OKAY so let’s do recent news then my annual navel gazing look back at my own fuckery.
First up. My last publication of 2019 is one close to my heart. This essay was solicited, rejected, submitted, rejected a lot. Here is a taste:
Cultures around the world covet Blackness. Our skin tones, our styles, our hair, our features until, those things are attached to an actual Black person. Many of us have lived through harassment, job loss and general public humiliation because our style is too ghetto, our hair is inappropriate. I was raised to conform. Keep my hair straight, not be, act or look too Black. Blackness and my expression of it was constrained by the White gaze.
I was not taught how to love myself or how to be a human being.
Nothing about my physical appearance has ever been “right” save for a time during an extended eating disorder relapse when I was thin. Most of my life I have been chunky or fat. I am not able bodied. My teeth are not good. My skin is not clear. My hair is, frequently a mess. What began for me as a shameful secret has become the key to my personal liberation. My morals are, abhorrent to American culture.
What else? I’ve resumed my newsletter/creatives loveletters. I moved over to Substack so come check em out. The year end big ole chonk one will be out probably soon.
This leads me into a little bit about what I’m doing with my work, what I’m working on and stuff. So I won’t be doing any super deep essays for a while. No new shit about racism, Anti Blackness etc. Y’all I honestly just can’t. I’m burnt out. Uh here’s the thing. I don’t think I will make my writer bones writing that shit. I’m not the one and that’s fine. Yes, I am good at writing those things. Yes, it matters deeply to me but, my language and who I am as a person and how I write just tends to cause problems and I’m tired.
In my continuing quest to figure out how to be more sustainable in my art, this part of my craft is just too much for me right now. The publications that fuck with me, most aren’t able to pay a whole bunch and I’m not mad at them for that, indie media is a struggle. I am very mindful that the payment I can get, often doesn’t counteract the cost of the rest of the bullshit.
This is brought to you by the fact that an entry I wrote here a few years ago, STILL makes white people so angry I get shit about it. I wrote about the experience at the time here.
Thing is, I’ve long stopped equating the idea of folks seeing my work being totally worth it. Frankly, for me seeing (shit pls do not take this as haterade) that, I can’t be or am rarely considered to be the type of Black writer to get the seat at the table and the cash without a heavy fee (as in, toning it down, blablabla) it just hurts too much.
My body of work is out there. I am free with link sharing but I’m not sure I will do more of that in an intentional manner.
So this is also part of me doing the work of finding my lane. Y’all been here, you know that this is important to me.
Freelancing=not my lane.
Resource creator for my community=not my lane. I’ve failed in that because I don’t think I have the trust of communities I’m in so yeh.
I think that for 2020 I need to focus on just being the little weirdo potato I am. In this long ass process of letting go of one version of being a successful writer, I’m stumbling along and mostly just trying not to be fully lost.
Essentially, I’ll post stuff where/how I feel like in the moment. I’m not going to go real hard about trying to hustle my Medium or Kindle links. I just don’t have the energy to do all that and get pennies in return. It is not only time consuming but also, y’all it just hurts my feelings.
So there tis homies.
I will likely not post again until the new year. So I love you. Thank you for riding with me through the years. We gonna be okay.
Your problematic fave has some news and stuff to read.
An essay I’m terribly proud of finally found a home. Head on over to Queen Mobs Teahouse to read my ‘Make Me a Monster‘ essay. This essay which is, me at my rawest and realest got itself a lot of rejections included one that was from a solicited submission.
How about some hustle updates? Recently, Medium has changed how they calculate payment. I have put some new stuff over there and in absolutely non shocking news it doesn’t do well. I am trying to stop hurting my feelings with analytics but, frankly while yes I make about .60$ more a month or so, most people aren’t interesting. So on one hand, yay I made 1.87$ last month, I also offered up more than a few thousand words.
Other hustles, the holiday patreon drop off has begun. I’m not super worried about it. That is just what it do. Also as history has shown me, when I’m talking expansion that drives off patrons still so…eh.
