The official blog of author Jean Marie Bauhaus

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So, I redid this here blog. As much as I love my old custom theme, I felt the need to go back to basics, stop trying to live up to a “brand” that I’ve never been able to quite pin down and stop treating this as my “author blog.” It’s just my blog, and I’m just a writer, so I’ve stripped away distractions to focus on what really matters: the writing.

This is all part of rebooting my writing career. I’ve decided to go ahead and take a break from self-publishing for a while (except maybe for short stories) and try to give traditional publishing a fair chance. Like I said earlier, I can’t do it all by myself — at least not as well as I thought I could — so I’m going to try finding an agent and then go from there. This means that Intruder and any other Restless Spirits or Dominion of the Damned sequels are on hold while I see if I can find an agent and a publishing home for those two books. Meanwhile, I’m going to get back to work on Radium Town, and also keep writing short stories.

Speaking of short stories, I also rebooted my Patreon page to put the focus there. I’m still tinkering with the page — for one thing, I still need to shoot an introductory video, which kind of terrifies me — but as far as pledge amounts and what I plan to deliver it’s pretty much set. Although if you have any ideas for what you’d like to see offered there, I’m all ears. At any rate, I plan to write at least one short story per month and publish it exclusively for my patrons — which you can still become for as little as a buck a month. Do you wanna? Then click here!

In other news, I barely slept last night, and consequently got very little done today other than tinkering with the blog. I think I’m going to head to bed early tonight, but not before spending the next hour or so in House of Leaves. Goodnight, lovelies.

Five Writing News Tidbits On a Friday.

Here’s a quick and random Friday Five to update everyone on what’s happening in my corner of the writing and publishing world.

1. Last Friday, I submitted Eucha Falls to a horror anthology for consideration. As of today, their submission tracking system says it’s #705 in the queue and their average response time is 20 days. And so I wait…

2. I’m still taking a break from Radium Town as I work my way (slowly) through Holly Lisle’s latest free course, “How To Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck.” By the time I’m done with it, I should have a new flash fiction anthology ready to publish, with a couple of stories set in the Dominion-verse.

3. Otherwise, I’m pondering the future of my writing career and the path I want to take. As much as I enjoy self-publishing, the entirely DIY model is SO much work — really, I can’t overstate how much work is involved in producing your own book, especially if you care about quality — and my marketing reach is pretty limited. I’m thinking about shopping the Dominion trilogy around to some publishers, or maybe even some agents, to see if I can get it picked up. Even a small indie publisher would lift a lot of the burden off of me and extend my reach.

4. Along that same vein, I’m considering serializing Radium Town. I think it would lend itself well to serialization, and if I could get it into the Kindle Serials program, I could be earning on each episode (not to mention building a fan base) as I write the novel. I need to do more research before I decide on that, though.

5. I don’t really have a five, but Friday Four sounds lame. Oh! But I guess this counts as a #5 – if Eucha Falls gets accepted to that anthology, then I will be mightily encouraged toward writing more short stories for paying markets and seeing if I can turn that into a regular income stream. But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. Let’s just wait and see how EF does for now.

In other news, we’ve had a lot of wicked weather this week, with more expected this afternoon and evening. Last night, a major storm passed right over us, with enough rotation to make the rain fall at odd angles while it dumped a bunch of hail on us, before moving a few miles southeast and turning into a full-blown tornado. Some roofs got destroyed in Broken Arrow, but nobody was hurt, thank goodness. I hope tonight’s weather stays on the mild side. Or misses us altogether. If you’re in Tornado Alley today, stay safe!

Is Kindle Worlds just kindling a storm?

Yesterday, Amazon announced that it’s starting Kindle Worlds, “a place for you to publish fan fiction inspired by popular books, shows, movies, comics, music, and games.” Naturally, people have thoughts about this. I’ve seen opinions ranging from “Yay, this will totally legitimize fan fiction!” to “Boo, this will totally destroy fan fiction!” to “… what’s fan fiction and why should we care?”

