Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Resolutions 2012

Another year is lurking in the background, waiting to pounce upon us and devour our souls in the night. ...possibly. For this year, 2012, I have a lot of great resolutions for myself. You can consult the Five-Year Plan, for the things that'll certainly happen, but these are the Goals. The One-Year Goals, if you will. All the folk call them resolutions, though.

Let's review:
Old Year's Resolutions 2010
New Year's Resolutions 2011
Success Rate:
I've still got that girlfriend, so I'll be sure to keep her happy.
I still don't have a Kindle.
I did, indeed, write like the wind. A rather languid, breezy wind, but a wind nonetheless.
I'm in slightly better shape now, and I use the Internet slightly less.
Prognosis: Negative. (Which is, of course, good.)

Here, in no particular order, are the 2012 resolutions:

Drink Wine
Beer's too easy, esp. this low-alcohol but delicious Thai beer (cf. Singha). I figure if I celebrate every Saturday with a $20 bottle of red wine as opposed to a $20 box of twelve bottles of beer over the course of a week, I'll be in better shape, mentally and physically. Perhaps some mixture of those two items, using linear programming to determine optimal configuration. I don't know. I'm never drunk in Thailand, I just don't want to get gout. That'd be...embarrassing.

Never Volunteer For Anything Again
In case you hadn't figured it out by now, I've been in Thailand these last twenty-seven months as a Peace Corps Volunteer. That's the first and last I'll mention it on this blog, but I have to say (1) I recommend it and (2) I've done my time. Henceforth I am a Man of Business, and I think I can save the world a lot more effectively if I have a Lot of Money, rather than, say...not.

Dave Frost will be taking charge of any further political and economic discussions along those lines, so don't ask me. (He'll be writing an MBA blog, even.)

Eat Less, Better
It turns out I really, really like fish, to the exclusion of just about every other food, and my health has massively improved since I became a de facto pescatarian. I doubt I'll make it official, but I will avoid non-food obsessively, and eat for taste. Damn you, Michael Pollan, and your stupid consciousness-raising. Now I've turned into a 'picky eater'. If you're confused, just consult Food Rules.

Oh, and
Also Less Coffee

Not going to make a big deal of this, but as of 2012, I'm going to act as if religion doesn't exist. For those of you who practice personal religion, that won't make a big difference. Those with a political religion will need to take note. Here's a handy guideline: If your proposition depends on religious belief, it is no longer admissible in my court of evidence for argument, and I will shut it down/delete/ignore it with all due haste.

This is purely for my Creative mental health...and also I'm bored with the discussion. I'm too lazy to be an Atheist. Just leave me alone. I've got so many other interests that I can afford to be rather dull on one topic.

I will continue to make my regular contributions to the ACLU so that everybody—at least in America—can argue out in the open, and if your religious-affiliated charity/NGO has stripped all mention of religion out of its primary charitable goal (I've worked with loads of NGOs, I can assess), I'll contribute to that too.

Don't Be Isolated
Living in the jungle for two years has given me an appreciable window on my mental health, and it turns out I like to have lots of people around to absorb my Creati-Babble. Facebook and blogs just doesn't cut it. I'm going to cut a swathe through whatever social scene I can find.

Play a "Sport"
I've been using Fitocracy (follow me!) for a while now, and it's been super-helpful. I hate the gym, so it would seem the best way for me to get in shape is to pick up a sport, and a pick-up sport at that. Maximum one piece of equipment, so basketball, soccer, 'ultimate frisbee', whathaveyou. More on that as it develops.

Play more Settlers of Catan
Pretty self-explanatory, really. I like human contact, and trading, and board games, all in convenient 30-minute increments. Let's make it happen, people.

Write Lots of Short Stories
In 2012, I'm going to compulsively write a lot of short stories and put them up everywhere. I've pretty much determined that I love writing short stories most of all, and it's an Exercise in Focus. They'll all be entered as part of the (H2NH Stories 2012) series, then split up into collections (with real cover art) by fives and fifteens (for eBooks) and thirties (for POD). Fun!
Fifty of these stories will be under the auspices of Write1Sub1 "Reloaded", but as you can see from my cover art template, I'm anticipating triple digits. You'll be able to follow the progress via the page I'll set up, accessible by clicking on the cover art template in the side-bar. That's the challenge, people.

feel free to comment

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

Christmas Eve—otherwise known as The Only Holiday I Celebrate—is upon us, and I'm having a wonderful time! Let's report it the traditional way:

Christmas Past

Since I knocked my own Christmas Past out of the park with Christmas Eve 2010, I'll just provide you with my favorite part of the movie I'll be watching with my girlfriend tonight:
Man, those guys knew how to spread Christmas cheer.

Christmas Present

Did I mention my girlfriend? I think I might have. This is the Second Annual Christmas Party & Debauch, so I'm ready to settle in to some delicious fish, beer, and et cetera. What a time we'll have, writing dry spell notwithstanding, and then I'll be ready to embrace the new year 2012 (Thai year 2555) with open arms, heart and mind. I'm going back to America in a month or two, but I'll be back, for my pineapple girl.
She's the reason for the season.
What? You wanted a Christmas Girl? Do your own damn Google Image Search, you perverts.

Christmas Future

I've already made my five-year plan, and nothing can change it, so let's talk about the real Future. Specifically, why haven't I had the opportunity to go colonize wherever the hell this is yet?
It's "a habitable exoplanet in orbit around a red dwarf". Look at those lush continents! Man, we could be doing so many cool things on the land, and talking to the local whale population. Plus, everything will be all red and cool. That makes dramatic speeches more spooky:
Governor David Barron, exhorting the colonists.
Who's with me? I'll give Humanity until 2024, then I'm going by myself. Don't make me come back there.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

feel free to comment

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dry Spells And The Sorcerer

I have a terrible confession to make: I haven't finished anything in two months. I've written lots of words, but I haven't been enjoying the real, true reason that I write...that is to say: Having Written. "Behold," I like to say, "I wrote that." Nobody wants to know what you're writing. That's the most boring thing you could ever tell anybody. What they want to know is: "Is it done yet?!?" Well, it's not.

Dry Spells
Some finished works are more appreciated than others.
So, I think it's best to call this a "dry spell", because that sounds better than "drought". If the writer is a weather system, there's water out there, but it's just not filling up any particular buckets. Let's try to diagnose, shall we?

Writer's Block
Nope. Do you see all these books I have to write? And that's not even including the short stories that exist in potentia and first paragraphia. No, I currently have more ideas than I can shake a stick at, and they're piling up more and more as I get farther and farther behind. It's very annoying.

Distracted By The Sexy
While this is a fine theory, it seems rude to blame everything on my amazing perfect relationship which is better than yours in every way. Also, sexier. Stop being rude, guys. Even though:
The Sexy

Lack of Sleep
Oh, now I'm just showing off.

Lack of Concentration
There's been a lot of paperwork, uncertainty and background negotiations involved to make my Five Year Plan work, and I've found that it's hard to focus on an invented narrative when I'm trying to make an actual, real-life story come true. But that's not a good enough excuse. I've been busier than this, and still managed to write a whole pile of stories.

Maybe I'm just SCARED
Maybe YOU'RE just scared. Yeah. How's that feel?

Maybe it's because I have a massive headache on a daily basis for no physical reason. Yeah, that might be part of it. I should drink more coffee.

