Sign up to hear about new releases and other exciting news from Annie Bellet.

Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

Okay, Let’s Do Math

This’ll likely be part 1 of this post, with more math and data to come later as I collect more.

Since multiple people have asked, both here in the comments and privately, I’ll show my numbers, so to speak.

I have two, yes just two, short stories up on Kindle/Smashwords etc.  They are literary fiction and available for .99 cents. I put them up mostly to practice the formatting.  A friend did my covers, which I think are beautiful.  If you want to see the covers or check out the stories, follow this link.

First question people often wonder with self-publishing things is how do you know it’s any good.  Well, I don’t.  Good is fairly subjective because some people might like that kind of story, some might not.  I do have some faith the writing in these stories is up to par because these are the two stories I used to get myself into an MFA program, so they can’t be bad on a writing level.   But in the end, you never know.  I would use the rough rule that if you have sold some fiction at pro or decent semi-pro rates and zines, if your submissions get more personal rejections than form letters, etc… as the measure for writing publishable/saleable fiction.  And hey, not everyone will like what you write.  Oh well.  If you have readable writing, a decent grasp of story, a good cover, and a decent description/blurb, I don’t think you’ll suffer much in the e-pub market, from my experience.

So… to the math.

I’ve made about 8-9 dollars total over about 3 months with my stories (counting the one I had to take down because I accidentally sold it).  This works out to each story averaging 1.16 per month for the two up now.  One sells better (slightly) than the other, but it’s longer and the content less violent, so that doesn’t surprise me too much.  I’ve also sold a few copies on Amazon UK netting me another 1.05.

Seems like nothing, doesn’t it?  My two semi-pro sales this year got me 30 or so, my pro sale will be a heck of a lot more whenever it comes out (paid on publication for that one).  But let’s look at the longer game here.

1.16 a month average per story (this will be my minimum, because this is the real number I’m getting now).  I have two stories out.  My goal is to write 40 short stories a year.  (I’m at 21 this year, but I’ll catch up to near 40 by Jan, no worries).  Give each story a year to two years to get through the pro/semi-pro markets on my list, so we’ll say that I get 20 stories up a year on average as the stories either sell (3 months average wait to get rights back) or sunset due to rejections/time.

So next year (we’ll call it year one) I might have 22 short stories e-pubbed by the end of the year (we’ll ignore putting together collections for the moment).  At 1.16 a month each, that’s 25.52 dollars a month.  Which would pay for my comic book habit, no problem.

Year two, another 20.  But the first 20 have been earning as well, so now it’s 42 stories.  That’s 48.72 a month.  Or, another way to look at it, 584.64 a year.  Sweet! I’m now (hypothetically, based on real numbers so far, of course) earning almost 600 a year extra for work I did years ago that I’ve also hopefully earned something on by selling to magazines.

Year three, another 20.  So now we’re at 62 stories up online, each earning 1.16 a month.  71.92 a month.  863.04 a year.  Anyway… you can see the progression.  That trickle? It adds up.  Not fast, but it builds and it sure as hell earns more than a story you’ve sold/didn’t sell/whatever would sitting on your hard drive.

Now, imagine if I wrote a story a week instead of just 40 a year (Bradbury does this, as do other pros).  52 stories a year.  If I said screw it to trying to sell to magazines, I could put up 52 stories a year.  That’s 60.32 a month, or 723.84 a year, the first year.  Second year- 1,447.68.  It just keeps going.  But the really fun numbers are when you start to look at the total ten year earnings.  So let’s do that.

On the 20 stories posted a year plan, after ten years I’d be earning about 2,800 a year in that tenth year from short stories.  But over the course of those ten years, I’d have earned almost 14,500 from those stories total.  Not that bad, especially when you think about it as work you did years and years ago, earning you thousands of dollars in a nice little trickle for you doing NOTHING.  (And it is potentially all bonus money on top of any you made selling the story in the first place, because again, balance is key).

