Monday, March 11, 2013

Amanda Palmer, the art of asking, and the radical change I'm embracing.

A few days ago, I was talking to my sister-in-law, Katie, about how I felt a little weird putting a donate button on the blog (I know that one of my promises was that I wouldn't mention it all the time, but trust me, this ties into the whole post overall), because it's not how I'm used to making money from my writing. I'm used to writing something, giving it to someone else, they publish it, readers give them money, and then the publisher gives me a check for my cut. Giving people the option to give me money directly seemed dishonest, somehow. Like I was panhandling, or double dipping.

My sister-in-law's response? She sent me this video, via facebook:


I really encourage you to watch it. Even if you're not a fan of Amanda Palmer's music (she admits in the video that it isn't for everyone), even if you think independent art is all twee and pretentious and weird, you'll have to admit that she has a point. Art and creation shouldn't come down to just what a bunch of marketing professionals can gain from it. It shouldn't be a game based on, "How do we make people pay us." It should be about a connection between the artist and the audience, whether you're a singer, a painter, an actor, a writer, or an eight foot tall bride handing out flowers on the street.

One of the things I have been so, so grateful for this past year is that I feel like finally, I've found people just like me. They exist out there, and they're just as strange and angry as I am. For the first time in my career (and my god, it's been ten years in this field), I feel like I'm able to be exactly who I am.

When I started writing, being myself was not on the menu. I belonged to different professional organizations that urged me to not say anything controversial, never leave a bad or even an honest review for another author's book (but be sure to leave plenty of glowing ones for authors who could help you get places), and in general, don't offend. Anyone. Now that you guys know me, you're probably not shocked to learn that this model of conduct made me fucking crazy. No matter what I did, no matter which advice I followed, I watched my writing career with New York publishers imitate a firework; big bang, lots of oohs and ahs, but ultimately it had to burn out. For a few years, I chased that old success, basically running in front of the audience I was trying to impress (the publishers) and throwing handfuls of burnt-up mortar tubing in front of them, trying to make them ooh and ah again. But I was already over. Nobody cares about the firework they saw last July 4th. They care about the ones they're seeing right now

After a long string of unsuccessful queries with projects I cared deeply about, I decided there really wasn't anything else that could be taken away from me. I felt like a total failure. And if I ever wanted any chance of getting my work in front of readers ever again, I could never express frustration over the industry or anyone in it, no matter how much I wanted to.

Yikes.

I honestly can't believe I went so long before I said, "Fuck it," and started being myself, and bitching about what I don't care for in the industry (which seems wholly embodied by the travesty that is the continued success of and blatant money-grab surrounding 50 Shades of Grey). But eventually I did, and my reward was meeting all of you guys, seeing the most amazing conversations here, and sharing your lives and some pretty personal stories with me. The idea of anyone wanting to give me money to do this, not by buying my traditionally published books, put me exactly where Amanda Palmer was in that house in Miami, wondering, "Is this fair?"

Amanda's fear of doing something "unjoblike" and wondering "is this fair?" so resonated with me. It's what has held me back from exploring literally any avenue in publishing that wasn't chasing New York. Chasing the traditional model. When I finally broke down and started exploring the idea of self-publishing The Boss, I did so with the hopes that it would result in a traditional publishing contract. I feel like I've been somewhat dishonest here. Readers have left comments saying, "I can't believe you're giving this away for free!" like I'm doing this really selfless thing, entirely out of my love and gratitude. I feel sleazy admitting this - but less sleazy than not admitting it - but I figured I would post the chapters, get a following, and then use that following as collateral when I took the sequels to a big publisher. "Look, it's a built-in readership! You should totally buy these books and publish them!" If you feel angry or upset with me now that I've told you this, you probably have a right to be, but please bear with me to the end of this post.

Then something weird happened. A publisher I had written a short-story for went out of business. Which is a shame, I never like to see that happen. But I really loved the story. It was called Sex, Lies, and Inventions, and it was set in a steampunk version of London, where the heroine was a lovesick laboratory assistant to a distracted inventor. Suddenly, this publisher goes out of business, and I own the story again. It's mine. I can do whatever I want with it. I can spend more time with the characters (it was written as part of an anthology, so I had a word limit when I wrote it). No one but me owned the characters anymore.

Granted, if I had paid better attention to my contract, I would have seen that I owned the rights to the characters and world anyway, but I work with a lot of different publishers and sometimes I get their terms all mixed up.

But I digress. When that happened, I had this weird pang. I was like, "If I sell the sequels to The Boss to a big publisher, they'll own my work. They could decide that if one book didn't sell well enough, they wouldn't finish the series. I wouldn't finish the series. Readers wouldn't get to finish the series. This could all be taken away from me." And that was a terrifying thought, because right now? I'm the happiest I have ever been in my writing career. I'm so enjoying writing this book, I don't want to give it to someone else. I want to give it to readers who will love the characters as much as I do. So far, so good, for the most part.

Let's not kid ourselves here, folks. The publishing industry doesn't care about how much you or I love a book or the characters in it, if they're not making any money. It seems like lately, they don't even care if a book is even the real work of an author, or another author's work with the names changed. This might sound like sour grapes from an author who wasn't good enough to make it big in the business, and you know what? some of it is. I can freely admit that. Would I like to have the biggest selling book of all time, to never have to worry about where I'm going to get money for my kid to go on a field trip, let alone go to college? Who the fuck wouldn't?

Fast forward to that conversation I had with my sister-in-law, and her response, that video above. I don't have to work with people who feel that the only value I have is the money they can make off my creations. I don't have to put up with that shit, when there are people out there saying, "We want to give you money so that we can read your work." You know what made me uncomfortable about the idea of donations or a "pay what you want" model of publishing? The fact that I wasn't fulfilling traditional expectations, expectations that I felt obligated to fulfill if I wanted to be a "real" writer. Totally hypocritical, coming from someone who acts like she's all, "fuck traditional expectations, let's go crazy and do mushrooms in the desert yaaaargh!" I was the person in the car, yelling "Get a job!" and I was the eight-foot bride on the sidewalk.

