This Week in Self-Publishing: On Medium Claps and Climate Change

Patreon revenue (total): $6,909

Book revenue (total): $913.75

Book sales (total): 201 ebooks, 134 paperbacks

Book expenses (total): $4,274.85

Money spent this week: $35 (on this month’s BargainBooksy promo)

It’s been a month since my first BargainBooksy promo, which means I’m eligible to BargainBooksy again. The promo goes live on Sunday, so I’m predicting a spike in sales over Sunday-Monday-Tuesday, but I’m going to bet that it will be a slightly smaller spike than I got with the first promo, because… a lot of BargainBooksy’s readers will have already seen the book when it promo’d last month, and the people who bought the book aren’t likely to buy it again.

What about the people who didn’t buy the book during the first promo? There’s this theory that showing people something more than once makes them more likely to buy it—which is why we’ve all got products following us from one sidebar ad to another—but there’s also the FUCK YES or NO theory, which suggests that people who have already said no to my book aren’t likely to say yes to it.

Who knows? I am excited to see what happens.

And now that my website is all built and I’m lookin’ all profesh, I am excited to start submitting to some of the more exclusive promo sites.

That’ll be next month.

So I didn’t plan to transition This Week in Self-Publishing away from Medium right as they introduced the claps thing, but… I am so glad I don’t have to deal with the claps thing.

A quick summary: Medium decided to junk its former “recommend” metric and is now ranking all articles (past and present) based on the number of claps they receive.

Yes, an individual reader can tap the clap button more than once (but not more than fifty times).

No, not all claps are equal. Medium will rank some clappers’ claps as clappier than others’ claps based on how often they clap and how many claps they clap:

Our system will evaluate your claps on an individual basis, assessing your evaluation of a story relative to the number of claps you typically send. All this will help the stories that matter most rise to the top.

I think the clap system is crap. Especially the part where Medium is going to start distributing writers’ pay based on clap value:

For the creators in the program, each month you will be paid based on the level of engagement your stories get from Medium members. Essentially, we look at the engagement of each individual member (claps being the primary signal) and allocate their monthly subscription fee based on that engagement.

Which puts writers in the embarrassing position of having to make like Allison Williams in Peter Pan Live! 

Not that this is all that different from the way Kindle Unlimited divides up its pie. But it feels different. With KU, authors get paid by the number of pages read, which—although there are plenty of ways people have tried to game that system—is a fairly straightforward metric. You either keep reading or you don’t.

With Medium Claps, a binary metric (recommend/don’t recommend) becomes a… um… fiftynary metric.

Either you clap once or you don’t.

Either you clap twice or you don’t.

Either you clap three times or you don’t.


You could argue that it’s the same as “either you turn page one or you don’t, either you turn page two or you don’t,” but the clapper doesn’t get anything from additional claps, the way the reader gets more information/entertainment/story/emotion from additional page turns.

Medium’s asked all of us to do more work, and make more decisions, for nothing.

Which is why I’m glad that it happened right when I started this-here blog.

On a completely different topic, I was very interested to read the Seattle Review of Books’ review of Amitav Ghosh’s Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable.

As Jonathan Hiskes writes:

In The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Ghosh examines why contemporary fiction struggles so mightily to respond to climate change. The title phrase explains how future historians will regard writers and literary tastemakers of our current era, Ghosh says. The sort of fiction that wins prizes, appears in literary journals, and draws invitations from high-minded festivals acts as if climate warning signs don’t exist. Merely mentioning the subject risks being relegated to the lower-prestige world of science fiction, as if “climate change were somehow akin to extraterrestrials or interplanetary travel.”

If you’ve read The Biographies of Ordinary People, you know that I make plenty of subtle references to climate change. A book that anchors itself to specific years and seasons needs to allude to steadily warming temperatures and winters without snow.

