Monday, March 11, 2013

Worry Birds: 73 Things that Keep Self-Published Writers (Me) up at Night

In the past few weeks, as I adapt to life without Gram, I've been overdosing on writing blogs, social media, and general marketing tips.  I paste everything interesting into Evernote, in notebooks titled "Social Media" and "Website Creation" and "To Do" and "Book Promotion."  

I have 135 "To Do" notes and it makes me feel like I'm going to explode.

Instead of being energized, I'm paralyzed.

I feel like I'm back in 6th grade. There we were, scared and afraid we'd forget our locker combinations.  The first thing my new school had us do is write down all our worries about being very grown-up middle-schoolers on a construction paper bird.  Then we attached our birds to balloons and released them in a big welcome-to-middle-school ceremony.  They were called "worry birds," and by releasing them, we were supposed to let go of our worries, too.  As environmentally unsound as the process is, I feel like I need to do it again.

I'm worried that I will fuck up. I'm worried that I will never, ever be a better or more successful writer.  I'm
worried I'll miss something, fail to do something, and watch my cohorts pass me by.

These are my worry birds:

1. Do I need an author website?

2. If so, where do I host it?  Everyone has an opinion, and as soon as I read a good one about Bluehost, then I read a horror story about them, too. HostGator? LinkSky?  

3. Once I figure out where to host it and buy a domain name, what platform do I use?  The ubiqutous WordPress? Joomla? Impress CMS? Drupal? Does Drupal rhyme with RuPaul, and if so, isn't that kind of a silly name? 

4. Or should I just use Weebly? Are Weebly sites real sites, or are they for non-web people who can't be bothered?  Can I be bothered?  Should I be bothered?  I mean, I'm bothered, but should I bother?

5. How do I organize and design a site that doesn't look cheap, crappy, and templated? I am not a designer nor a programmer. I do not have the money to hire either one.  It's a one-woman show around here, and I work 8 hours a day and do laundry and cook dinner. The hubby would also appreciate it if I worked out more than once a month.  I am not in a good place with love handles right now. 

6. Where will I find the time to produce original content for a website? I don't have enough time to blog and write new stories, let alone put stuff up on yet another site.

7. Don't get me started on a newsletter. People say this is what you need: direct email marketing, hence the  website, hence MailChimp, hence a beautifully formatted, wonderfully written newsletter that I DO NOT HAVE.

8. Do I need WordPress multi-site? As in, an easy way to produce and control multiple websites? Like, one for each book?  Would these each need different looks, themes, content?  Oh, God, content.  

9. "Here are the 248 essential blogs that teach you how to use WordPress." "Here are the 823 plug-ins you CANNOT be without." Are you serious?  I read less informational material in grad school and now I have a Master's.

10. Do I need G+ and Facebook pages for myself as an author, as well as for each of my books? In addition to a personal website? These, of course, also need content.  

11. Do I need to do paper books as well as eBooks?  Do I need to charge more for my eBook so there's less of a  price difference between the two? .99 for the eBook and $9.99 for the paper book just seems stupid to me.  Yes, my eBook is worth more than .99, but pricing low gets volume and readers and reviews, right? 

12. If I do need paper books, which paper book producer should I go with? Xlibris, Book Baby, CreateSpace, Lulu, Autharium, or some as-yet-undiscovered winner? Who has time to research and document the costs, features, and services of each of these vendors in order to make an educated decision?  These are my books.  This is my LIFE.  I cannot afford (literally or figuratively) to fuck this up.

13. Pressbooks? What the hell is Pressbooks?

14. Sales, yeah, I don't have that yet.  It would entail downloading month-specific Excel spreadsheets from Amazon that I probably should have been doing all along.  But now I'm behind.  So catching up is hard.  Damn it. 

15. You *are* eating five servings of fruit and veggies daily, aren't you?  And drinking eight 8-oz. glasses of water?  Without whiskey?  As Count Rugen says, "If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything."

