Talking About Bundles

I’ve been pretty active with bundles lately, and a good writing friend asked if I could talk about them a little here. So I’m happy to dish the low-down on bundles as I’ve experienced them.

To start with, book bundles are primarily a marketing tool to draw in readers with a good value deal on multiple books, and from the participating authors’ perspective, introduce one’s works to a new audience. Bundles generally originate with publishers, author collectives, or through bundling sites or platforms. They may also be known as “box sets,” which are essentially the same thing.

One of my first introductions to being included in a box set or bundle was one my publisher, Tyche Books, put together a few years back. It was a space opera box set called Rogues, and (from my perspective anyway) sold well. It included the first book in my Nearspace series, One’s Aspect to the Sun, so would serve as an introduction to this series for new readers, some of whom might go on to buy others in the series. Just the other day I happened upon a review of Rogues I hadn’t seen before, and the reviewer said,  “There were a few great stories (I really liked One’s Aspect to the Sun, for example)” so that kind of made my day! This reader might not have seen my book if it hadn’t been in the set, but they enjoyed it and who knows? They might buy Dark Beneath the Moon and Beyond the Sentinel Stars.

While I’m thinking of it, One’s Aspect to the Sun is currently in a new box set from Tyche, called Shadows and Light; it’s a “first in a series” set, again meant to introduce new readers to a series. And it looks beautiful!

A large part of the thinking behind bundles or box sets is cross-pollination–someone might initially buy this set because of one of the other authors included, but then read my book because it’s there, and become introduced to me as a writer in that way. And hopefully go looking for other things I’ve written.

I’ve also worked with a bundling platform called BundleRabbit. BundleRabbit is the brainchild of Chuck Heintzelman, and provides authors with a place to list works they’re willing to have included in bundles. Authors participating in a bundle share in the revenues generated from that bundle. I curated one of the first BundleRabbit bundles, and have just done a second one, the Short Flights of the Imagination bundle. I love short fiction and I’ve wanted to do a bundle featuring short stories for a while now, and it has finally come together. So the curator decides on a vision for a bundle and searches through available titles to find pieces to include. Authors are invited and may accept or decline. Then when the bundle is finalized, hopefully all the authors will participate in sharing and promoting the bundle out to their social networks; this is where more cross-pollination comes into play as readers learn about other authors from one they already know. BundleRabbit does all the heavy lifting of setting up and distributing the files and downloads, participates in promotion, and collects revenue and pays out royalties.

Of course, to list your work on a site like BundleRabbit, you must have the rights to do so; I wouldn’t list my traditionally published titles there because my publishers look after that marketing and have the right to set prices and oversee distribution. However, for my independent titles, I’m free to do as I wish. And of course I mention my other trad-pub works in the ebook files I use for bundles, so it’s roundabout promotion for those, as well.

I’ve been invited to several bundles, some of which are current right now: Immortals, Weird Fantastic Detective Stories, Gumshoes Redux, and Short Flights, which is on pre-sale now and will release in full on March 15th. It’s good to have a variety of titles available if you’re going to get into bundling, and of course, as with all independent titles, they should be of high quality, with professional covers and blurbs, so that curators can include your work with confidence.

More questions about bundles? Ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer. Now if you’re looking for some new material for your ereader, be sure to click some of these links… ;)

Online Course: Rights and Contracts in the Digital Age

I’ve decided to offer a workshop I’ve presented in the past, this time as an online course that you’ll be able to take right here on my site. I believe very strongly that writers should be fully informed about how rights and copyright work, and be able to read a publishing contract and have a idea what it all means. Particularly when there are red flags the writer should see. Our work is important to us, and ownership and control of our work should be equally important. The best way to protect your investment in your work is to be informed.

Enter this course. I’ve offered it twice before; the full version as a full-day in-person workshop, and an abridged version as an evening seminar for the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia. Now I’m turning it into an online presentation, that I’ll administer through a private forum here on my website. Feedback on both previous sessions was very positive, so I feel good about the content.

Why am I qualified to teach this course? Well, I did practice law in the crazy days of my youth, and I’ve made sure to stay informed on contract matters as they affect me both as an author and a publisher. To be clear, I am NOT offering legal advice in this course–I’m sharing information I think you need.

