in time for the holidays

I’d been thinking, for some time now about doing this – and having toyed around a bit with some cover art and designs, I’ve finally decided that I’m going to release an older novel of mine in hardback just in time for the holidays.

Now, this isn’t anything new – in fact, it’s been around the block a few times, even on this very blog. It’s an older novel called When The Stars Walk Backwards, and was featured right here, a chapter at a time, a little over a year go (give or take). In the past, I’ve gone as far as to make apologies for this novel, having written it so long ago, and having grown stronger as a writer since then. But honestly, I’ll never feel the need to apologize for the story I told, or the characters I created.

It’s not War and Peace, but it’s not heaving bosoms of lusty vampire angst, either.

It won’t be available on the Midnight Reading website, and it won’t be made available it eBook form (at least not right away). I don’t want anyone confusing this novel for something I’ve just written, and I don’t expect – honestly – many sales at all. Mainly I’m doing this for my own benefit, and making it available for those who have taken the trouble of asking me in the past.

So, for those of you who always had a soft spot in your hearts for When The Stars Walk Backward, you’ll be happy to know the hard cover will be available via Lulu shortly (I’m just working out some kinks and details in the design and back flap). For those of you who prefer not to sample my writing from 11 years ago, just keep enjoying In The Time Of Dying until something new comes out in 2010.

And in honor of Veteran’s Day here in America – everyone thank a service man or woman today. And if you’re a veteran, or currently serving in any branch of our fine Armed Services – I just want to say,

Thank You!

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

Give a Veteran some Tongue Today!

DRM in a couch cushion

For my fine ferreted friend Ed who was wondering what, exactly, is DRM – I figured a quick explanation might be in order.

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, but it may as well mean Don’t Read Me ! It’s a method of encryption that prevents a file from being user friendly, and assumes everyone in the three universes are criminals, hell-bent on breaking the law and stealing money right outta your pockets.

And I’m not really exaggerating, honest.

A file protected by DRM can’t be opened by other applications, shared with people freely and openly, or altered in any way, shape or form. It was created for the paranoid who believe that the internet was created for porn, the world is flat, the moon is made of cheese and everyone is a thief.

Lemme give an example:

You bought a book (let’s say my latest In The Time Of Dying) it’s big and thick and has a lovely cover (hey, it’s my blog) and you’re all excited about sitting down on the couch with a hot buttered rum, propping your feet on the coffee table and cracking that sucker open.

Only you get halfway in to Chapter 2 and the kids come running into the room and turn on the TV. They’ve brought a big bowl of popcorn and just slipped in the DVD of Transformers 2, in surround. Well you’ve been drinking hot buttered rum, which frankly would make anyone a little queasy around popcorn and kids, and Transformers 2 is so loud you can’t hear yourself think.

So you get up, gather your mug of rum and your copy of In The Time Of Dying, and head out to the other room. You get comfy in the recliner, take a sip of rum and . . . can’t open the book!

Try as you might, you can’t pry the cover open. It’s just a paperback! You haven’t had that much to drink! What’s going on? You shake it, you flip it back and forth, you try again, but it won’t open!

Then you notice a little tiny print warning on the back: “This copy for Couch Reading Only.”

You’ve purchased a book that you can ONLY read on the couch, in the family room. When your wife walks by, you hand the book to her and ask if she can open it, and she can’t. Then she notices the warning – this book can only be read on the couch. She doesn’t want to go near the family room and the Transformers 2 noise, so she carries your book to the living room and sits on the pretty couch you barely use, but she can’t open the book!

WTF? She’s on a couch! Why can’t she open the book? It says right there “For couch reading only” But then she has a closer look.

Apparently that copy of In The Time Of Dying (stop it with the plugs already!) is only for reading on the couch IN THE FAMILY ROOM.

Frustrated, you grab the book and storm back to the family room, ignoring the din that is Transformers 2 on the surround, sit down on the couch, and damn if that book doesn’t just flop right open to your spot in the middle of chapter 2! Now you’re so frustrated, your blood pressure went up and it’s clouding your vision just a tad. You don’t really want to go find your glasses, so you bring the book closer to your face to make the text larger and BAM! It pushes itself further back.

Seems you’re not allowed to increase the size of the text. And don’t even think about turning on that reading light! You didn’t purchase a lighting option!

