Thursday, August 22, 2013

Guest Post by Tim Myers

Joe sez: I'm going to be taking a blogging break during August, but I've got twelve guest posts scheduled this month, so they'll appear as slotted.

Today it's Tim Myers...

First things first.

My name is not Tim Myers.

Well, that’s not exactly true.  It’s just not my only name.

I’ve been writing mysteries for over two decades.  I’ve sold more than a million books in that time, and the main lessons I’ve learned are that the keys to having a career are telling the best stories that I can, never giving up, and nurturing a willingness to adapt.

I broke into NY publishing going against common wisdom from the start, writing cozy mysteries from a male point of view.  I grew up devouring Agatha Christie, and that’s where I stayed when I first started writing.  In a field dominated by women, I was one of the few men working regularly in that particular subgenre of what I like to think of as gentle mysteries.  After fifteen books and three series with one of the Big 6 publishers, because of my sales numbers I had to make a choice: pick a female pseudonym and start over, or give up on my dreams of being a long term career writer.  My numbers were good, my books sold through and I was making royalties on all of my titles, but they weren’t spectacular enough to merit more books in the eyes of my publisher.

So, in 2004, I became Elizabeth Bright.

I won’t lie to you; it was tough giving up my identity at first, but I was still being published, and that was what counted, right?  And really, what other choice did I have?  Back then, traditional publishing was the only option I had if I wanted to have a sustainable income.

So I did what I had to do to keep my career alive.

Over the years, I added Melissa Glazer, Chris Cavender, Casey Mayes, and other names I still can’t disclose.  One even made the New York Times Bestseller list.  Let me tell you something; it’s tough making that list and not being able to tell anyone which book, or even which name, broke through.

After over forty books with the Big 6, though, I started feeling uneasy about how much publishers were demanding in new contract negotiations, and how little they were willing to budge on terms that were important to me.

Finally, I couldn’t do it anymore.

In 2011 and 2012, I had two contract offers from different Big 6 publishers, and I walked away from both of them.  There were several provisions neither publisher would budge on, but one of the most important aspects for me was not being able to swallow the noncompete clauses that would handcuff me in my efforts to continue earning a living.  I’d already published much of my backlist, and I’d enjoyed the process, so it was time to put up or shut up.  I decided to wait out certain contractual restrictions until I could start publishing continuing novels on my own, and I started creating brand new series while I waited.

And I never looked back.

It was a risky move, giving up sure money for my independence, but it was something that I had to do.  I didn’t have any idea at the time, but going out on my own was the best thing I could have done for my career, and overall wellbeing.  Having no one else to answer to, I found a newly elevated level of happiness in my work, and in my life.  Writing has become a true joy again, and  I love the control I have.  In truth, I enjoy all aspects of my work these days, from writing to designing covers to formatting, but the thing I love most is that I can write what I want, when I want.

It’s been an added bonus that I’m making more now than I ever have before, but even if that weren’t the case, I know that I would still make the same decision today.

For me, striking out on my own was the only real choice that I had, and I couldn’t be happier about it.  I’m grateful every day for something a lot of new writers take for granted, the fact that I even have a choice.

The only way that I’ve been able to have a career this long is by telling the best stories I can, never giving up, and being willing to change when the circumstances have dictated it.

Thanks to Joe for this opportunity to share a little of my story, and to Tess for championing such a worthy cause.

Joe sez: Tim's book Slow Cooked Murder is $3.99 on Kindle. I congratulate him on his success, and salute him for being the shortest guest blog post in the history of A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Go buy Slow Cooked Murder, right now.

Two things struck me about his brief but on-point post. First, the number of pen names he's had, and second, him talking about writing being fun again. Both of those hit home with me.

I had eight books with legacy publishers before calling it quits. And I only had four pen names (two are still secret, and one, like Tim, is female.)

None of it was fun.

I originally went with J.A. Konrath instead of Joe Konrath because I was writing a first person female protagonist, and I thought readers would be more accepting of the books if they thought the author was a woman. The first copies of Whiskey Sour made no mention that I was a dude. It was my idea, and maybe it helped me sell a few more books, but I'm not J.A., I'm Joe.

Then I became Jack Kilborn because my publisher dropped their mystery line during my second contract, and really messed up the releases of my last three books, causing a sales dip (even though two of those three went into second printings in hardcover). So when I switched to horror, I went with a pen name so I'd have a larger bookstore pre-order than my last J.A. Konrath title.

It worked, and Afraid became my best selling title. Then I had a falling out with my publisher. In the meantime, I did a sci-fi book, and figured new genre, new name. So I became Joe Kimball for Timecaster. But about that time I was starting to sell well in Kindle, and I suggested going out with Joe Konrath on Timecaster. They didn't go for it, and Joe Kimball was a dismal failure.

Then I really started making serious money on self-pubbed ebooks, and many claimed it was my name recognition (courtesy of my legacy publishers) that was responsible for my success. So I wrote some books under a pen name, and made a ton of money, just to prove to myself that I could.

No, I'm not going to reveal that pen name. 

But I shall now reveal my newest pen name. Here's the story...

These four titles were part of a super-secret experiment I've been conducting.

I wanted to see if it was possible to completely write, format, make my own cover art, and publish an ebook, in less than an hour. While drunk.

Well, I did it. Four times.

In four drunken hours on four separate occasions (I love beer), I published four ebooks.

And I'm proud to say that these four titles earn me about $10 a week.

That's right. You don't need great cover art to sell ebooks. You don't need a household name (ask Robert Galbraith.) You don't need lots of words.

