Monthly archives for July, 2012

The New World of Publishing: Fear

For some time I have been considering going after the topic of fear in publishing. I know I talk about it all the time at workshops and in comments. And I have touched on the topic in a few blog posts some time in the past. But now, it seems the time is right to jump on this topic again.

Why now? Because this last week Scott William Carter and I worked with almost twenty professional writers during a four day workshop called “Think Like a Publisher.” During the four days I watched writer after writer sort of look up and say at one point or another, “This is easy.” In other words, they were afraid of doing something and after learning how, they didn’t know why they had been fearful of the process or thought it difficult in the first place.

As the weekend moved on, writer after writer slowly came to realize that the myth that publishing is hard (and only major traditional publishers can do it) is flat wrong. So now I figure it is the time to talk about this topic and (with luck) help a few more writers jump past the fear and get to more readers with their work.

Fear in publishing.

When a person steps back from writing and publishing and looks at this business with a cold, hard stare, there really is nothing to be afraid of. No one will take a gun and come to your house and shoot you if you type a bad sentence. No one will blacklist you and remove your computer from under your fingers if you mail them a manuscript that doesn’t work. And no one really, honestly cares if you indie publish or not.

In fact, one of the funniest sentences I hear coming from new writers is “I could kill my career if I do (that).”

Why is that funny to me? Because first off, new writers don’t have a career and wouldn’t really understand a writing career if it slapped them. And secondly, there is NOTHING that can kill a writing career. You might kill an author’s name if you are really, really stupid like some writers in the past have been. But unless they quit, those writers are still writing and selling under other names.

Let me be clear here. THE ONLY THING THAT WILL KILL A WRITING CAREER IS THE WRITER STOPPING WRITING.

And fear will cause you to stop. It might be the biggest reason a writer stops, actually. And always that fear is unfounded or caused by a of lack of knowledge.

Granted, jobs and livelihoods are often on the line, which is an area full of fear. Real fear of not making enough to pay the bills, not having security in your old age, of having to get another job in a time when jobs are hard to come by. I understand all that.

Some bad decisions can certainly slow down cash flow or cause a writer to have to start over, sometimes with a new name. No argument on that. But nothing can kill a writing career except quitting writing.

So now, in this new world of publishing, writers have many choices to make. But when you make a decision out of fear alone, it is usually the wrong choice, at least for the long-term.

A decision made out of pride alone is usually a bad decision as well, but that’s the subject for a future post.

As I have done in a couple of posts lately, let me divide the major decisions a writer makes on both the traditional side of publishing and on the indie side of publishing and talk about the fear involved in those decisions.

 Traditional Publishing

What are some of the main decisions in traditional publishing that are often influenced by unfounded fear?

— Finishing a manuscript. (This is both indie and traditional, actually. But it is a belief that the manuscript isn’t good enough so more drafts are needed and thus you never have to finish.  Silly decision based on pure fear.)

—  Mailing a story or book to an editor. (The silly thinking goes like this: I could ruin my career if I mail this book to an editor. Or to a wrong editor. Safer to just not mail it because they may hate me if the story is bad. That belief shows a complete lack of knowledge of editing.)

— Going without an agent. (Everyone says you need an agent, so you are afraid to mail directly to editors for fear of them coming to your home and ripping your computer from your desk.  So you follow the silly myth that you must have an agent to sell a book and waste years, all because you don’t understand that agents don’t write checks and can’t buy books. Editors buy books. This is a fear caused by an ignorance of the publishing industry and how things have changed.)

— Negotiation in contracts. (If I ask for changes in the contract they might hate me and take away my sale. Or I might upset my editor and they will never buy another book from me. This fear comes from ignorance of contracts and how they are never set in stone. Get an IP attorney to help you past this fear or at least tell you what you are signing before you sign it.)

— Deciding to sign a bad contract that will take your rights forever and control your writing. (You are afraid if you don’t sign, they will come to your home and never let you write again and never sell to another publisher with more reasonable contract terms, so you sign away your work for life. Letting this fear win can cause years of problems. This fear-based mistake is often helped by agents who just don’t know any better and are only looking out for themselves and not you. My wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, is doing blogs on deal breakers in contracts the last two weeks. Check them out.)

There are a ton more fears in traditional publishing, but those are the main areas that most fears branch from for traditional publishing.

And, of course, fear is very real in traditional publishing among writers. But none of it is really serious and most of it is made up in a writer’s head.

