Inside the Mind of an Author Entrepreneur

Hi friends!

Today I’d like to let you in on my master plan, both the dreams and the practicalities. I’m a little nervous about this because my plans are, frankly, grandiose. I usually tone down the vision when I’m around the normals, but today you get an undiluted look at the layers and layers of vision, planning, and execution that fill my head most of the time. Or at least as many as I can get to in a reasonable amount of time.

This is me.

(On a personal note before we get started, June was crazy. We had a birthday, an anniversary, a hospitalization, a job change, and a book launch in the same weekend. More on that here if you’re interested.)

The Big Picture

I’m an author with a day job. I believe stories shape people and people shape the world, so I care intensely about getting more great stories to the people who will love them. Also I just love love love writing. So I want to make a full-time career out of writing and publishing.

So Many Books

The top layer on my mind is the books I’m writing and want to write. So far I’ve self-published a fairy tale and the first episodes of a comedy series, Hubris Towers. They’ve done moderately well, but they’re just a start. I’m 100k words into a Discworld-esque fantasy mystery and finishing up edits on The Dream World Collective. On the back burner I have drafts of a psychological thriller and a standalone comedy, and concepts for a YA series and more. I’m trying to keep this relevant, so I stripped out a couple paragraphs of details, but there’s more at byfaroe.com/projects if you’re curious.

This is me back when I was cool.

So those are, to varying degrees, in my head all the time. I’m always working on worldbuilding and ways to tighten the plots and show off the characters and find cleaner, richer ways to immerse readers in my worlds, and always thinking ahead to the next story.

Beyond that are the hundred and one tasks that go into creating the actual book. I’m always teaching myself more about print layout, ebook layout, typographic design, cover design, copyrights, ISBNs, book distribution, marketing copy, etc. Each of those could be a course in itself, but I’ll move on to the fun stuff.

A New Kind of Publishing House

For me it’s not enough to just write my own stories. There are too many other talented authors who have world-changing stories in them that may or may not ever get seen. I want to help get those stories out into the world, too, so I’m in the early stages of creating a publishing house called Clickworks Press. I want it to take the best from traditional and indie publishing, to support authors’ interests and maximize reader delight, and to think hard to build a new kind of publishing house from scratch, one that takes advantage of the fact that this is the future and we have amazing new technological and social opportunities that can drive a whole new kind of experience for storytellers and audiences.

This isn’t pie in the sky. I’ve got a couple other local authors already moving forward with publishing their books through Clickworks Press, and it’s really, really exciting. They’re not just random people I managed to wrangle in. These are talented authors with legitimately excellent books, books I’m thrilled about and believe in deeply, and I’m really excited to do whatever I can to get those books into the world. But it’s just the beginning.

Beyond Books

You’ll notice I said “storytellers and audiences,” not “writers and readers.” That’s because the vision goes beyond books.

I have no idea who this is. How did this get here?

I have no idea who this is. How did this get here?

Novels are my main medium, but it’s stories that change the world, and stories can take many forms. My co-author Bill and I are already discussing the possibility of a Hubris Towers audiobook done as an old-school radio drama, and we’re experimenting with narrating our own and each other’s books for audio. I’ll also be looking into professional narration for some of my upcoming books. So there’s the seed for Clickworks Audio.

When I get a little free time (heh) there are two podcasts I’d like to launch, one for authors starting from the ground up (“no real budget, no real platform, just lots and lots of words”) and one for a wider audience, about enjoying the good life of wisdom, contentment, and interdependence. I’ve recorded a pilot episode for the former and it’s looking plausible. It’s just a matter of setting up a sustainable routine of recording when the time is right.

I know a few others who are interested in podcasting, too. They’re interesting people with good ideas and fun personalities. With a little attention and effort, we could build a podcast network that’s really worth listening to. And some of them are making pretty solid strides in acting and filmmaking. Some of us create games. Some of us are developers. With my (and others’) writing and design chops and their film skills and a little more experience under our belts, I see exciting possibilities for the formation of Clickworks Studios and/or Clickworks Game Labs.

Live a Better Story

My amazing daughter being amazing.

My amazing daughter being amazing.

But it’s not just about telling better stories. It’s also about living better stories and helping others live better stories. As we continue to tell smart, funny, deep, moving, life-giving stories, I trust that we’ll grow into a huge family of people bonded by the worlds and characters and stories we love. And huge families of people bonded by love can do incredible things. Good stories inspire and energize and unify the people who love them.

For this one, I want to wait and see what we come up with together, so specific plans this early would be jumping the gun. But I’ve seen the first hints of what’s possible. A while back I started an experimental Kiva team with a few fans of The Dream World Collective, back when I was posting it as a serial on a blog. That team of seven people has disbursed over $3,000 in microloans to help people around the world. We’ve helped a Jordanian woman pay for higher education and Kyrgyz widows buy livestock and a Honduran single mother of four invest in her coffee crop and many others.

That was seven people and almost no coordination or effort, back when I was completely inexperienced at this sort of thing. Now imagine what we could do with a few thousand people and some real thought and effort.

