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. ❤️

 

Four News Items

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I have four pieces of news for you today:

FIRST: Today is the last day to get The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 for $1.99! This isn’t to say that I’ll never run a sale AGAIN, but I am not likely to run one for a good long time—so if you haven’t gotten your ebook yet, now is the cheapest it’ll be for a while.

SECOND: Thank you to everyone who responded to my “should Volume 2 start with Chapter 1 or Chapter 71″ query! The OVERWHELMING RESPONSE was start with Chapter 71, which is good because that’s also what I wanted to do. I promise I’ll leave a well-written note explaining the whole thing to people who haven’t read the first volume.

THIRD: If you are in Los Angeles on November 5 or Seattle on November 19, come see me read space-themed fiction at Marian Call’s SPACE TIME. The LA event will be at Kulak’s Woodshed, and the Seattle event will be at TBD, and both events will begin at TBD. (I’ll give you more details as soon as I get ’em.)

What is SPACE TIME? It’s an evening of music and stories and talks about space. (Outer, inner, emotional.) In the past there have been sketches and poetry and I’ve gotten to interview people who work at JPL about whether we’re going to put drones on Mars someday, and you should definitely come if you’re in the area.

I will also have paperback copies of The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1 for sale, if that’s something you’re interested in. I have a special inkpen that I use to sign copies, HINT HINT.

FOURTH: I’ve been writing “what I’m reading” posts at Nicole Dieker Dot Com, and they’ve been helping me organize my thoughts around… well, a lot of things. I wanted to share them with you because I’m never going to get to meet all of you in person, but these are the kinds of things we might talk about if we did:

On Revising My Novel While Reading Meg Howrey’s The Wanderers, or: Books Are Supposed to Make You Think and Feel, Right? 

On Reading the News While Reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle

Thanks for reading. ❤️

This Week in Self-Publishing: Did the $1.99 Sale SELL?

This Week

Books sold: 44 ebooks, 0 paperbacks

Money earned: $58.92

Money spent: $0

Total

Books sold: 316 ebooks, 136 paperbacks

Money earned (book sales): $1,215.76

Money earned (Patreon): $6,909

Money spent: $4,820.71


Today is the last day that The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000 will be available for $1.99. Starting tomorrow, the ebook price will go back up to $3.99 and stay that way until… probably next summer.

So, if you haven’t yet purchased your $1.99 ebook, now’s your chance:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

During this week’s sale, I ran promos on both ReadingDeals and ManyBooks; the ReadingDeals promo ran last Friday and the ManyBooks promo ran on Sunday.

In both cases, neither promo performed as well as just setting the price to $1.99.

As you can see from the screenshot at the top of this post, my best sales day was Tuesday, September 19. That’s the day the book was first priced at $1.99 and, assumedly, a bunch of people got notifications suggesting they go buy it.

I got 43 sales that day.

I got 44 sales this entire week.

The ReadingDeals and ManyBooks promos cost me $53 total, so they earned back the cost of promotion, though I’m not sure how many of this week’s purchases came from ReadingDeals/ManyBooks links vs. friends and readers sharing my book sale on social media.

I’ve done four of these book promos so far—ReadingDeals, ManyBooks, and two BargainBooksy promos—and it seems like they bring in about 15–20 sales each. I still have the Fussy Librarian promo in early October, so I’ll be curious to see how that one goes.

I should also note that, thanks to the 43 sales on Tuesday, September 19, I hit #75 in my category. Here’s the Pronoun screenshot:

As we know from the first BargainBooksy promo, it took 19 sales for me to hit #120 in Literary Sagas; if it takes 43 sales for me to hit #75, then I could theoretically figure out just how many sales it might take to hit #1.

(In Literary Sagas, not all of Amazon.)

So. The distance between 19 and 43 is 24, and the distance between 120 and 75 is 45, so it took 24 sales to advance 45 ranking points, which means you move one ranking point for every 1.88 sales, except it probably doesn’t really work like that, it probably takes more sales to go from 100 to 75 than it does to go from 120 to 100, so… I am not quite good enough at math to figure this out!

Plus you’re not only competing against your own sales, you’re competing against everyone else’s sales. If someone else’s book takes off, everyone else’s book ranking drops.

