That’s what life’s been feeling like lately. Except it ain’t takin’ me to Oz.

On the writing/marketing front, my newsletter subscriber list continues to grow–and fast. I signed up for this service called Voracious Readers Only, where the author submits a book and whoever chooses to read it gets a free copy. It’s a quid pro quo, though. The reader who chooses your book has to agree to sign up for your mailing list (of course, they can choose to unsubscribe later). So I signed up with them, putting up The Underground and its sequel Invasion on January 19 or 21–can’t remember which–and to date I have 219 subscribers, and only 3 have dropped out. More requests come in every day, usually 3 or 4, but sometimes many more. By now my fingers have a muscle memory of the “thank you” notes I write. Don’t get me wrong–I sure as hell ain’t complaining. Anyway, of those readers who have submitted reviews, their comments have been stellar, which is seriously gratifying. I’ve given them a couple hours respite from the drudgery, which tells me I’ve done my job as an author. One subscriber wrote to say he enjoyed The Underground so much he immediately turned around and bought Invasion, and is looking forward to the series. I hadn’t really planned on writing a series with these characters, but I guess I am, now. Think I found my tribe, folks.

Sometimes it bugs me I’m giving away so many free books, but then I remember that if I can keep these people on my mailing list by providing good content, it will have been worth it. There’s one thing that’s happened a couple of times and I’m not sure how I feel about it. So both books are up for grabs, right? It appears these readers chose The Underground, then turned around and picked up Invasion (or maybe vice versa). I know because when I enter their name in the database, a message pops up that says they’ve already subscribed. The cynical part of me says “oh–these mofos just want another free book instead of just going out and buying the damned thing.” Then I think “well, wait. Both books are up there, and that they’re coming back for more says something, doesn’t it? Be grateful. If they like your books that much, these are the people who’ll most likely buy your next one when it comes out.” I go back and forth on this, but I think the positive side is winning out.

A bunch of posts back, I wrote about my little tax problem with the IRS and the state, so I won’t bore you with how this sorry state of affairs came about. I’ve done my damndest to figure out a way to deal with it. I’ve canceled all sorts of recurring payments–news and shit, professional groups (except for Broad Universe because I’m on the board and it’s only 30 bucks per year, anyway)–consolidated my credit card debt, stuff like that. I’m also taking a course in basic copy editing and proofreading so I can get a side hustle on. I’m going about marketing the right way, building a fan base of readers who’ll buy my books, no questions asked. Running ads that don’t cost much in various places to attract new readers (that worked when I republished The Underground last October. I had 150 sales that month. I’ve never sold that many books in 1 month in my life). In short, I’m doing everything I can to bring in more cash. The linchpin of my plan, though, was to ask my sister for a substantial loan (she’s got pots of money), enough to get me through the first year of having to pay living expenses and the tax men while I built up my hustle and book sales. I wrote a long email explaining why I needed her help, and so on. Her response was to avoid me. I mean REALLY avoid me. She didn’t answer my emails or texts, and didn’t return my calls. Mind you, when I was released from the psych ward in 2018, she called me every other day while driving home from work, and we had long conversations about whatever (her job is about 50 miles from where she lives). As of now, I haven’t heard from her in almost 3 weeks. No question I’m disappointed that she has chosen not to help me. But what really hurts is she couldn’t just come out and say “no” for whatever reason (or for no reason) instead of acting like I don’t exist. My sister is not retiring. She speaks her mind and is not shy about speaking up. I’m seriously baffled by her behavior but more than that, I’m saddened she thinks so little of me that she feels she can do what she’s doing and that it doesn’t hurt me. I wrote her a last email telling her how I felt, and of course she didn’t reply. But I know how my sister operates. I can hear her now–“well, how you feel ain’t my problem.” Ouch.

