#NoVacancy but still a lot of fun

Somewhere not too long ago, I linked in through ye olde book of the faceless to the Charlotte Storytellers group, and it looked like thy put on a lot of fun stuff, but I hadn’t had the opportunity to make an event until last night.

Here’s the description, just for reference:

NoVacancy is a summer-long installation featuring art, music, dance and theater performances organized by the talented Taproot Ensemble.

Furniture maker Jeffrey Barninger (of Union Shop Studio) has built a “motel” inside C3 Lab, and local artists have filled each room with items and art.

Each week, a new performance will activate the space in a new way. On Friday, June 17 th , Charlotte Storytellers will lead an interactive workshop that investigates how a physical space can inspire ideas, memories and stories. We will do exercises, play games and share fictional and personal narratives, for an interactive storytelling experience.

I’ll admit, I might have been sold just because it said beer included.

I won’t give too much away, but I can say it was a fun improvisational and immersive experience!

My one shot of the evening…

IMG_1503Imagine if you will… checking into the old roadside motel from the 60’s…

Anyway, I just wanted to give a shout out to the Jeff for the fantastic environment, C3 labs for hosting, and most of all to the group of people from Charlotte Storytellers!

They have a podcast too – look for http://www.charlottestorytellers.com/!





The hard truth of the financials for authors…


Once again, the cycle has come around, and it’s come in full force.  It’s about supporting your favorite authors, buying their stuff, and not stealing it.

First, let me say, I believe the vast majority of people are good and well intentioned. It only takes a very few people to convince you though, the world needs a good cleansing zombie apocalypse.

I did X-Con at myrtle beach a couple of weeks back, and had a table talking about my books, and even selling a few. A girl in her late twenties walked over to the table and asked for one of the scattered candy bars on my table, and I told her to help herself. She did.

She wanted to know about the books, and we talked for about fifteen minutes, in which time she ate every one of the candy bars on my table (about 10) and then no so politely told me I needed to give her a free book because she couldn’t afford it. Not even the eBooks, but a paperback. I politely declined, she told me to “fuck off then” and left the pile of candy bar wrappers on my table.

I tossed the wrappers, had a small internal meltdown, wrote a few notes about how this self-entitled whiny bitch is going to wind up dying in a future book, and moved on. Never piss off a writer with a twisted sense of humor, miss going to die by starving to death while being dipped into a vat of molten chocolate, allowing it to harden, and watching you starve to death while ants eat the chocolate away. #RantOver #SanitizedVersion

At the same time, a very lovely young lady came to my table several times, a fellow writer, and we talked a lot through the weekend. She bought my eBook, and I gave her a print copy so she’d have a signed one.

I’m mostly a business and tech guy, and I’m using my knowledge and experience to write a 101 type guide about the business of being an author or artist. And yes, writers are a type of artists, but with key differences in the business models. I’m pulling a piece of that (draft) out to post here, because I think it’s relevant.

We now live in a world of open source, and where so many people think everything should be free, especially digital content. At a convention a while back, I had someone argue about why I was charging for books. Especially eBooks, because they don’t cost anything.

So let’s break down the numbers:


First, let’s assume I’m a traditionally published author.

My percentage of sales will be 7 – 15%. Let’s assume a blended rate of $4.99 a book between eBooks and print (Low by today’s trade pub standards, but roll with me over the life of the book). Based on this, the author will make .35 to .75 a book. I’m feeling optimistic, so let’s take $.75 a book.

An average novel is @ 80,000 words. We won’t talk about my last 2 novels in the 105k range. What does it take to crank out that 80,000 words?

A productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so that’s 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. (And that’s fiction)

Depending on your style and productivity, editing, rewrites, and the stuff that just didn’t work? I’ve seen people estimate as little as another 30-50 of the original draft, but for a commercially published work, it’s easily equal to four or 5 times the original first draft for the author to review edits, do rewrites, proofreads, punctuation, and everything that goes along with the rest. Not to mention the editors from the publishing house side. Let’s split the difference, and call it 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, agents, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 40 hours.

So doing a little math, that’s 500 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 12.5 weeks, so let’s cut it to three months of working time, for 80,000 words.

Based on the proposed move to go to $15 an hour, and hopefully you think creative work is worth at least that, you have to sell… hmmmm carry the one, it’s $7,500, and at .75 a copy, you need to sell 10,000 books. High producers sell 50 – 100 a week, so let’s use the 100 a week, and so that’s 2 years of sales.

Not to mention all the hours of marketing, social media, and cultivating your fan base that aren’t in there.

But wait, there’s more!

Let’s say you’re doing a self-published work.

Our productive average is 1000 words an hour to draft, so we’ll still go with 80 hours.

But wait, that’s once you have an idea, research, have fleshed it out, and have a plan, pitched and sold. 80 hours. Stuff those other people would help you with, you’re on the hook for.

Now you’re also entirely on the hook for editing, rewrites, etc., and I’m going to make the assumption you hire someone to edit, so you’re still at the same 300 hours.

Arguing with editors, cover artists, and other administrative crap? 100 hours. Why? You’re now doing it all.

So doing a little math, that’s 560 hours. Based on 40 hour weeks, that’s 14 weeks, for 80,000 words.

