This Book Cannot Make Any Money — How the Cover Was Made….

Well, I’m recovered from the convention (I didn’t get con crud, but I did need some time to get over things) and ready to resume the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” blog series.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I’ve already managed to release the print edition of “This Book Cannot Make Any Money.” It might still be further revised; I’ll go into this more on my next blog, but I found at least one issue with the print edition that I would have fixed if I’d been able to get a proof copy first (a week after I pushed it out, Amazon announced that all KDP print authors could now purchase proof copies… just that little bit too late. Sigh), but I don’t think there will be any changes that will affect this blog post.  At least I met my goal by getting the book out in time for Marscon.

So, when we last left this blog series, I was talking about the cover.  I had a plan to produce an “illustrated” cover by blending clip art elements to put together something resembling a custom illustration. Those of you who’ve seen the final result know that I didn’t end up with anything resembling that plan, but let’s discuss what I attempted, why that didn’t work, and what I ended up with.

To start with, I had to figure out the dimensions.  Normally, when I have the budget to hire someone, I only commission the front cover (which is all you need for ebooks) and slip that artwork onto a solid-color background to make the full wrap, so all I need to know for the cover artist is the trim size.  Because I was STARTING with a full-wrap cover, however, I needed to know a bit more than that, first.

I decided to make this a 5″ x 8″ cover, which is smaller than my typical trade-paperback standard-sized 6″ x 9″ book.  I wanted to be sure the book was thick enough to have legible text on the spine, so a smaller trim size made sense.

Because I was starting with a full-wrap cover, I had to build the whole book to find out the actual page count (which is partly what derailed this series, making it more re-cap than follow-along like it originally was intended to be).  In the end, I was able to determine that my book (factoring in not just the text but the front-matter, aka the copyright page, title page, acknowledgements, table of contents, etc. in the front, and the back-matter, aka the advertising in the back) was 234 pages.

Per the formula on both the Createspace and the KDP Print page (I am linking to Createspace because its bookmarked, and at the moment it’s the same for both printers, but it may change in the future; more on that, later), the way to figure your cover width is Bleed + Back Cover Trim Size + Spine Width + Front Cover Trim Size + Bleed.  Similarly, cover height is determined by the formula of Bleed + Book Height Trim Size + Bleed.  Bleed is a constant (0.125″).  Trim size for front and back are always the same (in this case, 5″ x 8″).  Spine width, though, requires you multiply the number of pages by the paper width, so I had to pick which paper I was going to use.

I had an option of white paper or cream paper.  The choice is largely aesthetic, but the cream paper is a little thicker (by some thousandths of an inch) than the white paper.  Picking cream paper (again, I wanted to thicken the spine, but there are other reasons you might pick one over the other), I multiplied the 234 pages by the 0.0025″ paper width to get 0.585″ for the spine.  Please note, different printers calculate spine differently, and they will give you their own formula for determining it.  Sometimes, a “page” refers to one side of the page, as it currently does with Amazon’s two print services; sometimes it refers to both sides of the page (front and back), so I would have had to multiply the paper width by 117 instead, and the paper might have been a different thickness altogether.

Sometimes, the printer may change the page width on you, if they get a different paper supplier.  So, READ THE DOCUMENTATION your printer provides, EVERY TIME you build a cover.  The documentation will also give you such information as how much bleed you need for the cover, how much of a margin you need to give between the edge of the page and the “live elements” (meaning the text and the important parts of the artwork), etc., etc.

Now, I had a concept for the artwork I wanted to put together.  For an unrelated project, I had — entirely with free clip art, but using Photoshop Elements — been able to reproduce different versions of the British Royal Coat of Arms (for purposes of comparison and contrast).

Given what some of the stories were in the book, my plan was to reproduce one of the simpler coats of arms from this project, but instead of using lions and fleur-de-lis I would use other, thematically appropriate silhouettes.

