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Messages - Jonathan C. Gillespie

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Here comes summer - Oh no!
« on: June 01, 2015, 05:50:04 am »
I've a draft in beta reader land right now, for one novel, and I'm currently outlining (prep to draft) the sequel. The plan is simul-release both in Fall, like Oct-Nov at the latest. I've no worries about a summer with no releases, particularly August. August sucks.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Tossing an entire draft!
« on: June 01, 2015, 05:32:45 am »
Ouch! That's gotta hurt. ??? Congratulations for trusting your judgment. I'm on Book VI of your Beacon series. Your Beacon books are amazing - very tightly written, even your action-packed battle scenes. My husband, a longtime science fiction fan, read the entire Beacon series. He loved it and was blown away by the final book. So it's good you're trusting your judgment.

I recently unpublished an entire book, although I didn't delete it from my computer. I personally loved many things about my science fiction novel, Gods in the Machine, but I realized it didn't have enough character development to appeal to the majority of readers. I'm thinking I may publish the rewrite as a series of science fiction novellas with a lot more concentration on character development.     

Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Like I always say--if you like my work, tell a friend. That's the number one thing you guys can do to help out.

Outside of a few folks' claims here, every author I've personally ever known has a few trunked stories or manuscripts. As it happened, over the weekend I had about three or four new ideas regarding this tale pop into my head that should help out, particularly in replacing the back half of the book, where most of the issue had been in the first draft.

Thanks for the thoughts and advice, everyone.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Tossing an entire draft!
« on: May 29, 2015, 10:33:42 am »
That positive attitude is going to encourage you to write more discarded material in the future. If you're doing this for learning or fun, then it probably makes no difference. Of course though, everyone is doing it for learning, fun and advancement. There is no advancement in throwing away words.

Not to be harsh. I was stuck in a story abandon-er vortex for about four years before I published my first novel. The only way I got anything done was to have no opinion about my own work.

I get your point. I think I gave the wrong impression: it's not that I'm giddy over tossing 95,000 words (or most of those words). It's that, having recognized that it's necessary for those to words to go, all I can do is learn from the experience and move on.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Tossing an entire draft!
« on: May 29, 2015, 09:49:40 am »
If you don't punish yourself by publishing work you're not proud of, you'll never learn to write well when you're writing. Because you're always going to rewrite it later ... right? :) Maybe edit, tinker with it a bit. Delete some scenes / chapters. Yeah. That career is going nowhere.

Time to force yourself to be accountable for every word you say. It's a commitment. Perhaps you'll think a bit more before you start typing next time.

I'm sorry, but I don't understand the point you're making...

Writers' Cafe / Re: Tossing an entire draft!
« on: May 29, 2015, 09:48:02 am »
I don't view it as completely wasted time. There are still nuggets I can take from this draft (which, folks, was outlined completely from start to finish), but having explored the "outline made into a book" vs. "book in theory", I at least have a better idea of where to go next time.

FYI, Michael -- I bought and am reading Libbie's book as we speak. Anything that speeds up the process can only help.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Tossing an entire draft!
« on: May 29, 2015, 05:57:42 am »
No, my friend. Believe it or not, I think the problem with this one was that I over-outlined it, as crazy as that sounds. I became so obsessed with my plot lines in the outline phase that I added more and more plot lines on top of those in an attempt to handle all the disparate angles.

In a sense, I masked too much complexity with a cogent outline, and told myself (against my gut instinct) that I could make it work, as a result.

Thanks for the book recommendation.

Writers' Cafe / Re: 1st pervon POV authors - advice needed please
« on: May 29, 2015, 05:55:10 am »
I think the key thing is you want to avoid distracting the reader. When in doubt, err on the side of toning back the local flavor or vernacular. It's a rare reader who will choose flair over readability.

Check out Cloud Atlas, specifically the first several chapters, if you'd like to see a near-perfect example of POV-appropriate prose that doesn't knock one out of the story.

Writers' Cafe / Tossing an entire draft!
« on: May 29, 2015, 05:35:18 am »

Have you ever had to do this? I've had to do it several times, but in this case it's 95k worth of words that are going down the toilet.

It's the draft to the second book in a novel series I'd started a while ago. I've circled back to the project with an eye for publishing at least the first two books this year. This draft has sat here for two years while I worked on a different project,'s crap! All of it!

I'm having one of those reactions--you know, those reactions. I'm Christian Slater cracking open the sarcophagus in "Tales from the Darkside". I just want to avert my eyes now, a la Indy and the Ark of the Covenant.

