Tag Archives: self-publishing

Sand of Bone — Chapter Two

Exiles on the run.  Divine rulers fighting to control the desert’s elements.  Dead people secretly walking the sands in search of redemption…

Sand of Bone is the first of two (maybe three…?) novels set in the desert world of SheyKhala.  A new chapter will be posted every Thursday until the novel’s publication in the summer of 2013. 

To start with Chapter 1, click here.

Chapter 2

Fear slammed her from sleep already tormented with dreams of her brother.  Syrina clenched her teeth against another cry, and grabbed at her throat to tear away the sensation of fingers digging beneath her jaw.  Though she drew her knees to her chest, invisible fists hit her gut and left her struggling to breathe.  Another blow fell, then another.  She stifled her cries in the thin straw mattress, beat her fists against it as if she could drive away her non-existent attacker.  Her cry rose into a wail when heat lanced deep into her shoulder, tearing flesh and muscle from bone, stealing breath and sight and sound and thought—

It stopped.

Her body throbbed with the memory.  She let herself sob as the ache settled deep in her bones, then she sat up and hung her head between her knees.

Syrina knew better than to search for blood or bruises to prove the ordeal real.  Twice before she’d awakened to a beating, and each time had nothing to show but the memory.  She’d screamed for help the first time, only to be told that no one had entered her chamber and no marks could be found.  The second time had been worse than the first, but the result had been the same.  The surgeon had gone so far as to suggest—carefully, and in low whispers—that she had perhaps kept herself in solitude too long.

In any other place in SheyKhala, the merest intimation that one of the Velshaan might be unstable would see the offender arrested, flogged, and then caged in a wagon destined to be fed to the sands, or abandoned to Exile Stronghold.  But the surgeon was already in Exile, just like she was.  Only by beating him, starving him, or locking him in the underground cells could she make his life much worse.  So Syrina had given him sharp thanks for his concern and dismissed him.  She didn’t speak of it again.  But this nightmare…  Hallucination… Continue reading Sand of Bone — Chapter Two

Writing Time, Production Time, and Assumptions

A few weeks ago, awesome writer Charlie Stross wrote on why he doesn’t self-publish.  I considered responding, then realized there was no reason.  Too often, commenting on such a post to offer a different perspective or correction to facts is assumed to be an attempt to “convert” the blog host.  Since Stross is happy with his situation, I have no reason to convert him.  (As if my small voice would make a difference anyway. 🙂 )

I considered posting my own response here, then…  Well, happily, I was distracted by writing fiction instead!

But now up on Stross’s blog is a guest post by Linda Nagata–“Why I Do Self-Publish.”  She does a wonderful job of presenting her perspective, and I found myself nodding along in agreement.

Of particular interest, especially when it comes to accurate information for those considering self-publishing, is Nagata’s brief summary of the book-production side of things.  Stross estimated it would take him three months to produce each book.  (Not write, just produce.)  Nagata shares her actual production time–including all formatting–was about seven days.

Nagata’s production time matches my own experience, though I completely understand the assumption of the inexperienced that it must take days and weeks and months to turn story into formatted book.  The process intimidated me in the beginning and, admitting my own limitations and anxieties, decided I’d be better off paying someone to teach me than trying to learn on my own.

After the Think Like A Publisher workshop, I practiced formatting a couple short stories for EPUB and MOBI.  By the time Sword and Chant went up, my files were pretty clean and I knew how to resolve errors.  It took me a day.  That experience also taught me how to better format my work-in-progress documents to make conversion even simpler.  I suspect the formatting for Sand of Bone to take a few hours.  Hours.

And as for the notion that self-publishing creates a massive burden of bookkeeping and management…  No, not really.  A sole proprietorship–whether writer or publisher–has the same reporting requirements.  At its simplest, you record what money is paid to you, and what you pay others.  “Production management” is really just “self-directed activities.”  If you can plan a vacation, you can plan a publication schedule.

