Tag Archive: publisher

Somehow I managed not to offend the wrong people, and I have been invited back as a panelist and general resident wise-guy. I’ll let you know what panels and signings I shall have in a later post… probably in late April.

Meanwhile, “Space Bitch” is almost done. Right now, we’re at about 90%. I have to work on the ending a little, and then the first alpha edit will start. I don’t know if this will make it by Balticon, I have to talk with my publisher (who is out touring in Texas). I am still working on the title, and I will start working on getting some cover art after Katsucon. A sequel is already partially diagrammed out.

Everything is “after Katsucon” at this point because it’s less than 6 weeks away. That process is going smoothly. Last night Christine (my bride of almost 23 years and other co-chair) told me we’re ahead of schedule. I was at Magfest this weekend, working the table a little, Katsucon a lot, and finalizing deals and last minute updates with the Gaylord. A big crash meeting in a little over 2 weeks away! Yikes! But thankfully, I HAVE THE BEST STAFF ON THE DAMN PLANET and I am humbled and grateful to have therm work with me.

Well, I haven’t heard back from Wolfsinger since I signed the contract in January, but I just got a notice that my name is listed in the credits of the upcoming book, “A Taste of Armageddon.” I am not familiar with the insides of Wolfsinger, so I have no idea if I can claim this is taking a long time or not. But the book is now listed as “Coming Soon,” so … there you go.


Let me show you one page that sums up the problem:


That’s a lot of formats. Also, not all of them are really followed. Kindle has a format, “.mobi,” which if you decode various .mobi books (which may be illegal, but they are being shared willy-nilly out there), you realize publishers are being really lax with the standards. What I’m trying to do is get a standard format everyone can agree on, which I thought was EPUB, but there’s a 2.0 format and a 3.0 format. Given my most popular request is via the Kindle, which does not support EPUB, this is a kind of quandary.

All current readers support plain text, but then that looks like crap. PDF is supported by most readers, except the Kindle version 1, and “Azbooka WISEreader,” but I don’t care about them at the moment. Sadly, our early tests with PDF also looked like crap. Table of contents was messed up, the formatting looked like poop on the K2, and then the K1 doesn’t support it.

And none of this included the hell that is DRM. I’d rather avoid DRM. I think it punishes my honest readers and the pirates would just laugh at us like the laugh at the FBI warnings in front of movies. I can’t stop pirating, and DRM is just adding to the complications.

We have a new converting person, who has the final, final draft of the book. I have to admit, I cheated a little. The final, final draft I sent had a LOT of corrections from the print version. I can’t believe we had six people editing this book (me being one of them) and we missed SO MANY errors. All it took was a seventh editor, a friend of mine who did it on his volition without asking, to find probably over 100 mistakes in the form of missing words, transposed words, and a few words that were incorrectly used. Like I used “ancestors” where I should have used “descendants.” How fucking embarrassing for me. It’s because of this that I still firmly believe that there are two essential pieces to any book: an author and an editor. I don’t have an ego when it comes to an editor pointing out where I used “they” instead of “the” or “mixed words two with one another.” Spellcheckers don’t find things like that. I have no one to blame (but me, the originator of all these mistakes), because it went through six people; two of them who edit for a living. How could we have all missed so many? I guess there is no such thing as a perfect book, because when I did a poll on Ars Technica about what they hated most in e-Books, “constant misspellings and poor editing in comparison to the print version” was one of the tops ones. Really? That surprised me a lot. I guess my book will be the other way around.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.

Okay, we have run into a snag with the Kindle version. I won’t go into the saucy details because that’s just how it is, but there’s going to be a crash meeting this weekend. I have set a target for Tuesday, at the latest, as a private joke about something Arsians would call “LeafyCaust.” if you don’t know what an Arsian or LeafyCaust is, don’t worry about it. 🙂

Thanks for being patient 🙂

Edit: How is it that mere minutes after I posted this, it’s one of the top search results for “Leafycaust” and “Tuesday” on Google? Damn, Google… you scary!

