Saturday, July 31, 2021

Small Screen Epiphany

So I was watching Castle episode 1.4 ("Hell Hath No Fury", a title which kinda telegraphs who did the murder, but whatever) and I had a writing epiphany.

[Nobody is allowed to judge me for watching Castle. The first half of the first season is very good. Just pretend it stops after that.]

If you've never seen the show, it pairs a famous writer and a police detective together.

In this episode, the detective finds out the character the writer is basing on her is called Nikki Heat. She wants him to change it. His response? "Think of the titles! Summer Heat, Heat Wave..."

Holy crap! Titles... I could plan my titles in advance and make it all easy on myself!

My current method is to cycle through a bunch of terrible titles based on what I've written, and then have one of my critique partners make a joke title that turns out to be the one I go with. It's a terrible system, and makes planning covers and setting up pre-orders difficult.

Anyhow, expect my next series to have the main character Ali Green. I don't know the genre or the plots, but the Christmas novella is going to be called Green Sees Red.

This is genius.

I'm absolutely counting the time I was watching television as writing research time...

Black cat sprawled on a desk chair.
Ripley really likes the desk chair I bought for him.

Friday, July 23, 2021


 Let me tell you how bad I am at selling things:

My credit card number was stolen a few months ago, and when the bank reversed the charges for the fraudulent video games, they also reversed the charges for everything I'd bought in the previous three days, which was:

  1. My CSA veggie box. The CSA people sent me mail, which is the only reason I knew about the problem.
  2. The grocery store. The charge was for something like $11.23.
  3. The pizza place. The tip for the delivery driver (which should be a lot, right, especially during a pandemic? We all agree on this, correct?) was included, so it was something like $85.
After three calls to the bank, it turned out that they couldn't un-reverse the charges. So the CSA people just charged my new card and everyone was happy. Then I called the other two places and tried to get them to charge me again.

Friends, I could not even give money to those two companies. That's how bad I am at sales.

So now I am taking a class on how to write sales copy, and it is just excruciating. I feel like I would have an easier time telling everyone what is wrong with my books (in great detail!), and yet these are books that I wish someone else had written so I could have bought them and saved myself the trouble of writing it down!


The other new thing I've been doing lately is writing a serial for Kindle Vella. What's Kindle Vella? It's Amazon's new serial platform (think soap opera instead of a movie), but I swear the only people who know about it are authors who are writing for it. It doesn't surprise me that I have yet to make back the $0.39 I spent to license the cover image.

But I am having a blast writing the thing. For me, it's an experiment in writing chapter endings that entice the reader to keep going. I have a terrible habit of ending chapters at the end of the character's day, and "and then she went to bed" doesn't really force people to keep reading. Eventually I'll tie off all the arcs and put it in a book -- that may be the end of my Vella experiment. We'll see.

In any case, I needed to write sales copy for the serial that nobody is reading. So here we go:

Masked woman with swords strapped to her back in a field of smoke

In the shipping port of Harbor Crag, dragon magic protects the city, and a greedy duke controls the dragons.

Freeholder Lisette climbs the tower with the perfect plan — steal the duke’s money to pay her shop’s taxes. But a second thief complicates everything, and Lisette plunges into the dragon’s den.

Bargaining with the dragon could end Lisette’s life. But it might just save them all.

Lisette races to finish her quest, getting unexpected help from her mysterious thief. If you love dazzling adventure with a hint of romance, unlock the next episode of Dragon Freehold.

Anyhow, that's what I've been up to lately. Maybe I should just let someone write the sales copy for a book they want to read and then write that. That might be easier...

Saturday, June 26, 2021

More Marketing Fails

Hey, look at that! I have a new book out!

I'm beginning to think I should write a book called "Stealth Releases: How to publish your book secretly". It'll probably never be a best seller, but only because nobody knows it exists...

Anyhow, this whole publishing thing requires some coordination to make everything show up on time. I haven't been doing pre-orders (because I'm really not ready to swear that I'll release a book on a certain day unless I'm done with everything, including formatting, and at that point, why wait?).

But not having pre-orders means that I spend a bunch of time uploading the files to all the retailers and then hold off on announcing it because two of the retailers don't have it available yet. Any day now, Apple and Google Play! It's okay. I'll wait!

Honestly, though, it doesn't really matter because most series don't get any sort of traction until they have three books out. I have four books out so far. Have I hit book three in any series? No. No, I have not. In my genius publishing plan, I will only hit that with the book after the next one. Who planned my publishing schedule anyhow? Oh...

Anyhow, if you're looking for a cozy mystery starring a pet sitter in her fifties who trades witty banter with her husband and has a mastiff with a lot of personality...

Book cover showing a cartoon woman and hound. Title: Death Tracks the Scent by Tess Baytree

Saturday, June 12, 2021

In Defense of Screwing it up

Yes, my last post was about how I quit my job in favor of writing full-time, but I swear that's not what I'm referring to with the title, at least not yet.

The Point (complete with metaphor!)

Trying to get everything done as an independent publisher can feel like that day you first went in the ocean. It was cold (my memories are of the Pacific Ocean), and smelled weird, and just when you started to understand what the waves were doing, you turned your back on them for a moment and you got tumbled under the water until you didn't know which way was up.

