Another year begins, with grand plans!

I’ve never been the kind of person to set goals at the start of the new year. I’ve always felt that any goals I set should be set when I think of them, not be tied to the calendar. This is also why I haven’t yet participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, which is every November). I figure I should treat every month like it’s a novel-writing month. Not that I do, of course. And many, many authors have written wonderful books during NaNoWriMo that they might never have finished otherwise. I just have this stubbornness about following rules that say when you should do something.

And yet, I’ve come to really enjoy setting writing and publishing goals at the beginning of each year. 🙂

These don’t count as setting new year’s goals, of course. They’re really more like new year’s guidelines. Every single year I’ve done this I’ve ended up completely changing my plans, and have been happy with the results. For example, I set goals at the start of 2016, but I didn’t realize that I’d meet the founder of BundleRabbit right before that platform was launched, and I subsequently ended up using BundleRabbit to put together several short story collections that year. All of that was totally not part of the plan! Something similar has happened every year I’ve set goals, and at this point I just expect that there will be multiple major course corrections throughout each year.

Jasper helping with a jigsaw puzzle.

The other thing that I really like about the end/start of each year is that I look back at what I accomplished (whether or not it matches what I’d intended to do). This is a great way to review whether or not I spent my time and energy on the right projects, and it’s also a wonderful way to remind myself that I really am making progress overall.

My accomplishments in 2018 include: I edited 3 anthologies, had 11 new short stories published and 3 previously published stories reprinted, wrote and published my first non-fiction book, attended one week-long writing workshop, worked with a co-editor (DeAnna Knippling) for the first time (and had a fantastic time!), had my first podcast interview, had a book in a bundle of writing/publishing books for NaNoWriMo, and became a member of the Uncollected Anthology.

I also learned a few lessons, including:

  • Editing other people’s stories takes a lot of time.
  • While I will apparently put off editing stories for an anthology as long as possible, once I finally start editing, the process is quite smooth.
  • Book covers with dark colors are almost always challenging to design.
  • I can meet super tight deadlines if I really, really want to.
  • I’m only willing to meet super tight deadlines if I really, really want to.
  • Reconciling my finances more often than every year and a half is a good idea.
  • A Jamie who works all the time is not as happy as one who makes time to see her friends.

The last bullet is a critical one. Last spring I was on track to meet (or at least come close to meeting) the ridiculously ambitious goals I’d set out at the beginning of the year. Before I went to the week-long fantasy workshop I attended in April, I noticed that some of the projects I’d been happily working on had begun to feel like burdens. I had been turning down invitations to spend time with friends for months, since I was always so busy. And my busy-ness showed no signs of stopping, so it wasn’t like I expected to meet a specific goal and then have time to go out and play. After I got back from the writing workshop (which was great!) I spent the next two months writing a single story, and stopped working on everything else. I knew this was not a productive strategy, but I felt like my brain had just had enough, so instead of getting frustrated with myself I just let myself get further and further behind. And then, after that chunk of time was over and I’d finally finished writing my story at a glacial pace, I realized I felt like myself again. It did, of course, take a long, long time to get caught up, and I’m still behind where I’d planned to be on a few projects. But I learned that pushing myself that hard for several years was not a good strategy. I’m still super busy, but now I make myself spend time with my friends, and get up from my computer when I feel stuck instead of poking at things unproductively. This was the biggest lesson I learned in 2018, and I’m glad I learned it when the projects I was working on were the kinds of things that I could get behind on without major repercussions.

For the past two weeks I’ve been thinking about what I did and learned over the past year, and am putting a lot of thought into where I want to go from here. This is a more complicated process than I’d like, but I feel like I’m on the right track, even if I’m not entirely sure where the track is going. 🙂

One of the things I’ve done is start a document with sections for the various projects I completed in 2018. For each project I’m making notes on what went well, what could have gone better, and what lessons I learned. I normally think about all of this, but in a more haphazard way. My hope is that by being very explicit about thinking through these things – and by writing my thoughts down—that I’ll get a clearer view of how things have gone and what I should do going forward.

I don’t have 2019 goals/guidelines set yet, but it feels like I’m going to do some things differently than I have in the past, and do some brand new things that I’ve never done before—at least some of which I haven’t even thought up yet. I’ll check back in a year! 🙂

 
 

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Bundles and other beasts

DeAnna Knippling of Wonderland Press interviewed me about Bundle Up!

In addition to being my interviewer, DeAnna edited Bundle Up, so she knew exactly what to ask about. 🙂 She started off asking me about “bundles and other beasts.” This question that seems straightforward, but is actually more challenging than it appears…

When I first started thinking about writing this book (thanks to a suggestion from Dayle A. Dermatis, who’s participated in quite a few of the bundles and anthologies I’ve organized), I’d just put together my first ebook bundle, and was working on my second. I didn’t feel like I knew anywhere near enough at that point, but could tell that I’d eventually learn enough to write at least a teeny tiny book. (The book ended up at 155 pages, so I clearly underestimated how large it would end up becoming!)

At that time BundleRabbit, the website I use to package story collections and distribute royalty payments to the authors, only supported ebook bundles. In an ebook bundle each author creates their own cover, writes their own sales copy, and puts everything into an ebook. BundleRabbit takes all of the individual ebooks and creates one big ebook, and then uploads the files to Amazon and other sales channels.

A year or so later, BundleRabbit added support for “collaborative projects.” For this type of project, the person (or people) organizing it create the ebook and/or print book. This feature opened the door to many different types of collaborations—anthologies, novels written by two or more authors, etc. I had a few short story bundles in the pipeline, and after getting the okay from the authors I was working with, I switched them to anthologies.

