So you want to go indie?

I’m writing this because one of the people who invited me for a blog tour asked how to do it and I thought I never really corralled all the information on one page, including links to stuff you’ll need, and if I was going to write something that comprehensive I’d make it a blog post.

First I’ll give a general view on why I went indie and why I think it could be right for people.

We’ll start with the definition of terms: indie is either micro/small/medium but recent and “doesn’t own a paper books division” house OR doing it yourself which can be technically self-published or not.

So why should you do that over traditional?

Well, I’m not saying you should.  Not all of you.  If you have contacts at a publishing house; if you have the type of profile that might interest them (yes, YOU not your book – a profile that interest them at least in my experience is defined as young [you are or look under 35], and with something “piquant” about you, ie what they call a “platform” only since they have zero clue about what a platform means, they apply it to BOTH having a very well attended blog [this one might be on the EDGE of qualifying] or to having an “interesting” personal life story or interesting characteristics.  In both of the later cases, to give you the facts bluntly, what they mean is “politically correct.); if you live close enough to New York City to attend the various meet and greets or cons they attend and make personal contact; if you are patient enough and don’t mind the inevitable groveling in front of people who might or might not deserve it, you should go traditional.  Just read your contract carefully and have an IP lawyer look at it before you sign.  Another exception is if you’re writing Baen sort of stuff AND have time to wait (Baen can be slow) you should try there first.  However even if you WANT Baen, going indie might be the best way to go there.  (Look at Larry Correia.)  When you come in and say “I sold 5k books on my own, Baen will jump you to the head of the line.

Wait!  Isn’t there a stigma associated with going indie?  Doesn’t it mean no one will ever publish you again?  There can be.  There are certain indie houses that have a bad reputation and/or whose writers are known to suck.  So… before you submit to a house it’s a good idea to read some of their stuff.  If you find it horrible, then they’re not giving you any advantage.

My caveat on going indie with a small press is this: the new micro/small epresses are very volatile.  I am involved with one – NRP – and because our manpower is reduced and mostly part time, you can very easily have ALL of us from slush readers to webpage techs sidelined for months.  If you decide to try one or more small presses, try them with only a portion of your output and not the most important part, at least to begin with.

Right now, frankly, the best route to both a lucrative career in indie and to traditional publishing is to self publish – though not technically self-publish – a book and have it do well.  Your chances of this are especially high if you’re someone who’s been writing and underbedding books for the last ten years.  (Underbedding totally is a word!)

If you do well enough you’ll be offered a contract, and if you’re doing massively well, they’ll offer you a million dollar contract.  (And then you’ll have to watch them like a hawk, talk to an IP lawyer, and make some very tough calls.)

So, you’ve decided to self-publish.  Why do I keep calling it not-technically?

Remember when I had to raise my prices because the customer perception had become that 99c to 2.99 was trash, since that’s where beginning indies congregate?  (And I find that annoying, since I think 99c to 2.99 is just right for a “snack” to make you perk up in this economy.  BUT I’m er… frugal.)

Well, there is a similar perception with publishing.  For the public, if your book doesn’t have a publisher, then they look askance at it.  There is a certain justification, since that’s what the bottom-grade, just-beginning indies turn to do.

So, first you form a company.  It doesn’t need to be anything very fancy.  A DBA will do – you’ll need to look at your state, to find out what you need to do for that.  Some states have you register with the secretary of state.  In others, all you need is a bank account in that name.

But please don’t call them “books by me” or “my name books.”  If your name is Smith and you call it Smith Press you just lost all the customers who are trying to eliminate self-pub.

Call it something you find good or representative of your work.  Mine is Goldport Press, after the imaginary Colorado town where I set a lot of books.  My husband’s (which he hasn’t done much with yet) is Mankind ink press.  My son’s is Tilted Fedora Enterprises.  I think Pam’s is Iron Ax press – Right? – I know Stephanie’s is Chromosphere.  Just go for it.

Okay, now that’s out of the way.  Where do you put your books up?

Right now my stuff is at Barnes and noble, smashwords and Amazon.  I need to put it in Kobo in my copious spare time.  Of the three it’s at, Amazon is the best payer month to month, but Smashwords is starting to catch up (takes about 6 months, I hear, because of the affiliates paying.)  Barnes and Noble wouldn’t be worth my time, except that it’s easy to put stuff up in it, so why not.  Also I hear some people whose biggest payday is Barnes and Noble.  No, I have no idea what I’m doing wrong.  Probably tags.  (More on that later.)

There might be a call to put stuff up first on Amazon and under their prime program for the first three months.  (I normally do it.)

