Free Books! (And a Book Release!) by Josh Guess

Okay, so here's the deal: Today I released the fourth book of Living With the Dead. I'm ludicrously happy with this volume, and I want people to read it.

The Wild Country, Living With the Dead book four. But read on. There's a test later.

Fourth in a series, you say. Yes, that would normally mean buying three other books to get there. Logic, that inescapable bastard.

AHA! I have a solution! How about I just GIVE AWAY the first three (well, sort of three) books in the series, so you get the best possible deal? Yeah. Let's do that.

So, starting Saturday morning and running through Wednesday, every Living With the Dead book (except the new one) will be free on the Kindle store. That includes:

With Spring Comes The Fall, book one.

The Bitter Seasons, book two.

Year One, which collects book one and two, plus has a TON of bonus material, including five short stories, a behind the scenes look at LWtD, and a whole novella set in the LWtD universe. It's a deal. Especially because it's free.

And The Hungry Land, book three.

Yes, Year One duplicates the material of the first two books. But hey, it's not like your kindle is gonna get full off that. It has all that juicy bonus material in it. So why not just download every freaking one of them?!

No good reason not to. Unless you already own them, in which case you should pat yourself on the back.

Then you can buy The Wild Country, book 4. I'm not telling you to by any means. But hey, it's four bucks. You get all those other books for free, so really if you bought this one you'd be averaging a dollar a book. I'm not telling you to buy it, but I *do* need a new pair of shoes.

I'm just sayin'. You don't want me to write with cold, unsupported arches, do you? That makes for terrible prose.

And hey, if you decide you want free stuff and don't want to buy the fourth book, that's okay too. I'm sure no kittens will suffer terrible mishaps because of it. No baby otters will be orphaned. You'll just be three books richer, and that makes me a happy camper.

Confession: I'm secretly a woman by Josh Guess

Not in the "I have a vagina and am capable of gestating a fetus inside me" kind of way. I'm a male in all the important ways, but there is a part of me that's actually female. She's a pen name. And no, I'm absolutely not going to tell you what it is.

Let me explain.

I've wanted to branch out and write some short fiction for a while now, mostly in the erotica category. I'm not ashamed of that fact, but I decided to create a female identity for myself for what were initially very practical reasons.

One: people seem to read female erotica authors way more than men.

Two: Given that erotica is definitely *not* my genre, if they got negative attention my main works and reputation wouldn't suffer because of it.

Three: I figured it would be a nice stream of extra income.

Now, those three things remain true, but I've come to see the whole thing as a kind of experiment. Living With the Dead has a small but dedicated fan base, and that's awesome. I've got this blog as well, and facebook, and twitter, and many outlets to expand my readership. Again, good stuff. But with this new identity, I have a chance to see how I can do without all of that. No web pages, no author profile, not a damn thing except my work and Amazon.

So far, it's not bad. The first short story I wrote is on the Kindle Lending Library, and I gave it away for all five of my free days. Almost a thousand downloads of it, and since the promotion ended I've sold ten copies. That's three dollars and fifty cents in royalties. Not much, true, but that's with zero marketing or promotions in any way except making it free for five days.

I expect that once I have a few more stories out there I'll do even better. Many, many authors put their book or story out on the Kindle and get a few sales a month. I'm happy with ten in five days. I'm always trying to figure out ways to boost sales (and thus my income) but the truth is that J.A. Konrath is right--writing and indie publishing on the Kindle is a marathon, not a sprint. Building a catalog of quality work is much more likely to make you money in the long term.

Which is what I've been trying to do. Now I'm just doing it as an imaginary woman also. It's tons of fun.

I'll update off and on down the road as this experiment unfolds. I don't have any illusions that I'll get rich selling short stories at ninety-nine cents, but the potential for a nice stream of extra income is there. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Which is the best kind of optimistic to be, really.


How to be a successful writer in a few easy steps by Josh Guess

I did my taxes yesterday, and in so doing I saw on paper (well, on laptop) how much I made in royalties from sales of my eBooks in 2011. It was slightly more than the amount my wife made from the part-time job she took on for the first half of the year, and a thought struck me pretty hard right then. 

I need to track my income more closely. I'm a lazy bastard. 

Another thought hit me along with that: I'm a professional author. Not full-time and certainly not an expert, but I made a pretty nice chunk of change from putting words on paper (again with the laptop) and selling them to people. It's a little strange for me. Being an author always seemed like a dream I could never quite make into a reality, yet here I am with a moderate level of success. 

I've learned many things since I've been self-publishing, the most important of which is that no success of any size happens alone. I've been very lucky to have a close group of friends online who are also writers--Annetta Ribken, Lori Whitwam, Joseph Paul Haines, and others--who have given me the benefits of their experience. I can say for certain that without them, my work would be of much lower quality. They have been a treasure trove of knowledge, support, and encouragement every bit as much as my family and friends in the offline world. 

I make no claims to greatness, please understand. I'm not saying my work is amazing and world-changing, but it's better now than it was a few months ago, and it will be better still a short way down the road. There are a lot of authors out there who will tell you what they've done to get their books into the hands of readers, and I've been one of them. There are some big-name folks like J.A. Konrath who will tell you the general steps on how to better your chances at selling copies by self-pubbing. I've done that too. 

Not right now, though. I just want to list out some things I've learned about writing over the last few years, as much to help me remember and focus on them as it is to maybe make someone out there who's writing their first novel taking a crack at a short story think as they tap away at their keyboard. 

1) Always remember to learn. 

This one is hard for me. I've spent a lot of time doing revisions, going over the structure of sentences and usage of words, trying to make everything flow well. There are people who will tell you to write with passion, and you should definitely do that. But writing isn't all love letters and pain, it's a structured art that has infinite variations. I've learned the hard way that spewing out words because you feel them is a good way to do revisions for longer than it took to write the work. Learning what works for you structurally and working with that in mind, always revising in your head as you write, is absolutely key to improving the quality of your writing. It's very hard for me to do this, and it's an ongoing process. 

2) Don't just write yourself. 

This is one I'm bad at. I tend to write lead male characters that are about my age and similar to me in personality. I've experimented a lot with writing very different characters, and those tend to be reader favorites. Writing what you know is a good thing, and should always be a starting point. It is for me (and hey, if Stephen King can write thirty books set in Maine, then we're all okay!) and is probably where most people begin a story from. I guess the key for me to this one is to research and expand my knowledge so I can write what I know and still have it be something new. There's a lot to be said for experimentation in your work. Personal experience, good old trial and error, shows me that sometimes it works and sometimes it fails like Rick Perry trying to count to three. But taking yourself in new directions stretches your mental muscles and makes you grow. 


While it's very important to me to write in a way that has structure on a small scale, I've had a hard time keeping my focus when I'm worried about the overall plot of my story. On a strictly personal level, I think it's kind of a bum deal that so-called "Literary Fiction" gets a pass on plot because it focuses so heavily on prose and character. There's a lot of popular genre fiction out there that does a fantastic job of both, but gets panned because the plot is "weak". That's in quotations because I'm a firm believer that you should keep a general idea of where the story is going, but to write it a section at a time. Worrying over whether or not you'll get to the main villain's big reveal on page two fifty is a great way to end up counting the number of squirrels trying to steal your mustache collection. It'll drive you nuts. 

My method is to keep a looses timeline in my head as I write, but to find as much joy in telling the actual story as I can. Plot holes and inconsistencies pale in importance when you've written twenty pages of rushed story trying to get to a certain point. I've dropped work on three whole novels for this very reason. 

4) When you revise, STRESS OVER EVERYTHING

Don't beat yourself over the head or anything, but for me the two parts of the job are starkly different. I write fast when I'm not being lazy, and I've developed a decent level of ability to get out the story I want to tell while having fun doing it. Revising, however, is the beast that cannot be slain. When the fun part is over and I've got a rough draft, I obsess over every word. Then every sentence. Then every section, chapter, and so on. I might read through my work two or three times when I'm actively working on it, but during the revision process I read it at least six or seven. *That* is when I worry about holes in the story, logical inconsistencies, and of course the more boring stuff like typos and misspellings. 

