Writing & Money launches today! Listen to Episode 0, How to Pitch

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I am SO EXCITED to announce that Writing & Money is live!

As a reminder: Writing & Money is my new podcast, in which I tell you EVERYTHING I KNOW about earning money from your writing.

Some episodes will be free, but most episodes will be subscription-only. If you choose to subscribe, it’s $1 per month. That gets you two episodes per month PLUS access to the Writing & Money community, where we can share pitch critiques, discuss how to identify good clients, and… well, it’ll be your community as much as mine, so we’ll see what it becomes!

Writing & Money is set up through Patreon, so that’s where you’ll go to subscribe. That’s also where the community forums will be located. If you’re a subscriber, you’ll get instructions on how to add Writing & Money to your favorite podcast app; if you’re not a subscriber, follow @writingandmoney on Twitter to learn when the next free episode will be released.

(Actually, subscribers should probably follow @writingandmoney too.)

Want to start listening right away? Here’s Episode 0: How to Pitch. ❤️

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SPACE TIME is coming, so is WRITING & MONEY

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

Two pieces of news for you today!

1. Marian Call’s Space Time (Los Angeles version) is Sunday, November 5 at 8 p.m. at Kulak’s Woodshed. Tickets are $20–30 and you can get them here. I will be reading a chapter from Biographies Vol. 2 and… well, the rest’ll be a surprise.

1.5. Marian Call’s Space Time (Seattle version) is Saturday, November 19 at 7 p.m. at the Jewel Box Theater. Tickets have not yet gone on sale, but I’ll let you know when they do.

2. Writing & Money, a new podcast in which I help you earn money from your writing, goes live next Monday. Get excited now by following @writingandmoney on Twitter! Some episodes will be free, but most will be subscriber-only. (The subscription is just $1 per month because I want to make sure that the money writers earn from the tips I give them will ALWAYS EXCEED THE COST OF LISTENING TO THOSE TIPS.)

Also, I’m leaving Seattle soon. (Very soon.) I’m moving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and if you want to know more about that, I’ve written about it for both Nicole Dieker Dot Com and The Billfold.

(Should that count as a third piece of news?)

I’ll send you another email on Monday to officially announce WRITING & MONEY. I’m so excited about this project—if it goes well, it won’t be just a podcast. It’ll be a community. ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: Asterisms and Changing the Past

This Week

Books sold: 0 ebooks, 0 paperbacks

Money earned: $0

Money spent: $0

(Wow. This is the first week with zero sales. I should start thinking of new ways to reach new readers.)

Total

Books sold: 332 ebooks, 136 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,241.14

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,820.71


My BookLife Prize Critic’s Report for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 noted that the text included “awkward shifts in perspective.”

That’s the type of criticism I can do something about, unlike, say, Kirkus’s “why is everyone so polite?” (I love that they wrote that, by the way.)

The majority of the Biographies chapters take place within a single character’s viewpoint, meaning the perspective shifts when the chapter ends. No big deal. Readers are used to that kind of thing.

But there are a handful of chapters in both volumes—the ones that deal with major life transitions like graduations or weddings—that give us multiple characters’ viewpoints. Since I’m a musician, it makes sense to alternate between solo pieces and choral numbers; since I’m a musical theater nerd, I also liked the idea of placing those big ensemble pieces in exactly the right spots, dramatically.

And yes, that type of “head hopping” is an accepted fiction technique. But you have to make sure the reader can follow along and that the shifts in perspective aren’t, to borrow the phrase, “awkward.”

One of the best ways to help the reader follow along is to put breaks between perspective shifts. Pronoun did not not include that feature when I published Vol. 1—like, there was no option for a double hard return, much less an asterism*—but it has since been added, and I have been happily applying it to Vol. 2 to indicate both shifts in perspective and (in the example pictured) shifts in time.

I want to go back and add it to Vol. 1 too.

From what I understand, updating my ebook files with Amazon will not affect the books you have already purchased unless you enable “automatic book updates” in your Kindle settings.

So you’ll have to decide whether you want the “with asterisks” version or the “without asterisks” version. (All new buyers will automatically get “with asterisks,” after I make the update.)

I also plan on updating the Vol. 1 print copy, both to add the asterisks AND to fix the single mistake I found after I thought I had found all the mistakes. Also, I want to rework the back cover copy slightly.

This feels a bit like “changing the past,” but books can have more than one edition! It’s a thing! Just like head-hopping is a thing!

And if it makes it easier for readers to follow the shifts in perspective, then it’s a good thing. ❤️

* Yes I know that an asterism is actually three asterisks in a triangle shape, and I’d really love for Pronoun to let me create asterisms PLEASE PLEASE NEXT UPDATE

This Week in Self-Publishing: On Intuition

This Week

Books sold: 1 ebooks, 0 paperbacks

Money earned: $2.79

Money spent: $0

Total

Books sold: 332 ebooks, 136 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,241.14

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,820.71


I just have a few more Volume 2 revisions and rewrites to make this weekend, and then I’ll be ready to move on to the next phase of the publication process.

