Sunday, April 19, 2015

Grandma? Part 2

Joe sez: Congrats on finally publishing Grandma? Part 2, son.

Talon: Thanks! You, too.

Joe: This one took a lot longer to write than the first one.

Talon: If it wasn't for all the kittens I had to save, or the many babies I delivered, this would've been done a lot quicker. Hopefully, Part 3 won’t be as troublesome.

Joe: We followed the same writing formula as Grandma? Part 1:

1. We talk about what's going to happen.
2. You write it.
3. I change everything in the rewrite.

Talon: Tough, but fair.

Joe: The difference between now and two years ago, when we began this project, is that we did some scenes together using Google Docs. What did you think of that experience?

Talon: It was a lot of fun, a lot of learning, and something I would come back to if I ever did another collaboration.

Joe: Were you amazed by how fast I can write, watching me do it live in a Google Doc?

Talon: I do have to admit, the professionalism and the way I excel in the art of prose is pretty amazing.

And yeah, you were good, too.

Joe: You've made a few hundred bucks off of Part 1. What did you do with the money? Investments? Stocks? Bonds? Real estate? Bitcoins? College fund?

Talon: The money went directly and safely under my bed.

Joe: Saving for something special?

Talon: All of it is going to strippers when I turn 18.

Joe: Thank god. I thought you were going to just blow it on something stupid.

Talon: What are you going to do with your half?

Joe: It already went to strippers.

Talon: I think we’re getting off topic.

Joe: When can we expect to see Part 3? In another two years?

Talon: I can ask you the same question. But, if I had to estimate, I’d say, hopefully, in a month.

Joe: It's true that I've been pretty busy with other projects, and Grandma? wasn't a priority for me. But it's also true that you rewrote Part 2 about a gazillion times. So it isn't all my fault.

Talon: The more reading and writing I did, the more I realized I needed to change some things. Like, grammar, plot, characterization, suspense, POV, pace, explaining why things happened; you know, all that crap readers care about.

Joe: Yeah, readers do tend to care about that crap. Did you know Stephen King's son writes?

Talon: No way! That’s cool. Man, I wish Stephen King was my dad. He has like everything you don’t.

Joe: Including an appreciative son.

Talon: Let's list the things:
Good looks.
More books sold.
A nicer house.
Multiple movie deals.

Joe: You know King's son writes under the name "Joe Hill" because he doesn't want to ride on his father's coat tails.

Talon: Who would do such a thing? I could never use someone’s last name in order to boost my popularity. Which is why my last name is King now.

Joe: You're funny, Talon.

Talon King: It’s Mr. King, and can we hurry this interview up?

Joe: Yessir, Mr. King.

Since we're talking about Stephen King, I want to say I really loved Lawnmower Man 2: Beyond Cyberspace. Other famous authors would just cash in on their popularity and slap their name on any old piece of garbage.

Talon: Or create a Kindle World.

Joe: You're grounded.

Talon: Thanks, dad.

Joe: And since I now know where you hide your money, I'm now off to the strip club! Woo hoo!

Grandma Part 2 is now available on Kindle for only $0.99. Grandma Part 1 is free for a limited time.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Path to Success

On the surface, the path to becoming a successful writer has three key components.

1. Write a great book.

2. Do whatever you can to make that book a success.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2. 

Like all paths, just because the path exists doesn't mean you'll be able to follow it. There are known routes up Mount Everest, but there are no guarantees you'd make the summit no matter how good you are or how hard you try. Even the best mountain climbers must deal with the unpredictability of weather, among many other bad things that can happen.

Luck is always a factor.

Even if you're an Olympic gold medalist with natural talent and years of training, you were lucky no one was better than you at that time. Because all records get broken. Someone always winds up being better.

Hell, you were lucky a bunch of Greeks thought it was a fun idea to compete in sports thousands of years ago. Without them, you'd be doing something else.

Keeping the luck factor in mind, let's review those three points.

1. Write a great book.

This is subjective. There is nothing inherent in a collection of words that makes those words "great". We can study writing, narrative structure, characterization, grammar, punctuation, works that scholars deem great, works that the masses deem great, and the only real connection among them all is that someone wrote them.

I write what I like to read. I'm able to defend why I like it. I'm able to defend what I wrote. I try to be as self-aware and deliberate as possible, and I'm usually able to justify why I used an em dash rather than a semi-colon, why I ended the chapter where I did, why the twist was needed, and why the joke was funny.

That's not to say that things that aren't deliberate can't be successful. On the contrary, the world if full of freak success stories where the artist was neither deliberate nor self-aware.

But, in a world where luck plays such a big role, knowing why you're doing what you're doing is probably going to improve your luck.


