Sunday, November 21, 2010

On Becoming Published

Anyone who is published already will sooner or later be asked by someone else, "How can I get published too?" Sometimes it's a subtle hint (e.g. "I'm a writer of blank genre, as yet unpublished..."). Sometimes it's a blatant ("Hi [fill-in-famous-name], can I send you my unpublished novel so that you can help find a publisher?"). While the request is polite and seems reasonable since the sender is doing their best to allow said famous person to easily decline, yet it is an obligation put on that person just by asking. It becomes something that they have to deal with either through significant personal effort most, or by trying to let the requestor down gently in that they really can't do what is being asked of them. The good news is that – with a little flexibility – getting published is easier now than ever before. That little flexibility that I'm speaking of is in how you decide that you must be viewed as an author.

We tend to have different goals in how we'd like to be seen as a writer. Selena Kitt, for example, of eXcessica Publishing which has published a number of my titles wanted to get her work for sale on Fictionwise (the largest eBook retailer of that time) without having to deal with publishers who didn't see a sufficient market for it to offer to publish it themselves. She believed in the value of her own writing, found out from FW what their requirements were to be able to distribute on their site (a minimum of 25 available titles from at least 5 published authors to start with) and started soliciting friends and contacts to put together the necessary package. She succeeded well and eXcessica Publishing currently has over 100 contributing authors with over 400 titles in print at this time. They release 4 new titles every week and are booked out a year in advance.

My initial goal was to see my work distributed on, The World's Biggest Bookstore. I felt if I had my titles for sale there then I had "made it" by my definition. And this is where you have to decide what your expectations for your writing really are.

Some writers feel that they can't accept anything less than a high-powered agent, a fat advance, and hard cover publication by one of the Big Six publishing houses (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Group, Random House, and Simon & Schuster). If that is your dream I won't tell you not to go for it because people do succeed at doing exactly this – but success is likely a long and difficult patch to achieve, even for those already with such publishing credentials. To take this route, finish your novel, including rewrites, and get it into acceptable standard manuscript form. Some very good tips on doing this can be found without needing to be a member at the SWFA (Science Fiction Writers of America) website. Start with the information on this page: and continue on with their warnings and further information here: Once you have that, start soliciting agents. I'd say start at the top and work your way down because why would you ever want to start at the bottom and possibly be accepted by the first person you send it to?

Then there are writer's groups. Yes some groups that you may wish to join are rather high and mighty about what they feel qualifies as "publication", SFWA among them as evidenced here: . If you want to be part of that circle you'll need to play by their rules.

Or you can decide that you write to please yourself rather than some elitists (defined as anyone who doesn't think that you’re a real writer yet) and never worry about what "qualifies" you to be a writer in someone else's view. That is a decision each individual person needs to make for themselves.

Your next option for publication is a whole raft of smaller publishing houses with a track record that can be viewed before you try submitting to them. The smaller houses – independent publishers if you prefer – may specialize a single, or a small number of, genres that are overlooked by the Big 6 as not worthy of consideration. If you write in their particular genre that can be a good choice to try. There are all kinds of things that people like to read from high-brow literary through smut and all of it sells when well written. In fact, about the only genre that doesn't sell are badly written books full of grammatical errors that have no discernable plot, or titles that try to rip-off someone else's copyrighted creations. Don't waste your efforts there. An excellent resource of small publishers, including which ones to avoid as outright dishonest, is maintained by author Piers Anthony here: .

The third way to getting published, if you want to have your books actually distributed from anywhere other than your own personal website and get paid for them, is to go the Self-publishing route. (A fourth way is to set up your own publishing company, however that is a large amount of work for the average person with a steep learning curve. It can be done, however, you may have little writing time leftover afterwards.)

Now Self-publishing is not to be confused with the rightfully reviled Vanity Press of years past. Today advances in technology and imagination will let you publish any book on your own with very little upfront commitment in terms of money – call that risk – on your part, and actually have it out there for sale afterwards.