I have told people for years that working in traditional publishing is like crossing a two-lane road. If you are frozen in fear, you will never step off the curb. But if you know enough to look in both directions at what is happening on the road, have an understanding of speeds of cars and trucks, have the ability to put one foot in front of the other, and can move quickly when you need to, you’ll get to the other side of the road just fine.

And honestly, there is a ton more to fear when crossing a road than working in traditional publishing. Traditional publishing can’t kill you like a speeding car can, no matter what a writer believes.

Indie Publishing

What are some of the main decisions in indie publishing that are often influenced by unfounded fear?

— I can’t self-publish my own book. My friends will look down on me. (You are afraid of the old myth that lasted in publishing from 1945 until 2008 that vanity press publishing was a bad thing. And in many instances, that was correct during those years. But everything has changed, so this fear now is from lack of keeping up with the changes in the industry you want to work in. In other words, an ignorance fear.)

— I’m afraid I can’t format my story and put it up electronically. So I shouldn’t really try. (Seriously? So many writers have this fear it stuns me. Yet in the end publishing a book is simple. Scary simple, as I call it. I’ve talked about it in many posts and you can get help anywhere. In the free posts listed above under “Think Like a Publisher” you can get started. And learning how to do covers in PowerPoint or PhotoShop Essentials or some other program is easy. And often fun. You might not create a professional cover at first try, but who cares. Better than no story published. And even more interesting, every publishing site gives you help. This fear is exactly the same as the fear of stepping off a curb and a real fear of learning something new. Get over it if you want to add in the option of indie publishing to your writing career. Do some learning and then step off the curb. You might be surprised at how easy it really is.)

— My books don’t sell so I should lower the price. (Actually, there are a number of things I would do instead. I would raise the price up into the normal range of $4.99 to $7.99 for a novel in electronic form. I would look at my cover to see if it fits my genre. I would look to see if I put the book on the wrong shelf. I would look and see how passive my blurb is and if it tells about the novel instead of the plot of the novel. I would look at the opening of the book and see if it is confusing or just dull. Lowering price is a fear-based decision based in lack of faith in your own work. A better decision would be to check the easy stuff as I described and then write the next book. That shows courage and a faith in your own art and ability.)

— My books don’t sell so I should spend more time on Twitter and Facebook annoying my 300 friends. (Seriously???  How about taking a writing class from a professional writer instead to become a better storyteller? How about working on your openings to make them more interesting? How about just writing the next book? Turning to more promotion when something doesn’t sell is a fear-based decision based on ignorance of what sells books.)

— My books will never sell in paper so I’m not going to learn how to do that. (That’s correct, they won’t sell in paper, especially if you don’t put them in paper. But in this new world, getting your paper books into bookstores is getting easier by the day. This fear is not wanting to tackle the new learning curve of designing and putting your books into a paper edition. Too bad, because by being afraid of learning this new area, you also miss out on the real thrill of holding your own book in your hands. This is a fear based on lack of knowledge and still believing the old myth that it is hard to get a book (not done by a traditional publisher) into a bookstore.)

Just as in traditional publishing, there are a ton of fears around indie publishing, almost all of them based on lack of knowledge or the unwillingness to try something new. And just as in traditional publishing, most of the fears in indie writers are only real inside each writer’s head. There is no real threat actually doing the work.

Summary

My job description, any writer’s job description, is to sit alone in a room and make stuff up.

The fact that I make a ton of money doing that task is because I am really, really good at turning what I make up into stories that entertain in one fashion or another a lot of readers.

But also, the fact that I can shut off that skill (of making stuff up) when it comes to business is also why I make a lot of money.

I make up stuff when I need to create, then become cold and hard and clear-visioned when it comes to business. And that’s what most writers don’t do. They practice making stuff up in their stories, then continue to make up stuff when faced with business decisions. And that just creates fear that leads to bad business decisions.

And even worse, fear can paralyze you into inaction more times than not.

Learn business. Learn publishing.

Fear is a part of being human. But when you let it control you in publishing you are doomed to make silly mistake after silly mistake right up to the silly mistake of stopping writing.

When you are sitting at your writing or publishing computer and are afraid to do something for no reason, look up at the nearest door and ask yourself if a large goon sent by some editor will come though that door and smash your computer if you do what you are afraid of doing. If the answer is no, the stop being afraid and make the decision based on business and reality.

And remember to keep having fun. Enjoying the writing will also get you past a lot of the silly fears.

Trust me on that one.

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Copyright © 2012 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
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This chapter is now part of my inventory in my Magic Bakery.  

I’m now getting back to writing fiction, so every word I write here takes time from that. And I have to justify this somehow in how I make a living.