Things started out okay.  I found a decent shield design:

I centered it on a background and colored it appropriately (leaving what I thought was enough room for the title and my name.  I did it using a piece of graphic software I’d never used before, simply by figuring out how to duplicate layers, use the colorify tool, and use the cropping tool.  I made it in GIMP (which was a pain, as it operates VERY differently from graphic programs I’m used to, but I eventually figured it out), and came out with this:

Problem:  The image in my head included such thematic elements as robots, Greco-Roman helmets, a space station, and crossed swords (two sci-fi elements related to the sci-fi story fragments, two fantasy elements for the fantasy story fragments).  I figured the easiest one to find would be the Greco-Roman helmet.  But when I went looking through all the clip-art sites I knew of that had free-for-commercial-use (important if you have a budget of $0, as is the case with this project) clip art, this was the best I could find:

 

And here we run into one of the problems of trying to get cover art when you can’t do art and don’t have the money to hire an artist:  You have to find things needed to execute your vision that are made available FOR FREE.  Sometimes, the best thing you can find is a picture of a helmet where the eyes are pointed one way and the crest is pointed another.  Sigh.  This bit of clip art would be perfectly fine for some art projects, but for a quality book cover it’s completely unsatisfactory.

I didn’t like any of the robots I found (though I did eventually pick one).  I never did find a space station that worked when reduced in size enough to fit on the cover.  And without those sci-fi elements, the swords made the cover a little too fantasy-themed for what I was going for.

I tried various options to replace the elements that weren’t working — the traditional tragedy\drama masks (as one of the stories features a retelling of a particular Greek tragedy), karate silhouettes (as one of the stories features martial arts), and finally forced myself to try slapping in the best of those robots, after all.

And this was the best I could come up with:

Ugh.  That just looks so… cartoony and mismatched.  It wasn’t appropriate for this book cover, at any rate.

So, the art director side of me had to tell the cover artist side of me to change plans.  I usually prefer an illustrated cover, but my one idea for an illustrated cover wasn’t working, so it was time to change plans.  If I have a budget of $0, I can’t afford to be too picky, and one of the advantages of a self-publisher is flexibility; so, even though it hurt, I’d have to try using a photo on the cover.

This book is mostly a collection of of (self) rejected manuscripts (well, the good parts, anyway), so plan be:  A picture invoking the image of writing, with a “rejected” stamp over it.

This proved to be both easier to find the components for and simpler to put together.  There were plenty of pictures that invoked “the writer’s desk,” and while the image is a pure fiction of what my writer’s desk looks like (much too neat, and I usually work on a computer) I found I liked this one:

Put a frame around it (and delete the parts outside of that frame, which again took me a while to figure out how to do using GIMP), slip it onto an appropriately colored background (I picked black), and then all that’s left is the stamp and the text.

Which brings up fonts.  I needed a font that looked like stamped text, which (fortunately) I found several options for.  After going through the various suppliers I knew who had free-for-commercial-use fonts (Fontsquirrel, DAFont, and 1001 Fonts), I wound up picking Armalite Rifle (which I found by searching for a “stencil” type font).  If you didn’t know you were looking for a “stencil” type fonts, you could just browse the whole collection.  It only takes about a day to go through the entire font catalog of all three sites.

It was at this point that I found a major difference between building a cover with Photoshop Elements and building a cover using GIMP:  Elements has a number of tools for adding text and word art; if GIMP has those same tools, I couldn’t find them.  I wound up having to build the cover in Scribus.

Which worked out fine.  Scribus had the tools needed to color and angle the text appropriately.  It also allowed me to add the title font (I picked Roman Caps, which I found by searching display fonts) and the back cover text (written using the Alegreya font, which I’ve been long familiar with as I use it for the print editions of my fantasy novels).

