I’m a little muddled honestly. I think it’s a stronger book than my last, but I don’t have the same feeling of certainty after the first read. Maybe because this book has a LOT more moving parts? I feel like it all works, the baseline mechanics of it all, and some scenes really shine, and the end really surprised me? It makes me deeply happy, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t what I expected it to be.
I think it may just be a matter of form. Riddle Box was a murder mystery and that structure is a joy to inhabit — AMOD follows a three-act structure with a meta-narrative frame and all sorts of weird hyper-narrative threads that shoot off all sorts of places. I like them! I want them to be there! But I guess it’s hard to quite feel it all settle in my head quite yet. RB was a dark lance to the heart, AMOD is this strange spinning wind chime that looks different from every angle.
I’m also serving a lot of masters in this book – something that is giving me no undue amount of anxiety-knives in my spleen. As always, the book must deliver on its own merits – one episodic adventure served a la carte. But, I also want readers who’ve followed me from the first two books to find the threads and rewards there for them – BUT BUT this is a bigger debut for a larger audience with my new publisher, so I don’t want new readers to feel unwelcome or confused, I also need to introduce the world and my entire ethos in an exciting and palatable fashion, ALSO I need to set up some secrets and foreshadowing for things that will happen in later adventures ALSO ALSO AS WELL AS just frankly deliver on the fun of the premise.
I won’t say that this draft has succeeded on all of these fronts. I will say that it is in the process of getting there.
The frame story really lands for me – not sure how betas and editor will feel, but I think it will be especially nice for readers of RB and still work thematically for new readers.
First act really cooks along – lots of fun, strong starts, distinct voice for each section. May also just be because it’s been the longest since I wrote this section, but I enjoyed first act the most.
Xenon is the best. Suck it, all you old characters. You bore me.
First Act feels a lot like Spell/Sword in the Jonas & Rime chapters – wacky battles and teen angst.
Second act feels lumpy. There’s a chapter that straight SUCKS. Just halting, charmless, and bad. All connective gristle. Lots of re-writing here and the whole second act – this is where the reader gets to spend time in Gilead, and I don’t want that to be wasted.
Third Act we’re back to ACTION, ticking clock, asteroid falling, all that – the mechanics and emotion all land fairly well, need to work through the rise and fall of some of the action sequences. There’s a sequence i’m calling ‘Rime Goes Boom’ that I need to muse over and play with, going to need feedback on that one to get it to sing properly.
Denouement makes me grin like a huge nerd, its the anime ending – I can already feel the wind of the next adventure blowing and it’s exciting and makes me happy, especially because the plan is to leave Aufero to its own devices for a while after AMOD.
So, a complicated reaction. Lots of work to be done. God I’m glad I’m not doing it alone.
If you aren’t already – follow the book’s progress on my Inkshares page – where you can BUY IT if you’d like, or just malinger in the shadows and watch it change and grow and get better and better until its too hot for you, just way the fuck out of your league.
This information is not for the feint of heart or anyone considering self-publishing. But that’s who I’m putting it up for [beyond my own information and planning for The Riddle Box], anyone else thinking of taking the plunge. It’s one of my proudest achievements and I don’t regret it – – but damn, she do cost, don’t she?
Spell/Sword Sales – Year to Date
Paperback – 65 units …….$114.10 total Royalties
Kindle – 58 units …….$63.65 total royalties.
Free Downloads: 316
Spell/Sword Gross Profit: $177.75
Incomplete List of Spell/Sword Costs [approximate]
Cover Illustration, Layout and Design: $500.00
Purchase of unique ISBN number: $100.00
Printing of Beta Copies for review and proofing: $150.00
Giveaways and Promotional Material: $175.00
Shipping of Giveaways, Promotional Material: $50.00
Approximate Total Publication and Promotion Cost: $975.00
Spell/Sword Net Profit GRAND TOTAL:
Hoo. Ouch. Damn, buy some books, people.
This was way more depressing than I thought it would be. I clearly have an expensive habit, and it is called Swordpunk.
Labor Day Weekend and some change. It coincides neatly with my trip to Atlanta for Dragon*Con — I’ll be wearing my Self-
Promotion Helm of Shamelessness +3. I’ve printed up a ton of business cards to give to people letting them know about the deal.