Now before you jump at this chance with that novel that has been burning to get off of your hard drive be aware that when you take this route you become responsible for every aspect of your manuscript from the quality of your narrative to the cleanness and correctness of your manuscript. If you aren't an English Major graduate you will likely need some help in ensuring that your compelling story and perfect manuscript is really almost as good as you think it is. Just because you didn't see any errors in the last read-through doesn't mean that they aren't lurking there in bunches. We are often our own worst proofreaders. While the many methods of improving your writing to a standard that you shouldn't be ashamed to show the world overall go beyond what I can cover in this particular essay, the value of finding and participating in local writing groups (start your own if you can't find any in your area) and inexpensive junior college writing classes to perfect your craft cannot be overemphasized. The large publishing houses employ professional editors to fix issues in their submissions before publication because the house's reputation is on the line. Without that safety net for self-publishing, you'll need to be beyond scrupulous about this yourself. Remember that each title you make available for sale promotes all of your other titles. A single bad book can keep readers from ever considering buying anything else from you again.

Once you've handled the technical part of writing a proper story, as opposed to just a series of scenes, in correct manuscript form then there are just 2 more steps to know:

1: Publish in eBook form. Let me repeat this: Always publish in eBook form! Electronic books are the future and the cost of publication is virtually nothing since it’s all just bits and bytes in the computer memory. To ignore this market is to cut yourself out of a place that will probably generate the bulk of your initial sales. Price it as you wish (you'll get a percentage of the total sale price) and be aware that many people these days feel that $2.99 is the magic impulse buy price for eBooks in the same way that 99 cents is the magic price for music tracks. And the way you will publish it is through SmashWords ( They are the true innovator in this area of opening electronic publishing to the masses. In return for their cut they will get your book out nationally.

2: If you just have to have your book in print as well, check out the POD (Print on Demand) publishers who literally print individual books as they are sold. As a result you don't spend a whole lot of money upfront for a print run and then pray that the books get sold. You only pay for what you sell. Several firms offer this service, but I suggest looking into CreateSpace ( The reason for this is that CS is tied in with and will not only that get you placement for sale from both the CreateSpace and Amazon sites, but they handle the finicky publishing details such as not requiring you to buy an ISBN number. You may not be able to sell your print books everywhere without that magic (and expensive in small quantities) ISBN number, but if you're on CS and AMAZ and linking from everywhere else to those 2 sites, you'll be able to sell print books to pretty much everyone who really wants a copy.

Publicity after publication is up to your own efforts. Start with social networking sites like this one and look for other opportunities. You do need to know that you will be competing with others to accomplish your sales. Amazon currently lists 725,000 Kindle titles and that's a pretty big pile to throw yours onto as well. Yet you will be published and available for sale far faster than pretty much any other method, after which it's up to you to promote the heck out of your title in-between writing your next one.

In the future now, anyone who asks me this about how can they get published too they will be referred to this boilerplate reply.

Thank you!
-D.B. Story

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Since the day dot….

You know, when you think about it, self publishing is not a new thing. It’s been around since the day dot. Think of cave paintings or the ancient slaves of Egypt writing 'the Pharaoh sucks’ as they toiled on golden tombs or great philosophers like Herodotus or Sophocles who probably had a patron to finance their works but basically they put their observations out there without fear or favour. Look at modern day graffiti – albeit annoying - self publishing or the twitterati who bang out their thoughts in so many letters for their ‘followers’ to read. Or look at this blog or my own blog - we're all out there publishing at a button touch.

Self publishing is not new at all. It’s more that it was hidden or confined to sites like Literotica which people thumbed their noses at but secretly read. Self publishing is literally doing it yourself without the aid of a net or dealing with a hierarchy of people who are so caught up in red tape, pontification and ego that they forget the basics. People want to read a good book regardless who publishes it or how. The ‘revolution’ part is that people have suddenly woken up to the possibilities presented to them.

Amarinda Jones
Penn Halligan
Be an Amarinda book

Saturday, November 13, 2010

#3 Oh crap, I need a cover...

If you are anything like me, the very thought of a cover will send you into a panic attack riddled, wine-chugging tailspin. But soldier on! I did. I figured the only way to get it done was to do it. Onward and upward. So, armed with a boy child’s camera and the Paint program (hi-tech baby), I came up with this:
Or as I call it “Blech or What the Fuck is that?” (nods head) However, that is still the current cover because a) I am lazy and b) for whatever reason that story is selling and always has so why screw with it, am I right?

Then I got a bit bolder and armed with my trusty (son’s) camera, a silver foil tree from Christmas, a whip (yes, mine, shut up) and a blind fold (see previous note) I did an hour of photographs to end up with this~~~~~>

Better, but still. Jesus. Help me, someone! But again, selling, so I placated myself with that and said to myself “Self, you will get better” (this turned out to be true).

So theeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeen, I found a picture in my photos (one of my own) that I had used in a blog. I was getting better at futzing around with my stuff. So I turned my picture into a negative, smoonched it per one sites size requirement (200x300) and accidentally, mind you, made it look cool. So cool! (ironically enough, as an aside, this title does not sell as well as the suck ass cover stories do, but still does okay). I was feeling stoked.

Then I discovered (quite by accident) that I could fuck with photos in Photobucket. Ah…whole. New. World. So I did it (per their free membership requirements) and ended up with more and more stuff that looks like this:

Ahhhhhh. Now that sooths the savage I don’t know what I’m doing with covers soul. I have to say, most of my covers from this point forward are pretty good. I have learned not to get too hung up in nitpicking and pick one inanimate object or scene that fits a story and then play with it. Once I stopped having seizures and panic attacks and requiring medication over the whole thing, I got tons better.

The key is to remember YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT. I can go back and swap out every damn cover if I suddenly drank a tanker truck full of coffee and couldn’t sleep and decided to do so.

My final recommendation is this: suck up to a friend who is talented! Tada!

I have this nifty cover for an upcoming December Ink release because I have this fantabulous friend named Willsin Rowe who is wickedly talented. We did a little barter and I gave him something (minds out of the gutter please!) and he gave me fabulous sexy cover.

So, to recap. You might suck at first. Do not fear the suckage. Soldier on. Do not panic. Play with it (heh). THEY CAN ALWAYS BE CHANGED, you are not carving them out of granite…or find a very talented friend and beg, trade, weep or threaten until they give you a shiny new cover (or pay them, that is what I call “the duh is implied” moment)

So, why are you still here? There are places like Photobucket and Picnik and Free Stock photo places you can look over. Paint has come very far and guess what! There are programs and fonts and all kinds of places to explore (something yours truly is STILL doing). So go, you have covers to work on. Chop chop!

Come back next month for the next exciting installment titled “I Have Broken Smashwords or You Will Eff Up”


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Self-Pubbed Authors Banned from Kindle?

No, self-pubbed authors haven't been banned from Kindle. But if you're a self-pubbed author, that title just about gave you a coronary, didn't it? The reality is that it could happen, and it could happen sooner than you might think.

If you haven't heard the controversy about the self-published book The Ped0phile's Guide to Love and Pleasure (that link is no longer active on Amazon, by the way) by Phillip R, Greaves - where have you been? It went on sale, according to Amazon's book page, on October 28, 2010. On November 10, 2010, the link disappeared. Before Amazon pulled the book, they issued this statement:

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

So much for that noble idea. The book went bye-bye.

Now, I'm not going to take a position on the heinous topic of the book or whether it should have been censored. (Or pulled for atrocious spelling alone - the description was in need of serious spellcheck). It's a moot point at this juncture. But what I am interested in is the possible problems for self-pubbed authors that this may cause.

I can see Amazon's legal having a heart attack at this point, telling them that THEY would be seen as the publisher and responsible for any backlash from this book if anyone sues. And someone just might. People were pretty angry about the whole thing - there were over 3000 comments (i.e. "reviews") on the book before it disappeared. And there is precedent for threatening to sue over books like this (see example below).

Remember that article in Slate a few months back about Amazon publishing "porn":

"The Kindle, however, pushes Amazon over the line from mere enabler of erotica to promoter and producer. Many of these e-titles are specifically being published by Amazon..."

Amazon is, essentially, a publisher now. And they're publishing not just erotica (which is fine as far as I'm concerned, obviously) but apparently, guides on how to be a pedophile.

What's even more interesting and indicative of a possible future ban on self-pubbed authors is that in 2002, Amazon had a similar problem with a title called Understanding Loved Boys and Boy Lovers by David L. Riegel, but this book is still available on Amazon - and it was published by SafeHaven Foundation Press. Presumably, the conservative group who threatened to sue over this book would have had to take it up with the publisher, not the retailer.

But in the case of Mr. Greaves books, Amazon is the publisher. As of this writing, his other four listings are still available for Kindle. For how long, I wonder?

I know I've been called an alarmist in the past, but hey, someone's gotta watch for forest fires, and where there's smoke...

I wouldn't be surprised if we heard in the future that Amazon will no longer be accepting self-pubbed works and publishers may have guidelines to prevent them from just incorporating as an LLC and publishing their own books (i.e. Fictionwise has had these requirements for years: each "publishers" must have for sale at least twenty-five non-public-domain works by ten different authors).

