publishing

IWSG March 2014 — My Last Post

Insecure Writer's Support Group Badge As I have shifted my feelings for where I belong in the publishing world, and consequently what I want out of my writing, this blog and the way I use social media has shifted as well. Simply put, the kind of author I am is one who needs a lot more privacy than I’ve been allowing myself. More than anything, I’d rather be writing. It truly is the best way I can share myself.

This may be my last post for IWSG, but it is not the last post here on my blog. I’ll continue to post here, but my posts will be more project-centered, focusing more on my writing projects for those truly interested. Thanks to everyone who has supported me while I’ve blogged with IWSG!

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

IWSG February 2014 — Are We in an Age of Writing for Other Writers?

Insecure Writer's Support Group Badge

It was the late 90’s when I started writing my first novel. It was an era of adult novels, when John Grisham was having his heyday and there was no such as thing as a Young Adult section in the library or bookstore. It was also an era of isolation because I didn’t even know what an email address was, let alone the internet.

But most of all, I didn’t know a single other writer doing what I was doing — writing novels.

I wrote in complete and utter bliss. I look back on that time with wonder and awe because not only was I writing whatever I wanted how I wanted, but I was never once told that I was doing something wrong by another writer. If I felt that at any point, it was only because I was comparing my unpublished novel to published novels.

All of this changed, of course, when I entered the realm of college and became a creative writing major. I was suddenly surrounded by writers, professors, and even published authors. I felt pressure. I felt lower than low. I stopped writing novels and focused on only poetry and short stories instead. My ego was crushed probably a thousand times. But it was all good! I grew as a writer.

Now, in an era where just putting my big toe into the waters of social networking and blogging, I am surrounded even more by opinions, advice, and ways to compare my work. It seems everywhere I turn — online and offline — I am surrounded by other writers. Sometimes it feels like EVERYBODY WRITES, and if they don’t, a large portion of them seem to want to write. I’m not even sure why I get unnerved by this, but maybe it’s because I feel heavily influenced on so many sides now. For a long time, I’ve often felt I am writing, selling, marketing, and getting feedback from only one group: other writers. I know it’s not entirely true, of course, but sometimes it feels that way.

In all honesty, especially when I’m feeling insecure, I don’t know if this is a bad thing or a great thing. After all, writers are readers too, and if more people are reading, that’s a good thing right? It’s also good to interact with other writers and make those incredible connections. I do know nobody can tell a story exactly the way I tell it, but I’m not sure if the rest of the world sees it that way, especially when there are so many books and it’s getting harder and harder to be seen, let alone read. I guess that’s my true insecurity right there — I’m afraid of getting lost in the grand shuffle of the ever-growing realm of writers. Are you?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

The Absolute Truth About Self Publishing

Selling four books a day every month might be a dream come true for one author and totally suck rocks for another. Some hire professional editors and some don’t and still manage to produce beautiful, quality books. Some make it to the NYT Bestsellers list and a lot don’t. Some are lucky enough to make a living off their books, while many work other jobs on top of the writing. Some get business licenses, hire website designers, and attend every writer’s conference known to man, and some don’t. Some design their own covers and some don’t. Some use POD printers, while some use printing presses. Some hit it big off their first book and some sell steadily and never hit it big. Some say pouring money into it will get you more money, while some will swear to you that marketing does nothing. Some only self publish and have no interest in the traditional route, while some do both. And the absolute truth about it all? There is no absolute anything when it comes to self publishing. It’s just like any other business (and any other form of publishing, for that matter). It’s hard, it’s easy, it’s rewarding, it’s disappointing. Whatever it ends up being for someone, it should never, ever be compared, belittled, or shamed. Because it’s different for every single author. There is no best way to do it. No guaranteed way to do it. And that’s kind of the beauty of it all. After all, some say self publishing is for those who give up. I think it’s pretty obvious it’s for those who don’t.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in Self-Publishing

Collected Writerly Wisdom of 2013 and How Each One Changed My Life

A long time ago in a year far, far away (2013 to be exact), I started out filled with hope and wonder and enthusiasm. I was going to complete three novels and blow my publisher away with how much I’d grown. I’m glad to say that I did grow … but it certainly wasn’t the experience I’d imagined it would be. It was better and worse at the same time. It was … well, it was life, and that’s a pretty grand thing. I made some new friends, sadly allowed some old friends to fade into the background, lost a publisher, gained my own publishing company, learned a heck of a lot about self-reliance and confidence, and I can honestly say that this comic FINALLY made me feel like I was doing the right thing. I also discovered why Facebook and other social networks make me miserable 90% of the time, and why 2014 is probably going to be the year of me retreating even more into a smaller technological and social bubble than I already have (but I’m okay with that). A friend of mine beautifully pointed out the kind of people we should all strive to be, while I also found the perfect, straightforward guide to understanding The Introverted. And yes, I am proudly part of The Introverted.

