What happened to your book? | Show notes

This past weekend, I had an interesting conversation on my way home from Kat’s going away party– I was in the car with her aunt and grandma, and her aunt asked me what had ever happened to my book? (I had self-published in 2011/2012) and though I had published 2 she had only read the first and as she said: she was hooked.

I awkwardly explained that I had become self-conscious about it, and had taken it down in an effort to edit it and make it something more to my liking. But a thought struck me recently– when it comes to books, how important is it that I like the book I’m creating really?

Even though it’s still in progress I feel like I do actually like it now more than ever, but does it really matter? I mean you think about something like even this channel– I don’t watch my videos further than editing them. I cringe watching it when my boyfriend puts it on– even if I like the video, my perception of it after filming is usually like whatever– and then I edit it and manage to put it up and that’s that. I don’t watch them… But they aren’t really for me. They are created for me to express myself, but not for me to consume, so if others enjoy something I create, and I don’t, who’s opinion matters?

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 Elusive Work/Life Balance

I’ve been down this road before, so much so that I find its rocky terrain almost comforting. For as long as I have been a creative person I have struggled to find that ever so elusive, work-life balance. But how do you find balance when you’re working to ultimately provide a better life for yourself?

A few months ago, when I first became a supervisor, I was asked to come up with a professional development presentation on a topic of my choosing, and given this was an area I felt I needed the most help with, I decided to do it on the importance of achieving a good work-life balance. I read articles, did research, found information relating to why it’s essential to mental health and helps avoid the creative hell that is burnout, and then proceeded to go back to work and utilize none of the information I had gathered.

Over the past few months since I started doing YouTube I’ve noticed a familiar trend emerging. My boyfriend will message me to ask me a question or just to talk, and I’ll have to inform him that I’m filming a video for YouTube right now and therefore can’t. Even my novel has had to take a back seat to my filming videos for YouTube. Inevitably I find myself feeling guilty for these lapses in helping people or getting back to people; but then if I’m not filming or writing, I end up feeling guilty for not working hard enough, and thus the endless cycle spins on.

Why don’t I create a schedule? This seems like the obvious solution to my problems, and arguably the best advice you see given to writers time and time again. It’s something I’ve certainly been working towards more and more. I tend to try and vlog Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays. Leaving me Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Friday to do everything else, though I’m sure I don’t need to film even this much. I generally record about 2-3 videos per sitting so if I recorded Saturdays (for the week) spent Sunday after work editing and pre-scheduling for the rest of the week I would have Mon-Fri to work on other projects (eg: writing more and blogging more).

I seem to get the most creative work done after about five or six so if I were to work from say, 6-12 (when I usually go to bed) that offers me at least 6 hours to write. Assuming I spent half of that time writing blog posts and half of that time writing my novel I would actually get quite a bit accomplished in a relatively short amount of time, and I wouldn’t even have to do so daily. Leaving me time to read, work on design projects, branding further, etc.

This all sounds great on paper. It also sounds great on paper that theoretically my current job offers me the opportunity (most times) to do more creative work in between what I do on a day to day basis, and yet, it doesn’t always work out that way. None of this is to say I won’t be actively working more on finding a balance, and making time to schedule my work better, but a key change that I have to factor in isn’t just in scheduling my life more, but also in actively allowing myself the freedom not to write, not to film, not to work constantly. 

It’s easy to say, x, y, and z will offer you a better work-life balance, but putting it into practice in a meaningful way is where I really feel like I need to do more. Because frankly, I’m tired of feeling guilty for both working too much and not working enough.

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How To Create a YouTube Channel in 10 Easy Steps

Step 1: Decide what your content should be

And then make your channel about whatever you want because it’s probably going to evolve a lot between when you start and really get comfortable with it. The great thing is it’s your channel so you get to decide what it should be about.

Step 2: Figure Out Your Location

As important, if not more so, than what you’re vlogging about should be where you film your vlogs. Do you want natural light? You’ll want to vlog by a window. I tend to vlog at my desk because as a writer, that’s where I feel represents me the most. I have various items that also represent me, books, Harry Potter Funkos etc. to really give it a personal touch.

Step 3: Filming Equipment

As I mentioned in my blog about things I learned from doing YouTube, you actually don’t need anything fancy to start your channel. Your smartphone is a great place to begin, buy a cheap $13 smartphone tripod on Amazon and some LED light bulbs from Walmart and set up one on either side of the camera, and one directly above (like in a ceiling light) for optimal lighting. If you film near a window you should just need the two on either side of the camera.

