Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Marketing for Introverts

Hi! I'm Samantha, and I'm an introvert. In fact, I'm really happy that we're having this little talk here on the Internet, where I don't have to actually talk to you.

It's not that I'm not friendly. I bet I'd even like you. It's that I'm still recuperating after participating in a fan convention this weekend for my writing life.

Being a writer might seem like a natural job choice for an introvert. In some ways, it's an excellent fit.

Doing the work requires spending copious amounts of time alone.

The work itself is usually pretty quiet (just some keyboard clicking or pen scritching noises).

You can do the work wherever you are most comfortable.

On the other hand, if you want to make a career of writing, you can't *just* write. You have to put your work out there for others to read.

Then, there's the marketing, that second job of garnering attention for your work and being discoverable. That can be pretty painful for a introverted person, but I'm here to tell you that it can be done.

At Illogicon last weekend, I participated in a wonderful panel on this very topic with some talented introverts: Gray Rinehart, Claire Wrenwood, Patrick Dugan, and Fraser Sherman. We all agreed that you can make a career as a writer without undergoing some kind of alchemy and becoming an extrovert, and that in some ways, introverts might be especially well suited to it.

So, here are a few things to consider if you're an introvert and trying to promote yourself and your work.

1. Take it slow: A lot of people seem to think that building a writing career and support network is a sudden quick movement, like sweeping the legs in a kickboxing match.

It's not.

Not even for extroverts.

Building contacts and relationships is the work of years, and luckily, it's the kind of work introverts are good at! We may not be comfortable standing behind the megaphone and calling for the attention of everyone in the room, but we're great one-on-one and when we get to know someone, we usually get to know them well. Our relationships are deep and strong and lasting.

When you are meeting new people, be reasonable in your expectations for yourself. I'm happy if I make one or two new initial contacts at any given event. I'm not trying to go home with my pockets bursting with business cards. I'm trying to make a few meaningful connections.

2. Pick your poison:  There are a lot of ways to put yourself out there as a writer. You can give readings, participate in discussion panels, teach workshops or classes, hand sell books from a table or booth at an event, make videos about your work, tweet cleverly, blog, etc.

Some of these things will scare the heck out of you, and some may only make you nervous. Pick something you feel like you can do and try it. You can push yourself a little at a time, and you don't have to put yourself out there on every possible platform.

Look at events carefully, think about your comfort levels, and plan accordingly. I enjoy doing fan conventions, for example, but I tend to stick to small and medium sized ones relatively near my home base.

I take my sister with me whenever I can because it's good to have someone more outgoing with you and someone who will help you take care of yourself when you need it. Even better if that someone loves you and understands your needs and limits.

I like panel discussions because they have a clear structure and don't require me to "make the first move" like approaching someone at a booth or table does. Someone will call on me when it's my turn to talk.

I ask convention organizers not to schedule me for late night programming because it's harder for me to be entertaining and clever and "on" when I get tired.

Over time, this has gotten more comfortable for me because I've gotten to know more and more people, so often attending an event means I'll be among as many friends as strangers. I find that VERY comforting.

Though Dragon Con is the BIG con near me, I have yet to apply, because I know how stressful I would find it to navigate the halls of such a large free-for-all event. Maybe I'll get there someday, or maybe I won't. We'll see.

For now, I'm feeling good about how much more comfortable I feel with what I'm doing now.

3. Self-Care! Everyone needs self care, but introverts may need to tend to themselves a little sooner and more specifically than other folks (I wouldn't know; I've never been one of those other folks).

For me, that means being as careful as I can be with my schedule: making sure there are adequate meal breaks and quiet time, packing some good snacks.

That might mean that I skip some networking opportunities and don't go to the bar with the other writers after an event, or decide to spend time alone in my hotel room instead of sitting at my table or booth for two more hours (even if I miss a chance to sell a book that way).

If I don't give myself space to recoup my energies, I'm not going to make a good impression or make good use of those opportunities anyway.

It also means that I try to give myself decompress time after an event.

I'm writing this on Monday night and I got home from a convention on Sunday night. I had three different social invitations this evening, but I turned them all down in favor of sitting here quietly at my laptop. It was the right choice, especially since I'll have to be "on" again next weekend for the college class I'm teaching.

So there are my thoughts on how to make a go of this if you're an introvert. By the way, that panel? It was the most laid back and polite panel I've ever been on. I don't think anyone talked over someone else or interrupted even once. And we left plenty of wait time for questions from our audience. :-)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Illogicon 2019!

