Monday, December 10, 2012

Stuff that you need to know about being a writer (but were afraid to ask)

Over on the BookTrust blog, Matt Haig blogged the 37 facts that he knows about being a writer. And hey, since it is a good idea...and this is the blogosphere, and I am a writer...this is my list of 26 things that I know about being a writer. (26 things because that is the number of letters in the English alphabet.) So here is more or less, everything that I know about being a writer after thirty-four years of writing (twenty-eight years actually spent being involved in the actual trade of being a paid writer), having sold greeting card slogans, numerous erotica stories, working for a college newspaper and several magazines, having done five years of monthly columns (astrology and Wicca), and having restarted my business last year.

1--The quickest way to annoy a writer is to suggest an idea to them, and then offer to allow the writer to write up the project while you take fifty percent of the proceeds just for having the idea. If it was so easy to write up the idea, then you should do it yourself and leave the writer to work with their own ideas. It is not like there is only one Muse in the world.

2--Writers have been practicing their story telling craft since they learned to spell, if not before they learned to talk.

3--Writers are insulted by the idea that all creative works should be given freely to the world. They are also insulted by the idea that the life span of their copyright should be less than their own and their spouse's lifetimes, plus a dollop of years for their dependents. Even more insulting is the idea that other people should be allowed to use their work without paying the writer.

4--Writers are deeply offended by the idea that they should support themselves with a burger flipping job, even if that burger flipping job involves retail work or a cubicle. In a writer's mind, a writer should be paid for what they do best.

5--While writers do believe that certain forms of writing are better than others, they do not need you to tell them which forms are better. Writers are quite capable of being judgmental all by themselves. The same holds true for market venues (traditional v. indie), other writers and their works; writers can weigh the merits of the written word without the need to consult you or your chosen model of literary standards.

6--Occasionally a writer will give away some of their work. It is called advertising, and does not violate the idea that writers should be paid for their hard work.

7--It is easier to find a new client than convince an existing client to pay a writer more; this is especially true if the writer started out by giving away some of their writing in order to gain a few bylines and portfolio items. It is not heresy for a writer to move onto more monetary rich pastures.

8--A writer is always working, even when it looks like they are playing computer games. Napping, gardening, and talking on the phone are also working on projects. Some of the best writing occurs while loading the dishwasher or taking a shower. The writer's work starts in their brain, and grows long before it is committed to paper or pixels.

9--A writer is capable of ignoring dirty floors and mountains of moldy dishes; such things are not visible in the world of forms and forces that their mind works in.

10--Writers can be driven to the keyboard by the lack of rent and cat food money. This is not prostitution of their talents; it is survival. If a writer could find a rich patron, they would be quite happy to never to write adcopy or any of the less-savory forms of writing ever again...provided that the less-savory forms did not give them a challenge.

11--Writers can play the same song over and over a thousand times without noticing that others are being driven crazy by it. In fact, the same song being repeatedly played may be essential to their writing process.

12--All writers write something that they do not admit to writing.

13--Pen-names, deadlines, and editors are just tools to help a writer be able to write more.

14--A writer's routines are holy, and necessary to compel their Muse to show up. The most valuable routine is quiet time at a keyboard.

15--Writers consider the details about their characters and worlds to be amorphous. A writer will never allow an inconvenient "established" detail to stand in the way of a good story.

16--Writers tend to collect books, cats, and stray facts.

17--Writers live on unguarded food, especially cookies, chips, and soda.

18--Writers obsess over their sales figures and audience numbers.

19--Writers hate people who expound upon how professional writers do things, especially when the expounder is not a professional writer themselves.

20--Despite popular opinion, writers know that not everyone can write. Likewise, they realize that not everyone can fix a car engine, or do plumbing and electrical work. Writers, being specialists, believe that specialists should be used as needed and paid well for their services.

21--Stories eventually find their audiences. The trick is to be happy with the size of one's audience, and have the skill to be able to grow it as time goes by.

22--The hacks of today are busy producing the works that will be studies in tomorrow's literature classes. Shakespeare was a hack; the proof of this is that he wrote entertainment for the masses--even more damning is the fact that he was doing it for money. A successful writer embraces being a hack.

23--Writers cannot help writing. A writer who is no longer writing is dead, or at the very least, very, very sick. Writing keeps the monkeys in one's head from screaming too loudly.

24--All writers are mentally ill. After all, all writers lock themselves up to be alone with their imaginary friends.

25--The market for writing is always changing. A successful writer deals with the market as it is, not as it should be. A successful writer has numerous projects going on, and cultivates new venues to sell their work in.

26--A successful writer needs a strong ego and well-established personal boundaries. They must be able to turn down work that does not help their career, and be able to defend their schedule and mental health from those who want to rob them of their limited time and sanity.

Bad Monkey is now available from B&N

The Bad Monkey ebook is now available online at Barnes and Noble.
The good news is that Bad Monkey--the Collected 2011 Hearthstone Community Church Articles is available for sale online from Barnes and Noble (99 cents). The bad news is that there is no cover image for the ebook. *sigh* Not that the cover would actually help the ebook sell--after all, it is more of a in-joke between my friends and me (shared with those who attended the June 2011 Open Full Moon ritual), but still I can't imagine it doing better without the cover image being available. There is also no product description, and the sample size is so small that you really can not get a flavor for my writing style. Oh yeah, this is really going to sell. Yes, you can file this under "The joys of writing ebooks."

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tentacle Sex Fiends

That thing on Trump's head is a Tentacle Sex Fiend.
Something that one notices when one writes erotica, especially after this spring's Paypal fit over the Forbidden Four, are the weird things that other erotica writers are hacking out.

One of these weird things is Tentacle Sex. Yes, erotica involving tentacles (demonic and/or alien), especially slimy tentacles and dubious consent. Isn't that bordering on two of the Forbidden Four?!

At first, I thought that it was just a Lovecraft fan taking their Lovecraft fetish to a new level. But then I noticed that more than one person was writing about tentacle sex. Ok, maybe there is more than one writer out there with a Lovecraft fetish, I thought. Then I noticed more tentacle sex show up in the Smashwords front page display--enourgh to make me curious.

So last night, I decided to punch in "tentacle sex" into the search form at Smashwords (400 plus in the results), Barnes and Noble (between 400 and 100, depending upon how refined your search is), and Amazon (about 400 results). And there are a couple of dozen writers who seem to specialize in this sub-genre, with a half dozen or more tentacle sex ebooks apiece. More telling is the fact that the prices seem to be solid at $2.99 for three or four thousand words.

Ok, I understand why the writers are writing this stuff. After all, I write one of the Forbidden Four...because, well, people buy the stuff, and I have cats to feed. (In fact, it was the realization that someone was getting paid to write one of the Forbidden Four that got me started as a professional writer.) As a writer, occasionally you write something as a see if there are some sex fiends out there who will like your tasty erotica offering.

And if you make enourgh, you write more of that type. Your focus as a writer tends to go when the money is...especially if you are good at writing a genre or sub-genre (even if it does not personally turn your own crank) and the pay is decent. But in order to sell the stuff, there has to be readers.

So my question, given my search results, is: Who are these tentacle sex fiends?!

I mean, based on my search results, there has to be quite a few of them. You wouldn't get that much of this stuff up in the five years that ereaders have been around if there wasn't a fair number of them. Could my neighbor be an alien tentacle fan?! My doctor?! The bag-boy or bag-girl at the local grocery store?! How about the cop at the local station house?! Is the world filled with these tentacle sex fiends?!

Of course, the bigger question is should I attempt to write a tentacle sex story myself to test the market. What?! I am supposed to be classier than that--who did you think that you have been reading? Miss Manners?

