Your First Published Novel: Part 2

My friend W Dan Willis has the theory that any given road to publication works once, because they plug up the hole after you get through. It’s certainly true that most writer’s I know have some unique aspect to their story. I, for instance, have never been rejected by a publishing house, only by Agents and Magazines. That isn’t to say that I haven’t submitted to a house. It also doesn’t mean I have a half dozen novels out. It means that historically, if I submit I’m either accepted or they never reply at all. Everyone has a twist to their story.

Mine came shortly after I gave up on Death by Cliché. A member of my writer’s group, Carolyn Nicita, decided that she wanted to build herself a portfolio of audio work. So she offered to record and edit for free if I read. Traditionally, I haven’t been big on self publishing. Even when I have gone the self publishing route, it involved starting my own game company and soliciting licenses from at least one company where I already had a fan base. I would not normally even consider this, but in the end I decided why not Death by Cliché. People seemed to enjoy it and it was unsaleable. If anything it gets funnier when read aloud. If there was ever a book for the experiment, this was it.

So late in 2008, we began recording Death by Cliché. I believe that was the same year that I moved, but I seemed to recall all the recording sessions happening in the old house, to we must have done all the sessions relatively closely together in a big push. Just about the time I actually moved, we were pushing out the first episode.

Howard Tayler has a panel he does called it “Charisma is Not a Dump Stat.” One point of the panel is to make sure writers know that while writing is a solitary task, marketing is not. I’ve always believed this myself. In fact, when I go to conventions, I only attend panels when I’m flying the colors for some topic or another. I do the panels where I’m speaking, and otherwise I spend my time in the green room, networking. I have been accused of holding court, but I like to believe that has more to do with the fact that my back injury makes getting up and sitting down fairly painful, so I spend a great deal of time ensconced in a chair. The more throne-like the better.

At any rate, I didn’t know Howard before I started conventions. I didn’t know any of my writing friends before that. Brandon Sanderson once told me that the first year we met, before he’d published, he hung out with Dan Willis and I in the halls because we were the “real writers.” In retrospect, that’s pretty funny.

At this point I’d been doing the local convention circuit pretty heavily since LTUE made me a guest of honor through a wacky set of hijinks and misunderstanding. I’ve been told that the way I handled that convention has a lot to do with my popularity with the LTUE staff. For instance, at the banquet after I was sitting at the table with the con committee when I won a child’s toy tiara in a giveaway. I don’t know what kind of guests they had in the past, but they were all terrified that giving me a little girl’s toy would insult me, and I was still Guest of Honor for about another two hours. I claimed the prize, put it on my head, and in my deepest and most manly voice declared, “I’m a pretty pretty princess.”

The point is, a great deal of my success can be attributed to the fact that I take great pains to make certain that people WANT to be around me.

So it isn’t terribly surprising that when we released the first episode, Howard Tayler wanted to talk about it on his blog. I believe at the time he had about 50k unique hits a day. The first episode saw a large amount of downloads. The next week, for the second episode, he asked his crowd, “Let’s break Bob’s server.”

And break it they did.

Your First Published Book: Part 1

In 2006 I began writing Death by Cliché. The book started with a few conceits. I’d written a couple comedic short stories and felt they turned out fairly well, so I wanted to try my hand at a novel-length comedy. I had years of experience writing as a game designer at that point and I wanted to embrace every bad cliché, both in gaming and in bad fantasy fiction. So it had to be a secondary world fantasy where the main character was from our world. I had to write my own chapter quotes and call great attention to the fact. The main character had to look like a complete Marty Stu. Most of all, I wanted a high joke density so that I didn’t have to worry how many people got any one joke. I could write as obscurely as I wanted, knowing that if one out of three jokes landed with any given reader, it would still be a funny book. I call this “The Dennis Miller Quotient.” Because I’m old.

The book worked out well. There were some scenes that were hilarious when read allowed that were merely amusing on the page. Conversely, there are jokes on the page that don’t translate at all to a live reading. For instance, I wrote a chapter where I make a meta joke about the spelling of its and it’s. Still, I was happy with the result. Damico, the main character, was funny and engaging. A little bit more of a “bro” than I am, but while I used a lot of my own experiences in the book (I was called by the Todd McGovern of ICE marketing once to go hijack a demo…Todd was completely correct in reading the warning signs), Damico isn’t actually me. I chose the name because it sounded like I had just slightly changed my own name. Damico was actually the name of my Father’s best friend in College. I called him Uncle Jack.

