For Writers

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).

So Many Cool Things! Free Book, New Site, Call for Submissions, Series Launch

Hi friends!

Sorry to go incommunicado on you. May kind of snuck up and pounced. Also I have so many cool things going on that I didn’t even know where to start, so apparently I didn’t, but that’s no way to live. So here’s a quick rundown for now.

  • The Stone and the Song is free this weekend! If you like fairy tales, lyrical writing, living(ish) statues, or stories where the heroine does as much rescuing as the hero, now’s your chance to snap it up. (Click here to get it on Amazon.)
    • Super-cool sidenote: Last weekend was the first free promo I’ve ever done. The Stone and the Song hit #1 Free in Fairy Tales within 24 hours, and stayed there until the end of the promo! This time around it’s been hovering around the Top 10 so far, even without much promotion. Also got my first reviews from strangers, I’m pretty sure, including its 10th 5-star review!
  • Pints & Prose is live! I’m one of the founding editors and art director for Pints & Prose, a Baltimore-based creative laboratory. We’ve hosted local gatherings for years, and we officially launched our online presence earlier this month. It’s a place for writers, thinkers, and creators to create great work, enjoy it together, and share it with the world. I haven’t said anything about it because I didn’t want to be premature, but it’s been super-hard to stay quiet on this one. But now we’re live, and there are already some fantastic articles up, including a piece about why sports needs villains and a couple perspectives on the recent Baltimore riots. Check it out at pintsandprose.com!
    Ben Ponders the Pocket Edition

    The pocket edition is in my actual pocket!

    • Are you creative? We’re also looking for guest contributors, so if you’ve got great creative work to share with the world, submit it here and we’ll take a look.
  • Bill and I launched our new series, Hubris Towers! I feel like I haven’t shut up about this one, so I won’t go into it at length. Short version: I think it’s one of the funniest things I’ve written lately. Early reviews seem to agree. Also the pocket edition is so cool! Learn more here or buy it on NookKobo, or Amazon (US Int’l).
    • Protip: Buy the pocket edition on Amazon and you get the Kindle edition free!

Brilliant!

I’m so grateful, as ever, to have you all along for the ride. Big things are happening, people. Leave a comment and let me know how you’re doing. I miss you.

Cheers!

—Ben

11 Tips for Promoting your Book

Here’s some practical insight from the Kobo Writing Life blog about how to get the word out about your book. I’m only just breaking into the world of Kobo, but finding their site and devices refreshingly elegant. I can’t wait to build up a Kobo following – diversify, diversify, diversify!

Kobo Writing Life

Written by Tim Inman 

# An essential to-do-list for independent authors

from whitefox #

whitefox_slide9

There’s more to self publishing than just writing the book. Promotion is almost as important as putting pen to paper, but many authors don’t know where to start. Luckily there are a few relatively simple tricks you can employ to give your book a better shot at commercial success.

  1. PICK THE RIGHT PRICE POINT 

If you try to flog your book too cheap, readers will assume that it isn’t very good. Set the price too high and they won’t be willing to take a punt on you, an unknown author. According to Kobo’s Mark Lefebvre (here) , $0.99 for an ebook is so low that readers can’t resist, $2.99 tends to perform even better, but $1.99 is an awkward middle ground; it is cheap enough to suggest a lack of professionalism, but not cheap…

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The Stone and the Song: Coming Soon In Paperback

Stone and Song Cover 4 - High ResolutionThe physical proof (in two senses) is in the mail. This is my first time through the process, but my best guess is that the paperback edition of The Stone and the Song will be available on Amazon in about a week.

Or you can save yourself a week and save two-thirds of the price if you get the Kindle edition now.

I’ve got an afternoon off and am going to write like the wind. I recently revisited Write Or Die, a motivational tool that’s right up my alley, and had rather astonishingly good results. Even a preliminary attempt had me writing roughly double my normal top speed. Now to see if that’s sustainable. If it is, and if I can maintain sufficient awareness of what’s upcoming in the story, I could be reaching 2,500+ words per hour. If.

Let’s see if I can melt away some goals.

Cheers!

