And so, that’s that.

The Author Earnings reports have, finally, clarified at least the outlines of the “shadow industry” of self-publishers on Amazon. The self-publishing industry is real, and it’s large, and working within it is in every way a valid choice for writers to pursue as a career.

I’ll keep the list of links in my post below, but probably won’t update that post further. The one bit that’s stayed with me, though, was from Eoin Purcell’s Why Traditional Publishers Should Surrender to Self-Publishing. Purcell said:

Well the truth is, if there was a war between self publishing and publishing, it’s over and authors (who are the major self publishers and hence the foot-soldiers, commanders and field marshals of self publishing’s forces) have won it.

That’s a strong statement, and it mirrors my own take on the situation after watching the self-publishing industry for three years now. The authors have won. That’s excellent, and may it continue going forward. If the entire publishing industry becomes more author-centered, that can only be good.

I look forward to seeing what Hugh & Co. come up with once they scrape some data from Barnes and Noble and other places. Many thanks to Hugh and Data Guy for this fine bit of work.

Update: And right on cue, Author Earnings publishes the report on Barnes and Noble. Go read it!

Second Update: I think this section of a blog post by Randy Ingermanson is worth noting:

There will always be a few big winners and a large number who don’t earn very much. There is a “high head” and a “long tail.”

But the important point is that there is a “broad shoulder”—a set of writers who are not at the very top and yet are earning substantial money (thousands of dollars per year, or tens of thousands per year). For most of them, this is not enough to live on. But it’s enough to make their life better. That’s cool.

And it is, both cool and hopeful. I think that’s what Hugh has been trying to prove for a while now.

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Author Earnings

Like many folks right now, I’m following Hugh Howey’s new project, Author Earnings. I will have more to say eventually. This is just a placeholder post where I can keep links to various discussions and reports on the project.

Indirectly related material:

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Friday check-in

All is well in my world. I’m writing, both fiction (the Faolan story) and non-fiction (a book on growing marijuana in Colorado). My only problem, of course, is well-explained by this picture. I found it on Twitter and I’d love to credit the artist but I don’t know who made it. Such truth, although as someone pointed out the final step is optional.

Creative process

I’ll check in again when I have something to say.

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The 2014 eFestival of Words

Once again Julie Dawson of Bards and Sages publishing is sponsoring the eFestival of Words, featuring the 2014 eFestival Best of the Independent eBook Awards. The eFestival offers much more than that, of course, and this year it will all take place from August 23 through August 25.

The eFestival of Words is a free, virtual book fair designed to connect readers with authors and publishers of digital books. For fans of ebooks, this is an opportunity to scout out hidden treasures and interact with authors. For those readers new to digital books, this is a chance to learn more about the format and what it can offer.

The festival features all of the things you would expect from a book fair: lively panel discussions, informative workshops, exciting guest speakers, prizes, games, and more. The only difference is that you can experience everything from the comfort of your own computer! No traveling to obscure locations or overcrowded convention centers. No high tolls and parking fees. No overpriced meals at the hotel because there are no affordable restaurants nearby. Just log in from your computer!

If you have a favorite independent eBook that you’d like to nominate, first read the award info and guidelines. You can view the list of 2013 winners at the eFestival site.

Nominations have already opened, and voting goes on until April 10. Nominees will be announced on May 5.

The awards provide an important peer-review process to find and publicize some of the best eBooks published by indendent authors and small press houses. But whether you take part in the awards process or not, mark your calendar for the eFestival itself. It looks sure to be a lot of fun with some of the most interesting readers and writers around.

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“Into the Rift” will be free, and then…

Just a quick note on Into the Rift, which is exclusive to Amazon’s Kindle Store through Jan. 13. This weekend, Jan. 10 and 11, Into the Rift will be free. If you like sword and sorcery shorts, please take a look and download it if you can.

After the 13th, I will make the story available at all other ebook stores. I will post here as it goes live on Apple, Smashwords, B&N, and others.

Meanwhile, I’m back to writing the follow-up story. I’ll keep you advised on that as well.

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Year-end Summing Up

In 2013 I wrote just under 45,000 words, which means that I didn’t meet my goal for the year. I did write more words than in 2013, which is great. And I’m happy with the story I published, and generally happy with the rest of the work I did, even though most of that work is still unfinished.

For 2014 I’ve again set my goal for 60,000 words total. That’s 5,000 words a month. I’ll keep you posted on how that goes.

There were two entire months this year — July and August — where I wrote nothing at all. Those months I do regret. It was at the point where I didn’t know how to finish the novel that was my largest bit of work in 2013. Eventually I turned to a short story and finished that, then started another one. For 2014, I don’t want to let that happen again. So a secondary goal is to write at least something every week and have no zero-word months.

