Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Proliferation of Independent Publishing Platforms.

5 x 8" Createspace POD needs title moved to the right.

by Louis Shalako

The number of publishing platforms continues to proliferate, even since I last researched this story under another pen-name. More on that in a minute.

A while back I signed up for Kobo Writing Life. I have only a couple of ebooks there. I’ve never really promoted it and probably haven’t sold a single book. 

It’s an experiment, and those books are also on Amazon. Those books I promote in some small ways. I can compare results of promotion versus non-promotion, also there is the theory of having your books in as many bookstores as possible. This works online as well as in the real world.

I also signed up for OmniLit a while back. I couldn’t get in past the section where you put your Canadian and U.S. tax ID, mostly because my Microsoft Internet Explorer browser simply wouldn’t do it properly. Google Chrome seems to have fixed that, and I’m all signed up. All I have to do is to click on the confirmation email and begin learning the system. That’s under a new publisher name, so what book or books I will actually load up there is still a mystery.

But it might be worthwhile to see what I have in romance or erotica, whatever categories they have over there. I can publish all five authors under the new publisher name—that’s using your head and thinking ahead.

Now, if you’re publishing on Smashwords and Kobo, you can unclick the Kobo distribution channel on your Smashwords dashboard, or you end up with a conflict, a double entry on your one author page.

Smashwords was recently named the number one ebook distributor in the world or something like that.

Pretty much everybody knows all about Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing.

So if you sign up with some platform that has or is acquiring access to a distribution system, making deals with iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Sony, etc, then you have to decide if you even want to put up a book on different platforms. If you can get your book into a lot of channels, putting up a book in a unique new platform is still a good idea, the question is can you keep the book out of streams where it already exists. 

The platform might still represent one new, stand-alone store.

If nothing else, you can still get your books in that one new store—it’s a question of putting in the time.

Some of these new platforms have an upfront cost, $99.00 looks about standard for the low-level service.

As far as formatting goes, typing in metadata, handling the upload etc, that’s probably a fair price if you can’t do it yourself, have no idea what that means and aren’t interested in learning it yourself. You might have a daytime job, right? In which case free publishing might not be your top priority, although it is one of mine.

That being said, there are some free services, although the two-week free trial (on any platform) is pointless from my point of view because it’s just a come-on and you’re never going to see any results in that amount of time anyway.

Tablo: $99.00 service.

BookTango: says here that it’s free. Royalty system.

EBookLit: converts from DOCX files, says it’s free.

BookBaby: $99.00

Vook: ebooks and PODs. Paid service.

PressBooks: various plans available, trial offer.

Draft2Digital: claims no up-front costs, no risk, royalty split based on price categories. See, this one I might check out later.

Kobo Writing Life: no results as of yet on my own experiment, but it was easy enough to use and I do have books published separately from Amazon and Smashwords there.

ReadMill: claims you can interact with readers right in the margins of your book. (Now closed. -- ed.)

WidBook: another site where you can write onsite, totally mobile from anywhere in the world, and interact with readers, build or find an audience, etc.

Rhovit: looks like about ten bucks a month. Distribution platform for books, comics, film, etc.

Libboo: claims to use audience measurement algorithms to help authors ‘tune’ their works.

Authorgraph: allows personalized messages in ebooks, signed copies, etc.

Lelivro: another publishing platform, this is the author landing page.

WattPad: you can write directly on WattPad, click on folks who might follow you back and read your stories. I upload the first two chapters of books as excerpts, and I usually get quite a few reads, which is useful information to an author.

EBookPartnership: has a pricing page.

Nook Press: free to use, books appear in the Nook Store.

iTunes: sell your content. Since they have a Canadian store or a foreign platform, you might be able to avoid the withholding tax. I haven’t checked this one out yet.

Sony Publisher Portal: publish direct through Sony system.

Infiniti: publish in hardcover and ebooks. Ebooks $349.00.

With careful key-word search, you can find dozens of soft and hardcover print on demand book publishers, some of whom are or soon will be offering ebook conversions. The proliferation of platforms in this market is undeniable.

VistaPrint: calendars. POD.

How to sell ebooks on eBay.

