|Posted on April 7, 2018 at 6:00 PM|
This post started in 2015, at around our 6 month aniversary. It was originally titled, "Husbands Are the Best." And while Seth is still the best, our family and my writing career have both expanded, and so I would like to share with you a little bit more of what I have learned in balancing creative work and our crazy life.
In college, Seth helped out a lot with my creative products. Best brainstorming buddy ever! I had to write a poem (several poems, actually) for my intro to creative writing class. A villanelle, which is fourteen lines of rhymes upon rhymes upon non-rhymes. A little confusing for a eighteen year-old fresh out of high school who has only written a few poems before. So, we decided that I should write an ars poetica, or a poem about poetry. We had so much fun coming up with rhymes for "villanelle," and putting together a coherent poem about how awful they are to write. I can't share the poem here (or else I will not be able to publish it in a journal or magazine), but I can tell you that poetry-writing sessions can make for some fantastic dates :)!
Seth is seriously the best. When we graduated, he gave me an entire year to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I wanted to make writing a career, and so I set about trying to figure out how to make my work pay. And I ended that experiment with a very small, unstable income from my writing. But it was something.
We reconvened and decided that making writing my career was best for our family, as it fit well into the lifestyle we had built for ourselves post-graduation. We live in a camper and travel for Seth's work, and so me being able to work remotely is a huge plus. Also, I get to set my own hours, so I can help Seth out with events when he needs me.
Seth and I in high school.
Yep, I got to marry my high school sweetheart,
so I am pretty lucky!
And, because we travel full-time, I have decided to self-publish my works (for the foreseeable future, at least). I am in a unique position to do book tours, minus travel expenses, as long as I book poetry readings and book signings near where Seth is already doing events. I did my first poetry reading in October 2017, and absolutely loved it. My second poetry chapbook, Already Almost Home, is coming out April 2019, and I am planning on matching Seth event for event April through October to help grow my readership and sell some chapbooks! I wouldn't be able to do that if we didn't live in a camper and travel full-time.
I self-published my first chapbook, Aesthetic Blindness, in summer 2017, and so far I have sold 150 copies. Which doesn't seem like much, but for self-published poetry by an unknown writer, that is a really good number! I learned a lot from self-publishing, and am working on getting my thoughts and tips in order to share with you, so be on the lookout for some posts in that vein!
From our engagement shoot in December 2014.
Through out it all, Seth has been very encouraging. I really wouldn't be able to make writing a full-time career without his support, and the support of our family. Creative pursuits don't happen in a void, they happen in real life, and having a support system is key if you want to make your creative endeavors successful!
So, how do I make writing a full-time job? Right now, it feels like I am putting in all the work of a full-time job, without the pay or benefits. But I know that everything I am doing now is building for the future. I have a goal of making so much a month, and that figure covers a "salary" for me, as well as work-related expenses. Right now, I am at 2% of my goal. I will give you my writing tips first, and then my business plan, so you can see how the two work together.
Over 2017, I filled a composition notebook with poetry. I had the goal of writing a poem a day, and I ended up writing less than that, but more by far than what I wrote in college, so it was still a step in the right direction. So, my advice to you is to set big goals with easy implementation. This year, my goal is to write a few pages every "business day." That is just to help make creativity a more disciplined pursuit, and I know it can be done, since I was able to go from having no poetry ready for publication May 2017 to having a full-length chapbook ready for peer editing by April 2018!
I told a friend to do this too. Try to write a page or so a day, and keep that same notebook with you in your purse or backpack (or use your phone, I know that is what published author Jeff Zentner does!) and pull it out in odd moments. Maybe you hear an odd conversation, and you have time to write it down with a brief backstory. I was able to write a novel outline that I plan on pulling out and finishing in 2019 because I did just that! Fill as many notebooks as you can. The constant practice will give you lots of creative ideas to explore, as well as better your craft.
When you have an idea that is ready, like my novel The One or my chapbook Already Almost Home, set some goals again. I decided for AAH to have it ready for publication April 2019 for a few reasons. One, April is national poetry month, and as a self-published (and self-marketed poet) I wanted to capitalize on that. That also gave me a year to polish it up and create a stellar marketing plan.
I have a group of peer-editors that have agreed to look it over, and I have given them the deadline of late July 2018 to give me their notes. Then, I set a deadline of when I wanted to have draft #2 ready. I have an editor that I want to pay to look it over who has published both poetry and prose. After they give me their notes, I have another deadline: final draft! I want to have some bloggers review it, so I have a deadline of when the final draft and the cover need to be formatted and ready for print. And a deadline for when I need to have the proof approved. And a deadline for sending out review copies. You have to have deadlines, and you have to self-enforce them if you want to finish your project! That was something that has taken me years to learn, and years to start practicing.
