Self-Publishing 3

1 02 2020

Still a lot of unanswered questions, but I am moving forwards slowly.

Friday seems like a good day to hit the Publish button ready for the weekend. So here I am two and a bit weeks later and I have three short stories published with KDP. Next Friday it’ll be a novel available in paperback as well. And the Friday after it will be a ‘short’ fairy-tale. I should have ten things out there before the end of March.

And at some point I’m going to have to face Marketing. I’ve got some ideas but ones that won’t work well with the mixture of my old back list. Or I’m just making excuses to avoid doing it yet!

I have managed to put “Persistence Pays” on offer as a free download for five days now that the Valentine sequel “A Scary Package” published yesterday. “Smith Brothers: Joe” was last Friday. Strangely, I’m excited by five free downloads of “Persistence Pays” just today…

All three are contemporary romances and there are two more Smith Brothers titles to come (one novel and one short story). Then the only other contemporary story is the three parts of Christmas Intervention which I’m going to combine and publish in December. I don’t intend to write any more contemporary stories because I’m too out of touch with the setting.

Next Friday will be sci-fi novel, “Smoke” and novella “Yarotanji” will follow in a few weeks. Maybe I’ll finish the other three novels that should have followed “Smoke”, even if they end up more novella than novel. Then there will be two fairy-tale fantasy short stories and the final one will be my “best seller” contemporary shifter long short story. It published as a novella but is less than 17K so only about 40 pages.

All those should give me enough practice to avoid panic about the publishing process. I can save the panic for the Marketing – once I’ve sorted out some ‘new’ things and found the money to pay an editor. And one day I’ll work on something new…

Once I’ve braved Mailchimp and Prolific Works. Mailchimp is free for a basic account, but I can’t find the right page on Prolific Works to tell me those interesting details.

Self-Publishing 2

14 01 2020

Blood sugar restored and after some sleep I’m feeling less whiny. Why was I obsessing about format and covers when I won’t see the format after it is published and I don’t pay much attention to covers?

I do have to see the format while checking the conversion process and will probably check it again when published, but if I need to read my work I’ll do it in my manuscript version and can format that to whatever I want.

Covers are still a dilemma, I’m still quibbling about them because I can’t quite get my head around why it is better to have something that looks just like all the competition out there. But as I don’t pay that much attention to covers (because I can’t really see any detail on thumbnails) is that really a problem?

I have found three istock photos that I like for the covers of ‘Persistence Pays’ and ‘A Scary Package’. I think they are all of the same couple. The hair colour isn’t quite right but the skin tones are. I was going to use the same photo for both stories as they are about the same couple, but now I’m tempted to use two photos. Only that doubles the cost…

There is a cute cartoon one that might be free, only my definition of free is obviously wrong when applied to cover images. I mean ‘no cost to me’ and the sites seem to mean ‘no further cost after you’ve paid for using it’. The cartoon would fit with the stories, but not with the other mm romance covers.

Really over-thinking this for 99p short stories.

I was very brave and created my KDP account despite my abject panic on finding out that my old ITIN had ‘expired’ on 31st Jan 2019 before I started. There was a single mention on the US Tax site about it still being valid if a third party was using it and if I wasn’t filing a US tax return. That was buried in a lot of info on making sure you renew and hurry up about it. KDP had no problem with my old ITIN and even the dreaded two stage validation thing before I got that far worked.

As covers were on my mind I decided to see what the free KDP cover creator offered. Not a lot as it turns out because I can’t see the detail on the photos. I found a hand-holding one but suspect it is a man and woman – one hairy arm, one not so hairy – it doesn’t look too bad to me, but could well give the wrong message to anyone with good eyesight.

At least I did get both stories uploaded and ready for publishing – once I stop dithering about the covers.

Of course that did raise another question. KDP does a spell-check while processing the manuscript and I got big green ticks for no spelling mistakes on either. Yay! But both stories are US spelling and grammar, so would I still get a green tick if I converted them back to UK spelling and grammar?

