[EDIT 13/May/20 THIS IS OUT OF DATE. MY BOOKS ARE CURRENTLY (CORONAVIRUS) FREE on SMASHWORDS – yeah, but i’ll leave the rant up – it still stands]
Just pulled my books off Smashwords.
Indie writing? You can shove it where the sun don’t shine. And anywhere it does, I’m not fussy. I’m going to start actively looking for an agent the moment i get a new book finished for them to look at. Not the Polo series, that’s going to have to wait – nobody will touch a book previously self-published. Not unless your current book sells, of course, then they suddenly get very interested.
A bit of a relief, really. So tired of struggling to promote them singlehandedly, with Smashwords not helping. They made it hard for anyone to find my work unless i managed to catch someone’s attention on Twitter and give them a direct link.
I foolishly marked my first book Adult (back in 2011) , thinking just that it wasn’t a children’s book, so the first 10 weeks my first book was published, Smashwords literally made it invisible unless someone opted in to ‘Adult’ which to them meant “hardcore erotica”. Continue reading →
In 2009 I started on Twitter. I was already writing, and had gleaned from the interwebs (those i first experienced back in about ’88, and wanted to play with, but didn’t get my chance until about 1998) that a social media presence was required. So i started this blog, and tweeting, and met some interesting folk.
Experienced as an editor, i wanted to self-publish, and didn’t even send the manuscript to any agents to look at. I decided Amazon wasn’t for me – for a start, they needed you to have bank account in either US, EU, Japan or Brazil, and i didn’t have one. (This has changed quite recently.)
Finally, in 2011 i published one book on Smashwords – and my dream since my teens (’73-79) was complete. I was a publisher! I hung onto that thought through a series of disasters and awful choice in friends, as it took me until 2017 to release the follow up to that book, and its companions. A quartet. Very proud. Released them literally on Thanksgiving (not a holiday in Australia!) As usual, my marketing is flawed. But still, i was in publishing.
I worked in actual big money publishing, so doing it myself felt wonderful. Once i’d got the books selling on Smashwords (and various distributors) I’d start with Ingram Spark and their Publishing On Demand packages, and put out paper versions of the books. I couldn’t wait.
Meanwhile, i found typos, edited those and put up new versions, and that was pretty much 2017 gone. And so i started really pushing my books, as the mistakes i’d clocked were fixed and they were fit for reading. I was selling. Selling well enough off the back of the good ratings for the first two books (which are free) that i could see the first paper versions, could even smell and feel them.
I was top of the ‘best reviewed’ charts, and that was the only reason i was selling. People go with the crowd. They don’t scroll through to page 120 to see who rated very poorly in case there’s a hidden gem. However i was nearly on the front pages of various most-downloaded and best sellers’ lists too, so i could see a glorious future, one with paper in it.
Then someone gave me a non-5 star review. And then another book got one too. They didn’t seem to dislike the books, they said they liked them, but still, 4 stars. Then another. And my books disappeared off the top of the charts. Not just down a bit, they went to page 120 or worse.
When i found my books, i saw that other people with even more 5 star reviews than me also had been nobbled by one 4 star review and were on page 120 too.
My sales dried up as my books moved off the front pages. Then they stopped.
I tried talking to Smashwords, even to Mark Coker (the CEO) and they were nice about the facts – which were – Smashwords rating system is unfair. It’s also open to abuse. I can go on there now, give the top rated people 4 star reviews, and they will disappear FOREVER. Unless you page through to page 120. They will be behind the guy whose mum gave him 1 glowing 5 star review. Yep – one 5 star review outweighs 20 of them if you get just one 4 star or lower review.
I have written about this before, but i figure you probably can’t be bothered paging back then coming back here again, so trying to sum it up. So Smashwords said they weren’t planning to do something about it in 2018, but they’d consider it for their 2019 list.
Since February 2018, i’ve been looking for some way to fix this. I tried Patreon (it’s supposed to be ‘be a patron to the arts’ but it seems to turn out ‘lots of artists begging and a tiny number get lucky’), discovered it wasn’t really my scene. And a week or so ago, i got Smashwords “Plans for 2019”. You guessed it, no plans to sort out the ratings system.
