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.
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.
I’ve been doing a lot of deep analysis after some rounds of advertising in different ways. And we all know that looking deep into my statistics usually hurts my feelings but, if I’m gonna do this indie shit it is my job to do it.
So let’s get into it. My official FB author page. My Amazon page where you can buy some stories and a couple of little collections (new one coming soon). Also note, the FB page will be where I do a LOT of my sharing and stuff. So for real it is best to follow there for the most up to date info.
Let’s talk about the performance of some things.
First thing. The general trend I see through analyzing both engagement with and action on things I share across social media (counting tweeter, tumblr, fb all in I have about 5-6k followers across all the platforms) is that I get shares and clicks when I share other folks work.
Now, I don’t grudge the other folks because I love them and want to share their work. I share things I care about. The part of the trend that bugs me is when a large number of those shares of other folks work, come from people I know rather than rando followers. I actually had a sample group and ALL of their interaction with things I’ve shared has only been the work of other people and was heavily skewed towards white women.
The subject matter also matters. I will get shares if I post something where I am exposing my own racial pain, performing poverty by ranting about my cash situation (however it doesn’t translate into action but we’ll get there) or if I’m just being my ain’t shit self and saying something shady.
Those stats are mainly from my actual following.
When it comes to randos, I see more interaction, more shares, of my work. My little kindle books, my Ko Fi.
These are two groups of people responding to the same marketing shits. The call to action, my pleases and thank yous.
Looking deeper at my FB page stats, the trend I’ve talked about for the last decade is made very very clear.
Like a lot of other Black women and femmes, when I ask for action directly folks don’t wanna do so in public. In private I’ve had many offers of boosts, help, sales etc and the numbers don’t lie that it doesn’t happen.
There is no outright public refusal which would be easier to deal with. This constant factor in my life (and the lives of MANY in my community) baffles some of my friends. When I’ve told them stats on things they are boggled.
For instance, my most read public piece (I won’t link to it right now) this year so far involves very deep racial pain. It has the most shares, the most reads. That one thing, flawed as it is has more reads and shares than everything else I’ve put out this year. From that one piece I’ve gotten DMs and notes from folks holding out the offers of whatever I need. Support etc and none of it has materialized.
Now I look at twitter and the most staunch advice I’ve got about using it as part of my publicity/marketing is the imperative ask to RT. On average, I have to RT myself and ask 3 times to get on the whole about 2.8 (some weird number close to this) shares.
The more interesting thing about tweeter is this. When someone who isn’t me or who doesn’t use my name shares something I’ve done, even if they have a significantly smaller following than I do, RTs galore. Clicks. Sometimes sales.
I’ve also seen this happen on FB.
Now let’s talk supporters. My most staunch and constant source of sales has been the folks with the least. The marginalized folks. The other poor people I know. Not the privileged folks I know. There are a few but I’ve also seen the issue of when they tag me or mention my name, that post goes silent. I watched it happen with a friend who is way more famous than me. Their posts generally get HUNDREDS of reactions, the one with me got about 10 and no comments and no shares.
My friend Dom said this the other day and it really strikes at the heart of my continued failed creative hustles:
When people offer help publicly on social media, yet don’t follow through, it gives the appearance that a person has support, when they really don’t.
This isn’t about one person or incident. It’s happened so much, for many complex reasons, and surely happens to others too. It’s just sad that this stops people from getting care they need.
I think what Dom is saying here is a large part of my ongoing problems with getting my work seen. A lot of the time if I mention I’m working on something, a good number of folks will be HYPE about it and saying they will share it. But, when the thing happens crickets.
I’ve tried a few methods of doing this. Returning to the original thread(s) to post the link, doing the random FB tricks and well…meh.
One of the things I am very conscientious about is giving folks options. If you follow me on FB or tweeter, you know that I am very specific about the actions that are helpful.
As I’ve mentioned many times, I have an entire community of folks like me who have this same problem. Folks (especially more privileged people) LOVE to get all in our stuff cheering for us. And yet, when we ask specifically for what we need, well…..
