Prices Slashed on Audio Courses

Hi Folks,

value_160Just a brief mid-cycle post for an announcement. If you find this post of value, please consider pinning it or otherwise sharing it with your friends.

As I’m endeavoring recently to build a new publisher website for myself and my personas, I decided to slash the prices on all of my Audio Courses on Writing. Every course now costs $5 per session. So if there are only two sessions in the course, that course now costs only $10.

If you’re interested in purchasing more than one course, there are also bundles available for a lower overall price.

Best of all, once you purchase a course, you can listen to it at your own pace. You can also return to it anytime you want for a refresher.

Current course topics include Writing Realistic Dialogue, Creating Realistic Characters, Writing Dialect, Writing Narrative, Point of View, The Seven Writerly Sins, Writing Great Beginnings, Writing Flash Fiction, Writing Poetry, Poetry Techniques for the Fiction Writer, and the popular Writing Off Into the Dark.

Upcoming courses will include Smart Self-Publishing, Writing the Character Driven Story, Employing the Persona, and Writing & Selling Short Fiction.

This is nuts and bolts writing instruction from a National Book Award nominee and prolific professional fiction writer. No fluff. You can see all the Course Descriptions Here.

Let me know if I can help with anything.

‘Til next time, happy writing.


Write What You Know — Seriously?

Howdy Folks,

How many times has some pundit told you to “write what you know”?

Uh, no. That is bad advice. Maybe the baddest advice ever, and I mean that in the old sense of “baddest,” before we started dumbing down the language. I mean “worst.”

It’s bad advice because the connotation is that you should write ONLY what you know.

So what? You’re supposed to write what you DON’T know?

Yes. Of course. You should also write what you know, but not ONLY what you know.

If everyone wrote only what they know, there would be very little science fiction, zero science fantasy (or other fantasy, for that matter), very little mystery, very little suspense, and so on. You can only “know” what actually exists and what you’ve actually experienced.

But think about it. Can you write a police procedural if you’ve never been a cop? Of course. Can you write a spy/thriller if you’ve never worked for the CIA? Yep. Can you write a romance novel if you’ve never been involved with a “shuddering, heaving breast” or a guy with flowing hair, broad shoulders, a thick chest with just the right amount of hair on it and trim, athletic hips? Yep.

If you couldn’t, novels wouldn’t exist.

All you need is Interest. If you’re Interested in writing Science Fiction, create a character, give him a problem, and drop him into a setting. Okay, then what happens first? Shrug. I don’t know. He’s your character. All I know is he has to solve the problem. (This might not be “the” problem of the story. Just a problem to get the character/situation started.)

If you’re interested in writing Mystery, create a character, give him a problem, and drop him into a setting. In this case, it’s a good idea if the problem is that the character just stumbled across a body. (grin)

If you’re interested in writing Romance, create a character (or two), give him a problem, and drop him into a setting.

Beginning to notice a trend here?

All you need to begin a story (of any length) is a character with a problem in a setting. That’s it. By and large, the setting determines the genre. Most characters and most problems can be cherry picked from one setting and dropped into another. And you’ll write an entirely different story in an entirely different genre.

If you don’t believe me, try it.

And what do I mean by “setting”? For purposes of this topic, the setting is where the character suddenly realizes he has a problem, and where he works through the problem. The smaller and more focused the setting, the better. (More on that next time.)

For now, create a character, give him a problem, and drop him into a setting. Then write an opening.

The opening will be around 300 to 500 words, probably. Be sure to include the character’s sense of the setting (sight, smell, taste, feel, sound) and have him either solve the problem or get well underway in solving it.

If the opening takes off (most of the time it will take off), just write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence. Then write the next sentence until the character leads you to the end of your new short story, novella, or novel.

If the opening sags out and dies, so what? Toss it. Then if you like the idea, write it again from scratch. And if you don’t like the idea, create a character, give him a problem, drop him into a setting and write another opening. (grin)

Seriously. Character + problem + setting = story opening. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. Add resolution and stir well. Bake for one hour per thousand words, spell check it, slap a cover on it and publish it.

‘Til next time, happy writing.


Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out. If you’ve already contributed, Thanks! If you can’t make a monetary donation, please at least consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. Again, thank you.

Brave New World of Publishing

Hi Folks,

Man things change quickly in this new world of publishing. On the first of this month, so just over two weeks ago, I devoted an entire blog post to telling you why I was no longer going to publish and distribute my books through Smashwords.