The course will break down into nine or ten lessons. I’ll put up a lesson on Mondays and Thursdays, and each lesson will have a dedicated discussion thread for participants to interact, ask questions and talk about the lesson. There will be some downloadable materials, including sample contracts.

I know, by now you’re wondering how much is this going to cost?

Because I think all writers need this information, I’m keeping the registration cost low, at just $30 (CAD). If you need to break this down into a couple of payments, we can do that.

I’m also going to cap the number of registrants at a number I think will allow for good discussion in the forum. I haven’t quite decided what that number will be, yet. But I want to make sure that everyone has a voice.

How to Register

1. You can register using one of the PayPal buttons below. Just be sure to add your name and email address in the “Notes to Seller” section when you see it, or send me a message through this site’s contact form and include your PayPal transaction ID to let me know you’ve registered. If you need to break the payment up into two segments but want to reserve your space, use the $15 button. Just be sure to send the balance before the course actually starts (make sure you remind me who you are when you send the second payment!). Once you’ve clicked an Add button, your shopping cart purchase will appear in the right sidebar and you can proceed from there.

2. If you don’t like/use PayPal, you can send me an e-transfer. Message me through the site’s contact form and I’ll provide you with the details.

$30 CAD

$15 CAD

(Pay in two installments)

Once you’re registered, I’ll add you to the student’s user group and send you all the information you need to log in to the course area.

Questions about the course? Anything I’ve forgotten? Send me a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

I hope you’ll consider joining me for this course!

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…Brand?

So. I’m taking a publishing and marketing course this month, and a recent lesson was about building a brand. I haven’t given branding a whole lot of attention in the past, preferring to think of myself as my “brand” and that it’s fairly evident what that means if you read my work or follow me here or on social media. However, some advice in the course was to consider how “branding” can help convey information about one’s work in a quick and concise way, which can be useful to potential readers. Discussion included logos and slogans or tag lines as part of a brand, among other things.

I was a little surprised to discover that many participants in the course already had logos and tag lines in place.

Hmm. That seemed to put me behind the curve. But I felt a little stumped. I write science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, steampunk…I could go on, but you get the idea. I write a broad range of stories under the speculative fiction umbrella. Encapsulating that seemed a daunting task. Thinking thematically didn’t help me out much, either; I don’t know if there are particular themes that run through all or most of my work. So this was me most of the weekend:

via GIPHY

But…I think I did it. I’m going to take a day or two to let it cool and do some tweaking, and then I’ll share it here.

Friday Desk Report – 1/12/2018

So, this has been my first week back at my desk since the holidays ended. I intended to get back here sooner, but this year I found I needed a break AFTER the break, to recover some mental energy. The first couple of days in my office, I spent re-setting and organizing, as usual. My yearly process usually looks something like this:

*beginning of the year: set writing and publishing goals, make spreadsheets, update all organization and time-management tools. Make A Plan.

*early months/spring: stay pretty much on track, adjusting goals as things change and keeping just busy/committed enough to avoid falling into Seasonal Affective Disorder.

*mid-year/summer: completely fall off the wagon when warm weather arrives. Work on whatever has a deadline over the summer.

*fall: frantically try to gather dropped projects. Do NaNoWriMo. Accept that goals are in total disarray.

*beginning of the year: repeat

So right now we’re at a high point for organization and productivity. I have a new schedule which actually blocks out dedicated writing time every weekday, and schedules social media/marketing and business segments, too. I’ve stayed generally within the parameters for three days now. (!) I’m walking at my treadmill desk. I’ve sent out some submissions. Things seem to be working relatively well, although I’ve already thought of a couple of things I didn’t work into the schedule. Might need a little tweaking yet.

I do like this deep-breath, regroup, get organized time of the year, though. I just wish it lasted longer.

 

Top Self-Editing Tips Panel

This post is for all those who attended my self-editing panel at CaperCon this weekend. I promised to post a .pdf of the presentation, so here it is! You can download it from the link below.

