Tag Archives: indie publishing

To Use or Not To Use a Pen Name

I have never used a pen name.

There have been a variety of reasons for this. At first, as a teenager, it just didn’t occur to me. After all, I was a writer. Why would I want to make it harder for people to find what I’d written?

Much later, I learned that Joanne Rowling had been advised to use initials – J.K. – to obscure her gender, because “boys don’t read books by women writers.” Using my full name on my plays and published stories became tinged by a feeling of feminism, although (obviously) I sometimes use my initials and last name for the sake of brevity (for example, the URL of this website).

In the last few months, however, I’ve started thinking about writing non-fiction, and that’s made me start to consider the use of an alternative name – either a variation of my own name, maybe the initials, or more likely a different name altogether – because the topics I’d write about are sensitive ones and not necessarily work I’d want to publish under my full name. Since I’m not making enough money to live off my creative writing (yet) and I still need a day job, not revealing details of my personal life while connecting them to my name might be an unfortunate but practical decision.

Writing under multiple names isn’t new (for example, Nora Roberts writes under her own name in romance, but as J.D. Robb when she’s penning a mystery, and Stephen King flopped as Richard Bachman – not to mention Rowling’s own forays into assumed names), but I feel like the practice carries pluses and minuses.

One plus would be the anonymity it affords; one minus would be that it would require setting up and maintaining an entire separate platform as a “second” author. A plus would be that it allows for easy separation by readers – someone doesn’t download a title thinking they’re going to get the genres I write in creatively, and instead wind up with a how-to book on putting up a shelf. A minus would be that that makes it harder for readers who like my work and might want to put up a shelf to discover that yes, I have indeed written a how-to book on exactly that.  (And please note, this is just an example; I’ve never put up a shelf in my life)

I’m curious about how other writers make the decision to work under a pen name. Why do you use it? Or why don’t you? Or why do you do both? Are there reasons in favor or against either option that I might not have thought of? If you’re not a writer, what do you think about authors writing under more than one name? Do you prefer the simplicity of looking for one author, no matter what genre they write in, or would you rather be able to compartmentalize the writings of your favorite authors?

Looking forward to your answers in the comments.

SHORT FRICTIONS: Collecting a Collection of Short Stories

picI first started talking about publishing a collection of short stories shortly after HOT MESS went live. Initially, I had a set of about eight short stories on themes around artificial intelligence and robots – some written, some ideas – and the group of them should have been out for your reading pleasure about a year and a a half ago.

Obviously, that hasn’t happened.That isn’t to say I haven’t been writing. I have. A lot. And two weeks ago, I realized that what I thought were a couple of reader-ready stories were actually several more than that. Also that I have a tendency to forget when I’ve finished something if I don’t make a big deal of it right away.

Therefore, this post is an announcement of an upcoming publication from yours truly.

Some of the stories I wanted to write wound up not being the ideas I thought they were, others were far longer than I’d meant them to be, and in at least one case, a criticism from a friend crawled into my brain and died there – which isn’t to say that story will never be written, but there were enough flaws with the idea that it needs some serious time and attention before it’s ready for popular consumption. Others, which would have been timely if I’d managed to get them published 18 months ago, now feel a little stale and in need of a reworking that might not have mattered if so much time hadn’t gone by. Some of the stories in the collection will already have seen the light of day, and some are no longer available in their original publications.

Some of these shorts have been sitting on my hard drive for quite some time – in particular, a piece about a vampire during the Holocaust which I wrote over ten years ago and have been too self-conscious to share since then*.

Well, self, time to get over it.

It will likely be a few more weeks before the collection is ready to go, so consider this a heads-up. I have a new book coming out. It will be available both electronically (through Amazon and Smashwords) and in print (via Createspace, which also feeds into Amazon).

The title will be SHORT FRICTIONS, and I hope you will enjoy it.

Meanwhile, I am legitimately terrified, and once the finishing touches are on the publication file, I will be hiding under my quilt in bed.