Writing Block
When I sit down to write at my computer, I don't. Or, that is, I don't get to the sit down to write part. I don't think there's a psychology here...I think I'm just unstable. It'll work out before the New Year.

Anyways, I haven't been inactive. I've got a lot of reading done, a lot of reading. That can't hurt. I feel I should read at least ten books for every one I write. It takes about the same amount of time. I've also been keeping up with the short story magazines, and I've got a whole bunch of logistics worked out.

The only solution is to Write More.

I'm going to do the Write1Sub1 weekly thing in 2012, that'll keep me focused. I'll also be writing at least five book projects in 2012, whether I want to or not. Oog.

The Sorcerer
What the hell? (link)
So, let's leave that aside. The solution is easy, it'll just appear one of these days, and there I'll be: back to my prodigious output. I've got a more interesting problem, which is MAGIC. As a writer, I'm a philosopher-magician, but I prefer the term sorcerer because it's more fun to intone, like so:
It is a well-known fact amongst sorcerers that they need some influences, so I've decided to take my writing career to the next level by invoking the names of sorcerer-writers of the PAST AND PRESENT. Also, I added adjectives.
I invoke thee:
Stephen King
accessible, popular
Harlan Ellison
challenging, robust
Anne McCaffrey
great characters, settings
Henceforth consider me those three, combined, for the next generation. Thanks!
Excuse me while I disappear, in cloud of smoke and rustle of cape.
feel free to comment

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Expanding Universe

I'm expanding and learning! Here's a quick round-up of H2NH ePub's latest propositions for expansion.

Amazon Kindle Owner's Lending Library
Like a responsible small businessman, I waded through the whining about this new KDP program about the new program and then read the contract, upon which I decided to go for it. It doesn't look TOO bad, and I know a whole bunch of Amazon Prime folk who will take advantage of it.

So, if you are so inclined, own a Kindle and are an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow my exciting Science Fiction thriller, the novel Tisroc Spring! Wow! Also available are "More of the Sun: The Jeremiad Monologues" by David Barron & "Minute Macabre (1)" by Jillian Nice. (But, as those are a mere $0.99 regularly, you might as well buy them, right? RIGHT?)

I find myself admiring my blurb-writing, after much research, effort and practice. I enjoy turns of phrase and pithy laconisms. I still need more practice, though, so let's make a deal: Since I hate reviewing things, my offer is if you send me your work, I'll read it and write a blurb for it, which you can use as you wish. Fair enough?

RPG Modules
Spider Frost runs a lot of RPGs in various systems, and after talks (well, 'reading the contract terms') with DriveThruRPG, he feels he can monetize this passion by writing some play-tested modules for the Pathfinder RPG (and D&D 3.5e) under the terms of the Open Game License.

But! He needs to find a Fantasy artist (and cartographer) to go in with him. Here's the deal, we collaborate on the module--Spider does the writing, you do the drawing, but we both work out the details together--we playtest it with some loyal nerds, and then we split the 70% royalty down the middle: 30% to each of us and 10%  to eventual print costs. Fair's fair, right? Talk to me! (contact info at bottom of this site)

David Allen Barron
Presumably my final open pen name, he writes literature as per these guidelines. It would appear that most of his writing is going to follow Dave Frost, sad-sack community college professor in modern day America, which is itself rather a mundane science fiction.

I make my pen names work hard, and encourage cross-pollination.

Henceforth shall I be referred to and introduced at parties as "citizen-taxpayer in good standing Mr. David Allen Barron, novelist". Take note, butlers of all nations.

feel free to comment

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Ben Godby posted an interesting post, title: "Genre: literature's codpiece, foppish hat, &c" here, in which he said something or other about literature. (Quote not representative of entire piece.)
But the kind of thematic maturity and complexity that deserves (according to my superb and irrefutable aesthetic sense) the label "art," is not to be had by every writer, or even every work by any single writer.
I replied, as I often do, with a flippant remark about grants and literature is dumb or somesuch. But then he called me a SCALAWAG, except he spelled it wrong. That cur!

It got me thinking, though, that I'd kind of like to write a literary book—an 'novel', if you will—just to say that I can and have. So, what's a literary novel, as opposed to what I normally write (viz, slapdash fantasm)?

I'll take my definition from Dave Farland's excellent article "On Writing as a Fantasist" link, which I originally read as part of one of his Daily Kicks (to which you should probably subscribe!) As it is a 'negative' article, he doesn't lay out the exact limits of the literary genre, but I'll summarize for myself. Remember, I have no literary training! (quotation marks are direct quotes from the article, I'll add a ? when I'm unsure. ;comments in red)

• No "interesting" characters--such as famous historical figures or creatures of myth"
• No "exotic settings--places such as Rome or Pompeii."
• No "tales that [tell] of uncommon events.
"nobody murders or debauches anybody else; there is no arson or pillage of any sort; there is no ghost, or a ravening beast, or a hair-breadth escape, or a shipwreck, or a monster of self-sacrifice, or a lady five thousand years old in the course of the whole story."
• "[S]tories that [deal] with the everyday"
• No "tales with sexual innuendo" (?)
; I've read my fair share of literature, and there was a lot of sex. Maybe it just has to be ordinary sex and not erotica. Can do.
• "[S]tories about the plight of the 'common man,' just living an ordinary existence"

Elitists / Relativists
• "a certain opacity"
• "no absolute good or evil."
• "political correctness" (?)
; what, exactly, 'political correctness' means: this seems to be too broad and too diverse for me to include in my calibrations.

• "life is meaningless" 
• "Shit happens."

• "dissolution of form"
• Truncated Stories

Negative Exemplars (i.e. Don't Do This.)
• "Teacup Tragedies"
• "Manhattan Angst"

That sounds pretty dull at first glance, but it's not much more limiting than, say, writing a haiku. As long as I don't have to write ONLY haiku, I can give it a fair shot. I'm also going use the Lit Fic entry on for reference, because they know. 

So...I'm a Fantasist, apparently, by training and inclination. But I'm going to write a literary novel. Taking off from Ben Godby's cruel, hurtful jibe, I'll call it "Scalawag". Here's the cover:
I'll just write until I have sixty to ninety thousand words and am bored, then I'll get somebody else, with more literary verve, to edit it down to fifty thousand words. Then I'll release it unto the unwashed (viz, you).

This is going to be an interesting experience.

feel free to comment

Monday, December 5, 2011

Get Back To Work

That's enough of that. Time to get back to work!
Me in re: the new world of publishing
I'm having a wonderful time.

Jillian Nice is writing a Horror ("ed", "ing", "en") book project

David Barron is writing a short book ("Cataphract"), then two short books that combine into one ("Tisroc Probe")

Dave Frost is about to write a Thriller ("The Continual Falling Down").

Spider Frost is fixin' to bust out some Literature ("Mr. & Mrs. Spider Frost")

They've all got, between them, fifteen short stories on the boil, ready to become an H2NH ePub collection.

...and there's nothing you can do to stop me!


feel free to comment

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Five Year Plan

My gig in Thailand is about to end, so I just had to sit down and think out The Future, because it seems pretty complicated. It's not that confusing, though, now that I've worked it out. It may not be very interesting, but we like it, and it's my blog. I'll probably expand on it via edits for a while, and make a graphic for the side panel so everybody can reference it in the future. Enjoy!

