Some people in my life have expressed concern as to why it takes so long for me to get writerly things done…and why haven’t I painted the back porch yet? I’ve got two words for you, Fat Cat — er, I mean, peeps in general: the Toddler.

Now, I can’t blame everything on her — not anymore anyway — she knows what’s what — it’s just that between the two of us, we have an incredibly hectic schedule. Of course, everybody says that these days. So, with the Losing My Religion series behind us, I thought now would be a good time to show just how crazy-busy our schedule is.

Take the other day, for instance:

Since this Sunday’s Third Ninjas Omniscient writers’ meeting is to be hosted by the bad-ass Ninja S, who has a great fondness for fresh-pressed apple cider…and since Ninja S has an uncanny ability to describe wounds and gore with incredible realism (like she’s experienced it)…and since she is a bad ass, it seems only prudent that I arrive to said meeting with fresh-pressed apple cider (and an invisible saber-toothed tiger).

So the Toddler and I set out to Oak Glen, where apple-picking season is in full swing, signs are bragging on the fresh-out-of-the-fryer mini cider donuts (which are as good as they sound), and everyone’s running around in clothing that can only be described as “rustic.”

Since we are, as I’ve said, very busy people, we decided to go straight to Los Rios Ranchos, a working apple farm on Wildlands Conservancy preserve land, where they press their cider right on the premises.

Apple Orchard at Los Rios Rancho ~ Oak Glen, California ~ October 13, 2011

Naturally, before we went to collect our cider, the Toddler reminded me that we had to inspect the duck pond for…you know, ducks. (Terrible weather, huh? 😉 )

Duck Pond at Oak Glen Preserve ~ Wildlands Conservancy ~ October 13, 2011

We heard more ducks than we saw — a lot of suspicious quacking and rustling in the cattails — probably, ya know, National Geographic activity — but a few coots showboated around for us. The Toddler decided to focus her bird-watching on Common Birds of the Reeds, but personally, I think she was just working on her pose.

After the duck pond, it was off to the petting zoo to ogle the goats, and then to the main store where they sell apple cider and…honey sticks.

Everybody loves honey sticks!

Being on a tight schedule, we loaded up our goodies and headed for the grocery store…and wouldn’t you know it? I spotted a deer from the road, so I had to pull over and take a pic. Can you see him?

Do you see it? Look slightly left of center. (Still waiting for telescopic lens app for iPhone - erm, never mind.)

The deer-spotting incident set us back 4.32 minutes in our schedule, so we really had to pour on the steam and crank up the car to 50 mph to make up for lost time. I think, however, the free T-shirt begifted us by the über-friendly staff at the Yucaipa Fresh & Easy was worth the rush. They cram them into these cool giant coasters. I don’t even want to open it, it’s so cool. 🙂

Yes, I by my own dog.

By the by, the “L” on the bottom is for Lovely. Yes, I wear size Lovely. Now you know. 🙂

Yum! Don't worry...Ninja S gets her own. 🙂

So now you know why things move at the speed of snail around here. Murphy knows I try my best, but a lady’s gotta do what a lady’s gotta do. And if that means rushing home with the Toddler to drink ourselves sick on apple nectar and watch Kipper, whaddaya gonna do?

We loves Fall!


IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: Writerly things occur every day between the hours of 3:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. at our house…which is to say that we are mere days away from launching Lookaway Dogs…which is to say…well, yay!


"Sunrise Kaho'olawe Hawaii" by Jason Ornellas via ~ This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

"Sunrise Kaho'olawe Hawaii" by Jason Ornellas via ~ This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

I started writing this series as a way to explain my change in direction as an author. The indie movement has been a complete game changer for me. Besides the instant gratification of self-publishing and a fair shot at making an income from my stories, for the first time ever, as far as my writing career goes, I know exactly what to do. I got this. I don’t know if my efforts will yield newsworthy results, but it doesn’t matter. For the first time ever, I feel like I’m down on the field with other like-minded, like-crazed writers doing what I’m wired to do…and I’m happy.