The standard advice is to use US English for all books because US readers can’t cope with UK English, but because UK readers have been exposed to so much US English that they can accept it. Hmm.  I’m still not convinced that US readers as a group are that much less intelligent than UK readers.

And there’s a decision for another day. All the old manuscripts I am planning to put up on KDP are already in US English so will stay that way; although I might try rewording sentences that have the shudder-inducing ‘gotten’ in them. Maybe I can build a list of alternative phrases…

Self-Publishing 1

12 01 2020

There are so many questions to answer before I can self-pub anything. And every time I get an answer it generates more questions!

So I have made some tentative decisions about what, where and when – subject to some more answers…

I’ve listed the previously published work – about 20 items between 2009 and 2014. I’ve put them into order to re-publish. After studying the list I decided to move some of the short stories to my Free Fiction page instead. I’ve combined a few related stories and decided not to do anything with a couple more. All of which leaves me with 12 almost ready-to-go manuscripts.

Two short stories are ready after a read through and a few minor changes – a few words changed or moved around in the sentence. I decided to format them for publishing following the Smashwords guidelines which are recommended in other ‘how to’ books.

‘Now’ abruptly collides with ten years ago. Now fiction e-books should be formatted with indented paragraphs and no space between paragraphs; only non-fiction should be done in block paragraphs with a space between. Duh? Readers prefer this. Double duh?

I’m a reader. Maybe even a Reader with a capital R. I like blank lines between paragraphs. I don’t like indents. For me that is easier to read.

Ten years ago print books were formatted indent/no space and e-books were block/space because that was easier to read on screen. All my previously published stuff is block/space. My works in progress are block/space. I picked my original publisher because they wanted manuscripts formatted in my default style…

I did format my print version on Lulu as indent/no space as it was traditional/expected and reduced the number of pages, so reduced the print book price; the e-book version was block/indent. Two different master documents; two different outputs.

I followed the instructions and formatted both stories as indent/no space. They don’t look good to me. I checked some of the e-books I have on my Kindle and yes the newer ones are indented, some with spaces and some without. I can only get about one paragraph on screen so I’m not looking at a big splodge of text and the lack of space between paragraphs isn’t as obvious as it is on a computer screen. Most of them are more than single line spacing though and the ones that aren’t look cramped.

So it looks like I’ll be reformatting those two stories again. Line spacing a bit over 1 and with a small trailing space to separate the paragraphs. Or maybe to block/space…

Another thing that’s changed is using Word’s formatting rather than manual – that was a no-no ten years ago. Microsoft Word internal formats did not translate well and often caused problems on conversion. So manuscripts had to be manual format rather than automatic. A lot of the auto-format options still have to be turned off, but now some are needed and spacing paragraphs with a blank line can cause problems…

A big question has surfaced from all this: why am I struggling to do this? Why self-publish these old manuscripts? What do I want to achieve?

Fame and fortune? No, not really. I don’t want all the attention that fame would bring – and the chances of getting any favourable fame from a pile of stories that didn’t do that well ten years ago are remote. I’d like to earn a modest living from writing, but that is unlikely as well because I am very bad at marketing.

So why self-publish? Why bother? Why not just put them all up as free reads?

I can see the stats for this blog – not a lot of interest in my free reads. Maybe there was some interest back in 2011 when I posted most of them. And I’d like to get them to a wider audience – getting paid is also a good thing even if it is just pocket money to buy more books for me to read.

But do I want to publish something that ticks all the boxes for the fads and fashions or do I want to publish something that I am pleased and proud to call mine? Even if nobody likes it or buys it?

Now that is a really big question.



10 01 2020

Is this the year I’ll pluck up enough courage to self-publish my writing? And why does that need courage? I figured out the process with Lulu over ten years ago, so why is it a problem now when it is so much easier to do?

Probably because I’m over-thinking it now; ten years of added wisdom (or confusion) make it a much bigger deal than it was back then. Slapping a self-edited het fantasy romance up on Lulu with a homemade cover was a big event. And holding a paperback copy of that book in my hands a few weeks later was an even bigger event. But it wasn’t exactly professional.

