So, the first time I try to set something to pre-order and give it a release date, and it looks like things worked.
Heroes Inc. is both an e-book and a paperback.
I tried to give the paperback cover a slightly different look while using the same image, and I’m happy with the result, but it still looks weird to me. I think that’s mostly because I’m used to the first one.
Be well, everyone.by
Graceland is a collection of short stories, one inspired by each of the songs on the Graceland album by Paul Simon. Science Fiction stories, to explain the cover image.
We all have that one album (or two or three or more), discovered in our teenage years that seems to stay with us for life. Graceland is one of a tiny handful for me, a single (“Call Me Al”) heard on the radio leading to an album purchase leading to music that I can still pop in and listen to the whole album 30+ years later.
I’m a Science Fiction (and Fantasy) writer, so when one day, listening to the album, I had an idea for a story that pulled a few phrases from “The Boy in the Bubble”, I scribbled the notes and started drafting. Not the first time I’d been inspired to write by listening to music. But then it happened again six months later with “Graceland” and near the end of the same year with “I Know What I Know”. At that point, I figured I had a trend, and over the next year found something I could call Science Fiction in the basic substance of every song.
The idea of putting them together into a collection came later, but not too much later.
But the cover, beautiful, no?
And yet, no Elvis, no guitar, no picture of the gates of Graceland. Believe me, I thought about all of these things. While Elvis makes a sort-of-appearance in one story (and he’s guitar-less), and music figures prominently more than once, the collection isn’t about Elvis or Graceland any more than the original album was. It’s a collection of SF stories inspired by the music, so the cover image, courtesy of Stefan Keller on Pixabay serves to underscore the Science Fiction nature of the collection, at least in my mind.
Scheduled publication date is currently 12 June 2019 and is the last of the planned spring e-books I’m going to launch.
Stay tuned for the summer list.
Be well, everyone.by
So while no one was looking, I turned “Babysitting the Taran-Saurus” into an actual e-book and put it up on Amazon.
It is still available completely free on Wattpad in a serialized version, where it’s had a few reads, but more certainly wouldn’t hurt my feelings. https://www.wattpad.com/story/24301842-babysitting-the-taran-saurus
Be well, everyone.by
So, here it is: the almost-guaranteed cover for Heroes Inc, first book in The Citizen Trilogy. Picture yourself in full superhero garb, standing on a rooftop and looking out over the city you’ve sworn to protect. Assuming, of course, you can actually find any criminals to deal with.
It’s an awesome picture, I think.
This is a superhero novel, though without any lab accidents or radioactive insects or alien babies crash-landing on Earth.
The “back cover” copy: Armed with a super suit, an IT degree, and a little bit of writing skill, our prospective hero plunges into the heroing business as an official field tester for Heroes Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Hamilton Progressive Defense Systems. Criminals and thugs, supervillain wannabes, robots and a giant, he’s got his work cut out for him. And he can’t even manage to pick his own superhero name.
I started out just trying to have a little fun with the sub-genre, but I ended up with ideas for at least three overall stories, all different types of hero stories, and tried to keep things grounded in a reasonably realistic version of our world.
Stolen from the tiny Afterword: nowhere in the story will you find our hero’s name mentioned. This is 100% intentional. You might also have noticed there really isn’t a physical description built in anywhere, other than that he’s obviously in good shape. It’s possible that reveal will come later, but it’s equally possible that it will remain a mystery through all three books.
The cover image, courtesy of Foundry on Pixabay, may be part of the San Francisco skyline, but don’t read anything into that. I wanted an urban landscape and loved the picture. The story could take place there (although snow happens and it gets cold, so probably not), but it could just as easily be Detroit or Chicago or Toronto or any of dozens of other cities. That’s also intentional. Feel free to mentally place events in your home town.
Scheduled publication date is currently 24 May 2019.by
Warning: long post.
So diving into the world of independent publishing with your books is easy, right? Finish the story, slap some art on it, save it in the right format, upload, and let the millions role in.
Okay, first, if you’re using the word millions and talking about your independent publishing empire, you’re probably in the wrong field.
Second, easy? Seriously?
