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The Chair, Assigning Value, & Fear

The Thinking Chair

I’m a member of the local online rummage sale group on Facebook, which is a great way to get rid of unwanted stuff in a hurry, but it’s also a great way to find/buy stuff you never knew you needed (and really, you don’t). Like the old Red Robin booth I got for my writing desk. And the old fabric and wood rocking chair I bought this past weekend. I didn’t/don’t need it, had to rearrange a bit to make room for it, it doesn’t match the rest of our furniture or the decor, and according to hubby, I don’t look like I “fit” it when I sit in it. Apparently tattoos, a cap, and a superhero shirt clash with beautifully carved thick wood and faded tapestry fabric. Who knew?

Whatever. My personal style may not match the chair, and the chair may not match the rest of the house (though it does blend well with the tapestry and wood dining room chair that it’s close to, and the antique sewing machine behind it that I still haven’t put back together), but I love it. I love just looking at it – it’s calming and reminiscent of past lives and lifestyles that I sometimes wish we could incorporate into today’s world, even if just in a small way. It’s not the kind of chair you’d spend hours in…it’s comfortable, but not plush. But it’s the kind of chair you could sit in when you need to noodle something out, or deal with something that’s been on your mind, maybe with a crochet hook or knitting needles in hand.

I have a wingback recliner in the office that I use as a reading/writing chair. I think I’ll dub this new rocking chair the “thinking chair”.

The Reading Chair

And perhaps look for a small, tapestry-covered footstool to go in front of it since I can rarely reach the ground to rock when I’m in a rocking chair (relatively short legs, I guess).

I’ve been thinking a lot about value lately, and how we assign value to things – including how much we’re willing to pay for something. A week ago, I was raising the price of my alter-ego’s new book to “normal retail” online, and I decided to raise the prices on all of my other books too. Previously, I’d priced books by what I thought they’d sell for – the value I expected others would put on them. I determined that almost exclusively by page count/length, and genre. I was trying to get them to sell based on price alone, and sales generally trickle at those prices for me.

Here’s the thing. It takes a lot of time for me to get a book written – even a short one, and even more time to edit, check the formatting, write the blurbs and create the covers. It takes money to get the formatting done (I’ll probably go back to formatting the digital versions myself…more time!), and money to buy cover art images. And even pricing for the lowest-spending reader, I still get only a handful (sometimes not even that many) of sales in a month.

Does this mean I’m not a stellar writer? Possibly (I’m certainly not a “bad” one, considering some of the incredibly/inexplicably popular messses out there for sale). Does it mean I’m not good at marketing? Absolutely. Does it mean that my admittedly possibly mediocre books should be priced at bargain basement?

No. No it does not. $3 is nothing for a story, even a short one. Some people spend more than that on coffee in the morning or lunch during the work day. I spent just shy of that on a cup of tea at the bookstore last night. $3 for all the hours and work I put into that story is a pittance. And if people won’t pay that for one of my short stories (and $4-5 for a longer novel), then I’m really not doing a very good job with either writing or promoting them, and don’t deserve the sale.

With that in mind, I raised all my prices. And sales went flat. And that’s okay. It is what it is, but I’m done with bargain-basement pricing. I’m assigning more value to my work, and my time, and readers can decide whether it’s worth that to them or not, but at least I feel like I’ve shown some confidence in my abilities, and that I’m not undervaluing what I do (or try to do, anyways).

I am going to be going through and redoing cover art and blurbs on some older books, to bring them up to date. And I’ll be working on some promotional things as well, just to draw attention to them and let people know what I have available. I have one book I’ll be going back through and re-editing too, but that won’t be a normal thing. most of my books are already well-edited, this particular one sort of slipped through the cracks and it won’t take me long to fix the minor nits within.

So, I’m assigning more value to my work, and whether it deserves that valuation or not will depend on each individual reader. And my mission/goal is to make sure that what I put out is worthy, in my own eyes, of the value I assign to it. Fair enough, I think.

As far as that whole promotion thing goes, I need to be more “forward” (aggressive?) about letting people know that I write. I don’t know why it’s such a difficult thing, but somehow, it seems stranger and uncomfortable to talk about being a writer (and even openly acknowledge it) locally than it does to say I’m a database administrator for the county. Probably because I make a good wage as a DBA, and there are measurable activities that tell me I’m fairly decent at my day job. But because I make very little money as a writer, and that’s really the only measurement I have for that particular “job”, it’s harder to acknowledge/admit to. I feel like people will think I’m a fraud, or a “wannabe” writer (even though I’ve published around 40 books now…it’s only the ones people have heard of that matter).

And we all get annoyed by those people who claim to be writers and never write or publish anything, don’t we? Even though I have written and published quite a few books, a lot are under pen names, and none are popular, so I feel like I come off like the wannabe, even though I do actually write and publish (okay, so I took a couple years off, but I just published two stories this year, and I’m working on a couple more). Gotta love “imposter syndrome”, eh?

