Sunlight on a New Day

Hopi_Tawa_MuralI’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 ones’ 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.

Culling Lessons

A review of our recent anthology can be found here. Right now, we’re hacking away at our third anthology, and my last with the Bolthole. Although I do intend to very a more in depth analysis of the last two anthologies, I want to wait until we finish Far Worlds before I do so.

But here are my notes on it so far:

The Black Wind’s Whispers

Pros: Unifying plot device linked stories. Niche, easily identified horror theme. Relatively modern setting eased world building.
Cons: Bad submission methodology. Very late print edition release. Early formatting errors.
Notes: Our first attempt. We tried something different with accepting submissions, where as we got a certain number and ‘locked it in’. This was almost the anthology’s undoing when authors dropped out due to time constraints. Will not repeat this method again. Other issues included formatting problems when going to publishing. These were found and fixed and the lessons learned paved the way to a better second anthology.

Marching Time

Pros: Vastly improved submissions method. More stories of surprising diversity. Faster formatting and swifter print edition.
Cons: No unifying plot device. Time travel theme made for transitional difficulties between story worlds. Time management.
Notes: We definitely learned from our previous anthology with regards to formatting, printing and submission methods.  Our synopsis approach saved time both for writer and editor, as we could weed out stories with bad ideas early. It also helped us create a more diverse anthology. On the downside, we let time get away from us and the anthology ended up being late. There’s also no connecting aspect to the stories. None of them are set in the worlds of any other.

Far Worlds

It’s too early to give Far Worlds a full appraisal as we are not done. Our synopsis submission method really paid off though, as we weeded out and suggested improvements to many potential stories, sparing us dozens of similar tales. We’re entertaining the thoughts of it being two books, but we need to see how many drafts we get first before making those decisions. We’re also trying new ideas to help with transitions between stories.

Once Far Worlds is finished, I maybe tempted towards one ‘final’ anthology, independently published and not of the Bolthole, to round out everything I’ve learned. Work for it will not begin until after Far Worlds is published, as then I can examine the new ideas we implemented and decide what works and what doesn’t. I’ll bring that up in the new year.

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.

 

March

beertoastIt’s the middle of March. It’s actually St. Patrick’s Day, or better yet called “Writer’s Refueling Day”.

I really should have been writing the last week but I haven’t. I’ve been horrible at it. Distracted by other tasks and chores. Too many video games, too much reading. Too many little work assignments and friends coming out of the woodwork. I kind of want to go home, lock myself in my room and just write, page after page, word after word until I pump out a handful of short stories to send to various publishers. That may happen on Tuesday.

We will see.

Distractions are understandable but the timing was bad. Spring is the time that many magazines and publishers open their doors.

On the plus side, I did finish editing all the stories that were passed to me for the Marching Time anthology that Narrativium is organizing. I am debating whether or not I should involve myself in the next Bolthole Anthology in anything other than an advisory role. I think it a great learning tool but I really want to break into the more professional publications. The Bolthole Anthologies require a considerable investment of time that is becoming a scarcer resource.

After reading so many great stories, I’m a bit at a loss for crafting plots again. My head is just… out there. Hopefully something will come to me today.

The Next Big Thing

I received an invitation from Alec McQuay to answer a selection of questions about my current writing workload. Behold the horror…

What is your working title of your book?
There’s actually a couple of projects I’m working on. I’m just sticking to short stories because it’s easier to finish up. I may start my first novel next year.

But for the time being, I’m working on a short story for Narrativium’s Marching Time anthology, simply titled Ragnarok for now. I am also pitching two new stories to Cruentus Libri Press. I can’t tell you about the new one I’m hacking away at, but the latest submission is a horror piece set in World War I, between the French and Germans.

Where did the idea come from for these stories?
For the Marching Time piece, I really can’t remember. No one had called out vikings, so I decided to do that. But then somewhere, I got this idea about how to make it a hero epic piece. For some reason, I really relished the chance to do the olde tyme thick epic, so I got started.