But it took me an insanely long time to write this series, and here’s why: I am basically regurgitating and repackaging what I’ve been reading for the past several months — which is a ton of information to cram into a few articles — and I am painfully aware that it’s all been/being said over and over, and that things are changing as I write this.

Just in the duration of writing this series, Amazon opened up their French Kindle store, released their new ereader, the Kindle Fire, and signed a four-book deal with Traci Hohenstein (an indie author with only one book out so far).  (Many thanks to David Gaughran and his always timely blog). Also, yesterday Amazon announced their new Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Imprint, 47North.

It’s impossible to write anything on this industry without it immediately becoming obsolete, but that’s okay. I didn’t set out to write some sort of definitive primer, just an elaborate explanation of where I’m going and why…and for the folks who are interested in joining me, the equivalent of a map drawn on a napkin. The resources out there for indie writers are tremendous, and I hope, if anything, this series has served as a helpful point-in-the-right-direction for any writer thinking about taking the plunge. (And continuing in that spirit, I’m putting together a page of resources that I’ll post soon.)

But as I’ve been writing this article series and preparing for my own imminent publication, I’ve noticed something. Maybe I’ve just been reading too much, but it seems a lot of folks involved in indie publishing are starting to couch their discussion in more cautionary tones. Perhaps a big part of it is simply because so many people who spoke so definitely on the subject are now publicly eating their words, and nobody wants their suddenly silly-sounding quote pulled up from the ether and retweeted.

Anyway, I realized that for those who have not been following epublishing headlines, a quick foray into the wilds of Google on account of my humble articles might lead folks into seemingly perilous waters, fraught with doomsayers crying over bubbles yet to burst and the self-cannabalizing race to the bottom, and even some already established indie writers intimating that if you’ve missed the first two waves of digital publishing, you better catch the Holiday 2011 wave…cuz it’s the last one.

Smell familiar? That’s right. You’ve been paying attention. That subtle reek is called fear.

Maybe it’s because things have been going so swimmingly. Though I’ve only been awake to indie digital publishing since March, I’ve enjoyed a spring and summer of seemingly daily stars-in-my-eyes headlines. My guess is that as things start to settle into business-as-usual, people get a little panicky. Where’s today’s overnight millionaire announcement? I bought a ticket, you know.

There is, of course, the long tail of indie writers who aren’t making it like they hoped. They’re disappointed, it’s understandable. But for those who haven’t yet “made it,” it’s not like this is a one-time shot. Forget the fat lady. It isn’t up to her. It ain’t over until you give up. Time to write another book.

By the way, you’re going to see this over and over again in your research of indie publishing (look at me, I’ve already signed you up and packed your lunch), so I’m just going to get it out of the way and say it: This is not a sprint, this is a marathon. If you’re in it, you’re in it for the long haul, so bring food (hence, the lunch I packed for you).

Anyhoo, maybe the doomsayers are simply afraid of sending other writers down the rabbit trail and unwittingly to their own demise, and so offer a sort of caveat, some moral disclaimer fastspeak to blame-proof themselves just in case others follow their lead and fail. PROCEED WITH CAUTION. THERE ARE NO GUARANTEES. THESE RESULTS ARE NOT TYPICAL. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED.

Not me. I say, go for it. Only go for it in only the most epic way, pour-your-heart-in-it way. Don’t worry about typical results. You’re not shooting for typical results, are you? I’m not. If I’m going to fail, it’s going to be spectacular and involve skidding and sparks and an explosion or two, dammit!

The future is what you imagine it to be.

If you see a future rosy and brimming full of new readers from all over the world hungry for great stories every single day unto infinity, guess what? Your energy and enthusiasm and optimism and hopes and dreams are going to propel you through the work that must be done, and those readers will find you. This is how I imagine my future. (Hello, India, Germany, France, Spain, and China! As soon as I find good translators, you and I are going to become lovely friends…and we’re going to have a great time together.)

Fear is a big waste of time.

