I'm not your Stephen King, or Tom Clancy, or Dean Koontz. I'm one of those other guys. You know, the regular Joes with enough talent to string words into stories, but minus the timing, breaks, and other factors that separate best-selling authors from the rest of us. I didn't get a college degree until my late forties. Though I've written steadily since the late 1980s, I was also in the US Navy, and have held a steady string of complicated, demanding day jobs. The opportunity to chuck it all and take a crack at writing full time never rolled around, and I have to say that unless I someday have the wherewithal to retire and stay home, it's likely that opportunity will never arrive.
That said, I do what I can. I write between the cracks. I write every evening. I promote my own books through websites, interviews, blogs, and various portals between writers and readers. I keep an open mind, and I roll with the punches, knowing that there is always the chance that if I continue to jab, bob, and weave, the opportunity to land that knockout punch that changes the game might someday present itself.
Over the years, I've tried a lot of things. I've managed to sell about seventeen novels to a variety of publishers. I've managed to become a permanent part of the legacy of Star Trek, and of Stargate Atlantis. I've written for the big boys in NYC and for small, independent publishers with very limited print runs and advances. I've written short stories by the truckload and marketed them to every conceivable venue. I've done book reviews, film reviews, essays, columns, and an every-growing string of blogs, each with a slightly different slant and purpose.
If a vampire who walks around at high noon is a Daywalker, I suppose I am a generation walker. I grew up before the Internet age, but I launched myself into it when it arrived. I've been right at the head of the line to try out new things. I narrowly missed getting rich investing in both Netscape and MCI. I have been a network engineer now for more than twenty years. I would not like to try and think of all the websites I've had, designed, been a part of, and helped others with.
I have been active in writer's organizations. I have been a member of HWA off and on since the late 1980s. I served as vice president, president, and then a couple of times as trustee in that organization. I did a bit of committee work in the SFWA many years back. When the GEnie bulletin board system was up and active, I was there, and when it shifted to the real Internet, I moved house to SFF.NET and continued to try and build and grow this oddball career of mine.
Now things are shifting again, and again I intend to ride the wave. I've heard and responded to countless diatribes, opinions, warnings and predictions about how the digital age will affect changes in writing, reading, and publishing. I suppose I'm a moderate liberal in this field. I see Kindles and I-phones and computers receiving more and more digital content. Books are becoming fluid, available in a wide variety of formats and bypassing standard channels.
All of this got me thinking recently about the dynamics of publishing. It's been a reality throughout my career (I can't speak for anyone else's career) that writers get the short end of most deals. We wait and wait and wait to hear from editors and publishers, but are expected to (and do) jump to the starting gate when there's a deadline in place, or a slot to fill. We get a percentage of the take, but in most cases, it's ten percent or less. We are at the mercy of marketers, executives, book sellers, and distributors. We can be passed around, dropped, kicked to the curb and forgotten as editors change jobs, or lines suddenly go in a new direction, and little thought seems to be given to the consequences.
In short, though I am not a complainer, and will continue to work hard and seek inroads through that quagmire of dead-ends, dashed hopes, and hopefully some victories, I've also begun branching out and re-thinking other aspects of my career. Here's a thought that could impact all those writers who are prolific in the world of short stories and novellas.
On my hard drive there is a small mountain of words. These words comprise the short stories, novelettes, and novellas I've written and seen published over more than two decades. A few have been collected, and some have been reprinted, but for the most part even these second-shots at stardom have passed as the books went out of print. In other words, they are just taking up space.
Enter the world of digital publishing. If musicians have I-tunes where people can get their songs or albums at the push of a virtual button, why not short stories? That was the thought that launched Macabre Ink Digital Publishing, my newest experiment. I've learned to convert stories and books to several different e-publishing formats. I've created an e-commerce site to make those files downloadable with an interface to pay for the downloads through Paypal. $1.00 a story, $1.50 a novelette - and up from there. I then created the fiction version of an album. If you buy 12 or more downloadable stories, or spend more than $13, you get a discount back to $9.99...so you get individual stories, or reader's choice "collections". Then I added my first novel, and I formatted some of the out-of-print collections of my work that I still have the rights to. I even created a collection titled Joined at the Muse of my work in collaboration with other writers.
Now I'm opening it up. I want more writers involved. I want there to be a vast wonderland of short stories to choose from, all for$1.00, and here's the kicker. I'm only keeping 10 percent. 90 percent goes back to the author. Rather than the $100 that most sites want to convert a book to an e-book, my son is going to format stories and books - $5 a story and $20 a book. The first two stories I'll even convert for free (until it gets overwhelming). The more authors involved, the better.
Future plans include audio reading downloads by the authors, and serialized novels, with (as always) ninety percent going back to the author. I want to build something new, and I want to build it on a foundation of the work of writers, not the greed of those feeding off of them.
You can offer your books on Kindle through Amazon, but they take a big chunk, and they don't market your work any better than you can yourself. All they do is post it and collect their check. Same with Mobipocket and other sites. The big chunk always goes to the "publisher". In this new digital world, that seems like an incredibly unbalanced deal. I'm going to try to make a difference.
You can find the works that have thus far been formatted and offered at:
The Macabre Ink Digital Store- Click on the Macabre Ink Digital link at the top.
You can follow @Macabreink on Twitter.
At The Macabreink Digital Publishing Blog You can read updates and descriptions of the digital offerings. I hope those who read will begin discussion threads here and that word will spread.
Digital works are currently formatted for Kindle, Mobipocket, E-pub and .PDF - things are growing and changing.
And while all of that's going on; I'm working on my next novel, revising an older novel, and keeping my eyes on the prize. Someday it's going to be mine.