Monday 16 September 2013

A second lease on life

Another update on Lying with Scorpions - it's now on to editor 2, who'll likely rip its guts out again once she gets book 3. But for the moment, it's off my desk and I'm focusing (as much as I'm able to focus, anyway) on Scorpion 3, which is about to hit 20k.

After doing a pretty solid 2,000 words yesterday, I was a little distracted. See, I was re-organizing old contracts, including stuff I'd done ages and ages ago, and I realised I actually own the "individual release" and English-language rights of a story that made me a not inconsiderable amount of money, oh, about 10+ years ago. Actually, it was my second commercial release after selling a horror story when I was 16 or so, and allowed me to bullshit my way into a book contract. It's a little sci-fi story, that, I swear, I thought was a novella of about 20k, but it turned out it's less than 7k. (Talk about memory and time distorting everything.)

And, it's not cringeworthily bad. While I prefer that the little horror story (which is derivative of just about every "haunted house" plot you've ever seen) sinks into the Moors of Forgetfuless, I think this little story is worth salvaging.

And I can justify putting in the work anyway. First, it's what I call an "easy victory" - short stories are usually beautifully manageable. A couple days' writing, a day's editing, an hour to read, if that. And any victory makes you feel good and motivated to tackle the bigger issues/pieces of work.

That brings the number of "unavailable short work" up to 3 (Deliverance and Burn being the other two).

And I know that Deliverance and Burn have novella potential at least, but looking at my workload, there's no way those will happen anytime soon. I expect to tackle most of my crusader bunnies in 2015, after I'll devote 2014 to my WWII bunnies. (Conversely, 2013 was the year of Scorpion.)

There are still people who want to get their hands on (legal) copies of those.

So what's an author to do? I've been looking at possibly self-publishing a number of pieces that are either a) off the beaten path/different, b) uncommercial/not commercial enough or c) mainstreamy without a market). I may add books to that that come out of copyright, or books that are rejected for whatever reasons (including "not commercial enough") or where a publisher offers me a bad deal and I can't get a better one.

After much deliberation, I've decided to put both Burn and Deliverance and that third story back out into the market. Burn and Deliverance are currently with an editor, and I have a cover artist friend working on some simple covers. The one for the German sci-fi story is done, and re-reading it, I decided to translate it into English and launch both the German and English versions. The German ur-text, as it were, is with a couple writer friends at the moment who'll hopefully pull it apart, and the English text will go through edits, too.

However, I'm doing this on a shoe-string budget; relaunching stories that likely will sell less than 50 copies each at $.99 makes no sense and wouldn't happen if I ended up having to spend $300 a piece for the relaunch (the cost includes editor, cover artist, stock photos - I'm forgoing ISBN numbers and really expensive stock - all images so far are <$10).

Considering that the "accepted" price for short stories is about $.99 (which I think is about fair for re-released and mainstream material), and that, at that price point I'd be making $.25-20 per sale (pre-tax), I just don't see the thousands of sales that would make it all worthwhile. So I'm essentially exploiting friends to get the necessary quality (and thank you, guys, for your help!).

This coincides with the relaunch of my German SpecFic pseudonym; I don't think it makes sense to sell (sex-less, straight) mainstreamy stories under a name that's now basically synonymous with m/m & gay writing. It's a pure branding decision - I'm still proud of the work, I still think it has merit (or I'd stomp it into the bin), but I also don't want to "mislead" my readers. I'll be happy when people pick the stories up for my voice or my weird ideas, or whatever else, but there'll be very little romance or sex, so I'm trying to keep the "glommers" happy.

I'm also not going to make it a big secret. Too many people have told me they'd buy even my mainstream stuff, so I'll let people know who I was and will again be. Will that pseudonym blog? I don't think so. I don't have the time to engage as two different people, and this will be my primary identity (as an ex-gamer, I have no issues with having multiple identities, or keeping them apart). No point hiding/misleading.

However, I enjoy the freedom of that other pseudonym in some ways. There's less expectation, maybe, or it's just less defined, or maybe it's more a playground. It's unlikely to amount to much more than that - I haven't written straight mainstream stuff for many, many years, and I'm not sure how prolific that other guy's going to be.

I'm not even sure which future projects will be shunted off to that name - non-romance? What about my hetero romance? The mainstream historicals with gay/bisexual main characters?

I'm not sure where to draw the line at present, and it's been a thought that's been running around in my head for months now. Can I do literary works with the same name as a specfic writer who happily writes about cyborgs? Or maybe put everything under that name that "dilutes" my main brand? (A brand that can almost be summed up with "expect the unexpected"?)

I guess it's going to be a case-by-case decision, but it's good to have the option wide open. The main break line seems to be romance/non-romance (which makes sense). I kind of refuse to consider sexy/non-sexy - while it would be nice to have more books to hand out to unsuspecting relatives/acquaintances, I refuse to be ashamed of writing sex, and there are quite a few mainstream books that contain as much, if not more sex than novels I've written. And then there's hetero/queer, which is way too easy as it implies that m/m and gay stuff are the same thing (and that's a hotly contested field anyway). On the other hand, I don't want to piss off m/m readers who click "buy" without reading the blurb when I get around to writing the hetero book(s). One way to "warn" them is by using a different name entirely. (Which is still in the cards as a possibility.)

In any case, I'm excited to get the three stories back out on the corner in the next few weeks, and looking for suitable cover images is fun. I did enjoy finding covers for my magazine when I was still running one, and I'm still proud of all the covers where I found the stock or had the idea for the concept. So, I actually enjoy this part. Let's see what happens.

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