On to Amazon. In the kindle publishing thing if you make your work available for Kindle unlimited you can make a bit of coin from page reads. I do not have any page reads since Sept 7. No sales of any of those pieces since Sept 25. I did one two week run of advertising to people I don’t already know. 600 impressions, 0 clicks, 0 sales. So I ate up my profits. I might make .52$ by new year. In total, for 2019 I made 35.46$ Minus advertising and when I tried FB advertising, my profit is about 4$. My two fave things I have available are the tiny horror collection Flashes of Discomfort. And the short story Bernie’s Warg. Those are affiliate links.
I think that’s it for hustling. I am trying really hard not to focus on it. It is so hard when you know that just a little more financial success would change so much. It is also hard because I know how I am and frankly, like I have said eleventy times before, I’m gonna write the shit anyway.
So I distribute stuff as I see fit. I’m doing really well at noting when things flop and why. I’m doing better at not getting bogged down in my financial failures. Emotionally, having my work not read/enjoyed etc isn’t the part that burns and that is so frustrating to me. It is a struggle but, we out here.
I think that’s all for now. 2020 is lookin up. I have one for sure thing that’ll be out third quarter. Maybe I’ll stop fucking around and write a real book. Another one. I dunno.
That’s all my loves.
OH OH wait..hold up.
I might be relaunching my creative loveletter thing. I am not sure yet. Stay tuned.
So this is gonna be the last post about this era of my writing career. If you’ve missed it check out here and here. Go ahead I’ll wait.
Now I want to warn y’all this is gonna get long as fuck and real raw about a lot of things. If you’re new here, put on your hardhat and athletic cup. If you’ve been here. Sorry boo.
For background, a few years ago I decided it was time to level up my career. Post a fairly brutal doxxing by other writers, I felt like I really needed to re asses, set some goals and get the fuck to work. When I found out I had a book of poetry coming out, that was my cue.
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in these lit streets since the late 90s. Like most writers, especially those of us swimming in the big ass ponds of poetry and short fiction, I’ve had ebbs and flows. I’ve rarely had a lot of success in poetry. There was a time period where I was a bit notorious amongst white poets because I’m a big ole mean ass Negro who hates free speech.
I was gonna link a bunch but nah. If you want to read my older stuff, links live in the sidebar.
I had a few minor moments, at one point my short fiction high my acceptance rate stayed up in the high 70s with about, 10-15 submissions per week so that was tits.
I got to know some poetry folks who made me feel great. I went to AWP (this is actually a hilarious story so I might try to make a video about it) I got to meet Roxane Gay at the first one and almost peed my pants. In the years between what like 2014-2016ish I was feeling myself in the, obscure but getting some great feedback area of writing.
In 2016 or so I decided that since I was armed with knowledge, a network of readers (a thing a writer I really admire complimented me on was how I engage with folks, that was just great) and I believed.
What I believed was that, in spite of my big mouth and all my shade at the lit community etc that I could carve out some kind of little financially sustainable writing life. I started with freelancing. After my first non-fiction publication I had a taste for it. I have an ability to write about things like racism, fatness etc in a way a lot of folks found good at the time. I had some experience from writing at XOJane. I’d figured out how to deal with things like:
Being told for years what a shitty asshole I am for writing things.
Being doxxed/harassed by angry racists, angry feminists and some other folks.
Being told explicitly (with pull quotes and footnotes) why folks were hate reading me and then why they wanted to make sure I know how much I suck.
Folks trying to get me fired from my dayjob.
Etc etc etc.
All those things continue to suck but I learned how to deal with it. My next plan for my glow up when I realized that to be a “successful” freelancer I’d have to eat a lot of shit, I decided to scale WAY back. Also real talk, dealing with white women in the sooper seekrit internet writing groups, fucked me up and in a lot of ways forced me out. That’s fine.
Some things I’ve been successful at in the last few years:
Figuring out I am not good on spec.
I am too stubborn to settle.
I refuse to eat shit for a byline.
I still write pretty ding dang good fuckin essays.
Don’t get it twisted. I am a fucking bad ass writer. I am. I cannot be fucked with and I continue to sometimes write some really bad shit. Overall. I’m a bad mother fucker.
I am Fat Laila. (MY FAVE INTERNET CHONKY KITTER DO NOT FAT SHAME HER THIS AIN’T THE PLACE BRO) Look at her. This is raw footage of my work and shit. No I just really wanted a giggle break. Stay with me.
