publishing

 

I attended Archon38 this past weekend. Archon is the annual Science Fiction convention for the greater St. Louis area. The St. Louis metropolitan area is one of those oddball border communities where half the population lives on one side of the state line and the other half on the other. This explains why while Archon is actually held in Collinsville, Illinois, it is still considered a St. Louis convention and is hosted by St. Louis Science Fiction, Ltd. Unfortunately, the state line in this instance happens to be the Mississippi River, one of the biggest rivers in the world, which means if you live on the Missouri side one has to traverse a major bridge, and thus a major bottleneck.

I worried as I approached the Polar Street Bridge that I’d end up in a major backup, but I zipped right across, and was quickly on my way to Collinsville. I took this as a good omen. Boy was I right.

One of the prime motivating factors for me to go to Archon this year was that I learned late in the game that one of my favorite people was going to be a guest/panelist – none other that Genevieve Ching, who writes under the names G. P. Ching for young adult and Genevieve Jack for more mature readers.

A line at the registration table.

Waiting to register

The only snag in the day was registration. The process was unduly long, but it gave me a chance to chat with a few folks in the line about conventions past, Archons in particular. The registration desk was using those cube things for credit cards, and the wireless signal kept dropping out on them. Finally, to the applause of many, they strung two big Ethernet cables across the hallway and hardwired their connection to get things moving along. Hopefully they’ll do that from the start next year as signals are always bad in convention halls.

Once registered I set out to find Genevieve. Genevieve was one of the early participants in #FridayFlash, and I’ve been following her online for years. I simply could not pass up the opportunity to meet her in person. I found her display right off, but alas, she was not there – probably doing a panel.

So I ducked into the dealer’s room to visit my friend and potter extraordinaire, Christine Collins of Mud Cat Studio. She does wonderful work in clay and has also branched out into jewelry. Don’t tell my girls, but I picked up these lovelies from Chris. Santa may just leave them under the tree.

Two ceramic cups, one with a fairy, one with a winged cat.

Cups by Christine Collins

After my visit with Chris I went out and found Genevieve at her booth along with her husband, Aaron. I introduced myself and generally swooned in her awesomeness. She really is as wonderful in person as online, and Aaron is every bit as nice.

Genevieve Ching at her table.

The best pro table at the Con.

I found out that she had a panel coming up in an hour or so on Publishing In the Digital Age, so I made a point of finding the room before woofing down a quick lunch. ($8 for a pretzel and a soda – ouch!)

I only attended two panels this year: Publishing In the Digital Age, and Medical Nano Technology: Were are My Nanobots? As I get older I find I don’t have the stamina to work a convention like I used to. I’ve decided that next year I’m going to preregister and get a hotel room for Friday and Saturday night so I can do more but still rest up on demand.

Publishing In the Digital Age was a terrific panel discussion moderated by Dan Koboldt with Trudy Myers and Genevieve as his other panelists. It’s always nice when the full panel shows up. This panel discussion was worth the entire price of admission all by itself. The authors were very forthcoming on how to handle the business end (as to the production end) of being a self-published author. Important things I learned included:

  • hire a good cover artist – without a good book cover you’re dead
    - you can get a high quality book cover design for as little as $100
  • hire a good (emphasis on good) line editor
    - a good line editor might run you around $1200 for a manuscript of 60-80K words
  • hire a good developmental editor
    - a good developmental editor might run you around $800, for similar sized manuscripts
  • if piracy becomes a problem, hire a firm to hunt them down and issue C&D orders
    - that can run you around $45/month
  • free helps sell
    - if you have a series, consider giving the first title away once the second title is available
  • with the advent of ereaders and cell phone apps novella’s are back
    - be sure readers are fully aware it is a short work or you may antagonize them
  • put out a newsletter
    - shoot for around 1,000 subscribers, realizing of course that it will take some time to achieve that
  • churn is good – strive to have several new releases a year
    - it maintains reader interest in you as a writer
  • write (see churn, above)
The three member panel for publishing in the digital age.

