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Not Enough: Four Reasons why I Can’t be Satisfied with Self-Publication.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on September 27, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

“Why waste your time and energy on querying when you can self-publish?”

It’s a question I’ve grown used to over the years as I’ve posted on Facebook about my querying adventures… which always end in seemingly-obligatory rejection.  Because they love me, fellow writers, family, and friends all want to know the same thing:

“Why do this to yourself?” they ask. “It’s the digital age! You don’t have to deal with agents and publishers anymore!”

Actually, yes: I do. But it’s not always easy to explain why. After all, many writers have found great success in self-publishing, and it’s no longer a huge no-no even among the well-read.

Heck, I actually have self-published, even writing quite a few blog posts about my adventures. In fact, my self-publishing career has spanned longer than most know, as my very first self-publication came out way back in 1998: a story called The Veiling Society, which I wrote as a sophomore in high school (and — warning — reads like it). When print on demand came out, I was shocked and ecstatic, and jumped on the opportunity to show my stuff with Song of Spirit, and of course the “Guts & Glory” books.

But over the years I’ve found I have a few problems with the whole thing that I cannot shake. Maybe others have felt the same, I don’t know. But with so many asking the question, I feel the answer needs to be given in a detailed, rational way. So here goes: four reasons why I can’t be satisfied with self-publication.

1) I SUCK at Sales

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

Seriously. I couldn’t sell a glass of water in the desert. (I’d end up giving it away; people need to drink!) For this reason, my sales have never been anywhere near where they need to be in order for me to write full-time, and that is my goal. More than that, it’s my life’s dream. In order to make that work in self-publishing, I’d have to have a completely different personality — one that can sell — and I simply don’t.

There is one other way to sell enough books to make it viable — write a lot of them. The problem I have with that, to be perfectly blunt, is it’s simply not quality writing if I’m throwing out books every week like a machine. And I can’t put my name on something I’m not proud of.

2) I Write Kids’ Books

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

QUICK — think of a well-known children’s author whose stories are self-published.

Got nothing? Yeah, me too.

Most of the fellow writers who ask me about self-publication have one other thing in common: they write for adults and/or teenagers. And when it comes to publishing, their world is very different than my own.

Most self-published authors promote their work through social media and/or blogging. They can also go on small book tours, book groups and/or conventions where they can talk to their readers about the stories they both love.

My audience is a BIT harder to reach.

Children don’t read blogs, and while I can reach them through conventions, with a full-time job that has nothing to do with my writing, I honestly don’t have the money or time available to do as many as it would take to really get my name out there. Online, kids spend most of their time either on hugely corporate (AKA Disney) or educational websites, both of which are monitored and trusted by parents — and like Fort Knox to small-beans writers like me.

In order to reach my particular audience the way I need to, I have to have my books in libraries and schools.

School districts don’t trust self-published books (and as an educator myself I don’t blame them; there’s no regulation whatsoever and therefore no guarantee that the books are quality or even appropriate) and they don’t invite self-published authors to school visits, which are a huge source of revenue and promotion for kidlit authors. Unless one knows a librarian, public libraries aren’t much better.

In other words, if you write for kids, you’d better have a skeleton key of great magnitude in order to break through all of the doors between you and your readers. More often than not, that key is a big-five publisher.

3) I Still Need to Pay the Bills

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

I’m about to say something antithesis to many artists — including writers:

Money matters.

And self-publishing doesn’t make most people much money at all.

Now, I’m not talking about making billions of dollars. While that would be nice, it’s not really a huge item on my list. But what I DO want is to write… while keeping my electricity on. To write… while feeding my kids. To write… preferably under a roof of some kind.

Many of the writers who ask me about self-publishing are self-supporting. They either make enough from their books to pay the bills, are married to someone who pays the bills, or are content with writing on the side while they… pay the bills. I could go into this subject in an entirely different blog post, and maybe I will sometime, but for now I’ll leave it at this: in the end, I still need to pay the bills.

4) It’s Simply Not My Goal

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

When people ask me how long I’ve been writing, I honestly can’t tell them. Writing for my whole life is impossible, of course, but for as long as I can remember I’ve told stories, and for almost that long I’ve dreamed of a career in writing.

Not a hobby. Not a small business. A career.

For me, that means book tours and big name publishers. Children all over the world reading and talking about my books. And my biggest bucket list item: a Newberry Award.

Self-publishing has taught me a lot, and certainly by way of conventions opened up a wider gate into the publishing world than I had access to before, but it’s not my end goal. It never has been.