5) Know when to stop. 

This one is simple. For example, last night the SuperBowl happened. I worked the night before, and stayed up all day so I'd be sure not to sleep through the game. I tried to get some work done on the sequel to my last novel, but the words were shit. I couldn't make it flow, and it was an effort to get anything typed at all. So, after a few hundred words, I stopped. Better to lose some word count than write trash that I'd have to heavily edit or outright delete (or both). I do this because I'm OCD about a lot of things. I would have had a hard time sleeping if I'd have had to lay there knowing those badly written paragraphs or pages needed my attention. Almost as if my laptop were silently judging me for storing such things upon its sacred hard drive. 

Also, know when your story is done. The reason my last novel, Beautiful, is the first book in a trilogy is due to the huge amount of canon and the dozen or so plot lines I worked out for it. It was going to be a one-off until I realized just how huge an effort it would be. The thing would have been somewhere around four hundred thousand words (about a thousand pages long) and that was the condensed version. I'm happier knowing that I ended the first book at a natural stopping point, and that I can write the subsequent five sequels at a length that gives the story room to grow. Call it 100,000 words for each book. 

Again, I know the internet is vast and populated by people who (no pun intended) read into things too deeply. This isn't meant to make me sound like I'm better than you. You might be the next Steinbeck, with a natural talent that beats me by a country mile. I don't think writing is a competition. What writing actually is? An art and a science all at once. Which makes it very hard to do. Managing to follow the important rules that go along with writing while trying to make something that's all at once original, interesting, emotionally satisfying, and marketable, is like trying to balance a dozen spinning plates while hopping. 

My aim here is only to give you tips to help keep your balance. You may not need it, and that's great. You might glean something helpful from this post, and I hope if you do need it that I've done a small good. I'm convinced now that I'll never stop learning about this craft, and I don't just mean improving my skills. Writing is so hugely complex that I could (and hopefully will) spend the rest of my life doing it and never grasp all the intricacies. 

Please feel free to comment, question, or add anything to this list in the comments section below. I'm always thrilled to hear what other people have to say about my (someday full-time) dream job. Any thoughts that might help me or others are welcome. Go nuts!

Kindle Select Program (an update) by Josh Guess

You may remember that last month I decided to join the Kindle Select program. If you're fuzzy on what that is, I'll give you the quick tour: I have the option to add any or all of my books to the Kindle Lending Library, where they can be borrowed by people with Amazon Prime memberships. Each borrow gives me a certain amount of money from a fund set aside for this purpose. In December, I had 73 total borrows, making me an extra $124.10 in income. Not a ton considering the fund was set at $500,000 but it's a nice bit of extra income. The fund is evenly divided among all borrows in the lending library. This month looks to be better than last. Mainly because my borrows are on track to do better than last month, and because Amazon kicked in an extra 200k into the fund.

The downside is that each title I put in the library has to be exclusive to the Kindle while it's in the program. That's okay with me, because I make the overwhelming majority of my writing income from Amazon. The best part of the program is the ability to give away my books for five days for each ninety-day period of enrollment in the Select Program.

I've seen some bumps in sales with the Living With the Dead books by doing this, but the interesting thing I've seen recently is what's going on with my urban fantasy novel, Beautiful. I put it up for free, all five days in a row, and it was downloaded more than 1800 times. Again, that may not seem like much to some people. For me, that's a hell of a lot of copies out there on people's devices. That's a lot of people who know my name that didn't a week ago.

What those 1800 downloads translate to is why I'm writing this. Before I put Beautiful up for free, I'd sold exactly one copy in the first nine days of this month. Since it went back to being $4.99 yesterday, I've sold eight more. So far I've got just one borrow of Beautiful, but a snafu in the Lending Library led to it not being available to borrow until yesterday morning. I'm hoping to see that number go up.

Beautiful now has a TON of metadata to go with it. Those 1800 downloads helped populate the "Customers who bought this item also bought..." section of Beautiful's Amazon page. In real terms, that means that my novel is now being suggested on the pages of dozens of other books, leading to sales. This is exactly what I was hoping for. No, it isn't a tsunami of sales and a vault of money for me to swim in, but it's progress. I'm happy about that.

I included links to my facebook pages in this novel, and I've been seeing a small but steady increase in new Likes of my fan page. I've got links in there to the blogs of several of my friends who are also writers, and I sincerely hope that I'm driving some sales their way. I've wanted for a long time to establish a network of support between all of our works, but we're all so busy with writing, working, and dealing with our daily lives that it's been difficult to coordinate anything. Maybe down the road, if I make that Amanda Hocking money...

Basically I just wanted to report that I'm happy with Select. I don't see Amazon as a place full of happy little bunnies by any stretch, and I know that the Select program is an attempt on their part to pressure the competition, but it also works for authors. At least, it works for me. I know a lot of other folks with way more name recognition have had amazing luck with it. That's about it.

Oh, one more thing. Tomorrow morning I'll be setting up a mailing list. I'll have links to it on this blog, on Living With the Dead, and I'll post them on facebook for anyone who wants to sign up. I won't spam your inbox (that sounds really dirty, doesn't it) but being on the mailing list will give you the heads-up on my new projects, release dates, and many other tidbits you may find interesting. I'll only send out mail when I have something important to say, so no worries that you'll get an email a day from me. I'm wayyyyyyy to lazy for that.

I'm feeling positive right now. You guys are the best fans anyone could have. Thanks for your support!

Lessons from 2011 by Josh Guess

It's the second of January, the year 2012. I've had time to reflect on the last year of my life and now that my liver has recovered from the truly horrendous amount of rum it had to deal with on new year's eve, I want to share those thoughts.

I learned a lot over this last year. In no particular order, I'll toss them at you.

I learned how to be a better writer. I'm not talking about simply honing my basic skills here, but actually realizing that every moment of my day can teach me something about the craft. It's as if I've learned a new way to think. Every time I read anything now, I look at the structure of it, see the parts as well as the whole for what they are: examples I can learn from.

I've learned not to expect too much from my writing. Late in 2010 and into early 2011, I was having a lot of success very quickly on the Kindle store. For the first few months I was selling my books, I was making more money in each of them than the month previous. It gave me a heady, solid sense of satisfaction, but then came April. That was when sales began to slump, and I saw my income dwindle accordingly. That's how the market works, unfortunately--there are variations and no book is fresh and popular forever.

I got a very good piece of understanding from that situation. If my sales had continued picking up, I might have grown overconfident. I might have quit my job, or been less humble when writing. When the eventual slump did happen, I'd have been utterly destroyed. So I'm happy it came early. Now I know never to count my chickens, and to always strive to make everything I write the best thing I've ever written.

I've learned not to take on too much at once. At the height of my efforts this year, there were weeks where I was managing five or six thousand words a day. I wrote the majority of Beautiful during this time, as well as continuing work on Living With the Dead. I took two days off after I finished the final edit of Beautiful, and went on to start on the sequel.

The blunt truth is that I wrote thirty thousand words on the sequel while dealing with numerous personal issues and trying to make Living With the Dead as good as possible. That's not mentioning promoting my work and managing all the other aspects of my budding career that go on in the background. I wasn't just burning the candle at both ends, I was also putting a blowtorch to the middle.

I've learned that sometimes you have to relax. I originally planned to release Monster, the sequel to Beautiful, in early December. That would have meant in four months, I would have had to write 100,000 words that continued the story in a logical and interesting way, done a rough edit, sent it to the betas, gotten it back, done 1-2 more serious revisions, and a final meticulous edit. That, along with all my other projects and getting the cover and associated other parts of releasing a book done was just too much.

So, Monster isn't coming out soon. The first book is well-loved by the people that read it for the most part, but it isn't a big seller. I've finally reached a place where I feel as though I can work on the sequel and make it into the story I want to tell, but it's been a long way getting here. I estimate at least four months until I can put out the second book. Maybe as many as six. I'll endeavor to get it done.

