Three Day Weekends

While the regular two-day weekend allows for extra tickling-time for the kiddos, three-day weekends don’t seem to last as long. I’ve noticed this phenomenon occurs more often the more children you have.

Surprisingly enough, today felt like a real Saturday! Normal Saturdays are spent “doing stuff” like shopping, wandering around malls, and tickling children (usually our own children). From time to time there’s a birthday party, sometimes even two on the same weekend.

Part of me is still coming to grips with the fact that, this Monday, I will get to stay home and not work WITHOUT a migraine! shakes fist at head I mean that! No migraines! My plans thus far are to sleep, eat, soak in the tub with a book or game (smartphones are awesome like that), tickle Deia, play this AWESOME NEW GAME that just came out called Guild Wars 2, and maybe convince the hubby to get cheesecake. Mmmm….cheesecake. They have super nomnom cheesecake at Nation’s, along with eggs and bacon and sausage…mostly low-carb, right? 😀

Since I’m feeling relaxed and enjoying my weekend thus far (My Little Pony and Phineas and Ferb reruns always make me giggle), it was actually very easy to login on my blog to post a snippet. Thanks to all the people who made it possible for us to celebrate holidays with days off! 🙂

Tomato, Tomahto; Fate, Karma

You can go down the list of cursed blame and find Lady Luck, Fate, Karma and a random God all together. All “religions” seem to be joint when it comes to pin-pointing reasons for failure, problems or whatever.

When everything is going fantastically, we all tend to feel similarly, as in “it’s about time.” If we even notice. Society as a whole has gotten to a point where it feels it’s seen it all, done it all, bought the book and watched the movie. For some reason, this jaded mentality has corroded our ability to congratulate someone earnestly when they’ve accomplished something. We revel in the negative statements and bitchy epithets allowed by the enormous “eLife” offered by the Internet. In bringing these large groups of people together from all over the World we’re in a place that really allows us to learn and grow from each other. Instead of grabbing that opportunity, we’re wasting our precious lives groaning and moaning about things we probably could care less about. Social Media has allowed the inner gremlins to come out and shake angry fists at anthills, ignoring the beautiful luscious forests filling the mountain tops in the distance. I honestly am upset when someone is having a hard time or needs the comfort of friends. Reaching out is never something to be taken lightly. It’s hard enough for a person to admit they even need help in the first place.

My question to you isn’t whether you really are stuck or in a bad frame of mind. It’s about what you’re going to do to fix it. For myself, I’ve found just having an outlet is sufficient to get something to stop bugging me. A few good friends don’t mind the litany, and provide just enough of their own experiences so I don’t feel alone. Once we’re done figuring out my shit and their shit, we move on. From those points, we talk about everything from delicious Chocolate Chip Pancakes at iHop, or how to make the lowest carb cheesecake, and my personal favorite: what books we’re reading. (OK the cheesecake is also a favorite. Mmmm…I still think there should be a Cheesecake Frappucino, Freda, and I’m NOT pregnant :P)

Yesterday I blogged about Introspection. Looking inward, finding things out about yourself that you probably don’t want to know and will most likely never remember (unless you have a nifty blog). While I don’t recommend living your life constantly watching yourself like that, it’s a valuable tool for those times when nothing else seems to be working for you. Your cat won’t use the litter box and all the advice they gave you at PetSmart just doesn’t work on your cat. You have a weird cat. For all you know, your cat is a Drogo. Looking inwardly, finding it within yourself to admit that perhaps you should stop leaving your poprocks in her litterbox, you’ll discover you had the answer all along.

Life is never that simple, of course. We’re complex creatures with enormous capacity for everything we set our minds to. Blaming things we claim are out of our control allows us to get away with being half of what we want to be. Maybe it’s laziness; I’m sure lazy! I’d rather eat cheesecake than figure out why I keep plucking my eyebrows when the stupid eyebrows just keep growing back. Hell, I’d rather eat cheesecake than pluck my eyebrows. Mmmm….cheesecake….

So since we’re such complex creatures, we’ve all got our coping mechanisms, internal stream of conscious, SUBconscious, etc. I’ve got a very personal relationship with Karma. Karma and I go way way back. I think we met when I got put on timeout after biting someone back in Preschool, although it could’ve been when I kept throwing that toy to make Mom pick it up for me again and she finally just stuck me in my crib for naptime (I HATE NAPTIME! WAAH WAAAH SN…nnn..oooooore). Whenever it was she seems to remember my transgressions better than I do. I’ll be walking along, innocent as can be, and WHACK! I hit my knee on a f)(&)()ng arm chair. ARM CHAIR. That was to make up for accidentally elbowing that guy on my way back from lunch, but oooow!! That hurt!

