Elucidation: Adventures in Self-Publishing Land

I’d like to take this moment to say that my commentary on self pubbing is in no way meant to encourage or entice people into doing it themselves. I am giving my personal reasons why I chose to self publish; whether they’re right or wrong. I’m not making an argument. In fact, I do not encourage self publishing. Especially if an author thinks this is a gold mine or an easy road to fame. On the contrary: self publishing is hard. You have to do everything yourself, or hire someone to do it (yay, outsourcing). That includes cover, document layout, editing, copyediting, choosing distribution channels, formatting your book for those distribution channels, marketing, networking, author appearances, website design and maintenance, and much more. And for all this work you will get sneered at, even if you do everything right. Even if your book looks amazing and is a good fun read. You will also be told you’re wrong about anything and everything you say regardless of whether you’re right or not. Just because you didn’t conform and do like everyone else.

I’ve never been a conformer. Just ask my middle school classmates. They thought I was frakkin WEIRD. They STILL think I’m frakkin weird. Nor have I ever been one to take someone’s BS and kiss butt. I wasn’t raised that way. So if I’m told “We’re changing your character’s name because it doesn’t conform to what we think this genre should be” well… It doesn’t really fly with me. Considering that a lot of my story ideas come from dreams and a LOT of the time my dreams even include character names (A majority of the main character names in PtH were named in my original dream), and if my subconscious is going to provide me with such nice inspiration, I’d like to keep it.

Unless there’s a really good reason to change it. I Google search my main character names, just to make sure I didn’t lift it unconsciously from someone I’d read once upon a time. Such as the “Ellurians” … they used to be “Ullarians” but Dr. Google pulled about 10 pages of links to fairly official looking stuff. So it got changed. … I think I still have “ullaria” lurking around in my files though. Rooting them out as I find them is tedious but necessary.

It really boils down to entertaining. That’s all I really care about. If I entertain 100, or 100,000, it doesn’t matter to me. And I feel that the gauntlet of the trad pub industry would get in the way of that. They’d tell me what I should be writing instead of what I want to write. I’ve had very long conversations with my SO about this whole decision and it boiled down to “what do you want out of being published?” Being appreciated would be nice. Being rich would be nice. But it’s whether I’m entertaining people that matters to me. With self publishing, I get to do that and learn about business stuff without much risk to me or my money.

Yeah, you heard me. Not much risk to my money. I’m not an idiot after all. I wouldn’t buy into something just because an ad said “Lookie! We give you SO MUCH for only $900 (and your soul/first born/arm/leg/all of the above)!” No. I researched the company I went with to verify they didn’t have any hidden bear traps, and I don’t need their extra expensive services. I have a brain and a degree in editing. I can kill my darlings and clean up my sentences on my own. For example, look at the difference between the first 2 chapters of Symbol of Hope V1 and the 2 chapters of V2. The Natan Personality Replacement Program got cut because it wasn’t working even though I loved him. Poor NPRP. I wish I could use him elsewhere, but no… not possible. He was there for a purpose, couldn’t do that purpose and only made things harder for me in the long-run. I can also maintain a webpage and online presence on my own without a coach. I’ll likely make mistakes, but raise your hand if you’re perfect.



Elucidation: Why I SelfPubbed

I suppose I should go back to the beginning and talk about why I decided to self publish instead of go Traditional.

There were numerous reasons, some of which were: fear of rejection, inability to find agents that were likely to represent the type of work I do, inability to find publishing companies that were likely to represent the type of work I do, uneasiness about the fate of the industry as a whole… There were a few other things going on in my head at the time, but those were the top ones.

When I decided that it was time I put my work in print, I did a lot of research. Looking at editors and agents, and publishers, and trying to find somewhere my books and writing style would fit. And I looked at the market – what was selling now, and what had sold in the past, and what the industry as a whole was likely to do, and I honestly didn’t think my chances of getting picked up traditionally were that great. Then again, I’ve been told by many that I’m stupidly good at selling myself short. *shrug*

It still boggles my mind when newly published authors post something like “I got rejected 300 times before getting this deal.” Mostly because either they were using the Writer’s Market as a phonebook, or – I don’t know. How DID they find 300 agents and publishers to get rejected by? And at the same time it makes me wonder about the whole process and how it’s broken. Like a friend of mine (Levimont) said: “…why do they keep quoting these statistics as though they were something other than an indication that the system needs to be replaced?”

