Blog

Rejected newsletter concepts

I recently founded Quinnsights, my author newsletter. Twenty-four hours later, I re-did the banner after some kind colleagues told me that it implied the newsletter would be depressing.

Sometimes, my first instinct is not the best one. In this case, though, I had to discard quite a few ideas. For example:

Newsletter concept 1

My forthcoming novel features a hot statistics professor. You don’t need to know stats to enjoy the book, but I figured many readers would be clamoring for more information about this exciting discipline. Maybe they would even want some equations to solve at home. Unfortunately, my friends told me that the probability of this happening is approximately zero. I needed something more engaging.

Newsletter concept 2

Sample: “WTF AMERICA?? Are you guys watching MSNBC right now? I mean, literally, what is this bullshit?? Also, I wrote a book. I’m too upset to find the link, so just google me or whatever. But seriously, WHAT THE FUCK.”

While heartfelt, I guess it was a bit negative and also unlikely to sell any books. Plus, we all get enough shouty political e-mails from our uncles. Lesfic readers want content they can’t get anywhere else. This led me to my next concept:

Newsletter concept 3

As you know, I am a very chill, low-maintenance author. One of my strategies is to ask myself a few questions before I send an email:

  • Is this really necessary?
  • Could I make the same point in fewer pages?
  • Is it possible that I am neurotically overthinking every little thing and grasping for affirmation to cope with my staggering anxiety?

This leaves me with a lot of content that never sees the light of day. Occasionally I post them on this blog, but in the end that’s not much better. So why not use the emails for my newsletter? Turns out, there are a lot of reasons. I tried again:

Newsletter concept 4

This one went live for a while, but as I mentioned earlier, it turned out to be a bit misguided about what people want from an author newsletter. So I tried another version:

Newsletter concept 5

I thought I fixed it, but apparently this was the newsletter banner version of those signs that are so specific, you just know something happened in the past. Like, “Absolutely NO burping show tunes in the waiting area.” You know what I mean. Anyway, I tried one more time.

Quinnsights
Newsletter concept 6 (current version)

This one is my current banner, and I think it’s here to stay. I know hot pink isn’t everyone’s favorite color, but considering where I started… it’s not too bad, right?

If you’d like to experience this newsletter, which I hope will not be a total train wreck, you can subscribe here. (If you already subscribed, you’re good— it’s the same list with a different banner.)

I’m planning book updates, life updates (Quinn’s Qorner), recipes and artwork. What could go wrong? (subscribe to find out. 😬)

Book countdown: 90 days of 90s

In exactly 90 days, my 1990s lesbian romance novel, The Love Factor, will be published. I thought this day might never come—and to be honest, I can still imagine a number of catastrophic scenarios that could derail the publication, because that’s just how my brain works.

But in the spirit of reckless optimism, I am counting down to this momentous day with 90 days of 90s nostalgia, hashtag #90daysof90s. Here’s what you can expect if you follow me on social media.

Each day, I will post something about the 90s. A song, a fashion item, key legislation—that sort of thing. The posts will be spread across multiple platforms (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook).

There may or may not be posts every day. Like everyone I’m under a lot of stress right now, and if I happen to be curled up despondent at 11:55 pm, I’m not going to drag myself off the couch to post “remember pogs lol.” I don’t need that kind of pressure.

Anyway, the last post (July 15, 2020) will be a photo from my eighth grade yearbook of me in my “alternative” phase, wearing an iconic Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt that is featured in the book.

IN ADDITION to this lovely photo, other authors and friends will be invited to post photos of themselves in the 1990s on July 15th.* 

* Anyone who posts “I wasn’t born yet” is dead to me. Haha jk. That would be fun.

Zero point zero stars

Therapist: “Are you still feeling anxious about your book release?”

Quinn: “Yeah, I’m really nervous, and the waiting is hard. But I’ve been using my journal.”

Therapist: “That’s great!”

Quinn: “Yep. I’ve been writing one-star reviews of the book, just imagining all of the different things people could hate about it.”

Therapist: “Wait.”

Quinn: “They can’t hurt me more than I’m hurting myself.”

☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️

💕🥴 🧠 Quinn’s Anxiety Journal 🧠 🥴 💕

☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️☁️

Dee rated it ⭐️

**’Writing is like sex. Some people really suck at it.’**

This book started off bad and quickly became intolerable. Clunky writing, annoying characters, incoherent plot. Soon every word felt like an ice pick through the eyes.

Okay, I’m exaggerating. But it was NOT good. 0.1 stars rounded up.

