Tag Archives: Self-Publishing

Writing Kinda Sucks

“…I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work.”

Hunter S. Thompson

I think when we pick up any new hobby or interest we only see the positives. We see the glory of it — the big picture of it all. As a painter you imagine relaxing at home and just creating beautiful artwork. Or the pianist sitting at their instrument creating interesting and wonderful music. Or the author, bringing magical worlds to life that only exist on paper and in the imagination of your readers. You dream of actually making it by publishing your books, selling your artwork, or ending up in a successful band, etc. When we undertake a new goal or hobby we rightfully only see the good because it’s where we want to be in our lives. But to get to the good you have to toil away with the total bullshit that no one talks about.

Prospective writers and authors also have their own fantasy: sitting at a desk with a cup of coffee and a dog in the corner/cat in your lap while you let your imagination run wild with ideas that you effortlessly slap down on paper/PC/typewriter/whatever the fuck you’re using. Anyone who has even attempted writing will instantly know this is bullshit. No one idolizes the times where you’re staring at your computer at 11 p.m. and while wanting to write something realizing that you have no idea for what to actually write. Or maybe you have an idea but it doesn’t come out right and you can’t get into a flow. There’s also the opposite problem like with me right now: awake at 2 a.m. suddenly finding yourself inspired to write a blog post about writing. The idea just appears out of the ether and you gotta grab the inspiration before it disappears.

I always thought writing was easy. It’s not that it’s hard like math is hard; it’s a different sort of difficult. I was always the type of person to procrastinate school papers until the night before they were due and knocked them out in a few hours of furious typing; I’d always get good grades by doing this too. Maybe this is where I got the “writing is easy” idea from, and I know for a fact it’s where I got my dreadful procrastination from. (Why plan anything out when you can knock it out in a few frightful hours?!) But writing isn’t easy. Let me walk you through a typical writing process for me. I’m assuming everyone else has similar issues and the more we write the more we learn to manage and minimize these pain-in-the-ass traits that writing entails.

Inspiration

This sounds stupid, but you need to have something to write about before you write. You need a story idea or a blog post idea or something. Once again this was never a problem in high school or college when people told you what to write. Now that you’re doing this on your own you need to figure out your own ideas. These ideas almost have to accidentally come to you and this is frustrating, especially in regards to blogging. We all know that frequently posting is a good idea, but you also need ideas for your posts. You end up torn between spam-posting low quality stuff day-after-day or postponing things for so long that you appear to be unreliable. It’s a pain in the ass.

It’s even worse for fiction writing as you need to conjure up characters, a plot, themes, and whatever else, and as I mentioned earlier you can’t seem to force this part. You can’t sit down and force yourself to write a good story with no plot in mind. You have to sit around and brainstorm and hope something good comes along. Even so, this isn’t an invitation to procrastinate in terms of perfection: you still need to get off your ass and write! It sounds contradictory huh?

The Writing

After you have an idea you can get to work on it. This is the actual fun part of writing where you can let your ideas run wild. Writing is the transformation of ideas into concrete words and sentences that other people can enjoy. It’s timeless and romantic and amazing to do when you get in the zone. You’re literally creating new worlds that have never been created! Bringing into existence people, creatures, and things that have never existed outside of your mind! It’s amazing! Sometimes you start typing and are surprised with what you’ve written, as if the ideas materialized out of thin air. What you write might be fantastically good, or shine light on some subconscious workings of your mind that you’re not even aware of. It’s this part of writing that is the most addictive. This is what I love about writing.

The Editing

For fucks sake this part is awful. I worked for hours day-after-day to finally edit my two ebooks and it wasn’t enjoyable at all. This is the part of the writing process where you take your random, rough, and rambling writings and clean the things up. You’re hunting around for grammatical errors, factual errors, spelling errors, and any other errors imaginable. For fictional stories you’re also making sure the characters’ names and jobs are consistent and that everything makes sense. I realized in one one of my stories that a character was terribly inconsistent in two of the chapters he’s in and it’s something that needs to be fixed. Sometimes you need to move paragraphs and chapters around or even delete the damn things. Sometimes you find irrelevant trash that you have no idea how it ended up in the work in the first place. Chapters about nothing in particular. This step is tedious, boring, time consuming and all around awful.