So, if you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

(Honestly, for the longest time, I was afraid to put this tip jar on any post. But as I started to spend more time on these articles, I felt I needed some money in return for my time. And I have been very happy with the response and actually, tips in the jar of the Magic Bakery help me keep going on these posts. Not sure what I was afraid of.)

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. I don’t always get a chance to respond, but the donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Tip Jar: Go To Paypal

The New World of Publishing: Blurb Writing

As I said in the first post of this short series, I will take a few areas of publishing and compare them across, from indie to traditional. The differences, the beliefs, the myths, and how things are actually done.

The first post I did on editing and proofing, and I’ll do another on cover design, plus other areas that are common between the two forms of publishing. One area per short post.

But for this second post, it’s time to talk about blurb and promotional writing.

As I start this, a bunch of writers are coming into town to attend a “Pitches and Blurb” writing workshop here. It’s a four-day push to learn the skills involved in writing basic ad copy for books. They will also work on cover letter blurbs, back cover writing, and tag lines.

Understand, these are writers I have invited here, who are at a pretty decent level of craft and writing skills. And even after four days, they will only understand how to write them. None of us, even those of us who have been writing blurbs and cover letters and ad copy for years, get it right every time.

I find it funny how indie writers (usually newer indie writers with only their first book out) always look to discounting their prices when a book or story isn’t selling. It never once occurs to them that maybe they wrote a passive, dull description for their book. Or that their cover sucks. Or that maybe the opening of their novel, which readers will sample before buying, is dull, has no setting, and is nothing more than someone waking up in the morning.

Openings of stories and novels tend to get better after a million words of writing practice (with focus). But only after the writer starts understanding how to relay character and setting. Covers tend to get better after a few dozen covers as long as the indie publisher is paying a lot of attention to learning cover design and font layout and blurb use. But I have watched really, really talented storytellers produce dull and off-putting blurbs that actually turn buyers away from their wonderful novels.

It’s why I think the Pitches and Blurbs Workshop that is starting here today is the most important workshop we do for indie writers and for traditional writers.

On this short article, I will start with the traditional side of things as I did last article.

Traditional

Who writes the blurbs in large, traditional publishing houses? Well, the answer to that is “it depends.” It depends on the size of the advance on the book, the imprint, the publisher, and so many other factors.

That said, I’m only going to talk here about lower-level midlist books, books with advances under $25,000.00.  Genre books for the most part. And when I mean traditional publisher, I am talking about the large publishers in this instance. Mid-range and small and specialty presses often do this differently.

When a midlist novel is bought by a traditional publisher, the editor reads it. That’s it. The copyeditor (normally freelance out of the office) will go through it much later on, but the only person who actually reads your novel is the editor.

The editor then does a summary of the book for the publisher and the sales force for the meetings.

This changes slightly as advances go higher, remember. Sometimes. The bigger the check, the more people read the book.

From the editor summaries, the publisher and editor and sales force decide where to slot the book in their monthly sales lists and about how many copies it will sell. All fine.

(I know… to beginning writers this is shocking that only one person in a publishing house reads your book. But alas, in most cases, it’s true. There is just not enough budget and time to have more people read it I’m afraid.)

So now, one fine morning, three or four months after the last time the editor read your book, there is a scheduled meeting with sales and cover design and your book is up on the docket as one to talk about.

But only the editor has read the book, so it’s the editor’s job to write the sales blurb and back cover copy and some of the catalog copy. And normally they do it in a rush to make the meeting, from memory of the book they read months before.

Not kidding.

They might glance back at the manuscript, glance at any promotional material the author sent in, glance at their notes. And then write it to the best of their ability that morning under the deadline.

Editors write cover copy and blurb copy. Why? The fine members of the sales force are not writers and haven’t read the book. They have only read the editor’s summary of the book and maybe a first chapter. And there is not enough money in a line of books these days to have a dedicated ad-copy writer. And not enough need. So in most houses, in most lines, the task falls to the editors.

And more times than not they do the writing mostly from memory of a book they read months before, usually going directly to the plot and often turning-point scenes that give away too much, because that’s what they remember.

That’s one of the many reasons Kris and I have always taught writers to learn how to write good cover copy and blurbs that will sell. And use tag lines when you have a good one. And make sure the editors have what you wrote in case they wanted to use it. Most editors have zero issue accepting help on this from their authors, if their authors know how to write blurbs.

Sadly, most authors do not. Most authors selling to traditional publishing wouldn’t know a good blurb that would help sell their book if their life depended on it. And that’s the expectations of editors for their authors as well. Editors are always stunned and happily surprised when a writer helps them with quality ad copy.

