Unavoidable Delays

My initial plan for the last couple of weeks of June was that I would get to publish at least one more story by the end of the month. That schedule looks like it will be broken - the story should be out in the first couple of weeks of July. I do have it back from the editor but I have not had the chance to get around to it.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to take some time away from writing after a real life emergency cropped up. While things are improving and should be all back to normal in a week or so, it has highlighted just how fragile things can be at times and how drastically lives can change in an instant.

In the midst of the uncertainty and pain of the last few days, a really touching idea for a story has emerged, so there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud that appears.

Normal service will be resumed in due course but, for now, a little bit of patience is needed for the writing and publishing of new stories and my ability to interact with my fans.

Your Book's Too Short

Book Too Short
Finding the right length for a story is a careful balancing act. Personally, I try not to release anything as a standalone release that’s less than 5,000 words. Any shorter than that and it feels very lightweight. Longer, though, can be a difficult proposition. For now, the short story format seems to fit nicely. I’m not committing to only writing short stories, but it’s something that is working nicely for me at the moment.

Sometimes stories will just evolve while writing to be longer or shorter than I was expecting, and that’s just the way it tends to happen.

Receiving feedback and reviews that stories are too short can be perturbing. I’d love nothing more than to turn some of the short stories into novel length books, or even series, but there are some practical limitations that I come up against rather quickly.

The first is that I have a backlog of other stories I need to clear from my system before I can return to the stories that can or should be made into something longer.

Secondly, there are some stories that I just can’t seem to find the appropriate hook to make into something larger. To me they’ll always be shorts. It’s possible that I’ll come up with something in the future that will allow them to be made into something longer.

Please don’t let that stop you, the reader, from giving me the feedback that you want a story, or collection of stories to be made into something longer. I have a couple of short stories that will be made into something longer when I get the chance, including one that I hadn’t considered a viable candidate. The only reason why I have moved it into that collection is based off reader feedback, and ideas are slowly forming about the path to take to make it something more.

I value all feedback so please send it through. What it’s telling me when readers tell me my book is too short is that I am leaving them hungering for more and am holding their interest quite nicely. I plan on making it my goal to leave you, the reader satiated from my writing.

An Opportunity Cost

Opportunity cost
An interesting question was asked in an unrelated forum about why many Indie authors (at least many of the ones that the asker read) don’t seem to invest much in terms of editing prior to releasing their works.

The easy answer is because it costs. Either time or money, but it costs. At market rates, third party editing services can cost around 2c per word. Now, not every editor will accept all genres of writing, and not every editor is capable of completing all editing services (line editing, copy editing, content editing, stylistic editing, substantive editing, etc.).

Some even bundle proof reading as an editing service.

Depending on manuscript length, editing costs can be as low as $100 (5,000 words), through to over $1,000 (50,000+ words). That’s for a single pass at editing. In order to really bump up the quality of the editing, a manuscript should ideally go for multiple editing passes, with different editors, so as to increase the chances of most errors being corrected prior to publishing.

Even if these services are contracted out they also attract a time cost as the author waits for the script to pass through the editorial pile.

Once the manuscript has been received back and all edits made, a choice needs to be made about cover art - licencing of images and securing the proper rights to use them. There’s also the cost of purchasing ISBNs if the author is electing to manage them by themselves.

At the end of this process, and once things are finally in place and ready for submission, there’s a time cost to ensure the right file formats and style guides are adhered to when submitting to the various retail sites.

At the end of the day, not every work that’s published is going to make enough in sales to cover all of these costs. Some historical data suggests that the clear majority of published works sell far less than 100 copies, and the majority of those to people the author knows. So far, none of my sales have been to people I knew before they bought my works, so at least I’m ahead of the curve there.

At least by going Indie, I’ve got the chance to control how my work is published, and stand to make more in the long run from my higher royalty rates. It also means running everything like a business, which is not something that every author wants to or can do.

It’s a good thing I write for the fun of it. Sure, there’s an easy publishing route to take, where once the words are written down they’re declared good and submitted for sale. But the route I’ve chosen to take is to make sure that my works are of as high a quality as possible before releasing them for sale.

Each to their own, but I’m comfortable in the fact that one of the reasons my readers love my work is because of the care taken in its crafting.

Not Quite Writer's Block

Writer's Block
I’ve been working on and off on a new manuscript for the last week or so. While I know what I want from it, it doesn’t really seem to be tying together all that well. Normally, I would throw away what I’ve done to now and start over.

I might still end up doing that, but for now I’ll put it aside and work on some of the other proto-scripts that are floating around in my mind.

With the backlog of stories with my editor at the moment, I have some time to work out the kinks (or work in the kink) for the other stories I’m looking at writing.

Another thing that has crossed my mind recently is as a result of the increasing numbers of fans and readers that I’ve been attracting, something I am very thankful and grateful for.

