“People on the outside think there’s something magical about writing, that you go up in the attic at midnight and cast the bones and come down in the morning with a story, but it isn’t like that. You sit in back of the typewriter and you work, and that’s all there is to it.”
Is there such a thing as post-publication depression? I mean we spend all this time working on a book losing our evenings, weekends, and holidays making sure it’s ready. Then the big day arrives, the launch happens! We’re giddy! We’re excited! The book is released! Then… silence. The book is out there. You see people buying it. You know it’s in the hands of readers. But you sit and wonder and wait and eventually fear starts creeping in.
Oddly, this is my third post on the subject of fear as it pertains to writing. (See: I’m Scared and Fear Is The Mind Killer for the others.) I say “oddly” because these are never the articles I set out to write, but somehow I still write them. Which shows how constant these emotions are in our lives. Over the last three years, with each successive launch I have taken the time to write about the tangle of emotions that swell around the launch of a book.
The greatest feeling in that knot is always the same; it’s fear. We’re afraid it’s not good enough. We’re afraid our books will be failures. We’re scared it’s full of mistakes. We worry that people will hate it. Those ideas can be debilitating. They gnaw at us, and if we let them they can devour us. But, here’s the kicker, I don’t think those feelings ever go away.
Worry comes with this job. Sure, in some magical land a writer writes a manuscript and everything is perfect, editing isn’t a bear, and reviewers laud them with praise, accolades, and candies. La de da. But that isn’t today, and it’s certainly not the world where we live. It can be tough out here. People can be mean. Some want to be mean. But, here we are. Three years ago, when I stared into that long tunnel and faced the launch of The Stars Were Right I was there. I was terrified. But I pressed on. A year later, when I set out to launch Old Broken Road, I still felt those pangs. Hell, here I am standing on the other side of Red Litten World‘s launch, and I still feel it. Those emotions are still there even three books and thousands of copies later.
“Perfect is the enemy of good.”
There is an ancient saying (Seriously, ancient, it’s attributed to Voltaire) that I like to quote, “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Now, I am not saying you shouldn’t try to achieve perfection. Quality matters. That’s a given. What I am saying is that so often we get so stuck in the chase of perfection that we never stop. We run and run and run afraid of failure. Projects never see release because they haven’t achieved an unreachable ideal we set up in our heads. Fear fuels it, and it’s empowered by those lingering “what if” questions. Questions that bog us down, snare us, and stop our momentum.
The biggest lie in life is the idea that failure itself is permanent. I’ve seen it crush writers, artists, designers, architects, and creatives of all types. I’ve seen it destroy dreams. But… it’s a lie. Failure is a state of being, and like every other state of being, you’ll realize that it’s temporary. Once you realize its temporal nature fear begins to take a back seat. The panic becomes a white noise. The post-publication depression that hangs over our head and sabotages us begins to fade. As that happens, you become powerful.
“You’ll have more failures than successes.”
Last week, Kari-Lise was watching The Trojan War, the latest in ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30. (It’s a brilliant documentary series and I encourage more than just sports fans to watch it. A lot of great stories.) During the program, Lawrence Turman, the producer of The Graduate and American History X, had a great quote. It was something that has stuck with both Kari-Lise and me. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was something along the lines of: “you’ll have more failures than successes.”
Think about that for a moment, more failure than successes. That’s intense and yeah, it’s scary. But the trick, the thing a lot of people don’t understand, is you can’t fail unless you try, and you certainly cannot succeed until you’re willing to fail.
So, I’m scared. I feel the fear. I always do. But, now three books in, I’m realizing: that fear never leaves. It lingers, it picks, it torments. Somedays I give in, but more and more I find myself pushing past it. My reaction to it has changed. I’ve changed. The way I react is shifting. Emotionally I realize that fear is part of the process. Sure, I can still feel it moving beneath the surface. I know it wants to reach up, and (excuse the Lovecraftian imagery) grip and strangle me in its tentacles. But I push on. What else would I do? Give up? *scoffing noise* Not a chance. I want to write. I want to tell stories. I don’t ever intend on stopping.