The way I see it, plans should be flexible, but goals should be hard to change. I've made a convenient list of goals, then extrapolated a comprehensive plan therefrom. I've pseudonym'd my girlfriend, by the by.

Five Year Goals

• H2NH ePub has at least 20 books, ergo a certain level of income.
• David lives in Thailand, stable (viz. work visa, solid contract).
• David owns a condominium or townhouse, good location (prob. Ubon Ratchathani).
• David has Tammy Toom, and vice versa. cf.:
Tammy Toom in Thailand
(artist's representation)
The Official Unchangeable* Five Year Plan for The Known Future
by David Barron
*except when changed
Bold Milestones
Brown Travel
Blue MBA
Red H2NH ePub
Pink Tammy Toom
; comments

Year One (2012) (2555) I'm 28

Q1 2012 (January/February/March)
Book Project A

; Proceeding at the rate of at least 1000 words per day (that is to say, one hour of work per day) will result in at least four books per year. Other projects may be attempted on the side.

; I'll label the Projects when I know what titles I'm writing.

Leave Thailand (April)
Tammy Toom starts waiting! 

; She's cool with it. We're simple people, and a stable couple. We'll make a romantic blog.

Q2 2012 (April/May/June)
Book Project B

University of North Florida
Fall Term 2012 (August-December)
MBA eBiz (48 credits total)
12 credits prerequisites
• BUL3130 3 Legal Environment of Business
• ECO5115 3 Introduction Economic Analysis
• FIN5405 3 Essentials of Managerial Finance
• MAN5036 3 Fundamental Mgmt/Marketing

; I'm getting this MBA, concentrating in eBusiness, for two reasons:
(1) I'm running a small business on the Internet, and I want to see what I can learn about that. I know it's publishing, and I've got my The Copyright Handbook, but it can't hurt. If I have to do a fancy project, I'll make the H2NH ePub online store.
(2) Because upon consultation with various experts, the easiest way to live long-term in Thailand is if you have an MBA and are willing to teach university. I need that visa, guys! Bonus: I'll actually be qualified as a professor, at the same level as my Thai colleagues, instead of being hired as a White Guy Lecturer.

; I'm going to the University of North Florida because it's where I did my Political Science undergrad, and I know I can afford it without being esp. indebted. I can work from my house in Jacksonville.

; I'll probably do an MBA blog, as well. Just to keep myself organized.

Q3 2012 (July/August/September)
Book Project C

Q4 2012 (October/November/December)
Book Project D

Year Two (2013) (2556) I'm 29

Spring Term 2013 (January-May)
12 credits
class 1
class 2
class 3
class 4

Q1 2013 (January/February/March)
Book Project E

Q2 2013 (April/May/June)
Book Project F

Fall Term 2013 (August-December)
12 credits
• class 1
• class 2
• class 3
• class 4

Q3 2013 (July/August/September)
Book Project G

Q4 2013 (October/November/December)
Book Project H
H2NH ePub has ten books up and selling.

 ; I will consider moving into print at this time, employing a layout professional.

Visit Thailand (December)
Visit Tammy Toom!

; I'll even take some family, if they're up for it.

Year Three (2014) (2557) I'm 30

Spring Term 2014 (January-May)
12 credits
• class 1
• class 2
• class 3
• MAN6726 3 Advanced Strategic Management

; I would assume that four terms will be sufficient, but I'll deal with my adviser when I can sit down in person. Summer may be a possibility, as well.

Q1 2014 (January/February/March)
Book Project J (≠I)

Q2 2014 (April/May/June)
Book Project K

Get a Job in Thailand, Work Visa
The Eastern University of Management and Technology (private)
Ubon Ratchathani University (public)
Ubon Ratchathani Rajabhat University (public)
Ratchathani University (private)

; These being the four top universities in Ubon, in general order of my preference. I would be applying from America so they could work out the work visa before I step on the plane.

Q3 2014 (July/August/September)
Book Project L

Q4 2014 (October/November/December)
Book Project M

Back to Thailand
Tammy Toom stops waiting!

Year Four (2015) (2558) I'm 31

Q1 2015 (January/February/March)
Book Project N
H2NH ePub has fifteen books up and selling.

; almost certainly also in print by this point.

Q2 2015 (April/May/June)
Book Project Q (≠O)

Q3 2015 (July/August/September)
Book Project R (≠P)

Q4 2015 (October/November/December)
Book Project S

Year Five (2016) (2559) I'm 32

Q1 2016 (January/February/March)
Book Project T

Q2 2016 (April/May/June)
Book Project U

Q3 2016 (July/August/September)
Book Project V

Q4 2016 (October/November/December)
Book Project W
H2NH ePub has twenty books up and selling.

feel free to comment

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Elegant New World

Computers begat The Internet begat eBooks begat Internet Distribution begat eReaders...and they had sons and daughters. Small Publishers, Independent Contractors

I put a count-up widget at the bottom reading how long I’ve been doing this, so you know exactly how much salt to ladle out on my experience. But let's round it down to One Year, and an active listening one at that. I’m just muddling-through, and if I suck, it’s not for lack of trying.

This is the story of H2NH ePub’s tentative quest for some damn cover art, and I want to use it to highlight a really cool promotion strategy, and thus the true elegance, by my view, of this New World of Publishing. But first...

Tangent! I’ve heard people call it a Brave New World, but that’s different. I’m just waiting for the first blog salvo from the Self vs.Trad ‘debate’ where the term “Savage” is deployed. When that happens, I want to set a timer to the first answering volley of “soma”. Of course, I won’t be reading that blog post, being too busy doing Work. Think of me as Mustapha Mond. I am above your pointless arguments, but I’m not on an Island. That’s for quitters. /Tangent!

I was searching for a cover artist via all the reliable sources--which translates to ‘asking anybody who had cool cover art whence it came and seeing if the website so linked had a clear pricelist’--when The Passive Voice (who you should be following) posted a link “A Sale on eBook Covers”.

I followed it, because why not? And what did I find? Elegance.

Let’s unpack the layers:

Level 1: Designer, JT Lindroos, had some great cover art that didn’t find a home, so he set up a “Garage Sale” to shift it.

Level 2: Small Publisher, Blasted Heath, had a promotion going that lowers the price of their eBooks from $2.99 to $0.99.

Level 3: Blasted Heath hosted the Garage Sale and made all cover art purchases contingent on buying at least one of their eBooks. Essentially, a one buck fee, but you get an eBook. So, that's OK.

Level 4: H2NH ePub, a small publisher, is looking for cover art. By chance, one of the Garage Sale covers fits the image in David Barron’s writer brain perfectly. How convenient.

Level 5: David Barron buys ‘Phase Four’ by Gary Carson, then works with the designer to modify his chosen cover. While he’s waiting, he reads the eBook, enjoys it.

So, everybody wins:
Designer JT Lindroos gets some money and exposure and almost certainly some repeat business.
Author Gary Carson sells a book to a satisfied customer.
Blasted Heath sells some eBooks, shows off the rest.
H2NH ePub gets to try out a cover designer for very little risk.
David Barron gets a new eBook to read.
...and a sweet cover for his upcoming book:

Around and 'round the mulberry bush,
The monkeys chased the future,
The monkeys thought 'twas all in fun...