There are places to publish your photographs, art prints, CDs, books and films, (for example on Createspace.) Other free POD places include Lulu, and there are dozens of others, most of which are on a paid service basis.

Before I publish anything on any platform, I want to know if they have provision for Canadian or overseas authors to avoid paying the standard U.S. withholding tax of 30 percent. (That's why I'm not on Nook Press.) Can I publish for free? How do I get paid? Do I control my prices? (On Kobo the minimum price is $1.99 and you can’t set it to free.) Are there additional distribution channels and should I take advantage of them, if they are free and if they go places I’m not already represented on? How does everything actually work?

Bearing in mind I have five pen-names, a load of titles and more coming, the time consideration comes into play—how much time is this going to take, and is there any real chance of some rational payment?

It’s only a matter of time before there are more free publishing platforms, ones with good services and good business plans, with multiple distribution channels and access to some new stores that I haven’t even heard of yet.

We’ll keep our ears out and see what we can pick up.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Rational Writing Goals for 2014.

Click > Free wanted posters.

by Louis Shalako

About this time last year I set some rational writing goals, which are different from business or professional goals.

That time has come again.

For 2014 I would like to write three novels in the 60-65,000-word range. If they go a bit longer, that’s not a problem. The first thing on the agenda is another science fiction novel. By May or June I need to start writing another mystery novel, Maintenon Mystery # 4, and that leaves one fluff project. I say that because it doesn’t need to be so deadly serious. I can go on a romp, or if I really did have a serious idea, then I could drop it in a heartbeat and so do the other one. Writing three books a year falls right in line with my long-term plan, which is to be a writer until the day I die.

I also want to make some money at it—real money.

Assuming that I am fortunate enough to live another twenty years, I will have an estimated seventy-two novels to my credit, and if I live another thirty years, maybe more than that. Our productivity tends to drop off at some point when we stop caring, or it no longer matters in the sense that it can no longer significantly affect our own personal outcomes…more on that another time.

In 2013 I wrote Third World, (SF) and Blessed Are the Humble, (mystery) and I’m 32,000 words into Whack ‘em and Stack ‘em, my bizarro thriller-parody. That one demonstrates the value of having some flexibility. I wrote 18,000 words back in the springtime before getting serious about Third World.

I still have six weeks to go and I know I can finish Whack ‘em etc by the end of the year, publish it, all that sort of thing.

What I did in 2013 I can do again. Also in 2013 I wrote a shitload of novellas for my pen-names, to the tune of something like another 100,000 words, plus a few shorts for myself and pen-names. Louis Shalako wrote twenty or thirty short stories this year, maybe more. I lose track at some point, in fact just the other day I found an un-submitted story in a folder. I just forgot it was there.

In 2013 I also blogged pretty regularly for all five pen-names, and I would like to continue that on a regular basis, say to the tune of another 3,000 words a week, maybe a bit more. (This blog post is about six hundred eighty+ words.)

So in 2014 I will write up to 200,000 words in terms of novels, say another hundred thousand in short stories and novellas, and Darwin knows how much in terms of blog posts.

What I do is to write fast, edit slow, and publish with attention to detail. None of these word-count goals take into account professional goals—to say I would like to make it into a professional magazine, or get a traditional contract, these would be related to writing goals but the word count is everything. The more stories I have, the more books I have, the more options I have. The more I write, the more opportunities it brings.

Practice is never a bad thing, ladies and gentlemen. Don't believe me? Ask Tiger Woods. And then go tell it to the Marines.

When I write a short story, I usually submit it to pro markets, semi-pro markets, and so on down the line until I get tired of it and then I can publish it on my blog. I can submit a novel to one of the top publishers in the world and then sit down and begin writing a mystery novel for my own Maintenon series.

If I feel like writing poetry, I would try and do as much poetry as I possibly could until I got sick of it and stopped. Then I would submit poetry until I'm blue in the face, and have stuff to publish on my poetry blog.

The plan is flexible, and complete.

I expect I will learn much by doing this.

When learning becomes play, then it’s really not work after all.

It’s just a whole helluva lot of fun.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Don't Sell Yourself Short.

A '77 Chevette. For illustration purposes only. (Public Domain, Wiki.)

