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Kate M. Colby: Why I Will Independently Publish

Hi friends!

One of these days I’ll probably get around to writing my own rationale for pursuing (primarily) independent publishing rather than traditional publishing contracts, but in the meantime I want to whet your appetite with this.

Kate Colby is a talented writer and I’ve been growing to greatly appreciate not only her writing but also her professionalism and strategic thinking about fiction as a full-time career. In this post, she lays out the questions, research, and reasons that ultimately led her to indie publishing, and many of them parallel my own.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Does self-publishing still carry a stigma as far as you’re concerned? As a reader do you pay attention to whether a book was self-published?

Cheers!
—Ben

Kate M. Colby

In my “Kate’s Publishing Crash Course” series, I gave a general overview of the three main publishing options: traditional, vanity, and independent. In this article, I want to share with you all my personal reasoning behind choosing independent publishing as my writing career path.

It is no secret that I am planning to independently publish my novels and run my own author-entrepreneur business. However, I realized that, while I have shared my plans with you all, I have not shared why I have made this decision. Therefore, in this post, I want to explain how my views on writing and publishing changed entirely in less than a year.

Kate and DanielTo his endless satisfaction, I have to credit my husband, Daniel, with planting the seeds of independence in my brain. You see, as I described in a previous post, I have known that I am a writer since…

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What’s More Important: Progress or Discipline?

What do you do when your passion for one worthwhile goal edges out your progress on another worthwhile goal?

My goals for March include writing a whole lot of Frobisher and a tiny sample of Hubris Towers.

But Hubris Towers has proven incredibly fun to write, with the result that so far this month I’ve written a whole lot of Hubris Towers and a modest amount of Frobisher. More precisely, I’ve hit a third of my minimum goal for Frobisher, and maybe ten times my stretch goal for Hubris Towers.

That raises an interesting question: Is it more valuable to make fast progress or to stick with the plan?

My guess is most people would vote for fast progress, assuming it’s good-quality progress on a worthwhile task. And there’s a good argument to be made for that. If each of several tasks (say, work on 3 different drafts) will be contributing to your overall goals (say, publishing lots of books), then it stands to reason that the more quantity you can achieve, the sooner you’ll reach your overall goals. If you can write 100 pages of one book instead of 20 of the other, why not go for the easy win, right?

But if you’re dealing with a well-designed long-term strategy I’m going to argue for sticking with the plan. That’s right. Given my March plans, I’d ultimately rather hit 12,000+ words on Frobisher and 500 words on Hubris Towers than 4,000 words on Frobisher and 12,000+ on Hubris Towers, even though it’s adding less to my total word count, and even though it seriously could mean not reaching some of my publishing and financial goals as quickly.

Because in the long term, patterns matter.

Right now any time I choose to write the quick, easy, fun story over the tricky, deep (but fun) story, I’m training myself to do the work that appeals to me in the moment, not the work that is strategically valuable. And I’m training myself to act like the goals and deadlines I set for myself don’t matter.

Every writing project—really any important project you love—is going to hit a point where it gets tricky, where the ideas aren’t flowing as smoothly or the next steps aren’t as much fun as they used to be. A new project or a new system or a quick win can feel like a delightful escape, like you’re finally making real progress again and your work is fun and meaningful.

But every new project will, at some point, start feeling tricky and unglamorous too, and the real key to success lies in that decision point: push through and finish, or start developing the next fun, interesting idea?

In the end I’d rather know that I can keep the promises that I set and that no matter how tricky or complicated or unglamorous a goal feels in the moment, I can reliably push through and deliver anyway.

In the end, I’d rather keep finishing important projects than keep reaching the unglamorous halfway point of fun new ideas.

Write Like the Wind!

Today is looking really busy. I may not get much time to write, but if I do I want to put it into building word count on books.

But that’s boring, so let’s make it a challenge. My starting goals for the day are:

Minimum: 500 words

Target: 750

Stretch: 2000

I’ll check in in Comments with how it went. If you want to join me in the challenge, reply in comments with your own goal(s) and let’s spur one another on. To victory!

—Ben

Near Miss #17 (Or Why ‘Distractions’ Aren’t What’s Keeping You From Working)

This was originally posted on 12/11/10 on a different blog. I still love it.

Oh my gosh, guys. There is such an intensely strong correlation between lack of clarity and distracting myself with internets. I’ve started paying attention, and it is practically one-to-one. When I know (e.g.) the next thing that needs to happen in my story, I make it happen. When I’m not sure yet, I open a new browser window and check something. Anything.

It’s kind of blowing my mind. Every time I hit Ctrl-N on pure instinct, I stop myself for a moment and pay attention to how my story/planning/life is progressing. Every single time, it turns out there’s a question I’m too chicken to face. I’m never just bored. I’m not even distracted. (!) I’m scared of uncertainty. New rule? Brainstorm, don’t evade.

Is this just me? (Seriously. Leave a comment. I’m curious.)

Case in point. For an upcoming DWC episode starring Summer, I had a rather obscure planning note: ‘Near miss with Alex.’ I don’t even know what that means, much less how to do it. Suddenly the internet blossomed before me. But I fought it. Opened a blank document and, before sense could catch up to me, typed “Seventeen kinds of near miss with Alex:” and started a numbered list.

