Hundreds of mugs of coffee and almond milk later…where am I now? I quit my part-time job to work at writing full-time. It’s been one year, one month and sixteen days. Today, a look back on the first year of Ex Parte Press and lessons learned:
1. I published Self-help for Stoners and Sex, Death & Mind Control first, just before I quit. I went with Bookbaby as the intermediary on those two. In hindsight, not the best choice. To change absolutely anything costs. I should have gone more DIY up front so I’d have more flexibility with those titles. (Also, their responses to my requests for information have been very slow.) Unless things improve with BB, I will pull them eventually and republish without the intermediation.
2. I published some short stories through Smashwords. Smashwords hasn’t paid off, though I think it will the more I publish through that platform. I hurt myself early on with a bad DIY cover. Short stories are a tough sell, but my collections sell better. (Oh, hey! Just published the definitive collection: Murders Among Dead Trees, which is two previous ebooks plus much more, bonus commentary and a sneak peek. More about that later. Nice cover, huh? No more DIY covers for me! My graphics guy and go-to dude is Kit Foster. Check his portfolio.)
3. In the first few months of the year, I wrote a lot but worked on promotion too much, too soon. I should have allocated my time to get more books done and worry about promotion less on the front end. Writing more books and expanding your bookshelf is the only sure way of grabbing more eyeballs in the long run.
4. In May, in a simulcast across North America, I gave director Kevin Smith an autographed copy of Self-help for Stoners. It now resides in his bathroom. Though I got onstage, I was still too shy about promoting myself and hampered the opportunity by getting offstage too quick. The follow-up press release campaign was a waste of money and time. The appearance on Smodco’s podcast was a better stab at being a publicity monster, but due to a mistake that wasn’t mine, that effort, too, was hobbled because it aired at the very end of the Valentine’s Day podcast. Personally, it was a very positive thing. Professionally, less so. (When I see Self-help for Stoners stats go up, I have to wonder if that’s a delayed positive outcome, though.)
5. I had a disappointing falling out with a publisher in June. Everything was peachy until the promised money didn’t arrive on the timetable agreed upon. I relearned a lesson I should have picked up by now: Don’t work with angry people (and, when they are uncommunicative, that doesn’t mean all’s well.) Good luck to them. I remain righteous.
6. By June I’d published another collection, The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. In July, Bigger Than Jesus, my first crime novel, was ready.
I later discovered that TDK &OS had production issues. I think Scrivener used an earlier draft it shouldn’t have. As soon as I found out about it, we went into whirlwind mode, corrected the text and published a new edition of The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories. (Nonetheless, sales plummeted on that title. Nuts.)
I found some things I want to change in the paperback of Bigger Than Jesus, though the same problems didn’t appear in the ebook. Scrivener is a great program, but there’s still quite a learning curve. Next problem, finding an equally great and affordable program for editing print books. Formatting print books in Scrivener is too hard (at least for me.)
7. I podcast Bigger Than Jesus through the summer, a chapter at a time. The podcast continues to grow and the last episode of 2012 (airing this week) will be #62. I’m pleased with it, but my mistake was to focus too much on marketing the first book. I’d named the podcast Self-help for Stoners (reasoning that at least I’d have an identifiable and easily entertained audience.) I later switched it to the All That Chazz podcast because my author site is AllThatChazz.com and the new title reflects the variety of whimsies I offer. The podcast has listeners worldwide, but I’m still most popular with the beautiful stoners of California.
8. By September, Higher Than Jesus, the second in the Hit Man Series was ready. I need to get more reviews, but the feedback tells me I’m on the right track (i.e. clever twists and reversals, even more funny dialogue, less swearing, more sex.) There’s a prejudice among some authors that a book has to take a long time to write for it to be any good. I don’t agree, if it’s the right book and the right writer. That’s one of the many points I argued in…
9. Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire released this fall. I drew on years of experience from working in traditional publishing and I’d been writing about writing for years. It was going to be one book, but that proved too big and overwhelming. I made it into two books. Boiled down from more than 1,000 posts on this blog, I revised, revamped and added bonus and updated material. I need more sales and reviews, of course, but in the long-term, these two are a score on the non-fiction side of Ex Parte Press. I’m sure there will be more books in the Writing and Publishing Series in 2014.
So what was learned? This is Item #9. By now, you’ve no doubt noticed there’s always a kick in the teeth. I learned that when you farm out editing work to an unfamiliar editor who misses deadlines and doesn’t get back to you, don’t be surprised when you’re disappointed. When the manuscript finally arrived, she’d made four or five corrections toward the end (perhaps trying to make me think she’d read the whole thing.) That set production back two months so all that editing had to be accomplished by someone else. A costly delay.
10. Anxious to publish, I had plans for two more books in 2012. I wanted to get on with revising the big book: my ambitious, dystopian, coming-of-age thriller. I also began writing the third in the Hit Man Series, Hollywood Jesus.
Then I learned the most important lesson yet: Balance. My work schedule caused problems with my health. Family obligations were ignored. You can work nineteen and twenty-hour days. I don’t recommend it for long. I slowed a little and took more time with Murders Among Dead Trees. I got stuck on a couple of the stories and needed to take my time to make them better. The short, “Another Narrow Escape”, flowed out all at once and came easily. Others needed tinkering. I took the time I needed and Murders Among Dead Trees is just out. That’s the last of my short story collections. People buy novels and series much more, so that’s what I will write.
I’ll release the next books in early 2013…but I’ll be more flexible about what “early” means. I’ll also wrestle with the kids more.
So, as 2012 draws to a close, I have eight books up on Amazon (that by February will mostly be available across all platforms, not just Amazon.) ChazzWrites.com is a finalist among the best self-publishing blogs of 2012. This morning, Roger Colby from Writing is Hard Work (say that a little louder, Candy! It sure is hard work!) nominated me for Blog of the Year. John the Aussie never misses an opportunity to hit the “like” button on my posts. The books on writing and publishing will help a lot of people and the Hit Man Series will distract many from their pain and doom as they enjoy hilarious and hardboiled revenge fantasies. Today, I’ve never been more poor, but I don’t think I’ve been happier.
What did I do right in 2012? I wrote every day and consistently. Then I rewrote. I got Dave Jackson to help me with my podcast and I got Kit Foster to design my covers. I asked for help when I realized I couldn’t do it all. I gathered allies and made a lot of friends through this blog. This is good. This is what beginning again looks like. It’s only my first year in indie publishing, not the last.
Never mind the Mayans. Year Two starts now. Tally-freakin’-ho!
- Marketing Your Books: #11 is really harsh. Sorry. (chazzwrites.com)
- Book promotion: Don’t trust the ferryman Part 1 (chazzwrites.com)
- 1 cool video, 1 true story, 2 books of non-fiction & 5 books of fun lies (allthatchazz.com)
- Bigger Than Jesus: Descent (allthatchazz.com)
- Setting writing and exercise goals that work (chazzwrites.com)
- Book Marketing: World Literary Cafe Tweet Teams and how to tweet more effectively (chazzwrites.com)
- Ta-da! Motivation, Inspiration & Information for Writers (chazzwrites.com)