And, as I’ve already posted, I came out with the following cover:

It took some adjusting, even when I got to this stage, after I saw what it looked like in the KDP Print proofing tool (note:  there are MAJOR differences between Createspace and KDP Print.  For example, with Createspace you can place your ISBN barcode wherever you want just by including a blank box in the right spot.  With KDP Print, there is only one permitted spot to put the ISBN barcode.  I had to flip my barcode and my company logo from my standard book design because of this), but I’d figured out the software well enough to make those changes with relative ease, by then.  In the end, even though it was nothing like I originally planned, I was quite happy with the cover.

The book design, though… well, that’s another story.  But what my next blog will be about, so stay tuned!

Marscon 2018

Just as much of a recap as I can manage after an exhausting weekend at Marscon:

This is the typical post-convention blog recap which is really just an excuse to plug the names of the people who I worked alongside or whose panels I attended.  A warning:  I’m writing this in a stage of near delirium-inducing exhaustion, and sometimes I have to refer to the program guide to keep straight who was on which panel.  If you are one of the panelists I worked with and you notice a name mentioned on the panel who shouldn’t be there (or a name there that shouldn’t be there), let me know and I’ll make corrections.

Friday:

While the trip down (on Thursday) was uneventful, Friday started out a little weird in the food department.  I usually make it a point to make my first meal at a new hotel a room service meal, just to settle in.  Problem:  I couldn’t get through to room service from my hotel room phone.  After several tries, I gave up and went down to their breakfast buffet.  Learning that my guest badge wouldn’t be available until noon, and remembering how that went at Ravencon (as this was only my second convention as a panelist, I had no idea if this was standard practice or not, but the badges weren’t available until after some early panels started running at Ravencon), I waited until lunchtime to get my badge and welcome packet, and when it was actually there on time I went to lunch.

I ordered a panini sandwich and — in my biggest culinary mistake of the convention — a “starter” (which I interpreted as “appetizer”) portion of calamari.  Out comes this plate of calamari (which, admittedly, was pretty good) that was larger than any TWO plates of anything else on the menu.  I needed a to-go box… and discovered that the mini-fridges the hotel provides aren’t big enough for to-go boxes.  (I still was able to put it away by repackaging it in a ziplock bag I happened to have, but still a bit frustrating).  Oh, and cold, left-over calamari is not mankind’s most appetizing meal, but at least I had dinner taken care of.

First, I attended (not as a panelist) the Fandom Generations panel. I’ll be honest, this panel — which, whatever the write-up said, basically turned into a discussion of “by what path did you become a con-goer” — was not the most interesting of topics for me, but I wanted to attend at least one panel before I started being on them, and this one had Toni Weisskopf (Editor, Publisher, and apparently even the Art Director of Baen Books… and co-author of Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts, which I proudly own a signed copy of) on it. The panel seemed to have trouble sticking to the topic (or any topic, really), but it was still fun.

Next was my first panel as a panelist: Costuming in Fiction: Creating the Total Package. I had this panel alongside fellow author Pamela Kinney and Charlie Stayton, a developer of card and role-playing games who — as came out during the panel — has occasionally worked as a technical consultant for historically-set films.  I had an excuse to wear my Sherlock Holmes hat (and discovered it was too hot in the panel rooms to wear that heavy a hat for every panel), and used it in a discussion of how certain items of costuming are so iconic that the character is expected to wear it, even if (as was pointed out during the panel was true of the deerstalker) said item never appeared in the text of the book.

We talked a lot about why costumes matter in fiction, how to consider what the costume says about the character, as well, and probably several other costume-related things I’m forgetting at this time (I’m writing this while recovering from the con in my hotel room, dead tired and a little fuzzy-headed, so… don’t expect much from this blog). The panel went pretty well, I thought, but the sore spot for me was that I accidentally left all of my give-away swag back in my hotel room, and there were people who wanted to grab some from us panelists; I did have a small business-card sized thing for one book, but that was it. *sigh*

I skipped the Opening Ceremonies. Hard call, but especially in this cold and flu season (despite getting a flu shot a few weeks ago) I think it’s important not to skip meals when at public events like this… even if that meal was cold, leftover calamari.  It also gave me a chance to grab the missing swag I forgot.