Better Worlds Through Better Stories

Getting more great stories out into the world isn’t just about storytellers who are already great at what they do. I also want to help promising storytellers become great. I’m currently developing a prototype of a writing tool that could end up nothing short of revolutionary. It’s designed to help harness your intuition and creativity to help you bring out the heart of your story and really make it shine, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, whether you’re writing deep literary fiction or crazy laser-action sci-fi. I’d like to make this and other tools and courses available to help bring out the potential in anyone who wants to write great stories.

My lovely, brilliant wife.

The lovely, brilliant love of my life.

I also want to bring people together to support and build up each other’s skills and projects. Now that Clickworks Press is expanding beyond me I’m putting deep thought into the website. I don’t want it to just be a random little e-commerce site that does no real business because Amazon exists.

Instead, this is our chance to continue extending that new kind of experience to connect storytellers and audiences. The simple part is things like rewarding readers who help spread the word, or encouraging people to buy good books for their friends and read them together, or setting up writing challenges and reading groups and fun things for people to join into together.

I think we can take it to the next level, though. What if we became a micropatronage community with a focus on apprenticeship and mentoring? What if we used incremental challenges, badges, and leveling up to train the next generation of creatives and help the best get discovered? This is yet another part I could go on about forever, but I won’t here. Short version: imagine Patreon meets Khan Academy meets NaNoWriMo. Drop me a line at byfaroe at gmail dot com if you want to help me hash out the long version, or sign up for my friendly updates to quietly watch from the shadows as the adventure unfolds.

Scrunchy faces are important.

Back To Reality

So all of that is in the back of my mind most of the time, and I’m constantly thinking through strategies and next steps. Which brings us back to the practicalities. The execution has enough layers and details that it turns out it gets long and (perhaps) boring to talk about in depth. It’s a little mind-boggling even in brief.

I’d be happy to share concrete steps on any of this if you guys are interested. Just let me know in the comments. In the meantime, here’s an overview of what I’m working on or about to be working on in various arenas.

Making More Excellent Books

Hubris Towers – Write Episode 3. Make the paperback and ebook covers for Ep. 3. Create new back matter in Ep. 1 to point to Ep. 2. Update it on CreateSpace, Google Play, Nook, Kobo, and Kindle. Ditto to make Ep. 2 point to Ep. 3 after 3’s release. Update the landing pages here and on Pints & Prose.

Me and my co-author on Hubris Towers

Me and my co-author on Hubris Towers

Dream World Collective – Finish entering the plot into my prototype plot-hacker for analysis and improvement. Edit the last third of the novel. Set up an option for people on my mailing list to get it free in weekly chunks delivered by email. (Sign up here to get in on this when it arrives.) Finish the cover design. And the paperback cover design. And the hardcover-with-dust-jacket cover design. And the print layout.

Frobisher – Write more!

Building Ways To Connect With People

Clickworks Press Website – Pick a host and a URL for preliminary simple website, probably a WordPress.org site. Set up site structure (how to display books, purchase links, author bios, etc.), hopefully including author patronage options, probably via Gumroad. Also learn Python (at Codecademy.com, which rocks) and look into Jinja2 as a possible route to developing a cooler interactive site later.

My Mailing List – Set up introductory welcome emails. Set up auto-delivery of free story to loveliest readers. Set up ways for readers to help/get involved. Possibly send pictures of sea monsters and/or cute animals.

Hubris Towers Mailing List – Set up introductory welcome emails and free book as welcome gift. Set up other free book as enticement. Take over world.

Elsewhere – Write semi-regularly for this blog and for Pints & Prose. Learn what Twitter is.

Building Ways To Get Others’ Stories Found And Loved

Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara. Origin of the phrase

Emir Seyyid Mir Mohammed Alim Khan, the Emir of Bukhara. Origin of the phrase “like a boss.”

Clickworks Press Business Model – Figure out how to maximize my authors’ sales and audience connection in non-evil ways. Figure out how to collect money and then get it to authors. Figure out tax stuff. Figure out awesome surprises. Figure out whether it’s better for newish authors to get paid double for a direct sale or to get exposure on other platforms. If former, figure out how to set up direct sales. Start thinking through workflow for a call for submissions.

Pints & Prose – Build out the projects page. Keep writing better pieces. Solicit great work from local creators.

Back Burner/Future Awesome

Podcast – Sketch out my experiences so far this year preparatory to sharing said experiences in an engaging and transparent manner on a podcast. Look into podcast hosting. Set aside times to record.

Future Books – Finish draft of Carsick, maybe for NaNoWriMo. Finish plan for The Clockwork Tower, a YA series. Rework frame narrative for the psychological thriller. Start planning the next couple books in the Hastily Dobbs series.

Games – Keep learning how to create interactive story games on StoryNexus. Look into what it would take to get custom Knight’s Bridge boards and pieces created. Possibly start a Kickstarter project for this.

So There’s a Lot Going On In My Head

It’s probably too much for one person. But the thing is, all of this is possible. It’s big and there’s a lot of it, but it all boils down to real steps we can take. I think we can really do this, and it could be awesome. Sure it’s a ton of work, but it’s so worth it!

Behold!

Behold!

