Cover Art: The Bane of Self Published Authors Everywhere. Oh Wait, Maybe That’s Just Me.

I make it no secret that I am not a fan of The Publishing Industry ™ . But the truth is, I LOVE publishers for a lot of the things they do. Yes, some bumbling idiocy* of the industry bothers me a LOT, but what industry doesn’t have their fair share of bumbling idiocy?

Truly, I have OCEANS of appreciation for publishers because bringing a book to market is HARD.

Writing a novel is difficult enough, but turning it into a business?  PFFFT!! I did NOT decided to be a writer because I was a business genius. Making a product presentable and then actually selling the damn thing is so hard that, for much of history, authors just couldn’t do it alone, period. That’s changed with the dawn of the internets, which is great but also means that now we just have to do it all ourselves! ALL OF IT. That means…..

  • Editing – And that’s not just the minutiae, like spelling and grammar. It’s the intensive overhaul of story, the high-level plot doctoring, the harsh and objective second look (and third, and fourth, and fifth, and…)
  • Formatting – Not only do we have to figure out how our words look on paper (and know all these weird foreign words like trim size, typesetting, and bleed), now we have to make sure all the various ebook formats and reading platforms aren’t spewing out illegible garbage. And yeah, that doesn’t always work out so well.
  • Presenting – Writing a great story and delivering a great product are two very different tasks. Without stunning cover art, pro layout, and irresistible back-cover blurbs, no one will even get to Page 1 of the next great American novel!.
  • Marketing – Even after writing a great story and building a great product, actually getting a book to readers is one high hurdle. And when the big book stores won’t even take calls from a self-published author, having a publisher by your side can be truly essential.
Thinking of going with simple and obvious for a while.....

Thinking of going with simple and obvious for a while…..

Care to guess which of these is my particular, personal nightmare?

I don’t generally have much trouble with the non-writing side of writing. Editing’s a bitch, yes, but I’m pretty shameless, so putting myself out there to get ripped apar–er, I mean, constructively critiqued– is an amazing help. Formatting is tedious, but I’m from the Internet so it’s ok. Technology is not a mystery to me. And marketing……. well, I never shut the hell up anyway, so “marketing” just kind of happens organically.

That just leaves…….. the visual stuff.

I am not a visual person.

Trees2-5

Another attempt at visualizing my book. Sooooo not my thing.

When I say I am not a visual person, I don’t mean heehe, I’m soooo bad at this, tell me I’m not! I’m not being modest, humble, or cute and self-deprecating. I mean, I am batshit crazy awful at visual/graphical tasks.

It’s not my skill set.

I mean, hey, I’ll do it. I actually spend a lot of time on visuals for my books and, like with the stories themselves, I edit in many, many passes (and a lot of trial and error). Occasionally, I even wind up with something presentable!

But not having a publisher whip up a gorgeous cover for me is still the worst part of self publishing for me. No matter how much I practice or improve, I’ll always prefer to spend the bulk of my time bringing my fiction to the next level, rather than scrape my visual skills up to basic.

Of course, professional work is not entirely out of reach for self publishers. I’ve paid for cover art before and loved the result. Getting a good cover is my #1 priority for reinvesting revenue into my writing. But when the revenue isn’t quite there, I just have to keep bumbling through the world of stock photos, free fonts, and GIMP updates.

And hey, that’s really not that bad 😛


*If you want to know more about the behaviors of the industry that actually harm authors, others have explained very well. No need to rehash history.

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That Time Paralyzing Fear Interrupted My Writing

Fear is the keystone of my writing process.

If I’m honest, That Time – that time I was too afraid to put words to paper, that time I stared at one draft so confused about what to do with it and so paralyzed to do anything that I did nothing, that time I binged on Netflix instead of  writing – it’s Every Time.

It is strange.

When I work on a project, I rarely feel afraid. No matter what stage I am in – the messy shit of the first draft, the frustrating rewrites, the other frustrating rewrites, the oh-my-god-just-frickin-END-this rewrites, the final oh-dear-Jebus-this-is-IT polishing – I don’t feel fear. Not while I’m working.

