duskpeterson: An apprentice builds a boat as a man looks on. (Default)
[personal profile] duskpeterson
"Who is rich? He who rejoices in his portion."

--The Talmud


MY PROFESSIONAL WORK LAST MONTH

Researched, wrote, and edited "Far Enough Away," a Waterman short story.

Wrote "Guise," a Three Lands short story.

Finished writing "Sweet Blood 4: Checkmate," an Eternal Dungeon novel - the next installment in the main series. Scheduled publication date: some time this summer.

Edited "Homecoming," a Life Prison novelette.

Edited "New Day," a Waterman short story, and sent it out to do the submission rounds. One rejection so far.

Rewrote (to correct a continuity error) and continued sending out "Master's Piece," a Waterman short story. Four rejections and one withdrawal so far.

Continued sending out "New-Fashioned," an Eternal Dungeon short story. Three rejections so far.

Sent out Green Ruin, my currently published Eternal Dungeon short story, to do the submission rounds among reprint markets.

Sent out Torture, my currently published Eternal Dungeon / Life Prison crossover, to do the submission rounds among reprint markets.

>>> PUBLISHED in Restart: AI, a Waterman short story.

Other stories in the submission process:

"The Shining Ones," an Eternal Dungeon novelette. Two rejections so far.

"Journeyman," a Waterman novelette. One rejection so far.

"The Lure," a Waterman novelette.

Other professional tasks:

Worked on a new approach to e-book covers.

Started layout for a massive reworking of my website.

Summary:

I'm very happy with writing is going at the moment. My average words per day this month (on the days that I wrote, which is how I always calculate it) was 4,395. That's an all-time record for me.

However, I made the decision not to write for many days this month, because I'm so incredibly backlogged in editing and publishing. I've been getting a couple of stories completed for submission every month this spring, which pleases me, but I've been delayed in publishing more stories for e-book publication, partly because of the editing backlog, and partly because I knew I'd have to tackle the issues of my website and my covers.


REDOING MY WEBSITE

Duskpeterson.com has been due for a navigational makeover for a while now, and I've decided that, in the process, I'm going to give it a professional makeover as well - that is, I'm going to figure out what I want the website to do professionally, and then zero in on that.

1) As far as e-books and submissions are concerned, I've been centered for the last couple of years on Toughs and The Three Lands. Princeling and Darkling Plain I've been slow in updating, but I do plan to add more to them, so we're talking about my two main series cycles: Turn-of-the-Century Toughs and Yes, My Liege.

Sweet Suffering hasn't grown for years - I think it represents a particular period in my writing life, one that I greatly enjoyed, but which I don't think I'm likely to add to in the future, simply because I've stopped writing stand-alone stories (except for Darkling Plain). My contemporary fiction is dead in the water, though I might complete Loren's Lashes in a chapter-by-chapter manner that's best suited for online serialization. At any rate, I'd decided a while back to keep my contemporary fiction entirely noncommercial. My nonfiction is also dead in the water.

So that means centering duskpeterson.com on Turn-of-the-Century Toughs and Yes, My Liege, and moving everything else to other places on the web (because even informational pages that I'm not updating have archival value). I've decided to send my nonfiction back to its original location at duskdarkling.org, while getting rid of the series pages at duskpeterson.com for Sweet Suffering, Unmasked, and Main Street Leather, but keeping the stories themselves at AO3. I still haven't figured out how to handle my AO3 fiction (other than not deleting it, of course).

2) Which genre audience should I market my professional fiction to? For the last couple of years, I've tried marketing it to m/m romance readers, since all the evidence I had was that this was the genre community where most of my current readers were coming from (along with the related communities of slash and yaoi, but presumably a lot of slash and yaoi readers also read m/m romance; I certainly do).

The result, alas, has been a string of reviews like this. Over and over, I've been hearing the same thing from romance readers:

a) "Oo, yuck." (Sometimes phrased more politely as, "This isn't really my sort of thing.")

b) "This isn't romance." (Usually the reader will then make an attempt to reclassify the story. "Gay fiction" seems to be the favorite choice.)

c) "This is really well written."

Honestly, there's hardly anything nicer than having a reader - who has clearly come close to vomiting at your subject matter - say that you write well.

