Publishing Virtual Danger

Well, the fundraiser for Virtual Danger is over, now, and it was a stressful yet resounding success. I mentioned it here when the fundraiser began, I think. Stressful in large part because it went right up to the last day looking like it wouldn’t even come close to the goal, even while the costs of the project continued to increase. My initial $300 goal was based on just the cost of setting up and printing Virtual Danger, but then I ordered DNGR T-Shirts for my wife and I to wear at Phoenix Comicon (and otherwise), which cost me about $60, and I ordered a bunch of DNGR business cards to hand out to people, which linked back to, which explains a bit about who/what DNGR is, links to the book, and lists & encourages derivative works (currently just the one song, but I’m hoping it’ll be more before PHXCC’13)—cards to give out myself, but also to give out to other people who bought the shirts (With an extra push the day after the fundraiser ended, based on a great/surprise Zazzle coupon code, there will soon be 6 people with DNGR T-Shirts in their wardrobes.) or otherwise might want to spread the word about DNGR.

I ran all the numbers today (okay, this is pen-and-paper rough math stuff; I won’t have all the real numbers until the end of the month) and it looks like I got $506.76 (after cc/processing fees) from 7 contributors (the 8th contribution was for a different project; don’t ask, but thanks again, if you’re reading this!) who paid for 8 copies of the eBook, 6 copies of the signed paperback, 2 DNGR T-Shirts (the other two were sold at cost, after the fundraiser, and are not included in these numbers), 1 copy of the Virtual Danger audiobook on MP3 CD, and 1 new work of art. After paying for setup of the paperback, printing 50 copies, getting the shirts made, the cards ordered, and paying to have the paperback listed in bookstore databases (i.e.: getting it on Amazon, et cetera), plus the cost of producing the MP3 CD, the (estimated) raw materials for the painting, and the cost of the ISBNs I’ve assigned to the eBook & paperback, the Virtual Danger fundraiser looks to have come out ~$37 in the black.

This is a very good thing, even if it is a little close. This means that any and all money I earn from selling the remaining 43 copies (6 for backers, 1 for Library of Congress) is (effectively) pure profit. I’ve listed the book at $12.99 for bookstores, but since the cost of this set is already paid, I’m planning on charging $10 for direct sales (same as the fundraiser; $5 for the eBook, $10 more to add the signed paperback)—for example, at PHXCC’13. Same for eBooks and audiobooks; all the revenue which makes it to me will be profit. Profit is good, but from my perspective it feels a lot better to know that even if this book completely fails to find readers, even if not a single other copy sells, it hasn’t cost me anything (financially). It isn’t a loss. I have books which are still at a lossVirtual Danger is not one of them, and this is a very, very good thing.

((As an aside, there was a small problem with one of the files I uploaded to LSI, and I had to re-submit it. Something I’ve never had to do before, they wanted me to “flatten” the image before saving to PDF. No trouble, took but a minute, yet … they may charge me an extra $40 for re-submitting the file, and then Virtual Danger is … well, a bit in the red. Like, sell one more copy and we’re back in the black, red, but red nonetheless. It is not my current expectation to be assessed this fee, but even if I am, the book is still in good shape. I’m pretty sure I can swing one copy.))

Anyway, I sent the files to Lightning Source (LSI) on Sunday as planned, it got approved even earlier than expected (today, rather than tomorrow), and my order for 50 copies went through this afternoon. Hopefully it won’t take them too long to print them. Could be anywhere from one day to one week, in my experience. Then there’s waiting a week for UPS Ground shipping. And then, the exciting moment when the book is in my hands for the first time, in print. Still a nice feeling, that. Anyway, that means they’ll be here some time between the 15th and the 21st of this month, which is cutting it a little close, since I’ll be “loading in” for PHXCC at the convention center on the 22nd, and the convention is open to the public on the 23rd. I love it when a plan comes together. I also love that I’ve got enough experience with this whole process to be able to schedule things so closely without real fear of random errors; I know how long each step takes, and I know how to do my work to get excellent and timely results.

