I’m not sure when it became a bad thing for people to change their minds in the light of new information or an evolving situation. If you look back at things, are you likely to hold the same views on everything at forty as you did at twenty? Seems unlikely. The world is different, the things that surround you are different, and you’ve had twice as much life experience so you’re different.
So what have I changed my mind on today?
Pursuing traditional publishing at novel-length as a productive use of my time.
I had been working on the route where I’m pursuing both routes, independent and traditional, but the work/reward ratio doesn’t look like it’s worthwhile anymore on the traditional side.
Yes, it can still be done, and I think that I can probably do it, given time, energy, and persistence, but I’ve slowly come to the realization, watching as successful traditional authors slowly (or quickly) divorce themselves from traditional publishing, and as some authors never take that route in the first place, that I don’t think it’s worth the time commitment for me.
There are a lot of arguments, a lot of things you can look at that have brought me to this decision. The way advances are done. The rewrite process at major publishers (yes, I’m going with anecdotal horror stories here, but they’re fairly widespread). The contraction of the publishing industry and slow gathering of power into a small handful of big companies who are all struggling with severely outdated business models. The way authors’ contracts are frequently written. That it’s somehow more cost effective for big publishers to sign someone to a 1-3 book contract and then replace them with someone else signed to a 1-3 book contract if they aren’t instantly as popular as Stephen King. The length of time, and number of editing passes, between your final draft and actual publication. That you can only write what they want for what they think the market (that they force the shape of) wants right now.
It all comes down to one thing, though: the traditional publishing industry is about publishers, not authors.
Seems kind of obvious when it’s put that bluntly.
So the question becomes, why should I expend the effort to break into an industry that isn’t going to work for me no matter how hard I work for it?
It’s not all that way, of course. I’m talking about Big Publishing. But there aren’t that many publishers at that second tier, that middle level anymore and it’s a hard market for them. They’re also getting the same level of submissions as big publishing houses and so get to publish only the best of what they like, which is good, but the level of competition means there are a lot of great stories that should get published and don’t.
The short-fiction side of the industry is bubbling and thriving and expanding. Sure, there are a lot of short-lived publications, but there’s also never a lack of great short fiction available. I’m not abandoning short fiction submissions, but it hasn’t been a focus of mine for several years. I’m turning back towards it in the second half of this year, though, because I’ve never lost my love of short fiction, reading or writing.
But I’m really talking about novel-length work here, where the indie route means I have complete creative control over the entire process from the initial scribbled idea to the final release of the e-book and even paperback design.
And sure, that means I’ve had to learn how to design my own covers and do my own layouts and learn new software and build a social media presence and blog effectively. Sure, it means I have to keep learning and relearning all of those things, over and over again so I keep getting better at them. So what? Learning stuff makes me happy, too. I’m investing the time into bettering myself and my skills instead of rewriting the same book over and over again until it bears only a passing resemblance to what I originally committed to the keyboard and is ready for publication by someone’s definition who’s never even met me.
The ultimate result is probably that I get to write a lot more stories, and that’s kind of an important part of things for me, too. I have a lot of stories I want to tell. For 2020, I’m in catch up mode for revising and editing. Honestly, that will probably stretch into 2021, too, since I have a lot of stuff I’ve drafted in the last few years and not edited, and I have a lot of stuff I have edited that I haven’t done anything with. If everything I currently have at between 1st and final draft that I haven’t published were to release at the rate of 1 book per month (not even looking at short fiction), I can get to Spring 2022 before things that I’m currently drafting get to the front of the line. And then there are all the things I have planned.
I have a lot of stories to tell, and I’ve figured out that it really isn’t that important to me to get them published traditionally. I don’t think I can live long enough for that to happen, anyway.
Stay safe and be well, everyone.by
The basic plan for the second quarter of this, my first Indie Publishing Year, has a total of 6 things in it: 2 short, 1 long, 1 collection, and 2 fan fiction pieces.
In a little more detail:
Turn the World Around, a SF novella coming in at just barely under 35,000 words. Inspired by a particular episode of the Muppet Show. The original Muppet Show. Ebook and probably paperback.
