The Journal, Monday, 9/14: Farewell, Smashwords, and Why

Up a little before 2 this morning. Email responses and playing catch up with a little reading filled the first half-hour of the day. I didn’t drop by Dean’s site a second time yesterday so I did that as part of my waking up ritual this morning.

By the way, if you haven’t heard of Storybundle.com, check it out. I don’t buy every bundle that comes out, but every now and then they have one I can’t refuse. Basically, you pay what you want for a LOT of great reading.

The URL for the current bundle is http://storybundle.com/disasters. Once you sign up, they’ll send you announcements of other bundles. And free stuff. Like right now, a free issue of Lightspeed Magazine. (grin)

Guess I’ll write the topic now. Then I’ll write fiction for awhile, and then a walk (finally, after a few days off).

Took longer to write the topic than I thought it would. Finally to writing.

I screwed up. I relented and let the little girl out this morning while it was still dark. Again, something scared the stuffing out of her. When I let her in she began racing through the house like she did two days ago.

This time I corraled her quickly, brought her into my office and shut the door. But then I had to spend some time alternately catching her, petting her, telling her everything’s all right. I shut the blinds on my two open windows so she couldn’t see outside and that helped a lot. (Sure wish we could adjust our vision so we could see like they do at times.)

Still it took a good half-hour to calm her enough so I could open my office door without fear of her climbing to the top of the cabinets and inadvertently harming herself again. Now she’s lying on a Navajo rug just outside my open office door so I can see her and she can see me. Three times she walked over here and rubbed against my legs while I’m typing. Just making sure I’m still here.

I understand. Fear is one of the very few universal emotions, something we all share on this little blue rock. And anyone who believes the other creatures on this planet are not “self-aware” is really stuck in the collective human ‘holier-than-everything’ attitude.

Back to my story for a bit before my walk.

Had a good walk of just over 5 miles, then back here to read Dean’s post where I found exciting news. It was so good I threw together a special post over on my main blog and sent it out earlier today. See News Flash below.

Now back to my writing.

News Flash
Turns out ebooks are NOT declining as reported by traditional publishing’s “big 5.” Turns out, INDIE published ebooks are taking a lot larger market share. Ebook sales actually are INCREASING. Great news in this wonderful new world of publishing.

See for yourself at Author Earnings Report. Seriously, if you’re a writer, you want to read and understand this.

I urge you also to visit the website of Dean Wesley Smith where he provides a brief discussion of this. Very interesting stuff.

Topic of the Post: Farewell, Smashwords, and Why
Yesterday I started the topic of the post with “Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.” That’s true for today’s post as well.

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 http://draft2digital.com, 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 Amazon.com 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 Smashwords.com 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 Smashwords.com 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 Draft2Digital.com 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, he 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.

My Current Challenge and Goal
Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September. To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge. Stay tuned.

Today’s Writing
Well enough, I guess, but I was on this particular story much longer than I wanted to be. A lot of cycling back on this one as it kept twisting and turning. A lot of fun though. I hoped to finish this one today and write another, but I’ll have to save that for another day.

Fiction Words: 2511

Writing of “The Day They Came” (short story)
Day 1…… 1437 words. Total words to date….. 1437 words
Day 2…… 2511 words. Total words to date….. 3948 words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month…… 6 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month…… 19338
Total fiction words for the month………… 20928 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 485969

News of Import to Authors

Hey Folks,

This is not part of the usual sequence and it will be very short.

If you’re a writer and/or an indie publisher, this is some VERY exciting news.

The 2015 Author Earnings Report just came out. It turns out ebooks are NOT declining as reported by traditional publishing’s “Big 5.” Ebook sales by traditional publishers are declining.

It turns out, indie published ebooks are on the increase. They also are taking a lot larger market share. Ebook sales overall actually are increasing.

This truly is great news in this wonderful new world of publishing.

The upshot is this: If you write well and are indie published, hang in there. Great things are coming.

If you’re still traditionally published, you should seriously consider witholding e-rights for future books or, smarter yet, break away altogether. See for yourself at
http://authorearnings.com/report/september-2015-author-earnings-report/.

I urge you also to visit the website of Dean Wesley Smith where he provides a brief discussion of this. Very interesting stuff.

Best,
Harvey

The Journal, Sunday, 9/13: Writing When You Can

Up right at 3 this morning. The writing and tending to the kitten took their toll so I slept longer than usual, but she seems to be doing much better this morning. She spent a lot of time yesterday and last night resting and healing.

It’s odd how much she can put up with and how stoic she is about it. Humans could learn a great deal from little wonders like my girl. I’ve learned tons from her, not that all of it stuck.

I’ll get a little slower start to writing this morning, but I’m probably not gonna walk today so that adds a couple hours back in.

Stinkin’ coyotes are screaming this morning. Whoever first named those things “song dogs” must have been tone deaf. Or drunk. Or just a moron. Or maybe he was one of those guys who rubbed his palms together a lot while drooling through a smile and watching children being ripped apart by wild dogs. Ugh.

