I recently wrote a guest blog for Brian Keene. I started out writing about my indie journey, and by the time I finished I had challenged one of my writing mentors/idols to self-publish. Oh, how the publishing world has changed! Please have a read and leave a comment. Brian would like some feedback on my challenge.
This will begin as a mini – rant and end up… heck, probably just a longer rant.
I keep getting e-mails, each and every day, with some other author announcing they are doing a giveaway, a freebie, or a contest to get their latest and greatest eBook for FREE. I’ve done it, we’ve all done, back in ancient times (you know, January and February 2012) when giving away your eBooks for FREE was something special, and when it led directly to new readers and more sales for your backlist, as well as nice bumps up the Amazon charts. Hurrah! I’ll give away 1,567 of this title, which will lead to 47 sales of this title. It was a no-brainer.
Then the bottom fell out. Hard and fast.
Amazon decided, quite simply, it was time for a change so they could make more money, and they were smart enough to see the writing on the wall. Hell, I grabbed over 100 free horror eBooks, spending my time going through e-mails begging me to take them, and free sites that put them all together for you nicely, wrapped them in a bow, and let you click click click until you downloaded so many free eBooks your Kindle almost froze and/or exploded.
I’ll never read most of them, and neither will you. Quite frankly, I’ve read a chapter or two of some and had no idea why it was even on my Kindle. There are too many other great eBooks I actually purchased or were given to me from someone I wanted to read in the first place.
I ranted to some friends the other day when I started getting e-mails with the subject ‘FREE Kindle’ and thinking I’d won or could conveivably win a new Kindle, like one of those fancy Fire things or maybe some KindleEchoDeluxe prototype, but it was actually just some jackass swindling me into reading his e-mail about his FREE Kindle eBook, because Lord knows I don’t have enough of them.
People are pulling their books out of the Amazon KDP Select program like their hair is on fire, which is fine. I won’t begin to tell you what to do for your career, and everyone is different. People do the same things at the same time and get different results, so your mileage may vary, as they say.
I say, quite simply… stop sending me e-mails about a FREE Kindle, and I have no more room to add yet another eBook to the TBR pile that I will never read. But I will keep buying eBooks I’m interested in (and $2.99 and under, let’s be reasonable) and reading and reviewing them when I like them enough.
And I can’t promise I’ll never spam you for some silly contest, giveaway or freebie thing when I feel like it… with the publishing climate changing almost daily, tomorrow’s big thing might be giving away new Kindle Fires for free as a promotion… then, please, send me that e-mail.
What’s your opinion on FREE eBooks right now, and how has it changed?
Research is the backbone of any novel. Any reader worth their salt can tell if the author is clueless about the subject matter, and trust me, they won’t hesitate to point it out! You don’t have to be an expert in something to write a novel about it, but you do have to respect the source material enough to be able to fake your expertise convincingly. Take, for instance, my novel Skin Trade. I have never trapped and skinned a human being—zombified or otherwise. But I have had more than one person ask me what on earth made me think of it, and how I came up with the process of doing such. In other words, the process seemed believable enough to swallow, even to a person who traps regularly.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn the entire premise of the novel rose from the discussion of trapping and skinning. I have a friend, Drew Mellon, who traps and skins on a regular basis. He is quite good at it, and supplements his pantry with his booty and uses the pelts to create various crafts and other goods. I’ve even seen him make stuff from the very bones of his kills. I’ve also seen him strip the skin from a rabbit with just his bare hands, but that’s neither here nor there.
The whole thing started at a point in my life when I had developed a personal interest in the process of the slaughter. (Which is, of course, a whole different story.) Late one evening we were discussing the act of killing and skinning, when the subject of skinning human beings arose, as it is wont to do. One thing led to another and soon we were passing back and forth the probability of skinning zombies. Could it be done? Should it be done? If it were possible, would people buy the pelts? What would you make with them?
Of course, my warped brain wouldn’t let the questions go, and before too long they formed themselves into the skeletal plot that became Skin Trade. But a mere hour discussion of skinning corpses wasn’t nearly enough to build a believable world or convincing characters than lived by trapping. I had to do more research.