Well that’s a right pisser, ain’t it?

If you’d downloaded a copy of In The Time Of Dying from Smashwords, you’d have a DRM-Free copy, that allows you to read the book on your laptop on the couch, or from your Kindle at the kitchen table, or on the toilet using your PDA. You could even read it on the bus from your smartphone.

AND – if you were to find it so entertaining that you simply had to share, and really felt like screwing the author out of her $1.40, you could email that book to your friend, who doesn’t have a Kindle or a PDA or even a smartphone, but he could read it on his Sony eReader or his desktop computer.

(or you could buy a hard copy and read it in the tub, on a plane, in the kitchen, in bed, in the car, on your easy chair, at your desk, in the waiting room . . . )

Many people believe DRM is the savior of the universe, and will bring an end to illegal file sharing. It prevents Joe from buying a book, reading it, then loaning it to Kim, Karen, Frank and Earl. It also prevents Joe from taking his Kindle eBook and reading it on his laptop. Or taking his PDA-copy and sending it to his crackberry.

The rest of us see DRM as the most user un-friendly way to alienate your reading public.

Everyone has their own opinion, and should. But for me, it was very important to find a way to offer up my work in a DRM-Free environment. Does it mean sometimes people who didn’t pay for my book will get copies?

Sure.

Do small children steal candy? Yes.

Are all children candy thieves?

Obviously not. And having previously stated that I’m not writing for money, I can reiterate here that it means more to me to have Readers than Buyers. I wouldn’t post my work for free on the internet if writing for money was my only goal. I WANT Joe to buy a copy of the eBook In The Time Of Dying, fall in love with it, and loan it to Kim, who sends it to Karen, who emails it to Frank who has to share it with Earl. Because out of those four who’ve just read it without paying me, maybe one of them will love it so much they’ll buy a hard copy for themselves, or as a gift to someone else.

Of those four who’ve just read it for free, maybe three of them will come back and read my other work. Maybe two of them will follow me, and read new work as it’s published.

And maybe they’ll tell two friends, who tell two friends . . .

The music industry wasn’t prepared for the internet, and the resulting implosion created a thing we call Digital Rights Management.

In the publishing industry, it might as well stand for Don’t Read Me

totally smashed!

So this week, just a couple of days ago, I signed up with Smashwords and published In The Time Of Dying through them as a cross-platform eBook, completely DRM-free, and I gotta say, it couldn’t have been easier.

All you have to do is sign up for an account – completely free – then read their formatting guidelines. It’s very important that you follow the formatting guidelines to the letter, in order for your eBook to work in all formats and have the professional, readable image you’re striving for.

The guidelines are a snap for anyone at all familiar with writing. Honestly, it’s just a matter of stripping your document of all the formatting garbage that Word has piled on, which can be done two ways:

Follow their step by step process to identify formatting issues and alter them one at a time.

OR

Copy and paste your entire Word .doc into Notepad and then back again to Word, then add the required front copyright notice and edition page. Notepad, or Wordpad will strip all the formatting right out of a document for you.

After that, you simply log in to your Smashwords account, publish your document, add a cover and some descriptive information, chose how much of your work will be offered as a free sample – the default was 50 percent, but I switched mine to 25. I figure if they wanna read it for free, it’s on the webpage.

In your Smashwords account, you can upload a profile image, and type in your biography, even direct people to your website or your Lulu account where they could purchase hard copies of the work.

You also set the price, just like Lulu they’ll show you right away what portion they’re keeping, so you can adjust the price accordingly. And since it’s a non-exclusive contract, I kept the eBook price there the same as at Lulu, so neither are in competition for price.

After that, it’s just a matter of giving Smashwords some payment information – they’re perfectly happy sending money to your Paypal account – and you’re set.

You can view how many times your sample has been downloaded, how many sales you’ve made, and you’ll get to see what other author profiles were looked at by people who’ve read yours.

It’s interesting, useful for us Indy authors, and I was making sales the very next morning. If your work qualifies (and in order to qualify you simply follow the format guidelines, provide a professional-looking cover art and own the work) then you’re listed in the Sony e-reader catalog.

