There Are No Mistakes

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The four capital mistakes of open source

Almost five years ago, I self-published my novel An Unproductive Woman with Xlibris.

If I knew then what I know now… well, let’s just say I would have hung up the phone when they called me and offered me a publishing package.

Once the book was in the world and published the first three years with them were fine. They really were. Xlibris did exactly what they said they would. They helped me design a cover (which I later changed), they helped to edit a manuscript that was already amazingly pretty clean, and they made it available at multiple different outlets.

Following publishing I was busy with school and family so I admittedly did very little in the way of self promoting, but once I made up my mind to actually pay attention to the An Unproductive Woman I realized a number of unfortunate truths.

  1. I never needed Xlibris.
  2. I could have done all of this myself for far less money.
  3. Xlibris is a business, which explains why they kept trying to sell me one new service after another.

I wasn’t angry with Xlibris because of truth #3. They are a business and as such they were doing what businesses do. Trying to make money. They did. While very little, I did benefit from their service. Using them made things very easy for me at a time when I had none to spare. Because of them, I didn’t have to worry about the details.

A year and a half ago I decided that the time had come when I needed to take a more active role in my writing, that I would network and promote and try to make more sales. About this time last year I also made the decision to join Amazon’s KDP program. While not extraordinary, I did notice an increase in sales. An increase in sales is great. I mean, I never thought that An Unproductive Woman would make me wealthy, (One can hope, right?), but no sales turned into some sales and some sales are definitely better than none. Then I started to have problems.

KDP kicked me out of the program at least three times because my ebook kept popping up at other outlets, thanks to Xlibris, even after I’d asked that they remove my ebook from all markets. Needless to say, they didn’t. Each time I thought things were a go again, Amazon would find it somewhere else. I’d get kicked out of the program again. I noticed a drop in sales as a result. That’s when I got annoyed with Xlibris.

$3.99

$4.95

Two weeks ago I noticed that Xlibris snuck their ebook version of An Unproductive Woman up on Amazon and actually set it for a lower price than I have it listed for. They were competing with me for sales of my book. I have asked and asked them not to make an ebook available anywhere because I’d formatted and published the ebook version on Amazon myself and because it is a requisite of the KDP program. And still, there it was.

At that point I was more than annoyed. I was incensed.

Last week I drafted a brief letter and faxed it to Xlibris telling them that I wanted to withdraw my book from them 100% in all forms on all outlets post haste. It hasn’t happened yet because apparently it can take up to six weeks. I’ve turned into the customer from hell because I have emailed them on a daily basis asking the equivalent of “Are we there yet?” It’s just that I am cooked and want to be done with them.

I rarely admit to mistakes. This isn’t because I’m so arrogant that I don’t think that I ever make them. I don’t often admit to mistakes because I think that doing so misses the point, which is that there is always something to learn from almost each mishap, tragedy and flub. To call these things mistakes negates the good that can come from them. I also believe that sometimes our personal tragedies aren’t always for us. Sometimes they are for others to learn from as well. With that, allow me to share some lessons I’ve learned from this.

  1. If I’m bright enough to write a book, chances are I’m also bright enough to self publish said book without the help of services like Xlibris.
  2. I have more time than I think I have. Its better to reallocate my time in order to do the things that are really important to me.
  3. The indie community of writers are generous, smart, and savvy. Network, ask questions, and ask for help.
  4. Never publish with a vanity press. You give up your money, your control, and the opportunity to learn how to do some of this stuff yourself.
  5. Don’t get angry.

Just remember. There are no mistakes.

What choices with your writing have you made that you wish you’d done differently?

Awesome Sauce, Zombies, and Self Publishing Dos and Don’ts

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I’m excited to welcome Matt (Awesome Sauce) Williams back to my site. For those of you who don’t know, he is an ubber productive author and blogger whose taste for topics knows no bounds. He recently published a zombie novel entitled Whiskey Delta which he first serialized on his blog. Today he’s here to tell us about Whiskey Delta and his most recent foray into self publishing. Pull up a chair, you just might learn something. Talk to us, Awesome Sauce.

