The History of “How It Ends”: Part 5 – The Decision to Self-Publish

HIE_Serial_Omnibus_Cover

In Part 1 of the History of How It EndsI talked about where the idea for the novel came from.

In Part 2 of the History of How It EndsI talked about what drove the writing forward and the genesis of some of the character names.

In Part 3 of the History of How It EndsI talked about the onerous task of editing the beast.

In Part 4 of the History of How It Ends, I talked about how I procrastinated about which direction I should go in trying to get the novel published.

It was a long a difficult decision to self-publish How It Ends on my own.  I found myself so terrified of making a mistake when I published it that I didn’t do anything at all. If I had to describe this, I’d called it “self-publication constipation”. I felt like the quality of the publishing would be a direct reflection on the book, and eventually on me, and if I produced something that was total crap, then I’d never get a second look by anybody.

So I decided to test the waters a bit. I took a short story (like, really short. Like fourteen pages short.) and put it on Amazon. I created a cover in an old version of PhotoShop and packaged the whole thing up. I posted it online. That was when I hit the first reality check. Price point.

For fourteen pages, I wanted to charge a quarter. After all, it’s only fourteen pages, and it’s the kind of material that doesn’t appeal to everyone, sort of a slasher short, so I had planned to charge twenty-five cents. I was a little dismayed to find out that I couldn’t. The best I could to was to charge $.99 for the story. I couldn’t go lower than that. Already, out of the gate, I was running into trouble. But I had to continue with this first effort. I had to get a sense of how it all worked, because I figured once I pulled the trigger, I was stuck.

519FXNQgakLI finally got the short story, The Girl In The Red Hoodie, published. It was a pretty proud moment. I’d finally really put my writing self out there. I was ready to go forth and conquer with How It Ends.

Except I wasn’t.

I spent the next year hemming and hawing. Like my editing, I found excuses not to sit down and go through the process of publishing How It Ends. I couldn’t afford a cover image (you can get two images on stockphoto websites for about $20), I didn’t have a final edited version (all I was doing was moving words around at this point, shuffling between thirteen different ways to say “love”), I wanted an agent (I sent out zero submissions to agents during this time frame). Lots of excuses, none of them good.

I reached back out to Paul, asking him if he’d be willing to print How It Ends, while I retained digital ownership. His answer, rightfully so, was no. Why would he waste money on a print edition when he couldn’t get any decent sales on them without having the digital edition as well? Print had become a loss leader for him, as I expect it will become for many small indie publishers in the near future.

I waited some more.

91qqolPllyL__SL1500_I don’t remember exactly when I made the decision to finally publish it, but I do know it was related to my discovery of Hugh Howey. Hugh Howey, for those who don’t know the name, made a name for himself serializing his now best selling Wool series. The series didn’t start as a series, but rather as a long short story. After having two books published by small presses, he decided to put the first story in the Wool series on Amazon himself. A few months later, there was a clamor for more. He began writing more and suddenly he had a phenomenon on his hands. And that was the point where I said “A-ha! I’ll serialize it!”. I’ve written before about how Hugh Howey is to blame for the reason I serialized How It Ends.

Before jumping forward, I ran the idea past my friend Russell. He’d been my editor for How It Ends and a sounding board for some of my ideas for years. His first question was whether I thought there were logical breaks in the story. I told him I thought there were and explained where each one would be. He considered this and replied that the breaks I had in mind would work pretty well. And, of course, since I was embarking on this self-publishing trek before he was, he was dying to know how it went.

I broke How It Ends into four distinct parts, each where I thought the most logical break would be. I reached out to Paul to let him know what I had decided. He congratulated me on the bold move and praised the decision. Turns out he had started to steer a lot of writers toward self-publishing as well, given that this seemed to be the direction the wind was blowing.

So here I was, self-publishing How It Ends, as a serial, yet again. I revved up the ol’ self-motivation engine, striped part one of How It Ends out of the main work, slapped a cover on that bad boy, and clicked Publish. Scariest damn thing I’d done all year…

Tomorrow: The mechanics of self-publishing.

The History Of “How It Ends”: Part 1 – The Idea

Now that the full novel of How It Ends has been published, I plan to spend a couple (maybe several) posts exploring my experience with it, from concept to final product, detailing the history of the writing, editing, and self-publishing of my novel. This first post is an exploration of where the story came from and how I ended up writing a novel in the first place.