Okay, so now you want to put stuff up.  Right.  First, make an account for your press with all the services you intend to use.  If your book is even VAGUELY romance, use allromance.com as well.  I hear their payday is also very high.

How to do it…  there are several books floating around with stuff like “How to format your book for the kindle.”  Also, if you know or have a friend who knows how to code html, you have everything you need, because what all services take – except Smashwords, who takes Word files – is html code.

The way I was taught to do it, which I now call “the brute force method” is to save the word file as a filtered html file, then take the two files resulting, zip them together and use that.

My early published stories will need to be fixed, and some of them look rough or the program resurrected the original font it was written in – courier, years ago – all spidery and odd.  Or other codes were activated.

What I do now is clean it up in word (using see codes,) get rid of the space between paragraphs which is my code bête noir, then bring it up in sigil and save it in ebook format, which I can then upload.  After I upload it I download the preview, because sometimes Sigil lies and there are things I didn’t see.

Amanda Green did a quick workshop on how to do it over at Mad Genius Club.  It think it’s nine posts.  Search on the title.

Of course, before you do this, you should have your book proofread.  You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars doing this – I’m sure the people who do this for a living among my readers will chime up in the comments –but you don’t have to.  Proofreading yourself is kind of like being your own lawyer.  If you proofread yourself you have a fool for a proofreader.  BUT surely you have someone who normally proofread for you before you submitted to publishers.  In my case, it was usually my husband, who is detail oriented.

If you don’t have anyone, then talk to someone else self-publishing and trade books.  Unless you prefer to pay.  There are people who’ll do it very reasonably.

You’re also going to need a cover – and again you can pay thousands of dollars.  It might even be justified (rarely) to do so.  Say your series started traditional published with a certain look, and you want to continue it.

However, remember that people will be looking at a thumbnail.  It’s bigger in kindle fire, but it’s still not huge.  So…

You can find images all over on line.  My favorite source is dreamstime at least for short stories, because I can find DRAWN covers for like 2 or 3 dollars.  Yes, other people might have the same cover, but how likely is it they’ll use it for the same type of story at the same time?

There’s also everystockphoto and a few other free sites.  Be sure to read all the rights you get VERY carefully.  In fact, go ahead and read The Copyright Handbook to make sure you’re within the law.

A good source for sources is here.  Also, I wrote on covers here.

For novels I plan to enslave my son and to bargain with Travis Lee Clark, depending on what type it is (Robert does well with the more cartoonish ones.  Oh, and stop cringing, I’ll PAY him.  He has college textbooks to pay for, poor kid.)  I just haven’t brought novels out indie, yet.

Oh, yeah, your book will need a copyright disclaimer at the front (go and look at some published book for the template.)  And for ISBNS and other confusions (or I’ll be here forever) go and read Dean Wesley Smith’s New World Of Publishing and Think Like A Publisher.

When you put the book up, they’ll want you to “tag” it – that is add tags that help people find it.  I’m lousy at this, and the best I can do is bug Amanda to do a post on it.  I’m taking a workshop on it online with Dean Wesley Smith next month (if I remembered to book, which is not guaranteed.)  Tag is where you put things like “crime” “pre 1900” but there’s apparently a way to game it.  I just don’t get it.

Other than tags, the best way to sell your book that I’ve found is this:  Have more than one book.  At the end of one book, put the beginning of the other – ten pages or so —  and a link to buy it from wherever they bought this one.  (This means you have to change it in the file from Amazon to Kobo to B & N, etc, before you put it up.  It’s easy.)  Then when you first put the book up, do it in the Prime program at Amazon – that means you can’t have it anywhere else while it’s active, so you don’t want to KEEP it there – for the three months required.  Bring two books out.  Take the first free for a week.  Bring the third out.  Take the second free for a week.  Bring the fourth out – if you’re doing it once a month, the first will have rolled off and you can now put it in other distributors.

Pricing – I’d start at 2.99 then price according to length and reading experience.  I try not to have anything over 10k words for under 3.99 because people have threatened to come to my house and beat me.  Novels will  probably start at 4.99.  This doesn’t prevent taking a book on sale (and put that on the description) for a month or so, when another in the series comes out.  I hear that works well.

If you caught the drift on “series” – yeah. series or even just multiple books sell better.  Fortunately smaller works do well in electronic.  What that means is that if you’ve got a 100k novel that can be logically broken into two, you’d do better with it that way.  (Darkship Thieves can logically be broken into three, for instance.  Of course, it’s traditional, so it doesn’t matter.)  And even short stories can be series.

I have a colleague who says she’s also done well with Project Wonderful ads.

I haven’t tried those, really, not for indie.  So…

You put something up, haven’t taken it free and no one has bought it, yet.  Well, takes time for people to discover it.  Stop worrying about it, and start putting stuff up.  Particularly if you joggle it by taking it free now and then, it will sell.