But anyway – the point is: I write teen/adult space opera with aliens as the main characters. Right now, Vampires are in. When I started writing Playing the Hero, Boy Wizards and high fantasy were in. I”m sure eventually space SF will come back in style, but I get the feeling that not many people are quite sure what SCIENCE FICTION really IS anymore. In Azimov”s day it was “I ask questions about the future of robotics, science, and how humans will interact with these things. I won’t always have an answer, but the IDEA is what matters!” and it moved from there. I actually got quoted in an article discussing what SF used to be and where it”s going. And that”s essentially why I write what I write. But I don’t think the adult SF audience is going to READ what I write.

It’s not about the money for me. (not that Trad-Pubbed authors get much money either) It’s a nice side benefit if I ever get any, but breaking even is nice. That’s about what I’ve done so far. And those in favor of Trad-Pubbing will say “but you get an advance if you trad-pub!” and I say: Yeah, okay. An advance. And then I don’t get paid again until the publisher has made back that money off my royalties plus the cost of printing, shipping, distribution, and all that jazz. That could be never.

But with POD, I don’t have to worry about that. All I’ve really got to worry about is crappy printing on account of my printer. And then I just eat the cost of replacing a customer’s book. Because I haven’t heard from anyone else saying “Pages fell out of my book!!!” Though seriously!

If you bought a book from me and pages fell out, please tell me so I can raise a fuss at my printer because that’s just not cool and if enough people have this problem I’ll have to change printers.

Another argument: Trad-Pubed books get super distribution – aka, put in stores like B&N and BAM, but the problem is that %90 of books end up on the Midlist and only a few end up in the prime shelf space upfront. Here is an article that is a prime example of why it’s said that “Bookstores are where books go to die” and why online shopping is now the In Thing. The distribution options of Trad-Pubbing aren’t so enticing anymore if you’re A) not going to get prime space in the store unless you’re deemed by the marketing team to have an MS that will sell like hotcakes, and B) most of the customers who would have bought your book have gone blind to what’s on the front tables, or don’t even go to the stores anymore.

And it irks me on a level that the marketing team decides the fate of a book before its even printed. They make a decision to print only 5k copies, or 20k. And if they print 20k, they’re gonna put more money behind that book in distribution and marketing than they’re going to put behind a book they only printed 5k of. So how can someone become a “best seller” if their definition of “best seller” is 8k books sold. Can’t sell 8k of a book with only 5k copies floating around.

Hooray circular logic. And clutter. What a waste! Especially if they print 20k of a book that totally flops and the bookstores RETURN most of them (or more like just the covers of those books because shipping is expensive). Think of all those poor TREES!

Which is why I like POD much better. I might pay more per book, but I’m also not wasting anything. I have as many books as I can sell at a time.

Recently, I came across This, which explained the pros and cons of various publishing options without much bias towards any one. Which was nice to see for once. Usually it’s diatribes about how Self Publishing is BAD BAD BAD! and it’s like AIDs… you say “I self published” and people step back a little. Like it’s infectious. Maybe I’m just being dramatic. But that’s the reaction I get sometimes. They’ll come around eventually though. Although I got some good reception at Dragon*con when I spoke to Ms. Skyler White. She was pretty cool about it all.

But it really boils down to “Just what DO I want out of publishing?” and the answer is “to entertain” and all the hoopla of Trad-Pubbing gets in the way. If people like my stuff, they’ll buy it. If they don’t they won’t. I sink or swim on my own rather than dragging a bunch of people down with me – people like an agent, editor, publisher… And at the same time if I swim, boy, that’s an accomplishment to brag about, eh?

“I self published and WON!”

Elucidation: God and the Lack Of in Playing the Hero

In V1 of Playing the Hero, Natan’s catchphrase was “For God and the Empire!”

However, in V2 of Playing the Hero, I took out “God”
I had a couple reasons for that, which I now intend to explain.

The first group of people I sold my book to were Christians. Without explanation, they were left to assume that “God” meant THEIR god, and that isn’t the case. Considering that Vathion had to explain what the human term “Martyr” meant to his bridge crew in Ch15. (I’d intended for him to make such an explanation in book 2, but the rewrite of Ch15 ended in such a way that I could fit it in reasonably there as a foreshadowing of the themes I explore in Symbol of Hope).

