Moving Sucks

That is the most apt way to start this post. Moving sucks. Full stop. Especially the farther the move. But it’s over. Nici and I finally got moved back to Tulsa this weekend. All it took was fourteen hours of driving. In a cramped truck. I had no idea that driving a moving truck would be such a full body experience but it was. It fucking was. Given that last week was spent finalizing packing and preparations and Friday and Saturday were spent loading and driving, I was utterly exhausted. I’m feeling closer to normal now but I still haven’t gotten back to the last third of Grimluk 3’s first draft yet. On top of all of that, I’m getting use to a new place, trying to get settled in, and acclimating to new people (Nici’s mom, sister, and her sister’s friend). I may just hold off until next week and do my best to write furiously. I know realistically I’m just fine for time. I imagine Grimluk 4 will draft a little faster since I’m not gonna have a move to contend with. I really hope my odd-numbered books don’t continue to have moves interrupting them. That would be a terrible tradition.

In the plus side though, April has been amazing for book sales. Since doing the Fools of Fantasy sale, I’ve seen really consistent sales. Like, only two days this month I haven’t sold at least one book. I really really hope that continues.

That’s all the news from me right now. I haven’t decided if there’s gonna be anything on Patreon this week yet so keep your eyes out for that.

Looking Back and Going Forward

The Hell year that has been 2016 is coming to its end and 2017 looms ominously in the wings. With that in mind, I thought I might give a bit of retrospection on the year and think about what’s to come in the new year.

Personally, the year started off in a harsh note. I don’t exactly make it a secret that my family life is less than stellar, even if I don’t post much about it here on the Dot Com. Not a lot of that has changed. In a lot of ways it feels like it’s much worse. My partner and I are trying to move back to Tulsa and in with her mom. It’s not going very quickly due to a host of factors. So, if you want to help, buy my books, leave reviews, and spread the word about Grimluk.

Professionally, though, I think I’ve had a pretty great year. And a busy one up until October. February saw the Kickstarter campaign for Demon Haunted, which ultimately failed, topping out at $1600 of my $2000 goal. Which was cool. I backtracked and switched over to Indiegogo, making use of their flexible funding option for March. Thanks to some flexibility on Tim Marquitz’s part as my editor, the $900 I managed did the job. Even the self-publishing world benefits from good contacts. And hey, Tim‘s an author, too, and having a rough time with some health stuff, you should go buy a few of his books.

The summer was spent busting my ass on editing and finishing up the map of Ornesea and a few other image products for Grimluk, especially for the Indiegogo backers. In August, I managed to get a basic plot down for Grimluk 3 and started it. Unfortunately, by the time October rolled around, I was exhausted, so it’s sitting around 15,000 words and waiting on me to get back to it. But, ya know, hey, that’s an accomplishment in and of itself.

October also saw my first Orctober and it turned out pretty damn well and was pretty popular. I’ve also been selling pretty well. October saw me make $50 in sales, which is a definite milestone and one I’m stoked about. November and December have been great as well. December especially when compared to last year when I only sold one book for Christmas.

So, what’s in store for 2017? Well, first up, hopefully the move will get done and out of the way as quickly as possible but that’s not looking hopeful. So, beyond that, I give more hope to my mental health issues calming back down and letting me get back to work. I won’t be ready to crowdfund Grimluk 3 by Spring unless I get a sudden round of supercharging. So the plan is to work hard to finish the first draft of 3, start work on book 4, and run a campaign in October and tie it into Orctober and then shoot for another October release in 2018. I’m batting around the idea of doing a massive campaign for books 3 AND 4, but I’ll probably wait and run the campaign for book 4 in October 2018 as well.

Beyond that, we’ll see what else happens. I’m also debating getting some issues with Audible worked out so I can potentially do audiobooks as well. Depending on when I get moved, I might also attempt to start working on a comic with a buddy of mine, though that will depend on several other factors as well. I’ve also contemplated starting a Patreon again for short stories, mostly for a certain side character of Grimluk’s. I’ve also considered doing heavy metal album reviews. I’d consider trying to do Twitch streams but I don’t currently have the hardware to do that.

So, that’s all the news and forecasts I have to offer. I figure I can do some more posts here or there like my Why Orcs post. Was pretty amazed at how popular that turned out. I hope you had a good year, my friends and I hope 2017 meets you better than 2016 did. Remember:

Be excellent to each other!