Some people believe you will receive 3x the harm back to you that you’ve done to others. Honestly, that seems a bit harsh, especially if you aren’t intentionally hurting someone. Going out of your way to do someone harm would definitely warrant that sort of reciprocation, but for accidental elbow-jabbing? I think tit-for-tat is fair in that case. Strangely enough, Karma agrees. Wait WHAT?? Karma AGREES? Preposterous!
In fact, it isn’t preposterous at all. It’s something I fully believe, and as a result, my internal deity agrees. When you believe something completely, you subconsciously set yourself up for what you believe you deserve. Because of this, we tend to have something in the back of our minds that we’ve named that will mete out those small justices. Mine is Karma, of course. Some people have Lady Luck or Fate, some people feel they should blame God. Perhaps blame is too strong a word, though. What I mean is they are responsible for ensuring the behavior we’ve been raised with. As someone raised in a very strict Christian environment, I’ve always believed we get what we deserve, so we should do unto others as we have had done..oh wait no, that’s the other one. We should do unto others as we would have them do to us. It’s a very simple statement that covers a lot of territory. If you send out positive signals to the universe (think happy thoughts), happy things will come to you. In essence, if you walk around smiling, people won’t treat you like dirt. What is your reaction to someone you see who is smiling, whistling, singing, or exhibiting signs of happiness? Mine’s usually a giggle or grin. When I’m really down and out it might get a sad smile, but it’d still improve my mood! Because we’re all linked through language, body or verbal, we as individuals can change the world with a simple smile. When you’re not feeling so happy though, try not to smile — it looks more like a grimace. The best advice for those who’re not-so-happy is to go “Introspective” on yourself and have a chat with your internal deity. You’ll find the rest of your day is a little different. I was a lot more self-aware, but also much more aware of things going on around me. It was extremely daunting to understand more about the reasons behind things (sort-of like how I imagine a person who’s just gotten out of Psych 101 for the day might feel). I had trouble assimilating, so to speak. I did find myself being far more understanding and reacting with a more positive bent though, which did a ton to rack up the good Karma points. Since the experience was such an “eye opener” for me, I wanted to share it with all of you.

Don’t worry! I’m not always such a pretendullectual drag 😉 On a less-intense note, my son absolutely loves tomatoes. His favorite form is actual real live tomatoes. He’ll eat a hamburger, no ketchup, tomatoes only. We aren’t sure if he’s a changeling or not though, since he isn’t all that fond of cheese. In my family, dislike of cheese gets you kicked out. Thankfully my son does like “Pizza Cheese,” so as long as it has been shipped on Pizza before, he’ll eat it.

Wonder what tomorrow’s blog should be about? Maybe this fun new game I’ve been playing…

Introspection

My fantastic new 26-days-of-blogging goal seems to have gotten off to a rather rocky start. Tuesday afternoon I got hit with a wonderful new invention, the epithet-epithet Migraine. If you haven’t tried one yet, you’re really missing out. This particular one lasted through the middle of Wednesday, when I started to feel marginally ogre-like. By this morning I’d finally magically transformed back into a human (yes! I’m a human!).

For some reason migraines always seem like battles to me, which probably doesn’t help them disappear quickly. By the time they’re finally over there’s this euphoric, exhaustive relief that surrounds my psyche and leaves me introspective. As someone who is normally gregarious like nerve endings near a deep gushing wound, going inward like that is extremely weird. Weird?!? I’m sorry, I can’t think of any other word that explains it so well. I feel weird.

One of the aspects of my SELF that I’ve always kept private is my belief in things outside what is seen, heard, tasted, etc. How can you not believe in something outside your scope of senses? There are all manner of things going on “under the hood” for everyone. I’ve always been able to play-back a tune in my head as thought it were playing live right in front of me. I’ve got life “snapshots” from various points in my life imprinted on my mind that are interpreted differently depending on how old I am. Who is to say that guy over there can’t hear me thinking about how my hair never stays flat? What makes you think your Uncle Damien isn’t actually standing next to you telling you he loves you too?

As a writer, I know it is imperative that I understand what is real and what isn’t or I’ll get roped into the universes of my imagination. Being a reader has similar pitfalls, however the writer of those worlds is often so different from you, you’ll never be able to “agree” enough on things to get confused. While I don’t believe every aspect of my “worlds,” I do still feel there’s more in the world I DO live in than I’ll ever understand or be able to wrap my mind around. If you think about it INTROSPECTIVELY you’ll see the typical human reaction to something not quite understood is more complex than their outward expressions. If a dog walked up to you and transformed into a human (hopefully not naked!), what would you do? I myself would freak out, run away, and have myself locked up. I’m not that loony. Someone else may decide “oh, it was a trick of the light” or “That human sure looks like a doggy” or may even completely deny someone was there at all. Because of our own hangups, beliefs, expectations and patterns we’ll usually react in similar manners to similar situations. If I’m always freaking out when doggies turn into men, I’ll probably always freak out when I see ghosts or zombies. If you decide you’re just on the set of a movie, that may be how you always react to the strange things in life.