I've learned not to ignore my own ideas because I feel like I can't work on anything other than what's on my plate. If I didn't have to work a full-time job, I would be able to put out six to eight books a year. That's no joke, though it seems like an insane number. If I worked eight hours a day, I would split it into three sections of writing for three different books. I write fast. It would be easy with all that extra time and energy. But where I used to focus like a laser on my current projects, now I make time to shake things up a little and work on fresh ideas. One of those has blossomed into an idea for a series that I'm really excited about. Don't know that I'll have time to work on it in the near future, but I can't help tinkering.

More than anything over the last 365 days, I've learned to trust my fans. Not just my friends and family, who are always very honest with their criticisms and supportive of my work, but all of you. I don't quite have legions yet, but your support through all the lean months has been crucially important to me. I've had great interactions with many of you on Facebook, in comments on book reviews, and in threads on forums. I put out the latest Living With the Dead book a few months ago, and sales have been good. It made my heart sing to know that so many of you were waiting to get the new book even though most of you read the blog already.

If I ever doubted you, my deepest apologies. You all have, again, my deepest thanks.

2011 was really the first year of my writing career. Though much of my work began in 2010, most of the actual movement in my career started after. I feel like a different person now, someone who has had to deal with some hard realities, but I think I'm better for it.

Business Decisions by Josh Guess

As many of you know, I'm a pretty devoted reader of J.A. Konrath's blog. He's the writer whose experimentation with e-publishing drove me to try it myself. What success I've had, I attribute to the things I learned from him. I know how to read my sales, know to change things when needed, and a hundred little things. Most important, I know how to learn from my mistakes and keep my eyes open.

Writing is a process, and it's also a business. Today I'm beginning a path that is unfamiliar but exciting. I may be making a mistake, but if so I'll treat it like any other experience and grow because of it.

Two important changes will be going on. The first is that very soon, the prices on all my work will be going up. I'm not one to gouge, and I will never charge anything like $9.99 for my work, but the available evidence right now suggests that my price point of $2.99 for my books (and $3.99 for the combined first two LWtD books that make up Year One) is too low. The facts and research seem to suggest that a higher price will bring more sales than I currently make, and the higher royalty means extra income.

This is a business decision. As is the second portion of my news: I'm taking Year One and the two individual books that comprise it, With Spring Comes the Fall and The Bitter Seasons, off sale on the Nook. Those books will be gone from the Barnes and Noble store within the next several days.

The reason is simple: Amazon is offering publishers a chance to enroll in an exclusivity deal that will give us a chance to do more with our work. I will, for example, be able to offer my work for free for up to five days during a 90-day period. I'll also have my books available as part of the Kindle lending library. It's a complicated situation to explain, but what you need to know as my readers is pretty simple.

I'm not abandoning you! I simply have some options with Amazon that I want to explore. Powerful tools to get my name out there. I don't like having to pull my work from the Nook, not that all of it will be gone, but the math is pretty simple. I make about 95% of my income from the Kindle. This new program will give me the chance to get my name into more people's reading lists, which will help me toward my goal of writing full time.

I'm trying it for the initial 90 day period. If it works out, I may continue my enrollment. If it doesn't, I won't. I'm not keen on leaving the small but dedicated group of readers on the Nook high and dry, but the good news is that it's only my old stuff that is being pulled. Newer works will still be available, including Beautiful and book three of LWtD, The Hungry Land. And it's likely this won't be a permanent thing.

If I get to the point where I've built a self-sustaining following and can write full time, I'll probably drop the program. I'm not holding my breath for that.

Basically, that's the deal. I'm sorry for any of my fans who use the Nook and promote me heavily there. Your support means the world to me, it really does. I hope none of you are upset by this. I have a chance to use some new tricks to market myself, and I think you're all reasonable enough to understand that I have to consider the long term here.

I'll probably be doing many updates over the next weeks and months once I get into the program and see how it does. I'll certainly be doing promotions once I can set up days where my work will be free. Come on back and check me out to see how it's working. Readers may be interested to see inside my world a bit. Writers may find some of their curiosity about how the new Kindle Select program works sated.

It's bound to be interesting.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, consider this an open thread. The comments are open to you!

Zombie Apocalypse Mambo by Josh Guess

My sales have started to pick up the last six weeks. I'm nowhere near getting rich or even being able to write full-time, but I'm happy to see the improvement with the holidays approaching. A big, big part of this, I hope, is the renewed interest in zombie stories thanks to AMC's TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead.

Most of you know me as the guy who writes Living With the Dead, my fictional, real-time blog set in the zombie apocalypse and free to read at Not to plug my work too shamelessly, but collections of the blog are available on the Kindle and Nook for purchase if you've got a hankering to take the blog with you in an easily readable format and like supporting indie authors.

I've talked in a few of the collections and in various other places about how The Walking Dead (the comic, not the show) was a huge part of my original inspiration to create and continue LWtD. I, like Robert Kirkman, wanted to explore a world beyond the two hours of a zombie movie. For me, that meant going into incredible, minute detail about daily life and living in the zombie apocalypse, to a degree that even Kirkman doesn't match in his comic.

I'm not saying I'm doing it better. That's not what writing is about. I'm telling my own story in a different format, one that lends itself to going into much greater detail than a comic can. Most people reading a comic are going to put the issue down in disgust of someone talks for a few paragraphs about how to zombie-proof a window.

But dammit, knowing how to keep zombies from breaking in through a window is important to us zombie nerds. How many times have we seen some person standing next to a thin pane of glass, only to have a rotting, skeletal hand smash through it to pull them into certain death? It's a crying shame.

As my friends and I watch the new season of TWD on AMC, we chat about the various elements of the story we like and don't like, and what characters we love and hate. I, being a person who has done serious damage to their brain over the last two years by having to constantly see the world in apocalypse terms, have a slightly different viewpoint.

When Daryl Dixon goes out killing (because the word 'Hunting' implies the possibility of failure. Daryl never fails to kill.) he's always so badass. He's got his trusty crossbow, his impressively sleeveless shirts, and an attitude that just fucking DARES a zombie to come at him. You want some, dead guy? Huh?

While I love Daryl and pray daily that the producers don't kill him off (which seems likely--someone that awesome is doomed. It's zombie movie 101) I still can't help but look at him as kind of a stupid guy. I mean, yes, he has mad hunting-since-I-was-a-lad country boy skills, he can track, he is a crack shot...

But dude. Sleeveless shirt. Jeans. ONE FREAKING WEAPON. No armor, no backup weapon like a machete or hatchet. Relying solely on his wits and observational skills to keep him alive.

Of course, I'm being overly critical. I love the show with a heart bigger than the Grinch's after he realizes the error of his ways. It's just that spending so much time writing as realistic methods as I'm capable of figuring out to stay alive in the zombie apocalypse has made me look at literally everything from the perspective of the fictional me I write as.

So when I watch TWD or Night of the Living Dead or 28 Days later, it's sort of like watching them while actually living in a world overrun by the dead.

I'm a nerd, I know. Just an interesting thought I wanted to share.

Oh, and just in case you've read this and are still wondering:

The best way to secure the standard window in a home from zombie intrusion is to cut pieces of plywood to fit both the interior and exterior sides. The thicker, the better. Using L-brackets and masonry screws (if your house is brick like mine), attach the plywood to the frame of the window, inside and out. Using this as a base, add layers of plywood to the originals until both sides are flush with the walls. On the inside of the house, cut a much larger piece of plywood to cover the whole thing, then nail it into the two by fours that surround the window under the drywall. Lots and lots of nails. On the exterior, use a piece of sheet metal to cover the entire window, with at least six inches overlapping onto the brick wall all the way around. Use a drill bit made to cut metal to put holes in it, then run masonry screws into the wall, securing the sheet metal.

It'll be easier for the zombies to knock down the bricks than come in that window, I assure you.

Being Generous by Josh Guess

My brother-in-law shared an interesting article with me today. You can read it here if you'd like, but I'll cover the salient points.