But… when will you get rich?

Well… you might.  Or you might not.  What I can promise is that the more ebooks you have up, the more you make.  Right now my income from all sources is pegged at about $100 a month, but then all I have are short stories, and I’m very bad about putting stuff up (which is on the slate for this afternoon.)

What seems to be true is that at least with novels, income continues.  So even if all you’re making per month, with ten novels there, is $500, you’ll be doing that for a very long time.  Think about it: under the bed they make you nothing.

And as with publishing, there’s a chance lightening will hit.  (When I find how to can it, I’ll share.)

And now, go work and let me get caffeine in me (I wish I could get it IV) and I’ll go work too.

Good luck.

125 thoughts on “So you want to go indie?

  1. For a high-level overview of how to go from “I have stories I wrote I want to sell” to “I have stories for sale,” you might refer to this FAQ a friend of mine wrote:

    http://dreamsofcontrol.blogspot.com/2012/10/faqsummary-on-independent-publishing.html

    There’s nothing in it Sarah or other bloggers haven’t said before, but it’s kind of all-in-one-place and some might find it a useful list of action items. It links to this blog since I told him he needed to read it. 🙂

  2. I absolutely HATE to say this, being addicted to your almost daily posting at length about fascinating topics, BUT if all you have up is short stories, you NEED to spend the time getting your NOVELS up and available for sale.

    Anything you have the rights to (is this the problem?).

    The amount of work is comparable – cover, formatting, etc. – between a short story, a short story collection, and a novel – but only the last has the capacity for really hooking readers long-term so they will always be drooling to buy your next NOVEL.

    Obviously, if you don’t have anything written that you can put up, that’s that – and short stories are the way to continue to go while you write longer stuff. So if I’m not paying enough attention, and that’s the case…

    I’m in a peculiar spot – I can’t publish OR self-publish for two years because of a singular situation. So instead I read all the stuff those who are publishing (DWSmith, Kris Rusch, Passive Guy, Jaye Manus, etc., etc., get my daily reading time) put out about the process, and I write, and I try to be ready.

    But you don’t have my ‘problem.’

    Apologizing in advance for probably misunderstanding everything you’re doing.

    And I really need you – you’re my morning kick in the seat of the pants. But this is not about me.

    1. Yes, of course I don’t have the rights back. I’m in the middle of trying to get them back, but yeah…

      I do have stuff almost finished that I need to finish. What’s stopping that right now, though, it’s not the blog — it’s helping son navigate applications to medschool and decide if he’s even going to apply this year or double major in biochem — and other stuff like that. We’re going to need to sell this house. We can afford it, but we can’t afford the maintenance/utilities. It’s much higher than we expected, and we’ve always lived in Victorians. BUT to sell it it needs to be fully brought into shape (we never even fully unpacked after moving here, I’ve been so busy.) So We need to sell a bunch of the furniture (not a big deal, except we’re waiting to see if the boy is going to move next year and might need it) and we need to figure out strategy and paint and clean and redecorate…
      And, above all, what is delaying me, is worrying about money because… two boys in college, the house more expensive than we’d expected and a disastrous series of breakdowns this year which sapped our bank account.

      1. A comment, which I hope will be taken in the spirit of you-know-this-you-just-need-a-peptalk and not bossiness. 🙂

        When we moved two years ago, we had the same problem: everything interlocked and we couldn’t get a process rolling. The way you do that is to do it. Yes, he might need furniture next year. If it’s his first place there’s always Goodwill or dumpster diving. Sell it and move on. If you mean to sell soon, don’t bother sorting stuff. If need be rent a locker and get stuff out, at least long enough to get the space you need to rearrange other stuff. (Cheap storage can often be found further out from city cores.) Patch what you can, clean everything as best you can. Maybe the boys have friends who would like to make a little money and come in and paint/clean on a weekend. (I hired a couple who work in the shipping department where I work and they brought their kids and they cleaned the whole house top to bottom in one day.) People who are buying Victorians expect to do fix-up work and half the time will just want to undo/redo whatever you did anyway. Get it good enough, reflect it in the price, and GO. Absent a big budget, a place to offload almost everything, and professional stagers, you will never get it perfect. Don’t look at HGTV, get it to the point where you could say, “Hey, I could make this work” if you were buying, and sell that thing.

        Like I said you knew all that, but sometimes it helps to hear it. I wish somebody’d said it to me a year before we moved: we might have moved a year sooner. 🙂

        1. Although speaking of HGTV, you are a cool and interesting person and your house would probably look visually interesting so maybe you should submit to some of those remodeling/help me sell my house shows. Who knows? They might come in and give you help and money!