I have a few thoughts of my own; the first of which is, this is not fan fiction. Despite the label Amazon is trying to put on it, fan fiction is by definition unlicensed and unpaid. The fact that these stories will be both licensed and paid makes them, by definition, NOT fan fiction, regardless of whether they started out that way.

What it does make it is licensed, work-for-hire franchise fiction–the same thing as all of the tie-in novels you see on the shelves for Star Trek, Star WarsDoctor WhoBuffy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. The writers who produce those books work for very similar contractual terms and with pretty much the same guidelines. Back in my fan fiction days, I was interested in breaking into the tie-in novel market, and I sent away for the submission guidelines for Buffy, and also checked into the guidelines for Star Trek. What I saw then is pretty much the same thing I see here: don’t deviate from canon, keep it family-friendly, no cross-overs, etc., and whatever you write becomes the property of the franchise, to be used as they see fit with no further compensation to the writer.

The big differences are these: one, whereas for years fanficcers have argued that professional tie-in novels are nothing more than paid, legitimized fan ficiton, Amazon is coming right out and calling it that. And two, the traditional method of obtaining licensed novels involve paying hand-selected professional writers a sizable advance for their troubles that is in keeping with guidelines established by the Writers Guild of America. By lowering the bar for entry to amateur fanficcers, Amazon (and the licensors they’re working with) are able to get away with paying less than the going professional rate.

Do I think this is rather sneaky? Yes. Do I think it’s inherently evil? Not really. I think it’s a smart business move, and just another way that Amazon is pushing against the traditional publishing mold and trying to maintain their lead in shaping the future of publishing. I think they’re a little wrong-headed in the way they’re going about courting the fan fiction crowd, but I understand their reasons for doing so.

Do I think this will endanger the online fan fiction community in any way? Nope. I do understand that fear–that the production companies licensing this fiction might see this as a way to put the fans on a leash and give them more legitimacy for cracking down on unlicensed fan fiction; but, well, they don’t really need more legitimacy to crack down on fanfic if that’s what they wanted to do. And licensed fiction already exists. This is just a way for Amazon to profit directly from it by making a large portion of it exclusive to the Kindle. This is, first and foremost, about Amazon shoring up a market share where they see a potential for profit. They don’t really care about quashing or regulating fan fiction. What they care about is giving the fan fiction crowd a reason to buy Kindles.

Agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this development in the comments.

On the Versatility of Spaghetti Squash. And Some Minor Publishing Plans.

Today is groceries & Bible class day, so no time for writing. The grocery shopping’s done, and I stocked up on vegetables in an attempt to get myself back on the low GI wagon. I bought a big spaghetti squash to stand in for all the noodles I’ve been eating lately, and I actually picked out some recipes from my Low GI board in Pinterest and lined up a menu for the week.

I’m mostly looking forward to making (and eating) this Spaghetti Squash Pad Thai (or at least, my own version of it). For the leftover squash I picked up some pesto mix and I’ll just toss it with that and some chicken and Parmesan and pretend it’s pasta. This avacodo, cucumber and tomato salad is on the lunch menu. Hopefully this week will remind me that vegetables can actually be delicious and cleanse all that starch and sugar out of my system so I’ll stop craving it so much. Of course, not looking at Pinterest so often would also help with that.

Later: lunch, then client projects, then Bible class and giving Sasha the rest of her meds. Then we’ll get in bed and watch Justified. We started the first season last night. So far it looks like a keeper.

Weekend plans: I need to give my current book listings some attention and make sure all my author profiles everywhere are up to date, and I need to add some content to the pages of this here blog. I might do a new cover for Restless Spirits, since my graphic design skills have improved so much since the last cover, and also because I’ve been told by male readers that they loved it but were reluctant to read it because the cover is too “romancey.” I’m also thinking about experimenting with changing my pen name from my full name to just J. M. Bauhaus to see if that helps to lure in more male readers (and isn’t it a shame that that’s even something I have to consider in this day and age? Sigh. Boys.), but that might cause me to lose my reviews on Amazon, so we’ll see.

What Makes Self Publishing So Fulfilling?

Two more excellent questions from reader and commenter Michelle (a.k.a., The Barenaked Critic):

What makes [self-publishing] so fulfilling for you, personally? Would you ever want to go the traditional route with a future book?

