What I’ve Learned

In an interesting post today on G+ John Ward ask us “What have you learned, and where did you learn it?” He wanted sources. The idea is that others might learn from that source as well. It’s a fantastic idea, but I’ve got a LOT of sources, so I am going to list them here on my blog instead of in a reply on G+.

Self Publishing

So the big one, self publishing. I didn’t know self publishing was really an achievable goal until I ran into The Self Publishing Podcast. They introduced me to several other podcasts like The Creative Penn, Rocking Self Publishing, and The Sell More Books Show. All of them are fantastic resources on the publishing mindset, marketing, and strategies to get known.

Publishing the Traditional way

Before self publishing there was traditional publishing. I actually went through quite a bit of that back in 2000 trying to get that prestige. (I’ve had several articles and a short story published in magazines, mostly Queensland Fantastic that use to be in Australia.)

To figure out how to do all of this I relied mainly on one book. How to get Happily Published. It was the most informative step by step book, letting me know exactly what to expect, what steps I needed to take, some helpful suggestions on getting the words right, and how to format the manuscript correctly. Great resource, if you are going trade publish I highly recommend it. The Writers Guidelines is also useful to find various publishers/addresses/etc, but a lot of that is also available online.

World Building

I love world building. From sketching maps, to creating new races and creatures. I love building up a society from the ground, and making the world flow together. BUT! In order to do all of that you need to have some basis in reality to build upon. You need to know how land and weather work. How different ecology’s boarder each other, and creatures might develop in those places. You have to figure out how governments, religions, and societies work together.

The only classes I felt really helped me in college were the classes regarding history, and anthropology. But I’m not going to recomend you go to a college when you can learn the same thing via documentaries and books.

One of my favorite books about the simplest thing is Salt: A World History. It’s amazing how much of our history of exploration, war, expansion, and industry revolved around this simple mineral. On the same vein, How Beer Saved the World (video) shows how man may have gone from hunter/gatherer to agriculture because of this wonderful thing called beer. Again showing how the small things effect the grander scale.

I also enjoyed books on competitive religion, astrology, mythology, astronomy, physiology, economy, ecology…. Just everything. Non fiction books and documentaries are wonderful treasure troves when fleshing out how own world and I found that every time I read/watched something new I had a little tid-bit to add to my worlds. This isn’t something you get all at once, it is from a lifetime of gathering little bits of information. Watching, observing, and internalizing, and eventually it just congeals on  your own story. It isn’t as though I plan for certain aspects to come out, they just often are there and only later do I realize that it was inspired by a specific thing I read long ago.

I’m not sure what else anyone else would be interested in. If you have any specific thing you’re looking for a refrence for let me know, I might have come across it at one point.

Also, I do have a page of references available here with some other little things I didn’t mention.


I’m a book snob!

A few months back I got an email from Amazon reminding me that the book I pre-ordered is now coming out. I was kind of surprised. I don’t generally pre-order anything. But I looked up the book and discovered it was the XKCD hard copy of “What If?“, and thought I probably ordered it for my son (since he’s very sciency) so I kept the order.

I love the book and I’m glad I bought it. Every so often I pick it up and just read a few of the questions for those bite sized chunks of science in a slightly funny tone.

Then there was “Choose Your Own Auto Biography” by Neil Patrick Harris, “You’re Never Weird on the Internet” by Felicia Day, and “ASAP Science; Answers to the Worlds Weirdest Questions” by the guys over at ASAP Science. “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer. All of which are books I would love to read. All of which are books I don’t necessarily want to buy. At least not now at their price.

Most of these individuals made their name famous by doing things on their own. Felicia Day made a web series that is highly acclaimed on her own. ASAP Science is a well known youtube channel that they did on their own. Amanda Palmer has a fantastic music career that she became famous for ON HER OWN. And each of them went to a traditional publisher (or they were probably approached by the publisher) to do their book. Each time I heard this I was slightly disappointed. These well known figures who lead the “do it yourself” community … I guess I wouldn’t say they sold out, but they didn’t stick with the indie vibe that got them where they are today.