So the editors write the blurbs and back cover copy, usually at the last minute, often from memory of a book read long before.

Indie Publishing

Everything falls to the author. And in most instances, just as with traditionally published authors, that’s a bad thing.

Most indie authors have no sense of business. So the idea that an indie author can write a blurb that is a sales tool to help sell their own book is just pretty funny. Sad, but funny.

When you don’t flat understand business and have no desire to learn, you sure can’t begin to understand sales of anything.

Selling books is a business I’m afraid.

Indie authors tend to write blurbs that go into the plot details. A bad thing. And they write blurbs that are filled with passive verbs, and often focus the subject on something that makes their own books unattractive to buyers.

Why? Because we wrote the thing. Therefore, that cool scene on page fifty should be mentioned in the blurb, even though it’s about splattering blood over a woman’s expensive white blouse and cutting off her lover’s little finger with a nifty new blade in her blender. Yeah, that will sell. Maybe to five people. But the indie author loves that scene and puts that scene in the blurb.

And then lowers the price to 99 cents when the book doesn’t sell. Trust me, a book with a bad blurb on it won’t sell at 99 cents anymore than it will sell at $6.99.

I’m spending four days with a group of professional writers here on the coast, teaching them how to write blurbs for their covers letters to editors and to give editors help when a book sells. And if they go indie with a story, they are learning how to write blurbs and back cover copy that will sell the books both electronically and in paper. The writers here will barely break the surface of the skill in four days, but when they leave they will be aware that it is a skill. And I hope they will have some tools to use to get better.

Summary

The systems in traditional publishing for writing ad copy and blurbs sucks for most first novelists and genre novels. It gets better, as most things do in traditional publishing, as the advance gets higher. But for most writers, only luck can get you a good blurb.

However, blurb writing sucks worse on the indie side. In traditional at least there is a professional editor who has written a lot of blurbs writing the ad copy. And a sales force to say no if the copy truly sucks.

In indie publishing, most writers spend little or no attention to writing a blurb. And don’t really know how to do it well if they did pay attention.

Even though it is the third step in the selling process that a buyer goes through to buy a book, indie publishers ignore the ramifications of writing a bad blurb. They give the process only a moment’s thought, usually tossing off a blurb in a rush on the fly because writing it seems like a chore and they don’t want to get their hands dirty.

And then they wonder why their books don’t sell.

Some writers can’t even see a passive verb. About one third of the pros in every class I have taught on this topic are like that and struggle for the entire workshop to spot and take out passive language in what they write. But by the end, they at least can see it and know how to make a sentence active.

And if you have no idea what I am talking about when I say active language and sales copy, go watch a short and fun video called “Five Guys in a Limo” on YouTube. Not a passive verb in the entire thing.

The skill can be learned with some focus and practice and help.

And if you learn it, you can help your editor in your traditional publishing company and you can help your indie books sell more copies.

Have fun.

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Copyright © 2012 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
————————————————–

This chapter is now part of my inventory in my Magic Bakery.  

I’m now getting back to writing fiction, so every word I write here takes time from that. And I have to justify this somehow in how I make a living.

So, if you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. I don’t always get a chance to respond, but the donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Tip Jar: Go To Paypal

 

The New World of Publishing: Editing and Proofing

Just for fun and giggles and to help kill a few myths, I figured I would take a few areas of publishing and compare them across, from indie to traditional. The differences, the beliefs, how things are actually done.

I’ll do this with cover design, with blurb writing, and other areas that are common between the two forms of publishing. One area per short post.

But first off, let me talk about editing and proofing.

One of the great new myths is that traditionally-published books are cleaner and better proofed than indie-published books. Traditional publishers use this myth as a selling point to keep writers mailing them books.

Well, maybe it’s true, but not always.

Of course, this is impossible to actually get data on, since every book is different and goes through a different path to a unique publication. Most of the time you can’t take the same book and put it out traditionally and indie at the same time.

However, that said, a lot of us old traditional writers are indie publishing our backlist now. And that’s leading to some really eye-opening discoveries. We are finding tons and tons of problems in traditionally published books that were not in our original manuscripts. Problems introduced by the editing and proofreader of a traditional publishing house.

How are we discovering this? Simple, actually. We give our hired proofreader a copy of the original, traditionally-published book and an original electronic file. Then we tell the new proofreader to compare the electronic file to the published work and try to get the electronic manuscript as clean as possible.

Our proofreader is finding mistakes that got missed and mistakes that were added in. Thus our books being done indie are now far cleaner than the ones originally done traditional.