So when I decided to level up, I felt intensely ready. I did some courses from places like the Void Academy. FYI the links I share ARE good shit. They just aren’t the good shit for me in particular. When Medium launched their pay program. I put some stuff behind the paywall and pretty much failed hard. I learned SO MUCH from my beloved Milcah. I have held this advice so tight in my little hand. I very literally say it to myself a lot.
From my journal from the time, my number 1 goal was GET MY SHIT READ. Thus I embarked on the type of marketing and self-promotion folks say to do for years.
It didn’t go well.
I had a beautiful most amazing little poetry book come out. Buy her here. Shit this part burns. But I did the thing folks say to do. I reached out to a LOT of people. I offered review copies and I think I got 2 reviews. more stuff I haven’t told anybody. I sent emails, queries etc to lit venues offering review copies, I answered a few very specific calls that put my book into their wheelhouse. Out of 60 emails of this nature sent, I got zero replies.
Privately I was fucking devastated. Part of how I experience anxiety often means I want to apologize to people for bothering them with my needs or whatever. It is just a thing. I was really tempted and so heavily triggered I almost asked my publisher to cancel the book.
I’m glad I didn’t. It is a good little book.
Now here is where I really started to see the pattern of my career at work and exposing a lot to me. Now, in terms of how people respond to my work, even here in Seattle people really love it. On a personal level, people tell me how much they like things I do. Some folks wrote me really lovely notes about how much they enjoyed the book.
After publication, I tried another round of promotion in the review angles and again, nothing happened. Nothing. The few folks who took review copies never said anything about it again. It has taken most of my self control to not email ALL of those people to ask if they just hated it. I don’t need to know.
I know enough.
Those months are what my career is at this point. I’ve realized these things:
The agents I’ve queried have all been either super interested and then once they saw more of my work *who I actually am* they ghost. Or their advice is to cut the social justice stuff, talk about racism less etc.
There is something about ANY of my work that does not keep the attention of people enough to really support it in any material way.
Again, I’m not talking about my ride or dies. I’m talking about the 5k+ folks in my social media, other people. I just ain’t it bro.
Superficially that makes my inner child wail. I want to lay face down on the floor. I want to suck out my personality and brains and everything and try to be more like the badass writers I’ve been compared to (or mistaken for in Ijeoma’s case) Roxane, Nikki. All writers I admire deeply.
If I could in fact eat or otherwise ingest some of their successes and turn them into my own, maybe.
I am not them and that is okay. I don’t have to be.
I could honestly go on forever. I know a lot of super talented, successful amazing writers. I stan them. I get so excited when I see their names in the news and on best of lists etc.
And just this year I realize, that is probably not going to happen for me. I hate it and it breaks my heart into a million pieces but that is just what it is. Whatever it is about me, my work, etc is not gonna be the thing that gets me the big money or the big publication or probably a spot on any best of list.
I’ve accepted it and that my beloveds is why I’m closing my professional FB page. It is why I’m not doing a newsletter anymore, why I’m not going to bust my whole ass trying to get people to do the TWO things I need.
Action doesn’t happen for me when I ask. Unless I’m having a complete panic fueled meltdown and as I’ve said that is exhausting and humiliating and also doesn’t really work in terms of success I can link to it. When I do that, I might get a few bucks thrown at me on Kofi or maybe an extra 2 shares but folks ain’t reading, ain’t buying, ain’t sharing.
So that my friends is the end of this part of my writing career. When I publish on Medium I might use the paywall I might not. I’m writing a lot of fiction. I’ve got some horror coming out this year. I want to get back into noir.
My failure to not get famous, that wasn’t the point. The point was to move my life into a more sustainable model, maybe someday sell a book and keep writing and making some coin. I failed. There were a lot of reasons but I failed.
So like I been doing for 20 years, I’m gonna do what I know how to do.
Write like a mother fucker.
So that’s it y’all. A different adventure begins. Please stay tuned, next week I’m gonna talk about stuff I’ve got planned, we’re gonna nerd the fuck out about horror and weird fiction. It is gonna be lit.
I’ve been doing a lot of long term work on my whole indie author shits. I’ve come to some conclusions. I don’t know how many posts there will be. I am going to talk about my failed hustles. I’m gonna talk about myself, my work and what it all means.
