Tuesday, July 26, 2011

“Taking a Break”

Ever wonder what writers do to “take a break?” Do they go swimming? Maybe take in a movie. Sometimes I play blues on my guitar to relieve the stress.

Last week, I was half-way through the final edit on a 135,000-word manuscript. Couldn’t eat another peanut or drink another Pepsi. My writer’s cave morphed into a writer’s prison, complete with ominous corner shadows and moaning. (okay, okay, so the moaning was my little Dachshund under my desk groaning that it was time for his dinner.) Anyway, I desperately needed a break. What did I do?

Books! That’s right, I needed a break from writing, so I bought books. Four of them to be exact. I got all the way home before it dawned on me that I didn’t have time to read any of them. Oh well, they can wait, but just the smell of all those books in the “indie” bookstore invigorated me. Add a bag of microwave popcorn and I was ready to edit again.

For me, the problem with taking breaks is that, if I enjoy myself too much, I tend to get distracted and lose the self-discipline for writing or editing. It’s like the proverbial tumble off the horse. Gotta get back on fast or it might not happen.

What do you do for relief during long periods of writing or editing? Do you have favorite rituals or “brain” food that helps you along? Are you one of those writers who doesn’t have to worry about such things. Gosh, I hope I’m not the only one with this problem!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Free Story...Yes or No?

Baen Publishing, a big sci-fi publisher, presented an idea to their authors. It goes something like this . . . authors should make the first novel in a series available to the public as a free e-book. Yep, I said a “free” book. No royalties, no advance, no physical book; only a free download.

Baen reasons that readers will appreciate receiving the free electronic book, and if they enjoy the author’s style, they will gladly pay for the rest of the books in the series. It’s a way to market entire series, and develop an author fan base, at the same time. Here’s the link to Erick Flint’s lengthy explanation of this controversial idea:

Here’s the problem I see with this approach. If I’m a first-time published author, I don’t have a “prior” book in the series. Even if I am an established author starting a new series, there’s no “prior” story in the series. What then? Maybe I should write two books in a series BEFORE approaching Baen for publication. Then, the opener-story for the series could be the freebie with the sequel being the fee-based book. Sounds like a lot of work to risk on the sales of just one story.

Space Chronicles: The Last Human War was my self-published, sci-fi story. It was received well by readers but not very profitable because I was selling books a few at a time. I lacked access to major advertising and marketing media, so I sold copies through personal marketing effort until I made a small profit. Then, I gave the remaining 500 books to the soldiers in Afghanistan.

Now, the sequel to LHW is coming along, and I hope to go through a major publishing company to get widespread marketing. I'm willing to offer The Last Human War as the free e-book download to introduce sci-fi fans to the Space Chronicles series. I asked my literary agent about it, and she expressed excitement about the potential, offering to represent both books. In addition, she already has a good relationship with Baen . . . this is getting exciting.

What do you think about this Baen marketing idea? Free story:  yes or no? How would you handle that "first-book" in a series problem?