If you’re too busy worrying about the economy to paint your future optimistic, you’re going to act out of fear, clinging to your soul-sucking job and fretting about layoffs instead of busting your ass on your novel. Tell you what, if you get up one extra hour early and write, your whole day will be happier. People will notice. Will it save you from being laid off? Possibly. All other things being equal, would you want to keep a happy employee on board or a sour-faced employee? And I know you don’t care about keeping that crappy job, but you must…if only to spur you out of bed in the wee hours to pursue your dream. Regardless of whether you can afford to one day soon tell your boss to take this job and shove it, at least each day, before you have done anything else, you will have given over time and effort to your dream…and to me, that’s the only way to live.


"Thumbs Up" by yngasctmagfi ~ ~ This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

A Level Playing Field

Really pay attention to this: You are competing on the same level playing field as most other authors right now.

This bears repeating.

You are competing on the same level playing field as most other authors right now.

This may change in the future. Who’s to say? But right now we all have the superpowers, and it’s on.

Think about it. You are not shut of any resources any other author has access to. You can produce a professional quality ebook using free software. You can build your audience using free platforms. And you get the same 24 hours a day that every other writer gets…including Mr. James Patterson.

You have everything you need to be successful at this writing gig.

But, you protest, you have small children, a long commute, church obligations —

You are a free-thinking, free-willed individual.

Let your kids watch “Aristocats” for the fourth time that day and write. Take public transportation or carry a digital recorder on your commute…but write. Take 15 minutes of “prayer” time to sit alone in the pews and get in a couple hundred words of your vampire chick-lit story. Trust me, God wants you to write.

If you are truly a writer, you will choose to write.

But what about Luck, you want to know?

Well, yes, there’s luck. Look at Konrath, that lucky bastard. Money just raining down on his blessed little head. Has nothing to do with the hundreds of bookstores he personally visited for his traditionally published books, or the thousands of books he’s signed and mailed off, or the thousands of handshakes, exchanges, and chats he’s had with readers…not to mention the impressive number of books he’s written. And I’m sure it has nothing to do with the tremendous resource he has provided to writers for free, with honesty, generosity, and passion, through his incredible blog, “A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing.” Some blokes just have all the luck.

Riiight. Here’s the truth. Lady Luck is not some fairy-dusted fickle goddess one must attract through shiny baubles and pretty poetry. Oh, no. Luck resides within, like a thorn jammed right beneath your unworthy little hide…and she’s no lady. She’s the voice that tells you the truth…that you’re not working hard enough, you’re not working fast enough, you’re not working smart enough. She’s the foot in your ass, and she takes her offerings in blood, sweat, and tears…but she pays in spades.

So make your own damn luck.

But you worry it’s too technical for you, it’s too complicated, it’s too hard.

If it’s not fun, don’t do it.

I get that self-publishing is not for everyone. If it’s not for you, why do it? And I mean that. There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself down a path that’s not right for you, and nobody will judge you for not doing it or sticking to your guns on the Traditional Publishing Dream.

But if you really want a piece of the digital publishing pie, best to quit your whining and suck it up. Hire out what you don’t want to do. Just figure it out. And don’t forget to…

…Love Thy Work.

For someone like me who is eager to cut to the chase, this new industry is a godsend, truly. Trust me, I have no antagonistic feelings towards the traditional publishing world. In fact, I don’t feel I have turned my back on it. I’m just pursuing a new option, one that really fancies my tickle.  😉

I’ve been running on a nervous energy of possibilities these past few months, my fingers drumming, pressed up against the thundering pulse of the indie movement…no, dug in deep, tangled in the tendons. Perhaps I’m being overly dramatic, but I dream in feeds, no lie. I can hardly express how much fun this all is for me. I feel more creative than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’m smiling all the time. I feel like I know something HUGE nobody else knows amongst the 3D people in my life.

The best part is I’m not worried about the results so much as I’m worried about the work; the edits, the cover, the copy, the extra material, the formatting…all the wonderful new things now under my control. And I love it. I had no idea how much fun this could be. I have direction with my work. I’m figuring out production details of future e-releases. I’m writing today’s stories and worried about the ones waiting to be written. I’ve never felt so much freedom in my life…and I haven’t even gone live yet! Digital Publishing has taken the long treacherous road between writer and reader and shortened it to a clickable link. I can reach out and touch readers all over the world. I truly feel all powerful.