Immersed in my work, I feel confident. Even working on the messiest of first drafts, the power of potential propels me forward. I love potential. Being not particularly naturally inclined to anything, I don’t really believe in talent. Not that I don’t believe it exists, but I don’t really believe in talent as a driving force in life. There aren’t good writers and bad writers. There are just writers along different stages in their journey. Potential is everything, if you’d just grab it and run.

And I believe strongly that any story can be good in the right hands. Consider Twilight in the hands of J.R.R. Tolkien. Or Lord of the Rings in the hands of Stephanie Meyer. The first I would probably have loved, the second………… well, let’s not be negative here! The point is fear over creating a bad story is pointless. Any story can be good. It’s only a matter of trying your hand at writing again and again until the right hands for the story are yours.

But I feel fear.

When I look up from my work, it seeps in. Working on a terrible draft, I am happy, driven by the potential of the work, confidant that every little correction to this abomination brings it one step closer to the story it’s meant to be. But then I look up, and I am vulnerable.

Fear is a physical thing.

It’s too easy to say It’s all in your head. Except it’s not.

 Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean.....  thanks Unsplash.com

Calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean, calm blue ocean…..
thanks Unsplash.com

When I look up from my writing, it’s like some heavy, oppressively heavy, piece of armor is plopped down on my body. My shoulders hunch with the muscles’ tension, my heart beats feel like they are quivering, my stomach all of a sudden doesn’t want to do it’s job, curling up in fear and rejecting any requests to accept food, and when I lay my head down at night and close my eyes, then all the terrible things that will happen if I write this story pop up in front of my eyes. The terrible things, I can’t even always name them – oftentimes, they’re just generic clouds of despair. Or maybe they are an agoraphobic future where I can’t leave the house because everyone knows how terrible I am, or they are the laughter that follows me to buy toilet paper in that future where Terrible Writers are the latest paparazzi craze, or they are the dreaded shame of unemployment benefits running out because of course no one will hire the Terrible Writer!

I don’t know.

do know that if I just sit down and immerse myself again, the fear will disperse. But the bitch of this thing fear, is that it paralyzes. I know that if I just sit down, open my work and move my fingers in a way that makes words on the page, it will all go away. I know it. It’s not that hard. But when you’re frozen, even the slightest movement forward seems impossible.

 

You Can’t Go Down To The Same River Twice

So said some philosopher of the dead-white-guy variety. But in my head, the quote will always belong to Ursula K LeGuin’s Shevek, from The Dispossessed:

You shall not go down twice to the same river,
nor can you go home again.

River

A river. You could come back, but water flows and the water that was here last time is long gone.

In my first Hey-Look-At-My-New-Blog post, I said that Im going back to school. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure I ever can go back. Not really.

LeGuin/DeadPhilosopherGuy’s argument has long been something of a mantra for me. Move forward always, it says, never go back. But ever since I signed on the dotted line under my University’s seal, since I committed myself to (for better or worse) a life-altering change of pace, this quote has been chasing me. Or maybe less chasing and more catching up with. It’s here, pounding against my brain, yelling WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING??? YOU CAN”T DOOOO THAT!! (My inner mantra is kinda a drama queen. It’s also rolling its eyes and smirking, like it knows better.) Going back to school, it sneers, LOL! How quaint. Good luck with that, sweetie.

Nevertheless, in August I will be returning to school, disapproving inner voice or no.

Grad school to be specific.

I know – because everyone has told me till I’m sick of hearing it – that grad school isn’t really like school. There won’t be parties or all-night movie marathons, there won’t be clubs and free pizza. We won’t be changing majors like musical chairs, and what was once quaintly called homework is now known as all-consuming/life-work-school-consuming research. Grad school, I’ve been told, is much less school-like and way more job-like. (Boooo!) After doing job-like things (and, indeed, actual jobs ) for the past several years, this is somewhat disappointing. But is it also a glimmer of hope that I am going forward into something new and not back to something that’s past?

I don’t know.

I thought my school days were over. I thought that ship had sailed. But now that I find myself aboard it once again, it feels like I am going backwards, if even if the ship is still moving forward.