After all, I have cats to feed; and I have already proven that I really have no pride left, thanks to my empty wallet.

(And before you ask, no, I will not advertise any tentacle sex offerings here...I have my silly rules about not advertising most of my more interesting work--call it a small town sense of shame. Only wholesome fiction and esoteric commentary gets advertised here.)

Now available on Barnes and Noble

Shakespheare's Monkey is now available on Barnes and Noble.
Revised cover for Pizza Boxes on the Floor: The Collected 2010 Hearthstone Articles.
Shakespheare's Monkey, a collection of my short-short fiction that I wrote a few years ago is now available on Barnes and Noble for $1.99. It took me awhile to get it up on B&N because I was having trouble with creating a linked table of contents--now, that I have learned the trick, I have to go fix a couple of my previous ebooks to the improved table of contents type.

Sometime, before the first of the year, I plan on assembling and uploading the 2011 collection of Hearthstone articles (Bad Monkey); also possibly the 2012 collection (Lunatic with a Soapbox).

Also available on Barnes and Noble is Pizza Boxes on the Floor: The Collected 2010 Hearthstone Articles (99 cents). In 2010, I started to write a monthly column for the Hearthstone Community Church's newletter. Recently, I had the chance to fix the table of contents. While the metadata and sample are out of date, the cover has switched to the new cover (I lost the original file, and Smashwords recently upped the suggested cover size), so I presume that it is actual the version with the fixed table of contents.

Remember that buying books from me helps support the cat on the cover--he likes the really tasty expensive food. Be kind to kitty--buy an ebook from me.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How not to use a PDF to advertise yourself

Isn't the value of a book determined by the amount that people are willing to pay for it?
Ok, this is one of those situations that even if you do not know the players involved, you can still roll your eyes with me.

A few years ago, someone issued a fifty dollar hardcover book. I think it was technically self-published.

It went out of print, and soon people were trying to sell it for a thousand dollars--but the highest I have seen it sell for on eBay is one hundred and fifty, and no one--I mean no one--has ever offered me more than the original fifty for the copy that is in my possession.

A couple of years ago, a pdf of the book ended up on the pirate sites. I am not sure if it is up on Pirate Bay, but I imagine that it is. I know that I could easily find a pdf of the book today if I didn't already have a copy.

There are some issues with this particular pdf. While it has all 666 pages, they are occasionally blurry and not all of them are in proper order. (The book is ok until page 505, then it has 520 & 521, then 536 & 537, then goes back to page 506, proceeds ok until page 519, then to page page 535, then goes back to 520, all is ok until page 523 when is jumps to page 538.)

Recently, the author (who refuses to publish anything new, or even reprint this book, because of the behavior of internet pirates; and brags about how much his book goes for, despite the fact that he says that resellers are a bunch of dishonest scalpers) offered a pdf of his book to people that attended a webinar of his.

Now, I have a friend who attended the webinar because they were hoping for a better pdf of the book. After all, it is simple to create a better pdf from the original files--and that what should be happening, right?

[Not a spy--a friend in this person's organization. There is a difference...or at least, in my universe, it is. I am quite sure that this author will think otherwise, but they already hate the fact that I occasionally communicate with people inside his organization. After all, this is an organization that has labeled me an enemy, and here I am still friends with people on the inside of it.]

Wrong, the writer was giving away copies of the bad scanned and formatted pirated version of their book. Oy vey. Here is a person who obviously does not know a marketing opportunity when they see one.

What they should have done is create a clean, completely readable version from their original file, added a few advertising pages (are they really married to the 666 page count?), with a linked table of contents, and gave that version out instead. You know, a version that was superior to the version already available on the pirate sites, complete with a note saying that they were giving an improved version of book to the greater community. You know--a win-win situation.

I do not know why they did not do this. But I do know that they missed a golden opportunity to advertise their expertise. A new clean version, complete with an advertising page, would get them more respect than giving out the same bad pirate version that most of us already had a copy of.

Oh well, they will still have a field day advertising themselves once they see this post...because they will come up with a spiritual reason about why what they did is better than doing this in the business-like manner that I think they should have used. After all, what do I know about spiritual matters--for god's sake, I am treating this situation like it was just an advertising campaign.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

And then the power went out

The only thing that did not happen last night.
So yesterday, I fielded a phone call, annoyed someone on Facebook (if you talk about me, I am going to annoy you), did some household chores. Then I started to get ready to nuke myself some dinner before starting to write. I figured that I had time; my wife was stuck in a class last night.

I am popping open the tupperware container containing the leftovers that I plan on eating, confident that I am going to get a couple of hours of writing done. So what happens?

*drum-roll please*

Yep, that is right. The power goes out. For over fifteen hours.

So instead of writing, I ended up thinking about writing, and going to bed early. I also had a surge-protection power-strip fried. And as I write this, I am still one of the lucky ones. There are still a thousand people near-by who still do not have power, thanks to this fall snow storm.

Let's see if tonight's writing goes as plan, shall we?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Should writers depend upon the Christmas shopping season?

As I write this, the entire retail world of the United States, or a good percent of it, is preparing for the Christmas shopping season. The biggest retail shopping days of the year, such as Black Friday, are rapidly approaching. Retailers often depend upon the Christmas shopping season to survive--the bulk of their business is done during Christmas; and the rest of the year, they are lucky to make enourgh to keep the lights on.

And this goes beyond the retail stores. The last restaurant chain I worked for, Renzios (a Greek shopping mall type restaurant), did excellent sales during the Christmas season (captive audience situation)--yet also managed to stay in the black for the rest of the year.

Yet that was not true of all of their locations. For instance, the location that I worked for. My slowest time of the year was the Christmas season. I used to send my employees to other locations (one, so that they could get extra hours; two, to save on my labor costs). There was exception originally, and that was the two nights of the Parade of Lights--but when the Pavilions on 16th Street Mall was built, that all changed and the Parade of Lights became two of my slowest days.

So all this is in the back of my mind as I shift to my new profession--writing ebooks and e-articles--and face my first full Christmas season as a writer.

Should I place a lot of weight on the Christmas season?

My immediate gut reaction is "no."

My logic being that: One, I do not control anything beyond my own keyboard; and Two, if I am not ready for Christmas already--well, it is too late.

Now, this is not saying that there is no possibility of getting some extra sales this holiday season. But honestly, how many people buy other people ebooks for the holidays? I have yet to see solid numbers to answer that question.

As a writer, my business model is a year-round business. Any extra sales I make during Christmas have to be divided and budgeted to support the rest of the year. My Christmas season campaign is actually a writing campaign for a couple of books that will not be released until next year (if ever--there is always a chance that they will turn out to be pure trash and never released).

When you work on projects that require months to complete...the excitement of Christmas sprees take a backseat. Even a simple article can be in the pipeline for months, if not years. (Honest truth, I once got paid two years after submission for a $25 dollar article.) My tasks as a writer are to slowly build up my stock of books and articles, and my readership (audience), over the course of years. A seasonal event like the Christmas shopping season is just a speed bump at best, a distraction at worst.

It would be nice to get a bump in ebook sales if it happens, but I am not banking on it. And I do not think that any writer should.

[And realistically, I still do not have that much stock up--and what I do have up is short stories. I have yet to get a finished novel up. And so it goes.]

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Getting ready for NaNoWriMo

So I decided to do NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) again this year. Nanowrimo is a trip into insanity--what?! no?!--where writers try to write a fifty thousand word novel (first draft) in the space of thirty days.

[To learn more about National Novel Writing Month, check out the Nanowrimo website.]

