Also, pleased to find another bellhop named William who doesn’t go by William. Trans-story rift?
Keep reading: Author Interview: Jackie Phillips
I’m excited about this one. Sounds almost Narnian.
You had me at “passes through two trees at the local park and disappears.”
Keep reading: Author interview: Helen Jones
I’m excited to announce the launch of my first full-length novel, The Dream World Collective! If you’ve ever dreamed of quitting your job to live a life of depth and adventure, I wrote this book for you.
Think of this book as The Big Bang Theory moves in with Gilmore Girls. It’s got adventure and secret admirers and Ninja Santa debates and an imaginary gnome or two. (Well, Gnomunculus protuberans, to be precise.)
And the timing couldn’t be better. This book is perfect snowy weekend reading – cozy and funny and sweet, with a swirl of romance and a sprinkle of geek.
If you want to try it out before you buy a copy, you can read it for free on Wattpad, with new sections going up regularly.
But the print editions are gorgeous.
Happy Tuesday, everyone!
I’m excited to announce that you can now read The Dream World Collective on Wattpad. There’s a good chunk to get started with, and I’ll be posting more regularly.
I love this story. It’s about five friends who quit their jobs and move in together to do what they love, and it’s sweet and silly and geeky and heartwarming. If you’re an idealist or a geek or an artist, I wrote this for you.
I can’t wait to share it with you, and I’d love your help getting the word out. Please take a few minutes to check it out and share it with the dreamers in your life.
Ok, so the first big news item is that you can now get free early access to my new novel, The Dream World Collective. It’s about five friends who quit their jobs to chase what they love, and it’s funny and geeky and romantic and friendly. Perfect autumn reading.
It’s in post-production now, but I want to get you in on the fun early.
Second big news is that ClickworksPress.com is live! Right now it’s just simple and pretty, but I still think it’s really cool that there’s an actual place to buy Clickworks books directly.
Go check it out! (And if you’re an author who’s interested in publishing with Clickworks, let’s talk. Drop me a line at byfaroe at gmail.)
Finally, I’m trying to come up with fun book-related questions for a future phase of the website. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
If you have good ideas for questions that would be fun to answer about the books you love, let me know in comments!
Man. So much cool stuff in progress that I’ve barely had a chance to look up. Sorry for dropping off the face of the earth a bit.
So the big theme these days is getting one-time infrastructure-y tasks of various sizes out of the way. I have a bunch of things looming/nagging, like finishing my newsletter’s welcome series or publishing The Dream World Collective or launching a website for Clickworks Press. Bad news is they’re each a ton of work. Good news is once they’re done, they’re done (unlike, say, Hubris Towers, which is running on a 6-week cycle so only gives me a little breathing room before it starts back up.)
I’ve realized these looming tasks take up almost as much brainspace as whatever I’m actively working on, so I’m really excited about the prospect of getting them resolved. I think life will feel free and easy (relatively speaking) when I can settle down to just working on the next story and building Clickworks Press with more focus on the business/community side than the web development side.
My brain is a very busy place these days. Here are some of the top things on my mind.
Bill and I have completed half a season of Hubris Towers. (Woo!) But Episode 5 is starting to loom, with a target release date of 10/20/15.
Bill has been awesome and finished the plan in record time. Usually we work concurrently, with him a few scenes ahead of me at any given time. This time he was diligent and I was on vacation, so (pending a final conversation and maybe some tweaking) it’s all on me to just sit down and write it at this point. Yup. Three weeks left to get from zero words to holding a published copy. So…no pressure.
That said, my lovely wife and daughter are going to be out of town for a week, so I’m going to have a lot of quiet free time, and my crazy goal is to see if I can just sit down and bang out the whole rough draft in a day. Or two. That would be amazing.
I want people who sign up for my newsletters to get a proper welcome. The trickiest part, setting up an optional weekly delivery of free Dream World Collective chapters, is basically done. Huge relief. Now I’m working on a few final pieces and I’ll be ready to kick this off.
I want to add an email that gives a little cool background on The Stone and the Song, but I’m having trouble figuring out an interesting angle that hasn’t been done to death already.
