Is that your final answer?

Being an analytical sort of guy, I decided to see exactly where I stood should I decide to publish my novel as a series instead of one volume. The results didn’t really surprise me, because of the way I developed the story.  As you can see, Books 4, 5, and 6, based on the word count, already qualify as novels.  That’s because I started out by writing the core of the novel, and then fleshed out the events leading to and resulting from the action.  That fleshing out process also included reformatting and rearranging to enhance the flow of the action. I think that by publishing the books as a series, in the course of preparing the manuscripts for publication, I’ll be able to bring each of the shorter volumes into their own.  The shortfall in the word count will give me the latitude to expand the shorter storylines without feeling crushed under the weight of a single volume.

Book Series
Book Current Word Count Qualifies as: Goal: Required Word Count
Book 1 39,365 Novella Novel ±700
Book 2 23,900 Novella Novel ±16,100
Book 3 32,579 Novella Novel ±7,500
Book 4 26,653 Novella Novel ±14,000
Book 5 47,189 Novel Novel Okay
Book 6 43,317 Novel Novel Okay
Book 7 43,256 Novel Novel Okay
Book 8 19,454 Novella Novel ±20,600
Book 9 18,845 Novella Novel ±22,000
Book 10 20,594 Novella Novel ±19,500
Book 11 17,007 Novelette Novel ±23,000
Total 332,159 Total shortfall ±123,400

Note: According to the Hugo Awards criteria: a novel is >40,000 words, a novella is 17,500 to 40,000 words, and a novelette is 7,500 to 17,500 words.

Only 123,400 words away from eleven novels.

As you can see, Book 1 is almost at the magical 40,000 word mark where it will change from a Novella to a Novel, so I would expect that within a couple of weeks you can expect to see it out on Amazon and Smashwords.  There now that I’ve made the decision I expect you to hold me to it.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

ISBNs and Other Things

While I was watching the Kindle Video Tutorial last night,  one of the things that I wondered about was the ISBN (International Standard Book Number).  All books have them, but is it really necessary for my eBook? To find out the answer I went to www.isbn.org, one of 60 agencies worldwide that provides ISBNs. They have a very comprehensive FAQ page, but it didn’t expressly address eBooks (or the cost to apply). To get this information I had to go to www.myidentifiers.com. Here I found “Guidelines for the assignment of ISBNs to e-books”,a PDF that told me what I needed to know.  [Please note that this PDF may no longer be available from www.myidentifiers.com.  I recently visited the site and didn’t see anything for free!  Note added on 7/18/17)

The short answer is that an ISBN is not necessary since a retailer like Amazon Kindle will sell your eBook only through the Amazon website, the eBook is formatted using proprietary software, and Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN. Note that, according to arstechnica.com, the Apple iBookstore requires an ISBN and an EIN (Employer Identification Number) US tax ID from the IRS.

The ISBN is critical for traditional marketing, but it isn’t free. The cost can add up since each version, revision, binding, etc. requires an individual ISBN (check with www.isbn.org for more details. Here’s how much an ISBN costs:

A single ISBN: $125.00
Ten ISBNs: $250.00 ($25 bucks each!)
100 ISBNs: $575.00 ($5.75 each!!)
1,000 ISBNs: $1,000.00 (A lousy buck each! What a deal!)

For traditional publishing, especially for prolific authors, there are lots of reasons to buy multiple ISBNs and the links provided will tell you why. The good news is that ISBNs aren’t like a license, they last forever.

Now that I’ve sort of gotten all that figured out, and I’ve finished mulling over all the Amazon legal stuff, I made the mistake of going into one of the Kindle community FAQs where I saw a reference to www.smashwords.com. Smashwords,  it seems uses software that will convert my manuscript into multiple eBook formats for a variety of ereaders including iPhone, iPod Touch, Amazon Kindle, Sony Reader and Barnes & Nobel Nook, and to other ereading devices, and will distribute eBooks to major retailers like Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo and the Diesel eBook Store. At Smashwords you can earn up to 85% or more of the net proceeds and they provide the ISBNs for all the different files to be distributed. Now I have to read all the Smashwords legal stuff and try to finally decide what I’m going to do.

A wider market does sound like a better deal, but wait there’s more. The way I read it, since both Amazon and Smashwords have a nonexclusive relationship with you and me, I can have it all, I can distribute through both services. Yeah!

Have you had any experience with Kindle or Smashwords? I could really use some insider information. Leave a comment.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Learning about Kindle

Like many of you, my weekends aren’t for writing, just the opposite.  My weekends are full of working in the yard and catching up on all those things that tend to slide while I’m at work during the week. Spring is here, the weather is beautiful, and who wants to be chained to a keyboard in a cave-like office, writing?

Me. I do. My mind is boiling over with plots and subplots.  I have a dozen folders on my hard drive with half finished short stories and sketches for novels that might be given life someday.  I guess if I was really dedicated I’d just stay up all night writing like I used to do and let my wife cuddle with an extra pillow instead of me.