All this said.
If you are in a position where you can’t drop a couple of bucks on a book or magazine etc, you can still do the work to support the artists you care about. That is what I do. I share links when asked when I can. I pay attention. Right now, I’m stoked to say that my Patreon is “successful” enough that I am supporting three other folks. Not much but it means a lot.
I also want to be very clear.
I’ve been told that me talking about these things in this way is “excuses” and “negative”. Look. If you really believe that, I got nothing for you. The only way that the going advice will EVER work is if all things are equal. And they are absolutely not.
I also want to say that I am very grateful for my ride or die magical space babes. Y’all know who you are.
I am not alone in this. My community suffers from this. Folks tell us how much they want to see us do X thing but do nothing to help us get that thing done. I watch a lot of my community rage out about it because it is fucking hard. A lot of us don’t get action unless we’re doing long ass twitter rants about how broke and scared we are. Or we rant about these issues and get some pity likes.
It is exhausting.
However, I’m gonna keep doing me. I guess. I have reservations but, I gotta do the shit I do.
I write a lot of shit. I have tons of scraps of stories, bits of poems, lil snatches of research and whatnots. From one of my fave books about writing, the classic On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, one of the lasting lessons for me was to stop throwing stuff away. Way back when I was a baby potato, writing in absolute secret I was terrified of anyone finding out and I was so embarrassed by how bad I was at writing, I’d write stories, read them once and tear them up. If I was feeling particularly upset, I’d burn the pieces.
Once I started using computers regularly, I did about the same thing. I wrote stuff, decided I was too shitty to live and deleted them. I did this for probably the first decade (from let’s say age 13 through about 24) of me becoming a writer.
After my first reading of On Writing, the first thing I put into practice was not in fact keeping what I wrote. I still had a bad habit of just deleting anything I didn’t believe in immediately. Back then, I was very vested in being published in very specific ways. I was mainly writing a lot of erotica and copy for a few adult sites. I occasionally got a horror publication here and there.
My criteria for what I’d keep or not keep came down to being held hostage by the Literary Canon. Cis, white, hetero unless it was queer for hetero eyes. That was what got me into the industry. I didn’t believe that my secret work (the baby versions of a lot of what I’m doing now) was worth keeping because I was taught otherwise. On occasion, I ventured into literary Black territory and was usually not rewarded in any way by doing so. There was a time when, I had the audacity to be very Black and Queer on the internet and I lost a really lucrative job because after my employer checked my personal stuff (a blog and whatnot) he sent me a very worried email that I couldn’t really write “normal”.
Fast forward to earlier this morning. I was casting about looking for an older story I was thinking about reprinting and I found a treasure trove of things I tucked away in my cloud storage. In the past five or so years I’ve suffered some catastrophic data losses and computers dying and taking years of work with them so, stumbling on things I wrote in 2010/2011 feels so good.
I spent some time reading some of my early noir, I have the first 60 pages of a super natural/werewolf buddy detective thing I wrote way back in 2010ish. I know that much of the going writer culture is to be terribly embarrassed by your old work. Hide that first novel in a drawer, be charmingly embarassed in interviews when asked about your early work.
I reject that entirely. I am not embarrassed that once upon a time I didn’t know how to walk and routinely shit my pants. Now, I can (well I’m not great at it but) walk and I learned how to use the toilet. I’ve evolved. I’m proud of my growth as a human. I am so proud of myself for learning and changing.
From being confined to writing explicit work featuring a LOT of white people to now I have tucked away in a folder erotica that transgresses gender, race, and a few very creepy kings with impunity. It was purchased by a now defunct publisher so I might go ahead and publish it.
You cannot step back and appreciate your own growth if you hide where you were. I don’t believe in shame about how we become the artists we are. That is why I’m rarely ashamed to show a first draft. I’m rarely upset that I have a snippet of a story that just will never ever work. I’m proud that I’ve found my voice and having this back catalog of stuff that shows me the way I got here is fucking amazing.