And I can’t say I fault the various authors for going with traditional publications. They get an advance, they don’t have to deal with editors, illustrators, formatters, etc, they don’t have to pay for everything up front. They just have to write it and hand it over and maybe go on some book tours. I get it, and I might even do it if I got a good enough advance (and liked the contract enough).

Besides the fact of losing their indie feel, there is the price of the books. $18 for print, $13 for ebook, and that’s with amazon’s discounts. “What If?” is a little older so there are used copies, but still… really? $13 for an ebook?

I think I’ve been spoiled having $2.99 to $5.99 ebooks. I look at those prices and think “If I buy that book that means I can’t buy the three other books on my wish list.” So they are sitting on my wishlist till the day they either go on sale, or I convince myself it’s alright to spend that much on a book. (Or maybe someone buys it for me for Christmas.)

Here’s the thing… I don’t even spend $15 on my video games very often. With Humble Bundles and Steam sales there really just isn’t a reason to pay more then $5 for most games. The few that I do get that are over $5 I wait till they’ve been out a while so I can see some game play, and hear some honest reviews about what the game is really like. I want to KNOW I will like the game before I ever spend the money on it. And the few AAA titles that were close to $60 when I bought them I had some hands on game time with before I ever purchased them. (Thank Star Wars Old Republic for that one. Bought it, hated it, and wasted $60 better spent elsewhere. Not doing that again.)

In an age where people increasingly have less and less money to spend on entertainment it makes no sense to keep pricing things at a premium all the time. (Especially things that are sometimes broken in the case of video games.) But as long as there are people willing to buy them at that price I guess it’s going to keep happening. I guess if I had more disposable income I would to.

Around the Web (and FREE)

footprintsminiToday marks the first day of “Footprints” being FREE. The story of a man who travels to his families cabin after his fathers death to deal with his loose. But there’s something out there in the woods. Find out what happens. It’s a quick read, and it’s free for this weekend.

And as a reminder you can get news updates every couple of weeks, and a free gift if you sign up for my newsletter here.

Now for the links for things going on around the web:

Give customers what they want. (A long, but really interesting article from Hugh Howey.)

Gumroad iPhone app that lets authors sell direct. (Droid is in the works!)

What happens to a traditionally published author when his publisher goes belly up?

How accurate are SF space battles? (video)

10 famous authors that failed before hitting it big.

 R.L. Stine wrote 420 books… I need to write more.

The small details in writing.


Around the Web

Some interesting things going on around the web this week.

authorearnings.com released a new report. Look for a “Indie News Bites” video tonight or tomorrow for my take on what this means. (Oh, and Hugh Howey already replied to some of the articles written refuting his newest report.)

Amazon changes royalties on ACX audio books. 

When It Comes To Women’s Writing, How Do Publications Stack Up? (hint, not well)

Book Bub most popular title trends in various genres.

Some of you might be interested in this man who did an AMA on Reddit, and because of his AMA he went to #300 in Amazon ranking. His cover is odd, to say the least, but people were interested and asked him questions, then bought the book.

Bitter writer suggests Rowling should hang up her typewriter… seriously? Because her books “suck up the oxygen from other writers”? How do you feel about Stephen King, Dean Kootz, or any other best selling author? Some of which died years ago, btw. /rant OH! And Anne Rice Responds

My Traditional Publisher Wish List

Today, on Reddit, someone said they were starting up a small publishing company, and wanted to hear from authors about what they would like to see in a publisher that would make them sign.

Here was my wish list:

As a self publisher I have to do everything myself or hire some one to edit, do cover designs, format, market, publicize, upload to all the stores, etc. Etc. Etc.

In exchange Amazon gives me 70% of every sale. They also give me data of every sale. Everyday. Online at the touch of a button. I get to set my own prices. And they offer me some plans for putting out free books, print books, audio, and translations (which I have to pay for, of course).

What I would want from a publisher, if I signed with one, would be all of that stuff (uploading, formating, editing, cover design, marketing, sales, etc) to be taken care of in exchange for giving up more of my royalties. I would also want higher royalties on ebooks then on print books. At least 50%. I know what I get for ebooks on amazon, and I know how much work goes into it after the initial set up (next to none), so I would expect for that to be taken into account. I also know publishers offset their overhead through ebook sales, so I would be willing to give up some, but not all, of my 70%.

