2023 Writing Wrap Up

Writing Accomplishments and Non Accomplishments

Well, here’s the year end writer’s status report. There’s nothing much to say, really. You don’t have to read this. Every year, around New Years, out of some masochistic impulse, I do a review of my writing activities and accomplishments for the year, and my plans for the next year. Sometimes I’ll go back after writing one of these things, and measure myself against previous years activities and plans. So in the spirit of talking to my future self, here’s the roundup for 2023.

Early in February, I re-released the Mermaid’s Tale. This novel was originally published in 2017 through Five Rivers out in Ontario. They did print, ebook and audiobook editions. Five Rivers closed down in 2020, and rights reverted back to me.

I sat on it for a few years. I had hopes of finding another publisher, or an agent for it. No luck. So, basically, I decided that if I couldn’t take it anywhere, I might as well get it back into the world, so I re-released it under my own banner.

Apart from that, very little of my work got out in the world. I did do a lot of writing as always. I think probably a couple of hundred thousand words worth.

* Two Novellas, 27,000 and 40,000 words;

* Several short stories and a script, probably collectively another 50,000 words;

* Some work in progress stuff for upcoming collections, 40,000 words;

* Alt-History fanfic stuff (don’t judge me) maybe 60,000 to 70,000;

* A lot of short essays, mostly posted on medium or facebook or on my blog, no clear idea – anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000.

A lot of writing, and almost nothing to show for it. Rather disappointing.

There were actually a lot of books that I was going to complete and release this year that just didn’t get off the ground:

* An adult/erotic novel;

* A couple of erotic short story collections (it was going to be one, but I had enough material for two);

* A vampire novel;

* A slasher collection/novel;

* A nonfiction book about Starlost;

* A Cthulhu/Atlantis style spec essay book;

And I was hoping At Bay Press would be releasing Twilight of Echelon this year.

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Thoughts on this Writing Business

Recently, I came across a year end wrap up by Ron Vital, a writer. Basically, he’s been working at this writing thing pretty hard core. And he’s been doing annual wrap ups, providing detailed breakdowns in terms of his expenses, his sales, his sales breakdowns and his marketing and promotional efforts going back six or seven years.

In some ways, we’re pretty similar. We’ve both been self publishing for about the same length of time. We’ve both kind of had this lead time of the first few years not making very much. We’ve both moved up dramatically in sales in the last few years. We both write and publish a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. We both have a lot of books.

Where Ron differs from me is that he’s much more meticulous about keeping track of what he’s spending and how, what he’s trying, where the money is going, and whether it produces a return. He’s also deliberately investing more and heavily into selling his books.

Now for me, I pretty much do no marketing at all. No bookbub, no book funnel, no amazon ads, facebook ads, no newsletter, etc. etc Certainly not in the methodical and meticulous way that he does it.

So here are the awkwards. He is heavy duty working at marketing, to the point where for most years he went heavily into the red. His last two years, he netted a profit of about $25 and then $500 (mostly by reducing expenses).

But we made about the same amount of money in terms of gross sales and revenue. Actually, I think I’ve consistently done better. Not necessarily by huge gigantic increments. But in terms of grosses, I think I’m about $500 to $1000 ahead.

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Conventions Update

THE WORLD FANTASY CONVENTION in Kansas City is coming up. Kansas City is actually in Missouri, a fact which provides me with no end of bemusement. I’m looking forward to it. I’ve been to several World Fantasy Conventions over the years, but too irregularly to do much good. I’m trying to make it a steady thing.  This should be a good Conference, good people, and maybe I’ll make a mark. I’m actually part of the programming, I have three items:

* Mythology & Fantasy of the Fox; 4PM Friday – with Alyc Helms, Kij Johnson, Rena Mason and Gillian Pollack. Hopefully this has nothing to do with what the Fox says. The Fox in literature and myth is one of the classic tricksters – a powerless, marginalized underdog who manages to triumph and overcome, not through power or strength or even courage, but through sheer cleverness. For the powers that be, for the establishment and social order, the Fox is a subversive, a deceiver, a persecutor and a thief. For the marginalized and underdogs, the fox is a hero. Everyone admits the fox is a clever beast, anti-social, revolutionary, and damned sexy. In my writing, many of my characters are ‘foxes’ – tricksters who survive by being smart.  I’m really looking forward to this panel, and a discussion about ‘trickster’ characters in folklore, modern culture and writing. Oh, and I’ll give away a book to an audience member as part of the panel.

