Live Through Us at The Burrow

Is Publishing Dead? (aka, is making a living as a writer still possible?)

Of course, anything is possible, but let’s answer this correctly. No, publishing is not dead, not yet; neither are agents or traditional publishers. But. It is changing, and quite possibly not for the better. I read a recent article on an agency’s website while querying this morning. We’re not a fit, but I thought I would read their stuff anyway, and I’m glad I did. The agency’s name is Doug Grad Literary Agency, Inc, and the article can be found here amongst their FAQ section. (They’re also looking for an intern at the time of writing this post, something I would LOVE to do but can’t-le sigh!) Here is what they had to say (I apologize for the font, but that’s the best Word press allows.):

Publishing is an odd business, as you will come to learn if you get involved in it.  The business model is completely obsolete, dating back to the Great Depression.  In the 1920s and earlier, books were sold on a non-returnable basis, like clothing, or food (non-returnable from seller to manufacturer—customers return things all the time).  There weren’t very many bookstores in the U.S., the population was about one half to one third of what it is today, and relatively few people had college educations, or enough leisure time to read.  That’s why first editions of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway are so rare and expensive—it’s not just that they were great writers, but that a first printing in those days would be about 2,000 or 3,000 copies.  When the stock market crashed and the Depression set in, bookstores would have gone out of business if they hadn’t convinced publishers to make the books fully returnable.  It kept the publishers afloat as well as the stores, and maybe even a few printers.  When the economy picked up going into WWII and the post war years, publishers and bookstores didn’t go back to the pre-war model.  But our soldiers had gotten so hooked on reading paperbacks while fighting in Europe or the Pacific, that they took their habit back home with them, and publishing flourished.  In the 1960s and 1970s, a bestselling paperback would sell 6-12 million copies.  But in the late 1980s, hardcovers began to take precedence over paperbacks.  There was a perceived prestige factor associated with hardcovers, and publishers loved the much higher cover price.  As they started to price themselves out of the market, the discount booksellers came to the rescue, as well as the on-line booksellers.  But a recent study showed that while the U.S. population has increased, readership has not.  As technology has taken over our lives, the competition for our leisure time has grown fierce, from TV and movies to cable TV (500 channels!), and the internet.  And it seems as though our leisure time has decreased and become fragmented–we’re all working harder to stay at the same level.  We as a nation have also gotten out of the habit of reading books, especially compared to Europe, but publishers continue to pump out more and more books every year.  As costs have risen and profit margins have shrunk, and per title sales have decreased (a mega-bestseller today is 2-4 million copies), publishers have tried to make up their profits by publishing more titles.  Great, you say, more books are being published!  But since overall readership levels have remained static for 20 years, that means that each title is selling fewer copies.  Kind of a long-winded way of saying, “You do the math…”

I went to a book signing in Knoxville last year for a NYT bestseller, and was saddened, terrified even at what I saw. This man, this man who had a successful career in the technological world and quit all that to write full time was standing before me and dozens of children asking them for help. “Please, tell your friends about this book. Write reviews about this book. Share this book on social media.” How sad is it that we have come to a time when that is required of a NYT bestselling author!!

I still remember querying my first picture book, a sad thing it was, to publishers and agents. The publishers actually responded better than the agents, but the difference was staggering. If I were to query that book now, I would be ignored by every one of them. A great book gets ignored by most now.

So, where am I going with this? Good question! #1, read the FAQ section in the link I provided. I wish we were a fit, because I really like the guy’s personality from what I can tell, but alas, so goes it. His history of publishing comment got me to thinking. At the present time, it looks rather bleak. I asked around (non-writers) “Tell me a household author’s name that’s new since Stephanie Meyer.” No one could. But look how publishing has changed over the last century and surely will again. Everything does. So little is the same any more, not even nature, which is terribly terribly sad. But I see people all the time who have grown sick of tech, who have thrown out their TV’s. Tech may be a fad, it may destroy the world, there is no way to know. There never was a way to know. All we can do is do what we love whether it brings us fortune or not.

I work a terrible job to pay the bills. I write to pay my desires. Maybe one day they will coalesce, but I’m not holding my breath, nor am I going to worry about it. I think the mentality that they must be one and the same is the 40’s cliche, “What do you do?” that still haunts society now. What difference does it make? Shouldn’t we ask instead, “What is your passion?” or “Tell me about yourself.”? (Unfortunately that second one is reserved for interviews and therefore it’s answer is already programmed into our brain and more than likely untrue. So it’s probably a good thing it isn’t used socially.)