On the 52 short stories posted a year plan, the numbers, of course, look even sweeter in the long term.  In that tenth year you’d earn about 7,240 from your short story inventory.  Over the course of the whole ten years? You’d have earned about 37,000 from those short stories total.  Again, not horrible.

This only works, of course, if you keep writing and learning and producing work.  And I fully believe that if it takes you months to write a short story, this plan and method won’t work as well (though the trickle can still happen, and still build even at a pace like that).

Of course, if you want the math to get very insane, start making collections with those stories.  At the end of plan 1 (20 posted a year), that’s enough for thirteen solid collections that you could sell at 2.99 or even 4.99 (12-15 stories each is pretty good, depending on story length).   Thirteen 4.99 collections, selling just three copies a month each at 70% royalty rates (I don’t have real data for collections yet, of course, so this is now hypothetical time) would earn an extra 1,635 a year.  For practically no extra work (after all, you have the stories already written and formatted, you just put them together.  I’m guessing this would take at most an hour or two, plus time for a cover if you are doing your own).

I’m editing this to add the numbers for if you do collections off ten years of accruing 52 stories a year.  This works out to about thirty five collections (12-15 stories per).  Thirty five collections at 4.99 earning 70% royalties selling three copies a month each works out to about 4,400 a year.  Again, for work you’ve already written, are already earning from (as separate short stories), and have to expend minimal effort on one more time to get into a collection.

Add it up.  After ten years at the 20 story pace, you’re earning 4,435 a year off collections and shorts (370 a month) (and you will go on earning that on top of the 14,000+ you’ve already earned over the last decade).  After ten years at the 52 story pace, you’re earning 11,600 a year off collections and shorts together (970 a month) and again, on top of the 37,000+ you’ve earned already over the last decade (see how it builds?).

So there you go.  Some math, based on what I’m seeing over the last three months from my own very very limited experience.  And I’m a no-name author.  I’ve sold 3 short stories this year traditionally, but under a different name (Annie Bellet, my spec fic name) and in a different genre than the two posted online.  I doubt I have any sort of platform or following at this point.

These are just my numbers and my take on things.  I have no idea how well my e-pub novels will sell.  That’s why I’m writing them (well, and the idea is kick-ass and will be a bucket of fun to write).  I’m curious how this process and the numbers will stack up for a writer who is at this point pretty unknown.  I’m going to do everything I can, of course, to make sure I fulfill the four principals hypothesized by Konrath and others about what makes an ebook sell (write a good book, low price point, good/professional cover, good blurb).

I intend to be open about my numbers when the time comes.  I am very grateful to authors who have trod this path before me and put up their experiences and numbers, and I intend to pay that forward with my own data.

So, hopefully, this post answers some questions.  Now, I’m going to write another short story, because without the work, these numbers mean nothing 🙂

*I did very rough math here.  If I’ve made a mistake (I’m dyslexic, especially with numbers), I apologize.  I triple checked, so hopefully I haven’t totally gone astray with my maths.

Now that *that’s* over…

Home from the Dean Wesley Smith novel workshop.  Two query packages are in the mail, three more will follow those as soon as I unpack and transfer the right files to the right computer and update all my folders.

Once again, learned so much at the workshop that I can’t even begin to sum it up.  Re-affirmed that ebooks are a good idea (balancing with NY publishing), and learned great things about POD stuff that I hadn’t even started to investigate on my own yet.  Having a professional, proofed query package is a great benefit of the novel workshops, but the real meat of learning at these things is in all the side information, the stories, the questions that others ask and answer, and so many other little details (not to mention the cool people I meet and the books I get to read…).

But now, it means I’m done with that novel until I get a full request.  So what’s next?  Well, here’s the rough plan for the rest of this year:

Plan for rest of October:  write a handful of short stories and mail them.  Get the world-bible nailed down for my ebook project.  Keep things in the mail.

Plan for November: Write the ebook project book 1 as a nanowrimo (hey, why not, right?) and start back in on TVMoSS as soon as that’s done.  Also write another handful of short stories and mail them.

