Posts Tagged business

When You’re Trapped Between Work and Family: A Writer’s Doubts

This morning, I really, really wanted to chew a head off, or at a minimum, a hand. This is the absolute bane of all small business owners, particularly artists and writers: setting up a new business. Yeah, yeah, it’s exciting and I’m grateful and, well, yada, yada. But when three children are yowling, busting heads and basically working through their Ophelia, Hamlet and Polonius routine and the man is conducting scientific experiments in the kitchen, the whole process of arranging a freaking PayPal button on WordPress becomes more a bloodletting experience than anything else.

Unsex me now, I’m screaming inside . . . aw crap. I’m mixing up Macbeth and Hamlet. Did I mention that my fourth grader has chosen the latter as her topic for a book report? And somehow, in this vast library of ours, we’ve lost all five copies of said Hamlet? Right. It’s completely disconnected to my efforts to install a freaking PayPal button on WordPress (for autographed, pre-release copies of Ripple), except that while glaring at JavaScript and Text Edit and related noxious, horrifying thingies on the Mac, the fourth-grader mentioned that maybe we could go to the library.

And no decent mom refuses to take a child to the library, right? Right, but only after I get my new page set up on WordPress: this one. But right now, I gotta confess something: I’m not feeling like a decent mom. I’m trying, but I’m also working as hard as I used to work when I practiced law. Don’t get me wrong: this time around, I love my job, but I’m getting too obsessed with line edits, double spaces after periods (damn my eyes, I’m switching to single spaces), proof copies, mailing advance reviewer copies, and a plethora of other small details.

Front and Back Cover

You see, even though I’m self-publishing, I refuse to compromise quality. I’m rolling the dice on my own name and reputation, and it’s not like I can blame a secretary or intern or junior associate or asshole client if anything gets messed up. This book must look as good as anything that is traditionally published.

And you know what’s getting sacrificed right now? Sigh. Yep. My family. Or as Helen realizes in Ripple:

 Excellence may not be about making beds and cooking brownies, but excellence was about more than rising to the top of your profession. She’d fucked up. She hadn’t meant to. She really hadn’t meant to hurt her daughter, but she had. Her own excellence had been achieved by sacrificing her family and now she was paying the price for it. No, now Phoebe was paying the price for it, she realized, and she winced.

 Sometimes fiction mirrors life; other times, life mirrors fiction. All I know is that I need to find a balance, somehow. It doesn’t mean that I should give up trying to create the best product I can, but I need to try harder here on the home front. These twelve and fourteen hour days, after all, are nothing to be proud of—not when those hours take too much time away from my children.

How do you all do it, your working moms and dads? Do you feel trapped between work and home? As if you constantly fail work or family at the expense of the other?

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Nixing Covers, Shedding Words, Font Confusion . . . as Ripple spreads . . .

Hey there (peeking up from my [can’t say the brand because it annoys some readers] keyboard, coffee mug in hand, looking a little wild-eyed. It’s been a crazy-busy month, and I’ve loved almost every minute of it, with that confusing sort of loathing, glowing love-fear-hate that all new business owners feel at the outset of their respective professional ventures.

Hmmm, that sounds both pompous and intimidating, but it’s also accurate. To do it right, to turn out a well-heeled, smooth final product, a self-published writer must take the reigns, learn the ins and outs of all aspects of publishing, or as I keep muttering under my breath in times of stress, “We’re going ALL-IN, baby!!!”

I keep trying to write an organized summary of what I’ve been doing, but that’s crazy, because it’s been a whirlwind, a cyclonic-blending of associated pieces of the crashing-wave-puzzle that is self-publishing. So here are a few pieces of it . . .

I have a friend who is a graphic designer and many other things extraordinary, and we agreed that the cover should look Salvador Dali-esque. Many private messages and phone calls later, and after many purchases of stock photo licenses, we ended up with the following, and we declared it beautiful. So did many-fold Facebook friends and followers. But then I got a message from a dear friend, and with some trepidation, this writer-blogger friend let me know that the traditional publishing house that put out Wicked used the same model with a different background.412645_439962252736043_1898737517_o

“What?” chuckled my graphic designer, and so did I. “You mean a super-rich publishing house bought the exact same photo I did? No wonder traditional publishing houses are dying!”

Even though we weren’t violating any intellectual property laws, we agreed, without a split second of doubt, to nix the cover. The new one will be based on an actual friend rather than a stock photo. We’re not taking any chances this time. And it should be ready in the next day or so.