1. For those who don’t know, give a brief run down of WD. What was the inspiration? When did you publish?

Whiskey Delta is basically my take on the zombie apocalypse. After reading and watching numerous franchises on the subject, mainly for the sake of research into what makes the genre work, I realized they all had something in common beyond undead creatures. Without exception, they all focused on the lives of your average citizens, or on a motley crew of people who were thrown together by necessity. Always these people were unprepared, untrained to deal with their circumstances, and had to improvise and struggle to stay alive. Frankly, I wanted to see a story where the people fighting the undead were trained, prepared, and knew how to deal with it, even if they still had a hell of time doing it.

Naturally, I was inspired by the recent upsurge in popularity that zombie franchises have seen in recent years. 28 Days Later was a big one, as wasThe Walking Dead, the miniseries and the comics. I also gained a lot of knowledge from the miniseries Generation Kill, which chronicled the 1st Recon Battalion’s exploits during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Between all that, I had a strong desire to write about zombie killers who know their trade, warts and all!

I began publishing it chapter for chapter in the spring of 2012, and finished it just shy of the summer. I took the plunge and decided to make it available to the public one year later, in April of 2013. While I still wanted to finish up work on its sequels and edit it before release, an unexpected shout out from Max Brooks kind of forced my hand and I uploaded it to Kindle without serious edits. The result was pretty rough, but still contained the story I had created without alteration or distortion.

2. WD is self-pubbed, which I think, aside from being brave, is the smart thing to do these days as it leaves control in the hands of the author. That said there are pros and cons. Tell us what they are in your experience.

Self-publishing means cutting out the middle man – or the gate-keeper, depending on how you view publishers – and being able to take your work directly to the public, which is a big plus. This is especially useful considering that traditional publishing is losing money on a daily basis due to the expansion in social media, direct publishing and print-on-demand houses. As a result, they are taking less chances on new authors. Lucky for us, the source of the problem also presents a solution.

On the downside, there’s the issue of being completely responsible for your own success. As an indie, you are responsible for all of your own editing, publicity and promotion. As such, you really have to commit to a long, hard slog and hold out while people realize you exist and see the merits in your work. You also have to contend with the perception that indie works are substandard, amateurish works that aren’t worth people’s time or money. Overcoming this is not easy, but hopefully with time, you’ll establish a readership and distinguish yourself from the herd.

3. You’ve discussed the good and not as good news about WD on your site since self-pubbing it. Tell us what you feel you’ve done right/wrong. What would you change if you could?

Well, one should always be happy that reviewers are finding nice things to say about your work. And every review has said that they liked the story, but were bothered by the quality of editing. Naturally, I feel like I was wrong to publish it so soon and worry that these reviews which call into question the quality of the work will affect long-term sales. So even if I do release a 2nd edition that’s error-free, the damage has been done.

However, I remember quite clearly why I put the book up when I did. I knew that a nod from Max Brooks might trigger interest in my book and send some people over to Google to look for it. And I knew that interest would quickly fade if people couldn’t find it. I have since come to the conclusion that the fact that it falls under the heading of zombie fiction is what is attracting readers, but at the time, I was convinced word of mouth promotion from an established author would make all the difference.

So really, barring some kind of prescient foresight on my part – which would have told me to just wait until it was editing before publishing, or drop the sequels and focus on the original – I can’t imagine having done things differently at this point. Live and learn, I guess!

4. What advice would you offer other self-pubbed authors?

Best advice I could give was the advice that was given to me over the years. I kept it in point form for the sake of simplicity:

  1. Do what you love, the rest will take care of itself with time.
  2. In the meantime, keep your day job. Until such time as you’re making enough money to support yourself, you’ll need that steady income!
  3. Don’t wait to be discovered. Use the tools that are at your disposal to promote yourself and make things happen.
  4. Do your homework. Before you can put your idea into proper written form, you need to do your homework and learn what works best for you.