So, here's my revised career plan, folks. I had planned three sequels to The Boss. Rather than trying to sell them through the traditional publishing model, I'll be releasing them as e-books, with a "pay what you feel is fair" model. My hope is to have the sequel, The Girlfriend, available this summer, as close to the end of The Boss as is possible. More to come on that one. That will be followed by The Bride, then The Baby in 2014. Don't freak out at those titles. They're not spoilers, or an indication of the books following some anti-feminist, heteronormative path. The titles are red herrings, and you'll just have to read them to find out how.

I'll also be re-releasing the original Sex, Lies, and Inventions short story under this same plan, and later expanding it to be a full-length novel. Another book, a blend of the fantasy and erotica genres, should follow in 2014, but it's hard to project that far out, since I still have traditional contracts to make good on. What I'm getting at is, I'm going to continue writing for myself, sharing it with people who want it, and I'm going to stop being afraid that I'm a failure, or doing something "unjoblike" if this is how I carry out future projects.

I'm so glad my sister-in-law kicked me in the ass and sent me that video. I am not the easiest person to be friends with, so the fact that she made the effort to see through my bullshit insecurity and tell me something I really needed to hear touches me deeply.

And I want to express my gratitude to Amanda Palmer, even though it's unlikely that she trolls random writer blogs looking for a mention of her name. She seems like a pretty busy person. Hopefully, through some sub-particle level of universal connectedness, she already feels the intense change she has no doubt inspired countless people to embrace. She has changed my life, lifted a burden of fear from me, and given me the courage to stop chasing commercial success, and start chasing happiness in creating.

131 comments:

  1. Amanda's point and yours really resonate with me. I think it's high time we revised the way the establishment says we should make a living from our art.

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    1. I feel like someone I would want to roll my eyes at IRL for saying this, but I do think that commercialism is ruining the creative arts.

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  2. Thank you for this. And no, I'm not even remotely angry or upset that you were thinking about a traditional publishing model for The Boss. We ALL get sucked into that idea, that the only way to make art or succeed is to follow the conventional rules. I'm wrestling with it right now in the field of visual art, and it's the exact same fucking thing. Go to shows, paint what's popular, make nice with other artists, and never EVER point out that the guy who's outselling you is doing it on the basis of what appears to be a lowland gorilla's finger paintings. I fight like hell to maintain my individuality in this field, and when I hear that you're struggling with the same issues, I don't feel disappointed or angry. I feel inspired. So thank you, for everything you do, and thank you for talking about it. There are a lot of us out there. We just need to band together and Godzilla-stomp shit like 50 Shades into a fine powder.

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    1. There are so many times in your comment that I was like, "Right on." Lowland gorilla finger paintings being one of them.

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  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/11/el-james-new-book-fifty-shades-author-writing-guide_n_2852917.html?utm_hp_ref=books - Jenny, look what I found. This is hilarious, you should really see for yourself xDD

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    1. My inner-goddess just committed hara kiri with a letter opener...

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    2. Kinda like the Game of Thrones author book list that was linked above. In that I've read or heard of most of them.

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    3. Jesus Fictional Christ, I think I just wet myself.

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    4. Sometimes, lord, the green mile seems so long.

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  4. I'm so happy for you!! And I for one am not mad in the least about your plans for The Boss. It's your work and you can do whatever the fuck you want with it. Building a following and taking it to NY is not crazy, nor is it some kind of betrayal, if you ask me. Do what you want with the products of your own mind. :)

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    1. Yeah, but I want to be clear I'm done with the NY idea, because it's going to be super fun to publish these the way I want to.

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  5. I loved the video, and I think it's great for you to consider any and all means of getting paid for what you do. If you release The Boss as an ebook, I'll buy it even though I've already read it online. It's great and I want you to write more! And if you start a Kickstarter campaign to fund future writing projects, I'll contribute. I'm sure lots of us would. I don't think there's anything wrong with a donation button, but there are lots of different ways to connect with the people who want to support you. And having some ways to do it that come with a particular set exchange rate (you give me $5, I give you a book or the promise of a future book) might be worthwhile because those are easier and require less soul-searching on the part of your fans and supporters. (And okay, maybe we SHOULD be searching our souls, but we might not all really do that right now.)

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    1. I'm not sure I would ever do a kickstarter (seems like a lot of work) but yeah, the idea of doing something crowd funded is definitely on the menu, especially for hard copies of the Boss books.

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  6. Any chance that when The Boss and sequels get released as E-books there will be an option to get a hard copy? I'm an old fashioned gal and also too cheap to buy an e reader lol. But I love to have hard copies of my fav books and 6 chapters in The Boss is already on that list. So if there is any chance of a publishing on demand option I would love that to death!!

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    1. Not a fan of the e-book industry, not gonna lie. But the self publishing/indi tracks haven't been too bad. Ended up getting a B-book.

      Expensive but it's not locked into forcing you to buy only a certain version. Will read anything from PDF to word to even some of the industry labels without much issue.

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    2. I concur. Would be nice if there was some sort of limited edition hard copy for your dedicated following.... not to make you sound like Joe Carroll....

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    3. The hard copy should be a set amount, though, not just a "pay what you think is fair" IMO. I would definitely pay market price for a bound copy of the books.

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    4. I agree with Shea. I know it costs significantly more to publish hard-copies than it does to create an e-book, but I'm also old-fashioned about my books. I'm reading The Boss online right now and loving it, but overall, I don't tend to be a fan of ebooks. BUT I love it and would gladly pay market price for every one of the books (including The Boss, despite having read it by then) if a publishing on demand option were available.

      That said, I want you to make as much money as you can for your wonderful work.