  3. There are many reasons to go indie as there are people. In my case it was because I have a fatal disease and I didn’t know how long I would have on this world. Thankfully I have almost been here ten years from my first hospital visit. I want to get as much up as I can before the “fatal event.” 😉

    I don’t have the time to woo a publisher or agent. I don’t have the money to have the fancy stuff done by someone else. I do the best I can and ask for help without making it hard on someone else. Except I do find some editing problems after I publish every time. Someday I would actually like to make money from writing. So far, I have done okay. It is the work I do on another online site that actually brings in a little money– just enough to pay for meds.

    1. … I have a fatal disease and I didn’t know how long I would have on this world.

      Cyn, do not take this wrongly as I have enjoyed getting to know you here and hope your health keeps up, BUT-

      We all have a fatal disease (it is called LIFE) and none of us know how long we have on this world. It is just a more present reality for people like Cyn. But if Saint Whassname cures her tomorrow that is no guarantee that a giant pterodactyl won’t fall from the sky the day after tomorrow, crushing her like a ketchup packet.

      Do not go gentle into that good night, but don’t imagine you are not someday going. Use what time you have because you don’t know when your show is going to be cancelled.

      1. There is a roleplaying game system called GURPS (Generic Universal Role Playing System, IIRC) in which one constructs characters by adding positive traits and negative traits. The more negative traits one has, the more positive traits one may add.

        One negative trait which can be added is “Dying.” The sooner that the person is expected to die, the more “credit” one gets toward positive traits. For instance, someone who is going to die in the next three days gets an enormous credit compared to someone who has six months to live.

        When I first read it, it struck me as very unfair that the outer limit for this credit was, again IIRC, two years. After that you got no credit. (You could still of course do it for dramatic purposes, but mechanically, it doesn’t count.) I have since changed my opinion. Nobody’s guaranteed the next two minutes, let alone the next two years. I could get hit by a truck tomorrow. (I could get hit by a truck today.) You can’t live every day as if it were your last, unless you’re a saint or a devil. But you have to keep in the back of your mind that it could be. In fact, in some universe, it is.

      2. Hey RES – Not taking it wrong–
        My great-grandmother died at 98. My grandparents in their early 80s. Many of my family live to be close to one hundred. Finding out that I can die at 60 (lol like normal people) was a big shock. I thought I had more time. When I started writing after my disease was dx’d, I was given five years. I am now nine years into it. I was just being honest that if it hadn’t been for this push, I might still be trying to woo agents and publishers.

        😉

  4. If your work doesn’t fit in a particular box, indie is a wonderful blessing. And not necessarily just the genre box, in some cases. I write short stories and novellas, all interconnected, but until this summer had never written a novel. No one wants to do short-story collections, or short-story and novella collections, for an unpublished fiction novice. Especially if some things fall between short story and novella length. It works out that my stories tend to “batch” into plot arcs, so I can publish batches of stories and get a novel-length book out of them.

    I hired a copy-editor because 1) I don’t see typoos on the screen and 2) my punctuation can be a tad eccentric (as in using British standard and US standard at the same time.) At least for the this project, I need a second (third in some cases) set of eyes.

      1. Sigh. No one can edit on-screen, with any degree of success. It just doesn’t work – and my business partner and I have found that out to our cost. The business partner is an old-line, classically trained editor – she used to work for an academic publisher, and she still free-lances for a couple of other publishers besides her own teensy bidness. We joke that she has been married three times; twice to ordinary mortals and once to the Chicago Manual of Style.
        Print out a hard copy, and edit from that – better yet, let it sit for a little while. You won’t catch every single teensy error, but you will catch more than you will from the screen.

        1. Obviously you have never seen a lawyer redline a contract in a word processor. 🙂

          I don’t know how common the ability is, but I assure you it can be done.

          1. I agree. I do it this way all the time, for others, and have no problems at all. But if I did run into a snag, yes, I’d print a page or three out just to check . . . there’s nothing wrong with the older method and it can be easier to see that way, but I agree with Marc that it certainly can be done via computer, at least by some.

            1. I wonder whether doing a global CTRL-[ to boost font to, say, 30-point wouldn’t make on-screen proofing easier? If nothing else it ought make you read more slowly.

            2. Part of it might be using that obscure jargon/symbology that editors traditionally use to indicate problems. Obviously doing THAT on the screen is problematic. But the reason they did that is that they didn’t have redlining. It’s like complaining that you can’t use a candle-snuffer on an electric light so how are you supposed to turn it off? We don’t need that crap anymore. Between comments and quad-view anything they can do, I can do better.