What’s Wrong With Me

This blog post is something I feel rather compelled to post right now. There are things happening in my life that it’s helping me process. It’s also going to include some sensitive topics, like health issues, mental and physical, and mentions of abuse and suicidal ideation.

A certain portion of who I am and how I operate can be summed up in the following:

“These are exactly the kinds of thoughts that Jeffrey wrote in his journal again and again.  ‘What’s wrong with me?  What’s wrong with me?  There must be something terribly wrong with me that I’m unable to find joy in the world of work.’ Always he wrote, ‘What’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with me?’ And of course all his friends were forever saying to him, ‘What’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with you, what’s wrong with you that you can’t get with this wonderful program?’ Perhaps you understand for the first time now that my role here is to bring you this tremendous news, that there’s nothing wrong here with YOU. You are not what’s wrong.  And I think there was an element of this understanding in your sobs: ‘My God, it isn’t me!'” – excerpt from My Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.

My wonderful partner, Nici, bought me a copy of this for xmas one year. I read it finally last year. She said, while reading it for class, that I reminded her of the titular Ishmael. Some things in the book were boring cause I knew them already (a basic history and biology lesson) but the stuff like the excerpt really hit home. Read the full excerpt for a clearer picture. But this is a thing that crops up monthly, if not weekly. Especially when my stepdad explodes.

Some history. I have been privileged to never have worried significantly or very long about food, shelter, and clothing. Privileged to have not had to work a job since I was 18 to support myself. The last 15 years of my life have been trying and in some instances, very fucked up. My family’s been through a lot and lost a lot. I won’t go into details because it’s not an easy story to tell or hear. Suffice to say though, it has not been a healthy experience.

And a huge part of the past 10 of those 15 years has been my stepdad. He and my mom have been married for 11 years, married in August of 2004. Within the first six weeks, he exploded in the car with my mom, beating on the dashboard. He did not tell his daughters (five at the time, four now, more on that later) that they’d gotten married until Thanksgiving, which was also the first time we all met. By the end of December, he’d decided that he couldn’t stay with mom. That he had to go back to his true family.

For the first five years, he did this every three to six months. He was also a major contributing factor to an outcome of the hell we were going through when he came into the picture. At some point, it finally came out that his youngest daughter wasn’t his. His second youngest got herself knocked up, married, cheated on, divorced, pregnant again, and remarried to her ex. The oldest, I shit you not, got her ex husband and father of two of her children, into drug dealing to support her shopping habits and then got full into drugs herself, taking thousands of dollars from us and him. Mom ambushed her with a drug test late last year and she tested positive for SEVEN different substances. And all five of them were shitty to us for a long time.

Now, for me, I’ve always struggled with depression and self-loathing and bits of anxiety but I’ve never been expensive or dramatic like that. You’d swear I was though. Around age 19, when his presence really started setting in, I began to feel a sense of panic and a need to escape. At 20/21, I wanted to run off to Vancouver. Chicago the next year. When I started writing this, I was trying to conjure up ways to make living out of my van with Nici bearable. Each year, my depression got a little worse because of everything going on and because I couldn’t figure out what to do with myself, with my life. For most of my time in college, I was too fucked up to be there. I nearly flunked out all together one year.

Because, on top of mental illness, I’m functionally broken in the way of the world at large. In western, and specifically American, culture at large. Capitalist/ruling class stuff, basically. Ishmael calls this Taker culture. I am naturally a sensitive, curious person. I was, and still am, drawn to the arts and sciences. And I’ve always put a high value on being “a good friend.” A certain type of emotional labor rather than physical or customer service stuff. I would happily live on a mincome and not worry about kickstarter funding and book sales so much. I’m good with money. I can budget tightly and then I could create and do my friend thing. I’m definitely NOT wired to be capable of retail work. I’ve done it. I’m bad at it.  Smile, the customer is always right, you can never have a bad day or be sick, how can I help you, yes sir, no sir, do you have a rewards membership. The best job I ever had was repairing computers for a little shop in the town I lived in. I sat in a back room running tests on hardware and software, running anti-virus, or doing fresh installs. I rarely had to do much with customers.

It should be noted, of course, that other people do customer service jobs and some even enjoy them. Bless those people. We need them. And bless the people who do it for survival even if it’s hard on them and the people who just don’t mind cause it lets them do other things. I’m not a “people person” in that regard. I’ve always been the type to listen and counsel. And to make stuff. I’ve always wanted to just make stuff.