Balticon 45 review

The good, the bad, the fantastic. All in all, GOOD SHOW GUYS! Yes, some stuff went wrong, and there were sleeping problems I had. But best Balticon for me in a long, long time (and the previous ones were pretty good as well).

Now, onto fixing the Kindle version of my book and LET’S GET PROMOTING!


Dear sweet Shub-Niggurath, this is going fast. I have many appearances which, truth be told, are the SAME appearances I was going to make anyway, but there you go. Not that the book is out and published, people are already buying copies. I still don’t have a Kindle version up, but that’s being worked on.

Of course, my BIGGEST thing coming up is Balticon, where I will be with Chris and Barb with their Fragile Gravity/Sledgebunny promotion. That’s in a week! YIKES! I have books, bookmarks, and all my links are working. So far, I am in 5 panels, but the Balticon schedule has not been finalized yet. Here’s a tentative (as in, may change any day) schedule:

Fri 7:00pm – Maryland Foyer – Book signing with Bud Sparhawk, Grig Larson, and Eric Schulman
Sat 9:00am – Pimlico – “Sleeping while you pretend to listen to Punkie Read” panel. 9:00am on a Saturday? Gees… 😛
Sun 6:00pm – Chesapeake – Improv Comedy Jam (with Alex White, Mark L Van Name, Roch Sigfrit, and Eric Kimball)
Mon 12:00pm – Derby – Zombie Survival Plan: Have You Got Yours?

The trade paperback version of my book is listed in Amazon, but “out of stock.” Soon, baby, soon…


I suspect this is because Lightning Source has it in a printing run. The books, according to my publisher, should be in print on Friday. Yeah, this will definitely beat the Kindle version. This is a surprise, as I thought the Kindle version, due out next week, would beat the printed version. I guess not.

Seen the final, final cover of Trolley with text, UPC, and so on. Corrected the last of the terrible kerning disaster of 2011, and WE ARE GO FOR LAUNCH! God, I hope I have copies for Balticon!

Up next, the wilds of Kindle formatting…

Yep. Final final draft submitted to publisher. All mistakes I left in are cemented for the rest of history. Oh, I’ll be doing a reading and stumble across something, and think, GAAAAAAHHHH!!! But it’s too late now. I shall suffer for the end of time.

Christine, who did my cover, noted that no artwork is ever done. Same with writing. I mean, I could tweak and edit the HELL out of this thing until everyone dies of old age and I look like one of those many writers who always “are writing a novel” and nothing ever comes of it. I mean, I published before, but this is a NOVEL, not some goofy collection of short adventures about a Punk Walrus (but believe me, I am proud of that work). May 3rd was a hard deadline.

The book is being published by Soylent Publications, via Lightning press, and will be available for the Kindle and in hard copy. A free teaser is being completed that, when it is published to Amazon.com, I will publish it here, too. I’ll give you the dedication, because I really want to thank these people.

This book is dedicated to Christine, the love of my life, and to the best and most understanding son on the planet, Christopher. I’d also like to deeply thank Chance and Scarlet, whom I love like daughters, and the best assistants I have ever had. This book would not have happened without all of you.

Anya and Rogue, thanks for holding up my lantern when things were darkest. Many thanks goes to Kory and Alison, as well as the rest of MSD, who gave me guidance and support at many conventions, as well as WTMI out of GenCon. Thanks to Bruce and Cheryl, who supported my first writing endeavor, kept me from being homeless, and told me not to quit my day job. Thank you, Suzi, for putting up with all the crap surrounding my first book; there is a spot in Goth heaven (if there is one) for you. And to the beta readers, thank you for your wisdom and edits. To the Punk Walrus fans, thanks for sticking with me, especially April, who is better than any DVD commentary.

