Tag Archives: 47North

2013

It’s been a busy year for me. I started 2013 as CEO of a charity that no longer exists, chasing a career as a publisher and fundraiser. I end the year as a part-time employee of an author-services company I helped start, with high hopes of becoming a full-time writer again in 2014.

It’s been a strange year.

The Consortium

I founded the Consortium in 2010. It was the cooperative of artists who helped me publish my first book, and over two and a half years we recruited 34 artists, hosted two major art shows, and published 30 titles.

Support the Artists to Support the Arts

Support the Artists to Support the Arts

And then, just like Al Capone, we were brought down by our accountant. We’d hired a discount guy in the early days (when we were dead broke), and we paid for it in the end. Despite his repeated assurances, he never delivered our application for charitable status to the IRS.

We finally fired him and switched to more reliable agents in 2012, but after reviewing all the papers, they told us we’d waited too long and missed too many opportunities. It was possible to carry on, but it would cost a fortune and probably involve years of legal uncertainty.

So, as much as we hated to, we folded the business. I’d been the first employee in April 2012, and I received my last paycheck in March 2013. We formally dissolved the company at the same time.

Of course, it’s never that easy. We’re still working on closing the books, managing paperwork from the state of Oklahoma, and wrangling with the IRS. With any luck, we’ll get it all settled in the early part of next year.

Legacy Publishing

I also spent most of 2013 experimenting with traditional publishing. That experiment started late in 2012, when I delivered the first Godlanders book to 47North in November.

Based on all my experience with indie publishing, I really mostly thought of the book as finished when I turned it in. Legacy publishing doesn’t work that way. I spent just as much time working on the book in December as I had in October.

We finally finished that book sometime in January, and in February I dove right into the sequel (which was due in May). I wasn’t anticipating any problem with that timeline, but between the pain of dissolving the Consortium and the challenge of expanding a brand new fantasy universe, it turned out to be the hardest book I’ve written since high school.

The Godlanders War, Book Two

The Godlanders War, Book Two

It was due in May, as I said before. I delivered it in June and, once again, kept right on working on it into late August.

Then book three was due in November. Yeesh.

We were also seeing the sales of book one by then. It had been released in May and, frankly, it bombed. It has limped along since then, but it clearly never caught the attention of all my Dragonprince fans.

So we started analyzing the problems with that book even as I was trying to focus on finishing out the later books. We came up with an aggressive plan to rebrand them all (new titles, covers, and product descriptions) to coincide with the release of book two in January.

So that’s looming large now. I’ve delivered book three (and next week I’ll start doing the follow-up work on it), but now all my attention is focused on the launch of the sequel in a few weeks here.

Most importantly, I’m done. I still have another month or two of clean-up, but I’ve completed my three-book contract with 47North. That series will definitely continue someday, but for now (and probably all of 2014), I’m really looking forward to turning my attention back to Hathor and the dragons.

Draft2Digital

And I cannot possibly discuss 2013 without talking about Draft2Digital. If you’re not already familiar with Draft2Digital, it’s an internet company built on the software that I used to format, publish, and monitor sales on all my books.

That software was originally developed as a favor just for me, but over the years I became increasingly convinced it would be a thing of real value to indie publishers everywhere.

Turn Your Story into an Ebook!

Turn Your Story into an Ebook!

Of course, it took a lot of work to convert it from a bunch of command-line code connected directly to my Google Docs account into something convenient, clean, and flexible enough for public use.I recruited the people to do just that early in 2012, and the four of us worked feverishly to get it done by the end of the year.

That was 2012. In August of that year, Draft2Digital hired its first employee. In December we launched a beta site and advertised it with a single post on a single writer’s forum.

So we started 2013 with one employee and maybe nine active users. We end it with six employees and 1,900 active users. We have nearly 20,000 titles in our catalog, in our first year we’ve seen over 2.4 million paid sales of our users’ books.

I mentioned in the introduction that I’m one of those employees. They hired me in July to help manage distributor relations, and recently promoted me to Director of User Experience. It’s my job to understand how authors and publishers use our website, to figure out how we can improve that experience, and to design the new features that will make our service even more valuable as we grow.

In Review

It’s been a wild year. I feel like I somehow crammed a decade’s worth of life into 2013. I’ve had some victories and some failures, but most of all, I’ve had experiences.

I haven’t even mentioned passing 200,000 sales of my own books. Or the car that caught on fire in the middle of a road trip. Or the bitterly cold Bedlam game I watched with my dad in Stillwater. Or my lawsuit. Or the writer’s conference I attended in Manhattan. Or spending an afternoon with Patrick Rothfuss.