Panel – Publishing in the Digital Age

I cannot emphasis those last two enough. Genevieve told us that she tries to write 2,000 words a day. 2000 words a day! When editing she shoots for three chapters a day. She has produced nine novels since starting in 2011. She is incredibly productive.

I have always wondered how much financial investment it takes to get a manuscript into shape for publication. From my notes above one can expect to put out something in the neighborhood of $2100 just to get a book in print. Of course some of those costs might get skipped for the first book (at the cost of quality), but once it starts generating revenue use that money to a) fix the first book, and b) get the successive books in better shape before they go out the door.

Henry Stratman seated on stage discussing nanobots in medicine.

Panel – Where Are My Nanobots?

The other panel I attended was Medical Nano Technology: Where are My Nanobots, with a panel of one – Henry Stratman. I always try to catch Stratman as he is a very dynamic speaker and exudes enthusiasm for his topic, which is usually real science in nature. While he did not disappoint me this year I can’t share any of my notes with you since I lost my pen between panels. But if you enjoy panel discussions that are of the science fact variety, I heartily recommend you try to catch H. G. Stratman at every opportunity.

After Henry’s panel I debated the pros and cons of staying or going. There were still things worth doing but I’d have to work dinner in there somewhere. At 8 bucks for a pretzel and soda I shuddered at the thought of what real food would cost me at the convention center, and going out to eat alone does not appeal to me in the least. I decided to chuck it in. My mission was accomplished, I had met Genevieve Ching in person. Life is good.

Me and Gen in front of her table.

Me and Gen in front of her table.

There is a new bridge across the Mississippi River, complete with new highway ramps. I had not been to Illinois since it opened. So, of course, I got lost on my way home.
~jon

 

Too funny. This just in from Twitter:

 

 

 

I have been debating with myself about the possibility of doing a Best of Friday Flash – Volume Two. But before I even consider doing a call for submissions I thought it best to share some information about how we are doing on Best of Friday Flash – Volume One and then get the take of the community at large. This way we can all consider it with our eyes wide open with no delusions concerning the fame and fortune we might expect.

As you may recall we decided that the proceeds of Volume One sales would go into a kitty for the promotion of Friday Flash, most likely to pay for prizes for readers and/or writers contests. Of course the nature of the prizes would depend on the amount of revenue we generated.

So, how’d we do?

Here are the numbers as of today:

Ebook sales via Smashwords
23 units sold for a royalty of $50.98

Physical book sales via Amazon/CreateSpace
50 units sold for a royalty of $16.90

Grand Totals: 73 units sold for $67.88 in gross sales.

If we were paying the authors on a shares basis that means each person would have made just about a buck. In other words, don’t quit your day jobs.

So my question to all of you in the Friday Flash community is simply this: In light of these sales figures do you want to do another Best of Friday Flash anthology? And if so, what do you want to do with those proceeds?

Whether or not we do another round of the Best of Friday Flash is in your hands. I expect sales of Volume One will continue to trickle in whether or not we produced a Volume Two, and we can use those proceeds as originally planed to fund prizes for Friday Flash writer’s contests. If we do decide to do a Volume Two then we need to decide what we will do with those proceeds – plow them back into Friday Flash promotional activities, or pay them out on a shares basis to each contributor?

Please use the comments to give your take on both questions:
1) Do we delve into BOFF – 2?
2) If so, do we use the proceeds from BOFF – 2 for promotional events, or do we pay them out to the contributors?
It’s all up to you.
~jon

 

Seems many folks were either busy with Christmas preparations or were just plain snowed in this week. Still, we had 50 stories this week, with one debut. As always there is lots of variety and some outstanding talent on exhibit. And for some reason there seem to be a lot of Christmas stories this week. Go figure.

