Writing–There’s Going to Be A Lot of Self-Publishing This Year

flame box elder penAs you most likely know, I published my first title of 2015 back in February (Hatchets and Hearts, in case you missed it) with the idea that I was going to use the same self-publishing schedule for 2015 that I used in 2014 (February, June, October).

Yeah, well, I’ve changed my mind as of now. I say as of now because we all know that I can, may, and most likely will change my mind another dozen times between now and next week.

However, the plan as of this hour will be to publish one of the anthologies next month (April) and then publish the last three Ivy Russell novellas in June, August, and October, and most likely putting the whole collection of novellas together for December.

Why?

Well, two reasons. One: This is all part of my goal to get stuff off of my To Do List. There’s no reason for me not to, especially since it’s not like if I publish these titles I’ll have nothing left. I still have another anthology I’m working on plus a several more novellas. I’m sure one of these things will be ready to publish by next year.

Two: There’s really no reason to mete out the Ivy Russell novellas over an extended period of time. Cheaters and Chupacabras sold a grand total of 12 copies so far.  May as well get them all out and be done with them.

(Not that I don’t like them or anything. I adore Ivy Russell and her friends. The four novellas ended up making an nice closed circle in my mind, ending any thought about whether or not I should write any more. This is just a business sort of decision.)

I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I should release The Timeless Man, The Odd Section of Town, and Firebugs and Other Insects individually or just put them together with Cheaters and call it good, but I figure I may as well give them a go on their own. Who knows? Maybe one of those stories will actually take off.

The anthology I’ll be publishing next month is called People Are Terrible and Other Stories. For the five people that bought Rejected, you’ll recognize six of the stories from that no-longer-available anthology (the other three will end up in the other anthology). But there’s six new stories and a novella, too. Fun for the whole family.

Provided the family can do PG-13 to R level stuff and likes horror.

Writing–Redoing Rejected

RejectedNow that I’ve released my second self-published anthology, I guess I should point out that my first self-published anthology is no longer for sale (so if you managed to be one of the six people that bought it, congratulations, you got yourself a collector’s item now).

I made the executive decision to pull Rejected. I actually did it late last year. I didn’t think anyone would notice.

It was my first go in self-publishing and I’m still proud of it. It helped me get over my self-publishing fears and take the plunge, and I’m glad for that. And it felt good to get those stories off my board and out to be read. It was a real accomplishment on several levels.

But.

It definitely shows that it was my first shot at not only putting together an anthology, but also doing a self-published project. I’m not a pro at this now or anything, but I feel like I’ve improved. And I want that anthology to reflect it.

You see, I still love the stories and I want them to be read, but they deserve better presentation.

I plan on redoing the anthology. Maybe not as a redux of Rejected, exactly (which makes the title of this post somewhat misleading), but definitely as something better, maybe with a few new stories thrown in. I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. By taking it off the market, I’ve kind of taken that first step.

If I don’t eventually follow through, I’m gonna look like a dick.

And the stories deserve better than a trip to oblivion because I’m a dick.

That’s what started this in the first place.

Writing–Cover Me

Gone MissingI think it should be obvious that I create my own covers for my self-published titles. I also think the reason for that should be obvious: I am poor. I don’t have the money to hire someone to create a cover and frankly, I don’t think my penny operation is really worth the effort of hiring someone to do the covers.

So that leaves me and I think I haven’t done too bad of a job of it.

For my first self-titled venture, Rejected, I just used a cover generator type deal and it actually came out pretty close to what I was hoping. Yeah, it’s plain and not exactly creative, but it served the purpose.

For Gone Missing, I actually lucked out a little bit. There’s a bit of my great-aunt’s backyard that looked to me like a spot of woods that might be lining the town of the missing. I took the picture, added the text, and ta da! Cover!

For Night of the Nothing Man I knew what I wanted and I knew I was going to have to draw it myself. I’m no artist, but what I had in mind was simple enough. I wanted a crude shadow of a man standing on a hill set against a white background. Again luck was with me because it only took me one try to get the drawing just as I wanted. Then it was just a matter of adding text and whatnot.

