My First Fee

Well, I did it. I became, in some small way, a professional writer.

I’ve now exceeded my goal of selling 29 copies of my first novel, The Library of Lost Books. That was the magic number I had to reach to get $10 in royalties (29 books x $0.99 list price x 35% royalty = $10.05) and get my first royalty check from Amazon. For those of you who are following this blog for the numbers, I’ve sold 40 copies of Library so far. This does NOT include: books returned for a refund, books downloaded during free giveaways or borrows. Those 40 are all cash sales.

But that’s only half the goal. My other bigger is goal is to get the book into the hands of 1,000 readers. I’m close to this as well, I think I’m at about 790 right now. I’m hoping to reach this bigger goal by Oct. 10 my last day for Library on KDP Select. Again, I’ll keep you posted.

In honor of this milestone, I’d like to highlight the source of the title for today’s post: a short story by Isaac Babel.

BabelI2[1]

The story, “My First Fee,” begins with one of my favorite first lines.

To be in Tiflis in spring, to be twenty years old, and not to be loved—is a terrible thing.

Of course, lucky Isaac’s “first fee” was a bit different than mine, being non-monetary compensation, and perhaps sweeter. But as for me, I’ll just take the cash.

Well that about wraps up today’s post, I’ve got to do some real writing today. Thanks to all my friends and fans for buying a copy and, as always…

Keep Spreading the Word,

Darius

 

Postscript. My first fee will take Amazon some 3 months to deliver (60 days after the calendar month in which the royalties are accrued). Strangely, in this day of automated and instant everything, authors still have to wait a long time for their checks to arrive. 

You Must Submit

It’s funny the illusions I once had about being a writer and how they’re all fading away.

I used to think writers once lived in a special place, away and apart from the public. But if you’re not Emily Dickinson or Kafka, but a writer who decides you’re actually going to share your stuff while you’re still alive, nothing could be further from the truth.

As such a writer, eventually, you have to face the fact that your writing will connect with some people, but leave others cold. You’re going to take pride in the former and have to steel yourself to face the criticism from the latter. Then you’re going to have to keep on writing.

And that’s how we get to today’s subject: rejection. Robert Heinlein had 5 Rules for Writing. They’re different than what I would have picked, but still, they’re kind of brilliant.  Here’s a grossly oversimplified version:

1. You must write.

2. You must finish. (Finish your first draft.)

3. You must refrain from over-editing it (except to editors’ orders).

4. You must submit your work.

5. You must continue to submit, until it is accepted.

Image

On this scale, I guess I’m about 4/5 a writer. True, I have self-published, so you could say I’ve reached stage 5. But in reality, the furthest I’ve gotten a work is to stage 4. It might not sound like much, but it was a huge step for me. Finishing a first draft of a work, any work is a huge step for a new writer. Polishing the work until it’s the best it can be is the next big step, a sign of commitment to your piece and your craft. Sharing it with friends is the next step and can be quite difficult when you’re starting out—what will they say about your creation? What if, after all that work, it isn’t any good. And then comes that final stage where you have to send it to a non-friend, a magazine or publisher and learn the awful truth. Whether or not you’re a writer after all.

A certain part of you doesn’t care what they think. You think “It’s good, so to hell with them!” But within every writer lurks a subsection of the soul that wants recognition, plaudits, glory. Whether it’s from friends, fans, editors, publishers or the Nobel committee. And I’m no different.

So what’s my track record so far? 2 submittals, 2 rejections. Impressive, eh? I submitted a sci-fi story to two magazines. The first rejection, though expected, was the hardest. It’s like jumping into a cold lake the first time. It’s shocking and sudden. But the more time passed, the better I felt about it. After all, it was a personal rejection from the editor-in-chief. The second rejection didn’t hurt nearly as bad. I guess I had become acclimated to the submission/rejection game. And again I saw that the story had bounced around to at least three people at the magazine before a top editor sent me a rejection email.

During this time, I had given a good friend the story to read and critique. He didn’t care for the first 8 pages and felt the narrator was not involved enough in the action of the story. I considered tweaking it, but decided to leave it unchanged and send it along. I made that decision and had the story off within two days. I didn’t give myself enough time to let doubt creep back in.

And now it’s going through the same process it has gone through before. I could be wrong, but the internal bounces at the mags are giving me hope. I’ll be interested to see where the story ends up.

So, another one of my cherished misconceptions about writing has bit the dust. For a time, we may be loners scribbling in garrets. But if you’re persistent, one day the story ends, you write your last line and you have to leave your garret. The world may not like your story, but at least you had the guts to see it through. And in the end isn’t that what writing is all about?