I would also want transparency. An easy to read invoice showing how many books were sold, how many returned, prices, etc. Monthly online statements, and quarterly payments, monthly if possible. Direct deposit would also be helpful.

Also, I’d want a limited time contract. 5 years sounds about right unless renegotiated. That way if your not making money on it and you abandon it, then I still have a chance to use it for something.

I do not ever want to sign anything that says exclusive. Not for all my books, not for a genre, and not even for a series. They are my books, and I have to make the right choices for them book by book. But then again, if you’re doing a great job of selling and caring for my books, then of course I’ll come back to you.

And lastly, I want some clear sense of marketing. What are you doing for me that I can’t do, or hire out, for myself? What makes giving up my royalties worth while?

Are You an Elitist?

I read Jim C Hines post today in which he states “it isn’t an us vs them thing” (regarding self publishing verses traditional publishing).

I found the post through Reddit, and I agreed with it. As I commented on the post, Self Publishing is about giving authors options. The more options you have, the better decision you can make.

So I went into the comments on Reddit, and what did I find? Several would be authors saying how much better traditional publishing is. (Not a single one of them, from what I can tell, were published in any way.)

Sigh. You guys… you missed the point.

Not to say that self publishing doesn’t have it’s fair share of elitists. This thread was just filled with traditional publishing elitists.
“Self publishing is for people in a hurry to get published”… well, yes.
“Self publishing is full of rank amateurs.” Sure. So it everything else.
“SP is all drivel…” No. Just, no.

The route of self publishing isn’t better, or worse. It is what you make of it. How much time and effort you put in. How much insight you want to share. Or just plain fun.

It is an option that, by it’s very existence, gives authors avenues they did not have just ten years ago. It gives them the ability to stand up to a publisher and say “this contract isn’t good enough, I’ll do it myself.”

Now, is it right for everyone? Of course not. But that is up to the author to decide, not the mass of people on some shitty forum that can’t get their head out of their ass.

(Too far?)

Seriously, people. We have enough entitled elitists making rules for other people to live by. Just stop it. We defeated the gate keepers. We have open access to the world. But that doesn’t entitle us to be dicks about it.

“Don’t be a dick.” Wheaton’s law. Learn it. Live it. Good!

Who deserves the money?

A few days ago, Jim C Hines released his yearly statement on pay from traditional publishers. In response, Michael J Sullivan made this statement:

I really applaud Jim’s commitment with sharing income information. Back when I was unpublished I remember getting incredibly depressed after seeing his posts and the survey done by Tobias Buckell[1] about income and science fiction/fantasy writing.

I think it is important for people to understand just what the economic realities of this business are…

Nowadays I have a bit of a different perspective…I’m angry. Angry that someone like Jim could sell not one, not two, but three novels in a single year and still make, why I consider to be an incredibly small amount of money for the amount of work required to do so.

I’m angry he has to fit his writing around a day job. I’m angry that after 18 years and nine novels with one of the major imprints he’s made $33,598.19 last year and $60,800.

That’s just a part of what he had to say, and I admit, I agree with him. The major reason I don’t plan to go back to traditional publishing is the fact tat the royalties suck. A lot of the time you get an advancement, and never actually earn out for one reason or another, so you never get another dime. Plus you can’t go to Amazon, or B&N and see how many books you sold. You have no control over price, or sales. And if you want your rights back… well that’s not happening either.

But, I think placing all his anger on the publishing company is out of place.

How long have we had self publishing available? 70% royalties from Amazon, and we get to see everything. We have complete transparency, and ability to adjust everything the way we like. Not only that, but it’s been proven that you can make money that way. That you can gain fans, and become a best seller. That it is possible to do well, and that a hybrid model (publishing books in both traditional and self publishing) is the most effective way of getting your name out there, and getting paid.

And Mr. Hines doesn’t bother with self publishing.

To expect traditional publishing to change very quickly, after it’s been growing in momentum for the last few hundred years, is unreasonable. It’s like a train barreling down the tracks at high speed. It has a lot of weight behind it, and it is going to take a lot of force to stop it.