Which means… yeah, there are too many variables for me to calculate this. I could roughly estimate that if I sold 226 books in one day I would be a lot closer to #1 in Literary Sagas, but that’s literally saying “if I sold more books I’d be closer to #1,” so… not helpful.

On the subject of book sales, I recently wrote a piece for Pronoun’s The Verbs about whether I can consider myself a successful self-published author:

I’m very curious about how all of you define success, because I absolutely feel like a success every time I look at anything but my sales numbers. Everything from reviews to revenue has been great for me, so far—and, if I look at the data from Goodreads and Amazon, great for my readers.

But I still haven’t sold 500 books.

I used the number 500 because of that old “most self-published books don’t even sell 500 copies” warning statistic, imagine a spooky ghost saying most people who dooooo this faaaaaail, except the funny thing is that, because of the $1.99 sale, I am suddenly very close to selling my first 500 copies.

Which means I can say that I FOR SURE AM A SUCCESS, TAKE THAT SPOOKY GHOST!

Part of me really wants to see what would happen if I priced my book at $0.99.

But I know that the whole point of a sale is that you have to bring it back to the regular price after a certain period of time and keep it there.

So buy Biographies Vol. 1 today, if you want that $1.99 deal. ❤️

On Reading the News While Reading Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle

I checked Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys out of the library for three reasons:

  1. I love her posts on writing.
  2. I love her rules for living.
  3. Her background appears to be similar to mine in some interesting ways.

Supernatural/paranormal YA is not usually my genre, but character is my genre and feelings is my genre and mythology was definitely my genre when I was a teenager, and I ended up reading all four Raven Cycle books in five consecutive days.

I’m not sure that reading is the right word, though. More like actively hallucinating. I remember taking this pause, looking away from the page, and realizing that my bedroom looked wrong because it wasn’t the kitchen in 300 Fox Way. (Then I asked myself: Nicole, can you mentally walk through every room of that house the same way you could walk through the rooms of any place where you’ve actually lived? And I could. It was weird. I’d also created a memory map of Monmouth Manufacturing.)


Even though I love my adulthood much more than I ever enjoyed my teenagerhood—which can be emotionally, though not factually, summed up in The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000The Raven Cycle made me wish I could be a teenager again.

It’s like… I wasn’t just seeing the walls of everybody’s houses, I was also inside those houses—and caves, and cars, and characters’ perspectives. Although I had a very different adolescence, I still had a moment with a guidance counselor and I still had a smile that I put on in public and I still had so many questions about love.

So I felt all of these emotions that are so vividly associated with youth and then I had to put the book down and be in my thirty-five-year-old body. Which was just as jarring as seeing my own bedroom and not the kitchen at 300 Fox Way.


But here’s why I’m actually writing this post:

If you haven’t read The Raven Cycle, I don’t consider it much of a spoiler to say that there are several primary characters and each character is involved in at least two or three intersecting plotlines. Sometimes one of the plotlines will be experiencing some stress, shall we call it—you could also call it property destruction, demon possession, or occasionally blood—but then you get to the next chapter and it’s about characters learning how to trust each other or finding joy in a cup of Dannon “Fruit on the Bottom” Yogurt.

(I don’t have time to write about the role that socioeconomic class plays in The Raven Cycle—and anyway, it’s already been written—but that cheap cup of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt struck me right in the lived experience. Also the sentence describing the bookshelf that also holds cooking stuff. That bookshelf is in my apartment right now.)

Anyway, by the time you get to the fourth book in the series, all the plotlines start experiencing stress. You turn the pages and there is no relief; you keep turning the pages and things start happening that can’t be undone. You watch a few powerful people make choices that you know are going to hurt so many other people and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

And then you take a break and make yourself a cup of Celestial Seasonings tea and check Twitter or the Washington Post as the electric kettle on your bookshelf heats up, and you feel like you are still in the book.


The trouble is that I’m not a teenager, and I’m certainly not a YA teenager who is crucial to the narrative. I haven’t even figured out the love thing to the point that I could—well, now I am getting dangerously near spoiler territory, but what I mean is that I feel very unpowerful right now.

I’m not the Chosen One and I’m not young enough to feel like I could be someday. I’m a background character and I have to watch the monster or the earthquake or the government or the corporations and wonder if the heroes will show up—or if the only person who can fix this is off doing their homework, leaving me stuck within the boundaries of my single paragraph. Calling my reps and saying my one line of dialogue.