Of course, Amazon may decide to tighten their own gatekeeping process in accepting books for Kindle. That's a possible solution. (And another slippery slope). But if they decide to skip that process altogether, in order to avoid being seen as the only gatekeeper and responsible party, self-pubbed authors may find themselves out of a publisher.

-Selena Kitt

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Smashwords Experiment

Hi folks,

During October, I experimented in a little test of name your price at Smashwords for my short stories.  It made a difference in sales.  I did three times as much during October, than I sold during either August or September.   However, to put some perspective to this - my Kobo and Sony sales were up too and those were paying venues. 

I believe the illusion of sales did drive my numbers up a little, however, folks decided to pay on other venues that they trusted more than Smashwords. I don't quite know what to make from this little experiment, so I'm going to try another promotional avenue for my books.   In looking at what eXcessica did for their scavenger hunt, I thought a smaller scale one might just drum up business for both my eXcessica and FIDO titles as well as my shorts. 

I'll let you know how that works next time. 

Until then, write like a demon! 

Happy November.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sabbatical is a Lovely Word

The last time I spoke with Selena Kitt I was having a meltdown. I was emo and depressed. The moment I realized I was totally coming apart at the seams, I called an immediate partial sabbatical from Internet activity and especially blogging. I called it a partial sabbatical because there were a few interviews I still had hanging out there, as well as my Indie Reader blogs I’m committed to.

But for the past three weeks, with those very few exceptions, I have been radio silent. If you noticed the Internet was quieter and less obnoxious, that was totally me! :P

On Monday I posted my return post on my personal blog. The title of the post was: “I Never Want to Come Back to the Internet” (to give you some idea of how much I loved this!)

Here are some things I learned while I took a break from all the noise:

* I can keep my writing and editing deadlines. (Amazing what you can do when you aren’t on Twitter or arguing with random people on the Internet all day.) Also directly connected to this: I can write fast.

* There is this thing called the sun. It shines outside most days. The sky is often blue.

* Adults should play. Playgrounds are fun. Swinging (at the playground, you pervs!) is a lost art. And many swings are built to accommodate adult human beings.

* There are 3-D people who live out in the 3-D world. You can touch and talk to them. Even for a semi-hermit this is kind of awesome when you’ve been locked behind your computer.

* Everybody has an opinion about you and most of them good or bad are based on partial information. I intellectually knew this, but the time off gave me the opportunity to really reflect on and internalize it. This type of information will prove beneficial to me going forward.

* Working 10 hours a day 7 days a week is insane and doesn’t actually make me a more productive human being. Just a crazier one. In fact a lot of that “working” was social networking. I can save a whole bunch of time and have more “me time” by just disengaging more.

* My platform and sales will not disappear and I will not fall off the planet if I engage in some premeditated anti-social behavior on occasion. It allows me to get more work done, which helps me more in the long run. It also makes a sane Zoe. Everybody loves a sane Zoe. At least more than an insane one.

* I’m a lot more introverted than I thought. This explains so much about me I didn’t know. If not for the sabbatical I might not have truly figured this one out. People who don’t know me that well often see me as an extrovert because I’m not shy, and I do enjoy social situations when I can work myself up to go to one.

BUT it drains the hell out of me. I usually prefer my alone time. You would think I would have figured out that means: “mostly introverted” a long time ago. But several factors which I won’t bore you with, led me to think I was an “extrovert but...” Um. No. I’m not. And figuring that out has completely rewired how I see everything. But most importantly it’s given me permission to be who I am without feeling like a freak, which was taking up too much of my energy. (The feeling like a freak part.)

If you’ve been plugged into the Internet like it’s your umbilical cord, trust me, cut the cord. I know I’m not the only one who has experienced burn out. I’d been going nonstop since June and was so burnt-out that I just wanted to quit writing altogether. I had lost my joy for it. I couldn’t remember why I even liked doing it because all the crap on the Internet and feeling like everybody was pulling on me, was sucking the life and joy out of it. It was certainly sapping my creativity. It’s really hard to focus on writing a novel when you’ve got a stupid argument going on with some random boob online.

I got so much done during the sabbatical that I have a very different approach to interacting with the Internet now. It’s no longer my first priority, and three weeks away proved to me that the world won’t explode if I don’t run on the social marketing treadmill. In fact, probably just the opposite.

I’m going to go outside and play in the leaves now; don’t expect me to report back on Twitter about it.