Vorpal Blade Publishing Now Open

Oh my God, its been such a wonderfully strange week. Things are starting to move in the right direction. Really and truly. I have to take this moment to plug this book. If you’re an indie writer and you haven’t read Write. Publish. Repeat. You just need to literally drop everything and read it.

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I’m just going to say it right now. Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant, I love you guys, man.

This book is what you need. The subtitle of this thing is “The No Luck Guide to Self Publishing.” Get it, the NO LUCK guide. And that was exactly the frame of mind I was in, I had no luck.

But that was the biggest problem, I was relying on luck and not the right actions to sell books.

Yes, I know how dumb that sounds, but I wonder how many other writers are feeling like that. For years and years and years I sent manuscripts to New York and got the rejection slips. I remember advice from people saying, every time they get a rejection slip they cheer because it means they’re that much closer to an acceptance.

Well, that just sucks.

A while ago I began my own little program of reinforcing the positive. Instead of telling myself things like “I don’t know what I’m going to do” and “Oh God, when will it ever work” I decided on this mantra: “I get what I need to succeed.”

So every time one of those nasty little imps showed up, I just told it, “Hey Mother Fucker, I get what I need to succeed” and shortly after that I got Write. Publish. Repeat. and Donald Maas’s book “How to Write the Breakout Novel.”

Well, the first thing I got over was this fear of reading books on writing. I am still very selective, but I am also very open to them  now. This helps.

For the first time, I have a business head for this activity. Not so easily done, but I have always had a good business head in general. Only with my writing I felt like I was swimming in the deep part of the pool with no floaties.

I’ve started networking my writing business just like my other business and what do you know, I started meeting people who want to help me sell my books to other people who like to read the things I am writing. In fact, I have been invited as the guest author at a Gothic Halloween party.

I am more than thrilled.

Here’s the moral of this story: I’d had the breaks on! I was in, Rejection Slip Mode where everything sucks and where the day is always gray and where people sneer if they emote at all, but more likely they don’t even see you because you’re such a nobody.

Ah, the demons we must vanquish!

So, check this out (and this really does deserve a drum roll), I present to you, the official grand opening with a real business license and everything, of Vorpal Blade Publishing!

Yes, I need to get a logo made up and I will, but VBP is now officially open and officially my publisher. How do you like them apples?

Do I send myself rejection slips? Of course I do!

In celebration–sometimes when I go out and do Day Jobbing I run across folks who don’t want to use old green backs for the transaction. Used book stores often don’t, so we go the old fashioned route and barter. I have tons of second hand books that were acquired in just this way, but last week, I happened upon one of these pre-monetary-system fellows and we made a little deal. And what did VBP acquire? I present to you, the official VBP Machine, ta-da!

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Ain’t she a beauty. And you can see underneath some of my many books from second hand bookstores just sort of slopping all over the floor.

Anyway, she’s a Remington Standard Typewriter Number 10. From 1920 or something like that.

So, all of VPB manuscripts will now be typed on it.

Just kidding. I use too much correction tape on typewriters and got a “D” in typing class because I refused to stop looking at the key board. Yes, I got a “D” in typing. Hey but I got the credit and graduated!

Well, that brings this little event to a close. There are refreshments in the back and, as they say, don’t drink the Kool-aid. At least not the purple shit.

In closing, there are more things coming. Like a fancy Poppycock book trailer which is going to smoke like an Indian peace pipe. And the second Poppycock book is nearing completion. And Thomas Hunter and Godsign and, and, and…

For now, I bid thee adieu.

Real Books Are Still Better

Now, I know ebooks are the wave of the future and all that, but there is something to be said for the actual book. It simply makes it real. And you can put it on your bookshelf. I would say it’s a pretty handsome looking specimen at that. This baby will retail for around $16.00, which ain’t bad.

But indie authors beware, the Createspace salesman wanted to sign me up for their handy dandy in house service that does this for you, for a cool $300.00!

Well, no sir.

This cost me a cool $10.00. The templates for page setting couldn’t be easier on Creatspace’s website. I mean, you would have to be trying to mess it up.

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Book Wars

Lots of things to think about today. The news of Sony dropping their ebook department sort of shocked me awake. It got me thinking about all this publishing hullabaloo. Online there seems to be a rather frenetic discussion occurring over the social media airwaves. All kinds of speculations and doomsday speakers.