On the “every copy sold is profit” note, if Virtual Danger does do well, it should mean I won’t have to run a fundraiser for my next book. In fact, if I hadn’t put all our money (including all the money Modern Evil Press earned from sales of Never Let the Right One Go last year) into buying and furnishing this house, I wouldn’t have had to run a fundraiser this time, either. There was plenty of profit from sales of the limited edition hardcover book to cover publishing one or two new paperbacks (or part of a computer upgrade), and if/when we can afford to pay my business back, it ought to be in the black for quite a while.

Some of that depends on how PHXCC’13 goes, of course. Pretending that they’ll keep prices the same for another year, it’ll cost me another ~$250 to have a Small Press table again, next year. If I don’t earn at least that much revenue at con, I certainly won’t consider returning, and if I just barely earn that much, I probably won’t consider returning. Half (or more) of my books aren’t at a point of “pure profit”, yet, so sales of things like, say, my poetry books, effectively count as $0 toward paying for the table. Most of my other books are priced between $8 and $15, but only represent $2-$4 profit applicable toward table fees. Selling the last 6 remaining copies of Never Let the Right One Go at full price covers most of it (and is effectively ‘pure’ profit), but the first 8+ Untrue Trilogies I sell contribute almost nothing. So there’s always math to do.

Importantly, I currently have no idea what I’m going to be doing over the next year, or whether it’ll be something that could even be sold at PHXCC’14. If I spend the next year crafting video games, or an interactive novel, or just working on my art, I might not have any new physical product to offer. If I happen to write another book or two, great, that’s easy. If I actually follow through on on the the board game ideas I’ve been rolling around, that might be very popular at Comicon (but represents a massive change in skill sets, manufacturing and distribution partners, and scale of capital outlay), and could become my best (or worst) year yet. Right now, I have no firm idea where I’ll be (creatively) a year from now, so it’s hard to say whether paying for a booth next year is a particularly good idea. Worst case would be showing up with the same exact inventory as I leave con with this year, and hoping to find enough new readers/buyers to make it worth my while, I suppose.

Coming back to the subject of Virtual Danger and profitability, I’m saying that, while it’s nice to think that 43 copies of the paperback will sell at $10 each and earn me $430 to put toward another book, the reality is that I have other overhead costs to cover. Not including Comicon, I have hundreds of dollars a year of overhead (reduced as much as possible, already) above and beyond the costs of publishing new books; web hosting, business licenses, office supplies, et cetera. Some of the $430 would have to go toward re-ordering Virtual Danger, as well, same as I just re-ordered Cheating, Death. Part of it would almost certainly go toward another Comicon table. …and this is why I need to do fundraisers. This, and the fact that my average book seems to sell fewer than a dozen copies in its first year (and fewer thereafter), so it’s more likely that Virtual Danger will earn $100 or $200 than the $430 or $1k needed to think about paying for the next book without a fundraiser.


Anyway, it’s still exciting to have a new book coming out, and doubly so to have it be coming out already profitable. Thanks to all the people who supported the project financially, and everyone else who has offered their help along the way. Most of this wouldn’t be possible without the lot of you.

New novel, new fundraiser: Virtual Danger

First, I want to start with an: Oops! Apparently the process of buying, moving into, and settling into a new home is … all-consuming. It consumed all our money, all our time, and all my attention last month. In fact, March 2013 is now one of only two months since March 2001 (when I actually started this blog) where I didn’t create at least one post here. Oops. Sorry.

Second: Hey! We bought a house! I’m now a homeowner! Mandy and I found a nice place to live in downtown Phoenix, within walking distance of downtown and the arts district. It has room for us to dedicate two entire rooms to my creative endeavors (one is to be a dedicated art studio, the other an office and writing space) and still have plenty of other space for the rest of our life & stuff. (Oh. My. Word… We own so much stuff!) As I posted before, this entirely changes our financial situation re: debt, but not in too terrible a way. We can still afford everything which was in our budget before the move, but we have a lot “more debt” and we can’t pay our highest-interest debts off as quickly as we were doing before. I’ll make an update on that, soon-ish. Maybe I’ll also put together a photos post, so you can see what we just spent $100k on. Probably in early May.