This will be my sixth attempt to accomplish this task. This attempt will be the first time that I have tried to do it without those pesky college classes also being involved. Maybe the sixth time will be the charm. (Yes, I have five unfinished novels and a pile of term papers to show for the previous attempts.)

I thought about not doing Nanowrimo this year, and devote my time to writing short erotica stories instead--but considering that I really need to build up my stock as a writer and need to diversify, I just as well do it. Besides, with the Christmas season approaching and the fact that nothing that I put this quarter is going to affect this year's income, this is as good as any time to work on an urban fantasy novel.

So how am I getting ready? I am thinking about the setting that I plan on using for my story (think James Bond meets Harry Potter), and listening to James Bond soundtracks. And yes, this is more preparation than I have ever done for the Nanowrimo.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Back to the past

Mitt Romney wants us to go back to the good old days.
One thing I have noticed about people is that they really want to go back to the good old days when America was king of the hill.

And this includes Mitt Romney, who as President Barack Obama noted, "Governor, when it comes to our foreign policy you seem to want the policies of the 1980s, just like you want to import the social policies of the 1950s and the economic policies of the 1920s." And then there was the Navy and military comment where Romney complained about the number of Navy ships we have, as well as our low number of airplanes--obviously the numbers are the only thing that matters to Romney, not the fact that current technology can blow anything from 1916 and 1947 right out of the water. As Obama noted, "We also have fewer horses and bayonets because the nature of our military has changed."

So what does this have to do with writing, besides the fact that the Republicans are most likely to make my bread and butter writing illegal (because no one should be reading erotica)--well, it reminds me of something else.

There are a whole bunch of people who seem to think that the writing business is still the same writing business of the 1950s. I am amazed at the number of blogs and articles that I read that are focused on finding an agent or getting a legacy publishing contract.

We have moved away from paper publishing and legacy publishing. Today, writing has changed. Today, writers are writing ebooks, and are successfully making livings while being self-published.

Yet we are still getting writing advice that sounds more suitable for the 1950s. And trust me, I am going to scream the next time someone suggests that I send something to a legacy publisher...because I could get an advance on my royalities.

I have actually consider digging through some old writing magazines and books, and talking about how the advice does not necessarily hold true today; this is provided that people quit repeating the same advice on the internet (unlikely, right?).

But I am not sure that anyone would read such a series...because it involves dealing with things as they are in the present, and how they might change in the future. We are not supposed to embrace change. We are supposed to be putting the genie back into the bottle--because everything was so much better in the good old days.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The biggest hazard to my writing business

Twice in this past month, I have been reminded that the biggest hazard to my business as a writer is myself. To be more precise, it is my mental programming that is the problem. And it is something that I really need to remember.

What brought on the reminder that I have some shoddy mental programming (think mental virus and malware) was the fact that I have spiraled down into two very bad mental modes in the last thirty days--mental modes that have taken me over a week apiece to crawl out of. And both were brought on by stray comments by people who, well, really do not understand the current state of my business. (In fact, I am sure that neither one knows a damn thing about my business.)

The first mental mode was a nice deep depression. The second mode, well, I am going to use the term "violence and suicide" to describe it--it is something that I think my relatives will instantly understand because we all have it to varying degrees.

Both modes were brought about because someone made a random comment about the fact that perhaps because of the lack of income I am making as a writer that perhaps I should be looking for a regular job.

Now, my lack of income as a writer can be explained away by the fact that my business basically restarted just a year ago. While I have been freelancing off and on since 1984, I didn't start self-publishing (ebooks) until just a year ago. Yes, by that mark, my business is just a year old. And most of that first year, I was still attending the University of Colorado at business was more of a back burner thing than it was a front line priority.

But the important part, which is being overlooked, is that it is doing better than I have ever done as a writer previous to this point. I am actually selling ebooks--not at a quick pace, but enourgh that I can see that what I need the most is more stock to sell.

And more stock to sell is exactly what I would lose if I throw in the towel at this point in time. Oh, I can still hack out the occasional short story, but what I really need is a novel or two, and some other major projects. Because all I currently have up are articles and short stories--I do not have anything longer than that.

Now, my regular readers know the reason why I will not be able to get anything longer up--the only work that I have experience in is restaurant and retail work--twenty years worth (oh, and a college newspaper job--but I did not major in journalism). The type of work that I am qualified for tends to be you are overworked and underpaid, and on call 24/7. Basically, they work you until you are too exhausted to do anything up, and ensure that you have to work until the day you die. (And they say that slavery is a thing of the past.)

I know logically that I am better off just taking the next few months to work on bigger projects (in fact, my production schedule is completely full until February...if not later). But emotionally, my mental programming says that I should listen to the bad advice and go back to flipping burgers...because short term money issues trump all long term plans, no matter how sound the long term plans are.

And I know that I am prone to walking away from my writing even in the best of times. Before I got into restaurant management, I had actually started to get hand-written rejection slips. The professional writers in the room will know what that means--I managed to convince some editors that I was going to be a real writer some day.

What did I do? Oh, I quit writing for several years. It was only after spending some time as a restaurant manager that I picked up the pen again. And one could argue that I stepped away from my writing again while I was in college. My venturing into ebooks was caused by the fact that I lost my college newspaper job, and my school schedule was not conductive to burger flipping, plus the fact that one of my friends was doing good in a market that I have been doing in print since 1984.

So I know that I have to be cautious about my own mental state. Especially now that my business has started to actually work for me. At the moment, provided that nothing major goes wrong, such as ebooks becoming illegal or something like that, my writing income will be better than any of my previous years...and that is even if I do not write another word. This is not the time that I should be thinking about stepping away from the table--at this point in time, I should be rolling up my sleeves for a major campaign.

We will see if my mental programming allows me to do so or not. At this point in time, I am not making any sudden bets. But then again, I am aware of my little mental programming problem...and knowing is half the battle, right?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Are you ready for Xmas?

Kitty is not yet ready for Xmas.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she just saw Christmas lights being put up at her local shopping mall (guess Halloween and Thanksgiving got cancelled). And while it makes me freak out, years of management tells me that it makes sense from the viewpoint of the shopping mall.

First, Halloween and Thanksgiving are not big retail holidays.

Second, this year has really sucked been slow for retail stores.

Third, most retail stores depend upon Christmas to put themselves in the black for the year. (Yes, your average retail store in mostly in the red for most of the year--it brings a whole new level of meaning to the term "black friday.")

Now, as writers, one would think that we would be above such things. No. No. No.

Today on Smashwords, I was reading Mark Coker's suggestions for when to get stuff into the system if we want to have our ebooks available in various outlets (Apple, etc.). And honestly, I thought he was being optimistic (his estimate assumes that everything goes correctly--I have been having lag times under another pen-name for Apple and Barnes & Noble to get my stuff into their systems).

Coming from the print market as I do, where you submitted your stuff like nine months before the holiday, I came up with my own deadline for the material that I want in the sytem before the Christmas shopping rush.

That deadline? Oh, it is Halloween. I figure that given the amount of stuff outside of my control that the only way that I can be sure that my stuff is up for sale by the start of the Christmas rush (which having done retail means the day after Thanksgiving) is to get it in before the end of the month.

I figure that anything that I do after the end of October may or may not get into the distribution network. And besides, I plan on doing the NaNoWriMo again this year, so that is additional reason for me to aim for Halloween as my Xmas deadline.

Not that I depend upon the Christmas rush to make my is just that some extra sales would be nice to have, given the fact that I am about to have student loan payments about to start being due.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How is my business going? (Q3 2012)

Every once in awhile, I get asked the question, "How is your business doing?" or some variation, such as "How are ebooks working out for you?"

Now, at the moment, this question is actually hard to answer. To understand why, one must realize that my business underwent a couple of changes last year--and a major change this year.