Wolves and Sheepdogs, a 5,300 word short story starring Lieutenant Leslie of Star Trek, The Original Series fame. PDF only and only on the fanfic page here.
Heroes Inc, a superhero novel and the first book in The Citizen Trilogy, the final book of which I’m drafting right now. Ebook and paperback for sure. cover not done yet, but it’s coming.
“Babysitting the Taran-saurus”, a 14,000-word SF novelette I serialized on Wattpad several years ago. Now with a brand new cover and becoming a downloadable ebook.
Graceland, a collection of stories inspired by what was probably the most influential music on my listening, the Paul Simon album of the same name. Discovered as a teenager and still in the rotation more than 30 years later, there’s a story inspired by each song, some with bits of lyric almost directly pulled out and some a little less obviously (I hope).
Fractured Unity, my first novel-length fanfic, catching up with the crew of the Enterprise as they return to Cestus 3, more than three years after the initial encounter with the Gorn.
And there’s Q2. Not that I don’t have specific plans for Q3 and Q4, but the plan is more flexible the farther into the future we look. Right now, I’m trying to get to the point where I’m working two months ahead in terms of covers, formatting, and compiling. I’d like to stretch that to three to give myself some breathing space. More would probably be smarter, but I’ve got to hit the two-month mark first.
And I certainly have to keep working on new stuff. Constantly.
Be well, everyone.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
by I have decided that I’m going to reboot the Submission Log, mostly because it’s been a long time since I’ve done any serious story submitting. I have a lot of short fiction I would like to get in front of readers and there’s no reason I shouldn’t get paid by someone for some of it, right? Even if it’s only a token payment here and there.
I’ve never written or submitted to “exposure” markets, because I disagree with the concept. If the publisher is expecting to make any money whatsoever, some of that money should go to the author. If you’re not interested in paying your authors, I’m not interested in doing business with you.
I have a couple of times written for royalties. One time, that was okay. The other, the editorial process was so long and involved that the royalties would have needed to total several hundred dollars to bring me up to minimum wage (at the time) for all of time and energy I put into the process. They were not.
Now some out there may be thinking that writers and artists shouldn’t expect to get paid a lot of money. To which, politely, I suggest that you’re misguided. No artist expects to get rich on their work, but if money is changing hands for a product then the people involved in producing that product should be making a living wage from it, and that includes the artist. I think that’s entirely reasonable, without going into Ellison style rant (but it’s well worth watching – here).
If, on the other hand, it’s your thought that artists should be happy getting their work out there and not be concerned about money at all, my slightly less polite response is, fuck you. You don’t expect your favourite movie and TV stars to work for free, your favourite sports players to work for free, or your favourite musicians to work for free, why would you expect artist to?
See how easy it is to go into a commentary on society?
But it is frequently worth commenting on society, and maybe that’s why I do it a lot. Sidesteps in blog posts here and there, entire blog posts sometimes, frequently in conversations by off and online, and, well, pretty much all the time time. Like or not I live in a society with a lot of problems that need talking about and dealing with. Expectation of writers and artists working for starvation or no wages is one of many.
Back to the point.
The submission log is still on file and looks back to even the first couple of stories I submitted way back when. Since I’m trying to make both submissions and short story publishing part of my overall plan, I really do need to track them. Independently published collections are part of the publishing plan in 2019, as is some novel-length work, fanfiction, and poetry. I’m doing a bunch of Star Trek fanfiction individual stories and a collection, although those will only be available for free. Fanfiction by definition has to be free unless sanctioned by the owners of the property. I’d love to, but never expect to, write Star Trek for money. But, if people like my Star Trek work, maybe it’ll lead some of them into my non-Trek work. If not, oh well.
Releasing something for exposure or giving it away for a little while is far different than someone only willing to pay exposure in order to make money themselves, btw. It’s a valid marketing tactic for indie traditional publisher, but the traditional publisher, no matter how small, needs to be aware that their authors deserve to be paid.