What do I do? I try my best to be a good servant of my God. I try my best to be a good wife, mother, daughter (aka family member) in whatever way I am needed. I try my best to take care of myself, and I try my best to balance all of this together. What do you do?

Getting Things Done When You Already Have Anxiety

Anxiety can take many forms and has many beastly heads. For me, one common monster is getting things done. Sadly, I can feel a great sense of success and accomplishment by playing a task management game or any game with labeled tasks and awards or trophies for doing said tasks. But I know that’s not real success and save that form of entertainment for my relaxing hours.

What my habit had gotten to be was listing all my to-do’s and then doing as many of those do’s as possible in a given day. This was a great in between lifestyle, as it kept me from forgetting to do things, thereby creating a great air of relief.


I’ve grown since then, and therefore outgrown this method. My new method, starting yesterday I think, is to list all my tasks somewhere (as that really has to be done if I’m ever going to sleep again!), but then segregating off what I think I can, or should, accomplish today. This is in the beta stage, of course, so I’m sure the lists will change with time. But this way, I’ll feel accomplished at the end of the day.

See, before, I just had this huge list, and though I was doing everything I could on that list, I never finished it. So I never felt like I was done for the day. I never switched off. I never relaxed. I never spent time with my family. This way, I actually feel like I’ve accomplished what I need to, like I’m done for the day.

Today’s list? Well, with my work/sleep schedule, I don’t finish things when I would like, but it’s getting worked on. And I feel pretty good about that.

The New Laptop

When I started writing, I bought a laptop. I couldn’t afford the prices but by a miracle, found a used one for $250. It was an HP Pavilion dv6. It was made in 2012. Brand new, it was $750. Alas, this poor laptop is now limping its last limps.

I had tolerated the BSOD (blue screen of death) for years. It came and went without rhyme or reason. Its parameters were just as random, sometimes the same, other times not. Nowhere online could tell me what the parameters meant. They either weren’t listed or came up as “random memory failure”. My frustration and fear had mounted to where I relinquished in buying a new one.

I thought, “I’ll try to keep it around the $250. I mean, come on, I’m trying to match a five year old device, so it shouldn’t be that expensive.” Please, save your laughter for later.

Upon browsing Amazon, my price slowly rose, with great opposition, until it was around $500. I found one, but it was plastic, not metal, and one reviewer said not to use it for Photoshop, etc, you know, what I’ll be using it for. My Dad offered a Macbook, but I’d rather die. Literally. My hatred for Macs only grew when I was forced to use one at the law office. Not a single person there liked them or could use them. They came to me for help, even the networking professional complained about it. I remapped the keyboards to that of a PC, something the other secretary asked me to do to hers as well. But I digress.

When we went on our anniversary trip, Arlis said to try Best Buy. It was on the way, why not? Oh I found the equivalent of what I had in metal, etc. For $800. I was MAD (I’m still pretty peeved). Why should I pay MORE for a device equivalent to that of five years ago?!?!?!

Computers go through this wavy phase of good machines/bad machines, good prices/bad prices. Right now we’re in a bad machine/bad price phase, hence why I built my past desktop, which still out performs most new ones. The public has been brainwashed to think it’s all about RAM when it’s not. The CPU is vital, something the Best Buy salesman agreed with me on. Don’t get me wrong, RAM is important, but it is useless without the processing power required. It’s like feet without legs.

So anyway, I bring home the new laptop and find a black line down the monitor. I didn’t really care, but online said it would only get worse. We exchanged it for a new one, and now I’m spending FOREVER downloading all the software I need to install in order to see if it will even run what I need it to.

This is part of why I’m so discouraged of late. My schedule has been drastically held back when it was already months behind. I accept that I’ll never catch up, but I don’t want to make it worse!

There is some solace. I posted about my BSOD on a professional forum. After two days, ZERO response on a very active forum. Now, this could mean they don’t take me seriously enough to respond, but I don’t think so. I honestly believe it’s because I made the right decision and got a new machine before the old one bit the dust. I’m just happy I saved all my books in time. That last error message was scary!!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I haven’t run in nearly a week due to our trip, and I have some frustration to remove. Running always makes me feel better.