But it would also be nice not to disturb the digestive processes of my readers. A certain amount of nail-biting and dismay at plot developments I expect; it's part-and-parcel to the type of writing I do. But I'd rather not leave the reader regretting that they read my story.

I still believe that there are some darkfic m/m romance readers out there, if only because there are other darkfic m/m romance writers out there. But after talking with another darkfic m/m romance writer, I've concluded that the amount of genre romance in my stories isn't high enough to draw in most of those readers.

So I'm going to have to find another professional audience to market my stories to.

Right around the time that I was concluding that I needed another audience, I decided that the only online marketing I could permit myself to do - because of my out-of-control web addiction - was submitting stories for publication in other places besides my press, because I could do that type of marketing with a minimum of web time. (Also, quite frankly, I'd rather be writing new stories than posting announcements at romance blogs.) I took a very lengthy and serious look at the m/m romance presses, but I couldn't get past the fact that - with only one exception that I could find - m/m romance presses ask for two to six years of exclusive rights to the story, which would prevent me from publishing those stories myself during that period. Also (again being quite frank) the pay isn't very good in the m/m romance world. It's hard to judge the pay, since m/m romance writers don't seem eager to talk online about the size of their royalty payments, but you can usually judge how much a book will make by looking at the advances, and the advances I saw were the equivalent of one or two cents a word (or they were zero, which is always a bad sign).

Professional speculative fiction magazines (print and online) pay at least six cents a word. They don't have long exclusivity periods. And when I looked again at their submission guidelines, I discovered - to my great shock - that while I was away, a revolution had occurred in the science fiction and fantasy community.

SF/F magazines are now begging for lgbt stories.

I am not joking. Half the professional SF/F magazines - and I suspect that more than half share this sentiment - now have diversity statements in their submission guidelines, in which they make clear that they are especially interested in stories about characters who have traditionally been marginalized in science fiction and fantasy. This includes lgbt characters.

The sound you hear is my jaw dropping to the floor. Knowing that a trickle of lgbt SF/F had been published over the years (much more than in most genres), we original slashers, in the early 00s, wistfully expressed our hope for the day when an SF/F publisher (we only expected it to be one publisher) opened its door to us and began publishing a percentage of lgbt stories that was in reasonable proportion to the number of readers who exist who are interested in lgbt SF/F.

We did *not* expect most of the SF/F community to drop their barriers to lgbt SF/F with a sudden crash. (We underestimated how angry the real-life marginalized people would get at not being represented or published in SF/F. At a certain point, they *pushed* barriers down.) Nor did we expect that there would be lots of SF/F readers out there posting blog articles that said, "Give us diverse characters! We don't care if we haven't read about such characters before - we want something new!"

Once I'd recovered from the impact of this news (or sort of; I'm still reeling), my decision was easy. Market to the SF/F world. A decision I'm terribly pleased with, because it means that I can now write friendship stories without worrying about how I'm going to market them. (That's been a problem for me since 2002; it's one of the reasons I've been so slow in continuing the Three Lands series.)

But my decision also meant (*gulp*) that those dozens of e-book covers I created last year, when I was marketing to m/m romance readers, are all wrong now.


REDOING MY COVERS

After I got cut into neat little pieces last January by the Romance Divas for not having good covers, I tried creating new covers in a uniform style, in a manner meant to suggest historical suspense (or historical romantic suspense, depending on the subject of the story).

I learned a lot in the process, and I was pleased with the results of a few of my covers, such as "Men and Lads" (Life Prison). But mostly not, and I was spending far too much time online, searching for appropriate public-domain or licensed-for-reuse images. So toward the end of 2014, I began to explore the possibilities of premade covers and custom covers . It turned out that premade and custom covers didn't quite supply the look I wanted, they cost a lot (a quarter of my earnings last year went to covers), and they took me online almost as much as the covers I'd created myself.

What I needed was:

1) Covers that were genre-appropriate for the readership I was trying to attract.

2) Covers that provided the look I wanted.

3) Covers that cost little or nothing.

4) Covers that require me to spend little time online.

Once I decided to switch my marketing to the SF/F world, all the covers I created last year didn't work, including the ones I had ready for upcoming e-books. (*Sigh.*) But this did give me the opportunity to tackle the problem anew, using what I'd learned in the past year.