The answer to the first question has bearing on the answer to the second, so let’s start there. In my post about the pros and cons of self-publishing, I talked about how my personality and skill-set are both well-suited to self  publishing, and how my almost pathological fear and hatred of the traditional publishing submission process (in particular, writing query and cover letters) helped to drive me into the welcoming arms of indie publishing. Just the fact of getting to have my work read without having to put myself through that whole rigmarole is pretty fulfilling in and of itself. But that’s not a complete answer.

The whole truth is that I come from a fan-fiction background that completely spoiled me. I became addicted to the instant feedback nature of fanfic. I jokingly referred to myself as a praise-whore, but that’s exactly what I was. Having people read stories written by me and then tell me how touched or moved they were by it was a cause for pure elation. When I decided to hang up my fanficcer hat and concentrate on writing original fiction, the single most difficult challenge I had to overcome was getting used to the solitary nature of it, of playing everything close to the vest and not getting to know what anybody thinks of your work until it’s finished, and not getting to know what strangers think until it’s published; and at the time, when commercial publishing was still the only really viable way to go, whether or not strangers would ever be able to read my work was pretty much out of my hands.

I tried to get around this and get my instant-feedback fix without technically self-pubbing by serializing my novels in locked Livejournal posts, but it just wasn’t the same. The rise of e-book and POD technology and the growing mainstream acceptance of indie publishing changed all of that. Of course, I still have to exercise discipline and not just blog every chapter hoping for instant feedback as I go; I still have to deal with the isolation of the writing and editing phase, which, I will tell you, is HARD. But no longer is it up to agents and editors in New York whether people outside of my friends and family will have the opportunity to read my stories and tell me what they think. My stories are out there, being read and enjoyed, and whenever a new review pops up, or somebody e-mails me or contacts me through my blog or Facebook to tell me how much they enjoyed my book, it’s back to pure elation. The giddy feeling that I get when just one person tells me that they loved my book makes it all worth it, even if my royalty earnings never add up to more than the occasional pizza allowance.

As for whether I would ever go the traditional route, the short answer is, sure. I think there’s plenty of room for both, and a lot of writers are getting more savvy about combining the two, using indie publishing to build a platform that will make them more attractive to traditional agents and editors. This path is proving successful for more and more people.

My goal is not to attain the “prestige” of getting published “for real” by a traditional big time publisher. My goal, ultimately, is to get my books in front of as many eyeballs belonging to the types of people who enjoy the types of books that I write as possible. If there is ever a point where traditional publishing is the best way for me to do that, then I will absolutely pursue that route. If somehow, by the grace of God, I achieve Hocking-like success and have agents and editors approaching me with a giant book deal? Uh, yeah, I’mma certainly consider it. But even then, I think it will depend on a lot of factors, including what the traditional publishing market looks like at the time, and whether it makes the best business sense to give up some of the rights to my own work.

But all of that is down the road a ways, if it’s on my road at all. For now, I’m still a beginner at this, and my focus is on just turning out the best books that I can as fast as I can and building up my catalog. I’ve set a five-year goal for myself, which I’ll expand upon in a later post, to be earning enough from writing and indie pubbing in 5 years to be able to retire my web design business and write and publish full time. So if I’m not there in five years, or anywhere close to it, I’ll re-evaluate this path that I’ve chosen as well as the state of the publishing industry as a whole, and go from there. But for now and the foreseeable future, I only have plans to self-publish.

How I Got Over the “Stigma” of Self-Publishing

How I got over the stigma of self-publishing

Six Books by lusi on

Over the last few years there’s been an explosion in self-publishing, with the advent of not just the e-reader, but accessible technology that makes publishing an e-book easy, low- or no-cost, and potentially very lucrative. And it’s not just e-books, either. Gone are the days of vanity presses where an author who couldn’t get published the traditional way would have no other option but to pay thousands of dollars to buy a print run of their book and then be on their own for selling all of those copies boxed up out in the garage. Print-on-demand web sites like CreateSpace and Lulu have made print publishing as accessible as e-publishing.