* Reading; 5PM Saturday – I have half an hour to do a reading. I’m going to regale the audience with tales from Twilight of Echelon, short stories and vignettes based on the retro hallucinogenic works of artist Robert Pastern. Echelon is a world, or perhaps a reality, or perhaps something completely different, right next to our own, where everything familiar is recast and distorted as surreal and mysterious, and where the lost members of a human colony struggle to maintain their identity, unsure if the Earth they remember still exists, or if it ever existed.  Again, I’ll give away a book.

* Autographs – I’m also doing the Autograph session, along with everyone else. Honestly, in terms of fame, I’m a Z-list kind of guy, but I’m always startled to discover someone out there has heard of me and actually brings a book to sign. Typically, what I do, is just set up a display of a dozen of my books, relax and chat with anyone who stops by. If someone wants to buy something, I’ll sell it to them. If I like them, it’s free. I usually bring up a handful of books and make sure they find good homes before the convention starts.

This is actually my fourth major Writers Conference/Convention this year, and honestly, I’m glad I’m coming to the end.  I’m starting to get worn out.  For the record, this is what I’ve been up to.

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The Return of the Mermaid’s Tale

This year, Fossil Cove Press re-released The Mermaid’s Tale, a hard core, grim dark fantasy about Orcs, serial killers and redemption. It’s been out of print since Five Rivers Publications had closed down and rights reverted back to me.

The Mermaid’s Tale is a gritty, film noir chronicle of a nameless female Orc who is summoned to find the killer of a sacred being, a mermaid. The murder was so heinous that only a savage creature could have done it, so her people have summoned a monster to hunt a monster. The Orc’s a rough and brutal character, the product of a cruel life as an outcast, but smarter than she lets on.  Her quest takes her across a multi-racial city where she encounters different races, and finds herself on the trail of something her world has never seen before – the first serial killer. As she hunts, something peculiar happens, she develops empathy and insight, her interactions with strange races trigger empathy, and she becomes obsessed with stopping the killer. While all of this is going on, the City itself is spiraling into civil war. Can she stop the killer before it all goes to pieces?

I wrote this years ago, back in the days when I was in a writer’s group that included Steve Erickson (Malazan Book of the Fallen), David Keck (Tales of Durand), Ian Ross (CBC’s Joe from Winnipeg/Governor General Award Winner), Scott Ellis (Benny the Antichrist and Crawling to the Moon) and Mireille Theriault (Prairie Witch).  Am I name dropping? Hell yes!!

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Ron vs the Cover Monsters!

ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part IV

Ron and I had his four books ready to go, except for … everything.

A book isn’t just a manuscript. You need an ISBN registration, you need a cover, you need a back cover blurb and material, an author’s bio, an author’s photo, copyright information. We needed this stuff called Metadata – a long description, a short description, a one line description, something called BISAC, something else called SOE (search engine optimization).

Basically, after the big monolith of the manuscript itself, we also needed to build all the little tiny pieces of text that would go into the book and its online prooofiles.

Ron’s Toltec books were a trilogy, so we thought it would be a good idea to include adverts in each book of the trilogy for the other trilogy books. That turned into adverts for all of his books. And the idea of adverts suggested that we should include blurbs and art for the adverts. And the Adverts section needed to be slightly different for each of the four books. So a lot of work to keep track of.

If all this strikes you as bearing a passing resemblance to this thing called work? Yeah.

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Ron vs the Format Monster!

ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part III

Now, if you’ve been reading this series, we should be at the Happy Ending. My pal Ron has his rights back. His books are taken down from Amazon. He can do anything he wants with them. He’s no longer chained to an undead zombie publisher.

If you haven’t been reading this series… what’s wrong with you? Go back. Read the series. It’s got sex, adventure, naked women, shaved goats, literature, the Village People make a guest appearance, the cure for cancer, the secret to happiness. Go!

Now! Read! I’ll wait here!

Back? Yes, there was slight exaggeration. But what do I care, you read it.

So, I say “Ron, you’ve got your books back, what are you going to do with them?”

Now, he can take them to another publisher, that’s an option. Some small press publishers will take previously published books. A lot of them don’t. For a lot of publishers, it’s like a sandwich. When you’re publishing, you like to publish a fresh new sandwich. You don’t necessarily want to publish a sandwich that someone has had sex with before. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense.