What it boils down to is this: author James Crawford was selling an eBook on the Kindle store as well as several other electronic storefronts, and Amazon may have made an error that potentially cost him thousands of dollars. You see, his book, which sold on the Kindle for $5.99, was marked down by Amazon's automated system to free. This happened because their system uses an algorithm that crawls the web for the same content, then matches the price. The problem was that Mr. Crawford was only giving away a three chapter sample for free, not the whole book. In the time his book was being given away, it was downloaded more than six thousand times.

Now, the book being free likely caused this incredibly high number. I'm not saying Amazon isn't at fault for this error, but he probably doesn't have a legal leg to stand on due to the user agreements we agree to as publishers. I had a similar (but much less severe) problem last year. If I were him, I'd be happy for the huge burst of publicity and name recognition from so many downloads. My larger issue with this story was actually referenced in the article as more of a side note--Mr. Crawford only takes a 35% royalty on his book, refusing the 70% option because he doesn't want to be forced to allow people to lend his books.

Yes, you read that correctly. He's forgoing half his profits because he doesn't want anyone to lend his eBook to someone else. This is absurdly illogical to me. I know over the years I've bought dozens if not hundreds of books based on being lent the first book or two in a series. I know for a fact through talking to my readers that many of them had the first book in Living With the Dead lent to them, then went on to buy the rest of the series.

Hell, for that matter, I give it away for free. Living With the Dead is free to read online, and again I know from fan discussion that even daily readers will buy the books for several reasons. To support me, someone who gives it away for free, or to have a handy copy on their phone or Kindle to peruse at their leisure. I'm sure there are other factors, but the result is what matters: I sell more books because I give it away.

Lending is a great way to get new fans. I don't get why this guy is against it, but my own experience tells me that his logic, whatever it may be, is faulty on this.

The other thing that this article made me remember was that I've wanted to do a post on this blog for a while about an option self-publishers like me don't have on Kindle or Nook.

I'd love to be able to make my books free to download on their stores. Right now, that's not an option. 99 cents is the lowest I can go. LWtD has three volumes out now, and one special edition that collects volumes one and two and contains a TON of bonus material. I'd love to give the first one away for free, to have the option to do it at will. If I had 6,000 downloads of book one as a free title, and even half that number of purchases of the other volumes combined as a result in one month, I could do this full time. Those numbers wouldn't just make me a Professional Writer (all caps, even) but would note a HUGE increase in my income. 3,000 sales in a month would average out to at least $6,000, and that's probably a lowball figure.

There are a lot of ins and outs to learn being your own publisher, but then there are just as many you have to know even with a book deal and an agent. I deal with my distributors directly, and I have to understand how they operate, what their rules are, and be vigilant in order to keep myself from inadvertently losing out or having what happened to Mr. Crawford happen to me. As I continue to spread my work out to different areas, get more name recognition, and try to improve my sales, it behooves me to know the industry as well as possible.

Which leads me to wonder why such a powerful marketing tool as being able to give away books isn't available to indie writer/publishers like me. The large houses can do it. It's not as though reading is a zero-sum game. I encourage people to read the authors I like, many of whom are fellow indies like Joseph Paul HainesAnnetta Ribken, and Lori Whitwam--all of them friends, but not what I would call direct competitors. People read books, and I don't know any dedicated reader who will turn down one book for another. It's a win-win. Letting us give away books on the Kindle or Nook would cost Amazon and Barnes and Noble a little money in transmission costs, but the potential gains in sales of other works or even those works when put back into the paid category FAR outweigh them. People who read my stuff are very likely to read the books those folks I linked above have written, because I include links to them in my eBooks. I suggest them, people buy their books, and everyone makes money.

Wow. Long rant is long. Anyone have thoughts on this? Feel free to chime in below in the comments. I'm curious what all of you think.

Workloads and Hiatus by Josh Guess

I have to admit, it feels pretty good to be back in the saddle. I haven't written anything on here in a while. It's nice to be able to jot thoughts down without having to worry about plot, character development, and all the rest. Writing a real blog instead of something with a structure is a release I don't have a lot of time for. In other words: Hi there. You look nice. Been working out? I missed you terribly.

I've been doing some math lately, and I found out that I put out a LOT of words per year. Most authors, from what I understand, do about 200,000 annually. That's about two medium length novels or one really large book. That's an average, of course. Some authors, like Brandon Sanderson, do a hell of a lot more. Others, like Patrick Rothfuss, average less. It's all individual to the person doing the typing.

I do 200k a year with Living With the Dead alone. I didn't realize until I started looking over the word counts of the things I write that I put out so much volume. This year, the books I've written and compilations of the blog (including the WIP draft of the sequel to Beautiful) total over 300,000 words, and I've got three months left in the year.

In addition to that, I'm starting to write for Slacker Heroes, an excellent geek website that will surely one day dominate the interwebs. I've also started on a project I've been wanting to do for a long time, which is a political/personal view blog called A Modern Liberal. I'm happy for those of you who don't share my political viewpoints to read it. In fact, I hope for it. The site doesn't exist to argue with anyone, but more to explain my point of view through facts. I'd love to get a discussion going, so others can see that not all Liberals are alike. My viewpoints span the spectrum of the political world.

I've had a lot going on in my personal life as well, most of which is uninteresting to anyone but me. I will say that I'm eager to see some book sales this holiday season given some recent bad news at work. I'm hoping you, my fans, will help with that as much as you can.

I always intend on writing more blogs on here, but with working a full time job and writing way more than most full time authors do, I have little time for it. I want more than anything to write for a living. I've hardened myself over the last two years to write a lot in a short time. Imagine what I could do with those extra forty hours a week...

This post can serve as a helpful way to spread the word. Here are links to my books on the Kindle and the Nook:

Beautiful, a novel of love, sex, adventure, magic, vampires, and unicorn obsession.
Living With the Dead: With Spring Comes The Fall The first six months of my zombie epic.
Living With the Dead: The Bitter Seasons The second six months of LWtD
Living With the Dead: The Hungry Land The third installment of LWtD
Living With the Dead: Year One This is a collection that pulls together "With Spring Comes The Fall and The Bitter Seasons into one book. It also contains a ton of bonus material including five short stories set in the LWtD universe and a novella. Also, some background stuff on the series from me.

LWtD: With Spring Comes The Fall
LWtD: The Bitter Seasons
LWtD: The Hungry Land (No Link yet, this one is taking a while to get through B&N's vetting process. Probably ready in a day or so)
LWtD: Year One

I've lost track of how many times I've said this over the last year (a lot), but I'm sorry my posts come so infrequently. When I get full-time, I'll have the freedom to do a lot more.

I am going to finally do a post about Amanda Hocking. I've had that idea on the backburner for a while for several reasons which I'll discuss in the post. I think I'll have it rolled out by Friday. It's going to be an interesting one, so make sure you check it out.

My best efforts from here on out not to take another hiatus. No promises, just strong intentions.

Living With the Dead: The Hungry Land (Volume Three) by Josh Guess

Hey, all. Just wanted to throw a link out there for LWtD's latest eBook collection. For now it's just on Amazon, but I'll be updating the links on the right of the blog and on the top in the next few days when I get it up on the Nook as well. I'll be pushing my work pretty hard the next few months, so any help is, as always, welcome and appreciated. If you'd like to grab the new volume, here's the link:

I'll have a thumbnail added soon, and I'll keep pushing the book on here as well, and I'll be updating soon. More new content on here in the very near future. I promise. 

"Beautiful" Release Liveblog! by Josh Guess

Ok, here's where I'll be tracking the stats for the release of "Beautiful"! I'll be updating for as long as I can stay awake as we try to rush the book up the charts on the Kindle store.

Release begins at 4, right now it's...

3:48 PM:

Beautiful is at 11 copies sold, though I think the reporting feature on my Author dashboard isn't catching up with reality just yet....

Sales: 11
Rank: 14, 842
Jess says the book is #3 on the paranormal fantasy/vampires list, but I can't find it....

4:09 PM:

Sales: 12
Rank: 16,198

Unless amazon has done some major overhauls on how things work, we won't see a rank change until sometime after 5. That might be different, actually, because it changed mid-hour today already, so I'll keep an eye on it. Anyone that finds my book in the top 100 of any list, please post a comment here or on my wall on facebook. I can't seem to find the one my wife told me about.

