Anthologies and Fairy Tales

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

Two quick announcements!

I am FINALLY ABLE TO TELL YOU that a chapter from The Biographies of Ordinary People Vol. 1 has been included in the Greater Seattle Bureau of Fearless Ideas’ What to Read in the Rain 2018 anthology! When I lived in Seattle, I was a volunteer tutor with the Bureau of Fearless Ideas — and this anthology, which includes writing from BFI students as well as authors such as Tara Atkinson, Frances McCue, and Shin Yu Pai, helps fund BFI tutoring sessions and workshops. Plus it’s a great read.

If you’d like another great read, get ready for The Billfold’s FIRST-EVER BOOK: Frugal and the Beast and other Financial Fairy Tales. I wrote thirteen personal-finance fairy tales, some of which you can read on The Billfold and some of which you can ONLY READ BY BUYING THE BOOK.

The pre-order will launch soon. I’ll let you know. ❤️

Self-Publishing Update: Another Bargain Booksy Promo

Sales/Expenses Since August 9

Books sold: 29 ebooks, 0 paperbacks

Money earned: $56.83

Money spent: $35


Books sold: 539 ebooks, 229 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $2,337.19

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $10,547.51

Just a very quick update today — I spent $35 on a Bargain Booksy promotion at the end of August (promoting Volume 1 in the hopes that it would also drive interest in/sales of Volume 2), and that promotion correlated with 11 sales of Volume 1 and 5 sales of Volume 2. At roughly $2 in royalties per sale, that comes out to $32 total… which means I didn’t quite break even on this promotion.

But hey, I sold sixteen more copies of my book and gained (assumedly) eleven new readers! That’s not nothing. ❤️

Registration is now open for How to Get Started as a Freelancer!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I told you I’d remind you when registration opened for my new online course, How to Get Started as a Freelancer… and TODAY IS THE DAY. Register now, or any time before September 3, and you’ll get $20 off the price; register later and you’ll pay the full $235.

Here’s a quick reminder of what you can expect from this course:

  • Four weeks (September 29 through October 27)
  • Self-directed
  • Approximately two hours of work per week (to be completed at your own pace)
  • A step-by-step guide to help you build a freelance career, to include:
    • How to identify your beat
    • How to identify potential clients
    • How to pitch those clients
    • How to write an article
    • How to write more quickly
    • How to conduct interviews
    • How to build an online presence
    • How to network
    • How to schedule your time
    • How to predict and grow your earnings
    • How to identify and pitch higher-paying clients so you can keep growing your earnings
  • Access to a discussion group where you can chat with other writers and ask me questions
  • Spreadsheets, templates, podcast episodes, AND MORE

Here’s that registration link again, just in case you need it. Hope to see you in class! ❤️

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash.

New Writing Classes, Both In Person and Online!

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I’ve got three classes coming up in the next few months, including my first-ever online course, so here’s what you need to know:

First, I’m teaching two courses at the Iowa Writers’ House. If you are in-or-around Iowa City, I’d love to see you at one — or both! Here are the deets and the sign-up links:

The Path to Publishing

There’s no single path towards publication — you can query an agent and get picked up by a traditional publisher, you can work with a small press, or you can take on both the writing and publishing responsibilities and build your career as a self-published author. This course will outline all of the available paths to publication for both fiction and nonfiction writers, offer the pros and cons of each, and give you actionable next steps for whichever path you choose.

The Path to Freelancing

How do you get started as a freelance writer? Is it possible to turn freelancing into a full-time job? Nicole Dieker is in her seventh year of full-time freelancing, and she’ll teach you everything she knows about how freelancers make money: how to pitch (even when you don’t have clips); how to build a freelancer schedule that combines writing, pitching, networking, and administrative work; and how to grow your earnings over time.

I’m also teaching my first-ever online course: How to Get Started as a Freelancer, a four-week online course offered through Seattle’s Hugo House. This self-directed course runs from September 29 to October 27. You’ll get a weekly set of lessons and homework assignments to be completed at your own pace; you’ll also get access to a classroom discussion board where you can get to know other writers.

If you’re a Hugo House member, you can register for this course on Tuesday, August 21; if you’re a non-member, you’ll have to wait until Tuesday, August 28. YES, I WILL REMIND YOU. The course costs $211.50 for members and $235 for non-members, but you get a $20 discount if you register before September 3.