I’ve also got plans to do one themed collection a year for about the next five years, and that doesn’t stop me from just pulling together some of what I feel is my best work to do a non-themed collection. And I will be doing novels, and a poetry collection so self-publishing will be strong, but it’s not the only path. As I’ve mentioned, I will be looking for an agent or small press for some work.
I track word count and goals and I’m certainly going to track who I investigate for agents or publishers, so if I’m targeting five short story submissions per month for the rest of the year, including September (and 8-10 per month in 2019), I need that submission log. I need to know where I send things, who liked my work and should get more of it, who doesn’t bother to respond on rejections, who gives feedback.
Tracking is important. So, beginning any moment now with the first submission of 2018.
Be well, everyone.by
by Once upon a time, there was a teenager named Lance. Growing up in the pre-Internet era, Lance was still quite fond of media: TV, movies, and especially books and music. He read voraciously, started to figure out writing (though that would mostly come later), and always had the radio or a record or cassette playing in the background. This as the 1980s. There would eventually be CDs, but they were expensive in the early days and he didn’t have a CD player until the summer he was nineteen.
In the fall of 1986 he heard, “You Can Call Me Al” on the radio. Without knowing exactly why, he found it turning into one of his favourite songs and he bought Graceland on cassette as soon as his finances would allow.
And so it began.
It’s hard to say how many times I listened to Graceland, but I knew all the lyrics to every song within a week or two, and had my heart broken when the cassette got eaten a few years later. I immediately replaced it with a CD version, which I still have and from which I made MP3 versions of the songs for my iPod, and now in my phone. Yes, they’re all in my playlist.
In early July of 2009, listening to “The Boy In the Bubble”, I got the germ of an idea for the story that would eventually become “Miracles and Wonder”. Six months or so later, I wrote the first draft of “Pilgrimage” after something tickled the back of my brain listening to the title track, “Graceland”.
“Light Pressure” came near the end of 2010 with “Dancing in the Rain” following before too long. By then, I had an end goal in mind: there would be a story inspired by every song on the album. Perhaps, if they eventually proved worthy, they might become an e-book or a even, dare I contemplate, a podcast.
The rest of the stories were written across 2011, a strange and tumultuous time in my life, but they got written. In the first few months of 2012, I edited, polished, then edited some more until each of the 11 stories made me happy.
After which, I put them away for a few months. Letting things rest for a while helps me approach them with fresh eyes. When I read through them in October of 2012, I was still happy. Oh, I made some minor changes here and there, different word choices or alterations to punctuation, but nothing big. I started to think about what I should do with them.
But then, oddly, I put them away again. Yes, I had the intent to publish or perhaps submit them, but I never did. At this point, it’s been long enough that I felt the need to do another read through, and I’m glad I did. I made a few tiny tweaks here and there, some word choice changes, really but nothing big. The stories stayed the same.
Well, all but one which suffered a couple of structural alterations but kept the story intact. “Fingerprint Dreams”, the last story in the sequence, had a couple of odd POV shifts, with the main protagonist dropping into first person for what were essentially either interviews or flashbacks. I found this jarring when I read the story, and liked it less than I used to, so I changed them. As a result, the story got almost five hundred words longer, breaking over that magical 10k mark. It’s still the same story, but I think those scenes flow better now and the reader gets more out of them.
But I’m done reading, and that brings me back to what should I do with them? Try to find a publisher? Submit them to markets individually? Publish them myself? Publish them myself and send a copy to Paul Simon?
For the moment, I think I’ll go pop a certain CD in the player, but I’d welcome any thoughts or input.
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
by So I’ve been scheming and plotting for a while, developing an approach to getting published. While I’ve mostly been leaning towards the indie publishing plan lately, I’m going to somewhat divide my efforts
The Year One Plan looks something like this:
Part 1: Short Fiction
Short story submissions will continue. Since the 1st of October this year, when I really started submitting again after a long drought, I’ve put 38 submissions in inboxes of various magazines and anthologies. I’ve so far had 8 rejections, three of which offered some specific reasoning, and the rest are outstanding. When a rejection comes back, the story gets added to the bottom of the list of things to go out (I haven’t caught up yet, and it’s going to be a while). My new motto: keep them out looking for homes.