The ebook has always been free to Amazon Prime members, and DRM free to boot — but now I’m doubling down. Anyone and everyone can own my book at no cost other than the time it takes to download it. Even if you don’t own a Kindle, you’ll be able tor read it on your Mac, PC, iPad, smartphone, tablet, etc — via the free Kindle app.
[This is a work in progress, to be updated and amended as curious folk ask questions that I haven’t answered here. Let me know what questions you have or clarifications needed in the comments below.]
So, you can now buy my book on Amazon — in Kindle and Paperback format. Just like a ‘real’ book! Or rather, just like a traditionally published novel. My book is sitting on the same virtual shelf as books published by Tor, Daw, and Random House. It’s a cool feeling. Maybe if I’d published five years ago I would be bothered by the fact that Spell/Sword will never appear on a shelf at a physical bookstore — but with paper going the way of the utahraptor or dodo it doesn’t bother me in the slightest.
So how did I get here? A lot of research, a lot of trial and error — there’s a lot of navigation and study required when you’re piloting the ship all on your own. When I first got started I spent a lot of time reading other author’s posts on publishing and found them tremendously informative.
Joe Peacock’s The Absolute No-Bulls**t Guide To Writing, Publishing And Selling A Bookwas incredibly helpful and motivating. I strongly recommend you take some time and give it a read — it’s straightforward, concise and utilitarian. It de-mystifies the entire process, which was invaluable for me at the beginning. I’m going to try to not go over the same ground here, but focus more on my specific experiences with CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing. I’ve begun to think of Joe as the Older Brother to the Internet — can be an overbearing prick, and he’ll kick over your GI Joes — but he always has your best interest at heart.
This guide is going to be part step-by-step How To — and partly me pontificating about my rationale for making the decisions I did. I hope it’s reasonably helpful.
Level One: Write a Book. [Grasslands]
In whatever manner you prefer. It took me about nine months to bang out the rough draft in between day job, nerd pursuits, other creative endeavors and various life calamities. I’ve only done this once, so I’m in no position to offer advice on how you get this step done. Just some paltry bullet-points.
Self-imposed deadlines were invaluable to me.
Now that I’ve gone through the entire process, I CAN say that this is the most fun part. Remember that and enjoy it.
Level Two: Edit a Book. [Ice Cavern]
To the greatest level that your pocketbook and Friend’s List will permit. I employed over 20 Alpha Draft and Beta Draft readers to catch all my bonehead grammar mistakes and weak narrative. I know that this can never truly equal a professional copy editor — but I am completely confident that I’m extremely close. I have some serious heavy hitters in my rolodex: college professors, Shakespearean scholars, creative writing savants, genre nerds, gnomes. Depending on how my finances fare, I may consider going the pro route next time around. I can’t stress enough how important this step is.
To put it in perspective, I wrote the draft in 9 months. I edited for 13 months. Thirteen long, grueling months of Not-Fun.
It sucks. It’s boring. It’s frustrating.
Level Three: Prepare to Publish a Book [Fire Volcano]
Paper Version — I did a fair amount of research onto several online presses. The other main one I considered was Lulu.com. They are really great if you want to order in bulk and warehouse the product yourself. They have tons of paper and trim options – soft cover and hard back. But that’s a pretty big if – especially when you’re in my position. A total unknown pushing some wacky genre fiction. As much as I would love to have a hard cover of my book, it just didn’t make sense to lay out the startup money for something that was going to sit stacked in my breakfast nook.
I slowly shifted my thinking towards CreateSpace as they print on demand, and sell directly through Amazon.
You establish the cost of your book through the size, page count, etc. — then you set the list price at whatever you want. Anything above cost is your profit. [Pro Tip]: The cost of your book increases if its sold through Amazon, instead of bought directly through CreateSpace. This wasn’t an issue for me, as I really wanted the legitimacy of an Amazon storefront, but it may be something to take into account if you have your own webstore.
Finally, the website was easy to navigate, except for a few minor snags — I’ll talk more about that later.
Kindle Version – Or rather – Why not on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. etc.?
One reason: the Kindle Lending Library. It makes my book free to the thousands and thousands of Amazon Prime members. At this phase it is far more important that people read my book than people buy my book.
I know there’s a lot of discussion about Amazon’s draconian domination of the e-book Wild West — but from my perspective it’s hard to argue with that kind of market share. The Kindle is the dominant e-reader on the market, and anyone with a smartphone or tablet can read just as easily using their free app.
