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Why I went the Self Publishing Route

I post regularly over at sffworld.com and here is a post that some might find of interest. It’s most of the reasoning behind why I went self-published vs traditional published. The main thread is here.

My two cents:

I decided to go the Indie (self-pub, whatever you want to call it) route. I’ve been writing since the 90s, been submitting stories and books since 1999. Been on these forums for quite some time. I’ve developed quite a thick skin. Over those years I’ve written over 100 shot stories (most of them are terrible) and 14 novels (a few of those suck and a couple have been completely rewritten). I’ve submitted to publishers and agents both big and small both via snail mail and email. I’ve collected a large number of rejection letters (all of them form letters for my novels). I’ve even attended conferences and had one publisher that said pull me aside for a personal conversation and had me pitch him my novels and asked me to send them along. After more than a year with no response, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.

First of all I’ve been watching the self-pub movement for quite a long time. I’ve watched the vanity presses suck in authors with hopes and dreams and watched people get taken. I’ve watched people toss their one book they spent 15 years writing and re-writing and watched them fail because no one bought their one book. I’ve watched podcasters skyrocket to stardom (Scott Sigler, Mur Lafferty, Nathan Lowell, Tee Morris, Philipa Ballantine) and a couple do very well being persistent and release multiple podcast novels to coincide with their novel releases (both traditionally and self-published), and others release one novel, release a book, and wonder why it failed. I’ve watched J.A. Konrath and read all his blogs. I’ve watched Dead Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathrine Rush, Michael Stackpole, Amanda Hocking, and many others go the self-pub route and have great success, but I’ve also watched a LOT of other smaller name authors have a level of success that has allowed them to quit their day jobs and write full time pulling in a nice annual income with many titles.

What I’ve seen is those that can produce a large volume of work reap the rewards. Those with one or two titles generally fail because they don’t see immediate success and throw up their hands and give up. This isn’t a game of throw your book out there and you’re guaranteed success. You can’t force people to your book in 6 months and expect it to be a hit. That just doesn’t happen. All of the people I know that have made it spent years working hard to improve their craft and wrote a lot of books. Amanda Hocking release 9 books her first year and did so in a hot genre that helped her gain popularity. J.A. Konrath acquired his backlist and got better editing, better covers, and re-released them all. Same with others I mentioned. They fought for their backlist, got it, and put it out there. People couldn’t find their backlist due to publishers not giving these authors priority. They’re a rare handful.

As for me, I’ve done a couple podcast novels, but due to life happening I stopped. I had released one novel myself, but again, life happened and I stopped. This year will be different as I never stopped writing. I have a backlog of 14 novels and several in process of being written and/or plotted out. A couple of my older books I will be re-writting because I know I can make them better. I have a great and inexpensive cover artist. I have three friends that all proof read my work (one is a technical writer with a background in editing, another went to school for editing because when she retires she wants to be an editor, the other is just good at picking my stories apart for content). It’s taken me many many years to reach the point where I’ ready to get my stories out into the world. I also have a backlist of my own stories that I’ve had edited, I just need covers, book layout, and I can get these books out the door and into readers hands. I’ve spent nearly a decade watching the market, the self-pub movement, and keeping an eye on what’s worked and what hasn’t.

I didn’t come to this decision lightly. I would love to have a standard publishing contract from a major house, but I’m not getting any younger and I’m frankly tired of waiting and submitting and waiting and being rejected. I haven’t been idle and I know it’ll take a long time to gain readers. Going this route, for me, won’t mean overnight success. It might take me another five or ten years to gain an audience, but I need to keep at it and keep trying. Getting my books out there, going to cons, doing interviews on podcasts or where ever I can, and doing blog tours, anything to get my name out there. I also need to keep a steady stream of books flowing out. I need good covers. I need good editing. I need to be patient.