But the best part about Smashwords is, not only do they create an eBook for the Kindle, the Sony eReader, the iPhone and Smartphones, they’re also – all – completely DRM-Free. Eventually I plan to have all of my novels available through Smashwords, so they’re more widely available and freely distributed.

When you’re an Indy, you need to utilize every avenue available for marketing and getting your novel out there, to the reading public, making the purchase of your book as effortless as possible. So far, Smashwords seems to be a fine addition to any Indy tool box.

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

Did I just step in cat yak?

Power to the people

Aka: My final decision on ISBN’s

So this weekend, in case you didn’t realize, I’ve published my newest novel In The Time Of Dying. I went the usual Lulu route, and I’m also going to try Smashwords for the eBook as well as Lulu.

I sat down on Saturday to create the hardcopy, and decided I was curious enough to see what it would be like to choose the Lulu option of a free ISBN (owned by Lulu) so as I was preparing to upload the formatted file, I clicked that box instead of the usual. At first, it all seemed very normal. They wanted me to read the licensing agreement that said Lulu would be the owner of the ISBN assigned to my novel, and while I would own the novel and all the rights, the number would always be theirs.

This wasn’t news. I knew this, and I’ve discussed it here at length. There are pros and cons to taking this approach, and neither one is right or wrong – it’s a personal choice.

So to further my curiosity, I picked the option that would put my novel out in the wilds of the Bookselling Marketplace. And by that, I mean any retailer dumb enough to be willing to stock or order it !

Things were moving along just fine. I was a little peeved by Lulu’s insistence at this stage that I would have to purchase, review, and approve my hardcopy before it would be made available – due to the ISBN assignment and all. The reason that peeved me was because I wanted it released NOW, and had been too busy to get this done any sooner.

But then it happened. I’d reached the stage of setting the price and I was confronted by a real surprise.

Because assigning an ISBN would place my novel in the general Marketplace, where retailers could order it – and return it – and discount it – and offer it up for whatever price they felt like it – – the list price to sell my 665 page Trade Paperback would be no less than $34.95.

WTF?

Yeah, $34.95 for a Trade Paperback, 665 pages.

Oh, sure, they’d automatically granted me a profit of $13.40 whether I wanted it or not, but they’d given me no option to remove that, which would have altered the final sale price. No, they set that all in stone, and when I clicked the “What’s This?” link I was directed to a very convoluted, and frankly confusing, explanation of Retail, Remander, Returns, Sale Prices, Discounts, Profit Margin, and I’m pretty sure there was a line in there about blood, turnips and first borns.

My momentary freak-out included a panic that Lulu had undergone some sort of catastrophic change in pricing, and that a novel I would have priced UNDER $20.00 would now, regardless of choice, be sold at prices even I wouldn’t pay.

Fearing that was the case, I backed all the way out of there, started again from scratch, and followed my routine – choosing NO ISBN at all, like all the others. I followed my usual steps, and when I finally reached the pricing section I was once again in familiar territory.

So long as I did not want my book to contain an ISBN of my own or Lulu’s possession, and so long as I didn’t care if Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Joe Blow’s Books and Tea Emporium could stock, discount, or return my novel – I could price my lovely little Trade Paperback of 665 pages at a modest $19.05

What does this all mean?

Well, I’ve made my decision about ISBN’s for one. They’re an antiquated tracking system designed for the “man” to keep track of things hardly anyone keeps track of any longer. They’re markers of a dusty system that is going to have to grow with the times, or find itself obsolete.

Which is to say, I’m not interested.

I can’t see what an arbitrary number will do for me, aside from forcing me to charge ridiculous prices for my novels and ensuring zero sales. Or offering up a profit margin for booksellers who can then return the purchase for full refunds. ISBN’s don’t guarantee sales, or reviews, or even any sort of respect.

Low prices and well written novels are the only avenue to sales and building readership. Consistency and reliability garner return visits, quality stories win a writer respect. So from this lesson, I’ve come to the definitive conclusion that ISBN’s are not for me. I’m going to remain fully and completely Independent. Forging my own way, good, bad or indifferent.

Your mileage may vary

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

Buy my new Book!

new release!

Timesmall

Earth was used up, and humanity had a choice – leave, or perish. And so they left, in great ships full of colonists and scientists, with soldiers to protect them all.  Hurling through space in a timeless sleep. Waiting for the ship’s computers to find their new home and wake them.