Kris talked about this when she talked about how there is no perfect book on her blog. You can find that great post here.

Now I’m sure almost every indie publisher already has a story about this sort of thing. But in the hopes of keeping this on topic, I’m going just go through how a manuscript gets proofed in the two paths to publication.

Traditional Publishing

Step One:

Your manuscript gets read by an editor. (Please do not say anything about agents in this. That topic is too ugly to handle here.)

Often this editor is young, just out of college, and filled with the myths of how there is a perfect book. (Again, read Kris’s post about perfection.) If you are lucky your manuscript finds a more experienced editor and the editor goes through trying to make your book a better book for what you wrote. Editors do find mistakes, but most of them are not good copyeditors.

Sometimes in this stage you get an editor who thinks they are a writer and tells you how to rewrite your book into something they think will sell better, or is more to how they would have written it if they had enough courage to be a writer. (There are tricks to getting around this type of editor. You learn them after getting stuck with a few of them.)

Step Two:

There will always be a rewrite.

Let me repeat that. No matter what you book is or how well-written or perfect, there will always be a rewrite that you must address in one fashion or another. Why? Contracts, that’s why. They give you money on signing and money on acceptance. They have to divide those payments apart for cash flow reasons. You know… business. So the editor MUST find something for you to do, even if she loves the book. In over 100 books I had less than five of them not go through a minor to completely-stupid rewrite.

Sometimes the editor found good stuff that needed fixing, sometimes the editor was just marking time until she could put in for the next check for her writer. Those marking-time rewrites cause more damage than good when the writer is too new to stand up to the editor.

Step Three:

When all that is done, your manuscript goes off to a copyeditor for a copyedit. If your advance is low, chances are they are testing out a new copyeditor that is cheap. If your advance is high, you might get a more experienced one.

The publisher will pay anywhere from $500 to $10,000 for the copyediting, again depending on your advance. I have heard of some charging a lot more, and it happens, but more times than not that’s a myth fed to beginning writers.

If your advance is low, you are rolling the dice on getting a decent copyeditor or not. If you get a copyeditor who wants to be a writer and has no respect for your writing, you will find yourself in a hell you can’t even begin to imagine.

If you get a good one, they will find all kinds of stuff and mistakes you swear you never knew were in there.

You must always spend the time, sometimes days, to check through the copyedited manuscript sent to you by the publisher.

Step Four:

In the old days there was another step when someone had to type in your manuscript with all the corrections included. Now that step is a person keying in the corrections, more than likely using the computer program of their choice.

Mistakes are added in here still, but not near as many as the old system. Now usually the writer gets a copyedited manuscript that they can accept or change the corrections. The hope is that the manuscript the writer did the accepting or changing got into the book and not another copy.

Indie Publishing

Let me say this right here, right up front. Every book and story published needs a good copyedit.

When I did the first Challenge Series of short stories, I put those stories up without a copyedit. I just had my first reader read them. Now I am going back and having them copyedited and finding all kinds of small mistakes. And a couple big ones. (grin)

With the Challenge Two series just starting, all the stories will be read by my first reader and also copyedited before I put them up and into book form.

So what is the process for indie publishing?

Step One:

You have a manuscript. Give it to a couple good first readers. Friends that you also read their work, or just friends that don’t write but love to read. Listen to them on the mistakes and then only fix what you want.

This step is how indie writers go around the editor part of traditional publishing. An editor is only a good reader. Two of your friends are often, combined, a great reader as well.

Can some books be better with some good professional level editing? Yup. But not all. Many a great book has been killed by bad editing.  And those you never hear about.

There are many great and experienced editors in traditional publishing who can help a book become better for the author, but at this point, with traditional publishing in the state it’s in, I’ll take my chances on a couple of friends reading the book.

Step Two:

Find a friend who loves to find nits in everything they read and give the book to them to read with the instructions to find everything. There’s usually one of those in every workshop that starts talking about a comma in the wrong spot on page forty-seven. You know the type.

Or hire a good freelance copyeditor.  The going rate is around $25.00 for a short story, $50.00 for longer stories, and around $5 per 1,000 words for longer novels. So the range is $500 to $1,000 for a long novel to get a good freelance copyeditor. Caution if the rates go too much higher.

By the way, most freelance copyeditors also work for traditional publishers. Traditional publishers NEVER have copyeditors on staff. It’s always farmed out just as indie publishers do.

Step Three:

You accept or reject the corrections from the copyeditor. If you add in mistakes in this step, you have no one to blame.