Which leaves me completely at sea. My entire marketing plans hinged on how well reviewed my books were, which gave them visibility – not just on Smashwords, but on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and in the Apple iBookstore. That visibility gave me sales, gave me more visibility, and so on.
I’m poor, i cannot afford to do more. I’m crippled and ill – i can’t get a better job or save (about $1500 would do it) or the usual tricks. And i’m 58 so even if i was fit, turning tricks is out of the question.
I could remove the books from the site, redo them enough to be plausibly ‘new editions’ then republish, but i’ll still be open to that one spiteful person who decides their books need to sell more than mine do, and gives me 1 bad review. So i won’t.
So this is it. The end.
I’m going to do more books, i just won’t be bothering to put them out as an self-publisher. It will be the more usual route of Agent followed by (if i’m lucky) Publisher. Seven years of my life (and another two learning how to), i gave it a good shot.
N.B. Having just noticed that Amazon Australia (which opened in December 2017) allows me to publish via Amazon, i might put the books on there – seems better than allowing them to stay rotting in the basement equivalent of Smashwords.
So maybe i’m not at the end, it might be another beginning. Aargh, not again!
So i found out a really awful thing. My first book, Polo Shawcross: The Birthday Dragon (Book 1 of the Dragon Quartet), has been out since 2011. Since then it’s sat happily on the top of the Top Rated Sci Fi and Fantasy lists in its categories. By end of January it was TOP of entire site. Yep, non-fiction/fiction, any length. Highest rated Free book.
One of the others got a 4 star review, which was disappointing, but i just got on with life.
But something happened to Book 1. Someone gave it a 4 star review in February. Oh well, i thought, has to happen sometimes. And some people don’t ever give 5 star reviews. I’m never going to please everyone. I was a bit upset, but managed to tell myself a few platitudes like those above and get over it.
I kept promoting my books on Twitter, and did notice my only sales and most of my downloads were when i did so. No Smashwords traffic to speak of.
That’s when i noticed something. Something horrible. Book 1 had disappeared from the Top Rated listings. Just gone. I looked and looked, and was about to contact Smashwords to ask what had happened, when i found it. On Page 22 of the Top Rated listings, where literally nobody would ever see it.
I also realised there were others like me. 14 or more 5 star reviews, but one 4 star – and suddenly we were rated lower than anyone with only ONE 1-star review. I contacted Smashwords, politely. Yes, they said, they were aware of the issue, but they had no plans to do anything about it, other than ‘We’re working on a way to make it more fair. However, unfortunately there’s no date on when it will be implemented.‘
Meanwhile, as i said to Smashwords, my entire marketing plan – based on my books being high rated and 1’s across the site, just got harpooned. Fortunately, the two most recently released were charting on the Bestseller lists but only on the front page if you narrowed the field (by selecting a length or division of the genre like Fiction » Science fiction » General, Fiction » Fantasy » General). Most people don’t get that far.
The first two (free so not on the “best seller” lists) were coming up the Most Downloads charts, but thanks to not showing on the Highest Rated charts, they were not getting the same exposure and dropped off the first two pages of those (again, unless you narrow the field to over 100k, Free).
I was miffed over the 4 star reviews, but then i thought about it. There are people there with many more 5 star reviews than me, and thanks to one 4-star review they’re also suddenly invisible. So i wrote again to Smashwords, and the CEO got back to me – yep, Mark Coker at Smashwords. He knows it’s a problem, along with the gaming of reviews (aka ‘fake reviews’).
Basically, it’s unfair that books with more than one 5-star review are behind books with only one. Sure, if i have fourteen 5 stars, you do too, we’re equal, until i get rated lower, that one 4-star? I get to be behind you in the listings, fair enough. But not if i have 20 5-star ones. Especially not if you only have one 5-star review and i have 20.
It’s also too easy to mess up a rival author’s ratings. During my investigations of some of the authors who should be on the front page (with 20+ 5-star reviews and 1 4-star one) it was one reviewer who’d knocked them off the front page. As reviewers are anonymous, it’s a system made to be corrupted. Especially when the one reviewer is possibly not a reviewer, but an author out to make themselves number 1.
There are signs of this on several of the books that are only being held off the top spots by one bad review. Or two of their books knocked down by the same ‘reviewer’.