Incidentally, being a Smart and Talented Kid™ meant I ended up hating school. By 7th grade, I had started getting bored. You start getting repeat classes and lessons. From 7th grade to your sophomore year of college, you just repeat things over and over. High schoolers can now get college credit for gen ed stuff but when I was coming up, that wasn’t a thing. And most of it is still just busy work. I don’t like busy work. That weird “look busy” thing in a lot of jobs always rubbed me wrong. As Bill Hicks said, “why don’t you pretend I’m working.”

Hating busy work also meant I hated college. I loved tech school though. College is, supposedly, designed to a) prepare you for a career and b) help you be well-rounded. In my experience it does neither. It attempts to destroy your well-being and make you pay for the privilege. Tech school got me right the fuck to what I was there to do. Easy choice.

But yeah, making stuff. I liked making people laugh when I was really young (one of the few things I’ve kept my whole life). I liked drawing. I was good at it. I wanted to be an inventor and an artist and a scientist. Then a wrestler and an artist. Then a musician. Then a filmmaker. Then a writer. Then back to a filmmaker, with sound engineering mixed in (which I received training for in a tech program). Then back to a writer. I like talking to people and I like helping people and I like connecting with people and entertaining them.

But these things are worthless and irrelevant unless they can make you lots of money. And sometimes they can and do, if you’re very lucky and hit the right notes at the right time. A lot of us, the so-called Millennials, grew up hearing that we could be anything we wanted. We just had to study hard and get into a good college and, by the way, if you don’t do this, you’ll get stuck flipping burgers or cleaning toilets, and you don’t want THAT do you? Only failures do those jobs. And behind all of this, a very long war. There are kids alive whose whole existence has been with the background radiation of war and propaganda.

So on top of all that, I’ve heard how I’m lazy, spoiled, emasculated (an insult aimed more at my mother than me and said by a lot of family), incapable, and basically worthless. And it’s taken its toll. And even knowing all of this and knowing myself, I am STILL, at 30 years old, from the last decade of my life, asking what is wrong with me, why can’t I do it right, why am I so broken, why can’t I just not be this way. Why can’t I be a Real Person.

I feel like 2015 was a good year for me and for Nici. She graduated at the end of 2014, we got moved, she started recovering (college wrecked her, see my claim above), I was working on A Demon in the Desert, coming along well. She started getting tutoring jobs, I finished and released the book, and on top of my original 26 backers, sold close to 60 books by the end of the year. I wrote the first draft of Demon Haunted in 4 months. Both of us were getting healthier mentally too. Sure, I also got diagnosed with diabetes but I set about restructuring my diet to control THAT without medication. A good year. We had a plan and we were moving forward.

But it was not Enough. Due to circumstances that would still be happening even if we WERE independent, another explosion happened from stepdad (this after one in the spring where mom had to beat it into his head that I was actually obligated to finish my book, that people had paid me money for it). It wrecked a lot of that progress with mental health. It also made Nici and me even more sensitive to, well, existing near him. We’re afraid. And he simultaneously says that I need to be a Real Man™ while blatantly saying I’m clearly incapable. During this last explosion, which involved a “family discussion,” he even admitted he had no faith in me and felt sorry for Nici. (side note: Nici has her own history of family abuse and trauma) He also claims that my books are evil because of demons and that he’ll have to stand before God and be held accountable for that.

This conflict, being a Real Person/Real Man/Financially Independent, is really the only thing left that still makes me wish I was dead. Depression is easier to fight now. Diabetes is manageable. My body sucks but I make it work the best I can. I hate hurting all the time but banging out tasty words makes it worth it. But that voice, “What’s wrong with me? I’ll never be a real person”? That still makes death sound preferable. And the anxiety of whether he’s going to blow up is draining. As of this week, it’s also been stated that out health issues (my mom’s extensive issues included) are “just excuses” for not working.

And sleep disorders, which Nici and I both have (delayed sleep phase and sleep apnea respectively), are just us staying up all night to play games. The bits that are vaguely true feed the voice. I know I need to be more active but my knees are shit and fat bodies can have issues with mobility. And fatigue in general is its own battle. So the voice says, “what the fuck is wrong with you, you entitled piece of shit? You’re so goddamn privileged and you just take it for granted.”

You might be saying, “well, Ashe, it doesn’t sound like you do anything though.” I do though. I handle the bills, the groceries, some of the cleaning and cooking, and I’m always available to run errands. He borrows my car whenever he wants. I’m a personal assistant and, quite frankly, a part-time therapist for my mom and Nici. When I have money, I contribute how I can. Nici’s contributed as well, including a chunk of her financial aid in her last semester and plenty of rounds of emergency groceries. I try to help how I’m able.