          2. One question, Marc, is if the lawyer is redlining what he/she wrote, or what someone else wrote. I can copy-edit other people’s work on screen far better than I can do my own (commas are still a problem). I also catch problems better on-screen after several days or weeks have elapsed. And oh, how fast I can catch errors after the article or chapter has been published and bound!

  5. Underbedding. Erm . . . Okay. I’ll own up to it.

    I’ve hauled six of the little wretches out so far (I think they’ve been taking lessons from the dust bunnies and started multiplying). You clean them up, you shove them out onto Amazon, and pull out the next one. Eventually you learn how to do it the easy way (seems to be individual, what any given person considers easy).

    And you must resist going back and fixing every little thing that’s wrong. I finally got some good advice about covers, and redid all of mine.

    Now I’m starting to get them professionally copy edited, prior to trying CreateSpace for actual paper copies. I’ll update the e-books one last time. Period. Then, having conquered CreateSpace (I hope!), I’ll start branching out to Kobo and B&N. If I get really, really brave, I’ll even face the Smashwords meatgrinder.

    It’s a learning process. I’ve only been at it a little over a year, and I’m good enough at it that it’s becoming fun, instead of intimidating.

    1. Pam, I am very glad that you got as many of your stories out from under the bed as you have! I bought and read every one that Amazon had in the past couple of weeks. Good stories! And the minor errors that were left were not enough to stop me wanting more of the story!

  6. I’m going indie b/c of the control I maintain. Yes, I’m a control freak, but for someone willing to put in the work, it’s the best way.

  7. I need to bookmark this column. My free stories — I know, I shouldn’t have put anything up for free — are going like gangbusters, but the novel, at $2.99, is just sitting there. Maybe I can avoid the mistakes I made with the next uploaded story and novel…

    1. If it’s an honest novel, the first mistake to remedy is the price, which is too low. 🙂

      And there’s no rule that says you can’t start charging for things that used to be free. No, really, there isn’t. I checked.

    2. Try a higher price, Lorraine. It’s counterintuitive for the reasons Sarah gave, above . . . but it seems to work. (And if for some reason it doesn’t, you can always lower it again. Or do what Sarah suggested with the “sale” price — put it at the higher price, and do whatever you can to show it being “on sale.”)

  8. One piece of advice. Do *not* go indie unless you have the hide of a rhinoceros and the ability to say, “Hmm, not selling. Probably should fix the price, the cover, and get the next book up.”

    As opposed to “Hmm, not selling. My writing must suck. Must drink to forget.”

    Two glasses of wine and the Beige Bar o’ Shame on Amazon hasn’t budged 😛
    I know, I know, I’ll follow my own advice tomorrow morning. For right now, I’ll just drown my sorrows in mid-price chardonnay and great Korean drama.

    1. Rumor has it that it takes a year, minimum, to get much action. At thirteen months in, and my sixth novel up . . . well, it’s a good thing the few people who do read my stuff say it’s good, or I might have to drown my sorrows in chocolate.

      Now hopefully, Sarah (being a traditionally published author with name(s) recognition ;D) will do better once she gets those reversions in hand. And even better when she starts publishing new stuff. The rest of us have an uphill battle to gain that name recognition from a cold start.

      1. Time and titles are the name of this game. Every title is one more chance to come up on a search engine and pull in a reader. Every title is one more thing a pulled-in reader can buy.

      2. Bah. What I’ve heard from bestselling friends is that this is flat. If you’re doing the right thing and keep doing it, you’ll see movement.

        And I’m redoing some of the early covers/stuff myself. It can get bad…

        1. I know. And the fads on the styles are changing . . . I just wish the romance covers would get past the naked-male-torso-fetish. Cutting off the heads seems so . . . insectile.

            1. The other reason for the headless hero and heroine, or so I was told by a gal who makes a living writing romances, is that it allows readers to imagine themselves (or their current squeeze) in the cover art.

              1. (Glances down at own torso, noting six-pack — oh heck, a good pony keg — abs) I think they are full of the sort of thing best spread on the lawn. That claim sounds more like an after-the-fact justification than a reason.

                1. Yeah, and besides the pony keg, I would shudder to see my head on anyone else’s body. Maybe a football player would have enough shoulders to keep from looking like a bobble-head, but no one smaller.

              2. I suspect a more likely subconscious thing is that one can imagine the face one finds attractive — rather than looking at a guy and going, “Ugh! Too [bishie/non-bishie/bearded/clean-shaven/whatever]!”

                Probably saves on having to get the hair/eye color right, too.

          1. Don’t say such things, lest we find ourselves again invaded by the No-Circ crowd!!!!!

            Cutting off the heads, indeed!