So yeah, fear is out there. We all deal with it. But we can’t let fear stop us. Keep at it.
Now, go make great things.
We’re coming to the end of Red Litten World launch week which means it’s time for the Friday Link Pack. Some of these links I mentioned on Twitter, if you’re not already following me there, please do! Do you have a link I should feature in the upcoming link pack? Click here to email me and let me know! (Include a website so I can link to you as well.) Let’s get to it…
RED LITTEN WORLD:
Red Litten World Is Out Now!
You should go buy it! It’s available as an eBook from pretty much anywhere ($5.99) or trade paperback ($15) from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or my store. It’s high time you head back to Lovat. Hooray!
Writing Vs. Having A Life
My friend and fellow writer, William Munn looks into the idea of a work/life balance when it comes to our writing. What does it take? What should one be willing to sacrifice. Also, as an added bonus, you should check out his serial story, Rue From Ruin.
10 Terms Coined By Ernest Hemingway
From ciao, to cojones, to the moment of truth. Here are ten modern-ish terms coined by Hemmingway himself.
Absolute Zero — The Temperature At Which Writers Give Up
Fantastic post from Kameron Hurley on perseverance, writing, and the creative life. It’s just what you, me, and any creative out there in “the struggle” needs right now. Go read it.
Scarfolk is a fictional northern English town created by writer and designer Richard Littler. The whole thing is an amazing satirical project poking fun at themes of totalitarianism, suburban life, occultism, religion, school, childhood, racism, and sexism. Delightfully subversive and highly recommended.
A Poetic Vision Of Paris’s Crumbling Suburban High-rises
Sometimes, Paris pretends to be Lovat. Stunning pics in the Washington Post article, showing some truly amazing architecture.
The world can be a bummer of a place. From Uncertain, TX, Point No Point, WA, to Mamungkukumpurangkuntjunya Hill in South Australia (the name means “where the devil urinates” in the regional Pitjantjatjara language) this Instagram account works to collect the saddest place on earth.
Boy Scout Lane
“Boy Scout Lane, sometimes written Boyscout Lane, is an isolated road located in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. A number of ghost stories and urban legends have become associated with the road, including the fictional deaths of a troop of Boy Scouts. The area has been the subject of several paranormal investigations, and has been a ‘haunt’ for youths hoping to experience a paranormal event. The land surrounding Boy Scout Lane is now privately owned and is off limits to the general public.”
H.P. LOVECRAFT STORY OF THE WEEK:
In honor of Red Litten World launching, I feel we should revisit the tale that inspired the title! In Binger, Oklahoma there is a strange mound which is, in fact, a gateway into another world.
GIF OF THE WEEK:
[Thank you Steve for sharing this. Corvids are the best.]
This is not a pity post. I say that because I know some folks will read emotion into blog posts like this and I’m not looking to garner sympathy. My intention is to share my own experiences and inform people about the work it takes to launch an indie title. It’s no secret that indie publishing is hard work. It requires a lot of time and intense dedication, the cliche “blood, sweat, and tears” applies. I want to help in that regard, I want to let you know what the book-launching part of indie publishing entails so when you face your own launch you are better equipped.
First, a little bit of background. For those unaware, I work two full-time jobs. There’s my day job (UX designer) which I have been doing for a long time and I love. It helps support my second job… which is being this writer here, the guy who writes books, blogs blog posts, tweets tweets, etc. It’s another job that I absolutely adore. Both are incredibly fulfilling, and every day they take me down different paths creatively. I have mentioned before that I chose indie publishing because I didn’t want to give up control. I wanted to be responsible for my books from start to finish from the moment a reader hears about it on the web, to the moment they crack open the paperback. I wanted to curate the reader’s experience by making the story of The Bell Forging Cycle to be as cohesive as possible. To achieve that I felt I needed nuanced control over everything. I wanted to have control over the design of my web presence, the covers of my books, even the interiors of the paperbacks. Many of those elements are involved in a book launch, and as the series has grown, so has each consecutive launch.