I’ve written before about fake reviews on Smashwords, and how Smashwords (when alerted, and after their own investigations, which admittedly can take OVER a year) removed sometimes a hundred of them from authors who proved to be faking their glowing 5 star reviews.
I won’t be number 1 if they change this, by the way – there are several books ahead of mine (currently showing on page 33 of highest rated Sci fi) which will take over the 1 spot. Which i’ll be fine with, because it’s FAIR.
Anyway, currently waiting for action from Smashwords – which won’t be in 2018 but is on their list of Things We Want To Change. So if you think it should be changed, and SOON – vote in the poll, leave a comment, and i’ll make sure Mark Coker gets to hear about it. Smashwords, like all good companies, has excellent communication between the people on the front lines and the boss.
See what i did there? Yep, deliberately being nice, after a bunch of critique. Why? Because deep down, i love Smashwords, i love what they’re trying to do, i love that i get to play publisher without massive personal investment.
I don’t think the review system works – but the rest of the site is getting better all the time.
Polo Shawcross: The Birthday Dragon is 34 on the Most Downloaded Free Epic General Sci Fi (not bad seeing it’s only been free for less than 6 months and there’s books that have been free for 8 or more years in the listings). #38 on the matching Fantasy list.
It would be top of the Highest Rated (aside from the others above me with more 5-star reviews) except for that one 4-star review. It makes it to 18 if i narrow the field to just free epic general sci fi – just a reminder, before that one 4 star review, it was top rated free book on the whole site, all genres.
Mind you, there’s a writer there with 34 reviews, 32 of them 5 star ones, then someone decided to harpoon them, and the last two reviews were 4 star, knocking them even lower down the listings than me. (The more 4 star reviews you get, no matter how many 5 star ones you have, the worse your score gets – yep, that’s REALLY unfair.)
The others are suffering from similar problems – without the good reviews giving them front page exposure, they’re simply invisible. So i have to keep pushing my books here and on Twitter.
Seriously, this is not how i thought being a writer would be.
So – *drumroll*
For your reading delectation – rollicking sexy adventures, laugh-out-loud funny right to the end, and more schemers than you’ve seen since the last ep of Game of Thrones…
Introducing Polo Shawcross, the wannabe Dragon and stoner, the man to whom omnisexual isn’t just a label. And what did he get up to in the vegetable garden with that diplomat’s wife? Polo just wants a quiet life, one with wild women, some men, good weed and food. Something interesting to read. His family however have other ideas, and keep trying to kill him. Genetic engineering was always going to be flawed when you started with humans.
After a drunken binge across a kingdom or two, Polo is in trouble. With a capital A that stands for Army. Weed will keep him sane, but staying alive is trickier. He can save himself, he just has to remember, he’s Dragon, deep down. Dragon were made for fighting. He’ll be fine. Won’t he?
Still alive! Free! Polo gets his perfect life back. Although there’s that king with the crush and the queen who’s off limits. Polo’s trying out diplomacy as a career path, failing to keep secrets or his trousers on, and his family are still trying to kill him. Finally finding the way to change shape is the key to survival.
Polo can escape, but he’ll lose his perfect life as one of the privileged few close to the King. Choices, choices. And despite finally figuring out the shape-changing, he can’t get the people part of life right. People are Dragon and human, and Dragon were made from humans, and that was always going to be a bad idea. Kill or be killed, the law of the jungle comes out of the warzone and to Court. Polo surrenders. Last book in this series, but gives the kick-off for the new Polo Shawcross books to come.
Oh – and the best joke of all? I’ve issued DCMA takedown notices to about 15 people in the last 2 months – yep, people pirating my work and selling it – or giving it away for ‘site dollars’ on various ‘let’s pretend we’re not pirating but we are’ sites. (I found them via Blasty – every writer should belong – and if you’ve made some money, you can invest in their premium version to do the DCMA Takedown notices for you.)
The joke is (and it’s on me), if the people too cheap to spend $2.99 on a book – or those too lazy to realise that the guy getting site dollars for providing my books ‘free’ was simply downloading already free books – had all gone to Smashwords (or Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc – everywhere except Amazon), i’d be top of all the sales and download charts. Some of my books are free, but they ARE NOT Creative Commons – nobody except Smashwords and affiliates are allowed to distribute them.
