The Fictorians

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I Swore I Would Never Go Into Business…

21 March 2014 | No Comments » | Colette

ebook cover 9…And then I became a writer.

When people talk about finances, business models, marketing, and spreadsheets, all I here is, “blah, blah, blah…” That’s how I’ve been most of my life. I can discuss calculus with more energy than I can muster up for anything related to business. I had to stop and recognize that becoming an author meant I was going into business. I had to make a shift in my way of thinking, especially regarding the works I would self-publish.

We’ve talked about the business side before, but I’m going to say it again, one of the best places to learn about that aspect of writing is Superstars Writing Seminars. Check it out. Beyond that, as I went through the process of putting together my short story anthology, The Black SideI realized forming my own publishing company was probably a good idea. Jace Sanders addressed this in his post, “My friend said to get an LLC”, but I’m not going to talk about reasons to form publishing companies or types of companies. Instead, let’s talk about some of the business decisions that might need to be considered in conjunction with forming a company.

Money: Where does it come from and where does it go? Trees, right? I’m still wishing for one of those, but in the meantime, I had to decide if I needed a separate bank account for my business. Depending on the type of business you organize, it may be a necessity, but what if it’s not? After spending time talking with a bank manager, I realized I had a few options. There were multiple types of accounts to choose from and I’m glad I didn’t jump on the first one they suggested to me. I took the time to talk with them, fully understand the pros and cons for each one and the possible tax implications, and then I made an informed decision based on my current needs. In a few years, those needs might change, and that’s something to keep in mind, too.

But it didn’t end with the bank. After getting my account, checks, etc. , I still needed to get everything in place on Amazon, Paypal and any other service related to my business. I’m still in the process of deciding whether to get the Flint app for payment services or the traditional Square. Maybe that can be a future discussion.

Thanks to Heidi Berthiaume and her excellent advice on how to run a Kickstarter, at least I had money with which to publish my first novel and to make the whole process possible. I can’t wait to get her upcoming book on the subject. Money doesn’t bring happiness, but it helps make a business.

Privacy: You know the part of the copyright page where it says the publishing company and then the ADDRESS? That’s not the only place where you might want to have contact information, but you might not want it to be your home address. This is where a PO Box can come in handy. The postal service offers small boxes for very reasonable fees that won’t cost you more than a night out to dinner. Not everyone takes this option, but I think it’s worth it. When I send out the rewards for my Kickstarter, that’s the return address my supporters will see, further allowing me to separate my personal life, from my business life.

Perception: I don’t think forming a publishing company really changes anyone’s perception of the self-published writer. For those of us familiar with traditional versus self-publishing, it doesn’t take much investigation to recognize whether a writer went through an outside publishing company or formed their own. But registering my company name with the state, the bank account, PO Box, getting an EIN, and all of the other things involved, changed my self-perception, reminding me that I must treat this venture for what it is, a business. I must market, I must work, and I must be professional in order to make it profitable. I also developed a business logo that has personal meaning. Each time I put that on the cover of a book, I’m reminded again, that I’m not only an author, I’m a businesswoman.

So, as you contemplate whether or not to take self-publishing to the level of forming your own publishing company, I hope this gives you some information to consider in your pros and cons.

*As has been stated in previous posts, by other blog contributors, this is not legal advice.

Steamed Up Anthology Virtual Launch (Marketing in Action!)

26 October 2013 | Comments Off | mary

 

SteamedUp_FBThumb

It was the better part of a year ago when I signed up to organize a Fictorians month around the topic of “Marketing and Promotion.” At that time I was still unpublished, in the phase of my career where I sent out submissions and hoped for the best. I’d chosen the Marketing and Promotion topic in the hopes of gaining knowledge for that far-off time when I’d have something of my own to promote. Little did I know that by the time October 2013 arrived, I would have it…