          2. Tangentially, my only rejection from Apple is my “nudiest” cover, which involves a M/F couple who appear to be naked and who are shown from the waist up. When the photo was taken, they were both wearing underpants, but the female has no bra on. A strategic crop (they both still have their heads) and a little Photoshop, and her hair covers her upper naughties and their lower naughties are invisible but seem likely to be uncovered. Heh heh heh.

            However, while I was very proud of my editing job – the photographer would have sworn they were naked in the original shot – as I said it appears I outclevered myself since Apple will not sell the book as-is.

      3. Pam, do you know how long it took Ric Locke? Or would he be considered an outlier? (I’m glad he saw some success, at any rate. Wish he’d have lived to see more.)

        1. Ric was an outlier. He jumped straight in, very early, _and_ he had a really good book _and_ the Barflies to start the ball rolling. I don’t recall his mentioning outlets, I assumed KDP.

          1. Thanks, Pam. I figured you would know, and I was right.

            I’m very glad that Ric was an outlier. The man deserved success; his book was more than good enough to be picked up by a major SF publisher, and it didn’t happen more because of the changes in the marketplace rather than anything Ric did or didn’t do. (I know he tried them all.)

            I’m not sure if Ric tried all markets or just went with Amazon. But I do remember telling him to try about a year before he finally did. He had the means — not great means, mind you, but he did have them — and he certainly had the book that would interest people. Probably many others, including Sarah, told him the same thing. I’m glad he listened and got his book out.

  9. Your comment that publishers want a young looking author rattled and confused me. I’ve had a few relatives who are young say they want to write but they are good little office worker bees who go to work and come home and have never DONE anything. I’m at a loss what they would write about except light comedy about human nature.
    I’m 65 and have worked in all sorts of jobs. Office, factory, construction, self employed at plumbing and window washing, real estate, machinist, mold maker, truck driving, sold cars and shoes and washed dishes even. I’ve traveled all over the US and Canada by car, thumb and train. Flew in DC-3 airliners and a Ford Tri-motor. I’ve helped Maine lobstermen and loaded trucks and smuggled on a sailboat. I’m trying to say I’ve done enough to be able to imagine different situations and seen every variation of human folly and dignity. The stories I remember best were not from some rosy cheeked kid. The old mexican man Munos who rode with the Federales against Poncho Villa and had his horse shot out from under him THROUGH his leg, he was worth hearing. And the old lady who grew up in Germany and could recount the details of Hitler’s rise to power was awesome. I knew a old lady who lived at the Court of the Peacock Throne and had things in her apartment given to her by the Shah. Those sort of people are worth listening to. They want stories from kids? What idiots.

    1. It’s true that there’s nothing like a little living to make your writing true to life, but I don’t know that only astronauts can write interesting science fiction. 🙂

    2. She didn’t say that what they were looking for was right. She said, without being so blunt, that they are looking for eye candy, or else someone with an interesting enough life to draw people in. Not so much for content.

        1. Even if it would get me on Oprah, I’m not trading my life story for anything. Not worth it. I’d rather be judged on my writing, and if that’s not good enough to interest people, so be it. (Besides, my late husband would kick me ten ways to Sunday if I tried trading on my life story. Writing it as an autobiography, maybe — any other way, absolutely not.)

            1. Yeah. I don’t see any way to protect people’s privacy, and I’m not the type of person who enjoys violating such. Plus, if you’re going to do an autobiography right, you actually need to do a ton of research — research is something I could do and would probably enjoy doing, mind you — and many people skip that, going straight to the salacious bits. Finally, I figure that no matter what my life story is, it has nothing on Gore Vidal. 😉 (Have you ever read his two autobiographies? They’re excellent writing and are often really funny, sometimes profane, sometimes really shocking — but I can’t imagine doing that, ever.)

          1. I might try telling my life story, but with the bland bits and the horrific sections, and the parts that’re tied up in others’ lives and the parts that I’m legally obligated due to federal law from not mentioning for at least another 20 years it might be a bit sparse. Even given the parts that I could put in, if it was to get me on Oprah, I wouldn’t write it just because of that. Getting on Oprah, I mean.

            And Barb knows most of which I speak :þ

            1. LOL, William. I’ll tell you what, your autobiography would be a must read in _my_ house. 😉 But do follow all the laws and customs so you don’t get yourself in trouble.

      1. …then where the hell are all my book contracts, damn it? I’m biracial, grew up in foster care, willing to sell my soul for the right amount of money (tax breaks included), and really have no qualms with writing dreck (see my first novel).

        Oh wait, I’m fluffy. I wouldn’t look good on Oprah’s couch.