Please be sure to visit our debut participant, Jennifer Joseph, and leave her a comment and a Christmas cookie or two.

If your story is not in the listing please visit the Collector and add the details. Then shoot me. er, I mean, then shoot me an email and let me know it’s there and I’ll add it to the listing. Thanks for participating in #FridayFlash.

The Stories

Winter’s Bride by Icy Sedgwick @icypop ~ Fantasy ~

White Christmas by Virginia Moffatt @VirginiaMoffatt ~ Unspecified ~

Where the Trains Used to Run Part 2 by Lionel Braud @ltrain75 ~ Literary ~

What’s The Best Christmas Movie? by John Wiswell @Wiswell ~ Experimental ~

Try the Salsa, Y’all! by David Wilson-Burns @fictdoodles ~ Humor ~

Traveling to a Merry Christmas by E. D. Johnson @geektreasure ~ Slice of Life ~

The Waldgeist by Vandamir Windrider @Vandamir ~ Paranormal ~

The UCF Stories Christmas Special: The Cleaner by Sam Adamson @FutureNostalgic ~ Fantasy ~

The Path to Pastels by Jason Coggins @JaseCoggins ~ Fantasy ~

The Night Before Christmas by Rebecca Emin @RebeccaEmin ~ Humor ~

The Mythical Creatures Employment Exchange. #Five by Justin Davies @flyingscribbler ~ Cross Genre ~

The Golden Moment by Linda Simoni-Wastila @drwasy ~ Literary ~

The City That Never Spoke by David D Sharp @aweeadventure ~ Fantasy ~

The Bride of Oglingston Spitworthy by Catherine Russell @ganymeder ~ Humor ~

Swan’s Act by A. M. Harte @am_harte ~ Experimental ~

Southbound by Harry B. Sanderford @HBSanderford ~ Unspecified ~

Some Things Are Mine by Johanna Harness @johannaharness ~ Fantasy ~

Snow in Paris by Lara Dunning @LaraDunning ~ Fantasy ~

Snakeskin by Rachel Blackbirdsong @RBlackbirdsong ~ Literary ~

Singing Galway Bay by Kari Fay @morganafiolett ~ Slice of Life ~

Santa’s Secret War by Eric J. Krause @ericjkrause ~ Fantasy ~

Running in Circles by T.J. McIntyre @southernweirdo ~ Unspecified ~

Rabid Bunny by Jennifer Joseph @creativeconduit ~ Horror ~ Debut

Quiet Morning on the Square by Michael J. Solender @mjsolender ~ Humor ~

Pure Evil by David Wilson-Burns @fictdoodles ~ Horror ~

Phil Something by Tom Allman @yoohootom ~ Paranormal ~

NASTY by COLINJAMES @CRJAMES55 ~ Humor ~

Nail That Gift by Donald Conrad @NoddlaNocdar ~ Slice of Life ~

Merry Zmas by Steve Green @n/a ~ Horror ~

JiNGLE NELLE, JiNGLE NELLE by Absolutely*Kate @AbsolutelyKate ~ Crime ~

Jennie’s Christmas Miracle by Karen Schindler @karenfrommentor ~ Romance ~

Jarboe, Lord of Tater Town by Aaron Conaway @M_Gideon ~ Magical Realism ~

I’ll Be Home for Christmas by Maria Kelly @mkelly317 ~ Slice of Life ~

I Heard the Bells by Ramsey Lyons @ramslyons ~ Horror ~

Heroes Wanted (Part 6) by Stephen Book @StephenBook ~ Western ~

Here We Come A-Wassailing by J. M. Strother @jmstro ~ Slice of Life ~

Frostbite: A Mafia Family Christmas (pt.1) by Anne Tyler Lord @AnneTylerLord ~ Cross Genre ~

Clara’s Question by Stephen Hewitt @ThoughtMonkeyZ ~ Slice of Life ~

Christmas, 1976: The Bronx from Franky Benítez by Julio Ricardo Varela @julito77 ~ Literary ~