If you’re wondering, I currently have 5 titles out (2 middle grade, 1 collection of short stories, and 2 novels). I currently sell about one book every other day. That’s since the start of this year. I’ll be releasing two more books next week (1 middle grade in the same series, 1 sci-fi thriller novel). I’ll be releasing another novel next month. I’ll be re-releasing my first self-pubbed book with better editing the month after that. I’ll be releasing at least one novel per month for the rest of this year. If I’m lucky, I hope to sell a book a day by the end of the year). I’ve got next year planned out and I’m writing books to release next year, this year. I’ve got 10 years worth of books planned out and I have no real intention of stopping. I’ve got many more ideas than I can write in a short period of time and I am a fast writer. Last year I wrote 490,000 words. This year I’ve written 100,000 thus far and I’m shooting for 365,000 as a good goal given my release schedule. I’ve got a spreadsheet to track my progress. I’ve got friends pushing me to stay on track. I’ve communicated with my family my goals for the coming years.

Even with all of this in place, I still might fail. That’s a very real possibility. But if I don’t get books out there and try, I’ll fail before I start. I can’t have that. I have to give it a try.

So what am I getting at with all of this? Don’t just jump into self publishing without being aware of what you’re getting into . Don’t think this is a road to riches. If you’ve got one book, I would recommend rethinking and keep trying to get that book through a traditional publisher. Write another book, and another, and another while you wait. If you’ve built up a number of books and you’re still not getting anywhere with traditional publishing, then consider self publishing. Understand that you’ll need to learn cover design, you’ll have to learn scheduling, you’ll have to learn book layout, you’ll have to build your blog and your website, you’ll have to learn all the distribution outlets for your book and ebook, you’ll have to learn all those systems for getting your books into the hands of readers. Yes, you could take your word doc and throw it up on kindle tomorrow, but ask yourself what you’re hoping to get out of it? You’ll only get out what you put in and there is so much to learn.

I said a lot more than I intended. Wow! I’m sure I could say a lot more, but suffice to say, do your homework before making the jump. Don’t just jump and hope. Hope doesn’t sell books.

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Weekly Update: Why Are Writers Writing about Writing?

Yeah yeah yeah, this is my third installment of my weekly update this week, but I’ve got things to say. I won’t mention that Sputtery Truck is all Sputtery once again. I’ll do that in my fourth installment of the Weekly Update. Or I’ll just fix the darn thing and shut up about it.

I’ve noticed lately (okay, I’ve always noticed) that there are a lot of writers talking about writing. It doesn’t matter if it’s about how to write a book or a short story, how to write a synopsis, how to write a query letter, how to find an agent, how to self-publish your book (OMG search on ebook pricing and watch the results. Good Gravy!). One thing I know for sure is that there is an abundance of information that others have written and called advice. Yes, I’ve been guilty of it as well. On more than one occasion, one more than one podcast, on more than one blog.

What is it with writers writing about writing?

Mike Stackpole said it best that writing about writing and (more often that not) talking about writing is sometimes more fun that actually writing. Writing is a lonely thing to do and many writers, given the chance, will talk about what they do ad nauseum. Yes, again I’m guilty. But I’ve always wondered, even as I look back at my own writing advice, what was the point?

Sure, there’s the chance to teach someone else about writing. There’s the opportunity to interact with other writers who may like your wit or your turn of a phrase. There may even be a chance to interact with other writers that you wouldn’t have had the opportunity to interact with had you not written something about writing.

But overall, what’s the point?

I ask this for two reasons. Let me start out with #1: Other authors most likely won’t buy your book. Sure there will be those close friends that will pick up your book out of support. There will be some that may actually read it. But for the most part, other authors (and mostly wannabe authors) will read your advice and you’ll never even hear from them. It’s a painful cycle that less than 10% of those who hear or read your words of advice will ever interact with you. Trust me. I see my numbers on my Unorthodox Writing Tips. I know who’s engaged me in conversation. I’ve talked to other podcasters with writing advice podcasts. I know some of their numbers compared to their amount of feedback. It’s severe.

