From: David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants—The Future of Publishing

Through my good friend Abel Keogh, author of “The Third” which I am currently enjoying very much, I found David Farland‘s Daily Kick in the Pants, and even though I had a hard time relating to a guy who’s mega-successful as an author and teaches other mega-awesometastic authors like Stephanie Seymour, I am positively loving him now.

Like few others, he’s happy to talk about traditional publishing and e-publishing in the same breath, comparing the two in an unbiased way (or at least calling out his bias openly) and speaking candidly about his thoughts on it all.

This is the latest “Daily Kick” that I got, and I tell you what, this guy is fkn Spot On.

Last week I had my agent look over a movie contract, and in one clause that dealt with retained rights, my agent said, “We can’t sign this contract. It doesn’t allow us to sell enhanced books, and that is the entire future of publishing.”

I’d been talking to a prospective business partner about starting a company that will make enhanced books (books that may combine elements like film clips, music, video games, author interviews, and audio files, which are then sold electronically to be read on your iPad, phone, computer, and so on), so I thought that my agent’s comment was timely. But are “enhanced books” the future of publishing?

There is good reason to think so. But I don’t think that it’s the “entire future.”

Let me explain, and even prophesy, if I may. Now, I’ve been making my living as a writer for more than twenty years, and I watch the markets pretty closely. As most of you know, we’re going through some dramatic changes in the publishing world, with the new e-book revolution.

Here is what is happening. Right now, the e-book market is growing at over 10% per year. Meanwhile, the sale of paperbacks and hardcovers is dropping disproportionately. In fact, sales last month on hardcover books were down more than 40% from just the month before!

Now, there are reasons for this. Part of the problem has to do with the collapse of the Borders bookstore chain here in America. That might account for a drop of 25%. Another drop of 10% might be claimed because of the rise in sales of e-readers that people got for Christmas. But that means that there is still a substantial drop that doesn’t make sense—another 8%, more or less. What’s going on? I think that there may be people who are delaying hardback purchases in anticipation of buying e-readers. After all, why pay $25 for a hardcover when I plan to buy a Kindle and then get the electronic copy for $15 on Mother’s Day?

Whatever the problem, you have to realize that the entire publishing world is in trouble. As people switch to e-readers, then they quit buying at bookstores. As bookstore sales drop, their profit margins plunge into the red, and thus they can’t pay the distributors who sold them the books. As the distributors lose revenue (as happened with Anderson Distribution and others last year), they go out of business. When they don’t pay the publishers, what happens?

Well, publishers can do some things to save money. They can quit printing as many books. They can stop advertising. They can hold off on buying new manuscripts. They can use cheaper paper and binding. But there is a limit to how much they can cut their costs. Can they make up for the 50% losses that they’ve taken this year? No. There is only one thing that they can do, really. They have to get money from the authors.

Now, since authors don’t actually pay the publishers, there is only way to acquire money—from the author’s accounts. Money that is owed for past books sales just disappears. Or the publisher seeks to renegotiate the old contracts with worse terms, ones that let the publisher keep more money.

That kind of thing is happening a lot right now, if what I’m hearing is true. Publishers are publishing out-of-print books, or claiming that they hold the rights to OP books so that they can turn them into electronic books, and they’re basically stealing the author’s money. Or they are vastly under-reporting electronic sales, and perhaps even paper sales.

I’m sure that the publishers in most cases are hoping that they’ll figure a way out of this mess and pay the authors later. For example, most publishers are now demanding more and more from the authors in the way of electronic rights, movie rights, and income from foreign sales.

The publishers won’t make it. This change to electronic media is likely to take place over several years, and the publishers are in a downward spiral.

What I suspect will happen is this: most publishers will take money from the authors and be forced into court by writer’s groups. The judges will look at what is going on, there will be RICO investigations and allegations of mail fraud, and the publishers that are acting inappropriately will be reprimanded. They won’t go to prison. We never send white-collar criminals to prison. Instead, the authors will win their lawsuits, and will be awarded treble damages. This process will take several years to complete. When it is done, the publishers will declare bankruptcy, and the authors will never get anything in their settlement. In short, we’ll lose our shirts, if we keep on publishing with the big corporations.

Ten years from now, there will still be a business for paper books, but it won’t be an industry that makes $17 billion in US sales. It will be a much smaller business, maybe $4 billion in sales.

So if you’re a publisher, you need to look at scaling back now. You’ll need to move out of your fancy New York address, cut back on your print runs to something logical, and try to figure out how to ride out the storm. Latching onto author’s money is one way to do it. It has worked for decades.

As an author, I can’t afford to play this game. But there is an option: the e-book. With the rise in sales of e-books, an author can now go out and sell his own books. The market is expanding. Some authors are genuinely making millions in this new market.

By putting out a novel in e-book, I reach a much smaller market, but I might also cut out my publisher and my agent, with their high overhead, so that I make a much higher profit on a per-book basis. Sounds like a great idea, right?