And then this morning, I uploaded and published ten new titles to Smashwords. It seems Smashwords recently signed a contract with Gardner’s, a massive book distribution agent in Great Britain. You can Read About It Here.

So this morning, I uploaded… well, I already said all that, didn’t I?

Only one thing seems to remain the same in this new world. For independent publishers — and by extension, for readers — things just continue to get better.

This post is for those of you who already have made the leap into indie publishing AND for those who are still thinking about it.

Now understand, when I say “indie” or “independent” publishing, that has absolutely NOTHING to do with subsidy publishers like AuthorHouse or Wheatmark or Booklocker or ANY OTHER “publisher” who charges you an up-front fee PLUS keeps part of your royalties.

If you’re going through those, you are not self-publishing and you are not independently publishing. Those are scams, folks, in every case. They play on your ego (wanting to get your work out there), and they play on your fear that your work isn’t good enough to get published otherwise. And it’s all hogwash.

Okay? So by “indie” or “independent” publisher, I mean a writer who has set him/herself up as a publisher. It isn’t difficult to do, and there are no big overwhelming legal issues. In fact, you can learn most of what you need to know in my free PDF ebook, Quick Guide to Self-Publishing & FAQs. And there are other things that will help on my Downloads page.

But for today, MAN do things change quickly in this beautiful new world of publishing!

Let me just lay out for you what I’m doing now and why. Remember, successful indie publishing isn’t about the unlikely prospect of making a bajillion bucks from one revenue stream (like that nasty old Amazon KDP Select).

Successful indie publishing is about the much more reasonable and likely prospect of making a few bucks here and there from as many different revenue streams as you can lay your paws on.

My paws have been busy lately. Here are my distributors:

Pronoun — This is a brand new publisher/distributor. I signed up this morning. They are not yet fully operational, but when they are, they will distribute my work to Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo and Google Play. (This will keep me from having to mess with Amazon’s incredibly frustrating upload process, and I get the same royalties from all of these venues that I would have gotten otherwise. This is a win/win.)

Draft2Digital — After Pronoun stands up, I will still use D2D to distribute to Inkterra, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino.

Smashwords — Effective earlier this morning, I’m using Smashwords to distribute my books to Gardners Extended Retail (400 ebook stores powered by Gardners operate in 32 countries and serve customers in 138 countries), Gardners Library (2,000 public libraries in the U.K., and 400 academic libraries in the UK, Europe and Middle East), Baker & Taylor Blio, txtr, Library Direct, Baker & Taylor Axis360, Overdrive, and Flipkart. Plus of course in the Smashwords store.

XinXii — After visiting XinXii and seeing what great strides they’ve made regarding distribution, I reactivated my account there. XinXii will now distribute my books to Angus & Robertson (Australia), (Germany), (Germany), Casa de Libro (Spain), Der Club Bertelsmann (Germany), Donauland (Austria), Family Christian (,  Fnac (France),  Indigo (Canada), Libris BLZ (Netherlands), Livraria Cultura (Brazil), Mondadori (Italy), OTTO Media (Germany), Rakuten (Japan), Thalia (Germany), Weltbild (Europe), Whitcoulls (NZ), and WHSmith (Great Britain). Plus the XinXii online store and plus Google Play if Pronoun doesn’t work out for whatever reason.

OmniLit (also All Romance Ebooks) — I only recently found OmniLit. It and All Romance Ebooks are run by the same folks. Granted they are only one venue, not a distributor, but hey, they’re big and one more venue is one more stream of revenue.

Now, if you’re anal enough to have counted, you will see that my books will be in 36 different venues, not counting Amazon’s and Apples’ and others’ subsidiaries, and not counting the 400 stores and 2400 libraries offered by Gardners.

Oof. A year ago, I was scrabbling around to find 100 venues. (Amazon was in 57 countries, Apple was in another 23, and so on.) And today there are so many, I can’t even realistically count them all.

Ahem. Of course, if you decided to go exclusive with Amazon KDP Select, you’ll miss out on selling through those other 430-some stores, not to mention around 2500 libraries now. But hey, that’s your decision.

Okay, that’s it for today. Note this is an extra, not in the usual rotation. I just didn’t want to wait until the 21st to put this out there to you.

By the way, you know I started writing seriously on October 19, 2014. That’s 365 days (one year) ago tomorrow.

On many of those days I didn’t write at all. On many of those days I wrote only a few hundred words. On two or three of those days I exceeded 5,000 words. On maybe fifteen or twenty of those days I exceeded 4,000 words.

Yet right now, since October 19, 2014, I have written over three-quarters of a million (750,466) words of fiction. Of those, in the same time frame, I’ve published all but 11,000 words. Those comprise the currently stalled Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga.