A key problem is that you can do things right--defensible, self-aware things--and still fail.

That could mean that maybe you didn't do things right after all. That maybe your meticulously handcrafted narrative actually sucks.

Or maybe, being an artistic type, you're so moody and sensitive that your self-awareness tells you that you'll never be good enough, and that any success you may have attained was a fluke.

Both of these could be correct. Or incorrect. Because no one knows why a book becomes a success, other than luck.

Still, I'd rather call my shots on the pool table than win by slop. The more deliberate and self aware you are, the more you can sink what you're aiming at. It doesn't mean you'll win, but it means you're exercising some control over the outcome.

2. Do whatever you can to make that book a success.

Before you begin this step, you need to identify what your goals are, and what success is.

Then you need to research the different avenues open to you, to pursue goals and success.

It's different for everyone. And it involves luck.

Again, the more deliberate you are, the better your odds. At least, that makes sense logically. The actual numbers may not hold up. You have to be self-aware to know that.

In other words, you can be pretty damn sure you're doing everything right, and you can still fail to hit your definition of success.

You should always be able to reach your goals, because goals are within your power. Finishing your book by May 10th is a goal. Self-publishing it by Christmas is a goal.

Getting an agent is a dream, not a goal, because that involves an agent saying yes to you, and that isn't within your power. Neither is hitting a bestseller list, getting a great review, selling 1000 copies, or getting fan mail. Those aren't goals.

Your goals, and your definition of success, are plastic. They'll change. Make sure your goals push you to learn, experiment, practice, and work harder. That should, theoretically, improve your luck and chances at whatever you call success.

As with your writing, this applies to how you promote yourself, your titles, your brand. Try anything and everything. Luck still comes into play, but reason dictates it is better to do something than nothing.

Even though doing something doesn't guarantee anything.

Yeah, it's frustrating. So is life.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2. 

We've all heard about artists who didn't become famous until after they've died. For every Van Gogh, there are tens of thousands who died without fame, and were then forgotten.

Did I mention this is all about luck?

You cannot game this system. There is no surefire key. No shortcut. Not even a discernible path.

Maybe hard work helps. Maybe being self-aware helps. Maybe being deliberate helps. Maybe being stubborn and refusing to give up helps. But you aren't guaranteed anything.

If this discourages you, quit. Find a career that involves less luck. Writing is not for the risk-averse. The world can live without your prose. I'm sure of this, because there have been better writers than you or I who have died in poverty and obscurity, their words never to be discovered.

Your words may never be discovered.

In fact, for the majority of you reading this, you'll never reach even your most modest definition of success.

That's because your definition of success is wrong. It's based on money or fame or numbers of something that involves the approval of others.

That's a fail. The three steps I wrote above are bullshit.

There is actually just one true path to success:

Success is meeting your goals.

That definition doesn't depend on money or sales or agents or reviews or publishers or advertising or how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have. It has nothing to do with anyone other than you.

Success is all about setting goals that are within your control, and then hitting those goals.

Maybe some people will read you and like you. Maybe they won't. That all comes down to luck.

You can try to improve your luck, but it might not work.

You can, however, become a better writer. Write more. Try more. Do more.

The world may never accept you. But that shouldn't be your goal.

Your goal should be to accept yourself. That's within your control. And it doesn't involve luck. It involves learning, trying, working, practicing, experimenting, finishing, never giving up.

You can do that.

You can write books.

Learn to be happy with that, and everything else is just a bonus.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a book to finish.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Guest Post by Tracy Sharp

Wow. Kindle Worlds. What a brilliant and fun idea! This is a game where everyone wins.

Writers who want to play in another writer’s sandbox are able to create their own castles and add them to the structures that are already there. The original writer has the joy of watching their characters take off in new and exciting directions while earning a percentage from new stories, fans of the series can continue reading about their favorite characters, and authors can earn a royalty while writing in a popular series and expanding their readership.

Kindle Worlds is also a fun way for established writers to explore writing in a series different than the one in which they normally write. Several bestselling writers have written stories for Kindle Worlds, such as Theresa Ragan, Jana Deleon, Russell Blake, and Marquitta Valentine.

I love when musicians collaborate or sample the songs of other artists in their own work, especially when the artists are from vastly different music genres. The result is usually fresh and outstanding. It’s remarkable what merging the visions of different artists can produce. I don’t see Kindle Worlds as being much different, and I look forward to reading and writing many Kindle Worlds books.

I am especially excited about the launch of the Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World, as I’ve been a huge fan of the series for many years. A couple of years ago I had the honor of collaborating with Joe on the short novel Jacked Up, which teams up characters from his wonderful Jack Daniels world with my series character Leah Ryan. So when Joe invited me to write a full-length novel featuring both characters, I was thrilled and jumped at the chance. The result was Happy Hour, which also combines both the Jack Daniels and Leah Ryan worlds.