          1. Hrm. Part of me (an admittedly large part) is fine with being a walking advertisement board that spouts off slogans on queue. The other part of me has some integrity left.

      1. You’re still pretty. And you’re still young. Don’t let those idiots tell you otherwise. (Listen to your husband on this one. He’s right and they’re utterly asinine.)

        But yes, I agree with your assessment of what the big markets want. (How not? You know far more than I and I’m glad that you’re willing to share your knowledge.)

      2. No, no, they are entirely reasonable here.

        I can’t tell you the number of times I have picked up a book, started reading it and just when it was getting really interesting happened to notice the author pix on the back and said to myself, WHOA, I can’t be reading anything written by such a loathsome toad as this!

        Or the number of times I have looked at an author bio and read how they’ve been all over the world, working as a ranch hand, lumberjack, merchant marine and prize fighter (to name a few) and said, meh – I don’t think I would be interested in anything this L’Amour chap has written. Or there was that book written by another former merchant seaman, milkman and actor, all about funny animals living someplace called Redwall. Boy, I sure am glad I didn’t waste any time on that kind of crap when there are books written by twenty-something English majors who’ve spent their entire lives (such as they’ve been) cloistered in academia, untainted by any novel ideas.

        1. “Boy, I sure am glad I didn’t waste any time on that kind of crap when there are books written by twenty-something English majors who’ve spent their entire lives (such as they’ve been) cloistered in academia, untainted by any novel ideas.”

          But they have such penetrating observations on the stifling conformity of the middle class. I know I always gain insight into the banality of my own life when I read them, and I appreciate it.

          1. Oh man am I glad I finished my tea before reading this sub-thread. I cannot afford another computer right now.

            From hurricanes and angst-laden English Majors, may the good Lord deliver us.

            1. *sulks in her English Majory way*
              (Hey, the lit classes were the ones I was having the most fun in — read and write about what I read? easy-peasy! — when I needed to switch majors, so it was obvious. And it did teach me some stuff about writing even when I hated the topic, which means that no matter how stuck I ever get on fiction, if it’s my fiction, it is 100% more fun than if I have to compare-and-contrast two horribly depressing stories that I hated.

              The angst was just the usual teenagery stuff.)

              1. Oh well Beth – I do have that English Major… although one of my professors thought I should get MFA in CW. Thankfully I didn’t ruin my writing chops by going into one of those programs. 😉

              2. Beth, my degree is an MA in modern languages and literatures with a major in English, a minor in German and another minor in teaching. (Hey, I CAN’T do only one thing at once. I can’t. I was also taking French, Italian and Swedish on the side…

              3. My niece is a writer of dark fantasy. She is writing something philosophical and extremely dark; she listens to Wagner (which is very interesting in a musical history way as well as being extremely dramatic), she reads old Finnish epics (which are often darker than dark, at least the way my niece describes it), and she’s an English major and graduate teaching assistant (GTA). She’s very good at what she’s done; she’s also spent a year in Americorps, and was good at that, too.

                But her fiction is incredibly dark. Not horror, but . . . anyway, it’s rare for someone as young as my niece to be able to write this type of stuff. I think she has an old soul. 😉

                1. Oh joy! I was going to quote Twain on Wagner’s music — “isn’t as bad as it sounds.” — and performing a routine Googlectomy discovered that to be a misquote of “I have been told that Wagner’s music is better than it sounds”.

                  So I not only get to inject a snarky quote, I’ve learned something (which I shall immediately endeavor to forget.)

                  1. I hadn’t expected that, Sarah, but I suppose it makes sense. Have you seen much darkness combined with philosophy, though? That’s what threw me about my niece . . . that and the old Finnish Eddas (at least I think they’re Eddas). I’ve read some of ’em and don’t see them as anywhere near as dark as she does, but maybe it’s differing translations as well as the fact I can’t help but be (ahem-mumble-mumble) older than her?

                    1. Interesting. I hadn’t thought of Piaget in that context but it does make sense. I suppose when you’re still growing in all senses that you want to test the limits, including the dark side of limits. And I know when I was younger, I was quite a bit more dramatic than I am now; now, why raise a fuss when there’s no need? (Fortunately I grew out of the worst of that long before I met my husband Michael; he’d not have had the patience for that, nor should he have had. I probably wouldn’t have many good things to say to my younger self, come to think of it . . . hm.)

                    2. All part of the natural progression of worshiping the parent figure as we first meet them, recognize our dependence on them and the need for them to be all powerful, then the later rejection of them for not being the all-wise we wanted them to be, finally (one hopes) accepting them (and eventually ourselves) as fallible imperfect clay attempting to cope with reality.

                      Thus the importance of giving “young adults” Human Wave instead of grey goo, to nourish their development into adulthood rather than enabling them to wallow in adolescence.