 

*I still remember standing in Blackstone’s Book Shop on Charing Cross Road, back in 2002, staring at a book I wanted to buy and thinking, on my student budget, I can justify buying this if I write something about it afterwards, then it’s research and that’s totally okay. Since then I’ve shared it with a few friends, as well as an agent who said she’d be interested in reading the novel, should I ever choose to develop it into one, I just haven’t actually published it anywhere. 

The Buying Habits of the Paying Readers of Self-Published Authors

A week or so ago, I had a conversation with a friend who reads a lot of e-books. While though her preferred genre – supernatural YA fiction – isn’t one where I’ve yet published, it was still great to hear her opinion on what worked and what had changed in the field since she had started reading e-books, particularly the self-published ones.

She’s noticed a couple of different trends:

– Where books used to be 400-600 pages, now they usually topped out around 250.

– Prices went up as series built their readership – and while she found this frustrating, she also acknowledged that it was a self-perpetuating system.

She also told me that every week, she gets a selection of free books, and those are the ones she reads – before she reads anything else. Which brought to mind something I had seen discussed a week or two ago, about how Kindle Select and its and free loans might be degrading the market for paying fiction readers. What my friend was telling me was exactly the opposite: the writers finding financial success were the ones whose stories were of a quality compelling enough to make people keep reading them. While the first book might be free, the second, third or fourth could rise as much as a dollar per volume in cost.

A while ago, I talked about why I wasn’t feeling particularly gung-ho about Kindle Select; for authors in specific genres, such as coming-of-age YA fiction, though, I suddenly understand where the impetus could come in to offer a short sample of work – but a whole novel?

My friend said that one of her frustrations with the indie market was a lack of well-edited work. By this, she was talking not just about proofreading, but about actual editing: someone who has gotten down in the trenches with the writer and helped them make their story as strong as possible.

I can understand why a reader might want to go on a short trip with an author, a setting, and a group of characters before setting out on a longer journey. But isn’t that what sample chapters are for? Is free, Kindle-Select-Accessible material a requirement for self-published authors who want to make an impact? If so, how might that impact writing trends overall? Is it just a YA thing? Just a genre thing? What about in literary fiction; what’s going on in those self-publishing circles? Is the tendency to read free books first part of why Smashwords and B&N sales are abysmal, because their platforms don’t provide options for free sampels?

HOT MESS: speculative fiction about climate change, is available for Kindle, Nook, on Smashwords and in print.. Cover design by Sarah Hartley.

Now, some of this is navel-gazing – after all, Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change is still selling steadily, and we neither used Kindle Select nor did I have other offerings for sale when the book was published.

But I do have other work in the pipeline. Haiku Of The Living Dead, for example, which is a Zombie Haiku compilation I’m putting together with Miranda Doerfler, which will likely not be eligible for Kindle Select because we’re allowing submissions to be made in public forums (including in the comments to this blog entry) accepting submissions throughout the week

So many questions. Clearly I have some reading up to do. But if any of my readers want to talk about their self-published-fiction-buying habits in the comments, your perspective would be appreciated.

The Hot Mess Update: Print Editions, Radio Appearances & More


So you’ve been dying to read Hot Mess:speculative fiction about climate change since it came out, but you don’t own an e-reader. Well, here’s some good news for you: the book is finally available in print.

You can now purchase print editions of  Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change via our CreateSpace E-Store. Within a week or so, this will populate out to Amazon, but in the meantime you can pick up a copy from CreateSpace.

Next up? I’ll be calling in to Earth Day edition of  The 99 Report’s podcast to discuss Hot

Mess with host and fellow indie author Allie, after a fortuitous Twitter introduction from @Uncucumbered. The show will also feature a discussion of how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has affected the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding waters – so hopefully I’ll be learning something while I’m there. In the meantime, here’s a picture of Deepwater Horizon from today’s xkcd.

I’m also putting together a guest blog for The Masquerade Crew as part of the A-Z challenge. My letter? S. My topic? Self-publishing. (Because really, why limit myself?) That should be going up some time around Earth Day, too. Is there anything about this process that readers and other indie authors want to know? Any questions I should try to bear in mind? Feel free to leave ’em in the comments.