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    5. I think there will definitely be paperback versions of the books, but they will probably come after the ebooks come out. Not to be a dick, it's just those are harder, logistics wise. :D

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  7. Hell, was kind of hopping for a printed Boss trilogy- not gonna lie. But I'll take the e-book version.

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    1. I'm going to make sure you'll be able to get them in print, eventually. Probably POD.

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  8. A quick note: Do you really think we didn't know you were planning to use us to sell the Boss? We love you, but we're not naive :)

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    1. No, I don't think you're all naive, LOL. I did, however, feel weird about the number of people who I felt were giving me WAY too much credit for selflessness.

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  9. "So, here's my revised career plan, folks. I had planned three sequels to The Boss. Rather than trying to sell them through the traditional publishing model, I'll be releasing them as e-books, with a "pay what you feel is fair" model."

    I know of two small indie authors who each released a book entirely for free online, and then also made it available for ebooks (or print, in one case) for a small flat fee. I'm a bit curious which method actually results in the higher net gain.

    That was a very interesting video. I like that she brought up the historical role of artists. For a lot of history artists really did just say "please give me something for this". Minstrels practically invented couch-surfing ("I'll play in your tavern if you give me a room"). And that was totally normal.

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    1. Maybe that's how I'll do a book tour for The Boss, lol.

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    2. Ha! If you head our way I have a very comfortable couch. Just ignore the dog hair :)

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  10. This whole post makes me quite happy, not least because while I bought American Vampire via Amazon after reading your recaps and was happy to do it, I much prefer giving you the money directly.

    Like, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY.

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    1. My copy of American Vampire is on its way from the Book Depository right now. In fact, I've been reading more lately than I have in months, just to clear the decks of other 'must read' works, so I can read it as soon as it gets here! Shipping times - a boon and a curse when you live in the Antipodes...

      But yeah, the whole model for the entertainment media industry sucks. I'm all for getting rid of the middlemen whenever possible, and deviating from 'what sells' in favour of 'what's actually good'. The Boss is *really* good.

      The way I see it, something good has to come out of the travesty that is the publication and marketing of FSoG, and if that's a resurgence in your career, Jenny, and of REAL authors like you, especially through rejection of the traditional marketing models, then that's fantastic, and long may it continue.

      Andi in NZ.

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    2. I figure I have to just do what's right by me, and not worry about changing the industry. Especially when I'm so behind the times, LOL! So many writers are already doing this!

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  11. This makes me VERY happy for you and for all of us! I've been slowly buying all your books for my kindle and I'm glad that I can pay you for more of your work. Keep up everything that you do!!

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    1. That's awesome, and I so appreciate it.

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  12. Have you ever heard of/read J.A. Konrath? He had a traditional book deal and ditched it to release everything via e-book and says that he's a lot happier and making a lot more money. Plus, his books are cheaper for the consumer, so it's a win/win! He goes into a lot of detail on his blog: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/

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    1. I have heard of him! I'm glad he's happier. I've read a lot of awesome stuff on his blog before.

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  13. Wonderful plan and love that Ted talk. Go Jenny Go!!!!!!

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  14. I would have been really disappointed if you DIDN'T use this as a platform to publish The Boss. Promote away with this wonderful book of yours! And I'm excited to be able to BUY sequels to The Boss!

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    1. Good! I'm really excited to be able to SELL sequels to The Boss!

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  15. In many ways, you are inspiration to budding writers such as myself. In that light, I'd happily be one of your guinea pigs to help you see your vision. I'm stoked about an entire e-book, because OMG these chapters are giving a slow death. When I read, I devour. These lady-like bites are hell for my reading appetite.

    I think it's a good strategy you've got brewing. And I hope that it works better than going the traditional route. Like another reader mentioned, I'd love to have a physical book. e-readers lack the tactile sensation and smell of ink on paper.

    I've got similar mixed feelings. I'd love to be agented and sell my novel. The happy dance would be epic. But because the subject matter is edgy to where no one so far wants to rep. Oh well, hello e-book. The main perk I can see with traditional is the marketing aspect and how they got that covered. Not so much for self-publishing.

    There's not as much stigma surrounding self-publishing as there once was, and I think a lot of that stigma was created by the traditional publishing industry. Like any business, they get their knickers in a twist when they think someone else is eating their slice of cake.

    Fuck 'em. Keep the cake. You mixed it, you baked it, you frosted that fucker until it became yummy beyond belief. Enjoy every slice of cake, because you put your heart into it. Don't share with greedy assholes. They'd take your ice cream too, if you tell them about it.

    I'm sure you'll rock it. Shit, look at this blog and it's legion of TroutFans. You are a great storyteller.

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    1. You're welcome by the way ;)

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    2. You're right, I never said thank you! I just said it was awesome :) My bad! You made a convert.

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    3. LOL, is Selinaskat out there making a believer out of people? THANK YOU!

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    4. Also, if Troutfans are a legion, can we be the XIII?!

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    5. To be fair, Selinaskat mentioned your blog when there was a very angry discussion of FSOG and your blog acted like a fire extinguisher. Hard to be pissy when one is laughing. And I laughed. It was so epic that I keep coming back.

      I swear, your writing is like literary crack. But only the good, high grade stuff that everyone wants but just doesn't know yet.

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  16. When you gave out that call for donations for your friends, I responded gladly- and it wasn't because of philanthropy. It was because you promised to keep ripping up 50 shades. I love those recaps; I love the feminism, I love the humor, I love the style, and every time I see one I get all excited, make myself a nice drink, and curl up under the covers to enjoy. I have depression and anything that makes me laugh or enjoy something so much is just beyond value to me. I am a non-fiction writer and support the publishing industry in as much as it keeps a level of quality control in non-fiction. Sadly, that is markedly not the case in fiction anymore. I would gladly pay for something directly that I really want to read, from a guaranteed good author like yourself. P.S: Where is the whore-in-a-tavern that's supposed to be named after me? :)

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    1. Wait, did you buy a whore-in-a-tavern from the auction to help Lindsey and Frank way back when? Because I named a whole heroine after you, LOL. You were the one who said you'd be cool with "Catherine" as an alternate spelling, right?

