Monday, July 30, 2012


LoNoWriMo is local novel writing month, and this is my second in a row. LoNoWriMo is where you sit down at your computer and write a novel in a month, without the fanfare and public suffering of NanoWrimo.

To sign up for LoNoWriMo, just open your word processor and start typing.

Last month I wrote a 30,000 word middle-grade novel which I'm currently editing into shape. This month I'm writing Hal Spacejock 6. My target is around 65,000 words over July and August, and last night I cracked 45,000. The draft is going well, and it shouldn't need much editing to get it into shape. (Famous last words.)

Sales of my Hal Spacejock ebooks really took off in July, partly due to the release of the fifth novel in the series, and partly due to lots of people buying the books. Heh.

Hal Junior has been quiet on the ebook front for the past 7 or 8 months, but in July sales are about ten times average. I dropped the price of Hal Junior 1 and 2 to 99 cents for a while, to increase visibility. When Hal Junior 3 comes out, I'll set the first book to free and price the other two at 2.99 or 3.99 each.

Some people have asked me whether it's still worth bothering to publish paperbacks, and my answer is 'it depends'. If you're looking to spend big on jacket art and design, interior layout, etc, then you really have to ask yourself how many copies you're likely to sell. (Right now, the Hal Spacejock ebooks are outselling paperbacks by 100 to 1, but despite that I will always offer printed editions of my work.)  Another strategy is to test the market with an ebook first, and only go to paper when the ebook income justifies it. It still hurts if you have to spend four months royalty on jacket design, though, which is why I said 'it depends'.

So, what's your strategy? Ebook only, ebook and paperback, paperback only or chasing a publishing contract?

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dean Wesley Smith on Fear in publishing

Dean Wesley Smith just posted an article on Fear in publishing. Whether you're writing for a trade publisher, chasing a publishing deal or looking to self-publish your first novel or short story, it's worth reading.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Keep writing

A couple of months ago I decided to get serious about writing. I'd just finished another day of talks for primary school kids, where I told them you only had to write 250 words per day (less than 10 minutes typing) to complete a 90,000-word first draft every 12 months.

That got me thinking about my own pitiful output over the past 12 years. I completed the first Hal Spacejock book in 2000, and the fourth in 2008. I had plenty of time for writing, and yet I managed just four novels?

Granted, when my series was picked up by a publisher in 2004, I rewrote the first three books. Even so, it's always taken me a year or two per title, and eventually I accepted I was a slow, steady writer.

Then came Hal 5, which took me almost five years to write, with four false starts along the way. I wasn't slow and steady at all, I was just slow. (Let's just ignore the fact I finished NanoWrimo six times. Each of those efforts was another Hal 5 in the making.)

So, after my talk, in which I told everyone else how to write a book a year in ten minutes a day, I thought it was about time I started listening to my own advice. I started with 250 words a day, and quickly upped it to 500. (Hey, two novels a year. Can't beat that!)

After a couple more weeks I upped it to 1000 words per day, and in that mode I started - and finished - the Hal Junior 3 first draft in the month of June. A 31,000-word novel in a month, which only needed a light edit for publication? It was like the curtains had been drawn back.

As we entered July I decided to write 1500 words per day. It was a bit tougher this month, because I was in the middle of a large programming job, I went on a week's holiday with the family in the second week of July, and I also prepared and published two novels and a short story collection in ebook and print editions - including doing all the layouts, jackets, etc.

Despite that, after 24 days my word count sits at 30,370 for the month, which is just under 1300 per day. That's almost eight Hal Spacejock novels per year, or fifteen Hal Juniors. That's not so slow, and could almost be called 'steady'.

In the old days I'd have said sure, but what about the three months of editing for each book? Fortunately, the faster I write the easier it is to keep the plot and characters fresh in my mind, and I've become ruthless about ignoring 'better ideas' and 'yes, buts ...' which involve rewriting half the novel. If it's that clever I'll save it for the next book, or the one after. I'm also writing a shorter length, which means fewer subplots to clutter things up.

So, what prompted the renewed vigour, apart from heeding my own advice? The speed of ebook publishing, that's what.

For two-three years I suspected Hal Spacejock 5 would be released, and it would sell a handful of copies to people who vaguely remembered Hal 4 from 2008. With that gloomy prognosis in mind it was hard to stay motivated. However, as sales of Hal Spacejock 1-4 continued to rise on Amazon and Smashwords, I began to realise Hal 5 might find an audience after all.

