Filtering by Tag: PUBLISHING

The Zombie Hunter

The other day I got my contributor's copies of the latest issue of Clackamas Literary Review, which features a new short story I wrote, "The Urologist." Thanks, Trevor Dodge! You can buy a copy of it on Amazon here. I was delightful to be featured along pals of mine: Lydia Netzer, who wrote the widely-acclaimed Shine Shine Shine and contributed a wonderfully weird short story called "Suicide Doors," which is about a woman who tries to write erotic fiction and keeps getting distracted by life, and Kevin Sampsell, who wrote A Common Pornography, published my very own You're a Bad Man, Aren't You?, and contributed a series of fantastical collages. In any case, I hope you'll pick up a copy. Here's an excerpt from my story:

"Sometimes, at dinner parties, someone would ask her why she had married the husband, and she would say, 'If there is ever a zombie apocalypse, my husband will hunt other humans for us to eat.' Invariably, the person would laugh, thinking she was joking, and she would laugh, too, playing along. She wasn't kidding. The husband was a killer."

Buy THE TUMOR! "This is one of the weirdest, smartest, most disturbing things you will read this year."

What Doesn't Kill You

I've had some problems with depression lately, so I thought I would write a post reminding myself of the positive things that have happened thus far this year.

I guestblogged for Like I said before, this was an awesome time. Why doesn't the New York Times ask me to guest blog for them? This is one of life's many mysteries. It would be great if a high profile blog picked me up. I'm a great blogger. My friend says when you want something, the universe's answer is either: Yes, Yes But Not Right Now, Or No I Have Something Better In Mind. Or whatever. You get the idea. Universe, I await your call.

I published THE TUMOR. Fuck, this guy is like my baby! I love him so much: his cover, his pages, his content. His tone is so marvelously morally bankrupt. I read something earlier today about someone who kept being a nasty resistant asshole until the end of his days, but I can't remember who it is anymore. Excitingly, my next to be self-published short story is underway. It involves a robot. It is already a masterpiece of the genre. Trust me on this.

I auditioned for and got in an improv group that actually performs in a real theater and everything. I heard there were going to be auditions for this improv group downtown, and I went just to challenge myself. I'd only done one three-day intensive improv class at The Second City in Chicago. Experienced, I am not. A few days later I got a call from one of the people who runs it. She left a message, asking me to call her back. I was like, damn, can't she just leave a message telling me they don't want me? Now I have to call her back and get rejected live? Instead, she said I was in. What the hell! There have been a lot of rehearsals, and god knows I need them. Sometimes, I get confused by all the rules, and I spend way too much time thinking how I have to do everything right or I'm a failure, and I forget to have fun and play and whatever. Last Friday, I had to sing for the first time, and while I am a terrible singer, for some reason, it was a great time. I also rapped. Go figure.

I ate at Next. This was a living the dream moment. Such a peculiar, special thing. I want to do more things like this. I want to eat at Alinea one day. I think this is very much a thing that is art that happens to use food. I have a kind of emotional reaction to it. Probably because eating is so primal. My defenses fall away when I stuff duck in my mouth, I guess.

I got a short story published in PANK Magazine. This was a piece of fiction that I submitted a long time ago that got accepted a while ago, but the print copy arrived in the mail last week. It had a $20 bill stuck in it. (That's why self-publishing your fiction is the way to go, IMO. In contrast, I've made almost $600 off THE TUMOR thus far. I'm pretty sure 600 is more than 20.) For the last several years, as is the case with most of us, I'm used to seeing my work online. It was cool to see my words in print. BRESLIN was printed at the top of my story pages. Ink is real.

I got accepted to THREAD at Yale. The only reason I applied to this journalism program at Yale was because I saw a listing for it on Romenesko. I wasn't sure they would accept me, but I thought there was a decent chance they would. I was thrilled when they did. No, it certainly isn't the same as going to Yale, but who fucking cares! I am super excited about going to this. Journalism, journalism, journalism. I hope to meet some cool writers, and tromp around acting like a journalist, and meet some super cool mentors at the top of their game. Yay for Yale.

Getting over that whole thing, maybe. One thing I noticed that I wasn't expecting was that writing, packaging, and publishing THE TUMOR caused something in me to shift. I think maybe it helped me release some of my anxiety surrounding having breast cancer several years ago. Mostly, I avoid reading stories about cancer because they just make me anxious, But after I published THE TUMOR, I started reading more stories about cancer. News articles, essays, what have you. Recently, I went to Aruba, and I picked up a copy of Esquire for the plane, and I read "The Friend" by Matt Teague. It's pretty much one of the most terrifying things you will ever read. In cancer stories, it's always like oooh the battle and then fast forward over the dying part and then dead the end. Teague pulls back the curtain on the dying part, and my god it is just ... I still haven't gotten over reading it. It haunts me. But it makes me want to be a better writer, too: pull back more curtains, be less afraid, show the world what others haven't seen so they can't unsee it. I noticed that when I wrote "Blood Sacrifice" a few weeks ago that it was a story more about recovery than about illness. So congratulations to myself.