Not that I needed it for my next, uh, “Panel”: Fantasy Draft League, where I faced off against Baen editor Jim Minz. According to the panel description, this was supposed to be “Fantasy football, but hold the football. Our authors assemble an adventuring party from fantasy characters and duke it out to determine the one bracket to rule them all.” Both of us “panelists” had no idea what the rules for such a thing would be, figuring whoever came up with the panel idea would have had some.

Maybe they did, but whoever came up with this panel wasn’t on the panel, so we came up with rules of our own for this “Fantasy Fantasy league” style draft: We would pick teams that fit various fantasy staple trope characters (such as the Knight Paladin, the Big Dumb Barbarian, the Wizard, the “Face”, the Rogue, the Supply Officer, the Goalie (okay, we threw that one in here as a nod to the sports fantasy element; in this case, the person best capable of defending the home base while the main party is elsewhere), and the “Substitute” (who would be able to go out and sub for any role if someone was… unavailable)). Then, once we picked our teams, the audience would vote on which character “won” that position. When all of that was done, we have a vote on whose team would work together best.

In the end, it was a tie; my team of King Arthur (legend), Cohen the Barbarian (Discworld), Lina Inverse (Slayers), Vlad Dracul (Dracula), Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit\Lord of the Rings), Xanatos (Gargoyles), McGonagall (Harry Potter), and “Wiz” Zumwalt (Wiz Biz) went toe to toe with Jim Minz’s team of Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer… TV version), a Balrog (Lord of the Rings… though I nearly challenged the notion that a Balrog fit as a barbarian, here; I was prepared to argue the merits of picking Cohen the Barbarian over Conan the Barbarian, not Cohen vs. a bloody Balrog), Gandalf the Grey (again, Lord of the Rings), Achmed the Assassin (I’m afraid I missed his full name, and which series he was from), Milo Anderson (Monster Hunters International), Granny Weatherwax (Discworld), and Sauron (yet again, Lord of the Rings).

I next attended (but was again not a panelist on) the “Building a Space Station” panel. This panel had a team of scientists and engineers, moderated by Toni Weisskopf, talking about the logistics and motivations behind building a space station. I’m not going to go into my full reaction to this panel, because I probably would have to name names, but I personally thought it would have been a more enjoyable panel had there been one fewer scientist on it.

And, for my last Friday panel, I was a panelist on Research, Point of View, and Filtering, alongside fellow panelists Rowan Worth and Y.A. Guest of Honor Maria V. Snyder.  Honestly, I was a little dubious, as this was a pretty heavy topic for a 10pm panel, and one of the expected panelists (Kim Iverson Headlee) was late, and chose to sit in the audience instead of up front, when her prior panel ran long.  However, we summoned up enough energy to have a fairly entertaining little panel, energizing the audience at least a little, and (surprisingly) it ended up as the best attended of that day, for me.

Then there was Saturday.  I did not get enough sleep Friday night (sadly not because I was having fun with room parties or whatever, but because I had trouble getting comfortable on the hotel beds, which made getting to sleep difficult and woke me up way too early.  It made the whole, busy day just a touch more difficult for me.

I opened the day (after breakfast) with a seat as a panelist in the Allen Wold Writing Workshop.  I’ve participated in this workshop, before, from the “other side” of the table (as a participant), but this was my first experience as one of his other author-guests.  This workshop is an institution at many of the conventions I attend, so I was proud to be invited to be a part of it.  I was a little afraid to bring a pen and paper, or my laptop, because I was worried I’d start acting like a participant instead of a guest out of habit.  I enjoyed myself, and I think I was able to add some meaningful contributions to the workshop, so I think it was a success.

I may never know just how successful, however; there was a Part 2 to this workshop where the guest-panelists could see, roughly, how much improvement (at least in the 100 word hook paragraphs that were produced in the workshop) the participants could make based off of their comments; sadly, I was scheduled on another panel at the same time Part 2 took place, so I missed it.