Pop Goes The Future
A Novel of the Apocalypse
That’s awesome.

Two other cool things:

First - The Blasted Heath check-out system is really, really well-designed. Seriously, it’s one of the most hassle-free online shopping experiences I’ve ever had. Check it out, it’s slick! If you’re about to start up a webstore, ask them what they did. I know I will, once H2NH ePub rolls out its pro-site. It’s nice to see competence.

Second - ‘Phase Four’ was a good book, and a steal at a buck. (It’s underpriced at $2.99, too, so pick it up before they realize.) A fast-paced, psychedelic story of terrorism, chemical weapons and conspiracy. I’d call it Mundane SF Horror. (Mundane as in ‘near-future, on the Earth’, not ‘boring’.)

H2NH ePub has now pretty much tried everything ‘ePub’: distribution, formatting, pro cover art, ARCs. I’m feeling pretty confident...and excited. Now I just need to bring out at least ten books and a series, then I can roll into print and earn the name H2NH Publishing.

And that’s an Elegant New World.
feel free to comment

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Indie Ploy

I’ve been doing this Indie thing about a year now, so it’s time to look back and see exactly what it is that I’ve been doing, and see what I’d do differently...just in case some of that 5% of writers who will do self-publishing are reading. Note that you shouldn’t really take any of my advice ex nihilo until I’ve been doing this thing at least five years, but add it to your body of anecdotes, and consider this a summary, then, of pretty much all the Lessons Learned on the Business side of this blog.

First off, let’s sidestep a dumb argument: I don’t really care if you’re a "House Slave" (ah, jeez...) or a Sh*t-Pubber...or whatever the latest negative terms, respectively, for rabid traditionally published or aggressively dim self-published writers are at the moment. On this blog, I take a balanced approach. If the contract’s good, I’ll take your money, but if the book’s good, I’m willing to take a chance on myself, too. Fair’s fair, so long as I pay my bills. You gots to do what’s best for you, and also I don’t care. I’ll follow your career trajectory and take lessons from it...but if you don’t have a career trajectory? Well, I’m not really going to listen to what you have to say about my career (& vice versa, OK?)

I have to admit I was prepped for this New World of Publishing by four factors: (1) I’m an American who lives outside the U.S., and, once I got over the initial hurdles of Suck and Awe—oh, man, that’s a great blog title...—(2) I’m a Fast Writer (as defined as “>4 books a year”), (3) Because of my Real Job, I hate paperwork with an abiding passion and (4) I am a roiling ball of insanity and bravado. Put all that together and give me some time, and I’ll have more books than you can shake a stick at, and there’s this thing called International Shipping. It’s ridiculous, in this Internet age, to send a paper manuscript anywhere and then wait a year to get no response. So, that was my intro—if I were a fancier writer, I’d here say ‘impetus’, but I’ll spare you—to start researching: “What’s my alternative?”

One, there’s small publishers who are ‘clever’ enough to take electronic submissions. Sweet. I sent (and still send) some of my books that fit the call for submissions to small publishers that don’t suck. It’s fun! I want that experience, because I like working with other professionals. We’ll see how that goes.

Two, though, is self-publishing, and that’s where I did some research heavy-lifting, assisted in Theory by Dean Wesley Smith, in Practice by Kristin Kathryn Rusch (cf: The Freelancer’s Survival Guide) and in general encouragement by seeing Kevin J. Anderson & Michael A. Stackpole, many of whose books I’ve read, were also ‘in on it’. (I had also read and enjoyed Kristin Kathryn Rusch’s Star Wars tie-in novel “The New Rebellion”.) Since I’m not trying to persuade you, I don’t need to re-hash all their arguments, but I can boil it down:

Freedom [to make money]

I can get on board with that! Self-publishing train, leaving the station. Man, that’s a lame metaphor, and I apologize. BALLOON OF INDIE, Activate!

(balloon of indie picture cancelled due to budget constraints)

So you’re still with me through that, and you have no major disagreements on the Theory. I’m assuming this will be about 5% of you. What’s the Practice? I’m going to tell you what I think you should do, that is: what I should have done, along with what I did (if different/interesting). These are suggestions. I’m not even going to justify them. Agree or disagree, try something. Or not.

The daB Indie Starter Guide
for people like me!
Step One: Confidence. 
I can’t help you with this one. You’re just going to have to read enough, then write enough so that one day you wake up and say to yourself: “I don’t Suck.” Oh, and you have to believe it AT LEAST 80% of the time. As previously indicated, I’m a roiling ball of insanity and bravado, but I came by that by other means. I had to dial it back a bit while I was writing the First Million (read: Sucky) Words.
(cf: Jeff Ambrose's The Successful Fiction Writer. He's been doing this almost as long as I have.)

NOTE: The first million sucky words is not the same thing as the first sucky STORIES. You can salvage the stories later, you just need to learn how to put words together in a not-sucky way to form stories. Mostly it involves characters. (That’s all I got. Ask me again in five years.)

Step Two: Choose a genre 
You’ve got confidence, so which area of plot are you most confident in? Time to focus, for a while. You can branch out later. (I chose Science Fiction.)

Step Three: Write ten short stories, submit. 
Consult Duotropes Digest, and send each story to five pro-paying markets in your chosen genre.

Step Four: While you’re waiting, write a book!
While you’re letting those ten stories circulate, write a book in your chosen genre. At least 60,000 words. Do it. If it turns out to be a series, great. For bonus points, do it during Nanowrimo.

Step Five: You’ve been rejected 50 times.
Still feeling confident?
If not, start over at Step Three.
If so, proceed into the magical world of Small Publishing.

Step Six: Create a Small Publisher
Come up with a sexy publisher name. (Mine is ‘H2NH ePub’)

Get a bank account and an e-mail address and attach a Paypal account to both. Do whatever you need to do wherever you are to register a ‘doing business as’ DBA business. (In Florida it cost $30) Make an Amazon KDP account. Make a Smashwords publisher account and author account. Set up the payments.

Write all this sh*t down at some point. (I did all this ass-backwards and it’s very annoying to retrofit.)
(cf: Dean Wesley Smith’s "Think Like a Publisher" series)

Step Seven: Titles
You’ve got ten short stories and one book. So you’ve got fourteen titles:
1 Book
1 Ten-Story Collection
2 Five-Story Collections
10 Individual Short Stories

Split up your short stories by some sort of theme, come up with titles and write introductions for the collections. After that, write some sales blurbs. Those will go on Smashwords and Amazon.

Step Eight: Cover Art
I made a guide to making some cover art. It’s out of date, but you can see the basic idea: Take a good picture, add a title/author name. Some people buy stock images for a couple bucks and make their cover.
Whatever. Make it work. You’ll learn a lot, which you’ll use LATER when you’re looking for cover artists.
Remember: You can change the cover of an eBook. It’s not hard.
(A few of my early covers sucked. I admit that. But not all of them, and those ones got the job done.)

Step Nine: Formatting!
Buy Paul Salvette’s Guide to eBook Formatting. It’s three bucks. I really, really wish I had had this when I was fumbling around. Don’t worry, it’s super-easy. Just don’t let yourself be intimidated. You’re confident, right? If not, return to Step Three.