It’s been amazing. Exhausting, true, but amazing. And as I look toward 2014, I realize the most amazing thing of all:

It’s only getting better.

Oberon’s Dreams is the Kindle Daily Deal!

My first traditionally-published novel came out back in May, and it’s had a little trouble gaining traction. I suspect it has mostly to do with the branding, mainly because the reviewers are saying so.

Seems it’s not the story they thought they were getting (a sea-faring pirate tale), and somehow my Dragonprince fans aren’t getting the word that there’s another story they’ll probably like.

Admittedly…there’s no dragons in it. But there’s action. There’s adventure! There’s a charming rogue thrown back through time and caught up in a war between two ancient gods!

Anyway, it’s been languishing in obscurity for a couple months now, but it’s got a good chance to break out of that because today it’s been selected by Amazon as one of the two Science Fiction/Fantasy titles in the Kindle Daily Deal.

The Kindle Daily Deal is a huge promotion that has a habit of vaulting books onto the bestseller list. Oberon’s Dreams could certainly use that treatment, so wish me luck!

And if you haven’t read it yet, grab a copy during the promotion. You can save a couple bucks and help me climb the charts at the same time.

New Release! Oberon’s Dreams (The Godlanders War, #1)

I have a new book out! I’ve been talking about this one for a while, but Oberon’s Dreams is now available. It’s the first book in a new adventure fantasy universe that I’m really excited about.

Corin Hugh thought his mission had come to a highly profitable end. But King Oberon made sure his quest was just beginning…

After a three-year search, Corin has found the lost city of Jezeeli. The dashing, quick-witted pirate promised his crew that they would be rewarded with a treasure beyond their wildest dreams, but the ancient ruins hold no treasure—only stacks of strange books. Left to die in a fire set by his mutinous crew, Corin is mysteriously rescued and transported back in time to a city ruled by King Oberon.

Only Oberon has the power to send Corin home. But the tyrant Ephitel–a brutal god whose name strikes fear even in Corin’s time–has designs on Oberon’s throne. Can Corin defeat the mighty Ephitel and change the course of history?

With a supporting cast of mystical druids, a gentleman thief, and a banished courtier from the House of Violets, Oberon’s Dreams is an action-packed, richly imagined adventure fantasy.

Oberon’s Dreams is the first book in the Godlanders War. Get your copy in ebook, audiobook, or paperback at Amazon.com.

Working for the Man

I’ve mentioned more than once that I’ve been working on a book for 47North, a science fiction and fantasy publisher owned by Amazon. I even wrote an article for Unstressed Syllables explaining how to submit a book to an Amazon imprint. That has been one of my most popular posts there.

But I don’t think I’ve ever shared the story of how I ended up with a traditional publishing contract. There are some restrictions in the contract as to what details I can share, but the story’s mine to tell. So here we go.

Submission guidelines

I told the story in the aforementioned article, but last January I decided that I wanted to get something published by 47North. I’ve really loved the control (and profit) available through self-publishing, but the one big thing I lack is advertising. I’m making enough revenue now that I could afford to pay for some promotion, but I wouldn’t really know what is worthwhile. And I don’t want to spend the time on trial and error.

Meanwhile, several of the standouts in the self-pub community were crowing about their deals with Amazon imprints. Amazon is far more responsive to author needs than New York publishers. They offer much fairer contracts (in a lot of ways) and pay approximately twice the royalties you’d get from anyone out of Manhattan.That’s not sharing secrets from my contract, that was the buzz about Amazon publishing before I ever heard from them.

So I decided to do a deal. As I said, I’ve been most satisfied with self-publishing, and I had no intention of quitting. Instead, I hoped to sell a book or two to Amazon, experience the traditional publishing process for the sake of my bucket list, and then watch while their promotion spilled over into new loyal readers (and more profit) for all my other books.

As it happens, nothing came of my carefully-crafted submission. It got lost in the slush pile. Instead, someone from Amazon contacted me spontaneously in May because they’d noticed how well Taming Fire was selling. He was clearly surprised to hear that I had contacted them way back in January.

Still, everything worked out. We had a phone call to discuss what they could offer and what I was looking for. I took care to stress my commitment to Consortium Books, and they had no problem with that. None at all. Obviously they’d hoped I would want to republish my proven series through them, but when I said that was impossible, they were still just as interested in hearing what else I had to offer.

And that was…nothing. Between Consortium Books and Draft2Digital, we’ve gotten really good at publishing, so everything that I had ready to publish was already published. I did mention a new property in a new universe that I had started for a class last spring.