After the workshop, I retreated to my room for a couple hours before my 3pm panel, “Questions to Ask before Creating a Fictional Culture,” alongside Christopher de Matteo, Jim Beall, and Donna (D.M.) Patterson.  I am not sure how this panel went, actually.  There were times I was expecting the audience to interact or make comments and they didn’t (it’s especially unnerving when you’re trying to end your point with something you think should get a big laugh, and the result is complete silence).  There was a moment where I thought that the panel had completely lost the audience and then suddenly we had a series of relevant questions related to the topic.  I think the panel went well enough, but I couldn’t read the audience reaction at all.

After that panel, I had to run back to my hotel room and dump some things off before heading to the 4:30 Baen Traveling Road Show.  This is something Baen puts on at dozens of conventions where Baen’s cover art is presented (and promoted), and bits about the artwork or the book itself are discussed.  Baen gives away a lot of books at these panels (I did not get a book, this time; ah, well) as well as other swag (I did get an interesting bit of swag, but I’m not sure how to describe it.  A… plastic logo pendant for Baen Books on a string of mardi gras beads?  I’m not sure what this was supposed to be, exactly).  I don’t always go to it, but I’ve always found the ones with the aforementioned Toni Weisskopf presenting are can’t-miss shows, so I went.

That was fun.  We got to see a piece of cover art intended for a future David Weber book that even David Weber hadn’t seen yet, there was a discussion about how a particular anthology editor\writer (Eric Flint) and his anthology’s cover artist (I’m afraid I didn’t take notes, and I don’t want to get the name wrong, but he’s the regular cover artist of the Grantville Gazette) had a friendly rivalry going where the cover artist would draw a piece of artwork (with increasingly complex scenarios) and the editor’s story contribution would be made while trying to fit the cover art into a scene of his story.  A few other things like that.

When that presentation ended, I scrambled to find a meal before my 7pm panel on “Worldbuilding 201:  Filling in the Details” about getting into the smaller details of worldbuilding.  This panel was with Maria V. Snyder, Pamela Kinney, and Chris de Mateo, all of whom I had worked with on a panel earlier in the convention.  I think that helped make this panel a little more lighthearted and fun, and I think the audience reaction was largely positive.  The panel ran a touch long, though within the margin of error.  (It’s generally a good idea for each “hour long” panel to run for 50 minutes, so as to allow guests coming in to set up and people to move between panels without having to hurry too much; we nearly hit the full hour, however.  Marscon, I will note, had a strange system this year where some panels had moderators but most didn’t, and while a panelist stepped up to take charge on every panel I either worked or attended, there was a lot of discussion about that among the guests.  Someone stepped up on this panel, too, but he wasn’t keeping track of time).

When that was done I had to immediately head to the room next door for Mapping Your Novel, at 8pm.  I was again paired with Maria V. Snyder (and it was just the two of us on the panel, this time), and we were both clearly flagging by this point (neither one of us wanted to bother with our whole “introduce ourselves” spiel, beyond letting everyone know our names), but I think we helped inform the crowd (which asked a lot of questions, was engaged in the discussion, and reacted positively when more amusing things were discussed) and I had fun.

My final panel on the day was “It Takes a Village (Traveling at 80% of the Speed of Light)”, alongside Mark Wandrey and Drew Avera.  I was absolutely totaled, by this point, and this was my third panel in a row, so I’m not sure how much I was able to contribute.  I don’t think I embarrassed myself, at least, even if I didn’t get around to discussing all of the points I had come up with for the panel.  There was a very small crowd and we ended the panel a little early because none of us wanted to keep talking, I think.  I was so tired I don’t remember much of what we talked about, to be honest.

I did have other “fun” things I was hoping to attend, after that, but between the lack of sleep the night before and all of the panels that day I was just too worn out to do much else.  I was also starting to get a little hoarse at the end of that last panel (from talking so much; I was fine by morning), so I figured I’d just call it a night.