I did get to watch a little of the LSU @ Mississippi State game before I sacked out. Man, it’s like those LSU guys are from another planet. Geaux Tigers! I was also pleased to see this morning that Arizona and Oklahoma both won their games. And I guess Arizona put over 40 points on the scoreboard for two weeks in a row now.

Didn’t drop by Dean’s site yesterday so I did that as part of my waking up ritual this morning. Great post. I recommend it. All about the value of having the right writing group.  If you just go to his site instead of clicking on this link, you’ll have to scroll down when you get there.

I wrote the topic below, and now, as a thin line of pre-predawn blue draws across the eastern horizon, I’m turning to my writing ‘puter. Back later with zults and results.

I wrote for awhile on “Desecration,” a new story. Then I went outside for a little while, then came back in and created a new cover for the story. Then I remembered I needed to upload the four new covers I did earlier to my Short Fiction page on my website. There are now 107 covers on that page, including the cover for the story I’m writing today. (grin)

Finished “Desecration” and published it to D2D. That distributor provides an incredible experience. From the time I click Add New Book to the time I click Publish, it takes about 3 minutes.

Compare that to Amazon where the site seems to load FOREVER. And the process, when it’s uninterrupted, takes around 20 minutes. Ugh. Smashwords falls somewhere between those two, but I’m not using Smashwords anymore. It isn’t worth the effort. More on that in the topic tomorrow.

Topic of the Post: Revising Goals and Challenges
Some days you eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you. And that’s fine, as long as you aren’t dealing with, you know, an actual bear.

We set goals and challenges for a specific purpose. My purpose most often is to spur myself to greater heights with my writing. When the goal or challenge begins to falter in that purpose, it’s time to draw back and take another look at it.

Can you do that? Of course. There are three overall truisms about goals and challenges:

  • If you achieve your goal, nothing happens except maybe you feel good for a little while.
  • If you DON’T achieve your goal, also nothing happens. Except maybe you say “Darn it” and try again when the goal resets.
  • But if you change your goal for whatever reason, something DOES happen. You are invigorated. You have given new life to your endeavor, and you have given yourself the little push you need to continue.

A few days ago, I wrote that I’m not fooling myself into believing I can actually meet my goal of writing 30 short stories during the month of September. For the record, that’s 25 more short stories of at least 2,000 words each over the next 18 days (starting today). The problem is that “story” is not a set value.

If a “story” was exactly 2,000 words, I would know I have to write 50,000 words in the next 18 days. Is that doable? Absolutely. That’s less than my former daily goal of 3000 words per day.

But a story isn’t exactly 2,000 words. For example, the five I’ve written for the challenge thus far were 2485, 3213, 4329, 3174 and 2191 words. So I’m just sayin’, there’s not a real good chance I’m going to meet this goal and accomplish this challenge.

Still, I’m not quite ready to throw in the towel yet. To meet the goal and accomplish the challenge I have to write one story every day for the rest of the month PLUS seven stories. So for one week, I have to write two stories per day.

I finished my story for today AND created the cover and published it before noon. So I could easily write another story today, though I might not ’cause I might wimp out and watch football. (grin) Life happens, right? At least once a week.

But CAN I write two stories per day? Yep. As long as I think of them as “stories” instead of thinking of the number of words in them. It’s almost impossible to write 10,000 words in a day. It isn’t nearly as difficult to write two stories, both of which happen to be around 5,000 words long. (grin)

Now I do have a backup plan just in case I don’t reach my goal, and if I have to invoke it, I’ll even pay an appropriate penalty. But I’ll tell you about that if I don’t get 30 stories out on or before September 30.

Man, this is a lot of writing, isn’t it? But will it hurt me in any way, shape or form?

Uhhh NO.

At the end of this period of insanity I will have a LOT more short stories in my personal canon and (MUCH more imporantly) I will have jumpstarted my writing habit again.

You just can’t put a price on that.

My Current Challenge and Goal
Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September. To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge. Stay tuned.

Today’s Writing
A pretty good day. I wrote “Desecration” and got a good start on “The Day They Came” which feels like it’s going to be science fiction. I should be able to finish it tomorrow and then write another one to go with it.

Fingers crossed. I need some two-story days. (grin)

Fiction Words: 3628

Writing of “Desecration” (short story)
Day 1…… 2191 words. Total words to date….. 2191 words (done)

Writing of “The Day They Came” (short story)
Day 1…… 1437 words. Total words to date….. 1437 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month…… 5 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month…… 16827
Total fiction words for the month………… 18417 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 483458

The Journal, Saturday, 9/12

Up a little before 2 this morning. Writing before 3:30. A little delay this morning because I was (and am) tending to my kitten.

Yesterday, something outside scared her badly. She raced in, then through the house looking for a place to hide. For some reason she didn’t hide in her safe place under the bed. Instead she ran back into the kitchen, up on the counter, then up on the cabinets. The tops of those are nearly eight feet off the floor.

She was stuck there because there was no room to turn around. I ran back into my office to get a small chair so I could get her down, but by the time I got back she had already jumped to the tile floor. In the process she hurt her left hip. Now she’s having trouble even jumping from the floor up to my desk.

So I’m kind of watching over her this morning, babying her and so on.