Writing Dialogue

If there’s one thing I can write well, it’s dialogue. It’s probably the only thing I write well. Unfortunately, it’s also the only thing I write. Let me explain. Most of my Cupolian books were practically scripts before the details were added. I didn’t even have tags to tell me who said what. I had to either know, tell by the words used, or guess when I went in later to add what was needed. I’ve gotten better, but it’s still my main method at times.

Here’s the problem. You don’t want just dialogue. They say for your books to be mainly dialogue because that’s what readers like. I could go on as to why, but I shan’t for now. Let me simply say they don’t actually mean that. Dialogue should be less than half of your story. The other half needs to consist of tag lines and action (I don’t mean shooting fight scene action-I simply mean things happening, etc). If you have the same problem I do when writing dialogue, and you want your dialogue to read better, here’s my trick.

Dialogue has several purposes, and pacing your dialogue is extremely important. Slow a scene down by adding more words outside of the quotes-quicken the scene by having less. Use action tags when you can instead of regular tags. For example, if I have an argument between two people, I would set the conversation up with two tag lines, one after each has spoken the first time, and then have no more. This makes a 1,2,1,2,1,2 dialogue that reads fast. Obviously, you don’t want that all the time.

If your characters are talking casually, and you find there’s too many quotes and not enough action, give them something to do. Ever notice how Harry, Ron, and Hermione are always doing homework or knitting elf hats or some other thing you really don’t care about? There’s a reason for that. Take this section here:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it.” Anya could feel her emotions rising again, but this time they were different, more edgy and with a pinch of anger.
Taika sighed deeply and stepped down from the shelf she had been balancing on. She dusted her hands off and faced the two of them. “Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
Anya peeked over at Gevin who was still busying himself by putting parchment markers into books. “I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

I gave them something to do. They’re indexing books for Taika. Without this activity, it would read like this:

“Excuse me?” asked Taika.
“Well, I came over here to prepare for our journey into the labyrinth, but Gevin here beat me to it,” said Anya.
“Actually, I did most of that planning last night, and I came to the conclusion there is only one way in.”
Anya stared at her and said, “And?” after she didn’t continue.
“We’ll have to sneak back into Cupola.”
“I don’t understand. I thought we knew that already.”
“That part, yes, but not the addendum.”

See the difference? Now, the second part is great if you want a fast paced conversation, but you should only use faster paces if there’s a reason, like an argument or a quick discussion because the characters are running out of time and have to discover something fast. The opposite is also true. Do not draw out a conversation that needs to be fast. If two siblings are having a fight, don’t describe them at a quilting bee in the process, unless of course they are at a quilting bee and have to fight through the corners of their mouths so as not to draw attention which would be rather amusing. But-you get the idea.

Summary—if you need to draw out the dialogue, give the characters something to do. It doesn’t have to be relevant, although that helps, but find something, even if it’s knitting or poker. Anything.

Reasons I prefer British TV to American over 80% of the time.

#4-Their accent. Yes, I like it. It’s comforting, but it’s not the #1 reason, so I’m OK with that.

#3-The differing culture with the same language. I love watching about other cultures. They’re very interesting, but subtitles or guessing is not as enjoyable as the same language. I believe this is one of the main reasons a lot of Americans first start getting into BBC, because they’re able to explore another world with enough similarities to make it like a parallel universe.

#2-There is better TV as opposed to nothing but reality TV or zombies or other such programmes (pun intended).

#1-They base their choice of actors on talent, not bra size/washboard quality or the willingness to display said body parts at all available opportunities. This in an of itself is enough for many, but it has a result that makes it #1 for me. Better acting. Better scripts. Better shows.

Don’t get me wrong. BBC sucks at sci-fi. But they are getting better. With the buyout of Merlin by NBC, Dr Who made a comeback. Its American fan base has allowed it a budget that allows for better quality CGI/etc. Primeval was decent, but held back by the Brit’s sci-fi abilities. I haven’t watch Primeval:A New World yet, so maybe they’re fixed that. BBC just doesn’t have the budget Hollywood does. But that just makes them more impressive imo.

What are your favorite British shows?

The pile on the end of the desk

If you’ve kept up, I used to work at a law office. If you haven’t kept up, no biggie, just know that I used to work in a law office. Please also note that I have anxiety. (I hesitate to say, “I suffer from anxiety,” but I do, although not nearly as bad as before.)