I certainly did NOT have trouble getting to sleep that night (while I woke up a little earlier than planned, it wasn’t that much earlier), but I was still feeling a bit worn out in the morning.  Still, I had enough energy to go to the panel “Freelancing in the Publishing Industry,” presented by Chris Kennedy and Toni Weisskopf.  I might have skipped it, since I wasn’t one of the panelists, but I knew this was in the rumored “room with the comfy chairs,” and I was able to get one of said comfy chairs by getting there early enough.

The comfy chairs led to a relaxed atmosphere, and the discussion was very interesting.  It actually started with a description of the difference between hiring an employee and contracting a freelancer (including the tax and regulatory concerns, which even in Baen’s case make employing freelancers preferable to full-time employees, in some situations).  Mentally, I was comparing my purely self-publishing experience searching for and hiring freelance editors and cover artists like Keith RA DeCandido and Joel Christopher Payne with the experiences of Chris Kennedy, a self-published author turned full-fledged small press publisher who has a regular stable of freelancers he works with, with Toni Weisskopf who is a long-time industry veteran as well as the publisher, editor-in-chief, and art director for the largest independent science fiction publishing house in the country, heading a company with several full-time employees as well as commanding a much larger stable of freelancers on a regular basis.  There were more similarities than I was expecting, to be honest, which was a pleasant surprise.  (Though, as you might expect, both publishing houses have been in this field longer than I have and have larger budgets for this kind of thing than I do).

I originally had planned to follow Toni Weisskopf for a couple more panels (her next panel was Beyond Infinity, which I’d hoped to go to, and it would have been followed by the even more interesting Hard Science: Gift or Curse panel, which might have been of benefit to the Rink of War for when I get around to turning that into a novel), but without the lure of the comfy chairs I figured I needed more physical rest if I was going to be in any sort of shape for my final panel of the convention.

That last panel was at 1pm, “The Name Came First,” alongside Guest of Honor Carrie Vaughn as well as fellow panelists Tara Moeller.  At one point, there were supposed to be as many as five people on this panel…

Which would have been real overkill, as there weren’t even five people in the audience for most of this panel (for a GoH panel, attendance felt… uh… low), with only two people at the start and two more wandering in about fifteen minutes later (though several others popped in by the end, though they were late enough for me to wonder if they were waiting for the next panel).  We started not by introducing ourselves, but by asking if we wouldn’t be better off moving the whole panel over to the hotel bar.  Had it been Saturday night instead of Sunday morning, I suspect we would have.  We did, eventually, get on with the topic — which was suggestions for answers to the “what do we name our characters?” question, evolving into a discussion of naming conventions, apostrophes in names (yay or nay), etc.

And then the convention was over.  I was originally supposed to meet some family members local to the convention who I only get to see once or twice a year after that, but one of them had hurt their back and the other came down with the flu, so those plans were scrapped.

Overall thoughts:  This was only my second convention as a full-fledged guest, but I could tell there were some oddities.