It was 15,000 words (which would qualify as a short story) and an outline, but that was enough to interest them. They didn’t even ask to see the pages. They signed me to a three-book deal on an outline.

That’s a big deal. It happens all the time for big-name authors–guys like Stephen King and James Patterson–and sometimes for midlist writers who’ve been working with the same publisher for a long time. But mostly publishers won’t even start to talk about a contract until they’ve seen a complete manuscript.

And here I got a three-book contract on an outline. I’m still a little bit in shock at that. I’m big time.

Deadlines

Of course, that meant I still had to write the book. And I had to write it good enough to justify the advance they paid me back in June. I had no doubt that I could do it, but that was still a stressful pressure hanging over my summer.

My busy summer. See, in June I hired my first (paid) employees at Consortium Books. We have an Acquisitions Editor and a Senior Editor, plus a Marketing Director hired in September. So I spent my summer on such inescapable chores as payroll taxes, group health insurance, and pursuing our nonprofit status.

I planned to get that stuff hammered out quickly, then set my employees to work while I turned my attention to the book. I figured if I took two months on chores, I’d still have two months to write the draft (August and September), and all of October for revisions before I mailed the book off for my November 1st deadline.

That…didn’t quite work out. I started June with 15,000 words of story written, and when October rolled around, I still had 15,000 words.

Even then, I was slow to start. Day after day slipped by when I had no more than a couple hundred words to show for all my effort, and I needed to be doing about 2,000 a day for all of October.

As I fell further and further behind, I kept trying to jump start my process. I would dedicate more and more hours to writing (or, as it so often turned out, not writing). I rebuilt my outline repeatedly. I spent a lot of time psycho-analyzing myself and tried a dozen different solutions.

My wife just kept reminding me, with more faith in me than I’ve ever had in myself, “You’ll get it done at the last minute. You always get it done at the last minute, and it’s always wonderful.”

And, of course, she was right. Look for Oberon’s Dreams on bookstore shelves in May. And watch for updates here in the meantime; I’d love to do a cover reveal once we have final art, if they’ll let me.

As for me, I’m going to keep putting in the long hours, now that I’ve found a schedule that works for me. I’m really hoping I can write and publish at least two new books in the time it takes Amazon to publish the one I just delivered.

Any votes on which two new books I should write?

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma City…

A title like that really shouldn’t be followed with fascinating tidbits, should it? But life has been action-packed around here lately, and it’s only getting more interesting by the minute.

Here are some highlights:

Most of my books are now available on Kobo!

That means you can get DRM-free ePubs even if you’re not living the in the US. (I hadn’t realized Barnes and Noble made that restriction). We’re working on getting all the Consortium Books library up there, and will have it shortly.

Draft2Digital (my new e-book publishing platform) is…functional! Sort of!

Man, that should really sound more exciting than it does. As of yesterday afternoon, we can now add new book projects, input all the basic sales data, upload a source document (Word or Google Docs), and then generate a beautifully-formatted e-book. We haven’t integrated the tools to publish that book to our various vendors yet, but I’ve done proof of concept and tying all the pieces together shouldn’t be too hard.

I just signed a three-book deal with Amazon’s sci-fi fantasy publishing imprint, 47North! (Yes, these all get exclamation marks. If they didn’t deserve exclamation marks, they wouldn’t be news.)

That was actually last Wednesday, but Amazon has agreed to publish and promote three books in the World of Auric superhero-fantasy series. I’m really looking forward to experiencing the (somewhat) traditional publishing process, and especially to the promotional partnership Amazon can provide.

And while I was writing this post, I was contacted by an anime production group interested in developing the Dragonprince’s Heir into a feature film, or possibly a series!

I have no idea how much interest you would have in seeing that, but I find the idea fascinating. And, of course, it gives me an opportunity to find new readers in another market altogether. That some exciting stuff!

And, finally, I recently approved our next title from Consortium Books, Myth Reaver: Downfall, by Joshua Unruh!

It’s neo-noir Viking fantasy, which means it’s huge and dramatic and all kinds of grim. If any of that sounds at all interesting to you, you’ll probably love the book. It’s epic in scale and tone, and perfectly executed. I’m so proud to have been a part of this story’s development.

I really wanted to mention this one sooner, but I saved it to the end because it comes with an offer! Draft2Digital will be building us an Advance Reading Copy of Myth Reaver: Downfall sometime tomorrow, and Josh offered to let me share copies with my readers.

I’ll probably make a separate post about that tomorrow (if I can find the time), but if you’ve read this far, you can get a head start. Leave a comment below asking for an ARC of some grim Viking fantasy, and I’ll make sure you get one.

Now…I guess I’d better get back to work!