If enough people say something, it magically becomes true. Magic is everywhere and nowhere, but we don’t believe because it’s that annoying flare of light reflecting in the chrome license plate frame of the car ahead of you. It’s there, but if you turn your head it ISN’T there, so just keep your head turned and it’ll never be there.

Science was once considered Magic. Thanks to the Periodic Table of Elements, we were able to categorize and explore within boundaries things that before had caused people to be drowned, slaughtered or burned alive. If you combine this element with that, the other thing happens. Killing someone who discovered or repeated this did not make that combination go away. Not doing it made it not happen, so if you don’t do that then it doesn’t exist and you can ignore it.

Thanks to the advances in science, we have found a technological fountain of youth. What before was myth has now become scientific. We have medicine to cure almost anything from headaches to those unknown maladies that often left loved ones (and hated ones) dead. Hell, we’re so in love with taking a pill for everything, we take them to keep showing our spouses we love them, take them to keep from having babies we hadn’t planned for, and to keep our nutrients up even though we don’t eat veggies. How many other things exist in our world that could be considered magic in another time or place? We already have moving pictures and singing boxes. We talk to people using hand extensions we press to our faces. We wiggle our fingers over plastic letters and make things appear in the light. We transport our food in magic containers that keep it cold, store food in bigger containers that never get warm, and put food in dinging machines that make it warm very quickly. Don’t get me started on those moving boxes with wheels: those are very obviously caused by evil witches who should be locked away forever.

I’m not saying we’ll be hanging out with ghosts anytime soon, but there has got to be more in this world than we’ve discovered so far. Those magical scientists are finding new types of life every day, from the Chilean Jungle to the frozen slopes of Antarctica. How can we be so jaded a culture when we’re surrounded by the most advanced magic the world has ever seen? How can we believe we’ve seen it all when we can see even more now, better than we have ever seen before? Life is exploration, learning, growing and discovering. We’ll never be done with any of it because there will always be more we don’t know. Let us all be like children and learn as though we had never learned anything before.

Consistent Blogging

I’ve never been able to do things consistently for any length of time. I’ll get bored, find excuses, or some awesome new game will come out. I remember the first time I discovered other people brushed their teeth multiple times a day. The tenacity! People could do the same thing multiple times a day? I was almost in High School, and discovered inadvertently that people who DIDN’T brush their teeth had atrocious breath. It’s almost rude, if you think about it, to talk to someone for who-knows-how-long without even considering how rank you smell every time you open your mouth. I’ve always been a talker, so it was imperative that I correct any potential oversight on my part. For years I carried gum and mints around, and if any talking started, I’d whip out some gum (and share) or pop a mint. A larger change was brushing my teeth more often. As was mentioned before, repetition gets monotonous! I had recently learned of a “new” technique for memorization: repeat something a minimum of 26 times, and you were sure to remember. Now I didn’t think brushing my teeth 26 times in a day would be particularly healthy. Bleeding gums just don’t strike me as particularly beneficial. I did, however, set myself a goal of 26 DAYS. Surprisingly it didn’t take more than a week to get my tooth-brushing all those times a day habitual. To this day, I don’t feel particularly clean if I don’t brush my teeth before leaving the house. I still carry around a tin of mints, but gum chewing seems too horse-chewing-ish, so I stay away from it if I can.

A fellow writer set a goal of one blog a week (minimum) and wound up with a few extra blogs on top of that for the past year. I’m shocked if I write two in one month. It isn’t really that I rationalize and procrastinate my week away, but more along the lines of really not having anything to blog about. At one point I considered writing short stories instead of regaling people with boring personal tales. My brother-in-law managed to convince me against that, particularly in light of future publishing capability. That is actually one of the reasons I’ve opted for the more claw-your-way-up Indie Author route. I don’t have to answer to a contract from a publishing house, so I can write wherever I want. I think blogs are the acceptable way for writers to get words out without having a contract breathing down their neck. You get this sense of freedom for the length of the blog entry. It doesn’t even matter if someone ever reads it, because the writer can go back and re-read something and say “Hey! That’s not a bad idea. I can turn that into a chapter!”

I actually forget a lot of what happens day-to-day if I don’t note it somewhere. I rely quite heavily on the written word, verifying and double-checking my memories when things don’t quite match up. I’m one of those (seriously annoying) people who is lucky to remember what they’ve just said. It’s much easier to hold a conversation with me via text, E-Mail or IM than verbally, mainly because of that memory thing. It’s like my brain has to fart out these thoughts, after which it can let them disappear into the ether without bothering to store them. Don’t ask me “What?” because I’ll say “huh?” and we’ll wind up in a never-ending state of confusion. Just pretend I said something deeply profound and necessary, and feel the resonation deep in your soul.