I'm so excited about my first convention of 2019. Illogicon is my backyard con, so chock full of all my writing and fandom peoples from the area. Though it's growing, it's still small enough to feel intimate and friendly. It's panel driven and has been home to some of the best panel discussions I've ever participated in. So, if you live near Brier Creek, Raleigh, NC, you should totally come and have fun with us.

In case you can't make it, here's what I'll be up to. Looks like I'm in for a busy and exciting weekend.

4:00 Friday, 11 of January: Office Hours

This is something new the convention is doing and I like it. You could rent a table by the hour, rather than by the day, to have a temporary home from which to sell and sign books and talk to readers. I'll be there selling the remaining print copies of the Menopausal Superheroes series before my new editions are released by Falstaff Books as well as copies of anthologies. I'm also happy just to talk about writing life, so come by and say hello.


6:00 Friday, 11 of January: The Author Dating Game with hostess Joey Starnes, and authors Michael G Williams, William C Tracy, and Fraser Sherman

I've been a part of this panel at other conventions and it's always such fun! Authors role play as their characters, appearing on an old fashioned dating show. A lucky audience member gets to interview us and decide which character to take on a date, winning a free copy of the book in question. I haven't decided yet upon this writing, which of the Menopausal Superheroes to roleplay, but anyone would be lucky to take any of these heroes out!



9:00 p.m. Friday 11 of January: Writing Romance for People Who Can't Say Panties with Alexandra Christian, Emily Wolf, Michael G Williams, and Gail Z Martin

Love and romance come up when you're writing, even when you're not writing romance or erotica. But for some of us, it's not so easy to write.

Looking forward to talking about this with this group of witty and supportive people. I expect I'll giggle and blush a bit, but that's kind of the point, isn't it?

10:00 p.m. Friday 11 of January: Solo Reading

This is going to sound weird coming from an introvert like me, but I love doing readings. Even when only a couple of people come, it feels like a celebration, a moment to say "Look what I did!" Here's a short one from Conapalooza last year.



11:00 a.m. Saturday 12 of January: GrimDark Knight: Rises, with Alexander G. R. Gideon, Patrick Dugan, Jason Gilbert, and Darin Kennedy

We'll be discussing how the popularity of Urban Fantasy and Grimdark might have affected and influenced the rise in popularity of Comic Books and Superheroes movies.

1:00 p.m. Saturday 12 of January: Networking for Introverts with Michelle Iannantuono, Patrick Dugan, Fraser Sherman, Gray Rinehart

I'm moderating this panel and we'll talk about how to build your network when you would rather build a blanket fort.

5:00 p.m. Saturday 12 of January: Have you Gone Mad? with James P. McDonald, Samantha Bryant, JD Jordan, Bill Mulligan

We'll be talking about some of the most fascinating mad scientists in fact and fiction. Come, rule the world with us!



6:00 p.m. Saturday 12 of January: Office Hours: my second hour of table time. Come talk books, writing, and all things superhero with me.

1:00 p.m. Sunday 13 of January: When Strangers Attack: with Emily Wolf (RamenWitch), Alexander Gideon, Chris Shrewsbury, Jason Gilbert

In this "Defense Against the Dark Arts" seminar come learn some tips on how to deal with trolls and other social media monsters.

2:00 p.m. Sunday 13 of January: Prospective Press Authors Round Table with Jason Graves,  Gail Z. Martin, Jason Gilbert

Prospective Press published one of my stories this past year, and I'm writing a new Menopausal Superheroes short story for an upcoming anthology for them. Come here about these and all the other great new projects from this up and coming small press.

And that will bring my Illogicon to a close. Along the way, I hope to laugh a lot, have a few drinks and some food with friends, and remember what's great about hanging out with all the best geeks. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Beginnings and Endings: My Curiosity Quills Story

Four and a half years ago, I signed my first book contract. I was so happy! The first step in the fulfillment of a dream. Validation of my work. Lisa Gus, the head of the company, was flattering about my work and seemed really enthusiastic about the possibilities for it.

The company was Curiosity Quills Press.

I'd done my due diligence with research. Always a good idea to google anyone you're considering working with, and for presses, definitely look at writer protecting information sites like Writer Beware.

I also knew one person (an online writer friend) who had worked with them and he had a good experience. The contract was clear and, based on my limited knowledge at the time, I thought it was fair. So, I wasn't duped or stupid. I did my best to make a good decision.