There is a section at the end of The Raven Cycle that addresses what we can do when we don’t know what else to do; when we feel powerless and afraid and the bad news keeps coming. I don’t want to spoil it, but I read it I felt so grateful that it had been included. You don’t have to be the Chosen One to do it, either.

Of course, the drawback is that it doesn’t really change anything except yourself. But you already know how I feel about magic only working when it’s applied to your own actions.


Maggie Stiefvater’s #1 Rule For Living is this:

Decide life is going to be great. All other methods will fail without this prerequisite. A decision that life will be great allows a terrible event to turn into a plot twist along the way, not a confirmation that your life is shit.

I love that it begins with the word decide, and I love that it implies that we can write, though not necessarily control, our own stories. Mostly I love that it’s about keeping on, moving forward, doing the work, pursuing happiness if you want to describe it that way—even when, to borrow a phrase I learned when I was an executive assistant at a DC think tank, the situation on the ground has changed.

The situation on the ground is changing faster than I can turn the pages, these days.

I don’t know what to do when all the plotlines start falling apart.

I really want to end this with “I guess I’ll write my own,” which feels like the most selfish and honest thing I could possibly say.

But I’m going to keep doing the work, which is to say doing what I can for the world and then doing my work, which is to say doing what matters to me BECAUSE IT MATTERS TO ME and that is enough reason to do it.

And because, as I wrote earlier this month, I feel emotions through stories—which means that if it does in fact come down to love, this is how I create and share it.

Now go read The Raven Cycle.❤️

Photo credit: Andrea Pokrzywinski, CC BY 2.0.

A Question About Chapter Numbers

This post was originally sent to my TinyLetter subscribers.

I have two pieces of news for you! Or… like… one news and one question.

The news is for people who have not yet read The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000; the question is for people who have.

NEWS: Biographies Vol. 1 is on sale for $1.99.

It is exactly four months since I published Biographies Vol. 1, which means the book is no longer “recently published” and it is time to run a sale promotion.

I did a blog post on Nicole Dieker Dot Com on how I set up the sale and what I’ve learned so far, but the most important information from that blog post is that the Biographies Vol. 1 ebook is on sale for $1.99 through Friday, September 29.

That’s FIFTY PERCENT OFF.

Here are your links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | Google Play | Kobo

Fun question: when is Google/Alphabet just going to merge with Amazon because they both want the same thing and they both already have names that deal with A to Z?

That wasn’t the question I was going to ask you, though.

Here it is:

QUESTION: Should Biographies Vol. 2 start with Chapter 1, or Chapter 71?

So I originally wrote The Biographies of Ordinary People as one book, and then it became one enormous book and I decided to publish it in two volumes. (The Vol. 1 paperback still feels pretty enormous when I hold it; it’s larger than the other books on my shelf and the print is smaller. Also, that’s your opening to tell me that the print is too small to read comfortably and I should make it bigger for the second volume. And… for the first volume. I can re-release it.)

Now that I’m revising Vol. 2, I keep turning over the first page, the one that reads “Part 3: 2004–2009,” and thinking “I need to change that to Part 1.”

Except it isn’t Part 1. It’s Part 3. Especially when you consider the role it plays in the larger two-volume story. (This is the scherzo movement. The curtain opening after intermission. We are starting the story with the characters both in media res and in flux.)

I’m working on a note to go at the beginning of the book that basically reads “I love you all, but if you haven’t read Volume 1, you need to go do that first,” and I am already thinking about how I can get Kindle to ACTUALLY SHOW READERS THAT NOTE instead of automatically opening the book to the first page of Chapter 1, WHY DOES KINDLE DO THAT, SOME OF US LIKE TO READ THE FRONT MATTER BEFORE WE READ THE BOOK, THAT IS WHY THE FRONT MATTER IS THERE.

Anyway. So with this note and with the larger “this is one book in two volumes” concept, do I have to change Part 3 to Part 1?

And… does that mean I should call the first chapter “Chapter 71” instead of “Chapter 1?”

I want readers to understand where we are in the characters’ lives and to get at least a subconscious sense of what to expect re: rising and falling action.

But I don’t want it to seem clever. It won’t work if people think I’m just doing it to be clever.

So… what do you think?

And if you don’t have an opinion because you haven’t read Volume 1 yet, well… it is currently on sale for $1.99. ❤️