So I’m forced to take the only option I have left. I sure as hell don’t want to do it, but I’m filing for bankruptcy. The tax men want X amount of money every month. I have my living expenses. With my monthly salary, I can do one or the other, but not both. It doesn’t help that the IRS cut–no, slashed–my withholding allowances so that my monthly take-home has been reduced by 2 grand. I claimed as many exemptions as I did because I have two mortgages, yadda, yadda, but I needed that money so Blackrose Press can produce my books.

You have to understand that being an indie author is not cheap. Indies have a bad reputation in the book world (though it’s improved) because in the beginning, so many authors were throwing up crap writing with crap book covers. I mean, it was really bad. I tried to read a couple of those books and had to put them down. Misspellings, bad grammar, horrendous formatting–the whole works. I tried to read one book where the author had a good story, but the execution was so awful I couldn’t finish it. If I want to be taken seriously, my books, in both appearance and writing, have to be just as good or better than what’s coming out of the big publishing houses. Polished to the point where the glare is blinding. And I have to pay for everything out of my own pocket, like editors. For traditionally published books, it’s done in-house. I’m lucky I don’t need to hire a developmental editor, because my stories, and the way they unfold, is solid. I tell you, those mofos can get EXPENSIVE. It can run in the thousands, depending on the book’s word count and how much the editor charges. For The Moreva of Astoreth, I paid $1,600 for a line editor. I paid because the book has a lot of Swedish in it, and I needed an editor who was fluent in the language. Google, Microsoft, and other online translators will get you only so far, because if you type in what you want to say in English, it translates what you wrote literally, which may or may not be the way Swedes actually talk. And just think–this guy charged a penny a word. That sounds like a ridiculously small amount, but if you have a lot of words, that shit can seriously add up. I’m republishing Moreva because I want to improve the telling of the story (I can’t believe I published what I published), but the one thing I have going for me is improving it is just a matter of cutting the word count, rearranging stuff, and writing a few new scenes to better explain the characters’ actions and reactions. After re-editing the book myself, I cut 22K words from the original. That’s a damned book’s worth. As for covers, it’s the same thing as editing–cover design is done in-house. I needed new ones for all the books I have out there right now, because readers really do judge a book by its cover, and the goal is to make it as enticing as possible. To do that, you need a cover designer who really knows what they’re doing. You need a designer who has a thorough understanding of your genre and who can design an appropriate cover. And a good designer also isn’t cheap. For me, it’s almost always my biggest expense in producing a book. Then there’s formatting for print books and ebooks. Lucky for me I have a friend who’s a whiz at all that, and she doesn’t charge too much. Once you have a book with a good cover and proper formatting, you have to buy an ISBN and a barcode showing the book’s price. Bowker is the official seller of ISBNs and barcodes, and they charge $150 a pop for both. And that’s just for 1. It was one thing when you needed only one ISBN/barcode for a print book and another for an ebook across the self-publishing platforms but now, for the platforms I use most often, Amazon and Ingram, each requires a unique ISBN/barcode. Barnes & Noble does, too. So if I want to publish on those 3 platforms, and I have 3 books, I have to buy 9 ISBN/barcodes (think that’s right; math was never my strong suit) for the print books and ebooks. Actually, if my math is right I have to buy a block of 10 because that’s how Bowker operates. What really galling about all this is when I began self-publishing my books back in the day, all had to have the same ISBN/barcode or the book would be rejected. That’s no longer the case and Bowker (who made the rule) no longer cares because with this new arrangement, it’s making money hand over fist. All in all, my average cost for each book I produce runs $1,500 to $2,000. Yes, I could publish for less, but in this business, you truly get what you pay for. If you go cheap, you’ll get cheap. And for me, that’s not acceptable. Finally, there’s marketing and distribution, and we won’t even get into the costs associated with that.

Folks, that’s what I’m up against. I’m fairly sure I can pull off Moreva, but When Gods Die is a different story. At least I had enough sense to get a cover made for that one before all the shit hit the fan. I guess the upshot is we shall see what we shall see.


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