I always love how the doomsdayers rise up when things change, as if they’ve been waiting all along, hoping and praying for the bottom to fall out. You get that in all kinds of sectors, not just publishing. Occasionally, in the past I have even joined in on the dark proclamations of a dour consequence. (On June 6th, 2006 the world did not end, btw.)  

Well, I like to think as I approach the big 4-0, that I have learned something from this life. Yes, I think I have. That’s not to say I don’t have much more to learn. They say he who stops learning stops living, or something like that. 

So, in that festive mood, I shall step up to the mount and decree my own proclamation. I think that no matter the markets, no matter the devices or means of distribution of product, that ultimately the prize will go to the best contender. What the hell am I saying? 

This: paper books aren’t going away. Ebooks aren’t either. The indie regime isn’t going to overthrow the Big 6 and the Big 6 isn’t going to squash the little guy. The Book Wars of the twenty-first century aren’t going to destroy the world. (Darn! Nothing like a good apocalypse to keep everyone interested.) 

No one predicted the internet. You know, that’s a hell of a thing to say. I remember (he says as he takes out his false teeth) a world without the internet. Ah, the age of innocence when you had to actually face up to a clerk to buy your porno. Anyway, no one predicted the internet (and in this case, the Print on Demand publishing machine), so it has proven to  be a huge game changer for everyone everywhere. Well, game changer, not game destroyer. 

So, the playing field will ebb and flow and settle. The individual or company who puts out the best quality, the fastest most accessible way, will win the prize, i.e. get paid. 

When I was a young man, I worked at Green Giant for a summer. You know, “Ho, ho, ho Greeeen Giant!” Anyway, its a pea and corn canning factory. I was what they called a “froth washer.” My job was to sit in a big noisy room filled with conveyor belts and cauldrons and I had to watch the cauldrons and apply either a soap solution or an oil solution. The peas would come cascading into the cauldrons and if I had my solutions correct, the soap would make things sink and the oil would make things float and the peas would sink and go to the conveyor belts and the riffraff, the chafe and leaves or whatever, would float off the top to the gutters. The title of the job came because huge, billowing clouds of suds would accumulate from the soap and then we had to spray some God-knows-what solution on the soap to make the bubbles fizzle out. 

Later, I might tell the story of the other job I had there, “pepper dumper,” but not now. 

So, I believe it’s the same thing here. The good stuff will move onto the conveyors and the crap will float off the top to the gutters. Bad product and bad producers will be found out and the good stuff will stick around. I just don’t believe you can tweet or Facebook-Like a bad or not-good-enough book into fame and fortune. 

One company stated that the rise of the indie publisher is making it hard on them. Well, that’s a bit like saying too much rain kills crops. Even if it is true, what are you going to do about it? You can’t stop the rain. No, you have find a way to put out a better yield, i.e. a better product.  

 

Indie Versus Small Press, Which is Better?

Well, I got Prizm up. So, this little image on the side of the blog page here actually clicks through to the right Amazon page now. Hurrah! 

Can you pass the wine, dear, no not the bottle, the carton, thank you. It is truly cause for celebration. I mean, really. That book has taken quite the journey since its inception in 2007. Didn’t take that long to write, of course. It had other detours. Which leads me to this blog post. 

Some people may be wondering whether or not to self-publish (go indie) or go with a small press. I had that question too. I don’t anymore. In my mind there are two levels: big New York House and Indie. The in-between doesn’t work. Not for me and here’s why.

I have gotten two novels published with small presses. Each time I made the mistake of thinking that going with a small house would open me up to a fan base. I thought that if I was on their roster, I would be introduced to their loyal cult of eager readers. These things were assumptions on my part and I have no one else to blame. Really, I don’t. 

I was very hungry for validation. I wanted that seal, you know, the one that looks like a passport stamp and says, “This Work is Certified Good” displayed on my book covers. I wanted someone else to say, “Kid, you got a future here!”

Yeah…all that went out with the manuscript you wrap up in brown paper, tie together with twine and mail to yourself because you’re too poor and too romantic to get a real copyright. 