A few years ago; the Bank of Nova Scotia’s TV commercial went something like this:

“If you’re forty years old and make forty grand a year; and if you want to retire with the same lifestyle that you presently enjoy, you’ll have to save something like $660,000 for retirement.”

This was actually pretty good advice, because it was accurate. It was a perfectly sensible projection of mathematical principles of interest and compounding, in addition to a planned program of further contributions and taking into account all known tax incentives.

At the time, I felt a sense of dread. Forty years old, on welfare, with unpaid student loans, and no real employment prospects due to three compression-fractured vertebra from an industrial accident, what would I be able to do about it? My case is certainly not typical.

But how the heck could you save that kind of money in twenty-five years at a rate of pay of $40,000 per annum? Well, they were projecting some kind of growth in your income, for their target audience was nothing if not ambitious, and craved all the perks and benefits, the visible ones, of what we presently deem a ‘successful life.’

I knew darned well I couldn’t do it, but I also wondered who could?

Who could? This was at a time when I knew damned well my own life hadn’t been all that successful, and that was about the time I started working my ass off to do something about it.

All these years later, I sure am glad I did, and yes, I kind of wish I had started sooner.

You live and you learn. What the hell. Shit happens and we all face challenges.

Back to the point.

You would have to save something like eighty or ninety percent of your after-tax income, or your investments would have to generate some crazy wild interest, or be compounded on a minute-by-minute basis. You must find $26,400 a year for your retirement, after all, after taxes and all other obligations such as food, shelter, clothing, and transportation back and forth to that lovely job of yours, all filled with glittering opportunities for future advancement or even just pay raises, right?

Right, ladies and gentlemen?

Now, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who found this commercial a bummer. In fact, now the Bank of Nova Scotia’s slogan is, “You’re richer than you think.”

That’s been their slogan ever since, ladies and gentlemen!

It’s a much better message. It tells the consumer what they want to hear. At my bank, they have a picture of a big green leather chair, where banking is, ‘comfortable.’ Yeah, that’s great. Recently my new credit card arrived in the mail. I was reluctant to activate it, but my fifteen year-old car blew up and it was going to cost $469.97 to redeem it from my mechanic, who’s at the top of my speed-dial list.

I had little choice but to call in and activate it.

The lady on the phone asked if I had any questions.

“I’m not too happy with the 19.75 percent interest rate,” I said.

“Well, on that, ‘green’ card, there’s not much I can do. We have another card, with a lower interest rate, but it doesn’t have all the advantages your card does. However, you are pre-approved for a raise in your credit limit if you renew it before March first. You’re pre-approved for $21,000.”

Twenty-one thousand dollars!

(Why aren’t I in Panama right now?)

I’m glad the bank’s fundamentals are intact and they’re not engaging in any high-risk lending strategies. It gives a real sense of security, knowing I can borrow $20,000 at barely twenty-percent in an emergency. (I’ve been thinking of emigrating!)

I’ve been on disability for seventeen years. My income is about $12,700 a year. My credit rating must be like encrusted in cubic zirconiums. So that’s the benefit of owning a junk-box of a car.

As a debt slave, I’m worth my body weight in something real expensive.

Canadian households spent over $71,000 in 2009, or about four years ago, on average, and the average Canadian family was carrying about $96,000 in debt.

Look on the bright side.

You’re worth more than you think.

Anyway, the good news coming out of the government is that the banks are doing real well.

(Good shot, man. – ed.)

Hell, even the economy is improving. The rich are getting richer and that’s good news for all concerned, right?


As for myself, I retired at age 33 to do whatever the hell I want, although there are certain restrictions.

If I live to be about 92, I will definitely get my $660,000 worth. It’s just spread over a retirement time-period roughly double that of what some other Canadian might reasonably expect.

I get to do whatever the hell I want a lot longer than some other guy.

And the best revenge is in knowing it—and in living it, ladies and gentlemen.

All I have to do is keep my head screwed on straight and stay out of trouble, avoid unfortunate marriages, write my books, have some fun with it and all that sort of thing.

The money’s not that great, but my life is a hell of a lot more successful than it was.