For starters I read. A lot. Everything from Internet sites to magazine articles, I consumed everything I could get my hands on that had something to do with hunting or trapping. (Which is easy here in the south! You can’t throw a rock without hitting a magazine about hunting around here.) I also hit a few trapping forums and lurked a bit to pick up some of the lingo and attitude.
Secondly I hit up the Internet for videos on traps in action. While I could get some hands on experience with the physical trap, I was short in the department of actually watching a trap snap the neck of some poor beast. Let’s just say watching such things greatly flavored my writing.
Lastly, I relied heavily on continued discussions with Drew. I was really lucky to have someone I could directly communicate with about my chosen subject, and doubly lucky when he agreed to give the work a read and correct my errors. Drew was gentle with me, but not afraid to call me down. At one point he even said I was making typical green trapping mistakes. He came up with some great ideas, and honestly I couldn’t have written half of it without him. (The bucket trap was his suggestion.)
All of this work might seem like a bit much but trust me, in the end the reader can tell the difference. The effort you put into your research will show on the back end of your work. Totally immersing yourself in your subject matter not only tints your words, it colors your entire novel.
Not to mention it is hella fun!
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I’ve never had the pleasure (or pain, depending on how it turns out, right?) of co-writing a story with another writer, both of us adding our thoughts/characters/edits to the project and seamlessly writing a tale that shares our combined vision.
Until now. I met another writer who lives in the same town I do (Palm Coast, Florida, for those writing my biography), and we hit it off. Thankfully, he’s a great writer, so that was a relief. He writes thrillers/crime novels usually set in and around the Palm Coast/Flagler beach area and his name is Tim Baker. Check out his books at Blindogg Books.
We met in an official meeting (OK, with beers overlooking the Atlantic on a gorgeous Saturday) and worked out a cool idea for a paranormal tale, something a bit different for both of us. We’re a couple chapters into it and enjoying the different style and the new way to put a story together. We have no idea where it will ultimately take us, but we’re going to enjoy the ride.
Which begs the question (at least from me): Have you co-written anything with another author, and how was the experience?
I’ve been very blessed over the last few weeks. My sales (especially when it comes to my Dying Days zombie series) has never been better, I had my best month in sales ever last month and I’m on pace to beat that by 20-25% this month so far… good times.
One reason (I think) for my success was the Dying Days Blog Tour I did from mid-March thru the end of April. It generated great buzz, I had a blast doing so many interviews and guest blogs, and my sales spiked constantly.
With my Still Dying: Select Scenes From Dying Days collection coming along and ready for a summer release, I decided to do another blog tour. But, if you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I never do anything the easy way or the safe way…
I’d been kicking around an idea for a blog tour with another zombie author, but didn’t know how to approach it. Hell, I didn’t even know who I should pair up with.
I wanted someone I respected, an author that had a few books out and ideally a zombie series to promote. I am friendly with quite a few zombie authors, especially since putting out the non-fiction Zombie Writing! book not too long ago. But who?
Mark Tufo asked a question about putting a blog tour together, since the summer is generally slow. The proverbial lightbulb went off in my head. I contacted Mark, we talked, and decided to put something together.
And here’s where my personality comes in. Once again, just finding another writer to do the tour wasn’t enough for me. I decided to think bigger, think grand.
I invited TW Brown and Ian Woodhead, another two authors that fit the bill for what I was looking for. The original idea was for five of us to do this tour, from June 1st until the end of July. We invited a fifth but he couldn’t commit.
Mark suggested John O’Brien and Ian suggested Dave Jeffery. I knew both of their names and knew they were good at their craft. I asked, they were both excited, and the Summer of Zombie Blog Tour was born.
As dates are announced I’ll be posting them here, and we’ll be moving right along.
We’ll have individual interviews, round-robin group interviews, guest blogs from each of us and group ones, and tons of giveaways of eBooks and print books.
Stay tuned for a fun summer of zombie reading.
I’ve been lucky over the last couple of years, because I’ve gotten most of my writing published. A steady stream of my short stories have been published in anthologies and my longer works (mostly published by me through Rymfire Books) are available.