How to Get Started as a Freelancer will be a lot like The Path to Freelancing — in fact, they have the exact same course description. I’ve taught this class several times, and it is popular for a reason. My lesson plan gets results, and students do in fact build freelance careers.

That kinda sounds like I’m bragging on myself, but really I’m bragging on my students. I’ve given them the pitch template; they’ve been the ones to develop and send the pitches (and complete the articles, and build the relationships with editors, and so on). If you’ve been thinking about starting your own freelancing or publishing career, I hope you consider taking one of my courses — whether you’re in Iowa City for the in-person version, or signing in to the discussion board for the online one. ❤️

Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash.

Self-Publishing Update: Exactly What Life Is

Sales/Expenses Since June 25

Books sold: 29 ebooks, 3 paperbacks

Money earned: $93.81

Money spent: $0


Books sold: 510 ebooks, 229 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $2,280.36

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $10,512.51

I haven’t done an update in forever, but that’s because I haven’t had much news to share. Since getting back from my mini-book-tour I’ve been focusing on editing/managing The Billfold LLC (which recently transitioned from a partner LLC to a single-member LLC with me as the sole owner) and prepping my fall teaching schedule.

I’ll be able to announce a few more classes SOON, but I can announce one class RIGHT NOW: How to Get Started as a Freelancer, a four-week online course offered through Seattle’s Hugo House. The course runs from September 29 to October 27,  and you’ll get a new lesson (and series of assignments) each week that you can complete at your own pace. You’ll also get access to a discussion space where you can chat with other students (and me). I’m very excited; this is my first online course, and I’d love to do more in the future.

Unfortunately, you can’t register for How to Get Started as a Freelancer until August 20 — so I’ll send you another reminder in, like, two weeks.

The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2 just got its IndieReader Review, which I’m sharing because it illustrates that this book does exactly what I was hoping it would do even when the reviewer doesn’t like it:

Meredith begins the book with a clear goal: she wants to write and put on her own musical. That plan is quickly thwarted, and there is nothing to replace it—she just survives. There is nothing for us to root for or care about.

“That plan is quickly thwarted, and there is nothing to replace it — she just survives” is kind of exactly what life is. (Can you tell I grew up loving Chekhov and Tolstoy?)

Arguably, Meredith does replace her original (naive) plan to stage her own musical: first she tries to get a job with a professional theater, then she works for her hometown community theater, then she goes to grad school, then she… well, I won’t spoil everything. But, and more importantly, she fails at a lot of stuff — and every time, she has to figure out how to survive and start over. As a Goodreads reviewer put it:

Helplessly creative and full of determination, it is Meredith’s story that struck me as the most interesting, and nuanced, and, well, real. And although she has her own, personal moments of happiness, to see a main character in a story genuinely grapple with how she can somehow make her creative pursuits a career was so refreshing. Nothing gets handed to her on a plate, and there are plenty of doors that get slammed in her face along the way.

So… yeah. The same story, interpreted in different ways.

Which is also (metaphorically) exactly what life is. ❤️

Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash.

Two articles about the writing and self-publishing process

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

It’s been over a month since The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2: 2004–2016 launched, and since then I have gone on a mini-book tour, taught two classes related to writing and self-publishing (with more to come), spent a long weekend at Disneyland, and, most recently, published two articles about the writing and self-publishing process.

The first article is at Longreads, and it’s titled How the Self-Publishing Industry Changed, Between My First and Second Novels. If you’re interested in numbers, earnings, expenses, and (for obvious reasons) politics, you’ll want to go read that one.

If you’re more interested in the process of writing, you should read my Draft Journal essay titled The Five Times I Tried Writing My Novel. It took me roughly two years to write the draft that became The Biographies of Ordinary People, but that was not my first attempt at telling this story.

It’s interesting to think about the ways in which “all the books that were not Biographies” changed, over the years. My first draft, which I started (and quickly abandoned) when I was in college, focused entirely on a college-aged woman — there wasn’t any family in it, just ambition.

In the version I started drafting while I was a receptionist in Washington, DC, the Meredith character was named Therese Gorrell, and she had been born in the rural Midwest — she wasn’t a transplant from a larger city, like I had been as a child. (In Biographies, the Grubers’ move is a natural starting point for the story; not to misquote Tolstoy, but you could easily say that Vol. 1 is “a stranger comes to town” and Vol. 2 is “a woman goes on a journey.”)