So while I completely understand many writers have no desire to do anything but write a story, I don’t like to see other aspiring writers deterred by incorrect assumptions about how much time self-publishing requires one to “take away” from writing time.  Truly, it’s nearly the same as newbie writers assuming there must be a secret handshake that leads to publishing success.

The Story of Self-Publishing

While the success of Hugh Howey–top-selling book sales, movie deal, major print-only contracts–has garnered increasing media attention, those who still wish to denigrate self-publishing are quick to say, “But he’s special!  He’s an outlier!  One success doesn’t mean anyone else can succeed!”*

Howey takes that on himself here, and it is a marvelous piece.

I didn’t step into self-publishing with the expectation of becoming the next multi-million dollar success.  I wanted people to read what I wrote.  I wanted to earn a little money from doing what I enjoy.  Self-publishing was the way to do it.  I don’t have to worry about whether my publisher will follow through on commitments, keep the work in print, contract with shell companies in order to reduce my royalties to pennies, or sell the right to publish my work to another company as part of a bankruptcy deal.

I’d rather everything be all my fault.  Fail or succeed–it’s all my fault.  Self-responsibility produces less anxiety than lack of control, and far less than learned helplessness.

 

*This is a variant of the snobbish, “Who do you think you are?” which is more often a finger-pointing way of saying, “Don’t you know who I am?”

StoryBundle Sum-Up

I could hardly be more pleased with my first StoryBundle experience.

We closed out the Indie Fantasy Bundle with about 2350 bundles sold. That means Sword and Chant is in the hands of over two thousand strangers.  For a new writer like me, just starting out with a “platform” the size of soapdish rather than a soapbox, that’s fantastic.  I didn’t make as much per-sale as I would have selling those books independently, but StoryBundle allowed me to tap a new set of readers in a short amount of time.  That was worth it to me.  If readers like the book, they’ll tell others and buy future works.  If readers don’t like it…  Well, it’s better to know now, yes? 🙂

By the numbers: About 84% of those sales were over the bonus mark–an awesome number for a pay-what-you-want strategy.  The income totals indicate plenty of folks paid more than the minumum bonus mark.  The readers chose to donate over $1000 to Mighty Writers and Trees for the Future.

My share of the total income makes me very happy.  It brings me almost one-third of the way to my eighteen-month income goal.  It also brings me to about one-third of my unit-sales goal for the same time period.

The folks behind StoryBundle were great and easy to work with, and I look forward to keeping in touch with the writers who shared the bundle with me.  Payment happens within 30 days of the bundle’s end–faster than any other platform.  I would do it again in a heartbeat.

If you missed the bundle, you can still go to StoryBundle for links to all the works included.

UPDATE: A few writers have come this way in search of information on StoryBundle’s payment terms. For the Indie Fantasy Bundle, payment was in my account within a few DAYS of the bundle’s end.

The Next Big Thing!

This is fun: writers answer ten questions about a new or upcoming project, then tag other writers to do the same.   Sherwood Smith was kind enough to tag me, and the writers I’m tagging will be listed at the bottom of the post.  I’ll link to their answers next week.

Here we go:

What is the working title of your current book?

Sword and Chant

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Different parts came from different places.  The central characters and their relationships came from a horrid, derivative, pseudo-Celtic fantasy novel I’d written years and years and years ago.  It was my first attempt at a novel.  The characters and their relationships were interesting but everything else was…  Ugh. 

Worst of all, I actually sent it to a couple publishers.  Once I’d learned enough to know how terrible it was, I lived in fear I’d someday hear it read aloud at one of those “It Came From the Slush Pile” convention panels.

Many years later, while writing four other novels that shall one day be revised, I became interested in the social and political dynamics of the Kashmir region, Afghanistan in the 1990s and the events surrounding Six Day War.  Those ideas freed the characters of my first attempted novel from the prison of derivative plot, and I combined them with different elements of setting and culture.  Some beta readers have said the setting feels like Turkey, and some say it feels like northern Africa.

