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Self-Publishing A-Go-Go **OR** Throw Some More Spaghetti At The Wall And See If It Sticks

 

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Source: AZ Quotes

I’m kicking around a new idea.

I want you to comment and tell me what you think.

And now you have to read this WHOLE POST BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA

So. *Ahem* I’ve been knocking around this ‘writing (mostly science-) fiction’ thing for a while.

I like writing science fiction. I like writing nearly anything, but science fiction is the gravity in my personal cosmos, if you get my lack of drift. My mother has the first story I ever wrote, in fact. With hand-drawn illustrations, and you can REALLY tell my main talents aren’t in the visual arts — shame I don’t have a picture to post here. It was something involving dinosaurs flying around in jets and a time machine. I think I was 9 or 10. And off and on through the years I fiddled with storytelling in one form or another — writing the occasional story and a lot of pretty stinky poetry. Playing and especially refereeing various pencil-and-paper role playing games.

Around… was it 2008? My memory isn’t what you’d call a steel trap… I started writing a lot more. For myself at first, to see if I could do it well. I thought I might have something publishable and mailed a short story submission to Fantasy & Science Fiction around 2009 or 10. I ran across it a year or so ago and cringed. I still had a lot to learn as a writer.

It’s funny. ‘They’ say read if you want to write. They’re right, but you need to do a lot of writing, too. It takes practice to translate “I know a good story when I read it” into “I wrote a good story.” And an open mind and a mindful purpose to improve and yada yada if you write you’ve probably heard it all before, probably from Stephen King who sells WAY more writing than I do — and almost certainly than you, too, as you read this. And if you’re reading this and you can say you sell like Stephen King, I’m flattered a literary icon of some variety is reading my blog. Hi there!

BUT ANYWAY. I’m pondering trying yet another angle at this self-publishing thing, because what I’m throwing at the wall right now isn’t particularly sticking.

And when I ponder major changes in anything, I tend to beat around the bush a lot before getting to the point.

I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

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I found this here.

I put my first self-published stories on Smashwords in early 2012. I have since pulled most of those early stories from my catalog and archived them — maybe I’ll rewrite them or repurpose their ideas for new stories; I’m not sure yet. As written, they share some of the just-beginning-to-write-with-publication-in-mind flaws that were in that first story I subbed to F&SF. But already, they were better. And I won’t elaborate more right here and now lest I sidetrack myself again.

Between then and now I have tried different approaches to gaining a wider readership as a self-published author. I have tried a little advertising here and there when I had the budget (Project Wonderful, concentrating on genre webcomics and Google Adwords). I have tried charging for every single story because some people say that’s The Way To Do It. I have tried higher and lower prices for the same reason. I have tried having both few and many free stories because some other people say… you get the point.

I have tried posting links to my stuff on social media often, and less often, and not at all. Scheduling posts and not scheduling posts. I have tried being serious, and I have tried being humorous, and I have tried being self-deprecating.

That last one, self-deprecation, is far too easy to actually do it very much without triggering some sort of depressive crisis. Because self-doubt is very easy when you don’t have a ton of fans — and when your earlier life has given you much ammunition for self-doubt, as mine has. (Which is where I say thanks to the Patreon patrons I have. Because not only do they think well enough of me and what I write to contribute a significant, pay-my-internet-bill amount of money, but they do that while being few in number (at the time of this writing — I hope for this to be incorrect in the near future). And only one of them is my mother! The majority of them are people I have never met in person. And since my personality is probably 51% annoying to only 49% awesome, they MUST believe in my writing.)

So how can I not believe? But, onward:

I have tried and am still trying to drum up MUCH NEEDED BECAUSE I AND MY WIFE AND THREE KIDS LIVE BELOW THE POVERTY LINE SO HEY COME OVER AND HELP ME OUT CANYA? support and readers on Patreon.

And now, shockingly, I’m getting to the point. My latest permutation on the How To Do Self-Publishing thing. Which is an I’m Going To Tweak How I Publish My Stories And Therefore How I Handle My Patreon thing.

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Columbia Pictures, When Harry Met Sally, via Buzzfeed.

Because there’s not really one way. There are the ways that make sense for you and that you like doing enough to do persistently. And, most importantly, that work. Different things work for different people. It’s a controversial point, but if you don’t go all buckwild taking it to absurd extremes and using it as an excuse to sit around and chow entire bags of chips when you should be writing and publishing, it’s also a true point.