But the voice persists.

And I don’t think I can ever get rid of that voice without being able to fully support me and Nici (or her supporting us or us supporting us). Because there’s no other cure in our culture. We live in a world where most of us are drowning in student loan debt and if we have degrees, we’re probably not even using them. Unemployment is sharp. Healthcare is non-existent. Poverty is rampant. Everyone seems to be mentally ill in some form or another. Shit’s all fucked up. We’re all fucked up. The game is rigged and broken and the rules keep changing.

But maybe he’s right and I just make excuses. I can’t tell anymore. I am passed the ability to be objective about myself. I know I have…restrictions with jobs. And we live in a college town. There is nothing here for someone like me. I’m honestly leaving a lot out here too, from the family discussion farce and larger events as well.

I look at the world though and it’s hard to have hope. It’s hard to see a future. It’s especially hard to make your own way. And I’m a white, hetero, cis man. If my family had money and I was perfectly healthy, and life was a game, this would be Easiest Mode. There wouldn’t be an issue here. I cannot imagine how much harder the game is for everyone else.

But…here I am. I’ve had confirmations from others but the voice persists. I’m proud to say that this is the first time I’ve had a voice screaming in opposition to the other though. To KEEP FIGHTING. To KEEP WRITING. But it’s still hard. But I’m not alone. Everyone I know deals with this in some way or another. And there’s some comfort knowing I’m not alone. That you’re not alone. That we’re not alone. I try to keep hoping.

“Remember…hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

2015 – A Review

Given how much has happened in my life this year, I figured a retrospective was in order. The year ends tonight and next year is already shaping up to be eventful in some usual and some new ways.

My year started off rocky. After getting moved, January was almost entirely me fighting off depression and feeling like a giant fraud of a writer. I was pushing on A Demon in the Desert as much as I could. February was rough too but had more progress. Stan Nichols liked my facebook page too. That was surreal. Sometimes I still think about asking if he’ll read it and offer some public thoughts.

March saw my work increase a lot and I tried off some promotion, posting snippets each week for kickstarter backers and others alike. I’d also attempted to start a Patreon (that ultimately I shut down as I wasn’t comfortable continuing it and by then, I’d managed to get one person interested). It helped me keep my writing schedule consistent but that’s about it. I’ve also apparently been working on map stuff for almost a year, off and on. I started the original map while I was running the kickstarter last year, I think and ended up scrapping it and starting over this summer. March also saw me get diagnosed with diabetes.

That diagnosis took a lot of focus and after experimenting with medication and stabbing myself several times a week, I shunned the meds in favor of overhauling my eating habits. I’m still having issues with that in some ways but I managed to go from an A1C of 13 down to 7.4 just from reducing or eliminating a lot of shit from my diet. Namely not sucking down regular sodas all day.

I used the Camp Nano from April to help get work done on A Demon in the Desert and had some folks read through sections and give me notes. By the time the end of May rolled around, I had declared myself DONE and then learned that releasing a book can be a pretty quick process. I meant to release the paperback on June 1st but instead, released it on May 28th. Either way, I got everything set up, ordered a box, sent everyone their digital copies, signed everything, boxed it up, and got it all shipped out. Then I started selling.

My first month has been my best month, followed by October. June saw me sell 18 copies total, I think. October was 14 or 15. July taught me an important lesson: never have 99c sales when you only have one book. Not a smart business decision. I spent most of the summer and part of the fall learning about making business decisions. And I’ve had some helpful tips from other writers. In particular, Krista D. Ball has been a huge help and became a fast new friend. In May, I’d also finally made use of the guest post Ed Erdelac offered me over on his blog and in July, I was r/Fantasy’s Writer of the Day. Both turned out pretty good.

Then I turned 30 this year. The first half of the year was filled with adjusting to a new location, family stuff, health stuff, finishing and then releasing a book, and hitting the big Three Oh. Not bad.

After finishing the book, I took a little break and then banged out “From Tusk Til Dawn.” Submitted it to a couple of magazines but got rejections on it and decided to toss it up on Patreon. Still pretty happy about that story. That was all in July and after that, towards the end of the month, I started Grimluk 2.