Why did I stop posting Unorthodox Writing Tips? Because it wasn’t accomplishing what I had intended to accomplish. It was words I wrote that served no purpose. (Well hey! Why am I writing this post?). Pfft, procrastination, most likely. I guess just making an observation. An evolution from writing advice to writers to writing articles for fans. This one is somewhere in the middle I hope.

Now I’m going to say something that will either come off as profound or just annoy everyone I know. All writing advice is crap. All writing advice is worth your time.

It just depends on who you are and where you’re at with your writing. Honestly. Almost all the writing, editing, pricing, etc, advice that I read isn’t important to me. I’ve been involved with the writing community, reading writing advice, trying things out, doing things and failing, doing things and succeeding, for going on 20 years now. I say that and it scares me a little bit. Now much of that 20 years is on again and off again, but I’ve been wanting to be a writer for very long time. It’s just recently that I’ve gotten serious about applying everything that I’ve read, said, and learned. It’s been a very long road to get to where I’m at and I’ve taken my lumps along the way. I won’t lie. It’s been really hard and I don’t expect it to get any easier any time soon.

Will this stop anyone from offering up advice? Probably not. I wouldn’t begrudge anyone doing something that makes them feel good when it comes to writing. Like I said, it’s tough, it’s lonely, and camaraderie is a good thing. If you can surround yourself with a great bunch of writers than more power to you! Keep at it for as long as you feel you need to. Build great friendships. Interact and learn! Don’t just interact. Expand your thought process beyond just reading of listening to that advice. Engage with people. Get out of your comfort zone. Give feedback to those that give you that advice.

I posted an unorthodox writing tip that was rather ironic. When to say when. When to stop taking advice and just write. There’s also a point, I feel, where a writer needs to stop giving advice and just write. That’s where I’m at these days.

Yes, last year I wrote a lot. I blogged a lot. I wrote a bunch of writing advice even. I took some of that advice to heart. That’s why I’m not writing advice any more. It wasn’t getting me what I was hoping for and that was to attract fans. Yes, there are a couple writers that are fans of my work, but for the most part, those who read my work aren’t writers.

Then there’s point #2 (you thought I forgot about point #2 and was just going to keep rambling, didn’t you? Sure you did. Don’t lie. I know I almost forgot about point #2). Writers are a needy lot. Needy like “please give me validation! Please publish my work! Please help me be a better writer! Please help me fix this story!”

Okay, stop it! Just stop right there (I almost said write there, LOL). Once you’ve stopped I want you to do something. Assess where you are as a writer. Are you just starting out? Have you been writing for 30 years?Are you unpublished? Have you been published multiple times? One thing that you’ll understand is there are different levels of need when it comes to being a writer.

One level is those just starting out. They are desperately seeking validation. They want to know what they’re doing is good enough. They want someone to pat them on the bum and say “good writer, have a cookie”. They want to get their work out into the world and have everyone rave about how good it is.

Sorry starting writer. Your writing is crap. It’ll be crap for a long time to come. Trust me on this one. No matter how badly you want validation, you’re not there. You just aren’t. You won’t make 100% of your free throws your first time on the court. You won’t run a 4 minute mile your first time and the track. You won’t write a best seller the first time you sit down at the keyboard. It’s just not going to happen. It’s a learning curve and for some people it’s steep and will take years to over come. Others will run up a little hill and be on their way. It doesn’t matter. You will need time to learn your process and no one on this Earth can learn it for you.

That being said… quit asking. I’m about to unsubscribe to a dozen writing forums because there are SO many needy writers out there asking the most basic of questions. I’m pretty sure most of them are looking for a magic bullet to make them a better writer. I know I was on that quest for years. What did I do? Did I ask and ask and ask and ignore ignore ignore?

NO!

I read and read and read. I read in my genre, I read out of my genre, I read novels, I read short stories, I read magazine articles, I read books on writing, I read on websites, I read in forums. I did this for a few years before even participating in the discussion. I wanted to have a certain level of knowledge that I knew wasn’t going to be bestowed upon me by the great writing fairy in the sky.