Here (is/are) The New Thing(s) I’m considering doing.

Though I will occasionally still publish a free story, I’m planning on pulling most of the ones I have out at present to be integrated into small collections priced at 99 cents. They’ll have a minimum word count of a novella (7500), and probably not much more than a novelette (17,500) on the high side.

I’m still planning on publishing a big collection, Closer Than You Think, in December. It will probably be my last novel-word-count-length collection for a long while.

Currently, I submit stories to various zines for publication. In fact, one is scheduled to be published in Amazing Stories in November.

I’m thinking of stopping that. Not because I don’t like being published. I do! But maybe if I’m going to self-publish I should concentrate on, you know, self-publishing.

Instead, my thought is that I should publish all of my stories straight to Patreon for my patrons to enjoy first. Then publish the ebook, still at least 30 days later as I do now. And usually, now, significantly later, because I’ll be sitting on them until I have enough to fill out a small collection with some kind of unifying theme.

Or should I just sit on all the individual stories and publish the collections, and maybe the longest ones individually? HMMMMM!

With, for the first time, an actual reward structure for patrons. Because I don’t actually have one of those things at the moment. I’m just thankful for the support and give everyone some posts and fiction and ebooks.

Public/ no pledge: microfiction under 250 words, and blog posts.

$1/month pledge or more: gets to see (and get any ebook file I have to give) flash & short stories (7500 words or fewer).

$10/month or more: same as above, but also gets to read novellas & novelettes & collections over 7500 words.

$20/month or more: same as above, and I also mail a signed paper copy of anything I publish in paperback (probably through Createspace).

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The source for this one has BIG BIG DRAMA on it. You have been warned

So that’s what I’m thinking of doing. What do you think of it? Anything you’d do different? Tell me!

Perfectionism Kills Writers…

 

Perfectionism kills writers… because it kills stories. If you let it, it will drive you to editing and proofreading and reworking and expanding and cutting without end and you’ll never finish a damn thing. Overcompensate by rushing work out and you’ll rush out lousy stories that don’t make sense and are shot full of typos and plot holes and tense shifts and characters who change name halfway through and who knows what else.

 

If you want to get your work out into the world you have to find your sweet spot. Enough perfectionism to put out your best, enough humility to be honestly open to improvement, enough arrogance to think you’re worth reading, enough recklessness to mark a deadline and throw one story out into the world and begin the next, the bullheadedness to take rejection as a challenge rather than a defeat, and the stubbornness to keep flailing away until one of the stories you throw connects.

 

It all begins with that perfectionism, though. You have to accept that there’s no such thing as perfect, just the level best — and the real best, not a “fuck it I’m over it” halfass best — that you can do right now.

 

Or you could say “to hell with that!” and just read without worrying about all this writing jazz.

 

Honestly, that way is easiest at all.

 

Whichever you choose, best of luck.

“So I’m Writing An Infodump…” “NO.” “But…” “HELL NO!”

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Oh, he’s infodumping in public. He must be SO EMBARRASSED! Poor thing.

You’ve only just read the title, seen the image, read the caption, and you already know: I’m going to tell you (you writers out there) not to infodump on your readers. If you’re a reader, I’m going to tell you how you feel when you hit an infodump: ‘fine, fine, get on with the story already fer chrissakes.’

Before I go farther, let me tell you what prompted this post. From time to time, I poke through one of the ebook sellers’ websites and preview some of the novels and shorts that my fellow self-published writers come up with. The first one I looked at this afternoon started with a fat infodump in movie-intro style. It was labeled “Prologue,” which was a lie. It wasn’t a prologue. It was an infodump sketching out the author’s worldbuilding so that you, dear reader, wouldn’t have to bother your pretty little head with figuring out the background. And, possibly, so the author wouldn’t have to bother his pretty little head figuring out how to establish the important features of his world through things like dialogue and brief exposition and events.

Now that we’re past the digression: if you’re a contrary or exception-minded sort like me, you’ve taken issue with my hostility against the infodump, and have come up with a number of reasons that an infodump might be perfectly fine in a story. At least a little one. And it’s true, a little infodumping is less offensive than a lot of infodumping. The most inoffensive thing about the example I encountered today was that it was relatively short, less than two pages. Not too big to skip forward to the beginning of the first chapter, which is where the story should have begun. It should have begun with chapter one because that’s where it was interesting in a way the infodump ‘prologue’ definitely failed to be.