Between July 23rd and October 23rd, I wrote 30,000 words. Which was a big goddamn deal. It took me about a year to get to 40,000 on the first book. Amazingly, November saw me prove that I really can do this seriously as I used Nanowrimo to keep writing and wrote nearly 37,000 words, finishing the first draft on the 26th with a little over 67,000 words. I’ve gotten a little work done on the second draft now and I can say with 100% confidence that book 2 is gonna knock people’s socks off. It’s bigger and better. Hell, I even took something a reviewer said about the plot of the first one and made it a point in the second one.

Now here I am, December 31st, reflecting on everything. December’s been difficult. Yes, I’ve had a year of very hard work and I’m proud of that but I’ve spent a year pretty isolated too. Nici and I don’t really do a whole lot and Auburn’s a college town so making friends has been, well, not really possible. The holidays are hard too, for both of us.

I really want to hope that 2016 will be a lot better in those regards. I hope that the kickstarter for Grimluk 2 will succeed. I hope it does at least as well as the first one. I hope that maybe I can attend a convention. I hope that I can finish Grimluk 2 and then bang out the first draft for the third book.

I hope you meet your own goals next year. I hope you succeed and grow. I hope you have a good 2016.

-Ashe

Things I Learned Writing A Demon in the Desert

I’ve been bouncing this idea around my head for a few weeks now, and especially after reading one of my kickstarter-backer reviews, and seeing the latest version of this from an author guest posting on Chuck Wendig’s blog, I figured it was time to get it out. There was a colossal amount of learning involved in this book. So I’m going to attempt to run through all of it. Some of it will be about kickstarter, some about writing a whole goddamn book, and some aspects of the business of being an author-publisher. I hope it’ll be helpful for any hopeful writers. So, let’s do this.

Writing

  • This will sound cliché, and it is, but after seeing various writers get the question (and me ASKING one or two), I feel it deserves first billing here. Do the writing. Ass to chair, fingers to keyboard. But here’s the thing some of us might not realize about doing The Work: you don’t have to bang out 1000 words a day. Especially if that’s not normal for you. If you have any sort of mental illness, it’s probably safe to say that this will be a struggle for you. It was for me. Some nights were easier than others. Some nights were outright battles just to get two sentences out. Which leads into the next point…
  • Set a minimum goal. When I started the book, it wasn’t even a book. It was a short story (or at least, I thought that’s what it would be). For the first couple of months, my daily goal was, believe it or not, just two sentences. Most of the time, I flew past my daily goal but having that goal was good. Cause Ass-to-chair and a daily goal adds up. And you can increase it as you’re able. I was still struggling a lot with depression, so two sentences was good. It was achievable, it gave me little bits of momentum, and they add up. You do The Work and it adds up. You write two sentences five days a week, sure, it’s not a lot over a month, but that’s not the point. Word count can be important but it’s not a taskmaster. You’re the writer, so if you feel like you’ll struggle at first, start small. There’s no shame in it. Each day, you’ll have more words than you had the day before. That’s how stories get done.
  • On the flip side though, you absolutely cannot force yourself. There were nights where I sat down and my brain was static. I could squeeze a few words out and each one felt wrong. Those are the nights where it’s better for you to just step back, go get a snack, and try to just relax. Especially if you have to deal with health issues. It’s important to realize that sometimes, you just need a small break. Related to this is that some nights, you get stuck and you gotta step back and chew on the story some. There were plenty of nights where I had ideas but when I started moving forward, I got stuck. One thing that helped me a lot was something Ed Erdelac recommended, though I’m not sure if I followed exactly like he suggested. When I got stuck, I’d drop down from the story and make plot blocks. I’d write out where I wanted to go in the most bare bones manner. “Jack meets Jill. Jill shows Jack the hill. A demon escapes the well at the top of the hill and pushes Jack and Jill down it. Jack’s corpse becomes the new home for the demon.” I was surprised at how much headway I made doing that.
  • And after all that, it does get easier once you start finding your stride. I was unable to focus on writing last June and December but once I got going again, I regained my momentum. By the time March rolled around, I felt like I was busting my ass, in a good way. I was hitting 500-1000 words a night and that does feel good. You learn tricks as you go, like the plot blocks, and you learn to recognize your work habits. Just keep going. And remember…
  • FIRST DRAFTS DON’T HAVE TO BE AMAZING. Yours might be, mine wasn’t. Mine was garbage. But it was a start.

