Just Read It

I love Chuck Palahniuk. When grabbing his work, I can be sure that I will enjoy what I am about to read. From “Fight Club,” to “Invisible Monsters,” to “Beautiful You,” I have rarely been disappointed. There’s good reason he’s been one of my favorite writers, and an inspiration to how I approach my own writing. He reminds me not to be so goddamned precious about what I write. You can tell by what he writes that he has fun with it. And that above all is what I strive for (besides a career): fun.

But this isn’t about that. This is about something entirely different.

Many years ago I picked up “Haunted.” Like all of the other novels from Chuck that I had read prior to “Haunted,” I expected I would enjoy it. Maybe be grossed out, but enjoy it nonetheless.

Not the case.

I couldn’t read it. I tried. Several times. It was bad. Not gross bad. I got past the scene where a character had to bite through his own intestines to save himself from drowning (happened very early on). The rest of the book was just bad. I couldn’t get into it. In fact, it was so bad that I had trouble picking up the next CP book. I eventually did and count “Haunted” as a one-off flop, but the point I am about to make in this essay remains.

Chuck Palahniuk is an established, traditionally published writer. Now he can be considered a niche writer as his style and choice in topics are not something I would call mainstream, but he has mainstream popularity. Regardless of his standing, I trusted his work. I trusted that I would enjoy all of it. Not the case.

It was another lesson that Chuck taught me indirectly: not everything you write is going to be a hit, even for your own audience. Even for people who would otherwise laud praise onto you.

So we come to the point of independent writers: writers who have either failed to get a contract with a publishing house or who, like myself, simply refuse to even bother with that route. My point about these writers (yes, including me) is that there is no reason to declare these writers any less worthy of being read than any successful traditionally published writer. One can assert that there are fewer tools available to the indie-writer that may impact the quality of the work, but I’ve also written to how that is more or less subjective. A great editor can do a shit job just as much as a shit writer can produce a pop hit. Covers can do a book justice or have little to do with the content inside.

I was sure that I would enjoy “Haunted” and that anything Chuck produced was gold up to that moment. I was wrong.

I had no idea that a small novel “The God of Small Things” by Arundhati Roy, an unknown writer by my reckoning, would haunt me to this day.

I wouldn’t think that books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” or “Twilight” would find massive success despite what I call terrible writing, but they did.

When first reading Hugh Howey, I did not expect that I would find another favorite author and consummate inspiration.

The point is that until you open the first page of a book, you cannot understand the journey you are about to take. No matter the writer. No matter anything but the words inside and your own willingness to take that ride.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, or the house it’s published by. Just read it and find out for yourself.

An Experiment

I am still quite a newbie in the independent publishing world. As such, my sales stink, my marketing skills are paltry, and my readership is poor to non-existent. For these few years, with the exception of permanently free titles, all of my books are available exclusively through Amazon. I publish only through the Amazon KDP program, and all of them are committed to the Amazon KDP Select.

Is that the right thing to do?

Absolutely have no idea. But more and more I am leaning towards it not being the right decision. So I am dropping from KDP Select.

Being an independent writer with little reputation allows me to make this move with little to no concern over what might happen. Worst case: I have 0 sales vs minimal to no sales. The loss at this point will be so insignificant that I would not even notice.

Were I to begin having massive success between now and the dates I have listed below for each title, I might have to reconsider what I am going to do. Until that moment, the following dates below is when my books each will drop from KDP Select and become available through more retailers and versions including iBooks, Kobo, and nook.

Change of Seasons – February 11

Of Earth and Ice (part 1) – March 7

The Good Teacher – March 11

Remember the Yorktown (Gravity book 1) – March 13

Awakening of a Predator (Gravity book 2) – March 13

Leaving it Behind – March 13

Movement of Pawns (Gravity book 3) – March 29

The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle – March 30

Any book that I publish between now and then will be added directly to all retailers. That will probably only be two short stories, but either way, that is the plan.

Like any experiment, I will give this some time to monitor how this impacts me on Amazon and in general. With luck, the wider distribution will have a favorable impact moving me closer to my ultimate goals. We’ll see.

My Growing Distrust of Amazon

Don’t get me wrong: I love Amazon. I have a Kindle, Kindle Fire, Fire TV, and a prime account. Most of what my wife and I purchase online is through Amazon. As a retailer, they are difficult to beat.

I also self-publish exclusively through Amazon (exception being permanently free ebooks)… and that is where I am finding myself growing in distrust.

Just today I read an article from a writer who was spurned by going exclusively to Amazon through KDP. (Found the article through The Passive Voice.) The writer gave an account of sales drops and page-read incomes that colleagues were having and how his own experience appeared to mirror similar issues. His main complaint: transparency. In other words, he and other writers could find no information on how Amazon calculated much of anything in what they do. Also noted was the behavior that Amazon was touting their own imprinted writers over indies. Yes, for those who don’t know, Amazon is both a great place for self-published indie writers as well as a publisher not unlike Simon & Schuster.