Night of the Nothing ManKnowing that I’m the one doing the covers presents some advantages and disadvantages. While I don’t have to worry about paying someone who delivers substandard work, late work, or no work at all, I do have to accept that my ideas aren’t always workable because the person executing the ideas (Me) has limited abilities.

I also have to accept that I don’t always have ideas.

I’m facing that particular problem right now. I’ve got two projects, a novella and a short story anthology, fit to publish and yet…no covers. I’m not exactly sure what I want to do with either of them. This is kind of a problem because I sort of have this idea for publishing deadlines for them, though I have more time with the anthology than the novella.

I just paused writing this entry for five minutes to think about possible covers.

It’s something that’s going to bother me, always simmering away in the back of my mind until suddenly, the good idea will come to me.

Then I’ll just have to worry about being able to do it.

Writing–I’ll Get It Right Eventually

English: Pen icon in red

I first got the idea for “The Backroom” about six years ago (has it been that long?). When I started writing the story, though, it ended up being something different. After a couple of rounds of revisions I re-titled it “Customer Service” and ended up self-publishing it in Rejected.

But the original idea, one that never really made it down on paper, stayed with me.  For my latest self-published anthology project (should it come to be), I decided to give it another go.

I wrote the first draft and typed it up. It was closer to my original idea than “Customer Service” ever was, but it still wasn’t there yet.

And so, I’m re-writing it. This time, I’m going to nail it. I swear. Really. It’s going to happen.

That happens sometimes. The transition from idea to written word doesn’t always go the way I think it will. Sometimes it works out in my favor and I end up with something better than my original idea. And sometimes it works out like “The Backroom”. “Customer Service” isn’t better than my original plan, just different. It doesn’t satisfy the thought bubble surrounding this story that’s floating around in my head.

This newest version of “The Backroom” idea is going to be the closest I’ve come to getting what’s in my head down on paper. It’s not exactly the way I want to do it, but it will satisfy the idea itch that I’ve been carrying around for years. It will likely be re-written again, if not heavily revised.

But that’s the goal, isn’t it?

Eventually, I’m going to get this story right.

Writing–Gone Missing: Another Self-Published Experiment

Gone Missing was a short story that went a longer than a normal short story and ended up becoming a novella. Once I was finished with it and had it revised and all polished up I went…”Okay, now what do I do with this?”

My first thought was to self-publish it as eBook, but then I decided against it. I thought I should at least give traditional publishing a try. So I looked into the possibilities, but couldn’t find anything that said to me it would be a comfortable fit. Remember, I’m that person that doesn’t want to waste anyone’s time so the criteria for a story has to match up damn near perfectly with what I’m trying to sell.

I debated on it for a bit and after an informal poll, I decided to bite the bullet and self-publish again.

My last self-publishing escapade, Rejected, was hardly a smashing success. It took nearly 10 months before I made the minimum through Lulu ($5) to get paid. I also ended up going through two different self-publishers (Lulu and Amazon) so I could get my book done in print and digital (Lulu covered everything but Kindle, which is why I had to go through Amazon). I still don’t think I’ve made $5 through Kindle sales. Self-publishing takes a lot of promotion and word of mouth and I’ll be honest, after about a month of it I felt like I was flogging a dead horse.

The idea of going at this all again was not an enticing one.

However, my ego driven need to be read proved too strong. Even without the informal poll of five people saying they’d read it if I published it, I knew that’s what was going to happen. Like going on the Tilt-A-Whirl after eating too much funnel cake. You know you’re going to puke, but you can’t resist the temptation to spin your car as fast as you can.

This time I chose to go through Smashwords. Several authors I follow on Twitter use it. It’s strictly eBooks and I wouldn’t have to go through more than one place for the novella to be available for different devices (distribution is a little different story). I felt like it would be a good fit.

So, we’ll see how this self-publishing run goes. I’m not expecting to make myself millions by this endeavor, but I’m curious to see if Gone Missing will be read more than Rejected just by going through a different self-publisher.