Virtual Danger, a novel in The Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot SagaFinally, the main subject of this post: Virtual Danger, a novel in The Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot SagaI’m doing a little fundraiser to try to cover the cost of its publication in advance. This is, in fact, directly related to item #2, above, where we bought a house on short notice and used all our money up; the profits I had from last year’s Never Let the Right One Go sales… well, I seem to have lent them to myself in order to make the down payment & get the house furnished. (I fully intend, and tracked, all the savings balances (tires, computer, business, et cetera) I was dipping into, so that we can get back to where we were a couple of months ago… eventually. Maybe by Christmas.) So I can sortof afford to get Virtual Danger published/printed so I can sell it at Phoenix Comicon, but we’re cutting pretty close to the bone, now, and if anything else needs work, or if something goes wrong, or needs repair, before I can get some of that savings built back up … putting $300 from my own pocket toward a book I’m not sure will make any money at PHXCC’13 is … scary. If I need to, I’ll do it, but it’s scary.

What would be less scary, which you can help with, is if enough people pre-ordered the book (in its various forms and formats) to cover part or all of those costs before I send the book to the printer. In order to have the books printed and delivered to me in time to sell at PHXCC’13, near the end of May, I have to place the order during the first week of May—the fundraiser’s deadline is Saturday, 5/4/2013 at 11:59pm MST, and if all goes well I’ll submit all the files to Lightning Source on Sunday, 5/5/2013 and they’ll start working on them first thing Monday morning. That gives me just over 3 weeks to raise $300. It’ll either be relatively easy or painfully, stressfully unsuccessful. Continue reading New novel, new fundraiser: Virtual Danger

I guess I could blog…

So. November came and went. My 2nd novel crashed and burned at around 32k words – if you follow me on Facebook, or are in my NaNoWriMo circle on G+, you already know the details. It took a wrong turn within the first 2 chapters, for example, veering away from my initial conceptual intent. Then, at nearly every opportunity, the characters & the writing veered the book away from any opportunity for plot, conflict, or in some cases for meaningful character growth/development – usually by skipping beyond the need for it. Solutions were cropping up before I’d reached the problems, nullifying whole sections of the plot. Interactions and conversations were demonstrating depths of character before I’d been able to express the flaws which the events of the book were meant to turn into that depth. And so on. Right now, I don’t even want to read that draft. I’m considering sharing it with a few trusted people (Let me know if you’re interested; you’re willing to give constructive feedback and can be trusted not to share a terrible, unedited, unfinished book around, right?), to get them to read it and tell me what they like about it, what they hate about it, and what they think I can do to improve & develop it into something that works – and then still not read it, but instead, later, write the whole thing from scratch. Probably with a plan, an outline, or some such thing prepared, first, rather than running in blind and on a very tight schedule.

The Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot Saga book came out fine. I haven’t read that yet, either, but I know at least the first half is quite good. (The half I wrote this summer, which I did read, before beginning to write new material.) Tentatively titled Deep Noodling, I’m definitely looking for Beta Readers for that book, which I hope to have in print this Spring. I have a feeling that some of the descriptions need clarifying, and that my arguments on both sides of the Extreme-Copyright-Enforcement vs. Everything-Is-A-Remix argument could use some work, but I’m pretty sure the emotional arcs, the tone, and the world-building all turned out better than I’d hoped. Reading/writing this book made me want to read the rest of the books in the DNGR Saga… None of which exist. Yet.

If you’d like access to the Google Docs Drive document where I copy/pasted the first draft chapter by chapter as I wrote it, let me know your Google email address so I can share it with you. I’d love to get as much feedback as possible before going to print. And this one, I think, needs a lot more work than Never Let the Right One Go did.

I also need to ‘get off my butt’ and get to work on drawing. I’m hoping to create a series of illustrations for the DNGR book, as well as a cover unlike anything I’ve attempted to date. I just need to start by figuring out how to draw a set of characters whose descriptions were, at best, still quite surreal. I mean, how can a noodle, while remaining noodly, also become skeletal? What does it mean for my protagonist to be a noodle? Is he a humanoid version of something like the FSM? Does he have hair? And Glitterfairy… I’m pretty sure she’s basically just a cloud of glitter which appears to express the silhouette of a fairy when you look through it. Except she can play musical instruments and interact physically with people and the environment. And then there’s Robot. Who is a robot, of alien design/origin, at least vaguely humanoid, capable of excellent drumming, and … metallic, I think, may have been the only physical descriptor I used?

Maybe I won’t try to draw them … but then what do I put on the cover?