As for writing … ah, writing. The beautiful world where you can give yourself writer’s block and basically make yourself a miserable mess, the world where a writer brilliantly describes what REALLY happens after you’re published, and also points out that One Big Realization we all should have remembered to begin with, and a world where it’s painfully essential to remember the absolute, true power of story for all of us. And you know, it REALLY IS OKAY TO SUCK AT WRITING, but most importantly, you must realize that doing what you love doesn’t mean you don’t work your ass off.

So, what the heck ARE average book sales? It’s probably not what you think. Also, sticking to your own uniqueness is vitally important if you want to feel truly successful. But one of the hardest things I learned this year is the danger of needing everyone to like you because, let’s face it, that has always been an issue for me. Since the day I was born. It’s something, that with the help of my lovely friend who wrote that post, I’m slowly learning how to eliminate.

Although 2013 wasn’t the first year I’ve been a published writer, I still learned that almost every published book is something not entirely immune to the seven stages of publishing grief (it happens to everyone who didn’t land in Magical Unicorn Publishing Land). Outside of publishing … dealing with the actual writing, here’s a piece of writing advice that saves me every time. Here’s the key to understanding why your books may be misunderstood, and why you’re doing it wrong if …

This is the best traditional vs. indie article I’ve ever read, and this is the best definition of writerly success I’ve ever read.

But probably the best thing I discovered in 2013 was Kristine Katherine Rusch’s blog. Okay, yes, she writes super long posts, but they are long for a reason, and they’re worth reading every single time. She’s so awesome that as soon as I have a little bit of extra money, I’ll be donating to her blog. Two of the most inspiring blog posts I read of hers this past year are highlighted below.

Like Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake and Robert B. Parker and oh so many others, I want to die with my boots on, facedown on my keyboard if possible, in the middle of a sentence. Which brings me back to this blog. I write from the perspective of a career writer, someone who started as a teenager and plan to finish when my heart stops pumping. I write about survival—long-term survival—in a business that discourages longevity. That’s my point, that’s always my point, in all of these blogs. ~ From Career Writers, Kristine Katherine Rusch
But most professional writers smile a little when they think about NaNoWriMo. Because we’re writing all the time. And improving our craft. And when our books don’t sell well, we wonder if we might be at fault—if we told a flawed story or if we chose a difficult subject matter. If we self-publish, we worry that we might have a bad cover (and we fix it). But mostly, we shrug off the unsuccessful novels and move on to the next novel. Because we’re not artists. We’re professionals. Most people don’t expect a gold star for showing up at their day job every day. They just expect a paycheck. The same with professional writers. Just because we wrote 50,000 words in a month doesn’t mean we get a gold star or a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. Hell, it doesn’t even mean we get a paycheck. It means that we better get ready to write another book next month. Because that’s what we do. We write. Join the ranks of professional writers. Stop treating writing like an event, and make it a part of your daily life ~ From Reality Check, Kristine Katherine Rusch.

Mostly, with the help of all I’ve shared in links today, 2013 was a time I reflected on what I really want and how I’m going to get it. I realized one very important thing: Writing a novel is not a goal. A writing career is not a goal. Writing is more of a system if it’s going to work in the long run. As long as I’m treating what I do professionally, seriously, and happily, it works. Books are not events. They should be part of a system, and sticking through the thick and thin, the ups and downs, over the long haul, is what matters most. I’m a pretty dang lucky person to be able to write whatever I want, when I want, and how I want. That’s the big awesomeness 2013 brought me. It’s more valuable than gold.

I hope you’ll take the time to check out some of the links above. I certainly didn’t choose them lightly! Happy 2014, everyone!

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Best Posts for Writers, Think Positive, Writing Process

What I’ve Accomplished This Year (2013)

My goals at the beginning of 2013

Take weekends off writing and read a book during those two days — i.e. read 52 books in the year 2013

I think this is the goal I’m most proud of for achieving. By the end of this month I will have actually read more than 52 books. Yay! I wrote a post about how beneficial taking off two days a week has been for me. It’s definitely something I’ll continue into next year, as well as the reading. I’ve had more book ideas this year than I had in the past ten years.

