Where have all the standalones gone?

No one is writing stand-alone novels any more.  Go stroll through Amazon’s ebooks, and you’ll see that virtually everything you see is “book one in the Fartknocker series.”

Now obviously, that’s not true, and probably never will be.  People will always write stand-alone stories with no sequels or long-range plans, and publishers will more than likely always buy them–but lord, don’t they love them a series.

That’s where it comes from, you know.  People see publishers putting all their marketing and effort into this or that series, and assume–almost certainly incorrectly–that they are only interested in the next big series.  Therefore, everything has to be stretched into a series, whether or not it has the potential for it.  So, sadly, many great characters and stories are forced to keep shuffling across the stage long after they should have been allowed to take a bow and fade into the background for the next act.

I’m about to propose something radical.  I preface this by saying that I do, in fact, have a moderately successful series of my own, although my favorite of my works remains a single, stand-alone novel.  But I think this merits saying.

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FORGET ABOUT THE SEQUELS AND WRITE THE BOOK.

Don’t worry about it.  If the story doesn’t merit a return, then don’t go back.  Finish the story, and let it shine on its own.  If it has the potential to be a series, it’ll let you know.  Don’t force it.

After all, imagine how lame a sequel to Dracula would have been.  (Actually, you don’t have to imagine–there are countless lame novels vaguely based on what happened after the good Count lost his head.)

Tell the story.  If it’s done, it’s done; don’t try to reanimate a dead story line to stretch it out.

AUDIO ALL THE BOOKS!

So basically I’ve been incredibly busy with the audiobook project.  You know, that insane idea I had a few months ago to convert ALL my books into audiobooks?  Yeah, I wonder if I’ve gone crazy, too.

source: giphy.com

source: giphy.com

At any rate, I thought I’d give you guys an update on where all of that stands.  As of right now, these are the titles that are currently in production.

BAD GIRLS

BLOOD EAGLE

HUNTED

SMILING JACK

CHARACTER ISSUES

SISTERS

At this point it’s a toss-up to see which will be done first, so I won’t even hazard a guess.  For those of you who’ve asked, yes, I do plan to do both the complete Blood Lines series and the Jennifer Blake series as well.

Be sure to check back here regularly, and I’ll update you as I know anything.  You can also check out my Facebook author page and my Twitter feed for more updates and general announcements.

 

Best wishes,

Michael

It’s here! It’s here!

source: giphy.com

source: giphy.com

ASYLUM, my first novella, is now available as an audiobook!

ASYLUM is sort of my love letter to old school horror.  No sparkling vampires or angst-ridden villains here; just non-stop action and gore aplenty.  Check it out here:

Audible: http://adbl.co/2btqlpa
iTunes: http://apple.co/2bvhhil
Amazon: http://amzn.to/2bqfeLi

It’s narrated by the awesome Kay Webster, who gave Quiet Charlie the absolute perfect voice.  Go grab your copy today, and watch for more audiobooks coming soon!

 

On Publishing

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source: giphy.com

A few people have asked me about publishing independently. While scores of books have been written on the subject, by people much more qualified than I am, I thought I’d share my two cents’ worth, and a little about my process.

First, and although you’d think it goes without saying, it still needs to be said, you must finish the book. And by finish, it must be completed, edited, revised, and polished. Until you have a manuscript ready to go, don’t even worry about the rest of the process.

Once you have a completed, polished manuscript in hand, it’s time to look at formatting. Again, there are loads of books on the subject available on Kindle, many of them free or low-cost. Amazon actually puts out one themselves, and if you haven’t read this one cover to cover, you’re not ready. It’s very helpful to either download a pre-made template, or create your own using Kindle’s formatting guidelines. The two most common word processor programs, Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer, both allow you to save templates. Take your time here and do it right; you can have the best book in the world, and if the formatting is screwy enough to confuse the reader, you’re doomed.