I also wrote. I wrote bad fiction with a crazy, wild-eyed need! I had a desire to get stories out of my head to get the voices to stop talking to me. I had ups, I had downs. I finished a lot of stories, I didn’t finish twice as many as I finished. I wrote, I submitted, I got rejected time and again. I let it get to me and stopped writing. I picked myself back up and tried again.

What am I trying to say? I’m saying that no one just handed me the ability to write a novel and to complete what I started. I worked very hard to be able to write the stories I write. Some are good, some a terrible, but overall I enjoy my own writing enough to keep at it. You may not like what I write. Others may think I’m totally nuts writing the dog poo that I put on a page. Hey, art is subjective. (someone once said about my writing : Wow! That’s a lot of dialogue) . None of that matters (well, except people liking my work. That’s the point of this whole post is to find an audience.

I’m sure you’ve seen a lot of authors have stopped giving you advice. J.A. Konrath blogs only lightly compared to when he started. Mike Stackpole hasn’t put out an issue of the Secrets in months. Jake Bible has stopped podcasting (an giving away his fiction). Of course there are many more, I’m just listing a few that have changed their tactics. There will always be someone to fill the void. There will always be a lot of advice out there.

My point is to not ask, but do you due diligence first. Do your home work. Don’t just ask and wait for someone to do it for you. If you want to write you cannot be lazy about this. You need to put in the hours, the days, weeks, months, years to actually improve your craft. You need to finish a story, book, collection of books. Only then will you realize what those stories are lacking and be able to either truck that novel, rewrite that novel from the start, or chop it into pieces and try again. Do the work needed to get better. Don’t expect someone to tell you how to get there. This is an individual path and you must take it yourself.

Wow. That’s long. Isn’t it? Where I’m going with all this is that there is advice out there if you look for it. There are some great books on writing if you look for them. This advice will never get bad or grow stale. It’ll come from published authors and unpublished authors alike. Some will still doling out advice, others have moved on. Writers will always write about writing just like they will always talk about writing. Why? It feels good.

Until Next Time!

WOO WOO!

Daily Update: The ebook pricing debate

It seems that every couple of months (sometimes monthly) a battle will rage about the pricing of ebooks. Because of the Department of Justice stepping in claiming that the Big 6 are doing bad things, price fixing, the agency model, and so many other terms, the internet is abuzz with information right now. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is claiming that people want cheaper ebooks. People want to spend less money on books than what the Big 6 is charging. I keep hearing all this noise.

I’m subscribed to a lot of blogs and have done enough reading to formulate an opinion. I’ve even given myself time to digest all of this information to be able to form a coherent thought about all of this. Being that I’ve bought books for a good majority of my adult life (and enough of my teen life) I know enough about books and how much they cost. Do you want to know what I think about all of this?

People will pay what they’re going to pay.

It really is that simple. It doesn’t matter if an ebook is $14.99 or if it’s .99. It really doesn’t matter. People will pay what they’re going to pay. Let me explain

I’ve bought a lot of books. Boxes and boxes of books. I love to read. There are some authors (like Tad Williams) that I will buy the hardcover as soon as it is out and devour it. I’ve paid as much as $29.99 for a hard cover novel. It never bothered me. Other authors, let’s just take Piers Anthony as an example, I’ll pick up his books in trade paper back. The most I’ve paid for a Piers Anthony novel is around $6.99 or $7.99. The point is, the price isn’t what got me to make the purchase. The author is what got me to make the purchase.

But that’s physical books. Perhaps I’ve put more worth on having a physical copy, right? Well, let’s look at my buying as of late.

I’ve picked up a lot of free ebooks. I’ve read a couple. They’re alright. I’ve picked up a large number of .99 books. I’ve read a few. They’re also alright. I haven’t picked up a stinker of a .99 book yet because I’m picky. I’ve picked up a few stinker free ebooks and I can see why the person is giving them away. These make up less than half of what’s on my ereader at the moment. Most of what’s on my ereader? Samples and books over $4.99.