Cure my acne

Not a lot of you probably know about my horrible bout of acne at the beginning of this year, but if you ever saw me, you couldn’t have missed it. Let’s just say it was horrifyingly awful and emotionally (not to mention physically) scarring and traumatic and I’d never wish it on anyone. I’ve struggled with bad skin since the day I turned thirteen, and since I’m nearing my mid-thirties now, I’m pretty darn sick of it. So this year … my goal was to combat the sucker once and for all, and for the first time in my adult life I have decently clear skin. I owe it to this book. I also owe the terrible bout I had this past January thru July to the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM), which instead of giving me good skin, ruined my skin. I now have scars that will forever remind me of what happened. OCM is not for everyone.

Cut down the times we eat out as a family

This was great at first, and then we kind of slacked off. I think we’ve really improved, though, in comparison to previous years. We’ve saved a lot of money by preparing 90% of our meals at home. They are healthier, smaller portions, and a lot less expensive.

Create a professional website and blog

Thanks to the help of a good friend, I created this website, learned how to do proper search engine optimization, and combined my blog with the site. I’ve loved this site so much better than using blogger with two different accounts.

Publish two novels

I didn’t think this one would happen, but it did! In all actuality, I published eight titles this year since I had to republish all my old stuff due to my publisher closing their doors. But, I did publish two new titles this year — Pieces and Out of Tune. And next year? Yeah, no publishing, but look out 2015 — I’ve got big plans.

Lose weight

This didn’t happen for a good ten months. I was giving up on it until I stepped on the scale and realized what I’ve gained this past year. I weigh more than I’ve ever weighed, outside of being pregnant. So I decided to do something about it and get a stationary bike and start counting calories. So far, since the end of November, I’ve lost almost seven pounds. Yay! And I feel healthy and happy even though it’s winter. This goal is definitely sliding over into 2014.

My goals for 2014

Continue to take the weekends off and read a book those two days

Continue to regularly exercise, eat healthier, and get down to my ideal weight — already started

Write three (or more) novels and prepare them for publication — already started

Start writing short stories again

Create a professional website for my cover design/MW Cover Design

Focus on being grateful for what I have and not upset for what I don’t have

So what are your goals for 2014? I highly recommend reading this wonderful post by Jennifer Hubbard about UNresolutions.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me

My “Secret” Life as a Cover Designer

Although many people have discovered this in a much quieter setting, I’m finally coming out into the open to admit that I have professionally designed book covers for the past four years. Including amateur time, I have been designing for the past eleven years. I have worked freelance, as well as under contract for many covers with Rhemalda Publishing, who recently closed their doors. The secret here was that I designed most covers under the artist name Melissa Williams instead of my real name. There were many reasons for me to design “in secret”, but the biggest one was that I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I’ve always wanted to be an author first and foremost, so that is what I have focused on for the most part. I do, however, dearly enjoy design work and art. I ran a photography business in the five years I wasn’t writing between 2001 and 2007, and I learned a lot about art and designing in that time, as well.

All of this, of course, means that I have designed all of my own book covers, even when I was with Rhemalda. Some of my covers I love and some of them I don’t love as much anymore and have redesigned or altered as my skills and knowledge of publishing and cover art have improved. The more I design, the more I learn, and the more I learn, the more I want to experiment and try new things. I have learned that typography is an art form in and of itself, and that without good text art for a cover, it simply does not work. I have also learned that a cover must not only be a piece of artwork, but must also serve as a dang fine piece of marketing. The most difficult thing, however, has been learning how to convey this to authors who might not understand the importance of the marketing aspect and how it can drastically alter what they think their cover should convey. Another difficult thing for me has been the “secret” aspect and not being able to say “I designed that!” when people around me have said how much they love a particular cover I happened to do. It has been a good, humbling experience, though, and has taught me a lot.

Now that my secret is out, I can point you in the direction of Melissa Williams Cover Design if you’re interested in peeking at a portion of my portfolio. It’s not a fancy schmancy website or anything, and I’m not claiming to be the best cover designer in all of history, but I do a professional job, and I truly care about who I work with and what I’m doing. If you are interested in hiring me to design a cover, text art, bookmarks, or other projects, email me at mwcoverdesign (at) gmail (dot) com. Sometimes I’m booked solid for covers, so email far enough in advance to fit your timing. Most covers take two to three weeks from start to finish. Prices range depending on what you’re looking for.

Also, I’m currently looking for illustrators and artists to work with since I do not illustrate or draw art from scratch. I already work with a few, but I’m always wanting to expand my resources. If you or someone you know is looking for a designer to work with on freelance projects, please send me their information. Thanks!

mwcoverdesign

 

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me

The Things You Can’t Predict or Control … Um, Everything?