The world did not sit up and take notice and the thrill of achievement ebbed away. I think it has sold three copies and I never noticed any royalties slipping into my bank account.

Back then there was still a stigma about self-published work and it was considered vanity publishing for the most part (even when it didn’t cost a penny); or was a sign that the book wasn’t good enough to be published by a real publisher.

A year or so later I had a real contract for a mm sci-fi novel with a real publisher. Validation! Some stranger thought my writing was good enough for them to make money from. Yay! I was a professional author!

Cue gibbering panic and elation – a weird combination but then my reactions are rarely simple – and then frustration was added to the mix.

My lovely shiny new contract was for online serialisation – do you remember the chapter-a-month subscription services? – and when the serial completed an e-book would be produced and added to the catalogue. No print version, but why would I want that option? E-books were the way to go – despite comments from nearest and dearest that it wasn’t a real book…

Because of pressure of work my editor asked if I’d be okay with editing one chapter a month rather than doing the whole 95K in one go. I naturally said yes. The edits were all small things and didn’t take long for either of us.

So there I was a published author with nothing to promote for the next 15 months. Persuading someone to part with a fiver to read your book is difficult enough but asking them to subscribe at a tenner a month for 15 months? Too big a job for me.

At the time I thought of myself as a novelist. I wrote novels. I wrote long novels. I couldn’t write short stories as short stories were much more difficult. Every idea I came up with for a short story morphed into a potential novel or novella.

The publisher was desperate for short stories as they churned out several a week; but I couldn’t write them, I knew that I couldn’t write a decent short story. But then there was a second (desperate) call for a pirate story to go in a three-story collection about – you guessed it – Pirates. This could be slightly longer than a standard short story – I had those word counts per format memorised – and they wanted it now with publication a few weeks later.

As part of my frustrating author-name promoting I had a regular spot on the publisher’s LJ account and had written some very short ficlets about the Ninja Pirate Ballet Company. They were fun and foolish attempts to entertain people on LJ that had been well received – crack fic, for those that remember the term.

Without any expectation of success I cobbled some of the ficlets together and added some extra content before submitting the manuscript for the Pirate anthology. Much to my shock it was accepted. And the editing began; different editor with different criteria. There was a house style that I hadn’t conformed to – huh? There were conventions that I wasn’t following – double huh? It took a lot of questions for me to understand the hoops to jump through and get a reluctant pass on the manuscript – deadline approaching remember. I felt it had lost a lot of its manic bounce by then, but at least I had a product up for sale on the website and two co-authors to help promote it. I think we sold about 200 copies between us. At least I now knew I could write short stories.

I produced several short stories, a couple of novellas and a contemporary novel over the next few years for the same publisher – I wrote things on request for my editor or just on spec; and nothing was turned down. There were sales and I got royalties, but not even enough to cover my book buying after the serialisation money stopped.

The publisher changed hands and wasn’t such a nice, familiar place to be anymore. I didn’t submit any more manuscripts and waited for what was published to run out of contract. The publisher went bust before my last contract ended and I discovered that I should have been getting some sort of ‘reversion of rights’ document when the contracts finished. I do have one for the last thing, but not for any of the others.

All my eggs in one basket? Not quite but nearly. I had a couple of fairytale stories in an anthology (after another subscription serialisation) with another publisher. And a short story and a 500-word ficlet in collections for the UK Meet. I also had a short competition entry get to the third round(?) and be included in a free collection of the entries. None of these earned me any royalties and only the UK Meet stories are still available out there.

So I have a clump of professionally edited manuscripts of varying length that I should self-publish – not to mention various other complete and near-complete manuscripts that wouldn’t take much to sort out.

And I am still dithering.

UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet 2014

17 06 2014

This year’s Meet was at Bristol and has just finished. The good thing about the ending is that we spend it discussing what was good about this year and what we’d like to see next year. That always makes the ending a positive thing because you can leave with thoughts of next year.

But back to this year.