But when they wake, they realize things have gone horribly wrong. They aren’t where they should be. The ship has malfunctioned and landed them on an alien planet not even on the charts. A world bathed in permanent darkness due to an unusual orbit.

After a single night of fire, death, sabotage and destruction, this world is now their home.

They’ll have to make a life here without going mad in the eternal darkness. A task made even more dangerous when they realize they’re not alone.

Buy the book, or read Online as chapters are posted.

a scary story

It was Spring, 2009, and my body was beginning to do things I didn’t much care for, but like most of us tend to do, I chose to ignore it for a while. “It’ll clear up,” I figured. Only three months later, when it hadn’t, I decided it was foolish of me to be avoiding the doctor, after all – I have excellent health insurance.

So in I went, and after a few rather unpleasant tests, and what turned out to be a smooth surgical procedure (one of those nice day-surgery visits) I was on the road to recovery.

What I hadn’t counted on were the biopsy results. Early Stage Endometrial Cancer, is the fancy description they gave me, and while I spent a solid 24 hours in a slight panic, after talking to my doctor the next day I was relieved to hear that they might have already removed it all during the procedure. All I needed to do was return in six months for another biopsy, and if it’s coming back, a nice tidy hysterectomy should take care of things. If it’s not returning, another six month check would be in order, but it was likely I’d dodged a bullet, as it were.

So I relaxed. In the past two years, I’ve had friends and in-laws diagnosed with some pretty terrifying cancers, a few have died, a few are terminal, and just that word – CANCER – was enough to unnerve me.

But then, not even a month later, my sister confessed to feeling a lump in her breast. She’s unemployed, and has no insurance at all, and had been pretending it wasn’t there for three weeks until she finally couldn’t stand the stress any longer.

We decided to remain calm, but we couldn’t ignore this. Our mother had pre-cancerous cysts and a double mastectomy in the early 1980’s and we knew these things could turn serious. So she went to see her doctor, and we paid out of pocket for an exam, then found out that she’d need a mammogram and ultrasound – and they’d “go from there.”

Well there was nothing else we could do, we’d have to get her the tests and pay out of pocket.

So she went in. The two tests would come to $400 and they only needed a $100 initial payment. We knew if there would be a biopsy required, that could run us into the thousands, but after some worried consideration and final resignation, we knew that if the clinic would allow us to make payments, we’d get by.

And sure enough – the tests showed a solid mass that would require a needle biopsy for further evaluation. Her doctor phoned up, and told us that just to see the specialist – just to walk in the door – would run $700. Not including the procedure, or the lab. And if this turned out to be cancer, we were looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars out-of-pocket.

That sent us reeling a bit, I don’t mind admitting. With her on unemployment, I’m the sole bread winner, and while we’re getting by, we’re not exactly as comfortable as we’re used to being. But what could we do?

That’s when her doctor really came through. She told us that thanks to the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Society, the mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy would be covered through the Health Department. Then, if the results required further surgery, she would be referred to Swedish Hospital here in Seattle where everything would be paid for.

The next week was filled with some tension. She had to make an appointment with the Health Department to meet with a Nurse Practitioner and fill out paperwork, in order to qualify for the free care she had to prove she was unemployed and had no source of income beyond unemployment checks.

That done, she was scheduled for a biopsy the following week.

Seeing how nervous she was, and knowing how nervous I’d felt myself, I took to assuring her of all the things this could turn out to be. After all, there are a number of reasons for a woman to find a lump or abnormality in her breast, most of which are NOT cancer. Women can form various cysts, or fibrous tissue, clogged glands, simple infections. There was no reason for us to panic, I told her many times. This was a single lump, very shallow, located just under the skin, and it would turn out to be nothing.

I spent that week convincing her we had nothing to worry about. Then, I used this little scare to finally go in and have my own very first mammogram. My doctor had been urging me to do this for years, and I admit I’d been avoiding having it done simply out of fear that they might find “something” and I’d have to deal with it.

I knew, for years, I wasn’t going to be able to deal with it. So I let ignorance be my bliss. There were no lumps, I told myself, my self-exams were always normal. My yearly physicals were always normal. Nothing to worry about, right?

