Sunlight on a New Day

I’d say I’ve been thinking about starting a publishing company. But that would be an understatement.

The fact is, we (not I) have been doing more than just thinking about it. Yesterday I closed my eyes and opened them to a business plan, complete with a basic budget and a five year strategy. It had most of the essentials. LLC filing costs for tax considerations, policies, necessary tools we’ll need, growth ideas, purchasing of a round of ISBNs…

Although there is are initial costs to crest before we’re official, the plan covers the first round of critical questions. On some fronts, we’re not inexperienced in this, having gone through the process three times and figuring out the basics. But in other regards, we’re trailblazing. I’ve never set up a real company before. On the plus side, creating an LLC is cheap. There are tiered costs for converting it into stocks, and equity is an important consideration to maintain the nature of a startup company. But that’s something to visit another time.

For the moment, focus is on structuring our policies, mission statements and marketing considerations. We have a few ideas on that latter point. The biggest hurdle of any author is simply getting their name out there. A publishing company of reputable quality doesn’t take long to attract at least a small following of readers and interested parties. Last I checked, there are roughly half a million published writers in the United States alone. Writing good or even amazing material just isn’t enough to stand out.

Another factor we’ve been discussing is how much of our infrastructure we’re going to in-house. While there are some great services out there that I would strongly consider once we’re of a particular size, I want to handle as much as I can on my own and outsource as I realize that certain tasks are too complex or offer no real benefit to maintain. If I can in-house my own file management system with minimal problems, fantastic! If I’m blowing two or three hours a week dealing with an exploding mail server, I’ll probably just go with Google business emails.

Yeah, it sounds like a great deal of work. But we have a hotshot artist, an up-and-coming writer and a tech guy looking to automate aspects of the job. One could do worse. Yet nothing is happening until the royalty payments for Marching Time and Far Worlds are complete however. As eager as I am to get started, I need to wrap up the old business first.

Tough Times For Authors

A BBC article has reported that 5% of authors made 42% of income from published works in 2013. The number of authors who can make a living writing has dropped from 40% (back around 2003) to 11.5%. I strongly recommend you read the article yourself.

The news made me grimace a little. Something like this wasn’t entirely unexpected by any means. A first hand look at sales reports illustrates how difficult it is to earn much. But seeing one’s fears in the raw numbers does give me pause.

When someone encounters a disheartening situation, it pays to take a pragmatic glance at one’s goals. My personal objective was to build my name enough that perhaps I can comfortably write full-time when I retire. As it stands, my retirement is no less than 30 years away, and a lot can happen in those three decades. This report proved that the market has changed, and is probably preparing itself for a kind of bubble in the next couple of years.

marchingtimeBubbles, at least in the context of markets, are never fun. Amazon’s e-publishing services are a blessing and a curse in this regard, for they opened the flood gates and removed barriers to entry. I can’t complain, because if Amazon hadn’t offered these services, our anthologies like Far Worlds and Marching Time would never have been published. And some of the publishing companies I’ve worked with might not exist either.

But as Amazon has removed our inhibitions, they’ve also gone on to inflame our passions. Although not the only company to do so, Amazon’s print-on-demand service CreateSpace is a proud contributor to National Novel Writing Month. In 2013, there were over 310,000 contributors to that and more than 42,000 winners. Even if as little as .5% of just the winners decided to push their work onto Amazon in the next year, it creates a deluge of new titles for sale. And that doesn’t include the other 268k non-winning contestants who could finish and submit later.

The pressure is not going to alleviate for a while. It will eventually. There are many of folks who will realize that they only ever had one story in them. Others just wanted to crank out a novel for the sensation of accomplishment. And still others may realize that being a full-time author was not quite what they hoped to be their calling.

In the end, the situation only serves to reinforce the same rule that being a writer is tough and persistence is the only way it can pay off. I guess it finally makes sense of that old phrase how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Writer’s Scars

“Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability.”

So long since my last post, and so much news.

The Black Wind’s Whispers is (finally) out in print edition. Still working on the same for Marching Time, although the Kindle version of that is available. And we’ve been making strides towards Far Worlds, our next Bolthole anthology which is currently in the works.

I’m also stepping down from the Bloghole. I enjoyed my time there and learned so much about the business, but I want to return to writing and writing related projects.

But the whooping news is that a particular publishing company is shutting down. Their printing ends in February next year. And with it, fellow writer Jonathan Ward and I are losing over half our published works.

As I spoke to him, I learned final warnings from the owner. He told me stories of queries from contributors and new authors, trying to find out when the next opening was. Gauging if they could openly submit a novel. He told me how disheartening it was to turn people down and dealing with points of reduced sales.

But despair and I are old friends. Few people know how to hold onto lost causes better than myself or Rhett Butler, and the education given to me by others only serves to enhance my zeal.