Things were good for a couple of years. My first book came out timely. The editing was decent. I liked my cover. Sales were steady if not quit-your-job fabulous. Royalties were paid in a timely manner. Communication was prompt and responsive. I received support for marketing with things like graphics creation and special pricing for events.

There was talk of some film rights. I was led to believe an audiobook was in the works.

I saw my second book in the series into print with the same company, wrote a between-the-books novella for a multi-author collection, a side story collection, and then the third novel. All this between 2014 (contract signed) and 2017 (third novel released).

As early as 2016, I started to see signs of trouble. 

Because of delays on the cover art, I had a book launch party for book number 2 at which I had no actual copies of the book to sell. Those same delays kept me from being able to get pre-publication reviews and guest posts on bigger name sites because I couldn't send the information and copies required in time. 

Everyone at CQ was super apologetic, and I rolled with it, taking it as a one-time fluke. 

It wasn't. 

With the release of the second novel, we had agreed to make some changes to the first, correcting some surface errors that weren't found before publication, adding an indication on the cover that it was a book one, now that there clearly was more to the series, and changing the end matter to advertise other books in the series. 

We went through the whole process and I went merrily on my way, assuming they'd done as they said they would. 

They didn't. 

I didn't find out for months because I order my print copies in large quantities, so it was a long time before I ran out of copies of book one and ordered more. I was heartbroken when I opened my new box of books and saw that NONE of the promised changes had been made. 

When I called them on it, the changes were made, but no satisfactory explanation was ever given for why it hadn't happened months earlier, when it was promised and agreed upon. 

After that, I moved more cautiously. 

Communication was slowing. I'd ask questions and wait more than a month for an answer, sometimes having to nudge again to get it. (Earlier all responses had come within a week). 

The editing process for the third book was protracted and difficult, and resulted in copy that didn't satisfy my own standards. I asked for and was granted additional passes by other eyes, which meant more delays. 

When I saw the cover for the third book, I had to send it back and remind them that the character that was portrayed on it was Hispanic, not white, so the skin tone was inappropriate. Seems like my publishers ought to have known that already, and conveyed that information to the artist. CQ had always prided itself on diversity in its catalogue. 

I didn't have a book launch party for the third book at all, worried that I'd have no paper books in
hand again. Turned out to be a legit worry, as the paper copies were delayed, and, when they finally arrived, they looked terrible. The colors were muted and it didn't jump off the shelf at all. Very different than the vibrancy of the digital edition or the previous two books.

It took months and months to get anything better. No offer was made to compensate me for author copies I'd purchased that looked terrible. No, "let us make this good" like I had expected. The explanation I was offered was that it was technical issues related to CMYK printing.

I stayed civil, but I was livid. Why was this my problem? Shouldn't the publisher have communicated that kind of information with the artist and gotten a cover that would print well? The final version was improved, but still doesn't look nearly as vibrant as the first two covers. I did my part. They didn't do theirs.

In the Facebook group for authors and other members of the CQ team, I started to see more and more problems of this sort. People not getting paper copies months and months after their digital release. Covers with errors, including even a misspelled title! Conversations with other CQ writers I knew were full of worry and consternation. 

Communication got slower and slower. By 2018, there was one woman in the office who actually responded when you sent a message. She'd say, "I'll ask Eugene," and then you'd listen to the crickets chirp until you sent another nudge and another and another. Getting any kind of answer to any kind of question was now taking multiple months. 

There was all this vague and confusing talk about a new endeavor called WishKnish that sounded entirely fishy to me. 

2018 was also the first time I didn't get paid when I was expecting to. It was happening to others as well. When I wrote and called them on it, I got paid, but it happened a couple of more times before the year ended. Some folks still haven't been paid for work they've already done and sales that were already made.

I had a bad feeling in the base of my stomach every time I thought about Curiosity Quills by this point. 

Another writer friend who runs in the same circuit of conventions I do and was also published by Curiosity Quills had taken his rights back. Everyone in the business I talked to said that these were some very bad signs and I should do the same to get out while the getting was good. Other writers shared their horror stories about having rights caught in limbo when companies folded. 

I hesitated. Curiosity Quills had given me a break when I had no readership, with my debut novel. I'm a loyal person. I didn't want to jump ship if this was a rough patch and things were going to get better. But I began to talk quietly with other small publishers I'd gotten to know over the last few years. I knew I had at least one publisher who was interested in taking on my work if I left. I held onto that thought as a life raft. 

