Publishing & Unknown Innocence

By
Wayne T. Dowdy

The best thing about self-publishing to me is the ability to control prices and any other factor concerning the product. In this case, combining my first novel with what I had written as the sequel, without having to get permission from anyone else to do it. I like that. I will work with Midnight Express Books (MEB) to accomplish that goal, but that’s okay.[1] I pay MEB to assist me in getting my writings from inside a prison out into the world by creating the finished product from my typed manuscript.

After receiving my manuscript, they process and format it to post on the World Wide Web as an eBook or paperback or both. The paperback becomes available through various channels for online and offline sales in eStores and brick and mortar bookstores. In other words, MEB helps me do what I cannot do without their help or someone else qualified with time to do what I need done. Several other companies also provide book publishing services to prisoners, but I prefer MEB because I have dealt with them for years and know they are trustworthy and reliable.

Traditional publishing would pay instead of cost me, which would be great; however, my patience expired when I read in Writer’s Digest, Writer’s Market Guide, how long finding a traditional publisher to accept a manuscript might take. To be paid for a book deal instead of paying to publish one would make life much better, of course.

The drawback to self-publishing is the difficulty in marketing and promoting my books from inside a prison. I cannot directly access the Internet or do things I am technically capable of doing. You might say my fingers are tied to keep me away from the thousands of people waiting to see my creativity and to read my profound words typed on a manuscript I wrote after hours of research on the waves of the Deep Blue Web.

One day in the near future I will break the chains and take the world by storm. Well, at least, I like to think my success as a writer will improve once I have control over access to the Internet and can do simple things like tweet on Twitter, post photos on InstaGram, and create my authors page on Facebook and other social media outlets. Right this moment, I would go do book signings but I am afraid the authorities would miss me if I were gone and then make a big scene to bring me back to the confines of a prison cell.

SELF-PUBLISHING: My publisher likes Createspace.com to create my print-on-demand books. Some people may prefer Lulu.com, or to use subsidy publishers like Dorrance Publishing, Outskirt Press, Inc., or iUniverse. Subsidy publishers charge a fee to produce certain quantities of books, and will then help promote, sell, and may store them in a warehouse for the writer.

Self-publishing can be expensive. Many services are free, providing you have the technical knowledge to format the book for uploading into a system like Createspace or Smashwords.com. Some of the greats who paid to have their first works published were as follows: Ernest Hemmingway, T.S. Eliot, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Ezra Pound, Henry David Thoreau, Rudyard Kipling, Lord Byron, Stephen Crane, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Alexander Pope, and many others.

EBOOKS: For the eBooks, MEB uses Smashwords.com and Amazon.kindle. Personally, I favor Smashwords because they are an eBook distributor whose system formats my eBooks and allows distribution through various eBook retailers (Apple iBookstore, Sony, Barnes & Noble, Diesel, etc.). Additionally, I am paid a higher percentage for sales if readers buy directly from Smashwords by going to my author’s page or directly to the particular eBook or essay link. Visit my author’s page at https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy.

PRINT-ON-DEMAND: I like print-on-demand because it eliminates warehouses and cuts cost by not making the author pay for runs on specified quantities. It also saves trees by letting them live until the demand requires another to fall at the blade of an axe or chainsaw.

For the print-on-demand versions, I earn more if readers buy from my website at StraightFromthePen.com (http://www.straightfromthepen.com), which allows my representative to process sales through my author’s discount at Createspace, which is the self-publishing wing of Amazon.com. If a reader buys from Amazon, I pay forty percent commission, compared to twenty percent I pay Createspace. Through my author’s discount, my representative purchases the book for me at the minimum cost and then has Createspace to ship it straight to the customer. Createspace also offers a lower price for shipping and handling than some book distributors and offers a price break on shipping multiple copies.

The hard part of the self-publishing process is finding those willing to purchase the books from available options. My dilemma is no different than many other self-published authors. Some never sell a book. I have not sold thousands, but thousands have read my writings, since I’ve had clips and a few essays published in International magazines. But, thus far, that has not translated into book sales, even though I receive favorable comments from readers, magazine editors, and manuscript readers. [2]

BOOK PROMOTION: My readers want more. I will give it to them within the next few months if things go as planned. I am executing my editorial right to modify the story. Several people who read UNDER PRESSURE by Mr. D* commented to me that they hated for it to end and that it made them want to keep reading more; especially, those who read the motivational version (see next paragraph). Great, I thought, now they will buy the sequel when I complete it. I have completed the sequel but have changed plans.

Under Pressure Book 2 cover.inddI created UNDER PRESSURE-MOTIVATIONAL VERSION by Mr. D** to add two chapters from the sequel, UNKNOWN INNOCENCE. Those two chapter had the effect I wanted: to make readers want to read the sequel. Now that I completed the sequel, I came up with a better idea to improve the product and to give my readers more for their money: put two books into one.

FROM NOVEL TO MAGAZINE: To make it motivational, I added “The Story Behind the Novel” to inspire the aspiring writer by showing how I managed to get the book into their hands from inside a prison, with the hope of encouraging them to pursue their writing dreams. However, adding that aspect to the novel created a genre nightmare because, technically, that made it cross over into the nonfiction category. Even worse is that the changes turned it into a magazine by combining fiction and nonfiction under one cover. (Read “PERSONAL MAGAZINES” about another magazine I own that looks like a book, for a free eBook offer of “An Airport Ate the Neighborhood.”)