But I also left some stuff out. Back to the SROB:

Ghosh became an accomplished, celebrated novelist, and he wondered why he never drew from the tornado in his fiction, which frequently incorporates significant weather events. He concluded that it was too improbable. Serious contemporary fiction, he realized, relies on a pact with readers that they can expect a “realistic” world.

My hometown was one of the towns affected by the Great Flood of 1993, a 500-year-flood that happened sooner than expected. When I wrote Biographies, I time-jumped over 1993 on purpose; writing the flood would require me to put my imagined Kirkland, Missouri in a specific part of the state and formally link it to my actual hometown, which was not one of my goals with this book. (You did read the Author’s Note, right?)

So I kept the climate change and cut the flood.

And the tornado.

I guess that means they’re still there for me to write about someday, if I want to. ❤


Registration is open for my Hugo House class on how to manage—and grow—your freelance income!

Registration just opened for my newest Hugo House class, “How to Manage—and Grow—Your Freelance Income.”

This is a one-session course on Saturday, October 7, from 1:00–4:00 p.m. It’ll be held at Hugo House in Seattle, and although all students are welcome, it is specifically designed for writers who have started their freelance career (full or part-time) and are looking to increase their income.

Here’s the official class description:

To build a successful freelance writing career, you need to learn how to both manage and grow your income. This means tracking your current income, knowing how much work you need to book in order to hit short- and long-term income goals, and budgeting for both high and low cash-flow months. This course will look at the mechanics of freelance income management, and students will leave with spreadsheet templates to help them track and grow their own freelance earnings.

I’ve been publicly tracking my freelance income since 2012, and I’ve grown my income by $20K each year for the past two years, so… I have some experience with this. 😉

Early Bird pricing is in effect through August 28, which means prices are currently $70.10 for Hugo House members and $79.00 for non-members. After that, prices will go up to $80.10 and $89.00, respectively.

My classes have hit capacity before, so sign up now if you’re interested! Leave any questions in the comments, and I hope to see you there!

If I didn’t start a blog to share quotes like this, then what is a blog even FOR

The thing about Twitter is that no one who uses it needs an explanation of why it is the worst. It is an endlessly self-renewing bonfire of outrage and confusion, and in order to sustain that bonfire it converts bullshit into fuel in a way that makes the 24-hour news cycle look prim and ascetic. As Erin Gloria Ryan tweeted the day after Charlottesville, “Twitter is great because it makes you feel like you are always right in the middle of the worst thing currently happening in the world.” Even when nothing much is happening, that is its purpose: to swing like the flaming eye of Sauron onto whatever fresh outrage it can find, and direct the dread orc-legions of Mordor to converge on it.

We are all orcs, in this simile.

But in the aftermath of something genuinely traumatic like the twin horrors of Charlottesville and then the press conference, we forget our mistrust of Twitter and hang onto it like Nicholas Cage clinging to the top of the careening fire truck at the end of Con Air. It’s all we have, and that includes people who work for the government. Let’s be clear: civil servants don’t receive some top-secret email blast from the NSA giving them the straight dope on whatever’s going on—even the NSA was checking Twitter during Charlottesville, and they found out about the press conference the same way everyone else did, and with the same gathering horror everyone else did.

Sam Ashworth, from his Rumpus essay Dispatches From the Swamp: Storm’s Coming.

Photo credit: Dolan, CC BY 2.0.

I have a new website! Plus: Readerfest and a reader review

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.


1. I have a new website! It’s technically still, but it looks way different now! You should go check it out after you finish reading the eight other updates!

2. My favorite part of my new website is the part where I clarify my social media boundaries:

I use Twitter and Tumblr to share links to my daily Billfold posts along with the other freelance writing work I do every week, so they’re great places to follow my vast & fast writing output.

I use Instagram to share what I’m reading and where I’m going. If you want to know even more about what I’m reading, follow me on Goodreads.