Don’t worry. Any downloads made after reading this blog entry will not be considered as tampering with the result.

Writing–Of Yard Sales and Self-Publishing

Yard sale on Green Street in .

I had a yard sale last Saturday. I spent a week getting everything together, cleaning it off, pricing it, and getting the word out. Come Saturday, I put everything out and put up the signs.

I sold exactly one thing, made 50 cents (which wasn’t even mine because the sole thing I sold was something of my dad’s), and got a sunburn.

As I was packing everything away feeling like a failure, I realized that this yard sale attempt was a lot like my self-publishing venture.

I put a lot of work into my little book of short stories. I edited them, formatted them (several different times depending on the requirements of the place I was publishing it at), designed the cover. I did my best to make it look as professional as possible. I put the word out.

And I’ve made about 10 bucks all told.

My biggest failure in both of these ventures was promotion. I didn’t have the money to take out an ad in the paper or  pay for the marketing services offered by Lulu. Instead, I relied on word of mouth and social networking. Which is fine. My reach is a bit limited, but it’s still a reach. I have to hope that the people I tell then tell other people who tell other people and the people being told come to my sale or check out my little book.

And that’s the problem with a limited reach. The people I tell don’t necessarily tell anyone else. They don’t always look at the book or even care about the sale. And the same can be said of the people they tell if they do bother to tell them.

Relying so much on other people when dealing with something as subjective as books or yard sales seems to be a recipe for failure on my part. I’m not a natural salesman and I don’t have a huge fanbase. I’m putting my success into the hands of people that don’t have anything invested in it. In fact, a few of those people probably would prefer that I fail.

It’s a frustrating thing for me as there are times when I’d really like to be in total control of everything to put so much in the hands of other people. But then, I’m also very good at sabotaging myself for various reasons and in various ways, too.

I tend to work myself into no-win situations. Like the yard sale, my self-publishing excursion was pretty much doomed as soon as I got the idea.

When you’re only as good as your reach, I’ve got short arms.

Writing–Rejected Motives

It’s time to come clean about Rejected.

While it was true that I self-published those nine stories to gain some experience in self-publishing and marketing myself and that I did want to put those stories to readers on why they thought the stories might have been rejected, I had another motive for publishing those stories.

I spent several years writing, revising, and submitting those stories, wash, rinse, repeat. While working full-time, my commitment to those stories was usurped in favor of a paycheck and the time and energy it took to maintaining it. When I finally decided to make a break for it and try to put together my own income through odd jobs, I came back to those stories and frankly, I didn’t like what I saw.

It’s not that I didn’t like the stories or thought that after several months of ignoring them that they suddenly became horrible. It’s just I was looking to make a new start. I wanted to start this go-round fresh. These stories were not fresh.

So I looked at them, arranged them, packaged them, and published them as much to put them out for people to read and judge them as I did to clear my own writing slate. Fresh start.

Not all of the stories written on that board during that time were wiped from that slate and put into that book. One of them, “Another Deadly Weapon”, was still out, waiting to be judged (it ended up being rejected). “Soul Sister” was finished, but isn’t a horror story, so it didn’t really fit in with the other stories, all of which are horror. “At 3:36” and “An Active Sleeper” were junk and not fit for publishing. So all of those stories ended up carrying over into this new go-round.

The mental effect of publishing those stories has been a great one. Those pressing weight of those stories, needy for homes of their own, aren’t crushing me anymore. They’ve got their home. Now I’ve got room, so to speak, to create new stories to try to house. That mounting pile of rejection has been swept out of my mental house. Now I can get to building a new pile.

I can always publish a sequel.

Writing–December Projects

After spending a month (okay, it was more like three weeks) with a novel, December is short story month.

I have three new ones I’m looking to write. “How the Night Haunts” will be a freebie for a the blog. “Anniversaries” and an as yet untitled one have no definite intention yet, but I imagine I’ll be trying to submit them whenever I deem them ready.

