Thursday, January 19, 2012

Darwin Colossus Rework; Plans to Self-publish

I'm taking a bit of a break from The Work to do some major surgery on Darwin Colossus, the short story from a few months back. It occurred to me that I want to get something out on Amazon that's in some sort of publishable state, and I can much more easily do that with a large short story than a novel. Might as well get it out there earning a little money: Steampunk is still doing very well, and I want to get a little bit of Amazon experience racked up as I continue with The Work, so that's the plan!

I'm really pleased with the concept behind Darwin Colossus, but it needed a lot of help in the areas of characterization and wordsmithing in its original form: the story suffered from overwrought prose and shallow character development. Some real distance from the manuscript has done wonders for my perspective on it, and I'm doing a rewrite of it: A) in the first person, and B) from more of a blended sci-fi/horror perspective than before. I'm also taking the time to flesh out the characters properly, which will shore up all manner of weaknesses the original plot had.

So, beta readers, I'm looking forward to buzzing this past a few of you again in a month or so, after an initial look from Magic City Writers, my local writing group. Be ready!

-Rich

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking into 2012

Well, 2012. 2011 was certainly a momentous year for me, seeing the production of Darwin Colossus and the beginning of several other projects, and my shift of genre from SF/Fantasy to Horror/Weird in late November. 

I took a big step yesterday and created myself an account at Amazon's Kindle Digital Publishing site. The more I think about it, and the more I read blogs like J.A. Konrath's A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, The more I think that submitting to traditional publishers is a bad idea, and, worse, a mug's game. Standard publishing royalties come to around 15%, and the usual time lag from acceptance to having a book on a shelf in a bookstore is more than a year; sometimes a lot more. Add to that the extreme fragility of the general midlist author's career when competing for marketing budget and shelf space with all the other hopefuls out there, and you have a recipe for low pay, huge stress and getting kicked to the curb the first time you produce a less-than-stellar seller. 

Amazon's and other ebook "press" authors typically make either 35% or 70% royalties, and as Konrath is fond of saying, ebooks are forever because there's no such thing as a shelf that can run out of space, or an imprint whose budget doesn't have room for an author still finding his voice or her audience. Sure, you don't have a big New York press marketing, editing or making covers for you, but I'm thinking that for the difference between 15% and 70% royalties, and invulnerability from the vagaries of the traditional business model, I can learn enough in those skill sets (and/or outsource) to do at least as well as a Konrath, or any of the other dozens of authors he's let guest post over the past year. 

The tradition is to make resolutions around New Year, but I'm thinking that a better idea may be to set goals. I'm a big believer in writing goals down, so here are the ones I am setting for this year. 
  • Finish The Work, or whatever I finally title it. I've got the entire plot outlined and dynamite characters worked up, so it's really a matter of keeping writing on it come Hell or high water. As I mentioned in my last post, I'm enjoying the process hugely, so there's no hardship there. 
  • Rework Darwin Colossus, using the things I've learned since its last draft to make it salable to some of the steampunks out there--you might have heard that retro-futurism is catching on lately. 
  • Write six horror short stories, exploring various themes from Lovecraftian mythos to ghost stories to social commentary. These will be for practice as much as anything else, but if they turn out well enough, I might well bundle them up in a collection volume for sale. 
  • At least get started on a second novel-length work. I have a few horror ideas I'm interested to get started on, and if SF or Fantasy is the better genre for them, I don't have to worry about being pigeonholed by my publisher!
One of the precepts Konrath, Hocking, Locke and others have hit upon is that quality, well priced and consistently produced tends to sell itself via word of mouth better than anything else does. I'm getting better at this every time I try it, and I'm willing to build an audience if Amazon and other pubs are willing to help me put my stuff out there. 

Some other, non-writing goals for the year:
  • Get my weight down to 240 or less. I'm looking the 270s in the face (35 lbs down from my start at 315), and I'm excited to be small enough and fit enough to be truly happy with the figure I cut in the mirror. 
  • Get my Java certification for the Day Job. It's really just the right thing to do, and having one's career eggs in several baskets is a good idea no matter who you are.
2011 was a hard year in many ways, rewarding in many others. Times have never been better to make big, gutsy changes--these are days when the question "what do I have to lose?" might have a different answer than you thought. 

This year I will be turning 42 years old, and I realized the other day that I'm tired of telling myself that I'm going to get around to things for yet another year. 

Take a chance, stick your neck out. There's no time like the present. Happy New Year!

-Rich