There are a growing number of writers making similar posts, having issues with how Amazon is behaving towards self-published writers.

Amazon is a business.

I am a business. Although writing is not anything close to a full or even part-time job, it is a business.

Problem is, like the writers above, I can’t figure out how to double-check or verify if anything that Amazon is doing is completely above board. This isn’t really saying that they are being devious, but it is saying that I have no way of knowing one way or the other.

 

But where my problem really lies is in an old clichéd phrase: “don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket.”

Amazon is growing. Not only as its own publisher, but as a self-publishing haven. More and more and more books and writers are all throwing themselves at the Amazon pool. The pool is getting larger and larger with more fishermen competing for the same number of fish. And Amazon of course is outfitting writers under its own publishing wing with tools to outcast the others.

If I were selling at large numbers, one of two things would likely happen:

  1. Amazon itself would approach me for a deal
  2. Another publishing house would approach me for a deal.

I am little ol’ Jeremy though. I have to find a way to grow my own name. Gone are the days where Amazon’s algorithms will work in favor of someone like me. I am at least a year or two too late for that. Now their algorithms will work in favor of big sellers and especially their own brand.

So… rather than be stubborn and badger people constantly to buy my books hoping that one day my numbers will creep up enough to get noticed, I need another plan. Because I can’t trust Amazon for that anymore.

Into 2017

I always say that I am not going to make any resolutions for the new year, but as every new year comes (with my birthday happening only days later) I find that I am examining the prior year and resolving to change things. With 2016 having been especially tough on my family and I, my goals revolve around building stronger foundations to battle against adversity.

So here we go, here are my “resolutions” or targeted goals for 2017. First some writing, then some general goals.

  • Try to write every day.
    This one has been tough for me in the past for a number of reasons. Probably chief among them has been my pursuit of perfection. Every word I write I try to make worth keeping. Insane, I know. Most often, this hinders my writing. If I can reduce my dependence on perfection (which is a worthy pursuit, but something one will never achieve) then I believe I can make this one work. And that brings me to the next goal:
  • Just write.
    This is that goal against the pursuit of perfection. I love writing. I have fun with it. Even if I never gain genuine success as a writer enabling me to quit my job and focus exclusively on writing, I will continue to write. So why worry so much about how perfect or flawed whatever I write is?
  • Publish 4 (or more) titles this year.
    This one will be tough, but is possible. I have one title about ready, but the other 3 will take some work. I believe I can do it. This will help build my catalog.
  • Improve my marketing presence.
    This one I’ve already worked on some. It includes getting my current titles into the correct categories and assign the right keywords to improve their SEO (I hate even using that term). I have a good base of stories out there now, people just need to find them and they need to garner enough interest that not only does someone find them, but they are interested in actually reading them.
  • Read more.
    ‘nuff said.
  • Create a life where I chase the process rather than the result.
    Look up stoicism for a glimpse of what I mean by this.
  • Continue to switch over to paleo/primal eating regiment.
    I’ve already done some of the basic steps, increasing fat intake and significantly reducing my carb intake from what it was. Because of that I’ve lost 15 lbs. That with the holidays and being sick enough (shingles, car accident, tooth problems, etc) and enough going on to be unable to get to the gym for over a month. The gym itself isn’t a goal considering the only thing stopping me was illness combined with a hectic month.
  • Reduce the amount I rely on social media.
    I did really good for weeks this past year almost completely ignoring all things social media. I need to be able to use it for marketing, but beyond that, it isn’t necessary in my life. But here I am always using it as a tool for entertaining myself. I need to get back away from that.

By no means am I expecting an instantaneous transition to these traits, but rather I am expecting to make slow, steady, progressive movements towards these goals. As long as I can keep moving towards them, if I haven’t achieved them all by the end of 2017, at least I know I am getting there… so long as I keep momentum.

Here’s to a new year! 2017 should be better. Let’s make it so.

The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle

agnes-cover-attempt-3c4cIt’s here!

After working on this project for over 2 years, I have finally released my first Young Adult novel, “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle.”

Available now: the kindle edition of “The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle” for only $2.99! Within hours of posting this, the print edition will also be available for $7.99 (with free kindle edition when purchasing the paperback version). Link is below to the amazon kindle version, paperback will be available through it as well.

“The Dangerous Life of Agnes Pyle” follows the adventure of Agnes as she learns the skills to survive her mission of helping defend the barrier between the spirit and mortal realms.