I don’t know…

Anyway, after my brain broke over that 2nd novel like Batman’s spine over Bane’s knee, I’ve spent the last couple weeks recuperating. Too crazy and messed up to accomplish anything much. Playing video games, mostly – did I explain that here, before? About how I’ve been using video games this year to distract myself from thoughts of suicide and other mental/emotional danger zones? I’m still super-broken, right now.

I mean, yesterday (or the day before, or … some time this week – time/space/dates are flowing/blurring together for me, lately; was it last week?) I read someone’s brief blog post about how they’d approached publishing a book in an out-of-traditional-order way, by podcasting one set of stories before going to print with another (related) story, and were considering some third route for their next book. All stuff I’ve done, mostly stuff I’ve seen others do, even the stuff they’re thinking of as new/original, just things I naturally did in those untraditional ways from day one (over a decade ago, now) of my publishing adventure. Anyway, there was some throwaway line in the middle about how their podcasting had helped them build interest in the book before it went to print so they were able to sell 1,000 copies as soon as it was available – and characterizing that as not having been enough to consider the book’s launch a success.

So, then I spent a few hours (days?) having a slow-burn anxiety attack. At first, I didn’t even realize what was happening, or why. I just felt like dying, like being crushed, like death, like pain and acid and suffocation, and like failure and disappointment and giving up. Because, in a way which oughtn’t be so deep down, it hurts me that my highest-volume title has sold fewer than 80 copies, and that my highest-revenue title has netted me around $450, while other people sell 1,000 copies in a day of their first book and don’t consider it a success. I’ve built a profitable business out of my dozens of sales; can you imagine what I could do with hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of sales? And this doesn’t feel like jealousy; it feels like failure.

And I know, I know, and am handily reminded by people like Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer, that what I create is worth creating, even if there are plenty of other creators out there, and even if my work doesn’t have mass appeal or doesn’t have a broad reach. And I know that even affecting one person’s life means that my work was worth producing. And that there are (at least) a dozen people I’ve never met who have been moved enough by my work to reach out and let me know. Probably dozens. I have no way to count, not really, and certainly not right now. But there are some. There are people who have been moved by my work. Changed by it, their minds or hearts thinking differently, beating differently, even just for a little while, because of what I’ve created. I know there are people who are very happy to hang my art on their walls, and/or who are very excited to read my books. It isn’t hundreds of people. (That I know of.) It isn’t thousands of people. But I tell stories that only I could tell, in ways only I could tell them, and when I put them out into the world, they enter and alter people’s lives. And I know this. I know this.

I know.

But still, my heart aches sometimes. My heart aches to be stilled. I ache. To give up. To end.

I’m a bit broken, right now.

Perhaps I’ll be well enough to create more great work in January. To finish the DNGR book. To get back to my YA Adventure research & planning (or at least to definitively give it up). Soon enough to move forward with one or the other of the big projects I pushed back for NaNoWriMo, only to go from a little broken to completely shattered in just a few short weeks. A few more weeks, and … well? Well enough, anyway?

Oh, I haven’t posted in how long, now?

So, since posting last, I did finish that novel, and it did come out to about 45k words, total. It being November/NaNoWriMo, I haven’t taken the time to go back and read it, edit it, or otherwise see if it makes sense and/or is any good. (Though I do believe that the arguments for and against stronger copyright enforcement could use some improvement.) I spent a couple days thinking about which project/idea to tackle next, and picked one from my long list of ideas (I effectively come up with three new ideas for stories/projects for every one I execute on) which after four days without writing anything, I began. It’s another short novel, and it’s being written entirely “by the seat of the pants” – I wrote a single page of notes & ideas, with a very vague, very rough sort of sketch of what I thought the plot might be, but I haven’t actually been looking at that. Except when I realize I’ve completely forgotten to put something in, and I go back and read a few lines of notes and realize … I’m entirely off track, and half (or more) of what I put down won’t possibly make it into the book.