Now I’m not telling you that to brag. I’m telling you that to show you what’s possible even when you don’t write every day, even when your best day is only a few thousand words.

It all adds up. Keep writing.

‘Til next time,


Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out or just click If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much. If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.

The Infamous Gave

Hi Folks,

Note: Many  beginning writers still believe they can publish a novel and make a living. Nope. Not even through traditional publishing. One of the best quotes I’ve ever seen on the topic is from Dean Wesley Smith: “Here is the thinking if you expect to make a living from one book. Put $2,500 in the bank and then wonder why you are not living off the payment from the interest.” Think about that. Okay, here’s the scheduled post.

You know I used to be a freelance copyeditor. Often, I happened across the inappropriate use of the verb “gave” in a manuscript.

Anytime that happened, I immediately conducted a global search to find each instance all the way through so I could repair those sentences up front. It was a task, because most often, when I found one such instance, a lot more of them were lurking later in the manuscript.

The fact is, folks who misuse this infamous verb usually misuse it a lot.

Using “gave” inappropriately creates the same kind of diversion as saying “umm” a lot during the course of a speech.

After a while, audience members stop listening to the speech and start counting occurrences of “umm.” Likewise, readers find themselves wondering when you’re going to quit “giving” things that can’t be given.

A writer once asked, “Which sentence is correct, or are they both correct?”

 “I gave a quick look at Nick Campbell, and he gave me a subtle nod for me to continue.”

 “I gave a quick look at Nick Campell, and he gave me a subtle nod to continue.”

 Well, I didn’t care for either of them. Here’s why:

“Give” is most often a transitive verb, meaning you actually give (or hand or grant) something to someone. Using it as the writer used it in those sentences is all right occasionally, if it isn’t overused.

And of course, anytime a character uses it this way in dialogue, that’s fine. It’s wrong, but most people misuse various words and constructions when they speak. So that’s good.

What is written in narrative should be correct so it doesn’t call attention to itself and away from the story. And no, most of the time it doesn’t matter whether the narrator is also a character.

In the examples the writer provided, “nod to continue” was also awkward.

To fix both problems (verb and phrase), I recommended he write, “I glanced at Nick Campbell and he nodded, indicating I should continue.” (Nick didn’t indicate the speaker should continue. Nick’s NOD indicated he should continue.)

When you “give” someone a nod or a smile or a look or a glance, that indicates to the reader that the recipient has something now that she didn’t have before, as if you “gave” her a dollar or ring or a house.

So if you’re one of those writers who bathes in “gave,” stop it. (grin)

If you look at the third or fourth word after “gave,” most often it will be a noun (smile, wave, shake) that you can turn into a past-tense verb (smiled, waved, shook) and use in place of gave.

So don’t writeI gave him a smile.” Write “I smiled (at him).”

Don’t write “I gave her a wave” (unless you work in a hair salon). Write “I waved (to her).”

Don’t write “I gave his hand a shake” (unless you work at Sonic). Write “I shook his hand.”

However, PLEASE write “I gave him a dollar.” Not “I dollared him.”

Please write “I gave her a ring.” Not “I ringed her.”

Yeah, I know you didn’t need the last two, but a little fun never hurt anyone. Probably.

Using “gave” inappropriately is a habit. It’s akin to using the unnecessary “what it was that” phrase as in “I forgot what it was that I wanted to tell you” instead of just saying “I forgot what I wanted to tell you.”

So if you have the habit of using “gave” inappropriately, you’ll have to pay attention to your writing for a little while, maybe even consciously looking for instances of “gave.” But very soon you’ll develop a new habit: writing leaner, cleaner, more active prose.

‘Til next time,



Are You a “Real” Writer? (Humor)

Hi Folks,

This topic doesn’t really fit with the current series of how-tos I’m posting here, so I thought I’d slip it in as a bonus. Just some things to think about.

A couple months ago on Facebook, which as we all know is a fount of absolute wisdom, someone posing as a professional fiction writer posted that writing is a “deliciously tedious travail” or some such nonsense. Yeah, I’m not kidding.

Being who and what I am, I quickly tossed in my two cents: “If you think writing is hard, you aren’t doing it right.” I then mentioned Heinlein’s Rules and the URL (my website) where the person could download a free copy. That’s it. (By the way, that’s Hint: It’s not just for SF writers.)

About nine hours ago as I write this, someone else posted “U [sic] obviously are’nt [sic] a real writer.”

Oh man! Caught me!