What has crossed my mind is what I should be referring to my group of readers as. The term “smutketeers” came to mind, but it apparently is already being used by a collective of other erotica authors, so I probably should avoid using it.

The other term that has stuck in my mind is “harem”. “Xavier’s Harem” has an interesting ring to it and, given the overwhelming female readership, it could work. I’m just not so sure whether it has any negative connotations that other people would find insensitive or any cultural taboo associated with the term.

It’s certainly a unique way of interacting with my readers and fans and, done with the right sense of humour, should make for a fun group for my readers to belong to.

Short Days, Cold Nights

Short Days
Winter is so far turning out to be nice and crisp and cold. There hasn’t been a lot of rain and the snow that was hoped for isn’t showing up just yet.

There was a little bit of hope the other day when the below-freezing temperatures just didn’t want to lift, leaving us below 0 well into mid morning and, with threatening and lowering dark clouds, there was a slim hope of some light snow flurries.

Nothing eventuated and we’ve been left with some beautifully crisp days and nights. It’s the perfect time to be wrapped up against the cold, bundled up with a partner and to spend time inside, reading.

The big downside is flu season. It’s hard to find things sexy when your head feels like it’s going to fall off and every breath is a raspy fire in your chest.

Block My Book, Make Me Sales

Block My Book
As an addendum to my previous post about brushes with infamy, I was checking through the various retail sites to see the progress on my recent book release, when I noticed a curious thing.

If you take a look at each book page, you’ll see that the list of retailers has been updated (thanks finally to sorting out my issues I’d had conforming to Kobo’s guidelines). There may be other retailers selling my titles as a result of aggregation, but I haven’t dug far enough into the systems to see where those listings are, yet.

It will be quickly apparent which title is the one due to be blocked on at least one retailer, with delays on others suggestive of similar issues. After a resubmit and defence of my position via response to the service ticket, I don’t hold much hope for having it appear on those sites, but since my other books do I should be okay with my future works still being able to appear.

That’s not the curious aspect. It is that “Tied in Knots” is rapidly becoming my best selling title. For a book that’s facing being banned from some sites, it seems that readers can’t move quick enough to get it off other sites.

Because not all sites notify me when sales take place, and I wasn’t tracking daily sales movements, I didn’t know that these sales had taken place until today.

For anyone who is curious, the only time that the decency issue came up was when the title was being reviewed for release on these sites. Not one of any of the readers (including the editor and proof reading pool) even mentioned it as an issue, so it’s been fun to watch the sales rack up while sites are reconsidering retailing it.

A Brush With Infamy

A Brush With Infamy
I was wondering why one of my book versions was being held up for publishing. I had put it down to a delay of processing due to weekends and submission queues, but it turns out there was something else afoot.

Many of the retail sites that I release my books to will vet them for objectionable content before releasing them for sale. So far I haven’t had any real trouble with any of my titles.

Until now.

On a site that will remain nameless I had submitted two of the different formats that one of my books was published in. The first one was released rather quickly and appeared without too much trouble. The only difference between the two was the file format. Everything else was exactly the same.

My alternate version was held up in processing for an exceptionally long time and then I realised there was a ticket waiting for me.

I looked at it - publication not approved for objectionable content.

Now, to have it pass through every other review process around without a single complaint, I was bemused. And honoured.

I know that what turns people on (and off) is a very personal thing, but to see a sudden brick wall like this was a surprise.

I went through the process of rechecking my material, resubmitted it after only changing the blurb, and replied to the ticket with my defence and request for a re-review.

Time will now tell whether I end up with no versions of the book on this site, or all of the ones that I submitted.

Pay Day

Pay Day
Tied in Knots” continues to slowly spread its way across the retail sites. Releasing it on the weekend / at the very end of the US working week would naturally see the site acceptance rates be slow for a couple of days, so by mid-week all sites should be listing it properly and its page will be updated with direct links to its availability.

Having sales being reported directly to the email inbox can be a scary thing for an author.

The complete lack of sales, for example, could just be because no one knows the book exists. Or, it could be because the book is terrible.

Seeing sales, no matter how low, is extremely gratifying, for it means that someone out there likes the work enough to spend their hard earned money on a little bit of escapism that you created.

Tied in Knots Arrives

Tied in Knots Arrives
My new book has now been published to the wider world and has entered the processing queues for a number of retailers. “Tied in Knots” is a BDSM-lite exploration of a couple who are making their first foray into the field.

Unfortunately, our Heroine, Hannah, completely forgets her safe-word and by the time she remembers, the only thing that she can really think of is revenge.

It is a delightful romp through an introduction to vanilla bondage.

So far it has received a very warm reception from the pre-release samplers, so why not give it a shot, today. Extracts are readily available on a number of sites.