The big difference with indie publishing is that you are in control of the copyedit and with traditional publishing you are not.

So those are the editing and copyediting differences between the two routes.

Make your own choices.

It’s wonderful in this new world that we have the choices to make.

Back soon with a post that will shock you. How are cover blurbs and back cover copy done in traditional publishing? You really don’t want to know. But I’m going to tell you anyhow.

Have fun.

————————————————

Copyright © 2012 Dean Wesley Smith

Cover art copyright Philcold/Dreamstime
————————————————–

This chapter is now part of my inventory in my Magic Bakery.  

I’m now getting back to writing fiction, so every word I write here takes time from that. And I have to justify this somehow in how I make a living.

So, if you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated over this last year. I don’t always get a chance to respond, but the donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

Tip Jar: Go To Paypal

 

 

Some Star Trek Fun and History

Last week in the mail I got this huge packet of royalty statements from Pocket Books. Now understand, when I say huge, I mean huge. Maybe 200 pages. I’ve written shorter novels to be honest.

These statements are only for the books I did with Pocket Books that are still in print in one form or another. And a bunch of them are Star Trek books of one sort or another.

Looking through those statements, it reminded me that I got a letter recently from someone questioning my credits. This poor person could not believe that anyone could have written over a hundred novels and since I was lying about that, I couldn’t know anything about book pricing. (Not kidding.)

Letters like that I just toss away and I did with that one. (I personally know writers who have produced three and four times the numbers of novels I have done. And for me, all it takes is a mild Google search under this name to find fifty or sixty of the novels I wrote, not counting all the pen name work.)

But the combination of that person’s silly letter and the Pocket Books royalty statement made me realize that it’s been a long, long time since I had a traditionally published book out under a name I can claim. So I figured that with a few posts over the next six months, I would take a group of the books I did and just talk about them for a few minutes.

One group will be all the superhero books I wrote. Another group all the movie novelizations. Another group all the game novels. But first, tonight, since I was mostly known under this name as a Star Trek writer and editor (and the former publisher of Pulphouse Publishing Inc.), I figured I had to start with Star Trek books.

How Many Star Trek Books Did I Write or Edit?

I honestly don’t know or remember and am too lazy to go try to figure out. I’m pretty sure the total is over thirty, but even a Google search won’t help on all of them since I did a few ghost novels in Star Trek.

For example, the Eric Kotani novel “Death of a Neutron Star” was supposed to be a complete ghost novel. But then about five years back a fan came up to me at a convention and asked me to sign it. I asked him why I would do that, since I hadn’t written it. (I actually had from a wonderful Eric Kotani idea and partial manuscript, but was under a non-disclosure agreement.) He said, “Your name is on the inside.” Sure enough, no one had bothered to tell me I was outed on that book.

Notice, all three images on the top of this post have pen names on them.

However, I can remember the first Star Trek novel Kristine Kathryn Rusch and I wrote very clearly. It was the deep winter of 1992 and Star Trek DS9 was about to start in early January of 1993. I had bought a story or two from John Ordover for Pulphouse Magazine and for some reason John and Kris were talking one night on the phone about another project. (Kris was editing The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.) John had just gone into the Pocket Books Star Trek department as an editor and his job was to revamp the program from mostly fan-written books to professional-written books. (Three editor/writers talking. Always fun.)

At the time we had a big backyard dish that picked up signals of programs before they aired, so we had seen the first episode of Star Trek: DS9 just the night before and way before it officially aired. Kris and John got talking about it. And one thing lead to another and John asked Kris if we would be interested in writing a book for the new series.

Yeah, duh. (The high school kid inside of me that used to go home instead of going out so I could watch Star Trek in the 1960s just about died at that moment.)

We were all afraid that six names would not fit on the cover, so Kris and I came up with the pen name Sandy Schofield and the novel “The Big Game” came out in 1993. (I can tell you from my royalty statements that so far it’s sold about 150,000 copies. Nice.)

From there Kris and I started doing more and more Star Trek novels together. I also did a bunch of Star Trek novels and projects on my own. A few I did on my own had Kris’s name on them, a few didn’t. And I ain’t saying which books those are.

Our bestselling Star Trek book was “Star Trek: Next Generation: Invasion: The Soldiers of Fear.” Part of the cross-over Invasion series between the four Star Trek series. That’s still selling like crazy and I don’t even want to mention how many copies that’s sold. It’s a ton. It also got Kris and I to #12 on the New York Times Bestseller official list when the list was only ten long. (The official list is now 15 spots long.)