So here’s an opportunity to see a Virtual Book Launch in action. Tomorrow, Sunday October 27, myself and other contributors to Dreamspinner Press’ Steamed Up Anthology will be on the Dreamspinner Press Blog to celebrate a virtual book launch. We’ll be providing background on our steampunk stories, excerpts, chat and more! Visit us at http://dreamspinnerpress.com/blog/

My contribution to Steamed Up is “Ace of Hearts”: All Aeroplane Mechanic First Class William Pettigrew ever wanted was to fly, but due to an old eye injury, he can only maintain the aircraft and fantasize about the pilots. When Captain James Hinson, war hero and dirigible flying ace, joins the squadron, William catches his eye. But William lacks the confidence to see James’s overtures as anything but friendly interest in his innovations. Then James is shot down over enemy territory, and for William that changes everything. The time has come for him to choose: believe in himself and fly or lose forever the man whose heart he hopes to win.

Join me in celebration of an era of zeppelin aces, clockwork cavalry and mechanical marvels…in an age of high adventure!

Steamed Up is now available in paperback:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4324

or Ebook:

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=4267

Hope to see you there!

It Doesn’t Happen in a Straight Line

20 September 2013 | 2 Comments » | Evan Braun

 

Not a straight line.

Not a straight line.

Progress rarely happens in a straight line. It isn’t steady. It isn’t stable. Rather, it happens in fits and starts. When you’re trying to lose weight, you plateau for long periods of time. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why those plateaus happen; if you’re doing the same thing that helped drop you from 220 pounds to 200, shouldn’t the same strategy drop you from 200 to 180? The answer is no. And the reason? It’s complicated.

Technology works the same way. For the longest time—thousands and thousands of years—humanity’s technological level remained static. Then came the renaissance! Followed by more static. Then came the industrial revolution, and in the blink of an eye we’re planning manned missions to Mars and walking around with internet-connected sunglasses controlled by rapid eye movement. Or something. I’m really not clear on the details.

Similar arguments could be made for any kind of long-term change—civil rights, human evolution, writing careers… Wait, go back. Writing careers? Well, this one should be obvious. You start writing those first words, full of excitement and promise, and then you hit your very first murky middle. Or maybe you make it past the middle but can’t stick the landing. Maybe you finish your first book easily, and maybe your second, too. No matter how long your roll lasts, I promise you this: it won’t last forever. You will plateau. And not just once, but many times. When these come along, they can be incredibly stifling. If you give in, you may never recover. You gotta show some tenacity.

The most successful people in any field or occupation are those who get to plateaus, realize they’re on a plateau, scope out ways to move on, and then take the next step. I realize how glib that sounds, but it’s basically the truth.

Instead of talking in abstractions, let me tell you about my plateaus. I’ve faced a couple of big ones.

In 1988, I decided I wanted to be a writer, so I began to write short stories. A lot of reputable genre writers recommend starting with short stories, so I was in good company right from the start. Still, I don’t think they meant these short stories; I was five years old, and they contained by own not-quite-in-the-lines crayon illustrations. My most successful literary achievement of this period was my breakout hit, Darryl Gets His Glasses. For the record, Darryl was a giant orange dinosaur of unknown genus. This was a real tour de force; those second-grade girls were weeping in the corners when I read it aloud following afternoon recess.

But those stories only took me so far. Sure, I had my fans, but my career was beginning to stagnate. I wrote and wrote and read and read, and you know what? I noticed that the biggest names in publishing weren’t getting famous off handwritten stories in primary school notebooks. After some serious soul-searching, I decided to take a bold step into the brave new world of fan fiction.

These were heady years, when words didn’t have to be good; they just had to exist. (Which was fantastic practice, by the way.) My fan fic quickly took the form of full-length novels. I wrote a couple of them, two in two years… and then rested on my laurels. I had done it! I was a writer. Welcome to Plateau #2.

By 1995, I was certain of one thing: my books were certainly as good as their professionally published counterparts (they weren’t). This false confidence led me to take the next step: investigate how to submit my fledgling literary Picassos to the big leagues. This was a critical step in mine and any writer’s development, and from it I learned I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Oh yes, I was slapped down good and hard. It turned out my friends and family had lied to me about my wunderkind status, those sons of bitches. It turned out there were actual skills to pick up beyond just writing down whatever came to my head in the moment. Plateau #3.