As for the WWI piece, that took considerable evolution. It originally began as an alternate history horror piece set in WWII. America was invaded by a hodge podge army of zombies. I can’t tell you more, but there was more depth to the tale than endless and pointless fighting. This WWII was started for a different publisher, but I changed my mind towards the end and wrote a mad scientist piece set during the storms of Dustbowl. It was a slow, building story that wasn’t particularly pulpy.

After the mad scientist piece was rejected, I returned to the original idea. During this time, I was getting ready for a trip to England, and was brushing up on my French and German with a girl who knew both. Somehow, this inspired me to try a WWI story, with several twists on the original tale. The zombies were removed, but I added a different foe. It’s called On Ne Passé Pas! but that title is subject to change.

What genre does your book fall under?
For the Marching Time piece, there are elements of sci fi and medieval style war in it. I tie large, important themes of Norse mythology into it, but I must remind the reader that during the Viking age, this was a religion and a few concepts of faith. All of this is very central to the story.

My other stories are primarily horror. Horror has been a great starting niche because it generally gives a lot of freedom, and horror literature lovers by no means expect feel good endings. But horror by itself isn’t a great genre. The best horror tends to blend itself with another genre. Horror fantasy (Berserk), horror crime, so on. A really important thing to remember when writing horror is that the horror elements should be hinted at or introduced early. Readers do not like last minute genre-bending, like Steven Spielberg’s A.I. They hate it, and I’m no fan myself.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I’ve given no thought whatsoever to who I’d want to play my character for the Marching Time story. I would be open to no name actors, particularly from Swedish cinema. A few Swedish movies and shows have started making their way to the states, either original or remade. And they’re pretty good!

As for the WWI piece, this is going to blow your mind. I’d be open to having Sacha Baron Cohen for the lead role. I know, I know. You probably know him for his low brow comedies, like Borat, The Dictator and Brüno. But he’s also done somewhat more serious roles, like Hugo. And he has a part in the upcoming Les Misérables that I’m looking forward too. Sometimes, certain comedians are actually outstanding actors underneath the comedy mask, like John Leguizamo.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Ragnarok: When the gods march to their doom, for whom will you fight?
On Ne Passé Pas!: They have surrendered in droves to escape their own country…

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Ragnarok: To be honest, neither really describes it. It is technically self-published, but it was a large, group effort by just under a dozen talented individuals. It’s our first effort together and I really hope we can do it again soon. Just like The Black Wind’s Whispers.

On Ne Passé Pas!: If Cruentus Libri Press accepts it, they will. If not, I may put it on the back burner and figure out what to do with it later.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
For the MT anth, it’s still being worked on. The writing is thick and requires considerable care. For the other story, that is debatable. Its first real draft took only a week, but the idea evolved over several previous iterations over the course of six months. 

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Beowulf comes to mind for Ragnarok. The plot, I’m trying to think if and where it has been borrowed before. Probably from elements of historical acts involving religion.

For On Ne Passé Pas!, I really wanted to draw inspiration from the movie All Quiet on the Western Front. But there was a lack of trench warfare to it. I’d say more came from The Dirty Dozen.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
For Ragnarok, it might have been Dan Abnett with the 40k book, Prospero Burns. The Space Wolves, a group in the 40k universe, have been stereotyped as barbarians, but there’s more to them than that. Real life vikings, on whom the Space Wolves are based upon, have many similar misconceptions and falsehoods about them. I don’t know how much of an eye opener Ragnarok is going to be, but if I can set the records straight on a few historic facts, I will.

On Ne Passé Pas! was inspired by a woman who has helped me with my French and German, and a dash from my high school history teacher. Who, according to other students, was certifiable.  

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Because I’m not in charge of these books overall, I’m really not sure yet. I’m helping as an editor for Marching Time, so when first drafts start pouring in, I’ll have a better answer.

Here are a few other author’s (and links to their blogs) you should watch carefully.

Alec McQuay

Sarah Cawkwell

James Swallow

Kim Krodel