Politics makes my brain hurt

I’ve been listening to the Democratic National Convention.  No, I can’t explain why.  Maybe it is to fuel my boundless rage… Maybe I’m just a masochist… Maybe I’m the guy that just can’t help buy stare at the carnage as you drive past a car wreck on the freeway.

 

All I know is that I actually hate these people.  Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t hate rank and file democrats.  Most of you, the sane ones anyway, who aren’t hugging trees, or protesting Marine recruiters, are probably as sick of your party apparatchik as I am of mine.

 

But I hate the democrats in charge right now.  Holy crap, what a bunch of nut-logs. 

 

Okay, Barack Obama, who’s the #1 most left wing liberal in the senate, picked the #3 most left wing liberal in the senate, to be his running mate.  Wow.  Big tent there. 

 

Joe Biden wrote the first assault weapons ban. People of Ohio and Pennsylvania and Michigan, please keep that in mind as Obama tells you that he’s not going to push for any new gun laws. Oh yeah, he’s going to let all of us “typical white people” just keep “clinging to our guns and religion.” No problem there.

 

Barack Obama actually thought it was okay for you to try to abort a baby, and if it came out alive during the partial birth abortion, to just let it die.  Don’t take my word for it. He’s the only person in the entire legislature of one of most corrupt states in the country who actually thought that was just swell. Heck, it’s one of the few things he actually took a stand on. Whoops, this one’s still alive.  That’s okay, let’s just leave it here for awhile until it dies.  Pesky little brat. 

 

Yeah, we sure wouldn’t want those kids to grow up in poverty with unhappy familes… ‘cause that wouldn’t be kind.  Well, listen up douchebag, I grew up in poverty with an unhappy family, and I’m still pretty damn glad that nobody cracked my skull open and wire-whisked my brains because I was inconvenient for to my mom. 

 

I’ve disliked politicians before. I thought Bill Clinton was a scumbag, but I had to respect him as probably one of the best politicians of all time (that’s actually not a compliment).  I thought Al Gore was insane.  I thought John Kerry was a pathetic shell of a man.  But I actually think I hate Obama.

 

And I’m no Republican shill.  I think George Bush was domestically weak, not a true conservative, but I could admire his stance on killing terrorist scumbags.  I think John McCain is basically a middle of the road democrat, but at least he’s a grown up and not-a-Marxist. 

 

But Obama?  He’s a man who’s basically done nothing in his life. He has no experience, gives a good speech off the teleprompter, but then chokes like an idiot when he’s not scripted. 

 

When asked a very difficult question, he replies with, “that’s above my pay grade to answer with any specificity.” 

 

Huh?

 

Pay grade?  Friggin’ pay grade?  You want to be the President Of The United States of America.  What pay grade is above you?  Do you need to consult with George Soros first? 

 

Well, part of the problem was that the question was about when life actually started.  John McCain clearly answered after less than a second with what he thought.  Since Barack thought that a kid who was born alive and breathing actually didn’t have civil rights, and could just be left to die, then I could see why he might be a little hesitant to actually answer the question.

 

Idiot. 

 

Every time he opens his mouth, he’s got another proposal for another idiot program where government gets to be our dad.  I’ve still not seen anybody in the regular media dare to ask him about what he meant with his Civilian National Security Force.  But since ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and every major newspaper in the country’s reporters are too busy providing him oral sex during the interviews, it might be hard to get to those tough questions. 

 

But NOOOO… foolish right winger, there’s no media bias.  (see, that’s why all the reporters are wearing PURPLE during the convention, I kid you not).  There’s no bias.  That’s why when I’m buying my friggin’ Slurpee at 7-11 and look at the magazine rack, ¾ of the magazines have Barack Obama on the cover, none have John McCain, and Rolling Stone doesn’t even have a caption or any words, they’ve just got a picture of Barack with his little smile, and they’re worshipping him like he’s Jesus.  (Rolling Stone got Jesus and Kayne West mixed up last year though, so you’ve got to give them a little slack).  The only magazines he wasn’t on the cover of was Guns & Ammo and Monster Truck Weekly.

 

There’s no media bias. So how many of you turned on the regular news and caught that the Zogby poll had McCain leading for the first time?  You know, the Zogby poll, which has been the most reliable one in the country for like the last 16 years in a row?  Yeah, that one.  No?  You didn’t see that?  SHOCKING…  But I bet you did see that McCain owned a bunch of houses.  Yeah, big mean rich people, what with their buying houses instead of donating all their money to crack whores.  How many houses does Ted Kennedy (who in the words of the press “electrified” the convention) own?  Nancy Pelosi?  Naw… Barack only owns one really big house which was paid for by a mobster in exchange for purchasing votes and sweet Illinois contracts… But I should just stop with my crazy talk.  Stupid mean Republicans. 

