My Name’s Jeff, and I’m a Failure … by Jeff Seymour

Jeff SeymourLast year, I failed hard as a writer.

I did everything right before I self-published Soulwoven. I cultivated an audience, created a marketing plan, wrote a solid book that I was happy with and that got good reviews, arranged an eye-catching cover and a professional interior, networked, tweeted, Facebooked, pushed. That first book did okay, but it was on life support toward the end of the year. Because I’d done everything right though, I had its sequel ready to go. It was an even better book than the first. It got better reviews. It dealt with serious issues. It was good art. It made a Best of 2014 list. It mattered. I pushed some more.

Thud, went my sales. We don’t care about your books, said the world. You’re going to bankrupt your family and destroy your life, whispered my fear and my self-doubt, and I had very little to say back to them.

I was not prepared for this. I’d told my wife, years before, that the hardest thing for me to handle as a writer would be a low-to-moderate level of success—enough to know there wasn’t some secret ingredient I was missing or some great conspiracy I wasn’t involved in, but not enough to justify the massive investment in time and money I’d put into becoming a writer. It was hard. Things got very, very dark for a while.

Soulwoven by Jeff SeymourBy the spring, I was still struggling. Writing was painful, because there seemed to be no point in pushing through. Getting out of bed was painful, because all my hopes for the future had been tied up in succeeding commercially as a writer and that path seemed closed to me forever. Worse, I felt I had to lie profusely about how I was doing. Nobody wants to hear a writer talk about their problems. We’re supposed to project an image of success until we become successful, and only then do our struggles (safely in the past, allegedly) become acceptable conversation.

I thought that was pretty unhealthy, so I decided to hurl an axe through the image of Jeff the Successful Indie Author. I proposed a panel on failure and self-doubt for Colorado Gold 2015. I didn’t know anyone interested in similarly tomahawking their successful image, so I shared the idea with an RMFW loop to see if any other authors wanted to join me.

People came out of the woodwork. I had more volunteers than I could fit on a panel, and in September we’re going to sit down and have an honest conversation about failure, what it looks like for different people, what it feels like for different people, and how to live through it and keep working.

I hope you’ll join us. Failing is part of making art, and preparing yourself for it is as important a step in learning to be a writer as figuring out where to put the commas, discovering what makes a character come alive on the page, or seeing the structures that underlie stories and learning how to work with them.

My name’s Jeff. I’m a failure, and it’s okay if you are too. We can hang out and be friends, and I won’t think less of you for failing or suggest ways you can be successful if you just do things the right way. See you at conference; I’ll be the one in the black-and-neon-green toe shoes.

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Author and editor Jeff Seymour has been creating speculative fiction since he was a teenager. His writing covers genres from magical realism and horror to science fiction and epic fantasy. Jeff’s nonfiction has appeared in Clarkesworld Magazine and on the website Fantasy Faction, and his series Soulwoven got over a million reads online before being self-published in 2014. As a freelance editor, he helped Harlequin’s digital-first imprint Carina Press build its science fiction and fantasy line, and he has worked on titles for the Nelson Literary Agency Digital Liaison Platform and bestselling indie authors. In his free time, Jeff blogs about writing and editing, pretends he knows anything about raising two energetic cats, and dreams.

You can find Jeff on Twitter, Facebook, and at jeff-seymour.com, and you can buy his books on Amazon and at most other major online retailers.

Post Conference Post

By Julie Kazimer

Well it’s done. Another fabulous Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference is the books. My head swells with information, not to mention a little too much time in the hospitality suite. I met new and old friends alike. This conference had over 100 new attendees. First timers are the lifeblood for us old hats, at least for me. I love the excitement and buzz in the air as people explore new writing and craft territory.

And let me just say, there was plenty to learn. Being a total, all knowing publishing pro, I opted for the business/career track of workshops. I was not disappointed. Okay I was, only in that, I found out I am NOT a total, all knowing publishing pro.

Bestselling author and indie pub guru, Jeff Shelby led us on a few wonderful forays into e-publishing. Carnia Press editor, Jeff Seymour (a personal hero since he saved my workshop by loaning me his laptop) taught a riveting class on how to write back cover copy for indie publishing. I took advantage of this right away, and I swear my cover copy has never sounded better.

The famous Susan Spann did her stuff by teaching us some legalness when it comes to author and publisher rights. Bree Evrin taught us social media illiterates how to hashtag like the best of them. Lynda Hilburn shared secrets on how to fix that one thing…the thing writers dare not mention…rhymes with Biters Lock. Rockstar Angie Hodapp shared her expertise on vivid description. Mario Acevedo, Warren Hammond and Betsy Dorbusch crushed it with a panel on two of my favorite things, crime and noir. The agent and editor panels were, as always, fascinating. And how could I forget Karen Lin’s Book to Script workshop. I’m ready for my close up, Mr. Deville. And all the billions in royalties once I become the darling of Hollywood. (No, I am not still drunk from my extended time in the hospitality suite). There were plenty of other amazing workshops and presentations. Forgive me if I didn’t mention yours. The editors, Pat and Julie like me to keep my posts under a million words.

What else to share? The Friday night booksigning was a blast. Nina and Ron Else from Who Else Books (The Broadway Book Mall) are two fo my favorite people to see at the conference. Not only do they sell my books, and make me look good while doing it, but they are wonderful people. As I arrived at my booksigning station this year, a small package sat in front of me. Nina had given me a tiny princess who grows 600% in water. Now I should’ve read the directions more carefully, because it did say in water, not whiskey. But I love my tiny princess at the same, and Nina for giving it to me.

That same night, Writer of the Year, Linda Hull, gave an inspiring speech about persistence, pain, and the joys to be found in both publishing and in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers organization itself. This is a woman who spent years waiting for her big break, suffering the ups and downs of the industry, and now is quickly rising to the top. I wish her and the other Writer of the Year nominees the best, as well as all those who finaled and won the Colorado Gold contest. You are great writers who are moments away from achieving your dreams.

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers who made this conference possible, especially Vicki Law and her cohorts, who raised over $4000 for CO Flood relief. And a huge shout out to Susie Brooks, the conference chair. Great job by all.

Here’s to hoping all of you who pitched to an agent or editor fulfill your publication dreams. And thank you to all my new writerly friends and my old ones as well for a fantastic weekend. Now quit reading this (in a few more sentences) and go write!

There was so much more to share, but I’m exhausted.

What was your favorite conference moment? And does anyone know where I left my left shoe? I can’t seem to find it. I know I had it at dinner…

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J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include The Body Dwellers, CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story and FROGGY STYLE as well as the forthcoming romance, The Assassin’s Heart, and the upcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.