Anyway, my advice to young people today is to stay in school as long as you possibly can because it's a hell of a lot more fun than the real world, ah, don't smoke crack, know who your friends are and be nice to everybody, (although there might be certain restrictions on that last one. - ed.)

Shit, I almost forgot: Don't sell yourself short.

The world is your freakin' oyster.


Here is a link to Blessed Are the Humble, the latest in the Maintenon Mystery Series. You're certainly welcome to take a look at that if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Under Your Skin.

Lipofsky (Wiki.)

Paul threw the virtual ball aside in disgust. It bounced and then disappeared into a holographic display of tennis rackets artfully disarrayed, interspersed with cans of fluorescent balls and wrist-bands, head-bands, and other accessories. Extraneous thoughts went through Reggie’s head as he patiently awaited the outcome.

“I don’t know.”

Reg was the sporting goods manager. He shrugged in sympathy. In his grey cavalry-twill pants, and his white, short-sleeved shirt with the tie stuffed inside about the level of the third button, he was always up for a game of virtual one-on-one, twenty-one, or just shooting hoops for a buck each. He had a preppie look, with the patented Michael J. Fox runners. In a pinch, he could be relied on to set up a putting competition at the annual summer picnic, and was known to party pretty hearty at the conventions which department managers attended once or twice a year.

If he was smart, he would lose this game by a hair and upgrade, up-sell and up-smart Mister Pauly, as he called him privately. Paul’s parents had died in a plane crash, leaving their precious one a half a mil or so in trust, with a big monthly cheque from the annuity fund. Lately he was insufferable around the store. Now that he was all over the grief part.

“Yeah. Maybe we should try another one.”

The tournament was three days away and Paul, who worked the stockroom, didn’t really need the best equipment, but he wanted something half decent. He was floating around inside of these shoes. Nice shoes and everything, they made a statement of conscious self-worth and aspiration, but they just weren’t him.

It was one of those office things. His pop, a lack-luster nonentity by all accounts, had warned him about office politics, which extended to the adult industrial leagues which dotted this fair land. They had their allure, and their dangers for well-meaning and cautiously-ambitious entry-level management trainees who otherwise didn’t have much going for them.

“Shaq isn’t for you,” admitted Reg, standing with hand on hip, the hip flung out like a florist sensing the kill as he looked at their options. “Ah! An old standby. We’ll try the Dennis Rodman…no?”

He trailed off at Paul’s vehement head-shake.

“I have to be able to sleep at night, and look myself in the eye when I shave.”

Reg grinned amiably, although he didn’t think Rodman was so bad.

“Ah, let’s see here…”

“What about a real old classic?”

“What do you mean?”

“I want to try the Wilt Chamberlain.”

Reggie’s eyebrows lifted in an encouraging display of objectivity. He wasn’t ruling it out just yet.

“All right, then.” He went back into the warehouse and grabbed another product off the shelf.


That one was no good either, and the pair of them went through a few more options. Paul was on lunch and they were having a slow day anyhow. While spring usually brought in a surge of wannabe instant athletes, all looking for the very latest in high-tech, professional sporting goods at the lowest possible discount store prices, today was sunny and warm and business was slow. Reg had always marvelled at how Paul took the slightest and most trivial challenge so deadly seriously when he was such a useless cunt at the best of times.

Reggie was the tolerant sort. He didn’t have to hang with Paul in his off-hours, thankfully.

If you looked up ‘self-absorbed’ in the dictionary, Paul’s picture would be there. He was always talking about mountain climbing. It was one of those things that was always in the planning stages. So far, quite a few expedition prospects had dropped out on one pretext or another. It didn’t take too much time or much listening to see what you were dealing with here.

They finally settled on the Larry Bird, although in Reggie’s opinion Paul was just too short to make it work. He struggled with the fasteners. With a little luck, he might still have time to grab a sandwich, if Pauly didn’t obsess too much.