And yet, perhaps because it is so accessible that literally anyone can do it, and despite the fact that more and more professional, traditionally published authors are turning to self-publishing as a means of taking charge of their careers, there’s still a sense of snobbery toward self-publishing that prevents a lot of aspiring authors from going that route. It’s this idea that being self-published isn’t really being published; it doesn’t really count without the blessing of an agent and a major New York publisher. And there’s this pervasive fear that self-publishing will be seen as “giving up” and you’ll be looked down on by your peers and by the writing and publishing industry as a whole, and you’ll give up your chances for good of being traditionally published. That fear pervades even as one self-published author after another is making headlines by getting major book deals from the major publishing companies because of their self-published books.

I know because I had to get over this fear and sense of snobbery myself, and I still see it all the time among my aspiring author friends. I would look at self-published authors who were doing well and think, “That’s great for them, but I won’t feel like a real author if I don’t get traditionally published.” Obviously, I’ve gotten past this line of thinking. So what changed?

For one thing, I watched my fellow indie author David Michael, who I know locally from NaNoWriMo meet-ups, as he began and grew his self-publishing career. His books looked professional, he was getting excellent reviews and making money, nobody appeared to be looking down on him for being self-published, and most importantly, he seemed like he was having a blast. I saw him transform from a wannabe author like me into a professional career novelist, and it was awesome.

That inspired me to give self-publishing a little more consideration, and I started doing the math. I could go the traditional route with my newest novel and send out agent queries. If I was lucky, I would hear back from one or two agents in three to six months who asked to read my novel. If I was really lucky, I’d hear back another six months after that from one of them wanting to represent my book. And if I was exceptionally blessed, I would hear back in another six months to a year that they’ve found a publisher for my book who wanted to pay me a $5,000 advance (yes, that’s the average size of advances for new authors these days; the giant, six- or seven-figure advances you hear about in the news make headlines because they’re so rare that it makes them newsworthy when they happen). And then I just have to sit back and wait another two years or so for the official release date!

But as an aside, let’s say you’re one of the very, very lucky ones who scores a $100,000 advance. Divide that over the year (or several) that you spent writing and polishing the book, the additional year or two (or three) that it took to find an agent and a publisher, and the additional two years it takes the publisher to actually publish the book… and congratulations! You’ve now made the equivalent salary of an underpaid schoolteacher.

So I could go that route, or I could try this self-publishing thing. I could cut out the middle-man and take my stories directly to the readers—something musicians and other types of artists and creatives are expected to do, with no stigma attached—and I could have them out there, getting read and building a fan-base and making money. Not a lot of money, especially in the beginning, but percentage-wise, a lot more than I’d be making per book than if I had an agent and publisher both taking their cuts. And I would only need to sell about 2,300 books at $2.99 to make the equivalent of that $5,000 beginner’s advance. And I wouldn’t have to worry about having a limited print run and a short window of time to sell enough books to earn out that advance before they all got remaindered and taken off of the shelves, because virtual store shelves never run out of space and virtually published books never go out of print.

Taking all of that into consideration, it seemed like kind of a no-brainer, and yet I was still hesitant. What gave me the final push was an epiphany I had one day when I was looking at a paperback that my husband had just gotten from Amazon. I was looking to see who had published it, and I realized that it was a self-published POD book from Xlibris. This wasn’t obvious at first glance, and I was impressed with the quality of the book. I asked my husband if he realized the book was self-published, and he said that he hadn’t realized it—nor did he care. That knowledge made absolutely no difference whatsoever to his desire to read that book, and it wouldn’t have made any difference in his decision to buy it.

That’s when I realized that the self-publishing stigma is limited mainly to aspiring writers and to those whose livelihoods are threatened by the rise of self-published books—and even among that latter group, the stigma is waning as they begin to mine self-published authors for talent in order to stay afloat. Among the vast majority of the reading and book-buying public—the people who turn books into best-sellers—the stigma doesn’t exist. They simply don’t care where a book comes from, as long as it’s a good read. Oh, sure, there are the literary snobs who turn their noses up at self-published books, but these are generally the same people who also turn their noses up at genre and commercial fiction, and they are in the vast minority. The average citizen reader couldn’t give a rat’s poop whether the book they hold in their hands came from Simon and Schuster or from CreateSpace.