And it has - I've no idea whether it will last, but Hal 5 has pulled in $250-$300 a week in royalties since its release. A midlist author with a publishing contract and a $10,000 advance would laugh at that, until they multiplied $250 by 52. And they'd probably cry real tears when they realise I get paid monthly.

"Oh sure," you say. "But Hal 5 has just been released. Sales will drop off."

Actually, no. That's how trade publishing works - you release a title, make a splash, and a couple of months later your book has disappeared from stores. With ebooks, you go the other way. An ebook is released and sales climb as time goes by and the book makes it onto 'also bought' lists.With trade published books if you don't get buzz and instant success on release, you're almost certainly a goner. With ebooks you can take a much longer view, slowly building a career over several releases. It's a bit like bookselling used to be, before mega-chains and computerised box shufflers took over.

Can I prove the sales won't fall? No, but I have data on another of my titles. Hal 2 is outselling 'new release' Hal 5 by 10-20%, and Hal 2 has been out on Kindle for almost 12 months. Sales are still climbing, too, and all my books got a nice boost after the new release. Even if Hal 5 drops back to the sales of Hal 4 (Approx $100/week), by then I should have Hal 6 out and it all starts over again.

Incidentally, one of the reasons I'm no longer trade published? Stores weren't interested in carrying the earlier Hal books. They would have put Hal 5 on their shelves without any of the earlier titles, an insane move driven by accounting rather than smart business sense.

That's why I'm a new writer. I'm this close to being able to support my family and write full time. I can see a future, maybe just one or two years down the track, when I'll be able to sit at my computer and type my silly novels, and I'll know I'm not just chasing an impossible dream.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Quick update

Hal Spacejock 6: Safe Art - I've completed 28,000 words in 24 days. Target 65,000, and I'm hoping to have the first draft done by the end of August.

Hal Junior 3: The Gyris Mission.  The first draft is complete at 31,000 words, editing is in progress and the draft paperback layout is in place. Cover art under way. Hoping to get it all ready during September, with a release date towards the end of the month. (ISBN for the paperback is 978-1-877034-24-4)

October will be Hal 6 editing month, and I'm looking to release the ebook towards the end of November. However ...

November is Nanowrimo, and this year I intend to write a brand new novel featuring another character from the Hal Spacejock series. It'll be more gritty than the Hal Spacejock books, and it should satisfy my itch to write a proper thriller.

It's possible Nanowrimo will delay Hal 6, but not by much.

After that I have a half-finished Hal Junior 4 novel waiting to be restarted, and Hal 7 is already 2/3 complete. Deadlines are a bit nebulous this far out, but assuming December '12 to write Jnr 4 and Jan/Feb '13 to write Hal 7, then Jnr 4 could be out in March '13 and Hal 7 could be April/May.

On top of that, Albert Aribaud, the translator who did such a good job on the French edition of Hal Spacejock book one, is currently working on the translation of Hal Junior: The Secret Signal. Very preliminary estimates are for a December completion, but that's just a wild guess at this stage.

I'll also have more translation news soon. Hal Spacejock really is spreading his wings, isn't he?

Obviously these deadlines are subject to change, and they depend very much on how much programming I have to do to pay the bills. My ebook income for the past 6-8 months is the only reason I've been able to write and release more books: I can point to the income and convince my family this writing business isn't just a hobby, and the long hours I spend at the computer really are worth it.

This isn't some lame author plea to buy my stuff, it's just a fact of life. For the first time in the past 15-20 years I can afford to devote more than odds and ends of spare time to my writing, and my output has increased enormously.

I hope your own projects are coming along - please feel free to comment below, letting me know what you're writing and how much time you're managing to put in every week.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Get writing

You've probably noticed this blog can be a little ... sporadic. Over the years I've blogged about every aspect of the writing process, but after publishing seven or eight novels there's not a whole lot of new stuff I can say about it. ('Put your bum in a chair and start typing' sums it up.) So, during the writing of a novel I don't tend to post to the blog very much.

It's only after each novel is complete, when the dust settles, that I look around and make observations on the state of publishing, self-pub, ebooks, and so on. That part is changing all the time, and timely info is useful. For example, five years ago hardly any (non-US) writers had heard of ITINs and EINs, but these useful numbers have become a hot topic over the past year or so.

To rewind a sec, when I'm flat out writing I don't write lengthy blog posts. What I do, quite a lot, is post to twitter and my facebook author page. Those are the best places to keep up with me during the writing process.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Hal Spacejock lands in France! (Hal Spacejock se pose en France !)