So this article series — hell, this blog! — is dedicated to anyone who’s got a dream. You really are all powerful, and your own limitations are yourself. You and each of you know exactly what you need to be doing, so get off your ass, quit reading this blog (after you’re done, of course — and thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow!), and take a step down the road to your own bliss. If you do this, you cannot fail. Listen to Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.”


So go, take the plunge. Do your honest best…and then try harder. And good luck. I wish you the very best good fortune and fair weather. Come back and let me know how you’re doing, give an interview, share war stories, offer tips and shortcuts, any happy reason to cheer you on and talk you up…and I will do my best likewise. Wish me luck! 🙂

Here I go-o-o-o!


Coming Soon:

Art and Cover Design by Jon McConnell ~


Photo Credit: ktoine ~ ~ Creative Commons

Even with the indie revolution firing cannonballs at the floundering megaship of traditional publishing and raking in the doubloons, writers are afraid to jump ship…even unpublished writers who have nothing to lose. Why is this?

Blind faith.

It’s understandable why so many writers still believe in traditional publishers. After all, they’re the ones who brought us all of our favorite books growing up. It’s the paradigm we know and are familiar with. It’s our childhood. It’s been this way all our lives. And you know how people just love change.

Digital books are still very new. No one’s yet grown up on them. That, of course, is changing as I write this. One day, my daughter will find an iPad 5 in her childhood belongings and say, “Aww, remember this old thing? I read such-and-such on this! I wonder if it’s still on here….” The artifacts will change, but stories will always be stories.

Clearly, there are a lot of factors that go into a book’s success, only half of which is writing it. Many important decisions have to be made in order to produce the book before it can be deemed fit for public consumption, from editing, copyediting, and formatting, to cover design, jacket copy, and distribution. Traditional publishing houses have been handling these decisions all along with beautiful results. They built the foundation upon which we stand — they have been in the business of making and selling books for decades — some publishing houses for over a century! — and for that, we are grateful.

So what makes me think an indie writer can do better for themselves than a publisher?

Because traditional publishing houses are in the business of making and selling books, those paper-and-ink artifacts that require manufacturing, warehousing, shipping, and for the estimated 40% of books returned unsold by stores, pulping. But more importantly, they are in business primarily to make money for their shareholders, not necessarily further an individual author’s career and financial well-being (ie., YOU). It’s extremely important for authors to remember that.

Indie writers are not in the business of selling books. They are in the business of writing and selling primarily ebooks, stories packaged and formatted into electronic files under their own unique brand. Most importantly, they work only for themselves; every decision is based on how they can benefit their own bottom line, their own career, and, of course, their readers.

Even though digital publishing is still in its infancy, it’s gonna grow up to be the biggest kid on the block. By now, everyone knows it…including publishers. Still don’t believe me? Check out any of the Kindle Bestsellers’ Lists and count up how many indie titles are up there.

So why are people so scared? I think it’s because they still equate indie publishing to being a substandard sort of DIY approach to traditional publishing, but indie and traditional are in truth two entirely different animals. And who’s to say who knows best in these wild and woolly times? But one thing I know for sure, indie writers are laying down the foundations of digital publishing now, and there might be no better time than now to jump in and take a chance on  yourself and be a part of the shaping of this new and exciting industry. (Dang, I feel like I should be passing out brochures and finger foods here. Scone?)

If you’re still in doubt, here’s the question you need to ask yourself: Do traditional publishers really know what’s best for your book?

Let’s take a look:

1. Editing and Proofing:

Traditional?  Once your book is sold, you work closely with your editor to make your manuscript the best it can be. But the truth is, if you’ve been fortunate enough to attract an agent/editor’s attention and gotten the thing sold, you’ve probably already invested hundreds of hours vetting it with beta readers, and revising and spit-polishing the thing into a gleaming supernova. Even so, once within the stables of a traditional publisher, you still must work with an editor until your manuscript is deemed “accepted.” Then you get another portion of your advance payment. (The rest is usually released upon publication, typically months down the road.)