—Ben

PS – If you want a note when the paperback is available, you can sign up for updates and friendly notes.Subscribe Button Red Border 1

Is Daily Blogging Worth It? Post-A-Day Challenge Pros, Cons, and Next Steps

A couple months ago I took on a more modest version of Bookshelf Battle’s self-imposed daily post challenge. Instead of a post every day for the rest of 2015, I committed to a post every weekday through the end of March. I’m a day away from completing it, having successfully avoided yetis, aliens, etc., and I’ve learned a lot.

Pros

  • Daily posts have helped me build a back catalogue. Just a couple months in and I have a rich variety of useful posts for new readers to check out.
  • It helped me see what’s occupying my attention. Turns out it’s mostly writing projects. (Surprise!) This is helping me get more self-aware and work to diversify what I think, talk, and blog about.
  • I grew in discipline. The ability to write when you have nothing to write is a good skill for a professional writer. I learned again that there are always ideas if you’re willing to work for them.
  • I started finding my voice. This is early, but the math-y, spiritual, geeky, whimsical, overthinky parts of me are starting to show through. My fiction deeply reflects who I am and I love it. I can’t wait until my blogging does so more fully as well.
  • It clarified my goals. The habit of writing a monthly review and monthly goals has been surprisingly transformative. It’s crazy how much focus one blog post gave me.
  • I made friends! Through blogging I’ve started getting in touch with some really cool authors and bloggers like Kara Jorgensen, Kate M. Colby, Dave S. Koster, and Bookshelf Q. Battler. (Man. Talk about a name that lends itself to a cool blog title. Lucky.)

Cons

Mostly this is variants on “daily blogging takes too much of my writing-related time and energy.” Here are some specific angles.

  • It’s incredibly time-consuming (for me). I can’t seem to stop at two sentences, which meant uninspired days became long slogs. This is also why I’m bad at Twitter, incidentally.
  • Daily blog posts have a relatively low ROI. It’s been really useful having a blog in general. I’ve found some great people and—well, see above. But I think I would have gotten 80-90% of the value with 20-40% of the post frequency.
  • This means misdirected word count. I’ve posted around 8,300 words on my blog this month. Some of that was reposted from elsewhere, so say I’ve written 7,000, but even so that’s more than a full week’s word count target. If that were Hubris Towers instead of blog posts, I’d be finishing up Episode 1 about now. The blog posts are worth it if I’m saying something worthwhile, but not if I’m just trying to fill space or meet my quota for the day.
  • Blogging done my way has lots of peripheral time costs. It’s not like every 500 words on my blog is 500 words I didn’t add to a novel. While my composition speeds are comparable, I do a lot more editing and restructuring for non-fiction, and then I spend time on cool links and pictures and all. So really it could be that the opportunity cost of a 500-word blog post is 1,500 words on a story. And the stories are what I really love and am called to (and can sell, and what people might still be reading decades from now.) Kind of mind-boggling to realize I could maybe have written an extra 20,000-ish words this month. Maybe not—I mean, I also get distracted and dither and research and edit when I’m writing stories sometimes—but I’m curious to see how next month goes with lower blogging targets.

Conclusions and Next Steps

Broadly speaking, I think it’s really clear that it’s worth having a blog and updating it regularly, and (given the particulars of my case), that it’s not worth posting to it every day. I’m proud of myself for following through on my challenge to myself, and I think it’s more worthwhile early on in the life of a blog just to skip over the sparse, navel-gazy, getting-your-bearings phase. But I’m not planning to stick with daily posts.

Right now I’m leaning toward posting once or twice a week. This provides a bit of flexibility (to avoid wasting time when I have nothing to say) but also a bit of structure (because sometimes the good ideas don’t come until you sit and try for a while). It also maintains enough frequency to give you readers something worth coming back to with some regularity.

I’m also looking forward to branching out a bit into other topics like worldbuilding, games and game design, productivity, the many splendors of Baltimore, communal living, Christianity and the invisible world, food, language, and fun tidbits and background about my stories and their settings, characters, etc.

One question that’s still up in the air is whether I should pick regular days—say, Tuesdays and Fridays instead of just “two posts a week.” Could feel a little restrictive (though publishing as scheduled posts can help with that) but also sets up a dependable rhythm for readers. I’m probably going to go more freeform at least for April and see how that works out. But I’d love your thoughts.

How frequently would you like to see me posting? Does it matter if it’s regularly on the same days? Any broad topics or specific subjects you’d like to see more (or less) of?

Cheers!