So out of solidarity, while we awaited my sister’s appointment, I went in for my first mammogram.

I was nervous, I admit. After changing into the gown, the technician took me into this little room, with dim lighting, lovely photos of roses on the walls. There was soft mood music playing, and thick, pretty curtains covering the window, all designed to keep the patient calm and relaxed. The technician was very personable, explaining everything she was doing. I calmed down quite a bit, and we chatted while she took the images. It’s not a pleasant experience, but it’s certainly tolerable for the few seconds it takes.

Afterward, as I sat in the dressing room waiting to hear if the images were good enough, I felt very calm and rather pleased with myself for finally having done it. I knew, in the back of my mind, that breast cancer is more and more a survivable thing. And that early detection, as in all cancers, is the key. I also knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there was nothing wrong with me. After all, I’d just been told a few weeks ago that I had early stage endometrial cancer, so nothing else was going to happen.

One cancer’s enough for anyone, right?

A few minutes later, I was told the images were fine, and that I’d be called the next week if the doctor wanted more images, otherwise I could come back in two years.

Happy, and feeling pleased with my own sense of bravery, I left, and for the rest of that weekend continued to assure my sister that she had nothing to worry about. We figured she’d have her biopsy, find out it was benign, and then relax and enjoy the Fall.

Then I got a phone call.

They wanted me back to have another look at “something” they found on one side. So I made an appointment for the next week, and then went all white.

I remember feeling cold, and scared, and then for a couple of hours my brain just went wild. I began to quickly research what this could mean, and ended up on way too many cancer websites, painting myself a terrifying picture of what the future could hold.

It was easy to ignore the nurse’s words on the phone “This does not mean you have cancer, it could be any number of simple things.” And it was even easier to ignore all the information I was finding that told me, first and foremost, not to panic. But slowly, over the next few hours, it did begin to sink it. I realized I couldn’t very well try to convince my sister she had nothing to worry about if I wasn’t willing to believe that myself.

So I put it aside, as best I could, and eventually the time came for my sister’s biopsy. Our mother came along, nervous as she could be, and I’d already decided I wasn’t going to tell her about my call-back. It was enough to deal with, having her upset over one daughter, there was no sense bothering her with another when it all might well be nothing.

My sister’s biopsy went just fine, and she was given a 3-4 day wait for the results. So we returned to our habit of assuring each other these things were nothing, just benign little growths, and we’d be just fine. But then Wednesday rolled around and it was time for me to go in and get more pictures done.

I was slowly freaking out, I admit, and by the time I was sitting in the dressing room waiting, I was pretty stressed. The technician took two more films, and I sat and waited to hear if that was enough, my mind racing and trying hard to think of the novel I’m writing, or the pendants my sister was making at home, anything but what was going on. Then the technician came in – the doctor wanted two more films – so we did it again, and again I sat waiting.

I soon grew tired of toying with my fingernails, so I found a tie on the gown I was wearing and started to wrap that around a finger, over and over, back and forth, concentrating on nothing at all and everything I could think of. Any second now, she was going to come in and tell me it was all good, they’d finally seen that there was nothing there, and I could go home.

Any second now.

I’d be on my way home.

Then she came in – he wanted two more films, a slightly different angle. The stress was starting to really get to me. Why couldn’t they see what they were looking at? What was taking so long? Was there something there, or not?

I played with the little tie some more, felt a little faint off and on, started to worry a bit. Then she came back in.

“We need to do an ultrasound,” she said. “There’s something there they just can’t get a good look at. But don’t worry, just breathe, try to relax, it’s probably nothing.”

“Probably nothing,” I told myself as I got dressed, then waited for another technician to come take me to the ultrasound room. Once there, it was disrobe again, and let a student come in to watch. Oh joy. At least this time I could see what they were seeing, a little black circle on the ultrasound screen. Just barely under the skin, and completely contained.

A cyst? Well, maybe. Although . . . So the doctor comes in, and he has a look, also not completely sure what he was looking at, although he kept telling me it could just be a cyst or something similar.

“We need to do a needle biopsy,” he says finally, “So we’ll schedule you for next week. Could be a cyst, could be a cancer, but it could be a cyst. Although it might be a cancer, but it could be a cyst. There’s no ductile involvement, so it hasn’t gone anywhere else.”