Follow that workflow and you’ll have 14 eBooks formatted in DOC for Smashwords and MOBI for Amazon. Make EPUB and PDF versions too. EPUB because it’s cooler, and PDF for Review Copies.

Step Ten: Upload
This is comically easy. Just put them on Amazon KDP and Smashwords, and they’ll show up eventually.
Make sure to select distribution by Smashwords to everywhere except Amazon (since you’re already going there direct). That will put you on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sony, Apple, &c.

Side Note: Pricing
Book: $4.99
Ten-Story Collection: $4.99
Five-Story Collection: $2.99
Individual Short Story: $0.99
...just do it.

Step Eleven: Write Some More
Do not check your sales numbers! They will almost certainly suck for the first quarter. Calm down. Really, once everything is approved and working, you shouldn’t even go to the sites. Pretend you have no access to data (what, exactly, would you do if you did?), write that next book, get it up there, write the next next book, write lots of short stories and send them around the markets. Format, upload, repeat: make it happen.

Have fun! Just Write!

The Future:
You can get fancy. H2NH has got a little fancy in this, its fourth quarter of existence. But ask me for Lessons Learned in five years.
feel free to comment

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tisroc Spring (2nd edition)

The long-anticipated second electronic edition of Tisroc Spring, the first exciting novel of the Tisroc series! Reformatted for better viewing, and (slightly) revised and expanded for your reading pleasure. Presenting...
Tisroc Spring $5.99 • Amazon UK £4.29 • Amazon DE  €4.99 • Amazon FR €4.99
review copy available upon request

A technological thriller with a double shot of humor and romance: Tisroc Spring, a science fiction novel by David Barron. This novel is a convenient collection of the first three Tisroc short books in a discounted package, representing the first third of the thrilling Tisroc series!

We're just babies, making up a game...
Controlling drones mapping the surface of a forgotten Earth is a pretty sweet gig, especially since Ernie Centrifuge can work from the comfort of his computer room on the floating city of Megalopolis...but when he takes a job to survey a mysterious island, he finds himself entangled in a deadly competition for a lost and priceless treasure! With the help of his sister (a psion), her husband (a pilot), and a sarcastic lady he meets in a car accident (a police inspector), Ernie races to find out who's who in a world where no one really knows what's what.

May you live forever...
To roll anyway
Ernie Centrifuge just wants to relax with his girlfriend (a police inspector) and play with his survey drones, but when a Senator is assassinated by laser, Ernie decides that the floating city isn’t as relaxing as he would have hoped. When his sister (a psion) brings in an orphan girl who found a tantalizing map, Ernie decides to descend to the surface of a forgotten Earth. But what has he left behind on Megalopolis?

What do you call soon?
The spell of it
The New Farms on the surface of a forgotten Earth promise to feed overcrowded Megalopolis, but when two workers are killed, Inspector Benji Prajactatorix has her suspicions. She takes her boyfriend (a tech) along to check out a mysterious organic spaceship, but that leaves his sister (a psion) and her intended (a politician) still on the floating city to contend with a food shortage on the eve of Election Day.

...and once you've enjoyed this novel, anticipate the fourth short book in the Tisroc series: A little astronomy.
I decided to do up a second edition of this novel so that I could incorporate all the lessons I've learned since the first edition came out, especially about formatting. This edition looks much nicer than the previous one, and it has a much more robust table of contents. I also cleaned up a few typographical errors that generous readers pointed out (Thanks!) or that I found while doing the formatting. There's ALWAYS a typo, it's the law of the universe, but this has gone through at least five passes of editing since manuscript, not to mention the eyes of the helpful readers (Thanks again!). So it's nice and clean. Beautiful, even. A display piece.

I also knocked a dollar off the price, bringing it down to $5.99. Each short book in the Tisroc series sells for $2.99, but in the near future, I'm going to make the first book ("Play-world") free. Thus, this three-book collection is getting three short books for the price of two, and it won't screw anybody who buys this first novel early. The second novel "Tisroc Probe", will be a $4.99 collection of the next two Tisroc short books, and the final novel "Tisroc Fall", will be a $7.99 collection of three books. A dollar off for buying a collection, which is fine by me. I'll also most likely release the three novels as print books instead of eight short books...but who knows?

Confused? That's OK. We're having fun. Next out from H2NH on Amazon will be the 2nd Edition of "At the Mountains of Malapert", my Hard Science Fiction epic of lunar colonization. If you so desire, you can pick that up for $2.99 on Smashwords now for all formats and regions. It'll be available on Amazon sometime this week, and I'll make an announcement.

I'll repeat the buy links so you don't have to scroll up...
Tisroc Spring $5.99 • Amazon UK £4.29 • Amazon DE  €4.99 • Amazon FR €4.99
review copy available upon request
Happy Reading!
feel free to comment

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Challenge Story #1: "The Peacock's Tower"

"The Peacock's Tower" is the first story in my incredibly well-named Short Stories Challenge Practical (SSCP #1, if you like.) I'll make a graphic for the challenge when I get back from vacation.
Bonus: Amazing Cover Art! WOW!

You can pick it up via:
Smashwords Free!
...until I put SSCP #2 up.

Obviously, the challenge itself is patterned on Dean Wesley Smith's more interesting 2011 Challenge, so I'm not going to get all fancy.

The Writing of "The Peacock's Tower"

This story developed in the same fashion as all the others. First, I had some Batshit Insane Dreams with a peacock and an adobe looking thing. Purple and green throughout, a sea wall...snow. Tests. A girl. Your basic disorganized lucid dream. I woke up and made a 'bracket outline', putting all the images down on paper like so:
[peacock, purple and green]
[an adobe looking thing]
and adding a few extras as they came up.
[tower in the snow]
Then I called it The Peacock's Tower, because why not?

Once I had about ten images, I proceeded, in the finest traditions of storytelling, to Throw It All Together, starting with the line (and blurb):

The walled town of Hugfast, at the edge of the Shining Sea, within sight of the Peacock’s Tower, across from the Other End of the World, was a meritocracy

Which was pretty spooky, so I sat on that for a couple minutes, drank a coffee or two. Then I sat back down and typed at high speed for about three hours until I was called away to PARTY. I came back at midnight, typed a few sentences (although they were quite good) before I fell asleep. Then I woke up at about 3AM and finished the story after a couple hours.

The next day I rolled through and corrected some typos, but it was remarkably clean copy, then I sat on it for a week before reading it again and deciding it didn't suck. Good enough for me! I'd genre it as "Fantasy with SF characteristics".

I made the cover using the template I made for the challenge, then formatted the story up in Word and put it on Smashwords. Once I have five or ten such stories, I'll format them all up in a collection with fancy cover art and put it up for sale on Amazon and B&N. And then I'll invite you to go buy that.

probably six hours produced
"The Peacock's Tower"
about 5,000 words
Smashwords Free!

I'll be on vacation this next weekend—paid for by eBooks, and that's cool—so I might not have the next challenge story done by next week. That's OK. That just means you have a longer time to get this one free.
feel free to comment

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Short Medium Long Term

My considerable writing productivity has been lagging a bit in the last month or so, and you may find yourself wondering "Why? WHY?!?"
I know I have...
But besides that: Why?