All I can do at this point is laugh, then move on and replot and rewrite the entire thing. Some thoughts occured to me during the re-read:

1) Maybe forcing myself vertical at 5:00 AM to work on this draft wasn't the best idea after all.
2) It's another reminder that over-complexity of plot can lead to too much dancing in an attempt to tie up loose ends.
3) Yet again I'm seeing the cost of investing POV time in tertiary characters. Holy crap, I'm glad I came to my senses about that a while ago.
4) Too much jargon is the DEVIL, Bobby Boucher. The DEVIL!
5) Epic battle scenes are awesome, until your characters disappear in the middle of them.

Write your tale of novel-chucking hence, ye kings and queens, in yonder message field. Or just point and laugh!

Edit: I'm not trying to sound too cavalier about all this. I loathe having to throw away all these words (or most of them). But I don't believe in jumping under a blanket of crippling sadness for several days about it, either--that will get me nothing.

Thank you. Very valuable words, there, I think, and I appreciate you sharing them.

Congrats on living the dream. Re: Your backlist back in 2011. Were these novels you had trade published, or just backlog waiting to be published? If you care to share, of course. Not trying to imply they were trunkies.

No, that's not prolific. Sorry, it's not. There are people on this board who write a full-length novel every month. That's prolific. Intimidatingly so. More realistically, I'd shoot for three books a year, and see what your results look like after a couple of years.

Three books a year is actually my ideal target, honestly. What slowed me down with the serial was that you have to go through the same steps you do when you pub a novel (picking covers, pubbing to all the outlets, release notices, etc), only you're doing it many times more for what's effectively less word count. Plus, if you're on multiple markets (I am), then now you're pubbing that installment out multiple times, too, which is a pain, as we all know. Then once the books are live, you have to go back and in and re-pub back matters for the prior books to link to the new books, and...

That, and I'm a perfectionist. I want my content to be as high-quality as I can make it. I see a lot (not all of them, mind you) self-pubbers who skip steps I wouldn't in the name of output. I'm talking what I see as essential steps, like using copy editors or beta readers, or the like. They've probably secured a cohort of readers or found a rhythm that works for them--more power to them--but I just can't do it.

Not to say the rapid-pubber is doing that, or that all rapid-pubbers are doing that, etc. FULL DISCLAIMER, folks. Step away from the flamethrowers!

Whose approach do you see being most sustainable, Michael? I'm not asking that rhetorically; I honestly want your input. Maybe I'm letting the great be the enemy of the good. I just have this gut feeling that once the market saturates--there's evidence it is doing so; I see self-pubbing billboards now--that the "dashers" are going to find short-term exposure less and less effective. That, and I just think the craft we do behooves us to do the best we possibly can with a book.

If you just look at the OP's Amazon author page (or his Kboards signature), it's very deceptive. It looks like he's been very prolific, but the truth is he's spent the better part of 2 years writing what is essentially ... one book. Yes, he filled out his virtual shelf space with installments of that one book, but at the end of the day, it's still just one 589-page book (assuming Amazon's estimate is accurate). Bottom line: OP only really has one novel, and a few short stories.

Sorry for the late reply, but...

While I appreciate your advice, I don't like the implication that I'm being deceptive. I am prolific. I've published a dozen short stories in various magazines and podcasts--all paying--and more than a few non-paying works in other podcasts. These weren't me self-pubbing them either. And then on top of Beacon, I've got two short fiction collections and another short story available for Kindle. My bio reflects more than just my self-pubbing history. Plus, there was a novel available for a while, but that's a different story.

Yes, Beacon is "one book", but only in the same way that a serial is "one book". I intended this to be a true serial from the get-go, and it was written as such. I wasn't chopping up a novel.

Nevertheless, I appreciate your advice and input. FYI, all (for anyone still reading!), I'm currently working on the second installment of a novel series. They'll both be released simultaneously, later this year.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is KDP Chump Change for Chumps?
« on: March 20, 2015, 10:07:53 am »
Thank you for the inspiration, those of you who are doing well. I hope to someday join your ranks. Lord knows I'm doing everything I can...

Writers' Cafe / Re: What's up with Goodreads?
« on: March 20, 2015, 10:00:18 am »
I've seen really weird behavior with the ratings on one of my books. All of the sudden it's listed with -1 (negative one!) two star reviews. Oh, and it has three 1-star ratings now--except I can't find any except one, across all editions of the book. And the ratings graph is screwed up. I contacted support.

I want to thank you all for your responses and honest feedback. This is why the kboards community is the best I've seen on the web: you ask for answers, and you get ten megatons of awesome dropped in your lap. I've read everything you guys have posted.