Well, I’m just SO embarrassed at being exposed as a fake that I thought I’d better come out in public.

If being a “real” writer entails enduring “deliciously tedious travail,” then I guess I’m just not a real writer.

Now don’t get me wrong. I really really really WANT to be a real writer, but it’s just so HARD to write with one forearm flung dramatically across my forehead as I complain about how difficult my “process” is.

I understand now that “real” writers spend hours and hours THINKING about writing and TALKING about writing. Apparently that’s part of their process. And then from what I can gather, advanced “real” writers such as the Facebook respondent apparently spend more hours CHATTING about writing in online groups.

But I don’t do any of that.

For a long time, I’ve called myself a writer. Apparently I was wrong.

Somewhere along the line, I got the moronic notion that a fiction writer, by definition, is a person who puts new publishable words of fiction on the page. Probably I got that idea from Dean Wesley Smith, another not-real writer who does none of the above but has well over 17 million books in print through traditional publishing. Many MANY more now that he’s gone strictly independent.

If you look up many professions in the dictionary, you’ll find that a lawyer practices law, a mechanic fixes engines and a plumber, you know, plumbs stuff. By extension, pilots fly planes and painters (either kind) paint. Doctors repair people, veterinarians repair pets, and teachers teach.

I mean, if someone asked me if I was a real cable guy or a real contractor, somewhere in the discussion I would pretty much have to mention that I install cable service or oversee the building of houses. Right? I mean, right?

So based on those obviously wrong-headed definitions, I got the notion in my head that if I was going to call myself a professional writer, I should, you know, actually write.

So that’s what I did. After roughly 50 years of learning my craft, I began calling myself a professional writer on October 19, 2014. (You laugh, but don’t you remember the day you became a [fill in the blank]? If not, check in with yourself. Maybe you’re in the wrong career.)

And since October 19, 2014, I have written 717,024 words of published fiction. Almost three quarters of a million words of published fiction.

How did I do that? By setting a goal and striving to reach it. I often failed. My goal was to write 3,000 words of fiction per day. That’s it. Nothing more.

Now there are only 14 days left in the one-year period that began on October 19, 2014 and will end on October 18, 2015 (inclusive).

That means over the past 351 days I have written an average of 2042 words per day.

That means I spent two hours per day doing my job. Two hours per day.

Anyone know a mechanic or a pilot or a doctor or any of those others up there who work a two-hour day?

Okay, so anyway, here I am to confess. This is kind’a like Fake Writers Anonymous. “Hi. I’m Harvey. And I am not a real writer.”

But I’m okay with it. Actually, I don’t have time to be a “real” writer by the definition of the person on Facebook. Writing is not a “travail” of any kind for me, delicious or nasty tasting or anything in between.

Writing is great fun. Seriously, it’s the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And really, I guess you DON’T have to keep your clothes on either.

Please, don’t be a “real” writer. Instead, sit down at the keyboard, put your fingers on the keys, and write whatever comes. Trust your subconscious. It’s been telling stories since before you knew there even was an alphabet.

Hey, it worked for Bradbury. It worked for Dean Smith.

It works for me.

‘Til next time, happy writing.


Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out or just click If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much. If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.


Farewell, Smashwords, and Why

Hi Folks,

First a couple of announcements—

1. On September 23, Author Earnings released a new report that ALL writers should see. Especially if you’re locked into traditional publishing or if you’re on the fence.

The previous report I mentioned talks about market share in ebooks from traditional publishing vs. indie publishing. So it was kind of abstract.

But this report shows the actual distribution of income to individual authors who choose to publish traditionally vs. independently. This probably will surprise you. And if you’re an indie publisher, it will surprise you in a very good way. I encourage you go follow this link and sign up to get your own reports as they come out.

2. Yesterday, September 30 2015, was the final day for my Daily Journal blog. I created a spreadsheet that enables me to track what I write, how long it takes, and my daily, monthly and annual numbers. So no more need for the journal.

However, past editions of the journal will be available on this site for a limited time in case anyone wants to go back over some of them for the topics. Just click the tab.

3. And a note — If you self-publish, you are an indie publisher. If you publish through ANY subsidy publishing house — in other words, if you pay money to a publishing company to publish your work PLUS they keep a share of your royalties — you’re not an independent publisher. You’re just lost. Please don’t fall into that trap, and if you’re already in it, please do yourself a favor and break free. Every subsidy publisher, every place that charges you an up front fee PLUS keeps a share of your royalties, is a scam.

Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming. (grin)

If you are an independent (self) publisher, this is an important post for you.