Level Four: CreateSpace [ Sky Platforms]
Okay. You’ve got the book all edited and shiny, now it’s time to set everything up with CreateSpace for the paperback. The site is very user-friendly if you are reasonably proficient with the internet and simple online interfaces. I’m a giant dork so I had little trouble, only occasionally having to use the forums, Help section, and one quick phone call to Customer Service. It leads you step by step through the process.
1. Birth Certificate – Name of your book, author name, synopsis, all that sort of thing. Pretty self-explanatory.
2. Print Specifications – Selecting the size of your book, whether or not you have color images to print inside, etc. I didn’t have any interior artwork for Spell/Sword so I selected Black and White printing — and the smallest book size, because my novel isn’t particularly long. I’m sure there’s a lot of reasons for all the different sizes, but I didn’t put much thought into it. I like the size my book is, end of story. Take that reasons.
3. ISBN Number – This is a little complicated. And once you decide your book is locked to that number [oversimplification, I know] so give this some serious thought and research.
CreateSpace owned ISBN: Free! But…it sets the publisher of your book as CreateSpace, and limits your distribution options later. There is a little bit of a stigma to services like CreateSpace and Lulu, and if in the very remote chance that you want to sell your book to a traditional publisher later you can’t just move your ISBN, you’d have to make a whole new edition with a new ISBN number.
CreateSpace licensed ISBN: $10.00. Same problems as above, but frees up most of your distribution options.
Personal ISBN purchased through CreateSpace: $100.00. But you personally own the ISBN number for your book, and can set the publisher of record. My book is published by me under the name Lodestar — which is the small business I’ll be setting up to handle my paltry revenue. It also means that I can move my book to any other printing service, or use another service concurrently with CreateSpace whenever I need. I’m also thinking about having it tattooed on me somewhere.
Personal ISBN purchased directly: I…didn’t do much research on this. You can get it cheaper buying it yourself, then inputting it into CreateSpace . But it meant using another site, and another process so I just went ahead and bought my personal ISBN through CreateSpace. To me, the convenience was worth whatever markup they have.
4. Cover – Now, CreateSpace does offer a free cover generator as well as professional design services. I used neither. Don’t be a chump and use the free cover generator — it’s fine if you only want your mom to read the book. I’m sure the professional services they offer are fine, but I’d much rather give the artists that I know personally my money.
The layout of the cover is extremely important as CreateSpace needs it to match exactly with the specifications for the cover — most importantly the spine which is a function of page total. There were lots of numbers and jargon, my designer knew what they meant and put it all together for me. I’ve noticed that many self-publishers take the DIY part of this route a little too much to heart. I recognized that I knew virtually nothing about layout and graphic design and paid a skilled friend to handle it, same goes for the actual cover design.
5. Setting up the Template – Okay, this part was a little convoluted.
You need to have your book laid out on a PDF to upload to CreateSpace for review. When I first started playing around, I just exported a PDF from my Google Drive and uploaded it to see what it would look like.
It was a hot mess.
My mother is a graphic designer and printer, so I have a vague understanding of margins — but clearly not enough for these purposes.
Luckily, CreateSpace offers Word document templates. It took some grunt work copy and pasting each part of my book, chapter by chapter into the template — but it ensures that the printed page comes out correctly. Also, print is set with a ‘justified’ margin as a default. I had to go through several times to find all the places where the spacing was weird and correct.
Review the template again and again … then five more times. You’ll never catch everything, but you have to put in the sweat equity to get as close to flawless as possible.
Once the template is complete, you save it as a PDF, then you’re ready for upload.
6. File Review with CreateSpace
Once the files are uploaded, you’ll be able to view the book page by page online.
You can’t directly adjust anything at this step. Anything you want to change, you have to go back to your template — make the change — then upload a new PDF.
Spell/Sword doesn’t have any interior images — so I’m no help there.
Once you submit everything for review [Interior and Cover], CreateSpace takes 24 Hours to review and make your book ready for proofing.
You have two options here:
Paper Proof: This is what you want to get the first time around. An actual, honest to god copy of your book. You get it, you hold it in your hand. You get to go through it with a colorful marker, hunting for every typo and spacing issue that you missed on the template. It’s truly a wonderful moment. [You do have to purchase your proof, it’s the established cost of your book plus shipping. ]
Online Proof: It’s identical to the Interior Reviewer you used earlier.