To be honest, it simply will never be good enough for me.

My goals have not changed: Scholastic or Penguin publication. Newberry Award-winner before I die. I have wanted these things for as long as I can remember. I still want them. I don’t see that ever changing.

I hope this helps, and that those of you who choose to self-publish aren’t offended. Some people are happy self-publishing. There are a lot of pros to it, for sure. It’s just not for me. How about you?

The Problem with Puppet Characters

Posted in Writing with tags , , on March 11, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

Let’s just admit it: writers are megalomaniacs. It’s okay, we deserve to be. At least in our own worlds. We control everything that happens within the pages of our stories, from the last breath of a character to the turning of the stars. It feels good to have control over a whole world and every soul in it.

But sometimes we micromanage a little too much.

I have spent so many years trying to figure out how to keep a story interesting, not only in cadence but in plot. Again and again I found myself mired in a storyline knot, unable to break free in the way I’d planned. I’d build the world, focusing on every detail I could imagine from topography to history to social cues. I’d build the plot, knowing every step toward its pre-planned end and why each step mattered. I’d create my characters and give them every personality trait and flaw they needed. My world and characters were SO 3-D in the planning stage. Then I’d start to write… and it would  all go 2-D. Flat. Shallow. Lacking realism, depth, or empathy.

Then I met Squire Carroll and everything changed.

Squire is the heroine of Bight, my first Young Adult novel. At first I made her like all my other characters — molded to fit the plot. She needed to be weak so she could learn to be strong. She needed to be simplistic so she could resonate with every reader. She needed to be ignorant so she could learn to… learn.

In essence, she needed to be a puppet whose strings I could pull to my ends. There was only one problem: nobody empathizes with a puppet.

I began Blight the same as always, focusing on the concept I’d built it on instead of the story it could be. My concept was a society built on religious persecution based in past-lives. Squire was a child of the persecuted, so she would naturally be meek and ignorant. Chapter 1 was written, and it worked just fine. Chapter 2 delved more into the world around Squire… and she was buried in it. I realized then, as I searched for her in the rubble, that I’d made the same mistake I’d made a million times before: I’d turned my character into a puppet.

How could Squire shine as a heroine for all if she was a puppet to anyone, even me?

Think about all the characters you have ever loved. What do they all have in common?

Individuality.

None of them conformed to any of the rules of their worlds. Now imagine being the writer of those worlds. The one who created those rules. Most of us would want everyone to follow the rules we created, even if we told ourselves we didn’t. The rules are there for a reason. They’re there to keep things focused and logical. They’re there to keep the storyline exact. Think about your worlds and their rules. They’re important! Right? You’ve worked on them for months!

But they’re meant to be broken. And the one who should break them — who has to break them — is our hero.

When I realized this, finally, after two and a half decades of writing, I knew what I had to do. It was terrifying, but I had to do it.

I had to let the real Squire loose in her world.

So I let go. I allowed her personality to shine, and I learned that she’s so much stronger than I thought. So much smarter. And so much more… sarcastic. But that’s okay. She’s Squire Carroll, not Jessica Rising. She grew up in a different world than me, and she  knows that world better than I do, even if I created it.

How do you let a character you created free in a world you created? Just write what they say in your mind, ignoring the voices that tell you they’re being too knowledgeable too early, too sarcastic and cynical, too… non-hero-like according to your own perceptions. Ignore those voices, and their true voice will sing through them to tell their story.

A story not unlike yours, but so much more.

Let your character tell their story. They might take it somewhere you never dreamed, but hang on for the ride. Don’t reign them in. They’re the ones who are living it. They’re the ones your readers will follow. It’s their story, not yours. The sooner you realize you’re just taking notation for your hero, the sooner your story will become a whole world of its own, where everyone feels welcome.

The Adventures of Bailey Boots #3: Bailey’s Beach Breakfast

Posted in Bailey Boots, Family, fun with tags , , , on March 11, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

BaileyBeach1

Bailey Boots is a curious girl. She tries new things every day.
Today, she’s going to the beach!

BaileyBeach2

Bailey Boots steps into the water. The water is cold!

BaileyBeach3

But she goes up to her waist in no time. Swim, Bailey Boots! Swim!

BaileyBeach4

Oh, no! What’s that behind you, Bailey Boots?

BaileyBeach5

It’s a shark! Swim away! Swim away!

BaileyBeach6

Oh no! It’s swimming faster! Swim, Bailey Boots! Swim!

BaileyBeach7

It’s gonna eat you! You’ll be Bailey Breakfast!

BaileyBeach8

Moo.