Don’t be ashamed.
Keep doing what you’re doing.
Play. When I say play I mean just fuck around. Never written sf? Give it a shot. Try stuff. Let go and play on the swingset and write a crappy ass horror story or a super cheesy love story. As I’ve said in my creative loveletters, make something ugly. Paint something, put together a puzzle, just do something. Get a weird idea and see where it goes.
Don’t throw it away.
Okay below, find a good chunk of the weird buddy werewolf thing I started and may yet finish.
Can we talk about some shit I’ve been learning lately?
First thing I’ve not learned but we’ll say that has been reinforced to me is that, a lot of general promotional advice is woefully out of date. It doesn’t account how a lot of us have our links on platforms like FB throttled so hard, even our “close” friends don’t see them.
So I kinda am trying to make a deeper peace with that. I’m working on it.
The other thing is that, I’ve noticed that even with me taking pains to reduce how much stuff I give away, I STILL don’t really generate things that are buyable by my general audience across a few platforms. How do I know?
Medium for instance. I currently have 19 pieces behind the paywall, a good variety of type of content. Here in 2019 I’ve made less than a dollar. I mean…my read ratio regardless of topic or length is under 2 out of 10. Then of course when I can read stuff on medium, I see a LOT of bullshit that makes hundreds of dollars likely.
It makes me tired.
I’ve been using KoFi for almost a month exactly and have three things to read. One poem, two essay type things. And goose eggs.
I talked about it on my main fb account a while back. And funnily enough when I said, don’t blow smoke up my ass if you’re not going to at the very least share, my share rate went from few to literally 2-4. And so did engagement.
So really, I’ve learned that the call to action, the asking my community for help etc etc. Ain’t for me. I’ve tried. I’ve modified my tone, I’ve changed what I’m giving, etc. I think I can make some peace with that. Silence and inaction says volumes. More so when the folks who do the share because they don’t have $$ to support, are literally the same 4-6 people it has been for a decade. That’s my real audience. They are the real Gs and I’m not talking about them.
In terms of Gasoline Heart here’s some interesting things. (NOTE TO SELF ASK PUBLISHER FOR NEW BOX O BOOKS) Some of the folks who’ve read it, really loved it. one of the things I’ve seen in several reviews are along the lines of, HOW DID I MISS THIS/THE WORLD MISS IT?
Easily. SO the above issues. I mean, a few people (the book has been out for a while now) who’ve known me for a long time have said, I didn’t see X links. Sorta believable. Also I am not represented, I am not a darling, I am not very famous or really even connected in the poetry world. So yeah, you won’t find my lil book in lists and shit. That is just how it is.
Also, I learned that I do not have the cash on hand to be trying to get my lil book awards. Shit is expensive. In secret I spent a few months last fall really dedicating hours of my week to submitting to free publicity or award things with my lil book. The hours cost me in terms of spoons and time not spent writing and netted me one very nice rejection letter.
And real talk. I STILL can’t get poetry published. At last submission spree, even with mentioning the book and including a poem or two from it, I don’t really get no love from the lit poetry world. That’s fine but it also means that I’m chasing my tail trying to promote my fucking book.
So yeah. That’s been a struggle but I’m glad I did it. I can see the whole pathway and what obstacles exist for me in particular and that I don’t honestly have the spoons to try to get around them. So I do what I have energy for.
So last year I decided to focus more on getting back into the fiction world and boy howdy. Quite a few years ago I had about a 60% acceptance rate in the short fiction world. That was huge.
I was REALLY nervous because the story was an experiment. It is a Black story and I haven’t really been in the horror community for a while.
THEN I got a little tiny horror story accepted over at Heavy Feather (will announce when it goes up). The editor Jason dropped me a note months ago and I FINALLY made something I’m into.
And then, I got the notification and one of the best damn acceptance notes ever. My lil supernatural noir story got into the Gimme the Loot: Stories Inspired by The Notorious B.I.G. Forthcoming from Clash.