My head was spinning. It’s like they want you to realize this could be something, but they’re required to reassure you that it could be nothing. I made it home and told my sister, and we both agreed it was best not to tell our mother. After all, it could still be nothing.

Today she got her results.

My sister has breast cancer. She’s at the Health Department as I type this, filling out some paperwork in order to get referred and have the costs picked up by the Department of Social and Health Services.

So how does this scary story end? I don’t know yet. It’s still in the making, so tune in at the end of the month, and I’ll finishing telling the tale. In the meantime, in honor of Cancer Awareness Month – get tested.

Man or woman, get tested. Early detection really IS the key to a cure. Awareness is Knowledge, and Knowledge is Power.

smash it up

So this morning, as I was doing my morning routine ‘net wanders to check up on news and happenings around the interwebbies, I found myself once again directed over to Smashwords – and online self ePublishing site I’ve glanced briefly at before.

The news article that drew me there was some sort of agreement Smashwords has with the Sony eReader and eBookstore which, honestly, for the most part just rolled over my pre-coffee brain as rather unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

As much as I am, and do, feel strongly about eBooks being a huge portion of the future of publishing, I’ve been wary of much of the news concerning them as pertains to we Indy folk. Mostly because of the whole DRM and Kindle kerfuffles out there that get in the way of an Indy author handing his/her work across the lines to the general public.

Much has been made of Smashwords since it first hit the scene, and many touted it as some kind of bonanza to the Indy publishing author – a quick route to eReaders, fame, fortune, bla bla bla.

Don’t fall for the hype. Smashwords is, at best, another tool we can harness in our arsenal and stuff in our belts. The appeal I’m taking notice of is the power they have of taking your eBook and formatting that file into every version out there. Kindle, PDA, smartphone, etc. which will increase your chances of finding readers. They offer a contract of Non-exclusivity, so you can still put your title out via Lulu, sell it on your web, hand it out on the street corners. They offer a comprehensive formatting guide that must be followed to the letter in order to give your eBook the best chance across platforms, and if you follow those formatting guidelines then Yes, your eBook will be available to people who use the Sony eBookstore.

They do swallow a percent of sales, looks to be about 15%, which is no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Price your eBook at $2.00 a pop and they’re keeping .30, but you’re taking home $1.70.

I’m bringing out my newest title tomorrow evening, and I’m going to give Smashwords a try for the exposure. I’ll let you all know how it goes, if it was easy to do, if I see any results, etc.

But just as with Lulu or any other formate, venue or avenue out there, it’s all going to come down to advertising – and Indy or Traditional (like it or not), that’s all on the author’s shoulders. Smashwords won’t help me one iota if I’m not out there advertising on sites, spreading the word, and telling anyone and everyone who’ll listen that I have a book I want them to read.

I had great success using Project Wonderful, and this Friday I plan to do another advertising blitz, not only for Midnight Reading, but also for my lapidary business, Fable’s, and the new online store at www.Fables.artfire.com

Which is a subtle way of saying, HEY – I’m selling agate and jasper pendants online, check me out! Jewelry and Jewelry-making components just in time for the holidays.

That’s me, Ms. Subtlety.

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

OMG, Christmas is only 85 days away!

a free-for-all

As an Indy Author, my novels are mine to control, completely, from head to toe as it were. I can use a POD like Lulu, I can create eBooks, I can post them for free on my website, I could even print them on toilet paper and hand them out to the homeless if I wanted.

And I do, all of the above, except the toilet paper thing.

Every now and then I’ll see a comment from a Traditional, bashing writers who “give it away” and curse how they’re ruining everything by giving publishers the wrong impression of what writing is worth. And I admit, these comments used to torque me, until I realized – after a friend explained it – that I’m taking it the wrong way.

That’s when it occurred to me the big difference between Giving it away, and Writing for free.

Giving It Away is what I’m doing every time I post a new novel online, to be read at no cost, by anyone who happens by. It’s something I do willingly, and with enthusiasm. I’m not seeking publication in a traditional sense, I’m secure and happy and doing my own Indy thing. I’m not even swimming in the same pool as the Traditionals who are writing articles for magazines or publications. I have my own floaties, and there’s no lifeguard.