You’re going to ask me “how do I know that the revisions are done?”

The short answer is that I made a list of everything I wanted to revise.

The longer answer is intuition.


In non-self-publishing news, I’m thinking about moving from Seattle to Cedar Rapids. This is where I should explain that it’s close to my parents and there’s a community arts scene and the cost of living is much more affordable and the Iowa Writers House is nearby and I just wrote two whole books about growing up in the Midwest and etc. etc. etc.

But this is what I want to tell you instead.

For the past few months, I’ve been carrying around this feeling that I finally named “evolving,” because I didn’t know what else to call it. (Also, I am well aware that evolve is an action and not an emotion.) It’s hard to describe—which is to say that some of it is very easy to describe, like the urge to purge my social media of all the people who aren’t actually part of my current social/professional circle.

(You know the joke about how our phone numbers represent the places we lived in 2008? In my case, my social media accounts represent the person I was in 2013.)

Anyway, evolving made me prickly and disinclined to do much besides work and read, and if you’re thinking “that doesn’t sound like the optimistic and cheerful Nicole I’ve been experiencing in person and online,” I will remind you that we contain multitudes and my optimism will always be part of me. Or at least I hope it will.

(My favorite jokes are the subtle ones.)

And then I went to the Safeway to get a roll of quarters so I could do laundry and I saw a copy of the Seattle Times that had a front-page article about just how much it costs to live here (we are now the third-most expensive city after New York City and San Francisco) and in that moment I knew I was going to leave Seattle.

I wasn’t even supposed to be in the Safeway that afternoon; I had gone a few days before to get groceries, and I did the thing where I paid with debit and asked for an extra $10, and then I asked if I could have it in quarters, and both of the register clerks were out, so I had to come back.


Then I bought a tarot deck.

Specifically, I bought Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven’s Prophecy tarot deck, because I still haven’t been able to get the Raven Cycle out of my head, it’s like all I want (in addition to all of the other things I want) is another five days to read the whole thing again, and even though I had thought I was a person who was VERY UNINTERESTED IN THIS KIND OF THING I got my deck and opened the book that came with it and read this:

To me, [stories] are the soul of tarot. Every spread is an opportunity to shape our current life events into a story with ourselves firmly installed as the hero at the heart of it. Stories are a way of imposing structure and control, and tarot is a way of imposing structure and control on our own spiritual growth.

And I was like yes, this aligns with my heart. 

(Also the part where Stiefvater writes that this particular deck is about being an artist.)

Having the deck first felt like having a toy, and it’s been a long time since I’ve actually had something in my hands that I could play with. I took the unshuffled, straight-out-of-the-package deck and asked it to show me my card and I pulled out the Queen of Coins and laughed, because I am currently the Queen of The Billfold and also please see that ACTUAL SPREAD OF COINS AT THE TOP OF THE POST.

Now, obviously, that’s a very literal reading of the Queen of Coins, but I didn’t know that then. The cards showed me what I needed to see at the time—or, if we’re going to get technical about it, I pulled out a card and gave it a personal meaning, but I do not want to be technical about this.

What I want to do is tell you that I played with the tarot deck like it was a toy, and then I figured out that it was one of those toys that could make you cry. Or guide you towards emotions that you might have been avoiding. Or help you draw connections between ideas.

Or, in my case, help me realize what all of this evolving was for. What could happen when I came out the other side. What I should move towards—and what I should move away from—to get there.

(Again. The subtle ones.)

I’m not going to share the full spread I did—or the question I asked when I did it—because that is way too personal. But I will share three cards I recently drew. They represent past-present-future, and you don’t need to know the more nuanced meanings of these cards to get the jist.


I used to play the piano—like, at the concerto-competition-winning level—and one of the reasons I am excited to potentially move to a place where I could rent a better apartment or an actual house (or eventually buy a house) is that I could have a piano again.

I know that if I move into an apartment I’m likely to have to get one of those headphone-capable electronic pianos with the weighted keys, the kind of piano that comes with apps and firmware updates, and I was trying to figure out why I felt so badly about my piano being a computer, because I certainly don’t mind my Kindle being a computer, and I won’t mind that whatever used car I end up getting will also be a computer.

So I was watching YouTube videos of people playing these pianos, listening to the just-like-a-real-piano sound and appreciating that somewhere, a real pianist created all of the actual piano samples that were shoved into the computer, and then I understood why I didn’t want one.

When you play a real piano, you’re playing both the instrument and the entire room. You are choosing how to touch each key to make it sound in a specific way that is unique to the space and how well you’ve warmed up and how recently the piano has been tuned and even what the weather is like outside. It’s magic in the Lev Grossman sense, and it’s worth noting that he was also a musician.