The End

Somehow if you pull all of this shit together you will have a finished product, be it a story, a novel, a blog post, or even a fancy self-help instructional guide. Whatever. And this is what makes it all worth it I suppose. When you can feel good for sitting through some not-very-fun bullshit to actually create something. When you’ve suffered through all of the difficult and tedious shit long enough to have something to show to others and something that you can be proud of. It doesn’t even matter if what you’ve created is trash because at least you’ve created something. How many countless others have wanted to create something but never got around to doing so? How many people fail before they even start?

But Not the End

Oh yeah, even once you have a finished product on your hands you’re still not finished with the process yet. The more I’ve been writing the more I’ve realized about the other shitty demon involved with trying to be an author: self-promotion. I’m also terrible at it. The fact is even if you wrote a masterpiece no one will buy it or even know about it if you don’t promote yourself. This involves goofy terms like “networking” and “advertising” and “getting yourself out there” and a few other nebulous terms that I despise while not being able to think of them right this moment. Let’s not forget the bloggers’ “SEO” stuff too!

As a side rant I’ve seen this problem mostly with MLM-Facebookers trying to pedal their wraps, diet pills, CBD oils, etc. These people try to sell products to their friends and family first without realizing that they can’t limp by selling products only to them. It’s the same with being an author: even if you have five or ten friends/family that love your writings they cannot support you completely. You can’t be a successful artist if only those people are purchasing your products. You need to branch out and find other customers!

I also think this is antithetical the the stereotypical writer as well, at least for me it is: I’m a person that likes to stay inside my head and someone who has confidence issues. A classic introvert I am. I really do think my writing isn’t good enough for people to actually want to read and am constantly surprised when I hear positive feedback on it. Obviously I’m terrible at self-promotion. It always comes across as begging or cringy when I try to get new people to read my writings. It’s hard to do. I wish I could ignore the self-promotion aspect of writing but it seems to go hand in hand with it. You simply can’t git gud at writing where everyone magically loves you. You need to put yourself out there for people to find you in the first place.

As a general closing note here: writing generally takes a long time! It takes much longer than you’d expect it to take. Consider this blog post: it’s only about twelve paragraphs long so take a guess how long I worked on it? I wrote it in 20 or 30 minutes, and have been editing/proofreading it for about an hour and a half (!!!). I also need to add tags to it, make a banner for it, proofread it again and then post it. In total I’d say this post — which is a total low-effort “quick” post — took a total of two to three hours from start to finish. Writing kinda sucks.

Publishing (and Selling!) ebooks Sucks

Last week I was on vacation and as an attempt to save myself the self-hatred and directionlessness that I feel while on vacation I made it a goal to finally finish and publish an ebook. I’m proud to say I’ve accomplished this but at the same time any actual “victory” seems to not be much of a victory at all. While I’ve finally published a book, it really doesn’t mean much in the long run and surely isn’t an instant ticket to success even though I wasn’t really expecting it to be.

What did I write about? I wrote about Facebook. I elaborated in a few recent blog posts about how I was thinking of collecting my Facebook Sucks posts into an ebook: it would be easy to do and I wouldn’t have to feel any pressure for it to be perfect. Perfection is always a hurdle when doing anything for the first time. For my first ebook why would I want to spend months or years making it perfect when it would surely end up as trash and not sell? By gluing blog posts into a book I wouldn’t be making a masterpiece but I could take the first step needed to actually be a writer.

I want to cover two things here: how it was actually writing an ebook and how it was publishing that ebook. Luckily (for this blog at least) each aspect sucked giving me plenty of content to write about!

You’d think that gluing individual blog posts into a book would be really easy but it wasn’t. Each blog post was written as its own stand-alone format; when you try to smash them together as “chapters” in a book you’re left with a really disjointed book. It sounds like what it is: a bunch of shit just tossed together. While most of the content was already written I still had to reread and edit all the posts to be “chapters” instead of “blog posts.” This wasn’t really difficult but wasn’t exactly as easy as I thought it would be. I also had to give some thought as to the general flow of the book, how the chapters would fit into the entire project, and edit them accordingly.

And obviously you can’t just slap a handful of blog posts into a book and call it day either! You need to make it, well, like a fucking book so I had to write an introduction and a few more “body” chapters to ease into where the blog post chapters were taking me. As before this wasn’t exactly hard (mostly as bitching about Facebook comes as naturally to me as breathing or eating does) but it was something I didn’t expect to be as laborious as it was. In fact I think previously written blog posts made up less than half the book; I tired to write an “easy” “blog-based” book and ended up writing a book that had a few blog posts for chapters. Most of the book was totally new content so that was more work than intended.