There is a lot of argument among independent authors about what success means. Many writers consider success to be making a lot of money with your publishing efforts. Most of us would love to make a lot of money, but that doesn’t mean we all define success that way. I am one of those who does not.

Writing fiction is deeply satisfying to me, but it still doesn’t come easy. I’m learning a lot along the way, mostly about story structure, characters, and how to weave all the elements together. So for me, for now, success is the ability to continue to write and to see my abilities grow stronger. That is all. In that framework 2013 was a huge success, even though I made almost no money.

I turned 60 years old this past fall and yet I still don’t feel rushed. There is time to write, time to keep learning, to become a better writer and a better publisher. That is the only thing I can control, and so I will.

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Another free day

This Friday, Nov. 29, my short story Into the Rift, will once again be free in all Amazon Kindle stores. There will be two more free days before the story leaves Amazon Select and moves to additional distributors, probably in early January.

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About that quote

In the post below, I originally used the entire quote, as I found it on Goodreads. That full quote is here:

“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

I came back later and stripped out the first sentence, because as I thought about it I realized the sentence bothered me. It struck me as wrong. I initially read it as Vonnegut making the joke that becoming an artist is as shocking as being gay, to an ordinary family. I suppose he was making that joke, and back when he made the joke it was probably a fairly mild one, not particularly homophobic but more playing on the social expectations of the time.

Given that “A Man Without a Country” was published in 2005 (a collection of essays that was Vonnegut’s last book), it’s telling that already the line feels wrong to me. These days most of us agree that a gay child is, or should be, far less shocking than an artist. I love that we as a culture are becoming less homophobic and more loving towards our gay and transgendered compatriots. I didn’t like the implication that a gay child is somehow wrong, or that it’s “nervy” to come out, or that you will hurt your family if you are gay and let them know.

So I came back and stripped that sentence away, but I didn’t want to do it without noting why.

Families of the world, embrace your gay children! And your artistic children too, whether or not they overlap.

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Truth

The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.

― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

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Wednesday check-in

Here’s a quick update on Clary Books and me. Into the Rift is live and has had its first free days on Amazon. So far there has been one sale and fewer than 50 free downloads. Which means no one is paying attention to it and that is sad, though I have received a lot of lovely support from friends and family. I’m not worried because Rift is only the first stop on this particular journey. Onward into the future then.

Rift will be free again on Nov. 29, and then one day in December and one in January. After that, the story is leaving Select and will be published to all my other distribution channels. My other short story, Last Night, gets regular downloads on Smashwords and some of the sites they distribute to (mostly the Apple store and Sony), so I look forward to watching Rift in those channels. (Barnes and Noble occasionally sells one of my garden books, but has never moved a single copy of Last Night).

In the meantime, I am working on the next tale of Tahylam. The working title of the sequel is Faolan, which is the name of the young mage at the heart of the story. To begin, I sketched out a rough sequence of events and related notes. For the first time I used Scapple, brainstorming software designed by the creators of Scrivener. I love Scrivener and so far Scapple has been a good tool to help sort out my thoughts, which as usual are muddled.

WhatThe other tool I’m working with now is a book that I recommend to everyone, whether you’re a writer or not. It is called What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank, written by Krista D. Ball and published by Tyche Books, a small Canadian press. It’s subtitled “A fantasy lover’s food guide”.

This book is a delightful look at the historical record of food and drink as it applies to fantasy stories. How much food does a traveling army need, and where does it come from? What can your small group walking cross-country reliably expect to forage at different times of year? If they’re riding, what do they feed their mounts, and how much food can they carry? How do you keep the food from spoiling? And how long does it really take to stew a rabbit, or dress a deer?

Now that I write fantasy again, I struggle with the amount of world-building that must be done to flesh out the details behind every story. And these small questions of food reverberate across the culture. If a band of warriors steals food, that’s one kind of relationship to the people around them. If they expect tribute, that’s a different relationship entirely. If they stay at inns or buy food from farms, there must be certain class and economic structures in your world.

So thinking about the food and farms in Tahylam helps me understand the culture Vanessa lives in, and the customs and conventions of the Ranks. The funny part is that most background details are never shown in the story. But food (and drink) are always around and knowing where they come from affects everything you write, the whole arc of your story and the constraints of your world.

Krista’s book is great fun to read too, which is why I recommend it for readers as well as writers of fantasy. It is full of historical references without being academic or dry in any way. You’ll learn a lot, and see the worlds of fantasy with a deeper understanding.

As much as I love ebooks, you really should buy What Kings Ate and Wizards Drank in print because it has by far the loveliest cover of any reference book in the world. The book is not only intellectually but physically delicious. Try it.

Meanwhile, I’ll get back to writing.

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