But with the new market, there is going to come a lot of “white noise.” New authors, terrible writers, will be publishing, too, and readers are going to have to figure out how to decide what to read. Getting a reader’s attention will be terribly hard to do.

Well, how do you do that? One way may be to have critics giving reviews of books—not the author’s friends, but genuine impartial reviewers working for independent agencies. Another may be to have awards for each category of electronic book, so that we have something like the “Farland Award for best SF and fantasy novel next year.” Hell, consider this an announcement. I’ll set it up.

A third way to rise above the white noise may be to rely upon trusted “electronic publishers” to select books.

That’s where I’ve decided to step in. By creating an “enhanced book,” we’ll be investing a lot of money in a book’s future. We’ll take it from being an electronic Word file then and add background art, music, video, sound, and so on. We’ll have an author interview with the book, and it will become part book, part movie.

By investing that kind of money, we’ll not only enhance the reading experience for the audience, but we’ll also be putting our stamp of approval on a book. We’ll be saying, “We expect great things from this author. This one is really worth looking at.”

In short, I expect “enhanced books” to become the dominant art form for novels in the next few years, replacing and outselling simple e-books on the bestseller lists, and even outselling hardbacks and paperbacks within a couple of years.

As a person with a long history in publishing, videogames and film, this is sort of a natural step for me. My partner, Miles Romney, and I have agreed to start our company, in part because I believe in this new medium. So, look for us in the future as East India Press!

I’ll be announcing our first project in the next couple of weeks.

Now, I have no background in traditional publishing. I have no background in self-publishing either. I have yet to publish my first e-book and I can’t even effing finish the books that I’ve started.

BUT… this is the way this is heading peeps, and if I were more inclined, it’s the kind of thing I’d blog about just so that in a year from now I could go back and point out how awesome and smart I am.

Ahhhh… but I’m going to do that anyway now aren’t I?

Regardless. E-books aren’t paper, they’re stand-alone documents right? Well the mode that helps them stand alone is going to be more and more standarised the more popular they become (which is growing almost exponentially). Once a more standard format is in place, e-books are definitely going to be “enhanced books”…

…and the world will, once again, change completely.

Which is why I’m still completely shat off that the most popular e-book authors of today have f*ckall for a web presence. The American Capitalist Pig part of me wants to start a business based solely around exploiting this, but the No Worries Aussie Laid-back Surfer Dude in me wants me to just sit back and write and be awesome.

And finish Page Buoy, of course, which I will do in the next few weeks. Stay tuned.

E-Book Authors:The Internet Beckons

It seems like it should go together doesn’t it?  Self-publishing (“Indie Publishing” I reckon isn’t quite the same) on Teh Interwebs is eezie squeezie, and getting your book up and on Amazon or B&N is something that many a soccermom turned romance novelist is doing.

But that seems to be where many end up e-stopping, when in fact they should be hitting the e-gas.  I’m getting more and more active on the Kindle Boards, where I read almost exclusively the “Writer’s Cafe” forum, and about the average of what I’m seeing is folks having a blogspot.com account.

Which is fine, really, if you have no idea what you’re e-doing and are afraid of getting screwed by unscrupulous web people (of which there are a few).

And while I tend to use these two as my benchmarks, they are, so it bothers me that Joe Konrath and Amanda Hocking are both using theirname.blogspot.com accounts to blog and promote their books when there is SO MUCH opportunity out there for either of them.

Let’s take one of them as an example…

Amanda Hocking’s main site is her blogspot blog, with what I assume is a semi-standard template and a lot of widgety-goodness buzzing around on the edges.  I don’t know her personally, but I would reckon it does little to convey either the feel of the author or her work through its design.

Amandahocking.com however, just has this:

YUCK.  Yuckety-yuck. Poweryuck, with yuck-burning boosters.

Girlfriend, you’ve quickly ascended to celebrity status among self-publishing authors and have almost single-handedly lit the fire under the asses of tens of thousands.  You’ve finally got a big book deal and you’ve optioned the rights to a bloody movie for the sake of Pete.

GET A WEBSITE UP ON THAT DOMAIN.

If somebody else owns it, pay what they want.  The earlier you do that, the cheaper it’ll be.  If they won’t sell, then take ’em to court and prove your own copyright now that you are undoubtedly a corporate entity, but get a site up there, because that’s craptastic crapburgers with poosauce on ’em.

Your books should have their own websites too.

Amanda has a slew of books and also a trilogy aptly named “Trylle Trilogy”, with books priced $0.99, $2.99 and $2.99 respectively.  She’s got these books available on her website with a neat moving banner thingo that I think Amazon provides, but that’s about the only place she’s plugging these books.  A quick Google Search for “trylle” shows only sites that are talking about her movie deal in the Top 10 and any website that’s actually about those books nowhere near the Top 30.

I actually emailed her about 3 months ago when I got started down this whole Self-Publishing E-book route, and at that time I informed her that www.trylletrilogy.com was available (which it was) and she should go and get it.  I’ve just checked and it’s since been registered by “charlies sheen” under a private account.  Hmmm.  There’s no active website up for that domain either.

