This will be an n-part series leading up to the Amazon Firesale for the Kindle version of Spell/Sword. It is going to be absolutely free 8/30-9/3. The plan is to write one of these a day to really crank up my self promotion levels, so when I’m at Dragon*Con, I won’t feel any remorse about begging total strangers to read the book.
But hey, I’m super lazy, so n could very well equal 2.
Reason #1: Sideways
If the damn book wasn’t ridiculous enough, I had to stick in this goddamn character. Those of you that have already read the book are currently nodding sagely, maybe pursing your lips in disgusted agreement. Those of you who have not read the book, let’s play a game. I’m going to describe this character, and you yell when you hit your personal Preposterous Fantasy Drivel Maginot Line. [PFDML]
Okay. Deep breath.
Sideways is an assassin. A mercenary, a sellsword, a blade for hire. He’s extremely fond of witty banter mixed with his obscenely
talented swordplay. He also seems to have some sort of moral code [AHHHHH.] he doesn’t kill for pleasure, and seems to have an overall genial position for a hired killer. He is also a devilkin. [YELLING.] The blood of devils is in his family, mixed with human heritage. He has orange skin, [NOOOO.] eyes the color of ketchup [WHAAAAA?] and ‘horns’ that look more like misshapen coral growths than anything that would appear in Lucifer fanart. His constant companions are a pair of shortswords, a flaming sword named Sunhammer [ARGGGGG.] and a gray sword of indeterminate magical function named Chester. [BLUH!] ‘Chet’ for short. [ALL OF THE SCREAMING, LIKE WHEN ALDERAAAN WAS BLOWED UP IN STAR WARS. EXCEPT IT NEVER GOES SUDDENLY SILENT. JUST SCREAMING FOREVER.]
He also fights a minotaur, kills about 75 sky pirates, crashes an airship, rides a wyvern, and takes a nap on a porch.
So, you see, it’s a very good thing that my book is going to be free in about 10 days.
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!
You are in the enviable position of having formed a habit that most aspiring writers would kill to obtain. Or pay untold amounts of money on tuition for Creative Writing degrees, or workshops, or storytelling camps.
For the past two years, you have written, on average, 1374 words every week. Rain, shine, babies, heartbreak, plays, shows, gigs, arguments, new games, new books, new lives….every week. That means each of you wrote 142,896 words. Three novels or one massive tome.
Just by not stopping. By continuing to go.
For most humans, it takes 10 weeks of uninterrupted routine to form a habit. The habit is there. Don’t break it.
Right now, like me, you’re starting to feel the itch. A vague restlessness, an unease. A vacancy.
I have Spell/Sword to work on. What are you working on?
Open a Word Doc. Open a Google Doc. Open a notepad. Open napkin. Open your phone and email it to yourself.
Today, not tomorrow. Now, not later.
And start. Don’t stop.
It helped me to have a schedule. It helped me to have this blog. It helped me [eventually] to own the task, to admit to myself what I was making. Do all of those things, or none.
Just don’t stop.
Because, as unbelievable as it may sound. No one but us will truly ever read Lodestar. No one will ever hear your voices.
Unless you keep singing.
I can hear them. I have heard them for two years. It would be a great loss for them to fall silent.
“This child is the last. The last beating heart in all of Gilead. Except for yours, of course.” Fairchild smiled.
The bundle hung, inches from the squire’s nose. Jonas stared.
The baby appeared healthy, a patch of yellow fuzz on its head, dried tears and mucus covering the face. Jonas felt a sudden desire to reach into his pocket and find a clean hanky. The sudden image of standing in this room of green fire , piled high with corpses in a city of death — wiping the snot off of a baby’s face; the image slid through his battered mind, and he found himself grinning. A quiet huh left his lips as he almost-chuckled.
The tip of his sword moved two inches along the floor. He was still held by the power of the creature Fairchild, but he felt looser. Like a frog in a child’s palm, he couldn’t escape but had room to wriggle.
“Do you know this child? I found her in the back of a baker’s shop, just popped her in my pocket like a day-old muffin, and brought her here.” Fairchild pulled the child close into the crook of his left arm, and waved towards Jonas with his right.