Plan for December:  Get ebook novel ready for launch in Jan.  Finish TVMoSS (or as near as I can given I’m going to lose a lot of time due to holiday stuff).  Write another handful of short stories and mail them.

It looks like a lot, but Oct/Nov are usually fairly productive times for me, so I’m not too worried.  I just need TVMoSS done by Feb 1st, and the ebook book 1 done by December-ish (to get time to edit, clean it up, and format before Jan.).

So yeah, that’s about it.  I’m planning a post on my library project, so hopefully now I’m done with that mind-eating novel I’ll get something up on this blog that’s at least nominally interesting on a more regular basis.  Thanks to everyone who encouraged and supported me while I struggled through finishing this last month or so, you guys are awesome!

(More) Things I Learned about Novels

The novel is finished.  It’s the third one I’ve written (well, that I count, because the early attempts were just that…attempts).

This novel kicked my ass.  I don’t think I’ve ever found a writing project to be so difficult before.  But I learned some valuable lessons.

1) In the future when choosing to write a novel in a genre I’ve never so much as tried writing a short story in, allow more time than I think I’ll need.  A lot more.  Like twice as much or better.  This will be very important to keep in mind if I’m ever under contract, because I’ll need to allow for a further out deadline than I might otherwise.

2) Just because a book has a lot going on and multiple points of view doesn’t mean it will be long.  I figured that once I added a third semi-major view-point character that I’d be good on the length problem.  No the case (though closer than the book would have come otherwise).

3) Fast pacing doesn’t mean skipping description.  I think I also finally started to grasp the idea that “setting is character opinion” better in this book, so even if the rest of it is a giant fail, I got to practice pacing and setting.

4) It doesn’t have to be good, because frankly, in the middle of a book, I don’t even know what good is anyway.  All I can see is the thousands of words standing in the way of finishing and the giant mess that might be on the page behind me.  Done is good.  Done is my new definition of good.

So.  That’s over.  Now, if my brain will stop trying to write sequels, I’m going back to short fiction and working on the e-book project until the end of the year.  I miss short fiction.  Being able to begin and end something in a single session sounds like heaven right now.  And I’ve got five (yes…five! I’m so behind on admin work) stories that need to go out to markets.

As for the finished book, I have no idea.  It’s being workshopped this next weekend and the query will go out to editors.  I’ve given it to a couple first readers as well.  Whenever they get back to me is when I’ll drag it out into daylight again and see about adding enough words (5-7k should do it) to make it commercially viable.  Unless it gets a full request before then, in which case I’ll go into panic mode and do whatever needs doing at that point.

By the Way

My story “Insect Effect” is up in the Autumn issue of Contrary magazine, you can read it here.

I’m nearly done with my thriller novel, so things will be quiet for the next few days while I make a final push on it and hopefully find time to edit for my dyslexia before sending it out to first readers and for the workshop.

I’ll be back with a post or two whenever I finish.  Until then… so long, Internets 🙂

So… The Eeeevolution

No, this post isn’t about evolution.  It doesn’t matter what I think about evolution anyway because I choose to believe in the Flat Earth theory, which has hot light and cold light and an anti-moon and… (I’m kidding here. Seriously. But google Flat Earth Society if you really really really have to).

This post is about the e-book revolution or whatever you want to call it and some of my history/thoughts at the moment on the whole thing.

About a year and a half ago I decided that this writing thing was for me and that I should give it a real go.  I found a blog called A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing by an author named JA Konrath.  It kind of blew my mind in many ways for many reasons.  Relevant to this particular topic is that Konrath is currently making a very cushy living doing e-books (he’s also traditionally published) and is very candid about his path and where he’s at.

Back then I figured that self publishing was still pretty much the same as vanity publishing and not really an option for what I wanted.  That’s changed, clearly.  I decided to keep reading everything I could find about ebooks and to follow Konrath’s posts and the comments (more and more e-authors post good comments on his posts, and comments online can be gold.  Except on you-tube, and sometimes even then).