Missing out.

So right there, you’ve got two prime opportunities for self-promotion.  You’re an author, you need a website that’s YOURS with your domain name.  Heck, my new mate has www.justinscro.com that he just got through WordPress, and he knows sweet f*ck all about websites and such.  Amanda Hocking should have a website that has all the trappings for linking to her fan pages on Facebook, Twitter, sending her an email, and info about her books.  She can turn the homepage into a listing of her latest blog posts and then link to the blog separately too.

Hell, if done right, she can even export all of her old blog posts and import them onto a new site with little hassle.

She should have registered www.mybloodapproves.com (which fukkinell is AVAILABLE, oh my goodness, I should make that one an example) as well as www.trylletrilogy.com and put info up about both books (not just “Buy!  Buy!  Buy!” but other stuff) as well as set up a couple of forums for people to get on there and debate their favourite characters, discuss their favourite books from the series, what’s happening with a movie deal, etc.

Hell, all she’d have to do is blog that she’s looking for some forum moderators to help look after these websites, and she’d have 30 pasty-white and doughy hands in the air faster than you can say “secretly thinks they’re a vampire”.

ALL of this can be done with little hassle, you just need to know what you’re doing.

The best part about all of this too, most of it is free.  FREE.

Get a decent web host, like my mate Pete at www.ihswebsolutions.com and you can have a website with all the trappings for about $3.95 a month.  That’s peanuts, trust me.

A domain name will run you about $9/year through Pete as well, and once you’ve got all this set up, you can log into the CPanel (control panel software through the backend) and set up WordPress on your website, a PHPBB forum and an email address or five, for NOTHING EXTRA.

Go to templatemonster.com or another similar site, grab a template for $70 and install it on your website.  Get a webnerd to spend an hour swapping out the huge alligator from the top banner and the stock photos of that blonde girl with the headset on (that’s on EVERY site, I swear) and you’ve got a semi-customised, fairly unique, website all your own.

That’s $9 for the domain name, $47.40 for hosting, $70 for a template (or FREE off of WordPress.com’s website), and a signed copy of your book for the dungeonmaster comicbookguy that’s never kissed a girl but can tell you the birthdate of every female that’s ever been one of The Avengers.

$126.40 isn’t much when you consider the potential book sales, not to mention the overall publicity that your name and your books will garner.

Seems a damn shame that it’s that simple and more aren’t doing it.  I mean really people, if you’re not out there cornering the market on YOU, someone else will eventually.

Or worse, no one will at all.

Self-Publishing is a Marathon, not a Sprint

The Passive Voice usually has some great stuff, and it almost always tends to inspire me, but this morning I’ve got a cuppa, ALL of the older kids are off to school and it’s exactly one week until our baby is here.

This may actually be my last chance for peace like this… so I shall write.

Passive Guy wrote about how self-publishing and traditional publishing are both really just on a bell curve.  The Amanda Hockings and the Joe Konraths of the Yay Self-Publishing World are on that high bit of the curve.  There’s a few others up there, sure, but for the most part, the rest of us are towards the lower ends.

The market is changing, and changing quickly.  The entire publishing world is going through an enormous shift, and the World has never quite looked like this for writers.  It’s pretty exciting.

So, the little guys see their shot, they read the blogs and the media articles and the hooplah about the chubby girl from southern Minnesota that’s making millions doing this and they think, “HEY!  I can do that TOO!

I know, because I am one of them.

The action is on, big things are happening, and as is our human nature, we want to get in on the action and do the big things too.

But we don’t look before we leap.  We just hop in and start running, forgetting one thing:

This race is a marathon, not a sprint.

Konrath and Hocking haven’t just been writing 9 hours a day for the past few months, they’ve been doing it for years.  And they haven’t just been writing book after book in an effort to push their product out to the masses.  They’ve written what they know and love…

And then polished the ever-loving shit out of it.

Editing folks.  Fix up.  Fix up and get it as close to perfect as you can before you put it out there.  More than one downloaded sample has been blasted from my Kindle (app) into oblivion because of typos and infodumps.

The typos can usually be forgiven, to a point (I’m not the Grammar Nazi that Wifeage is) but I can usually apply the Cockroach Theory: For every one you can see, there’s ten in the wall.

If the author couldn’t be f*cked to fix a very obvious typo within the first few pages, then they probably couldn’t be bothered writing a very good book either.  They probably just wanted to write a book, tell that story that’s been burning inside of their little writerheads, and then sit back and cash in.

And they’ve probably sold some books, especially if they’re good (or lucky) at self-promotion.  But if it ain’t a very good book, that won’t last very long.

Infodumps are a trickier one, because they’re probably more along the lines of personal preference more than the black/white of typos, but they’re still a No Fly Zone for me.

