12 April 2018

Rejection Received

Welp. I received a rejection letter for my children's book. I was expecting it because, honestly, what are the odds of my very first manuscript being picked up on my very first query?!? I am a realist.

Still, I was a bit deflated.

The rejection came in the evening, just as we were starting the kids’ school-night routine, and seriously seconds after my husband yelled down to inform me that the cat had peed on our bed.

I was having a great day. Was. Now I just wanted a hot shower and a chocolate milkshake. I didn’t get the milkshake. All I could do was sleep it off – once our bed was all clean and put back together, that is. Whose idea was it to get a cat, anyway? (Hint: It was mine.)

I woke up with resolve.

I expected this rejection. I have a whole list of publishers I think would be a good match for my children’s book. So, I set to the task of drafting more query letters. I submitted to four publishers that allow simultaneous submissions. Though I hardly dare to imagine it being accepted on this second round, I started feeling better once I got it back out there for consideration.

Then, a wonderful thing happened. A friend in my writers’ group reminded me that many aspiring authors never even get to this point. And, I actually began to feel a bit proud of my rejection letter. It is proof that I am putting in the effort. I am doing it.

As Sylvia Plath said, “I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.”

31 March 2018

Presenting Myself

About three months ago, I thought, “But maybe I will,” and decided to go for it. About two months ago, I began confidently saying, “I am a writer.” But, for the past couple weeks, I have hardly written at all. I have been increasingly conscious of how I am presenting myself – to readers, to editors, to the world.

Social media is not my thing. I am sure you have all picked up on that by now. I just want to write. I would rather not spend my time and energy on building and maintaining a social media presence. But, it is a necessity to support my writing aspirations. So, I have been seeking a balance that works for me, knowing very well I will never be as successful as those who master social media and also knowing, if I tried, I would quickly burn out.

That said, social media consumed much of my time the past couple weeks. I kept telling myself that if I could just get it sorted out, then it would be done and I could move on. Of course, that isn’t the case. It will never be done. I will always need to keep engaging. There is always something to improve. But, I needed to tell myself that if I could just set a good foundation, it would be on auto-pilot for a while.

There is so much to decide, so much to consider about how I am engaging and connecting with others, how I am presenting myself. I immediately began to over-analyze and question everything.

Should my Facebook page be titled after my blog or with my name? Should my posts be all about writing or should it be an eclectic mix of the different topics I cover when I write? Should I change the design of my blog? Am I damaging my image by not having a custom domain? I even began contemplating mailing lists!

There was much over-thinking, indecision, and polling of family and friends. I am grateful for the valuable feedback I was offered, but the opinions were split and, ultimately, these were decisions I had to make.

There were two realizations that allowed me to make some progress. First, nothing I decide now needs to be final. It is not a big deal if I change my mind and readjust in the future. Second, my reason for doing it all is to promote myself as a writer. I am not trying to promote my blog. My blogs are truly old school weblog style – I am posting an online journal of my thoughts, nothing more. They are an outlet but not my product.

With that in mind, I got many (non-writing) things accomplished:

  • I redesigned the layout of my blog. This started as a very basic, single page, blog but I now need it to serve as a portfolio of sorts, as well. To accommodate this, and keep it uncluttered, I removed the sidebar and created new pages: Bio, Published, and Works-in-Progress. I also added a contact form and even went ahead and added a mailing list form (though I am not yet going to be drafting any newsletters). Social media links were created for both the footer and the navbar and (I am quite proud of this) I enabled the navbar to float. I have picked up some basic HTML through the years, but I really had to dive into the code to get that to work.
  • I improved my bio. My bio is a reader’s first glimpse of who I am and what else I have to offer. So, I spent some time attempting to craft a better bio in hopes of getting more readers to click through and connect with me further.
  • I changed the name of my Facebook page. This was one of the hardest decisions. I originally named it I May Never Write A Book but it seemed clear that I should be promoting myself as a writer and not this blog which is merely an outlet. I went through several ideas of how to use my name; Elizabeth Joyce {Writer} was what I settled on, only to have it denied. Also denied were: Elizabeth Joyce [Writer] and Elizabeth Joyce (Writer). I thought Elizabeth Joyce - Writer looked like a hyphenated surname and I never had a good feeling about Elizabeth Joyce, Writer. So, I ended up with Writer Elizabeth Joyce, which was one of my first favs but had been eliminated.
  • I created a Facebook group. This was not something I was expecting to do. One of the things I liked about having my Facebook page called I May Never Write A Book was that I hoped it would appeal to fellow writers who would follow along and, hopefully, find some encouragement and enjoy the commiseration. I didn’t want to give that up, but gearing my page towards fellow writers served to limit interest from non-writers, readers who just happened to click through to my page. One morning, it came to me – I should have a group for writers connected to my page. With that, it all fell into place and I felt like I was making the right decision to change the Facebook page name. (Wish me luck with admining a group, though!)

All of this will continue to evolve as I continue on this adventure; I am still barely launched. You’ll notice I have not addressed all the nagging questions yet, either. But I am glad to feel like the foundation is set. I can move on, at least for a while, and focus again on writing.

22 March 2018

Medium

Last week, as I was scrolling through my feed, I took notice of an article saying Medium is the best place for writers. That obviously peaked my interest. I clicked through, read the piece, and was convinced that I should look into Medium for myself. I must say, I like what I found.

Medium is a self-publishing platform that supports a wide variety of topics. Much like I wrote about the TODAY Parenting Team, using self-publishing platforms is like writing a piece for my own blog without needing to maintain a blog in the niche. But, unlike other platforms, Medium does not have ads – something I truly appreciate.

From what I have gathered, the site is trying to create a space where readers can read without the clutter and distraction of ads, as well as a place where writers can write focused on content and not for the sake of trying to cram in as many keywords as possible to drive up ad revenues. Instead, Medium is now funded by $5/month membership fees. Non-members have access to up to three articles a month and are even allowed to create a profile and publish their own work – all completely free of charge. Anyone can become a member, but I suspect the majority of the members are writers themselves. Members have access to unlimited articles, as well as some other special features, but what I find as the most compelling benefit of becoming a member of Medium is that it supports fellow writers.

Self-publishing on Medium is like offering up my writings for peer review. If enough members read my piece and "clap" for it, I can actually get paid. While other platforms have ads and keep all the revenue for themselves, Medium is saying, no ads and we'll even offer a portion of our membership fees to support our writers. I. Love. This.

The idea of giving my work away for free has never sat well with me. I understand the need for websites to cover their costs, but it does not feel right for them to profit without any compensation to those generating the content. Offer me something for my efforts and my intellectual property. Offer me a flat rate. Offer me a tiered pay scale based on performance. Offer me the opportunity to be rewarded only if my piece does well. Offer me anything that shows my work is valued and I, as a writer, am respected.

I love the writers-supporting-writers concept. It is still fairly new; Medium has been around since 2012 but it only started rolling out this system last year. It is evolving and has already been through some changes. I am intrigued by their model and I'm looking forward to seeing what becomes of it.

I decided to dip my toe into Medium's waters by syndicating a personal essay I originally wrote for this blog. I am still new to all of this and learning as I go, but this platform seems promising.