But yes, finding another publisher. Definitely an option.

Or he can self publish. A lot of people are doing that these days. I’ve done it… a lot. I gave courses in it. I have a bunch of materials I can give him to get him going and make it easy for him.

He says to me, “I was hoping you would do it.”

Surprised, I quickly look around to see who he’s talking to, someone who apparently walked into the room when I wasn’t paying attention, and is gullible enough to do all sorts of work for free.

But it’s just the two of us.

I have a bad feeling.

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Ron vs the Zombie Publisher!

ADVENTURES WITH RON, Part One

So, I have this friend, Ron. R.J. Hore. He’s a nice guy, retired banker, genial fellow. I would see him at Collectables Conventions and Antique Fairs, Farmers Markets, Fleas. He’d always have a table selling his books, often sharing the table with another writer. He had a replica Saber Tooth Tiger skull at his table, that was cool.

Anyway, whenever I saw him, I’d buy one of his books. That’s a thing I do. I buy books by local writers. Small press, self published, whatever. I’m a writer, they’re writers. I want to support my brethren.

The bottom line, I got to know Ron.

Honestly, he’s a pretty good writer, and mostly, I admire his gumption. I don’t think I’ve got the fortitude to sit at tables at these little conventions, hawking my books, watching thousands of people walk by refusing to make eye contact. I’m not really a people person. But I like people who are.

He’s a small press guy, his books are mostly published by Champagne Book Group with editors and everything.

He met the Champagne people when they had a dealers table at a local convention called Keycon, showed them his stuff, and they liked it. The rest is history.

Anyway, one day we were talking, and he had a problem.

It seems that he had a second publisher, eTreasures. They’d published four books for him – We’re Not in Kansas, a stand alone, and a trilogy – Toltec Dawn, Toltec Khan and Toltec Noon.

But he’d lost touch with them. Not replying to correspondence, there were no royalties, no reports, nothing. He was feeling kind of abandoned.

I’m thinking ripped off.

But you know how it is, I have certain skills for solving certain kinds of problems, so I agreed to look into it.

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Hey, I’m back! And I’ve been busy!

Wow. I hadn’t realized I hadn’t posted here in quite some time. It’s been nine months since my last update.  I’ve actually been writing a lot. But it either goes into my hard drive, or it’s posted on Facebook or Medium. I suppose I’ve let the Blog sit a bit.

Partially, it was a sense that I didn’t have much coming out to talk about. I try and get a few books out each year, and use the website and blog to promote them. But that kind of tailed off it felt.  And, to be completely truthful, I don’t think I’ve got much of a readership on this thing. Or any readership at all. Not even when I was posting extremely regularly in prior years. I think that the Internet has evolved, often and perhaps mostly, in toxic directions, and Blogs like this have largely been left behind. There was a time when a good steady Blogger could build up a real following. I don’t think that’s the case now. Certainly, what I was finding was that there were no comments, my comments pages were just drowning in in spam-bots.

So technically, I guess, this is just kind of an accessible memoir. The real shot at building an audience is on social media, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, social media and discussion forums like Medium, Quora, Reddit, Substack. Most of which I’m hopeless at… but I’m devoted to at least giving it a try. So I’ve written a lot there, to no success whatsoever. But I do get a dozen or so people occasionally reading a facebook post.

Partially, I’ve just being busy with other things, as I’ll be noting.  Let me offer a loose chronological update.

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Thinking About Audiobooks – Part One

Well, I don’t really listen to audiobooks. Maybe I should. I listened to my friend Julie’s 12 episode Calamity Jane western audio podcast and that was pretty good. So maybe I should give it a shot.

Because Audiobooks are exploding all over the place these days. I’d heard about it the last couple of years, but I hadn’t quite realized how much.

So is this meaningful? Well, I looked up the statistics. And there’s a tangled knot of information. But here’s how I break it down. The US book industry (I’m assuming that includes Canada) is worth about 30 billion dollars in 2019-2020, the last year before Covid. Now of that, the big five book publishers, Penguin-Random House, Hachette, Harper-Collins, McMillan and Simon-Schuster, the guys you find dominating bookstores, represent about 10 billion dollars in sales during this period. There’s maybe another seven billion represented by the big five Educational publishers, the guys who do school textbooks and stuff. The rest, I assume divides up among the small and medium publishers, specialty houses, etc., the small fry.

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