Now that the full novel of How It Ends has been published, I plan to spend a couple (maybe several) posts exploring my experience with it, from concept to final product, detailing the history of the writing, editing, and self-publishing of my novel. This first post is an exploration of where the story came from and how I ended up writing a novel in the first place.

About ten years ago I was a pretty active member of an online webzine community called Silverthought. Silverthought was and is a webzine dedicated to science fiction. They now have a print division that has produced several books, of which I've been fortunate enough to be a contributor to two collections, Ignition and Thank You, Death Robot. I submitted stories on a regular basis, and the ones that the editor, Paul, felt were of enough quality were published. I still have some stories list in their archive, which you can find here: http://www.silverthought.com/online/archive.html#L. Silverthought itself seems to be in something of a suspended animation, probably because most of the principle players had a couple of kids and, you know, life happens.

About ten years ago I was a pretty active member of an online webzine community called Silverthought. Silverthought was and is a webzine dedicated to science fiction. They now have a print division that has produced several books, of which I’ve been fortunate enough to be a contributor to two collections, Ignition and Thank You, Death Robot. I submitted stories on a regular basis, and the ones that the editor, Paul, felt were of enough quality were published. I still have some stories list in their archive, which you can find here: http://www.silverthought.com/online/archive.html#L. Silverthought itself seems to be in something of a suspended animation, probably because most of the principle players had a couple of kids and, you know, life happens.

During the time I was active on Silverthought, I submitted and they published a short story I entitled "End of Life". If memory serves, I wrote this as an exercise based on a writing prompt on Silverthought. That prompt was specifically around telling a story about a "death robot". Whatever that is. And the was the main problem I had with the prompt: I had no idea what a "death robot" was. Yeah, sure, we can all call to mind images of Ah-nuld as the Terminator, or the tall bit of piping from The Empire Strikes Back known as IG-88, the assassin robot bounty hunter. But there had to be more to the idea. I just didn't know what that was.During the time I was active on Silverthought, I submitted and they published a short story I entitled “End of Life”. If memory serves, I wrote this as an exercise based on a writing prompt on Silverthought. That prompt was specifically around telling a story about a “death robot”. Whatever that is. And the was the main problem I had with the prompt: I had no idea what a “death robot” was. Yeah, sure, we can all call to mind images of Ah-nuld as the Terminator, or the tall bit of piping from The Empire Strikes Back known as IG-88, the assassin robot bounty hunter. But there had to be more to the idea. I just didn’t know what that was.

Of all things, NPR offered me the answer. I was listening to Morning Edition on my way to work, and a report on Oregon's "Death With Dignity" laws came on. You can here the original audio piece here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1382291. It all came crashing into my head at once. A robot physician. A robot physician specializing in geriatric medicine and end-of-life care. A society in which physician-assisted suicide is perfectly legal. Physician-assisted suicide as a natural extension of end-of-life care. A robot that can administer the protocol for physician-assisted suicide. Moral ambiguity of "farming out" the killing of another human, humanity keeping their killing protocols in place but washing their hands of the actual dirty-work. Bang! It was all right there.

Of all things, NPR offered me the answer. I was listening to Morning Edition on my way to work, and a report on Oregon’s “Death With Dignity” laws came on. You can here the original audio piece here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1382291. It all came crashing into my head at once. A robot physician. A robot physician specializing in geriatric medicine and end-of-life care. A society in which physician-assisted suicide is perfectly legal. Physician-assisted suicide as a natural extension of end-of-life care. A robot that can administer the protocol for physician-assisted suicide. Moral ambiguity of “farming out” the killing of another human, humanity keeping their killing protocols in place but washing their hands of the actual dirty-work. Bang! It was all right there.

Years later, this same idea of humanity sub-contracting their killing out to sentient, non-living beings such as robots would continue to haunt me. It became the basis for my short story “Commission Report on the Virginian Confessor Program”, which was ultimately included in Silverthought’s Thank You, Death Robot anthology.

I got down to the business of writing and, as happens with me sometimes, the story just tumbled out. It was the story of a man in a position to evaluate the robotic physician program at a local hospital and witness a robot administer physician-assisted suicide first hand, and how that chilling the evaluator found that. I finished the story and submitted it to Silverthought, which published it. At that time, Silverthought was also allowing guest editors to post reviews of the pieces they published. I’m not sure what the purpose of this was, since reviewing the material you’ve already posted seems a little circular, but that was their model at the time. Guest editor and Chief Reviewer Mark Brand reviewed the piece, and I’m happy to say that the review was glowing: http://www.silverthought.com/wordpress/?p=156

I was very happy with the review, and felt satisfied that I had executed well on an idea, which, as any writer will tell you, is never a guarantee. At that point I thought I was done. Apparently I wasn’t.