4:42 PM:

Just a quick update, as amazon is failing me in my hour of need: sales figures are NOT updating in real time. Confirmed by the fact that at least half a dozen people have bought it and told me they did, yet the sales haven't showed up yet.

5:12 PM

Sales: 16
Rank: 16,198 (no update yet)
Sales reports trickling in slowly, still not showing up in real time. On the upside, this link shows that right now, I'm #1 in recently popular books tagged with "Paranormal Fantasy--Vampires". Admittedly a small group, but I'll take what I can get. Much like winning arguments in a marriage...

5:23 PM

Amazon's system is really laggy, as my rank dropped just now to 17,452. I assume that it will update correctly next hour, and we'll see a huge jump in that number, probably under the 10,000 mark. Hopefully better. It WOULD be today that the system has to work so hard, right?

6:10 PM

Sales: 23 (Doubt this is accurate, though)
Rank: 17,452 (not updated)
Well, I was hoping for more functionality from Amazon, but Saturday is a big night sales-wise for them. Hopefully as the flurry of people buying eBooks dies down tonight we'll see some more accurate numbers. Will update as soon as the sales rank does.

6:35 PM

Sales: 23 (unchanged)
Rank: 15,109 (This is wrong)
The rank system isn't working properly. Sales aren't being registered there as they should be. I'll keep an eye out, but I doubt at this point that my rank and sales are accurate in the least.

7:17 PM

Sales: 24
Rank: 15,109 (unchanged. Again.)
Nothing really new to report. Watching to see when the rank changes. I don't expect it to go much lower unless the system recognizes more of my sales.

7:25 PM

Rank is now at 13,411. Anyone who hasn't grabbed the book yet, let's keep the momentum going!

8:13 PM

Sales: 26
Rank: 13,411 Looks like the rank is updating around half past the hour, so we'll see how it goes...

8:26 PM

Sales: 27
Rank: 4,827 !!!!!! AND I'm in the top 100 contemporary fantasy books! I know you're gonna say "pics or it didn't happen", so....

9:12 PM

Sales: 28
Rank: 4,827 in paid Kindle Store, 90 in contemporary fantasy
I'm anxious to see how the rankings look when they update. I'm thrilled to have gotten this far, and I hope the momentum lasts!

9:21 pm

No new sales, but I have one review (4/5 stars, YAY!) and....
Rank: 4,371 in paid store, 78 in contemporary fantasy
I'm realistic enough to know that without some new sales, this is likely the peak position Beautiful will reach tonight. Here's hoping the sales updates are even slower than I initially thought so more will show up.

10:10 PM

Sales: 29
Rank: 3,925 in paid kindle store. #71 kindle contemporary fantasy, #99 in contemporary fantasy for ALL BOOKS on amazon! WOOOOOHOOOOO (again)!

11:18 PM

Sales: 30
Rank: 4,340 in paid store, #78 contemporary fantasy on kindle.
I've seen one purchase that won't have gone into this, so unless more pop up between now and midnight I'm calling it a night. If some more people buy the book I'll try to keep on even if it means passing out on my laptop...

12:36 AM

Sales: 33
Rank: 4,480 in paid store, #82 in kindle contemporary fantasy
I'm going to go to the next update at least, since sales have happened in the last forty minutes. I'd like to see if we can hit a high point before I slump over unconscious.

1:14 AM

Sales: 34
Rank: 4,937 in paid store, #94 in kindle contemporary fiction
Not a bad night. I assume the numbers will jump a bit after two since they obviously didn't fall into this update, but I don't think I'll be awake to see it. I'll check back in when I wake up, but overall I'm pleased. We cracked the top 4000 and got on a top 100 list. Good times.

7:42 AM

Sales: 35
Rank: 5,382 in paid store
I'll be keeping an eye out off and on until 4 when the event ends, but I don't expect miracles. The metadata for the book isn't fully functional yet, which means it isn't showing up as a suggested sale anywhere at the moment. That will probably take a few days.

2:18 PM

Sales: 37
Rank: 7,040 in paid store
With just less than two hours to go for the event, I've got two sales that came as a bit of a surprise after a slow morning. I'll keep an eye on the numbers, and I'm already planning another one of these donation drive events not too far down the road. There are some interesting things going on behind the scenes that could be very fun...

3:14 PM

Sales: 37
Rank: 7,638
Looks like we're on the tail end of our rush efforts. I'll give another update after the 4:00ish numbers come out.

Ok, no more sales since the last update! That's it for this promotion for charity, and the release day for Beautiful is officially done! Thanks to all of you who followed the blog, bought the book, or just cheered me on. You all rock!

July 23rd: "Beautiful" Release = Worldbuilders Fundraiser by Josh Guess

Official release day and time is Saturday, July 23rd at 4:00PM EST. Our Kindle rush efforts are aimed to get as many people as possible to purchase at that time, so read the whole post for every bit of info!

I'll be liveblogging from from that point until I fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, and I'll be tweeting as often as I can. You can follow me @JoshuaGuess.

This is the official post for the release of my new novel, "Beautiful". If you haven't noticed by the URL, I'm Joshua Guess. Thanks for visiting my author blog!

Purchase Links: 

Buy it on the Amazon Kindle

Or on the Barnes and Noble Nook

The Smashwords version, which gets distributed across a number of platforms, can be found right here.

Just so I don't bore you too much, I'll give the nitty gritty, and then you can read on if you like:

"Beautiful" will be released on the Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords on July 23rd. I'm organizing an event on Facebook and across Twitter for it, which can be found here.

For 24 hours, from 4 pm on Saturday July 23rd until 4 pm Sunday, July 24th, every single penny I make from the sale of this book will be donated to Patrick Rothfuss' charity drive for Heifer International, Worldbuilders. You may know who Mr. Rothfuss is: Fantasy superstar, literary genius, and beard aficionado.

So I'm going to be pushing my book as hard as I can for two reasons: to run my own little fundraiser for Worldbuilders, a cause I believe in enough to donate not just a day's worth of income, but 10% of what I make from writing year-round. The other is to hopefully build enough momentum that "Beautiful" will gain a larger presence on Amazon and the rest, enough to really get my career going.

That's the blurb. If you're interested, then I hope you clicked on the link to the Facebook event above. If you'd like some more info, please keep on reading.

What is "Beautiful"?

First and foremost, it'll be $2.99. That's important.

I've had a hard time coming up with a description that fits. If I say that it's a book about vampires, your mind will leap to other books of that type. You'll have a preconceived notion. If I say it's about love, magic, sex, violence, the sheer wonder of creation, or pissed-off unicorns, the same problem exists. So let me put it to you in the only way that makes sense to me, which is a short description.

Dan Harrod is an average guy, happily toiling to pay the bills. He's married and in love, and like most guys he'd like to sleep with his boss, Gabrielle. Life is safe and quiet for Dan until he's suddenly ripped away from the careful routine he'd wrapped around himself. 

Suddenly thrust into a hidden world of magic, Dan finds himself in the middle of a war between vampires that's been raging longer than human civilization. In a desperate bid to safeguard the lives of his friends and family, Dan will make hard choices and take desperate actions. 

This little blurb is sort of interesting, but it doesn't quite give the whole feel. "Beautiful" is written in Dan's own voice, which is snarky and sarcastic. This book is a modern fantasy, a paranormal tale told by a main character that knows the genre. Imagine if you were suddenly faced with the truth that magic was real, along with vampires, werewolves, faeries, dragons, and yes, even unicorns.

You'd be scared and filled with awe, but I bet you'd also make fun of it a little.

That's this book. That's this story. It's an action/adventure filled with constant humor, occasional sex, and dotted with happy little trees of introspection and reflection. It's a lot of things, much like life itself.

I think you'll like it.

Oh, and if it helps you can think of it sort of like the Dresden Files but with more sex and less angst.

Why the charity drive for Worldbuilders?