The squire found he could speak. ” No. I don’t know who she is. ”
“No matter. Princess or pauper, whoreson or maid. You. Her. It doesn’t really matter. It’s the blood. The blood, you see?” Fairchild sat down again on the mound of corpses, cradling the child to his breast.
“..understand? That doesn’t matter, either.” the man who was not waggled a long finger. “You came here to find out what had happened to your people, to learn the truth — to save them? Quite a grand quest, I applaud you — or would. I don’t want to drop the baby!”
Shattersteel-laughter rang in the throne room. Jonas glimpsed again Fairchild’s true form — gaunt flesh stretched on a tall frame – naked, green and merry.
“I came here to purge this world of Gilead’s blood, and I’ve succeeded. Almost.” the creature rose. “There is still you, and this child — and a few wandering remnants scattered across the world.”
Jonas felt a sudden heat in his heart. This creature was right, there were others out there – the Legion, travellers, families that had settled elsewhere. Gilead could live on, an army could gather and make justice for the fallen.
“Ah, hope. A foolish thing, there flickering in your eyes.” Fairchild idly ran his thumb across the baby’s cheek.
The child screamed as if his touch was acid.
“My time is limited, so let us speak plain. I need an..agent. Someone to hunt down your remaining kinsmen. It is going to be you. But, I need you to consent. So, enter my service or….” Fairchild held out the crying child. “…or I kill this child. Right here. Right now. And then you.”
The squire’s sword moved, swinging in a high arc towards the man’s face.
Fairchild tucked the book under his arm, and casually caught the blade in his left hand.
A burst of light. Jonas saw a bone-thin hand with too-long fingers holding his blade. The skin was green and smooth — or did it only appear so in the emerald corpse illumination?
The flash was gone. The man pushed the squire’s blade aside.
“Now, now.” the man smiled. “No need to be so forward. There will be plenty of time later for that sort of thing. Now, have a seat, young
Jonas felt his knees buckle, and his knuckles hit the marble floor. He still clutched the hilt of his good steel, but it felt heavier than a millstone.
Fairchild sat calmly on the pile of corpses, and pulled the book into his lap. He drummed his fingers on it for a moment.
“I knew someone would come, but I didn’t know who. A hero? A prince? Who are you, son of Gilead?”
Jonas said nothing. He tried to move, but his arms and legs refused.
“I suppose it doesn’t matter.”, the smiling man mused. “You are the one who was promised. You will be my hunter.”
I will be nothing for you, the squire thought. I will find a way to make you pay.
“Oho! Your mortal eyes blaze so fiercely. It must be hard.” Fairchild said sympathetically. “To crawl on your belly through the ruin of your home — to find all that you knew destroyed. Everyone you ever knew. Dead. How you must thirst for vengeance….”
The tip of his sword blade moved a quiet inch. Jonas focused on the feel of the hilt in his hands, and tried to make the sword move again. He kept his eyes on the smiling man, on his green throne.
Fairchild clapped his hands.
“Enough of that. It is time to speak, you and I. I must pull you from thoughts of the past, so let us speak simply. Yes, it was I that did all that you have seen. Every living creature in the land of Gilead is dead. Dead and worse, by my hands.”
Jonas saw the man’s hands change — fingers too long, and green, green, green. The squire choked with horror and grief.
” Well, not quite.” Fairchild leaned forward. “There is one survivor. Would you like to see her?”
The squire nodded, and fought back tears. And managed to move the sword tip another quiet inch.
The man who was not turned slightly, and pushed the arm of a corpse aside. Nestled within was a small, cloth bundle. It moved slightly as Fairchild pulled it free, and then it began to cry.
A baby, held in a prison of green spider-hands.
Fairchild held it forth, and smiled.
“Now, let us talk about the terms of our covenant.”
Each door that the squire passed was flung open, green corpse light gleaming.
A group of dead children and their governess, chests and lips covered with yellow vomit. They were laid out in a perfect circle, feet to the center. A basket of apples placed at the center.
Three men dressed as nobles slumped around a silver table. One man’s arm had been cruelly spiked to the table, the flesh and bone laid bare. Golden forks and knives were still clutched in all three’s hands – gibbets of meat hung from all three’s lips.
The green doorways opened their arms, as Jonas began to move faster.
A fat man that brained himself against a stone ledge.