But anyway, so most days I would walk in to a giant pile of files on the end of my desk or would leave with a giant pile on the end of my desk because the attorneys liked to pile me up half an hour before quitting time.

What did I learn?

That that’s OK. Take your time, and it’ll get done. It’s OK to be piled up, and I applied that knowledge today. I had a LOAD of things to do today, or so I thought. My trouble with anxiety is, if I don’t know how to easily do something, I think it’s going to take forever because I have to research and figure everything out. And today I had to do something new that was overcomplicated, annoying, and took several hours.

Now before you go off wondering why that’s a big deal for me, apparently I’m the only adult in my family capable of learning. My husband and father request and usually require me to make all business transactions and phone calls for them. They are incapable of calling the phone company to ask why their bill is off or when the next one is due, etc. And they’re unwilling to learn how to. If they can’t figure something out, they don’t try, and will wait until they get a cut-off notice before asking me for help. I have to keep a calendar of when other people’s bills are due because of this, and remind them daily until I finally demand to see proof that it was paid, in which I sometimes hear, “Fine. Will you do it for me?”


This is also why my house will never be tidy.

Back to my point. Ah yes, the pile on the end of the desk. So, I get home from dropping my kid off from school and eat a leisurely breakfast before getting started. The anxiety builds, but I tell myself, no it’ll get done. At one time my brain quits, so I take a break, eating a leisurely lunch.( I also had a headache and upset stomach, so said break was needed.) I come back feeling better and finish everything that needs doing, and it’s not even time to pick up my kid from school. Why yes, I am finished with everything. Now to get ahead.

It’s OK. That pile on the end of the desk? Just take it one file at a time. It’ll get done.

Using Instafreebie and Mailerlite

I recently started an Instafreebie (IF) campaign to grow my newsletter. IF is a place to giveaway ebooks providing people opt-in to your newsletter. My (and many others) newsletter is set up through Mailchimp (MC). However, I have found that automation is best when dealing with new subscribers, and MC wants to charge for that.

What is automation? Automation services allow you to automatically send out a welcome e-mail instead of having to do them by hand every time someone joins your newsletter, a time consuming and bothersome process I assure you. It can also allow you to send timed automatic letters such as 1 week or 2 weeks later, etc.

I’m currently taking a couple of marketing courses, and will implement what I learn from them, but in the meantime, I’m keeping it simple and low pressure. These courses suggest several letters on a step-progression, but I don’t want to over kill just yet.

Thankfully though, I found Mailerlite (ML). It has free automation. I still have to import addresses from MC, and eventually from IF itself when my free trial runs out, but at this point, it’s worth it to me.

I also want to point out that registering with MC was no hassle at all. ML? That’s another story. I had to register a new e-mail address tied to my domain with Zoho, add MX’s and CNAME’s details to my domain. It was a royal pain and took several hours. So, you have to weigh your options. Is it worth several hours one day to offset $20 a month? To me it is. ML does walk you through it, and it’s easier if you have a common domain supplier, like GoDaddy, so it isn’t impossible, just annoying.

In summary, IF integration with MC along with automation will cost you $40 a month. You can always get coupons, discounts, and referral points, but that’s never a guarantee. If you want to avoid this charge, you’ll have to use ML and manually add addresses, which, in all honesty, isn’t that bad as you can export subscribers quickly and easily, and IF deletes duplicates, preventing you from having to do that manually (I couldn’t imagine). Either way is going to cost you some time, but in the end, both appear to be very similar in the amount of time (aside from setup), and quite frankly, why pay $40 a month extra?

Here’s my tip jar

I’m going to start charging for my time. Not literally, of course. But I’m wondering if it will ever get to the point where I can, because I surely work enough to be paid at this point.

So, I make nothing on my writing, right? I take yesterday and today “off” to read several books, something every writer should do, a career expectancy, right? Don’t get me wrong. In the evening I have logged onto social media and kept up with it minimally, but I didn’t check e-mails or progress my marketing or continue my editing, etc.

Somehow, this author who is making nothing, is all of a sudden needed by everyone. “Why haven’t you answered my last e-mail?”, “You need to authorize this update on your book.”, not to mention 47 facebook notifications, mostly from people to whom I asked a question DAYS ago, not hours, days. I’m not saying these people or any others don’t have the right to be busy and put me off several days. It’s just ironic that I’m thinking, “No one will miss me,” and yet-BOOM!!