Konrath posits that all you need for success as an ebook author are four basic things (and I’m way paraphrasing from memory, so forgive any inaccuracies, they are mine and not Konrath’s):  1) a good book 2) a good cover 3) a good blurb 4)  a low price point (he recommends, I believe, under 5 dollars).  I don’t think being traditionally published hurts, but he does have an interesting point.

About six months ago, I decided that I would get my feet wet with ebooks in a big way as soon as I fulfilled a couple of conditions.  The first was to sell at least two short stories and be getting more personal than form rejections.  The second was to have a couple more novels for traditional publishing written and submitted.

I set the first condition because that is where I felt my writing would need to be, ie at a level that has proven it can sell, before I would be comfortable with trying to achieve tenant one of the checklist (write a good book).  I set the second condition because a) writing is practice and having a few books written before I write more books is always good and b) I wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking away too much time from other parts of my business plan.

I have fulfilled condition one and will have soon fulfilled condition two.  Which means that starting early next year, I’ll be going ahead with operation e-book experiment in which I plan to put Konrath’s theory to the test.  The publishing world is changing, there’s no doubt about that.   This might be paper book nostalgia talking, but I lean toward trad publishing doing all right in the end and sticking around.  I don’t think the big publishers are going anywhere anytime soon.  But e-books aren’t going to either, and I see really no way the author who stays on top of this stuff can lose.

Look at the porn industry (stay with me now…).  The internet caused a huge shake-up in porn. Huge.  The giant piles of money turned into more disparate piles of money because suddenly everyone with a camera could produce and distribute porn.  Sound familiar? But there is still porn. And still money to be made in porn, lots of money.  Even for amateurs.   I look at publishing the same way*.  Things are going to change, but books won’t go away.  The author provides the product and as long as people want to read, there will be demand for what I do for a living.

So basically, conditions fulfilled, I’m jumping on the e-train.  Stay tuned for a post about the specifics in another month or two (as soon as I have some cover art for a preview, perhaps?).  I think the future for authors lies somewhere in the happy middle between trad and indy.  They are both ways to make money, to find readers and connect with an audience.  Each has advantages and disadvantages, and I think there is, in the end, a way to get a bit of the best of both worlds.

*I just know that somehow I’m going to get flack about this porn/publishing analogy. Sigh.

Another Quickie Post, Another Sale

I’m deep in the middle of “oh god oh god we’re all gonna die (before I finish this novel)” land, so this will be a quick post.

First, I sold another story.  My story “Insect Effect” will appear in the next issue of Contrary Magazine.  Does that title sound familiar? It should, because I put it up on Kindle.  See, I somehow mis-marked my submissions records and had the story listed as rejected.  Totally my fault.  Fortunately, the folks at Contrary were kind enough to overlook that (the story is down now, and won’t be available again except at the magazine until after the contracted date).  But it sure has taught me a lesson in double checking everything before doing anything that might compromise a sale.  Fortunately this time I don’t have to pay for my mistake and my story still gets published by an awesome ‘zine.  (They have some very odd, surreal, and beautiful stories, I’m happy that my odd and surreal story gets to be among them).

Well, my Friday novel deadline is looming tall.  Time to drink another monster, stab the short story plot demons in my head (seriously, my brain wants to go back to short fiction. It keeps trying to escape) and go right back to the novel.  I’m almost through the swampy middle and into the home stretch.  Writing a thriller has been different and more challenging than either of my other novels to date, but I think I’m learning a ton doing this, and hopefully will have a kick-ass book at the end.  But first… I gotta get to the end.

Getting There

Had a rough patch or three in the last couple weeks with my crazy novel project, but I’m in the home stretch on one novel at least.  I had set it aside to work on the one I really wanted to workshop, but realized after a few thousand words that TVMoSS is going to be a lot more complex as a novel than I originally thought.  While I think I could probably still write it (at least a passable for workshop draft of it) in a couple weeks, I’m not sure I want to.