Things continued to go downhill, not for me personally since I didn't publish anything with them in 2018, but for many others. I stopped writing the series and spent 2018 writing something else entirely. I worried this would hurt the momentum of my sales and my series, but I didn't want to give Curiosity Quills any more of my work until they showed they'd do well by it. 

They didn't show me that. In fact, things looked sketchier and sketchier by the day.

So, in October, I did it. I asked for my rights back. 

I was expecting a struggle over it, which was probably part of why I hesitated all those months. The contract asked for kill fees and I was worried I'd have to get a lawyer involved to show how they had breached the contract already and shouldn't gain from my work. My other job is teaching, which doesn't pay well enough to make legal fees a casual consideration. 

To my great relief, my rights were granted painlessly with pleasant words wishing me well in my publishing journey. To my even greater relief, Falstaff Books signed me right away, and agreed to get my books re-released in early 2019. 

In December, I learned that the company had not paid that nice woman who still responded to messages since October and that she had left the company. I began to feel like I'd jumped ship just in time. (click here for the Writer Beware article). Author after author, including their biggest names and most prolific writers are leaving. I'd be surprised if the company doesn't entirely fold here quite soon. 

The worst part about the ending of this story is what feels like unprofessional and disrespectful behavior of the company towards me and the other writers. They've been ghosting the entire group. They stopped responding to emails, private group messages, DMs, and even public social media callouts.

Failure happens. Companies fold. Endeavors fail. Partnerships end. But there are good ways and bad ways to handle that. Curiosity Quills did not show well in the end. 

I'm so sad that what started as a grand adventure has ended with me feeling like I have an especially lousy ex-boyfriend who didn't have the balls to end it properly and let us both move on. 

I'm so glad I got out when the getting was good. I hope my fellow Literary Marauders all find safe havens for their work, too, as this continues to fall out. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

IWSG: Questions I've Been Asked



It's the first Wednesday of the month which means it's time to let our insecurities hang out. Yep, it's the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog hop. If you're a writer at any stage of career, I highly recommend this blog hop as a way to connect with other writers for support, sympathy and networking.

If you're a reader, it's a great way to peek behind the curtain of a writing life.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 2, 2019 posting of the IWSG are Patricia Lynne, Lisa Buie-Collard, Kim Lajevardi, and Fundy Blue Be sure to check out what they have to say, too.
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OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question:What are your favorite and least favorite questions people ask you about your writing?

Honestly, I'm still thrilled when anyone expresses interest in my writing at all. I'm happy to answer the same questions about where my ideas come from and what my writing process is like and who my characters are over and over and over again. It doesn't get old.

I'm feel fortunate to have the chance to be on panels, teach classes, and give interviews to talk about my writing life and my books.

Repetition doesn't faze me. I take the same attitude I do in my middle school classroom when I'm teaching how to conjugate the verb SER for the hundredth time: it's okay to reinvent the wheel; that's how people learn to invent.

The experience is new for each learner/listener/reader even when it is no longer new for the teacher/writer/presenter.
My favorite questions are the sort that come from readers who really "get" my work. When they ask something insightful or express curiosity that stems from having read some of my work.

Early on, when the first book came out, I remember a reader who noticed that there's a bit of symbolism going on in some of the powers my Menopausal Superheroes develop, like the woman whose life was weighing her down being the one to take flight, or the woman who prided herself on her thick skin developing skin so thick it was bulletproof.


When she asked me about my intentions in doing that and how Linda/Leonel's gender change fit in, I just about exploded from within with light. If it's possible to fangirl over a fan, that's what I was feeling.

On the other side, some questions are meant to hurt and I've run into a few.

They're less fun.

Digs and put-downs disguised as questions are the worst, especially when you're in public and have to find a way to deflect without making yourself look bad with something you say, responding from hurt or anger. (This is why we never write back or argue with bad reviews, too, BTW: just don't!)


I run into a fair number of people who pull faces of disgust over the word "menopause" and say something like, "Why would you do that?" as if I just suggested we sauté a nice chihuahua for dinner.

I don't waste a lot of emotional energy on people who are not coming from a good place and have a few pat responses akin to, "I'm bored by all the muscle bound bohunks in the genre and wanted to write about interesting people." It probably doesn't win me any converts, but I wasn't going to sell to folks like that anyway.

On better days, I do a little better and say, "Why not?"

But really, you can ask me (almost) anything. I'm not that shy, and after 23 years in the classroom, I'm nigh-impossible to embarrass. And if you ask me about my life of words? You're gonna make my day.