Well, for two reasons. One is that I genuinely love the work Mr. Rothfuss does for Heifer, which provides a variety of sustainable living options for people in need at home and abroad. So much so that I retain 10% of all my writing income to donate when the Worldbuilders drive comes up.

The other reason is that I hope that people on the fence about the book might be swayed toward purchasing it if they know that some of the money will go to charity. In the case of release day for "Beautiful", I'm choosing to give everything for the first day because I think this book is going to take off, and I think the readers who have supported me so far deserve to see a little extra. I can't give them gifts directly, so I will donate some extra in their names.

And obviously, if 10% causes some people to buy the book, 100% might make a larger number do so. I'm happy to help in any way I can, but this is also a career for me, one that I hope to work at full-time before the end of next year. A lot of folks buying this book on day one increases the chance that I'll get some long term sales going.

The end game

Ideally, I'd like to see this book as the stepping stone to writing full time. If I can do that, I will be able to dedicate so much more time to working on my books and stories. Not having to work a full-time job means that I'd be able to crank out a huge volume of material. More books from me=more works sold=more money donated. It's a win/win.

I love to tell stories. I love writing characters and doing things to them, terrible and kind in equal measure. I think "Beautiful" is a strong book and will help me realize that goal. With your help, I can be on my way.

"Beautiful" News by Josh Guess

I had intended this post to be the first in a series of analyses on Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. I've been playing with the idea of comparing these guys, two of my favorite authors, for quite a while. I'm going to get to that soon, likely next week. There's a good reason for the delay, as well as delaying my post about Amanda Hocking.

That reason: I've finished "Beautiful", and I want to talk about it.

First, when I say I've finished it, I mean that I've gotten the body of the text done and I'm midway through an edit and revision. I know a lot of authors edit and edit and editediteditedit until their brains start to cook inside their own heads. I also know that other authors will do huge revisions that add this or that, and for them that works. Not me. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want the story to be, and tinkering with anything too large changes the tone of my work for the worse. I function and write best when I can streamline and make better what I have, and add or alter small things as I go.

That being said, "Beautiful" is essentially done. I've got to finish the edit I'm on and send it out to the Beta readers, after which I will spend a few days working on the issues they find, correcting and further smoothing as I go.

Part of why I don't think this book is going to take a lot more work is because of the strange metamorphosis it went through even as I was writing it. I want to talk about it, since I'm proud as a new father but lacking the requisite vomit stains all over me, so sit down, buckle up, and bask in the stupid happiness that was the six month process of writing "Beautiful".

ORIGIN (all caps makes it neat-o)

I started writing this book as a joke. My boss on the weekend shift where I work as a nurse aide found out I was a writer and pestered me to write something for her. Well, I say pestered but it was all in good fun, really. Gabrielle told me that I should write a story about her, and I (being the classy man that I am) told her that if I did, it would have to be erotica. She laughed and dared me to do it, so I started to write.

I didn't get very far, because I'm not an erotica reader. I had no idea where to go, so I put it to the side. At the same time, I'd been working on an idea for a vampire novel, or at least a modern fantasy that heavily featured them. Somewhere down the line, I combined the two ideas, dropped the genre "erotica" as it was too confining for what I wanted to do, and "Beautiful" was born.


January was supposed to be when I buckled down and did the majority of the writing for this book. I thought I could do it, since I'd consistently put in 1,000 words or better a day on my first novel. Again, this didn't work out, since most of that month I was really, really sick. I got a little down and soured a little on the project. Gabrielle started asking me about it repeatedly, and slowly I began pecking away at my laptop. A hundred words here, five hundred there. Slow but steady.


I guess this part is the most important. Where "Beautiful" had begun as a simple idea, over the first few months of writing it I discovered that I had way too many ideas to fit into the 100,000 word novel I'd planned. As time wore on and I really got into writing the characters, I created more and more canon to eventually draw on. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't be specific here. I will only say that what began as an idea for a novel of 100k words bloomed into enough material for a series of six books. I've actually got ideas that can go past that, but I have solid outlines for the second and third books in the series, and rough outlines for books four through six.

I felt like a lot of pressure had been lifted from me when I decided to expand the series, so I cut a lot of the material I'd wanted to put at the end of book 1, taking it down to a respectable 80,000 words. That's where I am right now.


"Beautiful" started out as erotica, then added vampire and other supernatural elements, then...I don't know how to explain this very well, because in some ways I don't really understand what happened. Somewhere along the way, as I was writing the main character, Dan, who is based very closely on me, his wife, Anna, who is basically my own wife, and Gabrielle, who is based on my boss, "Beautiful" became something else. Something different.

The original tone and direction of the novel changed. I didn't focus on sex or action as much as I thought I was going to, opting instead to take a more relaxed and informal tone. The story is told in Dan's voice, with his snarky remarks and observations about the world around him thrown in. Imagine if your best friend who was kind of a smartass suddenly found out that there was this whole amazing world of magic hidden just below the surface. Imagine he's telling you the story first hand.

The thing that I really enjoyed about writing this book was just letting go and writing for the sheer enjoyment of it. I didn't worry about sentence structure or timing, nor the other hundred little things I usually fret about. I wrote for fun and to tell a rousing tale of love, sex, violence and hope. Like life itself, this story has all of them, plus a HUGE dose of humor as the narrator alternately makes fun of and celebrates the magical world around him.

I don't know if this makes sense to you, but I hope so. This book was written from my heart in a way that I've never managed before. The style, very personal and honest, is something like my zombie blog, Living With the Dead. It's funnier, and faster paced, and....

I'll stop here. I don't know what the recipe for success as an author is. As time goes by, I think that the only sure way to succeed at first is just pure luck. I don't know that my love for this book means that I'm insanely egotistical, though I fully admit to the possibility.

I'm not saying it's a masterpiece of prose and technical skill. It isn't. It's good, really good, from what I can tell, but I don't love this book for that reason. Painters can have all the technical skill in the world and in the end without creativity and talent, they will never be famous or renowned. Certainly not loved.

No, the reason I love this book is very simple, and maybe only something that other writers might get. I love "Beautiful" so much because whether or not anyone else ever reads it, I enjoyed it immensely. I had fun writing it, and I had fun reading it. I don't know if one word of it will say anything profound or important to anyone else, but I'm satisfied with my creation because it speaks to me. It says many things that have long been in my heart.

"Beautiful" is fun. It's really funny. It's sweet in places, nerve-wracking in others. It has moments of sex and awkwardness, with everything in between. I tried so hard to put the little things in there, the hundred tiny bits that make life interesting and real to us. I wanted to honestly portray what I thought Dan, the main character, would be going through. I think I succeeded. For me, anyway, it works.

This book is lighthearted and fun, but hopefully with a bit more depth than this post leads you to believe. I'm really not an egomaniac, I swear. I'm just thrilled to be finished with the first leg of this journey, and excited to move on to the next step.

Hey, who knows: other people might like it too.

Soon by Josh Guess

I'm going to have news for you soon, as well as several new posts that are going to be done one after another concerning my thoughts and outlook on many things. I want to take a look at two of my favorite authors and what their contrasting and differing styles mean to me. I want to talk about the self-publishing wunderkid Amanda Hocking and how she's affecting the world of self-publishing and other sundries.

I want to do many things here, but honestly I've been working my ass off at finishing "Beautiful" as well as at my actual job. I'm hoping to finish the book before Wednesday night. So...looks like new blogs will be going up here very soon. Probably starting this coming weekend. It's gonna be fun, so stay tuned.

For the Kvothe fans by Josh Guess

Hey there, fans of the Kvothe page! I'm Josh Guess, the guy who created it. Some of you know this already, some of you may not. This post is just for you guys.

This is the second one of these posts here on my author blog that I've written because of you. This one serves two purposes: the first is to give a little back, since all of you have been so supportive of the Kvothe page. I made it to help out Worldbuilders, and if the most recent auction is any indication, it's doing the job.