Now that we’re all formatted, it’s time to think about a cover. The importance of a quality cover cannot be overstated. It is your book’s first impression, and is responsible for most of the decision to buy or not from readers. If you’re going to put out money on your book, this is arguably one of the two most important areas, the other being editing.

A note about images: It can be very tempting to simply snag a picture off Google images to use in your cover. I can’t say this enough: don’t do it. Really, just don’t. Stock images can be had for $3-20, which is a lot cheaper than a lawsuit for copyright violation. Don’t cheap out. Buy your images, and attribute them accordingly.
Don’t be afraid to jump in and give it a shot, but it never hurts to do your homework. Study other covers in your genre. Read everything you can on designing ebook covers, and graphics design in general.

Now that you’ve got the book and the cover, you need a blurb. FAIR WARNING: This can, and usually is, harder to write than the book itself. Take your time and get it right.

source: giphy.com

source: giphy.com

An author bio is a must. Yes, writing your own bio can be almost as much fun as doing your own dental work, but you really do need one. Again, take your time and get it right.

So you’ve written the book, edited and revised it, and polished it until it shines. You’ve formatted it properly for the medium (in this case, ebook) and you’ve got a killer cover, a catchy blurb, and an intriguing author bio. Now it’s time to consider some business decisions.

The two main outlets for indie ebooks are Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords. I prefer Amazon, but both have their pros and cons. Do your research and decide which is best for you.

Once you’ve selected your venue Or venues (you can publish on both) follow the step-by-step instructions both have on their websites. Both put your book through a cursory quality control check, but once that’s done, your book will be live on your selected sales channels.

A few helpful tidbits:

I write in OpenOffice.org, mostly because I love open source software, but either OO or Word are your best bet. There exists almost as many “writing programs” as there are aspiring writers. Most will charge you an arm and a leg, and will often require further instruction (for a price, naturally) to get the most out of them. For me, this is a great example of the Keep It Simple, Stupid rule. Stick to a good quality word processor program, and focus on writing, not learning new software.

For graphics editing, Photoshop is the gold standard, but by no means the only option available. GIMP and paint.net are both perfectly viable options. Just about any graphics program that lets you do multiple layers and transparencies will work. Use what works for you. I personally like paint.net.

Stock images are a wonderful way to create killer covers. There are hundreds of stock image sites available, easily found with a simple Google search. I prefer Canstock, but the key is to find the right image, so once you have the idea in mind, search as many as you have to until you find the right one. Then BUY IT. For the love of all things holy, DON’T STEAL IMAGES. The most expensive stock images in the world won’t come close to what a copyright lawsuit will cost you.

Editing may be the most crucial element of publishing. Fresh eyes are NOT OPTIONAL. By the time you’re ready to publish, at least one other objective, sometimes brutally honest person must have read through your manuscript. For me, that’s my wife. For you, it can be anyone you trust to be honest about what they see.

I hope this was at least somewhat helpful, but the truth is it’s a learning process that never really ends.  Do your homework, and you’ll find your way.

I’m Baaaack!

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I’ve decided to revive this blog.

I’ll try to post at least semi-regularly, mostly on writing and my newest releases.  Random posts on other topics such as woodcarving and other interests will probably appear from time to time.  Those of you who know me won’t be surprised to find there may be the odd rant now and then, but I’ll try to keep that to a minimum.

So, everyone have a great weekend, and I hope you’ll join me here.

Best Regards,

Michael

 

I’m Moving!

Well, this blog is, anyway.  This will be the last post on this blog, although I intend to leave it up rather than try and move everything to the new blog at my website.

Thank you to everyone who’s taken the time to read my ramblings, and I hope you’ll join me in my new digs.

Seriously, come by.  I’ll get lonely if you don’t.

Regards,

Michael

It’s November! Let’s write a novel!

Holy crap, it's here!

Holy crap, it’s here!