The pirates boasted of 100’s of downloads. Hundreds.I haven’t sold that many in 5 months. I did get that many downloads over the period, but the lost revenue and lost downloads in the first few months of publication can never be recovered. The guy getting site dollars literally put my books up for free download from his site within a week of publication.
However, it’s part of the internet. And even big authors with loads of DRM protection on their books are getting pirated. I know because i saw their books on the same sites that were pirating mine.
So of course, being a good net citizen and a fellow-writer, i made sure i contacted at least one or two major authors (or their publishers) whose work was being illegally sold/given away. I figured even if the pirates didn’t give a shit about me, someone like Simon & Schuster would make them sit up and pay attention. It worked. Those who didn’t immediately remove my books did so once i put the big guys on them.
Nearly end of January? Gawd. Ok, so finally have all the Quartet up and published, despite starting the process back in November – yeah, right on Thanksgiving, which meant they didn’t appear on the site for a week. The first two are free, so if you’re bored already, go enjoy some escapism.
I also have my Patreon page sorted for the moment. I told Mr Whatsit to unPatronise me, because for a while there i was ready to give up everything, disappear back into my garret, and screw trying to maintain several sites/pages/accounts AND somehow create. It was all too tiring. And i was sliding into depression with the constant demands of self-publicising stopping me from doing what i need to do, write the next book.
Maintaining my net presence is still too tiring, to be honest (I have Chronic Fatigue, so i’m not exaggerating – it’s actually exhausting). I’m better on Twitter. On Twitter, you can collapse and nobody notices, quite handy.
Then i discovered some new reviews of the just-released books (2,3, and 4) and read one (yeah, i know, never read reviews) that complained the series was ended. And only gave it 4 stars – though there was no reason given other than they were sad over it being over. They should have looked me up online, because i’ve tried to make it clear i’m working on the next book, which is like a prequel to Polo’s story.
Another review was very critical of my grammar (it’s not me, it’s Polo!) and gave examples, then said they weren’t actually examples from the text. Tricky to fix. He did suggest Word’s Grammar checker. Um. Yeah, i did use that, lol. Here’s a thought, write to me, help me fix errors and I’ll happily gift you a copy of the next book.
However, while we’re being honest, i can’t do this on my own. I need both affirmation and assistance. Humans are part of that. I’m not completely human. I was raised by Siamese cats, so don’t fit in well.
Fitting in, and being human, that’s something i explore in the books. People do seem to be liking them. Book 1 is the top rated free sci fi or fantasy book on Smashwords, out of thousands (it was top rated in its price range since it was published in 2011).
It’s only been free since the other 3 books made it to ‘published’ on Smashwords, which was only early December, and it’s moving up the ‘Most Downloads’ Chart too. (35, up three points, on the Most Downloaded General Epic Free Scifi.)
At last, i’m putting the quartet up on Smashwords. Can’t quite believe it. The covers are done, edits are done, i’m just doing blurbs and making sure they upload okay.
They came out pretty….
The Birthday Dragon‘s been out for years, that’s going to be free, once the new version is okayed. As the first quarter of Dragon Soldier used to be in the previous book, it’s free too.
Books 3 and 4 are not free. Like Books 1 and 2 they’re over 100,000 words. I’m thinking $2.99 each.
I’ve been putting final touches on my Smashwords pages, adding a interview. I came to do this blog and realised “i’ve forgotten everything i ever learned about HTML” which was a nice match for when i started doing the covers and realised i’d forgotten everything i ever knew about Photoshop.
So i uploaded the new version of Polo Shawcross: The Birthday Dragon and waited for it to be okayed. Found a mistake in the stuff beyond the ending. Re-uploaded. Found something else, re-re-uploaded. And thankful it was finally okay, so i started work on the blurbs for the other books.
Every time i checked back, the book wasn’t okayed yet. Smashwords never takes long, so i began to wonder if i’d jammed something up, re-re-uploading. It was never a problem before. And i waited.
While i waited, I started a Patreon page. This is a rather nice notion that artists find patrons who sling them a few dollars a month, every month, and the artist (that’s me) in exchange gives them access to unpublished stuff or first drafts, perhaps completely never-to-be-published stories.