In the previous post, I busted a few of the myths of digital publishing. In that, I talked about the distributor, Smashwords. Recently I decided to leave Smashwords behind and switch all my distribution to Draft2Digital. Below is why.

Now this was strictly a business decision, as you’ll see below. If Smashwords cleans up their act quite a bit, I probably would go back to them, at least for partial distribution. This post appeared in slightly different form in my other blog, the Daily Journal.

Back in 2011, during the first year of the “gold rush” of electronic publishing, I signed up for a Smashwords account. Today, I have 143 books (nonfiction, novels, short stories and collections) published with them.

When I finished a work, whatever it was, first I published it to Smashwords. I allowed them to distribute it for me to 12 of 13 sales venues (all but Amazon). Then I published it to Amazon.

Enter Draft2Digital, a sleek new company that does what Smashwords does but MUCH more quickly and efficiently. They distribute to the same “big six” that Smashwords distributes to (Apple, B&N, Kobo, Inktera, Oyster, and Scribd) plus Tolino, a growing ebook store in Germany that was created specifically to rival Amazon.

Yesterday, I published a short story to D2D and Amazon, but for the first time, did NOT publish it to Smashwords. Why? Because then I’d have to clunk my way through the “opt out” radio buttons thirteen times so Smashwords would not distribute it (because D2D is distributing it).

Now admittedly, if I HAD done all that, the story would still be available in the Smashwords store, and I’m always advising writers to sell in as many markets as possible. But the thing is, having to spend a half-hour clunking around on Smashwords’ site just so a short story will be in their store… well, it simply isn’t worth the time.

Another thing, through the Smashwords online store I’ve sold mostly nonfiction. And most of that I’ve sold when I’ve created coupons for it, and then advertised the coupons. Again, it’s a lot of effort for very few sales.
I’m not lazy when it comes to expending necessary effort, but any time I spend uploading etc. is part of my investment in my writing. Since it’s part of the investment, I have to consider what return the effort will yield.

Here are a few stark numbers:

  • At it takes me about 15 minutes from clicking Create New Title to clicking Publish IF the process is uninterrupted by Amazon’s ridiculous page-loading times and jumping around. Probably the average time is 20 to 25 minutes. However, Amazon is currently my best venue, so the frustration, while annoying, is worthwhile.
  • At it takes me about 10 minutes to go from entering the title of my book to clicking Publish at the bottom of the form.
    • But then I have to go to their ISBN Manager to assign an ISBN for distribution to some of the big six as well as several tiny library venues (where I’ve never sold a book).
    • Then I have to go to their Channel Manager. There I have to find my book (there are three pages) and then click thirteen “opt out” radio buttons one at a time so Smashwords will not distribute to anyone except the online store.
    • Even after I’ve done all that, even though I’ve opted out of distribution to every place that requires an ISBN, I continue to see a message saying I need to assign an ISBN to my books. Very, very clunky system. I skip over the ISBN Manager since I no longer use them for distribution, but using the Channel Manager easily adds another 10 minutes and roughly half a ton of frustration to the process. Not worth it.
  • And D2D. Ahh, D2D. At it takes me about 3 minutes from Add New Book to Publish. On the final page I check the stores to which I want them to distribute my work (so seven checkmarks), verify that the work is either mine or that I have the rights to publish it, and I’m done. They assign an ISBN for the venues that require it, but I don’t have to do anything with that.

D2D does for me what Smashwords does but in a lot less time and with absolutely zero frustration. Score!

So for me, it’s bye-bye to Smashwords. I might put my major publications (novels, collections) up in their store, but frankly I doubt it. I really REALLY don’t like having to “opt out” 13 times per publication.

Now I’m a fair guy, so I will be addressing this issue with Mark Coker soon. Well, relatively soon. I probably won’t do so until I’ve moved my major nonfiction books over to D2D. Anyway, I’ll keep you updated, but I think he’s pretty entrenched in the way he does things.

So it’s like this. Five years ago, Mark and his company were on the cutting edge of ebook publishing and distribution. Today they’re eating dust from every other major player.

If you have any questions about any of this, I’d be happy to try to answer them for you. Please ask in the comments section below.

‘Til next time, happy writing.


PS: UPDATE: I’ve also found another sales venue. To look it over for yourself, visit OmniLit.

Note: If you find something of value in these posts or on this website, consider dropping a tip into Harvey’s Tip Jar on your way out or just click If you’ve already contributed, thanks so much. If you can’t make a monetary donation, please consider forwarding this post to a friend or several. (grin) Again, thank you.