So, setting a 26 day goal of blogging every day isn’t a bad idea. I rely heavily on Google Calendar (I LOVE GOOGLE! I don’t like the blogger platform though, don’t take it personally) so I’m as-I-type-this simultaneously adding it to my calendar (I can’t remember much but I do awesome at multi-tasking, go figure). At lunch-time sharp every day for the next 26 days, I will write a blog! I’ll set a minimum wordcount of…hey, that’s a good idea for a blog! “What is an acceptable minimum wordcount for a blog entry?” Right, I’ll go research that and get back to you tomorrow. Sweet!

Smashwords and Birthdays

My two Kindle books are now also on Smashwords! The first two books I’ve uploaded are Free: “A Joyful Journey” and “The Fantastical Tales of Ben Phelan: Story One.” You can view my Smashwords page here. They’re micro stories, which is why I intentionally made them free. They are also slightly different from the Kindle versions (updated story, different “book extras” like “Upcoming Books,” etc), which will be corrected in time. The stories themselves are intrinsically the same but some suggestions from my readers were implemented.

The Smashwords “Meatgrinder,” one of the most beloved and hated aspects of Smashwords, was successfully satisfied with my .doc! Woot! Thank you work for that $10 copy of MS Office xD Oh, and MS for the HUP. In any case, I followed the “Style Guide” to the T and the Meatgrinder said “om nom nom you should make more properly formatted word documents for me to consume!” I’ll definitely do that, you gorgeous software machine, count on it! Since the Meatgrinder digested them so easily, they’re already approved for Premium services and will be dispatched to all the normal places as a free eBook within the next few weeks. Exciting!

Meryl’s story is progressing nicely and I hope to have her story finished by the end of September. That original hump appears to be part of a past era, with all of the characters (except the two main ones) ready and willing to share their love lives and personal failures. By October, I’ll need some people to market the book with and provide their input on how many times characters smile and sigh, or whatever mine do the most. Mine seem to talk a lot. Sounds like someone else I know Cough Jaiden Cough.

In other news (like life), my baby brother just turned 13! I know what you’re thinking!! You’re thinking “Wow, so young! How can you already have two children?” Well just FYI, our older sister has two children too. Our baby brother is almost two decades younger than us 😛 Perhaps something like that should make it into a novel…hmm! He’s already an uncle four times over with the youngest my almost-one-year-old daughter Deia. The oldest is that Jaiden kid who just started first grade (and whose teacher informed my husband “Jaiden talks a LOT, I mean a LOT.” Yep, that’s our kid! His baby sister Deia talks just as much, especially to her food. Perhaps in time we’ll find out what she’s telling those M&Ms and that bacon, but we like to surmise it’s things like “I’m going to EAT you and then DIGEST you and then fill up my diaper with you!!”

Happy Back To School, folks! Try not to school too hard. The last few months of the year are always relegated to enjoying life as much as possible before you have to spend the beginning of next year following your New Year’s resolutions! Cheesecake, anyone? Mmmmmm.

NaNoWriMo, Life, Nephew’s Book

First things first! My nephew wrote a book a few years ago and it’s finally all published! It was actually published a while ago, but I haven’t updated since it went on sale, so I’m mentioning it now. You can get it on createspace here: Daddy is Tired – Createspace, or on Amazon here: Daddy is Tired – Amazon. The story was written by my Brother-in-Law‘s son, it’s published by Plasma Spyglass Press, and the art is done by http://artkitty.net (me!). All proceeds go to a very smart almost-7-year-old (his birthday is in a few weeks) for his education. We keep requesting sequels, so maybe there’ll be another one soon! 🙂

Now, as you should all know, November is NaNoWriMo month. The goal of the project is to write an entire book in a month. Not necessarily an OMG PERFECT BOOK, just a draft, but a COMPLETED draft. It’s ~50,000 words written over the course of the entire month (no cheating by writing it in October!), ultimately turning into a polished edited version (in the proceeding months). For many folks it’s their first finished work, done in a supportive group setting, and gets them to think in a more authorly manner. Just FYI – authors make up words like “authorly” all the time. I’m actually half serious in that statement: how do you think the dictionary got so big?

Now, RE: Life; my daughter is almost a year old! Time sure has flown from those late months of pregnancy to a year-old grouchy baby girl (she’s pouting at me as I type because she really wants to help me type). She’s almost 11 months old and already taking a few tentative steps between the table and Daddy’s knee.

My elbow has been absolutely fantastic since the surgery. It required a few months of patience and stretches to get it to the same flexibility it was at four years ago. My left arm still bends further back (that arm actually bends back further than the “normal” straight), but my right arm’s as straight as arms normally get. I still have some trouble when I bend it, but it loosens up pretty quickly.