I recently went back to The Dispossessed  to hunt for the exact context of this quote. It must have been longer than I thought since I’d read this, one of my favorite books of all time. It turns out that the entire quote is quite unlike Dead Philosopher Guy’s axiom:

“It was a joy to him to come back to the Regional Institute, to see the low hills patchy with bronze-leaved scrub holum, the kitchen gardens, domiciles, dormitories, workshops, classrooms, laboratories, where he had lived since he was thirteen. He would always be one for whom the return was as important as the voyage out. To go was not enough for him, only half enough; he must come back. In such a tendency was already foreshadowed, perhaps, the nature of the immense exploration he was to undertake into the extremes of the comprehensible. He would most likely not have embarked on that years-long enterprise had he not had profound assurance that return was possible, even though he himself might not return; that indeed the very nature of the voyage, like a circumnavigation of the globe, implied return. You shall not go down twice to the same river, nor can you go home again. That he knew; indeed it was the basis of his view of the world. Yet from that acceptance of transience he evolved his vast theory, wherein what is most changeable is shown to be fullest of eternity, and your relationship to the river, and the river’s relationship to you and to itself, turns out to be at once more complex and more reassuring than a mere lack of identity. You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.”

The point isn’t that you can’t go back to a place. The entire point is that we want, and indeed need, to go back. And that’s entirely okay. If we understand the nature of change, then going back isn’t stagnation. It’s growth. What is most changeable is shown to be fullest of eternity. Going back to your roots isn’t going backwards – remembering where you came from  is part of going forward.

Like Shevek’s, my relationship to the river, or school, is complicated.

I don’t know if returning is exactly necessary. Maybe it is not even advisable. Believe me, in the past few months I’ve heard every variation on Grad school is a waste! (Usually accompanying the advice of Just get a job! As if the Real World handed out jobs like diplomas, and getting one is as easy as walking across a stage. News from the Real World: it is not.) But maybe it doesn’t have to be necessary. Maybe it doesn’t even have to be advisable. Risk is part of life, isn’t it?

I know that the place I go back to will not be the one that I left.

But at least I know that’s not a problem. Change is just proof that I am going forward.

Thanks, Shevek 🙂

Brave New World

Hello, World! (Again.)

*waves*

The giant cliff I may be about to plunge off of. But also a sunrise, so hope of a new beginning? I don't know. I'm kinda feeling this right now. Also Credit goes to the awesome Unsplash.com and their collection of GORGEOUS CC0 pics, which I <3

The giant cliff I may be about to plunge off of. But also a sunrise, so hope of a new beginning? I don’t know. I’m kinda feeling this right now. Credit goes to the awesome Unsplash.com and their collection of GORGEOUS CC0 pics, which I ❤

So this is me. Starting over.

Long story short: Life took some awkward turns. Well no, not turns. More like, wild, runaway-train, wreck-flying-everywhere, off-the-damn-tracks, careening-at-full-speed navigational adjustments. If that makes sense. But don’t worry about that. I’m not camping out in the past, and I’d recommend you don’t either.

Nope. I am heading finally heading forward! Years after I tossed my graduation cap……………. into the back of my closet and happily walked away, I’m going back to school. Gonna try this whole having-a-professional-career….thing? I don’t know, don’t ask me. I’m just along for the ride!

Everything is new and old at the same time. New, because it’s all changing: new city, new school, new job, new roommate, new load of student debt. Old, because it’s all just waiting start, leaving me in those damn In-Between Times, stewing in the wreckage of the wild runaway train. I’m waking up every day waiting to be done with the same old, same old: same old couch with the same old comfortable dent worn in it from unemployment, same old empty cupboards – empty except for Ramen and beans – the same old Netflix queue, same old…. WOW, that all looks terrible on paper! But I’m almost nostalgic about it already. The world is changing, my world is changing. And I don’t really know what it’s changing into.

But I do know that I have to herald the transition time like any self-respecting twenty first century gal: by starting a blog.

So, HI, WORLD! Again. Who am I? Doesn’t really matter. Just another twenty something TV-addict, ramen-eating, perfectly average, wannabe writer.

See ya!