16. Is it worthwhile to pay for a service to advertise the free days you get on KDP?  (Joe Konrath mentions having good luck with eBookBooster, but he's Joe Konrath, making $8,000 a week.)  Also, now that Amazon changed the rules about advertising free days, is this still viable?  Is KDP still viable?

17. Should I take my two KDP-exclusive books off exclusivity and release them through Smashwords, too?

18. Should I be doing more with Kobo?  What *can* I do with Kobo?  Nobody buys my books there, but is it because nobody buys my books there or because I'm not doing anything with it?

19. You mean I need to be in Kobo so I can sell eBooks in real bookstores?  Shit. Shit. Shit.

20. Should I be doing more (read: anything) with Shelfari and Goodreads? Is the same thing?  And how about BookTalk, KindleBoards, Library Thing, Authonomy, Bibliphil, Booksie,  BookBrowse, Nothing Binding, Filed By, Bookhitch, Scribd, Figment, etc....What are all these places?  Should I use them or ignore them?  How will I remember all the logins and passwords and bears, oh my? 

21. mean I have to post fresh content on some of these and then come back and monitor what people say about it? Yeah, sure, I'll do that from 25:00 to 27:00 hours in the parallel universe where I need absolutely zero sleep.

22. You *are* maintaining your LinkedIn page, right?  You *are* posting regular updates, and joining communities, and generally making yourself useful to the twelve writer groups you're in, right?  You're not just deleting those automatic email updates, are you?

23. Why hasn't one of my books sold a single copy since I changed the cover?  This new cover is awesome and the old one sucked. I thought I was doing the right thing.  What gives?  

24. Is there even a point in querying for the novel I just finished?  Querying takes time and rejection takes time and time is what I don't have.  

25. Should my next thriller incorporate characters from my first thriller?  You know, for continuity and increased sales.  They say that helps...but what if I want to create some new characters?  Am I shooting myself in the foot?  What if I'm kind of done with those characters?  Does that mean I created boring, uninteresting characters?  Am I a literary philanderer, incapable of committing to a genre, let alone to a family of characters?  Literary that what awaits me?

26. Is it a waste of time to finish the second romance novel I started, a kind-of-sort-of sequel to the first one I did, since my heart isn't in the genre?  I'm more than halfway through, and one of the best ways to generate readers and sales is to write multiple books in a series, or even in the same genre and I SO DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF THAT.

27. When will I have time to research the next thriller, which requires knowledge of French police-type agencies, French cultural institutions, French universities, art theft, and Parisian geography?  I know pretty much nothing about all of these.  Okay, you can delete "pretty much."

28. You *are* using HARO to try and get some free publicity for yourself, aren't you? You're reading the daily emails and querying reporters for any stories you're qualified for, right?  You have a perfectly honed pitch and bio, don't you?

29. What have you done in terms of planning the blog tour for the next book that is soon to be rejected by all agents I plan to approach?  I mean, first I have to design the book, produce the book, make the cover, and plan a to-market date. But really, I need a blog tour.  I need contests.  I need autographed copies to give away.  WHAT?  I HAVE LESS THAN 200 TWITTER FOLLOWERS?  Help me help you...if a tree falls in the forest....insert third cliche here...

30. Should I be buying my own ISBNs?  (I can't afford to buy my own ISBNs.) 

31. "You don't have Google alerts set up for each of your book titles?" 

32. Should I be making Vine videos?  How the fuck does one make a Vine video?  I have a digital camera and a Kindle Fire HD, nothing else.  If push came to shove, I could probably make a tripod with dowels and duct tape.  Would that help?

33. Should I be making book trailers?  My computer came with basic video editing software, but I'm on extremely limited country-ass bandwidth and if I go over 5 gigs per month, the hubby pays for it.  But again, I'm minus the webcam. So that kind of kills that idea, right?