Christmas Past by Olivia Tejeda @SimplyOlivia ~ Slice of Life ~

Christmas is Over! by Deanna Schrayer @deannaschrayer ~ Cross Genre ~

Christmas Cabin by Aidan Fritz @AidanFritz ~ Horror ~

Big Toe Walkabout by Vincent Eaton @VincentEaton ~ Cross Genre ~

Be Careful What You Wish For by David Robinson @DW96 ~ Cross Genre ~

Anti Claus is Coming to Town by Tim VanSant @TimVanSant ~ Humor ~

All I Want For Christmas Is A Clean Rap Sheet by Al Bruno III @albruno3 ~ Humor ~

A Time To Reflect by Thom Gabrukiewicz @tgabrukiewicz ~ Unspecified ~

A Solstice Gift by Angie C. @techtigger ~ Fantasy ~

A Christmas Peril by Melissa L. Webb @melissalwebb ~ Paranormal ~

A Christmas Crime by David Barber @thetwoblokes ~ Crime ~

In the News

Emma Newman announced some exciting news. She has another book deal, with eMergent Publishing this time, for her short story anthology ‘From Dark Places.’ The original collection is going to be re-released as Volume One with a follow on Volume Two, both as ebooks. Then both will be combined for a nice print edition sometime next year. Congratulations, Emma, and congratulations to eMergent co-founders Jodi Cleghorn and Paul Anderson for signing a terrific talent. Champagne all around.

Dan Powell has a story, ‘The Last Year of Father Christmas‘ in the Metazen Christmas Charity E-Book 2010. Congratulations, Dan. It’s all for a good cause, so check it out.

Please take a moment to read this appeal from the occasional Friday Flasher and all around great person, April Hamilton, concerning the future of Publetariat. I’ve found the Publetariat very useful over the past couple of years and would hate to see it go under. Help if you can, or simply offer her some words of encouragement. I’m pulling for you, April.

If you have news for or about the Friday Flash community please let me know. I’m always happy to help spread the word. Tips work a lot better than me just stumbling upon them. Thanks. ~jon

The wrap

Thanks to all our readers. We love you. And please, if you enjoy a story leave comments when you visit. Writers love feedback almost as much as chocolate. Maybe more! Then go tell your friends to read it too. Help these writers grow.

You can subscribe to the #fridayflash hashtag (external link) on Twitter every week for more great flash fiction.

We’re on Facebook (external link) too.
~jon

 

5 Thing ThursdayThe five top lessons I learned in doing the Best Of Friday Flash – Volume One:

1: Word Processing Beyond The Basics

If you are like me there are style controls built into your word processor that you’ve never used and may not even realize were there. It turns out these style controls, for headings and paragraphs, are essential when laying out a manuscript if you want to avoid stress induced insanity. Some of the key styles I discovered are well worth setting up include:

  • Heading 1 – for story titles, or chapter titles if doing a novel instead of a collection of stories
  • Heading 2 – for authors
  • TOC Heading – for maintaining sanity and generating the TOC (see 2, below)
  • Body Text First Line – Used to make the lead paragraphs non-indented and with a little added space between it and the author’s name.
  • Body Text Indented – Used to indent interior paragraphs, rather than using vertical white space to set them off. It is important to minimize vertical white space where practical as over the course of a manuscript extra white space can significantly add to page count, and thus to list price.
  • Body Text Scene Break – At scene breaks you need a little extra vertical white space to cue the reader on the shift.
  • Body Text Minutia – In addition to indentation and vertical spacing, Styles also defind such properties as Font, Typeface, and Size. I set up Minutia to handle all the text on the copyright page so it did not take up too much space.
  • Body Text Bio – I used a slightly different style for the author’s bios to help set them off from the main text of the stories.