So, in that spirit, I'm going to give you all something for free: the first collection of my (almost) daily blog set in the zombie apocalypse. Living With the Dead: With Spring Comes The Fall is the first six months of the blog collected into an eBook. Yes, the blog is free to read online, but a lot of people like having the collections handy to peruse at their leisure. Some of them like helping to support an indie writer. Some like both.

So, I'm going to give away this eBook to you. If you've got a Kindle or a Kindle app on your phone, tablet, or computer, and you like free stuff, then all you have to do is send an email to and request a copy. Put "Free eBook" in the subject line, and I will gift you a copy from my private email address.

There's no catch, no strings attached. Just free stuff.

However, I will be letting your requests build up for a bit before I send out the gift emails. I'm going to send all of them out in one big bunch, because honestly it will help my sales rankings (and hopefully other sales as a result) to have several of you accept your gift copies in a short period of time.

I will be accepting email requests for the next week. Next Sunday, the 22nd, I will send out your gift copies. I hope that many of you download them that day. You will get free stuff, which you all deserve, and hopefully I'll get a sales bump. Since I give 10% of my royalties to Worldbuilders, that serves my goal of helping out Patrick Rothfuss's charitable works as well.

Thanks, all of you, for just being awesome. You make pretending to be Kvothe a satisfying and fun experience, and your willingness to help others blows me away.

Quiet Times by Josh Guess

You know, I don't write on this blog (which serves as my official website) nearly as often as I should. Part of the reason for this is because I have a lot of other things going on, and frankly, there just aren't that many of you reading it. Not that I don't want to provide some updates and content for my fans, but honestly, there just isn't a lot going on in my world that's worth writing to you about.

For example, my sales have flattened out. There will always be a fluctuation in sales, and right now I've got nothing exciting to tell on that front. I'm hoping that when I finish "Beautiful", that will change. It's a book written for a more popular genre, so if I'm lucky I will see a nice bump in sales. Given the total lack of success of my debut novel, I'm not holding my breath. I will hope, but not expect.

"Beautiful" is coming along, but very slowly. My original plan to write the main body of the book in less than two months was foolishly optimistic. I know that authors like Stephen King have said that unless you can dedicate four hours to writing every day, you might not have the dedication it takes to do it full time.

With all due respect to Mr. King (and I am a big fan of him as a person and as an author), he doesn't work a full time job other than writing. I do, and it sucks. I come home mentally and physically exhausted every day, and my days off are just periods of recuperation between bouts of work. Because of this, as well as being ill for the majority of January of this year, my work is coming along very slowly. "Beautiful is just about halfway finished and is clocking in at about 42,000 words. I'd intended it to be at around 100,000 when finished, but the story just doesn't need that much wordage.

You might think that revising my total down by almost 20k words means that I'm cutting out a lot of story. In one way, that's true--I've gone from enough material to fill one novel to enough for six. Easily six. It's possible that I could write many more than that, but I have the first three planned out in decent detail, and the three after loosely planned in broad strokes. I'm pretty excited about it.

If I could take a year off from working full time, I would be able to write so much more. I think I could crank out a novel every few months, and that's while still writing Living With the Dead every day. I've got so many things I want to work on.

If I only had the time! That's what I'd ask the wizard for, were I to find myself in Oz.

Back In the Saddle by Josh Guess

I've been away from this blog for a while now, mainly due to a constant and pervasive exhaustion pretty much every minute that I'm awake. This morning I'm feeling a little bit better, so I decided to take a few minutes that throw some updates at you.

An interesting one is that I've started a fan page on Facebook, where I take on the role of Kvothe, the main character from Patrick Rothfuss's books. It's fun, and I (or rather, he) have (has) a little over 300 fans as of this writing. I did it for fun and as a way to organize some fundraising for Mr. Rothfuss' Worldbuilders drive later this year, and the fans seem to like it. You can check it out here.

Because of the above mentioned exhaustion, work on my current novel has ground to a halt. I've gotten very little done on it lately, and that annoys me. I'm so distracted by the overwhelming urge to sleep all the time that gathering my wits about me enough to write well is very hard. It's about all I can manage to work on Living With the Dead, and after I get done posting there most days I feel like I've just finished doing calculus for an hour. Maybe I should see a doctor...

...because I have been very encouraged by my recent sales. I expect April to be a lot slower than March was, but March was another milestone month for me. I broke the $1000 mark in sales for the first time, and broke the 400 copies sold mark as well, which I've been close to for a while. Unless I get a big surge in sales this month, it's looking like I won't do quite that well for April, but that's OK. I know that there will be peaks and valleys, and I just hope that enough of my readers will still be waiting patiently when I finally get done with my current work in progress.

The book I'm working on right now, my vampire novel tentatively titled "Beautiful", feels like some of my best work. Not necessarily in depth, but for sheer entertainment value. Not that I consider the book shallow by any means; I don't. I've just made a real effort to avoid the philosophizing that most of my other work is so heavy on and focus on making the characters deal more with what's going on around them.

On thing about Beautiful that I can say for sure: it's funny as hell. That wasn't my intention at the start of the story, but since I'm taking a similar approach to the characters as I do with Living With the Dead, and basing them off of me and the people I know, funny stuff just tends to creep in. I started reading over a bit of the story the other day, and it made me laugh. Which is a good sign, since I'm the one that wrote it.

That's about all I have for right now, everyone. If you do check out the Kvothe page on Facebook, make sure to "like" it if you're interesting in some daily laughs by yours truly, and want to keep an eye out for a few neat fundraising things I'll be doing over the next several months.

For example:

In the next few days (as soon as I can find it), I will be auctioning off a signed hardback copy of "The Walking Dead" deluxe edition volume one. Series creator and writer Robert Kirkman even drew a little zombie inside the cover. All proceeds from the auction will go to Worldbuilders later this year. I'll be auctioning off some other stuff throughout the year as well.

One thing I plan on doing soon is offering a BIG giveaway of some of my eBooks to anyone that wants them, with a few caveats: one is that anyone who wants a free copy when I do this promotion has to promise to download it on a certain day. I'm hoping that if enough people do that, it will give my sales rank a nice boost on Amazon, which frankly I need right now. The other neat part is that if a certain number of people request their free copies, I will donate a certain amount of extra money to Worldbuilders this year. I don't have it set in stone just yet, but we'll say for every ten copies requested, I'll donate an extra five bucks. Something like that.

I'll post details when the time comes, along with an email address that people can send their requests to. Until then, I'll do my best to keep you all updated.

Geeking out: Patrick Rothfuss by Josh Guess

So, for those of you paying attention, you know I'm a huge Fan of Patrick Rothfuss. He's the guy that wrote what I consider to be the best fantasy novel ever written, The Name of the Wind. It's also tied with To Kill a Mockingbird as my favorite book of all time. I've bought so many copies for people as gifts that I'm pretty sure I've paid off a good chunk of his mortgage.

I like him for more than just his writing, though his talent with words and story leaves me dumbfounded. A big part of why I became a fan of the man himself is because I started to follow his blog, and got to know him through his writing there. Adding to that, I was there and donated with him during his first Worldbuilders charity drive, an annual fundraiser for Heifer International. I'd never heard of Heifer before, and he introduced me to them. They're an amazing organization that provides long term solutions for food and commerce to people in need, both at home and abroad.

An author with a singular talent, a platform on the internet to converse with his fans that he used to be open and honest with them instead of just pushing his work, and a philanthropist who shares my concern for the well being of the less fortunate. Yes, that's the kind of guy I want to look up to.

Imagine the nerdgasm I had when I found out he was going to be a mere thirty miles away on Friday, March 11? His tour for The Wise Man's Fear was coming through Lexington. I had to be there. Simply no other option.

It took some effort, and working extra in trade, but I managed to get off work to go. My lovely wife went with me, and we met up with a friend (and made some new ones.) The event itself was pretty huge--some estimates put the crowd at about 400, though I think that might have been a bit of an overestimation. At least 200, maybe 300. Whatever the number, it was a lot of people to cram into Joseph-Beth. We had four first edition hardbacks of The Wise Man's Fear to get signed, and we were there for a very, very long time.