I don’t think she broke anything, but either way she has to take some time to heal. But she’s very much a free spirit so I have to watch to make sure she doesn’t jump from too high up and keep irritating the injury.

For example, her food bowl is in a broad window alcove next to my desk, so it’s about 30″ off the floor. After she eats, she wants to jump straight to the hard floor, so I watch and redirect her to go off the front of my desk onto a chair, and then from there to the floor.

So I guess that’ll be the next few days.

This falls into the Life Happens category, and in this case, it takes precedence over everything else.

No walking again today. I don’t want to be out playing in the desert when my little girl decides to do something she isn’t up to right now.

After I filed this post yesterday I put together a cover for “Harold Nickel’s Last Dime.” In addition to writing today, I hope to get the formatting done on the two stories I’ve finished and on the one I will finish today.

Oh, just in case you’re wondering, I’m sticking to my one story a week goal too. Each story I post as the free story of the week was written during that week.

Update: Finished the last story, “Exotic,” at about 4:30. The cover fell into place and I published it to D2D. The numbers are below. Makes me feel like a real writer again.

Topic of the Post: Writing When You Can
Sometimes, like today, life intervenes in your writing time. In most cases, though, it doesn’t keep you from writing. Most of the time it merely adjusts the times that you write and the length of time during which you are able to write.

Some people (I am one of them) are fortunate in that they can slip into and out of the Alpha state of consciousness at will. Most people can, actually, though most people aren’t aware they have this ability.

But they do. Let me prove it. When you were in school taking a test, were you ever stuck for an answer even though it was right on the tip of your mind? Did you put your pencil to your lips and roll your eyes upward, as if the answers were written on the ceiling?

Yep, most of us did that. And most of the time, the answer “came to us,” just as we knew it would.
I’ll bet you do the same thing when you’re writing and you suddenly find yourself stuck for a particular word. You roll your eyes up or you stare off into space for a moment. And often as not, the word comes to you.

The physical act of rolling your eyes up triggers Alpha and accesses the subconscious. The physical act of staring off into space slows the electrical activity in the mind to Alpha rates as well.

And that’s why this technique works. Because we are accessing our subconscious mind by dropping into Alpha for a moment.

Okay, so why is the ability to slip into Alpha at will important? Because Alpha is the beginning stage of what we call the subconsicous. And the subconscious is MUCH better at telling stories than the conscious, critical mind.

So writing when you can — Most people, writers included, have more time available to them than they know. Most of the writing I get done today will be in ten minute to half-hour increments. If you write about a thousand words per hour (that’s only 17 words per minute), you can write about 170 words in ten minutes or 250 in a quarter-hour. Do that several times during the day (when you can) and the words will build up into the thousands. And the story will get finished.

So don’t worry about it. When you have a few minutes, sit down at the computer (where your story is already up on the screen) and just have fun. Immerse yourself for a few minutes or a half-hour or an hour in the sheer joy of running through the scene with your characters, writing down what they say and do.

Which is where I’m going right now.

My Current Challenge and Goal
Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September. To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge. Stay tuned.

Today’s Writing
Writing around the kitten was a challenge in itself, but one I gladly performed. I’d have been pleased with any amount of writing today, so it all turned out really well. Super well. And all of it was writing in small increments. I hope in another day or two she’ll be back to her version of normal and we can both get back to our usual roles.

Fiction Words: 4531

Writing of “The Old Jenkins Place” (short story)
Day 1…… 1856 words. Total words to date….. 1856 words
Day 2…… 1357 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words (done)

Writing of “Exotic” (short story)
Day 1…… 3174 words. Total words to date….. 3174 words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month…… 4 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month…… 13199
Total fiction words for the month………… 14789 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 479830

The Journal, Friday, 9/11: Going On the Cheap

Up right at 2 this morning. Again, by 3 a.m. I was writing. That’ll work. The retraining continues. I’m noticing I seem to have less self-discipline the older I get. Is that how it’s supposed to work?

No walking today. With over 7 miles two days ago and almost 6 miles yesterday, I’m taking a day off from walking.

Okay, got a lot of writing done today as well as a cover for “Finding Harold.” It will be the story of the week for next Monday.

That’s really about all that happened today. Since the topic is so long, I’ll curtail the rest of this.

Topic of the Post: Going on the Cheap
Don’t do it. There. End of lecture.

If you’re a writer and if you’re serious about your work and if you want others to take you seriously, invest in your product (your writing, your cover, your book).

You can invest the time to educate yourself and the money in professional programs so you can create your own eformatting and print layout and ebook and print covers OR you can invest money in paying professionals to do those things for you.

What brought this up?

I recently was privy to see a complete and utter piece of literary garbage that was (from the front matter of the book) “printed with the Espresso Book Machine at The University of Arizona Main Library.” I kid you not.

I can’t say whether the author believes his book has now been published by the U of A (it hasn’t) or what. Maybe he uses the service because it’s free. I don’t know. What the “Espresso Book Machine” turned out was so terrible, I won’t even do the few minutes’ research to find out what it costs, whether it’s free, or anything else about it.