In any case, I went to the annual shareholders meeting for our local bookstore co-op last night, and beforehand hubby was looking at the site and asking why my name wasn’t on the author/shareholder page. My answer was that I guess they overlooked me, or that I haven’t really pursued getting my books in the store yet (I don’t currently have any that meet their “criteria”), but really, it’s probably just because I haven’t emailed them and said, “Hey, I’m an author/shareholder – would you add me to the list, please?” Because it’s probably just that easy. And I’m just…not that forward. But there’s no reason not to be.

Aside from fear.

Fear is why I priced my books so low to begin with – I was afraid no one would see the value in them and pay a higher price. Fear is why I don’t talk about being a writer with people I know personally – because I’m afraid of all the negative connotations that might bring, and also the “oh, I’ll read your book” or “I’m reading your book this weekend” statements that never result in feedback.

Incidentally, if you’re going to read my book(s), be kind. Don’t tell me you’re going to. Just do, and then if you liked it, tell me (or just leave a review wherever you got it). If you didn’t like it, we’ll both be happier (and things will be less awkward) if I don’t even know you read it.

But seriously. I’m more afraid of what people will think if they know I’m an author than what they think when they see my tattoos. Even I know that’s seriously messed up and backwards. Especially when I’ve devoted an entire arm to tough, resilient animal tattoos reminding me to be bold and strong and fearless. I really need to work on taking my own advice.

And yes, I got the bookstore manager’s card, and will follow up with that whole “will you add me to the author page, please?” thing. And getting my books into the store.

Do you have a “thinking” chair? What are you afraid of? Post a comment – as Red Green says, “We’re all in this together!”


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Gettin’ Organized, Stayin’ Healthy, Movin’ Forward

Super-quick recap: Magnesium rocks, hormones suck, and aging is hell on the body. Yes, I know I’m not all that old yet, but man…my metabolism decided to just go on vacation once I hit the late 30’s, and now in my 40’s I’m trying rather desperately to drag it back and get it under control. Annoying, but possible, perhaps. Now that I’ve gotten my supplements in line and my focus & motivation back (thank God), I’m weight lifting again, which feels really good, and hopefully will be the final piece in my “put your metabolism back to work” puzzle. I don’t miss much about my younger years, but a healthy, fast metabolism is definitely one of those things.

In any case, the whole “getting my focus back” thing has made me realize just how nutty my brain actually was for the last few years, and also how much I need to put some new organizing structures in place now that I can actually see the way forward again. Some of that is household related – budgeting, meal planning, restructuring routines, and some of it is side-business related – namely, publishing. I started wondering how I’d kept things going for so long in that ridiculously unmotivated mindset, and then I realized, I really haven’t. Which is probably why I’ve been having trouble keeping track of things with this latest release I’m trying to do. I needed to buy ISBNs, and kept forgetting. Had a huge struggle with cover art for a lot of reasons, but one was not having a clear vision of the series as a whole. And then getting formatting scheduled, leaving myself time for uploading and getting the print copy put together and the print wrap done and writing a blurb, getting a couple new web sites up and running for the new alter-ego….

I was sort of drowning in everything, to be honest. And I knew what I needed was something (paper, digital, whatever!) to help me manage my writing projects. I’ve needed something to help me keep track of characters, profiles and important scenes for a long time, and nothing’s worked long term, but while I was looking for project management software this week (and not really wanting to pay an arm and a leg for it after buying more ISBNs), I actually came up with something I think will work perfectly for me, both for publishing project management and keeping writing projects organized.

If you haven’t heard of mind mapping, go check out MindMeister. It’s mind-mapping on steroids, and includes notes, task lists and due dates, and is easily used by collaborators if that’s your thing. And then MeisterTask is a sort of companion program, and you can actually create a mind map, and then export the items into a MeisterTask list in order to have a very convenient and easy to organize “kan ban board” style of task list. And both the mind map and task list have email notifications, so you don’t have to keep checking the list for what’s next if you set deadlines right up front.

Not everyone’s mind works this way, but I tell you what – just using the free versions of those two tools got my latest publishing project organized in about 20 minutes (and that’s just due to the learning curve). I can’t see myself ever needing more than the free version of MeisterTask, and I may eventually pony up for the lowest tier of MindMeister just for the ability to print maps that I make for my series books.

Yes, I get excited about new organizing tools. I love them – always have. I’ve been using “You Need A Budget” (YNAB) for budgeting, which I both hate and love at the same time. I hate budgeting, period – always have. But I need to budget and get some debt paid down and just get control of my spending, so I’m forcing myself. It’s not always easy, and never actually “fun”, but it is working, so I’ll keep doing it. *sigh*

I really need to do the same basic thing with food – “budget”. I’m kind of a food hoarder, so I buy way too much, and then waste way too much. I also spend too much time deciding what to make on any given day for both lunch and dinner (except Mondays, when lunch is always burritos, Thursdays, when dinner is always pizza, and Fridays, when lunch is always…leftover pizza). I need to develop a good solid meal plan and dinner rotation so the decisions are made on the weekends, and I don’t have to think much during the week – just cook.