 

I listened to Bill Clinton’s speech tonight.  Now my head hurts. If anybody out there is a student of history, or you actually paid any attention and have a memory longer than that of a fruit fly, you would know that he flat out LIED and just rewrote history.  No problem.  Don’t worry, he’ll get a pass.

 

My business is suffering because my customers are paying $4 a gallon for gas.  Every business in the country is suffering because of this.  America is suffering.  We could lower the price of oil within 24 hours if the Democrat Congress would just vote on the stinking energy bill, but Nancy Pelosi sent everybody on VACATION, that way the Dems couldn’t vote and be held accountable by their constituents. 

 

But somehow, this is all the Republican’s fault, because the news said it is. 

 

The sad thing is that the Republican’s are all such spineless pansies that they’re preparing for a defeat in congress and the senate. 

 

Idiots. 

 

Hammer home the fact that we’re getting raped at the pumps while the democrats take a 5 week vacation from voting on energy.  Hammer home the fact that their nominee thinks that it is okay to take a baby that was born alive and let it die, because hell, you tried to kill it, little bastard was just tough.  Hammer home how their VP thinks banning all guns in America is an idea “whose time has come”. Point out how their nominees entire message to beat Hillary was about pulling out of Iraq, only to get to right now, and- whoops-we’re winning, never mind.  (which by the way, go to hell Harry Reid you worthless sack of shit for saying that we’d already lost.  Eat crow you son of a bitch).    

 

These things should be a no-brainer.  Just because the press is against you doesn’t mean we’re going to lose. SCREW THE PRESS.  All of us out here with any intelligence quit paying attention to them awhile ago.

 

We should take these issues, sharpen them to a point, and then stick them in, and break them off.  Republicans, quit trying to be Democrats.  Grow a spine and take a stand.

 

The other day I saw a bumper sticker.  It said:

 

Aw, F**k it.

McCain ‘08

The less repulsive of the two democrats running.

 

Now that is a campaign slogan that I can get behind. I’m no McCain fan, but he’s a better man that Obama. In the next couple of days I’m going to see if McCain picks a running mate that doesn’t totally suck.  That would actually be kind of nice.  It would be really cool if he picked an actual Republican or something, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

On self publishing

I followed the pingback trail from my blog, to Anthony Pacheco’s http://anthony-pacheco.com/2008/08/27/the-monster-that-ate-the-pod-topic/, to here.  http://fifthwind.wordpress.com/2008/08/27/day-57-an-apology/

 

It is a debate about POD publishing, which is a really interesting topic.  There’s a lot of self published garbage out there, but for a few of us, it is actually a sound business decision. I’ve got a distinct perspective on this topic. This is basically my story.

 

Several years ago I sat down to write a novel that was a conglomeration of B-Movie stereotypes but tackled from the perspective tactical realism. I’m a B-Movie nerd, but I’m also a professional firearms and self defense instructor.  Yeah, it does sound kind of weird.  Picture a monster movie, but populated by people who actually have a friggin’ clue how to take care of themselves. The novel is called Monster Hunter International.

 

This was not my first attempt at writing.  I’d been published free-lance in several national magazines.  I had written an earlier novel, but it hadn’t been up to snuff to get published. MHI came out really good. I polished it first.  I polished it a lot.  I had it read by about a dozen different people, of various backgrounds, and paid a lot of attention to the feedback.  I looked for the harshest critics I could find. 

 

Everybody loved it. 

 

So I found more people.  I picked out people who were sure to rip my head off.  I told them beforehand to rip me apart.  I didn’t care about my feelings, I only cared about turning out a quality product.

 

They still liked it.

 

If MHI was actually good enough to publish, I might as well try to publish. So I embarked on the process of trying to sell a professional. I’m a professional, and my feelings are not easily hurt, so I was prepared for rejection.  I did my homework, and made sure that I obeyed all of the rules for soliciting agents and publishers.

 

I was rejected by every agent and reputable publishing house in the business.  (and yes, I knew enough to stay away from Publish America!)   MHI was soundly dismissed by everyone, and when I say everyone, that is not an exaggeration.  I was rejected by every intern and mail clerk in the business. 

 

A couple of agents took the time to actually read my query letters and request my manuscript.  I got the same basic responses from all of them.  “It is too long for a first timer.”  “It doesn’t really fit into any genres.” “You’re a good writer, but it isn’t marketable.” 

 

At the same time, I had kept giving Word copies of MHI to people.  At this point I had been read by about a hundred people, and it was still a hit.  I started farming it out to complete strangers, and people who were not even vaguely interested in monsters or guns, and sure enough, those people liked it to.  Teenagers and old ladies became fans. People who hate books and never read fiction were reading MHI in one sitting.  People who read two or three books a week were finding themselves sitting down in front of the computer once they got home from work and reading until the sun came up the next morning. 