Frequently billed as “backstory”, infodumps are the authors way of catching you up on every little thing that’s happened so that you don’t feel like you’re missing anything.  The Passive Voice also linked to a brilliant article on
How To Include Backstory Without Killing Your Novel, which essentially says “Pay close attention to your first bits, they’re really important”.

Of course, I’ll never get tired of telling folks how Les Edgerton’s “Hooked” changed my entire life.  Or rather, gave me the right tools to get right into writing, and writing something well.

So, in our haste to simply start cashing in on the excitement, we crank out the novel that’s been brewing on the backburners of our li’l creative consciousness and we forget to make it very good.

We just wanted it out there.

The window isn’t closing, and for the good writers, it probably never will.  Mark Coker said it best with Point Number One in his post: The Seven Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success

Write a great book.

And if you needed Tyler Durden to make it clear for you, Coker’s Point Number Two is:

Write another great book.

You getting this yet?  Awesome.

Take your time.  Pace yourself.  I have no doubt that you’ve got one helluva story in there, and that you’re pretty good with words, but if you really want to make this work…

Get it right the first time.

Good luck!

Ripping off the Band-Aid

About 4 years ago, the gears of the Corporate Machine finally ground me down.  I’d had enough, and I said “f*ck this,  and f*ck you too” to not just my boss, but an entire way of life.

It just wasn’t for me.

I was terrified though.  I had 3 kids, a brand-new baby girl, and a lovely wife at home (in a bloody rental) and I just couldn’t run around quitting cushy office jobs like that.

I’ll never forget what she told me though.

I was as close to showing signs of anxiety as I ever get, flustered and floundering about, when she held my chin in her hands, focused her intense green eyes into mine, and said, “Hey.  No matter what happens… we’re not gonna starve.”

That moment forever changed me and how I approach my business.  Because it was at that moment, that my business was officially born.

I loved Web Analytics.  I love the idea that you can have numbers that show you what people are doing on your website.  I love that you can find out how many people from New Zealand went straight to your “Contact” page from your home page during the month of March.  I love that shit.

But nobody wants it.

Or rather, nobody knows enough about what it is to know how much they need it.

People know that they need SEO though.

Well, they’ve been told that they do, by an industry of used snake-oil salesmen.

People know enough to Google “SEO” and see what comes up, so that’s what I did.  It was what people were looking for and it was something I was good at.  I figured, “Meh, it’ll pay the bills.”

And it did.  Poorly, but still.  I also had other time to build some cool Keyword and Competition tools, ROI trackers and Link Analysers, Rank Checkers and AdWords Reporters.  I also went to the park with kids a LOT.  And played guitar a LOT.

Now, there’s just too much bullshit.  I’m tired of it, and I never really liked it in the first place.

SO… I’m shutting it down.  My company is going on a hiatus, a holiday, a Paid Parental Leave, so that I can focus primarily on my soon-to-be-here beautiful baby boy… and how to revamp my company.

I’ve also got some other projects I’m going to be spending some time on.  I’m going to:

  • Finish building Page Buoy, a website for writers to connect with other writers and be able to polish their works-in-progress while they’re still in progress.
  • Build Have a Good Website, a website that’s just that, all about helping you to have a good website.  Tips and Tricks, advice from pros, everything from where to put your logo to how many characters you should have in your meta titles.
  • Revamp this website.  I’m going to move pictures and family cuteness to another, very similar, website, and I’m going to focus on my novels and writeryauthorness here.
  • Revamp my business website. As well as finish building all of my neat Web Analytics Reports so that you can log in, sign up, and have them sent right to you every week (mostly for FREE).  I’m building this in PHP/MySQL, with the Google Analtyics API, using a Windows-based program to take thumbnail screenshots, that then generates a PDF, which gets emailed to you on a scheduled CRON job.  Uffda!  That even makes my head hurt.
  • Revamp my offshoot, Jex Solutions website. This one was a FAIL as I tried to get people to sign up and use all of the neat SEO Tools that I’d built.  People did, but they’re not me, and didn’t know how to use them.  That’s alright though, because I learned more from that colossal failure than I would’ve by some partial success.
  • Help my good friend Patrick Dub-T with DollarDonation, a website that lets you donate a dollar to all kinds of charitable organisations.  We’re all kinds of stoked over this one.
  • Revise and publish my first novel.  It’s ready, it’s just been resting.
  • Finish my second novel. I’m just about halfway through it now.  Wait… okay, now.
  • Oh, and clean up and organise my house while helping gorgeous lovely Wifeage look after Little Boy Blue and our 3 other yardapes.

So there’s a fair bit on my plate.  I think I’ll play lots of guitar in there too.

And watch some footy.

And drink some beer.

Wish me luck.

It’s An Interesting World Out There – Publishing

The book world, that is.

The one where people write books and buy books and try to sell their books and talk about their books and talk about other people’s books.  That one, it’s interesting.

While I spent almost the entire morning reading various websites about all of the previously mentioned I was happily having my own opinions on things, commenting on a blog here and there when that opinion bubbled over, when it came time to write in my OWN blog about these opinions, I’m doubting myself.