What I will tell you is this: Garbage in, garbage out. Even if your writing is excellent, if the formatting of the document you feed into the maching looks like garbage, what you get back will look like garbage.

Here’s my brief review. Remember, this is all formatting stuff, stuff that could EASILY be fixed if the person who formatted it had only cared enough about his final product to take his time.

The Table of Contents — The title of this page (Table of Contents) was in the same font, same size, and same attribute (normal, not bold, etc.) as the listing below it. Capitalization of titles varied within the TOC and from TOC to actual story. The TOC itself was hokey. First was the title of the story, then a space, then the word page (yes, lowercase) and then a span of pages, for example 3-16.

Overall Layout of the Book — The inside front cover (apparently) was the only title page. The title was at the top, the author’s name was near the bottom, and a page number was at the center bottom. (The title page should not be numbered.) There was no publishing information on the title page. (Usually the publishing company name and city is displayed there.)

The next page was the copyright page. It stated the year of copyright, but failed to mention in whose name the book is copyrighted. Seriously? The formatter skipped a line and inserted a dedication. Skipped another line and inserted permission for teachers to reprint parts for classroom use. (Yeah, that’s gonna happen.) Skipped one more line and added a simple disclaimer. Then skipped a few lines and inserted a brief paragraph blaming the Espresso Book Machine for this travesty, although that isn’t how they put it. Oh, and lest we forget, the copyright page is numbered page 2.

Page 3 is the previously discussed TOC, and the first story began on page 4, a recto. Later in the book, some stories began on the verso (left page of an open book, as they should) and some on the recto (right page of an open book).

Finally, on most pages the text began at the top of the page, but on some it began one or two lines down. The same spacing discrepancy appeared at the bottom of many pages.

Titles of the Stories — The titles of the stories were the same font, font size and font attribute as the body of the stories. (Usually the title is bold attribute and/or a larger font size.)

As I mentioned in the section on the TOC above, the titles of the stories varied with regards to capitalization.

The position of the titles at the top of the page also varied. Some were left justified and some were centered.

Apparently no standard was applied. The key for good and efficient formatting is standards. They can be your own, but you have to have them, and you have to apply them evenly throughout the work.

The Body of the Stories — The body of the first story was double-spaced with no extra spacing between paragraphs and with the first line of paragraphs indented. It would have been perfect if it were single-spaced. (Remember, this is for a print book.)

Hyphenation obviously was not turned on. As a result the text is broken with rivers of wide white space running diagonally through the text.

All of that is from page 4 (beginning of the story) through the first full paragraph on page 8. After that there was an extra space between that paragraph and the next. Then it returned to no spacing after paragraphs until page 13, where the anomaly happened again.

Then it continued normally again until page 17 where the anomaly occurred twice in a row. The story ended suddenly without any sort of signifier such as “The End” or a series of asterisks or “Go Away.”

The second story was formatted differently. It was left justified, single spaced, with a space after each paragraph, and without first-line indents. Great for a blog post. Pretty good even for some nonfiction print applications. Not so much for a story in a collection of short fiction.

The third story was formatted the same as the second, except in some places it looked as if there was no space between two paragraphs.

The next several stories were formatted the same as the second and third, with no first-line indent, block paragraphs, left justified, and a space between paragraphs. Except sometimes there were two spaces between paragraphs.

This truly was an ugly, ugly book.

Now again, to be fair, the Expresso Book Machine is ONLY a machine. It was not at fault for this piece of literary garbáge. Whoever formatted the Word file for the author was at fault. The author should fire whoever laid out this travesty, immediately and with prejudice. Even if it was the author himself. Or maybe especially if it was the author himself.

Do you understand? If you put out a piece of garbage like this, it won’t matter how good the writing is because the reader won’t get that far.

So as I wrote at the outset, when it comes to downgrading your own work by going on the cheap, don’t do it. There. End of lecture. Again.

My Current Challenge and Goal
Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September.
To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge.
Stay tuned.

Today’s Writing
Finished the Harold Nickel story, then got a good start on another one, so I’m a happy camper.
Fiction Words: 3858

Writing of “Harold Nickel’s Last Dime” (short story)
Day 1…… 2327 words. Total words to date….. 2327 words
Day 2…… 2002 words. Total words to date….. 4329 words (done)

Writing of “The Old Jenkins Place” (short story)
Day 1…… 1856 words. Total words to date….. 1856 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month…… 2 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month…… 8668
Total fiction words for the month………… 10258 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 475299

Writing and Selling Short Fiction

Hi Folks,

I’m thinking about doing a daylong seminar on this. It would depend on interest. If you happen to be interested and able to travel to Tucson, let me know by email please at harveystanbrough@gmail.com.

A brief announcement for a friend. JoAnn Popek and Deborah Owen recently told me about a no-fee short story contest. The deadline is September 15 though, so get cracking. (grin) For guidelines, visit Creative Writing Institute and scroll down.

I’ve had questions recently from folks who are signed up for my Free Short Story of the Week. (If you are not signed up, you can Sign Up Here.) They all ask why I’m not selling my short stories instead of putting them on the website free. A professional writer friend of mine asked the same question in a slightly different context a few weeks ago.