But I’m not happy simply putting my novellas out myself and short stories in other publisher’s anthologies. I’ve also submitted 3 novellas and 2 novels out recently to other small-press publishers, in the hope of building my audience, working with some new people and having new readers find my work.
One of those novels is currently being worked on by a major small-press publisher, one I’m very excited to be working with. Of course, working with a professional organization and professional editor means upping your game. Right before New Year’s I had a deadline to suddenly write 25k in 5 days, which I did. I’ve since had several smaller rewrites, and the novel is coming along nicely.
The problem for me? I just successfully finished another deadline and I’m feeling great about the direction the book is taking. The editor is excited and the book will end up being 100% better than the first vision. But…
My other stories have been sitting on the backburner, and there are no actual deadlines to finish them. Sure, a couple of the short stories need to be finished, but if you read this blog you know I do it last-minute anyway.
The novellas I’m going to be publishing through Rymfire Books, especially the Dying Days upcoming releases, have no rush on them and no set deadlines. Heck, even if they had a deadline it would be of my own making.
I’m starting to see my problem. I can set any date I want, but there’s no repercussions if I miss a deadline because I’m ultimately the publisher. Same with missing an anthology deadline: oh, well, another one will come up. I’ve hit most of the anthologies I’ve set out to write for, but know in the back of my mind if the story isn’t done in time I can still finish it and maybe release it myself later or another anthology will surface.
Working with another publisher means that deadline has to be met or I won’t be working with that publisher anymore. I respond to that positively and hit the mark.
Do you have this problem, trying to set your own deadlines?
Way, way back (OK, 30 days ago) I decided to do a April Monthly Goal post, and then stick to it… I usually rely on daily goals to get me through my writing, but thought a monthly one would be more challenging… and it was… and I will never do that again…
Let’s see how I did, kiddies, shall we?
1. Joined the Script Frenzy thing (like NaNo but for screenplays) and the goal is 100 pages in 30 days. I’m not counting this in my word count for the month, preferring to simply write three solid pages a day on average. I figure once I get the hang of writing a screenplay it will get easier… I hope. Anyway, in May Dying Days should be ready for a second draft…
* Or not even close. I stumbled through 26 pages of this, which is exactly 74% short of the goal. Horrible. Everything else kept getting in my way.
2. Still Dying: Select Scenes From Dying Days collection of 13 short stories featuring old and new characters from the series. I’m already at 11k of a possible 27k, so 16k of writing will be finishing this book.
* Again, I came up short. I managed to get to 21k, so I did do 10,000 words, but wanted this finished. Need to do 2 more short stories to complete, and still get it edited.
3. Chelsea Avenue horror novel. The second draft is written but I need about 10k added to it for completion and I intend to have it done by month’s end and a final outside edit. I’m hoping to submit it to a publisher instead of self-publishing.
* Ended up completely shelving this project for the month and letting other things move ahead of it. I just wasn’t feeling it, to be honest. I need to go back to it but don’t know when.
4. Dying Days: Origins novella featuring character Tosha Shorb (from Dying Days 2) in a prequel of her character. 25k in length.
* Only did 7,400 words to it, although I like what I wrote so far. Does that count for anything? Didn’t think so.
5. Finish an untitled zombie novella (not tied into Dying Days) and submit to a publisher in the future. 13k of 25k done, so 12k left.
* Hit another 10k on this, but it still needs another 7k in my opinion. Not yet done.
* * * * *
So, how did I do? Shitty, in a word. 27,400 words of the goal of 60k on these projects. Not good, less than half. I did, however, do other writing that I hadn’t planned on doing… of course.
I wrote 16k on my Tool Shed horror novella and it will be completed (first draft, anyway) in the next couple of days. I didn’t think I was going to touch it but I got an idea for it, and before I knew it I was pounding out chapters.
I also managed to write 2 short stories (9,900 words total) and submit them to anthologies, as well as start another short story based on an idea before I have a place to send it (3,000 words)…
So (technically) I wrote 56,300 words, which isn’t too bad… but starting today it’s back to daily goals…
Speaking of which: 2k on Tool Shed
start short story about spiders (1k)