Which brings me to my major objection to the usage of the infodump: they’re boring. The worst of them (and the one I read was one of these) read like a transcript from a high school history class with the most uninspired and unhappy teacher you ever had the misfortune of having. Nobody wants to read that crap. I bet the writer didn’t even want to read that crap once it was written. He probably had trouble staying awake during editing.

There are ways to handle the infodump that aren’t terrible, and those are the ways you should use as a writer — because they’re not actually infodumps as I’m defining them here. They’re the ways you want to read as a reader. They’re not encyclopedic, they’re worked in with some sort of action. The characters are doing and thinking and saying things as the infodump develops. You still don’t want to overdo it. Even handled this way, if they’re prolonged the reader begins to wish for less information and more story-meat. But when done well, the reader is still enjoying what’s going on. If you’re the one doing the writing, doing it this way moves it from the realm of the infodump (EWWWW!) and into the realm of exposition (well, fine — so long as it stays interesting).

Technically, exposition and infodumping are the same thing. Exposition simply means ‘showing,’ which might be a bit confusing in light of the old and hoary advice, “show, don’t tell.” Exposition is a point at which the writer tells the reader something informative instead of showing or demonstrating it by other means. I think of the infodump as a distinct category of its own: Infodumping is the kind of exposition you do NOT want to write. It’s the kind that really sucks.

All exposition should be used sparingly. You should think about how and why you use it rather than conveying your information another way. And if you find yourself in the infodump neighborhood of exposition, do yourself a favor:

FIND ANOTHER WAY.

Seriously Eclectic, Short Stories Edition

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Double vision!

 

 

The upside of having an eclectic vision, or, put another way, of being a scatterbrain: variety!  I love variety in just about everything.  Music, food, my reading, my writing.  The downside: lack of focus.  Focus has its advantages.  It’s easier to finish things when you’re focused.  Finishing stories can be a struggle for me.  I tend to get interested in something else and wander away.  If I didn’t make myself go back and finish, I could easily have a couple of hundred story fragments and nothing done.  As the hoary old chestnut goes, starting things is easy, but as time goes on… SQUIRREL!  Look at the squirrel over there!  Wait, there’s something shiny the other direction, wonder what it is… hey, I’m hungry, are you hungry?  Wonder what sort of snacks are available…

 

Today’s thoughts of the ups and downs of eclecticism came to me while updating my ‘stories to either resubmit to markets or self-publish if I’m tired of sending them back out’ stack.  Right now the stack stands at five; I don’t like it to get much larger than that.  Stories sitting around on my hard drive doing nothing are, well, doing nothing.  And that’s just not helpful.  They’re an eclectic lot.  Let’s take a look at what I have here, using 1-word shorthand for titles, since I haven’t sold or released any of them yet:

 

 

Kitty: Near-future. Speculative fiction, just barely.  If it wasn’t set in the near future, it would be a mainstream story and it reads like one.  A tale of a boy and his cat in an impoverished coastal North Carolina ravaged by severe sea-level rise and powerful climate-change-fueled storms.

 

 

Meow: Call this one contemporary fantasy.  A Cat of Power awakes after a long sleep frozen in Siberian permafrost and tries to make sense of what the world has become. Two cat stories in the lot is as close as I come to a theme in this list.  I do like a good cat story.  I blame the internet’s bad influence.

 

 

Dawn: Definitely science fiction, there are spaceships and everything.  The participants in a long-distance relationship meet via interstellar travel.  As usual in a long-distance relationship story, there’s something unsaid that must be confronted once they meet.

 

 

Pornodroid: Science fiction, again with spaceships and everything.  Not as sexy as it sounds.  A pop music star under a very onerous contract discovers that stardom ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, and finds a high-tech way to attempt an escape.

 

 

Fire: A 100-word western involving a lost Spaniard, a nasty bearded brigand, and a campfire. 

 

 

 

Maybe it would be a little easier to attract readers if I stuck to one thing.  On the other hand, I can’t be the only one who enjoys variety.  And frankly, if I tried to compress myself into a branding-marketing straitjacket and keep everything focused, I have a feeling that the writing I produced would rapidly start to suck.  I’m happy being a bit scatterbrained.  My mind is a restless dog, sticking its nose into every corner and smelling after new and exciting smells.  If I tried to chain it down it would rapidly become unhappy and you’d get tired of hearing it bark all the time.

A Real-Life Serial: Self-Publishing Impatience

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This is what I published 2 years ago (plus a couple of days).  You can click through and read it, it’s a short-short and it’s free.  It was my 26th; my 1st was published in January 2012.

