Category Archives: publishing

The New Plan

So, one of the hardest parts about trying to ‘make it’ as an author is promotion.  It is an unfortunate fact that, no matter how good your writing is, you can’t do it for a living if you can’t get people to buy it.  And that means promoting yourself.  Unfortunately, for many, if not most artists, ‘sales’ is contrary to our very nature.

A friend of mine, also an author (Jason Richter, look him up!) has a plan that seems like it won’t be nearly as painful as most self promotion techniques.  It is a multi-step plan which will start right about the time I release Curdled Cuisine.

I look forward to sharing more about it once I actually start, but for right now the part that I’m working on is a series of short stories.  I haven’t done a lot of short story writing in the last couple of years, so I have to ask: if I’m sending out short stories or serialized short stories to people’s e-mails once a month, how long is too long, and how short is too short?

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Curdled Cuisine hits Major Milestone!

It’s official: the first draft of Curdled Cuisine is done!  I’m still a ways away from publication, obviously.  I have to give it a round of edits, give it to the beta readers to tear apart, give it another round of edits, make the cover and format it, but…  well the first draft is done, and that’s a pretty big step.

At this point it’s very tentative, but I’m hoping I can get the Corpse-Eater Saga, book three, out in early 2019.  Fingers crossed!

New Promotion

So, I’m sure this has been done before by somebody somewhere, but, frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it before, so I’m going to call this my idea.

I’m working on a new promotional project that I like to call “Passalong Books”!  I’m very excited.  Basically I bought a bunch of copies of my first book, Awfully Appetizing.  On the inside if the front cover I’m writing out instructions that go more or less like this:

“Hello Reader!  You’ve just received a ‘Passalong Book;’ the rules are simple, as soon as you get it, write your name, and the city and state you are in on the top available line below.  Then, read a chapter.  If you like what you’ve read, keep going! If not, no harm done.  Whenever you’ve finished, pass the book to somebody you think might enjoy it!”

Fingers crossed, the books will get passed around a bit.  I figure that if the average passalong book gets handed off and read ten times before it finds a final resting place, I should get a conservative two or three people who otherwise would never have read the book who are interested in the sequel.

Perhaps that’s just me being optimistic.  I don’t know, but to be frank, it’s one of the few ideas that I’ve had that seems both plausible and reasonable to me.  So many promotional techniques just feel awful.  Either like I’m lying, or like I’m forcing myself down other people’s throats.  I figure, if somebody doesn’t like my book after the first chapter, making them read anymore is just a waste.  The problem is, people don’t generally feel like they can read the first chapter without buying the book… or rather, I often feel that way.

Anyhow, that’s my plan!  I’m excited, and I’m sending out my first round of Passalong books tomorrow!  I’ve got one going to California, two going to Texas, one going to Colorado, and one going to Washington.  I’m hoping that in round two, which may take me a month or two to arrange, I’ll be able to hit five or six other states.  Fingers crossed!

Impatience

My book, Awfully Appetizing, was released in e-format in the middle of June.  Since then, as I may have mentioned on here a couple of times, my book sales have been less than spectacular.  Part of that is because I suck at promotions, I freely admit that.  Part of it is because I have never really been a social butterfly.  I don’t have the network of friends, kind of friends, acquaintances and such that some people do.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but it does make it a little harder to get that big push of sales when you start out.

But one of the big things that I really believe is holding me back is the lack of print books.  A lot of people these days have e-readers, certainly, but one of the exciting things about a friend writing a book, at least to me, is having them autograph it to you.  I love having my own copies of books by my writer friends.

Plus, there are promotional opportunities that only exist when you have print copies.  I was going to do a book giveaway on goodreads, but apparently they only do that with physical copies of the book, which makes a lot of sense.  And I’ve had several times when I talked to people about my new book coming out, but when they expressed interest in it, I had to say, ‘sorry, it’s only available for electronic readers.’

It isn’t my publisher’s fault.  Winlock press, and Monique Happy in particular, have been great about keeping me up to date with what’s happening and when.  But apparently Lightning Source has buggered things up and we’ve ended up pushed back to the end of the queue.  I’m annoyed.

And I’m impatient as hell.

Writing as a Job

I don’t actually remember the exact moment when I decided that I wanted to be a professional writer.  I was know that I was young enough at the time that I wasn’t particularly concerned with considerations like money.  I was still in that sweet spot in life where I knew that when I grew up I would have to pick something to do that defined who I was, and I knew that the something I wanted to do was tell stories.

It was perfect, beautiful even.  I loved stories, loved to read them, loved to watch them, loved to close my eyes and let them dance around in my brain; all I had to do was learn to take the stories inside my head, put them down on paper, and I would get to BE a writer.

As I grew up, I came to realize that there was a bit more to it than that.  You have to learn to use the right words in the right place so that your reader will be able to pick up on the subtleties of the story.  You have to plan ahead, make sure that what you’re telling is cohesive and meaningful, a single story, instead of a series of unrelated tales that simply happen to somebody.  You have to figure out how to make sure that your reader will relate to the characters so that they are invested in them.

Lots of subtle little details.

