Saturday, September 27, 2014

Going to School with the Self-Publishing Podcast

Scott D. Parker

If school teachers were more like Sean, Johnny, and Dave, we’d all make straight A’s.

The three amigos in question are Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, and David W. Wright. They write an astounding amount of fiction per year (1.5 million words!) in multiple genres but, more important to this discussion, they host a weekly podcast on self-publishing.

I found their podcast via Joanna Penn’s The Creative Penn podcast. Hers is a wonderful podcast featuring interviews and updates on Joanna’s career. I’ve been listening to both sets of podcasts in reverse order. Joanna interviewed Johnny in April 2014 and, from there, I discovered his podcast.

The Self-Publishing Podcast is chock full of camaraderie, fun, information, and a palpable zeal for writing in the 21st Century. I listen to their podcasts at the day job--you can see them live on YouTube--and they help me get through my workday. I make notes throughout the day just listening to the three of them talk and banter about the wide world of indie publishing. It’s like a college lecture only with more speed. And laughter. And swearing, so if that’s a thing for you, well, get over it and still listen to the podcast.

The latest episode is #125 so, if you are just discovering them like I am, you have over 100 hours of lessons to learn. But it’s fun learning. They just talk and I absorb. Most of the hour-long episodes start with general chit-chat about the week’s work, maybe a voice mail from a fan, and then an interview with a guest. For the past two weeks, I’ve basically listened to nothing else but the SPP, the Creative Penn, and Ace Frehley’s new album, Space Invader. (Excellent LP, by the way. Dude can write some wicked licks.).

A few highlights:

  1. Any episode with Tucker Max

I’ve learned lots from these three, but if there’s one underlying philosophy, it’s this: write what you want, write it as fast as you can, make sure it’s good, get it out in the world, and then do it again. If you fail, so what? You’ll learn from it and get better.

If there’s such a thing as required listening for tips, tricks, pitfalls, and successes in indie publishing, then the Self-Publishing Podcast is required. To paraphrase their book on publishing, Subscribe. Listen. Learn. Repeat.

Friday, September 26, 2014


By Russel D McLean

Since we moved into the Gothic Monstrosity last year, we have tweaked and adjusted the interior in many ways. The Literary Critic has gone to town painting and restoring furniture while I have mostly got out the way and focussed on the office. Its now finally getting to where we want it, but while the office was almost complete, something was missing.

And now its here.

A typewriter. From what I can tell this one's from somewhere around '53-'57 and still in great working order. I have in fact now put in a piece of paper with the opening paragraph to The Big Sleep typed up. And it works. It is the missing piece of the puzzle for me. Suddenly the room feels right. And in the few days since adding that last piece, my productivity seems to have increased.


I think there's something to be said for mascots and tokens. I think that some things can help to focus the mind and serve as a reminder of what you're attempting to achieve. I learned to write on my dad's old typewriter. Having one of my own even if its purely decorative reminds me of why I'm still doing this in a way. Its a connection to what's important to me about writing. Even the years in which the typewriter was created matters, too. I had expected to find a piece of old junk that didn't work. When I picked up that beauty (at a bargain price, too) I felt better about the fact that it worked, that it was in perfect condition. Its too loud, of course, to use regularly, and I'm very happy typing at a computer, but I think there's something quite beautiful about typewriters of that era; a kind of slick hope for the future that has vanished from design.

Or maybe I'm just mad. Maybe I'm just filled with a strange nostalgia for the past. Might explain why I also have a vinyl player, why most of my music is from the 60s and 70s, long before I was born.

All writers have habits and tokens and things they keep around when writing. For me, the typewriter is something I've yearned to have for a long time and now that its here, I feel like my writing space is complete; other things will be window dressing but I now have something there that reminds me, every day, where I've come from and what I'm hoping to achieve.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What Fitbit taught me about writing

By Steve Weddle

In an attempt to get my cholesterol below 350 and my resting heart rate under 90, I’ve moved from a breakfast of bacon and egg croissant to bacon and egg on whole wheat bagels. Additionally, I got a Fitbit thingy to tell me how many steps I’ve walked and how many times I got up in the middle of the night to pee.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned from this: never stop to count your steps. I mean, you’d think I’d have learned this from the Kenny Rogers song, but I’m thicker than a hamburger patty from Eddie’s Oklahoma City BBQ and DVD Rental Shoppe.

If you stop to count your steps, you’re asking for trouble. Maybe you’re close enough to your goal to stop. See, they give you some crazy goal of 10,000 steps a day, which is something like 50 miles or so, I think. So I lowered mine to 1,200, figuring that was more achievable and a nice round number. 

Anyway, if you stop and look, you’re doomed. Like the cartoon of the coyote who looks down walking across the chasm. Or the Andrew Hudgins poem that mentions the cartoon of the coyote who looks down walking across the chasm. Or the blog post that mentions the Andrew Hudgins poem that mentions the cartoon of the coyote who looks down walking across the chasm.

As a writer, you should follow this advice. Never, ever send your work to anyone until you’re done. Never. It’s asking for trouble.

In my younger and less-middle-of-the-night-peeing years, I’d sometimes finish a chapter and immediately send it off to fellow writers asking what they thought. All I wanted was for them to say, “Golly, you’re pretty amazing. This is some fantastic writing. I’m so jealous of your skills.”

But my friends are complete assholes.