I'm still doing the Short Stories Challenge Practical, even though it needs a better name. I'm just doing that thing where you write a story and set it aside and read it after having written the next story. Also, whenever a story seems like a good fit for Beneath Ceaseless Skies, I send it to them. That messes up the flow of the challenge until I build up a backlog for a weekly release. This doesn't count as an excuse, that's just Sustainable Planning.

Overall, though, my mighty word output powers are at an ebb, and that's because I'm having to spend my short term stabilizing my medium term to ensure my long term. Understand? Probably. It's not that hard a concept, but I'll expand anyways.

I mean, who eats just one grape?
Short Term
is where writers write short stories.
My short term, that is: my day to day, has recently been spent in meetings with people and introspection of myself to obtain a stable medium term. My crazy jungle lifestyle needs to be extended somehow, but expanded so that it can fit all the stuff I need to accomplish. With that much on my plate, as it were, there's only enough time for a quick snack of grapes. Which is my metaphor for writing short stories. Books are more valuable, but, fortunately, writing short stories is easy, once you've practiced.

Medium Term
is where writers write books.
A book is a banana. Yes, that is a f*cking amazing metaphor, which I hereby copyright for all time. The medium term is what you get when you've spent enough short term time setting up a stable future. I'm looking for one or two years here, and to get one or two years of stability, I've found that I need to spend one or two months on prep. Once I've got those years, though, I can output like a BEAST. A banana-beast. Some sort of orangutan or typing monkey. Which is another metaphor, although it is in the public domain. Still, at the constant rate of three-four books a year, we're rolling through dynamite.

Pictured: Stupid Metaphor
Long Term
is where writers have written a lot of books
Long-term is what you get when you've got a big bunch of bananas. In this metaphor, bananas don't spoil. Maybe they're plastic bananas. In any case, a big pile of books is like a bunch of bananas that never spoil. They can hang out on that banana hook in the kitchen while you get on with the cooking. In this metaphor, cooking is writing. This is the five year plan: After five years I'll be a full-time writer, only writing, producing at least four books a year, plus short stories like unto the stars in the sky. Which, of course, means stars are grapes? Wait, that can't be right...

The point is, your long term is where you have achieved stability on your own, not based on other people. The kind of stability that rich folk were born with, but without being a jackass. I shall be a jackass for entirely different reasons, because it is the duty of every successful author to develop a couple oddball opinions so he gets in the newspaper every once in a while. I'm looking forward to it.

So, to use your short term to find your medium term, and, if you play your cards right, your long term finds you.
feel free to comment

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Small Publishing: Computer

As H2NH Publishing expands, it needs a publishing platform. I do all my writing on an Asus EeePC netbook with Ubuntu using FocusWriter. I have Windows XP on the other partition, and it is from there that I do all the publishing, using Microsoft Office 2007 and GIMP, etc. I can theoretically do it all in Ubuntu, but I like Word better than LibreOffice. You can see the (mostly) current H2NH publishing workflow here.

But, as I move up the publishing ladder and contemplate going into POD, that's just getting ridiculous. It's a 10" screen, and you can't layout a book on a 10" screen. Not to mention that InDesign cannot actually run on my netbook without waiting a minute between each click. Horrifying. I need my eyes to read with, people. So, H2NH is currently in the medium-term planning for a Business computer. I'm OS agnostic, with some reservations, and I need the lifecycle to be at least five years. (I buy a netbook every two years and give the old one to a deserving case.) So, let's get into the nitty-gritty with a number:

Budget: $4500-$5000 (read: ~$1000/year)
Makes for three options. I'll put them in rough order of convenience: 

Option 1: iMac 
Software - ~$1,500
Office for Mac Home and Student 2011 - $120
Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard - $1,300
Hardware - ~$3,000
iMac 27" with a solid state hard drive, and upgraded RAM.
Thoughts - 
This has the advantage of being incredibly easy to lug around a jungle, and it doesn't take up a lot of space. The disadvantage is that there's no Apple Store or anything, and I'd prefer to support my own damn self anyways. STILL, it's pretty, well-designed, and runs cool in my tropical existence. Software-wise, I'd have InDesign and Word and everything would just work. If it didn't, I could just reinstall from a base image. The main disadvantage is that I'd have to use Mac OS. If you can't dick around with your computer, what's the point of even having one?

Option 2: Built PC running Windows 
Software - ~$1,800
Microsoft Office Home and Business 2010 - $200
Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 Design Standard - $1,300
Windows 7 Ultimate - $320
Hardware - ~$3,000
A veritable beast of a machine, acquired of Newegg and assembled by myself - $2,000-$2,500
Display (touch-screen) - $500-$1000
Thoughts -
First off, yes: $320. Are you f*ckin' kidding me? I have a philosophical objection to paying that much for a mere operating system. Esp. one that isn't all that great. But, the advantage of a massive touch-screen makes this a viable option. Also, my hardware budget will go much farther than with Apple, so I could load this thing down with RAM and a sexy video card, and still have cash left over for a great display. The added benefit of knowing exactly where every component came from can't hurt for purposes of providing my own support, not to mention a robust cooling system for use in my tropical paradise. Put it all together and I'd have a beast. A sexy, sexy beast. Still...Windows...urgh.

Option 3, AKA the 'free option': Built PC running GNU/Linux
Software - $0
LibreOffice - Free
GIMP - Free
Scribus - Free
Ubuntu, some flavor thereof, or some other build entirely.
Hardware $2,500
A veritable beast of a machine, acquired of Newegg and assembled by myself - $2,000
Display - $500
Thoughts - 
If I were daring enough to go free software for this publishing adventure, this is what I'd do. It'd be the same machine as above, but without the fancy touch-screen. It'd run fast, smooth, and delicious. Like a penguin-flavored ice cream. The problem is that Scribus isn't InDesign, and LibreOffice isn't Word. Yet? I'm sure I could make it work, but do I want to?

So...yeah. At some point I'll just flip a coin. What do you use, small publishers?
feel free to comment

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lazy Writer Eats: Delicious Salad

What am I up to today? Eating Delicious Salad! As everybody knows, vegetables are brain food. And the working writer needs all the help he can get. (Isn't fish brain food?) Shut up.

What you'll get.
What you'll need. Fresh
Egg, ver' expensive due to flooding. (Chickens can't swim, I guess.) Hardboiled.
Cabbage. Remember, if there are worms on it, you know it's organic.
Onion. Lots of onion.
Corn, steamed, shucked.
Red beans, for protein.
Some weird meat substitute thing you found in the market. It's taro!
Red onion, for color.
Tomato, which is actually a berry. Supreme Court said so.
Exploded rice. I don't know the real term, but it's for texture.
Cucumber. Because why not?
A bowl, preferably one of the cool ceramic ones.
Salad dressing (not pictured), not too sweet.
A fork.
A girlfriend, for steps three and six.

Step 1. Assemble the ingredients
Step 2. Cut them up as per custom. Steam the corn, hard boil the egg.
Step 3. SEX, possibly some booze
Step 4. Place all ingredients in bowl.
Step 5. Salad dressing, to taste.
Step 6. Eat, talk about your feelings.

Total cost per bowl: ~฿25. That is, less than a can of beer.