That’s right. I only have a few books in the $2.99 – $4.99 range. Why? I really like the authors and I wanted to get their novels. I will always buy a Stephen King novel. I love his writing even if Under the Dome left me underwhelmed with the ending. I still loved the characters, the incidents, the mystery. The ending just sucked but I still got my money’s worth. I’ve picked up 11.22.63 and the Wind Through the Keyhole. It doesn’t matter what the price it. I’ve got a few Mike Stackpole novels on there as well. Again, I’ll buy whatever he produces because I really enjoy his style of writing.

But let’s look at the samples. Do I only pick big 6 books? NO! I’ve got a lot of Nightshade books (bought some of them outright), I’ve got Apex books, Edge/Tesseracts, Pyr, and I do also have some Big 6 books. The publisher isn’t what’s driven me to purchase the books. It’s the author being out there, talking about their book. It’s me getting to know the person that wrote the novel, looking at the first few chapters in the sample and I’ll buy a copy. I’ve got Skalzi’s Redshirts on my reader. Fun stuff. I’ll be buying the book when it comes out. Doesn’t matter what the price is. I know I want to read this book. I’ve done this with many authors.

Beyond that, I’ve got Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds also. Why? I’ve read his blog. I enjoy his writing style. I will pick up the next book I know even though I haven’t read the first. It didn’t matter what the price was. I wanted the book, I bought it.

You may think, “Well you must have a lot of extra money to buy all these books.” Not really. I don’t spend as much on books as you might think. I’ve gotten some book that I was waiting on when they were suddenly free on the Kindle. I’ve won a couple in giveaways. Some were dropped to .99 and I couldn’t pass up on that deal. I’ve even gotten a couple free because I blog and every once in a while I’ll do a book review. Give me a free book, I’ll review it. It’s the least I can do.

But my point is I’ve only a few times in my life cringed at book prices. You want to charge me $21.99 for an ebook? That’s pushing the limit a little too far. Unless it’s an omnibus with three or four novels. Then I’ll pick it up. I bought the Stieg Larsson books for $29.99. Why not. That’s three books. They’re getting great reviews. They seem to be worth the price. I’ve also picked up a trilogy for $2.99 because the premise sounded interesting.

I’ve bought books from people I follow on twitter. Why? They seems like interesting people and I like to support interesting people.I’ve got a few Scott Roche books on my ereader and I do need to get through them and review them. Same with Justin Macumber and Zoe Winters.

So where do I think books should be priced? Well, I think that depends. If you’re an indie author who’s got one or two books out, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick them up for .99. If you’ve got several books out then I wouldn’t be surprised to see them at $2.99 as I would think you’ve got more books out, you’re good at this writing thing. If you’re doing this for a living and making money and you’ve got a proven track record, I’d be more than happy to pay $5.99 and up for one of your works.

My point is it’s not the price that’s important or at stake here. It’s the author. Price for me depends on how established you are. Do I like what you’re doing and I’ll be willing to pay $12.99 or more for your new novel (like the next Wheel of Time book) or are you a brand new author who I’m willing to take a chance on? It’s not a hard and fast rule. You can’t put a line in the sand and say “No one will ever pay more than this” because you’ll be wrong. Sales figures prove that. Look at the Amazon top 100 and you’ll see prices all over the map. It’s something personal and something that each author needs to figure out for themselves. Just because J.A Konrath says “$2.99 is the golden price point for a book.” Doesn’t make it true. It only makes it true for him. It makes it true for people who’ve set their price at that level and had success.

What are your thoughts on ebook pricing? Let me know. I’d love to hear from you.

Tomorrow I’ll write about ducks

Until Tomorrow!

WOO WOO!