Nina rated it ⭐️

The sex scenes are super weird and cringey. Like, who puts their mouth there?? Why?? This must be exactly how Quinn has sex, and someone needs to tell her it’s not normal. Eww!

Dr. Thomas Crabthorne, PhD, rated it ⭐️

“Quinn” was once a promising grad student and my advisee. While her enthusiasm was often lacking, she had a desperate compulsion to please authority figures that would have served her well in academia.

So you can imagine my dismay when I learned that she is now using her PhD to write crass “romance” novels about academics engaging in lesbian relations. Worse, her book makes a mockery of our exalted profession by portraying tenured faculty as petulant cranks and bigoted buffoons. A profound disappointment. Zero stars.

Charles rated it ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This book is so bad, it’s like a win for homophobia.

Ten years later

In honor of the new decade, I was going to write an amusing blog post about my fake resolutions (Quinn sucks at life, ha ha ha). But every time I tried, I got really depressed.

So instead, I thought I would imagine my life at the beginning of the next decade, when I’m a famous and very successful author. Surely I’ll have my shit together by then.

~ Some time in 2030 ~

Terry Gross, probably: “My guest today is Quinn Ivins. She just published her tenth lesbian romance novel, almost exactly ten years after her debut. First, congratulations on the new book.”

Quinn: “Thank you, and thanks for having me. I’m a big fan of NPR.”

Terry: “This isn’t NPR. This is my podcast that I record in my dorm room, Smut Talk with Lezzie del Ray. Anyway, why don’t you tell us about the book?”

Quinn: “Um… the details escape me at the moment, but I assume it’s about a politician or lawyer or something, and the idealistic younger woman who melts her heart.”

Lezzie: “Yep, that’s exactly right. Now, your life has changed a lot over the past decade. For one thing, you’re now a full-time author.”

Quinn: “Because… because my books are so successful?”

Lezzie: “Because you got fired from your day job when they caught you writing a filthy sex scene during a budget meeting.”

Quinn: “Oh. Well, I’m sure that after ten books, I’m making decent money.”

Lezzie: “You sure are! Or at least you would be, if your publisher didn’t keep all of the profits.”

Quinn: “Huh? I thought my contract was pretty fair.”

Lezzie: “Oh sure, but I meant because of the legal settlement.”

Quinn: “The what?”

Lezzie: “In fact, let me pull up the article so that I can remind our listeners. Let’s see… fraudulently presenting yourself as the Ylva Director of Research and Analytics. Brand infringement, from all the unauthorized wolf swag. And of course, harassment.”

Quinn: “Because…”

Lezzie: “Because of all the e-mails.”

Quinn: “Right.”

Lezzie: “So why don’t you tell us what’s next for you? Any plans for the upcoming decade?”

Quinn: “Um, I guess I’ll write ten more books unless… do you think my day job would take me back?”

Lezzie: “I doubt it. Maybe if you had gone quietly.”

Quinn: “Um.”

Lezzie: “I mean, the YouTube video has seven million views. But, hey, at least you’re living your dream.”

Quinn: “Nooooo! Stop! Take me back to 2020. I can change, I swear. Here, I’ll even make some resolutions. Don’t be annoying! No unauthorized wolf swag! PLEASE GIVE ME ANOTHER CHANCE.”

~ Present day ~

Well, that was terrifying. Maybe I should have gone with the “funny” resolutions. Oh well, there’s always next year.

Re: URGENT QUESTION

Dear Quinn,

Thank you for contacting NaNoWriMo.

We especially thank you for contacting us with an “urgent” question on October 30th. As you guessed, we have loads of free time to respond to random inquiries two days before November.

You asked if you can still participate in NaNoWriMo even though:

  1. You already started your novel.
  2. You don’t plan to finish until spring.
  3. You don’t have a word count goal because “goals stress you out” due to parental pressures during childhood.
  4. You don’t want to paste your novel into the validator because you’re concerned that we will “steal” your unfinished, Michael-Cohen-themed (??) romance novel before you can sell it for untold riches.
  5. You’re against randomly drawn prizes because they “undermine the popular understanding of probability” and “normalize playing the lottery” which you oppose on moral and mathematical grounds.

So, with you declining to participate in every other aspect of the event, that leaves:

  • Seeking validation on Twitter for writing literally anything during November.

To answer your question, yes. You may “participate” in NaNoWriMo. We already blocked you on social media, so don’t hold back on our account.