One of the changes that happened last year was that I actually started to do a certain amount of photography and advertising for another business, Celtic Soul Jewelry and Pottery, my wife's pottery business. I have been doing photography for her off and on for several years, but it was for record keeping. The current set of photos are actually for sale purposes.

One of the things that changed my approach was the simple fact that I brought a better camera--something that I was required to have when I was still working for the school newspaper. The old camera was hers; this one is MINE. My wife and one of our friends have made the comment on occasion that it is like I was born with a camera in my hand.

The reason that my photography style had to change was the fact that she started selling pottery and jewelry online (after years of me saying that she should do so). But the change in style has meant that in the future I will be using several of my own photos as cover art.

It is only a matter of time before I start seriously freelancing on that front. And yes, my wife is paying me to do photography and advertising for her. Therefore, I have to consider that part of my current business model--and that is completely brand new.

The other change which happened last year was that I switched from the print market as a writer to the ebook market. This happened in October. It was such a major change that I consider my current writing business to be a new business, and not a continution of my print market efforts (which I started to submit to in 1985).

Now, as the writers who read this blog know, the ebook market is only about five years old, and really did not start picking up speed until 2010. The newness of the ebook market and my recent entry in it means that I am still trying to collect a full set of initial numbers to base my answer on...and my decisions.

(For the record, the section of the print market that I made the most money in was gutted by the internet--it is only now that the internet and ereaders have provided a replacement for that market.)

These two changes by themselves make it hard to figure out how my business is doing. Essentially, it is a new business. By the standard of my old freelance days, I doing better than I was. Unfortunately, the major change that happened just a few months ago makes it look like my business is doing really bad.

Basically, my business has became my sole source of income (outside of the occasional Tarot reading and other odd job).

During my time in college, I relied upon student loans to make ends met. But that is no longer an option for me. I graduated this spring with two Bachelor degrees: Hitory and Literary Studies. While I do intend to go back for a Masters in at least one of these subjects, it was decided that I am going to wait until my wife finishes her Masters in Education for the Linguistically Diverse (think ESL) before going back to school.

Now, let's be honest--the job market s***s, and unemployment will not drop to 7% until 2014 by the best estimates. So my degrees combined with twenty years of food service would get me a job service, if I was lucky.

Therefore, the decision was made because of the job market and a strange bounce that one of my ebooks did (it is performing really well compared to the others) that I would focus on building my business until my re-entry into college (technically, it will be university).

Another factor that makes it hard to figure out how well my business is doing is the simple fact that I was burnt out terribly by the last two semesters (back to back capstone Senior Seminars). I had a hard time getting my act and cranking out the writing.

The cherry on top of all this doubt and non-informationis the fact that I am starting to do artwork, editing, and formating for other writers...and calling it publishing (because I am going to collect a percentage). And that is also completely new for me.

So really at the moment, I am incapable of answering the question of "How is your business going?" This quarter will be better than the last quarter (if my estimate is correct), as has been the last two quarters, and the next quarter should be better than this one. But that is about all I know until I spend some more time working at it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Free for today only

Shakespeare's Monkey
Today (well technically until Friday September 14, 2012), you can get a free copy of my ebook Shakespeare's Monkey when you enter coupon code EX49A at the checkout. Why free today? Well, one of the stories contained in this volume was based on 9/11--apologizes to the dozen people that I blended together to create the characters (it was creative license)--and today is as good of a day to share that piece of fiction as any other.

(And yes to my editing friends, I do realize that the title is misspelled on the is going to get fixed as soon as I find a photoediting program that I am comfortable with.)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

And today's worst sentence

And the prize for today's worst sentence goes to the following unknown spammer:

"From the book of record, nominated countries like Ghana, Nigeria, London  Including some Asia and European countries were short-listed as highest fraud  rated countries. So therefore you have to report to our investigating Board  to monitor all such activities suspected as fraud, scam, drug dealing and any  other illegal activities."

Good for London for being a country; it is just too bad that you are a crime riddled society. As for the rest of the sentence, well, it just makes my editorial eyes bleed.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Where my ebook sales are happening

Troll cat insists that I answer his riddles three before I start filing things.
As the result of a question on Facebook, today I looked at my ebook sales figures and figured out where I was selling the most stuff.

(Please note that I am doing business through Smashwords. This is because I started putting up ebooks during a semester that was tight on time--I had time to deal with one site and one site only. And then, I just continued to do so...because even their slowest times to complete global tasks is still quicker than the print market I first started out in.)

For occult writing, Smashwords is 61.5% of my sales. The rest is done through Kobo (31%) and Barnes & Noble (7.5%).

This is only the ebooks that I am charging for; the figures for my free ebook is incomplete.

For my sales in erotica, the hands-down winner is Barnes & Noble at 64%. The other markets that I am selling erotica in: Smashwords (14.5%), Apple (11.6%), Kobo (7.7%), and Sony (2.2%).

I have yet to earn anything through Diesel, Page Foundry, Baker-Taylor (I have had some of my free stuff downloaded through Diesel and Baker-Taylor, so maybe someday I will get some sales there).

As for Amazon, we all know the problem between Smashwords and Amazon. And besides, some of my erotica is of the Forbidden Four category and therefore, too racy for Amazon to stock in the first place. Someday, I will break down and upload some stuff directly to Amazon. Probably after I take time out to answer my cat's riddles three.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My small ten dollar quarterly goal

During the last year that I spent as an undergrad at the University of Colorado at Denver, I decided that my business needed a new plan and a new goal. Having tried to have "real goals" and being overwhelmed constantly with time management conflicts (the joys of working on two Bachelor degrees at the same time), I decided that my writing goal would be a mere ten dollars of new stock a quarter.

Yes, just ten dollars of new stock a quarter.

Yep, I have no ambition. Or rather, I was sick and tired of constantly missing larger and more "realistic" goals.

I am not exactly sure why people think that a writer (or any other self-employed person) is being unrealistic when they create a small, but do-able goal. No, the world says that you must think BIG, and create goals of adding hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to your income every quarter.

In my case, I wasn't sure that I could even hit the ten dollar mark every quarter. After all, it was the year that I was doing my senior seminars in both literature and history.

The reason that I decided that ten dollars was an acceptable goal was that it was small. And I declared that it was "new stock" or "front list." That is the key to the overall plan.

One of the truths about being a writer is that you have two catergories of work--your frontlist (the stuff you recently did) and your backlist (everything else). It is a carry-over from legacy publishing: your frontlist would be this year's book, and your backlist would be all the stuff that you published in previous years.

Another truth is that your income as a writer is the sum of both your frontlist and your backlist.

I once read that if someone wanted to be successful at making a living as an author that one's backlist earnings had to match (equal) one's income from one's frontlist. And this idea was from a book from the 1970s, long before we started to kick around the idea of passive income on the internet.

So the logic that I was using in setting a ten dollar goal was that if I did enourgh work to earn ten dollars from new work in a quarter, then that same work would just naturally flow into my backlist and I would not need to worry about it.

(Ok, I worry about my backlist income, but there is not much that I can do about it--or very little I can do about it.)

Now, I was assuming that my initial income during the first quarter would be a good indication of the amount I would make passively once the work hit the backlist. I was wrong (!). But let's pretend that I was right for a few seconds.

At the end of first quarter, I figured ten dollars for the quarter. Second quarter, another ten dollars of new stuff, and ten dollars from old stuff. Third quarter, another ten of new, twenty of old. And so forth.

Basically, it is a scheme of stacking more and more stuff into the stack until it finally reaches critical mass.

