This Week in Self-Publishing: Catch-Up Thoughts

Money earned (total): $6,917.37

Money spent (total): $1,545

Money earned (this week): $0

Money spent (this week): $0

I’m catching up after a week of being on the JoCo Cruise, so here are some catch-up thoughts.


First, I paid $75.24 a few weeks ago to get 200 promotional cards to distribute on the JoCo Cruise. On all the JCCs I’ve previously been on—which is to say five—there was a big central space for everyone to deposit and share their promo and swag.

This year, there wasn’t. Which means I am very much regretting having printed the words “pre-order” on these cards, because they’ll become obsolete in a few months. Why didn’t I just print “order?” Or just leave it at the tagline and the website? (Because I was going to be on a boat with 1,400 people and I thought for sure I could give away 200 cards.)


It is interesting to think of how much money I’ve “wasted” on stuff I didn’t fully understand, like the fact that there wouldn’t be a promo table on JCC, or that deal with the ISBNs. It’s all tax-deductible, so that’s fine, but still. Learning costs. (Which currently total $350.24.)


One thing I didn’t learning-cost myself into was subscribing to Adobe InDesign for $19.99 a month. I did a free trial instead, and quickly decided that I’ll probably need to outsource the print layout. I can do it myself if I need to, but it might look better if someone else does it. I’m working on getting all of that sorted right now.


On the “things I’m doing right” column; we’re one month from the pre-order launch and I have sold between 75–100 copies, based on the data I’ve gotten from Pronoun and Amazon. I’m telling myself it’s very definitely 75, that I shouldn’t hope for more, but I’m also telling myself that selling 300 copies before the launch date in May equals SUCCESS (selling 500 copies equals HUGE SUCCESS) and I am a third of the way there.


I can’t really start checking my email for my Kirkus, BlueInk, and Foreword Clarion reviews until next week, but I’m already getting antsy because I want a few stamps of approval—first to have them and second so I can leverage them as part of my media strategy. (“Why yes, you absolutely should read my brilliantly-reviewed novel and interview me on your thing.”)

I mean, maybe the reviews won’t be good. There is always that possibility.


I’m reading Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years trilogy, which I put off until I had drafted both volumes of The Biographies of Ordinary People because I didn’t want to be influenced inappropriately.

It was a good choice, because the two novels share both content and style similarities, although they’re so vastly different that no one’s going to say I’m copying Smiley. The way the books are the same has to do with the way the narrative progresses through time (which is the obvious comparison) and the use of a really tight, third-person limited point of view that alternates between characters’ perspectives.

It’s the tight part that’s similar, and it’s something I’ve only seen in a handful of other books, and there’s probably a word for it that I don’t know.

But some books, especially ones that span decades of story, have narration that kind of swoops up and gives you an overhead view of three or four years flying by before barreling down and settling in a particular character’s POV. (I’ll call this the corvid method, because that’s how they fly. Including the part where they like to get really close to people’s heads for five seconds before taking off again.)

Smiley’s trilogy, and my… duology… never rise up to the overhead view. We stick to short, intimate moments in our characters’ lives, and then we share another moment that happens a few months or a few years later, and we trust that our readers will get it; that the single, focused scenes share more about the characters, and how they’re changing, than would a bird’s-eye view of the passing years.

(Also, the bird’s-eye view thing often makes me feel like I’m eating food too fast. To mix multiple metaphors.)

The other really interesting thing about Smiley’s trilogy is that her second volume has the same problem as my second volume. Book 1 takes place within a single town and a few fixed locations (home, school, best friend’s house) and Book 2 takes place when all of the children have left home and are moving to new colleges, towns, jobs, etc. every year or so.

So I’d be reading her second book and thinking “wait, where are we? DC or San Francisco?” and then having to backtrack, my brain doing extra work that it doesn’t normally do when the entirety of a book is set in a single town (and when a character walks into a living room, it’s the same living room as it was 20 pages ago).

It’s good to know that the problem isn’t in the writing, or even necessarily in the reading—it’s in the way we’ve been trained to read books, which aren’t usually about people who live the way real people do, moving apartments and changing jobs every few years. (Smiley’s trilogy also doesn’t have a “plot” in the way Biographies doesn’t have a “plot.” I love this. It’s proof that it works.)

I want to send Jane Smiley a copy of The Biographies of Ordinary People and say “look, we both wrote these stories, and they are different and good and important,” but that would take a level of presumption that I do not have, and also I’ve heard authors hate that kind of thing.

So those are all of the catch-up thoughts I’ve had this week. See you next Friday. ❤

 

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