Last but not least, I bow humbly before all the unsung heroes of fandom conventions: the volunteers who work tirelessly to to run them. They pull off some of the most amazing parties, events, and programming. Like watering holes for us struggling artists, they give us the support, late-night banter, and sage advice on how not to be a douchebag guest. It is my hope that I honor your sacrifices in sanity and vacation time during my continuing journeys among you literary carny folk.

This book was written entirely on Open Source software. OpenOffice, gedit, and NotePad++ provided a writing environment on the Ubuntu and CentOS Linux distribution. In addition, GIMP was used to do some of the graphics. Please support Linux, Open Source software, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

So I have this book, right?

Last year, a small publisher read some of my works, and I got picked up for short story in an an anthology (which is threatening to go nowhere due to a herding cats syndrome) and the novel, “Trolley.” So I wrote some shorts, and while the anthology is going nowhere, another short got picked up by Wolfsinger. The novel is in final beta mode, and this looks like a decent hit. The editors said the same thing: great book, work on your grammar, here’s some changes, but let me be frank: this is good enough to have a major publisher pick this up.


Now, by “major publisher” they mean Del Ray, Tor, Viking, and so on. All publishers you’ve heard of, or at least seen the logo on the spine. Right now, the company that is doing my novel is small and local, BUT, they have a six month exclusivity contract with a default non-renewal should I re-sell the concept to another publisher. Basically, after six months, I have full rights to my book again and can re-sell it to them, or get another (perhaps bigger) publisher. They are focusing on getting authors off the ground, and don’t mind to bask in the glow of someone who gets famous. This is good, long-term, for them.

Major publishers don’t take submissions directly. I’d have to have an agent, which is a PITA, and will cost time and money. The way major publishers run (according to the trades I read) is that they have requests about 6-12 months ahead of time with all kinds of marketing jargon. “We’re looking for cooking books in the female post-college graduate space,” or “our studies show that coffee table books about midgets in medieval armor will sell well in the late teen demographic for Christmas 2011.” So they tell that to agents, who then look among their pool, and select authors they have bios and resumes for. The chance of me getting picked, regardless of skill, is low. Even if I did get picked, there’s no guarantee I’d get published, and even if I did get published, there’s no guarantee I’d make much money or see any sunlight.

For instance, I have sold two screenplay “options” which means the studio has the rights to produce it by paying me to transfer intellectual property (IP) ownership. This is real common; most scripts and options never see the light of day, it’s like a form of IP squatting. I sold these rights fully well knowing that if my stories become a major motion picture, I already gave up those rights. But I got money for them, which is what I wanted. Now if a major motion picture comedy about the TSA sold like a 50s hygiene film every becomes popular at Cannes, I can bask in the knowledge I did that. And the studio may come back to me for more ideas.

A major publisher would own my work in a similar way. They’d have the rights, so if they sold it to a major studio, I’d get a cut but maybe not much of one. Just because you’re famous, doesn’t mean you’re rich. Being a famous author is not like winning the lotto. One of my friends who was on the NYT best seller list made a total profit of $16,000 off her book (not including speaking engagements she made on her own). Luckily, she made inroads into the Star Trek venue, and makes a decent living doing 4-5 books a year. I spoke to a multi-Nebula and Hugo award winner last year, and she said she “does okay,” but living in Nowhere, Minnesota on a military retirement income helps pay the bills. She also makes some side money in guest speaking appearances. Authors like Le Carre, Stephen King, and JK Rowling are rarities in the industry. Not to mention the outlets for some of the major publishers are vanishing: Border’s Books, for instance, can’t pay their bills. A huge Canadian publisher recently went bankrupt. And why?

The Internet is changing everything.