I am not gonna name names. Or divulge ALL the details of some things because y’all don’t need to know.
Yes this is negative. It is. It is also part of me being transparent and showing (representation y’all!) failure and figuring out what to do next. Let’s get started.
First let’s talk successes.
Back in 2017, I had two of my most reshared, read, hated and loved pieces published. Well most hated since I wrote at XO Jane but whatever. I also that year wrote a poetry review that was not what the publisher asked for but I was really proud of. –
Actually you know what. I’ve been done this analysis a lot.
Here is what it comes down to.
After many years of the same patterns repeating themselves this is the conclusion I’ve come to.
There is something about me, my work or something that causes folks to think twice about coming through with help. One of the few rules of self promotion that I’ve adhered to for more than a decade at this point is the call to action. If we wanna be a little more woo about it, I ask my community (in this case my readership) for what I need.
Now. I am a very self aware creator. Having cut my teeth in the porn mines I know that not every word I write is for everyone. That is great. I have beloved ones who do not read porn ever and have not read a lot of my work. I have other friends who don’t understand poetry and don’t read my poems. That is fine.
What I have come to understand is this.
I have a little crew of hard core dedicated ride or die supporters. There are about a dozen of them, most of whom have been reading me from my fatty blogger days, from my porn writing days. I can literally name my top ten buyers who have in the last five years been ALL the same people. They are also marginalized people. They are poor. They are disabled. They are just like me.
The level of love and support from them is amazing and continues to be. I’m not talking about them.
The thing is, when I had one serious uh courtship by an agent for a big house, the thing that stuck with me that they told me is this. I can’t believe I remember this so clearly.
Shannon, you are a hard sell.
I feel like I’ve spent all these years trying to “overcome” that.
At this point I don’t have the energy and honestly I feel really terrible knowing that my support system who have the least resources do the most for me and that is devastating to me. Every time I see it I’m thankful and I’m also mad at myself because I’m the asshole I am and people who HAVE money or resources don’t fuck with me like that.
So look y’all.
I’m closing my author FB page. It takes a lot of my spoons and it has put me into the negative as far as profits from my work go. I’m probably going to make a single page store with links to my kindle shits and other formats for that work but I’m retiring from self promo mostly.
I don’t think I will ever create an image that folks with the means can publicly and materially support. That’s who I am. I am not the one and I’ve known that for a decade.
Also real talk. It hurts my heart so bad every time I do the call to action, every time I say please PLEASE and nothing happens aside from my ride or dies. It hurts. It makes me feel shitty and I hate it. And realest of real talk. The only time there is a swell or upswing of support is when I do the public poor person panic (even then meh) or when I’m metaphorically bleeding out about some racist bullshit and that is too much.
I won’t be returning to regular freelance work. Racism, plagiarism and that last major doxxing really killed that for me. I have maybe 2 editors I trust.
Please don’t take this to mean I am not writing. I am. Like a mother fucker. What am I gonna do with the shit I’m writing? I dunno. Maybe I’ll dive back into the delicious obscurity of short fiction where I was most successful but not noticeably so. Or I’ll continue being ain’t shit and flinging stuff into the world.
What I’m not going to continue doing is putting myself in the hands of a community that don’t want me. And y’all, i’m not fishing so lets be real. The community at large has spoken. I hear it. I am not gonna keep trying to make fetch happen.
So for now I will continue with Patreon because at about 220-265$ per month is is the most successful thing I’ve done. Funny thing is, the work I’m putting up at Patreon is work other agents told me was also a hard sell.
I might start putting some non fiction there too? I dunno. Last time I tried to expand patreon I lost a lot of patrons and I can’t afford that.
So yeah. Dassit y’all. It comes down to after years of being told I have ALL THIS MEGA support and not seeing any fruits of it after a decade and innumerable projects, nah.
I’m drinking a pour over made with Kicking Horse Grizzly Claw coffee. Normally I drink their 454 but this blend is amazing. I added a wee bit of dark brown sugar and it really brought out the chocolatey flavor of this coffee. A fuckin plus.
What else is happening?
Well babes I’m still kind of really struggling trying to figure out how to write at home without a shitload of pain and not having to buy a desk because I don’t have the space. It is super frustrating. My body just cannot take not having some way to sit properly and work. Bummer.