I also set up a fun little reader quiz, which was way too long to start with, so I’ve decided to break it up, with a few fun easy questions for starters and a button at the end to take the reader to the next level if they’re interested. Only problem is that means turning one email into about 3-4 that trigger each other when a person clicks the button. I’ve got the method down, so at this point it’s just busywork, but still adds probably several hours of work.
I cannot tell you how excited I am to launch this welcome series. It’s so much fun. It’s got Han Solo and secret tips on [REDACTED] and a sandcastle story and free access to a novel I haven’t even released yet. And no creepy tentacles. I think it’s going to be one of the best ways I’ve invented yet to make friends with strangers. So I’m also in the back of my mind trying to figure out how to let people who are already signed up for the newsletter try it out, both for testing purposes and because it’s awesome.
This one is crazy cool, though a little complicated behind the scenes. My vision is to build a website that will draw out what we love about stories, characters, authors, and each other, with specific and interesting prompts that go beyond star ratings or generic reviews.
Like, what if you got to talk about your favorite setting in a book, or your favorite food scene, or pick colors that go with characters, or rage against the villains, or whatever, and a bunch of other people were doing that too, and all of that got aggregated on the book page and made one big story of our collective experience with this book? And then what if you could do that with characters, too, and see all the main characters in a book, or all the stories a character shows up in, or all the stories an author has written, or read, and all the cool little things readers like about the authors, too, and about each other, and—anyway. Run-on paragraph.
And there’s more beyond that, but we’ll start there. Of course, building a website from scratch would be a big enough job even if it were a simple little e-commerce site, not a revolutionary new kind of online communal-story-lovefest. And I don’t want to wait until I’ve invented and built a whole story-love platform before I launch any of this publicly. So I’ve got this thing divided into phases, viz.:
Phase 1 – Visible, attractive front page. Links (if any) work.
Phase 2 – Full hierarchical catalog of Clickworks books and author pages.
Phase 3 – Readers can create accounts and log in and leave a basic snippet.
Phase 4 – First side game and more snippets.
Right now I’m almost done with Phase 2, and I think once that’s solid I’ll do at least a soft launch. At the moment I still routinely break the site as I make little tweaks and teach myself…wow, come to think of it, two or three programming languages plus a framework or two. Like I said, complicated.
But the super-cool part (at this stage) is that all the effort I’m putting in on the front end—(I mean…in advance. I think it’s more like the back end, in web development terms. Or the middle end. Anyway.) All this effort up front is creating the coolest setup. I’ve nearly got it to the point where I can just fill out a new book’s information once in a pretty, user-friendly form, and the right stuff will show up everywhere it needs to throughout the site.
Like, once I’ve loaded in a book’s information, it will automatically generate (as appropriate given the rules I’m setting up) a preview on the front page and on the summary Books page, link the book on the author’s page, and, with only one simple line of code (really a shortcode), generate a full book page complete with buy links to any platforms the book is available on, author bio(s), etc., with customized bits based on the book’s publication date and whether it’s available for purchase. (For example, if it’s available for purchase but future pub date, it gets listed as Coming Soon and shows pre-order links.) It’s a little like magic.
(For the curious techies among you, I’m building it with WordPress, making extensive use of the Pods plugin, which makes it easy to define and use custom post types and taxonomies, as well as providing pretty powerful templating tools. Let me know if you’re interested in hearing more. It’s super-sweet.)
I’m using Gumroad for direct sales and payment processing, and it’s quite elegant but not as powerful as I’d really like. Basically Gumroad has a super-sweet setup if you’re just selling items, but I want to be able to do cool micro-patronage stuff it’s not really built for and display information it doesn’t really make available in the ways I need, so I’m on the bubble. Stripe (and maybe Braintree) could do what I need, but I’d need to be a way better programmer before I’d feel comfortable using them. As I read the situation, Gumroad is a super-safe, simple way to get your products online and sell them, and it’s beautiful, but it’s able to be that simple and beautiful because it’s carefully focused on a specific task.
Things like Stripe have a powerful API (basically a way to program interactions with a site/app/service) that would let me do pretty much whatever I want, like make a charge to a credit card when some event triggers (say, we hit a support goal for a project a la Kickstarter), except I totally am not at a level where I’m comfortable just telling my website when it can go ahead and charge peoples’ cards. I make little mistakes from time to time, and I want to make sure that when I do, it results in things like a broken link or a page not displaying quite right, not someone getting double-charged or an author not getting paid.