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  17. I love the e-book idea. I'll definately buy them, but I'm with the side that loves to own physical copies of the books I love. I suggest a Kickstarter project to print physical copies. This might actually turn out great because after releasing the e-book version you'll have generated a ton of word of mouth business and a fanbase willing to support the project. Throw in some extras like signing some books and your store stuff and it could really take off!

    But, that's just what I'd be secretly hoping for you to do so I can have the whole set sitting nice and pretty on my bookshelf. ^.^

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    1. Kickstarter sounds like a lot of work, but I think there will be a POD option for the paperback versions. :D

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  18. I don't think you should feel like a traditional publishing contract was a bad thing to want. And I kind of wish you still wanted it, because I would like to see it be really successful. I know you could hypothetically still be successful via self e-publishing, but we both know that that is SO MUCH HARDER! It would make me feel really good to see you make millions of dollars on a book. I'd like to see good things rewarded just to know that the world isn't ALL 50 Shades of FuckAss.

    For the record, I am definitely more of a corporate-hack model. I work a desk job at a big company and love having things like an HR department and an Outlook calendar. I can't imagine what it would be like to live your life, but I adore your blog and am so glad I found you. So it's not just "people like you" who you can connect with :)

    And to prove it, I put my money where my mouth is!

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    1. The funny thing is, once The Boss starts making her awesome money, the publishers will come knocking and BEGGING her for it. We'll just have to make sure she'll make enough out of the self-publishing that she can say no.

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    2. Man, I don't even want a million bucks, I just want to pay my bills, LOLOLOL. Yeah, sometimes I would really like more stability, but I also know that for me, that way lies madness.

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  19. After Amanda Palmer's claim that she couldn't afford to pay the band a total of just $35,000 after receiving almost a million and a quarter dollars for her Grand Theft Orchestra tour (she asked for $100k, which means she had to have thought that was enough, so where did the additional over one-mill go?), I have a hard time caring about what she says. She uses crowd-sourcing to fund almost everything she does these days. There are countless articles about her misuse of asking for donations when she can EASILY afford to fund her own projects. She's a millionaire who married a millionaire.

    You, my dear, are a typical writer struggling to get by. You're not a member of the 1%, and you're not threatening to withhold anything from anyone. Just stick a button up and say if people want to contribute, they can. Consider this to be a part of your job, which it really is. Stop overthinking if it's okay. It's FINE. You'd even be entitled to pay The Boss a pay model, but you're giving it for free. So stop worrying.

    Also pay-what-you-feel models have typically netted more than a flat fee. Few people pay more than sticker, even if they think something is worth more. We've been conditioned to pay what's marked or not at all. But when left to value things in our own, most people both place a higher value on things AND want to help make up for those who don't give a dime.

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    1. What Amanda Palmer does in her life is what she does in her life, I don't know her whole backstory. But it doesn't mean her words in that video were any less influential for me. They resonated with me, and that's why I shared them.

      But basically I'm just relieved to finally feel like I don't have to play some bullshit game of doing what will "sell" for other people, you know? I feel like I've been crushed under a weight for the last few years, and for the first time in a long time, I feel like that weight is just POOF, gone.

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    2. Despite the Amanda Palmer back story, her words resonated with me as well. I'm still in college studying for a degree that people tell me wont get me anywhere. I do it because I'm passionate about it and will find others life myself who I'll inspire to do the same.

      Keep doing what you're doing because you're happy and you're making others connect with you on that level and that's truly all that matters.

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    3. Amanda Palmer is just all kinds of terrible, but ia that she had a point here. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

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    4. You are right. It was wrong to not want to pay the people (if they wanted pay) to perform with her. There is something about Amanda Palmer that doesn't make sense lately. I loved her years ago when she was in Dresden Dolls, and I think she hasn't developed a better management strategy of herself since those days. She still acts like she is this tiny little performer with a few hundred followers. And this crazy"Art isn't hard" bullshit. Art is hard sometimes, jackass! No kidding! She was willing to pay someone to help her spend the cash she made, but not her own people? WTF Who better to spread the love around with besides her bandmates? That gesture alone would have said more to me as a artist than some stupid Ted talk about stuff most of us already fucking knew. Radiohead did this exact same experiment/stunt back in 06. I applaud the concept, I get it, never the less, but I hope she gets her priorities straightened out eventually. Soon? Maybe? Who the fuck knows anymore. What is her point these days exactly? What direction is she going with this stuff? Peace out.

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    5. Her thing about 'all you have to do is ask' is all very well when you have millions of adoring fans... but having said that, kickstarters are horrible things, whether successful or not, for the people running them. As pledges multiply, so do costs, and she was clear about this being for the album release and not having budgeted for a tour.

      But having said *that*, she wasn't asking musicians to put her up or bring her cake or whatever, she was asking them for a professional service, and OF COURSE they should have been paid from the start, it's part of the tour's budget. If you can't afford to hire local musicians that you need then you can't afford the tour. (The argument about having to transport professionals was bollocks.)

      And having said *that*, she was obviously also making a statement, and perhaps feeling that payment would dilute the 'local musicians' thing - which I don't agree with, she asked them to audition, after all, so she was still selecting them.

      She annoys me. Who makes a big deal about never shaving her body hair but also removes her eyebrows? what sort of statement is that? (and yes I do think it's a statement rather than a personal choice, but I might be wrong)

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    6. I don't know, I don't shave my body hair, but I pluck my eyebrows until they look perfect like a Bollywood star's, so I don't think I'm qualified to weigh in on that, LOL.

