January Publisher’s Diary

January Publisher’s Diary
February 3, 2018 Devin Woods
In Elsewhither

(Below are a collected month’s worth of posts from CJ’s private Publisher’s Diary, which is available to read live as a reward tier on Ackerly Green’s Patreon.)

January 1st, 2018: Happy New Year

That’s all! Just happy to be spending another year doing what I love with an amazing, incredible readership. I NEVER expected to be where I am right now, with these incredible people. And it’s given me the bravery to see how far I can take it in 2018.

So let’s see.

January 2nd, 2018

I’ve definitely spent more time planning and strategizing this turn-of-the-year than in previous years.

I created an exercise for myself this morning and just completed it. It’s called “Four Words For 2018.”

Instead of listing out everything I want to do/change this year, I thought a better (and possibly more successful option) would be to narrow down four words that would be my focuses for the year. Words that several changes/expansions could fall under.

So I started listing words and finally settled on four I’m really happy with:

Simplify
Focus
Build
Explore

I had other words and specific changed I wanted to make, but they all fall under these four words. Things like reading more (explore), writing more without the express intent of publishing the writing (build), prioritizing certain business elements (focus) and really honing in on what I want to do with AGP and where I want to take it (focus and simplify)

I also realize that these four words could be relevant every year, at least for me, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing (ask me again in 2019.)

Simplify is going to be a big challenge and priority for me this year. I have a million ideas. And I want to explore them all now. But we’re just starting year two of AGP. I have to remember that we have loads of time.

I told Devin this past weekend over text that “I want 2018 to be less about wowing with how much we’re doing and more about wowing by how well we’re doing the things we choose to do.”

I also have made this diary a priority by making it a main goal every day in my journal, along with meditating and free writing. Which means this is going to be more exploratory and about me, the publisher. It will (hopefully) be insightful and in a way more so, because I’m going to be writing it for me.

What a year we had. What a year we’ve got ahead.

January 4th, 2018

One of my new year resolutions (which I talked about in the last Hangout) was to explore drawing a little more. Something I did a bit back in school but not much as a grown-up.

I’m doing it mostly as a creative outlet that isn’t monetized in any way (so it’s actually relaxing) but also because there are times when I have ideas but they’re dependent on someone else bringing the idea to life with illustration. I like the freedom of building something on my own if need be, so while I may not be an illustrator, I could hone my middling skills enough to sketch things out.

I bought a video course on drawing/sketching and have made it a part of my morning routine. So far it’s been a fun creative outlet that I dedicate 15-30 minutes a morning.

Here are a couple of sketches, focusing on simple concepts like square and round shapes and how they convey ideas/feelings:

And I’ve been playing with a sort of kawaii version of Herman:

All really basic and rough but it’s been nice to stretch a new creative muscle. It can only strengthen my other work.

January 8th, 2018

Big week back.

I’d postponed a lot of things, both internal company stuff and front-facing readership stuff because I felt like they might get lost in December’s holiday/school craziness, and now they’re all going on the calendar.

Speaking of calendar, Devin and I are finishing work on a public Ackerly Green calendar that will go up on the site as “The Almanac”, and it will have book publishing dates as well as notable events like things in PRSFNE, the forum, sales in the shop, and new merchandise announcements… I think it will be a useful tool.

Dev is also working on a secret project that will be fun and useful not only for new readers but our beloved established readership. Should be rolling out by March.

I’m still working on the ins and outs of having an in-world company, and how we can use the blog to expand and explore and color the magiqverse. We’ve spent time over the break working that out more and I’m feeling much more confident about it.

This week’s focus is continuing the (massive) rewrite of The Book of Briars, working to get the AG app launched, tweaks and updates to the AG site, finishing a ton of outstanding reading that needs to get back (with any notes) to their respective writers, and following up on a hundred loose ends and unanswered emails.

Excited about next week, Dev and I are going on a work field trip. A Harry Potter-themed tour of The Met.

January 9th, 2018: Fears

I have moments of doubt or fear every now and then…
Can I really make this company a success?
Can I continue to grow it and the readership year over year?
Will people get tired of my stories?

But those are usually fleeting. I just have to get through each day and hope all the days together amount to something.