 

Looking back, it hasn’t been that long. A bit more than 2 1/2 years I’ve been self-publishing. A few thousand of my free titles have ‘sold’ in that time, and probably a tenth or twentieth as many paid copies have sold.

 

Not too shabby, my practical side says.  As long as I keep it up, keep writing and publishing, people will keep reading.  Eventually, I hope, many more people.  Persistence is the first thing pretty much anyone needs in getting their work out there, written or otherwise.

 

My impatient side, however, thinks that kind of thinking is for, appropriately for this post, dumbasses.

 

I don’t like waiting.  Does anyone like waiting?  I’m pretty sure nobody likes waiting.  Hey, I bought Product X yesterday, and the commercials clearly state that if you buy Product X all your dreams will come true in mere days, like a fairy tale.  I’m impatiently waiting for my instant gratification.

 

Hmm, that gives me an idea.

 

Read Dumbass, and all of your dreams will come true in mere days.  Promise.

Positive Rejection

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Perhaps I’ve been fortunate in not — so far — having received a rude or discouraging rejection. I hear that some do.

 

The closest I’ve gotten was, upon my third or fourth (fifth?) rejection from a particular zine, one that added (paraphrased from memory) ‘this is a great example of what we’re looking for’ with a link to a story. Overall, that’s a pretty nice way to tell me that what I was sending them wasn’t really in the genre they want.

 

I recently got what I think is my most positive rejection to date. It combined the (again, paraphrased from memory) phrases, ‘enjoyed reading your story’, ‘think highly of your writing’, and ‘send more’.

 

My first, selfish thought was, ‘well, why didn’t you buy it, then?’

 

Sometimes, it pays to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and think about it a bit. So my second, less selfish, thought was to do just that.

 

So: most zines and journals and similar concerns publish a handful of stories in each issue, maybe half a dozen, or twice that, or half. Some publish monthly. More publish six or four or fewer times yearly. That means that most markets you can send your short story to publish fewer than a hundred stories yearly; most publish significantly fewer than that.

 

Each one of them, aside from the tiniest and most obscure, receives hundreds of submissions monthly.

 

Imagine an issue of the magazine you’ve submitted a story to as a branch. There is space for half a dozen birds on that branch.

 

Above the branch, your story is one among a flock numbering at least a couple of thousand. For the sake of this metaphor, the entire rest of the tree is studded with spikes for some reason. Can’t land there.

 

When your bird gets so close to landing on the one available branch that someone hollers “good job!” that’s a good sign. Even if you have to send your bird over to the next tree in search of a place to land.

Title Number Fifty-Five: The Moon Under the Stars

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So, yeah. As of now I have fifty-five short story and collection ebook titles out there for folks to read. This latest is a short tale of superheroes and fandom, and it’s a mere 99 cents. It’s available on Smashwords right now, and will appear with other ebook retailers shortly, most likely within two weeks.

 

Keep your eyes peeled: I still have plenty more stories to tell.

Writing Short Fiction: What I Think When a Market Doesn’t List What it Pays Contributors

sw_CashAndPencil_cs2014-03-28I think you don’t like me very much, that’s what I think.

 

Let me elaborate.

 

Look, I get it. Or, I think I get it; I’ve run across quite a few venues that don’t specify whether or not they pay contributors. Most have been mainstream or literary markets, but a few have been the speculative fiction genre haunts I frequent most often as well.

 

You figure you want work from writers who write for the love of writing, not from mercenary types.

 

Or your market, like so many, is cash-starved and you can’t afford to pay contributors — and you find that fact a bit embarrassing. You’d rather not have to talk about it.

 

Perhaps you feel you’re a bit elite, and you want work from the equally elite. And of course, if you’re elite like that, you wouldn’t have to worry about money. In this case, it’s likely your market offers a significant stipend to those it publishes. Much like shopping in an elite shopping destination, however, if you have to ask about money you don’t qualify to belong.

 

It may, alternately, have simply slipped the mind of whoever wrote the submissions page. We literary types are notoriously frazzlebrained.

 

My temptation, as an excitable sort, is to settle on the explanation of elitism and curse your name. I have a feeling these four possibilities are all in play in various places, and possibly a fifth or sixth I haven’t thought of. In a broad and diverse marketplace there are bound to be multiple circumstances.