Both Microsoft Word and OpenOffice have Style settings. Until this project I never used them. Now I would not layout a manuscript without them. The advantage is once you have them set up, and you decide you’d really like all those authors to be in Comic Sans instead of Arial Narrow, you change it once in the Style and it applies to the entire manuscript. This saves you a ton of work. Get to know your Styles, they will become your best friends.

2: Table of Contents Tricks

There are two methods for laying out tables of content, one for ebooks and one for print books (see 3, below, for other ebook vs print variations). For ebooks your table of contents should not have page numbers. Readers of ebooks can adjust font size, which of course effects page layout. For most ebook formats page numbers are meaningless (PDF being the exception). Instead, the table of contents should be hot-linked to jump to the title within the text. That is one omission I made on the BOFF, I did not hot-link the TOC. I was simply too frustrated at that point to deal with it. I hope to update the BOFF ebook with a hot-linked TOC sometime in the future, and if you have already bought a copy I will replace it for free at that time.

Print books, on the other hand, need tables of contents with accurate page numbers. Fortunately most modern word processing packages will automatically generate tables of contents for you, based on the styles (see 1, above) you’ve set up. This works pretty well out of the box for most situations, but there is one major oversight. If you try to set up a multi-line TOC (i.e. a TOC based on Header One for Title and Header Two for author) you end up with an horrid academic paper type of TOC. To wit:

Her Migration ……………. 11
Shannon Esposito ……… 11
In Memory Alone ……….. 13
Al Bruno III ……………… 13

and so on.
I’m sorry, that looks like crap in a collection of short fiction.

What I wanted was:

Her Migration | Shannon Esposito …………… 11
In Memory Alone | Al Bruno III ……………… 13

Trying to do this out of the box with the TOC layout tools available in your word processor will drive you nuts. I spent days on this little problem. Finally someone on the OpenOffice forums offered a work around that does the job for print versions, though I would not like it much for PDF. His solution: create a tiny line of text at the top of each story with the title, a separator (I used a pipe | ) and author. Set it up as a special header type in your Styles (see 1, above), and make the text white. The faked out header will not be visible in the printed version and can be used to set up the TOC with the out of the box tools. This will work with PDF output too, but a reader could “discover” these fake headers when selecting text. It’s a rather kludgey solution, but it works.

By the way, the reason for the pipe instead of , by as a separator is it saved horizontal space, meaning some of the longer Title/Author combos did not wrap onto two lines for a more favorable aesthetic.

3: eBook Formating vs Print Book Formatting

I covered a good portion of this when discussing the table of contents, but there are two other main differences between digital and print worth noting – page breaks, and footers. Generally you don’t need page breaks in an ebook. As mentioned before, readers are likely to monkey with their font sizes, which may blow your nicely laid out page breaks out of the water. Avoid the frustration, both on your part in setting them up, and on the readers part when the turn the “page” only to find the last word of the last paragraph in that chapter. Instead, rely on your Styles (See 1, above) to give the reader a satisfying white space separation between between scenes and chapters. (Don’t quote me on that, I am not 100% sure ebook readers respect Style spacing, but I think they do. I’ll know more once I actually have an ebook reader.)

Footers are used to place and format page numbers. Thus you need them in print books and you need to eliminate them for ebooks. Yes, you will end up with two separate and distinct copies of your manuscript when done, one for print (and PDF), and one for digital.

4: Project Set Up At CreateSpace

I could do a 5 Things on CreateSpace alone, but in all fairness, they are very responsive to feedback. The main thing you need to do with CreateSpace is get familiar with their set up menus. I suggest you do this with a fake book you work end-to-end, with no intention to actually print it, and then delete the project once you’ve got it all figured out. The main problem is that CreateSpace uses multiple steps and it is all menu driven. Some of the menu choices are not obvious, some of them are downright frustrating. For example, when setting up CreateSpace insists on an “Author”. I am not the author of the BOFF, I am the editor. There is a sub-category for “Editor”, but it seems to be for listing the editor in addition to the author, like you might see on a textbook. In the post process survey I mentioned this little problem and was please to get a response from CreateSpace informing me that if this should crop up in the future all one need do is request they manually change you to Editor before you commit to print. As I said, they do seem to be quite responsive.