I also have three old ones that are in need of revisions. I need to rewrite “At 3:36” with the new angle and fix the ending of “Another Deadly Weapon” because I’ve never liked it. And then there’s “An Active Sleeper”, which needs something, but I’m don’t know what yet. All I know is I don’t think I’m achieving the affect I want. I’m guessing that one is going to be the big struggle of the month.

All of that, plus working on getting Rejected on Kindle should keep me plenty busy this month.

Writing–The Nightmare of “At 3:36”

Last week I wrote about how some stories seem to come to me as if by magic. That first draft comes so easily and requires very little revision to create a final project.

And then there are stories that are the bane of my very existence, the ones that I struggle with and can never seem to get them right no matter how much I mess with them.

All of my stories get revised. Whenever one of my short stories gets rejected, I always review it to see if there’s anything I can do to make it better. I admit that some stories get more than a little tweak after a rejection. Both “Erin Go Bragh” and “Elevator” (both published in my Rejection book) ended up getting significant rewrites more than once after being rejected. “Such a Pretty Face” required some serious work to get right.

But “At 3:36” is a story of a different beast.

It started off simply enough. I got an image of a scene in my  head, a woman looking out the window, watching as the world stops spinning for forty-five minutes at the same time over several days. I wrote it out, explored that scene, and came up with the first draft. The sticking point was that I didn’t want to explain why the world was stopping. It was just happening and the point of the story wasn’t that the world kept stopping and needed to be fixed (this isn’t a SyFy movie, after all), but how my main character reacted and dealt with this event.

But I couldn’t get it right.

No matter how I cut the story or rewrote it or change it (keeping two basic things intact: the world stopping its spin and the main character’s reaction to it), I couldn’t get the story to work. I couldn’t get it to feel right.

I go a lot by how a story feels. If I feel like I’ve told the story I want to tell and created the effect I wanted to create, then I’m satisfied and I can work on polishing and revising that story to make it the best it can be. I never got to that point with “At 3:36” and it was pretty disappointing.

The other day I was in the shower, letting my mind wonder over things I needed to work on, stories that needed to be told, money that needed to be made, the typical things that run rampant in my brain during my morning showers. It was during these mental gymnastics that the possible solution to my “At 3:36” story woes came to me. I think I’ve finally figured out how to fix this story once and for all.

I won’t know for sure until I actually do it, which won’t be until December due to Nanowrimo, but for the first time, I’m excited about this story.

Considering that I hated it as soon as I was done with the first draft, that’s a big improvement.

Writing–Not Quite Ready For Primetime

Earlier this month I invited people to pay some money to purchase a book of my rejected short stories and then give me their honest feedback about why they thought I couldn’t get anyone to publish them. Thankfully, nobody took me up on the invitation.

Why am I thankful for that?

Because despite trying to make this self-published venture look as professional as possible, I still made a boneheaded mistake that would make me look like anything but professional.

In reviewing my file to prepare it to be acceptible to distribute on Amazon, I realized that I had messed up the numbers on the table of contents. Okay, maybe it’s not an earth shattering mistake, but it’s still a stupid one and one I’m really embarrassed about and thankful that I caught.

But I should have caught it sooner.

The mistake happened because I’d originally set-up the book with a different template. I decided to go with a different one and switched everything over, neglecting to change the page numbers on the table of contents.

Even better is that I actually have a physical copy of the book and have looked at several times, but never caught the mistake.

It’s possible no one would catch the mistake, but that’s not the point. The point is that it never should have gone out that way and the fault is all mine.

I was in too much of a hurry. There’s a ticking clock in my brain that’s always telling me how behind I am and that I need to hurry. The sooner I get this book out, the sooner I can promote it, the sooner I can get the word of mouth going, the sooner I can build a fanbase, the sooner I can…the sooner I can…

I got ahead of myself. I rushed and I paid the price. Thankfully, not a heavy one. I’m embarrassed, but not nearly as embarrassed as I would have been if more people had bought the book before I caught the mistake.

This incident once again reminds me that nothing good comes of me rushing through something and I’m at my most dangerous when I think I know what I’m doing.