Rachel Thompson

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Craig Staufenberg on Commerce & Art Being Unnatural Bedfellows @YouMakeArtDumb #AmWriting

What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing?
Getting published is not hard. Anyone can publish anything they write. At the moment I’ve been self-publishing, so publishing itself isn’t difficult for me. I do know people who are doing the shopping-query-letters thing. It seems miserable. I don’t think that suits most writers’ temperaments. I don’t think we should set it as a barrier to being a published writer, as the “willingness to beat your head against a wall” trait has nothing to do with producing good work. But then again, publishers need some sort of filtering mechanism. I get it. And I know people in publishing. They’re good people who mean well. Commerce and art have just always been unnatural bedfellows.
Some people have a lot of difficulty with writing. I can’t say I do. I certainly encounter resistance (or Resistance as Stephen Pressfield would have it). I have days where it’s more challenging than others. But let’s be clear—writing isn’t a pain, it’s a privilege.
And marketing isn’t challenging—it’s uncertain. No one knows how to guarantee it. Even the professionals who’ve worked on multiple best-selling book campaigns say there’s no surefire way to ensure success—even with a great book. So I try to only market in ways that are enjoyable, exciting and interesting to me on their own. Namely, outreach. Talking to people, writing about things that interest me, answering interesting questions, etc.
Net, net: I try to prevent anything in the writing and publishing process from becoming a big pain. If writing, marketing and publishing are all enjoyable activities, then it doesn’t matter how the book performs. To paraphrase my filmmaker friend Todd Bieber: if you do things you want to do, then they can’t be a failure. But if you do things you don’t want to do because you think they’ll make you a success, then you’re guaranteeing failure.
What marketing works for you?
In terms of book sales, I don’t have any magic formula for you. But the more social the marketing, the more I enjoy it and the less if feels like work. And by “social” I don’t mean spamming Facebook. I mean actual social activities—participating in interviews, meeting people, and—my favorite—talking personally with people who have read and connected with the work.

Do you find it hard to share your work?
Sometimes. It’s difficult at first when I have no clue what the reader response will be. But to combat this I send it out for feedback (from strangers) the second I’ve finished typing the last word of the first draft. I don’t leave time to let the fear start making decisions for me. After that first round of feedback I have a good idea of how people will respond to the work, so that makes it easier to solicit further rounds of feedback. The uncertainty is the worst.
It’s also difficult after I’ve gotten a severely negative response from someone. It’s like falling off the bike—you’re scared to get back on because you’re scared of falling again. Whenever someone hates the book I’m scared to share it again, because I’m worried the next person will dislike it as well. (And the next, and the next.) But it’s not optional. You just have to get back on the bike as quickly as possible.

Do you plan to publish more books?
I don’t have any plans to do anything. But I have projects I’m working on, some of which are books, most of which I assume I will publish. But I don’t make plans. I just make things I want to make, and a point comes where the next step in “making them” is turning them into a physical object. I understand this sounds obnoxious and like I’m splitting hairs. But the distinction is important. Making plans for your creative life will just lock you up. And if creative life demands anything, it’s softness.

What else do you do to make money, other than write? It is rare today for writers to be full time…
I don’t earn my primary income from my books, but do work full-time as a writer. I worked as a freelance writer for 3-4 years, then went full-time with one of my clients this January. I produce content for them—blogs, articles, newsletters, etc.—in addition to a myriad of other work including marketing, research, etc.
Contrary to popular belief I don’t find it difficult to write on my own, and on the job. Lots of people are scared of taking a job where they have to write, or to do creative work, under the misguided belief that they will somehow “use up” their creativity. I have never met a successful writer with this attitude—everyone who has parroted this myth, and who seems to live by it, has been a flake.
True, there have been some famous writers who held boring, totally uncreative jobs as they wrote their masterpieces. But saying “some famous writers held boring jobs while they wrote” is not the same thing as saying “holding a boring job is a prerequisite for becoming a famous writer.” By contrast, I’ve found writing professionally taught me the technical skills—and many of the emotional skills—I’ve needed to write creatively.

What other jobs have you had in your life?
Plenty. Janitor, a few box offices, tech in a performing arts center, counselor at a boys & girls club, retail selling glasses, dishwasher, front desk & phones at Planned Parenthood, etc. A laundry list of positions. I’ve stuck with writing the longest of anything, though.

If you could study any subject at university what would you pick?
I studied comparative religion and media studies at university, which is exactly what I wanted to study at the time. Thankfully I didn’t do anything “practical.” But I haven’t been enamored with university since finishing my first year. I ultimately finished my degree, but I did so at an accelerated pace to get out of the university setting quickly. I had some great professor and was exposed to some interesting work, but overall I found university too stuffy and disconnected from reality.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?
I currently live in New York City, which I can’t really turn my nose up at. Being able to live here comfortably, with plenty of free time and control over my life, is an incredible privilege. So no complaints there.

How do you write – lap top, pen, paper, in bed, at a desk?
Pen and paper, in coffee shops. I used to write entirely by laptop, but I’ve converted to writing longhand. Over the last years I’ve written—no exaggeration here—millions upon millions of words. I’ve written many hours a day, just about every single day, for the past four years. And I can say, without a doubt, that there’s a huge difference between writing longhand and typing at the computer.
You think differently when you write longhand. You think better. Clearer. And you connect more with how you’re feeling than you do writing on the computer. You also move forward through the piece more writing longhand. You don’t keep rewriting the same paragraph a million times trying to get it perfect like you do on the computer. You don’t keep adding sentences and words, and paragraphs to your writing.
You also edit better longhand. It turns the very abstract act of writing into something physical. There’s less mediation between you and the paper than there is between you and the word processing software. So I write everything longhand on paper, transcribe onto the laptop, then print it out and edit by hand.

Where do you get support from? Do you have friends in the industry?
The support has to come from the writing itself. This isn’t quite the same thing as saying the support has to come from within. I’m skeptical of internal support. Doing it for yourself, that kind of thing. You need some sort of external driver as well.
For me that’s a feeling of love and obligation to the story itself, and its characters. If I focused just on myself I’d spend less time writing and a lot more time lying in bed. The story and the characters get me up and writing. Other people have other external forms of support. Whatever works for you. While I do know some people in the industry, I’m not motivated to write by knowing them.

The Girl Who Came Back to Life

When you die, your spirit wakes in the north, in the City of the Dead. There, you wander the cold until one of your living loved ones finds you, says "Goodbye," and Sends you to the next world. 

After her parents die, 12-year-old Sophie refuses to release their spirits. Instead, she resolves to travel to the City of the Dead to bring her mother and father’s spirits back home with her. 

Taking the long pilgrimage north with her gruff & distant grandmother—by train, by foot, by boat; over ruined mountains and plains and oceans—Sophie struggles to return what death stole from her. Yet the journey offers her many hard, unexpected lessons—what to hold on to, when to let go, and who she must truly bring back to life.

Buy Now @ Amazon
Genre – Middle Grade
Rating – PG-13
More details about the author
Connect with Craig Staufenberg through Facebook and Twitter


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