If you need to make changes after reviewing your proof, you have to back to the template and resubmit it all again, and wait 24 Hours again. For Spell/Sword I got the paper proof first, then after making all the corrections I felt confident that the Online Proof was sufficient.
PRO TIP: Even after your book is published you can ALWAYS make corrections and go through the process again — it will just mean that your book is not available for sale while it’s being reviewed and proofed again.
8. Final Thoughts/ Issues
After you approve your proof, your book becomes available for sale within 24 Hours. In my case it was up on CreateSpace itself within an hour — than on Amazon later that night. The site was very helpful guiding you through the rest, deciding on distribution channels, etc. I freely admit I kind of glazed my eyes and picked the standard options.
Now, some grousing!
Shipping through CreateSpace is a little stupidly expensive — especially when you’re an Amazon Prime member, used to getting 2 day shipping for free. I understand that it probably has something to do with preventing you from purchasing too freely through them instead of Amazon, their parent company — but still! Spell/Sword is 8.99 on Amazon — if I want to buy someone a copy and send it to them, it’s actually cheaper and quicker to buy through Amazon then get copies at cost through CreateSpace.
Friends have ordered copies through Amazon, and they arrive in a standard Amazon box – but the books are completely loose. None have been damaged so far, but it made me raise an eyebrow.
Royalties: I actually haven’t been published long enough to get my first check — I’ll update this when I have more experience.
Level Five: Kindle Direct Publishing [Ghost Carnival]
Almost as an afterthought, CreateSpace guides you into the warm clutches of KDP. They export all of your information about the book, the interior, and the cover all in one go. All of the info and cover exported fine — but I quickly discovered that the layout for the print version looked crazy weird on the Kindle.
I actually found an easy workaround – I directly uploaded my CreateSpace Word document to KDP, and it looked fine. I’ve experienced a fair amount of paranoia, because the Kindle comes in so many sizes [including native apps on iPad and PC] that making sure that there were zero formatting issues. I’ve read the book on my 3rd gen Kindle and it reads just fine at various sizes, and none of my E-Readers have complained YET. YET.
When you start obsessively searching your book on Amazon [not that I did, that would be silly] you may notice that the Kindle and Paperback versions initially have different pages — just give Amazon 48 hours, they automatically group them together. I also noticed that initially when searching my book titile, it came up fifth — but after a few days of sales, it populated first. Admittedly I picked a weird ass name for the book — that slash in Spell/Sword plays hell with some search algorithms.
Yowza! This thing got involved . I think I’ll keep this going as I plunge further and further into Self-Publishing RPG. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!
Spell/Sword is now available in print and e-book exclusively on Amazon.com. Follow the image above to order. I’m linking the digital version first because:
Amazon Prime members can borrow and read it for free.
Anyone can sample the first couple of chapters using the ‘Look Inside’ feature.
It’s the future!
If this is your first time visiting the site, please poke around. Plenty of my various ramblings in the archives, and several examples of my fiction through the Short Stories and Scenes/Microfiction links above. I know you’re taking a chance on me — thank you for even considering it.
More information about Spell/Sword itself is available on the [Buy the Book] button above.
A little background. I was running a Pathfinder game for some friends a few months ago. A neophyte-friendly, short campaign to introduce a bunch of youngsters to the hoary arts of dice rollin’.
I got busy, and they got busy — and is all too often the case, we never got to the end of the story.
This weekend, out of the blue, one of the players emailed me. Warming the cockles of my wintry aorta — they asked how the story was going to end.
I stared at the email on my phone and mouthed the words, “How am I supposed to know?”
Maybe I’m a bad storyteller, or a bad DM – but my brain doesn’t operate the way. I can only see so far ahead of the players, just one bend ahead. That’s half the excitement for me — finding the story. Getting little glimpses of the horizon. Broken snippets, and flashes of moments, and vague ideas that will only fall into place when the time is right.
I mean, I generally know the end. The big events, the major developments — but the steps that link these, the tiny choices, human moments that connect them? Who knows?
And this, of course, made me think about Spell/Sword.
Because I do know the end of that story. And it’s horrible. The adventures of Jonas and Rime do not end well. Their tale ends in shadow.
Maybe that’s why I’m so excited to tell their story. I know where they end, but I don’t know how they got there. And as long as I don’t know, then it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe it doesn’t have to happen?