BaileyBeach9

Moo?

BaileyBeach8

Moo.

BaileyBeach9

BaileyBeach8

BaileyBeach9

BaileyBeach8

BaileyBeach9

BaileyBeach10

Swim, Bailey Boots and CowShark, swim!
Happy Bailey Boots!

The Adventures of Bailey Boots #2: How Does your Garden Grow?

Posted in Bailey Boots, Books, Reading, Stories, WebComic with tags , , , , , , , on March 8, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

BaileyGarden1

Bailey Boots is a curious girl. She tries new things every day.

BaileyGarden2

Today, Bailey Boots is curious about gardening.

BaileyGarden3

“I’m going to be a gardener!” she says excitedly. “I have my tools all ready!”

BaileyGarden4

Oops! She forgot something. A seed! But where will she get one?

BaileyGarden5

Bailey Boots has a rock, a button and a marble. Which one should she plant?

BaileyGarden6

“The marble looks pretty,” says Bailey Boots. “I bet it would grow some tasty treats!”

BaileyGarden4

Bailey Boots has to wait now. She hates waiting.

BaileyGarden2

But she doesn’t have to wait long!

BaileyGarden7

The next morning, a pretty little plant pushes through the ground.

BaileyGarden8

It grows so fast! But when will it bear the pretty marble fruit?

BaileyGarden2

When?

BaileyGarden9

*Grow*

BaileyGarden10

When?

BaileyGarden11

*Grow*

BaileyGarden12

WHEEEEEEEEEEN?

BaileyGarden13

Moo.

BaileyGarden15

“Moo?”

BaileyGarden14

Moo.

BaileyGarden15

BaileyGarden4

No fruit today. Poor Bailey Boots.

The Adventures of Bailey Boots #1: Cuppa Cuppa Moo.

Posted in Bailey Boots, Stories, WebComic with tags , , , , , , on March 7, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

BaileyCoffee1

Bailey Boots is a curious girl. She tries new things every day.

Today she wants to try coffee, so she’s gone to the neighborhood coffee shop to see what she can order.

BaileyCoffee2

“Hello,” she says to the nice man at the counter, “I’m Bailey Boots, and I would like to try coffee. What flavors do you have?”

“Moo,” says the man at the counter in reply.

BaileyCoffee3

Bailey Boots is confused. “What is moo flavor?”

BaileyCoffee4

“Moo.”

BaileyCoffee3

“Moo?”

BaileyCoffee4

“Moo.”

BaileyCoffee3

“Moo?”

BaileyCoffee4

“Moo.”

BaileyCoffee5

Bailey Boots is going home. She won’t get any coffee today.

Poor Bailey Boots.

 

Update on “Rise of the Nefarious Numbots”

Posted in Books, Family, Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2014 by Jessica Crichton

Well, I have some good news and some bad news.

The good news is: “Dr. Fixit’s Malicious Machine” — now published through Second Wind Publishing LLC (YAY!) — will be available at Spocon, as will “The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc”, both with updated covers (pictured below). Of course I will also be there in person to sign, talk, and teach!

Now for the bad news.

“Rise of the Nefarious Numbots” will not be available at Spocon this year after all. This was a difficult decision, but in the end I chose to ensure a quality story for my readers rather than rushing the story so it will be out quickly. I plan on having “Numbots” available in a small scale in September, at Glamirita Clothing and Accessories in the Garland District in Spokane. It will also be available to order online for one day only as an Amazon title, before switching over to Second Wind Publishing for national release. I will let you all know when that will be as soon as I am able.

Thank you all for your patience. I promise it will be worth it! 
drfixitCoverFinalFrontTZONPrintCoverFrontFinishedNumbotsCoverFront1

“The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc” Release Party!

Posted in book readings, book signings, kidlit, Middle Grade, Reading, Spokane, Writing with tags , , , , , , on August 23, 2013 by Jessica Crichton

I’m about ready to pee myself from excitement! The Counterfeit Zombies of Noc is coming SOOO very soon! And WHAT  debut it will be!

TZONFrontDetails are still in the works — such as exactly where the release party will be held — but we DO know that it will be on or around October 1st, It’ll be VERY family-oriented, it will be in a PUBLIC location, Halloween-y treats will be involved, and there will be zombies EVERYWHERE! I apologize for pushing the release date back a tad, but I wanted to really give my Zombies a proper, Halloween-y debut. Trust me, it’ll TOTALLY be worth it!

Stay tuned! More details to come! You’re NOT going to want to miss THIS!

John M. Cusick

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