Technically, I discovered that, within the first two chapters, I’d entirely subverted the original idea. The core idea. I’m not exploring the original idea, not following the intended throug-line, at all. Like, as in this book, while interesting, does not address the themes and ideas I set out to explore – and in fact, it would make sense to leave the original idea on my list of potential future projects, it’s so far off. (Except, of course, that it’s not that far off in terms of structure, character, or the sort of vague details one finds in a 100-word book description, so if I did write the “correct” version of the idea, they’d be hard to differentiate in the market. People would be confused, and might even think they were different editions of the same book, rather than two books which explored related but totally different themes.) Not wanting to go back after having written over 11k words in the “wrong” direction, and finding the book I’m writing at least somewhat interesting, I decided to keep moving forward.

I’m currently about 21k words into the book, which makes finishing it by the end of November a difficult, though not impossible, challenge. If I’m able to do it, this would be the first year I actually finished two different novels during NaNoWriMo. I usually finish half of one and half of another, or all of one and very little of another – this time I’ll have written a bit over half of one and all of another. If I finish it by the end of the month.

The next several chapters will either be relatively easy, or extremely difficult. I’ve got to describe a war (economic, military, philosophical – and global), and likely have to do it from the perspective of just one man at the center of it all. I’m not as good at describing conflict as I am at describing everyone getting along nicely and working together for the greater good… So, we’ll see how this goes. I have the advantage that one of the sides in the war is being targeted by the other because they get along nicely and work together for the greater good, and have the advantage of numbers, youth, hope, and a strong work ethic.

Yes, the greedy capitalists will lose, in the end. If you don’t know that about my books by know, you haven’t been reading them very long.

Anyway, wish me luck. Less than 9 days left to write (potentially) 30,000 more words. Realistically, I’ll just keep writing until the story is done – if that gives me another 45k-word novel, or requires a 60k- or 80k- word novel, so be it.

DNGR, NaNo’12, timing

So, November arrived. I decided to start my NaNoWriMo efforts with the Death Noodle Glitterfairy Robot Saga novel I already had ~19k words written on. I’m not sure I care whether I actually hit 50k new words during the month; it depends on how quickly I’m able to finish this novel (tentatively titled Deep Noodling), and what else I decide to write during the month. I’m “cheating”, in that my “official” word count on the NaNo site includes the words I wrote back in June – though I am also keeping track (for myself) how many actually new words I’ve written each day. As of right now, in the early hours of day 4, I’m behind. I was meant to be at 5k new words by midnight, but I barely wrote anything yesterday (a bit after midnight last night), so I’m only at ~3774 new words. By the end of the day today I’m meant to be at 6,666 words – which means I need ~3k words, or about 4 hours of good effort. (just under 3 hours, if things go amazingly well) Weekends, I suspect, will not be good for my progress at writing. Too many other things to do, not to mention a wife not participating this year (since she’s doing much more important work), makes weekdays during the day -and late nights- the best times to get any work done. I’m hoping the coming week proves fruitful; it wouldn’t surprise me to be closing in on the end of Deep Noodling by this time next week. (It also wouldn’t surprise me to be coming back here to make a post about how poorly things had been going, and that I wasn’t expecting to do more than barely finish the thing by the end of the month. Depends on brain chemistry, et cetera.)

My latest thought on timing: If things go well, I may be able to adapt the schedule I drew up for creating the Tentacle Trilogy, but bumped up two or three months, to allow me to complete my research and do NaNoWriMo – aside from perhaps not being a skilled illustrator, and not ever having attempted to develop a game all the way to being print-ready, there was nothing too difficult about the timeline I developed, in and of itself. This would mean the books couldn’t be ready in time for PHXCC’13, but perhaps I could launch the Kickstarter for the whole thing just before Comicon, and direct the crowds there to the active fundraiser. Like, “Here’s what I have this year (looks like probably Never Let the Right One Go and Deep Noodling paperbacks), and if you want to see my latest project, you can pre-order it online now! Tentacles! Steampunk! Go!” And/Or somehow also accept funds/preorders in person, since people like spending their money at cons; the funds raised that way wouldn’t be reflected in the official fundraising total, but could certainly be reflected in the totals for the stretch goals.

Anyway, there’s ~500 words written which probably ought to have been invested in my novel. If you’re doing NaNoWriMo this year, good luck to you! If you’re eagerly anticipating my latest project, comment (or email me); I’m copy/pasting the DNGR novel into a Google Doc as I finish each chapter, so you can read it as I write it, if you like, I just need to know your Google-y email address, so I can give you permission.