You can make money, right now, with almost no effort. And who needs a degree in art or a mastery of Photoshop? With no talent at all, and very little time, you can create covers like these:

You might say, "But Joe, these are only making you $50 a month. That's really bad!"

That's what it looks like to the casual observer. But you need to envision the big picture.

$50 a month is $600 a year. In ten years, that's $6000.

Have you ever made $6k in only four hours, drinking beer?

Now I'll take some questions.

Q: This is a joke, right?

A: Do you remember back when you were a young writer, and you wrote for the sheer joy of it? No worry about craft or structure. No concern over marketability. No angst over if you were good enough.

I became a writer because I enjoyed amusing myself. When I was a teenager back in the 1980s, I would actually print up stories on my Brother Word Processor, head out to Kinko's, and spiral bind copies for my extremely tolerant and amazingly supportive family and friends. Few things in my career have ever equaled watching a loved one laugh at one of my stupid story compilations.

Surely I'm not the only young writer that did that.

But ever since treating writing as a profession, I've lost some of that joy. Writing became work. The act of creation is a bankable skill that requires a lot of effort to hone into something salable.

That's what this experiment was about. Doing it just for fun.

So I popped open some cold ones and went wild with dumb jokes, writing and giggling like an idiot, luxuriating in the pure, unadulterated glow of creation. But instead of Mom putting them on the fridge when I was done, I went ahead and self-published.

And I'm making money. Not a lot, but enough to amuse me. And maybe a few others.

In fact, some people are even giving these ebooks good reviews. Though the bad reviews are a lot funnier. I'm highly amused when people don't get the joke. It's the rascal in me.

Now I'll take some questions.

Q: This is really for real?

A: Each ebook is 99 cents, and takes about five minutes to read. Here are the links:

How to Stop Farting
How to Give Good Sex
How to Get Rich 
How to Attract the Opposite Sex

Q: Aren't you just encouraging people to publish crap and rip readers off?

A: Actually, I'm satirizing self-pubbed crap, and parodying self-help books.

I also don't think these are a rip-off.

If you have a sense of humor, you should find a few laughs in these. If you wouldn't pay 99 cents for a few laughs, don't buy them.

And those who buy them thinking they're real? Well, that's just plain funny as hell. Anyone who looks at the cover and reads the description should know they're a joke.

Q: OMG! I clicked on the link and those ebooks really exist! Are you really Doctor Hans Uberass?

A: As far as you know.

Q: So why didn't you put them under your own name? Maybe your fans would like these.

A: I didn't write them for my fans. I wrote them for fun, as a joke. Some people will get the joke. Some won't. The goal wasn't to sell a bunch. Hell, the goal wasn't to sell any at all. It was to create something that amused me, simply because I could, and then tell my close friends and family about them so they could share the laugh. Just like when I was a teenager.

Q: That's wrong! Writing is a serious profession! You're making a mockery of it, and hurting readers in the process! This is why self-publishing is a pox on the world!

A: I know that a lot of people are wringing their hands, worried that the self-publishing revolution will produce a lot of crap.

They're right. It will.

But that's okay.

One of the wonderful things about being human is our creativity. We like making stuff. Sometimes the stuff is good and will benefit a lot of people. Sometimes it's only good enough for Mom to hang on the refrigerator.

There's room for everybody.

Amazon has given writers the greatest gift imaginable. They've allowed us to satisfy our innate, creative desires, and reach readers.

If your ebook sucks, it won't reach many readers. But you can still have fun with it. And perhaps learn from it, continue to grow as an artist, and maybe one day you'll write something that doesn't suck.

We're all so concerned about making money and being successful.

But no poet ever wrote to make money. No amateur painter ever expected to have his work hung in the Lourve. You don't throw a pot hoping for fame, and you didn't take piano lessons because you have aspirations to play Carnegie Hall.

You do those things because you want to.

Q: But... but... but... if there are no quality standards, no minimum talent requirements, then how will readers know what ebooks to buy?

A: That's why I'm selling my backlist to a legacy publisher. Their gatekeeping abilities will serve as imprimatur, directing readers to the good stuff that has been professionally vetted.

Q: But you just said...

A: Kidding.

Lighten up, laugh a bit. Life is so much better that way.

And support Doctor Hans Uberass on his Epic Quest to Make Self-Publishing Not So Serious.

Q: How can I support Doctor Hans Uberass on this Epic Quest to Make Self-Publishing Not So Serious?

A: I'm glad you asked.

I realize an hour is probably not enough time for most people to write and publish an ebook. And truth told, with the proof-reading and tweaking and editing, it probably took me a bit more than an hour each for these. Maybe an hour and fifteen minutes.

But there is no reason why an ebook can't be written and published in a few hours. And there's no reason you shouldn't try.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to write, edit, format, create your own cover, and publish an ebook in an eight hour period.

If you do that, I'll do a blog featuring your ebook, so the whole world can learn what a speedy little creative dynamo you are.

I'll be honest. I don't think most writers will be able to do this. The Uberass ebooks are between 1500 and 2500 words, and the jokes aren't all bad. The covers, done in Microsoft Paint, look terrible, but actually had some thought put into them (they're readable as thumbnails and grayscale, have a distinct brand look, and are hopefully funny.)

Are you faster and better than Konrath?

If you're up to the challenge, publish your ebook, then email me the link with ONE DAY EBOOK CONTEST in the header. I will blog about everyone who manages to complete the challenge. No joke, no trick. If you can do it, I'll blog about it.

Now have at it.