A friend of mine, Norm, who was also mildly active in Silverthought at the time, read “End Of Life”. His response was simple: “Good story. Where’s the rest of it?”

I was a little shocked.

“What do you mean, ‘the rest of it’?”

“There’s more story there. I can tell. Go find it and tell it.”

This brief conversation made me pause. I hadn’t thought there was more story. I thought I had told all the story there was to tell with this one. Could he be right?

I spent some time thinking through what it really meant to explore the world of “End Of Life” more. I thought through various scenarios and ideas, and as it began to materialize in my head, I realized my friend was right. There was indeed more story. In fact, the story I told in “End Of Life” was really something of a subplot to the main story. The story of the robot physician “Kilgore” was, while not quite a diversion, surely a side piece to the main plot of a story about a robot that would come to be named “Gammons”. “End Of Life” was ultimately the fourth or fifth chapter in a longer work that would emerge. The main idea and plotting of what would become How It Ends did not come crashing into my head the way it did with “End Of Life”. I had to turn it over again and again to see where I was going. But as I progressed through the first few chapters, trying to see where I was being steered, eventually it clicked, like the proverbial tumblers in a lock. And once I was locked it, the writing really began.

Tomorrow: Writing How It Ends and the surprise of publishing it serially.

A New Contest For Self-Published Novels

To anybody who has self-published a novel in the last few years, it should come as no surprise that the world of self-publishing has been getting more and more legitimate as it grows. And if you had any doubts about that trend, then a new contest for self-published novels should help convince you.

The Guardian newspaper has become the first major newspaper to recognize the fact that self-publishing is the new frontier of publishing with a new monthly contest.

This contest is a monthly contest open to works of 40,000 words or more. You have to be 18 to submit, and your book has to have been published by you and not some third party publisher, independent or otherwise. There are a bunch of other rules and terms and legal thingies that go along with the contest. Read them here.

Did I mention this is a monthly contest? So if you miss the deadline for this month (and for April I can tell you that you have indeed missed it), no worries. Submit it next month.

So do you have a DIY novel on Amazon? Then what are you waiting for? Get submittin’!

Places To Send Your Sci-Fi Novel

penguin daw

Did you know that you can actually get into a relationship with one of the big publishers, Penguin, without an agent?

It’s true. I swear.

Know how? DAW. That’s how.

What’s DAW? They’re a book publisher. Started back in the 70s by Donald A. Wollheim (get it? D.A.W.? DAW?) and his wife Elsie, they were devoted exclusively to science fiction and fantasy. And they’ve published some serious science fiction talent. Names like Tad Williams, C. J. Cherryh, and Mercedes Lackey.

They’re still a private company. They’re headquartered at Penguin, and have a distribution partnership with Penguin, but still private. I’m not sure how that all works, but I don’t have to. And neither do you!

DAW has been accepting unagented submissions for years. I first stumbled on this over a decade ago. At the time, I didn’t have anything to submit to them. But I tucked away the knowledge that they didn’t require an agent for when I did have something ready.

So if you have somthing ready to go and you’re banging your head against the wall looking for an agent, why not go right to the source?

Weird Tales Is Opening Its Doors

Ever wanted to appear in a magazine along side names like Peter S Beagle, Brian Lumley, or even possibly Stephen King?

Well now is your chance!

weirdtales

Weird Tales is opening itself up to submissions this Friday (11/22/2013). And it looks like it might stay open for a while.

A new submissions editor has taken the reigns and is looking for your weirdest short stories.

And while they’ll consider any weird short story you’ve got, they have a couple of themes in mind:

  1. Tesla. Yeah, that’s right, the guy who invented the radio. (Okay, maybe not invented the radio, but had a strong part to play in the development of wireless transmission). Stories with him as a central character, or at least a focus.
  2. Ice. If it’s frozen, they want it. Whether it’s a Hoth-like planet or a Hoth-like meat locker.

Check out the link for more info: http://weirdtalesmagazine.com/2013/11/19/opening-to-fiction-sub/