But the former point the owner mentioned is a lesson. I’m spoiled because so many new writers dive after novels instead of trying their hands at short stories and mastering their craft. I did a novella once, and have learned that it is better to do as you are asked than try your hand at something unexpected and not requested.

It seems that future writing projects will need to have some kind of buffer. We’ll have to draw our line carefully and find a means to filter that which we do not ask for.

Well, that’s a concern for a future day.

But there’s a coming-of-age lesson here and it starts with the title. Today was not a possibility. It was an inevitability. Every writer who held on has to deal with the moment that the publication containing their works goes out of print somehow. Maybe the one-time rights expire. Maybe the company shuts down, or violates some agreement and has to stop the book from further circulation.

Maybe you knew it was coming. Maybe it’s a bolt out of the blue. But those stories you crafted, the tales that wowed editors enough to be printer worthy, are given back to you. And it dawns on you that, for the first time, your pieces of work must be submitted with the word “reprint” stamped to it.

All of a sudden, this great tale is no longer quite as valuable. Sometimes, companies flat out refuse reprints. Other times they’ll take them… at 10% the cost of what they would pay for an original. “Our normal rate is $.05 a word. But since this has already been published once, we can only offer you a flat rate of $25.”

Or less.

But like I said. Anyone who holds on long enough has to deal with this. Stories do eventually become homeless. I think of accomplished guys like Josh Reynolds, who have or had well over a hundred short stories published. There’s no way they could all remain in circulation.

It’s a day to remember at least. But for now, the following stories are available for only another five months. Get them while they’re hot…

“On Ne Passé Pas!” from War is Hell.

“Happily Ever After” from Under the Knife.

“The Child of Iron” from From Their Cradle to Your Grave.

“The Eyes” from 100 Horrors: Tales of Horror in the Blink of an Eye.

“Marching Time” Release and More!

Wait! Wait! I have an excuse for my absence! Because we’re finally about to release this!

marchingtime

After months of work, we’re finally about to release the new anthology from the Bolthole, Marching Time. A collection of stories involving the various aspects of war and time traveling, Marching Time is the second anthology we’re to publish.

Marching Time should be available on Amazon later this week. I should also note that we’ve started work on a third anthology and the call for submissions will be going out shortly. If you’re new to writing and want to get a tale in or an old hand who wants to try, keep an eye out and expect the submission flyer real soon. But you may want to check out and read the anthology to make sure it’s your cup of tea.

 

Book Marketing and the Future

If I have any regrets the last year, it was that I didn’t start using Twitter until very recently.

Fact is, Twitter is a better marketing tool. Brief, to the point, easy to interact with. It can be linked to Facebook. Rather than engaging in “mutually beneficial” friendship arrangements, you simply have followers which you must attract. There are fewer walls and the actual spread of information is way more open, where as Facebook applies an algorithm to reduce clutter on people’s walls (which can filter you out).

Twitter is actually kind of essential for those reasons. Without walls, fans can connect readily with authors and creators. Although one can get in trouble with the platform, there is quite a bit of power to be harnessed if used carefully.

As I move forward with the anthology, I’m also hacking away at other needs to promote it. I’m examining advertising costs on Facebook. But more importantly, I’m looking at various book reviewing bloggers. Although there are “big name” critics out there in the newspapers, these smaller guys often tend to be quite niche, and really hit the reader bases that we’re writing for. In a way, the smaller guys can be a lot more powerful than the big names, because they know what they want.

This is why, despite an age where anyone can publish anything thanks to Amazon, publishing houses are not going away. They have the power to provide advertising and superior editing services. They usually know their market, and can tap top talent if need be. Self published success have occurred and will continue to happen, but there are services that publishers provide that simply aren’t available to the average author.

Business is really all about networking. Knowing the guy who can do what you can’t, knowing the right people for the job. All of us, especially writers, have to be in business for ourselves. And despite potential competitive aspects of business, a lot of it is also about working together.

Speaking of business, I’ve been thinking about what I’ll be doing next year. I’ve mentioned trying a few drafts against Everyday Fiction. But Narrativium will be in charge of the next anthology, Marching Time. Besides that, there will be the Black Library submission window, of which both myself and several of the Boltholers will have our strongest chance next year to be published.

The major question is whether to attempt my first novel, or self-publish an anthology of novellas. The latter is very tempting. My approach to being published has revolved around an “evolving plan” of difficulty. Flash fiction and short stories started it. There has been at least one novella thus far.

An idea is to go ahead and write more novellas, and get used to longer tales before attempting a novel-length story. Length is a major factor. 300 pages is nothing to sneeze at. My approach has really allowed me to gradually increase the difficulty, while building on the skills I’ve learned in the previous steps.

What I learned from short story telling can be applied to novellas. What I learn from novellas could evolve into a novel. Thus far, that idea has been working. While I don’t want to be complacent, this approach is working thus far.