Indie?  The work’s the same. You’re still going to spend hundreds of hours vetting your novel with beta readers, revising and spit-polishing the thing into a gleaming supernova. Only once you’re done, you get to choose the editor you want to work with — and there are hundreds of experienced and talented freelance editors out there — and make the final decisions on any changes.

2. Format:

Traditional?  Your publisher decides the best format, paperback or hardback, to manufacture.

Indie?  Digital publishing is instant…and free. You also happen to know that your target audience likes larger font and enjoys dragons drawn in the margins. You can do that. You want to make your work available in paperback or hardback? You can do that easily for a few hundred dollars or less with POD publishing, and you don’t have to worry about warehousing or shipping.

3. Print Run:

Traditional?  Somebody in sales is talking to someone in marketing, and someone else is mixing it all together to somehow scry out your future sales (assuming a 30-40% return rate) and basically setting a limit to the number of your books they will sell.

Indie?  Ebooks are limitless and available for order 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (assuming servers are well-protected from the forecasted zombie apocalypse), for all practical purposes into perpetuity.

4. Distribution:

Traditional?  It is up to your agent to solicit or entertain offers from foreign publishers and work out all the legal mumbo jumbo that goes along with this. It takes a while. It also takes a while (and many percentage cuts) before a check comes your way.

Indie?  But you know your story would appeal especially to German readers. You don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission or approval. You can make it be so on your own. Do your research and invest in a good translator. Don’t have room for that in the budget? Get creative. We are living in an age where out-of-the-box thinking is not only revered by the masses, but essential to survival.

5. Launch Day:

Traditional?  You may or may not get a launch party hosted by your publisher, but you most certainly will get about 30 days to see how your book is going to fare. If it doesn’t perform well in this 30-day time frame, it doesn’t bode well for its longevity on the market.

Indie?  You can throw your own launch party if you like…you can even attend in your jammies from the comfort of your own home. But whatever you decide, it doesn’t matter. In fact, some folks quietly slip their book online and promote it later when they have time. There’s no expiration date, and you can promote it as long and as often as you’d like. But keep in mind — and you’re going to see this on every indie writer site you come across — there’s no better promotion than the next release. As a writer, your time is almost always better spent writing new stories.

6. How Much Money Did We Make?

Traditional?  In addition to an advance, authors typically receive 8-15% royalty on trade paperbacks sold. Authors receive two royalty statements a year, and so it’s difficult to say exactly how a book is doing on any given day. And check out Simon & Schuster’s weighty royalty statements.

Indie?  There’s no advance money, but authors can earn up to 70% royalty on the sales of their digital titles, 30% for the lower price range. And compare the above with the instant! reporting available from Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing or Barnes & Noble’s PubIt! sites, not to mention payment of royalties in about 60 days via check or EFT.

7. What’s Next?

Traditional?  It depends on your contract, but really, your publisher decides this based on what they feel they can sell.

Indie?  It’s up to you. You can do whatever you want. You can write short story series, illustrated screenplays, or goth children’s books. Whatever makes you rub your hands in glee and lean forward over your keyboard. Because you know down here on the ground floor, in the shoving and pushing that goes on in Twitterverse, you will find your own.

 ~ In Conclusion ~

Jesus, the guy who works in sales and marketing, does not love you. He is there to further the goals of the company he works for. He can only follow the directives of his superiors. The numbers will be the numbers, and even Jesus can’t change those for you.

At the end of the day, the only person you can count on to work the hardest with your best interests in mind is yourself. Keep in mind, the work is the same. To be successful in any kind of publishing, you still need write with all your passion, edit with all your sensibilities, and reach out to readers with all your genuineness.

And, of course, you’ve gotta have faith in yourself.


Check back tomorrow for the final installation in this series: Losing My Religion, Part 5: You Are All Powerful.