In order to understand this ridiculous mindset, you have to understand this next part. As a young man growing up, I loved bookstores. We had a B Dalton’s or something very similar in the local mall of my one horse town in Minnesota. And I would go in there and stare at the books, the covers, mesmerized and in love. When I found out about Dungeons and Dragons, well, no other places on earth could hold such wonder for me.

Every few months when I would visit my mom in dirty, stinking Minneapolis, down on Hennepin Avenue in that section eight apartment that smelled like boiled cabbage, after eating government issued cheese and powdered milk, we would go to the big bookstores. Well, it was Narnia all over again and better, Dark Narnia.

In those days, my parents (dad and step-mom) wouldn’t let me have that stuff. Now, get a load of this, it wasn’t drugs that I smuggled into my room, no pot or booze (though once I made a terrible, chalky wine out of apple cider in a glass jug at the bottom of my closet for six months) or even nudie photos. No sir, I smuggled in books. Novels and artwork.

Once my dad caught me bringing in The Art of Dragonlance under my over sized T-shirt. Long and tiresome (oh, my God) family “discussions” were had over the image of the dark wizard with a dragon’s head hanging in block and tackle behind him (Raistlin Mejere, in case you’re wondering) and so, I read my secret books at three a.m., my eyes wide, mind ablaze with all that wonderful, dark imagery. 

I remember staring up at the wall, the whole wall, where Piers Anthony’s books were displayed thinking: who is this guy and how do I get a wall of books devoted to me? I started writing Tales of Mulglania when I was twelve and got about two pages into, well, maybe four, handwritten…oh, it was so painful, I had no idea what I was doing and, well, I gave it up, but the images, the story, would bloom in my mind like some kind of angelic vision, and I would wander all around the parks and deserted farm roads, eyes cast skyward, divining visions and fancying myself some kind of other worlds prophet.

Well, my dream was and is to see my books on the shelf. To go into B Dalton’s or Barnes and Noble and see that wall of all my books. So, now you can see why, in going with a small press, craving approval and validation, played such a huge part.

I don’t think I am alone in this. I think artists need that. After all, they spend untold hours creating things with the purpose of having them viewed and appreciated by other people. That’s all it is. Not having your stuff viewed and admired…well, it’s like being a ghost, I mean, you’re dead. No one sees you.

Therefore, I went with two small presses and wish I hadn’t. Without slinging any mud, for this is not what this post is about, I found that what I can do, on my own, produces a far superior product. In the one case, no editing was done. Zero, zilch. I didn’t believe it, until I got the manuscript back and looked. Oh wow. Nada. And the cover, oh, as kindly as I can put it, was not competitive.

But then, who can I blame? In theory, I should never had submitted a manuscript with even one tiny error. Okay, true, but if I’m going to edit it myself, promote it myself and…the artwork I am commissioning now is (sigh) miles and miles and miles above what I was getting for “free.”  Only, it’s not free, you pay dearly. 

It is a hell of a thing, I suppose. A small press will want you to promote your books anyway, every step of the way. You will have to work harder at promotion too, because you won’t be able to do things like change pricing on Amazon, update descriptions and categories and otherwise steer the destiny of your book as well as if you owned the rights.

In one case I found that I had signed away audio rights. It’s too bad because my own voice is perfect for that piece. I don’t say my voice is perfect for everything that I write, but that one, it is. When I inquired about it, the publisher did not want to relinquish those rights and was conveniently absent when I asked about actually producing the audio book. I will eat my shoe if they make an audio book out of that thing. Without hot sauce too.  

But there again, my fault. I should have paid attention, should have…what, cared? I was too enamored that someone else thought the work was “good enough.” 

In the end, the work was always “good enough.” Better than “good enough.”

All that is the downside. The upside and it is an “up” is in one case I got to see how a pro editor operates. That helped me. Though honestly, the thing that helped me more was reading. It’s almost laughable, but if you just read a lot, so much of this stuff becomes apparent. 

I don’t think you should do it all yourself. I mean, you need perspective, you need someone to say, “air brush the nipples” so to speak and hunt for typos, tell you when one paragraph will work quite nicely instead of three. Well, I do, but you can pull all that together yourself. 

I still want a New York publishing contract (or several), not because I think it will help me produce a better product particularly, but because it will open up distribution lines and exposure. 

Yes, I still want to see that wall.