Last night I sort of got out of the funk I was in. And hey--someone picked up one of the books on Nook overnight, so I'm officially on the board this month. Thank goodness. I cannot tell you how much of a punch in the solar plexus this month has been compared to the past few.

I'm currently working on a series of military science fiction novels. It's going to sound weird, but I actually have the first drafts for each novel in a military science fiction series already written. I'm currently extensively re-writing the draft for part I. It looks like this puppy will be near 100k on release. I could split it in half, but it would be artificially trimming the novel, which I don't want to do. Might as well give the readers more bang for buck and show them what I can do.

My plan is to pay for top-shelf covers and editing (after the usual beta process, etc), then release both novels simultaneously.

I think what I'll do is KU both books for three months, then go wide release. Part I may or may not go permafree. In any event, I'll probably ask $4.99 for Part II and $5.99 for Part III. Based on the sales I had seen of the Beacon Omnibus (prior to this month, at least)--plus the lack of returns of the Omnibus--this shouldn't be untenable. Whether the series goes three or four or more books is up to the characters.

I really thought long about what to do with the Beacon books. My plan, after consideration, is to leave them as-is and have them just serve as a "tail". Eventually I'll circle back and do boxed sets in chunks, as we discussed, but I can't do that yet because I don't want to burn any ISBN's, as paying the monopoly called Bowker for more ISBN's at the moment would savage my budget.

Basically, I took a gamble with this serial and its format. The gamble didn't work. I may as well cry over going for blackjack and pulling a killer third card. That's life. The books will still sell, however, as part of my tail, and they still sell now, and they still bring people to my work, so it's not like it was all wasted effort. It was just misplaced effort.

I've had a few people ask me what I learned doing all this, via PM. As such, I wanted to share there here because I thought it might be valuable. I want you all to learn from my painful three-year lesson. Here's the takeaways, both from me and from some of those in this thread, and from those who have messaged me:

1) Serials--at least for science fiction--are a tough sell.
2) Serials carry higher intrinsic costs than novels. You need more covers (typically), and you're going to burn more time publishing to the outlets and such, per word. Then you get to charge less (normally) per installment than you would for a novel. Joy!
3) Readers sometimes think you're trying to rip them off. Joy!
4) Authors (who should know better) will sometimes accuse serial authors of trying to bilk the marketplace. I'm not going to get into that, but it's a factor, and be aware of it.
5) Longer works. Goodness, if you can go for longer works and ditch the serial format. Those of us coming from science fiction markets often think of "serial installment" as 12-15k. No! Ebook readers and many of those experienced with publishing to it are recommending 20k and up.
6) Pricing serials is a pain.
7) Marketing serials is a pain. ENT and several others won't take you. Seriously.

Anyway, there it is.

I'd suggest more traditional science-fiction covers for the new series (alien planet + space ship over a background of stars) to help you get noticed by sci-fi readers. I know the Beacon covers were professionally made, but they're not really doing it for me.

Thanks. You know, honestly, I was trying to be unique with them. I wanted covers that struck people when they were browsing through endless rows of dark backgrounds and starships and figures in spacesuits. It was an attempt to grab the eye. Beacon is very different from the typical spaceship fare--it's much more metaphysical in many ways--and I wanted the book covers to reflect that.

Might not have been the best idea.

Thank you, all of you.

So what are you guys thinking: maybe come up with a new version of these that looked like this?

Parts 1,2,3: Box set one. Total Word Count: About 32k. $1.99
Parts 3,4,5: Box set two. Total Word Count: About 45-50k. $2.99
Parts 6,7,8: Box set three. Total Word Count: About 90k (Part 8 is novella-length). $3.99?

By the way, I mean no offense to anyone out there writing as a hobby. Writing as a hobby is great, and if that's what someone wants out of it then there is absolutely nothing wrong (and everything wonderful) about that. But I'm not a hobbyist. This is my dream. I've been writing for fifteen years and I sink everything I can into it.

It's complete. Eight parts. Two permafree Parts I and II. There is an omnibus available that has all the parts and comes to nearly 160k words. It was actually selling pretty well the past few months.

Thanks for the thoughts, guys.

Jim--the problem is the installments are all short-fiction length. The first book being permafree seems fitting--it's only 6k words. If I bumped that to $2.99 (or even $1.99), I think people would roast me alive.

Yes, I've been at it since 2012, which is why the idea of a short-term pop in KU seems appealing. But I hate removing options from readers. That, and I'd have to change a TON of product descriptions. There's also the question that if books one and two have been free so far, and things are stalled--would KU really make a difference?