Anything that helps my income is worth a go. (It’s not quite up yet, i’m still getting it sorted out.)
I checked Smashwords. Something occurred to me. It was Thanksgiving in the USA when i did the first upload. Bugger. By the end of the week it was Black Friday. I’d literally picked one of the worst weeks in the US year to upload the books.
Double bugger. And then i realised. Now i’ve begun my Patreon page, i’ll have to change the books again to include the Patreon link.
I do believe the word i’m looking for is “AAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHH”.
Why doesn’t it look after itself? I’m frazzled, trying to edit #TheThing (up to end of Book 1, only 3 more to go), keep up on Twitter (dropping in a few days a week to shout at the world) and keep myself fed/exercised. No, that’s not a pony-ness allusion – the pony thing had to go by the wayside, because i found a loophole. Possibly a pony-hole?
Anyhoo, I talked to the Australian Tax Office – who as i’ve said before are nice people and you shouldn’t be afraid to call them and say um, i haven’t paid tax for some time. Because if you do turn yourself in, they’ll be nice back to you. A friend did pretty much that, and even got a refund for several years.
I found out the dude who told me not to give my Tax File Number (aka in US-tax-speak as TIN) to ANYONE was being a trifle over-protective. And also, i found a page on Smashwords (if you’re not logged in to Smashwords AND have an Author account there, that link won’t be much use) where the W8-BEN form is basically filled in, i just had to add my TFN. (And then i went back, found it was showing as incorrect. I filled it in again, this time adding on Line 10 that i was a non-US resident and a citizen of another country where i was resident, and it seems to have gone through. Here’s hoping.)
So, if like me you’d despaired of ever figuring out the horrifying web of overseas tax forms (and what to do about a 40% tax rate on 60% of a $2.99 book!) then despair no more. Or even despayah no moah! Sorry, felt the need to do a US accent for that, and like most people, my view of the USA is rather coloured by Southern reality TV shows.
I did visit the US once – across Wisconsin (the Oshkosh Fly In) and Minnesota, down the New Jersey Turnpike, and into the Bronx. And a little bit of Pennsylvania. If you’re reading this from Frenchman’s Creek or Phoenixville – omg, i’ve been there!
And then i burned the chickpeas! No, not during my visit to the US, many years ago, but right here in real life. *sigh* Was trying to save money by soaking overnight then cooking from scratch, and did something i haven’t done for literally years. Let the pot boil dry while distracted by the internet.
I forgot to mention in the last post, where i was distracted by something else (possibly also food-related), that the first two ebooks will be free, (to say thanks to the people who bought the original Book 1, The Birthday Dragon, as they’ll get more of the story they’ve been waiting 6 years for *blushes*).
The second two won’t be free. I need to get a little income so i can print some copies, for myself to proof and to give away in competitions.
A maybe is an omnibus edition (ebook only at this point) of the 4 books in one download. That will cost, but again, i’ll be doing competitions come the time.
Of course, i went back on Smashwords to see how my book was going (number 4 on Fantasy books over 100k, 9 on any length Fantasy, No 7 on Sci Fi Any length, No2 over 100k).
There was someone who seemed to be doing very well. Lots of laudatory reviews. And then i realised the same people were reviewing the author’s (and only the author’s) books. Yeah, another author giving in to fake review syndrome. Very organised, give them that. 140 or so different reviewers, carefully cycling through all the books and giving good reviews. I looked at samples of the books, and they were so bad I wondered how the writer could be so deluded. But then delusion is apparently what creative wannabe’s do very well. (No, we’re not going to talk about my ex’s. Though that could be a cue.)
Still waiting for Smashwords to do something (i did give them enough evidence to act) but the last time they literally took nearly 18 months, so i’m not holding my breath. Does show though – if you just rely on Smashwords, you don’t get any sales (and you may be driven to make a few of your own). Well, you may get some if you shout real loud on Twitter. That’s my plan.
Once again, a warning. Always read a bit of the book first, before purchase. Because good reviews might mean the Writer is quite good at juggling Fake Reviewers on a spreadsheet. Yeah i know, i have quite a few good reviews. Mine are all legit and the writers can be found on Twitter or elsewhere, having lives. None are even from family, because my family doesn’t support my writing at all. (And no, that’s not a cue for a piece on the perfidy of families. Though i admit, it sounds like one.)