Think about that for a moment. Why in the world would I limit the audience for my short stories to around 70 subscribers? The answer is, I Don’t.

Yes, if you subcribe (see Sign Up Here above), you will receive a brand new short story free in your email once a week. It costs you nothing and you can read it as many times as you want for the next week or so.

But I ALSO publish each story, usually on the day I write it, to Amazon, the Smashwords store, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Inktera, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino. Through those markets, my stories, collections and novels are available in over 100 nations worldwide within a few days of publication.

To give you an idea of the process, as I’m writing this (September 2), I wrote the next short story of the week yesterday. It’s called “Paper Hearts.” As soon as I finished it, I did the format, created a cover, and published it to my Free Short Story of the Week blog. It will go live on my website on the morning of Monday, September 7. It will go out in email to subscribers on the afternoon of the same day.

So I posted it to my website yesterday and set a future release date. But I also published it for sale to Draft2Digital, a distributor who sends it to Apple, Barnes & Noble, Inktera, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd and Tolino. Then I published it to Smashwords, but only for sale in their online store. (You can buy titles at Smashwords.com in any ebook format.) Then I published it to Amazon.

If you want to see it, I recommend you subscribe to my Free Short Story of the Week and wait until Monday to read it. Or just come back to my website on Monday and click the Free Short Story of the Week tab.

But if you’re really in a rush and you have more money than patience, you’re more than welcome to visit your favorite ebook store anytime and buy it. It only costs $2.99. That includes tax, even if you live in Europe and have that horrible VAT thing going on.

Not ony do I sell each individual short story that I write, I also do this:

When I’ve written five short stories, I combine them in a short collection and sell it for $4.99. So my readers can buy my stories one at a time for $2.99 (five stories would cost just under $15) or they can get five stories in a short collection for $4.99.

So when I’ve written TEN short stories, guess what? Besides the two 5-story collections for $4.99 each, my readers can also opt to buy one 10-story collection for $5.99 to $7.99. Can you say Good Deal?

From a writer and indie publisher standpoint, each story gives me multiple streams of revenue, too. When I’ve written ten short stories, I get thirteen publications: ten individual stories, two 5-story collections, and one 10-story collection.

And each of those is for sale at every venue listed above PLUS at those venues’ subsidiaries. Most of the “big” vendors have a few to several subsidiaries to whom they further distribute the books. Cool, eh?

That gives me three separate streams of revenue for each short story. Thirty streams of revenue for ten stories. Times the number of venues in which my stories are for sale.

Finally, I also publish each 5-story and 10-story collection as a paperback. Do I get a lot of sales in paperback? No.

But when the reader finds my collection or novel online and sees the paperback price (usually around $15.99) right alongside the ebook price (usually around $5.99) it makes the ebook price look really good. See? Which of course it is.

‘Til next time, happy writing. And selling.

Harvey

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.

The Journal, Thursday, 9/10: Life Happens

Checked email first thing this morning per usual. I received a request to write a foreword for an anthology being published by Creative Writing Institute. I’ve told them I’ll do it.

Rolled out a little after 2, and by 3 a.m. I was writing. Woohoo! The retraining is in progress.

I wrote awhile with a couple breaks, then went to walk a local arroyo about 6. Again left my camera in the pickup and just walked. Finished with 5.8 miles and got back here around 9.

Then I remembered a drab but beautiful little flower that appeared in the background of a pic I took a few days ago. So on the spur of the moment, I decided to drive out that road, find the flowering plant, find that flower and capture it. Got it and was back within another hour. It’s a road I walk on a lot out here so I know it pretty well. I pinpointed the flowering plant I wanted by looking at the pic I took before that one and the pic I took after it. (grin)

When I got back I had a stack of emails waiting, many from the folks for whom I will write the foreword, so I responded to those, spent a little time on Facebook posting pics, then got a shower. Now it’s noon (where does the time go?) and I’m turning to my writing ‘puter.

Hey, life happens. When it does, you roll with it, then start writing. No matter what happens, if you’re a writer, you write.

Right now in my retraining, I’m focusing on writing first thing in the morning. Got that done this morning, so success there. Tomorrow I’ll do the same thing. When that becomes habit, I’ll begin expanding the hours and calming down the rest of the day.

But for today, good enough.

Topic of the Post: No topic tonight beyond the above.

My Current Challenge and Goal

Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September. To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge. Stay tuned. 

Today’s Writing

Usually, when I write a short story it all comes flooding out in a few to several hours in one day. Maybe two or three times in my life have I taken longer than one day to write a short story. And then I took two days to write “Finding Harold Harshbarger.” And now, apparently, I’m going to take two days to write my current WIP, a short story about a mob accountant who turned state’s witness and is in witness protection.

That’s okay. Even though I’m not officially throwing in the towel on the challenge for this month, I’m not suffering under any illusions that I’ll actually pull it off at this point. I’ll leave it in place as a personal incentive, but probably I’ll use the rest of this month to retrain myself and get my writing pump going again.

As I wrote above, for today, good enough. At least my daily word count is climbing back up to respectable levels.