Through 2006 and 2008 I drafted the novel. I often feel good about a novel somewhere around the third draft. At least I did with this one. In 2008 I started shopping the manuscript around to agents. The reactions were generally positive. Many sent me form rejections, of course, but the ones who didn’t basically came down to a single criticism. The criticism matched the notes of pretty much every critique I received while drafting the book:

“Well I liked it, but no one else will.”

There is an very specific skill that any author must have, but many writers can’t develop. You must be absolutely, head over heels in love with whatever you’re working on, but ready to walk away from it at a moments notice. The main need for this skill is when you write a book, unless you’ve sold a sequel, you can’t just write the sequel. Also, I’ve found that if you do a draft of a book too soon after the last draft, you aren’t objective enough to see the flaws. You see what you had in your head, not what you put on the page. (The amount of time you need to leave a draft fallow probably has a lot to do with you as a writer. Also, I expect it shrinks with experience). I don’t know how many writing groups I’ve been in where a thirty year old writer was beating a dead horse he’d given birth to in high school.

So when you finish a draft, you have to be ready to put it completely aside and work on something else. When I’m writing a book, I spend the last two months plotting my next book. When you’re drafting, though, you have to be so passionate that you’re ready to work and rework the book until you have the best thing you can possibly write. When you’re shopping it you have to be completely passionate about what you’re selling, but the second the query is out, you have to suddenly be passionate about the project you’re actually working on. (Because you aren’t querying books you’re still writing, correct?)

But worst of all, you need to know when to walk away from a book. This book resonated with the readers (at least those who gave me notes). But in the eyes of the business people, it was unsaleable. It didn’t matter whether they were correct or not. Writing is a business and the businessman in me saw the writing on the wall, as it were.

So in 2008 and walked away from Death by Cliché.

My Conduit 2015 Schedule

Greetings!

This weekend I’ll be on several panels for Conduit 2015. This appears to be my schedule:
Friday
3:00 (Zion) There and Back again – the Hobbit Trilogy

Saturday
10:00 (Snow) The Dungeon Escape
12:00 (Arches) What do we know about Star Wars 7
1:00 (Snow) Discworld – Farewell Sir Terry
2:00 (Snow) The Marvel Movie Universe
3:00 (Zion) Choose Your Own Apocalypse

Sunday
12:00 (Zion) Working as a Collaborator

It looks to be a lot of fun. Hope to see you there.

Your First Published Book: Prologue

When I published my first RPG book, the experience was full of highs and lows. I’m sure a lot of great stories came from that time, but I wouldn’t know because I can’t remember any of them. Lets face it, that oft painful four-year process was a long time ago. I mostly remember the ironic and sad stories, such as the fact that I calculated my hourly after the company in question collapsed and realized that I had made .36 cents per hour.

When I started Final Redoubt Press, I posted a series of blogs about the experience. The posts were popular and I enjoyed them, so it’s occurred to me to do it again.

Last week I finalized my contract with Curiosity Quills to publish my (formerly) podcast audiobook Death by Cliché. So starting with this post, I’ll describe my experience. Many of you are probably interested in the foibles of your first novel. Others might just be interested in what it takes to convert a modest podcast audiobook success into a traditional novel (spoiler, it started as a novel, so it isn’t hard). Either way, these posts are for you.

Here are the rules. I will not lie to you. I will not hold back information that is mine to reveal. I will probably be cagey about actual numbers and checks, because there are others who DON’T want to reveal that sort of thing, and if I reveal my numbers it becomes easier (maybe trivial) to figure out the numbers of others. That’s not my secret to tell. Other than that, I’ll give it to you straight. If something is painful, I’ll tell you. If it delights me, I’ll tell you. When I’m inevitably stupid, I’ll tell you.

So next week we’ll start with backstory. I’ll talk about writing and shopping the book, why I made the choice to go the audiobook route, and how we generated interest in the book years later. I’ll then move on to the contracts and negotiations and everything that came before this point. I’m not sure how many weeks that will take. From there, it will be nothing but tears and agony, I’m sure.

I’m sure it will be a ride. Thanks for reading. I look forward to seeing you again next week.