Look at that. It’s so simple. This is what I do on Tumblr, this is what I do on Twitter, this is what I do on Instagram. I don’t have to tweet my grams, because Instagram photos don’t look as good on Twitter (plus the conversation on Twitter right now is very different from the conversation on Instagram). I don’t have to get Facebook involved at all.

I already feel so much better about social media, just by defining what I want to do with it and what you’ll get if you follow me.

3. My readings at Another Read Through in Portland and Fact & Fiction in Missoula went great. Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks to Kayla Cagan, Marian Call, and Seth Boyer for making the Missoula reading a jam-packed (LITERALLY, PUN INTENDED, IT HAD MUSIC) event.

4. My next appearance will be at Readerfest in Seattle on Saturday, September 9. I’ll be part of some panels on self-publishing and literary fiction, and I’ll be doing a book signing. Readerfest is a brand-new book festival, which means that everyone who shows up the first year will help shape what this festival becomes over the next few years. In other words: I hope to see you there.

5. I want to share an excerpt from one of Biographies Vol. 1’s Goodreads reviews, because I love the way readers have been responding to this book, and this particular review touches on one of the reasons I thought this story needed to exist:

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that there are things that don’t happen in The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1. There is no adultery or divorce. There are no surprise love children or long-buried family secrets coming to light. There are some tough financial times, but no bankruptcy or ruin. There is death, but no murder.

I think I was nearly done reading the book before I realized that I was still half-holding my breath and waiting for any of the above things to happen. A sweeping family saga that tells the story from multiple characters’ perspectives must, at the very least, involve one or two extramarital affairs—right?

That’s what I’ve been conditioned to believe, but The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1upended my expectations in the most pleasant of ways. Nicole Dieker (who, full disclosure, has edited my articles for The Billfold at times) has written an engrossing story without falling back on any bombshell plot moves.

There is actually a divorce in the book, but it’s mostly finalized before we’re introduced to the characters. But yeah, I didn’t put a big secret or mystery or threat at the center of the story because life usually isn’t about solving the big problem that’s at the center of everything. It’s about the smaller conflicts and the everyday mysteries of who we are and what we want and how we can love each other.

(I just wrote that, by the way, with the understanding that right now we really DO have a big problem that’s at the center of everything, and we’re all kinda struggling with the fact that we can’t three-act-structure solve it.)

6. I’m going to be teaching a class at Seattle’s Hugo House on Saturday, October 7: How to Manage—and Grow—Your Freelance Income. Signups open on August 22. My previous Hugo House classes have hit capacity, so if you want to be part of this one, sign up soon.

7. Yes, I just added a piece of news that wasn’t related to The Biographies of Ordinary People. I’d like to expand this TinyLetter to include updates related to my teaching and writing work. How do you feel about that? I don’t plan on sending a gob of emails, but I do want to tell you when I’m doing stuff like conventions or classes. (And, of course, whatever novel I end up writing after Biographies Vol. 2.)

Is that… something you might appreciate, or do you just want all Biographies all the time?

8. The best thing I wrote in the past week is probably Thoughts From Missoula, at The Billfold. (I also like the #SquadGoals piece I wrote for The Write Life, if you want something less political.)

9. The best podcast episode I heard in the past week was Lucy Bellwood’s conversation with Abby Kraai—they discuss practice, and boundaries, and being the kind of creative person who wants to share as much as possible while also keeping part of themselves just for themselves. (That last bit is #1 thing I am dealing with right now, besides OUR CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION.)

Lucy Bellwood’s podcast is Patreon-locked, so if you want something else to listen to I’ll recommend the newest Friendshipping Podcast episode: “Sucky Eel Friends and Midwestern Dads.”

Thanks for reading. ❤️

Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash.

This Week in Self-Publishing: My To-Do List

Patreon revenue: $6,909

Book revenue: $899.96

Book sales: 196 ebooks, 134 paperbacks

Book expenses: $4,239.85

Money spent this week: $96.53 (on awards fees and shipping for the IPPYs and the Washington State Book Awards)

So I just want to run down all the stuff, really quickly, because I have a lot of work to do and the news is THE NEWS. You know.

