy doing something as a means to sort of justify my lack of reading more often over that time. Fortunately, as of late I’ve been reading a bit more, and so I have another book review for you.

And We’re Off, by Dana Schwartz is the story of a teen artist who’s about to go on the trip of a lifetime, the catch is, her estranged mother is going to be tagging along. Along the way, Nora enjoys the sights of Europe, while vaguely getting along with/fighting with her mother most of the book. Meet’s a boy who’s basically a womanizer, but that’s okay, and then, in the end, she sees her work in her grandfather’s latest art show.

Let me preface my review by saying it’s not a bad book. It’s not really my thing. The beginning hooked me just enough to string me along to the end, which I actually really liked and honestly salvaged my feelings about the story overall but there wasn’t much to it. It’s worth noting that this is (I would guess Literary Fiction) which frankly for me is hit or miss, so take this review with a grain of salt on that front. Obviously, I finished it (which is a feat when I don’t really care for a book).

Would I recommend it? If you like literary fiction, or family drama sagas, sure.

I’m going to update my review to a: 3.5/5 stars. Not bad. Not great. Another book I have read this year. 🙂

Reacting to Old Writing

What was I thinking?

From the moment I sit down, I’m nervous. This was a bad idea. My mind is racing with a million thoughts. INTP—the logician—a thousand and one thoughts at a time. My life for years—at least I have a name for it now. I’ve already pressed record and I’m already made up, and my mother is with me, and there’s no backing out now. This was my idea after all.

It’s been years since I’ve looked at it. The cover is as cute as I remember, and I’m almost impressed that at 12 I was able to put this whole thing together. It has my old name and I’m bothered by that, but my attempts to grab masking tape to block it out are thwarted by the masking tape all but being glued to the roll. I give up—and introduce my mother, then begin the way I always do.

“I’m your host, not for possession, Narcissa Deville… and Welcome to Hell,” I’ve added a flourish to the end, all the more dramatic. I’m glad I’m wearing makeup because I can feel my face getting redder by the second as we introduce the book and I begin to read. This is going to be harder than I thought, I realize. But then, that was the point. 2017 has been a year of challenging myself. To move outside of my comfort zone. It’s why I began vlogging in the first place. So I know that I have to do this. And I know that I have to share it. Because this was the point of all of it.

I barely look at the camera the entire time—but I stick with it.

It’s funny in a way, and almost cute in others… I was so passionate even then. Some things never change—though I know that I definitely write better than I did then. It’s easier to edit than I expect and the majority of our 29 minutes ends up in the final version. I watch it several more times, add the finishing touches and prepare to share it. Maybe I’ll do this again sometime. Or maybe I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone enough for one video.

Carry On | A Book Review

It’s nearing one in the morning, not that I know that at the time, I’m deep in the heart of Carry On. By which I mean, it’s the climactic end and I know that I cannot possibly stop reading now. It’s somewhere around one fifteen by the time I finally finish the book and I feel a mixture of relief and sadness that I’ve completed this book in one night and there is now no more left to read.

I can’t even remember the last time I devoured a book so quickly—but there was just something about it that I couldn’t help but love… and crave more…

Carry On is the story of Simon Snow, “the worst chosen one who has ever been chosen.” Told from the view point of multiple different characters, in the last year of Simon’s school career, and his battle against the Insidious Humdrum. In between we learn that not all is as it seems, and that there is a fine line between love and hate when it comes to him and his roommate Basilton ‘Baz’ Pitch. (Who I kept reading as Bastilion). Reading like a slow-burn romantic fanfic Carry On is a Warholian revamp of the fantasy genre that I honestly could not get enough of. And it’s one of the first times I almost immediately thought, I want to read that again and again.

10 out of 10 would recommend. 5 demon glasses. It was so adorable, and just so addicting…

PS: I’ve found fanfic and it’s soo good. Yay.

Writing Advice is Bullshit, here’s why.

The other week I read an article written by a Daily Beast contributor that started with the title: If You Want to Write a Book, Write Everyday or Quit Now.  A clickbait title if I ever read one but okay, I’ll bite. I’m always game for new points of view, so I read it. Like a lot of writing advice it had good points, and questionable points, and I came out of reading the article with the realization that most writing advice should be taken with a grain of salt. Why?

A few reasons. Not the least of which is, writers (particularly of fiction) are really good at bullshit. It’s what we do. If there is one thing we understand very well, it is how to bullshit, and draw things out, and some of us, if we’re so inclined, can even make a simple one sentence concept into pages and pages of bullshit. Throughout high school and college, I was the envy of many when it came to essays because 500+ words is a cakewalk when 490 of them are basically rephrasing the topic at hand, and filling the rest with marshmallow level fluff.

There’s a certain poetry in our bullshit at times, I confess. Why write that the sky was dark when you can explain that the sky was a stormy slate grey, then proceed to wax poetic for a few paragraphs or so about Mississippi rainstorms in June. It may not necessarily tell the reader much about the plot, but it gives you a greater feel for the world, and the time in which the story takes place.

This is all well and good in fiction, but in writing advice it tends to be a little more blatant. As in the article above. The author specifically notes that writing everyday is metaphorical (except that it kind of isn’t?) and yet, he needn’t have bothered because it was pretty obvious that they were trying to make a dramatic point with the title.

I’m not opposed to the theory of writing everyday, necessarily. I think you should definitely write as much as possible, but these ‘rules’ that some authors try to lay down strike me as arbitrary and more often than not conflict with one another to the point you have to ask yourself, who’s right? Whose advice do I trust more?

Some say write everyday, some say a draft should only take 3 months, these are good notes, but I’ve had drafts take roughly 3 months and some take 5-6 (depending on how much time I can afford to dedicate to them). It doesn’t help that I don’t keep any kind of accurate track on how long something takes me from start to finish, so honestly it would be disingenuous of me to say I even knew how long the average book draft takes me.

I whole heartedly agree that writing must be taken seriously if it is something you want to do, seriously, but what I’ve come to learn after years of writing and years of reading advice and thought pieces on the subject of writing is, the best advice anyone can give you is to take advice with a grain of salt. Not everything is going to work for you, not everything makes sense for what you want to write. If you write romance, advice on how to write a mystery probably isn’t going to apply. Take what works, and what seems sensible, and then decide for yourself. Challenge your worldview, if you so wish, but don’t just accept a piece of advice as gospel simply because the person who wrote it is an author you admire or someone who claims to be an ‘expert’. Trust yourself, you know a lot more than you give yourself credit for. At the end of the day, all the advice in the world will never compare to taking action and starting your story, and getting to work. There’s no better learning experience than just doing it.

May Favorites feat. Happy Sassy B.

A staple of YouTubers across the spectrum is the monthly favorites vlog in which one discusses their favorite things of the month. Or at least, that’s how I understand it in the most basic sense. Honestly I’ve never watched a Monthly Favorites video, so I decided to go about it my own way; breaking it down into multiple categories that relate to things I enjoy and/or care about.
Category Is… May Favorites…