(Psst! Even if you weren’t at my panel but would like some self-editing tips, you can download it, too! My aim with this panel was to help writers learn how to find some basic areas for line-edit improvements in their writing.)

In at least one of my panels, I also mentioned the submission planning spreadsheet I made, which is available for download from this site. You can find that post here.

Finally, we talked a little bit about Scrivener, as well. Here’s a post about setting up a submission tracker as a Scrivener project.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the table, bought a book, chatted, and came to my panels this weekend. You helped make it another wonderful convention experience!

 

Friday Desk Report – June 16, 2017

A lovely carpet of creeping phlox

Seems like it was a bit of a slow week around the desk, but of course the intrusion of the warming weather and demands of the outdoors have something to do with that. (Not that I am complaining!) Still, I managed to keep up with most things, started a new novel revision, and spent hours refining the magic system used in that novel draft. It now makes more sense and is on its way to becoming a rational magic system. Still a few things to work out, but it definitely has a good foundation now. It was a pain in the butt interesting to try to reconcile the magic use/character abilities that I’d written into the story into a more coherent framework. I’ll have to make changes and adjustments as I work my way through this revision, but I feel much more confident about a good result now.

In my research into building good magic systems, I also refreshed my memory on Brandon Sanderson’s Three Laws of magic systems, which are very helpful to keep in mind when building one. The first one is at the link, and the others are linked from the bottom of that page.

A gorgeous tall tulip from a “Pretty in Pink” bulb mix from Vesey’s Seeds

I started the week bouncing between projects and finally landed on that revision, but I foresee that pattern continuing over the next little while. There are short stories I want to submit by upcoming deadlines, so although I’m a bit stuck on them right now, I have to keep going back and pecking at them until they agree to cooperate. I love it when I can sit down and write a new story straight through, but alas, that doesn’t happen all that often. It’s more likely to take a lot of digging and mucking about before I reach those two sweet, sweet words: The End.

Family, fire, and cake

Last week was my birthday (which I share with my sister, but no, we’re not twins–she was born five years after me, but on the same date) so we had our traditional outdoor party on the weekend. I made a first attempt at icing flowers made with a Russian ball decorating tip; they turned out all right, but I learned some tricks for making them better the next time. Still delicious!

Still working with my assistant, so despite the yard and garden needs, I think I’ll be able to stay productive in the coming weeks.

 

Eleven Reasons to Love Outlines

This colourful outline brought to you by Scrivener’s binder feature.

I know what you’re thinking, those of you who know me. Why would a non-outliner write a post about loving outlines?

It’s not that I’ve come entirely over to the dark side become an outliner, but I do recognize that sometimes they can be useful, whether you’re a dyed-in-the-wool planner or a steadfast pantser. And in fact, this post has been co-written by my sometimes author assistant, Emily, who actually is an outliner and therefore knows more about the whole outlining thing than I do. Here’s what we’ve come up with in our collaboration on the topic.

1. There is No “Right Way” to Outline. Outlines can take on different forms depending on who is making them. Some writers use programs like Scrivener to create digital outlines, others prefer to use note cards or index cards. Any way you want to outline is a good way to outline. You might even find that you don’t have to go the full mile and outline your entire plot, but an outline of your main character’s arc would be helpful, or a timeline of historical events to set up your current world. You’re free to outline whatever will assist you and your writing, and pay no attention to the rest.

2. Outlines Are Inspiring. Whatever method you decide to use for your outline, make it not just helpful to you but visually or aesthetically pleasing. If there’s a color you find particularly inspiring, incorporate that into your outline. If you have images that get the creative juices flowing, represent your characters, or paint the picture of one of your locations, include them in your outline so you are always reminded of them when you return to your outline. Remember that no one else is going to see it; it’s just for you and it should make you excited as well as get you organized. Just don’t get lost in adorning your outline when you should be adorning your plot. Keep it simple and fun!

3. Having a Plan. The beginning of a story can be intimidating to write. So can the middle. And so can the end. Having an outline provides you with an overview of the plot, detailing how things start, how they progress, and how they end so you know where you’re starting and also where you’re going. There is no frightening blank space lying in wait just beyond that exciting first scene. You always have something to fall back on if you forget what you wanted to happen next.