A Writer Begins

[This entry was the first post on my WordPress blog. Earlier posts were only on my Goodreads blog, where the blog began.]

Hello, I’m Darius Jones and I’m a writer.

You can find my new novel here. I just published it on July 12, 2012. I also have a story available in the Kindle store, called The Truck Stop. For my style of writing, see my profile.

In this blog I plan to chronicle the triumphs and trials of a new author. I hope you’ll join me on the journey.

,Darius Jones

PS For past blog posts see my Goodreads blog. I plan to unite the two blogs  shortly.

A 300-Download Weekend

[This entry is a repost from my earlier, Goodreads blog.]

Well, in keeping with the promise of this blog to include both the trials and triumphs, here’s the breakdown of the stats from my Amazon KDP Select giveaway this weekend.

US 271 downloads
United Kingdom 39 downloads
Germany 14 downloads
Total 324 downloads

At first, I was a bit disappointed. I had about over 400 downloads in one day during my first giveaway on July 18. So, I was hoping to get about 400-800 downloads for the 2-days weekend giveaway. But, in retrospect, I think that was asking too much. I think the earlier adopter/downloaders have already seen the book, so it has lost a bit of its “wow factor.” And it was a nice summer weekend and the Olympics were on. So, maybe not the best timing.

One thing that doesn’t fit with this theory is that Germany actually had more downloads than previously. Maybe vegging out and watching the Olympics isn’t as popular in Germany?

Anyway, finishing the math for all 3 KDP Giveaway days, we get:

Aug. 4 -5 Total 324 downloads
July 18 Total 423 downloads
Sales to Date 27 copies
Grand Total 774

The upshot of all this is that I feel confident enough to admit that my goal since my first KDP giveaway on The Library of Lost Books has been to get 1,000 downloads and 29 sales for the book, over the book’s entire lifetime. (If you sell your book at .99 cents, 29 sales is the magic number you need to get a $10 royalty check. Amazon won’t send you a check until you hit the $10 mark). And that’s what I told myself all weekend long: “Don’t forget your original goal.”

It’s still my goal and I hope to reach it soon. With a little luck I’ll get there before my KDP 3-month run is up on Oct. 10. I will keep you all posted.

Thanks to all of you for buying/downloading. Keeping checking the blog for future giveaways and news and…

Keep Spreading the Word,

Darius

PS Here’s your musical treat.

This was playing on my Pandora station as I periodically (limited to once every 4 hours) checked my stats on the Amazon Kindle store this weekend.

The Book in the Mirror

[This entry is a repost from my earlier, Goodreads blog.]

Lately, I’ve been intrigued by this quote from John Steinbeck on his book, East of Eden.

A book is like a man—clever and dull, brave and cowardly, beautiful and ugly. For every flowering thought there will be a page like a wet and mangy mongrel, and for every looping flight a tap on the wing and a reminder that wax cannot hold the feathers firm too near the sun.

He really nails it with that imagery. My new novel, The Library of Lost Books, is no exception to this rule. For every winged flight of fancy there was a mangy mongrel. In fact, in some passages, mangy dogs with wings come to mind.

Damn Mongrels

But, after all, it was my first novel, a sort of “learning” novel. It allowed me to understand characters, plot, tone, pacing and how they work and play out in a longer piece. It was an insightful and moving experience to see how the characters and the novel took on a life of their own. A life that would not always follow the dictates of its creator.

It’s funny how Steinbeck talks about a book, being similar to or having the likeness of a man. Jose Luis Borges’s work is a recurring theme in my novel. The Argentine was obsessed with mirrors and their supposed malicious powers. Somehow, I imagine old Steinbeck staring at a mirror and just seeing his book inside it, instead of his own face. I think he would see the shabby, careworn parts of the tome clearly, but would miss the finer features, the better parts of it.

What writer hasn’t seen himself, but his book, when he looks in the mirror?

At any rate, I’ve never read the book this quote refers to, East of Eden. But I think it would be a fun experiment to read a chapter from his diary of the book and then read a chapter of the book and see how faithful he is to his daily plan for the book. Recently, a friend of mine said he didn’t care much for East of Eden. Which might just be my friend’s bad taste or might indicate that it’s a bad idea to keep a diary of a book as you write it. Sometimes, it’s good not to over-think things.

For the source of the quote, see the original letter here on Letters of Note.

And for those of you out there who are STILL paying attention, check the blog this weekend.