At five-foot four, even in his uplift shoes, with that pasty skin and pudgy face, the beady little eyes and the buck teeth, the fading hairline (at 26,) and the receding chin, which was not a function of age, he would always be an insignificant little man trying desperately hard to play basketball while wearing another man’s skin. The name on the box, the picture on the front, meant everything to Pauly, never mind the fact that he looked like he was running around inside of a potato sack…

He wouldn’t be a bad player if he wasn’t so busy trying to be somebody else. The only other thing they had was a rather shop-worn Jeremy Lin display model, and Pauly had baulked at Rodman. There simply wasn’t time enough to order anything and get it here on time.

Reggie wondered if deep down inside Paul hated himself, but the man’s entire family tree probably didn’t have that much grace.

Someday the NBA would breed a short, clumsy, pudgy-faced white superstar, and then maybe they could find a Sports Skin to really suit someone like Pauly.

Most likely, it would never happen. You never know, though. It was a nice thought.

The real problem with Pauly was that one way or another, regardless of cost or utility, he was going to buy something today.

That much was a given. He would never be satisfied with it. Not in a million years.

It went with the territory.


Monday, November 18, 2013

Waiting for God.

The Oval Office.

“Morning, Mister President.”

“Morning, Wiener.”

Wiener Capsberger settled into a seat, hitching up the knees of his trousers in unconscious tribute to the gods of fashion, who had dictated that tight pants should return.

L.L. William ‘Chill-Will’ Blaine regarded the Secretary of State in bored fashion as they waited for the Attorney General, Hope Fargill, a tall, quadraplegic, French-speaking Haitian Lesbian girl and graduate of Vasser.

She and a tripartisan delegation were expected momentarily. In some Clancy-esque secret political gambit they had agreed to keep mum and their respective parties in check on this one special issue without actually knowing what it was even about ahead of time. All of this had taken some doing, but the President and his advisors were patient people and they swung the heavy hammer of federal patronage with some experience after three years in office.

The senators had been assured that this would be an important session and well worth their time.

Hope, nuclear wheelchair buzzing and steaming, ushered in the three senior statesmen, Zeke Beaudoin of the Dems, Nally Parduck of the G.O.P. and Emerson Smielbmork, the lone Independent.

Some said Smielbmork held the true balance of power in the Senate, which wasn’t too far at variance with the truth although Chill-Will liked to think he had something to do with policy himself from time to time. 

Smielbmork had won election in his district, partially bourgeois working-class with elements of Hispanic NeoPlatonism, and one or two socialists too boot, 64,921 against, with 64,922 for. Of those who voted against, the split was so near 50/50 as made no difference. Everyone in Brogenville figured old lady Thickleforp was the real power in the land, but she’d been sweet on him since grade four and his debut as Jack Sprat in the class play, performed at assembly on or about October ninth, 1967. They thought she must be the one that tipped the balance."

“My dear.” Zeke nodded at Hope and settled into a chair beside Wiener and the others sorted themselves out.

She hated the term and that’s probably why he did it.

“So, Mister President.” Right on cue, Smielbmork tried to make it all about him. “What’s this all about?”

He had an air of someone who was expecting a big time-waster.

“I want you to hear something.” But first he pushed a button and the door opened again and the chiefs of the CIA, the NSA, the DUI and the IUD quietly filed in and took seats in the second row, empty up until now.

Heads craned to get a good look.

Eyebrows lifted all across the political spectrum as the President shoved his chair back, put his hands behind his head and his feet up on one corner of the desk.

His assistant, Barney Dibble, glanced at his watch. He stepped forward with his ingratiating toadying-ness.

“Coffee, tea perhaps?” His eyes rolled towards the ceiling. “We’ve still got a couple minutes.”


The clock ticked inexorably onwards and the President kept looking at his watch.

The President was looking nervous. It was ten-oh-three by this time.

“He’s never been late before. But I promise you, this is worth it.”

Barney looked like he was about to say something, and Beaudoin was into the second syllable of something hopefully not too fatuous when it came. The one thing they apparently could not do was to sit patiently in silence and wait.

“Bill! Chill-Will!”

Even the President twitched at the deep, rumbling voice that seemed to come from all places at once. The uninitiated threw their hands up to their ears and almost leapt out of their seats, looking all over the place, trying to locate the source of the sound.

Hope grinned, looking down at her hands and Dibble nodded seriously.

“Whoa!” They were unanimous in that.