After seeing the reactions of my initial readers, I knew that the Gilon God needed to be explained further, but I could not figure out a way to explain the Gilon’s religion without a massive info dump that would have slowed down the story further. Considering that my whole reason for DOING Version 2 of the book was to remove my amateur info dumps and fix the space battle scenes, I couldn’t justify putting a new info dump right back in. As it is, V2 ended up significantly longer than V1 BECAUSE of Ch15’s rewrite. Given that I”m self published, the size of the book does make a difference in cost.

So “God” got removed from Playing the Hero V2.

However, this doesn’t mean that Gilon do not have a religion at all. This just means that it was too difficult a subject to handle within the confines of this story arc. It will likely get explored further in either Symbol of Hope or The Shaxian Conflict (or whatever I name that book or set of books, as my idea for that one was too damn cool to NOT write at some point in the future).

Moar Dragon*Con

Back from Dragon*con!

Some things were great.  Some things weren’t so great.


Great things:

OMG OMG OMG OMG! MERCEDES LACKEY WAS THERE!!!!!!!!! She signed my book! OMG!


…….. (10 mins later)


Not so great things:

A little disappointed about the whole experience.

WTH was with the Pre-reg line? WHY were people who bought badges THAT DAY in and out of line in 20 mins? or less. Whereas the pre-reg line was up to 5hrs long.

The crowd. Had. No. Energy.

I’ve been to a couple AWA’s and the crowd at AWA has an energy all of its own. It’s easy to be excited and stay excited despite the fact that your feet hurt, you only got 3hrs of sleep, you’ve been in line for hours, and your costume itches like frak – but you’re still excited to be there. I got bored at D*con.

And with the boredom came the realization of how tired I was. And how much my feet and back hurt. I didn’t have nearly as much fun as I was expecting to. I mean… By Sunday I was ready to leave. ;.; I actually fell asleep in 2 panels on Sunday. Even though they were interesting, I just… Passed Out.

There were only like… a third of the people there in costumes. Sure the ones who showed up were good, but it was… disappointing that there were so few people in costume. I was _excited_ when I saw someone in an armature costume, or someone who couldn’t quite pull it off but was trying – because they TRIED.

I saw a few obscure things – like Cheerleader Suzaku (Code Geass) and a Guild Wars girl.

And then there were lots of super heroes and steam punk stuff. Some of the steam punk things were cool, but they were just kinda… I dunno. They weren’t dressed as Anyone in Specific. and that was kind of disappointing a little.

And the super heroes… I got the feeling that a lot of people would have dressed up if the general vibe of the con hadn’t been “if you don’t do it perfectly, go put on some real clothes.”

I dressed up a bit on Saturday and… It was kinda upsetting that I got the feeling that it wasn’t acceptable. I busted my ass on my fiancé’s costume and sure, mine was a last minute thrown together thing, but… at AWA it would have gotten a lot of attention. Even if I would have been mistaken for a Loli’, but it still would have gotten attention. But here, people were like… taking pictures of my Fiancé and kinda gesturing for me to get out of the picture.

Then there were the people without badges. They were rude, inconsiderate, and generally annoying. They were only there to gawk at the “Freaks.” Which really made the atmosphere of the con that much worse.



The Last Airbender

The Last Airbender SUCKED! D:

The dialogue was stupid and stilted, the characters were OOC, the special effects were cool, but could have been cooler, and they did a lot of “telling” not “showing” with the plot. Jumping from one thing to the next without ever showing that oh, time passes in between!

and Aang’s tats. stupid lookin.

oh, and they mispronounced nearly _everyone’s_ names!

The characters:
Flat as it sounds, there’s one thing with every character in Avatar (the cartoon) that’s the main driving force of that character.
Aang = happy
Iroh = Tea
May = Goth
Sokka = hunger
Katara = Motherly
Azula = psycho

the thing is… NONE of the movie’s characters had those qualities. Shamalamadingdong totally sapped ALL the fun out of Aang’s adventure and focused on the Angsty bits, but didn’t put enough character behind the angsty bits to make them anything other than “oh look, Aang’s upset over something? huh?”