Writing For Free is a whole other animal – and one that has no logical reason for being, y’ask me. This is when you’ve written an article, short story, or perhaps even a novel, and submitted it to a traditional publication of some sort, and had them explain to you that their method of payment is actually nothing more than “exposure.”

As a friend of mine likes to say, “exposure is something you die from”.

Too many small ePublications and magazines seem to think so much of themselves that they honestly believe just publishing your piece with them is such a high honor, you should bend over backwards and be grateful for the chance to be SEEN within their pages! After all, they have a circulation of (if they’re honest with themselves, about 10) and you should be thanking THEM.

If you’re a Traditional, and you write to be paid, why would you stand for this? You wouldn’t. So if you’re a Newbie, seeking traditional publication/payment for your writing – Don’t.

Don’t assume that because you’re new, or haven’t built your resume yet, that they’re doing you a favor. Try switching out “exposure” with “dying in the wilderness due to a lack of adequate clothing or gear.”

“I’m happy to inform you that your submission has been accepted! Now, as I’m sure you’re already aware, we don’t pay our writers cash. We offer them the opportunity to die in the wilderness due to a lack of adequate clothing or gear. So just sign here . . .”

Sounds a tad less exciting when put that way, doesn’t it?

So if your goal is to be paid for everything you write, and you’re seeking Traditional publication – don’t settle for less.

By the same token, don’t assume those of us who happily Give It Away are ruining the party for the rest of you, or doing so because “well, no one pays for writing anymore.” It’s Apples and Oranges here, folks. Over here in this pool, we’re twisting to a different tune. We’re not concerned with traditional publications, or taking up space in the magazines. We’re not the cause of the proliferation of douchebags who feel you should accept death-by-wilderness as payment for your work.

If you don’t want to give away your work, don’t. But you can’t blame us when you fail to find a market that pays cash, which is just as good as money.

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

This granola tastes like ass.

greed

Contrary to that movie line, Greed is NOT good. We’ve all seen what greed has done to our nation – and our jobs, bank accounts and retirement funds – Greed caused the Second Great Depression.

Well Greed, when applied to an Indy or Self publishing writer, will also cause a Depression. One in which no one buys your books.

I’ve seen it happen quite a lot, when an author is using, for instance, Lulu to POD their titles. You’ll see it when you find a 200 page book going for $24.95 or some other ridiculous sum designed to give the author a profit of well over $10.00 per title.

That’s Greed.

When you reach the end of your design process with Lulu – and I assume it’s the same with all the PODs – you get to the point where you set the purchase price of your book. They show you what it costs, then give you a little square to add your author slice, and the calculator neatly displays what the purchase price will be for the public to buy a copy of your book.

Naturally the more pages you have, the more expensive it is to print. So a nice, thick, 400 page book is gonna end up in the $13.00 or $14.00 neighborhood. If you were to assume your efforts and creativity are worth a solid ten bucks per reader – you’ve just priced a 400 page paperback novel at $23.00 or $24.00.

Now ask yourself – do I honestly think someone’s going to pay that ?

Would YOU?

Go to your local Barnes & Noble and wander around the hardback new releases. See those popular titles with price tags of $24.95? Not only is that a hardback, but it’s an established author with a big name publishing company behind it, probably sitting nicely atop the NYT BS list, or there’s a photo of Oprah holding it.

Well, until you’re on Oprah’s summer reading list, you’re gonna need a cold shower and a serious reduction in expectations. No one knows you, you’re using a POD to expose your novel to the world, and while it just may BE the next great American novel, no one’s gonna find that out if you’re pricing yourself out of the market.

Even your average midlist traditional author is only making a few cents for every book sold. This is why they have day jobs. Now, I don’t have overhead – I don’t have to pay a cover artist, or an editing staff, or see an agent take a big cut. And I don’t have to see portions of my profits pay for the running of a publishing house from the top exec down to the mail boy. So in the interests of full disclosure, I can admit that I make exactly $1.00 for every book I sell.

One Dollar. That’s more than traditional authors make per unit, but I’m not selling nearly their volume, or having ninety percent of each sale pay so many other people.