Buy it now! Share with your friends!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NBPGO2R

What to do…

What to do; what to do… For over the last two weeks I’ve been sick, while stupidly trying to start up on a new diet/health regiment. Not a diet so much really as it is a lifestyle change, but that is for another post. But couple that with holiday activity and the fact that my day job has been relentless lately due to those impending holidays, I am just barely keeping afloat. I am afloat, but there isn’t much more that I can handle.

Writing, getting my next book finalized for publishing, the gym, and blogging are the things I’ve let go of just so I don’t fall too far down, so I don’t burn out.

Writing this post is a manner of my admitting that to myself.

A few weeks ago I posted that I wanted to create a political opinion blog and a blog that discussed my atheism. While I still want to, getting to a point like I am now has gotten me to reexamine what I should do.

Here’s the deal: I want to be a fiction writer first and foremost. If I ever see success as a blogger in other realms, that would be nice, but that isn’t the goal. And when I am having issues keeping up with things as I have been the last few weeks or longer, what I should be doing is doubling down on what work is needed for my primary goal: fiction. Meaning that even though I am spending time to write this post, I should be getting myself back onto the job of writing fiction and then publishing those projects. As I free up more time, that’s what I will be doing.

So what the hell does this even mean? Really nothing. It’s me being a writer and doing what writers do when they are trying to work out a problem: write about it. And I don’t think that I am having so much of a problem as much as just going through the normal rough patches one has. But this rough patch has given me the desire to reflect.

I will still do a political blog and a blog on atheism, but it will just be a little longer for them to happen. Plus when they do, they’ll be the first thing I slack on when other priorities (or life) get in the way. So keep your eyes peeled for when these do come up. They’ll be happening, but in due time.

5 Titles for Sale!

Starting on Friday, November 25, 2016, I will have 5 of my (ebook) titles on sale!

For 3 days, (11/25, 11/26, and 11/27) the ENTIRE Gravity saga as it stands right now will have the ebook versions FREE! That’s right, you can pick up all 3 current titles for FREE. Click the links below to get them on Amazon.

1: Remember the Yorktown

2: Awakening of a Predator

3: The Movements of Pawns

Also, until December 31st, or for the rest of 2016 (however you wish to frame it) 2 titles will be priced 50% of their current price (for ebook copies only).

Both “The Good Teacher” and “Change of Seasons: Selected Poems” will be $1.49 each. Click the links below to get them too!

The Good Teacher (novel)

Change of Seasons: Selected Poems (poetry)

Please download, read, enjoy, and rate on Amazon! Thanks for your support!

Separation

I’ve given this option months of thought. As I continue to work on my main site and my writings, I still wanted to occasionally write about politics and now my religious leanings… otherwise known as atheism. But months ago, my brother had suggested that perhaps it wasn’t in my interest to keep all of that lumped in with my writing. I am a fiction writer first and foremost, so these topics almost were a distraction as neither should be considered when one is going to look at my site to read a story. It took me some time to see why, but I now agree.

So from here I am purging prior posts on politics, some social commentaries, and mentions of my theological leanings. I will keep anything on writing or non-political and religious items that I wish to yap about.

I have not created my site for my atheism yet, but for politics, my other brother’s and my old blog uspoliticalnonsense.wordpress.com will be where I post from now on.

Links will also be available up in the menu. I won’t post often on them. I’d rather keep my primary focus on fiction. If you are curious of my posts on those topics, you are welcome to click over.

Quitting Social Media

Well I am not exactly quitting. Not entirely anyway.

There’s a number of reasons behind this. The foremost is that I had been getting far too distracted by social networks in recent months to the point that I found it difficult to do much of anything without having a smartphone or tablet or computer in front of me. I’d be in the middle of a conversation and out will come my phone. Rude, I know. It became nearly unmanageable.

Then I saw a Ted Talk held by a guy that purported that we should in fact quit social media. I wanted to. I wanted to so badly. Despite the momentary flicks of enjoyment that I might get in seeing a few random status updates, I just didn’t honestly see value in my staying online with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There is a value… but I’ll get to that in a bit.

This multimedia, social networking institution has impacted me negatively in a lot of ways. My concentration is off. My ability to focus into my writing has suffered. Listening to a person during a conversation without wondering if I can sneak a peek at my phone is a chore. I pick up my phone rather than write or draw. And whatever happened to scribbling when I was bored. Hell, most of my poems I wrote when I was younger was a response to boredom. I recognized these all as problems building up to bigger issues over time. It might be innocent in the moment, but after some time, a dripping faucet can flood a house.

I haven’t run time studies on it. If I were to, I am sure that I would find an absurd amount of time being dedicated to effectively nothing. When am I supposed to get time to myself to write, meditate, read, draw, or anything when I am burning it up just to distract my mind?

