Share Your Web Fiction on Reddit!

This post is addressed to those of you that write/read web fiction.  And who are interested in Reddit.  The rest of you can just bugger off.

Ok, now that I’ve scared everyone away, I can continue this conversation with myself in peace.

I’ve been writing a serialized scifi blog as a for fun project side project.  Lately though I’ve been looking into different ways to tap the very niche audience that actually follows web fiction.  It’s been kind of cool!  For example, there’s a whole web serial branch of NaNoWriMo called WebSeWriMo (Web Serial Writing Month).  Whodathunk?!

Seeing as there was no Reddit category for web fiction, I decided to start my own: http://www.reddit.com/r/webfiction/

For those of you unfamiliar with Reddit, it’s basically a place to share links.  So you post a link, people can vote it up or down and then comment on it.  Think of it as a fast-paced hub for sharing the latest funny cat video.

If you’re an author it’s really not the best place to self-promote.  Any attempts to sell your own work are immediately voted down.  But blog posts that are fun/interesting are generally well-received.  For awhile I had been posting under the science fiction category but I thought it might be fun to try and start this little web fiction community.

So if you’re interested, you should definitely check this out and subscribe to the group.

Pacing and Consistency

At the beginning of this year my life got busier.  It’s all good things, nothing bad.  And the extra busyness is temporary (I hope).  But, needless to say, it has put a cramp in my writing output.

This cramp led to some frustrations.  When I got back from my Christmas break I just couldn’t get back in my groove.  It seemed like something was always getting in the way of cranking out my 850 words (daily goal in 2014).

I was forced to take a step back.  I love writing but it’s not my primary source of income.  And I realized that the frustration I felt was sucking all the enjoyment I gleaned from the process.

It wasn’t worth it!

So I dropped the rigorous schedule I had built up for myself last year.  That schedule worked for 2014, not 2015.  I contented myself with just writing every day, word count be damned.  I’m still making steady progress just maybe not as much as I used to.  And I’m ok with that for right now.  The joy returned when I sit down to write so I believe the decision was a good one.

Consistency is key when it comes to writing.  I realized that this will probably not be the last readjustment I’ll have to make.  Life gets in the way but that doesn’t mean the writing has to stop.  Writing is a lifestyle.  You make it work.

Tortured by Novels

I am a short story writer.  The thing is that if you are not a short story writer this is a difficult concept to understand.  The only thing I can equate it to is music.  You find the instrument that you consider to be your voice.  I can play both the violin and viola very well but I consider myself to be a violist.  It’s my instrument.  It’s me.

The same goes for short stories.  The precise, compact writing style is my voice.  It’s me.  Even before I started writing my brain would constantly think of new ways to streamline the story I was reading.  And now that I’ve been writing for a few years the problem is even more pronounced.  It’s aggravating for me to read long, drawn out sections in a novel that serve no purpose whatsoever.

Is it really necessary for the heroine to be looping around in her head why she can’t be with the hero a FOURTH time?  We know their issues.  Address the issues.  Maybe readdress the issues to remind the reader.  And then move on!

What’s even more aggravating to me is that I’m haunted by the idea of writing a novel.  I mean, they sell way better than a short story.  Why do I put myself through the agony of writing story after story when I could just spend the time making one LONG story that may actually sell?

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve mentally succumbed to the novel’s siren’s song.  I sit down thinking: “This will be the story that I’ll turn into a novel.  I’ll drag out all the scenes.  I’ll pad all the descriptions.  The works.”

I write the story with this mindset.  And then it ends up being a 12,000 word novelette.

So I give up!  I’m tired of being tortured by novels.  If one happens to come out of my brain, that’s great.  But in the meantime I am resolved to be content with my short story existence.

A soapbox rant on KU royalties and short stories

Ok I’ve seen some discussion lately about the issue of short stories and KU. Lots of talk on whether or not the 10% marker is fair because it takes way less effort for the reader hit the 10% mark in a short story than it does in a novel.

Now I’m not trying to bash anyone. And I’m not trying to point fingers or accuse people of being right or wrong. Because you know what? It’snot fair that someone can just go through the title page and be 10% into a short story.

But you know what’s also not fair? I have to pay the same amount for cover art no matter how long or short my novelette is.

You know what’s also not fair? I get one-star reviews solely because a story did not exceed X number of words (not even a mention about the actual content).