Maybe not.  But as I posted last week, there are just too many things  to compete with the drive to write and, at least for me, it’s way to easy to lose sight of my ultimate goal – publication.

And getting published is what this blog is about. While my wife is occupied watching TV, I’m using the time to start investigating getting my book published on Amazon. I started by wading through the Terms and Conditions, Royalty Pricing , and List Price Requirements, but I found it too distracting reviewing them on-line, so I printed them out to look at later. Instead I watched the Video Tutorial which shows in real time how long it takes to actually publish to Kindle – about five minutes if your book is formatted. Once you see the tutorial, additional YouTube videos will become available for you to watch. They give step-by-step instructions on converting your manuscript from Word to HTML, formatting, and other issues.

As soon as I finish reviewing all the legal stuff, I’ll have to finally make that all important decision – one novel or several shorter works.

Leave me a comment, tell me what you think I should do!
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Getting the Hang of It

Well, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this blog.  I’ve reworked the About page and added a Bio page. I’ve also added some tags that should make it easier for folks to find the blog. I’ve even had a couple of comments (okay, one was my wife), but the other one wasn’t and that made me feel good. I also wanted to pass on the following email exchange:

Jim to my wife: “tell him to send me a copy.  if it holds my interest over the first 5 pages then it’s a sure seller.”

Jim to me after I sent him a PDF of the novel: “hell so far i like it.  gonna print off the first 50 pages and take home tonight.  Good work Kevin.”

Okay, so Jim is my brother-in-law, but in all honesty getting anyone to take on the task of reading a long manuscript is an accomplishment and I certainly appreciate it.

I recently finished reading a book, a rather long one, where it took probably four hundred pages before I was really able to empathize with the main characters, to really invest myself emotionally in them, which made it all the more difficult for me to give them up when the book ended. I got to the end of the book and literally went, “Huh? Is this it?” I wanted to grab the author and say, “You brought me this far just to leave me here?”

While it is true that the story was satisfactorily concluded, the villain met an ignominious end, the hero lived on and your sympathies remained with him, yet there was a feeling of not quite getting the whole story. I don’t say this so much to criticize the author’s writing style, but rather to illustrate the type of novel.  This type of novel would be difficult to break up into shorter stories. Or would it?

Could it have been reformatted as a series of cliff hangers, leaving the reader on the emotional edge of his or her seat until the next volume in the series was released? It’s a good marketing strategy if the first book is good enough to keep the reader wanting more.

But it’s also a gamble because instances of problematic writing can be hidden in a long novel. I’m sure you’ve encountered this before. “Just slug through this part and it’s got to get better,” you tell yourself. And it usually does. If problematic writing occurs in a short work, I doubt I’d buy the next volume with the hope that the writing will improve. I’d buy something else by someone I know will deliver. That’s the gamble you take when you consider whether to publish your long novel as a whole or break it into smaller novels, novelettes, or novellas.

My novel, the one I’m considering for publication, has eleven distinct parts which could probably stand alone without a large amount of rewrite or elaboration to achieve the length of product I wish to generate.  But while it may be true that the novel can be divided, is that what I really want? Would I take the chance that readers might make it through the first two or three volumes only to leave what might be the best parts of the story sitting on the virtual bookshelf in the later volumes?

I guess a couple of considerations factor into this. The most practical is marketing, what’s going to sell. But there are other things you may not even want to admit, such as pride, self-doubt, and fear of failure or embarrassment.  Would one failure end your career as a novelist? Possibly, if the real end game for your writing is profit. But if you’ve enjoyed the writing experience, the creative process, and, more importantly, enjoy what you’ve written, then that may be enough in itself.

So, I still haven’t decided what I’ll do with my novel, whether to make it one book or eleven. There’s still time for that. And with an eBook, since I control publication, I could actually achieve the best of both worlds. I could publish eleven Novelettes at .99 cents each and a little later publish a special anthology containing all eleven volumes for say, $7.99, giving the buyer a savings of $2.90 over the single volume price.

Life is full of possibilities.

© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

All It Takes Is Time and Money

There is something about getting published that has always bugged me, although electronic publishing has fixed this to a degree. Getting published costs money. Lots of little costs to be sure, but the costs add up. Consider the cost of mailing letters of inquiry and partial or whole manuscripts. Then there’s the cost of printing. Even if you do it at home, printing a 1,000 page manuscript is pricey. (At 10 cents per copy, that’s $100.) Most sources, from what I’ve read, recommend that your manuscript be reviewed by at least three objective reviewers outside your immediate family. Okay, so that’s 3,000 double spaced pages ($300).  The reviewers should be objective, like members of your writers group. You belong to one right?

I did for a while and it was very positive – to a point. At their Saturday meetings, they had guest speakers talk about writing and it was a chance for networking. They also had several working groups that met at various times during the week. They even sponsored a convention attended by nationally published writers and agents. Besides yearly dues ($35), there was a fee to attend the convention ($75-$180), and for an additional fee you could schedule a one-on-one with an agent ($20 or 3 for $50). From what I understand the cost of this convention is one of the less expensive ones.