But what’s good tho?
I am doing some new horror that I’m creating from my existing The World mythos. I’ve been wanting to play around and expand it. Also, y’all this is where I’m gonna plug Yeah, Write. I have talked a lot about playing and Yeah, Write is a great way to do that.
I’m not sure to be honest. My fiction writing is super damn slow for no reason and I’ve been writing essays that hurt my feelings. Like can I fucking not do that?
Also I’ve been poking at the self care book reboot and I feel some type of way about it. I dunno. On one hand, yes a good number of folks have said they want it but I am also too acutely aware of the toll writing it takes on me and given my recent performance in the sales dept, I don’t know if I can afford it.
I have reached the point with my Kindle singles experiment (I also had offered the work outside of amazon) where I’ll leave stuff there but that is also not really a viable method of both getting a little coin for my work and putting it out. Even with advertising designed by someone who is not me, nah.
So I’ve decided that there is not that much of a market for my work. That is fine. I won’t be dedicated myself to trying to make fetch happen. I’m still writing of course. I will submit to places when asked or if I see a juicy call but, yeah. I dunno y’all.
I will continue with Patreon. I average a bit over $200 a month and given that 90% of my audience in general doesn’t see value in purchasing my work, this is a huge deal. In the great big universe of Patreon that is bullshit ass money but, considering my track record with cash and my work it is pretty fuckin amazin.
So yeah. If I get a bug up my butt I might put out new medium content or Kofi or whatever. I might put more stuff on kindle. I’m not pressed about it. None of these things are remotely lucrative enough for me to put in more than a half hour a month at most. 10$ a month at the height (in June) of my side hustles just…nah.
Through this process I’ve been able to cement some things about myself as a writer.
I am not great at on spec work.
Sometimes I do what people who buy books want but, I am not the person they want the thing from.
The writing I can sell, often hurts the most to write and I can’t do it full time.
I’m not super attached to the financials at this point beyond working myself into a deficit of both coins and spoons.
I’m in a fairly peaceful place about this. Yes, I still get kinda really fucking mad when I see concepts I’ve written about extensively get picked up for $$$ when people who aren’t me write them (occasionally close enough to be plagiarism but whatevs) and I still am kinda sad that folks are just not that into me but I’ll live.
Thing is, I’ll be writing whatever bullshit anyway. I know myself. I’ve just really removed the pressure of making it sustainable for myself. Not happening. So yeah.
Stuff will happen. Things will be made to read. Dassit.
I just re entered the world after a little staycation. I was struggling after being sick and stressed out for weeks. SO we got a little bidness.
First up. Y’all know I’ve now got a writer biz fb page. And Houston we got a problem. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve gotten an absolute FLOOD of requests for things. Manuscript consult, writing advice, submission advice, promotion requests, requests for me to buy and read stuff.
The problem isn’t that folks ask. It is that all of those requests come from folks who don’t follow or like the page and are similarly demanding in tone. I’ve responded to some but for the most part, I don’t answer and wind up getting more messages from folks. LOOK y’all. I am not a writing stuff vending machine.
I am not really famous so I understand somebody might be taken aback that I have the audacity to charge for services. Consulting on manuscripts regardless of size is work. And it is disrespectful to assume I will do it for free just for shits n giggles. If we don’t know each other and there’s no trade or SOMETHING going on, why would you do this?
Look y’all, I know you are not actually into me or my work if you aren’t aware that I probably don’t have the spoons to edit, sensitivity read and critique a full goddamn novel for free. So look I may close messaging on the page down I dunno.
Next thing that is also kinda struggle related. I’m having trouble working at home. With my back being the way it is, I haven’t found a comfortable way to work and I’m frustrated. Our place is so small I don’t have a desk anymore and working in bed has caused me too much pain. However, we traded for a little (OMG IT IS GOBLIN SIZE FOR ME) recliner and I am going to look into getting a cart to use with it.
Post sickness and stressbombs got me a little fucked up so my creating things has been weird and not great. I wrote a whole ass story and lost it. As in, I must’ve not saved it anywhere or I hallucinated the whole thing.
So I am kinda struggling right now and spoon juggling to live and shit is hard.