New Story This Weekend

New Story This Weekend
It’s been a couple of days since I last posted, but there’s been movement in the background. The first, and most important thing is that a new book will be published this weekend. Look for “Tied in Knots” to appear at some stage over this weekend. Pleasingly, the reports coming from my proof-reading team have been overwhelmingly positive.

Rather than spoil the fun of what the story is, I’ll just say that it’s a BDSM-lite storyline.

To take special note of the release, and of the fact that the free giveaway has now ended, I have discounts available on my existing books over at smashwords.

A Hero's Return” is discounted by 50% for the next 5 days, using the code MP98P.

The Special Scent” is likewise discounted using the code MB23T.

Feel free to make use of the codes and keep an eye out for the story being published.

Perfect Cover Sizes

Perfect Cover Sizes
One of the weirder things I’ve had to work out when creating my ebooks has been what is the most suitable set of dimensions for a cover to be. Since delivery is based on an electronic format, there is no hard and fast rule for what the cover needs to be. I could use a folio-sized cover for a title that is read in Octavo-format.

In order to maintain consistency across the various sites that retail my books, I’ve settled on the 64mo (Sexagesimo-quarto or Sixty-fourmo) format, which still results in a pleasing size ratio. It also is more likely to actually represent the size of the device to be used to read the stories (if not a little bit smaller).

All future covers will be produced in this ratio, and scaled up or down to meet the different publication sizes.

The next title due for release is back from the editor and is on its way to the proof-reading team, so we should see it released in the next several days.

Another Retail Listing

Another Reatil image
I’ve gone through and fixed up my books on GoodReads. Now each of the different versions and published ISBNs is represented, which should make it a little bit easier for readers to find what particular version they’re looking for.

The first set of ISBNs has also been registered with the Titles in Print database, and I’m just waiting to see how they will be formatted before completing the remaining ISBNs in use.

I believe that the Kobo publishing issue is now all sorted, with the metadata submitted again, and now I’m just waiting for them to release the titles to retail, or identify something I’ve missed.

Both Amazon and Smashwords have approved the changed blurb for “A Hero’s Return” with the title going live again after less than 24 hours of review process.

The big news for today, though, is that my titles are now listed over at All Romance eBooks. Only the ePub versions are available there, but it’s another stream of retail that’s available. Check out the links from “A Hero’s Return” and “The Special Scent”, with each book’s page now including links to their pages over at All Romance eBooks.

New Stories are With the Editor

New Stories image
After going back to the blurbs for my previously published titles, I realised that the only one that really needed changing was for “A Hero’s Return”. I’m now waiting for Amazon and Smashwords to approve the re-written blurb. A big thanks to some of the readers over at GoodReads who helped with the process.

A bundle of stories is now with my editor, ready to be processed, so I’m still on track for a series of releases later this month.

The other big issue that has been plaguing me has been why my ONIX feeds to Kobo haven’t been working (what’s been holding up the publishing of my works over there).

In the end, I’ve now switched back to their alternative notification method and will be sorting out the ONIX issue later on.

For now, though there is at least a way forward to getting my books listed there.

Some Amendments Needed

Some Amend image
Within the next couple of days, a whole pile of manuscripts will be headed for my editor and have been looking at additional editorial passes for later works. The search is going slower than I would have hoped, because there’s plenty of editors out there, but not so many who are happy to edit erotica, erotica written by males, or short stories. The few I have found will probably enter the editorial pool once I get scripts ready for that part of the publishing process.

Based on the feedback received in a couple of forums online, I have realised that the teasers for my published books aren’t as far into the erotica spectrum as they need to be, and the cover art is okay, but very tame compared to much of what is out there.

I think a bit of reassessment of the way my first two books are identified online will help, but I need to be careful that they don’t cross the line for publishing sites like Amazon and iTunes, where titles need approval for listing and can be arbitrarily delisted if they go too far.

At the least, I can improve what’s out there and look to improve what comes next in the process.

A Busy Weekend & Free Books

A busy weekend image
Since my last post, I’ve now got my nice new ISBNs, and have sorted out my book samples on sites that didn’t auto-generated them.

One of the issues I have discovered on GoodReads is that the ISBN they have listed for the published titles is only for the general ePub release, and when they link to Amazon and the iBookstore, they don’t find the actual book release, because they don’t have those variants on there. It’s all my problem, because I was responsible for getting the titles on there in the first place, but I’ll need to fix it up, nonetheless.

I also discovered the power of tagging books on Amazon, so both published books should now be showing up in searches properly.

I am giving away copies of my published books for free between now and 0001 AEST on Monday June 11, 2012.

The main threads covering this are on GoodReads, but if you can’t see them or are otherwise unable to get to them, then read on.

To get your copy(ies), all you need to do is email me, telling me why you want my books in 50 words or less, and in what format you want them. You will receive your book(s) by return email.

Surely there’s a catch, though? No. If you like them, perhaps consider reviewing them / recommending them on, but for now, it’s all about giving readers something to enjoy.