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.

Removing Toxicity

Toxic political nonsense has enveloped my every day existence . From dozens of political emails, to Facebook, Twitter, hell even Tumblr has become all about political debate, and at a certain point it becomes more than exhausting, it becomes white noise which is even more dangerous because the more overwhelmed we are with toxicity the more likely we are to normalize it and tune it out, and that sets a dangerous precedent.

Long before our current political climate, I had taken to trying to figure out how the hell I could hope to get off Facebook for good. There were a couple of reasons for this desire to get off the wretched site, not the least of which was of course political. The problem being was my author page. I had created it, just before the height of the 2012 election which had really been the start of the political drama that would plague my feed for the next five years and counting. I should have created it on it’s own, on another page, I suppose, but I didn’t think much about it at the time (actually I didn’t even know it was possible until recently), and over the last 5 years, so much of my content has been shared to my page that I can’t seem to think of a way to actually get rid of it without losing everything.

I’m doing more Googling as we speak, but in the meantime, there’s another more pressing issue that has to be fixed, because I don’t know if I can ever get rid of Facebook entirely, there’s people on there whom I communicate with and as much as I would like not to see some of the shit they post, I shouldn’t have to leave. The trouble is, I avoid Facebook 9 times out of 10 except to see what others might have said to me. I’ve been making a concerted effort to remove toxicity, unfollowing a lot of things, and unliking pages and groups, but it would be impossible to block everything, and I can’t help but wonder if it wouldn’t be easier to just get rid of the whole thing.

Update: That was easier than I thought, transferred the page, and now, to limit time on main FB. Woot.

The Evolution of Narcissa Deville: an essay

From a young age I was obsessed with dresses and shoes. I have always loved fashion and makeup, and once upon a time I had almost considered a career as a fashion designer, however short lived this dream was (due in large part to my poor drawing skills). I always had an idea of the sort of outfits I would want to wear if I were to wear dresses and heels. From the beginning I had an obsession with stilettos, something about the sharp points, and thin heel always screamed elegance to me even then. I liked to think of myself as a vintage style girl. Very Carrie Bradshaw meets Audrey Hepburn, and as much black fabric as I could get my hands on. Occasionally I imagined myself wearing ball gowns even to the most mundane job. My reasoning being, they say dress for the job you want, and I want to be on a red carpet, so, ball gown.

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On Design

days3One of my earliest goals for this website was to challenge myself as both a writer and a graphic designer.  Because I don’t work in my field, my design has to be largely work that I do for myself, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it can be somewhat limiting. It’s not for a lack of trying that I don’t work in my field either, immediately after graduation I applied to as many graphic design companies as I felt qualified for, and even some I felt entirely unqualified for, and most couldn’t even be bothered to send a form rejection letter. Randomly I had one actual interview with a graphic design firm that was local, four months after I got my current job, a few days before Christmas. I thought the interview went well enough, but being that it was a few days before Christmas they informed me they’d get back to me with a copywriting test for one of the two positions that was open. They never did, and wondering when they would actually be open again, I never ended up emailing them back either, and so nothing came of it. I later learned that a friend’s boyfriend had applied there with similar results (and he had actually called several times), so I didn’t feel too bad about it.

Graphic design can be a difficult field to break into, particularly if like me you tend to work more outside the mainstream bubble. The fact that I went against the grain and printed my portfolio with a matte-ish black background was a subject of excitement for many, and debate for others. It was as if no one in the world had ever considered the concept of a portfolio that rather than printed on crisp white pages, be printed on crisp black pages. I got loads of compliments from people, the most common of which being, I love that but I could never pull that off. There was nothing particularly special about using a black background versus a white background (though make no mistake, the background color absolutely changes the way you see the colors and you respond to the design), and yet perhaps this is part of the reason finding work in my field was particularly difficult. There were plenty of designers, less original than myself who managed to make it.

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I’m not bitter about not getting that job, or even not working in the field. In truth, though I enjoy graphic design, I view it as more of a hobby, a thing I do between writing projects to stay in the realm of the creative yet not quite writing. I prefer to continue to answer only to myself (I’m a harsh enough critic, thank you), than have to worry about getting approval for my designs from fifty thousand people, none of whom can agree on what direction they want to go in.

Quantity Time

1adfc2_be51051e2ec544f0b195953a6f9b39d5-mv2_d_1250_1250_s_2This week, I read an article in the New York Times, entitled the Myth of Quality Timethe crux of which can be surmised in this short but telling paragraph from its author:

There’s simply no real substitute for physical presence.

We delude ourselves when we say otherwise, when we invoke and venerate “quality time,” a shopworn phrase with a debatable promise: that we can plan instances of extraordinary candor, plot episodes of exquisite tenderness, engineer intimacy in an appointed hour.

The premise of this article, which is made clear in its title, seems to suggest that the only way to truly have deep and meaningful moments with someone is to be there, as much as possible. It’s the idea that the amount of time you spend with someone means more than the quality of the time you spend with that person. So let’s break this concept down.

In the article, the author explains that he spends a week with his extended family during the summer in which they all stay in a large beach house. This, he seems to surmise, is an instance of ‘quantity’ time versus quality time, even though by his own admission, save for Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, this would be the only time he spends with said extended family. Throughout the article it is said that it was only when he stayed the full week (rather than leave early as he previously had) that he was able to have meaningful conversations with members of his family at random intervals. His supposition being that had he not spent the same length of time, these conversations would simply not have been possible, and on the one hand that is true. By the mere reality of him being there the conversations with him were made possible. Yet these conversations could possibly have taken place at any time. As he goes on to say later in the article:

We reach out for help at odd points; we bloom at unpredictable ones…

The problem is, simply being in someone’s presence is not a clear indicator that you will have any meaningful conversation with them at any point in time. There are many people you may see many times a day whom you have absolutely no desire to speak to, and while family is slightly different, there are many members of my family who I see fairly often, whom I still don’t have many conversations with. Insightful or otherwise. Conversely, there have been several occasions in which I’ve spent a mere weekend with a family member, and had more deeper conversations with them, than I would have, when we lived mere miles away instead of a state away. It is a dubious at best premise to suggest that simply being in the presence of a person or group of people more often will make them more inclined to open up and be vulnerable with you.