But you can’t mentally work out all of those circumstances before you sit down to play. (Some, but not all.) You have to listen, and you have to use your intuition.


I’ve been reading those essays and interviews with Philip Pullman, all the ones that say La Belle Sauvage is the best new book ever, and I keep thinking that I don’t want to know what happens to Lyra.

[Spoilers ahead.]

The end of the His Dark Materials trilogy is perfect. Not just because I have this like-an-animated-GIF memory of where I was and what I was wearing when I cried over Lyra and Will. (There have been exactly three books that have made me cry: The Last BattleThe Amber Spyglass, and The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2: 2004–2016.)

The ending is perfect because Lyra learns that it’s going to take her “a whole long life” to learn how to read the alethiometer, and as a reader who also experienced childhood prodigity that faded into adult have-to-work-for-it, my automatic response was to think of Lyra working—and then to think of how I might work, in my own whole long life, towards similar wisdom.

I don’t want to know what Lyra did next. I want both of us to keep working.


The question Lyra asks at the end of The Amber Spyglass is, honestly, “how do I make art if I’m just an ordinary person after all?”

It’s also “how do I interpret the symbols on this emotion-reflecting, future-predicting toy?”

The answer is work.

And evolution.

And intuition.

And love. ❤️

I’m Taking Over Reedsy’s Short Story Contest Next Week

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

Each of the chapters of The Biographies of Ordinary People can be read as a very short story about a single moment in a person’s life.

Which meant that when Reedsy reached out and asked if I’d like to host/judge their Short Story Contest, I knew exactly the types of stories I’d be asking for.

Here’s what you need to know:

Reedsy is a publishing startup, home to a community of over 40,000 authors and publishing professionals.

Every Friday, Reedsy kicks off a weekly short story contest by sending out a newsletter that includes five themed writing prompts. Subscribers have one week (until the following Friday) to submit a short story based on one of the prompts. A weekly winner receives $50 and publication on Reedsy’s Medium blog.

Head to reedsy.com/writing to subscribe. On Friday, October 20th, subscribers will receive a newsletter that includes the five writing prompts I have personally created. To enter the contest, just respond to the newsletter with a story that’s between 1,000–3,000 words before Friday, October 27th.

I built two entire novels out of 1,000–3,000-word stories. I’m very excited to read yours. ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: The Fussy Librarian Promo, and What Happens Next

This Week

Books sold: 1 ebooks, 0 paperbacks

Money earned: $2.79

Money spent: $0

Total

Books sold: 331 ebooks, 136 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,238.35

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,820.71


This week, I ran a Fussy Librarian promo (pictured above) that cost me $16 and earned… well, it’s a little hard to say. Did I sell just one book?

I know I didn’t sell a lot of books, thanks to Amazon’s metrics:

As you might remember, that spike on September 19 came when I discounted the book to $1.99, and sales stayed high for the rest of the month, during which I ran both a ReadingDeals and a ManyBooks promotion.

The smaller spike on October 8 was the day the Fussy Librarian promo ran.

Yes, you could say it was because of the news or something, but we’ve had bad news pretty much every day since… well, you know since how long.

So I have to conclude that the Fussy Librarian wasn’t a great promo site for me.


I’m on target to have the revisions completed by Monday, October 23, after which I’ll start doing everything else that is on my enormous Volume 2 burndown chart: writing back matter, seeking permissions, thinking about my ARC strategy, and so on.

I gave myself a huge amount of lead time to complete this project, which means that even if I fall behind schedule I’ll still have time to catch up. I also gave myself a lot of lead time because I have a lot of questions to think about in terms of marketing: what am I going to do differently this time, can I afford to hire some outside help, etc. etc. etc.

I haven’t yet done the serious thinking on how much this book is going to cost me; I mean, I have an idea of what it might cost, because I’ve been tracking Volume 1‘s expenses every week, but I need to sit down at some point and write out my anticipated income and expenses through… I don’t know, next summer… and figure out how much I might be able to spend on publishing and promoting Volume 2.

Publishing is relatively inexpensive, even with print costs, so what I actually mean is what I can afford to spend on promotion. I feel like there are two ways Volume 2 could get traction, beyond the people who buy the book because they enjoyed Volume 1: either I pay a publicist who knows how to contact the right people in terms of interviews, ads, etc.; or Volume 1 wins at least one award and both volumes get attention that way.

I didn’t do a terrible job of marketing Volume 1 on my own; I was on a handful of podcasts, I placed a bunch of articles that were about the process of writing the book, etc. (People are still reading and sharing the piece I wrote for Jane Friedman’s blog.)

But I feel like Volume 2 is going to be my last chance to get people excited about this story, and I want people to read it because it’s a really good story. By this time next year, both volumes will be “old releases” and we’ll have moved on to something new, so I have to figure out how to optimize the time I have.