Lazy Writer Eats series...
Lazy Writer Cooks: Boiled Chicken
Lazy Writer Cooks: Cup Mama
Lazy Writer Drinks: Thaiball
The First 200 Days, i.e the exciting saga of two-hundred straight days of blogging and learning about writing, is available at It should, by now, be free. If not, find it free for all formats on Smashwords, and do me a favor and click the 'Tell us about a lower price' link on Amazon to speed up the process. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll read a blog. Also, there is business drama. It's like Moneyball without the editing. Also, no baseball.
More exciting blurb: The First 200 Days (200th post)

What food do you make?
feel free to comment

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Short Stories Challenge Practical

This was going to be a quick addendum to my Business: Short Stories article, but it snowballed. Think of that article as the ‘Theory’ and this one as the ‘Practical’. Apply it to your life, if you dare. 
Will this happen? Probably.
To summarize the previous article, I laid out why I wasn’t going to sell individual short stories anymore, based on the Amazon 35% Royalty on $0.99 vs. the 70% Royalty on $2.99. That point still stands so far as I’m concerned, but I left out a few nuances, craft and business.

Craft: I Like Finishing Things
Short stories get the creative juices flowing. Using scientific tracking methods, I’ve found that my word count per day on books increases if I’ve written and completed a short story in the near past. And I’ve also got a new short story to sell for everybody to admire, which is nothing to be sneezed at. I suspect I just like finishing things, and so when I do it gets the adrenaline up, but there’s also the Middle of books to be considered. That’s the most dangerous part, creatively (that is, where I tend to get bored and try to start a new book unless I chain myself to the text document)...and taking a little break to write and finish a short story reenergizes the mind. 

Business: Smashwords
My standard complaint about Smashwords is it makes my books look ugly, but it’s still a good place to sell short stories. There’s not that much formatting in a short story to mess up or for Meatgrinder to mangle, and Smashwords sends them all over the place and pays somewhere around 50% royalty. I’ve had especially good success selling short stories on Kobo via Smashwords, so I think it’s a good idea to use it as my ‘short story distributer’. This meshes well with the Theory article, because Smashwords makes it incredibly easy to make a story Free, whether via price control or via coupon. As we speak, Smashwords’ sales tracking is improving, and I suspect at some point soon they’ll work out the deal with Amazon. If I can just upload a short story DOC made from a template and watch the cash flow in from five to ten markets every quarter...well, I’d say Smashwords has earned its 10%. 

Short Stories Challenge
For business and craft reasons it’s desirable that I write and finish a short story on a regular basis. Well and good. Dean Wesley Smith declared a fancy challenge with a One Year time limit and everything, but it’s already October, and I’m too lazy to wait until January to officially challenge myself. I’ll just ask how often is the optimal regular basis? Science Says: every weekend. 

So, every weekend I’ll write a short story. Start on Saturday, finish by Sunday. Stick it up on Smashwords for free until the next story goes live, after which it’ll be a buck everywhere fine eBooks are sold (once it’s gone through the Meatgrinder). I’ll even do a little blog post about it, whynot? I’ll do this for five years, give or take. Probably. 

I’ll write books on weekdays.

Story Covers
I’d rather make my own cover than buy some ‘generic art’, but because this is a short story challenge, not a crappy-slappy cover art challenge, I made a template for my short story cover art. Remember, I’m lazy.
So lazy...
That should do it. Big author name, big title, an inconspicuous number, a logo, and clearly labelled “Short Story” so nobody can possibly be confused. As noted in the previous article, I’ll spend the big bucks on the collection covers, but whatsay for a popular short story? If it comes down to it, I’ve one idea that may or may not be reasonable.

Sketch Covers
I provide a two-sentence cover description, give an artist $50 to sketch it, add the title and author name and save it as a 600x800 jpg. I’d expect the total working time to be about an hour, so I wouldn’t expect it to be fine art or done to a deadline. Just a quick art project between big jobs, wham-bam-done: fifty bucks later, I’ve got a short story cover. Fair? Sounds fair.

Heck if I know, I’m making this up as I go.
feel free to comment

Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing: Stability

You can't spell 'stability' without 'ability'. You can't spell 'stability' without 'stab'. I have now linked political science and linguistics. Nobel Prize, please.
Thank you for your contribution, Mr. Barron. Here is a pile of rocks.
In this article, I intend to make a lot of sweeping statements based solely on personal experience. Since I've been doing that for almost three hundred posts, regular readers won't notice any difference and new readers will be amazed at my sexy confidence. And possibly aroused. 

Eh, that'll happen.

In my professional quest to write great fiction as fast as possible using SCIENCE!, I've come to a few conclusions: avoid booze, set a timer, read a lot, have goals, don't write horny, drink plenty of water, exercise indoors, write stories not words, books are long stories... 

Just Write. 

Put that all together, and you should get at least two thousand words a day. "Duh," someone asks, while picking their nose: "How can I, a known moron, put that all together?" Well, my aggressively dim questioner, the key is stability. "How stability?" you ask, to which I reply: "Shut up and let me answer."

My considerable research into the lives of men and Creatives has yielded four 'types':

Unstable Unhappy
Creative: Not Very Prolific
Everybody is born this way, but most people grow out of it. Often leads to brilliant one novel careers (or a small collection of disturbing short stories), followed by despair and/or death. If you find yourself here, get angry and get help. I've never been here longer than a couple weeks because I'm too impatient with misery and have friends who notice shit. Good work, friends! 

Stable Unhappy
Creative: Very Prolific
This is the most common state for the working professional. He's bundled all his neuroses into a ball of creative energy. Possibly self-medicating with booze, etc. Not very healthy, but, then again, neither is working in an it balances out and pays the bills. Since he doesn't have a girlfriend or money in the bank, he has plenty of time to engage in a free, fun activity: Writing. Can spiral down to Unstable Unhappy if there's a lack of friends due to isolation. Keep those friends!

Unstable Happy
Creative: Less Prolific
This is often what happens when the Creative suddenly gets a lot of money or a girlfriend. Or, I suppose, both. It throws off his routine, and thus his writing output. He still has a billion ideas, though. Which, annoyingly, doesn't help. It just makes him feel like he's falling behind in the great game of life. ...but at the same time, he's not. He's actually rather happy. See? Unstable. This is where I am.

Stable Happy
Creative: More Prolific
The elusive ideal. Once the Creative gets used to being happy, he starts exercising and eating right, gets off the self-medication, and grabs the tiger of life by the tail and hangs on. And once you've got a tiger, you need not fear the darkness.

My conclusion, then, is that, for busy Creatives (such as myself), stability is more to be preferred than happiness. Although if you can get them both, good on you.

So how to get them both? Well, you're in luck, because I have created the David Barron Stability Scheme(tm) just for me! And you can use it too! What time is it?

It's Money Love Time!(tm)
Please consult this handy 3-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system (Fig.1)! 
Fig. 1: Money Love Time
x is Time, y is Money, and z is Love, and I've programmed in the types for your convenience. Find your type on it, and then see what you need to get in order to improve. Got no money? Get a damn job! Got no love? Get a girl! Haven't had either long enough to get used to it? WAIT!

...and write.
feel free to comment

Monday, October 17, 2011

Business: Short Stories

Executive Summary: I’m not selling short story singles as eBooks anymore. To avoid ‘juggling too many sea-shells’, all my eBooks will be priced between $2.99 and $9.99, except for some free short stories for promotion. 1500 words. (Yeah, I just HBR’d your collective asses. feel free to comment, bitches.).