It’s worth noting that a week a year, not including a few holidays, would not be what many consider to be quantity time spent either. Perhaps it’s possible that what the author is noting in his family is his increased engagement, rather than simply his mere presence. It’s very possible that his young niece/nephew that are mentioned in the article simply have reached an age where they feel more comfortable talking about things that bother them, because you are finally willing to treat them like an adult.

The biggest problem I have with this idea that the amount of time you spend with people is more important than how you spend that time, is that it seems unfair to suggest that the only way in which people can grow in friendship and love and family is by osmosis of being in one another’s company. I don’t see my friends everyday, sometimes I don’t even see them every week or every month, but I live in an age where I am able to communicate with them through Facebook, text, what have you. I talk to my boyfriend every day, even though I only see him twice a week. Same goes with Adrianne, I generally talk to her several times a week and usually see her at least once a week, and yet we can have more deep conversations in a few hours recording a podcast (and afterwards) than we might even if we spent a month in the same house (which we once did).

What are your thoughts on the subject of quality time versus quality time? Is there something to be said for the sheer amount of time you spend with someone, or is the quality of time the most important?

When you don’t have the strength for self care

1adfc2_be51051e2ec544f0b195953a6f9b39d5-mv2_d_1250_1250_s_2I am by no means the most positive person in any room. I’ve always considered myself more of a realist, but perhaps all things considered I would be more accurately described as something of a catastrophist. Whatever you want to call it, you know that something is severely wrong when of all of the most positive people I know, I seem to be the most positive out of everyone.

The sad truth is, the last month and a half (going on eternity) has been excruciatingly bad for everyone, and it feels as though all of my most hopeful friends have lost that as of late. I know that I’ve said that self care is so important in these times, but when we’re too tired to care for ourselves sometimes it is essential to have someone else who can help care for us. Because sometimes the best care you can give yourself, is asking for someone else to help you. I learned that this week after a particularly hard breakdown I had myself on Monday, where my boyfriend was there to pick me up when I knew I wasn’t going to be able to pick myself up. I’ve been so used to caring for everyone else for so long, that when I needed to be cared for it was the most difficult thing I could ever think to ask for. Luckily, I really didn’t have to.

Now that I am back on track though, it means that in the absence of the positivity my friends and loved ones so desperately need, I will have to be positive enough for everyone. Or at least try to be.

Grateful For You: an essay

Over the past few months of essays, I’ve talked a lot about my relationship, my love for that relationship, but there’s a person I’ve neglected to really talk about. My boyfriend’s wife, whom we’ll call Mrs. D. In the beginning of my relationship with Mr. D, I struggled to find a way to become friends with her, I was still trying to wrap my head around the poly thing and so for a better part of the last year I kept my distance from the rest of the family. Nobody really pushed the issue, they understood my trepidations and my concerns. What if I make friends with her and things between Mr. D and I don’t work out? I wondered on more than one occasion.

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What Comes Next

days3Over the weekend, a few things happened, not the least of which was the inauguration, which even though I knew it was going to happen, I still couldn’t help but feel rather depressed when it actually did. It happened to be a day I was spending with my boyfriend, but even that couldn’t seem to pull me out of my funk. I decided, that perhaps some retail therapy might make me feel better. Only I had barely made it out the front door when I realized, that I didn’t want to deal with people on this particular day. Online shopping might have made me feel a little better, but I decided what I really wanted to spend my money on wasn’t something material. So I decided instead to spend my money in a more constructive way. Or perhaps a more symbolic way by donating the money I would have spent on god only knows what, to various organizations who need our help more than ever. If the so-called ‘President’ has united Americans, it is largely in our dislike and distrust of him. If the Women’s Marches across the world taught us anything it’s that while we may seem like we are more polarized than ever both as a nation and a world, Hillary’s words are more true now than ever, “We have more in common than we have differences.” We can stand united in the rallying cry of #notmypresident.

It’s comforting to know that there are more people who support us than him, yet how one shows that support, particularly for agencies that will undoubtably find themselves under attack from this administration, is what will make all the difference.

Personal Interlude

days3As I reach the cusp of my deadline, and I struggle to finish, I find myself running behind on the things that I planned to do, like edit my podcast that should have been up Saturday. Write this blog post which should have gone up this morning, work on the blog posts for the rest of the week which I needed to have scheduled by now. Everything’s falling behind as I work on completing what is hopefully the last round of edits. It’s an exciting, if tedious process, and one that doesn’t leave room for much of anything else. I’m happy to say that I am making progress, and in spite of a sort of existential crisis yesterday; feeling my quarter life crisis, which was aided by Barnes and Noble retail therapy, alcohol, and a little time with my boyfriend I find myself slightly more off course than I would have otherwise liked.

Still perhaps these things are good for my future of writing, what would I even have to blog about this Monday evening if it weren’t for my quarter life crisis setting back my edits a few hours. I’m still technically within my deadline assuming I can finish thirteen chapters in five and a half hours. It’ll be tight, but I’ve done harder things. In the meantime, there’s work to be done.