I was part of a ‘meet and greet’ table on Friday afternoon to allow arriving delegates to register and get together for the Friday evening. I passed on the evening’s entertainment as I knew I would be too tired to appreciate it after a long drive to Bristol. But I did get the chance to say hello to lots of old friends and meet some new ones.

I hung around at the Bristol Marriott Royal hotel until everyone had left for the night’s entertainment and then headed back to my less luxurious lodgings. I was hosting the Torquere LJ on Friday and managed to get in another couple of posts before going to bed.

Cross posted from Dreamwidth and LJ post dated 08/06/14

How many times do you have to open the door…

27 01 2014

… to let three dogs out into the garden and then let them back in?

Obviously the minimum number of times is one – open the door and leave it open until all dogs are back in the house. Unfortunately that is not a good option at this time of year – I fret about the waste of heating money and don’t appreciate the cold draft.

In an ideal world I would open the door and three dogs would go out in an orderly fashion allowing me to shut the door after them. Then I would open it again, three dogs would file in and I could close the door.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed this is not an ideal world so I spend a lot of time opening and closing the back door.

The other night was one of the longer stints of door duty: dog C went out; dog C came in; dog B went out; dog C went out; dog B came in; dog C was going to come in but then changed her mind and ran off when I opened the door; dog C then came in and dog B went back out; dog C went back out in case she was missing anything; dog B came back in; dog C came back in; dog A, who had been watching all the comings and goings from the comfort of his bed, decided that he really ought to go and check that the garden was secure; dog C then had to go out and see what dog A was doing; dog B had to go out because the other two were out there; dog A came back in; dog B came back in; dog C nearly came back in but changed her mind; dog C came back in; dog B stood by the door and looked hopeful. I left the kitchen for the first time in half-an-hour without opening the door.

Ten minutes later I had to let dog C out again; dog B then had to go out and see if dog C had found any food; dog A thought about it but couldn’t be bothered to get out of his bed…

Why not just make them stay in when I know they’ve just been out? Dog C is young has some digestive problems which have trained us to let her out when she barks or suffer the consequences. Dog B is on a diet and is rather high strung – he also has a habit of being sick on a fairly regular basis; he is also frightened that he might miss something that is on the other side of the door at any given time. Dog A is older and has full control of both ends of his digestive system, so does not go out as often as the other two.

Cross posted from Dreamwidth and LJ


31 12 2013

2013. Not one of my better years.


My second full length novel was released – Jobless in January: Johnny Smith – after three years of dithering and fiddling on my part. I’m really happy with the final product and it is available in print as well.

The short sequel, Something Worth Fighting For, followed a couple of months later. I love this angsty little piece – Johnny and Charlie might be in their thirties physically, but they are both a lot younger mentally, especially when it comes to relationships.


UK Meet in Manchester – had a wonderful time there and next year we’re going to Bristol. I was thinking about Manchester the other day when Alan Turing was granted a Royal Pardon (more than sixty years too late). I hope that Alan’s statue was suitably turned out for the pardon – gold lippy, eye shadow and a tiara perhaps? Maybe a tinsel boa?


Brilliant holiday in Wales – and we’re going back there again next summer!


The bad bits:

Employment or lack of it woes. I have been working for most of the year, which is the upside, but it wasn’t in a good contract. At least that finished at the end of October, and I’m job hunting for the New Year.

The work situation wasn’t improved by stress, depression and fluctuating blood sugar – the three are related, but I haven’t figured out any reliable causal order. Hopefully an adjustment in medication will reduce these unpleasant side effects.

UK Meet Manchester 2013

16 07 2013

What can I say? It was fantastic and I spent four days talking to anyone who’d stay still long enough or only walked slowly.

Julie Bozza has written about most of the panels I attended and done it much better than I could so check out what she has to say here

Stevie Carroll, RJ Scott and JL Merrow have all talked about the guided walk many of us went on. The wonderful John Ryan took a group around each evening.