In the version I worked on in Los Angeles, which was the most fully-formed of any of the drafts, there were four Grubers: Rosemary, Jack, Meredith, and Natalie. That was the draft that was too much like autobiography, and it wasn’t until I added Jackie to the story that it began to come together as a novel instead of a retelling of my own childhood. I created Jackie to force a different set of family dynamics and ensure I wouldn’t just write what I’d grown up with, but she ended up becoming this character that I intensely admire (and in some ways envy), and she allowed me the ability to branch the whole “how do ordinary people make art” question down a different path.

There’s also a version where Meredith is grown up and is asking Rosemary questions about her life, and the whole thing is a framing device for flashbacks to both the 1990s and the 1960s, and I’m really glad I got bored with that idea because I’m already bored just explaining it to you. (Plus I would have had to do a lot of research about the ’60s.)

So. What I mean to say is that you should read the Longreads piece and the Draft Journal piece, and be grateful that you got the current version of The Biographies of Ordinary People, instead of all the other versions I discarded along the way.

Photo by Dana Marin on Unsplash.

Self-Publishing Update: How Long Until I’m Back in the Black?

Sales/Expenses Since May 29

Books sold: 31 ebooks, 40 paperbacks

Money earned: $291.60

Money spent: $678.85


Books sold: 481 ebooks, 226 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $2,186.55

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $10,512.51

Right now I’m $1,416.96 in the red, which represents roughly 500 book sales. Considering that Biographies Vol. 1 sold more than 500 copies in its first year, I could very easily assume that Biographies Vol. 2 will hit the 500 mark — which, when combined with any additional Biographies Vol. 1 sales, would clear out that debt and help me break even by, say, May 2019.

I don’t anticipate any other major expenses for either Vol. 1 or Vol. 2, now that the mini-tour is done. Any additional readings or classes will either be local or combined with other travel (e.g. visiting my nephew and doing a reading in Washington, DC). I’m not submitting Vol. 2 to any awards, since it doesn’t really stand on its own the way Vol. 1 does. All I have left, in terms of costs, are the upcoming promotions on BargainBooksy, Fussy Librarian, etc. — and those are, like, $25 each.

So here we are. I need to earn back the costs of this recent tour, and then anything after that will be pure profit. (I could get to the “profit” stage a little faster by separating out the “reading” and “teaching” costs — I counted all of my non-vacation travel expenses as Biographies expenses, but my hotel and food expenses on the day I taught at Hugo House might belong in a different category. That’s worth considering, actually, and maybe I should redo my math.)

I don’t know if you read Longreads, but last week they published my essay “How the Publishing Industry Changed, Between My First and Second Novels.” I absolutely recommend reading it, because it’s got all of the analysis of these blog posts plus extra research and more polished writing. Here’s an excerpt:

Even if Facebook weren’t force-choking our posts (and we don’t exactly have proof that it is, aside from all of the evidence), we’d still have to deal with the ways in which social media both amplifies and dilutes any message we try to share. Everyone is asking you to read their thing, whether it’s a Twitter thread or a debut novel. Nobody has time to read everything, and the novel is longer and costs money (or a trip to the library).

“Social media and the internet have been instrumental in destroying the economics of writing,” Bradley Babendir told LitHub. He’s specifically referring to book criticism, which used to be a valued, paying gig but is now dominated by crowdsourced reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Book critics still get work the same way that authors still get sales, but … no, I think that comparison stands.

I’ll leave you with that, so you can go read the whole thing. More news when I have news to share! ❤

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

Writing & Money Episode 16: How to Self-Publish

How do you turn a file saved on your computer into AN ACTUAL BOOK? How do you get that book on Amazon? Or in bookstores? What about libraries?

This episode takes you through the process of publishing your book and getting it out into the world.

You might also want to listen to the episodes Why Self-Publish? and Talking to Dana Kelly about “Your Book, Your Brand.”

Here are two more resources I mention in the podcast:

Also, when I started writing the show notes, I found out that Amazon might be phasing out CreateSpace in favor of offering a new “print-on-demand paperback” service through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. (This industry changes so quickly!) The basic information in the podcast should still apply!