For The One, I started it in January of 2015, and let it sit as a glorified outline until Fall 2017. I am editing it now for Patreon (more on that below) and plan on hiring another editor to go over it this summer. Then, same as AAH. Blog tour with reviewers, and final drafts and covers, and launch day December 31st!
Trust me, I understand fully how life can get in between us and our well-laid plans. I had planned on finishing a mystery trilogy for NaNoWriMo in 2017 (I had written the first novella that spring for a class) and never finished. Those drafts have laid untouched since the begining of November.
Photo of us with the getaway car
right after the ceremony!
Baby # 1 is on her way! Our due date is mid-July, but she could really come any time between June 23rd and July 28th. We have been busy planning for her arrival, and I have to admit, writing slipped off the face of the earth from November 2017 (mid-NaNoWriMo) to February 2018. I had absolutely no desire to write, and was a little bummed out at that.
But now that we have our summer schedule set in such a way that Seth will most likely be there for her birth, and have a car seat and hospital bag for Half-pint packed, I am feeling a little more prepared, and eager to be writing again. In fact, I have experienced a fresh burst of productivity, and I think a big part of that is knowing that my writing will have to start paying a larger share of the bills in order for me to be a TAHM (travel at home mom!). So, even with deadlines and goals, be flexable.
If I had rigidly stuck to the poem a day challenge, I probably would not have a finished manuscript. Why? I would have been so overwhelmed at the ammount of days I missed that I would have just given up. I've learned to differenciate between types of goals. There are "aspiring goals" which is like writing every day. Something you aspire to do, but might not ever fully realize. And that's okay, because each time you try, you get closer to being there. And then there are "hard goals." Goals with deadlines and actual, actionable steps besides "try harder." Goals like a publication date, and then working back to come up with big and little steps needed to be ready for that publication date. Both goals matter, but don't give "aspiring goals" the same weight. That is probably the biggest peice of advice/reassurance I can give you!
Now, to my business plan of making writing pay the bills!
In this last year, I have experimented with a few different income streams: selling print copies of Aesthetic Blindness both in person and online through Square, selling the eBook version on Kindle (I haven't sold a single eBook yet! ugg), and selling custom poetry on Etsy. Most successful so far? Print books in person. Most successful day? October 7, 2017 (25 of the 150 copies)! You know what that tells me? My web/social media presence needs work! I hear about all of these writers who sell exclusively eBooks, and make thousands a month. I'm not there yet. You know what else that tells me? Book readings are so crucial for self-published authors!
With our lifestyle, we get the opportunity to make a lot of connections, but Seth and I could both be better at follow-up. I'm starting to see my email list and social media as relationship building resources. Ultimately, people will buy your writing if they have a relationship with you. Along with building up relationships through online tools, I am testing out a new income stream this year.
I am publishing my first novel in a serialized form on Patreon! I wrote this novel, The One, my freshman year of college in Advanced Creative Writing: Fiction, which is also where this blog/website got it's start four years ago!
Why Patreon? I wanted a way to make my writing income a little more stable, even if it stays low. Book sales don't happen every month for me (yet--someday they might?) and I tried ghost writing and hated it. I didn't feel as though I was paid well for my time, especially if I had no credit from the project. I am using Pateon in a way that is maybe a little unorthodox by serializing my novels, much like Dickens' serializations in newspapers. The money I earn will help pay the bills, and collect in a business account to pay for self-publishing fees and marketing expenses, and any other work-related expenses my writing creates (such as hosting a website or attending book fairs).
Each Friday starting June 1, 2018, a small snippet (about 5 print pages) will become available to Readers, for $1.00 a month (or more, if you want :)). I wanted to keep the cost low to encourage new readers and people I don't know well to take the leap and try the novel. Plus, I already have the manuscript, and I am publishing it in print and eBook December 31st, 2018, so I thought the lower price was best.
Readers with Benefits ($5.00+ a month) will recieve behind-the-scene snippets into my writing life and the current novel being serialized. This breaks down to $1.00 a month to read the work, and then an additional $1.00 a week to access BTS tidbits. This created some additional work for me, and so I tried to make it worth my time, but still a low cost.
Finally, you can be an A-List Reader ($10.00+ a month). Broken down, that is $1.00/mo for the weekly installments, $4.00/mo for the BTS weekly tidbits, and $5.00/mo to be on the A-List. You will receive an advanced free print edition (signed of course!) of all of my novels and poetry chapbooks before they are released to the general public, along with a signed thank you note for your support. That means that if The One becomes available to the public December 31st, you will have your copy by Christmas. Or, Already Almost Home comes out in April, you will have your copy when I send out copies to reviewers.
I am looking forward to seeing how this goes. I am hoping to also use Patreon as a tool for growing a readership. And you can see my goals on my Patreon site.