After seven years touring Australia and New Zealand, interstellar freighter pilot Hal Spacejock has finally arrived in France. Fortunately, he missed the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre, but I'm afraid the Eiffel Tower now resembles the Leaning Tower of Pieces. Mr Spacejock blamed his flight computer, which refused to fly on the left.
So what does Hal's visit mean to you, a keen science fiction fan who enjoys fast-moving, humorous novels with space travel, robots, double-crosses and more incompetence than a gathering of Finance ministers? Well, thanks to the hard work of Albert Aribaud, the intrepid hero's first adventure is available right now* in French translation. Marvel at Hal's lack of skill, gasp at the Navcom's bold chess moves, and try not to wince as a 200-tonne spaceship lands in all the wrong places.

* Currently available in ebook editions via Amazon Kindle [link up soon] and Smashwords. iTunes, B&N, Kobo and Paperback to follow shortly.

Hal Spacejock se pose en France !

Après sept années à parcourir l'Australie et la Nouvelle-Zélande, Hal Spacejock, le pilote de transporteur intergalactique, arrive enfin en France ! Par chance, il a manqué l'Arc de Triomphe et le Louvre, mais en revanche la tour Eiffel va devoir être rebaptisée "tour Fêlée". Monsieur Spacejock en rejette la faute sur son ordinateur de bord qui aurait refusé de voler à gauche.

En quoi cette visite du héros de Simon Haynes vous concerne-t-elle, amateurs éclairés de science-fiction qui appréciez les romans bourrés d'humour, d'action, de robots, de trahison et de plus d'incompétence qu'un sommet de ministres des Finances ? Eh bien, grâce au dur labeur d'Albert Aribaud, la première aventure de notre intrépide héros est disponible dès à présent (*) en traduction française. Émerveillez-vous de l'inaptitude de Hal ! Restez sans voix devant les coups d'échecs audacieux de Nave ! Essayez de ne pas paniquer tandis qu'un vaisseau spatial de deux cents tonnes s'approche du sol partout où il ne faudrait pas...

* Actuellement disponible en format électronique sur le Kindle d'Amazon et sur Smashwords [link]. Édition papier à suivre prochainement.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Another free chapter!

I just posted Chapter Three of Hal Spacejock 5: Baker's Dough to my website. Chapters one and two are available from the same page.

The release is due any day now, and I'm releasing a chapters for free until the ebook is published.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The best way to publicise your work

Well, word of mouth, obviously. But apart from that, do you know what I've found is the most effective, the most sure-fire way to bring your writing to the attention of new readers?

Release new titles!

I know it's a radical idea. Authors should be facetwitting and myblogging and yousharing until the world sits up and takes notice, but it doesn't hurt to put some of that effort into ... you know ... writing new stuff. (I'm as guilty of this as anyone. I head off to a few favourite sites, and two hours later I'm still viewing mildly amusing pics, updating my signature on writing forums and rearranging the cover art on my website.)

This month has seen a 50% bump in my ebook sales, from a fairly healthy daily average. Did I take out adverts, upload a new trailer, run a new competition or spam my my long-suffering twitter and facebook acquaintances? No, I just put the first chapter of my upcoming novel on my website, and mentioned it a couple of times in passing.

Today I put the second chapter up, and I more-or-less decided to add a new chapter every day until the ebook is released. The ebook should be out in 10 days, and the book has 35 chapters. There's a nice ticking clock for you ;-)

I'm not saying the free chapter is entirely to blame for the increased attention. In the past 30 days I released the second book in my junior science fiction series (ebook and print), published a collection of my short stories (ebook and print), reissued the Hal Spacejock novels in new print editions across Europe and the US, and also swapped out the temporary ebook covers for newer artwork which more accurately reflects the contents. (These covers are still works in progress. That's the beauty of ebook publishing, although I can hear the pros choking on their bikkies over that one.)

I also released two new stories and published one reprint.

But last month I also managed to write a 30,000 word junior novel, and today I bashed out 2000 words of Hal Spacejock book 6. This is the opening chapter, and I'm so keen to write this book I can hardly wait to finish this blog post and get back to it.

Sorry kids, takeway for dinner again ... Dad has a book to write!

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Free sample time ...

I just posted Chapter One of Hal Spacejock 5: Baker's Dough to my website.

The release is due any day now, and I may release additional chapters as we count down.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, July 02, 2012

Hal Spacejock 5: Nearly Ready

The good news is that Hal Spacejock 5 will be released later this month (both ebook and print editions). It's been a long process, but I haven't spent the past three and a half years endlessly rewriting the same manuscript. Oh no, it's much more fun than that. I wrote Hal 5 FOUR times, with four different plots (and many other subplots), as well as a huge cast of characters scattered across the various attempts.