5. Which of the characters in WD would you most want to befriend in real life? Why?

Tough question, but I think the Mage would be a very good person to meet in real life. He’s enigmatic, even to me, and I know for a fact that he’s the kind of person who’s had some very interesting experiences. Not only that, but he keeps you guessing. You’re never quite sure how much he knows, or whether or not he’s a good guy…

You can catch Matthew Williams here:

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Interview: Nadine Ducca and Serving Time

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SERVING TIME front coverI am happy to feature an interview here with Nadine Ducca. She has just released her debut novel, the first in a series, called Serving Time.  It sounds like a winner and I’ve added it to my “to read” list. You should too. You can also try your luck at winning a free copy of Serving Time over at Goodreads. I hope I win it. Too bad there’s no way to enter the contest more than once. 😉

Goodreads Giveaway!!!!

Other places you can find serving time on Kindle and in print: 

Amazon.com

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.es

Everyone, please welcome Nadine, indie author extraordinaire! 

Nadine, thank you for joining me and giving me the chance to take part in your efforts to promote Serving Time. As an indie author I appreciate the need for exposure. It sounds as if Serving Time is going to be quite a story, one that I am definitely interested in reading.

1. Give us a brief explanation of what Serving Time is about.

When interplanetary pilot and smuggler Tristan Cross finally decides to do good for a change, the entire universe seems bent on stopping him.

Serving Time is a sci-fantasy pursuit across the solar system as Tristan and his brother Eneld try to give the cruel megacompany StarCorp the slip and start a new anonymous life on Earth. During their voyage, they’ll discover that someone—or something—else is after them…and there are much larger threats out there than StarCorp…

Here is the official book description:

Life and death have been industrialized. The Forge, the birthplace of every soul, is a rumbling factory owned by the goddess Time, managed by Lucifer, and powered by the labor of demons and imps. In this dystopian world, a renegade interplanetary pilot running from his past doesn’t stand a chance.

Handling Neptunian meth and dodging security cannons are all in a day’s work for Tristan Cross—not that he’s one to complain. Working for the smuggling company StarCorp is an improvement over what he used to do for a living.

However, when StarCorp gives Tristan a one-way ticket into the brainwashed—and disturbingly suicidal—Loyal League, he decides to run from the company and start a new life in the only safe haven he knows: Earth. With the help of his brother, Tristan embarks on the most hazardous journey of his life, one that will place him at Time’s mercy. Little does he know the demons running the universe are craving a feast, and his own soul is the next item on the menu.

2. What was the inspiration for Serving Time? How long did it take for Serving Time to germinate into a full fledged tellable tale?

Serving Time started out as a short about 15 years ago. When I was a teen, I spent much of my free time jotting down short stories. In fact, I have two full-length novels from when I was around 15 or 16, but I’m too embarrassed to even begin editing them!

The story that eventually evolved into Serving Time was about two brothers who made a living looting derelict space ships. In the short, they quickly ended up on the system’s “Most Wanted” list, and decided to flee to Earth, where they knew the space authorities wouldn’t be able to find them.

As a teen, I shelved the story when the brothers met Verin, a disconcerting man who offered to help them escape to Earth, but who seemed to have a very different agenda in mind. Several years went by, and the short story gathered some dust—but wasn’t forgotten.

When I finished university, I was terribly frustrated with myself. I had had enough of doing what I was supposed to do. It was time to start doing what I wanted to do! That was when I promised my characters (who were giving me forlorn looks as they stood by and waited) that I would tell their story.

The process of transforming the short into a 120,000 word novel took about three years, mainly because at first I had no idea what I was doing. I had to learn thecraft. In June of 2011, I enrolled in a creative writing course, and in November of the same year I joined Critique Circle, an online critique group.