Kickstarter

  • I’ve said this to everyone who would listen because, quite frankly, I jumped the Kickstarter gun way too damn soon. DO NOT start your campaign unless you have at least two drafts done. Bare minimum, if you just can’t stand it, or if you’re actually experienced with everything BUT running a crowdfunding campaign, make sure you have a finished first draft. I know that this sounds incredibly obvious. “No duh, Ashe, who’s that dumb?” Hi. I am that dumb. My first draft wasn’t even finished when I started my campaign. Hell, I didn’t even write The End til March this year. This hurt the book because…
  • I vastly underestimated how much work I had to do when I started the campaign. Originally, I had planned to release A Demon in the Desert in March. That is freaking ridiculous. That is…unreal. But by the time I figured that out, I’d reached 100% funding somehow and then I was stuck. Now, I know that my friends would’ve understood if I’d said “I can’t release the book til late summer” but my friends would’ve been thrilled (and were thrilled) to read my poo poo first draft. But between how much work I had left and the fact that I had to orchestrate a move from Tulsa, OK to Auburn, AL meant that there was no way I would meet a March deadline period. So I begged forgiveness and said I’d shoot for a late June release.
  • So you’re gonna start a kickstarter campaign. Are you 100% prepared? No, no you’re not. And there’s no way to be 100% prepared but you can get close. You can set a full campaign up without making it live. And if you’ve never done one before, you’ll definitely want to do this since you’ll have to set up an Amazon Payments account to receive the funds should you hit 100% funding. That can take a few days to a week to process. And what about promotional material? Do you have a cover? Do you have promo art? Do you have reading samples? Are you prepared to make regular updates? Have you planned out your rewards and prices? Do you have a budget? Did you then factor in the processing fees that Kickstarter and Amazon take out? You’ll want to do that. I set my goal for $850 dollars and ended up with $775 after processing. Now, I ended up doing things a little different than I originally planned so it worked out but trust me, it’s better to be over-prepared. And while we’re on money…
  • You’ll still need more than you think when you’re setting things up. Because if you’re new to the whole concept and business like I was (and still am), there are things you didn’t think about or factor in. Have you looked at editor costs? I had no idea about freelance editors. Not one. And editors don’t just make sure you use the right words or make sure the grammar’s correct. The full editing process involves a professional helping you hone the story, sharpening into a finely crafted weapon of feels. And what about a cover artist? Despite “don’t judge a book,” people absolutely do judge a book by its cover. And if you’re writing sci-fi, fantasy, or horror, you want, you need a good cover. You can find artists to fit all kinds of budgets (and editors too), but trust me, you want to include that in there if you can’t afford it out-of-pocket. I was fortunate enough to get the cover before the campaign because I already knew what I wanted it to look like and my mom was nice enough to help me pay for it. Someone said recently that my goal seemed “reasonable.” Making a book is actually pretty expensive and I undersold myself. Be transparent about the costs too. Budget breakdowns are helpful to backers.
  • So you’ve started the campaign, how do you get backers? Well, you definitely don’t run around anywhere you can find posting about it. I have learned much about self-promo and the biggest aspect of doing it is presentation. When you’re a newbie, you have to rely on friends, and family if you’re able, and then you have to go out and you have to find your audience as best you can. And you’re gonna want to focus if you can. If you decide to take to goodreads, like I did, don’t join any and every group that has some connection to what you’re writing. Pick one that lines up the most and then, before you promote at all, engage the group. Get a feel for them, learn the rules. Cause, believe it or not, lots of authors (and I definitely hold myself accountable here) show up to goodreads groups like locusts. Don’t do that. Pick your avenues carefully and deliberately. Then realize that you’re probably going to get ignored a lot. Here’s some good tips on self-promotion in general from Michael J. Sullivan.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to do EVERYTHING. If you offered signed paperbacks as a reward, give yourself time to sign them, and box them, and label them, and ship them. Give yourself time to finish the project. Six months post campaign end isn’t unreasonable. You might want to say longer and hey, if you’re ready sooner, then everyone gets a pleasant surprise.