When I added the first two chapters from UNKNOWN INNOCENCE to UNDER PRESSURE, I had three things in mind: 1) to help the reader understand how one of my two protagonist, Big Bobby, ended up in prison for a crime he did not commit; 2) to influence the readers’ decision to buy the sequel upon release by creating an interest in the characters; and 3), to change the format to make it easier to read and more attractive to the eye. I believe the title helps create an interest in the story: UNKNOWN INNOCENCE. How can the innocence of someone be unknown to them? DNA put Bobby in prison but that doesn’t make him guilty.

FAVORITE CHARACTERS: When I ask readers who their favorite characters were in UNDER PRESSURE, most say Stan or Big Bobby. A few say Nicole. Each will be in UNKNOWN INNOCENCE. Nicole met Bobby where she worked as an exotic dancer when Bobby was arrested for the crime that sent him to prison. Later on a mutual friend formally introduced her and Bobby. She is a voluptuous heroine who knows martial arts and proves she can defend herself if attacked. She has a lively spirit and her desire for love, sex, and attention makes most men want her.

Big Bobby is a gentle giant who towers near seven feet tall and weighs close to three hundred pounds. No one compares to him. I got the idea for him from a friend of mine at the former United States Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Big Hawk belonged to a Motorcycle Club. He used to duck to come into my cell to visit, the same as Big Bobby does when visiting his friends.

SELF-PUBLISHING PRIVILEGE: I wrote UNKNOWN INNOCENCE as a prequel and sequel. UNDER PRESSURE is about Stan Mason’s life before, during and after prison, whereas UNKNOWN INNOCENCE is about Big Bobby before prison, very little about his life inside, and all about the task of getting him out of prison to live the life he deserves to live. Nicole helps all she can and adds a lot of steam to the story. Now I will let UNKNOWN INNOCENCE consume UNDER PRESSURE and will write UNKNOWN INNOCENCE under my real name. To do that, I will put the prequel parts of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE before the events in UNDER PRESSURE, and then add the remaining parts of the sequel behind UNDER PRESSURE to conclude the story.

That will allow me to correct what I feel kept UNDER PRESSURE from experiencing robust sales. Reading the Prelude (yes, I intentionally used Prelude instead of Prologue) and the synopsis leads one to believe that the novel is all about prison. Not so! Many scenes concern Stan’s life before he went to prison and his life afterwards as a free citizen. The plot also shows the drug conspiracy that lead him to prison for ten years of his life for doing what most readers would not believe could land them in an American federal prison. I promise it is true. I know numerous people serving life without parole in letters (LIFE), and life without parole in numbers (50-100 plus years). Many who will spend the rest of their lives in prison because of Ghost Dope (drugs spoken about in a conspiracy–no actual drugs existed). Anyway, I will write a more accurate synopsis of UNKNOWN INNOCENCE, and now that I have a website, I am doing now what I wish I could have done before releasing UNDER PRESSURE. Promoting my novel before its release.

I’ll do the eBook first, and offer a free coupon code for UNKNOWN INNOCENCE to those who purchased UNDER PRESSURE as a way to show my gratitude for their readership. Many readers commented having read UNDER PRESSURE multiple times, so this will give them another opportunity.

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING: To have a book published the traditional route is great. My problem with traditional publishing is how time consuming it can be. Some publishers do not want simultaneous submissions and may take up to ninety days to respond to a query letter or book proposal. If they want to see your book, then take several months or longer to let you know; if accepted, then take a year or two to put it on the market. That’s just too much waiting for me.

I would love to have a publisher to help market and promote my writings but by going that route in search of one to publish my books, I might be out of prison before the book even hits the market. I am trying to let my writings provide me with enough income to allow me to get started in a reputable occupation upon release. At least to help me afford to buy a laptop or PC to continue my writing on. As it stands now, I would have more money if I had put my money into a bank account, instead of choosing to self-publish, but I have faith that success is on the way, somewhere over the rainbow, hidden behind the prison walls.

*$6.95, Midnight Express Books
**$9.99, Midnight Express Books (for eBooks: the reader sets price at Smashwords; $4.95 elsewhere)
[1] Midnight Express Books, P.O. Box 69, Berryville, AR 72616 (Email: MEBooks1@yahoo.com). Discount rates available from the publisher for ten or more books.
[2] These are some magazines my writings appeared in print over the years: THE SUN, Chapel Hill, NC; THE ICONOCLAST, Mohegan Lake, NY; CONFRONTATION Magazine, Long Island University, New York.

I’ve had a short story accepted by THE SAVAGE KICK magazine by Murder Slim Press, 29 Alpha Road, Gorleston, Norfolk, NR31 OLQ, U.K. It will appear in SAVAGE KICK #8 in December 2015.

I’ve also been published several times online by PRISONLAWBLOG.COM, and PRISONEDUCATION.COM, as well as other magazines and publications under various pen names.

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