When I decided that it was time for me to broaden my publishing efforts into the independent route as well as continuing to pursue traditional publishing, I already had some idea of what I was in for on the traditional side. No matter how good the short story, chances are fairly good that is not going to be the right fit for the first market you send it to, or second, or third, and so on. If the story is good, and you are persistent, it will eventually find a home. For novels, time frames are even longer at every step in the process. Brief reading periods separated widely in time, slush piles that have wait times going deep into the double-digits of months, and agents aren’t a whole lot quicker, although once you have one, certain doors are open that weren’t before.
Worse, in both cases, everyone wants something different. Sometimes a little different, sometimes a lot different, and most of this is to see if you’re paying attention. At least that’s the expression of things. Some significant but not measured by me portion of the time, I honestly think the real reason is that people just want an easy way to reject things to save themselves time. And sometimes, a smaller fraction but still measurable, it’s so that people can be assholes while doing it.
Side trip: I try to read the guidelines thoroughly. I know everyone wants something different. But, an example, if I get a rejection letter back that says, word for word, “I couldn’t be bothered to read your story because you couldn’t be bothered to read the guidelines and you missed this tiny little thing,” I probably can’t be bothered to ever submit to your market again, and while I wish you well, I fully expect you to fail in the next 12 months and won’t cry about it. I have long since decided that if I ever publish stuff that’s not mine, the guidelines are going to be relatively simple and straightforward: double-spaced in a readable font consistently formatted. In the closing days of the second decade of the 21st century, there’s really no need for anything else. I’ll judge spelling, grammar, plot, character, world, point of view and everything else as I read the story. Or novel. Or whatever. But I’ll do it because I’m reading the story not because you missed one blue M&M.
But, we were talking about the ease of indie publishing. And, based on someone of the things I see regularly out there, it is pretty easy. Finish the story, slaps some art on it, save in the right format, and upload.
I don’t think it’s easy to get right, though. And I’m not saying I’m getting it right, but I’m doing a lot of research and figuring out standards and what works and building things as I go, learning the appropriate tools, techniques, and so on. Because there are a lot more than four steps to it, and I want to maximize my chances of getting it right.
Here are the steps as I see them so far:
- Finish the story. Yes, this is really important. And finish doesn’t mean publishing your first draft, which I feel like a lot of people seem to do. Somehow, it’s become standard thinking in our society that our first draft is our best draft, our first response is our best response, our first effort is our best effort. Newsflash, the reader can tell. Not going into my process again, but there are multiple drafts involved, and if there’s only one in yours that might be a stumbling point to your success.
- Front matter. The stuff that comes before the story. Title page, copyright notice, dedication, introduction, table of contents… whichever of those are relevant to the kind of book you’re putting out. Yes, I’ve read a number of arguments that there shouldn’t be very much between the cover and the story for an e-book, but I don’t think I buy that, not yet. One thing I do like is that realization that frequently people download a whole bunch of e-books at a time and then forget why by the time to get around to reading. So something that might go right after the cover, or right after the title page, is a few sentences worth of exciting synopsis. What, in a print book, would be the back cover copy.
- Cover art. These days, there are a lot of online tools to help you find some really awesome low or no cost imagery for your covers (I think my favourite is Pixabay so far). Then there are online tools that give you templates and ideas to (relatively) easily put together your cover. (I like Canva. A lot. Here’s a link directly to book cover templates.) But you need the right image, the right fonts, the right log line (if you’re going to have one), the right layout, and the search for that right image might take some time to find something that really speaks to you and says something about the story.
- After that, put in the story itself. Cover art, front matter, story. Consistently formatted, simply formatted, and in a readable font, a font that people will be comfortable having bombard their eyes for the hours they’re going to spend reading your story.