Oh, and I got on Instagram. Or, more importantly, I started posting boob selfies on Instagram. Recently, I had a friend diagnosed with breast cancer, and she sent me a photo of her boobs, and I sent her a photo of my boobs. Tit pics are the new dick pics. You can see in that Instagram beach boob selfie that the one on your right is a bit smaller. That's the one that had the cancer. I had a lumpectomy. The tumor was on the inner curve of the boob. The lady surgeon cut around the areola and opened it like a door and pulled the tumor out through the opening. I hope they waterboarded my tumor after they removed it, I told my friend. I suppose that's not nice. It was just doing what malignant things do. Eating people. Go eat someone else, Mr. Tumor. I got boob selfies to take, you shitty prick.

In any case, I don't know why I'm depressed. Genetic programming, maybe. I shouldn't be.

Thanks for reading.

Buy THE TUMOR: "This is one of the weirdest, smartest, most disturbing things you will read this year."

The Numbers on Self-Publishing Digital Fiction

Considering a title for this post, I was reminded of a post I wrote back in 2010, "The Numbers on Self-Publishing Long-Form Journalism." In 2009, I'd self-published, "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?", a longform look at how the Great Recession impacted the adult movie industry. The piece was free for readers, so the numbers I wrote about in that follow up essay mostly focused on how many people had read it.

This week, I self-published "The Tumor," a beautifully designed, deeply horrifying digital short story about a husband, a wife, and the tumor that shows up to terrorize them. You can buy it directly from me on my website, and I'm charging $1.

Or am I?

Gumroad, the platform I'm using to process payments, has a payment option called Pay What You Want. You can read about how Gumroad does PWYW here. Of course, Gumroad didn't invent PWYW. Radiohead used the pricing strategy to sell In Rainbows. Stephen King used it to serialize The Plant. Panera Bread used it to hawk turkey chili.

According to Wikipedia:

"Pay what you want (or PWYW) is a pricing strategy where buyers pay any desired amount for a given commodity, sometimes including zero. In some cases, a minimum (floor) price may be set, and/or a suggested price may be indicated as guidance for the buyer. The buyer can also select an amount higher than the standard price for the commodity."

Gumroad enables you to utilize PWYW pricing by giving the seller (people like me) the option to add a "+" when setting the price for the product. I decided to charge $1 for "The Tumor," and I added the PWYW option. So the price for the buyer (people like you) appears as $1+. When you click to purchase, Gumroad's prompt next to the amount box reads: "Name a fair price." You can enter $1, or you can enter a bigger amount -- say, $3, or $5, or $1,000. It's up to you, the consumer. 

Why would you use PWYW? Well, for one, Gumroad asserts, "Pay-what-you-want products often make upwards of 20% more revenue." I'd already used PWYW with Gumroad because Clayton Cubitt is my friend, and a photographer, and people were emailing him with questions all the time -- you know, asking for advice -- so he created the InterroClayton. Basically, you can ask him a question, but you have to pay for the answer.

As Cubitt puts it:

"This $2 digital download entitles the purchaser to ask any single question of me and receive an honest answer to it in a timely fashion. It is a VIP ticket to my mind."

Way to monetize your brain power.

(Side note: You can also "sell" your stuff for free on Gumroad. One great thing about Gumroad is that you get to see who is buying your product. Unlike Amazon. Like I said before, Fuck Bezos. You won't be making money, per se, but, as Gumroad says, "It's a great way to get valuable data from your audience in exchange for giving them great content." Gumroad's got more on pricing and pay what you want here, and you can also check out their "Is Pay What You Want Pricing for You?" interview with author Tom Morkes, who wrote The Complete Guide to Pay What You Want Pricing. Also, Money has "A Brief History of Pay What You Want Businesses" and Louis C.K.'s role in it).

In any case, "The Tumor" is PWYW priced at $1+. So far, the average price people are paying for it is $2.77. The highest price paid thus far is $20, and $3 and $5 are popular amounts.


What's interesting to me here is not the money, or the pricing model, but the concept of value and who decides it. Is the black convertible Bentley that I see parked at the gym worth $226,000? Last year, Fiat started selling Maserati Ghiblis for $68,000, well below the rest of their $100,000-plus Maserati models, so what does that do to their brand and our perception of it, when randoms can afford a Maserati? Or, you know, why don't you just buy a Nissan Versa for $12,000 and call it a day because you don't need a car to tell the world your worth?   

Why would you pay $1 to read "The Tumor"? Why would you pay $20 to read "The Tumor"? What is "The Tumor" worth? What is its value? What service does it provide? What is the market value of a fiction?

Here's the first page of "The Tumor" (page design by Domini Dragoone):

Now, what would you pay to read the rest?

Why You Should Sell Your Own Work

Yesterday, I launched "The Tumor," an original digital short story I'm selling on my personal website.

It's a story about a husband, a wife, and what happens when the husband wants to shoot the wife to solve the problem, and she won't let him.