Step 4: Shoot some test videos

Filming yourself is kind of weird at first, staring at a camera and trying to figure out how to talk like you’re talking to someone and not just yourself is tricky to get used to. I recommend filming a few (eg: however many you need) practice videos to get yourself comfortable. You don’t need to put these up or edit them but you could if you like them enough.

Step 5: Set up your YouTube Account

Google has plenty of resources on this topic, but essentially you’ll want to set up your YouTube account and follow what it says to set up monetization if you want to have ads on your videos and make money from them.

Step 6: Film your first video

Once you’ve decided on what you want your first video to be about, you can start filming. Chances are you could need several takes, and might mess up, the great thing is, no one has to see that. (see step 7) If you have a later model iPhone you can film in 1080p at 60 fps (for smoother videos). The back camera is usually the best of the two but you can get away with the front facing camera if you want. Sometimes seeing yourself helps. Tip: You can fake depth of field (where the background is blurry and you’re in sharp focus– and make your vids look more professional (see below). Note, you’ll want to be a good distance away for the effect to really work.  Alternatively, you can film on a dark backdrop (using a sheet and push pins) to make yourself stand out even more. (see below)

subtle depth of field

backdrop — Note: Cats may destroy if hanging loosely so be prepared for that.

Step 7: Edit your video

There are a couple of different options you have on this front. If you can afford it, you can get the Adobe Creative Suite for $50 /mo ($20 on student discount) which will give you access to the full suite of tools including Photoshop (for thumbnails) and Adobe Premiere for film editing. If you own a MacBook you can edit with iMovie which is a lot easier and comes free with MacBooks purchased after (2012 or 2014) Depending on your skill level here, this could take a minute to put together (by which I mean several hours) There are also a lot of excellent YouTube tutorials on things like editing videos with other options, as well and putting together YouTube videos without spending too much money. Free music (with attribution) for videos can be found through YouTube’s Creator Studio. Depending on how warm your lighting is, you can also white balance your videos (which is super easy in both Photoshop and Premeire) Use YT tutorials to your advantage here too.

Step 8: Create the thumbnail

If you have access to Photoshop this becomes a bit easier, what I tend to do is after I’ve edited my video, find a scene that I like and take a screenshot of that:

this was taken from a video I recorded.

and create the thumbnail from that, using Photoshop. (For a cheaper option you can use  Canva.com)

Step 9: Upload Your Video

As with most things, there are a few ways to do this. Uploading from YouTube itself or if you use iMovie you can upload directly from the app. When doing this you can create a title for your video, based on whatever the video is about. (See examples below) Add a description, and tag your videos with relevant information to help people find your video. #makeup #beauty #story time. A (mostly) free service called VidIQ can help you better tag videos and see tags to videos on YouTube for inspiration.

Step 10: Post your video and share it!

If you have any kind of social media, you’ll want to share your video everywhere you can after you post it. Shameless self-promotion may seem tacky, but it’s a great way to get people to look at/follow your channel. Bug your friends and family, and if you’re so inclined, talk about it with anyone who will listen. There are probably forums and sites to share your channel with. Trust me, marketing is a great tool. I don’t recommend to commenting on other people’s videos for followers, that will get your comment flagged as spam and some YouTubers (me) will delete them. Subscribe for subscribe is one method to get a subscriber base however it should be noted that this probably isn’t a way to get an active following that actually comments on your work.

And there you have it. I think I was able to start my YouTube channel for about $20 for the lights and tripod. I already had the phone, and I already had my MBP and Creative Suite– It should be noted, everyone’s path is different. Don’t think that you should have to create your channel in any sort of way. This is just my path and my advice. You don’t need a fancy camera or lighting to start. Natural light is your friend and marketing yourself is a great way to get people interested. Good luck. 🙂

Bonus tip: Take analytics with a grain of salt. Analytics are a good way to learn who’s watching your content, where, and for how long, but if you’re not careful you can go into a dark spiral with analytics. Take it for what it is, not gospel. It’s your channel, no one else should dictate your content. Also celebrate the small things, if you get 5 subscribers, celebrate. 10? Celebrate. Because every bit counts and every YouTuber with millions of followers began somewhere.