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  20. Let me say that I never heard of you when you were pretending to be someone else, but when you are yourself, I love you and everything you write. I am not a romance reader, but I love the boss. One day, when I have time and the autonomy to choose my own reading material again, I am going to buy your vampire books. I am posting this from internet explorer, which I hate, just so I can sing your praises. I have a lady-crush on you, and I want to move to Michigan to be your friend (not even your best friend; I would be content with your friend-scraps, or even the chance to say hi to you as you empty your trash). But that would be stalkery and inappropriate, so I will just have to content myself with checking your blog every day.

    I wish more people would have the courage to be who they are, and therefore, release the awesomeness that is them, instead of being what they think other people want.

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    1. "...not even your best friend; I would be content with your friend-scraps, or even the chance to say hi to you as you empty your trash..."

      That was beautiful, I loved the sincerity of it. :)

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    2. I feel bad now, I don't take the garbage out hardly at all. My husband does it. I'll start doing it. Get some binoculars, and I'll dress real sexy*

      But seriously, thanks, you guys always make me feel so loved!

      *yoga pants and my tight Doctor Who shirts, rather than the loose ones.

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  21. I think self publishing is a great idea! I don't have an e-reader though, and absolutely refuse to buy one. Perhaps a PDF version or one of those websites that will print your book for you?

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    1. I'll probably do a POD option shortly after the ebook releases.

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  22. Thanks for such an honest post! I also had assumed you'd package up The Boss eventually, but I understand the conflict.

    Some of my favorite projects have been crowd-funded or pay-if-you-like-it. The Machine of Death book is still a free pdf, but I bought a hard copy because 1) I love hard copies, and 2) I love the guys that make Machine of Death. Ryan North wrote a hilarious blog analyzing the 1985 Back to the Future novelization. Again, the blog entries are still online, but I bought the eBook because I love him. I contribute to Kickstarters even though I know the product will be for sale later, because I want more dollars going directly to the creators. I *hope* they make more than they need, and get to keep it!

    Re: Amanda Palmer. I know there are mixed opinions on her success with crowdfunding, but the way I feel is... if her fans value what she does, and want to give her a bunch of money, why the heck not? Traditionally published/produced artists are allowed to make millions more than they actually need to live, so why not indies? Especially since, as an artist, you never know how long money is going to keep coming. If I had one crazy project that made a million dollars, I'd spend what I needed to make my fans happy and then the rest would go in the bank! I might have to retire on that money! ;)

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    1. That's kind of how I feel about Palmer. If someone wants to give her money, I'm not going to stand over here and tell her what to do with it.

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  23. Ok, so I have a confession...when you had the poll up, I voted with my first instinct, which I think was something like, "the donation button might make me a little uncomfortable, but I'll still read your blog if you put it up." Immediately after submitting my vote, I regretted it. Why? I remembered something my dad told me once about street musicians and performers: "That is their job. They are working, and they deserve to get paid for their work. This is how they get paid."

    I am a very type-A person, and I have trouble thinking outside the box. I think that is initially what made me uncomfortable, and I think I was essentially uncomfortable for the same reasons you were. But then I remembered what my dad said, and I realized that what you are doing IS work. And why shouldn't you get paid for your hard work? You are dedicating as much time to this as you would any "traditional" job.

    So, I'm sorry I initially voted the way I did. You deserve to get paid for your hard work.

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    1. Duuuuuuude, don't worry about it. When I tested the poll, I took that option, too.

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  24. I just fucking love you, woman. This is awesome, all of it.

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    1. Thank you. It's good to be fucking loved.

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  25. My cousin is a writer. He does not go through traditional publishing houses. He distributes most of his work through kickstarter. The difference here is that you are giving us the goods whether enough people pay for it or not. The truth is that marketing of art is morphing as the internets makes it possible for artists/writers to interact with their audience more directly. 25 years ago, it would have been onerous to try to distribute work on your own. But now? In the instantaneous world we live in where I can download a new kindle book the second I finish one (or before) why should we be limited to only what publishing houses think are going to make a buck.

    The truth is that there is a lot of self published garbage out there, but it isn't like there isn't publishing house garbage out there. (*cough* 50 Shades *cough*). If you can connect with your audience and allow them to pay you for what you produce then do it without shame. People are allowed to decide if they want to put their money in your pocket. You aren't mugging us as we walk down the street. You are giving us something to read and enjoy and we are paying you. Think about how much we pay professional athletes for giving us something to enjoy (or not depending on who you root for). Getting your share of the entertainment dollars is not taking advantage of your readers. It is allowing us to pay for the things we like.

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    1. I think 25 years ago, so many people considered self-publishing for sad writers who couldn't make it. Now that we're seeing more and more people walk away from traditional contracts to pursue self-publishing, we're having to re-evaluate the merits of different types of publishing.

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    2. Publishing houses aren't willing to take many risks on new kinds of books (there are over 80 Twilight fanfics that have been published, and the current trend now is more porn, despite the claims for wanting different stuff), and readers are getting bored of the lack of options. To stay afloat, the gib six have merged, or are in the proves of merging, into four. They need to reexamine why fewer people are buying traditionally-published books and are moving toward the stuff they thought wouldn't sell.

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  26. Have I mentioned in my prior comments how much I admire you? Because if I haven't, it's a shame, and I am therefore making up for it. I really, really admire your gumption. I came here for the 50 Shades when you started, and don't entirely remember how, but I stay for your passion, and your attitude, and your awesomeness.

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    1. Thank you, I really appreciate that. I suffer from depression, and hearing compliments is hard, but helpful. :D

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  27. This was a great video, despite the controversy over Amanda Palmer's backstory.

    I've always been a giver...even when that giving moved into martyrdom. But asking for help and receiving it graciously? Nope nope nope!

    I'm a teacher, not an artist, but I struggle with a few of the same issues about asking for help and receiving offers of help. I have parents who are amazingly generous to me in both their time and their resources. It has taken me years to understand that they are grateful for what I am doing for their child, so I need not feel guilty about receiving this gratitude. After all, it's not like they are buying my time and attention. I give that freely to all my students! So, I've begun to get over my reservations about asking for and receiving help.