Instead, they’d say specific things. “Oh, I like how this is going. You plan to have the two of them get together later in the book?”

What? I hadn’t. But now should I? Or if I do, is it obvious that it’s coming? I mean, I shouldn’t because I hadn’t meant to, but maybe I should because it would be a good idea? My lord.
Or they’d make more pointed suggestions. I lost them because I didn’t explain the multiverse well enough. Was the cat talking or just thinking about a Rimsky-Korsakov-themed restaurant. Maddening, I tell you.

When you’re writing, just make up things to tell people. When they say, “How’s the writing going” just tell them it’s going fine.

Don’t tell them anything you’re really doing. Don’t share anything.

Most people just ask about your writing hoping you’ll ask about theirs -- like when people ask about your kids.

Don’t tell them. Don’t say anything.

Just write. Just keep taking your steps.

When you hit your 100,000 words or your 1,000 steps, then you can talk to people about it.

Never talking about the doing. Only talk about the done.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Which Way is Up?

by Holly West

My life feels crazy right now and I'm not sure how to handle it.

I just had to put that out there, you know?

My husband and I are contemplating a major move from Los Angeles to the area in Northern California where I grew up. We spent last week up there looking at houses and feeling overwhelmed. We did end up putting an offer on something but it wasn't accepted. I was disappointed about that at first but now, back home in Venice, I'm kind of glad we don't have to pack up and leave just yet.

None of this really relates to writing except that for me, everything relates to writing. In this case, it's my identity as an "LA" writer. The thing is, I'm pretty sure I'm the only one who thinks of myself as an LA writer because A) I don't generally write about LA and B) who cares anyway? If I can write about London sitting in my office here in Venice then I can certainly write about LA while enjoying the lush landscape of Northern California.

I've only recently become really involved in the LA writing community, primarily through our local chapters of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Both groups have become important to me and while I know LA is just a quick plane flight away, there's no question it will be more difficult to participate if I'm in Northern California. I plan on becoming involved with the NorCal chapters of these organizations but establishing myself in these new communities feels daunting.

Ultimately, I know this potential move has less to do with my writer-self and everything to do with the fact that I've lived in Los Angeles for over 25 years and I'm reluctant to move on. This city is a part of me. We've looked at the pros and cons of moving and in so many ways, the pros outweigh the cons--much more house and land for the money, a more relaxed lifestyle, and proximity to family and friends that we don't currently have are just a few of the reasons we're considering this change. But in the face of my uncertainty, the cons loom large, taking on much more significance than they deserve.

It sounds like I'm trying to talk myself into this, doesn't it?

I don't know what our final decision will be, but as far as the immediate future is concerned, I have a book coming out. Mistress of Lies will be published on September 29, just six short days from now. It's hard for me to believe that at this time last year, I was still writing it.

It's also a good reminder about how fortunate I feel to be a part of the writing community at large. Deep down inside, it doesn't matter where I'm located and you can't say that about every job. It's good to have some freedom.

Finally, I've found that the one thing that calms me when all of this indecision starts to rage inside my head is writing. Immersing myself in my work. This is the first time that I've ever truly found solace in writing and that's comforting.

I'm guessing a lot of you out there have made a major move at some point in your life. Care to share with the group about how that turned out? What about moving from the city to the country? How did you cope with the drastic lifestyle change?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Small Press Logos

Not too long ago our very own Scott D Parker wrote about logos and publishing houses.  In response I thought it might be fun to round up some of the logos from small presses.

(A quick note on methodology. I made a list and pulled the logos from Google Images. So if something wasn't available it isn't here. Because I limited myself to Google I was sometimes limited by image size and quality.)

What do you think of these logos? What do they tell you? Do the ones without words work better?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

There is no free lunch

By Kristi Belcamino

When you write a book, very rarely is it a solo effort.

You write the words, but then there are so many other people who make a book possible. In my case, that includes my husband, my agent, my editor, my writer's group, my beta readers, and so on.

That is why the acknowledgment page is so important.

I want to always thank those who help me and if I could I'd give every one of them a free copy of my book.

In fact, when good friends, my mom, members of my writing group, etc., buy my book, I can't help but feel a little guilty—as if I should give them a copy of my book for free.

Because I would really like to do that.

But I'm not rich. And that's the crux of it.

When BLESSED ARE THE DEAD was published, I received two advanced copies. My husband snagged one and I grabbed the other. Two. Free. Copies. That's it. Yup.

So if I were to give away books for free, I'd basically be buying the books out of my own pocket and giving them away.

I wish I could.

But the truth is there is no free lunch for authors.

Sure, some might get a few copies here and there to give to reviewers, but in my case. Not so much.

I've purchased copies of my own book to bring to library author talks, book club meetings, and other gatherings. As grateful as I am to have someone buy my book - thank you, thank you, thank you - it is always a big strange to take the money myself.

So, when my friends buy my books, I always feel guilty.

Grateful, but guilty.

I know that's silly because I am always happy to buy my friend's books, but STILL. It's just a little bit of an uncomfortable situation.

It gets even more awkward when someone, maybe a friend who isn't connected to the book world at all, who assumes you get a boatload of free books, asks for one. Nicely asks for one. And does not mean anything bad by it, would just really like to have one of your books.  I never know how to handle that either.

How do you handle that graciously? Any advice is welcome.

For now, I say thank you and hope that is enough.