 

What it feels like to me when I encounter a set of guidelines that don’t mention whether or not your magazine or journal or anthology or webzine or fill-in-the-blank pays: I’m not welcome.

 

Look, I don’t have a lot of money. I mean, I really don’t have a lot of money. In my household, every buck counts and it’s not unusual to have to call service provider X and ask if they can’t extend a due date a couple of weeks so that we can pay service provider Y. I’m not dirt poor; I have a roof over my head, I don’t freeze in the winter, I’m on the internet right now. But I don’t have money to spare and I’d like to know if I’ll stand to make a little more if you like my story enough to print it. Speaking of that, I also want to see my stories in print, aside from self-publishing (look over to the right sidebar, at the top. I’ve got lots out there). I’ve talked one venue into publishing a story of mine a while back (Carniphobe), and recently another (forthcoming, I’ll mention the venue when it comes out and you’d better believe I’ll write about it here). I’ve been making a push to get more work out there, and I’ve built my ‘actively submitting’ stable to more than 20 stories. Quite frankly, I’d like to be paid for my work. The money would come in handy; even small sums make a significant difference in my household. It also feels good to be paid for what I do. Hey, somebody liked what I did enough to pay REAL MONEY for it. I’m a Generation X-er. Stereotypically, we love validation. I’m a bit of a stereotype in that regard. If you don’t mention that you pay, or don’t, it’s really difficult to guess at it. And I won’t. After all, it would be nothing more than a guess.

 

I also value professionalism. Bottom line, I expect to conduct myself professionally when I submit work. And, whatever the reasons, it feels unprofessional when a publisher does not specify their rates, or lack of rates, up front before work is submitted.

 

Another bone to pick, from my point of view, are the 2 and 3 buck submission fees that are becoming common, especially in mainstream and literary venues. My budget is tight and I’m shopping more than just a couple of stories around; if I paid those routinely they’d have a noticeable impact on my family’s activities — and I’d prefer to spend that 3 bucks buying my toddlers a couple of toys from the thrift store. In fact, I have yet to pay a submission fee. But that’s something to complain about at length in another post (I’ve already complained about it just now, though, so that may never appear).

 

People Roleplaying in MY Book Reviews? It’s More Likely Than You Think.

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So… this is just weird. I’d love to know if any other authors have had this happen to them.

People are roleplaying — sort of — in the reviews sections of some of my ebooks at Barnes & Noble online. The image above is from the reviews section for Pixel People.

Obviously, they can’t exactly fit a lot in. I’ve played a lot of role-playing games in my time, and frankly, if a game I was in didn’t make it any farther than people giving uninspired descriptions of their characters, I wouldn’t have come back for the next session.

Maybe the action is somewhere else. I haven’t checked the reviews on The Grapes of Wrath lately. maybe ‘Raven’ and (snicker) ‘Eclair’ are fighting some orcs over there.

And, seriously, roleplaying in reviews? Seems like this would be a lot more efficient even in something as awkward as a thread in email with lots of CCs.

Or, I don’t know, get a freakin’ blog and roleplay there? They’re free.

For people engaging in an imaginative pursuit like roleplaying, this crowd seems pretty dim.

 

———

 

Addendum, 7/31/14: A Twitter friend, @nihiofkdi, tracked down the answer. Apparently “Nook RP” is a thing. To each their own, but rather than putting junk in the reviews of innocent hardworking indie authors like myself, which may discourage folks from downloading (“What’s this crap, this isn’t a review. Is this author screwing with me? Well, forget that. I’ll just re-read some Harry Potter, thanks.”), why not just gather at a friend’s house and play some good old fashioned D&D? It’s more fun that way, not to mention someone usually brings tasty junk food.

Stalled at 51?

 

 

 

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2013 01 22 13 48 48

 

Some of you might have noticed that after publishing my 51st ebook title, Riding the Drone, in February, I haven’t released anything new.

 

So… has writer’s block struck, you might be wondering?

 

No, no.  Since I started self-publishing at the start of 2012, my stories have gone straight to ebook.  But that’s not what’s happening now.  51 is a nice number to pause on, I thought, while I take a run at seeing if any of the pro-rates-paying markets out there are interested in my writing.

 

Today, I sent out story number 10.  Since February, I’ve run up a few rejections, and sent the stories right back out to new markets.  My optimistic plan is to issue stories in ebook once the folks who publish them relinquish exclusive rights.  We’ll see how it works out.

 

I have a good feeling about this.  Don’t disappoint me, highly competitive pro market. 🙂