Note: the calendar software I have already has meal-planning capabilities, so while there are “sexier” programs out there, I’m doing my level best to use what I have. I think I may have the most luck though with a couple of simple menu boards for the kitchen. Sometimes low-tech is still the best way to actually get something done.

In that same vein, I may have just ordered some new cookware for one of my cousin’s online Pampered Chef parties. I have a small kitchen that is overflowing with Pampered Chef (and other stuff), but I managed to convince myself that new bakeware would come in handy.

So. Menu-planning to use food, and now to use/justify new cookware too. Sounds about right. Right?

Moving Right Along…

Last week was kind of like a bad thriller – mostly unbelievable with a few redeeming scenes here and there. Even this past Sunday pretty much sucked when I discovered a pinhole leak in a hose under the kitchen sink (all I wanted was a garbage bag, dang it!), and then couldn’t get the connector off so I could replace it. It’s currently covered in electrical tape, which is covered with a layer of duct tape to keep it from leaking this week, since we won’t have time to get back to it until next Saturday. Fingers crossed that will all hold for the next 6 days.

So, now you know why this post is late. That whole little discovery, from finding water, to figuring out what was leaking, to a trip to the hardware store (the dogs enjoyed that, at least), to spending an hour or so trying to disconnect things without breaking them took way, way too long. And of course I was tired, due to being up way too late again Sat. night because of the stupid gel polish that, once applied, refuses to let go of my nails.

Apparently some of us just have that problem, and the only way to deal with it is to either not use gel polish, or to get a good electronic file, file the color off (which does work – yay!), and backfill the base coat before polishing again (instead of removing the base, so you don’t damage your natural nails). I learned that by surfing several out-of-the-way nail tech sites and youtube videos while waiting for my regular polish to dry after pitting my own gel polish base coat with my very old e-file to remove last week’s manicure.

A new electronic file, and better technique thanks to youtube videos, and that should solve my gel polish problem. As soon as the mess I made of my nails grows out and I can try again, anyways.

There were a few good things that came out of last week though. My alter-ego’s draft is all finished and ready for formatting, and the cover art is done for the ebook. It feels good to be on the verge of publishing something again. Good, bad, or ugly, the writing cycle doesn’t really feel complete until you put it out there to sink or swim, as it will.

I also caught up on a writing motivation lecture series I bought awhile back and never finished, and came up with a new plan for nightly scheduling to hopefully get more done as far as studying writing craft and keeping up with publishing business goes.

Provided this week is more…cooperative than last, I should be able to get a fair amount of writing done, at least one newsletter out, and some editing done on another draft that’s nearly ready to release. Here’s hoping.

And with any luck, back to nightly workouts as well. I didn’t get a single one in last week, which sucks. I really do need that to keep the stress levels and weight down.

So. New week, new motivation, same ol’ optimism that things won’t be *too* bad. Forward, ho!

On MSTW, Ambition & Business…

First off, I need to show off the new cover for MacKenzie Saves The World (because I think it’s totally cool):

MSTW_400

I have the edits back and I’ll be working on those just as soon as I finish up one more draft that’s *this close* to being done. I’ve pushed back the release date for MSTW to November 14th, which I know is a long time to wait, but I’ll be setting up pre-orders soon on Amazon and any other online retailer that will allow it, so I’ll let you know when that option is available for those who’d like to “set and forget” it for your ereader.

I’ll also have the print copy ready by then, and I’ll be setting up a Goodreads giveaway within the next week or so for advanced copies – I’ll let you know when that goes live.

I’ll also be starting up my monthly newsletter again in November, and it will contain something special for subscribers that won’t be announced or offered anywhere else, so watch your inboxes the first week of November for that (if you’re not signed up and want to be, there’s a sign up box on the right side of the blog…).

I know, I haven’t sent a newsletter in a long time. And I haven’t published a book in quite awhile either. It’s been a busy writing year.

A couple years ago, I decided to back off pretty much all promotional activities and focus on writing and publishing several books per year. The writing thing worked fine, but for the last two years in a row I’ve sabotaged myself by taking on too many projects at once and not focusing on what I already have going, which results in longer times to finish drafts and less books published in a year (exactly the opposite of what I’d been going for). So many fun ideas, so little time…

In any case, with very (very) little promotion and long wait times between books, sales have plummeted, which is good in a round-about way because the need for my book business to pay its own way (and the fact that it currently isn’t, but has in the past) has given me a nice little shot of ambition to stay on track and make/meet writing & publishing goals going forward.

I’m glad I took the time to just write for these past years, because not only do I have a clearer plan of what I’m capable of in terms of projects and deadlines, but I’m also in a far better position now to leverage promotional opportunities *and still get my writing done* than I was before. So even though I delayed things a bit, in the grand scheme, it was still a good decision.

Now, it’s time to get back to work on the business side of things, and ironically, that means slowing down for the next few months while I finish up current projects and organize the next few releases for maximum exposure.

It also means sticking to my scheduled bedtime to get enough sleep so I can tackle both the day job and the “night job” without getting too burnt out.

Here’s to new books, cool covers, and being indie, which means I can figure this business out at my own pace. 😉


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