“Hi, God.”

“Bill. Lookin’ good, bro.”

“How’s it going up there?”

“Very well, thank you.”

Both paused, Chill-Will to let it sink in and God because it was His way.

There was disbelief and a kind of consternation in the room. They would need some convincing.

“Ah—ah. What the hell is going on, Mister President?” Beaudoin was incensed.

They were all talking and gasping and angry, sure it was some nutty trick or demonstration the president was pulling on them.

“What in the hell is this?” Smielbmork stood up, red in the face. He was pointing an accusing finger at the president when a force he could neither comprehend nor resist enveloped him from head to toe and shoved him back down into his seat.

“Shut up, senator.” God seemed friendly enough.

Firm but fair.

The senator gulped and looked at the president. Staring wildly around, he pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his forehead and around his mouth.

“I’m sorry. We thought of warning you, or trying to kind of describe it.” Barney was speaking for the president, which he often did.

“Yes.” The President eyed them all up, one at a time. “Sorry about that. God?”


“Some of these folks might like to say hello.”

“Hello.” Hope was at last week’s meeting, being introduced to God for the first time.

“Hi, Hope. How’s the daughter?”

“Fine, fine. She’s graduating Summa Cum Laude in the spring.”

“Ah, wonderful.”

They chatted back and forth. God asked about each and every one of them, seemingly knowing some personal tid-bit, some little thing about each of them. He had really been doing His homework.

Smielbmork just said ‘Hi.’ He had no real questions.

Hope had some sympathy for Smielbmork. It was a devastating experience to be manhandled by God like that. It was embarrassing enough that on their first meeting, she had demanded that God bring her a shot of Scotch and then having it materialize right in front of her eyes.

Grabbing it out of mid-air, she downed it in a single heartfelt snort.

She felt ashamed later, of course.

Smielbmork was shaking his head emphatically, the other members taking his unspoken word for it initially.

“Mister President. I have a question.”

“Yes?” God answered, the low frequency sound waves shaking the books on the shelves and the single vase on a side table, with a white rose in it for some reason, distinctly rattled, then steadied as if an invisible hand had rescued it from certain destruction.

God had a really deep voice.

“Why? I mean why are you talking to us and not the Russians or something?”

Chill-Will smiled inscrutably, eyes suitably downcast and humble. That was one of his first questions.

“Well, Senator Parduck, that’s a very long story.”

And it was, too. They listened intently to His reasoning. They weren’t all that amenable, with Beaudoin for one convinced that God probably was talking to the Russians, and the Chinese, and anybody else who would listen.

He wouldn’t put it past Him! For obvious political reasons, he kept those observations to himself.

In the end, while not wholly convinced, they agreed to think on it. It was almost an hour later, when God went back to His more regular duties. There was quite a bit more discussion, but in the end, they came to an agreement which would have been insulting to all concerned if it had been written up and signed as an aide-memoire.

Suffice it to say the tri-partisan committee members agreed to keep it a secret that the United States of America was talking to God on a weekly basis, and that they were getting some quite good information from Him on subjects as diverse as economics, governance, sociology, public policy, psychology, moral issues, legal issues, the relationships of man with his brothers and sisters all over the world, and all sorts of good things, really.

It was also agreed to form a subcommittee under the umbrella of the department of defence in order to study the nation’s new relationship with God and to assess any potential threats, as they were all duty-bound and constituted to do. The field of international diplomacy was well-known, but this was charting new waters and there was no book of Creator/Man Relations to go by.

Any sort of case law was a couple of thousand years old, according to the Attorney General.

In the meantime, the President and his advisers were promising all that the still-stunned gentlemen had asked, which was to be kept in the loop while they consulted amongst themselves and considered what their attitude towards this interesting new development ought to be.

It was one of the sweatiest sessions any of them could remember in all of their long careers.

That sweat, the very uncertainty of what was happening and why, was a measure of its importance, as they all understood on some intuitive level.


*Editor's Note: either one of the two major parties did not field a candidate or Louis has lumped Party A and Party B together and ignored the possibility of a close, three-way split in the voting--in which case old lady What's-'er-name may still hold the balance of power with a single vote.