I took better English courses, I read how-to-write books, I broadened my reading selections. When high school concluded, I went for a communications degree. This made me much better and I started to convince myself again that a writing career was possible.

And yet this was the longest and most tangled plateau of all. It was almost seven years between my last high school offerings and my first serious foray back into novel-writing. I got a lot of education, sure, but that didn’t seem to be enough. Indeed, I was trying to get ahead by following the same strategies as before—and those strategies were no longer as effective as they had once been.

The way forward this time was in meeting other writers, becoming part of a community of like-minded individuals, partnering with other people who shared my goals and aspirations. I found those at conventions and seminars. People and support structures, rather than skill alone, showed me how to get to the next level. That process started in 2010 and inspired me to get back down to business. I’ve written a half-dozen novels since then.

But you can never climb for long before reaching another plateau, as I have learned. Allow me to let you in on a little secret: I’m actually on a plateau again right now. My novels have gotten better, my support structures are stronger than ever, but I’m still not raking in the big bucks. Where are the shiny contracts? Where are my stacks of hardcover new releases?

Well, I’m working on that. Stay tuned!

Metal Gear Solid, or How I Was Ruined for All Other Video Games

29 August 2013 | Comments Off | Brandon M Lindsay

The first moment I realized that I had expectations for what a game ought to be was the moment I first popped Metal Gear Solid into my Playstation. I had read the previews about the game in all the video game magazines I subscribed to (which was every one available) and I had played games similar to it—or at least I thought I had. Metal Gear Solid was, on the surface anyway, a third-person military shooter with emphasis on stealth elements. Pretty par-for-the-course, as far as video games go.

And then I discovered that everything I believed about the world was a lie.

MGSMetal Gear Solid was footage from the International Space Station for flat-earthers. It proved that one need not sacrifice story to gameplay, or vice versa, that not only could they coexist in harmony, but become fully integrated with one another. MGS even takes it one step further: it takes the player experience and makes it an essential aspect of both the gameplay and the story.

An example of what I mean by that. (*SPOILER ALERT* for those who have not played it; shame on you, by the way!) At one point, a character named Psycho Mantis, one of the several villains you must defeat to save the world from nuclear devastation, decides to battle you. The problem is, nothing you do works—nor can it. With his psychic powers, Psycho Mantis is able to predict every action you take the moment you take it, rendering all your efforts to injure him useless. It is impossible to defeat him—until you realize that his psychic powers only extend to controller port 1. Plug your controller into port 2, and you may just have a chance. (*END SPOILER*)

One of the reasons this grinding-to-dust of the fourth wall is so effectively jarring is because the game strives for realism in so many ways. The environments are incredibly detailed, the characters are rich and deep beyond belief, yet even those things are not safe. When the protagonist, Solid Snake, returns to an old military base in Alaska (which is where the bulk of the action of the first game took place) in Metal Gear Solid 4, he also returns to the exact same 32-bit polygonal art style of the original Playstation game.

SolidSnake-600x372Kicking down the fourth wall and violating expectations was a part of the series before Metal Gear Solid was even released, though in a comparatively more subdued form. When a traitorous member of Solid Snake’s team tries get him to abandon his mission in 1987’s Metal Gear, he says, “Solid Snake! Stop the operation. Switch off your MSX at once.” (The MSX was the platform on which the game first appeared.)

What these games proved to me is that we need not be satisfied with our expectations, that suspense can be built when we shake the very foundation of our readers’ worldviews. There are times when I’m writing and I realize that my story has taken the expected path—the safer path. It’s at times like these where I wonder, “WWMGSD?” Metal Gear Solid would probably turn my novel into an ASCII flipbook animation, which is a little unconventional for even my tastes, but it can still serve as a guidepost for ways to keep readers from guessing what’s coming.

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