You know what’s even less unfair? Short stories are really hard to sell. For every 100 people that read novels maybe one likes the occasional short story. And an even smaller percentage of that one actually goes out and buys short stories.

But you know what? I don’t care. I choose to write short stories. It’s my problem.

So now one thing comes along that kind of gives a slight advantage to short story writers and people are getting up in arms about the fairness of it. It’s not even that much of an advantage! People are still going to read way more novels than short stories. So yeah the 10% mark is hit more easily but we are talking about one “read” every five days. Not five reads every day.

If you choose to write novels then you have to take the good with the bad. That means taking a hit on reads if you participate in KU. If it doesn’t suit your business needs, don’t do it. Make an informed decision based on the product you are trying to sell.

But it’s ok for things to not be completely fair.

All right. End of rant.

A Snippet on Short Fiction Money Making

I was lurking about the KBoards Writer’s Cafe (which is an awesome place) and came across possibly one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever read about the business of short fiction.

The forum thread was discussing Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited program and people got to discussing how whether or not this could lead to a flood of short stories and, basically, put an end to novel-length works.

Short story author EelKat (yes, that’s the name she writes under if you’re curious) gives this epic reply:

But there are already 5 shorts for every 1 novel in Select, and there has been right since Select began. Predictions like this occurred when Select/Prime/KOLL first rolled out and that was what 3 years ago?

Amazon has no need to change the prices and you want to know why? Because for every 10,000 novels sold only 10 short stories sell. Do you realize I’m listed by critics as one of the world’s top selling Short Story writers and I’m lucky if one of my titles sells at a rate of 1 copy a week? My highest sales days ever I can count on 1 hand. In 36 years I have had exactly 4 days where I have sold more than 10 copies in one day. Those are NOT 10 copies of a single title. I have NEVER sold 10 copies of a single title in one day. I have 683 stories published and I have only sold more than 10 copies per day across all titles combined exactly 4 days. Those totals were as follows:

49
71
22
37

Total sales in one day across 683 titles.

The only 4 days I’ve ever sold more than 10 titles in one day.

And I repeat what I said earlier: I’m considered 1 on the Top Ten Highest Seller and Most Paid Short Story Writers In the World.

Go back and look at those numbers, than think about that title.

Than start asking other Short story writers about their sales. the average Short story Writer sells across all of their titles combined 5 to 10 copies PER MONTH and gets 2 to 3 borrows PER YEAR.

NEWSFLASH: There are approximately 2billion readers on the planet. Of them, there are almost exactly 37,000 readers of Short Stories.

I’m sorry, but on what planet do novelists think they can find enough readers of short stories to get rich writing shorts? Even at $2 a pop, which I what I make on my shorts, because I price them @ $2.99. My price chart, for those interested in pricing shorts (and you will want to price them high like this IF you want an income, once it hits you square in the face that people don’t borrow shorts and KU won’t be paying you a penny.)

More than 400 of my 683 titles have under 5k words.

I write Horror, Dark Space Opera, and D&D/S&S Style Fantasy, fewer than 100 of my titles are in other genres.

With that in mind I price my work based on word count:

0.99c = less than 3,000 words
$1.49 = 3,000 to 7,500 words
$2.99 = 7,500 to 30,000 words
$4.99 = 30000 to 50,000 words
$6.99 = 50,000 to 90,000 words
$8.99 = 90,000 words or more

I price my collections/bundles/box-sets like this:

$2.99 =
3-pack of 10ks (30k total) or
5-pack of 5ks (25k total) or
10-pack of 2ks (20k total)
25-pack of 1ks (25k total)

$4.99 =
3-pack of 15ks (45k total) or
5-pack of 10ks (50k total) or
10-pack of 5ks (50k total) or
25-pack of 2ks (50k total)

$6.99 =
3-pack of 20ks (60k total) or
5-pack of 15ks (75k total) or
10-pack of 7ks (70k total) or
25-pack of 3ks (75k total)

$8.99 =
3-pack of 30ks (90k total) or
5-pack of 20ks (100k total) or
10-pack of 10ks (100k total) or
25-pack of 5ks (125k total)

My Erotica skews slightly higher (keeping in mind fewer than 50 of my 683 titles is Erotica):

0.99c = less than 3,000 words
$1.49 = 3,000 to 5,000 words
$2.99 = 5,500 to 15,000 words
$4.99 = 15,000 to 36,000 words
$6.99 = 36,000 to 60,000 words
$8.99 = 60,000 words or more