The plot:
Shamalamadingdong totally skipped from one cool looking thing to the next, but forgot to take the plot with it. He summed up 20 20min episodes in the most boring hour I’ve ever sat through. In order to explain where the characters were at any moment in the movie, or how they got there, they had Katara voiceover narrate! Seriously… We don’t get away with that in books, you sure as heck can’t get away with that in a movie (especially when this narration occurs every few minutes).

The special effects could have made it cooler, but they totally bombed that one too. Like wtf? There were LOTS of Firebenders running around but they were pitiful!

Oh! and speaking of the Benders – they emphasized the kata and made it look like the KATA is what gives the bender their power, not any kind of natural talent. So they’re flailing their hands and feet around going “Juuust you wait! I’m gonna bend something AWESOME at you! just hold on. I’m almost done with this… yeah! here we go!” paff! “Sorry man, I totally saw that coming and stepped aside. do I really have to watch you do that stupid dance again or can I just kill you?”
Oh, and it took SIX earth benders to pick up a rock the size of a baby and another guy to chuck it. What?

Additionally! The firebenders had to have fire present to be able to bend it. Unlike in the tv show, where they conjure it from their own inner fire of fury and anger and other negative emotions. Iroh was the only one who could go “BOYAKA! I HAS FIRE BYTCHES!” and I guess that sets him apart nicely, but at the same time… it’s TOO blatant a reference to Book 2…

If only Peter Jackson had done this.
It would have been 3hrs long.
but it also would have been frakin EPIC!

Death Throes of a Dream

(also posted on Createspace LJ community)

In case you guys haven’t heard, Harlequin has created an assisted-self-publishing imprint, to which they will be directing authors to in their rejection letters. The following two links details a conversation between the Mystery Writers of America and Harlequin on the subject of Dellarte press.

Part 1

Part 2
This makes me extremely sad.

Even though I chose to go with a POD for my first book, I still harbor dreams of getting my work published by a “real” publisher. Even I can’t get over the idea that because I POD’ed my book, it’s not really published and I’m not really an author yet. I guess I’ve been brainwashed rather thoroughly by the commercial publishing industry that independently published books are BAD BAD BAD. But part of it too is that I want to be recognized by a source outside of my direct influence – told that what I’m doing with my time and energy and thought processes is actually worthwhile. Self-publishing is like yelling out into a storm. Maybe someone will hear, but what they do about it… Unfortunately, it looks like that’s going to be the only option available fairly soon.

I say this because all the signs and symptoms point to “traditional” publishing going down the tubes. Other publishing houses are going to follow Harlequin’s example once they realize there’s serious money in it and open ASP divisions and direct their rejects and slush pile there. They will then only concentrate on marketing the NEXT Twilight or the NEXT Hairy Potter. They only want the next superstar that will sell millions of books. This means that those authors that only have a few thousand books printed will disappear entirely. Meanwhile the “traditional” publishers will be preying upon the hopes and dreams of people like me who just want some attention – want to be recognized for being a good story teller. And instead they’ll get: “REJECTED – BUT you can still print this book with our ASP division.” yay consolation prize YOU have to pay to receive.

Newspapers and Magazines are already dying out in favor of online options, which are generally free for the public to read. Now, the middle-section of writers who have good books but aren’t getting much marketing attention is dying out due to lack of attention from the publishers. Sure, their books are available in B&N and BAM, but what good is that if no one knows about them? As for me, I’ll pick up a book by an author I’ve not heard about and take a try at it, but I’m not the market, and I’m not the usual reader. Next, it’ll be bookstores as eReaders become popular (though that’s probably going to be a very slow trend, given the price and the price of eBooks currently).

More and more authors are expected to market themselves rather than a publisher doing it for them, as they have in the past. And it will depend on whether Oprah said something about your book as to whether it becomes a superstar and thus worthy of getting money and time from the marketing department. Unless you’ve already got fans, you’re not going to sell any books. So what’s the point of going with a traditional publisher if you’re going to have to do it all yourself anyway?