    Likewise, in my life as a Mom of 3 special needs kids, I'm learning to ask for and receive help. I've always been self-reliant. However, there is nothing I wouldn't do for my kids, including admitting that I can't do it all. I remember being laid out after a surgery I had while pregnant and having my friends clean my house and do my laundry. It was a humbling experience to be that vulnerable. Those women helped my youngest come into this world; they are forever connected to her through their giving.

    I guess my main point is that we all benefit from both giving and receiving. Jen, I GET not being comfortable with asking for money, but you have given your readers a gift. I wish I could fully communicate to you what a gift it was to open your blog and find two chapters of The Boss last week. I read them in the PICU after being told my daughter may have a life-threatneing syndrome. How can I put a price on the precious moments of escape you offered? Thank you for allowing us to give back in a small way.

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    1. Holy shit, dude, you made me cry. That's astonishing. Thank you so much. I hope your daughter has luck and health and strength and everything you guys need right now.

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    2. Thank you. I will take all the positive energy she can get :)

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  28. I have been feeling really depressed about my writing prospects lately, facing the same issue here you wrote about. I've been blogging on the internet for many years, and I would be so unhappy trying to fit the model you described--never say anything controversial or anything that might offend anyone, at the expense of being honest. I applaud you for being brave enough to call out 50 shades on its shit instead of staying quiet or pretending to like it since it's so popular. Frankly, I'd rather be a writer like you than one like El Fudge any day.

    Agreeing with the others here; I would happily pay for an ebook of The Boss.

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    1. It's very difficult to not say something you really need to say, isn't it? I'm just not going to deal with that anymore, and I'm not going to deal with being told I'm not good enough because someone can't convert my work into a dollar figure.

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    2. I am having a writing life crisis now and came back to reread this post. It really makes me feel a lot better. I love writing, but I could never be the kind of person it seems you'd have to be to achieve success on this industry--basically, someone who always "plays the game" so to speak. This sounds dramatic but I'd feel a piece of my soul slipping away every day if I had to do that. To me, being utterly and totally uncontroversial is the person equivalent of cafeteria food--bland, soulless, and blah.

      I had always hoped I could support myself by writing. I'm slowly getting used to the idea that I probably will never be able to do that. It makes me sad. But if I have to be someone else in order to do that, then I guess I don't want it enough after all. Good thing I don't mind my day job.

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  29. This was a great post! I, too, have struggled to get people interested in my work and I admit to having the same grievances with publishing in its current state: it doesn't matter how much you love your story or how high quality it is, if it doesn't sell it doesn't matter. Hell, look at 50 Shades, as long as it brings in the green, who cares how awful and derivative it is? We've become a society that rewards mediocrity and fears taking risks. I'm glad there are people like you who don't sit on the fence and actually tell it like it is. That's the kind of advice and opinions I want to hear as someone who wants to be published.

    May I ask what platform are you going to publish your e-books with, Jen? I'm curious because I'm looking for someawhere myself.

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    1. I'm hoping to get them formatted in as many formats as possible, then I'll probably just stick them here on the blog with a little "pay what you want" button.

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    2. Cool. Was just wondering since there are so many ways to publish ebooks out there nowadays, but it's a good idea you have :D

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  30. I don't post on blogs. Just yours, and rarely at that. But, I just want you to know that I've really enjoyed everything you've written about. Even if I don't always agree with you. I am so happy you decided so say, "FUCK IT!" and go your own way. Your way is awesome. I've already seen how releasing "The Boss" your way has brought you fans. (Also, free, crowd sourced editing!) When the Fifty Shades Recaps were getting more and more attention I was so happy for you. Congratulations on your successes so far. Here is to a beautiful, sexy Future!

    (PS: You know Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman right?)

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    1. I'll probably crowd source the editing in the future, too, LOL. "Hey, anyone want to do this shit for free?!"

      And yeah, I knew she was married to Gaiman. :D

      Delete
  31. "but I figured I would post the chapters, get a following, and then use that following as collateral when I took the sequels to a big publisher. "Look, it's a built-in readership! You should totally buy these books and publish them!"

    Christ, I was hoping that's what you were doing when you said you were giving away a book, because otherwise, GOD DAMN! You're a professional writer woman! And you should be compensated for your work product because it has value.

    Speaking as someone who gets paid by the hour (for law, not sex work - it's much more dishonest and degrading) I got comfortable with the fact that people should pay me for my time and professional output right-quick because the services I provide are useful to my clients. Your writing should be treated just as my legal analysis - it is intellectual work that has value to your readers we SHOULD pay for something that has value to us. And a pay what you want model which allows the consumer to set their own price - you can never worry that you've overvalued your work - people will pay what they can/see fit. For God Sake let us pay you for your work! (We'll low ball you probably, but it's something).

    Best of luck in your self-publishing endeavor, I think it's awesome you're striking out into the commercial wild wild west. So, SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!!!!

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    1. OMG PARDON ME I NEED TO DRESS LIKE A COWBOY IMMEDIATELY.

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  32. Thank you so much for a great post. I love that you share all of this with us. Like many others I came for the 50 Shades recaps and stayed for you. It is so nice to feel there are other like minded people out there. People who can see through bullshit. Go for it!! You deserve to get paid for your writing! Although, like others, I would love a paper copy.

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    1. I'll try to make sure there's a paperback version! Your needs have been taken into consideration, LOL!

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  33. I just wanted to say, you are my favorite. Rock on with your bad self.

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    1. Thanks! All of you guys are my favorites. This has been an amazing week for me already.

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  34. I cannot tell you happy this post made me.

    (Well, ok, I'm sure it's also that I'm finally getting treatment for my decade-long depression - yay for meds and the way they make me not want to die anymore! - but also it really is a rad post, even if I am in a slightly over-enthusiastic place in my life right now. YAY OVERSHARING.)