However, i might be lying. So what will you do? Yep, when i release the books, you can look at the first 20% and decide whether to buy or download.
Meanwhile, i have a pot to scrub. And chickpeas to soak. And yeah, 3 books where i need to get on with the paper edits.
The next bit of that quote is “are free”. Which is where i’m about to head with my books. That’s right – the ebooks will be free. Not yet, so don’t go buying one. I don’t get the money anyway. I put a stop on any payments while i got myself sorted out, and (as i explained in the last blog) there’s never been enough sales to warrant taking the stop off.
[EDIT So much has changed since i wrote this, that as of 28 May 2017 i’m doing a whole new blog post which will be pretty much contradicting everything below. So yeah, everything below this point is possibly no longer current. I’m not even sure i’ll try crowdfunding. The e-reader stuff is useful and current.]
So, the ebooks will be free. I’m tired of struggling with online US-based publishing, and with trying to explain my tax situation to the US tax office at a distance of tens of thousands of miles. Every time i’ve figured out which form to send in, they change the rules! All for the sake of literally cents.
Most of all, i’m going nuts with my books not being read. Book 1 came out in 2011. It’s been SIX years.
So when i finish this edit (of three books into four) the quartet will go up on Smashwords. EDIT After some thought, the first 2 will go up – the other two will be available (with 1 & 2) as free ebook gifts for people who support the crowdfunding.
For all my frustration with e-publishing, I do like having my Smashwords books available in any format, not just for Kindle. You may not be aware, but Amazon’s MOBI format is exclusive to them. Most other e-readers use EPUB format.
Amazon (& other formats) also lock the book (via Digital Rights Management or DRM) so you can’t move the book you own from your ereader to your laptop. I’ve always been against that so Smashwords suits me. I like people to be able to read my book when they want, on whatever platform they want. If you accidentally delete a book from Smashwords, you can just go back to the site and re-download it.
If you don’t have a Kindle or other e-reader, you can download various free e-readers for smartphones, tablets, desktops or laptops. Kindle’s one is good (and free) available here.
If you’d rather go with a non-Amazon reader (Kindle can’t read anything except Amazon MOBI format books, and it’s better on very small screens because of its display limitations), there are more. I have a desktop and have used the Kindle one, but i tried others, as i have to make sure my books look okay whatever format they’re in.
Here’s an article on TechRadar explaining the current top free e-readers and with links to get them. They also have a link to a converter for when your e-reader can’t deal with a downloaded file type. There are a lots of free books online. Many, admittedly, are free for a reason. But there are gems – Project Gutenberg, for free e-books now out of copyright, is fantastic. There is now an Australian Gutenberg, for books pre-1955 – scroll down that page for links to wonderful Australian publications.
However, for me, giving away the e-books is a taster (EDIT and a reward) for raising money via crowdfunding. Many e-reader users still love books and will buy a paper book, and those who won’t buy e-books will buy paper.
So many would-be readers have asked me over the years, when is the print version coming out? When i said so far it wasn’t, they explained they don’t like reading anything long off a screen. Two of my sisters haven’t read Book 1 (they even got it free!) for just that reason.
So that’s where i’m at. Doing a quick edit to check balance, arc, strange spelling mistakes that have crept in, then it’s a quick paper edit. (Well, as quick as paper can be. Because once you’ve red pencilled your way through all that paper, you then have to transfer the edits into the computer.)
During that time, i have to sort out the crowdfunding page. I haven’t decided which site to use, other than having learned from my mistakes, i will be using an Aussie-friendly one. I’ll also be figuring out my legal standing on crowdfunding as income, who it needs to be declared to and how soon, because i want to make sure i don’t do anything wrong as far as the Authorities are concerned. (EDIT making progress, but omigod it’s so complicated! Not the crowdfunding, but how i have to organise everything before i go live)
Not much work, lol. And Mr Whatsit will be in hospital soon, then out with a 6+ week recovery period, so it’s not like i have anything else to do, like caring for someone. Yep, in a matter of weeks i should be getting all this on the road. When i say weeks, I mean 12. And when i say 12, i probably mean 16. Or maybe more. Especially as i don’t know yet if i have to move house this year.