Do you want to know how many plots and subplots? Would it help if I told you I have Hal Spacejock books 6 through 20 half-written, partially written, outlined and/or plotted? No kidding. THAT many plots and subplots. Disaster plots, secret agent plots, big bad criminal plots, mistaken ID plots ... and others to boot.

Then, of course, there's the small matter of the Hal Junior series. When I got stuck with Hal 5 in 2010, I sat down and wrote three junior science fiction novels back to back. Last month I wrote another one, just because I could. Two are in print, the third should be out before the end of this year, and the fourth will probably be released March 2013, assuming the Mayan end-of-the-world prediction really is due to some jobsworth putting in a half-arsed affort when (s)he was finishing off a tricky calendar carving. (That's got my vote.)

So, what are some of the other titles I considered for this book?

Hal Spacejock 5: Let's start over
Hal Spacejock 5: Nearly Ready, I Promise
Hal Spacejock 5: I lied
Hal Spacejock 5: I think I'll tile the house
Hal Spacejock 5: How Many Blades of Grass in my Garden?
Hal Spacejock 5: Sharpen more pencils!
Hal Spacejock 5: I'd rather be programming
Hal Spacejock 5: About effing time


Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Should you self-publish short fiction?

I only have half a dozen published short stories to my name, mostly because I'm too lazy (busy) to finish off the hundred or so gathering dust on my hard drive. Those six published stories earned me a one-off payment of $50-$100 each, which varied depending on the length and the particular market.

However, in October last year I put an original 8000 word Hal Spacejock short story on, and Smashwords. Was it worth it? Read on.

I've just been putting the finishing touches to a nifty little program* which takes those monthly Amazon sales spreadsheets and allows you to extract all the data and generate new (and much more useful) reports. For example, I had no idea how many copies Hal Spacejock: Framed had sold, nor how much royalty it had earned me. Now I do.

Since it went up on Amazon, last October, Framed has sold 252 copies at 99c each, plus another couple of dozen via Smashwords. My royalties work out to a smidge under $100. In other words, about the same as all my other short stories. Whoopie-doo.

But hang on a minute. What about the next six months? The 12 months after that? The next five years? What if I finish off 50 short stories and put them all online? Offered them in collections, both ebook and paperback?

Bear in mind I have almost one million words of unused, unfinished Hal Spacejock scenes sitting on my hard drive, many of them self-contained vignettes which I cut from the novels. I love writing new stuff, but turning a few of those scenes into short stories and novellas makes sense. First, because it gives fans something new, second because Amazon and Smashwords are the perfect market for shorts and novellas, third because it increases my Amazon footprint, and finally because they're not making any money sitting on my hard drive.

You'll find my Amazon footprint here.

* I will be making this program available soon

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Second new release for the month

A few days ago Hal Junior 2: The Missing Case went live. It's already started selling and initial feedback has been great.

And now, my first short story collection has just been published. Collect One-Two contains a dozen assorted tales, from science fiction comedy to fantasy send-ups to mild horror (morror?) and everything in between.

Published by Bowman Press
Trade paperback, 5.25" x 8", 200 pages
ISBN: 978-1877034206
Price: 7.99 USD, 6.99 GBP, 7.99 EUR, 13.95 AUD

This paperback went from concept to publication in under three weeks. (That doesn't include writing and editing the stories!)  From a few files on my hard drive to a book which can be printed and delivered from locations in Australia, UK, US and France - all within four-five days

Now, I know Hal Spacejock 5 is the one people have been waiting for, very patiently, and I promise the ebook will be out soon, with a paperback to follow around the end of August. Here's a taster of the latest cover idea, just to keep you going:

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Do I regret self-publishing the Hal Junior series?

I like to take stock now and then, reviewing past decisions so I can learn from mistakes and do more of whatever happened to work.

I've said plenty on my reasons for self-publishing Hal Junior, but here's a brief recap for new readers:

1) I can't handle the incredibly long lead times between handing in a finished book and seeing it released.

2) With a trade publisher, once it's published it's done, and everyone moves on to the next shiny. Me, I like to experiment with different ebook covers, add links to new titles to the back of the old ones, maybe refresh the cover art from time to time. I believe books are a living thing, not something you carve out of stone and put on display.

3) This is the biggie. I can't start reading a series unless I have book one. If books one and three are available but book two is out of print, forget it. If there are gaps, I'll walk away from the whole thing. By self-publishing in ebook and print, all my titles are available now, and they always will be.