So for now I’m sticking with the simple, secure, beautiful Gumroad, and dreaming of the day I can hire a proper developer, dig into the Stripe-or-similar API and really kick things up to the next level.
One of the tricky things about maintaining an Author Platform™ (if you’re me, which I am) is figuring out which things to talk about when. I’m a naturally shy person to start with, and quite a lot of what I’m working on is complicated, secret, or wildly visionary in ways that I’m not used to people understanding. But it’s actually probably just the sort of thing that’s worth sharing.
More to the point, I want to stay in touch with you. You’re really wonderful, interesting people, and I like hearing from you and letting you in on what I’m working on. I don’t want to go dark for months at a time. So I’m going to try an experiment, basically start using this blog for semi-regular informal brain dumps. Schemes in progress. Experiments. Failures and discoveries. Complications. Revolutions to instigate. That sort of thing.
And when my lizardy1 brain tells me nobody will like/get/care about the complicated/secret/wildly visionary stuff, here’s how I’m going to try to fight back.
I find it harder than you’d think to write about what I’m interested in and trust the right people will find me. But if I can be bold and true, I believe there are people who will be interested, even if it’s more about tech brilliance or reimagining crowdfunding than about my next story.
And honestly, I’m learning some super-cool stuff these days. Granted, it’s stuff about how to build a new kind of hybrid-publisher-slash-book-lovefest and nifty “shortcuts” that will make my job really easy just as soon as I invest several hundred hours on the front end. But still super-cool.
An ongoing question I wrestle with is how much to reveal about (a) things that are in progress and (b) unexpected behind-the-scenes facts, like how easy it can be to get a high-ish rank in a small-ish category on Amazon. I think holding off on revealing in-progress stuff is fine; revealing half-done work is no fun for you and no use to me. But the other kind gets more insidious.
It turns out it’s pretty easy to give an inflated sense of my success or importance, in the hope that I can impress and excite you and get more people into what I’m doing. But that’s not cool. So I’m going to try to be pretty transparent about how things are actually going.
And the work in progress? I’m still figuring that out, but I’ll try to pull back the curtain as much as I can without ruining the experience for any of us. And maybe even have more spoilery bits available for those who don’t mind having magic tricks ruined, so to speak.
When I hesitate to share big ideas for the future, it’s because I care a lot and I hope a lot and I don’t want people to think the vision is (i.e. I am) dumb. But the alternative is being either shallow (not sharing what I care about) or fake (pretending to care about other stuff). So that’s no good.
And the thing is, the wildly visionary bits are the really cool part. It’s sometimes hard to make it seem plausible to the outside world—I mean, if it were clearly plausible I’m not sure it would count as wildly visionary—and that can make it easy for people to not take the ideas seriously, but I’m going to practice not worrying about that. Some of the ideas won’t happen. That’s fine. But some of them will, and either way it’s still worth sharing the dream.
My secret hope: I’m not actually nearly wildly visionary enough, and getting you in on my schemes will make everything even more awesome.
1 Per autocorrect, ‘lizardy’ isn’t a word. See? We’re already learning together.
I turned 32 on Friday and, as most things do, it got me thinking.
All in all, I’m enjoying growing up. Yes, there are a lot of trade-offs. Yes, it’s way harder than it used to be to get stuff done. But I also find myself stepping up to the challenge. And my daughter is one of the most incredible people I know, and my day job has taken a real turn for the better, and my wife is a fountain of ever-flowing blessing and beauty, and my friends are delightful and challenging and brave and supportive, and I can drink coffee and tea and whiskey and eat at restaurants sometimes and support incredible groups like Kiva and Feed My Starving Children.
And I can have as many cookies as I want.
PS – An amazing, free, easy birthday present is reviews on my stories, especially Hubris Towers Episodes Two and Three. Reviews are a quick, permanent way to majorly increase my visibility on Amazon and other platforms. Thanks!
Also? It’s already shot up the charts to Top 5 Free in Humor & Entertainment short reads. What!? That’s crazy banana-pants!