 

So on one hand, I’m getting great feedback from actual readers.  People are really liking this book.  On the other hand, the publishing industry has basically told me to go to hell and that nobody would buy my crappy book.  Well, somebody had to be right. 

 

Finally I found an agent who actually liked MHI and took the time to give me a bunch of professional feedback.  Spectrum Literary represents a bunch of big dogs, and even represented Heinlein, so when they gave me advice, I paid attention.  They liked it, but thought that MHI was just way too long to get picked up.  I needed to cut if from 205,000 words to a maximum of 150,000 words. 

 

Now if you’re paying attention, that’s a whole lot of words.  But hey, this was Spectrum, so I figured it was my best shot.  So I sat down, and absolutely gutted my baby.  I cut out every bit of fat that I could. 

 

190,000 words.

 

So much for that.  Back to the drawing board.  This time I took a chainsaw to MHI.  I absolutely butchered it to get down to an arbitrary word count so I would take up X number of inches on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. 

 

Bingo!  150,000 words. 

 

Too bad it sucked. I was no longer proud of what I had, so I bagged that project and went with the 190,000 word version.  Needless to say, I didn’t get picked up.  I’m still appreciative to Lucienne Diver of Spectrum Literary for taking the time to help me out though.  She was the first professional that actually gave me the time of day.

 

Now I was done.  I felt like I had wasted a year of my life, spent a lot of postage, and all I had to show for it was a desk covered in rejection letters.  At the same time I’ve got a couple hundred people telling me that I’ve got a real winner, and they can’t wait to buy a copy when MHI was inevitably published. 

 

Screw it.  Time to self publish. 

 

I did my homework on self publishing.  I’m a gun guy, but my background was as a financial analyst for a Fortune 500 company.  I know how to crunch a few numbers.  I checked out every outfit out there, looked at their service, their quality, their reputation, and most of all, their cost and break even points.  I wasn’t going to be one of those suckers that vanity published a piece of crap and then had 2,000 copies rotting in my basement. 

 

I knew that my only hope of success with self publishing would be if I could do a good enough job marketing my book.  My research indicated that if a real publisher felt like they could sell 5,000 copies of a book, they would be inclined to purchase it.  So my goal was to sell enough self-published copies that a publisher would have to notice me. I figured that would take about 1,000 copies in a year. The problem with that is that when you self-publish you are on your own.  Any marketing you get is totally up to you.  But 1,000 copies, with no real marketing budget, should be enough to get their attention, or so I guessed. 

 

I decided to go POD (Print On Demand).  My cost per book would be much higher, and retail for the paperback would be over $20.  It would have been cheaper to just print 1,000 copies in advance, but A. that costs more.  B. I didn’t have very much money.  The massive downside of this was not only did I have to convince somebody to buy my self-published book, it was also going to be overpriced.  Oh yeah.

 

I decided to go with Infinity Publishing.  www.buybooksontheweb.com  First off, their set up costs were low enough that my break even point wouldn’t be too hard to achieve.  Second, a friend of mine had used them for his sci-fi novels, and he had been pleased with how they had treated him.  (btw, go to Amazon and check out Reckless Faith and the Tarantula Nebula to help out a fellow struggling author, David’s a talented guy).  Plus, by having him refer me, it got me a $50 discount.  And yes, I am that cheap.   

 

The hardest part about getting someone to buy your self-published book is that readers automatically assume that self-published = crap.  And they’re usually right.  The majority of self-published books I’ve read are absolute tripe. I knew that the key to getting this thing some buzz was marketing. 

 

But how do you market?  Advertising costs money.  I needed a way for people to really want to buy my book.  I wanted people to be excited to buy my book.  And they were only going to do that if they thought I was a good writer.  So, how do you show somebody that you know how to write?  Write something.

 

I wrote an online fiction serial, in conjunction with another wannabe writer friend of mine, on www.thehighroad.org.  The Mr. Nightcrawler saga was pounded out over a couple of months.  We got 100,000 hits.  I kept dropping hints that if they liked the serial, then they really needed to buy MHI when it came out.  Buy the end of the serial, I had a couple hundred readers ready to jump on anything I wrote.  That was enough to get the initial buzz going. 

 

At the same time, a reader of the Mr. Nightcrawler serial on THR had gotten the Word copy of MHI.  Tony Van Kragg had previously worked for a large independent bookstore.  He passed MHI on to his former boss, Don Blyly, who ended up printing off all 400+ pages on his laser printer and loving it.  Don isn’t just an independent book seller, he’s one of the biggest and best known in the country. 