First thing I did was head for the Science Fiction and Fantasy bestseller sections of the Kindle store. Ignoring the LGBT Fantasy category - which is filled with m/m romance e-books, so that didn't help me - I zeroed in on the two categories where I was most likely to place my e-books: Alternate History (which is both a fantasy category and a science fiction category) and Historical Fantasy. Historical Fantasy has done very well for me in the past; it's a small category, so my e-books show better there than in large categories.

What I needed was a cover style that screamed Historical Fantasy, and that could be used also in Alternate History and any other Kindle categories where I might place an e-book.

Diana Gabaldon, Naomi Novik, Guy Gavriel Kay, and George R. R. Martin.

What I found, after browsing the bestsellers and the web, was this and this and this and this.

You've probably seen this cover style a few zillion other places. It's a popular style right now in all genres, but especially historical fantasy books, which are quite likely to be placed in other categories, such as historical fiction or adventure. It's a good, multigenre type of cover that says nothing more than "historical" and, perhaps, "adventure."

At that point, with great regret, I had to discard the notion of making "suspense" be the main theme of my covers. I could still suggest suspense/adventure by flinging the occasional knife or handcuff onto the cover, but there's a limit to how often one can do that without becoming tedious. I was going to have to become a lot more creative with what objects I featured on my covers, and not all of the objects, I knew, were going to suggest suspense/adventure.

But the general idea of having a historical object against a colored background seemed sensible enough, and at that point a lightbulb went off in my head.

I live in a town filled with antique stores. I already own some historical objects myself.

Why not photograph the cover objects myself? Or rather, scan them?

I own a nice scanner, thanks to generous friends who wanted me to be able to scan and OCR books for my own reading pleasure at times of the year when I can't read standard-sized print (which, back then, was nine months out of the year). I got into scanography a few years ago after reading a Smithsonian Magazine article about a scanographer and being blown away by his photos. I promptly went onto the web, looking for more scanographs to drool over. At the time, virtually every scanographer on the planet (there still aren't many in existence) was scanning natural objects, like flowers and leaves.

I scanned a toilet paper roll. It had a bit of toilet paper left on it which, when magnified, looked like lace.

I would have liked to have done more along these lines (you've no idea how interesting a book looks when it's scanned on the end opposite the spine), but I concluded that this would be too time-consuming a hobby and that I really needed to devote my time to my writing and publishing.

So I'm still a rank amateur at scanography. My total training in photography consists of (1) a photography class in high school, (2) a bit of reading of books on photojournalism, and (3) a newspaper editor handing me a camera in 1989 and ordering me to go fill up a camera roll with photos. (Once I'd brought him the results, he named me the newspaper's sole photographer. I love small-town newspapers.)

But scanography is one of the easier methods of photography to learn, and scanographing my covers would fulfill the last two conditions I needed for my covers: the covers would cost me only a token amount (I can easily find appropriate objects for the covers that cost less than five dollars each at the local antique stores), and the covers would require me to spend *no* time online, beyond the few hours I've already spent downloading most of the web articles in the world on the techniques of scanography, as well as bibliographies of the five books published that mention the topic of scanography in a chapter or two. (Like I said, there aren't many scanographers around.)

So those are my two plans for this summer: redo my website and redo my covers. As soon as I can get at least a few covers done, I can resume publishing e-books.


MY READING LAST MONTH

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed at the moment. Currently, I've got access to books and e-texts from the following places:

o--o--o


My personal library of about 4000 volumes.

Courtyard Bookshop, one of the local used bookstores.

The local antique stores.

The research library at the Decoy Museum, here in town.

The local public library.

All the other public libraries in the state, via the local public library.

Booksfree (paperback subscription service).

OverDrive (e-book lending service).

Open Library (e-book lending service).

Bookshare (e-book subscription service).

Scribd (e-book subscription service).

The web: blog articles, online fiction, etc.

o--o--o


It's too much. It's like living in the biggest chocolate factory in the world, and not knowing where to start.

More below, in the web addiction section, on how I've decided to deal with this wealth.


MY DECLUTTERING AND HOMEMAKING LAST MONTH

I spent the month trying to catch up on housework. The web kept distracting me from the task. So again, head down to the web addiction section of this blog entry.


MY PERSONAL LIFE LAST MONTH

The weather has turned nice, so it's a perfect time to get out of the house, but I kept getting distracted by the web . . .