Writers' Cafe / Re: When research with google backfires...
« on: March 13, 2015, 07:49:15 am »
Factoids: There are estimated to be 100 trillion ants on earth, with a total weight matching that of humanity.

I know I also read (somewhere) that the U.S. Army used to analyze them to try and gain new organizational and logistics principles.

Writers' Cafe / Re: When research with google backfires...
« on: March 13, 2015, 07:25:18 am »
I'm hiding. It's official.

I hemmed and hawed about posting this. Man, I hate what this might do to my branding. I don't want people to think my books stink, but...we're hitting desperation here. I need your help, guys.

Exhibit A: The Beacon Saga Serial. Excellent reviews, solid ratings (in addition to Goodreads). Has never really taken off, though the past few months were a little better.

Exhibit B: March, and a goose egg. I've never seen such a drought.  Yes, I haven't done any advertising in March, but something should still be going on. In the past, the patient hasn't needed a constant defibrillator to produce a heartbeat.

I've been doing this for almost four years. I've paid for proper covers, formatting, professional editing, etc. I have a website, a mailing list, a blog, a facebook page, etc. Understand that before I ever took the self-pubbing plunge I sold a dozen short stories to credible outlets, along with picking up a few award nominations. I can write.

And yet...I can't seem to make this work. I know serials are a challenge to get word out about. Yes, I know they're even harder to market, because no one wants short fiction.

I've got a novel series coming out later this year, and I am absolutely stark-raving terrified that it's going to suffer the same problem this serial has had: that I just can't get organic traction. And I can't really afford to pay for adds forever that don't always pay out (correction: usually don't pay out).

My sense is that a door is closing in this industry, and that I am missing it.

Two thoughts come to my head: One is that I chalk this up as a very frustrating lesson and move on. Acknowledge that I've done what I can with this serial, and it's just not going to take off. Leave it in all the outlets it exists (Kobo, Nook, Google Play, etc) as something to point people to when they finish the novels. Have it function as a passive trickle of a revenue stream. Someday it might go organic on its own steam. Someday I might be named Emperor of China, too.

The other option is the crazy one, and one of the reasons I'm especially interested in feedback from serial authors. Should I consider punting these books from the other outlets and going straight Select for the serial? I'd especially love to hear from anyone that's done this.

Please note, Part I and Part II are both permafree as we speak. I know there is one obvious problem. Part I is only six thousand words. Part II is twelve thousand, which is why I made it permafree in December--the theory being that if I gave readers a little more of a tasted, they might be inclined to pull the trigger.

That's brought revenue up a fair amount over the past few months, especially coupled with some lightweight advertising and the release of the omnibus. I got my hopes up. I thought I was going somewhere. Then...March.

I don't know, guys, I'm just done with it. I'm as patient and determined as anyone else, but I'm sick of not making money, especially since people read these books, leave great reviews, and sometimes send me glowing email. Do you know I've never taken a cent out of this for my own enjoyment? My books have literally never even bought me a cup of coffee.

I just want to see something come out of all this effort. I don't expect overnight success, but I can't keep losing money in the name of making money.

Forgive me--just in a very frustrated place right now. Pardon the lapse in professionalism.

By the way, I'm a big boy--hit below the belt if you see anything wrong. Baby needs reality.

Writers' Cafe / Re: When research with google backfires...
« on: March 13, 2015, 07:04:15 am »
I'm not getting anywhere near a 5ft 8in tall ant. Unless I have a flamethrower. (Kids, you can thank "Them" for that valuable tidbit)

Writers' Cafe / Google Play Books -- question about visibility
« on: March 11, 2015, 09:41:35 am »
Last month I completed putting all of my "Beacon" installments (and the omnibus), plus a few other titles, up on Google Play. it just that reporting stinks, or am I missing something? I still haven't moved a single copy--not even a freebie--on this market, judging by the exported sales numbers I can run. Is this typical? The titles are retrievable on Google Play\Books, and I tested them as well, and they look great.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Does anyone else exhaust themselves writing?
« on: March 11, 2015, 08:42:21 am »
I wrote on a charcoal screen with a pale blue text. It's much easier on my eyes.

FYI, your hair is AWESOME! Have a great day.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Is it Just Me?
« on: March 11, 2015, 08:40:50 am »
George Lucas commented once that he directed "around" the movie. He shot scenes and then cut, edited and inserted until he had completed films. I always found that interesting.

My strategy is this: I give myself permission to write crap for the first draft. I've learned to power through weak sections and come back to them later. Oftentimes, they're not near as bad as I remember them, and if they are as bad as I remember, then action later in the draft has usually provide a way to excise and edit.

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