The New Name of Dianna’s Writing Den And Other Changes

Friday ended with the votes tied between The Serious Writer and The Dabbler, so I made an executive decision:

Henceforth, I will be blogging at The Dabbler.

I now have the domain and the hosting and I’ll be spending the next two weeks setting this site up. In order to set the site up, I’ll be extending my usual week long blogging break. There will not be another post here until next Friday, when the new site will hopefully be up. If the new site isn’t up by next Friday, I’ll definitely be in touch to let you guys know what’s going on and why it’s not there.

With the new website you’ll notice some other changes, too. I have finally chosen a few coherent packages that will be available to writers and other professionals who need help with their websites. The packages will include things such as a website consultation designed to make your website look and work better for its intended purpose email support while you implement the changes. These packages will be offered at a discount for the first three weeks the new site is open and will go up after that.

Of course, my ebook The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer will be releasing sometime this summer and will be available through the new site. I am still looking for feedback on this 20 page booklet and the exercises within. If you’re interested, please leave your name and email in the comments below. I will be responding to email, just not writing blog posts.

If you’d like to be updated on the new site via your email, you can sign up on this page. This is also the sign up form for a monthly newsletter I plan to start showcasing both popular articles on the blog and articles exclusive to the newsletter itself, so if you’d like to support my work going forward, please sign up.

The Book Tour Blues

FB profileby Joelle Fraser

I’m sipping coffee in a cute café in the tiny mountain town of Quincy, California, 90 miles from my home. Tonight is the last signing for my new book, The Forest House. For nearly three months, like a traveling peddler from the Old West, I’ve spent my weekends driving from one town or city to the next.

This is my second book tour—and I did it all wrong.

My memoir about a year spent healing in an isolated forest retreat is with a prestigious, but small, publisher: Counterpoint Press. My publicist, sweet and professional, set up about half of my “events”—readings, radio interviews, guest blog posts, a college class and a book club visit—and I arranged the other half.

What I feel, as I wonder how many will show up tonight (3? 6? 10?) is relief. It’s the way you feel as you spy the corner of the last lap of the race. You’re tired, but the knowledge that it’s almost over is like an espresso shot of energy.

Of course, everyone’s tired after three-plus months of concentrated effort, of being “on stage,” of meeting new people and always being polite and punctual.

Before I continue, I will admit there’s something annoying about authors who complain. This is mostly true for authors who’ve made it—who never have to worry if the room will be empty. When reading about book tour advice, I’m come across heartbreaking laments like this: “My toddler kept me up the night before I had to go on the Today Show!” Really?

My first tour, in 2002, was for The Territory of Men, a coming of age memoir about growing up in the wild 70s California with several stepdads, and the legacy of that life on my adulthood. It was a sexy book that struck a lot of chords about the culture of that time. The book was reviewed well in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, Elle, the Los Angeles Times, and I had my 15 minutes of fame on NPR’s Fresh Air.
Fast forward 10 years, and the The Forest House came out to relative silence. I did get fine reviews in Kirkus and Booklist, and a few bloggers gave the book high marks, but it was nothing like my first book.

Instead of the 75 people who filled the room at Northtown Books in Arcata, Ca., to hear me read from my first book, 5 people wandered in for my second. I sold two books at this event that required a 14-hour round trip drive, two tanks of gas, meals, a pet-sitting fee, and a motel stay (all on my dime). The people who did come were enthusiastic and lovely, but would I do that again? Probably not.

For a few weeks I blamed the quiet response to my book’s release on the nature of the book itself—it wasn’t sensational. It was reflective, literary, full of deer and doves and serene, snowy morning walks. Nature memoirs are a lot of things, but sexy ain’t one of them.

Then I finally realized how different the media landscape is: it’s a blizzard out there. All I had was a website and a Facebook page with 290 loyal fans.

According to BJ Gallagher in “The Ten Awful Truths About Book Publishing,“ “it is increasingly difficult to make any book stand out. Each book is competing with more than ten million other books available for sale, while other media are claiming more and more of people’s time.””

Publishers are quite aware of this, which is why even selling The Forest House in the first place was a grind because as the big presses told me and my agent, I had no “media platform.”

Today, in addition to having your own blog or at least writing guest blogs regularly, you need an author website, a Twitter and Tumblr following, regular witty podcasts, clever dispatches on your FB author page, a catchy YouTube book trailer—and then you must stride up and down Main Street with a bullhorn.