The one fear that sticks with me is a recent one…
Have I lost the goodwill of my readership, post TMP? (This is where I tell you that this is more a journal to myself and not so much a call for reassurance, but I love you all.) The truth is… the TMP level of involvement and creation wasn’t sustainable forever. I wouldn’t trade it for the world because it was exhilarating to not only find my tribe in all of my readers but also to push myself farther than I ever thought I could go. There were issues and hiccups and failures, but we were on fire.

I needed time after to recoup, and start building my company proper.
And in that time (which is coming to an end now) that new fear popped up. Lingered.
And it’s true. A lot of people who were here for the day-to-day of TMP have moved on now. They might come back when there’s another book or experience, bit it’s a new feeling for me. The coming down after the high. It’s probably similar to what some of my die-hard true fans felt after TMP.

The end of an era.

I tried to dive right into all the publishing duties I have to nail down to get these books out this year but I couldn’t. I had operated at a level I hadn’t before and now I was spent in a way I’d never been.

And I didn’t know how to refill the tank. I was so used to the TMP schedule, the grind, that sitting and watching a movie or reading a book felt wasteful and selfish. Which was nuts. But I felt that way because of the fear. The fear this would all go away. That my mounties would all go away.

That’s when I sent an email letting everyone know that TMP was over and if they wanted to unsubscribe they could, but if they stuck around, more exciting things would be happening.

And out of 3,000 readers you know how many unsubscribed?

22

I’d found my tribe.

18 is a magiqal number in the magiqverse.
2018 is going to be just as full magiq.

January 16th, 2018: Weather

I’m under it. The weather that is. Been sick since last Thursday. Just viral head cold stuff… but really grinds everything to a halt. I have to take cold medicine to sleep (and breathe) but the first half of the next day I’m a zombie.

@DevinAG and I are going on a field trip today! Organized by a company called Fable & Lark (What a great name) where you go on fantasy/literature themed tours of museums. We’re doing a Harry Potter-themed tour of The Met and then we’re going used book-hunting afterward for a project.

Part if me feels ridiculously guilty playing “hooky” (do only old people say that?) because there’s so much to do, but I also know that this is the kind of thing that will not only inspire a hundred new ideas (I don’t need any more right now, frankly) but will also refill our creative tanks. You can only expend so much before needing to recharge again. I’ll post pics on my Instagram Story today or tomorrow.

My community Leadership have really stepped up in the past couple weeks, offering suggestions for where to take the community, how to maintain involvement, how they can help me and all the mounties. It’s been really encouraging.

Something funny I’ve noticed… with the new Further Tales blog… I think mounties feel apprehensive about commenting on posts from @Saberlane. Maybe there just isn’t enough there for discussion right now? But also, I think maybe it’s a little more complicated than talking with Endri or Eaves, et al.

Maybe it will just take time. It’s funny… mounties know me out of world, but they don’t know Sabes. Maybe it just takes time to warm up. Or he feels more removed than the other characters did. I find this all so fascinating.

January 19th, 2018: Saberlane

It was eye-opening having a discussion about in/out world and Saberlane earlier in the week. Lane now has his own account and will be posting from it in all in-world places. The posts from Further Tales will also be from Saberlane (though will be by “CJ Bernstein” on the actual AG site, but still the Saberlane CJ. CJberlane.)

I will try to keep them separate but I’m sure I’ll sometimes like an in-world post as CJB and vice versa. It’s rewarding to know there’s so much passion and opinion about this little world.

Dev and I wrapped some story beats for The Secret Society yesterday and we were sure to look at Saberlane in all of it.

We’ve had about 40-50 new readers since the end of TMP. I honestly don’t know where they’re coming from because I’m not advertising or talk about it at all outside of AGP. Last night two potential “die-hards” showed up and it was fun to see everyone get excited and “Molly Weasley” about the new guests.

I’m working on a way to catch casual readers up on the narrative but I’m loathe to simplify the catching-up experience for potential die-hards because I think the digging and exploring and asking the community is a big part of falling in love with the MAGIQverse now. Uncovering this weird little treasure for themselves.

For the past two months I’ve been moving a lot of projects forward little by little. The app is finally done and in for approval at Google and Apple but other than that I’ve just been incrementally moving a lot of things toward “done”, without actually getting them done. Over the next few weeks I’m going to sacrificing nudging every project every day so that I can crush one at a time and clear my plate.

Though– we have TWO day-long photoshoots next week. So my need-to-work stress levels will be through the roof. Need more meditation.

January 22nd, 2018: Shoot

This is going to be a fun, weird week.