And that is when I realized that the stigma shouldn’t exist for me, either, and I decided to become a self-published author; and in terms of personal gratification and career satisfaction, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.


More Dueling Covers For Your Consideration

This time for Dominion. I have an opinion, but I’m going to keep it to myself for the time being.

First, the cover I originally mocked up waaay back in 2009 for NaNoWriMo (which isn’t really up for consideration–it’s just so you can see where I started from):



And now a more stylized and abstract version of the same theme:



And finally,  one that puts the focus on my main protagonist:


Which one entices you the most, dear readers?

Also, thanks for all the feedback on the new Restless Spirits cover. Since opinion was divided pretty evenly over the light vs. dark versions, I went ahead and used both — the dark on the paperback and, and the light on Amazon and Smashwords. I’ll see which, if any, has the greatest impact on sales, and then go with that one across the board. That’s the beauty of e-publishing–nothing is set in stone.

How to Publish an E-book

I was recently asked how to make an e-book available on Amazon. The short answer, I said, was to go to Kindle Direct Publishing and go from there… and then I promised to write a post explaining the long answer. So here’s that post.

The first step… well, the first step is to write your book. But we’ll assume that part’s already done. So the first step toward publishing it as an e-book is proper formatting. For this, I follow the Smashwords Style Guide. It’s free, and although it’s specifically written for getting your document ready to run through their file conversion software, their guidelines also work nicely for prepping your work for conversion to the Kindle’s proprietary Mobi file format. One caveat is that it has to be a Word doc. But although this guide put’s a lot of emphasis on formatting your manuscript in Word, I used Open Office Write to format Restless Spirits and saved it as a Word doc, and that worked just fine.

Once your book is formatted, it’s ready to upload to Smashwords. This part is simple—just fill out the publication info, upload your Word doc and submit. Smashwords’ “meatgrinder” program will then do its magic and convert it into every e-book file type that there is, and automatically make it available in their store. I recommend doing this step because a) it’s free, b) it’s really simple, c) it helps your work reach a wider audience than just Amazon (Smashwords will also distribute your book to and the iTunes store), and d) you can then take advantage of Smashwords’ coupon generator to give away free promotional copies, run promotional discounts, participate in site-wide sales, etc. Really, there’s no good reason not to upload your work to Smashwords.

But to get your book on Amazon takes a few extra steps, which you can find outlined in detail in the Kindle Publishing Guide. When I published Restless Spirits last summer, I had to save my document as an HTML file and then use a free program called Mobipocket Creator to convert it to a .mobi file, and then it was ready to upload to my KDP account. But it looks like things might have changed a bit since then, so follow the guide to be sure. The first step to Kindle publishing, though, is to create your own account at Kindle Direct Publishing, click “Add New Title,” and go from there.

There’s one more marketplace you can upload your book for free, and that’s through Barnes & Noble’s PubIt web site. Of course, you can just wait and let Smashwords submit your book to, but doing it yourself through PubIt is faster, and it makes it easier to track your sales. It’s also super-easy—just fill out the information on your book and upload your Word doc, and you’re done.

A couple of things to remember before you go forth and publish: first, each marketplace has different speeds at which your book actually becomes available in their store. Smashwords tends to be fastest, taking only minutes, whereas Amazon’s vetting process typically takes two or three days before they approve your book for sale on their site.

The other thing is a word on ISBNs. Each site will assign its own ISBN (or in Amazon’s case, an ASIN) to your book at no charge. You only really need to consider purchasing your own ISBN if you want to publish the book under your own publishing imprint or, in the case of paperbacks (which are a whole ‘nother post), you want to be able to distribute it to brick and mortar book stores and libraries. For new authors especially, my advice is to take the free ISBNs; that way, unless you spend money on professional services like cover design or editing, you end up making pure profit. And you can always go back later and reprint the book under your own ISBN if the need arises.