I price my Erotica collections/bundles/box-sets like this

$2.99 =
3-pack of 5ks (15k total) or
5-pack of 2ks (10k total) or
10-pack of 1ks (10k total)

$4.99 =
3-pack of 7ks (21k total) or
5-pack of 5ks (25k total) or
10-pack of 2ks (20k total)

$6.99 =
3-pack of 15ks (45k total) or
5-pack of 10ks (50k total) or
10-pack of 5ks (50k total) or
25-pack of 2ks (50k total)

$8.99 =
3-pack of 20ks (60k total) or
5-pack of 15ks (75k total) or
10-pack of 7ks (70k total) or
25-pack of 5ks (125k total)

I make money as a Short Story writer ONLY because of my higher prices. Take a look at that price chart, if I was writing novels, I’d be charging $8.99 a book, not .99c or even $2.99 or even $4.99.

Shorts are a hard sell. Even at .99c most writers can’t sell theirs, a lot of writers complain at having shorts at permafree and they can’t even give them away. Because there simply is no demand for shorts. So the notion that novelists are going to storm Select with flash floods of shorts and make millions is silly at best.

I continue to laugh at the novelists who are running around like chickens with their heads cut off, thinking they can switch to writing short stories and see the same amount of sales/borrow they did with novels. They have no clue how hard it is to sell a Short Story.

No, I don’t doubt that novelists will flood Amazon with short stories thinking they can write shorts and get rich quick. I also don’t doubt that novelists will learn fast that writing a GOOD short story is hard to do and takes years of practice and requires a totally different skill than novel writing.

Everyone and their cousin and their dog thinks they can write Short Stories because they are short. Ha! I laugh again at the brainless idiocy of such thinking.

Quantity is key. You are NOT going to see a livable income on short stories, even at $2 a pop until you have at MINIMUM 200 titles in you backlog. Barest minimum.

I’ve had folks (other authors) laugh at me and say I was nuts because I have a short story series I’ve been writing for 36 years and it’s now got 231 volumes, but the sales are so horrible. Why do you keep writing it, they ask me, why don’t you write something more profitable, write a best seller. A novel. Stop wasting time writing a series that has most of it’s titles ranking at the bottom of sales rank.

Why do I keep writing it? Well, I love it and I’ll never stop writing it. Even if I stopped publishing it I’d still keep writing it, so why not publish it and make a few penny a week on each title? Those pennies do add up after all.

Uhm…let’s do the math…

If each title in the series sells just 1 copy a week, not a day, but a week:

231 x $2.99 x 70% x 52 = $25,105.08

Well that’s a pretty good income, for such a crappy bottom feeder with sucky sales-rank and sales as low as 1 a week.

Keep in mind too that I have a cult following of 7,000 die hard fans who literally land in my driveway and follow me around town, some of them claiming following me around is even better than the days when they followed the Greatful Dead around. They follow me to WalMart and McDonald’s, and the laundromat, and they meet me at conventions where they CosPlay as characters from my short stories. I don’t know of any other short story writer who has gained the fandom my series did, there aren’t even many novelists who have a pack of fans CosPlaying their characters vigorously like this. Did I mention I’m a fluke?

And that is just ONE of my series.

I write several series and across all of them I have just under 700 titles now. Yeah. A lot of them only sell 1 or 2 copies a month. A lot of them sell only a single copy a week. The most any has ever sold in one day was 27. But 700 titles. Yeah. It adds up. I don’t need a best seller to live off my writing. I don’t even need a good seller to live off my writing. Heck, a lot of my books are out right poor sellers and I still make a living off my writing! LOL

So, yeah, I don’t really care if my books sell horribly, because I got enough of them out there that it really doesn’t matter.

Follow this article and do what it says step by step, you’ll be living 100% off nothing but short stories in 5 years.
Making a Living with Your Short Fiction
http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=9457

But do keep in mind that for those 5 years you will be living on absolutely nothing while you write enough short stories to live off of. But, keep in mind, that I’m a fluke. I’m one of the VERY RARE short stories writes who gets a sale per title per week. Most short story writers don’t get a sale per title per month.

I’m a fluke because I happen to be d*mned good at writing short stories. On the other hand I can’t write a novel worth sh*t.