—Ben

Jump-Start Your Writing With Ridiculously Easy Goals

I’m not a firm believer in writer’s block, but I have my tough writing days just like anyone else. Today’s one of them. Or rather, it’s becoming one because I’m forcing myself to work on Frobisher instead of Hubris Towers. Writing Hubris Towers is currently about like eating kettle corn. Once I’ve written a few paragraphs, I can’t help but write a few more. Frobisher, on the other hand, is getting so long and clever and funny and deep that it’s starting to feel like there’s no way I can bring it to a satisfactory fulfillment, and now I’m getting toward the end where I really need to figure out the extra-clever solutions to the very interesting problems I’ve been raising.

And the thing is, if I were to just sit down and write some stuff, it would probably be, on average, just as good as all the other stuff I’ve written, which is currently intimidating the hell out of me. Worst case scenario, it wouldn’t be, and I could delete it and write some more. It’s not like I’m facing bears or razor guns or something.

razor-gun by wiledog via DeviantArt

A razor gun, apparently.

But I managed to get myself into a mindset that’s more focused, I guess, on trying to figure it all out in advance rather than just writing it and giving myself more raw word count to shape into something exceptional. I’m finding every excuse and non-essential task I can find to avoid sitting down and actually writing.

It doesn’t help that my monthly target is looming, with 7,500 words left to write in the next few days (when I usually shoot for 5,000 per week).

I got out of it by making my goal easier. 7,500 more this month is too much to think about. Let’s start by adding 1,000 today. No, still intimidating. Maybe 500. Better, but that’s like half an hour unless I hit a groove, which isn’t looking likely. 250? Not at all scary, but what would I write? That’s still nearly a page and the whole point is I’m not sure what’s next

Bear in mind, of course, that if I were to just look at the page I’d probably manage to figure out what’s next. But so far I’m just arguing with myself while working on other things.

So I set a goal of 50 words. Seriously. That’s three minutes, one if I’m fast, five if I’m being ridiculous.

And it worked! Or at least it’s working. I’ve gotten moving on the writing, and as usual once I get out of my head and start spilling story it gets the flow going and soon I don’t want to stop.

There are a few reasons this works so well:

  • It cuts out the cost of trying – I can attempt 50 words any time I have a couple minutes to spare
  • It also cuts the cost of failing – who cares if I have to delete 50 words?
  • It gets my logistics in line – once I’ve done my 50 words, I have my tools in place and my Scrivener project open and ready for more
  • It forces me to look at what I’ve got so far, which gets me thinking about the story again
  • It provides an easy win. Once I’ve got 50 words (which is almost immediately), I can go for another 50. Then another. Then why not 100 this time? And by then I’ve finished 250 and that’s a quarter of a day’s production. A few more of those and I’m breaking actual targets.

So that’s what I’m dealing with today. Really am excited to see what I come up with for Frobisher now that the story’s open and growing again, though. In other news, I’m nearing completion on the paperback layout for The Stone and the Song. So much exciting in so little time! Stay tuned.

Cheers!

—Ben

Kate M. Colby: Why I Will Independently Publish

Hi friends!

One of these days I’ll probably get around to writing my own rationale for pursuing (primarily) independent publishing rather than traditional publishing contracts, but in the meantime I want to whet your appetite with this.

Kate Colby is a talented writer and I’ve been growing to greatly appreciate not only her writing but also her professionalism and strategic thinking about fiction as a full-time career. In this post, she lays out the questions, research, and reasons that ultimately led her to indie publishing, and many of them parallel my own.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. Does self-publishing still carry a stigma as far as you’re concerned? As a reader do you pay attention to whether a book was self-published?

Cheers!
—Ben

Kate M. Colby

In my “Kate’s Publishing Crash Course” series, I gave a general overview of the three main publishing options: traditional, vanity, and independent. In this article, I want to share with you all my personal reasoning behind choosing independent publishing as my writing career path.

It is no secret that I am planning to independently publish my novels and run my own author-entrepreneur business. However, I realized that, while I have shared my plans with you all, I have not shared why I have made this decision. Therefore, in this post, I want to explain how my views on writing and publishing changed entirely in less than a year.

Kate and DanielTo his endless satisfaction, I have to credit my husband, Daniel, with planting the seeds of independence in my brain. You see, as I described in a previous post, I have known that I am a writer since…

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