Along the way John Ordover and I came up with the idea for “The Captain’s Table.” That was basically a bar unstuck in time that any Starfleet captain could go to at any point on any planet. I designed the bar since I had been a bartender and came up with the cast of regulars. (Yes, we knew about Spider Robinson’s bar which rifted off of Arthur C. Clarke’s bar and so on back into time. And old sf idea brought to Star Trek.)

Kris and I did the Star Trek: DS9 book in this series. The jackets on each book had the captain on the front in the cover art and a bunch of people in the back.  All the writers of the series were in the back, but not on our own books. Kris and I are standing behind Janeway’s right cheek bone. You have to get the Star Trek: Voyager book in the series to see us clearly.

Kris and I did a lot of books from 1993 to 2002 in Star Trek. We did the first original novel (writing the book only from a few scripts and still photos) for the Star Trek: Voyager series and then we did the first original novel again, way ahead of the airing, for Star Trek: Enterprise. That is a very, very scary thing to do considering how exacting to characters and details all Star Trek fans are. I’m pretty amazed to this day we got as close to the actual series as we did on both of those books, considering we were writing them before the first episodes were even filming.

I also wrote the very first Star Fleet Core of Engineers novel for that series. It’s one of the longer books in the series.

As time went on, Kris and I also got to do some really fun stuff. We wrote a Star Trek comic book series for DC Comics under their Wildstorm imprint. Kris did the outline and I did the script since at the time she hadn’t read many comics. Thank heavens there was a good artist on my script because my script just wasn’t that good.

I got to write a few scripts for Paramount Pictures as well. One full-length feature film script turned out to be directed by Jonathan Frakes and was a live action game called “Klingon.” I ended up getting story credit since by that point I had no desire to join the Screen Writer’s Guild, let alone spend another moment in Hollywood. Then I turned around and novelized my own script for a paperback for Pocket Books. (A ton of money was made on that project.)

Of all the projects I did with Star Trek, three really stand out as being above and beyond fun. And two were from holodeck creations.

The first started the day John Ordover called me and asked me if I would like to do a “Captain Proton” book. (Picture of cover at the top of this post.) He called me because he knew of my love for the old pulps. On Star Trek :Voyager, one of the characters had created a great holodeck program featuring a Buck Rogers character called Captain Proton.

John’s idea was to put together a trade paper book in the form of the old pulp magazines, so under the name D.W. “Prof” Smith I wrote a short novel staring Captain Proton. (If you don’t get the pen name reference, let me just say I also wrote the entire short novel in that classic writer’s style.)

And then I also wrote three other pulp-style short stories for the book. One by Ray Hamil, one by Lester Lee, and one by Don Simster. (Of course all three stories were in the styles of the great old pulp writers that you should be able to figure out from my pen names.)

See why when someone asks me how many names I have published work under I have no idea. There are four pen names there. And no where on that book does it give Dean Wesley Smith as a name.

I also was allowed to write Captain Proton stories for Amazing Magazine and even had the cover of the magazine once.

The next fun project was the book Star Trek: The Next Generation: A Hard Rain. That novel stared Dixon Hill from the hard-boiled detective program on the holodeck. That was the hardest book I have written to date because it was a mystery in many sub-genres, set on a holodeck, while Picard could never be Picard, only Dixon Hill, and yet save the Enterprise.

Somewhere in the middle of all this John Ordover and I were trying to figure out how to get newer writers into Star Trek from the fan boards. The copyright issues were a nightmare. But finally John got the lawyers and his bosses and the fine folks at Paramount to agree to a contest and he called it “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.”

And he hired me. The third really amazing project I got to do with him.

I had been the publisher and one of the editors at Pulphouse Publishing Inc. and had edited Pulphouse Magazine for years. I had also been the fiction editor for VB Tech Journal for two plus years. I knew short fiction and I had written novels in every series, so John knew I loved all of Star Trek.

My job was to find 23 professional-level short stories from writers who had not professionally published more than three short stories or a novel. That’s right. My job was to find professional stories from beginning writers. Scared didn’t begin to describe how I felt about that task.

The first year the number of manuscripts was over 3,000 and I found 17 stories. The first book came out in 1998 and some writers in that book have gone to major writing careers, including Phaedra M. Wheldon, Dayton Ward, and Christina F. York.

No one thought that the idea would go beyond the first year, but it just kept going even though Pocket Books lost a ton of money every year on the project. They did it for the fans. (Never happen in this world today.)

For ten years, from 1997 to 2006 I put together a major collection of Star Trek short fiction. Every year I worried I would never find enough good stories, every year after the first year I had too many great stories to fit into the book.