Fiction Words: 2327

Writing of “Untitled about mob accountant” (short story)
Day 1…… 2327 words. Total words to date….. 2327 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month…… 1 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month…… 4810
Total fiction words for the month………… 6400 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year…………… 471441

 

The Journal, Wednesday, 9/9: Retraining

One more fairly major change to this blog. I’ve changed it so the full post appears in your email. You’ll still have the option of reading the whole thing in your browser where it looks a lot better. And of course I’ll continue to hope you will refer this to others, but you can also just read the whole thing in your email now.

This won’t help those who don’t bother to even open the email, but for those of you who do, maybe this will make things a little easier.

Rolled out a little before 2 again this morning. Checked email and other stuff while waking up. Unfortunately, I was distracted so failed to write during the first two hours of the day.

Sometimes email or Facebook or an article in one of the newsletters I get distracts me too much. I might need to go straight to writing, then go to emails and all of that after two or three writing sessions (so around 5 or 6 a.m.) Maybe I’ll try that for a day or two. I mention this only in case you might also have this problem occasionally.

So today I allowed myself to be distracted, then wrote this blog post and now it’s almost time for my walk.

Becoming a professional writer takes some retraining, and some of it is ongoing. Like you, I’m learning as I go. Much more on all this in the Topic below.

I’ll go out to walk about 6. Then back here to write.

Good walk. Left my camera in the pickup and just walked. Planned on 6 miles, but at mile 3 I decided to go for 8. Then about halfway to that I realized I was being stupid and cut it off. Ended up with 7.4 miles at just over 18 minutes per mile. Not bad for an old guy. Turns out I could have made 8. I’ll put that in the bank for another time.

Topic of the Post: Retraining

Well, all of that was a good lead-in to the topic of retraining.

If you want to become a professional writer, or if you want to become a more prolific professional writer, chances are you need to change a few habits. That’s the retraining I’m talking about.

This is something nobody else can do for you. It’s a lonely, internal endeavor.

Others can give you motivation, tools and suggestions that you can use in your retraining, but that’s as far as they can walk with you along this very private path.

What keyed my own retraining way back in early 2014 was reading Dean Wesley Smith’s very short book, How to Write a Novel in Ten Days. He ghosted a complete 70,000 word novel, under contract, in ten days. He blogged about the experience as he did it, then published those blog posts as a book.

When I first started retraining myself to be a writer, I adjusted my personal day to replace a few hours that to me were wasted. I replace those with hours during which I could work. That’s why I go to bed at 7 or so.
The time from 7 to 11 p.m. holds little value to me. I would do nothing but sit on the couch and stare at the TV, slowly numbing my mind. So I sleep during those hours.

From 2 to 6 a.m., it’s quiet and I can work, so I substitute those hours for the ones I cut.

Those hours, that schedule, is pretty much all I have left of my original retraining. But what I do during that time has slipped severely. So here I am, having to retrain myself again. In case they’ll help you in your own endeavors, here are the main points of my own retraining:

  • I’ll keep the hours I have now, but I’ll use the early hours (2 to 6 a.m.) for writing.
  • In all writings, I will strive to give my subconscious free reign and Write Off Into the Dark.
  • I will adhere to Heinlein’s Rules.
  • I’ll get off the break-every-hour schedule. Dean does this so I thought I’d try it. It doesn’t work for me. As often as not, forcing myself to take a break after an hour or so kills the story I’m working on. I’ll continue to take breaks when I’m tired, even if only to get up and move around a bit, but I won’t limit those to a particular time frame or word count.
  • I’ll spend no more than a half-hour on wake-up time. During that time I’ll consider my progress and make necessary adjustments in my current challenge. Might also use the time to revisit goals, etc.
  • As part of my retraining, tomorrow morning (and on the mornings that follow) I will write for at least two hours before my walk (fiction only).
  • I’ll continue to walk on most days. Gotta do it, and I like it anyway.

And I’ll continue to post this blog as a journal for myself and in the hopes my mistakes will help someone else.

My Current Challenge and Goal

Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September.
To satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, meaning they have to be over 2,000 words. If I write anything shorter than that, it will count on my numbers but not toward the challenge.
Stay tuned.

Today’s Writing
Still stuck in a slow start on the challenge. Every story is different. In this one, I’m working to add a lot of depth through the characters’ physical senses, so I’m doing a lot of cycling back. It’s similar in a way to rewriting, except you do it as you go and it’s all done in creative voice (from the subconscious). In other words I’m not making any conscious decisions regarding word choice or sentence structure or anything like that.

I finished this one, but at times it was rough going. Not smooth and not as much fun as it should have been. The fun was more in the dialogue exchange among the characters and in weaving the setting into that through the senses of the characters.

I won’t do a second one today, that’s for sure. As I said, I allowed myself to be distracted, and that slowed me down a lot.

Tomorrow morning I’ll get up with a new story idea and go for it.