Guess those publishers had a point: it’s hard to launch anything off a nonexistent platform.
What I would do differently next time? I’d customize my book tour to myself.

Just as there’s a surprising and wonderful difference between a one-size-fits-all outfit and a tailored one, there’s a stark contrast between the traditional, paint-by-numbers book tour and a contemporary, custom one.

So, given that it’s a blizzard out there, what kind of snowflake are you? Here’s what I’d do next time I brave the storm:

1. I’d set up more visits at book clubs, college writing classes, and women’s clubs in my community (such as the Soroptomists). These events meant captive audiences who were excited about me and my books. I brought books to sell and flyers to hand out so people had something to take home.

2. I’d plan more parties with family and friends at houses, restaurants, nightclubs—wherever people can gather to celebrate. Again, books and flyers would be on hand.

3. I’d get my media ducks in a row well before launching—or even selling—the book. That means not just creating an online presence, but ramping up the one I already have by blogging, posting on social networks and YouTube, and doing interviews with other authors.

4. I’d limit my actual “tour” to bookstore events at a few nearby stores where my reading would count as news in the local paper and on the local radio station. If I wanted to visit a faraway bookstore, I’d bring my son and make a vacation out of it.

5. I’d set up “paired” readings with author friends so we could double our promotion and hopefully our audience.

What I’ve learned is that a book’s release into the world should be fun and worthwhile. In the end, I stay gracious—and grateful that I’ve gotten to experience this wild and crazy life as an author. I can’t wait to see what happens with book # 3.

Joelle Fraser is the author of the memoirs The Territory of Men (Random House 2003) and The Forest House (2013). A MacDowell Fellow, she has an MFA from the University of Iowa. She teaches writing and lives in northeast California with her son. Find her at www.joellefraser.com.

The Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer

Today is a very special day. It is time for me to tell you all about the ebook I’ve been working on, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer. The ebook is based on this post, with a slightly altered list of commandments.

Each commandment has been more fully explained, with exercises designed to help you become more fully committed to your writing. This ebook will give you all the tools necessary to plan the next stages of your writing career, including three potential schedules for you to base your own on. If you’re looking for help to make the transition from hobbyist, this is the ebook for you.

This ebook isn’t a comprehensive guide for becoming a successful writer, but it will walk you through the process of laying a foundation for your career. That said, this book isn’t quite finished yet. First, I’m looking for your help.

If you have committed to one of these commandments–you’ve written every day for the last six months and finished a book, or you’ve found and learned to work with a critique group–and it’s helped you grow as a writer, especially if it’s helped you make money writing, I’d love to hear from you. I’d like to add one short personal story from a different writer to each commandment.

This will be a free ebook given to my subscribers. Those who contribute their stories will be allowed to give the ebook to their own personal blog subscribers as well. This is your chance to be officially quoted in an ebook, and to get your name in front of my readers. If you’d like to share your success story, email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com.

I’m also looking for feedback. I’d like one or two people who in the process of laying the foundation for their writing career to give me feedback on the book and the exercises within so I can make any improvements. The ebook is now finished, but everyone needs a second pair of eyes on their writing. I’d like that second pair of eyes to belong to one of my readers. If you’re interested, once again just email me at diannalgunn@gmail.com and I’ll tell you what kind of feedback I’m looking for. Copies will be sent for feedback at the end of this week to any interested parties.

As for the new name of this blog: I’ve had such wonderful suggestions and there was a little conflict because the most popular name is taken by someone else, so I’ve decided to extend voting until Friday, when I’ll also be explaining in more detail my plans for the new site. Vote here.

What do you think of all the changes around here? Are you eager to read The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer?

What would be your second choice?

For those who voted that my new domain name should be Much Ado About Writing, I’d like to ask for your second choice. There is already a Weebly site called Much Ado About Writing, so I’m not sure if I want to use this name for the blog. I am still considering it, because the domain name itself isn’t taken and hers is more of a website than a blog, but I’d like to know what your second choice for the new name is.