The Business

  • You want an editor. You need an editor. Yes, they’re expensive, I know, it sucks. I had no idea at first but it’s not uncommon for an 80,000 word book to cost $2000 for editing. Thankfully though, there are freelancers who understand and will offer payment plans. Though if you’re going the kickstarter route, this is one more reason to have at least that first, complete draft done. You’ll have a word count, which will give you an editing price, which will be a number you can slap on your budget for your campaign goal, which lets your potential backers know what they’re funding. Before I go on, I just want to make it clear that I am extremely proud of the work I did on this book. Is it a 5-star debut? Hell no. But I don’t think it would’ve been even if I’d had an editor. I had written on and off at various points in my life but this was the first time I really threw myself into it whole hog. So Grimluk’s first outing could’ve used a hard round of developmental edits on top of the proofing. But, that’s what this is all about: Things I learned.
  • Self-promotion is always hard. You have to find a balance for how much you do it and how and where and there are a lot of folks who don’t want to be told about your book from you. There are plenty who do though. I’ve come across plenty of folks in the orcs tag on tumblr who’ve shown huge interest in the book once I made them aware. But like I said earlier, that’s because I focused. Shotgun promotion just does not work. Which also means…
  • It’s gonna take for you to build an audience. It just is. Unless you can somehow hit the right buttons (or wrong buttons as the case may be) on your first try, you’re gonna spend a long time finding readers. The best thing you can do is keep writing and keep getting better and keep releasing stuff.
  • It’s okay to read reviews of your book but you have to keep something in mind about them: Even if it’s one of your crowdfunding backers, reviews are NOT for the author. They are for other readers. You can use them to become better but they are not attacks on you or for your ego. That way lies madness.
  • There is no setup for pre-orders via Createspace. You can set up pre-orders for the Kindle edition (and on Smashwords), but there is no pre-order for the paperback. And the whole process goes faster than you think. So, if you have a specific date in mind as a self-pubber, don’t release til that date. Get everything ready, order your proof copies, make any corrections that need to be made, and then wait til your allotted time. If I remember right, processing for the paperback and the Kindle took about 24 hours each once you hit “SUBMIT.”
  • And what about getting paid? Well, Createspace/Amazon payments take a while. Basically, you don’t get paid for three months, starting from the release day. Thankfully, once your pay cycle finally starts up, and you get your first royalties, it’ll be monthly thereafter.
  • I bought my own ISBN instead of using the free ones. I bought them directly from Bowker because $99 for one ISBN is ridiculous and a pack of 10 is less than $300. A pack of 1000 is less than $600 and would last you a very long time, especially if you only release via Createspace/Kindle. You have to have an ISBN for each format of your book, and since I put up an edition on Smashwords, I used three ISBNs. Ultimately though, ISBN is up to you. I read a few things that convinced me I should go that route but it is entirely up to you. The biggest thing about having your own is that you get to assign your Publisher, instead of it defaulting to whoever provided the ISBN (ie- “Published by Createspace Publishing Services 2015”).

Bits and Bobs

  • Michael J. Sullivan gave me a bit of advice one night in March: If you’re in the US, focus on Createspace/Amazon, cause that’s where you’re gonna make all your money. Originally, I had planned to have an extra edition through IngramSpark, in hopes of getting into bookstores. Honestly, there’s not a huge reason to do that anymore. Sure, it’d be cool to see yourself in a bookstore but it’s so easy to set up online now and you can always order a box of your books to sell yourself elsewhere.
  • If you do a print book, you should ABSOLUTELY make use of the Kindle Matchbook program and offer that bad boy for free. It’s how it should be at this point. If you buy a movie these days, it comes with a digital copy. You can rip any CDs you buy for later use, but there hasn’t been a way to do that with books until now. You don’t HAVE to do this, of course, but it’s a practice readers appreciate. Especially for the bigger books. There’s also a service called BitLit that’s designed for this as well.
  • To start with, you might look at other authors as “competition.” But here’s the thing: We’re not competing with each other. We’re all writing different things. Yes, we’re writers, but there are millions of people out there and you can find an audience. And the indie community is small. We’re not competitors, we’re a community. Support your fellow writers. SA Hunt tweeted one night that it’d be cool to start seeing indie writers recommend each other in their books. Fantastic idea! Utterly brilliant. So I did. I picked six folks, including Sam, that had helped me or encouraged me or that I had enjoyed reading (or some combo) and added a recommendations page to the back of the book. The ebook even has links to their websites. Cause we’re still readers too. We still get excited about reading a good story, so why not share that with your readers? It costs nothing and it builds good will all around.
  • Straight up: Being an author-publisher is not fucking easy. It’s not. You have to learn every aspect of the business. There are new sites and services now that can help you though. I’ve heard lots of praise for Draft2Digital from folks who either don’t have the time or can’t quite get their head around formatting a manuscript. I’m planning on using Rock and Hill Studio for the next Grimluk book (and probably every other book I publish) after talking to Matt Davis. He totally sold me on their services, which includes full editing, formatting, AND a cover, and the desire to elevate self-publishing as close as it can get to traditional publishing.
  • Beta readers CAN be helpful. You’ll have to figure out how many you can handle and how many notes you want from them yourself though.
  • If you use openoffice instead of Word, disregard every Word-based tutorial you find (which will be every Official tutorial). I found this tutorial very helpful: Part 1 & Part 2. Similarly, for formatting a paperback in openoffice, you want to save it in the default format, ODT I think. Here’s why: It saves your page styles. That is very, very, very, VERY important. Once you have everything formatted for print, export it to a PDF. Trust me. I fought with this for weeks before I figured out the problem. Using the ODT means all of your formatting stays put and gets locked down in the PDF.
  • You can, however, still use a DOC format for ebooks. There is no page formatting, only paragraph styles, and those stay put just fine.
  • Again, self-publishing is hard. If you don’t want to do it, that’s understandable. Polish that manuscript, read up on writing agent queries and cover letters, and start sending out queries. That will be hard too and you’ll need to send out A LOT of queries before someone bites (that’s why we have the advice “Get use to rejection”). They’re both hard but they’re different kinds of hard. And remember that just because your agent gets you published, it doesn’t mean you’re gonna get a huge advance. You might only get $5000, as opposed to $50,000.
  • Please remember that artists deserve every bit of what you pay them. I know that $200 seems like a lot for artwork for just the front cover, but a good cover can get you sales and backers and that artist works just as hard as you do. And like you, they’re probably underselling themselves in order to make any money at all.
  • My final bit of advice is that even if you want to do everything yourself, exert your independence like an independent motherfucker, you need to remember one thing: You cannot and should not do everything alone. You need support. You need editors. You need cover artists, and maybe a different person to design the cover layout. If you feel like you have it in you to tackle lots of what’s required to publish yourself, go for it, but be mindful and don’t be too proud to admit when you need help. Cause you will need help. Plan accordingly, do your research (whether for the story or the business side), be respectful and professional (you can still say “fuck” gratuitously), and don’t bite off more than you can chew unless you flourish that way.