    Yes, you DO WHAT YOU LOVE, and hell yes you have every right to be appreciated for it! You know what's kinda funny? I don't really dig erotica. Mostly because of how shitty it tends to be towards women. In full honesty, I have never, ever read one of your books. But I read (and sometimes link) the everloving fuck out of your blog.

    Basically, it's your feminist!writer rage-blogging RAWR personality that's made me want to explore your work and how you subvert all that hideous trope crap. Because you are cool. YES, YOU, IN ALL YOUR AWESOME.

    And that steampunk inventor story sounds rad as hell, and I will be eagerly waiting to thrust money at you for it when its novelizing is finished.

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    1. Awesome! Thanks so much, and I hope you'll love the inventor and his assistant as much as I do.

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  35. Thank you for this post. Between Amanda and you, there are just so many things I didn't know, that I hadn't thought about. I feel a bit dizzy, with all these new perspectives and doors opening. I need to go do some really hard thinking now, and I have you and Amanda to thank for.

    So thank you, Jen, you are a wonderful person and I cannot be more grateful I ever stumbled upon your blog.

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    1. Sorry I made you dizzy, but thanks for your kind comment!

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  36. This post made me very happy for you. I am curious, however, about how you plan to approach the editing process if you self-publish? Will you try to self-edit? Borrow a literate friend? Pay a freelance editor?

    Also, the fact that you write romance but speak out against the terrible tropes that romance is infamous for makes me much more inclined to read your books than if you were all "every book has its own special fluffy rainbow of unique speshul snowflake-ness and we should not judge".

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    1. I've written some pretty bullshit tropes in my own writing, but I'm trying to get better. Thanks!

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  37. 'If you feel angry or upset with me now that I've told you this, you probably have a right to be, but please bear with me to the end of this post.'

    Not for a second, dude. I'm glad you're happy.

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  38. Corporations are horrible horrible creations that are ruining the way people view and value things. I say that as someone with a degree in commerce and who had every intention of working for one :)
    I would rather pay the producer of what I am buying than go through the middle men, the marketing area, the retail cut etc. That goes for my vegetables as well as my reading material.
    I don't always agree with what you say, but I enjoy the way you say it. More importantly, I respect the way you deal with criticism/opposing view points whatever you want to call them. I've spent my whole working life trying to practice tact and tell people what they want to hear rather than what I think. It doesn't always work out. I like people who give their views, who explain why they feel that way. I may not agree but I at least have a basis to understand why they think that way and a new perspective to think about.
    You're a great writer, a great blogger and a heck of an interesting person. I hope this new plan works out for you.

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    1. See, that's awesome. It's hard to support someone you don't agree with, but you're cool and you're being supportive. That's amazing.

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  39. I would have been really surprised if your plans for The Boss hadn't involved a traditional publisher somewhere down the line. That said, I'm excited to hear otherwise because it's inspiring and motivating to see writers I admire breaking way from convention. I've struggled for years with the feeling that I'm not good enough, talented enough, commercial enough, etc...because I wasn't "making it" and hadn't landed an agent and a book deal and garnered a fan following...all that stuff. Now I'm starting to feel like there are other routes to satisfaction as a writer that are open to me, and seeing people like you explore them is a good courage-booster.

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    1. Well, I'm straight up going to just avoid going traditional publishing for most stuff. I've still got commitments with traditional publishers I'm going to fulfill, but I'm definitely going to shift to doing more stuff just for me.

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  40. Okay so I practically never post anywhere because I am ridiculously shy even on the internet, but I am glad I found your blog through the recaps and read this post. I've loved to write since I was in grade school but over the years I've been struggling over the fact that I may not ever be able to write as my sole job and it kind of killed my ability to write anything that was my own for a long time. I have noticed since reading things here I have felt more inspired and less afraid of what I "should" write.

    "The Boss" is also one of the first books in the erotica genre that I've read seriously because I've largely seen the genre portrayed as one that shouldn't be taken seriously and that it can't be meaningful. Just reading the first six chapters has changed how I see it a lot. So thank you for all of this it has helped me a great deal. Now I will post this really fast before I can talk myself out of it.

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    1. Write! Seriously, write, if you feel that desire! And I'm so glad I'm helping to change your perception of erotica. Never be afraid to comment here, I do not bite.

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  41. I applaud you and I am inspired by you and I wish you much success. I am interested to see how this works out. Hopeful.

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    1. I'm excited! I'll keep you all informed!

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  42. I'm SO GLAD you said this, about planning to publish THE BOSS - because when people give away great content for free, it contributes to the general sense of entitlement that leads people to think they shouldn't have to pay for any content, and then content producers can't pay their bills.

    I too was hoping this was your move. It's a totally legitimate one, giving away some stuff for free and then charging for more. Absolutely. People who enjoy the free stuff only are valuable too, as ambassadors, etc, so so long as they always get what you initially promised them (which they totally are) it's not about bait and switch or anything like that.

    People mentioning kickstarter, I would recommend caution with going down that road. Not saying don't do it, but really think carefully about investing the time/effort.

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    1. Yeah, kickstarter sounds hard. I'll figure out a way to do this with the least amount of effort, LOL!

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  43. Oh, Jen. This is so exciting! I'm happy for you, that you've found this amazing new way to make yourself happy AND get an income, and I'm happy for all of us who get to benefit from this in the form of genuinely wonderful writing we might otherwise never see...and I'm happy for me in a more specific, more selfish way. Ever contemplate making money as a poet? Don't. That ways lies ice-cream binges and 4-am meltdowns. It's really nice - no, it's more than nice, it's absolutely vital for any writer to be reminded that 'the way it's done' doesn't have to be the way *we* do it. Creative solutions for the win. :)

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    1. I'm a terrible poet, so I will definitely not try to foist my poems upon you guys.