4. Defense Against the Dark Arts…er, Writer’s Block. Every writer faces writer’s block at one time or another. A conversation isn’t working, an explanation requires some research before it can be written, a scene just isn’t interesting enough. An outline provides you with numerous distractions from that one difficult section; you can move onto another scene that you know needs to happen, but with a basic understanding of what needs to come before or after.

5. Structured Spontaneity. Outlines can, at first glance, seem to be an obstacle that will stand in the way of your creativity. If you know everything that’s going to happen in your story, is there really room for discovery or development? Absolutely! Think of your outline as a foundation; your action, characters, and themes all have their own jobs and interactions, and are probably not going to adhere to the outline indefinitely. Your writing will still surprise you, and on that note…

6. Outlines are Not Static. Sometimes characters do things that we don’t expect or a rogue plot point will plummet into the thick of our stories seemingly out of nowhere. This doesn’t mean that your outline becomes worthless. When things need to change, an outline can change with them, and you already have a platform to input new information and step back to see the whole picture in terms of this new development. An outline does not need to be restrictive.

7. Outlining is Pantsing in Disguise. Whether you do it before you write or as you write, you are still creating this storyline, these characters, and these events out of your imagination. Outliners are just pantsers who do more of their imagining prior to the actual act of writing, and write it down so they don’t forget it. So no matter which camp you think you fall into, it’s more a matter of perspective and style than anything else. If you’re a pantser, don’t let the prospect of an outline be scary or off-putting, because it’s not fundamentally much different from the way you usually tackle story construction.

8. Revision Tool There’s no better tool to have by your side when heading into a novel revision than your trusty outline. It gives you a necessary overview of the structure, pace, and logic of your story when you’re trying to ferret out where change is needed. To that end, if you’re not an outliner before you write, create an outline as you go. At the end of every writing session, briefly describe in a sentence or two what just happened. Even if you didn’t start out with an outline, you’ll have one by the time you finish the first draft.

9. Synopsis Tool Likewise, an outline can be an invaluable tool when it comes time to write the Dreaded Synopsis. Particularly if you’ve updated your outline to reflect changes that happened during the actual writing and revision of the novel, or created the outline in tandem with the novel and revisions, you have an accurate but brief reflection of the story from beginning to end, and can set to work polishing it up into a synopsis right away.

10. Aid to Discovery Your outline can reveal things about your novel or story that you may have included subconsciously, like themes and motifs. They’re revealed subtly throughout the story itself, but looking over your outline it may be more obvious that certain elements or objects repeat and resonate throughout the manuscript.

11. Series Tool Maybe you didn’t set out to write a series, but the first book or story has given birth to a followup idea. Your outline can be the first thing in your series bible, and refresh your memory on many elements of the previous story as you set out to write the next installment.

The Alternative Expletive Project

A long, long time ago, over at The Scriptorium, I had a feature page called the Alternative Expletive Project. Here’s how I explained it then:

For many writers, the use of expletives in our fiction writing presents a quandary. Do we go ahead and use one of those infamous “seven words you can’t say on television” (although I think they’ve all been said there by now)? Do we tone down one or more of those words, making the work less likely to offend–but, some would argue, less realistic?

It’s a personal choice that we all must make at some point, when our character smashes a thumb with a hammer, loses everything in the stock market, gets into a huge screaming match or realizes that the spaceship’s life support system has just failed. To swear, or not to swear, that is the question.

For those who’d like to walk the line somewhere between an “R” rating and an unbelievably dull character, The Scriptorium presents the Alternative Expletive Project. Our goal: to offer writers real-life, inoffensive examples of what folks say in times of anger, pain, despair and other emotional extremes.

I asked The Scriptorium’s readers to send me their examples and suggestions, and the response was…edifying, to say the least. So I collated all the responses into one large (partially) alphabetically-sorted list. As responses continued to roll in, I gave up on alphabetizing them. It’s interesting to note that today’s possibly most popular swear-without-really-swearing, “WTF,” did not even make the list at the time.