  • Almost every panel I was on had a “who’s the moderator?  Oh, wait, we don’t have one?” conversation before the panel started.
  • Unless it’s a regular and long-established panel that’s a con tradition, it’s expected that the person who suggested the panel will be on it; that didn’t seem to be the case with ANY of the panels at this con.
  • I didn’t realize quite how busy I was until I started putting this together.  More panels as a guest than at Ravencon 2017, and I sat in the audience on a few others besides.  I think I’ve got a better idea on how much I can manage for the future, but I really do need to get enough sleep at night, despite the hotel beds, if I’m going to try and manage this kind of schedule at future conventions.
  • Panel attendance seemed lighter than I remember from past conventions, both as a guest and as a regular con-goer, and it wasn’t just me who noticed.  Considering the number of attendees I was expecting (the hotel sold out and an overflow hotel was needed), I wouldn’t have thought that likely; I’m not sure if it was just a case of no interest in the panels, or if the weather or something else had prevented some people from coming.  I’m honestly wondering if it might have been partly because of the flu epidemic that’s been so fierce, this year.
  • I love the Marscon Con Suite, because it provides full meals for free (which can really reduce the cost of attending a convention).  Somehow, I never went.  I also never found (or even seriously went looking for) the Green Room.  Mostly that was because of the “I  accidentally wound up with two and a half meals worth of calamari from my calamari appetizer” issue, but when the event ended and I realized I never even went looking for these rooms, I was surprised.
  • I also never made it to the Dealer’s Room.  I was just either too busy or too tired (or both) to do so.
  • I’m not going to attribute this to anyone, but I will say I overheard one of the major author guests saying:  “Is Barnes and Noble TRYING to put themselves out of business?”  (Not sure what sparked that comment, but I’ve had the same thought a time or two).
  • Several guests and\or former guests who had been planning to attend anyway were unable to because of deaths in the family or health issues.  More possible support for my “attendance was lighter than usual due to the flu” theory.
  • I wish every panel I was on was in the comfy chair room, even if that was one of the smaller panel rooms.  I was really uncomfortable sitting in some of the chairs the hotel provided, but those chairs were really nice to sit in, and made for a very cozy atmosphere for discussion.  Maybe it’s not really appropriate for every possible panel, but I think several of the panels I was on would have benefited from that room (and I know my knees and back would have).

And… that’s it.  I’ll get back to work on my regular blog posts soon.  If you would like my take on any of the panels listed above (as I had been doing with last year’s Ravencon Panels blog series) please let me know, and I’ll start on that once the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” blog series is complete.  Until next time, have fun out there!

2017 Year In Review AND An Out-of-Order This Book Cannot Make Any Money post…

As promised last weekend, today I’m going to do my “Year in Review” for 2017.  After that, I’ll be giving my Marscon schedule (since it arrived this week), but first, an announcement:

“This Book Cannot Make Any Money” was submitted to KDP Print and  is now live on the Amazon store, though in print form only. Keep in mind that I was never able to get a print proof (the reason I decided to do this series NOW rather than a few months from now was that KDP Print had announced they were now offering print proof options, which made me want to try them out. I’m a bit frustrated to learn, in the end, that I wasn’t in the beta group offered the ability to buy print proofs).

Not having a print proof is both good and bad for the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” series. It’s good, in that I’m forcibly unable to “cheat” and spend money on the proof copy, and must only use the “free” online reviewer tools to see how things come out. It’s bad because, well, I know from working with Createspace that print copies can look dramatically different in real life than they do in the virtual proof on-line.

You can go ahead and buy a (print) copy now (I will not be able to get around to working on an ebook copy until after Marscon), but be warned that these may be (ahem) misprints, at least until after I’ve had a chance to go through the print copy.

Now for the Year in Review:

I had two publications in 2017.  One was the short story (really novella), “A Gun for Shalla,” published in the “Worlds Enough: Fantastic Defenders” Anthology.  I have no idea how, exactly, the sales have been for it, but the reviews have generally been very good to excellent.  The point of an anthology like this is not to turn a profit, necessarily, but rather to cross-pollinate the fanbases of multiple authors, and good reviews help with that.

As far as the books I actually have stats on, however:

In Treachery Forged sold 195 ebook copies and one print copy.  Yeah, my print sales never do well.  One hundred ninety five copies may sound small, but it’s been out for four years and there were no new books in the series released this 2017, so that’s not too bad.  I expect sales of this book to go UP in 2018, as I intend to get the third book out.  It remains my best-SELLING ebook (though it is no longer my biggest money-maker, as we’ll get into later).

In Forgery Divided sold 182 ebook copies and TWO print copies.  While it’s only in its second year, I’m still satisfied with those sales, as — again — there were no new books in this series in 2017.