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  44. I had the impression something changed with the last (2 maybe even) recaps and was wondering if it was just in my head. I felt like... the hate was stronger (oh and I know FSoG deserves it) but I didn't feel like you had more or even the same amount of fun writing the recaps than you had when you started them. I can totally see that you have a lot of fun with the boss and your other posts though.
    I just want you to have fun with the recaps because then I have more fun reading them.

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    1. I think you're sensing my despair at finishing 50SF as a disturbance in the force, LOL.

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    2. I've read several recaps of these books. It's interesting to see the different takes and similarities, though they've been universally unfavorable. You're about at the point where others have also just wanted to quit, and only persisted for the sake of finishing.

      Just wait until Ana goes to the bank and withdraws $5,000,000 in cash. That's six zeroes after the five. When Mia's kidnapped and she'st old to tell no one, she shows how much she learned from Christian by not telling anyone. For all the talk about how much he changed for her, she's the one who changed for him, right into a bullying (as you can see by her treatment of Mia and the to-be-fired Prescott) and being a classist (worse than she already is) witch. She also becomes as stupid as he is

      There's still a lot left to happen, and all I've got to say is start laughing NOW to ward off the worse despair you'll otherwise feel.

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  45. After reading James's "book" one needs to get their hope and belief in humanity restored and Amanda's success does exactly that:-)

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    1. She definitely restored my faith in myself, so I owe her a huge debt of gratitude.

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  46. As a fellow self-employed person (granted in a very different business) I struggle with this a lot, too. Especially because in my market, as yours, there is a HUGE base of free stuff out there. "Why would anyone want to pay money for the things I do?" comes up a lot. But people do. And while I'm not quite at the same place you are when it comes to expressing myself (my business persona is a lot more censored and a lot more perky than I usually am naturally), I like to think that I'll be able to get there.

    So good for you! Rock that donation button, and don't worry about fitting into the New York writer mold.

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    1. I think more and more people are going to try to turn away from the marketing and commercialization of just stuff in general, and everybody is going to be a lot happier!

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  47. This may sound weird... but when you said you were giving away The Boss for free, my first thought was, "Oh, I hope it gets picked up for publishing after."

    So, obviously i'm not mad at you, and apparently we think alike. But you weren't being fair to yourself, and I wasn't being fair to you either. You're worth more than just what you can get published, and your fans love your work as it is, without politics and marketing getting in the way.

    I like to write. I've been writing since I was a kid. I stopped because I was told how unlikely it was I would ever make money with it. I found something else I like to do, so its not a story of broken dreams so much as one of altered ones, but I can't help admiring you. Even while you were chasing the remains of fireworks, you were trying your hardest, and after all that but to still go on, well, I can only conclude that you're a strong person. I am your fan not just for your writing, but for what you've done and who you are.

    We disagree on gun control though. Just gonna throw that out there. ;P

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  48. I found Amanda Palmer's TED talk quite inspirational as well. I'm at a point in my life where I am debating what to do with myself. Part of me wants to have a standard 9-5 standard job ( I've been unemployed for a about year and find traditional jobs absolutely unbearable. We're lucky my husband makes ok money), but the other part of me wants to persue my art. Which is kind of a frightening prospect.

    I hope money just rains from the sky for you. :-)

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  49. A lot of this resonated with what I read in Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way".

    Also you kind of touched a nerve with the whole reviews thing. I find it really hard to leave negative reviews now - not because of pressure from my organisation but because now I know and like the people writing these books, and I don't want to say online "Your book sucked donkey balls" just to meet them at the next conference and be all like "Yeah, but I still like *YOU*". Luckily it's not an issue a lot, but it niggles at me when I feel I can't say what I think.

    I have been struggling for a while with the fact that what I want to write isn't what I think would sell or something people will like. So I try and force myself down other paths and I'm just not happy. *hugs* for giving me the inspiration to try ignoring the publishers wish-lists and do something I want to do.

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  50. Hi Jenny,
    I originally found you because of your (hilarious and brilliant) 50SOG recaps...but I've stayed because I love everything you're doing here. I just wanted you to know that I love your site, I love what you're standing for here, and I'm really, really, REALLY loving The Boss. I just submitted some money through Google Wallet to you- what I'm considering fair payment for The Boss. I definitely intend to keep giving?/paying?/donating? for future online-published books of yours, and I hope all your other fans do as well.
    Best of luck,
    Julie

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  51. Jenny Trout, good for you. And thank you.

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  52. You go girl! I can't wait to read the steampunk London story!

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  53. You go girl! I can't wait to read the steampunk London story!

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  54. This video. This post. They were beautiful. Thank you.

    When I was 9, I decided I wanted to be a professional writer. I wrote all the time just for the joy of it. But when I was 12 or 13 or so, I became supercritical of my work. I wanted it to be as good as the acclaimed works I was reading right off the bat, because how would anyone ever like what I wrote?

    I was chasing after that dream of "legitimacy," that going "big" was the only way I could ever be a legitimate writer. And that didn't work. It crushed my creative spirit.

    ...what if I reject that? What if I can find it in myself to go back to writing for the sake of writing? For the sake of sharing? Can I peel back all those layers of self-doubt?

    This video and your post make me think about that. They make me wonder, could I really do this?

    I am absolutely not upset that you intended to take that path with The Boss. It's a sensible route...if we're still beholding ourselves to that system.

    To break free of that system, that cycle...it sounds amazing.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I have a lot to think about.

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  55. i know i'm way late to the party, but i just wanted to comment and add my support!

    i think of this as the "public radio" model, and i love it. as a student, i can't give you or my local npr source as much as i think you are worth right now, but i can give you something. and here's the crazy thing: having a way to give you money, feeling like i can provide you with a little bit of the enjoyment/entertainment that you have so freely shared with me, ALSO makes me feel better. so shut up and take my money, it's a win-win. :)

    (also, one of the things i look forward to about having a real job is the ability to give you and npr more money. so even though i feel like i'm shortchanging you now, i'll make up for it.)

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Say some stuff! If you can't think of anything to say, leave a link to a cute dog picture. I'm easy.