A big source of my drive is that I’m deep-down convinced my stories are really good and will really improve peoples’ lives, and I’m going to run out of days a lot sooner than I run out of stories, so the sooner I can get to writing full-time, the more stories I’ll be able to get into the world. And stories can last generations, so every one I can finish means more lives changed for years and years to come.

I didn’t start this post planning to ask for money, but if this excites you and you want to help free me up to get more of it into reality faster, the two best ways you can help are by spreading the word (e.g. by sharing this post) and by clicking below to give a monthly (or single) gift to help me cover the costs of production, distribution, experimentation, and getting more awesome.

Thank You

I’m surrounded by incredibly supportive, interesting, generous people and I’m so grateful to each of you who have helped me along the path. I say it all the time, but it’s true. You’re the best!

Cheers,

—Ben

Also, while we’re at it, here are a few other author entrepreneurs worth checking out:

Rachel Aaron – Finally someone who understands that analysis isn’t soulless. Nerdy and funny and smart. Beautifully insightful thoughts on the craft and business of writing. Made me feel I’m not alone in the world as an analytical creative.

Self Publishing Podcast / Sterling & Stone – A trio of highly prolific storytellers with great vision, strategy, and experimental chutzpah. They set a really high bar, and then do everything they can to help everyone else get over it too.

Kate M. Colby – Super-useful writing resources, a new vlog, and an upcoming novel worth watching for.

Libbie Hawker – Author of historical fiction and helper of authors. Brilliant at breaking down the process of writing (and selling) your books into clear steps you can act on now.

Rocking Self-Publishing with Simon Whistler – A very approachable, useful, and fun podcast interviewing successful self-published authors.

Kara Jorgensen – Author of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Creating and growing at an impressive rate.

Ani Alexander – Author and podcaster working to inspire and encourage other writers and provide useful publishing resources.

Bookshelf Battle – Wildly creative and prolific humor writer. Really almost manic in the quantity and diversity of the properties he’s created in very short order. But in a good way.

Pints & Prose – A creative laboratory I co-founded with a few other Baltimore writers, thinkers, and creators. Worth checking out (though I say it who shouldn’t).

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12 comments

  1. First off, your aspirations may be ambitious, but I have full confidence that you will meet every one of them. If you happen to need any help or cheerleading along the way, feel free to reach out to me!

    Second, I am so honored to be among your mentions — not only for the fact that you mentioned me at all, but because that list is full of awesome creatives, and I am thrilled to be among them.

    Best of luck with all your ventures! Keep up the brilliant work!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I thoroughly enjoyed reading all of your goals and ambitions. I know what you mean about toning it down for outsiders. My boyfriend and I are both artists (costumer v. author), and with him, I can say I want a mini series one day, I want to be a full-time writer, and I want my series to be Outlander-like in its structure. For most people, I just say I want people to buy my work and that I could pay a bill with my writing. I have no doubts that you will achieve all that you set out to do. You’ve got spunk and determination and that is what matters in the long run.
    PS- Thanks for the shout out [twice].

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s such a beautiful thing. It makes all the difference to have people who are willing to let you think big. I’m so thrilled to have such an encouraging community of friends and fellow writers so we can cheer each other on.

      As for the miniseries, I’ve secretly got the same aspiration for Hubris Towers. And I want Hugh Laurie to play Mr. Schwartz. Jimmy was largely inspired by his portrayal of Bertie Wooster, so it would be fun to have it come full circle with him as the chilly bad guy instead of the silly, friendly main character.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That would be awesome. I love Hugh Laurie in any role he plays, villainous or silly. I think all writers have their characters cast. If I could, I would want Tom Mison from Sleepy Hollow to play Eilian, and Matthew MacFayden to play James Hawthorne even if he is much older in real life than the character. As you said with Hugh Laurie and Mr. Schwartz, MacFayden inspired Dr. Hawthorne’s character.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. MacFayden played Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, but he currently is on Ripper Street on BBC playing a very bad ass and rather complex Victorian detective in White Chapel. If you like gritty crime or period dramas, I would definitely recommend it.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Ooh, thanks for the recommendation. That sounds really cool! I don’t have much stomach for gory/brutal violence, but everything else about it sounds right up my alley.

        Also you should check out Anne Perry’s Thomas and Charlotte Pitt mysteries (and William Monk, but I haven’t read as many of those). Set in Victorian London and some of the best mysteries I’ve read. I think they’d be just your style.

        Like

  3. Ben,

    This makes me super happy. I love when you give all out the details that are spinning around in your head. Knowing you, knowing your ideas, I know that you will look back on these posts as markers leading to a summit of dream fulfillment.

    What’s cool to see is that the more you learn and figure out, the more you create and do. It’s inspiring and infectious (the good kind, although it’s still odd. Nope, I stand by it. Infectious.)

    I can’t wait to see you get to a point to bring up other amazing authors and talented folk.

    Keep grinding and remembering why love what it is you are doing.

    Awesome job, Ben.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Joe! The crazy part, even after all this, is how much I ended up leaving out. Kind of mind-boggling. (But then, maybe that’s why my mind is boggled so much of the time…)

      Like

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