As a reminder, your options are:

  • Every Writer’s Den or All Writers’ Den–more community based versions of this blog’s name, implying that it belongs to all writers
  • The Committed Writer(s)–based around commitment and community. With or without the S.
  • The Serious Writer–I thought of this one because it relates to the ebook I’m currently editing, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer.
  • Genre Crosser(s)–I’m the kind of writer who dabbles in every format of writing and every genre, and I get the sense many of you are the same. I’m not sure about this one however as it sounds great but sounds like more of a fiction blog, whereas I want this to be a haven for writers who dabble in everything, including non-fiction.
  • The Dabbler– For someone who dabbles in everything… To represent that I can never be constrained by one format and genre and to give help to other writers who feel the same way. This one’s my personal favourite.
  • Let’s Write and Write On- New suggestions by Jill Nelson. Thanks Jill!

Please tell me in the comments below what your second choice for the new blog name will be. Voting will close tomorrow night at 9PM EST.

Summer Schedule and Vote on a New Blog Name

As I mentioned on Friday, there are going to be many changes around here over the next few months. The first thing to change will be the schedule.

For the next two weeks, I will continue at three posts per week. This week I will be writing all three posts myself. On Friday I’ll be introducing the ebooks I plan to release this year. Next week I’ll be choosing a blog name and a great article about book tours by Joelle Fraser will be going up.

After that there will only be two posts per week, on Mondays and Fridays. There will be occasional interviews and guests when people approach me, but I simply don’t have the time to find contributors anymore. I will always accept articles from other writers, and in the new blog I hope to have a regular contributor or two. At this point, however, it looks like there will probably only be one guest article this month.

I will also still be taking one week off a month. This month that week will be the 17th-21st. The week will be devoted to working on all my book length projects.

After that, Mondays will be used for in depth articles and announcements of future changes, and Fridays will be devoted to writing prompts and exercises.

Now, what you’ve been waiting for: potential domain names!

I spent the weekend brainstorming potential domain names, and I’d like you to vote for your favourite–or suggest a new one. The official domain name will be chosen next Monday. The one with the most votes wins. Voting ends Saturday night.

These are my ideas:

  • Every Writer’s Den or All Writers’ Den–more community based versions of this blog’s name, implying that it belongs to all writers
  • The Committed Writer(s)–based around commitment and community. With or without the S.
  • The Serious Writer–I thought of this one because it relates to the ebook I’m currently editing, The Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer.
  • Genre Crosser(s)–I’m the kind of writer who dabbles in every format of writing and every genre, and I get the sense many of you are the same. I’m not sure about this one however as it sounds great but sounds like more of a fiction blog, whereas I want this to be a haven for writers who dabble in everything, including non-fiction.
  • The Dabbler– For someone who dabbles in everything… To represent that I can never be constrained by one format and genre and to give help to other writers who feel the same way. This one’s my personal favourite.
  • Much Ado About Writing– Suggested by Eric Cameron. Thanks Eric!
  • To weigh in on what you’d like the new name for this blog to be, tell me which one is your favourite and why in the comments below. Your feedback is always appreciated, and it’s still not too late to suggest a new name.

    All new names suggested before Friday will be entered into the vote.

    Progress Report June 2013

    It’s June now, meaning it’s time to do two things: analyze how much progress I made towards my goals in May, and make my plans for the summer.

    Let’s start by taking a look at what I’ve accomplished towards my various goals:

    Editing Moonshadow’s Guardian– Last month I edited exactly six chapters and 42 pages. I should be finished editing before the end of this month, and I am going to start looking for beta readers this month. There’s less than a hundred pages to go and I’m thrilled to be this close to the end. So far, June’s looking pretty good month as I’ve already edited three pages and written a new chapter. I’m going to spend the next two weeks in a marathon with a goal of finishing by the time I graduate on the fifteenth.

    Launch the Ten Commandments of a Serious Writer eBook– I’ve now got this ebook almost ready and I’ll be explaining in more detail what it is this Friday. I should be able to launch in June.

    Make $5, 000 this year from my writing– in May I only made $300 from my writing, but I’m expecting more in the next few days and I’m now actively looking for new work. I also had several articles published this month at varying pay rates, which is awesome. And I’ve made a distinct plan for how to get this money, which I’ll show you in more detail later this month. My writing income goal for June is $750.

    Launch an email newsletter– I’ve decided to move to a self-hosted blog, and finally decided what my newsletter will look like, so it will be part of the new incarnation of this blog. It will probably launch in July.