— NaNoWriMo

Life after editing

I finished my content edits!!!!! After five months of obsessive revising, it’s really weird to be done. But now it’s time to attend to a few areas of my life that I neglected while I was consumed with the book. For example:

E-mail: Do I have any new e-mails to read, perhaps from my publisher? No? Well, to be totally fair, she is out of the office, and we submitted the manuscript 20 minutes ago.

Health: I’ve been meaning to find a primary care physician for the past five years, but I’ve been procrastinating because I know they’re going to ask how often I exercise. And unfortunately, I’ve been unable to access the elliptical due to some, uh, stuff in the way.

Now that I’m done editing, I plan to exercise at least three times so I can say, hand on my heart, “I work out three times per (mumble).”

E-mail: Nothing yet, but reading a whole book takes time. I just need to be patient and wait a few hours or perhaps…. days…. oh god.

Parenting: My toddler drew a penis on the wall several months ago, and I just… left it there. Since then, he has added orange, yellow, and blue scribbles—despite my explicit instructions to please draw on the paper. So it’s time to skim a few parenting books to see if I can redirect his artistic inclinations and salvage some portion of our security deposit.

E-mail: Updated 3 minutes ago. What the hell??? I didn’t pay $900 for this slick ass phone so it could snooze for three whole minutes. Do I have to take my displeasure to the Apple Genius Bar or can I get some fucking real-time data? 

Updated Just Now. Oh. Okay.

Day job: What’s going on at work? Does my boss need anything from me? I should probably find out. But first…

E-mail: Still nothing? No worries… it has been nearly an hour, but my anxiety is well under control thanks to all that exercise and meditation that my therapist advised. Besides, it’s time to put writing aside and do all that stuff I said I would do “when I’m done with my book.”

Housework:

Fuck it: I can’t deal with my life at a time like this. If anyone needs me, I’ll be glugging wine and binge-reading lesfic until July.

Frequently asked questions: A guide for my wife

Q. What will the book be called?
A. (heavy breathing)

Q. Sorry, I forgot I’m not supposed to ask about that. Um, how do you say your publisher’s name?
A. Well, I was pronouncing it “yell-vah” but then I learned that it’s actually a special Swedish sound that Americans can’t make. When I try, it comes out… twangy. So I just try not to say it out loud.

Q. Are you going to tell your parents about the book?
A. LOL.

Q. What about our son?
A. I’ll tell him when he’s older. Much older. Like when I’m on my death bed, and I have to explain why his inheritance includes residuals from Mommy-Quinn’s lesbian sex books. Unless I die first — then it’s all you.

Q. Are you ever going to write a book about our romantic life?
A. Huh?

Q. I mean our romantic life before we had a baby.
A. Ah, yes. The story of two married lesbians who are tired from their jobs. Every night, they sit on the couch eating Thai food and watching 90 Day Fiancé. Then one day, they have a baby.

Q. Okay, okay. When does the book come out?
A. Ummm… in like a year, I think? They use the metric system so it’s hard to follow sometimes.

Q. When are we going to Germany to promote it?
A. Yeah, again, the book isn’t just being published “in Germany.” That’s just where my publisher lives, and she doesn’t want me to visit until I calm down about the whole thing. Anyway, we’re not going anywhere to promote it. I have a top secret identity, remember?

Q. Oh right. So how are you going to market it?
A. I have the best plan. First, I’m going to mail promotional scrunchies to every celebrity with long hair. Then, I just need to wait for the scrunchies to pop up on Instagram. Boom, the book goes viral. Everyone who buys a copy will receive a scrunchie or a limited edition snap bracelet, further spreading awareness. Plus, everyone who follows me on Twitter will get a free t-shirt. It’s going to be epic.

Q. Um, that sounds expensive. I thought you said this book was going to make money. Actually, you promised that we would be rich.
A. Right…. see the thing about lesbian publishing…

Q. What?
A. Nothing. We will definitely be rich. I love you!

On notice

Dear Quinn,

As you know, we reviewed your membership application with a great deal of skepticism, given your reputation as an anxious, needy perfectionist. However, your personal essay, along with the letters of recommendation from fellow authors [we now suspect they were written under duress] persuaded us that you had changed.

Now, we have been informed that you sent your publisher a long, rambling e-mail about your book title, right in the middle of her vacation. Then, you sent your poor editor three frantic emails in a row. Excessive e-mailing is a violation of the code of conduct and may be punishable by suspension, or even expulsion, from our esteemed group.

Get it together, Quinn. We’re watching.