I’ve been using http://yarny.me to write while preparing for NaNoWriMo to begin. So far I’m enjoying the site very much. It’s got the same features as yWriter, but all web-based, so if you don’t have Internet you can’t write. They are working on an Android version, which I’ll probably get a Premium account to use so I can write on my phone.

As far as Meryl’s story, I’m at 18k words. Still around 8k words on Sara’s story. In the meantime I’m pondering storylines that will fit a 50k word limit (hah, like 10k words is easy…yea right!).

Is anybody else going to participate in NaNoWriMo? What genres are you considering?

Character Interviews

I’ve read that doing character interviews can help you flesh out your characters, and get better acquainted with them. Using Google Forms, I setup a list of questions. Here’s the list I came up with:

What is your character’s name?
Describe your eyes
Describe your hair
What are some distinguishing characteristics?
Describe your body
What is your biggest fear?
What makes you happiest?
How do you react when someone is mean?
How do you react when someone is nice?
If someone needed help, would you help them?
You see someone harming an animal. What do you do?
What would you do with extra money?
Who are your mortal enemies?
Who are your best friends?
When you are all alone, what do you think about?
Describe your home.
What kind of car do you drive?
Where do you go shopping?
Describe your workout, swimming, formal, casual and regular clothes.
What do you do for a living?
Do you have any pets? If so, how did you meet?
Who is/was your greatest influence and why?
What were your parents like?
Where did you grow up?
Do you have siblings? If so, describe your relationship with them.
Describe your first love/relationship.
Have you ever done something you regreted? What was it?
What were your favorite activities as a child?
What are your embarrassing childhood memories?
What were you like in school?
Did you have any accidents or incidents in your childhood? Describe.
If you could tell your child self one thing, what would it be?
What are your goals?
How do you see your life in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years?
How long do you think you will live, and how do you think you will die?
Do you want children? How many?
What would you do if your life 180’d?
Your crush asks you out. What do you do?
Your boss gives you an impossible task. How do you handle it?
A friend or relative needs your help. What do you do?
An acquaintance asks you to do something. Do you?
Your life is suddenly spiraling downward. Do you ask anyone for help? Who?
Your life is looking up. Who do you celebrate with? How?
Favorite color
Favorite food
Favorite drink
Favorite friend/relative
Favorite hobby
Favorite hangout
Favorite activity
Favorite outfit
Favorite communication method
Favorite transportation

These are rated on a scale of 1-5, where 1 = Opposite and 5 = Always.
What role do you play in your relationships? [Faithful/Loyal]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Gentle]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Attentive]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Take-charge]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Affable]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Gentle/Motherly]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Funny]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Amiable]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Logical]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Encouraging]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Sarcastic]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Narcissistic]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Mischievous]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Malicious]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Bored]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Brave]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Calm]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Naive]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Giving]
What role do you play in your relationships? [Impolite]

So far the questions have really helped me get a good understanding of my characters. I’ve interviewed Meryl Bennett from “The Undragoning of Meryl Bennett” and Sara from “Sara Flynn, At Your Service.” Since the answers give hints to the plot-line, they aren’t going to be published. Maybe a basic-stat type Q/A can be posted once they’re parsed, though.

Do any of you use Character Interviews?

Reminiscing

It’s interesting how families tend to do things simultaneously with no collaboration. My mother in law and her siblings often have similar things happen, such as purchasing the same new computer, buying a car on the same day, etc. My brother in law found a box of high school papers the same day I found an old folder on my computer filled with old writings. It brought to mind many other stories I’d written as a teen, including one about a girl named Lila. Lila was a transplant to the States from Holland. I’d just found out that Holland was built on water, and as a child I’d read a lot of older books that were set in Holland. I can’t remember their names, but they frequently contained iceskating and whatnot. Lila was raised similarly to myself (parallels!) and was dealing with her new life with a familiar religion to support her. At the time I was very religious, but in my present condition I’m very much anti-religion. She was a naive, caring girl who was trying to fit into a new society, but was learning how to fit in using her old system. One particular part I recall was when Lila went to a fifth-hand thrift store and found books on etiquette. She read that a man should always start her car and help put ice in her icebox. Little things like that made up most of the stories, along with a not-so-secret crush on another member of the church she went to. Poor fellow — he thought she was beautiful and nice, but she seemed like a twit! They were all written in notebooks, however, and I have no idea where those wound up. Ahh, the Internet age! If only I’d typed them out when I got my first computer. If anything, they would be highly anecdotal. The drawing here is of Lila, done around 1999/2000. Dad had just gotten me my first tablet (a serial Aiptek) and it came with ArtDabbler. This was one of the first drawings done with it.