Rrrgh. Seventeen is an insane number of kinds of near misses. I ran out of ideas after number 3 (and checked 43folders). Then I ran out of ideas again after number 5 (and checked my e-mail). Then I ran out of ideas again after 7 and 8, which were both lame anyway. (I quote: “7. He asks her out but she’s not feelin’ it. 8. She asks him out but he’s not feelin’ it.”) Then a bookshelf fell over for number 9. Then I ran out of ideas again and checked Penny Arcade. Not kidding. I ran out of ideas after numbers 10, 12, 13, 15 and 16, and checked some website every single time.

Lesson: If you’re like me, you’re never “getting distracted.” You’re not sure what to do next, and you’re trained to dodge the question instead of answering it.

Incidentally, numbers 11, 14 and 17 were were worth something.  Side lesson: You don’t actually run out of ideas. Just keep punching your brain. Training yourself to dodge that painful moment of effort is very comfortable, very easy, and totally deadly.

Absolutely Critical Miscellany. Well, Miscellany, Anyway.

All right, guys. Not much new to report and I’m severely feeling the itch to get my actual word count up, so just a few quick news items and a mysterious noise today.

Readers! Only a couple days left to pre-order Kara Jorgensen’s The Winter Garden for $0.99. I ordered mine today. You can get yours here. Congrats, Kara!

Writers! Joe pointed me to a pretty cool-looking new writing tool at Novlr.org. I haven’t done much with it yet but I’ll be trying it out and will report back if I find new value in it. Or you can just try it yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Night Vale Listeners! What was that noise? There. There it was again. That silent, brooding noise in the back of your mind, like a heart beating a little too slowly, like the sound of still, cold air. There! Did you hear it that time? No? Well. It’s probably nothing.

Brilliant Friends! New section of The Dream World Collective should be up to read for free later this week. A problematic offer of free beer. Simmering romantic complications. And Otto tries to gather some intel. Hilarity ensues. In the meantime, catch up here or start with Chapter 1.

Also? The Stone and the Song is still regularly selling copies! It’s been three weeks, people! I didn’t expect this sort of thing until I had a critical mass of at least 3 books out, maybe 5. Many thanks to everyone who’s buying, reading, sharing, and reviewing. You are making my days figuratively magical. Maybe even literally. It sort of depends on what ‘magical’ means.

Cheers!

—Ben

Secret PS – Yay! Hi, Ivy!

Milestone! My First (Sort Of) Negative Review!

Ok, so I’m probably weird to be excited about it, but The Stone and the Song just got its first 2-star review on Amazon, and I’m actually feeling kind of bubbly. Am I crazy? Here’s what I’m thinking:

1. It’s a review. Right now my big goal is to get 25+ Amazon reviews. While I obviously prefer good ones, every Stone and Song Cover 4 - High Resolutionreview adds weight and validity to the book’s presence on Amazon. Every review is a visible indicator to every future reader ever that someone read it and cared enough to talk about it. And, while it’s probably a bit of a fallacy, I think every review adds to the invisible implied crowd of many other readers who didn’t review it.

2. It’s a rite of passage. Since I’m breaking into the publishing world after self-publishing became really viable, I have pretty minimal experience of getting rejection letters. My plan back in the day was to collect them and set goals to reach a certain number. I never got that chance, so a negative review is one small way to join the universal brotherhood of authors in facing rejection graciously. (My writer character Zen, in the meantime, does collect his rejection letters, and writes thank-you notes for them along with his next submission.)

3. It adds legitimacy. Because seriously, as good as it is to have all 4- and 5-star reviews, until you hit some pretty serious numbers that just looks like you got a bunch of friends to say nice things about you, even if that’s not at all the case. Or, as it may be, only sort of the case.

4. My rating can take it. If most of my reviews were negative, it would be getting pretty hard to take around now. But Stone & Song had a 4.8 rating before this and has a 4.5 now. For a minor, early work, I’ll really be satisfied with anything above a 3.5. Well, ok, anything above a 4.0. But still. I admit I’m a little sad this took the visual down from 5 stars to 4 1/2, but xkcd is a comfort in times like this.

5. For a negative review, it’s pretty positive. The main thrust of the review is something like, “Seems like he’s trying to do something interesting here, but I didn’t really get it.” For a bad review, that’s not half bad. If that’s the worst thing a reader sees when she checks the negative reviews, I’m in good shape. Especially in the context of the other reviews which, if I may paraphrase, say something like, “He’s doing something really interesting here!”

In short, many thanks to Voracious Reader for taking the time to read my story and leave a thoughtful review, and thank you to the (so far) 10 other reviewers for your thrillingly kind words. I deeply appreciate it.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – If you haven’t read The Stone and the Song yet, you can get it here. If you have read it, it would make my day (and help other readers) if you add your review: Amazon | Goodreads. Thanks!

Origami Lunchbox: Butt-Kicking Thoughts on Life, Fear, and Creative Work

Hey everyone! It’s been a crazy day, so this will be quick. My friend, sounding board, and unofficial publicist Joe recently launched a very stylish site that I think you’ll enjoy. It’s called Origami Lunchbox and it’s—well, think inspiration the way it should be. Not fluffy thoughts about imagining success and feeling good, but honest, no-nonsense, and surprisingly vulnerable advice and reflections to get you pointed in the right direction again. If you’re an idea person or do creative work, check it out.

OrigamiLunchbox

Sometimes you need a kick in the butt, sometimes you just need a reminder that others are in this with you. Origami Lunchbox will give you both.

Cheers!

—Ben