And yes, I know that ten dollars of new stuff is a really small goal. Did I mention I was going to college at the time? As it was, I missed the goal the first quarter of this three dollars (in my defense, it was a big paper I needed for my senior seminar; there was also that whole Paypal situation).

Now, the reason that I am thinking about it today, my measely little goal, is that my wife just learned that I am going to make the quarterly goal before the end of the month. And she thinks that I should make my quarterly goal higher. I disagree. I think that I should stick to it...and keep it this small.

One of the things I realized about having a small goal as a writer is that I could hit it despite being overwhelmed with work in college. I figure that the same would be true if I was punching a time clock and sitting in a cubicle. The amount of work I am doing to accomplish it is about the same amount of writing that I was doing in the print market (magazines) while I was flipping burgers for a living. The difference is that I am not selling articles and stories for a one-time-only check; today, I am focused on ebooks.

And some of the things that I am working on are big projects (!!). I am hitting the ten dollar goal with short stories. I am not sure if I can hack out a long book every quarter, therefore to continue accomplishing the goal, I have to be able to borrow time from the big project. Therefore, I would like it to be as small as a goal as possible.

So for now, I am sticking with the ten dollar a quarter goal. It is not much, but it is keeping me moving in the right direction.

(!) For the curious, it turns out that some of the stuff I do does worse in the backlist. Some of it does about the same. And some of it does much, much better. Without knowing all the facts, it turns out that my estimate was right and oh so wrong at the same time. In my own personal case, a couple of ebooks are doing a lot better than the rest...and so it goes. Based on personal experience, I would tell a newbie writer that my plan is sound.

(!!) One of the projects that I am currently working on is expanding the Three Officer Version of the Golden Dawn Neophyte initiation Ritual. This is not a money winning project.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It was a thinking day today

Today was a thinking day. One of those days that make it look like I am not actually working on the writing, but really I is just that all the visible work can be condensed down to a single page of outline for a project that I am starting to kick around.

(The title of the project that I am kicking around is Imps and Imaginary Friends; it is going to be a collection of essays about my "normal" childhood.)

I don't actually remember scheduling a thinking day today. But it ended up being one between the scanning of documents for my wife, and the household chores that I chose (willingly) to do today.

And it was probably gas tank was getting kinda empty. To understand that you have to remember that I started my freelance career as a writer while working at a Burger King. I did a lot of thinking while cleaning and/or standing around between orders.

Anyways, I did work today--just did not get many words down on paper, that's all.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What is the best price for erotica stories?

A couple of months ago, Mark Coker revealed some data that indicated that the sweet spot on ebook pricing was $2.99. Since then, Smashwords has been flooded with erotica stories priced at (c'mon, make a guess--yep, that is right) $2.99.

As I write this (2:45 pm on Saturday, 23 June 2012), peeking at the erotica listings on Smashwords, I am not surprised to see that all ten of the erotica ebooks on the first page are listed at $2.99. One of them is four to five thousand words; four of them are three to four thousand words; one is between two and three thousand words; and four of them are between one and two thousand words.

[Erotica listings on Smashwords--I wonder if the numbers have changed much since I wrote this. Maybe you want to go look to see if all ten books are at $2.99. It could be a drinking game.]

Actually it is the last four that make me think that price inflation has occurred since Coker revealed the price information. Three of the four are 1130 words, and the fourth is 1100 words. When you account for front matter, that $2.99 for less than a thousand words.

(My front matter--copyright notice, link to Smashwords suthor page, sexual dubious warning, etc.--is about two hundred words. I can't imagine doing it with much less words.)

Given this sample, on average you are paying $2.99 for 2619 words, and some of those words consists of advertising, guilt and copyright notices. I am not sure that two and a half thousand words of erotica short story is worth $2.99.

Now before Coker made his announcement that the best price for earning was $2.99, I saw a lot of variety in the erotica ebook prices on Smashwords. It ranged from 99 cents to ten bucks. (There were also a lot of free ebooks--but that is promotion mainly.)

I was starting to vary my erotica ebooks prices before this announcement, experimenting with $1.99 and $2.99 prices--but seventy percent of my stock is still priced at 99 cents. I am waiting on more sales data before deciding where my sweet spot is for erotica. But I can see already that $2.99 is not necessarily my own personal sweet spot for erotica, especially short stories.

And I know that as a customer and reader, it is not a price that I am willing to shell out just to recieve a thousand words.

(Yes, I am writing some erotica. Doesn't every writer sooner or later write erotica just to test the market? And no, monkey-brains [a friend of mine], I am not going to reveal my erotica pen-name here.)

This is not just an erotica question. I write more than just erotica. Multiple genres, multiple pen-names.

For instance, recently I was kicking around the prices for several pieces of fiction that I was uploading to Smashwords. [Morgan Drake Eckstein on Smashwords.] The collection of several stories and poems ended up with the $2.99 price; the single short story and the infamous Zealot's Dictionary (a humor piece) got priced at 99 cents. It made sense to me; after all, I do not want to price myself out of the market.

And that is what I think this rush to use $2.99 as the price is going to do with a lot of erotica writers. I think that it is going to be a bad move that is going to cost them sales. I foresee a lot of people having to lower their price. Especially those people who are only offering a product of a thousand words.

The reason for the rush is that I think that the writers who are jumping on this price do not understand the data. The figures that Mark Coker was sharing are based on the TOTAL of Smashwords sales. The figures include those people in the top ten spots, as well as everyone else. It included works with as few as five hundred words up to the hundred thousand plus; in other words, flash fiction to novels--everything was included in the data.

In fact, the way I read his comments, it sounded like readers like longer novels and that the sweet spot for the price of a long novel is $2.99. I could be wrong; after all, I am using just the collected data and not the raw data.

Furthermore I believe that those people pumping out $2.99 erotica short stories are forgetting that each writer has their own sweet spot for pricing. My pricing sweet spot may not be the same as yours. Your sweet spot depends upon your audience. My audience is definitely different than most.

So for now, there are a bunch of writers who believe that $2.99 is the best price for erotic short stories. I disagree. Time will tell if they also end up believing otherwise.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

You have to use the bacon

Bacon Sundaes, limited time only at Burger King.
One of the things that keeps me writing, despite the poor wages, is the fact that I used to work at Burger King (a place that my wife forbids me to even think about applying to for a job--she must love me). Having worked there, occasionally I cannot help shaking my head when I see one of their commericals or new product ideas.

Really, a bacon sundae?!

Let me guess, it was a boring shift. The employees had used up all the destructive possibilities that pickles can provide (tossing them in the deep fat fryer, running them through the broiler, trying to get them to stick to the ceiling) and they have moved onto the bacon. And the boss came in to discover that one of his employees had created a taste treat called a bacon sundae...must call corporate with that idea because America is not fat enourgh already.

Yes, I know that bacon makes everything better. Provided that it is real bacon. What Burger King has might be real bacon...provided that you are trapped on a spaceship going to Mars. Oh wait, the Earth-Mars run would use Vegan-Bacon or maybe Algae-Bacon. Burger King bacon is Vogon bacon, right up there with their poetry, made fresh in a microwave for your heart's pleasure. Or is that your impeding heart attack.