I think the reason I hate winter so much here in Utah is because I can’t control when it snows and I have to drive somewhere. Driving on snowy, icy roads scares the crap out of me even though I grew up here and I should be used to it by now. It doesn’t help that my husband and I slid off the road once on our way to Colorado. It also doesn’t help that I once stopped at a red light and my car just slid over to the right into an SUV. Nothing happened, but still, there was nothing I could do! The one collision I’ve been in actually happened in the dead of summer when it was 102 degrees outside with no snow in sight. The truth is, all boiled down, is that I really, really hate things I can’t control. I can control how drive, but what if some idiot on the road decides the roads aren’t that dangerous and barrels into me at 60 mph in the middle of a snowstorm? What if? What if???

I think I’ve lived in fear my entire life of things I can’t control. My father was diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. He fought it, and he’s currently free of it, but I remember that year was really difficult for me, knowing anything could happen and I had no control whether I lost him or not. I hate that I can’t do anything about the government shutdown right now. I hate that scientists are predicting significant climate change in some major parts of the world as soon as 2023. I hate that when I drop my daughter off at school, I can’t control how other kids treat her and how she reacts. I can try to control things in my life, in other people’s lives around me, in the environment, but it all feels so insignificant most of the time.

So, when you step back and look at all of this, it’s no wonder that I’m feeling a sense of great freedom from deciding to publish my own work. I get to control everything! But … well, not really. There’s still a lot I cannot control, and that is catching up to me now. I can control how often I check sales, how I market, what I write, etc. So I’ll have to be happy with that. Like winter, the publishing industry is a mix of “if it snows, it snows” and you have to learn how to drive in it no matter what kind of car you’re driving. Maybe all you can afford is a 1994 Dodge Spirit with a red velvet interior and a non-working air conditioner, but you drive it around anyway, thrilled that you have a car that gets you from point A to point B, even on snowy roads. The other people in the big SUVs have it good, you think. They’ve got 4-wheel drive and fast-working heaters and traction control and heated seats. They’ve got it so freaking good. Their lives must be amazing. But who knows, maybe they’ll be overconfident and hit a patch of black ice you successfully avoided. Maybe nothing else in their life is good except for that SUV. Who knows? You have no control over that.

When it comes right down to it, I’ve realized all I have ever had control over is my own attitude about everything. That doesn’t really help my mounting fear of upcoming snowstorms that might end up killing me on the road (I really do avoid driving in the snow as much as possible). But it does help me in a lot of other aspects in my life. I can admit I’m a control freak and just move on as best I can instead of letting it cripple me (which I’ve let happen more than once). I currently cannot go on FB outside of posting my own stuff to see what’s happening, and I’ve avoided watching the news as much as possible. I have sworn off a lot of social things–especially social writing things–for 2014, but all of that moves in cycles for me. When I feel like I’ve recovered from whatever has crushed me, I will be fine and get back into the swing of things, just like a nice long, hot summer prepares me to deal with another winter of unknowns. What scares you the most that you can’t control and how do you move on?

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in About Me

IWSG October 2013 — I Am Surviving!

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeMy last post was pretty depressing. Sorry about that. I like to freak out, and sometimes it leaks out into posts and social networks. For the most part, I try to keep these freakouts to myself. It’s best for everyone, I think. The truth is, I’m surviving! Before I bore you with details, I’ll entice you with the news that I’ll be announcing a new book release date very, very soon. Double yay! Then, once that is out of the way, things will calm down and I’ll get to drafting my next novel.

So, my insecurity for this month? The wonderful thing is that I feel less insecure right now than I have in a long time. Not sure why, but it’s a great feeling. My family is happy and healthy, the weather has been beautiful (despite the fact that we have snow in the forecast for this Friday), and I’m feeling confident about my writing. Let’s hope all of this lasts! My encouragement to others is to hang in there and keep your sights focused on what is most important to you. Things almost always sort themselves out, maybe not in the ways you expect, but sorted nonetheless. More than likely, I’ll have something huge to be insecure about next month, but I’m hanging tight for now. I hope you are too! Let me know what is good in your life right now, even if it all seems bad. Find one good thing and share if you can.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group

What I Used to Care About

If you had asked me four years ago what was important to me in my publishing career, my list would have been very different from what it is now. Seeing my books in a bookstore was deeply important to me. Almost nothing else mattered, in all honesty. If my book was on a bookstore shelf, that meant I was important, respected, and seen. It meant I had “made it”, even though I’m not sure I knew what “made it” even meant. Back then, I had a very different vision of where I wanted my career to go and how it would change my life. It might be silly of me to talk about this now, only a few years later, but I’ve been through a lot in those few years. It wasn’t until my publisher closed their doors a few weeks ago that I fell flat on my butt and could see where I had been and … for the very first time … where I wanted to go. This clarity is a big deal. In fact, I can safely say it’s the biggest deal that has happened in my writing career so far, mainly because I believe it will positively influence everything from here on out.