I was finally doing what I had always wanted!

Then came the long hours of pounding at the keyboard. And the changes—oh, so many changes!

Over time, names changed. The main characters’ goals changed. The plot twisted itself into a knot. Some characters slipped into obscurity while others rose to the occasion and surprised me with their versatility. Creepy crawlies gradually popped up in several chapters. The plot evolved, and fantasy demanded a central role. I ended up welcoming it into my story, and what a great decision that was!

3. Of all of the characters on your book, which one would you most want to befriend. Why?

I have a soft spot for Seth, the childlike owner of the Robot Rehab in the space colony Ringwall. He spends his days stripping old robots and using the parts to create new…well… Let’s be frank here: they’re abominations. But don’t get me wrong! They’re very creative abominations! Every now and then, Seth adds a little something—shall we say…unusual?—to his robotic creations, a disquieting habit that earned him the title of “cannibal.”

He’s such a bright, chirpy and quirky character, and so absolutely oblivious to his innate creepiness, that you just have to love him! In my case, I’d love to spend a few days with him in the Robot Rehab and check out all the monsters he’s assembling. However, don’t let his youthful appearance and easygoing disposition fool you; there’s great potential buried deep in that mind of his.

I love him so much…you can’t imagine how guilty I feel about everything I put him through.

Here you can see an interview with Seth.

Here you can catch a sneak peek into Serving Time involving Seth!

4. I’ve placed Serving Time on my To Read list. It sounds really interesting especially since it seems so much happens in space. So, for that reason, I assume ST is a sci-fi tale. How did you handle the science in this story?

Indeed, Serving Time is a soft science fiction tale. Although I adore science fiction, I’m not a big fan of hard sci-fi (my eyes tend to glaze over whenever I encounter an entire paragraph of pure technical description). I prefer character-driven stories to technology-driven ones, and that’s exactly what Serving Time is.

For the sake of credibility, I did perform extensive research regarding Martian terraformation, travel distances across the solar system, and the like—but I also left a lot of room for fantasy.

As we travel through the chapters of Serving Time, we gradually notice that the science fiction world is infested with an entire menagerie of unusual creatures, ranging from the (self-proclaimed) demon master Robert Westbrook, to the packs of demons reminiscing of better times, to the goddess of Time herself, as she struggles to keep everything together and make amends for her past mistakes. Time is a vain creature, and just admitting that she made a mistake takes its toll on the entire universe.

One of my all-time favorite authors is Robert Sheckley, whose witty and humorous short stories have captivated me for years. The collection Untouched by Human Hands is absolutely marvelous, a five-star read. While commenting on his work, Sheckley himself once said: “I felt I wasn’t really writing science fiction.” Well, I can relate to that. While writing Serving Time, I sometimes also felt I wasn’t really writing science fiction; my characters just happened to live in a couple centuries in the future! With the universe a clerical mess, it’s clear that many of the elements in Serving Time are pure fantasy.

5. What do readers have to look forward to in the next installment of Serving Time?

I’m not going to reveal if Tristan and Eneld reach Earth safe and sound—you’ll have to read Serving Time to find out! However, I will tell you that our heroes are in for one heck of a journey, and things just seem to get more and more complicated as they go. The adventure will take an unexpected turn and continue in book two:Making Time.

As I mentioned in a recent blog hop, Making Time is a “sci-fi expedition into Hell.” Expect monsters. Dozens—no, hundreds—of them! Expect adventure and challenges, and maybe even a tad of romance.

Making Time is almost complete. The plot is planned from beginning to end; I just need to wrap up several of the final chapters.

Click here to see a WIP Blog Hop post about Making Time!

Thank you very much for the interview, Khaalidah! Before saying goodbye, I’d like to invite you all to my Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win a free signed copy of Serving Time! Just follow the link to enter.

No, no. Thank you for joining me. It was a pleasure and an honor. Good luck Nadine!

Nadine

 

@NadineDucca

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