Author Archives

How the Self-Publishing Industry Changed, Between My First and Second Novels

Photo: Nicole Dieker

As of this writing, my self-published novel The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 2: 2004–2016 is currently ranked #169,913 out of the more than one million Kindle books sold on Amazon. When Biographies Vol. 2 launched at the end of May, it ranked #26,248 in Kindle books and #94,133 in print books. At one point my book hit #220 in the subcategory “Literary Fiction/Sagas.”

So far, Biographies Vol. 2 has sold 71 Kindle copies and 55 paperbacks, which correlates to about $360 in royalties.

I know what you’re thinking, and you’ve probably been thinking it since you saw the words “self-published.” But no, those sales numbers aren’t because my books are terrible—and I didn’t self-publish because my books were terrible either. (It’s a long story, but it has to do with an agent telling me that I could rewrite Biographies to make it more marketable to the traditional publishing industry, or I could keep it as an “art book” that would be loved by a select few.) Last year’s The Biographies of Ordinary People: Volume 1: 1989–2000 was named a Library Journal Self-E Select title; Vol. 2 was just selected as a Kirkus Reviews featured indie, with the blurb “A shrewdly unique portrait of everyday America.” I regularly get emails from readers telling me how much my books have meant to them, and how they couldn’t put their copies down.

So. I could tell you a story that makes The Biographies of Ordinary People sound like a triumphant success, and I could also tell you that in its first year of publication, Biographies Vol. 1 sold 382 ebooks and 157 paperbacks, earning $1,619.28 in royalties. Read more…

#DeleteFacebook? It’s Not So Easy

(AP Photos)

Earlier this year I wrote about the lack of nuance on our social media feeds and why so many people were trying to step away from it.

And, taking my own good advice, I attempted to spend less time on my accounts. I used an app called Feedly to follow my favorite writers and publications via RSS instead of on Twitter or Tumblr. I limited checking my social media feeds to a few times a day and told myself that I would post links to my own writing, share links to my friends’ work, and only scan my feeds for relevant professional news — no getting caught up in arguments and threads, and definitely no replying.

The “don’t @ me” trend is, of course, a symptom of the changing nature of social media; there are plenty of call-outs and pile-ons, but trying to open a real conversation with someone who isn’t a close friend or family member has started to feel rude. Social media isn’t really about connecting with new people anymore — a Facebook friend request means “I want to watch what you’re doing” more than it means “I want to interact with you.” (It is, in many ways, antisocial.)

Then we learned that we weren’t the only ones who were closely paying attention to our social media accounts. Read more…

Is 2018 the Year We Step Away From Social Media?

(Getty Images)

I checked Twitter and Tumblr before I started writing this piece, and I’ll probably check them again as soon as I’ve finished. I keep telling myself that I should stop automatically turning to social media, and I’ve taken steps to reduce the amount of time I spend on the sites — I regularly cull my feeds, for example, and I’ve removed all push notifications from my phone — but the urge to take a break from my own thoughts and see what other people are thinking about is too strong. (Are my friends posting Google Arts & Culture selfies? Is everyone discussing a specific article? Did Lin-Manuel Miranda tweet something inspiring that’ll make me feel a little better about the world?)

Plus I like to keep up with the news.

But I don’t necessarily enjoy the time I spend on social media, and I doubt you do either. I used to compare it to hanging out in a library with friends — the sort of thing where you’d look up from whatever you were studying and say “hey, check this out!” — and now it feels like stepping into a room where everyone is shouting at each other. Even when the arguments are important, they still feel unproductive and unhealthy. To quote M. C. Mah, at LitHub: “Good-faith argument on social media is probably impractical, and definitely unclickable.”

So I want to spend less time on social media in 2018 — and I’m not alone. Read more…

‘The Force Awakens’ Brought ‘Star Wars’ Fans Back Together. ‘The Last Jedi’ Tore Us Apart

(AP Photo/Sadiq Asyraf)

(Note: This post contains spoilers.)

The Last Jedi picks up exactly where The Force Awakens left off, as if it were the next episode of a Netflix series. But those of us in the audience have seen two years pass in between Rey offering Luke his lightsaber and Luke throwing it away — and in that moment, it seems, some fans began to realize that they would not get what they thought they had been promised.

First, a recap. As Brian Hiatt writes for Rolling Stone — and I’d like you to imagine the following in yellow, scrolling towards infinity — “In the months since the franchise stirred back to life in 2015’s The Force Awakens, it has felt rather like some incautious child grabbed civilization itself and threw it across the room — and, midflight, many of us realized we were the evil Empire all along, complete with a new ruler that even latter-day George Lucas at his most CGI-addled would reject as too grotesque and implausible a character.”

When life gives us one unfathomable scenario after another, we turn to stories. I found myself reading books the way I used to do in childhood: constantly, deeply. I felt anxious if I finished a novel and did not have a new one to immediately begin — but I also felt anxious about a lot of things, this year. I needed to immerse myself in other worlds so I could feel other emotions. Read more…

Fans, Fiction, and Representation: A New Hope

There’s something about Star Wars: The Force Awakens that feels both delightful and urgent, as if it were both a joy to create and a story that must be told at this particular moment in history. People who lined up to see the film when it released last December—and then immediately bought tickets to see it again—are now buying the DVD or Blu-Ray or streaming version so they can watch The Force Awakens for the fifth (or tenth) time at home. They’re also creating fanart, writing their own narratives, and celebrating the idea that the Hero’s Journey has been opened up to a new group of heroes. Read more…