 

Tony and Don knew Toni Weiskopf, boss at Baen Books.  Don basically said that Baen was stupid if they didn’t buy MHI, since he could sell the hell out of it. Toni agreed to read it.  I never made it past their slush pile the year before when I tried. She gave me a bunch of constructive criticism, and asked for me to revise it in a few specific ways.  I did so, sent it back to her, but then it kind of dropped off. 

 

I didn’t hear from Baen for awhile.  Toni was really busy, which is really understandable for somebody with that kind of job.  I was just glad that she hadn’t just beaten me over the head for bugging her. Now I was torn.  I was finally to where my book was being read by an actual professional publisher, but at the same time, I had just wasted a couple years of my life getting rejected over and over, so I figured I was just going to get rejected again.  I decided No More Waiting.  I took the plunge and self-published.  I knew that with Infinity, I retained the rights, and if Baen or somebody else decided to make me an offer later, I could always cancel the POD version.

 

I started this blog.  Originally it was a place for me to pimp my writing.  Then it became a place to make fun of stupid people, which is actually very cathartic.  I used the blog to take preorers, which helped bankroll me buying extra copies to have on hand. 

 

By the time MHI hit, I had a bunch of folks really excited to get their copies.  I sent a letter with every preordered copy (along with an MHI patch) asking them to post reviews online or on Amazon if they liked the book. Positive reviews starting popping up everywhere.  The patch was a stroke of genius, and my readers thought they were just awesome.

 

The book was published in December ’07, but nobody got any copies until January. 

 

MHI took off.  It started doing better and better on Amazon.  I kept posting here about the Amazon stats, which were strangely fascinating.  In fact, for a POD book, it was doing really well.  I had 38 reviews, and was still averaging 5 stars.  My lowest review was 4 stars, and that ain’t bad!  I had a few people zing me for having small “unprofessional” mistakes.  No kidding!  195,000 words, and I think we found 8 errors after it went to press.  Bob Westover, who was my proofer, and Kathy Jackson, who was my editor, actually did a super good job!  In fact, a couple of the errors that were pointed out were actually in dialog, given by a high school dropout from rural Alabama, which totally shouldn’t count.

 

Toni from Baen contacted me again in February.  This time she wanted my most recently revised version, and she told me that she was contemplating picking me up.  In March, she offered me a contract. 

 

Now I do not honestly know how much of a difference the critical success of my POD version influenced Toni’s decision.  I don’t know the answer to that.  But I do know that if I hadn’t been promoting the heck out of my book for self publication, I would never have met the people who eventually introduced me to her.   

 

When I mentioned on the blog that the POD MHI would soon be discontinued, people freaked out, and cleaned out every place on the internet that carried my book. By March I was #34 in Contemporary Fantasy, and #5,031 in all books.  I was able to get MHI into a bunch of different bookstores, and all of them were sold out.  Word had spread. 

 

On April 16th, I was #3 on the Entertainment Weekly bestseller list.  Not bad for a POD.  That was mostly luck though, since Entertainment Weekly’s list was calculated by each week going to a different huge independent bookstore.  I lucked out and they picked Uncle Hugo’s, where Don Blyly was a big fan, and had really been pushing the book. 

 

Once I had signed my contract with Baen and discontinued my POD version, I’ve been bugged daily by people trying to get a copy.  I figure that, conservatively, I probably could have sold another two thousand copies since I shut down the POD version, and that is all from the buzz that was originally generated. 

 

This is actually really kind of cool, since nothing makes people want something, quite like not being able to get it.  Someone is selling a copy of MHI on Amazon right now for $199.  If somebody buys that, you’re friggin’ nuts, that’s all I’m saying.  A copy of MHI went for $160 on Ebay, and I don’t know who bought that one, but damn, you are the man.  I’ve got a case of signed POD versions in my basement, (under a bunch of Ewok style booby-traps and nanotech enhanced guard weasels, so don’t even bother asking) but I’m holding onto those just in case I’m someday worth Stephen King money, and my kids can sell them to pay for college or something.

 

So the Baen version will be coming out in Summer 2009.  As a result of fans harassing Toni, she’s agreed to do an E-Book version before that.  I don’t have firm dates on either. 

 

Now all you guys need to do is buy lots of copies of MHI: the Baen version, when it hits stores, that way they’ll publish MHI:2.  (which by the way, the rough draft is done, and it totally rocks). 

 

Now back to the original topic.  I think POD publishing is a good tool, but it is just one tool in the tool box.  The main thing is that it still has to be a good book.  POD worked for me, but only because I’m a self-promoting, guerilla marketing son of a gun.  If you write a bad book and self publish, it is still going to suck.  If you write a good book, and you self publish, nobody is going to read it, unless you convince them to read it.   

 

Even traditionally published writers have to self promote.  POD writers just have to do it on their own.

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