- Back matter. Based on my research so far, at the very least this should contain a thank you for reading message, something that suggests that you would love the reader to leave a review for you somewhere, a how to get a hold of you page, and a page with three or four tiny cover shots of other things are published or are publishing in the next few months. Lots of things might fall into this category. I mostly work in fiction, so I don’t really need an index, and if I use alien words that people have a hard time figuring out, I would mostly rather include those and pronunciations in the text rather than having that affect. I probably won’t include a list of characters, even if it’s a very complex story. This is also where you can also include a preview to something else. There are plenty of schools of thought on that, too, but I think I follow the line of “don’t do a preview unless it’s for the next story after the one they just read”. And it’s better if that story is already available. Because, really, have you ever had that experience where you’re 30 or 40 pages from the end of the book and the story suddenly ends? Then you find that there’s this huge long preview of the next book that isn’t coming out for a year? Your mileage may vary, but it drives me crazy.
- Now that you got the basic file complete, you need to save it in a variety of formats. There are various preferences out there and a tonne of formats, but I think you need at least three primary formats: EPUB, Kindle, and PDF. I’m still experimenting with a variety of tools to figure out what I like best and what produces the best file.
- Okay, now you’ve got the files, where do you upload them? Kindle is easy enough: get yourself to your Amazon author page and start working from there. What, you don’t have an Amazon author page yet? You should probably fix that. And try to keep it up-to-date better than I do. They’ll only take uploads on Barnes & Noble with your EPUB file if you have an ISBN, and those cost money, so are a debate. But, there are plenty of other places to get your e-books up and running. Find the selection that will get you the biggest audience you can.
- Seven, you’ve got a website, right? A blog, at least? Probably you should have a dedicated page on that website for the book you’re publishing. A landing page, if you will. One for each book. Cover art, “back cover” copy, and all the important places you can go to buy it.
- Is there a store on your website where all of your stuff is available? Something to think about.
- While you’re at it, go get yourself librarian status on Good Reads and, not only will this lets you fix those pesky little errors you keep finding in things, it will also let you upload your brand-new book to Good Reads so that people can reviews there as well as Amazon.
- I really want to talk about marketing, but this post is already getting too long but, as the independent author, marketing is also your job. Social media is your friend. Find the right ones, the right combination for you, and go out there and be yourself.
- Why aren’t you writing the next book yet? Better question, why aren’t you prepping the next book, editing the one after that, and drafting the third one out? By all indications, to be a successful independent author, you need a significant body of work available to your readers, and you need to be adding to that on a regular basis. I’m not saying you need to write and publish four books a year, although if you can, and the quality is good, that’s probably not a bad thing, but there needs to be always something in your “coming soon” section.
- And there’s always more you could be doing. More social media, podcasts, video, newsletters, conventions, and on and on and on. What? You’re an independent author. You didn’t think you’re going to get to have a life, too, did you?
Keep in mind, I’m still fairly (extremely) new at the indie gig and I’m working hard to come up to speed. I feel like I’ve been prepping for a long time now and not having much of that show publicly, but when I think I’ve got the basic process figured out, there might wind up being a quick flood of material released in the beginning before I settle into a routine.
Be well, everyone.by
So it’s 25 February 2019 and, aside from the snow and a minor basement flood, deep February in southern Ontario is pretty much like I’ve grown to expect in recent years.
I know there will be an actual writing update a few days, nut there are a couple things I wanted to talk about a little bit more detail, and in the ordinary writing update, they’ll only get a sentence or two.
This past weekend, I didn’t do a whole lot of editing. Life aside, the time I set up for creative pursuits on the weekend was primarily taken up by cover design. I am a little bit behind where I’d hoped to be at this point in 2019 in terms of e-books and the serial fiction, but then, my goals were pretty significant across the board. They still are. This was an attempt to bring a piece of things back on the track I want.
First, “Thorvalds Wyrd”.
This is probably the final version, which has gone through a few iterations, but, in my search for imagery that suits the story, I did come up with a lot of awesome glacier and snowy things, and an alternate concept that I haven’t taken as far looks like this:
There were also some possibilities using a particular mythological spear, but I couldn’t find one I liked and don’t have the budget at this point to get someone to do properly for me.
Next up, a relaunch of the cover for “Babysitting the Taran-saurus”. I was never really happy with the original cover, because it really didn’t say anything about the story other than that it took place in a large city. And it was built using Microsoft paint. Which, at the time, was about my skill level. Actually, if I’m honest, my skill level hasn’t really progressed a whole lot since then, but I have access to better tools and I have learned a little bit about design in the meantime. On the left, the original, and on the right, the new one, which actually does say something about the story, but you have to read it to find out exactly what.