So this makes me wonder, should I have a virtual tip jar where people can tip me if I respond to them in a timely manner? Hmm?

On the upside, I’m nearly done reading library book 2 and will probably finish reading library book 3 by the end of the day. All except apparently there’s some horrific storm that’s approaching that’s so bad they’re calling school out early.





Whoa, Dude!

And all the while I’m thinking, wouldn’t it be safer to have the kids there!!!???

Just one of them days, I guess. (I tried to find the Looney Tunes clip of this, but was unable. My apologies. Again proof that’s it’s just one of them days!)


Have you ever needed inspiring? How about after you’ve dealt your last deck as far as you’re concerned? You’ve heard your last “inspirational” message and came to realize that they’re all garbage? I’m here to help.

Perseverance is what you’re looking for, not inspiration. That’ll help for starters. Furthermore, so will real stories of perseverance.

Let’s start with some bad examples of perseverance:

  1. The man/woman who finishes the race after an injury. So what? Did they win? Did doing that cause them to get picked up by an incredible sponsor and go on to fulfill their dream? No? All it did was get them a standing ovation, a news article, and then they had to quit the sport because of the injury, or tried again the next year or more only to never be as good as they once were? Yeah. Bad example.
  2. J.K. Rowling. This example is used more than any other presently, and misrepresented/misunderstood more than any other as well… presently. Rowling was living on benefits as a single mom with a baby. She either couldn’t get a job or didn’t try to, that part was never really touched upon (to my knowledge, at least until she did get a job after completing her first book). She had nothing better to do than write before working, and so she did. She wrote in the 90’s when yes, MG books were rarer, but so were authors. There wasn’t half the competition then as there is now, and new authors were actually fought for by agents, not against. She “got rejected numerous times”, you know, like every other author on earth. Oh, and unless she submitted other books that she’s not telling us about (which given certain facts about her submission process I highly doubt), this is not about perseverance. She wasn’t rejected by a single publisher; her agent was, and she was only rejected by one agent (of course these facts vary depending on who you get them from.) Agents do not tell you when you have been rejected. They only tell you when you have been accepted, or they’re giving up on you. So she would have had no knowledge of being rejected by a single publisher until well after the money came in (if I remember correctly, she even mentioned in an interview how she had no idea until some reporter asked her about it or something similar). I have a disabled husband, homeschooled my child, worked, and still wrote, so her sob story sounds like a dream to me. And compared to other authors I know, my sob story is a dream come true to them. This is a terrible example of perseverance.
  3. Some guy/gal who went to Princeton, got rejected by their school’s newspaper staff and went on to become some famous editor/owner of a magazine. There are a billion stories like this. Let me break it down why they’re bad examples of perseverance. Being rejected one time by your school and not real life means nothing. If you can’t get up from that and pursue you’re dream, it was never a serious dream. The person went to Princeton/Harvard/etc. In other words, they came from money which means more than just having financial backing for their work/dreams. People with money know people. They have connections. Connections + money = success. Period.

Now let’s look at some good examples.

  1. Chester Calton spent 10 years searching for a company to develop his idea, later to be Xerox. He tried and failed multiple times and finally became successful. It wasn’t over night. It took years. But he never gave up. This is a good example of perseverance and what should inspire us to do the same.
  2. R.H Macy failed numerous times over 15 years until he was finally successful. But. Those past failures, and the jobs he did in between to pay for those failures, gave him the experience he needed to become successful. By utilizing the experiences he didn’t want (aka failures and in-between jobs), he was able to finally achieve his dream.
  3. John Creasey supposedly received over 700 rejections.  This in and of itself is not remarkable. What is remarkable is that even in the 30’s when writers were paid far better than now, and making a good living as a full time one was not unheard of, he continued to work for 5 years after his first book was published. I guarantee it was because he had to. So even though he was a published author in 1930, he had to work. That had to take its toll on him, and these jobs were clerical, sales, factory, in other words, anything he could find. Truly an inspiration story!

So please, when you’re feeling down, about to give up, remember the good examples, the real examples. The example where people took years of hard work outside of their desired profession in order to pay for said profession until they were finally successful.

Don’t. Give. Up.

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