Unorthodox Writing Tips 7: Plotting and Planning and Playing Goalie

I’ve always written more for my own entertainment rather than writing for someone else’s. I’ve written quite a bit. To date I’ve completed ten novels, and I have four others started with ideas for five different novels. Only four are part of a series, the rest are all the first of a potential series, but work as stand alone novels as well. I have also completed quite a number of short stories.

One thing I have mostly avoided. Plotting. I usually come up with an idea, have a vague direction, and go for it. Yes, I’ve written by the seat of my pants. This has lead to some good stories (I feel) but overall I always had a direction in mind and on occasion I would end up stuck. What I never did was write down the actual plot and direction, be it for shorts or novels.

I plan on changing this. I’m going to start writing at least a paragraph plot that will give beginning, middle, and end. Obviously I can flesh out the details as I write, but I’ll start with the act of getting the idea on paper (1st draft?). What I hope to achieve by doing this is getting the idea down and not just letting it flounder around in my brain until I’ve talked myself out of writing the work. When I was at my most productive I kept a running log of story ideas and I’d cross them out as I’d complete them. This helped me with writing one hundred short stories in one year. I doubt I’ll try to write that many again, but this leads me into my next topic…

Planning is another thing I’ve never done well. I would write stories, send them out, and start the next. I kept an excel spread sheet and made sure not to send the same story to the same place twice. I’ve long since lost this spreadsheet, but it was interesting to keep track of the ‘red’ cells which noted rejections and ‘green’ which noted publication and even the ‘yellow’ which showed waiting response.

What I didn’t have when I did this was a clear plan of action. It was just write, submit, and hope for the best. I didn’t know why I was doing it other than to try and gain publishing credits and improve my writing. Obviously I stopped as the rejection process is grueling and after hundreds of rejections it just wore me down (and the year ended). Once I completed that year I had intended to get back to writing novels, but I never sent anything out. Rejection of a short story was easy to take, but a novel? I didn’t think I’d be able to handle that kind of rejection.

It’s all part of the game, though. Rejection is just getting you one step closer to publication. So I now have a plan for getting my works out there. Beyond that I’ve taken on an ambitious project that will run parallel with Scott Roche. The idea is to write, edit, and publish a short story each month during 2012. Sounds ambitious, doesn’t it?

I’m excited, but I know I’ll never, ever, be able to complete this task without a plan. I have explained to my wife that my writing needs to move from a hobby to something more like a part time job if I’m ever to make it successful. I need to plot my stories so I’ll have a direction. I need to plan my time so I’ll be able to perform the work.

So where does playing goalie come in? Plots and Plans are nice, but I need to have an overall direction. I had always wanted to be a published author before I was forty years old. Well, that ship has sailed. Why? I let life happen and didn’t make life happen. I am going to change that by setting goals. Not just setting goals, but sharing those goals with my friends and family. I’ve started writing down where I want to be at the end of 2012 and it just starts with the ambitious project of a short story a month. It also includes getting worked cleaned up and/or completed and finally getting those works in front of a publisher or agent.

Yes I’ll be self publishing my shorts, but I am going to look for traditional publication for some of my works. I’ll also be continuing to self publish works as well. I had an ambitious desire for 2011 to have three books out, but I didn’t follow through and I now know why. I didn’t set out clear, definable goals.

I’ve read J.A. Konraths’ blog. I’ve read Mike Stackpole’s blog and newsletter. What I haven’t done is apply those teachings. Yes, being creative is a wonderful thing, but unless I treat my work as work and a business, I’ll only have limited success. So included in my goals for 2012 are to seek out ways to promote myself. Ways to get more eyes on my work. To have a definite number of sales. I’ll, of course, share those in my blog.

If all goes well, next year I hope to write nearly half a million words. Yes, I know that’s a lot. Yes, I know I’m aiming high. But I’ve got my goals written. I’ve got my plan laid out. Does it begin in 2012? NO! It begins today. Why should I wait for January 1st to start on the road? These are just the plans I want to accomplish in 2012. If I don’t get started on them, no one will start on them for me. There’s no better time than the present!

Until Next week.

WOO WOO!