The uniting theme in these is that, I’m at my best when I write what the fuck I want to write. I think freelancing really kind of crushed that in me to a degree. Yes there are some publishers who have been all the way the fuck in with me. But, largely that is not the case. This is the same thing with the flirtations with agents and mainstream publishing.
It is like, OKAY we fuck with you but about 40% so dial it back.
I don’t write great things with that in mind. I don’t write great things when I’m trying so hard to get paid what I’m worth.
All of this is really about me pupating so I can in fact find my place in the lit world. Someone who was trying really hard to be encouraging was comparing me to two very famous, very amazing Black writers and y’all, it made me cry. I like both authors. But, I am not like them and cannot be.
I hate this whole struggle between wanting a seat at the table, wanting some “success” (as termed by our culture) and just wanting to be my weird little self, make some writing, make some pomes, do my shit and maybe sometimes be shown appreciation in the form of coins.
1 languishing poetry submission. I’m pretty sure is a no.
2 Ghosted pitches so also probs nopes.
1 short fiction sub out.
Y’all remember me yammering about writing classes? WELP I’ve launched it on Patreon and here is how it is workin. If you are a patron, you get it exclusively for a month and then I post it up on Etsy. The first one about writing horror is available now. AND if you drop it in your cart, leave and check your etsy email there’s a fatass coupon too so you can get a few bits from the shop.
Also I finally finished (behind the medum paywall. Feel free to clap etc, help me buy a coffee) my little thing about how my book Gasoline Heartwas born. it isn’t quite what I wanted but works.
I also got interviewed about some witch shit by one of my fave folks MIsha over at Patheos. If you are into witch shit, you should Misha .
I’ve got some some other behind the paywall stuff at Medium. Last month with I think about 24 pieces I made $9.85.
Yers truly has been writing like a mother fucker and playing with new to me shit.
First new to me, I’m dabbling in some New England Folk Horror without a focus on white folks. Harder than it seems. Here is a bite:
She was always like that to me. Spooky. The same way seeing a single deer alone in the morning is spooky. The way she would stand so still, it was easy to not quite see her. Even her posture in those moments was, strangely graceful. Her back was straight, heels planted on the floor and there would be a moment where her body would tilt forward slightly and her head would tilt upwards as if being pulled on a string. I always figured it for one of those bodily tics we all have and that, was what I loved about her so much.
I’ve got a major plan with this piece and I’m fucking with established lore like I do. I’m enjoying putting it together.
Yesterday, I also apparently started a werewolf story. I dunno what it wants to be. Aside from maybe kinda porny.
“And you got me chicken? I’ll get a pitcher of beer since you’re being all traditional with the gifts and whatnot. If you sniff my butt I’ll lay you out.”
Unable to resist he gave her his best puppy eyes.
She cackled, mouth wide open her big black eyes twinkling.
“Don’t write checks your ass can’t cash Sue. “
Regardless of the seriousness of the problem he’d sought her out to help, it felt good to have that kind of easy banter with another wolf. Once the chicken arrived Latisha ordered the promised pitcher and they both tucked napkins into their collars and went to work in companionable quiet.
What am I reading?
I happen to be reading two books, very different from each other and both blurbed by one of my fave people, Mr. Jerry Stahl.
First up I was delighted to get an Arc of Junkie Love: A Story of Recovery and Redemption by Joe Clifford. If you’ve been here a while y’all know I fuckin love me some Joe. It has a new forward and it is really a gorgeous book. I’m almost done with read #2 so y’all will get a full review soon.
Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias. Y’all. This mother fucker right here. So I reviewed his other book a while back. AND THEN he had the nerve to release a new book. I’m about a quarter of the way in and y’all…goddamn. Just buy it.
What else is happenin?
I’m trying not to be essaying right now because my brainmeat only wants to do the shit that hurts and I’m just not in the mood to bleed. At least not that kind of blood yanno?
If you are doing Nanowrimo or nano anything. GO GO GO GO.