I much prefer the anthology format for collections of shorter works. If you’re reading a bundle of short stories, even though there’s only one ebook file, each individual story has its own cover and formatting style. For example, one author might include their cover, story, and an about the author page. The next might include a sample chapter from their next book, or a long section thanking their cats for helping them write the book, and so on. (Nothing against cats—they can be very helpful with writing books. My cats have always helped out by sitting on my keyboard, or filling up my computer fan with fur.) I find the inclusion of covers and the different formatting to be a bit jarring in a collection of shorter stories, whereas it doesn’t bother me if the stories are longer.

Because I like the anthology format for the short stories, that’s now the only format I use for short story collections I organize. However, I still participate in ebook bundles other people organize, whether they’re short story bundles or bundles of books.

Why does all of this matter? Because my original plan was to write a book about organizing bundles of ebooks. Instead, I wrote about how to put together ebook bundles—AND anthologies, story collections, and boxed sets in both ebook and print. My simple how-to book was no longer just about working with ebook bundles, but instead about how to organize a slew of different kinds of multi-author projects. And then, while I was in the middle of the manuscript, I realized a lot of what I was writing applied to single-author collections as well!

On top of all that, I realized that the different types of projects were not clearly delineated, so I had to be extra careful with the way I worded things. For example, if you create an ebook bundle using StoryBundle.com, your bundle is only available for purchase at StoryBundle, and only for a specified amount of time. If instead you create an ebook bundle using BundleRabbit.com, your bundle is not available for sale at BundleRabbit (at present), but can be offered for sale on Amazon, Apple Books, etc., and can be available for sale indefinitely. So I couldn’t say “do X with ebook bundles, and Y with anthologies” because there were too many variables.

This is why DeAnna’s first question was a hard one to answer. 🙂 You can find the interview on DeAnna’s site.

Bundle Up! is available at Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and a few other places, and you can find it on Goodreads.

 
 

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Dawn of the Monsters!!!

The first issue of Amazing Monster Tales is out!!!

Amazing Monster Tales is a series I’m putting together with my friend DeAnna Knippling. I went back and looked for our initial email exchange, which was in April 2017—so we’ve been working on this for quite a while. 🙂 In fact, the amount of time itself has been a lesson. We had to think through how to divvy up tasks, who the publisher of record would be, what style we wanted for our cover art, how many stories to include in each issue…and so on. We’ve done a great job of working everything out—and at writing down our decisions, which has been a much bigger help than it sounds. But it’s taken a lot of time to figure out what there is to decide on, and as we make progress, we keep uncovering more areas where we need to make decisions. And while some decisions go a lot faster and smoother with two people involved, some take more time because we have different opinions or ideas, or because we’re both trying too hard to be polite to each other. 🙂

I’ve found DeAnna a joy to work with. I expected us to be good partners—we’ve known each other for almost seven years now, and DeAnna has edited quite a few of my stories and books. But you never really know how something will go until you try it. Our partnership has been even more collaborative and constructive—and fun!—than I thought it would be. 🙂 One of my favorite parts was when we were making the final review pass before publishing the book. We have a Slack team set up, and we were going back and forth, finding tiny things to correct, like an apostrophe pointing the wrong way, or a typo we, the author, and our respective spell checkers had missed. (These are usually cases where the word is spelled correctly, it’s just the wrong word.) I had no idea proofing a book could be so much fun!

The downside of a joint project like this is that there are two people who can get too busy and put things off, and depending on how you’ve split up the work, that could mean double the delay. For example, if one of us is the first editor for a story and gets behind schedule, that delay gets exacerbated if the second person is behind schedule when it’s their turn to edit. We could have split up the tasks by assigning only one of us to edit each story, but we wanted to make sure were were on the same page in terms of the project’s vision, so we both wanted the other to be involved in edits even though there were situations where one of us was more of the “main” editor for a particular story. Not only did we get behind on everything (more than once!), we also were learning how to work with each other on this type of thing, and that added additional time. For example, I was acting as the “main” editor for one story which included one scene that wasn’t quite working, but I wasn’t sure how to convey that to the author. I finally turned this story over to DeAnna who immediately pointed out that my issue was that I have a harder time when there are logical holes in prose. I immediately thought that’s it!!! Now we know that the next time we see a story like this that DeAnna is the better editor for the first pass, just like we know I’m the one to call if we ever need a colorful, organized spreadsheet. 🙂

We’ve got at least three more issues planned in this series. DeAnna is working on our vision statements, and we’ll put out a call for submissions soon. The next issue will be called Monster Road Trip. I’m very, very curious to see the stories people submit!

I’ve been too busy to do much pondering lately, but now that I’ve managed to make it through my fourth book release in two weeks (whew!), I’m making time to think through the many things I’m working on. I’m really happy with everything I’ve done for the past few years, but I want to think more strategically about how to achieve my goals. For example, one of my goals for 2019 is to finally finish the novel that’s been through one round with my editor…over two years ago. 🙂 I’ve been putting finishing that book off because I’ve either been too busy with other projects, or because I don’t feel I have enough time in between deadlines to focus sufficiently on the manuscript. So one of the things I’m thinking about is how to stay on top of all my other projects, since I really love them, while also focusing more on novels. And I’m saying “novels” in the plural, since I’d not only like to finish this one, but I’d also like to write more. I’m not yet sure how to fit it all in, but I’m going to come up with a plan!

 
 

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