I have to wrap a big design brief for a cover designer, as well as continue chipping away at The Book of Briars rewrite, but we also have TWO day long photo shoots this week to prep content for the Ackerly Green Instagram account.

We’re going for a classic, curated look, with a little touch of magiq, and LUCKILY I have a friend who owns a rare books shop upstate!

So day one Dev and I will be shooting pins and quotes in the office, and then we’re driving upstate for a photoshoot field trip. I’ll be posting behind-the-scenes shots on my personal Instagram account so be sure to check it out.

I also found an incredible line art artist that I’m courting to design some things for the AG site.

That doesn’t even touch my todo list this week but those are the big pressing matters.

January 25th, 2018: SHOOT

Dev and I drove upstate yesterday morning for an all-day photo for Ackerly Green’s Instagram account which launches next week. We didn’t get back to the city until 7pm.

It was exhausting but SO MUCH FUN. I’m really impressed with how the photos turned out and we have a lot of options to choose from. Can’t wait to share them with you!

I have a fairly nice Nikon DSLR that I got as a gift a few birthdays back but my go-to camera yesterday was my iPhone. It was just easier to manage, manipulate, and get into tight spaces. We’re going for a very specific aesthetic and I think you guys especially will be into it.

Also, as of right now… @AckerlyGreen on Instagram is going to be in-world. !!!
Saberlane has the rights to the account, but there’s always magic afoot.

Here’s our prop table:

Also, we may have an ad for TMP in a publishing magazine this spring (also !!!) and so I’ve been trying to condense the story into a 1-2 sentence blurb. So far I have:

With the help of thousands of real readers, Deirdre Green seeks out her father’s lost journals which contain the truth about her family’s magical past and the altered history of the world. Based on the interactive online experience.

With blurbs you have to leave SO MUCH out so I’m trying to maintain the spirit of the story, if not the actual insane plot. Will keep working on it for the next two months…

EDIT:

I just found out that the magazine requires the book blurb be 15 words max!

I have tried a dozen different iterations and I think the most intriguing version is:

Interactive novel where readers and characters work together to uncover our world’s secret magical history.

To bring up Deirdre or lost books or her dad’s journals always ends up too long, but I think the “strange attractor” of readers and characters working together and a secret magic(q)al history will intrigue the right people. They’ll want to know how all that works. Thoughts?

January 30th, 2018: The Five Days

I usually tackle tasks across several projects throughout a given day but this week I decided, as hard as it is for me, to tackle one major project a day, so that I could feel like I am really moving forward on a lot of these big tasks.

So:

Monday: The Ackerly Green site. It was baaaaasically functional when it launched, but it’s not at all ready for people who don’t know anything about Ackerly Green or magiq or our community vibe. I like web design (though I don’t claim to be skilled in web design at ALL) but yesterday was pure torture. The hundred tasks combined with everything going wrong and my lingering cold was a recipe for me losing my temper on inanimate technology for most of the day.

Tuesday: Wrapping up site stuff and The App. The site needs A LOT of work, so it’s overflowing into today. And then there about a half-dozen things I still need to wrap up with the app. But it’s going back into approval (and should be live) by the end of the week. HOWEVER, it’s still password protected, because there are several elements I can only test once it’s live. So there will still be a couple weeks of fiddling.

Wednesday: Instagram. Dev and I had a REALLY successful shoot at my friend’s bookshop last week and I need to spend a day editing the 100+ photos and getting them ready and scheduling them for the Ackerly Green Instagram account. This is a pet project of mine that I’m really excited about. Even though Sabes has posted about it in-world, I’m still deciding if it will be fully in-world (just thinking about how it could help and/or hinder me in the future) but I’m leaning toward yes, and I have about 48 hours to make the final decision!

Thursday: PRSFNE & Community Management. Can’t get too deep into this but there are things I want to change, contribute, and tweak all over the community and Thursday is for that. A lot of back end stuff but also some community engagement thingies too.

Friday: The Book of Briars. As I mentioned in January’s Town Hall, I have freed myself from being stuck trying to shoehorn in TMP continuity into BoB and instead have thrown out about 30 percent of the original draft. So, to get everyone at AGP on board with the new draft I’m breaking it down, chapter-by-chapter, into a new outline so that we can all discuss and see where it’s headed. I really didn’t want to “go back to the drawing board” but now I’m excited about tackling the rewrite, and with it debuting in September, I have time to make it right.

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