Yes, if you care about me at all, pray to your deity of choice (or Siamese Cat of choice) that i get a lease renewal, cos if i don’t, everything is going to be extremely stuffed. And when i say stuffed, i mean fkd.
Because Mr won’t be able to walk, i have my physical limits, and moving at short notice is never fun, even for the able-bodied. On the bright side, i still haven’t unpacked everything from last year’s aborted move, so most of the knick-knack’s and a lot of the crockery is still boxed up.
I thought i’d leave you with some recent witticism from Twitter, but instead figured this was probably what you need to hear…
US Nazis are trying to rebrand themselves as white nationalists & alt-right, but we know what they are
The thinking took some time. Basically i had three books. They were somehow unbalanced. The more i tried to balance them, the longer they got. And the more out of balance.
I took some time out. Some more time out. I spent a lot of time on twitter. Getting retweeted is affirming, no doubt about it, and i enjoyed catching up with people i adore and had forgotten existed.
My head’s like that. Involved in a book, i can forget my own family. Even myself. Reading a good book should be like that, writing them possibly more so.
I did quite a lot of research while i tweeted, figuring out the intricacies of crowd-funding, on demand publishing, and deciding whether the previously only e-publishing model was worth sticking to. Quite simply, it wasn’t.
When i first published The Birthday Dragon, i accidentally took it off public display, not realising Adult (it was adult fiction, not ‘young adult’ or ‘children’s’) meant the same as X rated on the prim US site i was on, and my book was literally only available to those looking for porn. So sales were, to put it mildly, minimal.
It took me nearly 3 months to realise what was going on, and by then it was too late. I’d missed what booksellers call the golden window for sales. The book never sold. People agreed it was wonderful, reviewed it glowingly. Still no sales.
Even today, it’s one of the highest rated books on Smashwords. Out of all books on the site over 100,000 words, it’s still on the front page, admittedly at No 20, but it was published back in 2011. Put in ‘under $2.99’ and it’s number 8.
Currently, if you look at Sci Fi over 100,000 words, it’s number 1. Fantasy over 100k it rates highly, but if ‘under $2.99’ it’s number 1 again. But it isn’t selling. At all. It’s one of those questions – is it me? Or is it Smashwords?
I tried competitions, blogs, tweeting, sacrificing small geeks, edits, and still, no sales. So i gave up. It would be alright when i did Book 2.
Right before publication of Book 2, the person doing the cover art decided not to. Two weeks before publication. It rocked me more than a little. Doing it for free doesn’t mean to me that it’s ok to be unprofessional. I didn’t pillory him on Twitter, which shows control i didn’t think i had. I tried to do some artwork myself, and my graphics tablet blew up.
Mr Whatsit (and some articles i read confirmed the notion) suggested i leave Book 2, do Book 3, and put them both out at once. Maximise sales, give me time to do some artwork myself. Then my landlord at the time served notice.
A new graphics tablet dropped into my lap (via the post, a friend upgraded and sent me theirs), i completed the books, the interstate move (2013) plus three more (1 more in 2013, 2 in 2014) .
Finally settled, i finished off Book 3 and organised the artwork. I did take the nutso artist’s cover off Book 1. For all i knew he was about to demand i did and the cover didn’t match the book, so what the hell.
I had other real life problems. Mr couldn’t manage even the few stairs here. We were supposed to move. Again. Scheduling a book release when i couldn’t promote it seemed nuts, so i put it off. Again.
The move, late 2015, didn’t happen. My car needed a sudden injection of funds, all the moving money, and fortunately the landlord didn’t mind us begging to stay. Never mind, we’ll move in 2016.
Cancer clawed at me, thankfully caught by signs my doctor paid attention to. Not just one cancer scare, but possible tumours in breasts, back, uterus, and brain had my whole attention.
Not just moving was cancelled. My life was. Then it wasn’t. Thankfully they caught everything early, or it was benign, or it wasn’t cancer. I did go through major abdominal surgery, and ended up minus womb and ovaries, which seems a small price to pay for life, but did put paid to moving.
I was off Twitter. It seemed i had nothing to say, or at least nothing i felt like sharing. “My life is fucked, how’s yours?” I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like discussing depression with others. My depression that is, i’ll happily discuss other people’s. (I will go to a psyche, and endure the tears and laughter that make up a talking cure.)
