Here’s something clearly intended as just a fun little time-waster (they have those on the Internet now!) — a site that randomly generates pairings of slightly unlikely characters, like this one:
He’s a shy amnesiac jungle king whom everyone believes is mad. She’s a strong-willed thirtysomething barmaid from a secret island of warrior women. They fight crime!
For most people, I figure that site is good for a few minutes of laughs, and then that’s it, time to move on with your day. But if you’re a writer, it might just spark some ideas. Take the result I listed above — okay, the actual combination of those characters might seem a little ridiculous, but looking at each of them individually, I can’t help but start to come up with ideas for scenes featuring them, maybe even whole stories if I let myself.
Go, visit the site, hit “reload” a few times. See who jumps out at you.
If there’s anything I like better than a compliment, it’s a random, unexpected compliment. That’s just what I got yesterday when I fired up my Twitter client and saw this:
— Steve Tannuzzo (@BostonProWriter) March 8, 2012
That definitely made my day. I’m very pleased with how the cover for Slices turned out, but honestly, I’m a little self-conscious about it. I designed it myself, and the prevailing wisdom for self-published authors is Thou Shalt Not Design Thy Own Covers. (But, like I said yesterday, there are no experts on how all this works, so I shouldn’t let that worry me.) So it was nice to hear someone else say that my cover shows “professionalism.”
At some point, I should tell you about how I made that cover — but not today. Today, I’m going to tell you about the process fellow Seattle writer Luna Lindsey went through to get her new cover designed, since she posted this not long after I received the above tweet, and I still had cover design on the brain:
By browsing [DeviantArt], I decided I wanted a photo manipulation style, and then I let my visualization processes stew for a while until I imagined my character in the pose I wanted, with props and background. I made a terrible sketch in pencil just so I could remember the details, bookmarked the artists and images I liked [...]
I chose three artists based on these criteria: 1) I liked their art, 2) they seemed professional — i.e. they presented their gallery in a professional manner, they listed the fact that they took commissions, they had their own website, and they had a portfolio of previously commissioned work.
[...] What impressed me most about Ana was her professional attitude in her email replies. She stated that she always produces a “sketch” or outline of the art before spending too many hours on it, so that if there were foundational corrections, it saves time and money. That showed me that she’d given this lots of thought. If you are commissioning cover art, I would strongly recommend you request this of the artist. Given that this is a digital image, my “sketch” was full color and consisted of the basic model standing in front of the basic background. Details such as her hair, props, touch-ups, color-finishing, etc. had not yet been done. The feedback I gave at this level greatly improved the direction of the image, so I was able to get exactly what I had envisioned.
Very cool, and definitely the route I intend to take when I need a cover for Still Life, the novel I’m revising. Her cover looks great, and you should go take a look at it.
For the past couple of years, as the publishing industry has been rocked by changes, and as writers have been figuring out how to get their writing into their readers’ hands in ways that don’t really involve the “publishing industry” at all, I’ve been watching a lot of people reacting to this rapid state of change in the best way they know how.
Namely, by freaking the fuck out.
Me, though? I’ve been feeling increasingly calm and relaxed and collected. Why is that, I wondered? Keeping my head while all about me are losing theirs is generally not considered one of my core competencies, so what gives?
I think I’ve finally figured it out.
I tend to suffer from analysis paralysis — I’ll over-think a problem so much that it prevents me from actually doing anything about it, especially if I think there are aspects to that problem that I don’t know about or haven’t considered.
One of the things that freaks me out, and keeps me in this paralyzed state, is the fear that I’m not an “expert.” The thought that there are other people out there who know more than I do about the topic at hand makes me want to stop trying. How can I possibly do better than the experts?
Well — right now, when it comes to publishing — there aren’t any experts any more.
With e-books and self-publishing and print-on-demand and other new and disruptive factors keeping the publishing world in it’s current state of aggressive churn, anyone who claims they know for sure how publishing will work five years from now, five months from now, or, hell, five days from now is either:
There’s no one out there for me to feel intimidated by. I don’t have to worry that anyone else has a head start. I don’t have to wonder if I’m listening to the right people, following the right advice, doing everything that’s expected of me.
I don’t have to sit back and wait for things to “settle down,” to figure out what the new “normal” is. I don’t think we’re going to see a new “normal” any time soon — maybe not even in our lifetime.
There are people out there who have found success and happiness writing and publishing, either by going it old-school or by embracing change or by doing a little of both, and most of these people have been generous enough to tell us what’s worked — for them. I may or may not be able to reproduce their results. Who knows? Nobody, that’s who.
I feel free to take whatever sounds to me like good advice, and forge my own path. I’m just as much an expert as the next guy.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
– Buckminster Fuller
Time to stop analyzing. Time to stop waiting for someone to come down out of the mountains with a set of stone tablets that clearly lays out that this is how we sell books now. It’s not going to happen.
What we have now is not comfortable, it’s not certain, and it’s not safe. But it is, finally, a level playing field. And that’s why I suddenly find myself calm about all this.
All right, so — as outlined in Tuesday’s post, I set a goal for myself of reaching out to at least ten book bloggers on Wednesday.
Just following up to let you know, I made it! I was up past my bedtime, but it got done.
The trick to this sort of thing, in my experience, is over-preparation. I actually included seventeen book bloggers in the Excel file I put together yesterday, even though my eventual goal was just to contact “at least ten.”
That way, when it came time to actually work my way through the list, as soon as I hit the point where I started to feel tired of doing it, I was able to tell myself, “Well, remember, you don’t have to do all of these — you’ve done seven already, so just three more and you can stop, okay?”
So I was able to hit the goal I set and enjoy the slacker pleasure of getting to “quit early.”
I mention all this because I figure any writers reading this are probably slackers, too. We all are, or else we’d want real jobs. This turns out to be a pretty good way to trick yourself into being productive — give it a try.
Now to wait and see if any of these queries results in a request for a copy of the book. Fingers crossed. I’m going to need to keep repeating this process and looking for other reviewers, but this is a decent start.