BUT I started a new story featuring twins, demons, noir and this:
She sashayed away and headed for their booth. When Arthur saw her he stood up, a wide smile on his face. He stepped forward and took her hand.
“Hello again Tyree, may I say you look beautiful. Thank you.”
He kissed her hand and she lifted her eyebrows at him.
“Thank you for what?”
He straightened and led her to the booth.
He looked her up and down,
Tyrell really wanted to punch him but restrained himself. If his sister wanted to flirt with Mr Designer shoes, she would. She sat and Arthur extended his hand to Tyrell.
So I’m workin babes.
Next time, soon we’re gonna talk about some things about genre work (as in outside of the literary fiction world) that have shocked me and made me feel good.
Today we’re gonna talk about when creating is hard.
I’ve been struggling with my Patreon story this month. I’m struggling getting from point z to point 7.87 and feeling fairly uninspired about it. I’m at the point where I stare at it, mutter fuck I hate you bro and close the doc. That is not really productive so I want to share with y’all some of the things I do to get going.
First thing, I remember this. If you’re an OG here you know how much I absolutely adore Daniel Jose Older. I have his essay bookmarked because I need to absorb the message often. I came up with the very shitty advice that to be a real writer one MUST write every day at a special desk, at a special time of day, with the right coffee cup blablabla. I spent a lot of time in my 20s punishing myself for being unable to work two jobs, take care of my home AND dedicate writing time. That was not good.
Shit happens. I think a lot of the YOU MUST WRITE every day thing comes from the idea that more of us have the privilege of doing that. I put it into the same category as the idea that everyone can and should just quit their dayjobs and follow the stars. Some of us cannot for a lot of reasons. That is fine. What actually matters is that we find ways to fit the work into our lives.
Second thing. I allow myself to do other things. For many years I’ve had a habit of having a good number of things I can work on. Blog posts, my other blog, Amazon releases, other stuff. The way my brain works, if I have a thing I need to figure out I can’t fight myself. If I let the thing simmer in my backbrain, most of the time I figure it out while I’m doing other stuff.
Third. I read a lot. I’m literally currently reading three books:
Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias. Second read before I do a review. Y’all know I fucking stan for his work. Honestly, his book Zero Saints (prev link is my review) STILL has literally the best fucking ending.
I also will read any and everything that catches my eye via social media. I read some lit mags. I read.
Fourth. Sometimes I do other writing biz stuff. Update my bios (pro tip, save a doc with a short and a long bio so you don’t scramble to make new ones), take care of any things like invoices, updating my submission spreadsheet.
Last, sometimes I just don’t write. I’m very paranoid about disappointing my patrons so I will sorta force it but sometimes I really just don’t.
Now some tips for jumpstarting your brain:
If you are working on something long, copy the last say 500 words you did and open a new document. Paste those words and go from there.
Write a flash or other stand alone part of the story. Tired of your main characters? Write a scene or something with a minor character or expand on a small event.
Let yourself screw up.
Let’s expand on that last bit. A lot of the time what I could call writers block is actually me being afraid to fuck it up. It is a lot of pressure to want to do the thing and just knock it out of the park. That will happen probably at some point but a lot of the time we’re gonna fuck it up.
Art is not a finite resource. You can’t use yours up. It is okay to fuck up. What matters is what you do after said fuck up. For instance, when I was almost to the end of the Daiyuverse Cycle 2 I literally trashed the whole thing. Now, I’m not under like a publishing house deadline so I don’t know how folks deal with that but, I was terrified that the change would screw my patreon forever.
Also, I’m a write when I can how I can type. Sometimes that means I write on the memo pad on my phone, in microsoft word. Sometimes in a text doc. Or an email draft. I do what feels right and sometimes just gotta calm the shit down and do the thing.
I also have learned that I have to let myself have feelings about the work I’m doing. I will complain on social media, cry to my bestie about the essay I’m writing giving me bubble guts. Sweat, flail, sometimes I get the anxiety shits because of stuff I’m writing and I’ve come to accept that is just part of my process. I can’t do the work and not let it happen in my body the way it does.
OKAY my darling friends.
That is all about the work today. I’ve got work to do. Stay tuned, I’ll have some exciting writing biz news coming up in the next couple of weeks.