I hit Twitter again. It was lovely, and i cursed myself for a fool for not enjoying my friends. Or for not giving them credit for being whole humans who might actually care about other people. I carefully avoided thinking about the books.
Suddenly, it came to me. The books needed to be a … wtf do you call a four book set? I pretended not to hear the thought for weeks. I did surreptitiously do that research on crowdfunding and print on demand. Under my own radar, while shouting about goddamn fascists on Twitter.
After some Googling and more thought, i decided a quartet was the right name. We were supposed to be moving mid year, so i was thinking seriously about how to schedule moving and books. Then Mr got some good news, the operation he’s been waiting years for is happening this year. So we’re not moving. Again.
And i have no more excuses. Unless the landlord springs the kind of unpleasant surprise every tenant dreads (Guess what? I’ve decided to double the rent/knock down the house and build an apartment block/evict you cos it’s a Leap Year) and i have to move.
My health isn’t good, but it never is. I wrote the books despite that.
So i’ve started splitting them into 4. Gives me 4 books of about 100,000 words. I’m hammering out the chapter summaries, which as the books changed, stupid me had not kept up. Without them, editing the books further is tricky, i can’t see the flow.
Looking at the price of self-publishing books this size, i may have to cut them further, either with editing or cutting them into more books. I’m not sure. Depends on what i want to crowd-fund. My education in that and Print on Demand is cursory, and to be honest, it’s more than a little scary.
Not as scary as real life with the continued demonisation of anyone on welfare – what we in Australia called ‘benefit’ up until the current right wing government decided we were all probably criminals and as ‘welfare’ was already a dirty word thanks to US hatespeech, it worked for them.
Freedom of speech as the USA calls it, and now our government’s borrowing that notion too – they want the right to call anyone non-pinkish coloured a n________. The right to discriminate against brown or black people, against non-Christians and anyone who dares dissent.
Yes, the same LNP government that when Trump declared his ‘Muslim Ban’, crowed, delighted that in their words, someone was copying their policies.
You know the disabled people of Germany were the first to the gas chambers? As the sick, disabled, and aged are called non-profit-making drains on society, as the government (of rich white men and their sycophant women) say they’re going to cut ‘welfare’ to ‘bludgers’, well, real life is a place i really don’t want to be.
As i said on Twitter….
enough of this – with govt war on ppl on welfare, must find way of getting food on table, shouting about politics won’t do it #amwriting
Well, here i am, November, and i should have a working computer in a week or so. I’ve got a computer that works but has a dodgy mouse plate (every so often it goes rogue and hits links or marks text) which can’t be trusted online, so i’ve been using that to edit the trilogy. It’s also got a coffee-soaked hard disk, so i’m saving to memory sticks, clouds, and everywhere else i can cadge some disk space.
The editing is nearly done – i’m on Book 3, and the other two are done. I can’t believe it’s taking so long. I’m at the point of giving up writing and taking up something like illuminating manuscripts by hand, you know, something quick and totes 21st C.
Meanwhile, despite liver getting steadily better, i’ve had non-stop health probs, including so many cancer scares i’m almost blase over blood tests, MRI’s, and CAT scans. Almost. MRI’s are an exercise in Zen and the Art of Keeping On Breathing, and I still find waiting for results is terrifying. So far, so benign.
Tip for MRI machines – put in good earplugs and then their headphones over the top. Doesn’t kill the noise, but brings the constant disco thump down to ‘there’s a nightclub next door’ instead of ‘i’m lying with my head in a speaker at a Boney M concert’.
Latest was ‘you may have some kind of sinus cancer’ and a CAT scan that showed up what they thought was a brain tumour. It was, but it’s apparently not the dangerous kind. Turns out all those years abusing my body are really starting to pay off.
Anyway, weird thing about being away from Twitter this long? I’m cured. I don’t even think about it much. Which is a worry, as i am going to need to go back soon, at least to let people know my books are out.
What if i’m like a bornagain non-smoker, and can’t stop myself from criticising other people’s obsessions with baby hippos, politics, or i-Things? It’s a worry. Still, I gave up smoking and didn’t become a bornagain, so I’ll try to have faith.