Additionally, the “traditional” publishers won’t be able to say “Self published books are BAD because they’re crap and they don’t get any editing” because they’ll be the ones printing these books and not editing them. Or, they could say that kind of thing, but it’d be hypocritical of them. Either way, I’ve read at least 15 recently printed books in the last year and ALL of them had missing words, typos, grammatical errors, and other problems that an EDITOR should have caught and fixed, but didn’t.

I suppose in the end, authors are going to have to rethink who and what they are. With the actual business of getting books sold being dumped on us, it’s only a matter of time before “traditional” publishing no longer exists. Nanowrimo has a start on getting authors together and talking, and WeBook is a start at organizing those who would go the direction of ASP, but Nanowrimo doesn’t extend past November, and WeBook is still a business.

In the wake of all these die-offs will sprout a bunch of ASP’s and other self publishing industry peripherals (such as scammer “editing” agencies), and every last one of them will be out to prey on the poor authors who just want to be noticed by the world. And we will get preyed upon because we’re unable to spread the word about such places. Writer Beware is nice, but they’re still geared towards people who are going with “traditional” publishing. If only we (those who choose to self publish or post our work online for free) could change what writing is perceived to be. If we could change it from being something we do by ourselves in a dark corner of our house, hiding from the children like a hermit, we’d be able to unite to keep these publishing companies from taking advantage of us. And an added benefit to joining as a group would be the networking options. “If you build it, they will come” isn’t a real business model. We’re going to have to support each other in order for all of us to become successful. I don’t see it working any other way.

Personally, I’d love to join a writing critique group – and I’ve tried joining some before – but the problem is that writers are what they are and I can read and comment on people’s work all day long and never get anyone to look at mine in return. If I knew that I would get my share of reviews, I’d happily participate. But until then, I’m stuck trying to improve with no feedback (which happens to be a rather difficult task).

Ender’s Quartet

I finished reading the Ender Quartet.
the last 2 books are awful!

Back when I first started writing fanfics, I used to throw in random bits of Japanese. Words here and there that really didn’t add anything to the stories other than “LOOKIE! I know THIS word!” and that’s what the last several books of the Ender’s series seemed like. It was mildly annoying to have long paragraphs of Portuguese thrown in for apparently no other reason than to annoy readers with stuff they don’t understand and that Card often didn’t bother to translate. It ended up that I simply didn’t understand about one third of the dialogue. WHY? Why bother putting in something like that when you’re going to have to translate it? Why not just have a tag “Miro switched to Portuguese and said blah blah blah”?

At least the language issue didn’t make me put the books down; although the characters and stupidity of the plotline nearly did. By the end I was just reading the books because I wanted to know how it ended rather than because I gave a crap about the characters. I was reading for the sake of “this is what NOT to do”.

What not to do:
There’s a difference between having objectionable characters and having characters that are so static that they annoy the piss out of the reader. Ender’s wife for example. She’s 60 years old and acting like a little kid! If she can’t have things her way, she throws a temper tantrum and locks everyone out of important files so that if SHE isn’t there, NO ONE can get anything done, regardless of the fact that Starways Congress is sending a doomsday device to destroy the world, the virus is mutating and getting past all the human’s defenses against it, the piggies are pissed off and crazy, the humans are going nuts from fear – and SHE wants to throw a juvenile pitty party because Ender isn’t giving her his full attention. And then he DOES give her his full attention – joining a monastery when he doesn’t really believe in god, and when he’s got plenty of other things he could be doing…

And how Card killed Ender off was just AWFUL!
I don’t think it was in character at all. I’m not sure how Ender would have died otherwise, but the way he was forced out of the picture and then killed off was just… not right. Okay, so maybe Card got bored of writing Ender? I dunno, but the solution didn’t seem right at all. He died doing NOTHING and that’s just…wrong.

Honestly, from the end of book 2, I think the whole series could have gone a different direction and been a lot better off.

The plotline itself was a cop-out. The whole OUTSPACE thing – ok, maybe when Card wrote these, the OUTSPACE bit was new and different, but the way he did it would make anyone who ever went into OUTSPACE a God. It solved too many problems too easily. Miro’s crippleness, the virus, Ender’s inability to get away from his wife because he’s too in love with pain and being in pain. And then having everything flow back to Jane the way it did was also too convenient.