    Write a new novel– I actually didn’t choose a plot for a new novel, but it’s percolating in the back of my head as I plan an event for Nanowrimo this year. Instead, I’ve created an outline for an ebook I’m going to release at the end of the summer. My goal for that this month is to have written the entire thing.

    I finish school halfway through this month, and I’m using existing blog posts for sections of the ebook I plan to release in July, so I think these are totally reasonable goals. To achieve them, I’m dedicating one hour a day every Saturday and Sunday to each project. Once school ends, I plan to work on each goal for at least one hour Monday through Friday during the summer and take weekends off.

    What are your goals for this month? How did you do last month?

    The Future of Dianna’s Writing Den

    2013 has been an eventful year for me, and I’ve entered a new stage of my life. I’ve grown immensely as a writer and a person, and this blog must grow with me. This year I’ve actually committed to freelance writing, and I’ve made quite a bit of progress on the Ten Commandments ebook I’ll release when I reach 400 followers. I’m also going to technically graduate high school, but I’ll talk more about that in another post.

    Over the next couple of months, this blog will enter a new stage of its life, too. It’s going to become a more professional showcase of my work, but it’s also going to become more community focused. By the end of the year I hope to release an ebook designed to help writers finish their first draft.

    To accomplish all of this, I’m going to switch to a self hosted site. I will also be renaming this blog and purchasing a new domain name. I’d like this domain name to be more community focused, with regular contributors, because this blog isn’t just about me. It’s about you guys, too.

    I will be keeping this domain name for about a year, and all posts from the new blog will be cross posted here, so you’ll have plenty of time to follow me in making the switch. I will probably make a new schedule, though I haven’t set that in stone yet.

    Over the next week I’ll be hammering out the exact details of these changes, but before I finalize everything, I’d like to know what you think. What do you think would make a good name for the new version of this blog? What would you like to see happen in the next stage of this blog?

    Frustration–and a Cry for Help

    This blog has long been where I pour out my heart and soul. Sure, I don’t talk much about my life outside of writing, but writing is really the core of who I am and how I live. I write every day, or as close to it as possible. I’ve wanted to be a professional writer since I was eight years old, and I’ve never stopped pushing for that dream. Instead, I’ve fit the rest of my life around my writing, trying desperately to keep it from conquering my writing time, with varying amounts of success.

    Through this blog, I’ve seen lots of success. I have over three hundred and fifty subscribers, which seems like a small number compared to, say, the millions of subscribers Firepole Marketing has, but is a pretty big number for me. It’s an even bigger number when you consider how crowded the blogosphere is, and that every writer has a blog–and that I’m not famous for other work. This blog has also been the thing that set me apart from other applicants and gotten me all the writing jobs I’ve ever had, and best of all it’s been a lot of fun.

    It’s also been very frustrating. Maintaining a regular posting schedule is incredibly difficult during the school year. I’ve had to cut back on the amount I post per week to focus on other things. I’ve even started taking whole weeks at a time away from the blog to work on my other projects. Since I don’t make any money directly from the blog, often it also feels like a waste of time.

    Perhaps the hardest part is getting people involved in the discussion. Many of you have joined in the conversation on different posts, but I still haven’t figured out the magical formula to create a healthy, thriving discussion. I’ve had mixed success with everything I’ve tried. When I posted these three questions, I had an overwhelming response, yet when I posted more questions in last week’s Friday Forum, nobody responded. It’s impossible to tell whether that was because of the long weekend, the questions themselves or perhaps something else about the post itself.

    I guess what I’m saying is I’d like a little help, guys. This blog is only partially about sharing my own journey as a writer. It’s also about helping you guys become better writers and creating a community where we help each other. It’s also about sharing the love between writers and helping others promote their work. It’s also about sharing great books with you so you’ll never run out of good things to read. Really, it’s mostly about you.

    Without your response and participation in this community, I’m shooting in the dark. I’m writing what I think, what I hope you guys will like, because you haven’t told me what you’d actually like to read. I’ve debated starting a newsletter, but because you guys are so quiet, I’m not sure what you’d subscribe to, so I haven’t–I don’t want to put weeks of effort into something nobody will like. And without your help to spread the word about Dianna’s Writing Den, this community will never grow.