Product 6 Release Eminent

Greetings!
I just wanted everyone to know that product 6 in The Echoes of Heaven is just about complete. There won’t be a sourcebook included with this product, but the adventure stands well by itself. This will be part 6 in The Moving Shadow Campaign. We are set to release on New Year’s Eve.
Thanks for your patience and have a great holiday season!
Bob

The Echoes of Heaven Product 5 Released (with special offer)!

Greetings. Final Redoubt Press would like to thank you for your patience and announce the long-awaited release of our 5th Echoes of Heaven Product: In His Name/The Last Hallowed Place. We’re very proud of this product and hope you gain as much enjoyment from its use as we did producing it.

Skip to the end for details on a special release-day discount.

In His Name details the churches of The Echoes of Heaven setting, with mechanical write ups, politics, NPCs, and dozens upon dozens of adventure seeds. It also details the great holy city of the Human church and it inhabitants and special sites. A must for any Echoes of Heaven player or GM.

The Last Hallowed Place is the 5th adventure in The Moving Shadow Campaign. Now that the characters have escaped from the trap set for them in The Tainted Tears, Morthorn has almost completed his plan to end the world. Can our intrepid adventurers stop him in time, or is this the end of the Mortal Realm as we know it?

For those who have waited so long, we’ve provided a special release day sale. Use the link below to purchase the bundle version of the product including the OGL, Rolemaster, and HARP rules for the price of a single version. Get three times the content and help us at Final Redoubt Press return with a bang. It’s our gift to you and your gift to us all at the same time.

http://www.rpgnow.com/index.php?discount=73358

Thanks, and good gaming!

Cover Hell Continues

In my last post I said that I made a pass at all the covers. I was hoping I was mostly done but dreading, honestly, that I was anything but. Many, many hours of work later, and I have finished a second pass on all the covers and turned them over for copy editing. How much more work is necessary depends on how many errors the copy-editor finds.

In addition to that I’ve started updating the internal text (including the preview download) to include updated information about the licenses. At the same time I’m upgrading the interior of the preview to full color, like the 4e version of the products. I don’t want to delay the other existing copies with large-scale interior updates, so I’ll restrain myself and only handle the licensing issues in those.

On the Death by Cliche front, I’ve finished an output of the e-pub version with a table of contents. I did this while gaming at a friend’s house, however, so it hasn’t been tested yet. The Kindle version is still pending. I don’t have news on a cover, there.

That’s the major news, the covers are just dozens and dozens of hours of work. With them receding, however, I hope to get updated copies online over the next weeks.

Regards,

Bob

Back in the Saddle.

Just a quick update on the week’s progress. On the Echoes front I’ve been working on bringing the existing books into compliance with the new license situation. That means editing covers and interiors to meet the requirements of the new ICE license. I also need to update the text describing the licenses and the other versions of the products. This is a time-consuming task and I’ve finished my first pass on all the existing covers.

As I mentioned in my recent post on Playtesting.net (this post will be showing up in both locations), it looks like my HERO System license won’t be renewing. Since I’ve started releasing small conversions for 4e, I’m adding that as my fourth system, although the actual 4e conversions won’t have a place in my schedule I finish getting Death by Cliché up and released. Essentially, I only have time to work on two Final Redoubt projects at once.

As for Death by Cliché, I’ve done my initial page making pass and it is finished. I’ve also done a proof of concept export for Kindle and e-pub and some subsequent exports to handle formatting issues. They all look good now. I’ll need to add a table of contents to the e-book versions for navigation purposes. That’s next on my list. I also need to get a cover. It looks like I’m not going to be able to get a piece of reuse art for the cover—my first choice—so I’m going to need to commission an actual piece. We’ll see how that develops. I’ve found some artists I think would do a good job but I haven’t contacted them yet.

We’re within a few weeks of starting the Rolemaster playtest of the final adventure, O What a Hell Would Heaven Be. I’m very excited about it. I’m halfway through the RM/HARP conversion of the final bonded weapon of the campaign and I’m VERY glad that bit will soon be done. There is only one major NPC in this one, so the statting of the adventure itself should proceed apace. I should be able to keep ahead of the playtest group handily enough once the NPC is statted.

So that’s where we are. I’ll try to keep you posted on events and thanks for your patience.

Regards,

Bob