Not my opinion, oh no, I have a deathgrip on those.  No, I’m doubting whether or not the World needs yet another blog waffling on about writing and publishing and e-books and all that other shit.

Welp, at the end of the day, it IS my blog, so I’m just going to fart around as I do, and see what comes of it.

Publishing – By the Big Kids

It’s a commonly held notion that someone who’s “published” is to be held in some esteem.  Even those who aren’t aspiring novelists know that it’s wickedbloodyhard to not only write something good, but to have someone else think it’s so good that they’re going to spend time and money on printing, promoting and distributing it.

Big publishing houses have a game they like to play though and just like any game that you want to be really good at while no one else is, they move the goalposts around a lot.  For a while nobody wanted kids going to magician’s school or vampires that fall in love and glitter, but then that changed, and our world changed with it.

For a writer, the game entails some vital steps:

  1. First, working your ass right off to write a good book.
  2. Then work your ass off to get an agent to give it some love.  Many won’t.  The vast majority won’t.  In fact, the majority will probably do the worst thing for it, and ignore you.
  3. Then work with your agent (who’s working their ass right off) to get a publisher to give you some love.

Step 1 is hard enough.  Damn hard.  Crazynuggethard.  SO crazynuggethard in fact, that many don’t make it past this one.

Step 2 is hard too.  Farting-in-Church-without-giggling hard.  Many, the vast majority, won’t make it past here either.

Step 3 is something I know so little about, I feel guilty even putting it on here.  I’m going to guess that it’s hard, but at that point it’s just wackystupidhard for your agent and not you, so shoosh, no complainin’.

Whew.

Dog Forbid, you’ve made it, you’ve gotten that book deal and the only thing hard in your life is your nipples… and then you have to wait.  And edit.  And tweak.  And wait.  And write a bit.  A lot.  And still hold down that job because writing ain’t payin’ the bills yet.  Then wait some more.  You start to regret what I said about your nipples…

YOINKS.  If you’re lucky, Leprechaun’s asshair lucky, then in a couple years you’ll have a book on the shelves of a bookstore, you’ve bought five copies for your mother, and they gave you enough coin to pay off some of those debts and maybe put a down payment on your own place.

If you’re lucky.

You probably won’t be.

Publishing – By Your Own Stupid Self

Yep, stupid.

Let’s face it, you didn’t just wake up one morning and decide that you were going to write a book and publish it yourself because you want to be the one in control.  Or because it feels cleanest, or because you’re a stinkindirtyhippie and don’t like how Bantam don’t use the right kind of recycled owl in their books.

Nup, you probably chose to self-publish because everybody else in the known Universe turned you down.  You probably didn’t take that to mean that your book was a clown turd or that you should just work on another project, get it published, and then pitch your first novel after you’ve gotten some traction.

Oh no.  You probably sat there, with your unpublished self, and thought that everyone else was a big poopyhead.

Even if you didn’t think that, it’s highly likely that you scraped together enough coin to publish your own book because you just didn’t want to wait any longer and you reckoned that book was a winner.

Hell, it even might be.

But to do that, to go through all that, with all the risks involved and all the time you’re wasting, getting rid of your combivan AND bass guitar… well I reckon you’re a bit stupid.

Publishing – “E” styles

Sorry, what?

“E” publishing?  Is that like “E” mailing my book to get it published?

I hadn’t really heard of it either until about 9 months ago.  Hell, I was in The States last July and heard my mother talking about reading books on her “Kindle”.  First thing I thought of was that she’d gotten confused about which light was the lamp and which was the fireplace.

So I’m late to the game as well.  I only finished my first novel last December and I’ve only just heard of Indie Authors and E-Books in the last few months too.

And I’m hellaciously curious as to how that’s all going to pan out.

See, now you can write a book, just like in Step 1 up there, and then you can just skip all that other crap.

I KNOW!

Just skip past finding an agent, or rather getting rejected by hundreds of them, and don’t even bother thinking about any publishing houses or their opinions of your book.

Don’t even sell your wife’s Volvo and cash in little Timmy’s College Fund either, for you’re not going to split your own pocket doing this kind of publishing.  For the most part, it’s free.

FREE.  You heard me, this big bad bitch of a publishing method is FREE.

Holy Hidden Agendas Batman, what’s the catch?

To be honest, I haven’t found one yet.  I think the catch might actually be: you have to actually be a good writer, but I’m not sure yet.

So, am I still stupid?

Maybe, but I can’t see your underwear from here and therefore have no immediate indication of your intelligence level.

What I can say, is that with the E-Self-Nonhugeguys-Publishing Method, you’ve got a much better chance to sell some books.

Getting people to read your stuff really is what it’s all about, and if you:

  • Write a good book.
  • Edit it like it’s your mother-in-law’s obituary.
  • Go to Smashwords, or Goodreads, or someplace like that.  Follow their guidelines and dot and cross things.
  • Promote it.  To people that aren’t in your Stuffed Lion Collecting Club.  Promote it to everybody.
  • Keep writing.
  • And writing.