The Association of Chill, Low-Maintenance Authors

My publisher went on vacation (again)

Date: August 25, 2019
Subject: Quick question

Hello, I have a question. What will happen to my book if I die before it gets published?

Please let me know.

Date: August 25, 2019
Subject: Re: Quick question

Oooooops, I just got your auto-reply. Sorry to bother you during your vacation!! You have definitely earned a break from Ylva — I imagine some of the other authors can be a bit high-maintenance.

However I don’t want to alarm you, so I should explain. Last night, I was lying awake thinking about all of the terrible things that might happen (like I do every night) when I suddenly realized: What if I get hit by a truck before the manuscript is finished? Will my book still be published?

Don’t worry—the risk is low. I feel fine, and I avoid adventure like the plague. I just want to make sure that absolutely nothing will prevent the book’s publication.

Of course, the answer can wait until you get back. (I hope)

Date: August 26, 2019
Subject: Re: Quick question

I’ve been thinking about my last email, and I’ve made a few decisions.

If anything happens to me, I would like you to publish the book posthumously. My editor is aware of my wishes concerning the final rounds of editing (specifically, it needs to be perfect). I trust her to complete the manuscript on my behalf.

You can send the royalties to my wife, or just keep them really. She’s not expecting much profit from the book, especially since I showed her my marketing plan and the anticipated expenses. (She doesn’t understand why the scrunchies need to be handmade, despite the obvious difference in quality in the prototypes we received. I explained that they’ll practically pay for themselves, but she remains skeptical.)

Date: August 26, 2019
Subject: Just thought of something else

If I am in a coma, please wait to see if I wake up first.  I’d hate to survive a traumatic experience only to find out I missed the book launch. 

Ideally, give it about six months, unless there is zero brain activity and my family is just clinging to false hope.

Okay that’s all for now. Hope you’re having a nice vacation.

Date: August 27, 2019
Subject: One more thing (important)

I just want you to know that I would never, ever ghost you or anyone at Ylva. If you ever email me, and I don’t respond within five hours, I HAVE BEEN MURDERED. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are probably guilty. Contact the police right away.

Date: August 27, 2019
Subject: Re: One more thing (important)

Just to clarify, I meant the American police. Thank you.

Secret identity

I’ve always wanted a secret identity. There’s no escaping the grind of responsible adulthood, but I used to imagine that I’d feel better about the whole thing if I were secretly up to something on the sly. Fighting crime, casting spells, spying for Japan—anything that doesn’t involve scrolling through spreadsheets and composing perky e-mails to ornery coworkers.

Now that I’m launching a side hustle under a pseudonym, I finally have one: a genuine double life. And it is stressful as fuck.

I have nightmares that everyone finds out, now in regular rotation along with the usual torments (I never finished high school and bugs are on me). I’m constantly paranoid at work:

Boss: “Quinn, I’d like you to draft the report because you’re a good writer.”
Quinn: “What? No I’m not. Who told you that?”
Boss: “Uh…”

Innocuous questions like “what did you do this weekend?” are suddenly a minefield. I’ll start with a simple lie. “I cooked some food… with ingredients…” But then I’m stuck fielding follow-up questions, blurting nonsense until I’m strangled in my own deception and flailing for the fire alarm.

Home is no better. My parents visit frequently, and they have a habit of rifling through our things, so I had to purge all evidence of the book from the apartment. I signed my publishing contract, then threw it away. When I write by hand, I rip up the pages. I keep my one reference book in a drawer, under a slew of panties and a prominent vibrator.

Lord knows where I’m going to hide the boxes of promotional swag that will be arriving circa spring 2020. I have considered purchasing a combination safe, one large enough to hold ten copies of the book plus the scrunchies—but I worry its presence will invite uncomfortable questions like “Why is there a safe the size of a furnace in your living room?”

Fortunately, I have a few months to think of something better.

So it’s hard to have a secret. Harder than it looks on television, where some undercover heroine huffs that life is stressful despite apparently having time for cool friends, love interests, and a daily blowout. I’m always busy and exhausted yet so freaking happy and excited—and I can’t explain why.

Still, it’s well worth the trouble. A year ago, when I was trapped in some bleak, interminable meeting, I would stare despondently out the window and think, “This is my only life on earth and I’m spending it here.. in this room… doing this.”

Now, I get to remind myself that I’m more than an overeducated analyst with an anxiety disorder. I’m Quinn but I’m also Quinn, a romance writer with a book under contract and another in progress. This is just my day job.