I’ve spent hours and hours talking, mostly on my main social media platform, Facebook, to friends and acquaintances. I devised as part of my marketing plan a legion of advance reviewers who will read mailed or e-mailed copies of a not-yet final version of Ripple. After helping me print pre-paid postage mailing labels from Stamps.com on pieces of white paper and taping them to bubble envelopes, my husband, chuckling, and a little tired of packing books, wondered how big “El’s Army” was going to get.

I like the term he coined. I love the grassroots feel of how I’m marketing this first novel of mine. So far, the feedback has been wonderful, and I’m hoping and praying this translates to buzz and increased sales. Even if it doesn’t . . . I’m giving it my all and enjoying every minute of it.

What I haven’t enjoyed so much, wait, okay, what I deplored and resorted to hair pulling, teeth-gnashing and much cussing over because of has been CreateSpace. Great company—don’t get me wrong. But for awhile there, I spoke of it between gritted teeth. I would upload a file (versions 7.1 through 8.3 and on and on) and then would wait for their file review process. Again and again, it came back with margin and font issues. I went through at least twenty uploads before I finally just ordered a hard copy. Once it arrived, I got out a ruler, measured the margins, and then applied the measurements to my latest working copy of my manuscript. And I chose a number of different fonts, from Cambria to Garamond to Calibri . . . and each font change messed up my italicized passages until I figured out how to use a template for italics.

Right. It’s boring to write about and your eyes are probably blurring up . . . unless you’re also thinking about self-publishing, and if so, please feel free to ask me what the hell I’m talking about. The way I see it is that if my meanderings into the sticky-icky world of CreateSpace can save you some trouble, then please let me help you!

So that’s about the size of it. I could write another 700 words about El’s Army and CreatePurgatoria, but my graphic designer is on the other line and there’s a note from Amazon’s Online Store that I must attend to . . . something about how pre-orders can begin in a couple of days, in advance of the actual 1/21 release of Ripple. And that’s worth a Snoopy Happy Dance or two or three.

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Why you Should Not Run Promotions on Facebook: Upcoming IPO

You see promotions all the time on Facebook.  Leave a comment on this status update and you might win a box of widgets.  Upload a photo of your pet lizard to our page and receive a box of crickets (yes, folks, lizards LOVE to eat crickets—just make sure the blasted things don’t leap out of the cage).  “Like” this post . . . .

I, for one, do not believe you should run promotions on Facebook.  You may wonder why.

By connecting us, Facebook has created something of value.  Over the last few years, Facebook has built a $3 billion-a-year advertising business by convincing major corporations like Ford, Kia and Procter and Gamble to pay for page space.  In turn, Facebook helps these companies generate buzz for their products.

Although still recovering from my stint as a big firm lawyer, I read the Wall Street Journal every day.  On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, the Journal ran an article titled,  The Big Doubt Over Facebook.”  According to this article, $1 million buys Ford 125 million views or user impressions.  The same investment on American Idol would buy only 2 30-second ads.

Photo Credit: AutoGuide.com

Ford researched how social media campaigns boost sales.  By using Facebook instead of TV ads during the Super Bowl, Ford increased shopping activity for their 2011 Explorer by 104% instead of the customary 14% increase that follows a Super Bowl television campaign.  Ford makes a strong business case for Facebook advertising.

The big question investors face as the planned May 18th IPO approaches relates to valuing Facebook.  Is Facebook worth the $86 billion valuation it is seeking?  After all, Facebook has 900 million users.  It stands to reason that Facebook’s reach will result in a profitable advertising business—right?  Honestly, no one knows.  I will wager, however, that this question keeps Mark Zuckerberg awake at night.  After all, a recent Forbes article values his net worth post-IPO at $15.5 billion.

Forbes Image: Mark Zuckerberg

A lot of money is at issue here.  Facebook stands to gain or lose billions of dollars as a result of which ads its users view.  And Facebook alone controls how advertisements run on its pages.

Oh no, you cry: free speech!  When you are on someone else’s website, you must play by the website owner’s rules.  We play in Facebook’s sandbox for free.  In that sandbox, we are part of the greatest conversation the world has known.  Facebook has created tools to facilitate this conversation and it has cost the company a lot of time and money to develop these tools.  I know I have benefited immensely from the friends I have made and the thoughts we have shared.

In exchange for this, I know I am part of Facebook’s product.  Advertisers pay Facebook for a chance at catching its users’ attention.  Promotions run by a page divert that attention and dilute Facebook’s product. When you created your account or your Facebook Pages, you clicked “okay” after you skimmed your user agreement. In return, we agree not to do certain things.  Anna Gervai has written a helpful article on these rules as they relate to running promotions.  Personally, I have decided not to try to navigate these rules.  Instead, I will continue to participate in this great conversation.

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

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