    So please, share your thoughts about what I do here. You can say whatever you want, as long as it’s genuine criticism and not internet flaming. Tell me what you like about Dianna’s Writing Den, but especially tell me what you don’t like. Frankly, negative feedback is almost more useful–after all, how else would I figure out what not to do?

    Next week being the last week of May, I’ve decided that I will only run one post next week on Friday. I’ve decided not to take the whole week off, but I do need a bit of a breather. Please bear with me.

    If you haven’t put in your two cents yet, now is the chance. Help me make Dianna’s Writing Den by giving your feedback–even if all you do is tell me why you never comment.

    Flip Turn by Paula Eisenstein

    Flipturn

    Paula Eisenstein is a wonderful author who I interviewed here earlier this year. You can check out that post for more information about her and the story of how we met–today I’d like to focus instead on her debut novel, Flip Turn.

    Let’s start by glancing at the back cover copy:

    “In Paula Eisenstein’s spare and provocative first novel, a young girl must come to terms with the discovery that her brother killed a young girl. Feeling alienated and not knowing how to ask for help, she decides that suppressing her sexual development will ensure she doesn’t do the same thing.

    In Flip Turn, Eisenstein has created an unforgettable narrator whose success as an athlete leaves her conflicted about the attention she receives. She fears it will remind people of what her brother did and draw negative attention to her family. As her swimming triumphs lead her to the Olympic trials, she recounts her own sexual abuse at the hands of a swim coach and must decide if she should give up her passion to try to find a more normal life.”

    My thoughts:

    Flip Turn is written like a diary. The narrator goes on tangents fairly regularly, which wouldn’t work in an adult book, but helps give the book a teenage feel. On top of having a murderous brother, Flip Turn’s narrator faces the same issues as other teen girls: too much homework, moving, trying to make friends and a constant internal debate about her own self worth. Flip Turn deals with many issues common to teenage girls in an honest way without focusing too hard on any one issue. Flip Turn is also a distinctly Canadian book taking place in London, Ontario, and I’m a sucker for Canadian books.

    This book is written for teens but I can certainly see an appeal for adults. It’s an interesting look at competitive swimming, which I knew very little about before reading the book, and a fascinating look at the impact one person’s crimes has on their whole family. I find this particularly fascinating because in the news they never talk about these people. We always hear about the impact on the victim’s family, but never about how violent crime impacts the perpetrator’s family.

    The writing style feels very true to a teenage girl’s voice, and the editing is incredibly clean. In fact, this is the best edited book I’ve read in a long time. I noticed a few places where phrasing was weird and a sentence sounded awkward, but not a single typo made it through. This is incredible when even most traditionally published books have a couple errors that made it through.

    My only complaint about Flip Turn is that it didn’t truly feel finished at the end. I can’t help but think that there’s more to the story, that something got missed somewhere or perhaps intentionally left out, something that would’ve rounded out the story more. Still, the ending was appropriate even if it felt a bit abrupt, and it wasn’t a Disney happy ending or a tragedy. I’m always happy when an author respects their story and chooses to take the middle ground with their ending, rather than conforming to formulas in the hopes of selling books.

    All in all, Flip Turn is a fantastic novel. It’s a window into the life of one teen girl, and her story is powerful enough to reach across all generations. My biggest hope for this book is that nobody will turn it away because it’s about a teenage girl–this story isn’t just for teens, even if the story is about one.

    I’m going to rate Flip Turn a 4 out of 5 on the Awesomeness scale(yes, ‘awesome’ is a measurement).

    Would you like to read Flip Turn? If so you’ll be thrilled to know that Paula has donated a copy to be given away when I reach 400 subscribers. Don’t want to wait? You can purchase Flip Turn here.

    Happy Victoria Day!

    I’d like to wish all you lovely people–at least all you lovely Canadian people–a happy Victoria day. In keeping with my rules of productivity, I will be taking the day away from Dianna’s Writing Den to work on other things: editing my novel and working on other long term projects.

    You might have noticed that I didn’t manage to reach 400 subscribers in two weeks, but that’s okay. When I do reach 400 subscribers, I’ll still be hosting a massive giveaway. I am still working on my ebook, Ten Commandments of the Serious Writer, and I’m planning to release this when I hit 400 subscribers–with the very first copy being given away to one of you.

    Now, off to writing! Have a wonderful day, and thanks for being a loyal reader.