Please go grab it, tell your friends, etc. This really means a lot to me and I’m super-excited, and I’d love to harness this opportunity to get it higher in even bigger categories to get some real visibility. I don’t like getting all sales-pitch-y, but it’s actually pretty hilarious and readers are loving it. More on that below. Click here to get it.
★★★★★ 4.9 out of 5.0 stars
Amazon Top 5 Free in Humor & Entertainment short reads
Amazon Top 50 Free in Humor
“Luxury living at Hubris Towers: Isn’t it time you get what you really deserve?”
Comedy of manners meets comedy of errors in a new series for fans of Fawlty Towers and P. G. Wodehouse.
Readers are saying:
“had me laughing so hard that I had to put it down to catch my breath. Crafted with perfect timing, great characters, and hilarious dialog.”
“so funny and endearing”
“snappy, amusing, and lighthearted but not cheesy.”
Today I’d like to let you in on my master plan, both the dreams and the practicalities. I’m a little nervous about this because my plans are, frankly, grandiose. I usually tone down the vision when I’m around the normals, but today you get an undiluted look at the layers and layers of vision, planning, and execution that fill my head most of the time. Or at least as many as I can get to in a reasonable amount of time.
(On a personal note before we get started, June was crazy. We had a birthday, an anniversary, a hospitalization, a job change, and a book launch in the same weekend. More on that here if you’re interested.)
The Big Picture
I’m an author with a day job. I believe stories shape people and people shape the world, so I care intensely about getting more great stories to the people who will love them. Also I just love love love writing. So I want to make a full-time career out of writing and publishing.
So Many Books
The top layer on my mind is the books I’m writing and want to write. So far I’ve self-published a fairy tale and the first episodes of a comedy series, Hubris Towers. They’ve done moderately well, but they’re just a start. I’m 100k words into a Discworld-esque fantasy mystery and finishing up edits on The Dream World Collective. On the back burner I have drafts of a psychological thriller and a standalone comedy, and concepts for a YA series and more. I’m trying to keep this relevant, so I stripped out a couple paragraphs of details, but there’s more at byfaroe.com/projects if you’re curious.
So those are, to varying degrees, in my head all the time. I’m always working on worldbuilding and ways to tighten the plots and show off the characters and find cleaner, richer ways to immerse readers in my worlds, and always thinking ahead to the next story.
Beyond that are the hundred and one tasks that go into creating the actual book. I’m always teaching myself more about print layout, ebook layout, typographic design, cover design, copyrights, ISBNs, book distribution, marketing copy, etc. Each of those could be a course in itself, but I’ll move on to the fun stuff.
A New Kind of Publishing House
For me it’s not enough to just write my own stories. There are too many other talented authors who have world-changing stories in them that may or may not ever get seen. I want to help get those stories out into the world, too, so I’m in the early stages of creating a publishing house called Clickworks Press. I want it to take the best from traditional and indie publishing, to support authors’ interests and maximize reader delight, and to think hard to build a new kind of publishing house from scratch, one that takes advantage of the fact that this is the future and we have amazing new technological and social opportunities that can drive a whole new kind of experience for storytellers and audiences.
This isn’t pie in the sky. I’ve got a couple other local authors already moving forward with publishing their books through Clickworks Press, and it’s really, really exciting. They’re not just random people I managed to wrangle in. These are talented authors with legitimately excellent books, books I’m thrilled about and believe in deeply, and I’m really excited to do whatever I can to get those books into the world. But it’s just the beginning.
You’ll notice I said “storytellers and audiences,” not “writers and readers.” That’s because the vision goes beyond books.
Novels are my main medium, but it’s stories that change the world, and stories can take many forms. My co-author Bill and I are already discussing the possibility of a Hubris Towers audiobook done as an old-school radio drama, and we’re experimenting with narrating our own and each other’s books for audio. I’ll also be looking into professional narration for some of my upcoming books. So there’s the seed for Clickworks Audio.
When I get a little free time (heh) there are two podcasts I’d like to launch, one for authors starting from the ground up (“no real budget, no real platform, just lots and lots of words”) and one for a wider audience, about enjoying the good life of wisdom, contentment, and interdependence. I’ve recorded a pilot episode for the former and it’s looking plausible. It’s just a matter of setting up a sustainable routine of recording when the time is right.