                      My younger self and I are not on speaking terms.

                    3. I used to think it evidence of growth that I could look back at myself a decade previous and think “What a twit.” I now understand how foolish that was.

                    4. My younger self was a very shy, introverted (still am introverted), and hidden. It was a painful stretch to actually reveal myself in poetry. I think I reveal myself better now, but I still like my secrets. –Which makes it weird that I was able to convince people to follow my lead on certain occasions. 😉

                    5. What kind of dark are we talking about? I find that I pile on the dark and then let the character dig out of it 😉 (or was that crap). In the end the hope is in sharp contrast to the dark. However– I do have a few (like my New and Improved Workforce on my blog this week) that are just plain sick.

            2. I get the idea that a graduate degree in CW is almost as useful in terms of helping you write as an MA is in history, meaning not much. You learn analysis (literary or historical) and patience, and some research skills (maybe, depends on your program), but not a lot that prepares you for the world of writing at a professional level, fiction, non-fiction, literary or popular. Full-disclosure: I’m a triple threat history major who has been told that my writing is too readable.

              1. I tried to finish that but on the last sentence (I think it was the last one…I dare not try to finish reading it again) the monitor opened up and a spring-loaded arm hit me in the face with a cream pie. What the hell did you put in that paragraph???

                  1. They have special hammers for meringue? That explains the artfully dented appearance that some chefs achieve.

                    1. Y’all ain’t never seen the results of my attempts at meringue. Nor merengue for that matter. But I have gotten hammered a time or two.

  10. FWIW, my husband Darrell Osborn does virtually all my book covers for not only Chromosphere, but for Twilight Times Books and occasionally for Kerlak Publishing. He has done covers for a number of authors at TTB and has done all of the Dreams of Steam anthology series. He is inexpensive and fast too.

    Also Chromosphere Press is about to launch into print, having heretofore stuck to ebooks. The TTB publisher is helping me through it. I’ll let ya know how this works out. But I have a children’s book (Barb knows about this; she edited it for me) that seems to be pretty good and Chromosphere is going to submit it for the Newberry Medal and see what happens. They apparently want print, so…

    1. I will recommend Darrell Osborne as well. He made my debut novel very pretty, and when I send off the sequels, I really, really want him to do them as well. Plus, Darrell listens to the author and publisher and their ideas.

      1. Yes, he really does, and that’s one reason so many people like his work. I love being able to sit across the room from him on my laptop incorporating edits, while I describe scenes to him and he recreates them on his laptop. But then I have a slight advantage in living with him. 😉

    2. I told Stephanie to try for it, too . . . her children’s story reads like Diana Wynne Jones in certain respects, except with a different philosophy behind it (I can see contemporary Christian and eclectic New Age _both_ liking this novel, especially for girls in the 5th grade on up). I really liked Stephanie’s story and was proud to edit it.

      1. Yes, it had been forever since I’d heard of the Newberry, and Barb was quite enthusiastic. I’ve had some bad experiences in the past with some “awards” and it takes a good bit of convincing to get me to bother anymore, but Barb was persuasive.

  11. Sarah, is there a reason you and your husband publish under different press names? I was thinking that for those that want to avoid self-pubbed books it would look better if you, your husband, and possibly your son published under the same press (especially with you using multiple pen names so it doesn’t look like a strictly family operation). That would make the press look more professional with a small pack of authors publishing through it.

    1. We do that under NRP, but this is the issue — if we did it under the same press, we’d need to do accounting. This way it goes directly through for taxes and we don’t need to know who sold how much. People don’t seem to care about that — don’t ask. Actually, I’m so many people I could be an entire press… but not yet for Goldport. Also, Robert will be moving away on his own… any year now 😉

  12. > There’s also everystockphoto and a few other free sites

    I follow a few science fiction art blogs, and when one image showed up that was basically RIPPED from the beginning of Act 2 of my novel, I tracked down the artist (in Russia) and emailed him an offer: $100 via paypal for the rights to use the image for my novel. He agreed. When I split my novel in half, I found that another of his images was perfect and negotiated to use it.

    I’m very very happy with them:

    To see the current draft covers (I need to do more work, get permission to use the quotes, etc., so please don’t take these as final) see here:

    http://morlockpublishing.com/the-book/

      1. I do too, but I’m just saying don’t give up if they do. I’ll keep reading till we get Dragonkitties and since we will never get them I’m kind of stuck. 🙂

  13. More evidence that covers *totally* matter — for amusement I checked my KDP sales for the new Japan store. I actually had a sale, of a short story…with tentacles on the cover. Since nobody there has heard of me, it had to be the tentacles. Sigh.

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