Since this is a reversal of my previous sexy business plan, “The Short Story Octopus”, I’ll deploy some arguments to support my new, sexier conclusion. Since this is a business article, most of them will be made with my publishing hat on, but there’re a few more drawn from other hats. There may be pictures. Also, I wish I could come up with an equally awesome nautical name, but I’ve already rejected “Big Mussel Barnacles” for sounding too ocean-porny, and my morale is low.

Background: Amazon pays a 35% royalty on eBooks priced between $0.99 and $200 sold throughout the world, but pays a 70% royalty on eBooks priced between $2.99 to $9.99 sold via, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, Amazon FR (and more coming). The best price for an individual short story is $0.99 (yaknow, like music). Short stories do, indeed, sell. Great! But...

$0.99 @ 35% Royalty = Lame
Everything else in this article is going to build on a “juggling too many sea-shells” metaphor (and not just because it fits the ocean-porny theme.) Every story is a sea-shell, because every sea-shell is different...but most people would rather have one great sea-shell on their mantle than a big pile of good sea-shells. It’s more organized! Likewise, a savvy sea-shell seller’s shelves (say it out loud!) should be filled with those sea-shells that can be sold for the most. Selling ten one dollar sea-shells to get a quarter is not as good as selling a three dollar seashell to get two bucks, because you have to spend about the same amount of time fiddling with the one dollar sea-shells as you do with the three dollar (or the five dollar or the seven dollar or the ten dollar) sea-shells.

I’d rather sell a collection of ten short stories at 70% than 10 single short stories at 35%. Thirty-five cents is lame, esp. when I have to track it (and promote it, and manage it, and, even more basic, remember it.) It’s just better business: The official H2NH price point is “one dollar per ten thousand words plus a buck”. The $1 per 10k is to get the $100/hour I, the publisher, pay myself, the writer, while the extra buck is to pay for the formatting and cover art, whether it’s me doing it or somebody else. I can calculate how many books I’d have to sell to cover those expenses, after which it’s all profit. ‘Getting to Profit’--to bust out the HBR lingo again--takes significantly less time when I, the publisher, am getting 70% of every sale. Under the current Amazon-style royalty system, I’ll not price any eBook below $2.99 or above $9.99 again.

A few extra publishing arguments, to let me expand on the ‘plus a buck’ a bit:
Sexy eBook Formatting
Good formatting takes time, but, if you follow the H2NH workflow (and/or Paul Salvette’s excellent guide) it doesn’t really take all that much more time to do a full book or collection than it does a single short story. You have to make a more robust table of contents, and scroll through longer checking that nothing mysteriously broke in the converted files, but that’s about it. I would say two hours, maximum, if you’re comfortable with your workflow. Average it as an hour, because any less and you probably didn’t do enough checking. (No need to rush, it’ll be on the Internet forever.) Since I’m almost certainly doing it myself, I bill myself, publisher, for two hours and pay myself about a dime per sale from the ‘plus a buck’.

I Like Cover Art
It’s not professional cover art unless it has characters from the book on it, and H2NH is still seeking professionals, but, as usual, I assume ‘professional rate’ is $100/hour. Later on, especially for print books, I’ll need a professional to do my cover art. Something around fifty cents of that ‘plus a buck’ will go to that end, and it’s obvious that a collection of short stories is a more cost-effective use of a professional cover artist than a single story.

For the moment, though, I make my own cover art, and I like it, I enjoy it, and it gets the job done. Some of it is even artsy, and it only takes me about an hour, even counting taking the pictures. So, until I fire myself as cover artist, prepare for such masterpieces as
*almost definitely not by David Barron
So much for business. Let’s talk about me!
It doesn’t really flow as an acronym, but what would I do? I’ve only bought two individual short stories ever, The Burglar Who Smelled Smoke by Lawrence Block and Ur by Stephen King (which, I suppose, is technically a novella...). On the other hand, I’ve brought a whole bunch of anthologies, fiction magazines, and collections. I prefer to have a whole bunch of short stories all in one place, so that I can skip around. In my reading experience, there’re always a couple lame (by which I mean, of course, ‘not to my taste at that time’, not ‘sucky’) stories in any grouping, and buying only one story is an annoying risk of that experience. Anyways, it’s more organized, I don’t want to deal with lots of files on my eBook reading device, and it’s easier to recommend a collection than to recommend a single short story. So...daB would buy a daB collection.

I’m Prolific
I write a fair amount of stories, as you may know. I’ve somewhere around fifty stories for 2011, and I’ll probably get about ten more out in between all these books I should be writing. Some of them are wandering around the pro markets, and the rest are selling on Amazon. Because I don’t remember most of them (for the simple reason that I’m always writing the next one), I’ve completely lost track of them. Just picture what it’ll be like if I had eight-hundred short stories, like certain long-time writers. And I use ‘will’, because it’s just a matter of time. (I write a lot now, and I’m not a full-time writer yet.) So, you know what? For my sanity, I’m only doing collections:

Science Fiction A Future Darkly

Fantasy To Another Shore

The Language of Ice Cubes (i.e. ‘the Alan stories’)

Undoubtedly, I’ll do various ‘themed’ collections (yaknow, like music albums) and, soon enough, I’ll put together a big ‘super-collection’:
Science Fantasy Romance
which will be fifty or so stories (including some of the ones in A Future Darkly and To Another Shore, but obviously not the Alan stories). It’ll be fun? It’s my super-genre, it’s awesome, it’ll be a nice thick print book, and, bonus, I’ll never have to think of another super-collection name again: My next fifty stories will go into “Science Fantasy Romance II”. Just consult the Wikipedia Roman numerals page for each fifty stories after that.

Let’s stick both sides together and see what it looks like! We could call this part “Promotion”, I guess, but we’re doing it Harvard Business Review-style this time. It’s a theme, and you have to respect themes or what, really, is the point?

Pro Sales!
Let’s face it, it’s just a lot more fun to submit stuff to fiction magazines than to put it up on Amazon.. I love rejection letters (not that I bother to read them), because it means I can send the story somewhere else, and when a story is accepted, they give you money and you get to write an About the Author blurb and everybody visits your website and buys one or all of your many books. Then, after that run’s done, you can put the story in a collection. Really, there’s no downside.
I regularly read, often submit to, and have been rejected repeatedly by pretty much every fiction magazine that pays pro rates (according to Duotropes), but the only magazine I’m absolutely obsessed with being in is Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Sorry, all others: it’s focused!

Free is Fun
All that said, I think short stories make great promotions. They’re craft pieces, showing off my awesome writing in a convenient, no-hassle package. Leaving aside the argument against free (hypothesis: many download, few read), I think it’s a good strategy, as well as just being fun. I recently made my steampunk short story “Timpani the Ostrich Rancher” free on Amazon, and, last I checked, more than two-thousand people have picked it up. Since it doesn’t suck, I like to think that’ll lead to sales in the long run. I figure if I make one short story free for each collection, and put links to every other H2NH book and collection in the back of the free eBook, it’s as good a promotion as any. Or, at least, incredibly low-maintenance.

Which is just as good for the busy publisher.

Sexy Conclusion
I’m not selling short story singles as eBooks anymore. To avoid ‘juggling too many sea-shells’, all my eBooks will be priced between $2.99 and $9.99, except for some free short stories for promotion.
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