I know a few others who are interested in podcasting, too. They’re interesting people with good ideas and fun personalities. With a little attention and effort, we could build a podcast network that’s really worth listening to. And some of them are making pretty solid strides in acting and filmmaking. Some of us create games. Some of us are developers. With my (and others’) writing and design chops and their film skills and a little more experience under our belts, I see exciting possibilities for the formation of Clickworks Studios and/or Clickworks Game Labs.
Live a Better Story
But it’s not just about telling better stories. It’s also about living better stories and helping others live better stories. As we continue to tell smart, funny, deep, moving, life-giving stories, I trust that we’ll grow into a huge family of people bonded by the worlds and characters and stories we love. And huge families of people bonded by love can do incredible things. Good stories inspire and energize and unify the people who love them.
For this one, I want to wait and see what we come up with together, so specific plans this early would be jumping the gun. But I’ve seen the first hints of what’s possible. A while back I started an experimental Kiva team with a few fans of The Dream World Collective, back when I was posting it as a serial on a blog. That team of seven people has disbursed over $3,000 in microloans to help people around the world. We’ve helped a Jordanian woman pay for higher education and Kyrgyz widows buy livestock and a Honduran single mother of four invest in her coffee crop and many others.
That was seven people and almost no coordination or effort, back when I was completely inexperienced at this sort of thing. Now imagine what we could do with a few thousand people and some real thought and effort.
Better Worlds Through Better Stories
Getting more great stories out into the world isn’t just about storytellers who are already great at what they do. I also want to help promising storytellers become great. I’m currently developing a prototype of a writing tool that could end up nothing short of revolutionary. It’s designed to help harness your intuition and creativity to help you bring out the heart of your story and really make it shine, whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, whether you’re writing deep literary fiction or crazy laser-action sci-fi. I’d like to make this and other tools and courses available to help bring out the potential in anyone who wants to write great stories.
I also want to bring people together to support and build up each other’s skills and projects. Now that Clickworks Press is expanding beyond me I’m putting deep thought into the website. I don’t want it to just be a random little e-commerce site that does no real business because Amazon exists.
Instead, this is our chance to continue extending that new kind of experience to connect storytellers and audiences. The simple part is things like rewarding readers who help spread the word, or encouraging people to buy good books for their friends and read them together, or setting up writing challenges and reading groups and fun things for people to join into together.
I think we can take it to the next level, though. What if we became a micropatronage community with a focus on apprenticeship and mentoring? What if we used incremental challenges, badges, and leveling up to train the next generation of creatives and help the best get discovered? This is yet another part I could go on about forever, but I won’t here. Short version: imagine Patreon meets Khan Academy meets NaNoWriMo. Drop me a line at byfaroe at gmail dot com if you want to help me hash out the long version, or sign up for my friendly updates to quietly watch from the shadows as the adventure unfolds.
Back To Reality
So all of that is in the back of my mind most of the time, and I’m constantly thinking through strategies and next steps. Which brings us back to the practicalities. The execution has enough layers and details that it turns out it gets long and (perhaps) boring to talk about in depth. It’s a little mind-boggling even in brief.
I’d be happy to share concrete steps on any of this if you guys are interested. Just let me know in the comments. In the meantime, here’s an overview of what I’m working on or about to be working on in various arenas.
Making More Excellent Books
Hubris Towers – Write Episode 3. Make the paperback and ebook covers for Ep. 3. Create new back matter in Ep. 1 to point to Ep. 2. Update it on CreateSpace, Google Play, Nook, Kobo, and Kindle. Ditto to make Ep. 2 point to Ep. 3 after 3’s release. Update the landing pages here and on Pints & Prose.
Dream World Collective – Finish entering the plot into my prototype plot-hacker for analysis and improvement. Edit the last third of the novel. Set up an option for people on my mailing list to get it free in weekly chunks delivered by email. (Sign up here to get in on this when it arrives.) Finish the cover design. And the paperback cover design. And the hardcover-with-dust-jacket cover design. And the print layout.
Frobisher – Write more!