The primary antagonist—the Chant—evolved from musings about the nature of sacrifice: the cost to the one making the sacrifice, the one causing the sacrifice to be made, the one accepting the sacrifice, and the willingness of all parties to participate in the sacrifice. (Those ideas will get more stage time in the sequel.)

What genre does your book fall under?

Fantasy, most certainly.  Epic fantasy, I suppose.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

First of all—movie! Woohoo!  Unless, of course, it’s one of those horrid adaptations.  Then it would be awful, and the actors actually playing the roles wouldn’t want to admit their involvement.

Anyway.

In my mind, the characters look and sound like themselves, not actors, but I can come up with a couple ideas for the secondary characters.  I could age Grace Park many, many years so she could play Nikala, one of the warlord-chieftains.  Andre Braugher could to play Yasid Sword, and Joy Bryant could play his daughter.  But for the main characters…  I’m clueless. 

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Seriously, it took me months to write a blurb that was under 200 words, and even then someone else had to fix it.  One sentence?  Gah.
It could be: Jaynes will do anything to avenge his father’s murder, but his triumphs as a warlord didn’t prepare him to face the threat of civil unrest, foreign invasion, and the seductive promises of the exiled god of sacrifice.

Or it could be: Shala Sword emerges from hiding to prevent the god of sacrifice from conquering the tribes, but finds the most brutal battles are against mortals intent on exacting revenge for sins committed a generation ago.
Or it could be…  Well, you get the idea.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I chose to self-publish, for reasons outlined here.  It’s currently available as an ebook through online retailers and in multiple formats.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Once I decided what I wanted to do with the old manuscript, I futzed with the opening chapters for about three months.  Then 9/11 happened, and the last thing I wanted to do was write about asymmetrical warfare, insurgencies, and guerrilla tactics.  When I was finally ready to face it again, I tore into it with a fury.  It was the first novel I’d written from a detailed outline. I finished within three months, and came in at nearly 160K words.  I later cut out enough words to make another short novel, had those chopped words not been so worthy of chopping.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Yeesh, I hate doing that.  It’s epic fantasy with a large cast of characters, gods who speak with mortals, battles and arguments, love and loyalty and loss, and a subtle form of earth magic.  It’s like other books with those things in it.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My own internal debates.  What happens when lifelong enemies decide they’re tired of fighting, or when the leaders want to end the fight but those they lead don’t want to?  What are the personal costs of fighting a weaker opponent who refuses to give up?  What are the moral implications of fighting an enemy who is weaker but more ruthless than you are?  What are the moral implications of not fighting, if that choice enables the enemy to hurt someone else?  When is it ethical to sacrifice your life—whether through action or death—and when is it ethical to use the willing sacrifices others make?  When does the act of defending one’s self cross the line to excessive aggression?  Why do people insist on saying, “It’s really that simple” when it obviously isn’t?

Odd as it sounds, I think about these things a great deal.  However, I very rarely discuss them because folks usually want to deal with real-world examples, and as soon as real-world examples are used, the discussion becomes one of politics.  And once politics enter the picture, Someone Must Be Right.

Sword and Chant lets me explore what happens to a culture, and to individuals, when they can’t find solutions that are good and right, and find themselves instead trapped doing what is ugly and necessary.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s filled with women and men who have families and friends, who argue and fight, who fall in love and defend one another, who are sometimes proud and sometimes ashamed, who have to lead with confidence even when they know they haven’t a clue what to do next.

And there is the Chant—god of sacrifice and patron of unfulfilled dreams.  He controls a skilled assassin who has an attitude, who’d be a pretty cool guy if he weren’t a god-enthralled killer who’s quite good at his job.

Who did you tag? I tagged two of my VPXV classmates–LaShawn Wanak and Stephanie Charette–and my longest-running critique partner and VPXVI grad Sandy Skalski.  There are a couple others I’ll be adding to the list, too.