Then you just might make a success of yourself.

And let’s be honest, the margins for measuring that are a bit roomier with that last option.

Hell, I reckon I can get my wife, my mom and possibly mother-in-law (who doesn’t read this blog) to buy a copy of my book.  If it’s on Amazon.com at $0.99, then that’s $2.98 I made right there.

And all I had to do was something I absolutely love with every fibre of my being.

I’d call that an overwhelmingly huge success.

Wish me luck.

It’s not “Keenoo” it’s “Kee-ah-noo”

I’m not exactly sure when I stopped caring, but about the time I realised that he’d made a lucrative career out of staring blankly and having one, ONE, expression, I started calling him Keenoo.  Point Break is a fucking awesome movie, but I can truthfully say I have no respect for Keenoo.

That said, he made a cool cameo in my dream last night.  Or rather, he inspired one of the characters, as I don’t really think it was him.  Frequently I get characters in my dreams that either look like popular actors or actually are them.  I had a doozy the other night where Brad Pitt, Scott Bakula and myself were all police detectives in the 70’s, like that show “Life on Mars”.  I remember thinking, “Wow, think of all the great experience I’ll get from two pros like these guys.  Plus, I’ll have been a cop and can tell stories when I get back to the future in 2011.”

But Keenoo was only the inspiration for this stringy-haired, flannel-wearing greaseball loser guy in my dream last night.  He’s not much to look at, our hero, but he’s integral to the story.

It opens with a courier, or an assistant of some sort and not notable, carrying a large ziploc baggie with two fresh (dead) fish in it (no idea what, they were movie fish, where they have no distinguishing characteristics other than you know that they are fish) along with several raw eggs.  The yolks were in tact, and there was some sort of wheatgerm or bran grains in there as well, though it was all unmixed.

We follow the journey of the baggie as it gets carried to this giant lab tank, like an aquarium, but with a human in it.  A woman, whose lithe form was suspended in the water and had tubes and apparatus attached to her head and chest.  She had some sort of light robe floating around and her hair was loose.  She seemed semi-conscious but deeply occupied with whatever was going on in the tank.

Gauges and metres ticked and clicked and digital readouts read out while the assistant person carried the bag toward this tank.  She started talking about the massive amount of protein and nutrients that were going to be needed for this when we turn to see the Keenoo wannabe brooding behind her.  They interact only briefly before she leaves, obviously nonplussed by him and a even a little bit scared.

He approaches the tank with reverence and a small TV in the corner shows a black-and-white talking head, like the newsreaders of the early 60’s, and he is telling the populace about how monumentally historic this moment is.  Scenes of rocket ships, still in grainy black and white, show on the screen and it starts to be understood that this woman is going to need protein and nutrients and this special tank and all this stuff because she is going to be on a rocket that’s launched into space soon.

Keenoo is worried and doesn’t want her to go, but takes extra care in prepping some of the machines and such before the officials get there to do the same thing, only very officially.  He’s still brooding though, and we get the feeling that he not only doesn’t want her to go, but possibly should have gone himself yet didn’t.  He makes his exit before the officials get there to avoid having to answer any questions.

The rocket launches…

And the garbage truck pulls up outside my house.  Between his squeaky brakes and incredibly loud robot arm, I am left wondering how ANYBODY is meant to sleep past 6:40 AM on my street.  Fuck that guy and his truck, seriously.

Novel Ideas

I think the biggest part of the fun of the creative process is actually being creative, because when you’re open to them, the ideas just flow. It’s wonderful.

Unfortunately, until you’re creating full-time (with that full-time creaty income taking care of things), it’s hard to give time to every new idea.  That said, I still try to capture them in their essence as soon as I can.

Typically this involves waking up from a particularly and repeatedly disturbed night’s sleep and trying to write down the dream I had about raw eggs, raw fish and rocket travel to space with a teenage Keanu Reeves before I get tucked into emails and remember what actually pays the bills around here (barely).

My dreams power a lot of my novel ideas, though in reality they’re probably not ALL novels.  Short stories, I suppose, screenplays even, I have no idea.  I know they’re stories, interesting ones, that I’d like to tell.  The medium in which I do it isn’t as important right now.  And like almost all of my other amazing and wonderful stories that I’d like to tell, I have no idea how it ends because I woke up.

I s’pose that’s another big part of the fun too, going along the journey of writing these stories and watching what unfolds and how they end up.

Right now though, right now I am faced with yet another day where I’ve got responsibilities and shit that needs done, and I probably won’t get a chance to sit and write and explore and create and make stories happen and discover how they end.

This way of life will change though.  Soon probabaly.  I’m not sure how just yet, but I do know that it won’t always be this way, and I’m really looking forward to that.

Wish me luck.

New Novel

See, the funny thing about writing a novel is that when I wasn’t ready to start revising it straightaway, I wanted to write another one.

