Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Where We Are Going, Where We Have Been

This post is kind of an afterword to Defiant and kind of a New Year's resolution. Over the course of the past 12 months, I've learned a lot about how books come together, how they are marketed, and how to approach the industry as an independent author. I've also learned a lot about blogging, about the time commitment it takes to write quality product for the public, and about the various audiences that will inevitably approach my work.

I've also learned a lot about myself. For those of you who saw my 3-part Autistics Speaking Day post or my "Actually, I'm Very Lucky" essay, you know how much I have grown while I've been running this blog.

I have made it no secret, either, that I consider myself both an activist and a professional writer, and that I have high standards for my own work output.

I'm at a crossroads now.

I've been doing freelance work in editing and publishing, including some light web design, for about four years now, and I'm interested in making that a larger share of my income. At the same time, though, I like the seasonal time off that comes with teaching, and I do want to maintain this blog. Unfortunately, there's just not time for all of that at once.

Working on Defiant was addictive. So much so that I was writing it while I wrote another novel, and there were frequently days where I would write multiple chapters of each of them. Web serials are where I want to be, at least for the time being. They are versatile, they engage the audience, and they're easy for casual readers to keep up with. They don't necessarily pay the bills, though. Neither do essays and blog posts on an ad-free self-hosted blog. I can get paid to write these articles, but not necessarily to write them my way, and that creates a range of other issues.

To solve this problem, I've decided to streamline my professional life a bit. If you look at the new site menu at the top of this page, you'll see that I now have a "Hire Mike" area. If you're a writer, academic, or any other kind of professional in need of content creation, editing, or formatting services, I've listed my basic rates. I'm also more than happy to quote off-menu jobs for clients if they send me a prospectus. My point-of-contact for all of those services is my Facebook page. Send me a private message and we'll talk.

In addition to that change, I've implemented two new features here on Shaping Clay that will help me to earn a little bit more of the freelance-related slice of my income here on the site. The goal there is not necessarily to make me more money than I'm used to, though. It's more to give me a replacement for the cash I would give up if I turned down work to write new posts. Here's how they work:

I'm offering a paid subscription to the site that will include all of my new work as it becomes available. You'll get all of my posts here in your email inbox, plus you'll receive all of my ebooks as they become available and in a flexible .pdf format. After you've been subscribed for at least three months, you'll also receive paperback editions of those books.

Offering these subscriptions will make writing my novels as web serials something that is actually cost effective for me to do, and it will allow me to grow my work as demand grows. I'm already willing to write a post every week just because I love the work. If I can get 50 subscribers, though, I'll be able to afford to pay myself for the extra work that I'd need to put in to write 2 posts (chapters) per week. For every 50 subscribers after that, I'll free up another article- or chapter-sized chunk of my time.

Eventually, I'd like to be able to write full time. Realistically, this would mean writing five chapters per week on my serials--finishing a "season" every six weeks or so--and allowing me to write more innovative genre work alongside my Clay Dillon series. I have my release calendar for the next year already set, and I've made it available to you. If you read it, you'll see that there are three projects that I need subscribers to reach, because they are above and beyond the reach of my freetime writing output. If you like the work I've been doing and you would be excited to see those projects get produced, please consider subscribing.

If you can't afford to subscribe or you just don't want to, I'm also offering direct sales of my paperbacks on this site. They're a little pricier here than they are in stores, but all of my prices are out-the-door and all paperback purchases come with .pdf format digital copies. I ship via media mail, and I am willing to ship internationally. I'm also willing to sign copies if it's requested.

Imaginary Friends and Defiant: Volume II are getting made whether this idea works out or not, but your support can mean the difference between my putting them on the blog this year and my getting them all the way into print (along with another project or two).

Over the next few days, I will be updating the new support pages on the site to include a resume for myself and some onesheets for my books, as well as a couple of other tidbits. Other than those items, though, the site redesign is complete, and I'm now pivoting into book formatting and essay writing for a few months. If you're a fan because of Clay Dillon, you'll have to wait until May to get more, but I promise that the wait will be worth it. In the meantime, I might throw in a few original short stories and poems while I'm working on my essays. I might even do some Noahleen-centric stuff before the next season of Defiant starts up.

Who knows? A lot can happen in a year.