Here's why you should sell your work yourself:

It's Really Not That Hard

I'm using Gumroad to process purchases of "The Tumor" on my site. I chose Gumroad because Clayton Cubitt uses it, and he told me to use it. They don't take as big of a cut as Amazon.

Lesson: Fuck Bezos.

It's Great for Control Freaks

I'm a control freak. And a freelance writer. That means editors screw up my prose, incompetent designers do a shitty job of laying out my paragraphs, and artists create horrible art to go with my fine lines. It's like going to the prom and getting caught in the rain on the way, and by the time you get to the prom you look like you just got in from a gangbang. When you sell your work yourself, you control what it looks like, what format(s) it's in, and how much people pay for it.

Lesson: If you're spineless, stick to letting other people ruin your life.

You're Good Enough, You're Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You!

I pitch stories to outlets all the time. Most of the time, they pass, they ignore, they turn up their noses. Every time this happens, it makes you feel a little more worthless, a little more downtrodden, a little more why bother. It's not easy to be a creative and have people shit on your head, is it? Here's the thing. The problem isn't your work. The problem isn't you. It's them. These needlenose fuckers, these self-proclaimed guardians of invisible velvet ropes, these losers who have desk jobs because they're too afraid to go deep and create things that are beautiful, and new, and remarkable? Why would you ask them for permission to do what you want? There are people out there who want to buy what you have. It's up to you to deliver it to them.

Lesson: Be your own Courage Wolf or the world's miniature Dachshunds will devour you.

You'll Expand Your Mind and Your Circle

It took a band of creatives to spawn "The Tumor." Peteski did the cover. Domini did the page design. Susan copyedited. Creatives spend a lot of time in isolation. Creating, producing, and selling your own work forces you to engage with others in a way that makes you smarter, sharper, and savvier. You never learn this when you hand over your work to people you never even know.

Lesson: Collaboration is the spark that ignites creation.

There's No Glamour in Being Nobody

The writer who claims he doesn't care if anyone reads his work is a liar and a fraud. At the moment your work is seen, you are being seen. The work is your child, given up to be adopted by the world, and you have a responsibility to be its doula. Otherwise, it will be invisible.

Lesson: Your 15 seconds of nanofame is there for the taking -- grab it.

Now go buy THE TUMOR.

How to Turn a Malignant Tumor into a Digital Self-Publishing Project

" The Tumor ," cover by  Peteski

"The Tumor," cover by Peteski

I've been a freelance journalist for seventeen years. I've written for magazines and websites, appeared on TV and radio shows, and self-published a 10,000-word investigation of the Great Recession's impact on the adult movie industry, "They Shoot Porn Stars, Don't They?" I've published short stories, and Future Tense Books published a collection of those short stories, You're a Bad Man, Aren't You? I've blogged for Forbes and for Time Warner. At one point, I became a digital copywriter and wrote Facebook updates for a bottle of stomach medicine. But today marks the first time I'm selling one of my original digital short stories on my personal website. It is "The Tumor."

On November 23, 2011, I was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. Over the following year and a half, I underwent five biopsies, two surgeries, three months of chemo, thirty radiation treatments, and a year of IV drug injections that targeted my particularly aggressive type of cancer. Along the way, I went bald, my fingernails and toenails turned brown and peeled off, and I developed what's known as "chemo fog," a chemically-induced state of mind that makes you feel like your brain has been replaced by a bowl of tepid oatmeal. Throughout the process, I wrote. I wrote journalism, I blogged, I drafted a novel. In a way, writing was my therapy.

Eventually, I was declared cancer-free and sent on my way. I went back to life and writing, and I kept trying to write something that captured what it's like when a malignancy shows up in your life, and you're not sure whether you or the tumor is going to win the war into which you have been thrust. I could never quite assemble the words properly. I kept trying and kept failing. The story of the tumor eluded me.

Then, last month, it was time for my annual mammogram. Most mammograms are an unremarkable experience. In theory, one's annual mammogram is no big deal. Still, once you've had one mammogram go sideways, you worry you may pull the short straw again, and it was while I was riding a growing ball of anxiety about this upcoming scan that I wrote "The Tumor."

Of course, if you know my writing, you know this isn't just any story. It's a story about a husband and a wife, and when the wife announces that she has a tumor, the husband's first idea is that he shoot her in the chest in an attempt to eradicate this unannounced saboteur. Things get stranger from there.

I had a terrific time putting this project together, and it wouldn't have happened without the help of others. Clayton Cubitt is an inspiration to all creatives who want to do it themselves and advised me throughout. Peteski made the beautiful cover you see here. Domini Dragoone did a fantastic job creating some of the coolest page design I've ever seen. Susan Clements proved to be a keen and perfect-for-me copyeditor. Lydia Netzer championed my creative efforts, as ever.

As for that mammogram I had last month, the results raised a question mark, a biopsy was done, and it came back benign. I remain cancer-free. For all I know, the tumor has taken up residence on some far off planet. As for "The Tumor," you can buy it online here.