The other problem with CreateSpace is if you make a change to your cover or your content, or if they find a error in your uploaded manuscript which violates one of their set up rules you have to fix it and then wait up to 48 hours to have it reviewed again. It was not until layout was completed that I discovered the bar code box overprinted the bottom text of the back cover. I had to contact the cover artist and ask her if she would move the bottom text up some to eliminate the overlap. Then I had to upload the new cover. Then if they find another error you repeat the cycle. I did three or four cycles, which chews up considerable calendar time. So what kind of errors are we talking about here?

Your cover indicates your are J. M. Strother, and your copyright page indicates you are Jon M. Strother. The author must match between cover and copyright. My bad. 48 hours.

Your cover indicates you are J. M. Strother and your copyright page indicates you are Jon M. Strother. The author must match between cover and copyright. What? Oh no, my name is in the minutia twice. I only fixed one! My double bad. Another 48 hours.

We have found a reference to Amazon.com in your text body. If you list Amazon.com you must indicate at least two other markets your manuscript is available from. Say what? That one just seems insane to me, but who am I to argue. I deleted the reference to Amazon.com (sorry Christopher) and resubmitted. Another 48 hours.

You get the idea. In the post process survey I suggested they point out multiple errors the first time around so they could be fixed all in one cycle. They got back to me right away and said they would look into doing just that. I kind of like these CreateSpace folks.

5: Book Pricing

CreateSpace has a list-price estimator. It’s kind of hard to find, and not all that accurate. It guesstimated the BOFF would cost $8.99, about two bucks more than I would like, but a price I could live with. But when I got done and asked to finalize it the actual list price came out to $10.99. I was dismayed. As much as I love the BOFF I thought most folks would pass at that price.

I expressed my dismay online and Laura Eno suggested I try a different format size (6” x 9” instead of 5” x 8”), and to use Arial 10pt instead of Times New Roman 11pt. I made those changes, which significantly reduced the page count. This was accomplished in no time via (drum roll please) the Styles (see 1, above). Then the cover had to be resized and both cover and content uploaded again. Doing all this brought the BOFF in at $7.99, much better than eleven bucks. At this price we make 5 cents on each copy sold via Amazon, and $1.65 on each sold through our CreateSpace eStore. (By the way, adding just two more pages to the BOFF would knock that Amazon royalty down to 1 cent. Tightening up stories by controlling vertical white space is critical.)

Conclusions

So, the lessons learned here are: get to know your word processor’s Styles and Table Of Contents tools, preplan your manuscripts both for print and digital formats, and try to minimize your page count. I suggest you make a fake book and take it up to, but not including, the approval stage at CreateSpace so you can familiarize yourself with the menu structure. Then just delete the sample project and go for it. Also, ask for help when you need it. It will save you untold amounts of hair.

Let me know if any of these points need further clarification, or share your own tips in the comments below.
~jon

 
The BOFF

The BOFF

I know a ridiculous amount of time has passed since the Best of Friday Flash was first released as an ebook. The physical book was supposed to come out shortly afterward.

Unfortunately one delay ran into another: I had a devil of a time figuring out how to generate the Table of Contents, getting the PDF formatted correctly, and then getting the whole CreateSpace process figured out. My only excuse is, I’ve never done this before.

At long last I can inform you that tonight the Best of Friday Flash – Volume One has been submitted to CreateSpace for publication. I should get a response from CreateSpace within 24 to 48 hours. If all is well I should then be able to order my proof copy, and (hopefully) finalize all for publication within a few days. It should go live on Amazon sometime next week.

Thank you all for your patience. ~jon

NOTE: See the comments for further details.
~jon

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