I dream a lot.  A LOT.  They’re usually quite vivid and sometimes pretty exciting.  Some nights I have “movie dreams” where I feel like I’ve rented a movie and wake up very entertained.  Unfortunately, I frequently miss out on the ending because I wake up with underwear problems that make me have to stand waaaaaay back from the toilet at pre-6am.

It’s a bummer sure, but it gives me lots of great ideas.

Not long after the New Year started, I had a really cool dream about a future where telepathy was fairly common (on a limited scale) and a World War had ended up driving the surviving society of Australia into the bush, where they lived for years thanks to skills learned from the Indigenous Australians.

Well, waking up with a peeboner or not, I was bound to lay there quite awake formulating the rest of this story after that kind of dream.  A lot came after that, and by the next morning I was sketching the outline in my notebook and prepping myself for another novel.

I did it different this time though, I took my corkboard and pulled all those pesky pictures of children and memorable moments and started putting up thumbnails of characters, locations, timelines… all sorts of planny goodness.

Then I just started bopping through it, outlining sections and making the stories fit together… then I challenged Scotty and the crew again.  A few different takers, but me and Scotty, Abel, and Doc-in-law again, only this time it’s 1,500 a week minimum, and the winner is the one that types “The End”.

And gets a publishing deal.

KIDDING.

But once we kicked it off, we’ve been doing pretty good, and we’re on about Week 5 or 6 even, I’ve lost track.

So, writing and writing on the new book.  What’s happening with the old one?

It’s been resting.

Like a fine wine or some freshly kneaded bread dough, or a tired pregnant woman sitting in front of a fan and watching baby boy thump in her belly.  It’s resting.

I wanted to get crackin’ of course, getting it finished straightaway and getting it published.  But wife suggested I follow some advice from Stephen King.  She even made me look it up.

He finishes a book and puts it in a drawer for at least a month.  3 months usually.

Well, I didn’t think I could make it, but once I got crankin’ on the new novel I almost forgot all about it.

Almost.

Then Scotty got back to me with his feedback, and it was great.  Most of it was stuff I’d thought of, but the rest was ideas that I didn’t have fleshed out nor really had the confidence to slap in there.

So, now I’m hip-deep in the telepath novel and I have this whole other novel, My First Novel, waiting for me to finish it.

Because once I finish it, I hope to “self publish” it, where I make a kickass cover and put it “out there”.

I’ve been following along with these folks, and they’re chock full of good ideas and great ways to do this:

I’m following The Passive Voice too, that emails me articles every day about all of this fun shit.

I gotta say, this whole process has been a hoot.

Can’t wait to see where I end up.

Wish me luck.

Next Step: Revising

So there it is.  My first novel.  It isn’t like the old days where it’s a pile of papers that I can still chuck in the fireplace.  It’s an e-pile of papers, and I’ve saved it and backed it up and all that (Dropbox.com is working pretty well for this).

But, for as much as I celebrated, drinking too many beers at the in-law’s on New Year’s Eve Eve, I wasn’t finished.  I’m not finished.  I’m not even close.

See, now I take the novel that I wrote, and actually make it something readable.  Hell, not just readable, enjoyable.  Sought after.  SELLABLE.

It’s not.  Not right now anyway.  I sound like I’m whinging a bit when I say it like this, but… it was my first try!

It was my first try at this.  I’d never written a book, let alone one that people might want to read or someday even *GASP* purchase.

It’s a good story though, and it’s got a lot to it.  I have a lot of work ahead of me though, in that I have to go through it, from the beginning, with a fresh set of eyes, with a cold and hardened heart, with an artist’s flair and an editor’s temperament.  I have to go through it all again, to make it good.

Not that it’s not good, it’s just not ready.

So, first I’ll go through it and I’ll revise it into something readable.  Then I share it with strangers.  Yes, that’s right, strangers.  To see what they think.  They’ll critique the work, not the artist, and I’ll get some honest feedback.

Then, I’ll make changes, as I see fit, and I’ll share it with the most important reader I have.  My wife.  She’s the inspiration for the story AND my chief editor.  That’s when I’ll get the real deal back at me.

Then I’ll share it with everybody.  Well, everybody that’s willing to pay $0.99 for it on Kindle (or something similar).  Then I’ll look for feedback that’s less honest, the kind where my mother gets a bit teary and says, “Oh, I always knew you could!”  Of course, by that point it’ll be too late to change anything, I’ll be published.

Yes, that’s right.  This is the New Millennium.

Old School Publishing Houses and Literary Agents and Editors and Agents and all that… well they may not be long for this world.  Not in their present form anyway.

I’ve delved into researching the world of e-book publishing, or self-publishing.

It all really started with David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants, an email I get every day (usually) sent for free from a published and successful New York Times Bestselling Author.  He mentioned an Indie publisher named Amanda Hocking, whom I checked out, and that was that.  I was sold.

See, Amanda Hocking hasn’t been published anywhere, not traditionally.  She didn’t send out millions of queries just to get millions of rejections.  She didn’t go all J.K. Rowling nor did she go Stephanie Meyer.  She just wrote lots of books, a series or two, and then e-published them.  For Kindle, predominantly I assume, and then she spread the word about her books.