One thing I’ve learned from all of this: scan in those things your kids bring home! You don’t have to keep them in a box collecting dust; they can be stored on your computer. Just don’t forget to back up!!

Writers and Editors

One of my favorite sayings is “Every great author has a great editor.” This is true for so many of my personal favorites. If you’ve ever added an author on a social network, you may notice their grammar and spelling are rarely on par with the quality of their books. My brother in law has one of the best imaginations I’ve seen (almost as good as Katie MacAlister’s) and has some of the worst grammar I’ve ever encountered. I truly believe that we would not have such a wonderful bounty of books if it weren’t for those out there who can see a spelling or punctuation error a mile away. We should have an Editor Day to thank these people, particularly since they are only on best seller lists by proxy (or if they also happen to be writers).
Thank you, dear Editors!

5 Mistakes A New Author Can Make: Indie vs Traditional Publishing

Indie Publishing vs Traditional Publishing

This blog is co-authored by Jean Hopkins and Richard Flores IV. About Richard.

Indie Publishing (eBook):

  1. Submitting your eBook before researching your options
  2. Not promoting your eBook sufficiently when you have a “Free” or “Discount” time-period.
  3. Adding your eBook to the wrong category
  4. Not being ePrepared for your eBook
  5. Expecting too much of your first eBook

1. One of the first mistakes I ever made when publishing my first two (finished) short stories on KDP was electing to use “KDP Select” without reading the fine print, or researching more on how to make eBooks “free” on Kindle. We’ve all seen the free/cheap Kindle books that are available, which led to my belief that there must be some option for Authors to set their books to $0.00 (or whatever your currency is) on the back-end. In fact, there is! The option is limited to 5 days every 90 days, however, which is significantly less time than I’ve seen many publications set at “free.” There are other options for setting a book free, which I’ll go over shortly. The main point here is not that KDP Select is horrible, which it isn’t at all, but that it may not be for everyone. KDP Select is incredibly useful for Authors who are establishing a name on the market. The relatively short contract length (although probably the standard in Traditional Publishing) is definitely a bonus, since 90 day spans can help get your name out there long enough that you can start submitting elsewhere. Kindle has the largest market share of eBooks (or so I’ve been told) with an enormous number of readers. This doesn’t mean no other eBook store is worth submitting to, but it does mean it’s your quickest entry into the market if you use don’t mess up like I did. Just so we’re clear here, submitting using KDP Select first is a good idea, but once you have established enough readers, you should also submit to other stores. Many Kindle readers have friends who prefer Sony, Nook, Kobo, etc. Those friends won’t be able to get your eBook unless they have an Android or iOS device, or some other Kindle-supported device. Some of them specifically stayed away from Kindle. You don’t want to alienate potential readers.

I want to note here that KDP Select is an option for your Kindle books. You can sell your eBooks through Kindle and not elect for KDP Select. It is a tool used to allow you to get more visibility on their site, however it does lock you in to a 90 day contract. You have three days from your initial “signature” to opt out of it, however if you use any of the 5 “free” days offered through the program, you will be locked in. You can use the 5 days individually or all at once. From my own research and the opinions of others, using 1-2 days at a time gets the most visibility, with a month between sales.

If you want to offer your eBook for free and do NOT want to use KDP Select, you CAN. You just need to submit your eBook elsewhere, which you can do if you aren’t tied to the 90 day contract on KDP Select, set your eBook free there, then use the “Report Lower Price” option on your eBook’s Amazon page. Amazon is good about switching it back to its “regular” price if you change it back from $0.00 on the other sites. If you want to offer free books on multiple platforms, this would be the way to do it. KDP Select only lets you offer free eBooks 5 days every 90 days, which doesn’t work if you want the book to be free all the time.

Here’s a list of other places to submit your eBooks:

  • Smashwords – Smashwords is the first place I would go after establishing clients on Kindle. It submits automatically for you to several places, and if you format your eBook using their (somewhat strict) guidelines, they’ll even provide an ISBN for you. This enables you to submit to eBook resellers that require an ISBN, like iTunes. Smashwords is completely free, but does take a % of your sales.
  • B&N Pubit! – Smashwords will also submit to B&N, but many authors prefer handling this account separately. Smashwords lets you pick-and-choose your vendors, so it’s definitely an option. Some authors prefer having one vendor handle all of their distribution. I’m lazy enough that I’d go the only-Smashwords way.
  • Indie Publishing – there are a lot of Independent Publishers out there. Many cater to specific genres (Erotica, Horror, Sci-Fi, etc) and some are very picky about who they publish. In this sense, they can be like Traditional Publishing.