It does have to happen.
But they will shine before the end. That’s all that I ask. For the book, for this dimension, for everything. Because everything ends. The sum total of human expression: the light we emit before nightfall.
Running away from the end, running away from maturity. This is a feat that I am familiar with — maybe I can help them run faster than I did?
Well, this turned maudlin.
I was staring at my phone, at the email — wondering what to tell the player. Then I knew, I knew what to tell him. I turned the bend, and there was the answer like I had always known it, like I had outlined it carefully on graph paper in my head. Fortunately for this story, it’s not a true ending — more of a End of the Beginning. The end of their first adventure, and a hook into the next.
Here’s what I told him.
The Heroes of Riddlewood [you guys] would have explored the ominous manor of the Count, encountering many strange things and perils in their search for the kidnapped adventurer, Martin Wise. They would have located the prisoner behind a secret wall that lead to a high tower. Under the cover of night, the party attempts a daring rescue mission, only to do battle with the supernatural minions of the count – undead primarily, along with a couple of lycanthropes. They break out Martin and race back through the manor to escape, where they are caught by the Count himself. The Count attacks, revealing several dark powers, that seem to emanate from a gauntlet that he wears. The young heroes are overwhelmed by the assault — until reinforcements arrive in the form of the elder adventurer, Dennis Wise and the local magical instructor, Vurbane and his Mouse Brigade. The two old men work together to seal part of the Count’s dark power, allowing the party to fight back on even ground. The final blow falls and the dark gauntlet shatters — a phantom erupts from the Count’s body, and shrieks promises of revenge into the abyss.
The Count awakes, and thanks the heroes from saving him from the spirit that had possessed him for many months. The source of the possession was obviously the gauntlet, but the Count shares disquieting news…the gauntlet comes from a larger suit of armor unearthed from his family crypt. He had terrible nightmares about the armor for weeks, until he felt compelled to put on the gauntlet. He has no reliable memory of his time under the dark spirit’s control — but he has a terrible feeling that he spent some time sending pieces of the armor all throughout the land….
Another story leading off into the unknown, a story with no end — just a beginning.
1. It’s fun. Looking at it just makes me smile. It’s unapologetically goofy and cartoony. Most fantasy art takes itself so freaking seriously.
2. It’s different. This doesn’t look like 98% of the fantasy novel illustrations I’ve ever seen before. Not on the shelves at Barnes & Noble, not on Amazon.com or anywhere else.
3. It’s clean. All of the negative space just pleases me aesthetically. A traditionally published novel would want to cram more information and more verbiage on there. I’ll probably have my name on their, somewhere very small, but that’s it. I also think it’ll really stand out when seen online as a tiny thumbnail on someone’s Kindle.
4. It makes me think of Chrono Trigger. My book sits very comfortably in the mental space occupied by Dungeons & Dragons, JRPGs, and manga. I adore that this would not look terribly out of place on the cover of any of those three.
5. It will make people vaguely embarrassed to be seen reading it. Not so much with the Kindle version, but people who have the paper copy. Anyone reading this will be broadcasting to the world that they are a Huge Nerd.
Huge props to Poopbird on the illustration, you should follow the link from here or the image itself and check out his entire portfolio and buy stuff from him.
I hope this gets you marginally excited about reading the book. I know it gets me far more than marginally excited about finishing it.
Running against the clock always galvanizes me. Just the idea that the entry window for the Amazon contest might close before I get done editing, is pushing me to untold heights of GONZO EDITING.
“Oh, I really like this section. Too bad it’s boring.” CUT.
“You know, my Beta Readers were right, this chapter has all the exposition and it’s buried 50 pages in.” CHAPTER MOVE.
“Why’s Jonas so freaking emo in Chapter One?” INSERT JOKES.
“Huh, I never did really explain why Cotton hates wild mages so much.” BACKSTORY INFUSION ACTIVATE.
“Hmm, these two chapters are kinda thin now that they’ve been trimmed.” CHAPTER FUSION DANCE.
It’s liberating, at the very least. Only a couple more days of anxiety about it, before I have to bite the bullet and send my entry to Amazon. All of these changes needed to happen, nothing like a little bit of panic to spur me to make them.
Blech. This is why I like theatre. There’s a built in deadline:Opening Night. You can work and agonize on a novel FOR ALL OF TIME.