Building Ways To Connect With People
Clickworks Press Website – Pick a host and a URL for preliminary simple website, probably a WordPress.org site. Set up site structure (how to display books, purchase links, author bios, etc.), hopefully including author patronage options, probably via Gumroad. Also learn Python (at Codecademy.com, which rocks) and look into Jinja2 as a possible route to developing a cooler interactive site later.
My Mailing List – Set up introductory welcome emails. Set up auto-delivery of free story to loveliest readers. Set up ways for readers to help/get involved. Possibly send pictures of sea monsters and/or cute animals.
Hubris Towers Mailing List – Set up introductory welcome emails and free book as welcome gift. Set up other free book as enticement. Take over world.
Elsewhere – Write semi-regularly for this blog and for Pints & Prose. Learn what Twitter is.
Building Ways To Get Others’ Stories Found And Loved
Clickworks Press Business Model – Figure out how to maximize my authors’ sales and audience connection in non-evil ways. Figure out how to collect money and then get it to authors. Figure out tax stuff. Figure out awesome surprises. Figure out whether it’s better for newish authors to get paid double for a direct sale or to get exposure on other platforms. If former, figure out how to set up direct sales. Start thinking through workflow for a call for submissions.
Pints & Prose – Build out the projects page. Keep writing better pieces. Solicit great work from local creators.
Back Burner/Future Awesome
Podcast – Sketch out my experiences so far this year preparatory to sharing said experiences in an engaging and transparent manner on a podcast. Look into podcast hosting. Set aside times to record.
Future Books – Finish draft of Carsick, maybe for NaNoWriMo. Finish plan for The Clockwork Tower, a YA series. Rework frame narrative for the psychological thriller. Start planning the next couple books in the Hastily Dobbs series.
Games – Keep learning how to create interactive story games on StoryNexus. Look into what it would take to get custom Knight’s Bridge boards and pieces created. Possibly start a Kickstarter project for this.
So There’s a Lot Going On In My Head
It’s probably too much for one person. But the thing is, all of this is possible. It’s big and there’s a lot of it, but it all boils down to real steps we can take. I think we can really do this, and it could be awesome. Sure it’s a ton of work, but it’s so worth it!
A big source of my drive is that I’m deep-down convinced my stories are really good and will really improve peoples’ lives, and I’m going to run out of days a lot sooner than I run out of stories, so the sooner I can get to writing full-time, the more stories I’ll be able to get into the world. And stories can last generations, so every one I can finish means more lives changed for years and years to come.
I didn’t start this post planning to ask for money, but if this excites you and you want to help free me up to get more of it into reality faster, the two best ways you can help are by spreading the word (e.g. by sharing this post) and by clicking below to give a monthly (or single) gift to help me cover the costs of production, distribution, experimentation, and getting more awesome.
I’m surrounded by incredibly supportive, interesting, generous people and I’m so grateful to each of you who have helped me along the path. I say it all the time, but it’s true. You’re the best!
Also, while we’re at it, here are a few other author entrepreneurs worth checking out:
Rachel Aaron – Finally someone who understands that analysis isn’t soulless. Nerdy and funny and smart. Beautifully insightful thoughts on the craft and business of writing. Made me feel I’m not alone in the world as an analytical creative.
Self Publishing Podcast / Sterling & Stone – A trio of highly prolific storytellers with great vision, strategy, and experimental chutzpah. They set a really high bar, and then do everything they can to help everyone else get over it too.
Kate M. Colby – Super-useful writing resources, a new vlog, and an upcoming novel worth watching for.
Libbie Hawker – Author of historical fiction and helper of authors. Brilliant at breaking down the process of writing (and selling) your books into clear steps you can act on now.
Rocking Self-Publishing with Simon Whistler – A very approachable, useful, and fun podcast interviewing successful self-published authors.
Kara Jorgensen – Author of the Ingenious Mechanical Devices series. Creating and growing at an impressive rate.
Ani Alexander – Author and podcaster working to inspire and encourage other writers and provide useful publishing resources.
Bookshelf Battle – Wildly creative and prolific humor writer. Really almost manic in the quantity and diversity of the properties he’s created in very short order. But in a good way.
Pints & Prose – A creative laboratory I co-founded with a few other Baltimore writers, thinkers, and creators. Worth checking out (though I say it who shouldn’t).