Additionally, the recent binge reading I’ve been having on self-help style books such as “The Way of the Superior Man,” “The Right Questions,” and “Flow,” social networking was being demonstrated as an evil that I could not afford to give power to.

So when I got home from work on Thursday 10/27, I put my phones down and vowed to drop social networking. Aside from brief stints on Facebook to approve posts to my profile I was tagged in (being honest more with myself, that is all I did), I managed to ignore social media altogether so far.

But it hasn’t all been easy. I have a constant compulsion to grab my phone and open apps. I want to jump on Instagram to see the latest snaps. I want to blindly scroll through Facebook to pass my boredom. And then I tend to write most proficiently on a computer, so there is always that urge to minimize Word, or Google docs and click the link to the next distraction. Even the other night I had a dream where I was fighting with myself about checking Instagram, and how I should reward myself for “good behavior.” Yeah. I am an addict. This is my withdrawal.

I’ve seen this behavior from me in the past. I’ve tried to cut back in the past. Hell, I’ve even deleted profiles in the past. I feel that this is the wrong approach though. Cutting back, deleting profiles, or setting an allotted time each day to surf my newsfeeds wouldn’t serve me any justice.

I need to have the stuff right in front of me, taunting me. I need to beat it while it tempts me to succumb to its siren call.

Because there is the good in social media I wish to use.

It can be a tool. When used properly, it is a highly effective means of communication. Improper use leads to the issues I stated above. And when trying to create a career as a novelist, not having some sense of a social media presence is absurd. Possible, but absurd and less likely.

The problem is how do I manage this without falling back into the trap? I almost feel like a recovering alcoholic bartender. I need a way to be around the stuff without allowing myself to succumb to the temptation to relapse. I might be looking at a week of success, even while having access, but there is always that looming threat.

I can tell you one thing though: I don’t feel as though I am truly missing anything. And already I have been seeing little signs that I can concentrate more. I can remain present in a conversation.

Someday soon I will return, particularly when I release my next stories in the coming weeks. Until then, and even during then, I will continue to push to not allow it to regain the hold it had a week ago.

Why I am not participating

It’s NaNoWriMo. For those not familiar with that term, it is National Novel Writing Month. And with that comes the yearly challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month’s time-frame. As one can decipher from my heading, I am not going to be a part of it. That isn’t to say I am not going to write, it just means that I am not going to take part.

What is required is simple: write 1,667 words on average every day to complete the 50,000 goal by month end.

My average is generally most comfortable just north of 500 words per day when I am actively writing. I can, and have, maintained an average above 2,000 words per day for weeks at a time, but there are a lot of factors that determine my ability to do so. By rights, I can and should participate. But I am not.

There’s a few reasons I am not going to try this year, and here they are:

  1. I do not have a good project set aside.
    Now while this might be a weak excuse, it isn’t without some merit. To be able to run NaNoWriMo the right way, I feel that I need a project well planned out and ready to roll, err write. A lot of my projects don’t necessarily function this way, but that’s beside the point. I am not trying to keep up a short burst of writing over a week, I am trying to run a whole month at that word count. I need something ready to write a marathon. I just don’t have something ready.
  2. Other projects require my attention.
    I have 1 book dreadfully close to publication date. 2 other projects are in desperate need for my attention (book 4 of my scifi series Gravity, and part 2 of my novel-in-parts Of Earth and Ice). There’s about a ½ dozen or so other projects I am trying to move on as well. Starting a new project isn’t wise for me.
  3. I have a busy month ahead.
    I work a full-time job (with hours that go beyond full time). Sometimes I work 6 days a week. That’s under normal circumstances. With my line of work, we are now into the 4th quarter which is big for the company I work for. Couple that with vacations that I will have to cover for on top of normal responsibilities and I will find myself with a heavier work load than I manage for the other portions of the year. Less time to focus on writing
  4. I want to get my blog and social media accounts fixed.
    Not super important, but I am trying to break my addiction to social media at the moment and my blog (prior to this post) has been on a black-out. Marketing my books will require the success of my being able to responsibly handle both my social media presence and my attention to my blog. Writing in NaNoWriMo will only distract me from these goals.
  5. I am trying to fix myself.
    I have been on a slow path on realigning my goals in life. While writing is still top, I must admit that my other, hidden, goals have gotten in the way. (I speak of hidden goals which is a reference from a book I recently finished called “The Right Questions” by Debbie Ford.) These hidden goals were ones that led me to a social media addiction, a smart-phone addiction, falling off of my gym habits, and struggles in other areas of life. Directing energy towards NaNoWriMo will only allow myself distraction… again. Sure, it’s writing, but that isn’t the point.

For those of you taking part, I wish you luck. Maybe next year I’ll be ready. We’ll just have to see where I stand then.