Sorry, I still sound bitter, don't I? Really, I should be nicer. After all, it was at Burger King where I first started to write greeting card slogans (some I actually sold) and other bits of "Please pay me, so I can get out of this boring job" writing. That is what happens after you use up all the destructive potential of bacon, you start to write...maybe that is just in my little universe.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Author (Zealot's Dictionary)

Author: Someone who has completed a piece of writing and has submitted it for public ridicule. A legitimate author publishes his work only on paper through the slavery system of a publishing house which requires a decade of effort on the author’s behalf for the privilege of attempting to sell a million copies in a three day period in order to be allowed to waste another decade of their life. All authors get paid a penny per copy sold. Successful authors are considered to be so by the virtue of luck; their claim of a decade plus of hard work is merely a cloak to hide the fact that they spent all their time watching television and eating bon-bons. Unsuccessful authors write in crayon and cannot even convince their mother to buy a copy of their book.
[All the Zealot's Dictionary definitions are available in a single ebook on Smashwords--just 99 cents. Remember if you buy it on Smashwords, you get access to all future expansions...because we know that new definitions are sure to happen simply because of human nature.]

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo June 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo June 2012
As many of my friends know, for the last few years I have attempted to "win" the annual NaNoWriMo that is done in November. And by winning, I mean that I have attempted to hack out write fifty thousand words in the space of thirty days. So far, I have lost every about the same amount of words that have been needed for the various college and university term papers that I have been required to write.

But this year, for those of us who are swamped during November, there is Camp NaNoWriMo. Or Camp Insanity as I am going to call it. Yes, I plan on writing a very bad novel this summer...even if I am eaten by bugs and poisoned by ivy.

My working title is Asteroids and Axes. It is a working title; who know what it will be by the end of the month.

And my plot?

Mankind is colonizing the solar system. The asteroid ore pod Molly Brown returns to Earth transporting its precious cargo of metals back to a resource hungry planet. It is also carrying a surprise in the form of an unidentified astronaut. A dead astronaut. A murdered astronaut.

I am not sure if that is enourgh of a plot, but that is all I have right now. Why? Because I just learned that Camp NaNoWriMo starts in a couple of hours (mountain time that is). And this is a last second attempt to make sure that I actually crank out a novel this summer...I will explain that comment later (let's just say that I am not pleased about the fact that my semester is still not over yet...long story involving paperwork).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Mad Uncle Morgan

Today while avoiding working on finishing an illustration for the ritual book, ignoring the fact that I have yet to write the text to go along with the illustration, and completely failing to struggle with the plot point that is messing up the science fiction mystery that I am writing, I came up with a new character--Mad Uncle Morgan.

And I am so going to use him for something.

I don't know--am I a frustrated comedian or what?!

Mad Uncle Morgan is that person who tries to sell you fairy success dust (think fairy sh**), unicorn wands (perfect for the ladies), and thistle poppets (because we all have that special person in our lives). I figure it will be good for a laugh or two. I mean we all know this loon...and he really needs to make some money this summer, and his wife does want him to get rid of all the thistle that is growing in the garden.

So get your money ready because everything must go during the summer bonfire sale.

Friday, May 18, 2012

My current project list

Last week was the last of the current college semester. I am still not sure how well I did...I am not really sure that I can summon up the energy to care at this point. It may or may not have been my last semester as an undergrad; there is still that question hanging over my head (an ugly advising issue).

As I slowly recover, I am kicking around my current project list.

I have decided that I need to get more stuff up on Smashwords. I would like to get some more magical and Golden Dawn stuff up. Towards that end, I am doing a rough draft on a book on secrecy; I am using the rough drafts as posts on my Gleamings from the Golden Dawn blog. There are a couple of sections that may not be posted online before the ebook goes live...howevver long that takes to accomplish.

I should also really consider revising my Three Officer GD Neophyte Ritual book and getting it back up during this production cycle. Also in the works is an ebook on the abusive behavior that one occasionally sees in esoteric groups...yes, it inspired by behavior that I recently witnessed this last cycle (really, it is a good idea to give the entire product line of a writer one star reviews just because you think that they might be talking about you in one of their books?! and furthermore, it is even better for your entire Order to do so?!).

I will be writing more erotica...because it is the best selling stock I have in my product list at the moment. Yes, I am being driven by the need for money. Plus there is the fact that I am going to be applying to a masters program (or two); and if I get in, I will be fighting the smae lack of writing time problem that I have been struggling with for the last several years. Erotica is something that I can write that does not require extended attention.

And yes, I am hoping to get some regular fiction done this cycle (either science fiction or urban fantasy). It is what I would prefer doing...except that it is hard to write an entire novel when the time between writing the chapters tends to be three months (it is hard to maintain the flow...or even a single plot point with this type of temporal gap involved).

So that is what I have planned...outside of taking regular pottery and jewelry photos (which is what I should have been doing today). Wish me luck.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fun filled Windows update day

Today was a fun filled Windows update day. I haven't had one filled with this many problems for months.

So why was today's especially frustrating? Friday the 13th? No.

It was because I was supposed to be working on the rough draft of my History Senior Seminar paper today.

So naturally, given the fact that I am focused to use this dino-computer (my laptop melted a couple of months ago), it would have to be a extra special update day when I needed to be able to use the computer the most.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Another damn semester

Well, it looks like I am going to be stuck at college for one more damn semester. Between serious doubts that my English requirements have been met (departmental difficulties) and the fact that a single class has sucked in all my time...well, as I said, it looks like I am not going to be graduating this semester.

For those of you who are curious, the class that has been sucking in all the time is a history class. It is thy capstone class---Senior Seminar in History. This is the first week this semester that I have not been at the library digging though a box of government memos...since week two of the semester. Every spare day that I had I have been at the library...I spent 30 hours there during spring break. It would have been 35 if they wouldn't had a furlough day. I have a folder two inches tight with single-spaced typewritten notes, and last week I finally hit the point where I think I have enourgh to support a twenty-five to thirty-five page paper.

Plus, for the past two weeks, I don't remember a day without a headache...actually, it has been longer than two weeks, but I am having a hard time figuring out when the headaches begin (I go to bed with a headache, I wake up with a headache, it is a constant thing). I have lost ten pounds this semester, and we all know that I did not actually have any weight to spare to begin with. My wife does not remember the last time I looked, or sounded healthy. And no, I do not have health insurance or enourgh money to go see a doctor. I am hoping that it is stress.

There are a few other things going on that I can't talk about.

I have thrown every class I am taking other than this senior seminar under the bus. I am currently trying to figure out if it is too late to drop Honors Thesis (Literature), or if I am just going to have to take an F in it (Senior Seminar sucked up all the time and energy I had.) Along with my business---under the bus, it went. And this semester saw the loveliness of the PayPal Forbidden Four drama and a rather nasty campaign against a fellow writer in the Golden Dawn community.

(And we all know that writers cannot afford to toss their businesses under the bus. The only nice thing I have to say is it is a good thing I am self-employed or I would have fucked one of the easy classes I am taking. Yes, I am having trouble surviving the two easy classes---it is going to be touch and go as it is.)

Basically, it has been solid stress this semester. You know that it is bad when you think about stepping in front of the lightrail train.

Well, I would love to sit here and complain some more, but I have sixty pages of rough draft to read from classmates for today's peer review session; and yes, that is also the same damn class.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Let me use some vile language

As many of my regular readers know, I occasionally comment on the doings of the modern Golden Dawn on one of my other blogs. And someone just informed me that in one of my recent posts that I used the vilest language to describe one of the players and their esoteric Order.

The first thing to go through my mind? This person has never worked on a construction site.

If he thinks that my language is vile now, he should have heard me a couple of decades ago. I guess ghost-writing Russian Bride adcopy, dabbling in the erotica market, and the language my father used to use makes me insensentive to what other people consider vile. Several years of restaurant management has cleaned up my language...but I am capable of much worse.

Of course, I must admit that I think some pretty vile language when I think about this particular person and their friends. I cannot help it. My fellow writers will understand---this is a person who asked his friends to give a writer a bunch of negative one-star reviews on Amazon because the writer's opinions did not match his own.