The Kitsune Stratagem sold 32 ebook copies and three print copies.  The Kitsune Stratagem has ALWAYS underperformed, and I have yet to understand why; I honestly believe it’s my best book, but it always seems to get the fewest sales no matter what I do as far as marketing for it goes.  I’m hoping to “re-launch” it when I get the next book in the series out, but its low sales have reduced the priority of that next book significantly.  I really, really want to get back into this series, however.  There’s an outside chance I’ll get to its sequel in 2018, but I doubt it.

One oddity:  While The Kitsune Stratagem is my worst-selling full-length novel in eBook form, it ALSO is my best-selling print book… with fifteen print sales, lifetime.  I really, really wonder if print books are worth it, sometimes, considering how much time they take out of my writing.

To the Rink of War is a special case.  I don’t really count it as a “book,” because it isn’t one:  It’s a short story, or rather (by the standards established by the SFWA)  a novelette.  Priced at $0.99 (which is the LOWEST I can set the price; no, I can’t make it free) I literally get nothing more than pocket change from each sale.  And, until this year, I could just about count the number of sales on my fingers (that’s hyperbole… but only just).  But, well, there was a bit of a surprise resurgence of interest in this story.  With 58 ebook sales (there is NO print version), I’ve literally tripled its lifetime sales in one year.  Not great, but enough of a spark of interest that I thought I might re-visit the story, taking both it and its intended sequels and knitting them together to form a full-length novel.  A novel is important enough I could afford to spend some money on things like a new book cover, better editing, etc.  Originally I was going to try and get that out in 2018, but a radical shift in priorities makes that… unlikely.

Finally, there was The Merrimack Event.  The Merrimack Event managed a grand total of 2,911 sales (which already makes it my second-best selling book, in terms of lifetime sales).  In addition to that, however, this book was my first foray into the Kindle Select story, which put it into the “Kindle Unlimited Lending Library.”  That is Amazon’s version of a “Netflix for Books,” a sales model I am dubious of, which nevertheless made this book the top-EARNING book of my career.  I had 4,869,121 page reads through KULL.  In addition to all that, I also signed an audiobook contract which earned me a $500 Advance, and should also start earning royalties at some point.

I’ve seen some authors go into financials (and I actually wrote it all out, but decided I was oversharing a bit).  I will give you a bit on my expenses, though:  I spent a grand total of $10 on marketing (not counting convention expenses, which I view more as research and networking, but some authors think of as marketing), gave away two (print) books (one to a cover artist, one to the cousin\IP attorney who helped me with my audiobook contract), and never ran a price discount on anything.  I did spend about $150-200 on swag, but most of that was for the keychain-sized plushie Fennec Foxes that I’m not going to be doing much with until Ravencon, at the earliest.  Given that I sometimes see authors report having spent thousands of dollars a year on marketing, often accompanied by deep discounts or even freebie giveaways, I think that’s notable.

So, a reasonably good year.  I hope to do better in 2018, but there you go.

Now, for my Marscon Schedule:

·         5pm   Fri      Room L        Costume in Fiction: Creating the Total Package

·         6pm   Fri      Large Auditorium   Opening Ceremonies

·         7pm   Fri      Room 5        Fantasy Draft League

·         10pm Fri      Room 7        Research, Point of View, and Filtering

·         10am-12pm Sat     Room 5        Writer’s Workshop

·         3pm   Sat     Room L        Questions to Ask When Creating a Fictional Culture

·         7pm   Sat     Room 8        Worldbuilding 201: Filling in the Details

·         8pm   Sat     Room 7        Mapping Your Novel

·         9pm   Sat     Room L        It Takes a Village Moving at 80% of the Speed of Light

·         1pm   Sun    Room 7        The Name Came First

 

Obviously, I’ll be too busy at the convention next weekend for a normal blog entry, though I may be able to write a (BRIEF) recap from the hotel, if I’m feeling up to it.  I should resume the “This Book Cannot Make Any Money” posts soon, however, starting with the second part of that darned book cover post.