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2. There are many sites out there that provide their readers with lists of Free or Inexpensive eBooks. Letting them know in advance is a good idea, since they do have other Indie Authors alerting them of their sales. Since eBooks are Digital, many readers are active on the Internet. It is very important to go to your potential readers and “hang out.” I don’t mean running up to them all and saying “GO TO MY BLOG!”, I mean getting to know them and being a PERSON. Don’t be sneaky and two-faced about it either. If you don’t understand or like someone, they probably aren’t the sort of reader who would want to read your work.

Consider advertising your Blog/Website well in advance. Facebook, Google, and Kindle Nation Daily all offer advertising options that are budget-friendly. You can set your maximum spending limit for Facebook and Google, and KND allows you to pick a “Package.” Set up your ads in advance to go live a day before your eBook goes free/on sale, then set your budget for those days. KND suggests choosing the day of the promotion so that readers don’t get confused, since they publish your “ad” the day of the free promotion (if you choose the $29.99 package).

Websites to submit your Free Kindle eBook days to:

  • Pixel of Ink – submit at least two weeks in advance
  • Kindle Nation Daily – unless you pay for highlighting, they will only post if the eBook is one they feel stands out from the crowd
  • The Digital Inkspot – E-Mail the owner directly (there’s an E-Mail address on the page). They are very nice and SUPER awesome! <3

There may be more, but these ones seem to be at the top of the stack so to speak. Ty Johnston has a huge list of even more resources for Indie Authors, and has written 100 blogs for 100 sites.
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3. Number three on my list wasn’t a HUGE issue for me, however it definitely will hinder sales if you tell people your eBook is about hearts and rainbows, but your cover has a bloody corpse on it. There is a list a mile long for categories on KDP, but they only allow you to choose two. For both of my first eBooks, I selected “Short Stories” first. If you are submitting a Short Story it is VERY important that you make sure your reader knows. I’d even go so far as to say you should put your Wordcount in the description so that readers know what they’re buying. If you’re concerned that putting a Wordcount in your description will discourage too many readers, remember the number of Kindle users out there. This does not mean the number of people with Kindles — I don’t own one, however I have the app on my Android, iTouch, two computers and a Blackberry. There is also a Cloud Reader that allows you to read on a browser. The number of people who read Short Stories is significant. In addition to providing Short Story readers an easy way to decide whether to get your eBook, it also keeps you from getting negative reviews from people who feel upset that they were not told the eBook’s length. Win/Win!
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4. If you don’t have a website already and you plan on being an Author, Self Published or Traditional, you need to go get one right now. Namecheap.com is a very inexpensive place to get a domain (if you are so inclined), which you can host WordPress on. If you’d rather have someone else do the hosting for you, you can use authorblog.me (I’m http://jeanhopkins.authorblog.me actually. They use WordPress), WordPress.com, Blogger or Livejournal. If you do decide to use a hosted service (all of which are free, but have added features for $$, except for authorblog.me), you have the added benefit of the socialization aspect that is so necessary for getting your name out there. Livejournal has had years to acquire their users, while WordPress and Blogger are often the preferred hosts for many authors. They all have their own communities that help you have an Internet Presence. Authorblog.me is actually still too new to have a user base, but they do have a nifty URL! You can also sync up your authorblog.me account to WordPress.com (using the Jetpack addon) so you get the benefits of WordPress.com’s community, AND a nifty URL. Right now they’re invite-only, but the host is currently accepting invitation requests. Kindleboards is one of the LARGEST forums for Kindle readers. Many other eBook readers go there as well, however their first and foremost purpose is for Kindle eBooks. They have some strict policies that are very important to follow, however they have a large number of readers and everyone is very nice and welcoming. I’d suggest setting your eBooks up there well in advance (it’s pretty easy to do, they have many guides on how to do it and on how to get started as an Author using Kindleboards). Since you can only “bump” your eBook threads once every seven days unless someone comments on it, I’d suggest setting everything up at least 8 days in advance. That way, if you do make your eBook free, you can comment on your eBook thread. Submitting your own eBooks to the Book Bazaar’s “Free Book Finds” thread is a HUGE no-no (only self-promote in your book’s thread, once every seven days), however at least posting that your eBook is free on its thread will let others know. Just FYI — you can make a thread in “The Book Bazaar” for each of your eBooks. This lets others discuss the eBook. It’s a very large forum.
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5. Last and most CERTAINLY not least, do not expect too much of your first eBooks. Consider this your “Learning Period.” A lot of people luck out majorly their first time through the grind, whereas others find their experience falls short. This is due to the type of work you are submitting: the book cover, the size, the price, the description and the genre. Erotica is a very popular genre, particularly in Short Story format. Maybe not everyone is interested in reading a short Mystery, but many people might be interested in Sci-Fi Flash Fiction. If the cover looks like something their cat couldn’t digest, or perhaps doesn’t even HAVE a cover, it might deter people who would otherwise find the description interesting. Most notably those with a GOOD description attract more readers. A description doesn’t have to be the whole book (if you wrote Flash Fiction); it can touch on the story, provide some insight into the author, and display a bit of the style the author writes in. All of those aspects help a reader decide if they want to buy an eBook. If your eBook has a lot of words but is underpriced, readers may assume it’s junk. You’re the next Laurell Hamilton, so don’t go charging next to nothing for all of your hard work! I’m not going to tell you how much your words are worth; you should try adjusting your prices until you get a good mix of buyers and profit. Each author will have their own experiences with this. As a baseline, the minimum you should go (other than Free) is .99 cents. If you want to stand out from the .99 cent crowd, try $1.99 or $2.99. Even if you don’t have 1,000 buyers at $2.99, your profit will be higher, which may make your bottom line higher.