Stevie’s words here
RJ Scott here
JL Merrow here

I went on the final (Sunday) walk and Alan Turing was wearing green eye shadow. I didn’t get a picture of the Beacon of Hope as I was trying not to take pictures of the people and there was a group enjoying beer and conversation sitting at the base of the Beacon. I wasn’t entirely comfortable about going on the guided walk (after I’d booked it) as it felt like going to the zoo or maybe a safari park (where the inmates are in a more natural environment) so I was particularly careful not to get any of the people in the pictures. The walk wasn’t like that at all and was about the buildings, history and the area – not the others enjoying a warm evening by the canal.

Manchester reminded me of London – maybe that was the black cabs – but I didn’t feel uncomfortable walking back to the hotel alone in the evening which I would have done in London. Not that I saw a lot of the city apart from the daily trek to Canal Street for dinner and the view out of my hotel window – it was a very big window with a very big view.

It was great to see everyone again and make new friends. Mara’s gang had a few new recruits outside the main entrance and we provided a service to other Meeters who knew they were coming back to the right hotel because we were there! 

Cross-posted on Dreamwidth and LJ

Release Day 2

13 06 2013

If you squint a bit and don’t look too closely it’s Wednesday 12th June and “Something Worth Fighting For” (that direct sequel to “Jobless in January: Johnny Smith” I mentioned a while back) is released today!

Johnny and Charlie, from “Jobless in January: Johnny Smith”, have enjoyed a casual relationship for nearly a year, meeting up once or twice a month. The trip to Dorset should have been a fun reunion after six weeks apart and it shouldn’t have had Charlie walking out on the first morning. Johnny is left at a guest house with more questions than answers and no Charlie to answer them.

Johnny has to decide if he wants to fight for their casual relationship, and the hope that it might lead to something more, or just crawl away and lick his wounds. Is Charlie worth fighting for even if Johnny knew where to find him?

I rolled over, the unfamiliar bed waking me further as I groped across the cold, empty space beside me. My sleep fogged brain insisted that the space should be filled with hot, hard man and that woke me completely. I sat up and scrubbed my hands over my eyes before looking around the dim room.

The curtains were drawn and the sky was faintly gray with the approach of day. A familiar figure sat hunched in front of the window and I relaxed slightly. Charlie was still here, just not where he should be.

Too many mornings I woke up and Charlie wasn’t there at all, but on those few mornings when he was real and with me, then he should be in bed beside me not sitting across the room staring out the window.

“What time is it?” My voice croaked the words and I fell back on the over sprung mattress, bouncing slightly. I smiled as memories of the night before passed lazily through my brain. We’d had to make some interesting adjustments to make up for the mattress.

“Just after six.” Charlie’s voice wasn’t sleep roughened or happy.

“Breakfast isn’t until seven thirty. Why don’t you come back to bed?” I snuggled under the covers and rolled to my side to watch Charlie’s silhouette. I could think of several ways to pass the time, if only he was here in bed rather than over there in a chair; although the chair had possibilities. I tried to remember what sort of chair it was, but I hadn’t been paying much attention to the room last night when I’d arrived. I hadn’t seen Charlie for nearly six weeks, which was the longest time we’d been apart in nearly a year.

Even if the chair wasn’t up to supporting both of us, and very few chairs could take much more than Charlie’s weight, it still had possibilities if I didn’t mind kneeling on the floor. I was willing to put up with more than a cold floor for Charlie, but that was something I couldn’t say aloud.

“Charlie, are you coming back to bed?” I realized I’d been thinking for a long time and waiting for him to answer my question. Charlie usually put a lot of effort into stopping me thinking because he claimed it was dangerous to me and everyone around me.

“Just go back to sleep, John.” Charlie’s voice rumbled from the chair.

Go back to sleep? On one of our few mornings together? Cold fear settled in my belly. I had kept Charlie’s interest for nearly a year. Had I become complacent? Had I said something clingy or demanding last night? Anything to suggest that I wanted more from him than sex?

I wracked my brain, but couldn’t remember saying anything that wasn’t to do with sex. I’d told him that I wanted him, but I’d said that often enough before. Charlie told me that he wanted my body more often than I said I wanted his.