So that’s how you publish an e-book. Any questions?

My First 8 Months of Indie Publishing: June through January Book Sales

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now. I think being transparent with sales numbers is a big help to other indie authors, and to the self-publishing industry as a whole. So without further ado, here is my sales record since I published my first book back in June.

Unless otherwise indicated, these are for e-book copies of Restless Spirits priced at $2.99. You’ll note a few copies of Fragments & Fancies in there — that one’s priced at 99 cents. Also, although it’s been available in trade paperback since July, I have yet to sell any hard copies of Restless Spirits.

June 2011

  • Amazon – 8 (5 US, 3 UK)
  • Smashwords – 0
  • B&N – 4

July 2011

  • Amazon – 3 (All US)
  • Smashwords – 2*
  • B&N – 0

August 2011

  • Amazon – 2 (1 US, 1 UK)
  • Smashwords – 1 (Fragments)
  • B&N – 2 (Fragments)

September 2011

  • Amazon – 3 (1 Restless Spirits US, 1 Fragments US, 1 RS UK)
  • Smashwords -0
  • B&N – 0

October 2011

  • Amazon – 1 (US, Fragments)
  • Smashwords – 23**
  • B&N – 0

November 2011

  • Amazon – 0
  • Smashwords – 0
  • B&N – 0

December 2011

  • Amazon – 1 (US)
  • Smashwords – 0
  • B&N – 0

January 2012

  • Amazon – 2 (US)
  • Smashwords – 0
  • B&N – 1 (Fragments)

* It was on sale for 50% off

** I publicized a coupon to get it for free during the month of October

Total Sales (not counting the October giveaway copies): 30

Average monthly sales: 3.75


Clearly, is my biggest market over all, although Barnes & Noble has done better for Fragments. I wonder if that means anything about Nook users having more of a penchant for short story collections. Smashwords hasn’t really been great for sales, but they are really great for generating buzz through sales and giveaways since they make coupon generation so easy.

November was my only month with a total goose egg — that probably has something to do with the fact that I was too busy doing NaNoWriMo to do any active promotion. December sales were also pretty dismal despite my participation in a holiday Kindle giveaway that was meant to draw a lot of attention to me and Restless Spirits for Christmas. Although it did net me a lot of new Twitter and Facebook followers, so that’s something. But if January is any indication, then things are starting to pick back up.

I know those numbers are lacking in the “Wow!” department, but honestly, a steady rate of 3-4 books a month is better than I expected, considering that I’m only offering one novel and what amounts to a chapbook.  It will be interesting to see if and by how much things pick up after I release Dominion. I’m planning to do quite a bit of pre-promotion in the run up to its release, which I didn’t do at all for either of my first two books. I’ve already got a little buzz going for it, thanks to including the first two chapters with the free copies of Restless Spirits that I gave away in October.

All in all, I’m pretty pleased with these numbers.

Look what I got today!

It’s just an uncorrected proof, but it’s so pretty and I can’t stop petting it.

A short while back I remembered that I still had a NaNoWriMo winner’s coupon to get a free proof copy of my manuscript from CreateSpace, so I used it for this. I wasn’t planning to release Restless Spirits in paperback, mainly because it’s under 60,000 words long, which I figured would amount to a thin enough book that even I wouldn’t be willing to shell out 7 to 10 bucks for it (which is what I’d need to mark it up to in order to make a profit). But now that I’ve actually seen it, it’s substantial enough that I would actually have no qualms about paying that much for a trade paperback of this size. And as I really have nothing to lose by offering it up as a trade paperback… well, why not?

Before I do, there are a few things I need to change. I forgot to replace all of my double-dashes with em-dashes, for one thing, and I also forgot to include cover photo credit. This is why it’s good to order a proof. I think I’ll also upgrade to a better quality of paper. That will eat into my profit margin a little, but it will make it look even more professional and “real,” which will be worth it.

Over all, I’m impressed with the quality of the book, and CreateSpace makes the whole process pretty simple. I’d still like to try LuLu some time for comparison, but for right now I’m thrilled with CreateSpace.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go pet my book some more.

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