Traditional Publishing: By Richard Flores IV

  1. Not researching the Market
  2. Not reading the submission guidelines
  3. Not tracking their submissions
  4. Limiting yourself to one type of publication
  5. Giving up too early

I think you have to first decide how you want to publish.  There are many mistakes you can make when you choose to go with traditional publishing.  Since this is called “5 Mistakes” and not “You can really mess this up” I will give you what I think are the top 5.

1.  Not researching the Market:  If you plan to submit a Space Western, you might want to make sure the market publishes Space Westerns.  I don’t just mean that they say they will accept them, do they actually publish them?  Read the market, see what other authors are published there.  Since typically you can expect 30 days to six months of waiting for a response, don’t tie up your time with a market that likely doesn’t like your genre.
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2. Not reading the submission guidelines:  Standard Manuscript format (seen here), is what I write all my stories in.  12 point courier font, 1″ margins all around.  It is pretty standard.  But, the format a magazine wants it in is not always standard.  Some may want a different font, or only certain file types, or no name listed in the header and footer.  Some may want a cover letter, others may want your previous publishing credits.  The point is, you have to read every single line on the submission guidelines for the publication you want to submit to.  You worked hard on that story, don’t let it get tossed out because you can’t follow directions.
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3. Not Tracking their submissions:  There are a few ways to track submissions, but you really need to use Duotrope.  It is free (though I recommend you donate something), and it gives you more information then you can imagine.  Average response times, acceptance percentages, pay rate classifications, and so much more.  I’ve found publications I didn’t even know of on Duotrope (I’ll get to that soon).  But, the main feature on this is the submission tracker.  With many places not wanting simultaneous submissions (meaning you have the story out with other publications at the same time), you need to know where your story is.  Even if they allow your story to be submitted to others, you will want to let the others know if it is picked up.

With how long it can take some places to respond, it can be very easy to forget where your story is at and where you have already sent it.  Don’t embarrass yourself be sending the same story to an editor twice.
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4. Limiting yourself to one type of publication:  Don’t be foolish here.  Don’t limit yourself to one publication type.  Don’t say you will only take “pro rates” or “Print magazines”.  You are limiting yourself.  I talk about this in my post “Quality Versus Quantity” when I talk about aiming for certain pay scales, but you also need to accept where the dart hits.   So don’t limit your story to a certain type publication just because your dream is to be seen on Daily Science Fiction.  That is a great dream, but your story deserves an audience.  There is a just as loyal an audience at any publication.  Aim for your dream market, but don’t stop when you miss the target.  The more you write the better you will get and the closer you will get to a bulls-eye.
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5. Giving up too early:  Duotrope has over 4,000 markets listed.  Hard as it is to believe they don’t list every market either.  The truth is, while I can’t guarantee results, chances are there is a home for your story somewhere out there.  It may take some time to find it, or you may find it right away.  But stopping short of publication is foolish.  I refuse to see any of my short stories die, even if I have to try all 4,000 markets.  For me it is not about pay, it is about telling my story to an audience.  If I stop there, I fail my story, my characters, and worst of all my audience.  Trust me, if you don’t tell your story someone else will.

There is a cycle to getting published, I talk about it in “Getting Published“.  It is easy to give up with rejection.  But, it is part of the process.  You will have to learn to accept that your story doesn’t fit every market.  But, you also need to accept that your story DOES fit at least one market.  Don’t let yourself believe otherwise.  After every rejection, you must submit to the next market.  Don’t even wait a day.  Just send it on out to the next one.
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Richard Flores IV is an author of Speculative Fiction who lives in Vacaville, California.  He fits his writing time around being a father of three young boys and a husband to his beautiful wife.  He has been published in Cygnus Journal of Speculative Fiction and Liquid Imagination.  He also runs a blog where he talks about publishing, writing, and whatever else interests him.  For more information on Richard Flores IV, you can find him online at http://floresfactor.wordpress.com/.  You can also find him on Twitter @Richard_Flores4