It was obvious he stopped writing because he had a neat story to tell and had started taking his reader’s suggestions. I’ve done it before, I know what it looks like (which allows me to avoid it as much as I can). It looks like weird and stupid left field solutions to problems that end up too easy and make the characters look like Mary Sues.

Faith on Silver Wings Cover – wip

I’ve got the cover image for Faith on Silver Wings done. Or fairly close to it except for some minor work. I cheated a bit and used that pic of Enkiria I’d already done and a few other things I’d already done in my other version of the book cover that I decided I didn’t quite like.

I will be editing this cover further, of course, getting it perfect and all, but here it is for now.

Way of the Shadows

I finally finished the Shadow’s series by Brent Weeks.

The first book (Way of the Shadows) was a fun ride. I really enjoyed it. Stayed up til 6AM reading it. My only problem was the introduction of some minor characters that really weren’t as minor as they seemed and really weren’t explained. They just …showed up, did some stuff, and ran off. It was mildly confusing. Overall, though, the book was fantastic and I greatly enjoyed it. It didn’t go how I had expected – though the plot twist at the end was a bit out of the blue. There wasn’t much leadup to it. Additionally, Kylar, for all that he grew up on the streets is remarkably… feminine. Maybe it’s Jarl’s fault? I dunno. Also, though it’s questioned, no one explains why Kylar’s original name was Azoth, though it’s hinted that he’s something more – maybe his parents were important, but it’s never explained and that’s something I’m really curious about.

Second book (Shadow’s Edge) was also fun. I stayed up til 6AM reading that one as well. Weeks got a bit worse about the random minor characters having conversations that I suppose were important but for the life of me, I couldn’t understand. And I really… REALLY don’t like Vi. Her actions, while … necessary, were also very terrible. You don’t starve and beat an 11yr old and then essentially _rape_ someone, forcing them to drop whatever else they were trying to do with their lives and attend to your every whim even though it was for a good cause (sort of) and expect readers to totally forgive them. Which leads to my complaint about book 3.

Weeks then spent the entire third book (Beyond the Shadows) trying to replace Elene with Vi. Forcibly. I didn’t like that. It ticked me off. Every chapter Vi was in, Weeks bashed me over the head with how terrible Vi’s life had been and how she was an emotional cripple… But I saw what he was trying to do and what Vi did at the end of book 2 just ticked me off so much that I simply Could Not like her. The best he was going to get from me was apathy, which he really didn’t succeed in getting. Then the rest of the characters decided to throw a party and serve Stupid Juice by the keg. Not only were they talking about things that weren’t explained very well, they were… mildly out of character. Really the only one who stayed true was Logan. The abundance of C-countrynames was confusing and half the characters I can’t pronounce their names, and thus couldn’t remember that I had seen them before. At least the introduction of random side characters used only once and for no purpose whatsoever stopped. Except for the Final Boss, which came totally out of nowhere. Well… They fought Khali, but Khali’s real identity wasn’t what was expected and there was nothing leading up to what occured. Weeks also seems to like putting pregnant women in life-threatening situations … and even killing them occasionally.

Now, don’t get me wrong! I like the fact that someone’s willing to be that cruel to their characters and that Murphy’s Law is God of his realm, additionally, the world itself was deep and interesting. But. I just feel that Weeks could have gone through the whole storyline one last time and removed the extras. About 10 characters could have been removed and another already established character used instead.  Book 3, overall, felt like Weeks said “oookay! I’ve got a contract for 3 books, and the deadline’s coming up. I’d better kick something out quick!”

Additonally, Durzo Blint got perilously close to being a Gary Stu. That makes me sad. In my fanfiction, I’ve practiced making people hate characters, and redeeming them in a believable manner, but I just don’t think Weeks carried this one off very well. I just don’t think someone who’s spent most of their life protecting and courting one woman would easily go “oh, well, I’m COMPELLED to love this other chick whom I don’t know and who stole my wedding rings and forced this spell on me to make me love her and now I can’t even kiss my true beloved because it makes me sick, so I guess I’ll forget Elene and go with Vi.” It just doesn’t work like that.

I guess I’ll have to say it again after all this complaining – I DID like the books. They were a fun ride. I liked the main characters intoduced in the first book (Kylar, Durzo, Momma K, Jarl, and Logan, to be specific), but there was a lot of clutter (characters, conversations, relationships, unexplained things).