So I switched back to my thriller.  And hit the great swampy middle.  The last novel I wrote (my second ever) I took an eight month break in that swampy middle.  And I swore never again.  No more breaks.  But the middle is still not fun.  There comes a time when I’m writing and I can’t tell if what is falling out onto the page makes any sense at all.  I was so worried about this novel never making it to 80k words, then I solved a problem and added a POV.  Which is great for adding words, but suddenly I had a character with a whole storyline show up a third of the way into the book.  Is this done?I wondered, and can this work? Am I screwing it all up?

I don’t know. I still don’t know.  So I guess in the end I am glad I’m taking this book to the workshop.  DWS will tell me if he thinks it is broken.  And the others will all let me know if they’d even want to read past the first 50 pages.  So we’ll see. But it’ll be done at least. And I’ll have written my first thriller ever.  I keep wanting to have a character fireball something or whip out a sword or teleport.  I miss you, speculative fiction! I also miss short stories. So very much. I haven’t written a short story in like two months.  I will soon. After Sept. 10th.  I’ve still got WotF to win, right? *grin*

These are the days, however, when I’m glad I have a super supportive spouse.  He went on a long walk with me this afternoon and I told him all about my detective (the POV I’m working into the story).  My husband is psyched to read this novel now, when he was lukewarm about it in the beginning.  His excitement helps me.  He thinks the story sounds better, more complex than it originally did.  He loves  the idea of the character and the motivations behind him.

As writers, we are so often alone.  No one can write for us.  It just can’t be done. If someone is writing for you, then they are the writer.  Bouncing ideas off people is good, but at the end (or beginning) of the day, we just have to sit down and do the work.  All on our own.  And what we do is subjective.  We can’t ever know if it’s really any good, because “good” varies with the subject offering the opinion.  But when I say “hey, listen to this idea” or “hey, does this work, do you think?” to a responsive, interested ear (like my husband), it helps with the isolation and quell that feeling of insanely typing away into the dark nothing.

So even though I have to wade into the swamp each day by myself and try to kill a middle, I’m not truly alone.  I’m fortified by all the people that support me, and by the brave souls who have gone before and those who are wading into their own swamps alongside me.  We’ll slog through.  And we’ll get there.

Back to the swamp now.  I’ve got a novel to slay.

Overdrive! Progress Meter!

Hey, I solved a problem with my novel (the first one in the doom writing drive of doom).  But that problem that I solved? It means more words (which is good, the novel was going to be too short to market).

So here we go. I’ll update this post instead of spamming my blog with meters.  So check back to see how screwed I am *grin*

Goal is 155,000 words by September 10th.

Progress:

74459 / 155000

Novel Writing Overdrive!

I’ve just been reminded that I need to have my novel for the Novel Workshop in October done by September 10th.  Glancing at the calendar, that’s really not very far away at all. Meep.

This wouldn’t be nearly as much of an issue as it seems like if I’d finished the novel I am currently working on (which is very nearly done, I’m over the middle hump but desperately trying to figure out how to make it long enough).  See, I don’t want to workshop *this* novel in October.  I want to workshop the one I intend to write after the current novel.

You know, that novel that I haven’t even started yet.  Oh, I have characters outlined, and a rough idea of what happens. And sort of the setting.  And I did some research, if you can call reading a few westerns and watching Deadwood and Silverado again “research”.  But hey! Who doesn’t love a challenge, right?

So it is time to go into novel writing OVERDRIVE!  You know, that magical “extra” gear that really tough people are supposed to have. Or race cars, or something.  Counting prior social obligations and leaving Saturdays free for “hi, still married” time, I have exactly twenty one writing days until September 10th.  21. Days. That’s like three weeks. Awesome.

Not a problem. Right?  So my goal will be five thousand 6250 words a day on each of those twenty one days.  This pace should give me two finished novels.  At least if I totally fail it I have the first finished novel as my back-up for the workshop.  But I’m not going to fail.  Even with a pinched nerve in my shoulder, I can probably find 4-5 6-7 hours a day for twenty one days to you know, do my job.  (I was almost at this pace before Starcraft 2 pwned my life).