Fiction Words: 1762

Writing of “Finding Harold Harshbarger” (short story)
Day 1…… 0721 words. Total words to date….. 0721 words
Day 2…… 1762 words. Total words to date….. 2483 words (done)

One thing about these stories — I just have to write them. I don’t have to rush to slap a cover on them and publish them. All of that’s going to come later, although I will pick one each week to be the story for that week. At the end of the month if I’m successful in my challenge I should have 40 publications: 30 individual stories, six 5-story collections, three 10-story collections, and maybe one book titled The Stories of September.

Total challenge stories for the month……… 1 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month……… 2483
Total fiction words for the month…………… 4073 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year……………… 469114

The Journal, Tuesday, 9/8: Challenges

Rolled out a little before 2 this morning. I think I’m almost caught up on my rest. Still, not much in the mood to write, although I’d better GET in the mood as the clock is ticking for the next short story. (grin)

Again I didn’t do much this morning but catch up on more of my preferred reading. Later I also opened all the pics (over 400) from the Gila trip. I separated out the ones my partner wanted to see and put them in a special folder to share. (As soon as they’re synced in my Dropbox, Dan, I’ll send you a link.)

Went for a walk, though it was more to take more pics than anything else. Still, turned over just less than four miles. Also managed to take 168 pics. All that in about 2 hours.

Did a little more yard work after I got back from the walk.

Topic of the Post: Challenges

I was reading Dean’s blog post a little while ago. He set a mega-challenge for himself. To meet the challenge, he has to write three novels in September, two in October, three in November and two in December. That’s ten novels in four months. He’s thinking around 40,000 to 60,000 words each.

He’s getting a slow start on the first month. He needed to write a novel every 10 days during September, and today, on the 8th, he’s written only about 15,000 words. But he isn’t worried.

For one thing, writing “only” two novels during October and December gives him a little catch-up room if he needs it. For another — and this is the biggie — if he “fails” in his challenge and writes “only” 7 novels or 8 or 9 instead of the 10 novels he plans to write, won’t that just be terrible? (grin)

The real value in a challenge is teaching the writer that Failing To Success is a good thing.

I said something similar a few posts back. Even if I stopped writing right now and didn’t write anymore fiction for the rest of the year, I would still end the year with over 466,000 words of publishable fiction. And all but 11,410 words of that is actual PUBLISHED fiction. This year.

So even if I just stopped right now, I would have “failed” to success.

But that wouldn’t be any fun, now would it? (grin)

A New Challenge

Back in July, Dean set himself another challenge. He challenged himself to write 31 short stories in 31 days. He then published them individually as short stories, but he also will publish them in a collection titled The Stories of July (or something like that).

Now seven days of September are already history, but I really need to jumpstart my writing. I need to get my writing blood pumping again. So I’m setting a new goal, publicly. As Andy Griffith would say, “Right chere, right now.” (grin)

Before October 1, I will write at least 30 new short stories, one for each day in September. Not really that big a deal. It just means that I’ll have to write two stories on seven of the remaining twenty-three days. (grin)

Now, just so everything’s above board, to satisfy the challenge, these have to be actual short stories, not flash fiction (6 to 99 words) or short-shorts (100 to 2,000 words). So they all have to run over 2,000 words. I don’t dictate to my characters how long stories have to be, so I might write some of those shorter ones too, but if I do they don’t count toward the challenge.

Stay tuned. This should be a blast.

Today’s Writing

Okay, first a note about the Wes Crowley saga. I’ve set the most recent novel aside for the time being. From what I can tell, it doesn’t feel like being written right now, so that’s that. I still feel as if there are at least two more novels in the story, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

I think this is the right thing to do. Book 9 was rough from the beginning, and it isn’t supposed to be like that. On that one thus far, I wrote only 11410 words in 8 days. That’s an average (aritmetic mean) of only 1426 words per day. On a novel full of characters that I love. That isn’t me.

So it’s off to the races on the challenge. I hope maybe some of you will join me.

Well, a slow start on the “race.” (grin) Only 721 words on a brand new story. Absolutely no worries. I expect to finish this one in an hour or two in the morning, then write a second one. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even knock out a third one tomorrow.

Fiction Words: 0721

Writing of “Untitled about Mavis Harshbarger” (short story)

Day 1…… 0721 words. Total words to date….. 0721 words
Day 2…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXX words

Total challenge stories for the month……… 0 (Goal is 30)
Total challenge words for the month……… 0721
Total fiction words for the month………… 2311 (1590 on Wes)
Total fiction words for the year………… 467352

 

The Journal, Monday, 9/7: Reading

As you can see from the title of this post, beginning today I’m offering a slightly different format. I’m including at least a hint at the Topic of the Post in the title. When I don’t include a topic for that day, I’ll try to slip something in there to give you an idea of what the post is about.

I’m also going to be removing older posts from the website. They take up unnecessary space, and there’s no need for that. I’ll leave some of them up in case anyone wants to scroll back. Maybe a week’s worth or something. But if you enjoy a particular topic or something like that, be sure to save it for yourself.

Rolled out around 3:30 this morning. The trip to the Lower Gila Box was very good, but more exhausting than I realized. We both (Michael = Dan, and I) got a lot of good pics. I thought a few of mine would slide up into the excellent category, but when I opened them on my computer last night, they just weren’t all that. I’ll post a few of them on Facebook later. Probably. Maybe.