But we are not supposed to use the words "fool" and "cult" to describe this person, their friends, or their behavior because they are the vilest words in the English langauge. Especially because people like me have been busy trying to destroy his Order for twenty years.

(I honestly didn't think he needed to be destroyed before last, I am deeply offended as both a book reviewer and a writer, so I might have to change my mind.)

Let's just say, I have a whole bagful of vile langauge that I have not started to use yet.

On the bright note, I plan on using this to officially renounce my Golden Dawn membership...if the local lodge will accept my notice (they have told me to stick my resignation in my ear on a couple of occasions).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Has PayPal backed off from censorship?

It looks like PayPal has decided that censorship of erotic ebooks was a bad idea. A couple of days ago, they informed Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, that they would no longer insist that Smashwords erotic writers abandon writing of the Forbidden Four and their ugly pseudo cousins. Smashwords have rolled back their terms back to its pre-PayPal censorship form.
It is still unclear exactly what PayPal's new position is, for their new terms of use have not been released yet. But at least, one credit card company, VISA, denied responsibility for PayPal's censorship stance. Hopefully, this might mean that erotic writers can get back to making money and writing dubious stories.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

How much is PayPal costing writers?

One of the difficult things about the ongoing PayPal censorship saga is determining how much of a monetary loss this is going to create for the writers. Now presuming that the writers of the Forbidden Four are doing it for money, this is a very important question.

There are some who believe that writers of the Forbidden Four write this type of stuff because they are perverts. This is wrong. Working writers drift to the fields that result in paychecks and royalties. Let's be honest--the first time, I realized that someone had to be getting a paycheck to write was when I encountered a letter magazine devoted to one of the Forbidden Four. The only reason I ever considered writing the Forbidden Four was all about the MONEY.

So how does one figure out how much of a financial loss that writers of the Forbidden Four are going to suffer now that PayPal has decided that they can no longer write and sell this type of material while using PayPal's services. (And yes, there are other payment options---they are just not good payment options.)

Let's take a look at a writer who was relatively new to writing in the Forbidden Four ebook market and what type of loss she suffered. Her entire stock of the Forbidden Four consisted of five stories (two were reprints), and they were only involved in this market for two quarters (six months).

If she would have sold these five stories in the print market, she would have recieved 50 to 125 dollars for the material, provided that all would have been accepted. If we look at her quarterly earnings (and ignore the fact that she just started to supplement her regular writing in this field), her quarterly loss was 55 to 80 dollars (presuming no gain in future quarters and no new stock added).

Of course, PayPal would love to argue that the loss in income stops right here. But it does not.

For one thing, a single quarter is not the entire commerical life span of an ebook. So what is the commerical life span of an ebook? One year? Five years? Ten years? Or more?

In the space of a year, the loss in income is somewhere between 220 and 320 dollars. Over ten years, presuming no drop in sales, this is someplace between 2200 and 3200 dollars.

And the writer was planning on doing more of this type of work...clear up to the second that PayPal steeped in and denied her this income source. So we are looking at a monetary loss of anywhere from fifty to three thousand plus for someone who only lost five ebooks (short stories really) to this PayPal policy change. But the real loss cannot be figured out because we can never be sure how much this writer would have written in this field in future years. (Their goal was to continue adding stock until they did not need to flip burgers any more---good move PayPal, we must keep people in their burger flipping jobs.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Yes, my grammar makes me look goofy

Number nine is one that I am definitely guilty of.

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
Like this infographic? Get more copywriting tips from Copyblogger.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Smashwords Sale until March 10 2012

Five Reasons Why Magic Fails
Smashwords is having a site-wide sale until March 10, 2012. One of my ebooks (really an article) is included in the sale---you can get Five Reasons Why Magic Fails for half off ($2.50) until the end of the sale by entering coupon code REW50 at the checkout. This small ebook sums up the five most common reasons why practical magic fails---at least according to my experience.

Five Reasons Why Magic Fails.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Money rules PayPal censorship

The Smashwords PayPal censorship saga continues...much to my surprise.

One of the strangest ideas that I have seen being floated is that this is merely a ploy by Smashwords to get rid of all those "icky" books. The person who said this obviously does not realize that economics is driving this particular situation. If Smashwords actually just wanted to make the forbidden four disappear, they could have easily done so long before this point. But I imagine that Smashwords, like most indie writers sooner or later, realizes that some dubious books actually make a decent amount of money. And considering that Smashwords makes their money by taking a percentage of the money a writer earns, it does not make any sense for them to kill the forbidden four (at least one of the forbidden four is a gold mine).

On the other hand, PayPal has every reason to want to kill off the forbidden four. After all, PayPal is trying to run their business as cheaply as they can. And the forbidden four generate more costs than other types of transactions.

One thing that I have yet to locate is an actual figure for the percentage of returns/chargebacks that there is for ebooks. In fact, I cannot think of a single outlet that gives refunds on ebooks. Then again, I never thought about claiming that my ebook purchases were a mistake, fraud, or "not to my taste." Honestly, I am not sure that ebooks, even the forbidden four, really create more chargebacks than the normal stuff, like food and gas.

But Morgan, what about the two romance outlets that killed off the forbidden four. Well, one of the outlets killed off ALL indie writers using the forbidden four as an excuse, then left all their own in-house stuff with the forbidden four up. And the other one wasn't someplace I would have thought about looking for the forbidden four on in the first place. So I am guessing that the forbidden four were not earning that much money for those two outlets--at least, in the hands of indie writers.

And if you think Amazon counts, well, go over on Amazon and search for the forbidden four. Amazon is still knee deep in the forbidden four; the only real change is that Amazon has managed to get rid of their legal responsibility if the s*** hits the fan.

Of course, if you do not think that economics do not drive the engines of censorship attempts, just watch the matchup between One Million Moms and Toys R' Us. “Please remove all the same-sex ‘Just Married – Archie’ comic books immediately from your shelves. My decision to shop in your stores depends on it.” Whether Toys R' Us pulls the issue from sale will depend on whether they think that conservative moms outweigh the same-sex marriage rights market share--whoever represents a bigger slice of pie will win that battle.

(I find it interesting that there is research showing that the most conservative regions of the United States consume the most porn--I am guessing that they also consume the most forbidden four erotica also.)

And that brings me to tonight's final point about the Smashwords PayPal censorship saga: The only way that PayPal will allow the forbidden four to exist will be if PayPal discovers that they will lose more money getting rid of the forbidden categories than they will save. Money talks when it comes to corporate censorship.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Paypal enforces vanilla sex only erotica

[Warning: the following post concerns writers writing adult material, some of it dubious in nature. Ye has been warned.]

Over the last few days, I have been watching some of my writing friends talk about how some of their erotica ebooks have been removed from various ebook publishing and distribution platforms. Tonight, I learned what is going on. What is happening is that Paypal is telling all the ebook distributors that they are doing business with that the payment service will be removed from any site that sells certain types of obscene erotica.

The letter from Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords stated that "[Paypal's] hot buttons are bestiality, rape-for-titillation, incest and underage erotica."

Now, this is a real blow for working writers for two reasons. At least one of these obscene erotica categories is a goldmine. And two, the rules are so grey and vague that completely innocent stuff is going to have to be removed to comply with Paypal's Vanilla Sex Only rules.

(I am not saying that this type of writing is ok---I am just reporting the news and making predictions here.)

For instance, two werewolves having sex will have to revert to human form to have cannot have two wolves making out with one another because that might be viewed as bestiality, nor can you have one werewolf in human form and the other in wolf form.

Pseudo-incest is also now wrong. You can no longer have an erotica character thinking that his date sort-of looks like his mother.