The Missoula reading at Fact & Fiction went very well! There was music, there was reading, and then Marian Call led a short Q&A afterwards. (I’m always glad when there’s someone to MC the Q&A. It goes so much better than when I try to do it myself, because if nobody has any questions the MC can always ask one of their own, and that usually prompts an audience member to think of one.)

I don’t have Missoula sales to announce because they didn’t do a consignment agreement (where I provided the books and they sold them and we split the money). They ordered the books outright from IngramSpark, so I don’t know how many of my Ingram sales were from Missoula. I’d guess the same number that I’ve been selling at my other readings: 10–15ish.

I submitted Biographies to the IPPYs and the Washington State Book Awards this week. I opened up the Ben Franklin awards page and thought “$225? Seriously?” and then I wondered if I really needed to submit to that award.

I’m getting more hesitant to spend money on this book, now that it’s out in the world and I can see what it’s doing. I’m definitely going to spend some money on book promos like Bargain Booksy and Reading Deals and etc.—because we’ve already proven that those earn back their investments—but I’ve already submit to five awards, and maybe I can be done?


Right. Moving on.

Right now Nicole Dieker Dot Com redirects to an animated GIF of a kitten falling over, which is adorable, but it also means that I am in the process of building a new website.

I am at the very beginning of the process, and since I am doing this while simultaneously helping The Billfold with its website migration, I know just how much work this is going to take.

But I want this website so badly. I feel like it’s the next step in my professional process: gettin’ a site that has all my stuff in one place, and migrating these posts over to it, and linking to my freelance work and myHugo House classes, and telling everyone to sign up for my TinyLetter.

So I gotta build this site. And get new headshots. MY HAIR ISN’T EVEN THAT COLOR ANYMORE.

The trouble with getting new headshots is that I feel like I haven’t made a genuine smile since Trump got elected.

So my current order of operations is:

  1. Do the website
  2. Do this month’s Bargain Booksy promo
  3. Start sending out thoughtful & interesting TinyLetters that include links to this week’s This Week in Self-Publishing post as well as my best freelance stuff from the week, interesting links I’ve read, upcoming appearances, you know how TinyLetters work
  4. Submit Biographies Vol. 1 to other promo sites
  5. Appear at Readerfest in Seattle on September 9—YES, THAT IS MY NEXT PUBLIC THING, LET’S HANG
  6. Focus fully on revising Biographies Vol. 2 (I have several weekends blocked off for this)


PROBABLY YES. I am good at doing a lot of things.

But wow this will take a lot of work, in addition to all of my freelance work and checking in with whatever’s happened in the world since I began writing this post. ❤


This Week in Self-Publishing: En Route to Missoula

Patreon revenue: $6,909

Book revenue: $888.20

Book sales: 193 ebooks, 133 paperbacks

Book expenses: $4,143.32

Money spent this week: $0.00 (Did I include the cost of flights/hotels to Missoula back when I bought them? I can’t remember. I should do a more thorough tally at some point, because I know I didn’t count the cost of the Bolt Bus to Portland last week. I think I forget that travel also counts as book expenses.)

I’m writing this from a tiny plane en route to Missoula, where I’ll be doing a reading tonight at 5:30 p.m. at Fact & Fiction bookstore with author Kayla Cagan and musicians Marian Call and Seth Boyer.

The plane is so old that I can’t imagine how old it actually must be; the seats are comfortable and wide and there is enough legroom for two of me if we sat in front of each other.

There’s also… I mean, I’m not sure this plane has wings? It must have wings. But I can’t see them — only these propeller tube things attached to the plane by metal bars, the kind of apparatus that I can only imagine coming apart.

But it hasn’t come apart yet, because this plane has flown for so long that it feels like being in the past. I have to keep reminding myself that this is, in fact, right now.