Meanwhile, I spoke with some people who are self-publishing through Amazon.com who are making fairly good money. If your book sells “only” 5000 copies, which would be considered “paltry and embarrassing failure” to a big publishing house, you could make a net profit of $25k. Plus, if you start making best sellers via word-of-mouth, you have control over what you publish, how much, and who gets the movie rights. There are some people making major profits selling “raunchy romances” (something my publisher works with as well) for about $3. They have followers in the hundreds of thousands, and even though their profit is maybe $1 or less per title, that’s several hundred thousand dollars per title for some of the top semi-smut authors whose names are practically unheard of (if they are even real; some might be multiple people under the same pen name).

But the stigma of self-publishing is still there. I have been to cons, I have seen the lonely guys who set up a card table, put down their staple-bound, single-color publications in neat piles, and sell a few out of a cash-box. Later, they pack up their merchandise into their AMC Pacer and drive home on Sunday with a slumped posture. “I made $150 this weekend, and spent it all on gas and food.” They have no ad budget. They sell to the same people until the market taps out at about 30 regular customers.

Major publishers have no promise of advertising, either, unless you’re a big name that will “grow the brand.” Have you been to a book store, and looked through all the books? Know most of the names? Have you even heard of 10% of them? Maybe if you’re a big fan in a small niche, but for John Q. Public, that’s never the case. It’s mostly based on cover art and “this author is like this more famous one.” In the young adult (YA) market, when Harry Potter became popular, “schools for witches and wizards” because a sudden niche that I think was an embarrassing attempt. But that’s how the publishers work, “We need more wizards and witches in the YA reader space…” and the agents sift through their files…

In my case, I already have a small following. People know me. I do lit podcasts, have author friends, work the convention scene, and have enough friends of friends to at least sell a few hundred titles (if my past book in pre-Internet 1993 was any indication). I have sold short stories, two screen play options, and I do some ghost writing for a few blogs and reviewers you might have heard of (but I can’t say, because of NDA). Then word of mouth will expand that to probably 1000 in a year (if the book is any damn good, which it seems to be). I know authors, people in the industry, and have a few strings I can pull locally. I have a far better head start than a new author from out of nowhere (which, given the recent authors we have had on the Balticon podcast, doesn’t mean you won’t succeed, either). Plus, this won’t be my Hail Mary pass; I have quite a few titles boiling, some already-bought-to-be-published shorts, two sagas, and whatever else I write in the next few years. I don’t expect to be a one-hit wonder because I am aiming for steady work.

I want to be the Edie McClurg of the author world. That girl has an acting and voiceover resume that spans decades, even though she’s no “super star.” She’s a hard worker, and a steady worker without the giant lens of fame searing her every move.

But all endeavors like this involve risk. On one hand, I know I am taking a risk not trying to jump up and down like a toddler at the candy store counter during Christmas, trying hard to be seen by the man at the counter. Maybe not taking the hand of a giant adult publisher to lead me to a publishing future is a big mistake. But all the successful adults learned on their own as kids growing up. Plus, those grownups may NOT have my best interests at heart. Major publishers are a company, and only survive treating authors and works as a mass commodity. Then there are some that are underhanded. Chris Hardwick said on his days of “Singled Out,” the studio sent everyone a clock radio as a Christmas gift, then billed them for it. Salt’n’Pepa, huge music pop stars of the 90s, made only $40,000 in the end after the studio charged them back for limo rides, parties, and promotions. It was all legal, but those poor girls did not have the wits to read the fine print. The album sales made millions, and they were dead broke.

So far, my writing career has pulled in maybe, maybe $400/year. I am 42 years old, and in about 8-10 years, the IT industry (which I love and adore) will start passing me by and I have to have a backup plan. It’s time to take this seriously from a “wouldn’t it be nice to be a well-known author?” to “fuck, I better have some age-proof, sit-in-a-chair-with-massive-arthritis, career plan soon.” I am not sure I want to risk my future in the hands of a giant corporation.

True, maybe in a few years I’ll read this post and slap-drag my face in embarrassment “what was I THINKING?” I’ll ask, sitting in my Random-House-paid yacht. But I have to start somewhere, and this seems like the smartest way to do it for now.