And the sad part is that these rules are only being enforced against writers of erotica. Other types of fiction are still going to be allowed to use those ideas and concepts.

An even sadder thing is that I expect that Paypal will decide to add things to their hot button list until the only sex you can write about (if you are labelling it erotica) is strictly male on top of female sex. Yes, I expect that consensual BDSM, gay and lesbian sex, and anything that is illegal someplace in the world to be next on the Paypal's chopping block.

But the saddest part is that the pervs will still find places to read this type of stuff---the only ones getting hurt here are the working writers that was doing some of this type of writing to help make ends meet.

(Of course, I am assuming that the only reason that anyone would write this type of stuff is for the paycheck---then again, I could be wrong on that front.)

Smashwords writers have until Monday to comply with the policy.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Word counts for three fantasy series

During my research on word count based definitions and labels, I ran across some interesting triva---well, interesting if you are looking into the subject of how long a book is. For instance, War and Peace weighs in at 561,304 words. Of course, many of us are not terribly familiar with how long War and Peace is (I have a Kindle version of it---largely unread), so prehaps looking at the word counts of three of the most popular fantasy series ever will help (ok, maybe just one fantasy series and two who-knows-whats).
Lord of the Rings
The Hobbit 95,022 words
Fellowship of the Ring 177,227 words
Two Towers 143,436 words
Return of the King 134,462 words
Harry Potter
Philosopher's (Sorcerer's) Stone 76,944 words
Chamber of Secrets 85,141 words
Prisoner of Azkaban 107,253 words
Goblet of Fire 190,637 words
Order of the Phoenix 257,045 words
Half-Blood Prince 168,923 words
Deathly Hallows 204,796 words
Twilight 118,501
New Moon 132,807
Eclipse 147,930
Breaking Dawn 192,196

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Is this my last semester?

Starting this week, I may be entering my last semester of college. Well, my last semester as an undergrad (I still have an urge to apply to a few Master programs).

I didn't actually think it was going to happen. I did not get the monetary hold lifted from my account until yesterday. I don't want to think about the price that my wife is going to extract for loaning me the money to accomplish that goal.

Of course, some changes have been made in the program, something that I discovered while talking to the advisors earlier this week. I thought that I was working towards a double major; it turns out that I was wrong about that. In reality, I am working towards getting two Bachelor degrees instead (one in History and one in Literature). The reason for the change---I am just four credits away from hitting the credit threshold for acquiring two Bachelor degrees. I am not sure if two Bachelor degrees will look better on my resume than just one. I am also not sure if this makes me a historian and a literary critic---time will tell.

Now to actually make this my last semester, I do have to pass everything. I also need to kick my Honors Thesis proposal for Literature though the system, and get off the waitlist for one class (there is an online version, but I hate online classes). So for the generally curious, my semester consists of:

Senior Seminar in History (no clue what the subject is, but considering that Chris Agee is teaching it, I am betting on cities and urban development); World at War (1914-1945); Chinese Philosophy and Culture (Ancient Chinese---I got interested in the subject when I took the Ancient China history class a few semesters back; it is a religious studies class, but I have already taken three of them---all listed as Literature classes); and of course, my Honor Thesis in Literature (I presume that my proposal will go though---I plan on doing a reading of The Hobbit as a trickster tale).

Of course, I am presuming that my proposal will get though, and that I can get off the waitlist for the other class. I am also presuming that the advisors added up my numbers correctly, and was correct in thinking that I only needed one core course and one elective besides my speciality requirements.

It promises to be another interesting semester.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dear Windows Update

I would like to say a few words to the people in the Windows Update department...with a stick. Tonight's update took a half hour. Then when I restarted the computer, eight programs encountered problems and had to restart...including my anti-virus program. I ended having to restart after the restart...when it was all cut and done, this is an hour of my life I am not getting back. And to think I actually thought that I was going to get some writing done tonight. Windows suck.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

How much can an occult writer make?

One of my favorite quotes by Pat Zalewski, a Golden Dawn writer, is that he has never even made grocery money from writing books. Nevertheless, there are people who think that he is lying about this fact. As a writer, one who also does occult writing, I tend to believe that he is writing because he wants to share information and not because he is making a good living at it.

For those who do not believe this, consider the fact that Llewellyn Publications, who is perhaps the biggest dog on the occult publishing block, thinks that a mere five thousand copies sold is a successful occult book. And some occult books are lucky to sell a couple of hundred copies. Obviously occult writing is a niche market, and those of us who try our hand at writing Golden Dawn stuff are operating in a niche of a niche.

So how much does a successful writer makes writing an occult book?

[I have been informed that my figures are wrong---see end of post.]

Assuming a ten percent share (royalities) and a twenty dollar price tag and five thousand copies selling, the successful occult writer would make a mere ten thousand dollars for their time and effort. Presuming that they are a quick researcher and writer, they will have spent nine months researching and writing their book---and that is not counting for all the changes that the publisher is going to insist on; it is also not counting how much time and energy and cost that the author is going to have to sunk into personally advertising their book. Realistically, an occult writer can make more money per year flipping burgers in some dungy restaurant. That is right, I am saying that a successful occult writer is only going to make thirteen or fourteen thousand a year. No wonder so many of them sell magical dragon blood and love magic kits to make ends meet.

The moral of this story is that occult writers are not making money hand over foot; and if you want to make money as a writer, you are better off writing something else.

(The inspiration for this post was a blog post on Llewellyn was about the true cost of piracy of occult books. In other words, occult writers cannot afford their occult books being pirated.)

[And now the update---less than ten minutes and I have already been told that my figures are wrong. Thanks to my writing friends on Facebook for pointing out my mistake.]

Ok, I have been informed that it is actually the wholesale price and not the retail price that the percent is coming from. Therefore, it is not ten thousand for a sucessful book; rather it is five thousand. Furthermore, not all publishers give ten percent royality...which drops the figure to below five thousand for a successful occult book. That makes flipping burgers for a living look even better, doesn't it?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Labeling my nonfiction word counts

In the interests of "truth in advertising" I have been trying to find descriptive terms based on word count for my non-fiction work. I figured that fiction has a loose set of terms based on word count, so one should exist for non-fiction. Well, so far I have not find a set of terms. In the lack of anything more definite, I have decided to use the following terms for the shorter pieces of non-fiction.

Short article: less than 500 words
Article: 500 to 2500 words
Long article: 2500 to 5000 words

As for the longer pieces, I still have no clue what to use. For instance, I cannot figure out at what word count a non-fiction piece properly becomes a book.

I do know some fuzzy facts, such as a standard 192-page paperbook contains from 40,000 to 50,000 words, and that book size in the print market was often determined by the nearest hundredth page marker, and print publishers were concerned with spine size (which is why you could not write a hundred page book in the print market).

I have thought about doing an estimated page count, but given the fact that word count per page on printed books vary (standard range is 200 to 350 words per page), I am not sure that will work for my ebooks either.

Monday, January 2, 2012

How many words are there in a newspaper column

A piece of triva that I encountered while doing research on labels for various word counts:

A column inch in a typical newspaper is about 35 words, which makes the typical newpaper story of twnety inches equal to 700 words.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Labelling my fictional word counts

There following are the labels/terms for the various ranges of word counts that I am going to be using for my fiction ebooks in the descriptions that I write up for my ebooks.

Micro-flash: up to 100 words
Flash fiction: 100 to 500 words
Short-short: 500 to 2,500 words
Short story: 2,500 to 7,500 words
Novelette: 7,500 to 17,500 words
Novella: 17,500 to 40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 to 110,000words
Epic: over 110,000 words

During my research, I also came across the term "drabble" which is for a fiction piece of exactly 100 words; I doubt that I would ever use it.