It’s easy to write, but in reality it’s tough. It makes for a lot of work. September for me has become crunch time. Right now, here’s my typical day: I wake up around 7:30 a.m., pour coffee down my throat, run to work, spend eight to nine hours at my day job, run home, eat a quick dinner with Kari-Lise, and then it’s into my office where I work until at least 12:00 a.m. (recently it’s been closer to 1 or 2:00 a.m.). Then when the day ends, I crash out. The following morning, I am back at it. While I enjoy the work, it has made most of September a weird routine of cycles. I also haven’t done much writing (or reading for that matter). Life right now is the launch.
To put it in perspective, here’s my list of things that I need to get done before Red Litten World’s launch. Some of these take more time than others, some less, but I feel each of them are an important part in making the launch of Book III as successful as it can be.
Finalize edits & copy edits(Yay!)
- Finalize paperback interior (I think I’m real close)
- Finalize paperback cover (Again, real close)
- Finalize ebook interior (Close, if not done)
Finalize ebook cover(Aww yiss)
- Deal with Nook layout (Yeah, it gets its own line item)
- Finalize bookmarks
- Finalize stickers
- Product photos
Finalize buttons(Yay, done!)
- Prep redlittenworld.com for launch
- Prep bellforgingcycle.com for launch
- Prep kmalexander.com for launch
- Prep updates for store.kmalexander.com
- Prep [REDACTED] (Got to keep some things secret)
- Finalize [REDACTED]
- Work on [REDACTED]
- Prep launch blog posts (I usually write posts in advance)
- Prep advertising (For the sake of brevity I am listing this as one line item, on my real list it’s four or five due to the various ad networks and their various requirements)
- Finalize new contests
Set up Goodreads page(Done! Add RLW to your To-Read list)
It’s a formidable list, an it’s just the start, my to-do list continues to grow and deadlines approach. There’s a misconception out there (one I have spoken about before) that indie publishing is easy and cheap. But it’s not. To do it right takes time, money, and will. All those things have a cost. Not everyone wants to spend the effort, and that’s okay. Thankfully there are other alternatives for people who aren’t as insane as folks like me. (Traditional publishing, while stressful in its own way, removes a lot of this labor.)
As I said at the start, I’m not looking for sympathy. I love this. I love the thrill. I love being able to insert little secrets and details, not just in the books themselves, but throughout the experience as a whole. For me, it’s a rush. I’m lucky I have an understanding partner and I’m blessed (#Blessed) that I am able to carve out time to do all of this. (Usually this comes at the expense of time-sinks like games, movies, and television. Try cutting back yourself, you’ll be amazing at how much time you have.) I share this because I like transparency, I enjoy telling of my journey to publication. It’s why I started this blog in the first place. I hope my experiences can help others learn and grow in their own lives. I also hope others are able to understand what it takes to “do it right” as it were. I think some of the usual shade thrown at indie publishing comes because there is a group who dive into the deep end and don’t fully understand the work involved with launching a quality product. Our collective reputation grows the better we all strive to become.
The best part about all of this: it’s all totally worth it. Whenever I hear from a reader, talk with a fan, meet someone at a convention, or see a new review, all the effort fades away. I tell stories to entertain, to enrich, to challenge, and to thrill. If I can do any of those for even one person, I’m a pretty happy writer.
Now, back to it, Lovat awaits and the launch is near.
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”
Found this quote as encouragement for a friend of mine and I figured I’d share it here with everyone. Stay away from the small people, their opinions are useless to your journey. Twain, as usual, is right. As I wrote to my friend: keep your head down, lock those shoulders forward, press through. You got this.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
—Martin Luther King, Jr.
I love this quote and figured today would be a perfect day to share it. Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day everyone. Keep moving forward in everything that you do.