That’s the thing there’s a world of difference between writing a novel and writing a short story. Novelists are foolish if they think that just because they can write a novel means they can write a short story. Most people who think they can write a short story, can’t. They suck at it big time. Why? Because they are trying to write a 300 page novel and stuff it into 10 pages, that’s why. You can’t do that. It won’t work. Readers won’t like it.

Few people who are very good at writing novels are also very good at writing short stories and vice-versa.

Novel writing is an art that takes time and practice.

Short story writing is a different art and requires different time and practice.

Sure authors can do both, but the ones that try to do both often are the ones who later complain to not having good sales, can’t find steady followers, and wonder “what am I doing wrong?’

Novel readers follow novelists. They know all the greats, they know the upcomers, they couldn’t give a rat’s patooy about short stories or short story writers.

Short story readers follow short story writers. They know all the greats, they know the upcomers, they couldn’t give a rat’s patooy about novels or novelists.

What do you read? That’s what you should write.

To read the rest of her reply click here:  http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,190464.msg2689328.html#msg2689328

What Type of Reader Are You Trying To Appeal To?

The tricky thing about writing shorter works is there is much less time to make an overall good impression.  A novel’s plot is an intricate weave of multiple plots, characters and themes.

In other words, lots of time to create a favorable impression.  It’s not quite so vitally important for the reader to like every character.  So long as they like enough of what is going on, it’s a satisfying reading experience.

What one person finds “satisfying”may be unsatisfying for another.  Therefore, a short story writer must be extremely clear about what type of reader the story is trying to appeal to.  If it’s horror, the focus should be building that fear.  If it’s science fiction, the focus should be on world-building.

Instant draw.  Instant connection.

Business as Usual

I ordered business cards today.  For my pen names.

In the grand scheme of things, ordering business cards is not that big of a deal.  I’ll be honest, I found some cute designs and I couldn’t help myself (I dig office supplies).  But it occurred to me after I ordered them that I took yet another step to making this writing gig a business and not just a hobby.

I already took the big jump about two years ago when I started keeping track of my writing expenses and monitoring the income.  That made the writing real for me.  But it takes two to tango in the publishing world.  It’s not just about what’s real for me, it’s about what’s real for the readers.  If I continue to exist like some sort of sketchy black-market shadow business I am limiting my opportunities for finding potential new clients.

When people ask about violin teaching I whip those cards out so fast it almost results in near-fatal paper cuts for all involved parties.  But writing?  “Yeah… I write stuff… you can find me online but it’s all under pen names so… never mind…”

Time to make some changes.  If this business is going to grow, I have to treat it as I would any other business and artistic insecurities be damned.

Cross posted from Book Brouhaha.

Finding My Writing “Voice”

I’ve been struggling (good struggling) a lot with my writing “voice” of late.  It’s such a crucial element to a good story and yet it’s not something you think about right away when you first dabble in writing.

 

I’ve been reading a book that was recommended to me called Creating Short Fiction by Damon Knight.  He talks about how there are several stages of development for a writer.  The first stage is always very conceptual.  An author thinks of interesting concepts and little else.  Like a really good opening line or scene with no plans for how it could actually unfold into a fully developed plot.

 

I think if I had read that when I first started publishing my stories I would have totally denied it.  My stories were perfect back then.  Any reviews that said otherwise was an affront on my genius.

 

I think if I had read that by my second year of writing/publishing I would have acknowledged the truth of it and been embarrassed.  Like I should remove all of my books from Amazon and completely rewrite all of them.

 

But now?  I’m comfortable enough with my writing to acknowledge the truth of what he said and realize that I am, in fact, human.  I need to develop my writing skills just like every other human being who claims the title of author.  And this takes time.  There’s nothing to be embarrassed about.  I had to write the stories I did in order to evolve.  It’s a natural process.

 

There’s nothing new under the sun when it comes to plots.  You could make an argument that just about every possible plot element has been done before somewhere else.  So the key is not your idea so much as how you deliver this idea.

 

I find this… difficult.

 

For one thing there’s no way to quantify it.  It’s not like you can always apply x,y and z to a certain scene and voila! Your writing voice appears!

 

For another thing I’m not even sure what my voice is trying to say at times.  What kind of a writer am I?  three years ago I would have scoffed at this question.  I would have said the story idea makes the writer.  Now I’m thinking it’s the other way around.

Cross-posted from Book Brouhaha.