Once again National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is upon us. It’s a great idea, giving would-be authors the motivation and support they need to finally tackle that novel they just know is living in their heads. Many people choose, either through convenience or necessity, to work outside their home. Coffee shops in particular are great for this, due to the fact they offer copious amounts of caffeine and a fairly quiet atmosphere.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer what I consider my top ten suggestions (I don’t quite have the balls to call them rules) for writing in coffee shops and other businesses.  (Note:  All of these points have come about as part of my own experiences desperately trying to work in my local coffee house during November, where I’ve seen each and every one of them happen more times than I care to count.)

  1. Tables at coffee shops are like prime real estate. You wanna use it, you gotta pay for it. If you’re going to be there for hours, pay your rent with more than the bottomless $2 cup of coffee.
  2. The servers, cooks, etc. don’t care that you’re writing a novel. They’re working, so don’t tie them up telling them all about it. You should be writing it instead of talking about it anyway.
  3. Free Wi-Fi at coffee shops isn’t really free; they just aren’t charging you for it. This goes back to #1. If you’re going to use it, be sure to support the business that offers it. And if you’re not using it, turn off your Wi-Fi adapter so you free up bandwidth and IP addresses for those that are.
  4. You will probably see many other people with laptops while you are there. Ignore them; you’re supposed to be working, too. There are any number of places you can organize and connect with other NaNoWriMo participants; the coffee shop isn’t one of them. You should be writing, not talking about it with others. Especially if they themselves are trying to write, in which case interrupting them is a perfectly valid reason to kick you in the groin.
  5. Remember #1? Well, it’s doubly important during peak hours such as 11-2 and 4-6, when those places that offer meal services have their rush hours. If you’re going to take up a table, make sure it’s worth their while to let you, and don’t be that guy. You know, the one who nags the employees while they’re in the weeds with multiple lunch or dinner orders about the free refill coffee being out or old.
  6. Be considerate of other patrons. They, like the rest of the world, don’t care that you’re writing a novel, or that you need music or movies as background noise. If you do, use good quality headphones that don’t let the sound out past your personal space, and keep the volume reasonable. If the movie you use has content someone might find objectionable, make sure it’s either not on the screen or that your computer isn’t visible to those passing by. Don’t spread out like you’re in your own living room; keep your research and notes, etc, organized so you’re not chasing paper under someone else’s table every time someone walks by.
  7. Don’t be a camper. Bring only what you absolutely need to work with, and nothing more. If you find you need several props, trinkets, your favorite stuffed bear, or a picture of Elvis to work, consider working somewhere private. No one wants to walk by and see what appears to be a homeless person living in booth #4. Narrow your research materials to what is germane to your work. If your research is in several different books, consider photocopying or retyping it into one document. You’ll save time this way, anyway.
  8. Much like tables, parking spaces are prime real estate. Don’t park in the absolute primo parking space if you’re going to be there for hours. Leave that to the customers who come in, get their order, enjoy, and leave. Trust me, lack of good parking spaces cost a business more income than bad service.
  9. If you’re in a coffee shop, taking up all this valuable real estate and time from the staff to work, then make sure you are ACTUALLY WORKING. Here’s a hint: Posting to Facebook or Twitter isn’t working. Checking your text messages isn’t working. Talking on the phone isn’t working. By now, you should be aware of how important it is to set aside a block of time for work anyway; it’s doubly important when you’re doing it in someone’s business. If you’re done, then settle up any tab you might have, take care of the server, and leave. Don’t sit waiting for the next idea to come to you. It’ll come no matter where you are, but in the meantime there’s no point costing the establishment that’s welcomed you in more money.
  10. I can’t stress this enough. Working outside your home can be expensive, if you aren’t being a dick about it. If you can’t afford to do it properly, such as patronizing the business hosting you or taking care of the servers who waited on you, please consider the public library or working from home if possible. Even the most bohemian, artist-supporting, groovy businesses in the world are just that–businesses. At the end of the day, they’re there to make money.

With that in mind, go forth and knock that first draft out!  And remember, it’s perfectly okay to produce a shitty first draft; that’s what editing and rewrites are for.  Just get it on paper!