That last volume of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” that came out in 2007 was the last thing I did with Star Trek. I had stopped writing novels for them in 2002 when John Ordover left editing, turning to my own novels and short fiction instead.

Summary

I wrote Star Trek novels in every series and outside of the series as well. And I edited for ten years with Star Trek. I had great fun working with the wonderful John Ordover. I miss both Star Trek and editing. I don’t miss Star Trek enough to go back to writing it, however, unless it is for a very special project.

But I am coming back to editing shortly. We will have an announcement on that, so stay tuned.

My Star Trek years were great fun. I was frighteningly lucky to have found my way into that program and become one of their go-to writers. The high school kid inside of me who used to hunger for every week’s new Original Star Trek episode in the 1960s still feels amazement he was allowed into the inner circle.

However, during those Star Trek years, I was doing a lot of other writing as well. So in a month or so I’ll do another post like this about my novels in the superhero worlds of Spider-Man, X-Men, Iron-Man, and Superman. At least the ones I can claim. After that I’ll tackle all the movie novelizations I did. And then the gaming novels.

Wow, have I had a great time writing or what?

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Online Workshop Schedule

These are the starting dates of upcoming online workshops. Limited to twelve writers. All have openings unless I say closed below. For sign-up and more information about each workshop, click the Online Workshop tab at the top of the page.

Class #11… Aug 3rd … Advanced Depth
Class #12… Aug 3rd … Character Voice/Setting
Class #13… Aug 3rd … Pacing Your Novel
Class #14… Aug 3rd … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Aug 4th … Character Development
Class #16… Aug 4th … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Aug 4th … Making a Career
Class #18… Aug 5th … Designing Covers
Class #19… Aug 5th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Aug 5th … How to Write Science Fiction

Class #21… Sept 7th … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #22… Sept 7th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #23… Sept 7th … How to Write Science Fiction
Class #24… Sept 7th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #25… Sept 8th … Character Development
Class #26… Sept 8th … Depth in Writing
Class #27… Sept 8th … Making a Career
Class #28… Sept 9th … Cliffhangers
Class #29… Sept 9th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #30… Sept 9th … Advanced Depth
Sign-up and more information under Online Workshops tab at the top of the page.

Classic Workshops

You can sign up for these and start at any point. They are the regular workshops, only you don't send in the homework and you can take them as fast or as slow as you would like.

They are half the price of a regular six week workshop.

Classic Workshops offered.

Making a Living... Classic
Productivity... Classic
Discoverability... Classic
Writing in Series... Classic
Genre Structure... Classic

Lecture Series

More information on these lectures under the Lecture Series Tab above.

#1... Heinlein's Rules... Dean Wesley Smith 15 videos... $75.00

#2... Read Like a Writer... Kristine Kathryn Rusch... 8 videos... $50.00

#3... How to Write a Short Story: The Basics... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 7 videos... $50.00

#4... Writer's Block and Procrastination... Dean Wesley Smith... 8 videos... $50.00

#5... Carving Time Out for Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#6... How to Research for Fiction Writers... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 14 videos... $75.00

#7... Pen Names: Help With the Decision... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#8... Motivation: Starting Easier and Writing More... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#9... Practice: The Attitude and Methods of Practice in Fiction... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#10... Master Plot Formula: How and Why It Works Today... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#11... Prolific Lecture: How to Become a Prolific Fiction Writer... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#12... The Stages of a Fiction Writer: How to Know Where You Are In Learning and How To Move Upward... Dean Wesley Smith.... 11 videos... $50.00

#13... Starting Writing. Or Restarting Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#14... Endings: How to Write Them and Understand What Makes a Good Ending... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#15... Audio Narration Lecture... Jane Kennedy.... 9 audio lectures... $50.00

#16... Your Writing as an Investment Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#17... How to Get Your Books into Bookstores Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#18... How to Think Like a Science Fiction Writer Lecture... Kristine Kathryn Rusch....11 videos... $50.00

#19... Why Some Books Sell More Than Other Books... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#20... How to Write a Page Turning Novel or Story: Basics and Tricks ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#21... The Basics of Designing Science Fiction Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#22... The Basics of Designing Mystery, Cozy, or Thriller Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#23... Paying the Price: A Working Writer's Mindset ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#24... Writing into the Dark: The Tricks and Methods of Writing Without an Outline... Dean Wesley Smith... 12 videos... $50.00

#25... Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#26... Organization... Allyson Longueira... 8 videos... $50.00

#27... Confidence... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#28... Stories to Novels... Dean Wesley Smith... 9 videos... $50.00

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