I sold nine books at my reading at Another Read Through last Friday, and I don’t know yet exactly how much I’ve earned from those sales, but the check should be arriving soon.

I’ve also been getting more Amazon reviews, all of which remind me that this book is doing exactly what I hoped it would do. Here’s one excerpt:

Being the oldest in the family and an ardent reader I related to Meredith in the beginning. I saw myself in Natalie when she got her first glasses. I understood Rosemary (the mother) even as I was bonding with her children. Jack the father reminded me of my father.

Nicole Dieker writes in a style that makes you feel you are a fly on the wall. I found myself reading “just one more chapter” until I reached the end. I am happy that it was not really “the end” and look forward to her next book.

(If you liked that review and you haven’t yet bought The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000here’s the link.)

Also, to the person who included in their review that they were glad this was a trilogy, um… it’s a duology. For now. I’m pretty sure forever. Since Volume 2 ends in 2016, I’d have to wait another 15 years before I could write another book about these characters.

I am in the process of creating a new website, in which I’ll be able to showcase my freelance writing work, my novel, and my teaching. It’ll serve as an online portfolio as well as a place for me to put these blog posts (sorry Medium, we had a good run) and any other bloggy-type stuff I want to share.

I know it’s ridiculous to think of writing even more blog posts in addition to my daily work at The Billfold and my monthly work at Lifehacker, The Write Life, The Verbs, and (And revising and prepping Volume 2 for publication.)

But… like, I wrote this post for The Billfold about wanting to detach a little from social media. I used the phrase “I could be one of those people who makes the successful transition from social media renter to website homeownership,” which is… apt. I want a home base that I can call my own, where I can showcase my work and share my thoughts.

I’m also going to apply for three more awards when I get back: the IPPYs and the Ben Franklin awards, which I’ve mentioned before, along with the Washington State Book Awards, which I just learned about and which are apparently free to enter as long as I mail six copies of my book to the Seattle Public Library? I can do that.

And, of course, do another BargainBooksy promo and start applying at the other promo sites, now that I have more Amazon reviews. (Thank you.)

So that’s where I am this week. Literally in the air, as I try to put a bunch of things together and get whatever this becomes started. ❤

This Week in Self-Publishing: I Got My First Royalty Payments

Patreon revenue: $6,909

Book revenue: $858.05

Book sales: 184 ebooks, 122 paperbacks

Book expenses: $4,143.32

Money spent this week: $0.00

This week, I received my first royalty payments: $283.86 from Pronoun and $29.37 from IngramSpark. (The Pronoun money represents ebooks sold through May 31, and the IngramSpark money represents paperbacks sold through April 30.)

The Biographies of Ordinary People also got its fifth Amazon review, which means I’m now eligible to submit Biographies to a few more promotion sites—which, in turn, should get me some more sales and reviews, which will open up more promotion sites, and so on.

But… I’m not going to do the promotions right away.

First, I’m going to get on a bus to go to Portland and do my reading at Another Read Through. (7 p.m. tonight! Hope to see you there!)

Then, I’ll fly to Missoula and read at Fact & Fiction along with author Kayla Cagan and musicians Marian Call and Seth Boyer. (Friday August 11, 5:30 p.m., and I hope to see you there too!)

Then I need to submit my book to the IPPY and the IBPA awards before the early-bird deadlines run out.

Then I need to re-do my website and prioritize my TinyLetter.

Once all of that is done, I’ll be ready to go for the bigger promotion sites. After all, the goal isn’t just to sell books. It’s to get mailing list subscribers, blog readers, etc. etc. etc. and I want everything I’m presenting to them to look… like something they want.

And something I want, because—like I wrote last week—I want a professional website that highlights both my freelance and my fiction work. I also want to share more through blog posts and TinyLetters and less through Twitter and Tumblr. (Though I’ll still crosspost my TinyLetter to social media. You gotta do that.)

That’s all for now because I gotta GET ON A BUS, y’all. ❤