When The Scriptorium underwent a redesign, that page was overlooked and didn’t make it back onto the new site. So I present the list here, for your browsing and reference pleasure. You never know when it might come in handy–and it’s fun, at any rate. Do you say any of these? Do your characters?

The Alternative Expletive Datalist

Ah, Buddha All-fired Blamed
Blast Blasted Bleeding
Blimey Blinking Bloody Mary
Bloody Blowed Confound it
Confounded Crap Crappola
Crikey Cursed Cussed
Dammit Dang Danged
Darn Dash it Dashed
Dern Dungduggetty Mud Durn
Feck off Fishcakes Frig
Gee C. Cow Gee Gol-danged
Gosh Heck Jehosophat
Jiminy Crickets Motherfather Motherflower
Poop Rats Sugar
Ballspun Road and Crumpets Fiddlesticks Sugar and (bloody) cats
That’s SpongeBob (means “That’s B.S.!”) Bother Botheration
Tidy Bowl Shiver me timbers Dag nabbit
Split me infinitives By carbonate of soda no Fark
Cheese ‘n’ Rice For frog’s snake Fudge
Good Gravy Jeezly Heavenly Day
Good Googa-Mooga Go to Halifax Gol-dashit
Ficky-doo BALLoons BASTion of indecency
Mother flubber Cock-a-doodle-diddle Drat
Shoot Jeepers Flick
Boulder Dash Chickens Fudgesicle
Nuts Sugar Honey Iced Tea Fungus
Jackrabbit Crappers Dadgummit
Pickles FartBurgers Criminy
Sammich Bachkalooey Hajamabajah
Rat Farts Jolly Bad Luck Jolly Rotten Luck
Dorkburger Filth Belcher Dirt Merchant
Chickenplucker Cheezles Flackit
Summon a witch Grudge damn it Faff (off/you/this)
Judas H. Priest Bollards (load of) Bilge
(you) Richard Cranium Baloney Fricking
Jeeze Louise Cheet Beach
Sugar Plum Fairies Flipping Frack
Howling Horse Biscuits Cheesers
Shittles Skittles Shootles
I could spit nickles Fack Ymir’s Bones
Son of a Biscuit Eater

They’re Live!

My two new non-fiction ebooks are live as of yesterday! The Two-Week Short Story is a guide to brainstorming and writing a fast first draft, and the Short Story Workshop for One is a workbook for improving fiction when it’s difficult to get outside feedback or comments. For now they’re exclusive to Amazon, and priced at $2.99 and $1.99 respectively. More details about them, and buying links, are here.

A Reincarnation

For a number of years, I ran a couple of successful email courses through The Scriptorium; one was called “The Two-Week Short Story” and the second was “Short Story Workshop for One.” People seemed to enjoy them and I received a lot of very positive feedback from students. The first was (rather obviously) a guide to coming up with a story idea and writing a quick, complete first draft, all in a two-week period. The Workshop was a method for writers who found it difficult to get feedback or critiques to work on developing the kind of critical eye needed to help them improve their stories on their own. The Short Story Workshop itself grew out of an article I had published in Speculations back in 2001, so it had already lived through one reincarnation. It occurred to me that they’d both probably translate well into short ebooks now, and that I might reach a new group of aspiring writers in that format.

Never one to let a good idea fail to distract me from what I’m really *supposed* to be doing, I set to work and did some revising, tweaking, and re-formatting. Also, cover design, since every good ebook deserves a good e-cover. I’m not quite ready to release the ebooks yet, since they need one more good going-over, but I’m thinking within a week or so they’ll be ready to go. But I can share those covers with you now (they might get a little more tweaking, but I think they’re pretty much done):

I expect to price the ebooks around $1.99, which will be a bargain considering the courses used to sell for $8.00 each! However, I did have the hassle of setting up the email schedule, so compared to that, selling ebooks is easy. I believe I’ll test these in Kindle Select at first, and then move to a broader platform after that, as my marketing experimentation continues.

If you or someone you know is looking for some story inspiration and motivation, or have a story that needs some intensive self-workshopping, I’ll be posting here when they’re released. Maybe you’ll find them useful!