Okay, I guess I could afford the above mentioned expenses since I do have a day job, but there’s something else very important to consider – time. I’ve looked at my schedule and by the time I subtract work (40 hours), commuting (8 hours), and sleep (56 hours) from the available 168 hours in a week, I’m left with 64 hours for writing, right? If the hours are distributed through the week I have 6.4 hours each weeknight, 16 hours on Saturday, and 16 hours on Sunday. Wow, that’s 3,328 hours a year for writing. With those numbers I should be able to pump out a dozen novels a year. Let’s see, at a moderate speed of 1,800 words per hour that’s a production rate of 5,990,400 words a year. Using the minimum for Hugo Award definition of a novel (>40,000 words) 3,328 hours should generate 149.76 novels per year. Wow!

Well, the metrics seem to suggest at the rate of one novel and a few short stories completed over the past, say, six years my dedication to writing is woefully under served. Using metrics is an incredibly cold and calculating method of describing the writing production process. In some circumstances metrics are necessary. For instance, metrics are essential to contracting technical documents. But metrics can also be applied to any type of writing and helps you to establish a habit of writing, say three hours a day, every day. Three hours is reasonable, but you might have to miss “House M.D.”, “The Big Bang Theory”, and “Hawaii Five-O”. Certainly you can stand to sequester yourself for that long and focus on what is hopefully your passion.

Something else to consider after reading the metrics I threw together. There are a number of necessities I didn’t account for, such as personal hygiene, family obligations (such as weddings, vacations, and helping your son tile his bathroom). Oh, yeah, and there’s thinking, just thinking, trying to mentally see where the words are taking you before they become canonized in your story. All these things are things you have to do and they can take an enormous amount of time. A few lost weekends and you’ll find that what the few minutes you get to yourself where you can concentrate on your craft are like gold.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Develop a Story

I didn’t start out to write a novel. I just had an idea. In this case I had the rather vague thought of a young man who wakes up one day to a world that was utterly silent and in which he was absolutely alone. It was to be a story about isolation and alienation in an utterly hostile world. No, I haven’t given away any of the plot because the story didn’t turn out this way. No matter how I tried to make the story about theme driven, it never worked and, after several fitful starts, I surrendered to the storyline and I became the recorder of events in the story rather than the originator.  The characters grew until they led the action rather than my leading them.

Letting the characters unfold the action can have consequences though. Since the characters are a product of your psyche, especially those corridors of your mind that may often be hidden in shadow. I found myself writing about things that I normally would have steered clear of, yet in the context of the action and dialogue, virtually nothing was off limits. I also found that once the story was launched it wanted to keep going and going, from action point to action point, adventure to adventure. Suddenly 100K words became 200K, and 200K became 300K. Then suddenly it was over. It wasn’t that I ran out of words, the story simply reached its end and the characters stopped speaking to me.

Once the initial writing was completed, editing began. Then more editing, and even more editing.  Editing was followed by doubting. Is it too long? What about consistency? What about style? What about marketability? Oh, yeah, marketability, how do I make money with my creation?  Maybe I should split the novel into several novellas or novelettes. After all, six eBook novellas at .99 cents each would bring in more than one eBook novel at $3.99.  A more compelling argument is that I doubt anyone would pay $3.99 (much less $12.99) for a novel by a previously unpublished author, whereas on a whim someone might spend .99 cents just to see what it’s like.

If you’re turned off by the previous discussion of marketability, not to worry. In the end, the whole marketability thing doesn’t really work for me as I am a terrible self-promoter and a worse capitalist. If I can make a profit at writing, at least enough that I can declare my office as a business expense, I’ll be happy.

© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.

Starting the Process

Okay, so last year I finished writing my first novel, over 332K words.  That having been accomplished, the next question is, “What the heck do I do with it?” It’s all well and good to be a novelist, but if no one ever reads it, was it worth the effort? Was it worth spending hundreds of hours on the computer writing and researching just to lose it all the next time my hard drive crashes? Would it even matter if my novel vanished into the ether? Would it make a difference to anyone? Probably not, but how will I know unless I put it out there? And I guess that’s what this is all about. That’s why I’m writing this blog.

What does a blog have to do with getting published? Well, I figured that a blog, that is, putting the effort out in public, would sort of hold me accountable. It wouldn’t just be me anymore. Anyone who might stumble on this blog could share my experience and, in turn, the expectation that someone would care enough to keep up with my efforts to get published might keep me motivated to follow this through. Writing, under the best of circumstances, is a solitary pursuit. No matter what gives you the idea for a story, no matter who you talk to or discuss it with, the execution of the story is a lonely, personal process because whether you like it or not, the story is inevitably about you.

To help me through this process, I’ve started developing a flowchart of the publication process (Publishing Process Flowchart) . I know flowcharts are lame, but I’m kind of a visual guy and mapping the process helps me to understand where I am in the process. In future posts, we’ll walk through the process, talk about writing, and hopefully, in the end, get my novel reformatted and sold as an eBook.
© Copyright 2011 by Kevin Fraleigh.