Friday, March 4, 2011

The Second Thing

ow that the pretentious first article is out of the way, let's get down to the meat. What do I want to do with my life? Write, make money. What's my six month plan? Write more, make more money. Where do I see myself in five years? Having written, I'm writing and making money. Simple as that.

I know how to write, or I know how to learn how to write better (Practice). I know how to make money, or I know the first thing about how to make money as a writer (Write More). My question for myself is, then, what's the second thing I need to know about making money at writing? Is there a second thing? Surely there must be. Alternatively, my question would be: Does it make sense for me to spend the time doing whatever the second thing is now, instead of focusing on the first?

Let's go through the candidates for second thing.

Like this guy? image
Cover Art
I’m still not satisfied with my cover art, even though I think it gets the job done. Would fancier cover art increase the amount of sales I make? I’m not sure, but it can’t hurt. But does it make sense for me to spend the time improving my cover art now instead of Writing More? I don’t think so, which means Cover Art can’t be the second thing.

Here’s my cover art plan: I’ll write 100 stories, then find some artists whose work I like in the various genres, pass them my cover art spreadsheets with Title, Type, and Concept columns and let them go nuts. Easy, not too expensive. That would also be the point that I’d reorganize the loose short stories into themed series, volumes, and collections anyways, so I might as well have new cover art. At that point I’d also get a couple of sexy imprints done. “H2NH SF” would be a little spaceship.

This seems suspiciously simple...
The only active advertising I do is on this site, like so: Alan series I!, and via Twitter where I announce new fiction uploads once for Smashwords, Amazon and B&N, then leave it to do its own thing. From time to time somebody with a review site or podcast will express interest (most recently here!) and I’ll cheerfully send them a review copy, but I’m not going to hunt them down. So that’s not the second thing.

My advertising plan, then, is to first have a lot more stuff to sell and then worry about advertising. The tendrils of the baby octopus that is the David Barron media empire are slowly creeping their way around the Internet, so I’ll just let it develop organically. People know how to search for books, I just have to throw books into search pools and watch them learn how to swim on their own.

So generic!
I do precisely one promotion: Free Fiction 1st. That is, a story on this blog on the first of every month. I got great response from the first one, so I’ll just keep doing it. But I’ll be doing nothing else on the promotion front for now, so another swing and a miss for second thing.

Intermission! The Writing of "Sharia & The Gays"
In the midst of writing "An Aesop Amidst The Fairy Dust", I kept hearing strange people talking about Creeping Sharia law and Gay Marriage and I knew there was a story there, but I also knew that there was no way it was going to be political. So, I put that title up on a blank document, finished up Aesop, then in the post-finish glow I sat in front of the blank screen. Abruptly the first exchange of dialogue hit me and in an hour I rolled through the first three-quarters: lightning speed, typing as fast as I can, which is quite fast. Then I got up to get a drink of water and the ending hit me before I sat back down. It's a shorter story, about 1800 words, but it finished in an hour and a half, so I'm fine with that. The only editing I did was to go through and standardize the spelling of all the names, keeping the form with the most y's. After I made the cover art, it went up for sale, and now you can read it here for Free Fiction 1st.

Wait, what? image
Loss Leader
My operating theory of ePub is that every short story I write is essentially a “loss leader” to funnel folk toward my collections. Not much of a loss leader, sure, in that thirty-five cents is thirty-five cents, but I would really rather people buy a collection outright then a bunch of singles. It’s just that having a lot of singles is great way to fill up that search pool. Nobody’s going to dive into an empty pool, is my point.

That’s nice but...second thing?

Things are just getting weird now.
I intend to be making a living with my brain, so mental hygiene is the second most important thing about making money as a fiction writer. I’ve got to organize my life such that every time I sit in front of the computer or walk along the side of the road talking into a voice recorder, I’m On. The second most important thing is to support the first thing, Writing More.

My mental hygiene plan is simple: Not much caffeine (head races), not much alcohol (hours blur), avoid sugar entirely (sugar crash), exercise (so I’m not sick), eat light to eat right (so I’m not carb’d into a stupor), keep the girlfriend happy (fun for everybody), talk not type to people (good motivation), don’t spend a lot of money (keep myself busy, not bored), and Write More (it’s recursive!)

Simple, but difficult. Still, healthy feels great, so that’s motivation all in itself, aside from the sweet sweet cash.

This version of Professional Edition will last until April 6, 2012, updating every Friday. Site design subject to change as I learn by doing. Like what you see? Spot something unprofessional? Feel free to comment!


  1. Oh hell, I just wrote a nice long comment, then pressed the wrong button and lost it.

    So, my summary:

    1. Agree 100% about creative health.

    2. Disagree about cover art ... but realize that if you plan to out-source it anyway, then just keep trucking in the direction you're trucking.

    That is all.

  2. I agree with your disagreement, and with the trucking. But yeah, it's just a Time thing. I'd rather have a million words and crap covers than 500,000 words and mediocre covers. Especially when there're so many people who can make me good covers if I just give them some of the money I'd get from that extra 500,000 words.

  3. Now that I'm not so frustrated at having lost my comment, lemme 'splain.

    I think cover art is what draws a person to a book. After that, it's the blurb. So I wouldn't have been so quick to dismiss cover at as The Second Thing.

    The problem you have (I know, b/c it's my problem too) is that when writing fantasy it's hard to find a cover that both expresses something of the story AND indicates its genre. This is one reason why I'll buy royalty free art for a buck or two. Your covers make A LOT more sense after reading the story.

    So to someone who wasn't resolved to out-source his cover art, I'd recommend him getting his act together.

    For you ... well, you're going to out-source it, so it doesn't matter so much in the long run.

    What do I think of your covers?

    I don't think they're crap. Not at all. I think most are very interesting. The only changes I'd recommend (I know you didn't ask, but hey ...) are a.) to make your name bigger and b.) make sure the title stands out a little better using bold and some kind of word art (like shadow or glow).

    For me, however, I LOVE making cover art. After writing, it's my favorite part about going indie. And while I suspect that at some point I'll out-source a cover (most likely with my novels), I like that part of the process too much to give it up.

  4. Good suggestions, too! In the last few I've made my name nice and big, but I think I got a little too fancy with the Title fonts. Right now, "Cosmast Rhyt" stands as what I think my 'best' cover design is. ...and I kinda want to remake one or two of the Alan ones, but I'm resisting until such time as I'm sitting down with a lot of covers to make anyways so I'll be in the zone. I definitely need to work on contrast for the title text.

    In my defense, 15 minutes is my maximum allowed time for covers (unless I'm learning a new feature). If I let myself get obsessed, I have and will sit there and fiddle with it for longer than it took to write the story, and it won't be much better for all that time, either.

    I'd rather somebody who's both good at and loves Art just makes it happen, and I won't mind the price. It'll pay for itself and look great while so doing.

  5. I've been pondering cover art also as of late; do you find royalty-free stock photos online or commission work by graphic artists? How much do they usually charge?

  6. Thus far, I've taken all the photos and done all my Cover Art myself in GIMP to save potential trouble. Jeff Ambrose above does fancier things with covers and sites with affordable images for cover art, so he'd be the guy to ask on that.

    For sexy future plans for pro cover art I've been using Carl Graves' quote page as a baseline for budget planning (found via Joe Konrath's "Hire My Cover Artist" link, so I don't claim mad research skills).


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