Thanks to Renard Moreau who commented on my Cissa’s Side Blog that I should write this 🙂

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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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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On Scaling Back

I wasn’t necessarily interested in daily vlogging when I first started on YouTube, actually, if you had told me that within about two months of starting vlogging I would end up doing so five days a week, I would have laughed. But then I got ahead of myself. I had filmed more videos than I was currently putting out at every other day and I felt backlogged. It was great to have consistent content, but if there was anything time sensitive it sort of had to take precedent which wasn’t always the most convenient. I opted instead to start posting vids every weekday, something which at the time seemed a sensible option, and for a while now has gone well enough, the problem is, I have a tendency to jump head long into projects and devote 110% of myself to them.
This would be a great trait if it didn’t mean that other parts of my life suffer in the process, and the thing that is currently suffering is my writing. The entire reason I started YouTube in the first place. So, I’m going back to the drawing board, by which I mean, back to my old YouTube schedule of three vlogs per week. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. With Tues and Thurs being dedicated to blogs and bi-weekly Saturdays going back to the podcast.

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.

The Fine Line

There is a dangerously fine line between confidence and cockiness, but what is the line, and how do we avoid crossing it?
The thing to know is that confidence vs. cockiness is all about  perspective. A lot of people who are currently successful at the top of their fields, have admitted that even before they were successful they had an idea that they could be successful and/or would be successful. Had they articulated these ideas at the time, it would be easy to view that sort of thing as cockiness. Without the goods to back it up, some might have looked at even people we see as talented without question now, as just full of themselves. We’d tell ourselves, they’ll learn, they’ll get a swift dose of reality.
There’s a certain desire that exists in some, particularly in the art world– to tear down the confidence of others. While there are plenty of inspirational quotes about not looking to others to quantify your self worth, there are a lot of contradicting realities that are taught to us from a very young age. To know your self worth and to know you are talented is to be cocky and therefore, is considered a negative thing you don’t want to be.
To be vocal about this knowledge, and to be willing to share it can get you vilified, and you begin to learn rather quickly that being confident is not actually what people want you to be. Secretly they want you to need them for validation. If you aren’t validated by others, how can you possibly know you are talented, or beautiful, or intelligent?
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t bad to want validation from others either. But there’s a very real cycle of shame when it comes to validation, where, you aren’t supposed to know you’re talented and admit it, but then if you ask for validation rather than waiting for it to simply come to you, then you look desperate and needy. Another negative that we’re made to feel is wrong, putting us in a lose/lose situation in which either way we’re wrong.

In my conversation with Adrianne, the thing I really took out of all of this was that frankly it shouldn’t matter, there is nothing inherently wrong with being ‘cocky’. You really should be able to know your self worth and admit it.

Hitting Pause on the Blog

write

One of the best pieces of advice I got in college was the KIS method of design. Keep it simple. Only, I didn’t fully realize what that meant until recently when I read an article on time management, in which it noted:

The basic principle of success is to focus. It is what makes the difference between those who are successful and those who are not, regardless of how much talent, resource, and energy that they have. – Thomas Oppong –

The Secret to Mastering Your Time is to Systematically Focus on Importance And Suppress Urgency

For a while now, and in particular the past year, I’ve spread myself incredibly thin on a variety of projects. But it all reached a head when, in April, I started creating content for YouTube, and simultaneously tried to blog daily. I was able to be successful at those two things, at the cost of me not writing anything for my novel for the better part of April.

In it’s earliest form, my blog was about furthering my platform, and largely that is still the point of all of the work I’ve been doing. But for me, my multitude of efforts to expand my platform has come at the cost of the very reason I need a platform in the first place. My novels. I tried desperately to balance everything. A full time day job, and my full time job as a writer. Blogging, podcasts, essays, shorts, vlogging. I convinced myself that if enough of these were spread far enough out that I could somehow, someway do them all.

Only, it didn’t work out that way. Perhaps if I had managed my time better I might have been able to make it all work out. But that’s the thing about it. Overworking myself, even with time management can only lead to one eventual outcome. Burnout, which will lead to a complete creative shutdown.

I can’t afford that.

I’ve had to make sacrifices and in the process I’ve decided where I think I should try and focus my efforts more.

I still love blogging.

I’ve done it for the better part of a decade now, and never in my life did I imagine that I would be writing this post, or even considering giving up blogging before I gave up anything else in my new creative endeavors.

This isn’t to say I’m never going to blog again.

I’d like to think that if a post strikes me to be written, I’ll put it out there. Maybe I can go back to the Monday, Wednesday, Friday system (not unlike how I do my vlogs) perhaps instead I’ll do Tuesday, Thurs, Sat so I always have new content somewhere. I haven’t decided yet.

For the time being at least, perhaps just through May, or perhaps a bit longer. I need to put things on pause.

Not writing at all for me is the worst possible scenario, and I would rather not do a lot of things than not write fiction.