The other question is  “what happens after Volume 2 is published?” I have some ideas. The obvious thing that needs to happen is that I start writing another book.

The smart move would be to start writing the new book while I was prepping and promoting Volume 2, and the reason I’m not doing that comes down to time management; my days are already filled with freelance work and Senior Editoring The Billfold.  We have yet to see whether self-publishing will be a successful career path for me; freelance writing has been a very successful and fulfilling career so far, so it gets priority.

But it’s also okay that I’m not starting a new book now because I don’t really have a new book to write. I have ideas. Nothing that’s gotten to the outlining stage yet. They’re more like… trying to describe the dream you had last night. There’s a feeling and an image and maybe one character, but you can’t see their face clearly. You know there’s a whole story in there, but you’re going to have to make it up. ❤️

Why I Listened to the First Word Tetris Podcast Episode Twice

Word Tetris is a podcast about revision, so it’s fitting that I listened to the first episode twice.

The first time was because Merrill Barr was interviewing John Rogers. (I am one of those people who started watching Leverage three years ago after seeing it on Seanan McGuire’s Tumblr and then never stopped watching Leverage. Also, I could do a whole ‘nother blog post about the stories we choose to return to. Maybe later.)

The second time was because the first time, nearly everything John Rogers said about writing was something I was also doing.

The thing about the midpoint of a story being a “false ending?” I had literally just written about that, in the introduction for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2. (I used the term “trick ending.”)

The idea that the first draft is a way for you and the rest of the team to figure out all of the stuff that you don’t want in the second draft? I put that very phrase in an email that I sent to a client this summer.

The dream that if you just write something beautiful enough, all the doors will open for you—and then the realization that it’s actually about writing a bunch of stuff, some of it great, some of it good enough, and producing and producing and producing? Dreamed it. Realized it. (Still dream it sometimes.) I write 50,000 words a month, y’all—and that doesn’t count revisions.

The structure and the time blocking and the doing-the-same-things-in-the-same-order-every-day because writing takes mental energy and removing as much extraneous decision-making as possible gives you more energy for writing? THAT IS MY LIFE. I have the schedule. I sit in different places to do different types of work. I drink Huel for breakfast and lunch. I pixied my hair.

I also listened to the podcast the second time to remember all of the stuff I don’t currently do. The idea that the last line of the pilot should be the theme of the entire show, for example, could be roughly translated to “the last line of the first chapter should be the theme of the entire book,” and while I have a decent last line at the end of the first chapter of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1, it’s not quite the theme:

Now they were going to make a different world for themselves, Rosemary and Jack and the three little girls in their sleeping bags with the nightlight plugged into the wall, the one thing Rosemary would forget to pack when they left the next morning. Her girls would discuss it like a lost treasure, this piece of plastic shaped like a castle that they no longer owned. It would be a reminder that there once was another bedroom and another city, and that even if they spent the rest of their lives together in this small Missouri town, they would always have come from somewhere else.

I like it, and that last line sets up some of the conflict in the early part of the book, but the theme of Biographies is more like “how do we become who we are?” (I mean, honestly, the whole book is trying to answer Meredith’s question: “Where are the biographies of ordinary people?”)

So a better last line, if I hadn’t already published the book, would be more like “and this town would shape whomever they became,” which is actually a terrible last line, but you get the point.

THE POINT IS THAT I CAN BE MORE SPECIFIC.

I love that so much of life is about being more specific.

I also love that the podcast ends with Rogers and Barr discussing writing as happiness. The act of writing. The everyday-doing-it part. Or, as Rogers puts it:

“Understanding that this is a physical process that can be hacked, listening to your body and listening to your emotions, and sometimes not trying to be great but trying to be happy will allow you to be great.”

I’m so happy to have found this podcast. (And yes, I subscribed to the Patreon.)

This Week in Self-Publishing: A Quick Revisions Update

This Week

Books sold: 14 ebooks, 0 paperbacks

Money earned: $19.80

Money spent: $0

Total

Books sold: 330 ebooks, 136 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,235.56

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,820.71


Here’s where I am with the revisions:

I’m doing pretty well. I’m realizing that there are a few sections that still worry me; they were originally on the list to get cut/revised, but when I re-read them I was like these are the most honest parts.

They just aren’t the most flattering parts.

(It’s awkward to write about characters behaving badly in shall-we-say-ordinary ways. We’re used to characters making Big Mistakes or having Tragic Flaws or being Just Plain Evil, but we’re not used to sympathetic characters being ungenerous or insensitive or casually cruel.)

That’s all I want to say about that right now because I’m still thinking about a lot of stuff—and because there’s a lot of other stuff for all of us to think about, right now.

So…  take care, y’all, and I’ll check in again next week. ❤️