I've had four books released through a trade publisher (over a period of 5-6 years) and it was fun, educational and exhilarating. By the time book five rolled around I was over it and I wanted a new challenge. It got so bad I put the manuscript on hold and wrote three books in a new series, just for the hell of it.

(I'm not anti trade publishing. I just believe my best move is to establish my new series FIRST. Publishers can approach me with offers whenever they like, and if you're thinking 'that will never happen' ... well, that's exactly how I scored a publishing deal for the Hal Spacejock series.)
So, in hindsight, was self-publishing Hal Junior the right decision?

Answer: of course it was. Nothing has changed since I released the first book.

My goal is to build an audience for this series over time, with worldwide ebook and paperback releases. No threat of cancellation, and no pressure. Just a bit of fun writing them, a bit of fun drawing silly illustrations, and then a lot of fun getting each title ready for release. FUN is the operative word, and while it's fun I'll continue to write and publish new work.

I've just released the second Hal Junior book with no fanfare whatsoever, and it's already started selling. Now I'm putting the finishing touches to book three, and book four is half done as well. I'll keep putting them out there, because I think you need three or four books in a series available before it has a chance to catch on.

If you dream of having your book published by a big-name house, and seeing it available from bookstores across the planet, don't give up. I'm not trying to push one form of publishing over another, I'm just explaining why self-pub was right for this series, and for me.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Hal Junior 2: The Missing Case just hit Amazon Kindle ($3.99 ebook), with a paperback to follow in the next 2-3 weeks. This is Hal Junior's second adventure, and I had even more fun writing and illustrating this one than I did with The Secret Signal

I've also published a volume of short fiction called Collect One-Two, which will be available soon in paperback. (The same collection is already available on Kindle in two volumes called, naturally enough, Collect One and Collect Two.)

And so, my attention turns to Hal Spacejock 5: Baker's Dough.  Two more editing passes and a cover should do it.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

On my plate right now ...

1. Cover art and final edits for Hal Junior 02: The Missing Case

2. Write the final 1/3 of Hal Junior 03: The Gyris Mission
3. Edit Hal Spacejock 5: Baker's Dough
4. Cover art for Hal 5
5. Continue with the big programming project I'm working on under contract
6. Finish an alpha release of the Hal Spacejock PC game (currently on hold)
7. Replace the covers for all my short stories
8. Launch the paperback edition of my new short story collection

NEXT week I'll probably have another similar list.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Thursday, June 07, 2012

New cover - Hal Spacejock 4, no free lunch.

I'm very happy with this one ...

Hal Spacejock 4: No Free Lunch

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

New covers

I bought myself a Wacom Intuos4 drawing tablet last week, and I've spent the past few days learning to draw.

After a bit of practice I decided to have a go at some new covers for my books. I've redone books 2 and 3 so far, and I'll paste book 4 when I replace that one too.

I'm not claiming to be anything more than an amateur, but my goal with these covers was to stand out on Amazon amongst the endless star-filled backgrounds with planets and spaceships.

The other great thing about ebooks is that I can continue tweaking and uploading these covers as I improve my skills.

Hal Spacejock 02: Second Course


Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Been Quiet

You probably noticed this has gone a bit quiet, but that's because publishing Hal Junior took a tremendous amount of effort. Once you launch your babies into the world you tend to focus on other projects for a while. In my case, first it was another edit of Hal 5, and now it's the Hal Spacejock PC game.

My favourite PC games are classics like Transport Tycoon or Minecraft, where you start with a blank slate and create whatever you want. Graphics are not important. For me, it's all about the open-ended challenge.

Blockbuster games are released like movies or books, where they have to be perfect from day one. Computer software is different, in that you can build a loyal following by releasing modest early versions and then improve and extend them over time. This is what I did with yWriter (now up to version 5, with tens of thousands of users), FCharts, and all my other Spacejock Software releases.

When I say release early versions, I don't mean they should have bugs. My software is solid & reliable, because that's far more important to me than flashy graphics.

So what's the goal with the Spacejock PC game? The first alpha will dump you on a planet with very little info about why or where. (Hands up if you skip prologues in Phat Phantasy novels.)  Initially, players will explore the surface to discover the various buildings and structures, and eventually they'll figure out how to make a little cash. Along the way they'll pick up a little background, and maybe the threads of a plot.

As long as the initial release handles that part adequately, I'll be happy. I have huge plans for the rest of the game, but I hate spoilers so you won't find out about them from me.

I've only been writing this thing for three weeks now, but a lot of the basics are in place. If you follow the link to the Spacejock PC Game (above) you'll discover a developer diary which I'll update regularly.

Simon Haynes is the author of the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior series (Amazon / Smashwords / other formats)