MY WEB ADDICTION LAST MONTH; PLUS, HOARDING

Sometimes, the only way to tackle a problem is to figure out the underlying cause of it.

For example, sometime during the mid-00s, I figured out that one of the main reasons I was spending so much time online - especially at Internet forums - was that I felt lonely. (I was in a relationship at the time, but not a successful one.) So I set out to resolve that loneliness problem in 2005, which is why Jo/e - whom I met in 2007, after my intensive search for someone to mentor - now lives with me as my apprentice and foster son. I was so badly addicted to forums by that point that it took me till this year to fully wean myself off them, but from 2007 onwards, there was a definite decline in my forum participation.

This month, I had another realization. Not a new one, but one that I'd finally reached the point of being able to tackle full-force.

I have an addiction to browsing and acquiring.

I've read that psychologists believe that Internet addictions are closest in nature to gambling addictions, but for me, the closest analog is a shopping addiction. Most of what I acquire in my life (both digital goods and physical goods) doesn't cost me money, the only exception being my Achilles' heel, books, and I've managed to keep the costs of my books down by buying used books in most cases. So on the surface, I wouldn't appear to be a shopping addict.

On the other hand, I'm very close to being a hoarder. (I say "close to," because when my counselor had me take a psychology test two years ago to determine whether I was a hoarder, my results showed me to be borderline. I definitely have too much stuff, but I don't have all the characteristics of a classic hoarder.) Not because I've gone out of my way to acquire a lot of physical goods (again, with the exception of books), but because, until recently, it never occurred to me to get *rid* of anything I owned.

As for digital goods, they're books. That's how my mind interprets them: as text and related forms. Since I'm addicted to book browsing and acquisition, I'm also addicted to the web. I'm compelled to browse for digital goods (e-books, web articles, online fiction, etc.) that I can acquire (i.e. download) and keep (because I don't have the time to sort the electronic files I already have, much less decide which ones to discard).

This cycle of Browse, Acquire, and Keep runs through *everything* in my life. Until I became the heir to my mother's hundreds of boxes of news clippings, I used to routinely clip any interesting article I read. (And yes, I learned this from her.) When I got really, really poor last year, to the point where I didn't have enough money for food, I had to train myself to stop buying food when I already had food in the cupboard. (This isn't because I'm a big eater, by the way; I eat moderately.) I download free e-books and online fiction and web articles galore, even though I have tons of reading matter already available. And to show how far back this goes, there was a memorable episode when I was about twelve, when I went to the public library, and two hours later departed with ninety books. (Those I gave back to the library, though.)

The instinct to browse and acquire is so strong in me that I get edgy if I'm not acquiring *something*, even if it's only the ability to tick off something on my To Do list. (This means I'm awfully good at scheduling myself; there's always a silver lining.) If I'd grown up in a well-off family, I'd probably have a credit-card bill that rivalled the national debt. However, my family was into free and low-cost entertainment, and the Internet provides oodles of that. So, since 1995, my main objects for acquisition have been free. Files. Links. That sort of thing.

The trouble is, the more I feed my browse-and-acquire instinct, the greedier it gets. And though I'm learning how to discard things I no longer use, I'm spending so much time browsing and acquiring that I don't have time left to use all the things I acquire, much less discard the things I no longer need.

This has got to stop.

I've made the decision that, for the length of this summer, I'll stop browsing for and acquiring things, both digital and physical (other than food and other dire necessities, obviously). This isn't the first time I've made this decision, but it's the first time I've gotten far enough along in tackling my web addiction that I think I have a chance of making progress in keeping that decision. I say "make progress," because I don't expect success overnight. But I do expect to make progress, in the same way that I did in 2007 when I started giving up Internet forums.

And then maybe I can begin to enjoy the belongings I already have.

Date: 2015-06-04 03:45 pm (UTC)
diannakay: (Default)
From: [personal profile] diannakay
I'm surprised at your experience concerning your target audience. I would have thought that the mm readership would be a good one for your books. I know that I read I read many books from that genre and would think yours fit into the darker end of it. I hope your revised targeting helps your sales. I really like your books so I hope more people find them.

Covers are tricky. You don't want anything too tacky. I have to say I've always liked your covers.

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