34.  Should I buy a webcam?  (And HD makeup so no one sees the sun damage and zit scars from twenty years ago?)

35. Should I be paying for a template to make a better formatted eBook using Word?  Right now I use the Smashwords nuclear method and it seems fine, but I'm a quality-over-quantity kind of girl and the templates appeal to me even though the ones I looked at are $47/book for paper/eBook template combos.  I do not have $47 x 4 books, fifth coming soon. I do not have InDesign.  I cannot afford to get InDesign.  I fear Pirate Bay.

36. Scrivener?  What in holy hell is Scrivener?  Bartleby, you sick fuck, what are you up to? 

37. How do I get (good) reviews for my comic mystery?  I have some bad ones.  I don't think they "got" it.  Or did I not "get" it?  Oh, crap, what if it's me?  WHAT IF IT'S ME?

38. How do I get anyone to review my historical vampire book?  It's the only thing I've ever gotten a fan letter for, and it has no reviews. The agony.  The humanity.  The feeling that I'm doing something really wrong....

39. When do I find the time to query book bloggers in order to solicit guest posts in order to build my brand and my as-yet-nonexistent website?  I suck at writing query letters.  If I didn't, I might have landed an agent in the first place.

40. "Start by figuring out which book bloggers you share common interests with and connect with them."  SURE.  In my copious spare time.  I'll, like, befriend them all.  Because I'm so good at making friends.  (Did we cover the part where I'm a WRITER?  If I were good with people, I would probably be doing something else with my life.)

41. When am I supposed to find time to follow the 500+ people my trial LittleBird subscription found?  When am I supposed to read their tweets?  When am I supposed to bookmark and then read the 800 websites and posts those tweets recommend?

42. Calibre is what, again?  E-book management software?  What fresh hell is this? 

43. Do I need to hire a photographer to take a few shots of me for the as-yet-non-existent website? My digital camera sucks and I have no Adobe software whatsoever and can't afford to buy any.  I can only traffic on snapshots from 2004 for so long.  

44. BookBuzzr.  Might as well learn quantum mechanics while I'm at it.  

45. Instead of producing paper books, is it worth querying small/indie presses directly?  Are you allowed to do this if you've already made an eBook?  What if I yanked the eBook?  

46. Wait, I'm supposed to be currying favor with readers on social media?  Searching for people with keyphrases like "book lovers," "book club, "librarian," "didn't barf when I read Twilight"? When do I find these people, interact with them in a meaningful way, read their tweets and posts, etc.?  Is there a second clock that only really special people have that gives them more hours in the day than I have?  That's it, isn't it?  I knew it.

47. Apps for Facebook that advertise my website?  Do I need this?  Should I?  Wait, first I need a website...

48. Should I use StumbleUpon to help make sure my content is found online?  I have to write content first, remember.  And are you allowed to only Stumble your own stuff?  Isn't that lame?  I don't want to be lame.

49. Fuck, Pinterest.  I need to upload my book covers to Pinterest.

50. Fuck, Flickr.  I need to upload my book covers to Flicker.  Someone somewhere said you get up to 75 keyphrases per image.  75.  I can't think of 75 words right now, except for the ones with four letters.

51.  Fuck.  See, I told you.

52.  No, really, fuck.  What keyphrases should I use in my Flickr images?  Or in general? 

53.  Oh, my God.  Should I be doing AdWords campaigns or Facebook sponsored ads?  Or both?  What landing page do I use?  You can't use a third-party as your landing page, can you?  CAN YOU?  

54. Wattpad?  Is this where James Watt lived?  Unless he invented Visine, I don't give a shit.

55. Writing contests, literary journals, all the regular writing-type submission stuff I did in grad mean I'm still supposed to be doing all that?  You mean I still have to use words like "liminal" and "ontological"?

56.  When are you finally going to get around to using AdWords campaigns to A/B test possible titles for your next book?  Because you SUCK AT TITLES.  And you LACK A LANDING PAGE.  And the money to pay for AdWords.  For the love of God, tell me Blogger is still free.

57. Five essential Twitter hashtags for writers?  I can't even fit what I want to say in the fucking message, let alone leave room for 5 goddamn hashtags. 

