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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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. 🙂

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.

Best Laid Plans

Well that didn’t quite go to plan.

I had almost made it an entire month of blogging every single day when somewhere along the way I got derailed. I lost the momentum because I was struggling for ideas, and the notion of going on vacation was starting to make me perhaps a touch lazy. (This is perhaps the first vacation I can remember in which I wrote absolutely nothing– didn’t even take my laptop with me).

Now in (admittedly early) May, I’m a bit behind in multiple things. I didn’t end up recording anything of Drag Con for a vlog (as I somewhat suspected I wouldn’t), and I’m a week behind in blogs and just general writing. It seems my outline that I was so sure I was going to make my writing the sequel to my current work that much easier has not proven true as of yet and I find myself currently trying to find said outline so I might get back to work after a well needed vacation.

Audiobooks or Physical?

In 2007, I waited in line for the last time for the midnight release of a Harry Potter novel. The Deathly Hallows. It was the end of an era, and for me the end of one of the best parts of my childhood during those parties. My mother and I were to go to California immediately after picking up the book, and since it was the last one, my mother decided that she wanted to enjoy the book too. After the party we ran to Walmart and picked up a copy of the audiobook edition. The first audiobook I’d ever had. I remember Walmart had made a point to close down the store for an hour or so before midnight and brought out two huge palettes. One of the book in hardcover, and one of the audiobook. We grabbed the audiobook, and some drinks, and checked out. We had barely made it to the car before we popped in the CD and we were excitedly on our way. Listening to the story as I read along in the book.

For years the debate has raged on; ebooks or print? For many years, I would have said ebooks, I loved the convenience of them, and I hated the idea that somehow ebooks didn’t count as real books. Perhaps it’s some deep seeded desire to fight for the underdog but this idea that somehow the text in an ebook was less important than physical books became an exhausting fight. Recently however thanks in part to changing prices in hardcover books and the Book of the Month Club, I’ve found a new obsession in hardcover. I also realized something about the debate of digital versus physical books that I hadn’t considered before. With all of the handwringing over ebooks killing the paperbound book, why wasn’t there concern over audiobooks?

For as long as I can remember audiobooks have never been seen as a threat to the physical book. Audiobooks had existed for years before the ebook, and yet, when the debate came up about the danger to the end of the physical novel, the audiobook was never mentioned. I think in some ways it’s because audiobooks almost go hand in hand with physical books, and so it’s less a war of how something is devoured and more an addition to how it’s enjoyed and appreciated. It’s an extension of the book, not competition. But the question has always confused me, why is how you enjoy a book more important than that you are enjoying a book at all? If we’re really so concerned about how few people read, it might be advised not to tell them how to read, and simply to be glad that they are reading, period.

The Reading List- Prologue

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The other day I had the frankly bizarre idea that I wanted to try and color code the books on my bookshelf (a part of me wishes I’d also done so by height, but that’s another story), because it seemed like it would be fun. But I’ve also decided that as a challenge to myself I thought I would spend this year reading all of these books from start to finish. In color order as follows:

  1. Six of Crows
  2. Behind Her Eyes
  3. The Cuckoo’s Calling
  4. Becoming Steve Jobs
  5. Yes Please
  6. Enchanted Islands
  7. If I Was Your Girl 
  8. Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
  9. The Edge of Everything
  10. Settle for More
  11. The Sun is Also a Star
  12. Killing Monica
  13. Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk
  14. The Possessions
  15. Good as Gone
  16. The Wangs vs. The World
  17. The Princess Diarist
  18. The Underground Railroad
  19. Carry On
  20. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit
  21. The Most Dangerous Place on Earth
  22. Shrill
  23. Swingtime
  24. Pachinko
  25. Fangirl
  26. the Nest
  27. The After Party
  28. Fates and Furies
  29. The Mothers
  30. Why Not Me
  31. The Girls
  32. Celebrity Run-ins
  33. The Nix

I’ve technically already read If I was Your Girl earlier and I absolutely loved it, so I may replace it with another book just to make it a fair/even 33. Additionally I’ll be returning to this post with my progress and crossing things out as I go. 33 books in the year is a fairly small amount, but considering that I’ve been averaging about maybe 2 or 3 a year, I’d say 33 is a great way to play catch-up. I’d like to write periodic reviews on Fridays of my progress with whatever book I’m on, so I’ll be starting the next Fic Fri post with an update on Six of Crows. 

Typing it All Up!

It’s official. As of 1 Feb, 2017, phase 2 of editing is complete, leading to the final phase, getting it all typed up. You’d think this would be the easy part, and for the most part it is (if tedious), but when your body decided just after finishing edits now would be a great time to get a cold (for the second time in two months I might add) typing becomes rather difficult. I realize it’s something I should have done as I finished chapters, and originally that was my full intent, too. But if thirteen plus years of writing has taught me anything, it’s that more often than not those best laid plans never quite pan out. And so, I’m now on chapter 6 of 24 to type up. I’ve made fairly good progress and it was my intent to do about 5ish chapters a day which would have had me done by Monday, but being that (as of this writing it’s Sunday) and I’m 10 chapters behind, I seriously doubt that’s going to be possible, but maybe I’ll manage to get it together in the end. I don’t have a deadline this time (though I’d like to say maybe before March 1st?)

I’m terribly excited to have this done, (though my break that I planned to have between finishing edits and typing them up lasted all of 3 hours) and I’m excited to have a few trusted readers getting their hands on it as soon as I can finish typing up the changes and have it printed and bound (boyfriend, best friend, mother, you know challenging readers that might offer me real critiques) I’m eager to start on book 2, but I know I should take some time to read more and get myself caught up on more blog/essay stuff before I jump fully into book 2. So much to do, so little time.

The Story You’re Meant to Write

days6You may not know this about me as yet, because I haven’t really shared that many stories. But I’m not exactly known for writing happy tales where everything works out for the best and the good guy always wins. More often than not, the stories I end up writing are pretty dark, even the ones I want so desperately to be happy end up dark. Because the story that I’m meant to tell or that I need to tell isn’t necessarily the story that I always want to tell. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike what I write by any means, but sometimes I’d like to write something happier from time to time.

Truthfully, I’m not even sure I know what a happy story would entail at this point. Certainly it would be different from what I’m known for writing but as far as how that translates into an actual story, I can’t say I know. But I do know this, what I do write, is absolutely what I’m meant to write, and I will continue writing (no matter how dark) what I have because somebody’s got to. Why not me?