Then there’s editing the damn thing! You have to pour over the entire document proofreading for proper spelling, punctuation, grammar, as well as making sure you don’t sound totally fucking stupid in your writing. This part could’ve been avoided by finding a “proper” editor instead of doing it myself; that entails its own list of bullshit like being social and actually talking to people. While I wanted to finally write an ebook I wasn’t trying to be social or anything and wanted to rely on others as little as possible.

Along with everything else, actually publishing wasn’t too difficult but still tossed up its own unexpected troubles here and there. My book was ready to go but was there anything else I had to worry about? Yes. Consider a book cover: this is the first and usually only thing people see about your book. If you fuck it up the cover one will think about reading it. It could be the next Great Gatsby but no one will read it because the cover is shit. I felt immense pressure trying to make a decent cover and while I think I did a decent job it still looks unprofessional. If you totally forgot the fact that your book needed a cover you’d be in a difficult spot trying to publish a book.

My book cover. Kinda cool but kinda amateurish at the same time.

Kindle Direct Publishing throws a few more immensely important tasks at you beyond the book cover. What is your book’s keywords going to be? This is how Amazon relates search terms to actual products so these have to be dead on accurate. Even worse is you only get seven terms to use. Each one has to be near perfect. The same is true for your book’s category: it has to reflect what the book is about. Plopping a fantasy fiction book in the “technical writing” section of Amazon simply won’t do you any favors and I ran into trouble at this point. Was my incessant ranting about Facebook a “social science” book on the effects of social media, or was it a commentary on internet and computer culture? I still feel bad about the categories I selected because they don’t seem to reflect the book at all. Hell, I don’t even remember what categories I slapped my book in.

You also have to write a “summary” of your book which, after the cover, is the second most important thing people use to decide when purchasing a book. After going through the exhausting process of writing and editing and making a cover you probably don’t want to write more in a desperate last-minute effort to summarize your book. If you’re thinking of publishing write a fucking summary ASAP. At the very least have an idea for one in your mind.

After dealing with all of that intense decision making you upload your book (in a .doc file or whatever) and check out how it’s formatted. I didn’t have any issues here. The rest is pretty simple: pick a price for your book and all of that shit. After a 24 hour(ish) period your book appears and, well, you’re now a published author. Congratulations! But you probably don’t have long to feel accomplished because you probably won’t actually sell anything…

I shared my book to the Everything Sucks Facebook page as well as my own personal page. I figured at least a few of my friends would check out my cheaply-priced $2.99 ebook because they were curious or felt some sympathy for me. Even a week later my sales stand, pathetically, at zero. Check this out:

If this picture looks bland it’s because I didn’t sell any fucking books.

It’s hard not to feel like shit over this, especially after doing all the work to actually write a book. I recall when one of my Facebook friends made an ebook (it was a single short story too, not even a real fucking book); I paid the 99 cents to support him because I’m a nice guy like that. Of course a bunch of other people also supported him and he was just amazed at the positive feedback his book received! I figured I could count on selling at least a few copies out of “support sympathy” or whatever you want to call it, but nope. The goddamn book only got two likes on my personal page. Fuckers.

I guess I don’t want to bitch about my friends not buying my book because you can’t be a successful author limping along with your only reliable readers being your friends/family. But I do want to bitch about the fact that doing anything is fucking hard. And, once again, doing something for the first time is the hardest. Doing anything for the first time usually involves the greatest amount of effort because you don’t know what you’re doing at a time when you have zero self-confidence keeping you motivated and focused. When you do persevere and accomplish your “first” the reception is usually either luke-warm (or nonexistent) and this can totally crush any self-confidence you’ve accomplished at achieving your goal. This is a really risky and dangerous time because if you’ve busted your ass to make progress and have had no success afterward, why would you want to continue?

Luckily I don’t think I’m dumb enough to fall for that trap again and am already working on a second ebook because who gives a fuck? Sometimes I think the real measure of success is just chipping away at something because you don’t actually care if it’s received well. I could stress out constantly over the fact that no one will probably read anything I publish and hate myself for it, or I can say “Fuck it. I’ll publish another one.” and shrug it off. What else is there really to do except make progress? So while I’ve accomplished actually publishing, had it be recieved anticlimactically, and feel kinda shitty about it I know that I need to keep moving forward because the first of anything is usually shit. So, yeah, publishing (and selling) an ebook kinda sucked.

If you want to actually check the book out here’s the link. It’s only $2.99 so it shouldn’t break your bank account.