Haven’t done much this morning but catch up on reading online news and newsletters, emails, etc. Later today I hope to read more in a book of Bradbury interviews. More about that in the topic below. I’m also going to mow the yard in a while, and I plan to put together a few daylong seminars. So no fiction writing today.

No walk today either. Maybe even for the next couple of days. My buddy and I walked only perhaps 3 miles per day on Friday and Saturday, and another mile or so on Sunday before we left to come home. But a great deal of that walking was on some pretty steep slopes. And it seemed we were always climbing, never descending. Weird how that works. (grin)

Okay, so rather than boring you with minute by minute details, I’ll just say generally today will be some nonfiction writing, some reading, some exploring a new sales venue I found (I’ll report on it later if it works out), some work out in the yard, and a lot of sitting under a fan trying not to move so I won’t burst into flames.

Talk with you again mañana.

Topic of the Post: Reading

Of some significance, while we were camping in New Mexico, I caught up on a bit of reading. Specifically I read parts of a book called Conversations with Ray Bradbury. Edited by Steven L. Aggelis, this is a compilation of Interviews with Bradbury, whom I consider to be the best short story writer—and maybe the best storyteller—of all time.

I strongly recommend this book.

The title is not yet available as an ebook (darn it), but I got a mint-condition paperback copy for 99 cents plus $3.99 (or thereabouts) shipping. If you’re interested, just look for the title at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, then pick which copy you want. I think you won’t be disappointed.

In many ways, the writing advice imbedded in Bradbury’s responses validates my own beliefs about good writing practices, including writing into the dark, reading your work aloud and many others.

But I have also learned a few things (in less than a few hours’ reading time) that might have taken me years to learn if I hadn’t picked up this book.

Bradbury’s process is slightly expanded over my own and over what I teach. He does write strictly from his subconscious (writing into the dark). But instead of sending his work off to a first reader, he then reads over his own work, reading aloud, looking carefully to trim anything that is unnecessary to the work.

He isn’t looking to rewrite anything. He isn’t looking at sentence structures. He’s looking only to trim the fat.
The, I believe, he submits the work or publishes it. (I say “I believe” because in one interview, when pressed, he told the interviewer he makes at least seven passes at his work, cutting more each time. I seriously doubt that is true. I suspect it’s something he feeds writers who need to feel that their own “rewriting” process is valid.)

The point is, remain open to learning. The more open-minded you remain, the more information you can take in, assess, and choose to retain or discard. And the more your skills as a storyteller and writer will improve.

Today’s Writing

As I mentioned above, no fiction writing again today. Just kind’a getting used to being back. Also I put together three daylong seminars I’m planning to offer to the good folks in the greater Phoenix area and also over in Tucson. We’ll see whether anyone’s interested.
Here they are just in case you’re interested:

Writing Off Into the Dark (daylong writing intensive) — Major subtopics include Heinlein’s Rules, Productivity, Writing Myths, The Difference Between Short and Long Fiction, How to Practice Writing, The Difference Between Rewriting and Revising (Cycling Back), and a lot more.

Writing the Character Driven Story (good for any length story, daylong writing intensive) — Major subtopics include Where to Get Story Ideas, How to Write from Inspiration, The Importance of Setting and How to Write It, How to Write an Opening, How to Select a Genre, The Five Senses Exercise, and two more in-class and take-home exercises.

Smart Self-Publishing (daylong seminar on the publishing side of writing) — Major subtopics include Why Self-Publishing Instead of “Traditional” Publishing, The Difference Between Self-Publishing and Subsidy Publishing, Copyright Explained (It Costs Nothing), ISBN and LCCN Explained (Don’t Buy Your Own), Set Yourself Up as an Indie Publisher, Epublishing and Print Publishing, Getting Paid as a Self-Publisher, Your Book Available Worldwide in a Matter of Days, Price Your Ebooks and Print Books Competitively, The Importance of the Book Cover, Where to Find Cover Art, and a handout listing specific URLs and recommendations for formatting, print layout and cover design.

So there y’go. If you’d like to have any of these seminars in your area, email me at HarveyStanbrough@gmail.com or leave a comment below.
Fiction Words: XXXX

Writing of Book 9 of the Wes Crowley saga
Day 1…… 3213 words. Total words to date….. 3213 words
Day 2…… 1046 words. Total words to date….. 4259 words
Day 3…… 1858 words. Total words to date….. 6117 words
Day 4…… 1023 words. Total words to date….. 7140 words
Day 5…… 1587 words. Total words to date….. 8327 words
Day 6…… X943 words. Total words to date….. 9270 words
Day 7…… 1084 words. Total words to date….. 10354 words
Day 8…… 1056 words. Total words to date….. 11410 words
Day 9…… XXXX words. Total words to date….. XXXXX words

I’m gonna leave up the number for ol’ Wes while my subconscious continues to turn the story over. If it doesn’t perk up and get with it pretty soon though, I’ll send Wes out behind the barn to think about what he’s done while I’m writing some other stuff.

Total fiction words for the month…………… 1590
Total fiction words for the year……………… 466631