Here's an incomplete list of things you will have to deal with to get a book published, in no particular order: knowing the different types of editors and figuring out which you need, how to get a cover for your book and how to make sure it is one that will help the book sell, getting a domain, creating a web site, setting up a newsletter, authenticating your domain, what affects deliverability of your newsletter, reader magnets, sales copy, reviews, street teams, ARCs, advertising, book categories, pricing, taxes... The list goes on.

And all of that is after you manage to write a book in the first place.

No, you can't really farm this out to someone else. I mean, you might be able to find a virtual assistant to do some of it, but unless you're really lucky, you're going to have to train that VA in those tasks, so you still have to know about it. Some of the things on the list you can ignore for a while (or forever), but you'll probably have to face them at some point.

But the good news is that you are absolutely allowed to screw it up.*

Is your sales copy terrible? That's okay. You can fix it later. Are your covers making readers think the book is urban fantasy instead of space opera? You can fix it. Did you end up with typos sprinkled liberally throughout the text despite proofreading? Not ideal, but you can fix it. Did you send the world's most boring newsletter and everyone unsubscribed? It didn't kill you and the next one will be better.

The beauty of ebooks and POD (print on demand) is that everything is flexible. There aren't 2,000 copies of your book with a typo in the first line that have to be sold before the next printing. Nothing is permanent.

Yes, it's better to get it right on the first try, and you should certainly put in the effort, but if making sure everything is perfect before you publish is keeping you from publishing, get over it. Make the mistakes. Fix them. Learn from it. Do better next time.

* It's probably better not to screw up too badly on the taxes.

Obligatory Pet Photo

Here's an old photo of the big dog at Putah Creek. Even he occasionally messes things up. And he's perfect.
Shows head and shoulders of alert and happy Alaskan Husky mix in front of a large river with green trees lining the banks

Monday, May 24, 2021

I Totally Know What I'm Doing

 I know I promised terrible cover attempts on here, but we are doing mock ups with art from royalty-free sites, and I'd have to buy the art if I want to post it, and I'm not totally sure that's what I want to use yet. But someday soon!

In other news, I sort of... quit my job. I mean, I still have another six weeks, four of which are vacation/personal days, and then two weeks where I either train the next person or fix everything that broke during my vacation and write some more documentation.

My goal here is to take at least a year off and try to get my writing career off the ground. Am I making enough money at this point to support myself? Ha ha, absolutely not! In fact, I'm making negative money when you factor in covers, editing, software, etc. But I have enough savings to live off for at least a year, which gives me some time to start building things up.

Sometimes I do have the confidence of a mediocre white man!

Various family members kept referring to me as "retired" over the weekend, but I consider myself to be living in Schrödinger's paradox -- I'm either a full-time author or I'm unemployed. I won't know until sometime next year. Then I might need to get another day job, but I'll worry about it then.

In the meantime, I intend to have a lot of fun!

Close-up of grey cat sniffing a yellow flower.
Guido finds this flower suspicious

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Get Ready!

 All I can say is that May may either be awesome or miserable, but probably nothing in between. I've signed up for (and paid a bunch of money, so I have to take it seriously!) a workshop on creating book covers.

Anyone who has been on this blog recently knows that I have a lack of both taste and talent in the visual arts, so my attempts to make covers might frustrate me, but they may kill the instructor. We have to turn in assignments every week for feedback.

Class starts this week, and I plan to post my assignments here. The best part is that the instructor is going to use some of the student work (anonymized) in the discussions, so people all over the world may be making fun of my art! I'll be (anonymously) famous! (In case it's not clear, I'm absolutely fine with this. I'm sure if someone was sensitive about this, they could opt out.)

In the meantime, have a skillfully edited picture of the bed-pets [does not include the little dog (who doesn't get on the bed) or the semi-feral cats (who won't come in the room if I'm in it)]. If they all stayed on this side of the bed, I would get more sleep, but the minute I get under the covers, there's a scramble to see who can be the most disruptive. A queen-size bed ought to be big enough for one person, but it's really not.

dog and two cats asleep on a bed, faded into a starry background

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

How Not To Market

 Hey, I have a new book out today! (Yay!) I sort of forgot to tell anyone it was coming out! (Nice job, T!)

People who write books that sell well usually know exactly what tropes are hot in the genre they write in, and make sure they nail exactly what people are looking for.

Oops, let me back up a bit. People who write books that sell well start out by knowing what genre they are writing in. I just wrote a book that has a colony on a partially-terraformed planet. With three competing sets of gods! And AIs! And a bicycle chase!

The main character used to be a nanobot technician in the army, but now she herds goats and sheep up in the hills with only a messed up AI to help.

Does this fit nicely into one existing genre? Absolutely not. It's probably closest to space opera, a genre best known for the space ships on the cover. Are there any space ships in this story? Not really.

My friend Paul Austin Ardoin told me I'm writing sheep opera. That's not a category on Amazon.

Anyhow, if you want to read a fun story with a woman with too much chaos, gods, AIs, sheep, goats, and a stolen shipment of genetically engineered sheep... uh, let's go with the family friendly term DNA... 

Book cover for The Chaos Job, with a metallic sheep head in front of a planet on a starry background