I hope that all of this makes sense and helps anyone hoping to enter the world of pro-writing. This is just all the things I learned. Your mileage may vary and you may learn a whole other swath of things that I missed. I also may have forgotten something but I think I got the important stuff. Ultimately, traditional and self-publishing are tools. Neither is better than the other but self-publishing is harder if you’re not prepared. Good luck, and thanks for reading.

Minor Update

Firstly, sorry for not doing a TBT this month.  This week’s been pretty rough.  Spent a few days sick, either from the new medications or some sort of bug.  Not entirely sure.  I slept most of yesterday off and by the time I even remembered it was Thursday, it was too late.

Secondly, I’m doing Camp Nano next month in an attempt to speed up finishing the book.  It’s just like Nanowrimo, except officially unofficial, because it’s not actually Nanowrimo, just one of two new months for writing.  Should be helpful.

That’s all for now, really.  I hope you’re all doing well and have a good weekend.

Health and wealth, minus the wealth

Sooooo, I went to the doctor yesterday and was diagnosed diabetic.  That was a surprise.  And high blood pressure.  Less surprising but still not great.  Good news is I got all my meds for less than 80 bucks. Have to figure out how to get test strips though. Those are stupid expensive. No insulin injections thankfully and for the time being, I won’t be pricking my finger until I can find a cheap source of test strips.

I don’t know if the blood pressure meds just had a huge, immediate impact or I’m just so worn out from the passed few days but I’m pretty tired.  I mean, I’m definitely worn out.  Tuesday went to shit hard enough I didn’t get any writing done and yesterday was what it was.  I woke up around 5:30 this morning with my stomach cramping like crazy and then shit my brains out.  Pretty sure that was a combo of stress and the first dose of the metformin.  Doc said I might get diarrhea from it.  I feel a little off but that’s hardly surprising.

I was hoping I’d be able to dedicate today to writing but I don’t think that’s gonna happen.  I feel a little bad cause I keep thinking “this better not make me have to push the book back again,” but like, fuck, doc said if I hadn’t come in when I did, I could’ve ended up in a coma.  That’s big.  And still kinda scaring me.  And I’m dealing with the psychology of being a fat person and the relation to diabetes.  It’s standard to view fat bodies as the ones who will get diabetic and then how the language around fat bodies is so focused on death.

But I’ll get there.  Partner’s taking good care of me.  I just gotta figure out food and drink mostly.  I have to eat with two of my morning meds, so breakfast is now mandatory.  Wheeeee.  Hopefully I do get to feeling better quickly though.  Doc said I should.  Then maybe I can pound out a big ol’ work day.

Hope you’re all doing well.