Plus you have to pay for cover art – $100 – $250 (minimum)

Editing ($250 – $1,500) depending on the types of editing and level of polish you want to put on it. Or you have to put in the hours. Either way, you’re spending the time and money.

I’m going to use an even $1,000 to produce the work (on the low end of what you should budget)

Here’s the good news. Depending on how you structure yourself, Amazon is going to give you 35% – 70% of your sales. The down side, you probably are maxing out at $4.99, but we’ll stick with it for equivalency. That’s $1.75 to $3.50 a book. We’re rolling in the cash now!

You’ve laid out $1000 up front. So you need to sell 286 books to pay for that.

To sell those, you’re looking at advertising, and getting reviews, another $1000. Another 286 books.

So just to cover my outlay, I need to sell 582 books.

Show me the money!

At $3.50 a book to get minimum wage for my 560 hours, I need to sell another 2400 books! So let’s round up to 3,000 books!

High producing self-pubbed average 5-50 sales a week. Let’s say you are rocking it and doing 50 a week. That means I only need 60 weeks… at the same high pace to make my $15 an hour. Oh wait, now I don’t have a publisher, or anyone else to help promote me. And most self pubbed would be happy at 5 a week after a couple of weeks. And most books are $2.99. You’re looking at 3-4 years, unless you push really hard, and get a little lucky.

And let’s talk other opportunity costs. I work a full time gig. Much of my life, it’s been 60, 70 , 80 hours a week. I do all of this at lunch, and night when everyone else is asleep. Weekends. I’m behind on TV and movies. Most of what I read is research or doing stuff for fellow authors and friends.

So yeah, oh little miss self-important snowflake who is willing to drop $5 on a latte and come over and lecture me why you can’t spend a couple of bucks for a eBook, and tell me it doesn’t cost anything?

This one went a little long. I’ll save my piracy rant for next time.












My ConCarolinas 2016 Recap

ConCarolinas 2016, June 3-6 was a fantastic time this year! It was my first time as a guest there, and as I live in Charlotte, I can consider it a home con. I got to hang out and play some with local friends, got to meet face to face a lot more I’d known mostly online, and even got to meet a few fans and sell a few books.

But mostly, I ran my mouth. A lot. I was fortunate enough to be both on the Science/Tech track and the Writer’s track.

Here was my schedule:

June 3 (Friday)
3:00 PM Crowdfunding your book
7:00 PM Tools of the trade: What every writer should have on their desk
8:30 PM How will the future be different from today
June 4 (Saturday)
9:00 AM eCommerce and the Artist Moderator
10:00 AM Women in Science in Tech (I know!)
11:30 AM Science Fiction to Science Fact Moderator
4:00 PM Extrapolating the Future Moderator
6:00 PM The business of marketing your writing
7:00 PM The future of robotics
8:30 PM Viruses, Hackers and Malware, Oh My
June 5 (Sunday)
11:00 AM Intersection of Faith and Science
2:00 PM The Singularity: When will we get there?


And there were a few other panels I was on I had to drop because I couldn’t be in two places at once. And I got to be the closer for the Broads Universe Rapid Fire Reading. And if I listed everyone I was on panels with, this post would be a couple of thousand words, and that’s just the people!

It’s been a long time since I talked this much, outside of the day gig running tech projects. And if it had been up to me at the time, I’d have probably added a few more. That said, there were a few of these discussions that were really important.

First, I’m going with Women in Tech. I was honored as the lone guy on the panel, with EJ the Enginerd, Erin Penn, and Jeanine Spendlove. We had a lot of people in the room, and if there was a down side, it was we had to shout over the band in the next room. Jeanine questioned why she was there, and I couldn’t believe the question. She’s a distinguished pilot and commander in the Air Force, and has broken more glass ceilings than kids playing Minecraft. We talked about the fact, you have to work to blend in, all the while working to break out and excel. We also talked about at the times when you want to give up the fight, and make a change. The big takeaway I’d like to share, and this is my own philosophy, Be mercenary. If you work for someone else, you’re selling them your time and your skills for a paycheck. If you don’t like it, or aren’t comfortable, there’s always someone and somewhere else than can appreciate you more. But don’t quit, just choose your battles wisely.

Secondly was a fun panel on the Intersection of Faith and Science. The good news was we’d been moved and didn’t have to shout over the bands any more. The down side was no one knew where to find us, and we lost part of the audience. I got to do this one with DL Leonine, Sherman Burris, and Gray Reinhardt. Always the heretical one, it was a great balanced conversation about religion, faith, and seeing God in the mechanisms of the universe.

And finally, one I wasn’t on, but I was able to sit in and listen. Writers and Mental Illness. In the last year, there’s more than a few in our community that have lost the battle. Hosted by John Hartness, with Tamsin Silver, Melissa Gilbert and Dr. Darin Kennedy, it was supposed to go from 10 – 10:50. Barely anyone left by the time we called it a wrap at 11:15, and we could have probably kept going for much longer. It was one of the biggest crowds for a panel all weekend, and even after it was over, there was a lot of standing around afterwards. And several people have started groups in the last week to make sure everyone has someone to reach out to.

If you weren’t there, you missed a lot. And thanks to everyone in the Tribe.