He’d been to Canada for three weeks, which was why we hadn’t got together for so long. Had he met someone new there? Some lumberjack who could look him in the eye and match his strength? Had he finally realized that he was wasting his time with a screwed up, boring man like me?

I had been afraid of something like that since we started this relationship. Charlie didn’t have relationships, he had one night stands and brief flings, and probably went to clubs where he fucked someone without even bothering to learn their name. Was it a one night stand if it didn’t involve a bed or more than fifteen minutes?

What did that matter? I suppressed the flare of jealousy that such thoughts always produced; I was used to ignoring that particular emotion where Charlie was concerned. What mattered was that Charlie was here with me now and should be ‘mine’ for the next day and a half before we went our separate ways again.

One thing was certain I wasn’t going to go back to sleep any time soon.


This is the sequel to “Jobless in January: Johnny Smith” that I’m sure I mentioned before. It’s about 10,000 words (around 35 pages depending on format) and covers just over one day! It is a very busy day for Johnny with plenty of ups and downs to keep him occupied. It should work as a standalone, but it is a sequel so reading the novel first would be better. 

I’m giving away a copy so comment here before 20th June to get a chance to win.

Check out my Torquere page here for more info.


25 05 2013

I bought a Kobo ereader from WH Smith a few weeks ago and intended to write a diary about getting used to it. That didn’t happen like a lot of other things because I’ve been too wrapped up in reading. Despite wishing I’d bought a Kindle instead for the first week or so I have persevered and now find it hard to put the thing down.

I’ve been re-reading a lot of books – some old favourites and some I only read last year. I don’t seem to have retained anything that I read last year which is frustrating and depressing. Usually it takes several years for me to forget a story to the extent that it all seems new when I open it again and stays seeming new after the first chapter. The joys of getting old I suppose. The positive side is that I should be able to save a fortune on ebooks if the trend continues!

I got a 32GB memory card to extend the Kobo’s memory so that I could carry my entire elibrary around with me, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I could have bought a much smaller card because it is a pain to search through hundreds of books and seems to take forever with only half a dozen books to a page on the Library list. I’ll be keeping a bare minimum on the card for reading and trying to remember to remove them once I’ve read them. The theory is that the Kobo will just be stocked with “To Be Read” books rather than everything and the kitchen sink.

The Kobo store hasn’t impressed me. They might have millions of books, but the single-level search facility and limited display makes finding things time consuming and frustrating. But that seems to be a signature feature of the device and its interface. I’ve had to learn how to use a touch screen which is sometimes too sensitive and other times unresponsive. AND THERE ARE NO INSTRUCTIONS!!!

I like to read the instructions when I get a new toy. I might not remember everything; they might not make sense; but at least I’ll have some idea how to do stuff or where to look for help. The Kobo instructions are five whole lines and three of those are about downloading the desktop interface. That was when my “wish I’d bought a Kindle” phase started, as soon as I got it out of the box at home.

I have mellowed towards it with time as I’ve figured out how to make it do what I want most of the time, and figured out what I’m doing to make it do weird things. Mainly I’ve just got used to the weird things and the lack of direct ways of doing stuff. And it does have built-in Sudoku so most of the time I’m not even reading just playing.

The battery lasts about a week now if I use the light a lot – that’s just basic reading and playing with no wi-fi or internet. That’s good enough for what I want. I’ve bought a mains charger because it was a pain having to tie the Kobo to the laptop for three or four hours to charge. It only takes an hour or so to charge direct from the mains. It doesn’t come with a mains charger just a USB lead.

I should have gone with the older, cheaper option without a touch screen. I’m probably just being old and grumpy about it and would have found as many irritations with a Kindle. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t tempted by a second-hand Kindle for £25 the other day…

I am enjoying the portability factor and the built in light that means I can read in poor lighting conditions and walk around reading like I used to with paper books only more so. I did read a paper book last month and it took a long while because I couldn’t adjust the font and my eyes needed frequent breaks.

I’m getting withdrawal symptoms since it’s been several hours since I picked up the Kobo…