But those are skills you pick up along the way.  They are tools that you add to your toolbox, and while you might struggle with them, wrestle with them, sometimes even hate and despise them, once you’ve figured out how they work, the writing itself is still the same glorious adventure that you loved before.

It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I began to discover where the real work began.

I remember, very specifically, having finished my second or third novel, I looked it over and thought to myself, ‘finally, something worth publishing.’

Looking back I realize how terribly, terribly wrong I was, but at the time, having just forced the last big of this giant brain-baby onto the page, I was convinced that I had delivered unto the world the first book of my burgeoning career.  All I needed to do was send it off to get published.

So I got on my parents’ computer, headed to whatever search engine it was we were using at the time, and typed in something along the lines of ‘publishing novels,’ which got me a long list of book publishers.  Of course, there homepages were filled with advertisements for the books and authors they already had, but I did a little bit of digging, and at long last found a link entitled ‘submissions.’

And this was where my journey hit its first snag.  I had expected them to give me an e-mail address or a physical address where I could send my book.  Instead, they had about a page and a half describing, in detail, what they were looking for, and what they were not looking for, and how everything was to be organized.

The first hurdle listed was something called a ‘query letter.’  I was bewildered.  I knew both of the words: query meant ‘question’ and letter… well, that was just a letter, duh.  So a letter of question.  What was the question?  After looking over the submission requirements for ten or fifteen minutes, then googling ‘query letter’ and scanning through examples I came to the inescapable conclusion that they wanted me to send them a letter asking them if they wanted to see my novel.

What. The . Hell?

Send a communication asking if I could send a communication?  How was that not a waste of time?  They published books, clearly they needed to look at potential manuscripts to decide if they wanted to publish it.  How could they possibly look at a letter… a half page letter at that, and decide, based on that, whether they wanted to see my manuscript?  But the real kicker was the little comment at the end of the paragraph where they informed me that it would take several months for them to get back to me.

Months?!  It had taken months to write my book, they couldn’t possibly, not seriously, be expecting me to wait for the same length of time it had taken me to write my book just to hear them say ‘sure, send it to us and we’ll take a look.’

But they did!  And more than that, when they did ask for it (at this point it hadn’t even occurred to me that they might not want to see the manuscript itself), it would take them even longer to decide if they were willing to publish it!

Absurdity!

Well, my google search had given me a list of publishers, surely they weren’t all so demanding!

Except that they were.  Every single one.  Not only that, but it turned out that not a single one of them was willing to even consider my book if I had anyone else thinking about considering to look at it!  Which meant that if I sent my first query letter out that day, got a reply to send the book, sent it, and then found out that somehow they had decided NOT to publish my book, I’d have to start the entire process over again!  From scratch!

I had spent months and months lovingly and carefully sculpting a story from nothing.  Some days I worked for hours at a stretch creating characters and backstories, building a world… it had been a labor of love.  Then, just when I thought my work was complete, when all I had to do was send something off and wait for someone else to finish working on it, it turned out that my trials had just begun.

The secret about taking up a job in the arts, the thing that most people don’t realize when they start, is that the art is not the work at all.  You assume that it is, after all, it’s hard.  Everyone can make art, but very few people learn to make it WELL, and you assume that the long hours of work, and the research and study that you put in are what make an artist.  But if you are looking for any level of commercial success as an artist you need to realize that what separates the successful from the rest of the pack is largely bullheaded determination.

Skill is good and important, but trying to be a successful artist is a lot like trying to be a violinist in a machine shop.  Whether you are the best in the world at what you do, or a novice, most people can’t even hear you over the cacophony that surrounds you.  There are moments of silence, brief periods when you can be heard, but those moments are unpredictable and fleeting.  You have to be fortunate enough to be playing at those moments, and to be heard by somebody who can appreciate what you’re doing before the scream of steel and the grinding of metal overwhelms you once again.

It is possible, of course, to be an artist in a vacuum.  You can spend your entire life writing beautiful works, then piling them up on the edge of your desk, unconcerned with whether or not anybody ever reads them, but most artists need their creations to be seen, to be heard, to be read.

And the only way to do that is to fight for them, tooth and nail, climbing up the side of a cliff, against the wind, in snow six feet thick, without shoes…. Well, I think you get the idea.

Absurdly fast!

Things are happening now faster than I ever would have expected!  Usually when someone I know gets a writing contract, things afterwards proceed at a snail’s pace.  The editor looks over their work, makes some suggestions, sends it back to them.  They do a round of edits, send it back to the publisher.  I’m given to understand that this is often repeated over the course of months.  Then there is the cover art and the dedication, this and that and the other.

I’ve been told that between the time that a book is accepted and put out, it’s not uncommon for a year to pass.

I signed my contract about three months ago, and my manuscript will be a book within a few days.

How crazy is that?

To answer my own question, not half as crazy as I am.  As soon as I received the final FINAL draft of the book, I started questioning everything.  Is the book really ready?  Did I correct all of the mistakes?  Did I set up everything I needed to for the future books?

And, of course, most important of all:  Will anyone read this?

I mean, obviously somebody will.  I have friends who owe me favors.  I have relatives.  They have to read it.  They also have to love it, no matter what.  But will anyone else?