When I reach the final stage in my production line at Lulu, I take whatever their flat cost is, then I add one dollar, and that’s the price of the book. Am I making any money? Yeah, I am. Is it a lot? Of course not. Remember, I also let readers enjoy these novels online for free if they prefer not to send me any money.

Am I having a great time, enjoying an extreme sense of self-satisfaction, and basking in the light of my personal happy place?

Damn straight, I am.

If you’ve gone Indy, or you’re considering it, just remember – You’re going to get out of it exactly what you put in. Hard work, research, experimentation, writing, careful edits, and pride all pay off in the end. But sometimes the currency isn’t what you expected.

Power to the People!

Make Love, not War!

Is that the Sale Price?

ad-lib, week 1

Okay, so it hasn’t quite been a full week yet since I started my foray into advertising, but I have some interesting results to report on.

I got my first ad up and running at noon on Thursday, being the high bidder for an online comic that enjoys very high daily numbers, and immediately began to see a change in my own site views. Within a few hours, I saw a marked increase in my own stats.

Within twelve hours, my site views had increased by three hundred percent.

In twenty four hours, that average held, and some sales came through, as well.

By Saturday, I was holding steady with a daily improvement of three hundred percent per day unique page views, and a small handful of hard-copy sales. So I added another site, using the smaller banner ad, but had some difficulty being the high bidder. One site continually outbid me, and on both I had to wait for approval by the site owners.

By Sunday, I was high bidder on one other site for about three hours, then lost the space, but gained exposure on a third, which I then lost a few hours after that. Although I did notice a few hits coming in from those two sites, I found a fourth to bid on by Monday and have seen marked interest in click-throughs from them.

While mulling over the whole affair, I ran out of paid exposure on the original site but still have exposure on the fourth choice – my stats are holding, but I’m beginning to develop a strategy.

The two sites that gave me the most bang for my buck – resulting in dramatically increased readership and several hard copy sales – are one online webcomics. I’d been contemplating changing my plans, and trying to spend more money on a single, expensive-to-bid-for site hoping for a massive wallup over the course of, say, a day or two. It would cost minimum around $10-20 / day of exposure, so I could only afford a day or two on that experiment.

But I’m starting to think the less expensive, longer running ad space is more profitable, in the grand scheme of things.

My first, most productive ad has run out, so right now I only have a banner at one smaller online comic – I’m seeing results from them on par with those of the larger web comic, so I’m going to hold steady and let that ad run its course without adding another one to the mix, for at least the rest of this week.

I’m curious to find out if the new readers I’ve gained will stick around, hopefully add Midnight Reading to their regular visits, maybe tell a friend, etc. I’d like to see if my readership levels maintain at this higher number without running new ads, or if they begin to decline. With the premier of my latest novel, In The Time Of Dying, coming out in October, I’d like to see numbers high enough to spread the word and generate sales, or at the very least garner some new, weekly readers.

It’s very interesting, using Project Wonderful. I have to say it’s very easy to use, and well laid out. Took me a few minutes to really gain my footing there, and I’m still learning how best to utilize the auctions, but I’m getting the hang of it. Oddly enough, it’s a tiny little bit like playing the stocks – you find yourself checking numbers, predicting outcomes, spotting trends.

As you’d expect, the sites available that have the most viewership are also the most expensive to bid on, and no matter how high you do bid, you can still easily be outbid by someone more savvy. Once you place a bid, if you’re approved right away, you also find out right away if you were the high bidder. If not, you can change your bid, or just hang on and wait until the higher bid expires. I’m finding I get a lot of notices of being outbid, then instantly being the high bidder again – I believe that’s due to the maximum amount I have set – a new bidder might go above what I’m paying now, but then my maximum kicks in and I oust them.

Like I said, I’m still learning the ropes here, and collecting the data – but I can say without doubt that buying ad space, and using Project Wonderful to do it, is worth the time, effort and slight expense to anyone looking for increased exposure that may lead to sales and return visits.  You only spend what you’re willing to spend, and you can rest assured if your ad runs, the expenses will not exceed what you’ve designated. You can track how much you’ve spent, and what’s left in your account – you can add or subtract using Paypal.  And frankly, it’s kinda fun.

I was, and am, pleasantly surprised.

Power to the People!

Make Love, Not War!

Do I get a discount if I’m paying cash?

%d bloggers like this: