Self Publishing Isn’t Real Publishing

Hopefully you don’t agree with the title of this article… I actually threw it out there to inspire folks to read and chime in. So… Did my troll work?

“Not real” is something that I’ve heard repeatedly since self publishing my memoir. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told folks that I self published and then hear back, “Oh. So you haven’t really been published.” Even the other name for self publishing, vanity press, has an unctuous feel to it.

In the past, When people told me that I haven’t really been published, I hung my head low and agreed with people who made this statement.

Times have changed. These days I keep my head held high, raise an eyebrow, and say, “Um… My book is in print, it’s available at all major retailers, I’ve sold more than 2,500 copies, and I get quarterly royalty checks. How exactly do you define really published?”

In today’s technology filled world, I believe it’s perfectly valid to self publish your manuscript

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On top of that… Think about the numbers associated with this undertaking. Using my book as an example:

  • I spent more than a year writing the 100,000 words in my book;
  • While we’re on that topic; my manuscript was 100,000 words;
  • It took two months to work through my rough draft and glean a finished product;
  • Months-and-months of my time was spent researching the world of publishing;
  • I wrote more than fifty agencies and publishing houses;
  • The self publisher I used assigned me an editor and we re-edited my manuscript;
  • Last but not least, the entire publishing process (after everything else) took more than six months!

After nearly three years of hard work, my book was bound and published in soft and hard cover formats.

What do you think?

If you’d like to see my self publishing adventure, checkout my article, How I Self Published. Also, if you dig, checkout my Inkslinger category for more writing-based blog posts.

I hope you enjoyed my brief tirade,
Vaughn (a published author)

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Writing is Tough

In past articles (Checkout my Inkslinger category for more writing blog posts) I alluded to how easy it is to write and publish. Today, I will play Devil’s advocate and tell you just how tough it is.

When I wrote my first book, it was essentially a timeline of my life. It started out as a journal of sorts and then worked its way into a book. However, it didn’t just come flowing out of me in a matter of hours or even days. It took years. And, it was hard work. Spewing forth words isn’t tough, it’s the assembly and management of those words to compile them into something readable and enjoyable by others. This was the challenge for me.

I wrote an hour or two each day for months on end. Then I would go through and adjust parts. After a couple of years of this, I had my book.

The second book, Decrypted, was just as crazy. It was different, because I didn’t live the story. This one was tough on another level. But, it did sort of flow out of me. I didn’t know what would happen at the end of each chapter, because I had a slim outline at best (more of a skeleton). Most of the story surprised me as I wrote it. The tough part of this one was simply staying in the game. It took a butt-load of motivation and willpower just to keep writing it.

A few chapters in I found a local writing group. This was an immense help! I mean, I was meeting weekly with like-minded folks who asked me regularly, “How far did you get this week?” This was a challenge and I struggled some, but mostly it helped me. They also asked for chapters to read so they could give me advice and feedback. This helped me as well, because I felt compelled to have something complete for them on a weekly basis.

Now I’m working on my third book, Weapon 67, and I’ve found a whole new problem. The problem is, I have four books (Weapon 67, a young adult fantasy, and two non-fiction) in my head. I’m struggling again, but for a different reason. This time, I find it nearly impossible to stay focused on the one book. I have so many ideas popping around in my head, and that is driving me mad!

So you see… Each book has had a different set of problems and challenges. However, there is one common theme: None of them were/are easy.

I imagine that my next book will have some additional complications, but one things remains for me… I love writing. And, for this very reason, I will continue to do so, despite (or in spite of) the fact that it is hard to do.

This article wasn’t meant to scare you away. More like a reality check. Writing is awesome and spiritually fulfilling. It is something magical. But, let’s not kid each other..

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. Writing is tough. I merely wanted to point that out.

Who among us loves writing, or has thought about writing? Please share your insight and experiences.

Mr. V

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NaNoWriMo 2013

Starting back in 1999, the National Novel Writing Month or as most writers refer to it: NaNoWriMo (or simply NaNo) has dubbed November, well… National Novel Writing Month. Essentially, it is a time for lackluster writers and would be novelists to put aside their worries and doubts and bang out a novel. More precisely, the novel should be at least 50,000 words long.

50,000 words?? You scream… Well, if you remember a recent article of mine, I said that you can write a 120,000 word book in 68 days. hmmmm… That is far cry longer than 30 days. However, the good news is that during NaNoWriMo we only need to write 50K words (50,000 for you non-propeller heads). And, according to my calculations in that article, that can be accomplished EASILY in 30 days with only a half-hour of serious typing each day. Now, most of us mere mortals cannot bang out 60 words per minute for 30 minutes straight… But, I would venture a guess that we could do it in an hour each day. At 1,800 words per day (one hour of typing) we should get our 50,000 word novel completed in ~28 days giving us two days to spare. My recommendation is that on the days you can afford to, write longer! This will ensure that you complete this monumental task.

Who’s with me?

If you want to join me, start today (not a moment to spare) and sign up at:

After you sign up, make sure you read through the FAQ and then drop in on the discussion forum and get more info and so on and so forth. Don’t waste too much time in there, because this month is for writing, my friends!

I’ll say it again: Who’s with me?

You can find my NaNoWriMo account here:

In case you would like more info before going to the site, I took the liberty of including their How It Works section to get you started:

During NaNoWriMo, you write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. The challenge may be hard, but the logistics are not! Here, let us guide you through ‘em.

1. Sign up for our website with that big, blue “Sign Up!” button on the homepage. You’ll get an email validation link a few minutes later.

2. As part of the sign-up process, you’ll choose a home region for in-person events near you. This is totally optional, but we think it’s a pretty awesome part of the NaNo experience.

3. Our user dashboard will usher you through the rest of your account set-up stuff. Click on the grayed-out badges to fill out your profile, say hello in our forums, and add writing buddies

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4. On October 1, you’ll be able to add information about your upcoming novel to your profile. Giving your work a title or brief synopsis gets you 225% more pumped for November. It’s a fact.

5. You can also use October to read past author pep talks, grab participant web badges, meet folks in the forums, and learn more about our nonprofit.

6. At midnight on November 1, start writing. Work on your manuscript using any method where you can track your word count. Word-processing program, notebook, typewriter, stone slab: they all work.

7. Update your word count whenever you can. Some like every day; others prefer a few times a week. No matter when, you can do it in that word-count update menu at the top of every page on our site.

8. Stay motivated with pep talks (we’ll send them to your on-site inbox and your email), forum chatter, and in-person events in your region. There’s also a big world of NaNo out there in social media: find us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest.

9. Starting on November 25, you can validate your novel to win. If it’s over 50,000 words, paste the text into the word-count validator. A few robotic calculations later, we’ll declare you an official NaNoWriMo winner! From there, you’ll be able to collect a few prime novelist goodies.

10. If you enjoy your NaNo experience, please donate to support our mission. We believe in making this a more creative world, and we’d love your help getting there. (Here’s more about why others donate, as well as additional ways to give.)


I’m off to start my next novel!!! Seriously folks: Who’s with me?

Posted with good intentions,

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Make Your Creative Juice Flow

Our last Inkslinger blog article was about the choice to outline or not. Now that you’ve gotten past that stage, let’s talk about where you can find some creativity when you aren’t feeling particularly creative.

The world is full of wonderful things that can help boost your creativity

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. Sometimes I find that a simply walk around the neighborhood is enough to spark something magical. If I’m feeling extra dull and struggling, one of my favorite things is a hike in the wilderness. Getting away from concrete and asphalt always helps to clear my mind and inspire me to write.

Along with walking and hiking, I love music to help generate emotional creativity. Sometimes I listen to it before writing, other times I blast it while writing.

Often I find creativity being built while I read other books. I’m careful that I don’t utilize the stories I’m reading but I can definitely pull some excitement to write and ideas about my story by seeing the viewpoint of other authors.

Before writing, I often watch inspirational videos on YouTube. These will spin me up more than most anything else. I get pumped and after watching one or two, my fingers literally fly over my keyboard banging out stuff.

Meditation is another technique I use to tap into my creative side.

If I’m getting writer’s block, I love to do Google searches and read other blogs to help inspire me.

One area that drives me nuts and I avoid is writing with the TV on in the background. I can’t juggle television shows while trying to generate a story. This might work for you, but I try very hard to make sure that the TV is not on while I’m typing away.

If you struggle with creativity and often find yourself experiencing writer’s block, try playing with timing. What I mean is each day write during a different time of day. I have found that I often do my best writing before the sun comes up, so I set my alarm for an hour or two early and bang out my words before the world even starts moving…

This is what a friend of mine, Staci, had to say about making those juices flow:

“Great ideas, V. I use some of the same. A shortcut for me is to hike solo into the woods. Not because the woods hold any special power for me, but because being alone in that space accomplishes several goals for me. First, it shifts my focus to “being” rather than doing or producing. And creativity is best in me when it simply flows. Also, I’ve found that that level of disconnect from screen time gives me opportunity to explore what is genuinely me, without distraction or insertion of other stuff. Examining process is fun… Thanks for sharing!”


Hopefully, this article was able to inspire and motivate you… But, most of all, I want to help you find creative avenues for your own adventures!

As fellow inkslingers, what do you guys do to make your creative juices flow??


Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

You can rest assured that we will never SPAM your email account, and it’s only used to send the latest articles.

Write Your Book

I was inspired by my friend, Susan Kim, to write about how easy (literally) it is to write your first novel. We were talking about writing and the ups and downs of it, when it occurred to me that the majority of people I know dream of writing a book and yet fewer than 5% of them have actually done it. So, as I was taking my Scottish shower (see my earlier blog post for this most energizing and creative way to cleanse yourself – Take a Cold Shower) I started thinking about this more. I decided it was article worthy.

Did you know that most publishers consider 40,000 words to be the minimum word count in a submitted book? My autobiography, Survivor, has approximately 100,000 words in it. That said, there are a few authors that stuff 160,000 or more words into a book; which is more like an encyclopedia in weight and reading time! For simplicity’s sake, I decided to do a few calculations based around a 120,000 word book. This will give us more than enough for an average sized book. The other piece of the calculation that we need to guess is how many words per minute you can type. I believe that the average person in today’s computer age can type 60 WPM (words per minute). This is even true of single digit hunt-and-peckers like me. I can actually type close to 100 WPM with only my pointer fingers and thumbs! I assume most of my friends with aspirations of writing a book can beat the average of 60 WPM, but let’s stick with 60 to cover all bases.

Now for the fun part (I love math). The calculation part… Considering 60 WPM, you could literally type 120,000 words in under 34 hours. You read that right! For all of you procrastinators out there, you literally could write the rough draft of an entire book without sleeping! As a matter of fact, this is exactly how Sylvester Stallone wrote Rocky, when he sat non-stop and wrote the entire thing in three and a half days!!!

Now, most of us mere mortals cannot sit in front of a keyboard for 34 hours straight. At the very least there are things like food and potty breaks. However, don’t you think this is encouraging?? Now let’s dive a little deeper and be more realistic.

Most writers that I have read say that they normally write for about two hours per day. With that in mind, you could bang out a 120,000 word book in under 17 days

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. Even two hours per day is a bit tough for us weekend warrior types. So, what if I asked you, “Could you find thirty minutes each day to write?” Think about it… Can’t ANYONE squeeze thirty minutes out of a super busy day to write? Of course we can. Now that we know what we can absolutely do, let’s look at the math:

At one half-hour per day, you could write a 120,000 (remember this is a thick book) word rough draft in 69 days (actually 68, but I really love the number 69 – plus this gives us one cheat day. HA!) So, even with some missed days, any of us could type in a rough draft in a mere two-and-a-half months!!!

What are you waiting for? Stop being a lazy procrastinator and get off your ass! I mean it! It is seriously that easy!

Now… Since we got the math part out of the way… In future blog posts I will talk about ways to outline and write your desired story. And, where to pull creative juices from. And, finally we’ll talk about things like polishing your rough, getting it edited, and finding an agent and/or publisher. This is fun! And, simple! Remember what I like to say, “Just because something is simple, does not make it easy.” And, writing is a perfect example of this quote. However, now that you have the math laid out before you, you have no excuses!

While you’re waiting for my future writing posts, be sure to checkout all of my previous ones in the InkSlinger section.

I honestly expect to hear from at least one friend in three months time who adamantly thanks me and thrillingly says, “I did it! I wrote my first novel!”

Love you all,

Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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Stalk Me

It may sound creepy, but I’d love for you to stalk me! Seriously! I’m always looking for new virtual connections and friends. In this information technology age I am living life on the bleeding edge. I have countless social media outlets and memberships. Today I will list many of them and request that you click on each and connect with me! Please?

Without further ado, click away!

Stalk Me Online

My Online Blogs and Sites

To find out more about me, read my article: Allow Myself to Introduce Myself

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Also checkout my About page.

Better yet, read my memoir, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C.

Enjoy your stay here, and please remember to subscribe to our newsletter and share this site URL with your friends!

Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

You can rest assured that we will never SPAM your email account, and it’s only used to send the latest articles.

To Outline or Not to Outline

That is the question!

Time to tackle another writing article. Since creating the “Inkslinger” category in my blog I have really had a blast sharing my experiences with all of you. Being an author is one area that I sincerely enjoy discussing, and many of you ask me questions about these kind of things. So…Here goes-

There are a lot of different ways to write a book. And, many authors disagree on the proper technique when starting. I have read many books about using, or not using outlines. The opinions vary in many ways. Some authors swear by using a full outline, some say use “some” outlining, and others say they never write one thing out prior to starting the book. I’ve heard that some authors have a mild idea of direction and then they make the story up as they go. Some of these folks have even said that they often surprise themselves with the outcome of the story. While that sounds exhilarating and neat to me, I prefer to have much of the story outlined before starting. All of that said, the truth of the matter is that all of the successful authors do this differently. There is no one, single, must do, only way to outline your book.

Obviously this is personal preference. And, I can tell you that non-fiction is different than fiction. For me, my non-fiction needs to be detailed carefully in an outline. When I do fiction, I am a little less clear and mostly just give myself a track to follow

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. This allows me some latitude and ability to alter course along the way (as long as it finishes generally the way I originally conceived it). Recently, I was talking about outlining with my buddy, Gary. He gave me a great analogy that I dig… He said, “It sounds like you start with a bone and then stick some meat on it.” Perfect! I’ve honed that to a more detailed:

I create a skeleton, which is a very brief breakdown of sections (the bones of my story). All of my fictional bookes start with the same skeleton. ALL OF THEM. I add a little bit of meat to the structure and this individualizes my stories. From there, I start writing the rough draft based on this “light” outline.

Joseph John Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) actually introduced me to my style of outlining. Campbell wrote a detailed description of how ALL fictional stories are broken down in his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I strongly recommend reading this book, or at least studying the summaries online. Campbell was a freaking genius!!!

Many successful writers, directors, and musicians (George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, and Mickey Hart among countless others) have have admitted to being influenced by Campbell’s theory of “monomyth” (one myth); which is a concept that refers to the theory that all mythic narratives are essentially a single great story. The theory is based on Campbell’s observation that a common pattern exists in most great myths, regardless of their origin or timing. Here’s a list of Campbell’s twelve stages:


1. Hero is introduced in his/her ordinary world;
2. Call to adventure;
3. Hero is reluctant at first;
4. Hero finds encouragement from a mentor;
5. Hero passes a threshold into a special (unknown) world;
6. Hero encounters tests and helpers;
7. Hero reaches the innermost cave;
8. Hero endures the supreme ordeal;
9. Hero siezes the sword;
10. The road home;
11. Resurrection;
12. Return with the elixir.

I realize that some of these section titles are cryptic… You must read The Hero with a Thousand Faces to get a detailed understanding of each one. That said, I think they’re pretty self explanatory.

Now let’s look at my skeleton that I’ve derived from Campbell’s Hero Myth to give you some creative ideas and show you how I do it. When I put my outline together for a thriller fictional story (I call my genre cyberthriller), I always start with the exact same skeleton… I do not list chapters during this phase. Instead, I break the story into pieces (chapters will come naturally as I write the book) and write something brief about each section. I included a percentage of the entire book to give you an approximate length of each section.


1. Hero/heroine on another successful chase (2%);
2. Hero asked to get antagonist-doesn’t want to (6%);
3. Hero finds a helper (5%);
4. Hero prepares for the “chase” (11%);
5. Hero in a new place, often the antagonist’s (3%);
6. Hero is tested by the antagonist’s cronies and winning (22%);
7. Hero is tested by the antagonist and is still winning (11%);
8. Antagonist captures hero and is often near death (13%);
9. Hero narrowly escapes (3% of the book);
10. Antagonist pursues hero (11%);
11. Hero has a final victory over antagonist (11%);
12. Final status of hero (2%).

Remember, this is merely the way I do it. Also, those percentages and the breakdown of section types is based on it being a thriller book. Do you see the coorelation between my breakdown and Campbell’s concept?

Now that we’ve broken the intial skeleton out, remember that you must differentiate yourself and your story as you start to put the meat on. A successful outline will only resemble this framework… It is up to you to stray enough that it isn’t robotic and obviously a complete copy of this structure.

If you’d like to see one of my outlines from a book I’ve created, simply say so in a comment, and I will send you one. Let me know if you want fiction, non-fiction, or both.

Now… Get cracking on your next book!!!


Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

You can rest assured that we will never SPAM your email account, and it’s only used to send the latest articles.

How I Self Published

Since my book, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C, has come out, I have been asked a plethora of times what the process was, how long it took, and how I did it. So, I decided to create a blog article to detail what made me decide to self publish, the steps I went through, the pitfalls, my struggles, cost, and of course, how long the entire publishing thing took.

Let’s go back to the beginning to really get this post kicked off properly… In 1986 I was diagnosed with HIV, due to a bad blood transfusion. My doctor told me that I had fewer than two years to live. After those two years passed, I decided to start keeping track of my life stories (which were often pretty scary) in sort of a diary fashion. I wanted this to be a legacy for my friends and family after I died. In circa 2005 I realized that I had amounted a pretty large cache of data. Sometime around then my wife, Kristine, looked at all of my notes, stories, and timelines and said, “You know… you’ve got a book here.” She was right.

Now, having a pile of notes and publishing a book are two totally different animals. But, I was on the right track, and did have a great start for an autobiography. With that in mind, I started turning my compiled notes into a book format. I had to create stories out of each journal entry, and this was hard work. I wrote the whole thing in the first person, and made it as if I was telling a story; which I was. Early into the project I also decided to be utterly frank and blunt. I was not going to hide my secrets (like the one I divulge in chapter twenty-five). I wanted my story to be brutally honest.

Once I had the book written, I started sending query letters to agents and publishers. For about a year or so, each one was politely returned with a cookie cutter postcard that essentially said, “no thank you.” Then, I got my first break. An agent actually sent me a personal note, and it talked about how unless I had slept with a celebrity or was a famous figure, that my chances of publishing an autobiography was close to nil. While this was disheartening, I did appreciate the sincerity. I was once again back at square one. Then, out of the blue, someone suggested that I look into self-publishing. The funny thing is that I didn’t even know what that meant. Before long, I realized that it was a good avenue to get my work printed, published, and distributed. So I researched out the wazoo (something that I’m fairly good at). I finally narrowed my search down to one self-publisher in particular: iUniverse.

On November 30th, 2009 I clicked a link to request more information about iUniverse and they responded that day. On December 2, 2009 I paid $1,400 to iUniverse for what they called the “Book Launch Premier Pro” package. Their website showed that the package listed for $4,200, so I was able to get a really good deal! And, this package was filled with tons of goodies including an email marketing campaign, all kinds of website setup (which I didn’t need, because I already had my own), Library of Congress and copyright setup, ISBN assignment, and 80 books (20 hardcover and 60 trade softcover). You can see iUniverse’s current packages here:

I instantly justified the cost of the package, because I would be getting a retail value of $1,800 worth of books along with all the goodies they provided.

The team at iUniverse was incredibly helpful and extremely prompt (no, I do not get kickbacks for praising them – I sincerely loved working with them). My assistants and helpers were a Godsend, considering I knew nothing about the publishing world. I was assigned an editor, who proofread my work and sent back suggestions. They also worked on taglines, biographical line, and additional marketing based things. Essentially, they did all of the legwork and tough stuff (besides writing the book) for me.

After edits, rewrites, little changes, and adjustments we were finally ready. I looked over my final proof and approved it. The finished product was officially published on September 29, 2010. So, the entire process took ten months. I think that was a reasonable amount of time considering the copious amounts of work and effort that went into the project after I had finished my rough draft.

I would strongly recommend utilizing the self-publish route if you are struggling to get published. I would also highly recommend iUniverse, although I suggest that anyone going this path do their own research and draw their own conclusions on what publisher to go with.

One final note is that I sometimes hear, “Yeah but your book wasn’t really published…” To that I would retort, “My book was published. It has an ISBN, is registered with the Library of Congress, was printed and bound in soft and hard cover, and is available on all major online book seller sites. On top of that, it has been created on all popular eBook formats and is even available in the Frederick County Library system.” How can anyone say it isn’t published??

If anyone ever asks you about the validity of self-publishing, you can always fall back on the list of other authors who have done it: Mark Twain, John Grisham, L. Ron Hubbard, Irma Rombauer, Walt Whitman, Richard Paul Evans, Jack Canfield and Mark Hensen, James Redfield, Beatrix Potter, Thomas Paine, Edgar Allan Poe, T.S. Elliot, Carl Sandberg, Gertrude Stein, Deepak Chopra, Upton Sinclair, D.H. Lawrence, George Bernard Shaw, E.E. Cummings, Henry David Thoreau, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Atwood, Tom Clancy, and Stephen Crane. BOOM!

One additional piece of advice is that everything is negotiable. So, when talking to the self-publisher you decide on, make sure you barter on the package price and future prices for your books that you buy.

You can buy my book directly from my publisher, or through Amazon (among other online book sellers):
My publisher:

If you’ve been through this process, or have questions, or simply feel like chatting, please comment below using the simple form.

I sincerely hope that this article motivated or inspired someone out there, and helps you see that this process is doable!

Love to all,

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