We, indie publishers, have added a lot of force to at least get them to change direction a little bit. They are bringing down some prices. They are starting to offer better deals to some of their writers, like letting them keep ebook rights. But it’s going to take a while to figure out the balance between traditional publishing and self publishing.

Ultimately, the power is in the hands of the authors. We can choose to go traditional, or we can choose to self publish. We have to weigh the cost and benefits for ourselves. Being angry at the traditional publishers for their lousy deals is like being mad at a train that won’t stop on a dime. They have only as much reason to change as we give them.

I’d also like to say we will probably be discussing this on The Self Publishing Round Table this Thursday at , so if you are looking for an interesting discussion of this, and other relevant topics, you should check that out this week.


I got my first payment from Amazon the other day. It wasn’t much, but it was nice to actually get something for all the work I’ve put into writing.

It made me feel validated that the thing I started is actually panning out. People actually like my writing, and want to read what I have to say. Not just read it, but pay for it.

Maybe it’s because I grew up without much money. Maybe it’s because I have gone without, and worked hard to get what I have. Who knows. Maybe it’s just my own ideals about money that make me feel this way. The idea that other people not only think my writing is good, but worth paying with their own hard earned money to read it… that gives me a big boost in confidence.

I know I don’t want to pay money for things I don’t like. Or even if something is just “eh” to me. But if I really like it, or the people behind it and want to support them because I know it’s a worthwhile cause, then I’ll part with some cash.

So, I’ve been extra productive this week. I will have all of my books out on Kobo by the end of the month, and hopefully three more stories (two shorts for Halloween, and then “Forgotten Ones”). One short is complete, just doing a final revision. “Forgotten Ones” is close. And the third, a YA Halloween short story, is half done.

The best news… I figured out how they beat the bad guy in “Forgotten Ones”. I was having a bit of trouble with that, but once I figured it out everything started flowing together.

So, to recap:
Paying for books is good.
It makes authors feel appreciated, and liked.
It encourages them to be more productive.
And reviews also help LOTS!

So go review or buy a book from your favorite author. They will really appreciate it. (Especially if it’s an indie where every sale/review counts.)

Around the Web

I stopped doing “Around the Web” segments on my blog because I started doing the “Self-Publishing Round Table”. Once we started focusing on writer related news it no longer made sense to also do a blog post.

But, I then stopped linking the show to my blog. I shouldn’t have stopped.

On that note… if you’d like to see the video you can get it here, on youtube. The video is also available to watch, along with the community commentary, on our podcast website.

If you’re only interested in the news, here are the links we talked about this week. 

 Tom Clancy died on Tuesday…

New global online bookseller that has ships worldwide, and has free shipping.

 Random Penguin says it’s still about the books…

Jeff Bezos shows shows off a new video tech support. (Kindle Fire)

The Alliance of Independent Authors warns about publishers using unscrupulous practices. (again!)

 Author pleads for readers to buy his books direct from publisher, not Amazon.

How KDP select might still work in some circumstances.

Why char-langs are so interesting, and fans LOVE them. (video)

Kobo on track to be a billion dollar company. I believe that is news.

 Scribd, Harper Collins team up to be an ACTUAL Netflix of books.

A blog that tracks indie book sales/placements.


And one we missed from the actual show:

What if writing was a competition?

Around the Web

The last few week’s I’ve been rather obsessed with trying to finished “Forgotten One”, not just the writing and editing, but the cover (which I hate so far) and everything else that goes with it. The only thing I have “finished” at the moment is the blurb that goes in the description field. Even that needs a slight tweak.

So, to take a break from wracking my brains over this, here is another installment of “Around the Web”.
In no particular order.

Infograph, Self Pub vs. Vanity Pub vs. Traditional Pub

Why one author turned down a publishing deal from Amazon (and from her blog, more)

25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author (which is quite funny, and has the same steps as a self pub from 1-9, then there are a lot fewer steps [editing, formatting, publishing, marketing] but equally as hard.)

10 places to get reviews on your book.

Balancing Work and Writing

25 Editing Tips.