The last item under the category of complete covers, and, honestly, which took me the least amount time, of the three, the e-book cover for my next to publish Star Trek fanfiction story, this one starring a freshly minted Dr. Chapel in the Motion Picture time frame, or, really, six months or so before it. Having freshly completed her finals for her M.D., Dr. Chapel has accepted a short term assignment as temporary Chief Medical Officer on board the USS Yorktown. It entertained me to make the commander of Yorktown another character that the same actress has played in the Star Trek universe, though earlier. I don’t specifically say that, leaving it to the reader to figure out. This one was just a matter of finding the proper capture I liked from the motion picture that featured Christine Chapel and getting the font where I wanted it. I did start out thinking that it should be the Motion Picture font and color, but this font is closer to transitional between TOS and TMP and the gold wouldn’t show up very well. I think it works, but it might not be quite final yet.
I have also come up with the probable cover imagery, though there are still several finalists in each case, for both Turn the World Around and Skip to My Luu. I’ll share those a little later on when they’re closer to ready.
Technically, “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, “Babysitting the Taran-saurus”, and Turn the World Around have all been serialized before, but only my blog. “Taran-saurus” was the only thing that made it off my blog to Wattpad. This time, everything is also going to become and ebook, though I haven’t quite got all the tools I want to make those effectively. PDF version is easy, but I need a little bit more to work out a couple of major e-book formats – Kindle and EPUB. “Thorvald’s Wyrd”, in fact, was supposed to have been done and beginning to post two weeks ago this coming Wednesday night, but life, always, intervenes. Being a couple of weeks behind on that doesn’t derail the timeline in a big way, just shifts a couple of things a bit.
I set three levels of goals for both writing and publishing this year: the public goals, the stretch goals, and the super stretch goals. I built my background plans with the intent by squeaking in under the wire of December 31 by making the super stretch goals. (And if you think the regular goals are aggressive, well, I’ll share the others as and if I get there.) But I built a plan that way intentionally, giving life plenty of space to intervene, for things to happen. As long as I keep working, keep moving forward, all of the standard goals should be more than doable. Maybe I’ll even get some of these stretch goals in, too. But always reach farther than you think you can, because you never know.
And then there the secret goals. These are things that are technically part of the standard goals but that I haven’t put a timeline of any kind on. Rather, they each hinge on meeting certain other goals. I’m preparing for these in the background, with the appropriate research and skills building has required. There are two major ones that launch when specific publishing goals are reached, and one of them partially hinges on the other. These are things I’m going to do, but will be sort of a surprise for everyone else.
In the meantime, I do still have a fair bit of words to make and editing to do. Lots more.
Be well, everyone.by
by Part 3 of 4 in the “Goals of 2013” series. I don’t want to rehash the Three Year Plan post too much, but the independent publishing goals stand:
- Small Realities 1-4. Small collection of my short fiction targeted at 28-30,000 words each and published in March, June, September, and December. I’ve already picked the stories for the first one, and I’m thinking about cover art and author’s notes.
- “Turn the World Around”. 35,000 word Science Fiction novella/short novel. Figuring on late summer for this.
- “Thorvald’s Wyrd”. Epic fantasy told in 100-word scenes. Late in the fall. It’s a wintery kind of tale.
- “Where the Water Tastes Funny”, a 6,000-ish short story that needs to be of the illustrated variety. Sometime in the fall.
I don’t promise the list won’t shrink or grow. A lot will depend on how smoothly the year runs, obviously, but I want to commit to Small Realities coming out regularly this year. If it’s even marginally successful, and preferably fun, I’ll continue next year and beyond. I’m not going to stop writing short fiction, so I’ll want to keep sharing it.
Depending on my shopping of Graceland, Skip to My Luu, and Heroes Inc., there’s a good chance at some novel length indie publishing in my future, too. I kind of doubt any of those will be this year, though. There’s already a lot on the plate.
Be well, everyone.by