Mr. Rothfuss himself was an excellent and funny speaker. He told us hilarious stories about how weird it is for him to be treated like a rock star. He read a column from The College Survival Guide, which he wrote for ten years while attending (and then teaching) college in Wisconsin. He told us an adorable and really funny story about his son. He was comfortable with us, treated us with real respect, and in every way seemed happy to be there.

He also introduced the crowd to Jonathan Coulton, a geeky sinder-songwriter that he loves. He did this by singing, at the crowd's request, an acapella version of Coulton's "I Crush Everything", a sadly sweet song about a self-loathing giant squid.

Yes, you read that right. And he sang it well and loud, his voice was beautiful.

Here's a live version by Mr. Coulton.

In return, Mr. Rothfuss led us all in singing the first two verses of "You Are My Sunshine", and then pointed out that if you pay attention to the words, it's really not a happy song. I admit that I never really did, nor did I know the song apart from the chorus.

The best part for me was sitting with him, talking to him for that brief minute, and getting my picture taken. He knew who I was when I introduced myself (he and I have sent a couple emails back and forth, one of which he posted on his blog back in August, with a link to Living With the Dead in it) and damn it, he even gave me a chocolate-covered fortune cookie.

The best part, in the end, was that I got to see first hand the reality of the amazing success he's had, which he completely deserves. Being there with the huge crowd of people seemed to bring him real joy, and knowing that we were so rabid in our support of him seemed to wipe away some of the fatigue the grueling schedule of his book tour was grinding into him.

It felt a lot less like a book signing, and a lot more like hanging out with a friend. Patrick Rothfuss could have made a career as a public speaker, a comedian, a lecturer, his talent with a crowd is so good. Instead, he decided to teach, and write, and hope to become published, which he did. And then became a NYT #1 bestseller. So many other options that would have fit his talents, but he chose to tell stories.

I, for one, am thankful for that.

Joshua Guess (left) and Patrick Rothfuss, March 2011

Sales for new books: One week in (and other sundries) by Josh Guess

So, as many of the five of you that read this blog at present may be aware, I released two new works on the Kindle store and the Nook a week ago. This morning at three O'clock marked seven full days of sales, and I'd like to share the facts and figures with you to see how this month has been shaping up so far. Please keep a few things in mind as you read--1) I'm using only the sales of my books that are $2.99 or more to figure books sold per day, though I am including the income from my .99c titles in any dollar amounts I mention. Similarly, I'm only using the total money earned from Barnes and Noble, and am not including the number of books I've sold through the Nook anywhere in here. Yes, that brings my averages down slightly, but the weird accounting stuff on B&N's dashboard means the only thing I can be sure of is how much money I've made. With that in mind...

The first seven sales days of March, I have sold:

69 copies of Living With the Dead: With Spring Comes The Fall (Months 1-6)
38 copies of Living With the Dead: The Bitter Seasons (Months 7-12)
52 copies of Living With the Dead: Year One (Months 1-12, plus bonus material)

I crunched the numbers as best I could, factored in what foreign sales (which means a lower royalty rate) I could, and here is the result:

Seven days of sales have made me $406.46. That averages out to $58.07 per day, and 22.7 books sold per day. Compare that to February, where for the entire month I made $819.70, averaged $29.27 per day, and sold 14.1 books per day. That's a huge improvement, though I expect it to go down over the next few weeks.

Part of that is because of the initial surge as we tried to push the new stuff up the charts, which netted sales of $96.66 on the first day. I might actually be wrong about the averages going down, because just a few minutes ago the metadata on my new stuff (bitter seasons and year one) went live. This means that customers won't just be searching for them anymore, but will now also see them displayed on pages of other eBooks, ones that people who bought my books also purchased. I've talked about metadata before, so I won't get into that. Suffice it to say that the rest of the month will be very interesting, and I will post updates where appropriate.

Now, I'm going to get on my high horse again. I've mentioned many times that I save 10% of my royalties (gross) to donate to Worldbuilders, the charity drive that's run by fantasy author (and superstar, both in fantasy and in the world of beards) Patrick Rothfuss. What I haven't gone into detail about is Mr. Rothfuss's body of work, which I desperately want to do. So...

I first read "The Name of the Wind", his first novel, in mid 2008. My wife had purchased it on one of our trips to the bookstore, where we always spend way too much money. TNOTW is an AMAZING book, seriously one of the best pieces of writing I've ever come across. At first, I wasn't interested in reading it. I'm terrible about picking up new stuff, new authors. I couldn't be happier that I was eventually browbeaten into reading the book--Kvothe is one of the most complex, human, and just straight out awesome characters ever created. The tone of the book, the loving care with which each word is chosen and fit into the almost lyrical rhythm of the story, is perfect. I've bought many hardcover copies for others as gifts, and at least as many paperbacks.

So, in short, read it. Go on, right now. I'll wait.

...Done? OK, now go out and buy "The Wise Man's Fear", the sequel to TNOTW. I'm halfway through my second reading of it, and it's equally amazing for totally different reasons. The writing is still great, but after my first read through, I felt an odd disquiet. I tried to figure out what it was that wasn't meshing for me, what wasn't working. Eventually I came to realize that it wasn't the book that was wrong; it was me. I had read through the story expecting it to be the first book, but that's not the case. I can't tell too much about either of them, because I don't want to ruin the story, so let me write a paragraph about each to whet your curiosity.

In TNOTW, we meet Kvothe; Hero to many, villain to some, and legendary figure across the known world. We see three stories twined into one--the legend that grew from his (mis)adventures, the man he has become in the present...and the real story behind his life. The truth of his deeds, honest and raw, told in the voice of the hero himself. I'm trying not to copy the jacket quote from the book here, which was what led me to read it in the here's a link to it: My Name is Kvothe...

If the first book is about the birth of the hero and many of his clever triumphs, then TWMF is about his coming to grips with reality and the harsh repercussions of his decisions. The clever writing was what threw me off at first, making me expect more of the same. However, where the first book creates potential for Kvothe as a character, the second shows how he meets it. I really, really can't say much more, but trust me...If you go into this book with an open mind and simply look at book one as history and canon, you WILL see the brilliance of it, the skill with which the author created a tone that fit the story even better than the first book.

OK, I'm done gushing now. Go to amazon's Patrick Rothfuss page and buy his books! Also, check out his shopping enabled Wikipedia page, which I didn't even know existed, and read about him. He's a neat guy.

New Releases! by Josh Guess

Crossposted on Living With the Dead!

Living With the Dead

Above, you see the link and brand new cover design for the first six month collection of LWtD, available on the kindle store since October. You may remember that 10% of all my royalties will go to Worldbuilders, the charity drive run by Patrick Rothfuss (whose new novel, "The Wise Man's Fear" came out today as well) for Heifer International, an awesome and completely transparent charity that helps provide sustainable food and resources at home and abroad. Basically it helps people who need food raise livestock that produce food and renewable resources, like milk, eggs, wool, etc. This ebook has been doing well, and I'm hoping that the following do the same.

Living With the Dead

The above is "The Bitter Seasons", the second six month collection of LWtD. Just like the first collection, it's available for a mere $2.99, and clocks in at an impressive 130,000 words--the length of the average fantasy novel.

Living With the Dead

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is "Year One". This brings together all of year one, "With Spring Comes The Fall" as well as "The Bitter Seasons" into a single, gigantic ebook. The best part is that it's 4.99, which saves you a dollar off the price of buying each one individually. That's not all, though! This volume has a ton of bonus material, which includes:

Three short stories by the author, Joshua Guess (that's me!)
"Rollin' in the Deep", a short story by Annetta Ribken
"If you're bitten by zombies, you're off the guest list", a short story by Rachel Ayers
"Monsters Unmasked: A Living With The Dead Novella", by Lori Whitwam
And an essay by the author (me, again) on the creation of the blog and the inspiration that keeps it going.

You'd be hard pressed to find a medium-length paperback for five bucks, and this massive beast is 258,000 words all together, which is about the size of the average Stephen King novel. It's a great deal, so if you like helping new authors, like supporting an awesome charity, and want to carry the story around with you, please check it out and buy!