A room stacked high with furniture, dressers and bureaus pulled in close. A thick stench rose from the center of the barricade.
Two skeletons huddled in the ashes of a massive marble fireplace, hands still clasped.
Jonas found broad stairs, and climbed.
He kept his eyes on the steps ahead, and forced his wounded leg to move faster.
The final step caught him unawares, and he stumbled forward. His shoulder screamed as he crashed into a stone pillar. He leaned against it for a moment and caught his breath.
He heard laughter, and jerked his head up.
The wide doors were twenty feet high and enameled with steel and silver. They were slightly open, and the sound of brittle glass-laughter came from within. The green light was brighter here, forcing him to squint as he stared at the crack between the doors.
Jonas took a step towards the door, then stopped. He passed his sword from hand to hand for a moment, wiping the sweat of his palms on his sodden trousers.
Glass-laughter, knife-laughter – the laughter of breaking. It sounded again, and the squire found himself backing up slowly from the door.
He leaned his head forward, shaggy hair fallling forward. He gripped the hilt of his sword , each knuckle a sickly yellow-white.
Too far. Too far to turn back now. I must know what happened here, I must.
Jonas closed the door behind him, the sound of rain hushed.
The grand entryway was covered with mushrooms. Sickly, purple and pulsing slightly – as if each bulb was taking a slow breath.
The green light bloomed from a pair of corpses sprawled on the marble stair. A pair of guards. The squire moved towards them, but then stopped. He didn’t want to know. Didn’t want to find the faces of old friends rotting on the steps. The light seemed to pour out of the vicious wounds on their neck and back, like an echo of blood, burning green and merry.
Jonas kicked the mushrooms aside in disgust and made his way up the steps.
At the top of the stair, a hand print had been charred into the wooden door. The squire placed his own hand next to it, to compare. The other hand was thinner, long fingers splayed.
Is this the devil? Luthen’s devil?
The squire wiped the water out of his face, and entered the hall.
“Something there is to a task done well, a true task, a right task. The door-knob turns, and knows that is is doing exactly what it was made for.”
“Are you drunk?” Simon asked, waggling his empty wooden tankard.
Merridew glared across the table, bushy white eyebrows standing at attention. The elderly Yad-Elf
gripped a silver gravy-boat, clearly intended to sail the seas of a king’s banquet table. It was mostly empty, Merridew corrected this – refilling from a dark brown keg that kept the third chair occupied. He took a quick swallow from the business end of the container, all while continuing to glare at the gray-coated rogue sitting across from him.
“Cause you sound drunk. You’re talking about doorknobs. Knobs on doors – the little turny things.” Simon continued.
“That is not my point at all, you besotted simpleton. This is why I despise drinking with humans.” the elf said.
“I’m drunk. See? I said it. Feels good to say it. It is totally fine for you to admit that you’re drunk.” the rogue held his tankard to the keg, hand wavering.
Merridew sat the gravy-boat down, and massaged his temples with long, knobby fingers.
“I’m just saying that doorknobs have a clear purpose. A design suited for one action — and I was musing –”
“– MUSING that it has to be a nice feeling. Knowing that what you’re doing is exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.” Merridew pointed across the table accusingly
The rogue chuckled, and sipped from his newly filled tankard. He managed to look contrite, and nodded seriously at the elf’s expression.
The old wood elf sighed, and spread his fingers across the top of the gravy-boat. He stared down through the spaces between, watching the foam settle on the dark amber liquid.
“There’s been a few times, I’ve felt it myself. The door-knob turn in my heart.”
Simon continued to nod seriously, and made a twisting gesture with his free hand. His serious expression was marred by the slurping noise as he gulped down ale.
“Door-knob. Got it.” Simon slammed the empty tankard down.
“I hate you.” Merridew said.
The old elf stood, and walked over to the closest door. He poured a generous serving of ale onto the pitted brass doorknob. Then he kept pouring until the gravy-boat was empty. He solemnly hung the empty silver bowl on the knob.
Simon rubbed his face and snorted.
“I’ll get a mop, old man. Unless you want to baptize the lamps?”
Merridew did not reply. He wrapped his long fingers around the brass knob and turned it swiftly.
Once. Twice. A third time.
The old elf smiled, his fingertips resting on the brass.