Tools of the Trade (and stuff)

   As I have probably mentioned, like eighteen hundred times by now, I have been writing for some twenty years. I started as a teenager, when I had visions of being a cartoonist or a special fx makeup guy. Ah, the good old days. Anyway, I got serious about writing back when my friend Mike and I started doing a horror ‘zine and I got into the habit of writing almost daily. And whether it was writing movie reviews, stories, blogs, or just the occasional rant I fell in love with writing at an early age and it was that writing that got me through any tough patches I hit on the road. With Back From Nothing I finally started to look at writing as more than just a hobby but as a way to tell stories on a grander level and a way to make some money on the side as well.

   Now, as I have also said, you are probably not going to get rich writing, or doing any art. Which is not to warn you away from it at all but to make sure you understand that just as the kid that plays high school football doesn’t have much chance to make it to the NFL you don’t have a really good chance to become a best seller. Just the same you can make some really good money as a writer and artist and if you have the drive, the passion, and the talent you can make consistent money at it. And while the story, the art, the passion is why you do it and should always do it you do also have to be able to support yourself along the way or the art and stories are lost. I mean, I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t really inspire a lot of writing when you don’t know how you are going to pay your rent or bills. Poverty doesn’t make you a great artist, it’s heartbreak, remember that! (Which is utter crap but once in a while you have to make up your own catch phrase and I thought I would try that one out for size. Walk around with it, see how it feels on ya.) So as I went around to shows, conventions, and anything I could to promote my book and chapbooks I started figuring out better ways to show and sell my work. I got into that side a while back in a previous post and it was basically me passing on my experience as a writer and artist doing shows. Ah, but I wanted to add to that, add something on the business side of it.

   If you are going to try to sell your art and books at events then you need to have a system. You need to have Tools of the Trade. Like

  Notepad – you are gonna wanna keep a record of what you sold and how much, and what day you sold it. Some stuff you can write off and some you need to declare and it’s good to have a record of what you are doing.

  Pay Pal  – I am not necessarily the biggest fan of Pay Pal but it is what it is – an easy way for people to pay you online or in person for goods they are purchasing. Cash is always great but you will quickly learn that you will lose some sales because you cannot take other forms of payment. Pay Pal has free apps for Android and iPhones and it’s worth looking into if you are going to do any online sales or direct sales at events. You can exchange email addresses and do it really, really quickly. Be forewarned though that there is a fee involved.

   Square – I cannot say enough about this device. This is a free app and dongle for your phone that allows you to take credit and debit payments on your phone safely, securely, and at the point of sale. Basically you go and download the app, which is like a cash register screen, and then you sign up for an account on the website. With no charge for the app, or to sign up, you are then sent a dongle to plug into the headphone jack of your phone and you can now swipe credit and debit cards. You can add in tax. You can add in a photo and description of the product. The great thing too is you can email or text them a receipt immediately that has the image, description, and a location of where they bought it. And it’s instantaneous. Square takes a small percentage of the sale (for twenty bucks I give them like thirty cents or something) and that is it and they put the money in your bank within a few days. A great and important tool of the trade. There are other things out there like this but I use this one and it’s free to get so that is what drew me and keeps me a fan.

   Create Space – Finally there is Create Space, the publisher I have used for the last three books. I cannot say enough about this company. A subsidiary of Amazon.com, this is the best way I have found to get your book printed professionally with no investment and no big charges. Basically you sign up for an account and decide if you are putting together a book, CD, or DVD. For me I go with books and so I go to the create book part of the site. Here you can input the name, the page count, the author, and all the details of your book but you really wanna be done with the book when you start this process. So write or collect your book and then come here. So you set up all the details and then you want to see how you have to format things. You have to pick the size of your book and from there you can go into MS Word or a program like Adobe In Design. This is not easy. I did Red Dreams myself in Word and had a pretty easy go of it with the templates you can download but if you really know your stuff and want to tinker with the layout and design then try your hand at a program like In Design. You can do a lot with that program and if you have the program and the know-how you can really make it look pretty unique. From there you create your cover. The cover can be art you did, or a photo, or something you commissioned, or even an image they have on file at CS. and again you have to make sure you format it right and, again, they have the templates to make sure. For me, the formatting was the hardest part of the books but you want to make sure that the thing looks professional, and can be read so it’s a bridge you have to cross. So you do all that and submit it and there you go, you have your book submitted. So what does it cost? Well, it depends on how many pages your book is and all that fun. CS takes a percentage of your sales and you make a royalty. You get a free e-store for direct internet sales, you get listed on Amazon, and you can buy copies for direct sales. For $39 you can get their ‘pro-plan’ which lets you buy books for less, and gives you a bigger royalty. It’s pretty handy and for the cost it is a heck of a great way to get your work out there. Now, again, you will not get rich doing this (unless you blow the heck up as an author which, good for you, but it takes a LOT of work). For me CS is pretty great for indie authors. If you are willing to put the work in and get out there to promote, and to sell then you can make some money and can put out a polished, professional looking book.

Now, these are only some tools I use and I could do a full post on each one of these but this is just a tip sheet on things to look into. Things that I have found helpful and which have really upped my game. The thing though is to find your own tools and find what works for you and what you are doing. And darn it when you do, share with the class for goodness sake

Red Dreams

The Meep Sheep

This Beautiful Darkness

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