The truth is, for a little while, I allowed myself to quit. I really was going to walk away from everything. I didn’t tell anybody this, but giving myself permission to make that choice opened up everything to me. When I got back up from that, I realized I’d either have to republish my books or shelve them once my rights were handed over, I knew there were some big decisions to make. So I made them. What has happened after that has been completely unexpected. I feel … happy. And not just a relieved sort of happy because I’ve made a decision, but really happy. Almost giddy. At first I wasn’t sure why. I thought it was because I would now have complete control over everything concerning my books. I also thought it might be because I had so many people supporting my decision, but even though all of that is wonderful, it’s not any of those things. It’s because out of nowhere, I suddenly don’t care about things that have plagued me for years. They are gone because it’s now clear what I want.

I used to stress about validation around every corner. I worried about my books getting into bookstores and libraries. I worried endlessly about whether or not I would be able to book a signing at a real bookstore. I used to fret about what all my friends thought about my publisher and whether or not I was respected and judged to be a good writer and person because of it. I used to die a little inside every time someone talked about their agent or announced a book deal and posted their Publishers Weekly announcement. I used to worry about what people would think of me if I told them I published my own books.

Now?

I care about telling stories, writing better every time I sit my butt down in my chair, producing quality books, and interacting with my fan base. That’s it. Everything else is just the little fringes on the outside of what really matters. Those other things can be important, sure, but there is no right way to publish, only what is right for you at the moment. I don’t care if I decide to publish my stories differently somewhere down the road. I just don’t care! The only thing that matters is that I’m happy with my writing. Everything else stems from that. I don’t know if I can explain how I feel now, but the best way I can explain it is that I’ve kicked down a wall and I can see the sky for the first time. I know there will always be storms down the road, but for now it’s a beautiful day.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in All Things Publishing, Self-Publishing, Think Positive

IWSG September 2013 — Two Reasons Why I Haven’t Quit

Insecure Writer's Support Group BadgeMany of you might have read my post yesterday about my publisher closing their doors. I didn’t talk too much about my emotional turmoil over the whole thing, but I’m not sure it’s the greatest thing to dwell on, in all honesty. I’ve decided what I want to do, and the point of this post is to say that quitting is not in the decision I made.

Now, I’ll admit that quitting crossed my mind, but not for very long. When I considered throwing in the towel and never writing again, I ended up with two very strong reasons why I should not do such a thing. Yes, I boiled it down to two because sometimes when you’re freaking out, simplicity is the best medicine.

I Am Alive and Anything is Possible

This might sound a little cheesy, but it’s true. As long as I am a breathing, functional human being, anything is possible. I was listening to the radio yesterday about a football player who had to have his leg amputated. The man seriously didn’t give up. He said, I will be back on the field someday! I promise! And he totally did it. He got a prothetic and he’s back on the field playing professionally. He says it hurts every single damn second because the prosthetic grates against his bone, but his love for what he’s doing makes it so that it doesn’t matter.

That, you guys, is something to learn from. Sure, stuff hurts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it, and as I told my seven-year-old daughter the other day, You can do hard things. She kept saying she only wanted to do easy things because they were easy, and I stopped and I thought about that. I thought, well, if you only stick with the easy crap, there sure isn’t much payoff, is there?

Even if I Haven’t Meant to, I’ve Made a Difference

My writing — this thing I do that causes pain and joy at the same time — really does make a difference in so many ways. Even if it’s just a difference to me. My publisher might close their doors, but I’m finding another way to share my stories. That way might fail at some point, and if it does, I’ll find another way. THIS IS NOT ABOUT HOW I AM PUBLISHED. THIS IS NOT ABOUT INSECURITY OR INADEQUACY, OR MONEY, OR WASTING TIME ON SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T MATTER. Because it has made a difference for good in my life, and I haven’t given up yet.

You never know what your example will inspire in someone else, what your words can do to change another, and where your motivation will lead.

As I told my husband when I was considering walking away from all of this — “If I quit writing, what else would I do that I love just as much? I would probably find something, sure, but then I’d probably want to quit that too because anything I love as much as this will require the same amount of effort, pain, and dedication. So why not this? Why. Not?”

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting is first Wednesday of every month. Click here for more info.

Posted by Michelle D. Argyle in IWSG | Insecure Writer's Support Group