And the plus side is that will leave me with the 10th through the 30th to actually write something for WotF fourth quarter.

Well, time to put the writing into overdrive.  Just think of it as my writer-fu leveling up. A lot.

Clarion Musings

So, first… my sale. I have sold “No Spaceships Go” to Daily SF, a brand new magazine that will apparently start publishing later this summer/fall. So go subscribe now, because besides my story, it looks like they have lined up some top authors (including fellow PDX writer and Hugo winner David D. Levine).  I’m pretty excited.  More details whenever I get them.

Also, in other internet news, both Clarion and Clarion West have posted instructor lists for 2011.  And wow, they are impressive (okay, when aren’t they? seriously. Sigh).  Clarion list is here.  Clarion West list is here.

As always, I kinda want to go to Clarion (either Clarion) because writing with both my potential classmates and under the tutelage of professionals such as those listed above would be freaking awesome.  I’ve only applied once to Clarion West, and was form rejected.  Which doesn’t shock me, it was my first submission to anywhere, ever. (Feb 4th 2009, for those of us ie me keeping track).  And frankly, I mostly applied because I really wanted to meet Elizabeth Bear whose work and work ethic I super admire.  Probably good I didn’t get in, since I don’t know how I would have survived.

I almost applied to Clarion last year, but decided I couldn’t afford it and took a couple of Dean Wesley Smith’s workshops instead (which, for the sake of honesty, I almost didn’t get in to.  While there’s no formal audition like for the Clarions, Dean isn’t a guy who pulls his punches and if he thinks someone isn’t ready, he’ll say so.  I’m not sure I was ready, but I am grateful. *grin*).  And between discovering those workshops, reading Dean’s motivation posts (and Kristine Rusch’s posts on freelancing), and deciding to truly follow Heinlein’s Rules for Writers, I pretty much completely revolutionized how I was going about getting to my goal of making a living at writing fiction.

So… Clarions.  Should I apply? On the one hand, I imagine I’d have a blast and learn a ton.  On the other, can I get in? Or afford to go if I did? And, strangely enough, can I afford to take 6 weeks out of my writing schedule to focus on workshop stuffs?  I know they write a story a week at the workshops, but frankly, for me, that’s really not an issue, even with additional work like reading on top of it I’m pretty sure I could keep that pace without blinking.  But could I keep up my novel/novella/shorts schedule during Clarion/CW if I got in?

I don’t know. I don’t actually write nearly as well, especially on longer works, when I don’t have the comfort and stability of my home schedule and daily routines.  I can make myself get some work done, but not with the focus I have at home.  And I’m sure that between hanging out with fellow writers, doing the workshop stuffs, and the various functions and parties etc… I’d be pretty socially drained and low energy, which is not a productive state for me.

So if a) I did get in and b) could afford to go, then the question I’d have to consider would be is it worth losing potentially an entire novel’s worth of writing production?  I realize I’d come out of the workshop with six short stories, though as to publishable state I can’t say.  I hope that if I went I’d be really pushing myself in terms of how I’m writing and what I’m writing about, which might render whatever I write as a do-over, but workshops should be about risk in my opinion.  No point going to learn something and not really pushing yourself to stretch out of comfort zones.

So yeah, that’s basically what’s going on in my head now.  The line-ups for teachers looks very awesome, but between money and time lost, I just don’t know if the workshop would be worth it at this point.

Things to think about.  Fortunately, I have time.  I probably won’t make final decision until Feb 2011.  By then, if I’m remotely on target, I’ll have five novels being shopped to trad. publishers, book one of my e-book series out, and at least 40 shorts circulating (unless editors buy more/all of them..nudge nudge universe).  So I’ll see where I’m at.

Anyone else thinking about applying? Anyone who reads this been to one of the Clarions? What were your experiences?

(And, of course, there is always Odyssey as well, which I’ve heard lovely things about from both the woman who runs it and writers who have attended.  So much to consider. Meep.)