PS – you can still buy Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change for Kindle, Nook and on Smashwords. Our Goodreads page is here

PPS – Both print and e-readers have an environmental impact; by making the work available in both formats we hope our readers will be able to make a conscientious choice that fits their lifestyle.

Advertisement:

Get access to FREE book publishing tools, resources, and a growing online community of authors. Learn how.


Huge Writing Announcement: “Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change” – Kindle, Smashwords & Nook

Welcome to my 100th post for rlbrody.com.

I didn’t realize I’d have something significant to say when I hit this blogging milestone. Imagine how excited I was when I realized. (Actually, if you follow me on twitter, you probably don’t have to do much imagining.)

So here it is. Huge Writing Announcement.

A few months ago, I posted about an anthology I was putting together: short stories about global warming and climate change, and their effects on humankind.

Today that anthology – Hot Mess: speculative fiction about climate change – went live on Amazon.com.

Over the next 36 hours or so, it will populate to Amazon’s international sites. Over the next couple of weeks, Nook, Smashwords and CreateSpace (a print service – that’s right, actual books) will join the Kindle version of Hot Mess for sale.

But today, it’s just there for Kindle. If you’re a Kindle owner, or if you’ve downloaded one of their ten billion Kindle apps for your smartphone, iPhone, iPad, or desktop, you can click on this link right here and you will be able to download your very own copy of Hot Mess. And you should. Because not only is it a piece of work I’m over-the-moon proud of, but it’s work with a grassroots-level charity angle: each author has agreed to donate a portion of whatever earnings they have from Hot Mess to a charity or awareness-raising organization close to their heart,  involved in dealing with climate change.

So go buy Hot Mess. What will you be getting?

The anthology starts with She Says Goodbye Tomorrow by Eric Sipple, a story about wine and family and loss and memory.  From there, my super-short Haute Mess takes a whimsical, fashion-based look at how visual and physical climates interact. Miranda Doerfler gives us In Between the Dark and the Light, an action-filled tale about a father and his daughter, followed by Sare Liz Gordy‘s Traditionibus ne Copulate, which (I think, and I know she’ll correct me if I’m wrong) translates to “Don’t fuck with tradition.” Next, my piece Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. is a domestic coming-of-age tale about a boy, his mother, an industrial accident and the house computer. Finally, RJ Astruc brings the anthology’s central questions back to the forefront with her fictional travelogue, The World Gets Smaller, and Things Get Left Behind.

Hot Mess features hand-drawn illustrations by musician/ecologist Hannah Werdmuller as well as a fashionably modern – and eye-catching – cover design from Sarah Hartley. Mere Smith’s assistance with proofreading and Jason Derrick’s with formatting were (and continue to be) very much appreciated. This book wouldn’t be out today without your work. Thank you, so much, to each of you.

A little over seven months ago, I approached four writers and asked them if they were interested in writing a short story anthology about climate change. They were. The project started. Now it’s over.

Except it’s not. There’s still loads to do: more uploading, more formats, more reviews, more readers, more awareness. I will talk about all of that more later – in another blog entry. Earth Day is next month; I’ll definitely talk about it before then. I hope you will, too.

For now, please read Hot Mess.

Then start talking, posting, retweeting, and facebooking about it.

 

UPDATE (3/21): You may have noticed that some of the above links are now directing you to Smashwords! You can now buy the book directly there; in a few weeks it will have populated out to sites like Kobo, the iTunes store and more.

If you’re reading on Kindle, I would still recommend you purchase the Amazon version, as that has been optimized for your platform. Nook users, Smashwords does a lovely job of converting to a Nook-friendly format.

Click Here to Buy Hot Mess

 

UPDATE 2:  This morning, I got to send my dad a text: “Your daughter is currently outselling Isaac Asimov in her category.” (We’d just pulled ahead of “I, Robot”).  The book rose to just over 9K in the Amazon store rankings. Within our own category (sci-fi anthologies), “Hot Mess” shot to #20 on the top #100 list, climbed up another few spots before topping out at #15, and lingered there overnight. (EDIT: Hannah has just let me know she saw it at #14 at 2am! Not sure if that’s EST or PST, but either way!) Not bad for Upload Day, right?