Then people were reading them and buying them and further spreading the word.

Last year at this time, she was still working in her dingy disadvantaged-care job, getting more and more excited at the idea that she could sell books online.

Last July or so, she made more in book sales than she did the previous year at her job.  In December, she made around a quarter of a million dollars.

Just between you and me, that’s a lot of money.

Not that I’m in it for the money, because if I was I’d be a bit retarded.  I’m in it to make books happen and see if people like them and entertain and make people’s lives a little bit better.

If that makes money, then Rock On.

But we’ll see how it goes.  For now, I’m just documenting how I’m going and trying to keep track of the cool shit that happens on the way.

Wish me luck.

The Start of Something Big

On New Year’s Eve, just last year, I finished my first novel.

I’m going to pause to let that sink in and give your mind time to swirl around with all the ideas of what that could potentially mean.

Now I’m going to tell you how it went and what I’m looking at ahead of me, and at the end we’ll see if your head is still running down the midway of the Imagination Fair, or if it’s fallen asleep on its desk in the Study Hall of Reality.

Much like anybody who’s got a novel inside of them, I’ve always had a novel inside of me.  Well, lots of them I suppose, but there was one that I’d actually wanted to write for quite a long time now.  Ever since I met my wife really, as it was such a asskickingly romantic tale that it needed told.

Well, I’d run through some outlines a few times, bandying about ideas like those wet strands of spaghetti that you fling against the splashback tiles to see if it’s done, but I’d never actually sat down and written anything.  I had plenty to go with, but nothing having gone.

Then, through the magic of Facebook, I reconnected with a good friend of mine from my earliest career job, Scott.  Good ol’ Scooterberry humbly and aw-shucksy walked me through how he started a cool coding 3D-CAD software company, sold it to Google who then made Sketch-Up out of it, made a little girl named Audrey and is writing novels.

Well, one novel anyway.  One that he reckons he didn’t have the juice to get done until somebody smacked him in the face with their glove and challenged him to a duel.  Well, a race really.  And he probably wrote a few novels worth of short stories and LARP (powernerd gaming) characters.  He also designed the shit out of many websites and somehow casually created an entire Content Management System in his spare time (4 years before other web companies started marketing theirs).

So he’s a little bit brilliant, and he’s still my friend.  Go figure.  We used to spend hours, HOURS, playing foosball at a crappy old table in our old web employer’s offices before the Fall of the Dot Coms.  We used to trade insults and compliments that were frequently interchangeable and typically consisted of some manner of description of intercourse.

I begged and pleaded and Scotty sent me a copy of his novel.  It was awesome.  I mentioned I wanted to write one too.  He called me a “pussy” if I didn’t.  Well, he actually said something along the lines of “Join me!  We’ll race to write 50,000 words by the end of November, and if you don’t make at least 6,000 words a week, you’re a pussy!”

How could I resist?  So, I roped in the doc-in-law, Scotty grabbed two of his mates, and we were off.  Sort of like NaNoWriMo, except 2 months instead of 1.

The first bit was GREAT, with everybody throwing around character bios and story outlines, and giving each other feedback on what’s probably going to work and how we hope the other novels will end.

Then somebody’s busy with house renovations.  Then somebody else has to fly to Antarctica because they’re the only geologist that can save the penguins or some shit.  Then inspiration sits in the hot tub while the rest of us are cleaning up after the party.

Bit of a bummer.  But we plugged on.  After about 5 weeks, I think I was the only one to never miss my word counts.  Just for fun, I did 3,000 words one week to see if I got called a “pussy”.  I didn’t’.  Heh.

End of November hit, and nobody really had anything other than Scotty, who had taken much of that time to revise the novel he’d already written.  Well, unbeknownst to the rest of the crew, knownst only to wife really, I had set a goal to finish my novel by the end of the year.  December hit, and I was still writing.

My style changed as I went along, particularly after a friend, a published friend, told me I was good at dialogue.  Over the moon, I started writing more dialogue.  I don’t know about you, but 6,000 words a week is a LOT, particularly when you’re doing things other than writing.  When December hit, I went at my own pace, sometimes only 1,500 words in a week, but I was writing for the story, not for the word count.

Then the story changed on me.  It got longer and the ending was different.  My character developed into something that I hadn’t outlined and his relationships went even more in-depth.  It was great.  It was the kind of fun that I can only describe as “soul fulfilling”.

My soul was happy.  I was writing and writing and my soul was doing great.

And I was getting there.  But then the year was ending.  The kids were all staying at grandparents and I’d taken the week off for work, so I had sat down to write.  And write.  And wife cheered me on, and we were even a bit lax in our social commitments, just so I could write.

Well, I did it.  On New Year’s Eve, I finished.

And I haven’t even really started yet.  Uffda.

Stay tuned.  I shall be blogging here about where this process takes me.

Wish me luck.