58. Which social media management tools will I use?  How the hell should I know?  Fuckers spring up like mushrooms...MarketMeSuite, Seesmic, SocialOomph, CoTweet, Buffer, TwitterFeed, SpredFast, Sprout, Social Flow, AgoraPulse,, Engagio, Hootsuite, Pingraphy, and TweetVisor?  Might as well ask me to explain the difference between Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.  

59. Wait, now I have to make sure my social media outlets "talk" to each other and my website(s) so my updates are blasted everywhere? Isn't that overkill?  Isn't that a duplicate content penalty waiting to happen?  If not now, later?  Panda happened, folks.  Penguin happened.  

60. Writing conferences?  Are you freaking kidding me?  Do you know how much that shit costs?  I credit carded the gas to get to my grandma's memorial service.  Plus, I can't get time off work.  I need money because I have to pay for a mortgage and repay the student loan money I used to go to grad school so I could learn to oh, you know, WRITE.

61.  "800 million sites for Indie Authors."  "5 trillion authors you NEED to know."  "World's Best Marketing Tips Scattered Through These 50 Links Because It's Friday and You're That Lucky."  Dude, by the time Friday rolls around, I don't even know my own name anymore.

62. "Build your brand. Get a logo.  Make your website look like your social media, which looks like your newsletter, which looks like your website."  Did we not cover the fact that I have NO design skills, money, or Adobe software?  Good luck with that.

63.  Understand all copyright laws so you know when you can and cannot use an image in your amateur-ass book cover.  Re-do your amateur-ass book covers, like, eight times because although you can do a lot with PowerPoint, it is no Photoshop.  Which I do not have or know how to use.

64.  What?  You don't have a Google Partner Account?  But to get my eBook on Google Play, I have sell it through my own site.  I do not have my own site.  OH MY GOD, I DON'T EVEN HAVE MY OWN SITE. 

65. Have you crafted a better author bio?  Because, you know, when you *are* the brand, you can't afford to suck.  And you probably suck, you know.  Just saying.

66. You *are* keeping up with your Google+ communities, aren't you?  You *are* making helpful and useful connections and reading everything and commenting, not just +1'ing, right? You need these people.  Be nice to them.  Be responsive.  Read their books.  Leave reviews.  Participate, dammit.  Participate like a motherfucker.

67. You DO have an page, right?  Everyone else got theirs in, like, early 2011.  AND IT'S FREAKING 2013.

68.  Google Reader says I have 18,349 unread items.  All of which contain vital, helpful information I need right now.  Sure, I'll get right on that.  Lemme just grab the toothpicks I use to prop up my eyelids late at night.

69.  NO ONE READS LONG BLOG POSTS THAT HAVE NO IMAGES.  No one.  Don't you know the first thing about content marketing?  Or visual marketing?  Or marketing?  

70.  Wait, I'm supposed to be writing about my own books on this blog and trying to sell them?  But that's embarrassing.  I'd prefer to write about writing and life in general.  Plus I don't know which keyphrases to use.  We covered this, didn't we?

71.  When are you going to write the blog post you started ages ago, about why you don't believe in hiring an editor?  (Sorry, professional editors.)  How many flaming comments will I get for it?  How will I explain that I paid 30 THOUSAND DAMNED DOLLARS for the ability to go to grad school and learn to do it myself?  Did Shakespeare or Milton or Donne pay an editor?  Well, then holy hell, I won't either.  I'll take the responsibility of producing the goddamn best book I can because...I can.  Got a problem with it?  Call my editor.

72.  Someday I'd like to read a book for fun again.

73.  Maybe write one, too. 

Oh, holy Jesus, that's a lot of worries.  I don't have this many balloons.  The balloon factory doesn't have this many balloons.  MAKE IT STOP.  

All joking aside, every single one of these points is a question self-pubbers have to answer.  And then do something about, once they find the answer.  It is exhausting. And liberating.  And scary.   And, at the moment, requiring a liberal dose of whiskey.