I’m currently working on a story for the Codename: Chandler World, which launches On May 5, and I’m having a blast. So many times during the writing of these stories, I feel the biggest smile cross my face. It’s amazing that it’s possible for writers to choose from so many different worlds and just take off with them. The possibilities are endless.

How many of you are working on Kindle Worlds stories?  Tell us in comments. I look forward to reading them! 

Joe sez: It was fun co-writing Jacked Up with Tracy, and I'm thrilled to have her tackle a Jack/Leah novel on her own.

It's sort of like watching someone cook one of your recipes, in your kitchen, buy adding their own personal spin on the dish. Writers willing to let others experiment with their characters are in for some tasty surprises. And because both the Jack Daniels and Associates Kindle World and the Codename: Chandler Kindle World allow writers to keep full possession of their IPs, there are no sticky copyright issues over who owns what. Your characters stay your characters, and neither I nor Amazon have any claim to them. 

Currently, Ann Voss Peterson and I are looking for writers to expand our Codename: Chandler Universe. We just finished a story with F. Paul Wilson, where Chandler meets his mainstay hero Repairman Jack. They fight. A lot. It was a ridiculous amount of fun to write, and we believe the readers will enjoy it just as much.

If you're interested in writing a Chandler story, email me. The deadline prior to launch is April 30. To learn more about Chandler, check out the page on my website.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Self Published Authors Guild

I was told by the Bilderberg Group that I can finally make this announcement; I'm the first president of the newly formed SPAG - Self Published Authors Guild.

All of the top indie authors in the world have been meeting, in person and in highly complicated Skype chats where we all have little squares like the credits of The Brady Bunch (or The Hollywood Squares) in order to create an organization that specifically meets the growing needs of self-pubbed authors.

Our first orders of business will be as follows:

1. Start the Hugs For Reviews initiative.

Everyone knows that I've gotten more than 15,000 reviews on Amazon, and I've paid an average of $50 per review to people who haven't actually read my books. Hugs For Reviews will streamline this process, providing SPAG members with a database of fake reviewers (examinateurs fausses) who will pretend to read your work and then give it five stars, all in exchange for cash.

We're calling it "Hugs For Reviews" instead of "Cash For Reviews" to ward off all the whiny little Twitter bitches who will cry moral outrage if they hear money is involved. 

2. Demand, via notarized petition delivered to Jeff Bezos via overnight FedEx, that Amazon begin paying KDP authors 200% royalties.

For years, we've endured the indignity of 70% royalties, without any collective bargaining power to get Amazon to raise that number to something fair. SPAG members are responsible for more than 85% of Amazon's total world sales, and we want a bigger piece of the pie.

With 200% royalties, Amazon will pay us double the list price of every book we sell on their many websites around the world. They'll also pay double current market value for our cover art, formatting, proofreading, and when required, ghost writing. 

3. Initiate the "Let's Shame A Legacy Author" campaign. 

Starting immediately, we will be partnering with renowned telemarketing firm CYDD (Call You During Dinner) to pester everyone who has a current Big 5 contract by phoning them up to 38 times a day, calling them "Pinhead!" and then hanging up. 

Our Facebook page will list everyone who has ever signed a legacy deal, along with their addresses, pictures of their homes, cars, children, pets, and childhood friends. Then we will be sending them vague, cryptic, anonymous threats such as, "That's a really nice car. Stop signing legacy contracts or we'll blow up Wyoming."

Also, we'll probably do something with LinkedIn, once we figure out if it facilitates anything other than irritating humble bragging.

4. Buy the Authors Guild, tear it down, and build something useful in its place, like an Uno's Pizzaria.

Damn, Uno's is some great stuffed pizza! And that's no April Fool joke.

SPAG will be open to the tens of thousands of self-pubbed authors who can offer documented and notarized proof that they earn more than $500,000 a year. That should cover just about everyone.

As your first SPAG president, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that I have your many concerns as an indie author first and foremost in mind, and I'll devote myself 24/7 to meeting your needs, which will be difficult to juggle with all the embezzling I plan on doing with SPAG membership fees.

Also, SPAG membership is $500,000 a year.

This annual fee includes a part-time staff member who can help you update your LinkedIn profile. His name is Charlie, but don't give him any of your personal info, because he's a registered sex offender.

I encourage you to join SPAG immediately. With our united efforts can we stomp out the injustice of something or other. 

Remember: It's Us vs. Them. Only by driving a wedge between us and our well-meaning peers can we ever hope to show them how much they suck.

Joe Konrath, SPAG President